A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 9.99:
The Price of Survival part 1 of 6

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F, M/M, F/F, M/Herm sex, Violence and a bunch more
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Tes relaxed against her mate in the warm morning. She was still absently surprised she still didn't really feel her eighty years most mornings, and that her mate definitely didn't feel his years. It brought her drifting mind back to the kitten that had drawn them together and to the Temple five decades before.

"Love, why is Jay still a Knight?"

"He doesn't want to touch a Padawan with a ten-foot pole, for one thing," Doruth pointed out, kissing her lightly. They both had more gray in their fur than they had in prior years, Doruth especially. His fur was still mostly black, but there was a liberal helping of salt in with the pepper of his base-coat. "And you know him as well as I do. Does he really strike you as the Master type?"

"He strikes me as the type who excels at anything he sets his mind to, and he did that in becoming a Jedi." She said softly. "It just seems odd. Not many his age are still Knights."

"No, not many are, especially not with the Artisans," Doruth admitted, snuggling up to his mate. "But I've talked to him, from time to time, and ... he's enough of a Jedi to make it as a Knight. Not as a Master. A Jedi Master is a teacher, or at least somebody who has an understanding of the Force that's beyond that of a Knight. Jay can teach, but he hasn't trained a Padawan, and he doesn't have ... well, the faith, for lack of a better term. The Jedi are warrior-priests, after all. When you make Master, the emphasis goes to priest a bit more than warrior, in some ways."

"Faith?" She cocked her head a bit. "Not something you have had much of."

"I didn't have faith in the Jedi," he pointed out. "I had faith in the Force, and that it was telling me I had to leave." He sighed, trying to think of how to explain it. "Acid test. You know something about fixing up ships, so let's put it in those terms. You have to fix the engines on the Gurath. There are two methods which, at first glance, are each equally valid. If you pick the wrong one, you and everything you care about is destroyed as the engines of the ship explode. How do you pick?"

"I go with my gut," she answered easily. "It's the best way to choose when there isn't a clear choice."

"That's it," he said. "You'd go with your gut, which is about one-step removed from saying you'd trust the Force. I'd do the same. Jay'd check again, see if he missed something, and if that didn't work he'd have the engine tell him which method would do it. He'd fall back on his own skills and abilities. When push comes to shove, Jay trusts his own abilities before he trusts the Force to see that things work out for the best."

"I can't blame him, but I do understand." She nodded slowly. "The Force hasn't been very kind to him."

"Arguably, no," Doruth admitted. "But that's the biggest reason the Council never decided to promote him to Master based on his experience. He has the experience and skills, but he doesn't really have what it takes to be a Master at this point."

"The trust," she murmured. "At least he doesn't seem to be taking it too hard. And he has taken on an Artisan apprentice. That's almost as much work as a Padawan. Harder to do to, given how few of them there are."

"I think he was just focused on making Knight," Doruth explained. "Master would be nice, but it's icing on the proverbial cake for him. And it is, teaching-wise, but the skill-set is very different. I'll bet he'd be the first to explain that," Doruth chuckled.

"Not much philosophy." She chuckled. "It's all practical lessons."

"Exactly, though I think he had some choice words for their definition of 'practical' early on," Doruth chuckled. "Come on, I think we had an appointment to pick up one of the missions my old Padawan left for us when he retired."

Shivasta and Jay stepped down the Sharufa's landing ramp as they settled down at the quiet spaceport that served as the central camp for the archaeological expedition on Beldin Prime. A Wolf not much older than the two of them was there to greet them, starting up the ramp to meet them with a grateful expression and a welcoming handshake.

"We've been waiting for your arrival," the Wolf said with a smile. "We were glad to hear that the Council was sending somebody so quickly after we sent word."

"You are welcome, Dr. Tosh" Jay smiled slightly in return as the three of them walked down the ramp. "It is good to have a mission in my favorite subject again."

"Well, this should be an interesting one to get back into the fray with," the Wolf chuckled. "After we found the ruins, we contacted the Jedi as quickly as we could. I've worked with Sith sites before, but never quite like this."

"Sith?" Jay raised an eyebrow, even as Shi's concern went up significantly. "That we had not been informed of."

"I didn't send the message, I'm afraid," Dr. Tosh said apologetically. "I suspect that Dr. Kell didn't want to risk losing the site to a small army of Jedi researchers. It actually pre-dates the Republic, from our best guesses and tests."

"Which would predate the Sith as Sith." Jay nodded with an understanding of just how rare such a thing was. It also meant it predated the Jedi. Any such site with Force associations would get a lot of attention from the Council.

"I didn't think any sites like that existed anymore," Shivasta said with a slight frown.

"They didn't, as far as we knew," Dr. Tosh explained. "From what we've been able to gather, they were all destroyed between the time when the Sith as we know them arose and the Great Hyperspace Wars. Add that to the difficulty even reaching most Sith sites, and ... well, I'm sure you can gather that we don't get very many opportunities to prove conventional theory wrong," the Wolf chuckled as he led them through the docks.

"Yes, it is quite an opportunity." Jay nodded. "Potentially a significant risk as well to those here."

"Which is why I insisted on contacting the Jedi," the Wolf nodded. "Legal issues aside, I'd rather have a Jedi or two around if we find out that the Sith we know were only pale imitations of what they were before."

"I do hope that is not the case." Jay said quietly. "They are bad enough as it is."

"I have a hard time believing they could be much worse," Shi agreed. "They already worship the Dark Side. We haven't found every group of Force users, but we've never found anybody who delved into that part of the Force as much as the Sith have."

"I don't think they were that bad," Dr. Tosh pointed out. "I've actually isolated a few words in the inscriptions that don't even exist in Sith as it's been spoken since the rise of the Republic. To judge by context, I'd say they're words for a number of concepts the Sith tried to stamp out of their religion, things that were worthwhile about life besides strength and power."

"Have you found out what they called themselves before the Sith took over?" Jay asked as they walked towards the dig site.

"Actually, the Sith took the name from them," the Wolf explained. "The Massassi and the Sith were one and the same until a number of Dark Jedi took over and turned Sith into the title of their religion, with Massassi being the name of the race. It's a little complicated, and based on some fairly fragmented records, but we're putting it together as time goes by."

"Hopefully this place will fill in some of those blanks." Jay nodded easily.

"That is the idea," the Wolf nodded. "Come, I'll introduce you to my colleagues here. We're a somewhat eclectic bunch," he chuckled. "And probably only going to become more of one once word of this site gets out."

"No doubt." Jay actually chuckled. "Your Jedi are hardly the usual kind."

"Oh? What does that mean?" The Wolf asked with a chuckle.

"Well, for one thing, we aren't miffed at the Council for giving us this mission," Shi chuckled.

"I'm not an expert by any means, but I do have a liking for archaeological missions and exploring the past." Jay added easily.

