Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

CHAPTER FIVE

Coruscant was unlike anything Serra had ever seen. As a child she had known nothing but the simple isolation of her father's camp. When he had sent her away, she'd visited dozens of other worlds before settling on Doan, but all of them had been less populated planets on the Outer Rim. Her entire life had been spent on the fringes of civilization. Here, on the planet-wide metropolis that was the Republic capital, she had been hurled into the madness of the Galactic Core.

Caleb had made sure his daughter's education was well rounded; she had read descriptions of Coruscant, she had memorized all the relevant facts and figures. But knowing a world had a population approaching one trillion individuals and seeing it in person were entirely different.

Serra simply stared out the window of the airspeeder, speechless as it darted and dived, fighting its way through the heavy traffic of the skylane. Below, an endless ocean of durasteel and permacrete stretched off to the horizon in all directions, shining with the permanent glow of a million lights. The effect was overwhelming: the crowds, the vehicles, the dull cacophony of sounds that could be heard over the hum of the engines-the sheer magnitude of it was almost more than her mind could grasp. It made her feel small. Insignificant.

"There it is," Lucia said, nodding out the window.

In the distance Serra could just make out a massive structure that towered high above the rest of the cityscape: the Jedi Temple. The swift-moving speeder was bringing them rapidly closer, and it wasn't long before she could make out the unique details of the Temple's construction.

The foundation was a pyramid of successively smaller blocks, creating a stepped or ziggurat effect. On the top of the uppermost level was a tall central spire, surrounded on each corner by smaller, secondary spires. Scattered among the spires were open plazas, wide promenades, vast natural gardens, and a number of smaller buildings that served as dorms or administrative centers.

As the speeder dropped out of the main line of traffic toward their destination, the structure's true scope became apparent. Everything on Coruscant was grand and magnificent, but the Temple dominated the skyline. Serra recalled that it had been built on top of a mountain. Not on a mountain, like the small settlements the nobles had constructed on the plateaus of Doan, but actually over the mountain-the stepped pyramid covered the entire surface, swallowing the mountain so completely that it was no longer visible.

Their vehicle banked in a wide circle around the Tranquility Spire, the tall central tower, before touching down on a landing pad in the shadow of the smaller tower on the northwest corner.

"Let's get this over with," Lucia muttered, standing quickly and offering her hand to help Serra up from her seat.

The princess realized Lucia was as uncomfortable as she was, though she suspected her bodyguard's unease had less to do with the overwhelming sights and sounds of Coruscant and more to do with her days as a soldier fighting against the Army of Light. Even after twenty years, Lucia still harbored a resentment toward both the Jedi and the Republic. That, and the fact that she still probably felt guilty for hiring the assassin who had killed the Jedi emissary.

Serra, on the other hand, felt nothing but gratitude for what her friend had done. And she had no intention of letting anyone-not the king, and not the Jedi-find out that Lucia was responsible.

"Remember what I told you," she said, placing a comforting hand on her friend's shoulder. "I have dealt with the Jedi before. I know how to handle them. I know their weaknesses. Their blind spots. We will get through this."

The bodyguard took a deep breath and nodded. Serra did the same, centering herself in anticipation of the coming confrontation.

* * *

Lucia was amazed at how calm and composed the princess appeared as they prepared to leave the shuttle.

She had always carried herself with a quiet but firm resolve. It gave her an air of confidence and authority that drew others to her. When she spoke, people gave her words careful consideration:even people like the king of Doan. But this was different. They were about to meet a Jedi Master, and Serra intended to lie right to his face.

Lucia had no intention of letting her friend get into trouble, however. At the first sign the Jedi knew Serra was being dishonest, she intended to confess everything, no matter the consequences.

Steadied by her decision, she was able to maintain her own exterior of composure as they disembarked. Outside the shuttle they found an escort of three Jedi waiting for them. Two were human, a man and a woman. The third was a female Twi'lek. Each wore plain brown robes with the hoods thrown back to reveal their features; their simple garb a sharp contrast with Serra and Lucia's more formal outfits.

The princess was wearing a long, flowing, sleeveless dress of blue silk; a finely woven gold stole covered her shoulders and upper arms. Her long black hair hung loose from beneath the elaborate golden tiara she wore, and around her neck was an elegant gold chain and a sapphire pendant signifying her station within the Doan royal family.