"Which is always good to have on-hand," the Wolf nodded with a smile. "There are some Jedi who aren't bad to work with, but sometimes you get the more hot-headed ones and ... well, sometimes I worry that they're going to break something if we don't take their lightsabers away," Dr. Tosh chuckled. "No offense, of course, but some of your colleagues can be a little trigger happy in places like this."

"I'm familiar with them," Jay cracked a smile. "I went through that phase too. Some just prefer to never leave the hot-headed warrior way of doing things. It is effective on the right missions."

"And it's not so much hot-headed as nervous, sometimes," Shi chuckled. "Telling a Jedi that you're poking around an ancient Sith tomb or temple is a pretty good way to get us ready to at least snap at anything that moves suddenly."

"True," Jay nodded. "Unlike you, we tend to associate 'Sith' with 'it's going to try to kill us now,' and it doesn't have to be alive to do it. Sith Spirits are serious trouble."

"Fortunately, I doubt we'd have anything like that to deal with here," Dr. Tosh smiled. "If it is, it's over 20,000 years old."

"If something survived that long, we're seriously out of our depth." Jay told him honestly. "That's the kind of thing you call in the Council itself to deal with."

"Here's hoping it didn't then," the Wolf nodded.

"And here's hoping the site itself isn't as bad," Shi murmured. Places could be almost as bad as spirits sometimes. Even worse, in ways; you couldn't destroy a place nearly as easily if you had to.

"I think I'll introduce you to Dr. Kell first," Tosh mused. "He's the one who's really in charge here. He's just a little old to be meeting Jedi at the docks."

"How far have you gotten in the excavation?" Jay asked as they neared the ruins in the work going on.

"We stopped when we found the Sith ruins, but we've made it down through thousands of years of debris, silt, and subsequent settlements already," Tosh explained as the two Jedi looked around the tropical world they were on. "Once we found that ... well, when you identify inscriptions in Sith, it's best to wait for backup before opening the doors they're on, especially when you can't read all of them."

"Understandable," Jay nodded seriously as an aged Wolf came out of one of the temporary buildings to greet them in a repulsor-lift chair.

Compared to him, Dr. Tosh was young; Dr. Kell looked to be well into his early 100's, his fur pale grey. Despite his advanced age and physical state, the Wolf had the bearing of an Alpha, one who wasn't quite ready to give up the ghost just yet.

"Welcome to our little camp, Jedi," the aged Wolf said graciously. "I hope you'll excuse me if I don't stand up."

"Of course, Dr. Kell." Jay said easily.

"Jedi Clawson, I believe?" The Wolf asked him. "And Master Shivasta," he added with a nod towards the Ice Walker.

"Yes, Dr. Kell," Shivasta nodded. "The Council told you who was coming?"

"Yes," the Wolf nodded with a slight chuckle. "I'll admit, Knight Clawson, that I'm a little surprised to find out you have an interest in archaeology to go along with your interest in technology. I wouldn't have guessed from your papers on hyperdrive technology; you seemed far more focused on the future than previous breakthroughs."

"Without the past, the future means much less," Jay smiled slightly. "Not many archeologists have enough interest in technology to know my name from there."

"One of my theses was on the subject of archaic hyperdrive technology," Kell chuckled. "I keep an eye on modern developments as well; it's interesting to see where things go once you know where they've come from."

"How archaic?" Jay perked up. "I haven't found much by way of credible advancements since records started."

"Since the earliest known designs," the Wolf explained. "It depends on what you mean by credible advancements, but I'll admit that most of what we've seen is efficiency-related rather than methodology."

"True," he nodded, thinking back as they walked slowly towards the dig itself. "Have you gotten a chance to read my latest article on the next leap in hyperdrive technology? It was in the last Bramista."

Shi just smiled slightly at how animated her mate could be when he found someone new to talk about his hobbies with and followed along with Dr. Tosh.

"The Aristal design?" Dr. Kell asked him, nodding slightly. "I haven't seen theories like that in some time, but it seemed feasible. I found what was hinted at more interesting; if I hadn't known better, I would have expected to hear that an Arkanian had written it."

"It wouldn't be the first time I've been called that." Jay chuckled softly. It was an item he usually took some pride in that anyone would think he was that brilliant, mad scientist-like or not.

"I believe this might be a good time to introduce you to the others and let our friends talk," Dr. Tosh told Shi with a chuckle.

"If you two don't mind?" The Ice Walker asked politely with a smile.

"Not at all," Jay smiled slightly to her, an amused apology offered silently. "*My apologies for becoming distracted, Master.*"

"*You know better than to call me that,*" Shi chuckled mentally.

"Go ahead, Master Shivasta," Dr. Kell said easily. "I won't keep your partner for too long, if I can help it."

The other Wolf left with Shivasta, leaving the two academics to talk.

The next day, both Jedi were at the ruins along with Dr. Tosh and a number of other researchers they'd met after their arrival. Dr. Kell was nearby, but waiting in his chair some distance off so the repulsorlifts wouldn't disturb anything at the site.

"Do the two of you want to take a last look at it before we open up the ruins?" Dr. Tosh asked them. "You might recognize something we don't."

Both Jedi nodded, knowing it was more request than offer, and went to investigate. Shi mostly by her gut feeling, Jay by touch and the soft murmur that creations even this old remembered of their creation and purpose.

He got a feeling of a culture that wasn't nearly as corrupted by the Dark Side as it would eventually become. They were close to the Force in a way few industrialized people were, with priests who were as strong as the Jedi in certain aspects of the Force. Their touch was all over the ruins.

A proud people, a race of warriors and conquerors ... that was on the verge of being conquered. The ruins were a memorial, established before the event they were being built for. The ancient Sith had seen what was coming, and what would happen to their people. The equally ancient inscriptions told the story of their downfall millennia before it happened.

Jay forced himself to remember what he was doing, and quickly confirmed that there weren't any traps waiting for them if he opened the doors. Then, with a quick request to the place's doors, they slid open, letting out the musty, dead scents of a place abandoned for thousands of years.

"It is safe," he said quietly. "At least from intentional traps." He paused and stepped up next to Dr. Tosh. "I can probably translate most of what you don't know yet. It's beyond ancient, but the essence of who was here and the reason the built this is still strong in this place."

"That would be helpful," the Wolf nodded. "Though we'll need to confirm what you've found through more traditional means."

"I understand," he nodded.

"Ready to go in?" Shivasta asked everybody, her hand close to her lightsaber, just in case there was something they'd missed.

"We are, Master Shivasta," one of the younger archaeologists, a Raccoon, told her with a nod. The Ice Walker and her mate led the way in, their eyes adjusting to the darkness as the researchers brought in lights to make the process easier. They were greeted in the very first hallway by a number of chiseled statues of ancient Sith warriors, detailed down to scars on the chitin beneath their armor.

It was easy to tell where the skill that created the statue on Yavin 4 had come from; the statues here were of equal craftsmanship, though they didn't have as many Force-imbued artifacts. They all carried lanvaroks, the pole-axe disk-throwers that were traditional for their race and class, and wore their style of distinctive armor. A handful of them, farther down the corridor, had artifacts that had been treated with alchemical processes to work Force effects into them, both Light and Dark side.