Lucia was also dressed in blue and gold-the royal colors-but she wore the dress uniform of the Doan military: dark blue pants with a gold stripe running up the leg and a tight, light blue shirt covered by a short blue jacket with gold trim buttoned up to the collar. Like the three Jedi, however, her head was bare.

The Twi'lek stepped forward with a bow. "Greetings, Your Highness. My name is Ma'ya. My companions are Pendo and Winnoa."

Serra returned the bow with a tilt of her head. "This is Lucia, my companion," she returned.

Ma'ya's eyes flicked down to the blaster prominently displayed on Lucia's hip, but all she said was, "Please, follow us. Master Obba is waiting to speak with you."

From the briefings she had reviewed during the trip to Coruscant, Lucia knew that Obba was a member of the Council of First Knowledge. As keepers of ancient Jedi lore, they often provided advice and guidance to the Jedi High Council. He had also been the Master of Medd Tandar, the Jedi who had died on Doan.

The three robed figures led them from the landing pad through a well-tended garden, dotted by a number of memorials and statues. A small crowd of children rushed past them at one point, laughing.

"Younglings from the trainee dorms," Ma'ya explained. "During afternoons they are given time away from their studies to play in the gardens."

Serra didn't reply, but Lucia could see the flicker of sorrow in her eyes. She knew the young couple had been trying to start a family in the weeks before Gerran's death, and seeing the children no doubt brought back painful memories.

They continued on in silence, the Jedi leading them to the foot of the northwest tower and then inside. They climbed up several flights of winding stairs; toward the end Lucia noticed that the princess had become short of breath, though neither she nor the Jedi had the same problem.

And then, somewhere roughly a quarter of the way up the tower, they stopped outside a large door. Ma'ya knocked, and a deep voice from inside called out, "Come in."

The Twi'lek opened the door, then stepped to the side with another bow. Serra entered the room, Lucia following a single step behind. Their escorts stayed outside, closing the door.

At first glance, the interior of the room might have been mistaken for a greenhouse. A single large window on the far wall allowed sunlight to stream through, making it exceedingly bright and overly warm. Potted plants of at least a dozen different species lined the walls; another half a dozen grew from boxes along the windowsill, while still more hung from planters affixed to the ceiling. There were no chairs, no table, and no desk. It was only when she noticed a small, straw-woven sleeping mat rolled up in the corner that Lucia realized this was the Jedi Master's personal chambers.

"Welcome, Your Highness. You honor us with your visit."

Master Obba, an Ithorian, was standing with his back to them looking out the window. In the elongated fingers of one hand he held a watering can. Setting it down on the floor, he turned to face them.

Like all Ithorians, he was taller than the average human-easily over two meters in height. His rough, brown skin looked almost like bark, and his long neck curved down and forward before looping up again, making it seem as if he was leaning toward them. Looking at the eyes bulging out from either side at the top of his tall, flat head made it easy to see why the nickname Hammerhead was often applied to the species.

"This is my adviser, Lucia," Serra told him, sticking with their planned cover story. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with us, Master Obba."

"It was the least I could do, given your circumstances," the Ithorian explained, his voice deep and resonant. "My condolences on your husband. His death was a terrible tragedy."

Lucia was no expert in the subtleties of politics, and she couldn't tell if Obba was simply a compassionate soul expressing real sympathy, or an expert negotiator trying to put the princess emotionally off balance by mentioning Gerran.

"My tragedy is mirrored by your own," Serra replied in the formal tone of a practiced diplomat. Whatever the Jedi's intentions, his words had no visible effect on her demeanor. "Allow me to apologize on behalf of the royal family for the unfortunate passing of Medd Tandar."

The Ithorian's head dipped in acknowledgment. "I grieve for his death. And it is of critical importance that we learn the identity of the person or persons responsible."

Lucia felt her heart skip a beat, though she gave no outward sign of her anxiety.

"I understand," Serra assured him. "The authorities on my world are doing everything in their power to bring those responsible to justice."

"I want to believe you," Obba replied, "but you can understand if I have my reservations. Medd was killed during an attack on your enemies. There are some who believe your father-in-law was behind the attack."

"That makes no sense," Serra objected. "The king wants to improve our relationship with your revered Order. That was why he agreed to let Medd come to our world in the first place."

"There are some who believe the king used Medd to help find his enemies," Obba countered. "They claim that was his plan all along."

"Medd's death was a tragic coincidence, not a part of some devious plot to exploit the Jedi," the princess insisted. "He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As for the king, he had no knowledge of the assassination whatsoever. I give you my word."

"Unfortunately, your word will not be proof enough to allay the fears of those in my Order."

"Then let them use logic," Serra argued. "My father-in-law is not a fool. If he wanted to use the Jedi to seek revenge, he would have been smart enough to cover his tracks. He would have waited until after Medd had left before ordering the attack."

"Sometimes when we are blinded by grief, we aren't able to look past our immediate desires," the Jedi noted.

"Is that what you really believe, Master Obba? Or are you just looking for someone to blame for the death of your former Padawan?"

The Ithorian sighed. "I admit my own judgment in this may be clouded by my personal feelings. That is why I must trust in the Force and allow it to guide my thoughts and actions."

"There is no emotion, there is peace," the princess remarked.

"You have studied our Code."

"Only informally."

"I should have suspected as much," the Master told her. "I can feel the Force is strong in you."

Lucia's eyes popped open in surprise, though Serra took his observation completely in stride.

"I fear I am too old to be recruited into your Order, Master Obba," she said with a faint smile.

"Even so, the words of our mantra can serve you well," he admonished her. "You must be ever wary of the temptations of the dark side."

"Like the talismans Medd was sent to find?" Serra countered. "That is what this is really about, isn't it?"

The Ithorian nodded gravely. "As much as I grieve over his death, I must put those feelings aside and focus on the purpose of his original mission."

Lucia was impressed. So far the encounter had gone almost exactly as Serra had predicted. During their preparations for the meeting, the princess had told her the Jedi cared more about ideology and the battle of light and dark than about living people. She had planned to exploit that knowledge to turn the conversation away from discussions of who had hired the assassin:with a little help from Lucia.

The Jedi love to feel superior, Serra had explained during the shuttle ride. They consider it their duty to educate and inform the ignorant masses. If you ask one of them a question, they can't help but answer it. We can use this to our advantage during our meeting.

"Forgive my interruption, Master Obba," Lucia said, recognizing the opportunity he had given her, "but are these talismans really that important?"

"I believe they are," the Ithorian replied.

"But:how can you be so sure?"

"I am a member of the Council of First Knowledge," he explained, launching into a lesson just as Serra had said he would. "We are keepers of the wisdom of the Jedi. We maintain the Great Library, we oversee the teachings of the younglings, and we seek out the ancient histories and Holocrons that will bring us greater knowledge of the light side of the Force. But we are more than just caretakers. We are also guardians.

"Not all knowledge is pure; some is touched by evil. There are secrets that must remain hidden; forbidden teachings that should remain forever buried. There is a dark side to the Force. Unchecked it brings death and destruction."

Lucia nodded as if absorbing every word, but inside she felt nothing but scorn. The arrogance of the Jedi knew no bounds. As a soldier serving in Kaan's Brotherhood of Darkness, she had developed a rather different view of the dark side. The Sith taught that emotion, fear, anger, and even hate-should be embraced. She had learned to draw strength from the so-called evil of the dark side, and it had helped her survive through war and years of suffering.

The Jedi would never understand this. They lived in isolation, meditating in great towers at the center of the galaxy. They had no idea what it was like for the outcasts, the disenfranchised, and the forgotten people forced to live on the fringes of society.

"The Council of First Knowledge is sworn to keep this terrible power from being unleashed," Master Obba continued, oblivious of her true feelings. "But the influence of the dark side is scattered throughout the galaxy, as are the tools it uses to spread: ancient texts of Sith sorcery; amulets imbued with malevolent energy; tainted crystals that can corrupt the minds of the innocent.

"Sometimes these artifacts are discovered by accident, and they fall into the hands of unsuspecting victims. They become agents of the dark side, wreaking havoc across the galaxy:unless we get to them in time. We are trained in the handling of dark side artifacts. Some can be destroyed, but others are too powerful and must be safeguarded."

"How would something like that end up on a remote world like Doan?" Lucia asked, still playing her part.

"Humans have been living on your world for at least ten thousand years," Obba was only too willing to explain. "When the mining operations began several centuries ago, ancient burial mounds, crypts, and grave sites were often dug up, as were the remains of primitive villages abandoned long ago. On rare occasions entire cities had even been discovered, entombed millennia earlier in mudslides or ancient volcanic eruptions.

"Some of these early civilizations worshiped the Sith and followed the ways of the dark side. When the people disappeared, the artifacts of their faith were often left behind."

"How did you first hear about these artifacts?" the princess suddenly asked, seizing on an idea.