Heroes and villains alike were here, a last reminder of the greatest warriors of a race of warriors.

"This is incredible," Dr. Tosh murmured as he looked around. "I'd read the legends, but never ...."

"*I think I can almost touch their souls here.*" Jay whispered to his mate, his own awe overriding just about everything else. "To do this as a last act of your civilization ...."

"*The last bastion at least,*" Shivasta agreed, doing a good job of hiding her own reaction from everybody but her mate. She was just as in awe of the work around her as he was, sensing the history behind the place now that she was in it. Each of the statues had been meticulously hand-crafted, prepared as a last testament to a race doomed to be forgotten as anything more than brutes and monsters.

This last temple of the true Sith had been designed to stand long after their usurpers had faded into obscurity.

"This place is incredible," the Raccoon from before murmured, looking around.

"And would have been forgotten forever, if the Sith had had their way," Dr. Tosh agreed.

"Which might have been a good thing, in the long run," Dr. Kell pointed out, his chair floating down after they confirmed that he could do so without causing any harm.

Shi glanced sideways at her mate, the flash of rage flaring hot and bright for a moment before he got it under control. She was a touch relieved that he managed to keep it inside, off his expression, much less his actions. Decades as a Jedi had improved his self-control to an incredible extent, but hadn't managed to still his instinctive hatred of lost history. He just kept it completely to himself now, deep enough that only the bond allowed her to sense its real intensity, and most Jedi didn't even notice.

"Dr. Kell?" The younger Wolf asked, looking back with a perplexed expression. "That's hardly what I'd expected to hear you say."

"The Sith still have adherents, though they try to stay hidden after the war a thousand years ago," Dr. Kell explained. "Despite the fact that they're remembered for butchery on a galactic scale, for not having a single redeeming feature, people are entranced by their image of rebellion and strength. Imagine what could happen if somebody were to make this display known? We, the academics, would recognize it as being a different breed of Sith, the Sith before they were what we know.

"The rest of the Republic? They would hear that the Sith were misunderstood. That they were really a race the same as any other, not a religious sect that wanted to enslave them. The modern Sith would undoubtedly try to claim reparations for the 'misunderstandings' represented by the ancient wars, claiming ancestral worlds like this one to begin training a new generation of Sith warriors."

"Ignorance of history and the facts is never a good thing." Jay said a bit more sharply than most Jedi would approve of, though it was still an even tone to most people. "If the academics can not explain this to the people, it is still no excuse to deny it exists to those who can understand it."

"I don't mean to bury it, Knight Clawson," the old Wolf pointed out, drawing himself up in his chair. "I would never approve of such a measure. I simply question whether or not it was meant to be found now. The Massassi deserve a fair portrayal; history barely remembers them, and what memories they are given are most unfair. The only problem is the difficulty separating the Sith as they are known from the Sith as they were meant to be known."

"If people hadn't let history be forgotten in the first place we wouldn't have this conversation." Jay shook his head, cooling off some. He was still riled, just not at anyone in particular. "It would still be common knowledge that the Sith are the sect and the Massassi a race they enslaved, usurped their name from and eventually destroyed."

"Things are found when they are meant to." Shi added more quietly, hoping to stop the pair from getting any more antagonistic towards each other. "Whether it is because we are ready, or because of what they will do if we are not."

"That wasn't history forgotten naturally, Knight Clawson," Dr. Tosh pointed out. "It was the history of a people that, by the time we met them, had wiped out the majority of their ancient records and weren't interested in sharing what they did have."

"Very true," Dr. Kell agreed. "Let's continue further into the ruins; maybe we'll find the reason they did that. As I remember, it's an issue that has never really been answered satisfactorily."

"Maybe we will," Shi nodded, grateful for an opportunity to simply continue and hope that Jay would relax a bit. Of all the things the Wolf could have said, he just had to stumble across one that would get the kat riled up.

She was grateful too, that Jay seemed willing to let it all drop, despite the retort she could read in his mind; that it was known that the Dark Jedi Sith and Massassi race were not interchangeable and that it wasn't well-known even among Jedi, that academia had already seriously failed in it's duties as an educator.

Instead, the group just pressed forward, pausing from time to time to inspect a particular statue, looking at it, taking pictures, documenting measurements ... the part of archaeology that was both mind-numbing and exciting at the same time.

After the main group had moved on, primarily to lose Dr. Kell, Jay quietly signaled Dr. Tosh to stay behind with him at one statue with a Force-weapon.

"How much of this can you understand?" Jay asked as he turned on a light in his Glovatrix to shine through one statue.

"How much of ... hmmm ...." The Wolf looked at the pattern of bars and lines that was displayed on the opposite side of the statue. "Just looking at it, nothing. But I think I see what you do. You think these patterns are more than simply the result of natural marks in the crystal?"

"No way in hell they are." Jay shook his head. "If it's not ancient Massassian, than it's coded ancient Massassian. Probably names and personal histories, given what the rest of the place is. It wasn't in the Massassian statue we found on Yavin 4, but by then they were Sith property and had probably lost the knowledge of how to do this."

"Which means that each of these statues could basically be a giant optical record," Tosh murmured. "We'll need to move one of the statues to a full-sized scanner to be sure we got everything recorded, then put the computers to work translating it into language patterns that could be translated, but ... thank you very much for noticing that, Knight Clawson. We probably would have, but it likely would have been one of those awkward accidents about a year down the line."

"Pick a statue, doctor. I can move it faster than any equipment." He offered quietly, more than slightly pleased that Tosh was honestly excited and eager to explore the information here.

"One closer to the entrance that seems to be fairly dense with information," the Wolf said after a moment. "Less chance of disturbing or damaging something."

Jay nodded and they headed back up after he told his mate what they were up to. He kept his light on, flashing it into each statue to gauge the information load in each.

After a few moments, they picked out one just a few rows in from the entrance, a Massassi female that gave the impression of a noble bearing, one of the few who didn't have a lanvarok as her primary weapon at this stage.

"How do you plan on moving it out?" Tosh asked him.

"The Force," he motioned slightly with one hand and the statue smoothly lifted into the air, easily avoiding the few obstacles. "Now, where did you want this?"

"We can use the transport we came here in to get it back to one of the ships," Tosh told him easily, clearly impressed by the display of power but not letting it distract him from the new find. "Ladies first," he chuckled.

Jay nodded and moved the statue out ahead of them and to the transport, settling it down in the cargo zone without any help opening the doors.

Dr. Tosh and the Jedi made quick work of tying it down, securing it for the trip so that nothing would go wrong with the priceless artifact when they moved it back.

"Any plans for tonight, Jenna?" Kanna asked as the two Jedi showered after their evening workout.

"I was thinking of spending some time with Master Fenrik." She answered and turned the hot air blowers on. "He has been alone so rarely, and he doesn't usually like it."

"I'd just been thinking the same thing," the Ice Walker smiled. "For a while at least. Maybe kidnap him for dinner?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," she grinned at her co-conspirator of thirty-three years. "Out somewhere, or cook here?"

"Cook here," Kanna chuckled. "I've got a couple ideas I want to try out on him."

"Should I be careful?" She giggled, thinking of ryl and a few related substances that she tended to experiment with.

"No, I'm not going to help you end up in bed with your old Master," Kanna smirked, drying off so they could head back to their quarters. "Handsome or not, he does have a couple mates he couldn't check in with first."

"Spoilsport." Jenna stuck her tongue out, then quickly settled into a more appropriate demeanor when another Jedi walked in to clean up. "On another subject, I've been thinking about taking a Padawan soon."

"Syleece?" Kanna asked with a slightly knowing smirk.

"Yes," the Panther nodded and stepped out of the shower to grab fresh robes. Her partner didn't miss how she eyed the couple males in the room with them, even though nothing even came of it. "She's of age, and it feels right. Besides, I've been a Knight for twenty years. It's about time I took one on."

"True," Kanna smiled, grabbing some fresh robes of her own and following her partner out. "The same could be said of me, honestly. Should probably start looking a bit more carefully."

"Syleece does have a favored playmate." She said with a slight smile. "A Night Raptor. He's hot stuff in combat precog, might even have Seer talent."

"Cormoran?" Kanna asked with a nod. "I've met him. Maybe I'll have to talk with him a bit more. With those feathers of his, I'd almost feel guilty teaching him to use a lightsaber," she chuckled.

"Don't worry, his kin here are teaching him to use his natural weapons," she winked. "If the Temples thinks we're bad, they're in for a reality check with those two as partners."

"I meant for the people who have to fight against him," the Ice Walker smirked. "And I seem to remember our Masters said much the same thing about us. We will have to start taking larger ships, if we take on Padawans finally, but I think the Council will be happy."

"Trust me; Knight Clawson's been expecting it. He's not nearly as subtle as most when he brings up our Padawans." Jenna chuckled. "Sometimes I swear he must have precog talent no one knows about."

"No," Kanna chuckled. "He's just very blunt when it comes to pointing out what he sees; ask either of his mates or the Council. It's not like it's that hard to figure out we were going to do it eventually. Especially you," she smirked. "I've just been waiting for you to mention something."

"It's taken me that long, huh?" Jenna shook her head. "Still, it's odd to have a Jedi that old be that blunt."

"You'll notice that he's not a Master, and that they try to keep him several parsecs away from any diplomatic missions," Kanna pointed out with a smirk. "And yes, it has. Though I'll admit, I had an edge on knowing it was probably going to happen."

"Quite true, though you must admit, it would be refreshing to be able to talk as bluntly as he does to those diplomats and leaders."

"I don't think there's a Jedi alive who doesn't agree with you there," Kanna smirked. "But let's face it, it's part of the job not to when we're doing that sort of mission."

"Which is why he's never sent on them." Jenna shook his head slightly and opened the door to her quarters. "Dinner in your quarters?"

"Sounds best to me," Kanna nodded. "You handle the Panther herding, I cook?"

"Will do," she winked and stepped inside to get ready for dinner and decide exactly how to get her former Master to agree.

Kanna hummed to herself as she set the table for three, her mind mostly on what she was doing, but wandering idly at the same time. She walked back into the kitchen to flip the meat frying for herself, her partner, and their guest, then paused. Her humming stopped, her eyes dilating slightly as she felt a chill run down her spine and the patterns of the Force around her begin shifting.

The Seer recognized the feeling; something was going to happen, she just wasn't entirely sure what yet. Almost instinctively, she held still, waiting to see if the impending vision would actually form up.

"Hey, watch the meat, partner." Jenna was there before anything more coherent happened. She was used to this behavior in her Seer partner. Fenrik looked more concerned.

"Sorry," Kanna blushed, pulling the frypan off and sliding the meat onto a nearby tray before it burned. "Bad habit of being a Seer; when a vision starts, sometimes I forget to finish little things like that before seeing if it'll finish. This one didn't," she shrugged, turning off the heat and bringing the tray of meat over to tip it into the bowl with a few fruits and about three other types of meat, mixing it all together.

"Dinner smells good, anyway." Jenna grinned, sniffing appreciatively at the main course.

"I hope it tastes as good as it smells," Fenrik agreed with a bit of a grin. "So, you're sure nothing's wrong?" He asked Kanna, taking a seat as the Ice Walker hurried out to fetch a bottle of juice to go with the largely carnivorous 'salad' she'd made.

"Yes, Master Fenrik," she nodded easily, pouring three glasses of it. "It happens once in a while. About half the time I don't get anything from it, one out of ten I get a solid vision of something, and the rest of the time I check with Master Zaian and she looks at me funny before telling me nothing happened."

"And usually asking you if you've been getting enough sleep lately," Jenna smirked.

"Which I usually haven't," Kanna admitted. "You'd be surprised how similar a vision can be to having too much to drink or not enough sleep."

"No wonder not many choices are made based on them." Fenrik shook his head and happily helped himself to a good portion of the meat and fruit dish.

"Exactly," she nodded, letting Jenna take her own helping before helping herself. "Even when they do form into clear visions, if they're of something that's going to happen, it doesn't always happen, or it's vague as anything. So, how have things been going for you, Jay, and Shi?" She asked.

"Fairly well. I'm waiting to hear if I'll be joining them on Beldin Prime or off on another mission. I'm sure Jay's having a grand time on the dig. Shi's probably bored, or trying to keep Jay from confounding the archeologists too much telling them what things are and were used for."

"Could be worse," Kanna grinned. "I could be along with them. I think that poor doctor was going to rip his hair out for everything Jay and I told him that he couldn't use, that first mission I tagged along on after my Seer talents were working well."

"True," Fenrik chuckled with a wicked grin. "And he couldn't do much, since he did ask for 'help'. That one was almost worth the boredom to get to watch."

"Even when Kanna tripped across the old courtship rituals?" Jenna asked with a smirk.

"Especially that one," he laughed. "I didn't really want to shut her up. There were fun ideas in there."

"Oh shush," Kanna muttered, blushing a light purple despite the fact that all three of them knew she wasn't that embarrassed by what had happened. Not nearly as much as Shivasta had been, at least. "Is it my fault nobody realized what that statue was really used for?"

"I expect Jay knew, and didn't think anything of it." Fenrik chuckled softly. "Your rendition was much more interesting, though."

"I'm just glad I'm not one of the Seers who ends up acting out parts of some of her visions," Kanna chuckled, eating her dinner. "That would have been very ... interesting."

"Shi would have passed out, I'm sure." Fenrik couldn't help but laugh. "It would have ruined the Jedi image for anyone there."

"And anybody who heard of it," Jenna snickered. "Though it would've fixed my reputation around here, that much is for sure," she winked at her partner.