"Nothing but a rumor," Obba admitted. "We heard word that a mining team had discovered a cache of items and was offering them for sale to offworld collectors. Based on the descriptions, we felt the items might have been Sith talismans. So I sent Medd to investigate."

"If you heard about these items," Serra speculated, "then it's possible others could have heard of them as well. Medd's killer might not have been an assassin sent to avenge my husband's death. It could have been someone interested in finding the talismans."

"I have considered that possibility," the Jedi Master confessed. "Though I had hoped it was not so."

The Ithorian turned his back on them, clearly troubled. He began to pace slowly back and forth in front of his plants, as if to calm himself before speaking again. Once again Lucia was amazed at how easily the princess had controlled and directed the encounter.

Obba had commented on Serra being strong in the Force. That might help to explain the commanding presence she seemed to carry. But, Lucia wondered, was it possible the princess was so powerful she was able to manipulate a Jedi Master?

"Those who are trained in the ways of the Jedi are taught to live by the rules and tenets of our Order," Obba said at last. "We believe in self-sacrifice, and we believe that the power of the Force must only be used when it serves the greater good. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, there are those who fall away from our teachings. They give in to weakness. They succumb to ambition and greed. They use the Force to satisfy their own base wants and desires. They reject our philosophy and fall to the dark side."

"You're talking about the Sith," Serra whispered. Lucia thought she heard fear in the princess's voice, but she couldn't tell if it was real or simply part of the game she was playing with their host.

"Not the Sith," he corrected. "I am speaking of the Dark Jedi."

"What's the difference between a Sith and a Dark Jedi?" Lucia asked.

The Ithorian stopped pacing and turned to face them, instinctively addressing his audience like a teacher giving a lesson.

"The Sith were the sworn enemies of the Jedi and the Republic. They sought to wipe us from existence; they sought to rule the galaxy. They united their strength in the Brotherhood of Darkness, drawing countless followers to their cause with false promises. They amassed an army of individuals foolish and desperate enough to believe their lies, and they plunged the galaxy into a war that threatened to destroy us all."

Lucia remained silent as Obba spoke, though she tensed involuntarily at his description of her and her fellow soldiers.

"A Dark Jedi, on the other hand, has much smaller ambitions. He-or she-thinks only of himself. He acts alone. The ultimate goal is not galactic conquest, but personal wealth and importance. Like a common thug or criminal, he revels in cruelty and selfishness. He preys upon the weak and vulnerable, spreading misery and suffering wherever he goes."

"And you think such a one might be involved here," Serra noted. "You have someone in particular in mind."

Obba bowed his head in shame. "Set Harth. As a Padawan he lost his Master to the thought bomb on Ruusan. I took him under my wing, and eventually I recommended him to the other members on the Council of First Knowledge. Like Medd, he became one of our agents, scouring the galaxy for dark side artifacts and lore.

"But the temptation of the dark side proved too strong for Set. He rejected the Jedi teachings to pursue wealth and personal gain at the expense of others. Too late we learned that he had kept many of the artifacts he uncovered for himself. By the time I realized what he had become, he was gone, vanished into the galactic underbelly of lawless mercenaries, bounty hunters, and slavers."

"So you fear that Set Harth, this Dark Jedi, may have killed Medd Tandar on Doan?"

"If the killer was not an assassin hired by someone on Doan, then this seems to me to be the most likely possibility. If Set somehow learned about the artifact cache on Doan, he would have sought to claim it:and he would have killed anyone who got in his way."

"He sounds like a dangerous man," Serra noted.

"Now that the Sith are extinct," Obba proclaimed, "Set Harth may be the most dangerous individual in the galaxy."

Serra stared at him. She thought of the black-armored man who had haunted her dreams for the past twenty years, and remembered the words of her father:

The Jedi and the Sith will always be at war. They are each wholly uncompromising; their rigid philosophies make no room for mutual existence. But what they fail to realize is that they are merely two sides of the same coin: light and dark. You cannot have one without the other.

"How can you be so sure the Sith are gone?" she demanded. "Weren't there rumors that some of the Sith Lords survived the thought bomb that destroyed the Brotherhood of Darkness?"

"That is true. One did survive," Obba explained. "But now he, too, has fallen:though his defeat came at a terrible cost."

"I don't understand."

The Ithorian sighed, an anguished, mournful sound. "Come. I will show you."