"Oh, I don't know," Kanna smirked back. "You didn't see some of the bonding rituals between the new sisters-in-law."

"Why do I get the feeling that you learned more about sex in that vision than my Padawan did in all her years of experimenting?" Fenrik shook his head, amazed at how familiar the chat over dinner was here. He really had thought it was only his dinner table that was this strange.

Of course, these were the two Padawans who'd grown up around it.

"Oh, I only remember the highlights," Kanna chuckled. "Though that still puts me ahead of a lot of the people around here, especially the ones who didn't have the experimental years."

"Which, as I recall, includes you." He chuckled throatily. "Somehow I wonder how you came out as traditional as you have, given who raised you, and your partner."

"Hay!" Jenna faked insult.

"Don't you start. You're still as bad as Jay ever was." He smirked at her. "And don't think I didn't know you were usually watching us when you couldn't get a playmate of your own."

"Well, you never complained," Jenna smirked. "As for Miss Perfect Jedi, it was the only way she could get anybody to trust her enough to be a proper partner in crime for me," Jenna smirked.

"Guilty," the Ice Walker grinned.

"You two could teach the bothans a thing or two about espionage, you know." He shook his head.

"And that's before you've heard about our recent missions," Kanna smirked. "We do our best."

"Do I even want to know?" He raised an eyebrow, keenly interested.

"Hear about that near-rebellion on Malastare?" The Ice Walker asked, getting into one of her favorite subjects; the more exciting missions she ended up on when she was working with Jenna.

"Yes, and you two were there," he nodded, very curious about what had not ended up in the report.

"Well, the Council wanted us to make sure it stayed a near -" Kanna trailed off, and then sighed.

"Well, that's great timing," she murmured, standing up. "Sorry I have to run, but I just got a call from Master Charn. Councilors I don't want to keep waiting."

"Hopefully it's not the usual when another Seer calls you." Jenna nodded seriously. "I'll clean up."

"You two finish eating first," Kanna smiled. "With any luck, it won't be anything," she said, heading out the door quickly.

Despite her words, she knew full well things weren't going to be that simple.

Her belief was confirmed by the dark expression on Master Charn's face when she entered the meditation chamber he'd called her to.

"Hello, Knight Kanna." The heavily silvered Panther greeted her with a motion to sit with him. Master Zaian was already there, her own fur even more pale than the Councilor's. Kanna took her seat, slipping into a meditative position.

"Hello, Master Charn, Zaian," she said softly. "What is the matter?" She asked.

"The storm rises," Master Zaian said softly, her eyelids closed to hide the once-bright eyes that were now clouded with cataracts. "It has obscured our vision, but its presence is enough to be of concern."

"The vision I almost had," Kanna said, knowing that it was somehow connected to this.

"Yes," the ancient Panthress nodded slightly. "You came closest out of all the Knights; we need you to complete the circle."

"I understand, Master," Kanna nodded. "Is there any idea what it is that is causing the storm?"

"What always causes it, Knight Kanna," Master Charn rumbled, his voice deep and almost menacing. "The Dark rises; we must discover where, and how."

The three Seers joined hands, Zaian not fumbling in the least despite her handicap, her two younger colleagues closing their eyes and focusing on the energies interfering with their visions.

And, perhaps, signaled the return of the Sith.

Darth Tembris settled back in his room, closing his eyes and beginning to meditate. The Sith Lord had been planning this for some time, decades even. Delicate plans had been laid, contingencies put in place, countless assorted permutations of his arrangements laid out to bring the Republic and the Jedi to their knees in time.

If this plan worked, it would be within his lifetime yet.

He had no intention of letting the presence he had sensed earlier interfere with that.

"Who are you?" He asked himself quietly, stretching out his consciousness and seeking the presence in the Force and the Dark Side again. Whatever it was, it seemed to gravitate towards the Jedi who had arrived earlier, so he was going to start there.

Masking his presence, wrapping himself in a shroud of the Dark Side's energies, he began to explore, occasionally sending out a ripple through the Force that would only be sensed by the ... thing ... he was searching for.

It drew a response much sooner than he'd expected. With that came the realization that a Dark Side creature it may be, but it was also completely alien to this galaxy.

"*Who cares?*" It rumbled back defensively, the heavy accent in it's mind as much from being unaccustomed to being addressed by anyone it wasn't linked to as a minimal understanding of the language.

"*Somebody who belongs here,*" Tembris informed it. "*What are you, and what is your interest in the Jedi.*"

"*He is mine.*" The creature growled back, the demonic mental image coming more from what it knew others thought of it than any self-image it had. On the fringe of its mind, the Sith realize that this entity had never had a solid form.

And it was old.

A part of him wondered, in the back of his mind, if he was seeing a creature that wasn't a true spirit, but instead an embodiment of the Dark Side itself.

"*I do not dispute that claim,*" Tembris told him. "*But I have need of him.*"

"*What do you offer in exchange for that?*" It accepted the opening to negotiations cautiously.

"*To turn him to your purposes,*" the Sith offered. His own purposes required turning Clawson to the Dark Side; he doubted that this creature would object. After presenting that option, he reached out, searching the Force for some information that would make these negotiations possible.

What he found came as a serious surprise.

The creature wanted young by his 'charge'. Young that Clawson had steadfastly refused even with his mates. It had all but given up on turning the Jedi, but the next generation, a generation even more powerful than this one, presented it with a lure it couldn't resist.

"*You think you can turn him?*" It asked skeptically. "After all this time, he resists the Dark well.*"

"*As did I,*" the Sith pointed out. "*And if that fails, I can offer you something you want even more. Children, by his blood, of a Force-wielder. Children that can be raised to the Dark.*"

Tembris knew he had the creature's undivided attention now. He could feel it in the way the Force flowed and jumped in the eagerness of the Dark seeing a long-desired event coming to pass.

"*What do you intend for him?*" It asked with a slightly less possessive rumble.

"*Only that his 'gifts' be put to proper use,*" Tembris assured it. "*The Sith want the Republic and Jedi to pay for what they have done. With his assistance, I can accomplish what no other Sith Lord has truly achieved; the conquest of the Republic, and Sith domination. I imagine you could help me with this. I can sense how close you are to the Knight.*"

"*His family line is mine,*" the Demon nodded. "*It will take more than my connection to turn him though. You must make his mates go away. He is too strong with them.*"

"*That was already planned,*" the Sith smirked mentally. "*I have prior business with that Healer, and his other mate is across the galaxy.*"

"*Yes,*" it crooned, seeing the possibilities. "*How is she going away?*"

"*An old demon of hers is about to return in a nearby system. Nearby, but not close enough to let her return here when her mate finds he needs her. She'll be busy fighting a minor plague outbreak when the pieces come together.*"

"*A good plan.*" It nodded in approval. It wasn't certain it would work, but it didn't have any obvious flaws. "*I will leave him alone, so she is not so uneasy about leaving him here.*"

"*And I will arrange to fulfill my end of the bargain,*" Tembris promised. "*Worst case scenario, one of my hopefuls will carry his children within days.*"

"*And that is far from a loss.*" The Demon said with no small hint of the power and promise he expected of such a union.

"*Agreed,*" Tembris said. "*I'd been toying with the idea already, in case he should manage to be turned back after he joins us. We both have much work to do; it would be wise to begin doing it.*"

With that, the Sith pulled back towards his body, moving towards his console to send out orders to move ahead with the plan.

It was time for the Republic to finally fall.

A number of the researchers and helpers were gathered around to watch the two Jedi spar a few days later. Dr. Tosh and Dr. Kell were still asleep, so the younger archaeologists were taking the opportunity to watch the Knight and Master practice.

"This is a lot more interesting than working in the ruins," one of them, a lean Panthress, rumbled, her eyes focused mostly on Jay. Despite having a couple decades on her, he was still lean and well built, and not even close to showing his age.

"Speak for yourself, Ricki," a fluffy black-on-brown Tabby fem roughly the same age chuckled. "This is fun, but the work we're actually getting paid for is too. Though I have to admit, they are attractive."

"Pity they spends their nights together." Ricki chuckled softly. "Though it's good to know not all Jedi are cold fish."

"Mmm ... can you imagine what it'd be like to be between them?" The Tabby grinned at her friend. "Though I'd settle for the blue-skinned girl, myself."

"You would, Mina," Ricki chuckled, rolling her eyes a bit. "Pass up a perfectly good tom like that."

"I happen to appreciate toms in places besides the bedroom," the smaller woman shot back playfully, focusing on the sparring match again. "Besides, it'd be nice to get to know 'em both better, whether or not anybody ever made it to the bedroom."

"With the size of this dig, we'll get our chance. We'll be here for months at least." A male Sabertooth, hired for his muscle more than his skill, grinned at the pair.

"Very true," Mina chuckled, watching Clawson's fluid, effective moves with the realization that the Knight was a far better fighter than the Master in this case. "Still can't believe those ruins we found. That place is incredible."

"Yeah, it is. Just those statues are mind-blowing, never mind all the info they contain." Ricki nodded.

"Makes you wonder what any later statues they have are like doesn't it?" Mina asked with a bit of a grin. "Like just later, not the one that turned up on Yavin."

"Given how few have been found, I'm sure that they'll all be sent through a scanner system ASAP." The Panthress nodded. "Just these have already quadrupled our knowledge, and I don't think we've scanned more than ten percent of them yet."

"Hey now, give the linguists time to work girl," Mina smirked. "We can scan 'em pretty quick, but then we've got to get the computer to decode 'em and we have to translate from a Sith dialect that's older than the Sith. You think it's gonna go quickly?"

"No, but it's still exciting." Ricki grinned at her. "Imagine what this will actually give us in ten or twenty years when it's all been studied properly."

"Myopia," the Sabertooth smirked down at the two archaeologists. "At least from what I've seen of it."

"We're not that bad." Ricki rolled her eyes at him.

"I'll make sure to publish a large print version," Mina chuckled, looking up at him. "And to use easy words," she teased as the sparring Jedi started to slow down a bit.

"So they don't last forever after all." He grinned up at the pair.

"Close enough for me," Ricki chuckled with a wise-ass grin, Mina just rolling her eyes.

"They've been at it for close to an hour now, they're probably interested in breakfast," the tabby pointed out.

"So am I." Ricki nodded, though the look she gave Jay was not all that subtle.

"Somehow, I was thinking of a different sort of 'breakfast in bed' than you are," Mina deadpanned. "I'll go check with the kitchen, you have fun trying to flirt or something."

"Want me to try and save anything for you, if I get lucky?" Ricki winked at her co-worker.

"Why not?" Mina chuckled, shaking her head. "Not like you're going to. They might not be cold fish, but they're still Jedi. You are so not their speed."

"How would you know?" Ricki shot back with a bit of a smirk.

"*I think we need to try and be more quiet at night.*" Jay commented as he and Shi cooled down.

"*I don't know, it's almost fun listening to those two,*" Shi chuckled mentally. "*Imagine what it'd be like if Fenrik was here too.*"

"*Very fun,*" he grinned mentally and drew a deep breath to calm down. "*The comment about breakfast was right though. I'm quite ready to eat.*"

"*Agreed,*" Shivasta nodded, dropping back to the ready position and extinguishing her lightsaber. "So, shall we find our way to the cafeteria?"

"I think so," he nodded easily. "*We're not so sweaty we need a shower yet.*" He winked at her mentally.

"*That's because we already showered when we got out of bed,*" she pointed out with a mental smirk. "*Come on, let's look for subjects we can talk about out-loud politely.*"

"Found anything of extra interest in your part of the dig?" He went for the obvious, and to him, the most interesting one.

"Only that this is the weirdest Sith ruin I've ever been in," Shi said easily. "They really changed after they started to turn to the Dark Side, physically and culturally."

"The more I translate, the more I get to know these people, the more I hate those early Dark Jedi. They did so much more than just subjugate and warp these people." He shook his head. Despite the evenness of his voice, she had no doubt the emotions spoken of were very real and very strong. "They weren't Light-siders, but there was no need to steal their name, their very identity."

"It was a slower sort of conquest, I think," Shivasta pointed out. "By the time they did, they weren't Dark Jedi anymore. They were Sith. They didn't conquer them violently; they mingled, and twisted the culture to their purposes. Just like the Sith do with everything."

"I don't expect I'll ever understand how anyone could be so willing to give up their identity." He shook his head slightly.

"How did my people become the Ice Walkers?" Shi pointed out. "The first people didn't. There comes a point when you're not who you used to be though."

"I don't see how they did that either." He said very quietly. "To go that far ... they've all forgotten their past in becoming something new." He sighed. "Shi, you're talking to someone who still holds his family name and ways as central to his identity. I am a Clawson. Without that knowledge, there's nothing worth having." He closed his eyes and shook his head as they got close enough to see others at the entrance of cafeteria. "*I can't understand giving up what you are. Maybe you can. It's just not in me to do that.*"

"*You're in a place where being who you are still fits, in a way,*" she pointed out softly, taking his hand and squeezing it lightly. "*After a dozen generations, in a place where that's not true, you adapt or don't last that long.*"

"*But still, to forget where you came from, just to adapt?*" He wasn't really asking her, it was more just a statement of something he couldn't grasp at all.

"When it doesn't help you, or when you resent it, it doesn't matter as much," she pointed out. "And the Sith didn't forget, unfortunately. They tried to destroy the memory of what they took over, but they didn't forget about the Jedi."

"*I guess so,*" he acknowledged the truth of her words, even if he didn't understand how they could be true.

"Let's just focus on what we can recover of the past, hmm?" She smiled, leading him into the cafeteria and taking a deep breath. "Smells like they didn't char the bacon this morning," she chuckled.

"Always a good thing," he managed a slight smile, though the smell of good food always perked him up more than he showed. "Smells like there is fresh bread and fruit in the offering too."