With slow plodding steps he crossed the room and opened the door leading back out to the hall. The three Jedi who had escorted them there were all sitting cross-legged on the ground, silently meditating. They scrambled to their feet upon seeing the Ithorian emerge.

"You may return to your regular duties," he informed them.

"Yes, Master," they replied, bowing in unison. Dismissed, the Jedi headed up the stairs to whatever tasks awaited them in the higher floors of the tower.

Moving at a pace so languid it bordered on maddening, Obba led the way back down to the base of the tower and out into the gardens where, at long last, he stopped.

They stood before one of the many monuments raised in the garden. This particular one was a white block of stone a meter and a half high and nearly twice as wide. The handles of five lightsabers were inlaid on the face of the stone; beneath each was a small engraved portrait-presumably an image of the lightsaber's owner. Beneath this, in larger letters, was the following:

In honor of those who fell beneath the blade of the last Dark Lord of the Sith. May their memories live on, to remind us of what is lost. There is no emotion; there is peace; There is no death; there is the Force. Jedi Master Valenthyne Farfalla Jedi Master Raskta Lsu Jedi Master Worror Dowmat Jedi Knight lohun Othone Jedi Knight Sarro Xaj Caleb of Ambria

When her eyes fell upon the last name of the list, Serra felt her knees grow weak. Speechless, she could only stare at the monument, her mind unable to make sense of what she was seeing.

"What is this?" Lucia asked, echoing her mistress's confusion. "Why'd you bring us here?"

"Ten years ago, Master Valenthyne Farfalla learned that a Dark Lord of the Sith had somehow survived the thought bomb on Ruusan. Acting on a tip, he quickly assembled the team of Jedi you see honored on this monument to try to apprehend the Dark Lord. They followed him into the Deep Core and confronted him on the world of Tython. None of the Jedi survived."

"Did you know them well?" Lucia wondered aloud, still following Serra's instructions to ask questions at every opportunity.

"I knew Master Worror and Master Valenthyne back when we were all Padawans. We served together in Lord Hoth's Army of Light during the war against Lord Kaan's Brotherhood of Darkness."

For several seconds there was silence, Obba lost in his memories and Serra still too stunned to speak. It was Lucia who broke the spell, asking yet another question.

"The last name, Caleb of Ambria-I remember hearing it back during the war. He was a healer, wasn't he?"

"He was. In the battle against the Jedi on Tython, the Dark Lord was grievously injured. He went to Ambria in search of the one man with the knowledge to heal his wounds. But Caleb refused to help him."

In her mind's eye, everything became clear to Serra. As her father had predicted, the man in black armor had returned. As before, he had come to try to compel Caleb to work his art. As before, Caleb had resisted. This time, however, her father had the upper hand. Having sent his daughter away, there was nothing the Sith could do to compel him to cooperate.

"What happened when the healer refused?" she whispered, her eyes still transfixed on her father's name etched into the base of the stone.

"Nobody knows for certain. What we do know is that shortly after the Dark Lord arrived, Caleb sent out a message alerting the Jedi Council. He told them the last of the Sith was at his camp on Ambria, injured and virtually helpless. He wanted the Jedi to come capture him."

"Why would he do that?" Lucia wondered. "I seem to remember hearing that Caleb refused to take sides in the war. Didn't have much use for the Jedi or the Sith."

"He did not always agree with the philosophies of our Order," Obba admitted. "But he was a good and moral man. The war was long over by this point, and his conscience would not suffer evil to endure without taking action. He knew if he let the Sith leave, sooner or later more innocents would suffer.

"Upon receiving the message, the Council sent a team led by Master Tho'natu out to Ambria. I was one of the Jedi chosen to accompany him. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the camp, Caleb was dead."

"How?" Serra asked, her voice low and devoid of all emotion.

"The Dark Lord learned about the message. Driven mad by Caleb's betrayal, his injuries, and the corruption of the dark side, he butchered the healer, hewing him limb from limb.

"By the time we arrived, the Dark Lord had gone completely insane. He was still lurking around the camp and he rushed out to attack us, one man against an army of Jedi. Master Tho'natu was forced to cut him down to protect his own life."

Serra's father had been right. He had known the black-armored man would return. He had sensed the danger, and he had sent his daughter away. He had saved her life, at the cost of his own. And in so doing, he had helped destroy the man Serra feared more than any other.

A flood of emotions swept through her. Relief. Guilt. Sorrow. Shame. But drowning them all out was a fierce, primal anger. More than anything she wanted revenge. She wanted to strike out at the monster who had terrorized her as a child and then, years later, killed her father. Yet that was impossible. The Jedi had stolen that from her.

"What was he like?" Lucia asked. "The last Sith, I mean."

"He was a tragic, pathetic figure," Obba answered. "Thin. Frail. You could see the madness in him when he charged us. His eyes were as dark and wild as his hair."

No, Serra thought. That's not right. "He had hair?" The black-armored man's head was shaved.

"Yes. Hair like an animal's. Long. Unkempt. Matted with blood."

An unthinkable suspicion was worming its way into Serra's brain.

"Was he a big man?" she demanded, straining to keep the urgency from her voice. "Tall, I mean?"

The Ithorian shook his head. "No, not overly so. Not for a human."

The dark-armored man was a giant. At least as tall as you, Master Obba.

Oblivious to Serra's inner turmoil, the Ithorian continued his tale. "The lightsabers of the fallen Jedi were found in Caleb's camp; the Dark Lord had kept them as trophies. Master Tho'natu brought them back, along with the healer's remains, so they could be laid to rest in a place of honor.

"This monument represents one of the greatest triumphs of the Jedi Order, but also one of its grimmest chapters. The Sith are no more, but only at the cost of many lives that will be sorely missed. This was the price we had to pay to rid the galaxy of the Sith forever."

Serra's mind was churning, trying to put all the pieces together. She needed time to think, to figure it out. But she couldn't do that here-not with her father's name staring up at her from the stone. She needed to leave before she said or did something that would expose her secret and reveal her true identity.

"You have given us a lot to think about, Master Obba," Serra said stiffly. "I will be sure to relay all of this to the king."

Master Obba cleared his throat apologetically. "I have every confidence you will do so, but I would still like to send one of my own people to investigate and see if the talismans are still there."

When Serra hesitated before answering, Lucia came to her rescue.

"What would be the point of that? I mean, if you're right about Set Harth being the killer, wouldn't he be long gone by now? He's not going to hang around after he gets his hands on those talismans, right?"

"You are probably correct," the Jedi admitted after considering her words.

"Then I see no reason for the Jedi to follow up on this matter," Serra said, collecting herself enough to seize the opportunity Lucia's quick thinking had provided her. "Given the delicate political situation on Doan, it would probably be best for all concerned if the investigations were conducted by the local authorities."

She could see the Ithorian wasn't pleased with the arrangement, but he had been backed into a corner. Caught in the web of galactic politics, he was now helpless to take action without turning this into an official diplomatic incident-something the Senate would not look kindly on.

"If we learn any news about Set or the talismans," the princess promised, "you have my word that we will inform you right away."

"Thank you, Your Highness," the Ithorian replied with a stiff bow, only now realizing how he had been outmaneuvered.

Serra gave Master Obba a curt nod as a final farewell, then quickly turned to take her leave, anxious to return to the privacy of her shuttle. Lucia immediately fell into step beside her. Neither of them spoke as they crossed the gardens to the waiting airspeeder; the silence continued as the speeder whisked them up and away, turning the buildings and swarming crowds of Coruscant into a blur beneath them. Serra was still thinking about the black-armored man from her nightmares. She knew her dreams were more than just memories or subconscious fears bubbling to the surface. Caleb had been neither Sith nor Jedi, yet he had believed in the natural power of life and the universe and had taught Serra to listen to the power within her, to draw on it when she needed wisdom, courage, or strength of spirit. Most important, he had taught her to trust her instincts.

In the same way Caleb had known that the black-armored man would return, Serra knew he was still alive. She knew he was somehow involved in her father's murder. The Jedi who had come to Ambria had been tricked. She was certain of it. It wouldn't have been hard; they wanted to believe the Sith were extinct. It was always easier to make people accept a lie they had hoped and wished for.

A plan began to form in Serra's mind. For too many years, she had been tormented by the terrifying figure from her childhood. Now, with Caleb's death as the catalyst, she was going to do something about it. She would avenge her father. She was going to find the black-armored man, and she was going to kill him. She didn't speak again until she and Lucia were alone on board the private shuttle that would take them back to Doan. Here she knew they were safe, that whatever was said would stay between the two of them. Even so, she wasn't ready to confess everything. She would keep the secrets of her past-her father, her nightmares-a little longer yet.

"The assassin you hired. I need you to contact her again" was all she said. "I have another job for her."