"It is nice eating somewhere they aren't cooking for species that can't live on the same planet you're on," Shi smiled as they got into line. "Though the Kel Dor have some interesting dishes sometimes."

"True, though I do prefer Kanna's ideas of interesting dishes." He chuckled.

"No complaints there," she chuckled. "She learned to cook well."

"That she has," he nodded and picked up a tray, pleased with the selection available today.

"Any objection to company while we eat?" Shivasta asked, taking a tray of her own. "Looks like we have a tabby saving us seats," she explained, nodding towards Mina and the table she was at.

"Not at all," he glanced that way. "Mina, I think."

"I think so," Shivasta agreed with a nod, starting to walk over towards the table and the tabby who was glad to see she had their attention. "Looks like we might have another friend here before we leave."

"Never a bad thing," he chuckled softly before they were really in earshot.

"Thanks for saving us seats," Shi smiled as they took them.

"No problem," Mina smiled. "I figured I should get your attention before my partner realized you two were free and tried 'distracting' you."

"The Panther you were talking with while we sparred?" Jay asked.

"Yeah," Mina chuckled. "She's ... enthusiastic. I swear, she's living proof that not everybody who works digs is the calm, restrained intellectual."

"*Rather like how we're living proof not all Jedi are 'cold fish'.*" Jay snickered silently to Shi. "I think you'll find those exceptions everywhere."

"Most likely," Mina smiled. "But not usually to the level she's at."

"I wonder if it's a Panther thing?" Shi chuckled. "I've known several; most of them are as bad as she sounds like."

"*I've never heard you seriously complain about ours.*" Jay snickered silently. "It's possible," he nodded. "Though I thought that was supposed to be the domain of rabbits and Minervan Mink."

"Oh, the assorted Cats have their own reputations," Mina chuckled. "Just that most of us don't live up to them, leaving people like Rickie to fill in the gaps."

"Which they tend to do very enthusiastically," Shi chuckled, starting in on her breakfast.

"The universe does prefer balance," he nodded, almost not keeping a straight face.

"Mmm ... well, if Ricki's supposed to be doing something to make the universe happy, I suspect it has less to do with balance, and more to do with metaphysical pornography," Mina snickered. "I prefer to get to know people, myself."

"I do believe somebody's hinting," Shi chuckled.

"At you, as I recall." Jay winked at her.

"Oh, all right," Shi chuckled, taking a drink of juice and setting the glass down. "So, where do you want me to start?"

"How about with some of the things you two have done?" Mina asked with a smile. "All I know about you is that you're both Jedi."

"Okay," the Ice Walker smiled, thinking back and picking out an early story of theirs. "Think I'll start with what happened at the Kallarak ...."

Doruth groaned softly as he cuddled up with his shewolf mate late that night, Tes dressed in her harem costume after a day of subtle pampering that had him wondering what was going on.

"Mmm ... I'm getting too old for this," he chuckled, licking her cheek tenderly.

"You're not even eighty-five, Jedi." She nuzzled him back. "Shan and Surool still play, and I don't even want to know how old they are."

"You also tried to keep me going for about three hours," Doruth pointed out dryly, kissing her. "While you're worth it, it's just not as easy as it used to be."

"Ah, my poor warrior all tuckered out?" Tes teased him with a kiss that was gently serious. "You are worth it, love, every time."

"Mmm .... and so are you," he murmured. They both had as much grey in their fur as anything else by this point, and the familiarity of fifty years being mates behind them. Even so, they still did everything they had when they were just getting together.

Only somewhat more gently.

"So," he asked with a soft chuckle, "what is it you're trying to butter me up before asking me about?"

"It's been more than a year since we sent Neki, Verera and Kysi to the Crèche." She murmured softly, a look on her face that he'd seen many times before, usually with similar words.

"You're interested in bringing up another litter?" He asked her, honestly knowing he should know better than to be surprised. They'd already raised more children than any Jedi ever before, the majority of whom were already with the Order in one capacity or another. Nasim and Abayomi were already Masters now, as were all the Wolves she'd given birth too, except for Badru, who'd been killed as a Knight, and Shyin, who was running the family business instead of becoming a Jedi.

"Yes," she smiled brilliantly, a look that they both knew he could rarely refuse.

"You really do get along with being a mother, at least for the time we are," he murmured, nuzzling her neck. "Are you really sure we can keep up with another litter though? Honestly?"

"I'm sure," she smiled and rolled over to snuggle against him. "I've never doubted your ability."

"You know, the Kaminoans have got to adore us by now," he murmured dryly, nuzzling her neck. "Every few years, just about like clockwork."

"The Council hasn't complained yet either." She snickered a bit. "They may pay, but they get some very good Jedi from the investment."

"The Council might not, the crèche-masters ... that's another story," Doruth chuckled. "I think Master Kellen was hinting that he'd rather we at least wait until he's retired before sending more cubs his way the other day."

"How long until then?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Probably just about long enough for the next litter to be ready," Doruth admitted. "Mmm ... only two this time?" He asked, knowing already that he probably wouldn't be able to say no. As much as cubs were sometimes irritating, he enjoyed being a father almost as much as Tes did being a mother. He'd have to, to have been father to three litters of pups and ten litters of cubs, and cub/pup sitter to quite a few more he was grandfather, or even great-grandfather, too.

He was just a little more willing to settle for grandfather than she was.

"I can live with that," she murred and snuggled close. "Thank you."

"Mmm ... just promise me that this litter will be the last, all right?" He asked her, kissing her neck. "By the time you'll be in the mood again, I'll almost be 90, and that is far too old for even a Jedi to be called 'Daddy,'" he chuckled.

"At least by an infant," Tes agreed a bit reluctantly. "It's hard to remember you don't have the endless energy and endurance you did when we met." She smiled at him softly.

"Mmm ... you don't either, my love," he pointed out softly, kissing her tenderly. "We do our best, but even Jedi slow down eventually."

"Eighty-five is not that old." She chuckled. "Master Charn's two hundred and something."

"And hasn't been on missions for at least a hundred and thirty," Doruth pointed out, scritching her back lightly. "I'm still the oldest Panther on field duty, and not planning on retiring all that soon. Trust me, I'm not about to trade in my lightsaber for a rocker," he smirked.

"Or a Councilor's seat." She nuzzled him. "Which you'd be very good at, if you didn't hate politics so much."

"Mmm ... don't start that again," he chuckled. "You'd be as bored as I would be if we were stuck here on Coruscant." He buried his muzzle in her neck-fur, inhaling her familiar scent deeply. "Mmm ... sleep well, love."

"Yes, sleep," she murmured agreeably and snuggled in for the night, still as grateful for every night she had him as he was for his nights with her.

Shivasta paused as she was performing her morning stretches and meditations, opening her eyes as she heard the console in her quarters beep. Glancing at the bed to make sure Jay wasn't already up and getting it, she stood, moving to see what somebody was contacting them here for.

As she read the message, lengthy and filled with medical technical terms, Jay's half-waking mind became increasingly aware of his mate's concern and mild distress.

"*Shi?*" He reached out with his mind before his body was quite awake enough to talk.

"Plague outbreak," she told him softly, moving to start packing. "It reads like a mutant strain got out of the quarantine."

"*Great,*" he sighed mentally. "*When's the ship going to be here for you?*"

"An hour or two," she told him. "About enough time to pack and get a quick breakfast. Are you going to be okay? It sounds like they can probably handle it with the people they have, but ...."

"Shi, you're a Master Healer. Go help the sick people." He smiled at her a bit unhappily even as he got up to come over and hug her. "I'll be fine. If there was anything active here that's nasty, we would have found it by now."

"You're right," she smiled slightly, kissing him gently. "With any luck, it shouldn't take more than a few weeks. It sounds like we caught it fairly early, and the vaccines do some good, just not as much as they used to. At least I won't have to worry about catching it this time," she smiled wryly.

"At least there is that," he murmured and rested his forehead against hers. "Just be as careful as you can, okay? I'm too old to find another mate."

"Like anybody else'd put up with you," she teased playfully, kissing him gently. "Let's get some food before I have to go, okay? I'll see you again soon; it's just a few systems away."

"Yes, breakfast." He nodded and let her go, turning to get dressed. He wasn't happy, but nothing more than could be expected from the news.

Mina rubbed the bridge of her muzzle lightly as she finished translating one particular stretch of decoded ancient Sith legends.

"Knight Clawson? Think we can take five?" She asked him, setting her datapad aside.

"Of course," he nodded agreeably and set his own datapad aside.

"How're you doing?" She asked him conversationally, standing up and moving over to grab something to drink for the both of them.

"I'm fine," he looked at her a bit curiously, unsure where the question had come from.

"I meant with your mate gone," she smiled, handing him a glass of tendra juice. "You two are obviously very close; she's been gone close to a week now."

"I miss her, but this is hardly the first time we've been apart." He said easily, though it wasn't nearly so easy for him at night. "Jedi do not always have the luxury of having who they wish with them."

"Sounds a bit like our job, if you hook up with somebody who isn't cleared for dig work," Mina smiled. "How long have you two been together?"

Jay paused, doing a bit of math to answer that. "Fifty-two years next month."

"Whoa," she murmured, honestly more than a bit surprised. "Either you two got together when you were pretty young, or the Jedi really age slower than most people."

"Young." He admitted after a sip of golden-orange juice. "We were both teenagers."

"And the slow aging," Mina smiled. "I would've pegged the both of you for forties, not sixties. No wonder you two are so close."

"And both our races age slower than the galactic norm to start with." He chuckled softly. "Even without Jedi training, we wouldn't look our age to most."

"Well, I imagine that has its perks," she chuckled. "Not quite as interesting as the Neti, probably, but still pretty good."

"I don't think anything could be quite that interesting." He shook his head with a soft chuckle thinking about the plant-basted life. "Not even the Drakon last so long, though none of them have tried the hibernation trick before. They might come close, with a natural life span toping eight thousand years for a Jedi and records of far older ones."

"That'd come close at least," Mina chuckled. "Have you worked with a Drakon before?" She asked him curiously. If he had, she rather hoped he wasn't friends with any of them. Drakon, especially as Jedi, tended to be people you didn't want to mess around with. They were thankfully very rare off their homeworld. Not so thankfully, those that were out and about were mostly Jedi.

"A couple times," he nodded. "You have not flown until one has given you a ride at Force-enhanced speed." He smiled warmly at the thrilling memory from three decades before. "I tend to be sent on missions with one of my mates though, if all three of us don't go. The Council doesn't break up a good team without reason."

"All three of you?" She asked, interested. Tembris had only mentioned one mate. "Your other mate isn't here?"

"No," he shook his head a bit. "He was on a mission when this one came in. The Council might send him here for the rest of the dig, or back to his classes. As dull as he finds it, I do hope he comes."

"Don't like being alone?" She said understandingly.

"Not particularly." He admitted after finishing half the glass. "Our bond means we're never truly alone, but it's not the same as having them with you. As long as we've been together, it's a little weird being solo."

"Makes sense," she nodded, drinking her own juice. She was really hoping the Council would keep his other mate on Coruscant once he was back; timing everything would be tricky enough with one of them to get out of the way.

"So what about you, besides preferring females?" He countered, wanting to get himself off the main subject. "Anyone back home or hopes for the future?"

"Not at the moment," she admitted. "Nothing serious at least. Having too much fun in the field yet," she grinned.

"That's hardly a reason," Jay pointed out with a low chuckle. "There are plenty of people here, after all."

"Oh don't get me wrong, I do play around once in a while," she chuckled. "Just haven't met anybody who interests me that much yet."

"That can be a lifetime's search for many," he nodded. "I was more than lucky to find my mates as young as I did."

"I'll bet," she agreed. "Just how young were you?"

"Thirteen." He answered simply. "They were both fifteen."

"Weren't you a little young to be interested in fems back then?" Mina asked curiously, more than a touch stunned at those ages.

"I was a little young to be interested in anyone," he shrugged. "It's one of those 'it happened' things. None of us were looking for it; the Force simply decided it was time."

"Figures," Mina chuckled. "You're not looking for one mate yet, and you manage to find two. There are people out there who've been looking for years who can't even manage to find one. At least it lasted," she smiled.

"Yes," he smiled faintly, warmed by the thought of his mates. "We've even surprised most Jedi with how long we've been together."

"I imagine you surprised most Jedi with the fact that you were together, unless the rumors about the Order aren't true," she chuckled.

"They're mostly true," Jay admitted. "They knew when they accepted me that I was going to be an exception to that norm, just not with who or exactly when. My Master is a good example of more typical Jedi behavior, though. She's never actually thought about having sex in any seriousness."

"Well, unless you want some serious attention from a certain Panthress I know, you might want to keep how much of an exception you are under wraps," Mina winked. "She's definitely interested."

"Her attention is not welcome." He replied simply, a slight shifting in the Force around him indicating just how serious a 'no' that really was. "Which she'll find out if she gets past whispering about it to you."

"Understood," Mina said easily, filing that mentally. It certainly wouldn't help her mission, Zykell's assurances that his new ally would help her get around that one weren't that reassuring. He would have to be a Jedi interested in sex and not interested in anyone but whom he already was with. "I'll make sure she finds out before that point, discretely."

"Thank you," he inclined his head slightly before finishing his juice. "Ready to get back to work?"

"I think so," Mina smiled, finishing her own drink and setting the glass aside. "Any idea what this passage means?" She asked, indicating one particular stretch of runes on both their pads.

Shivasta sighed as she worked through the medical readouts for the latest patients she'd had. Something didn't feel right about this. Not only was the Plague resisting the standard vaccine, but it was more virulent.

It had sounded like an accidental mutation, but given the Plague's known origin ... she was beginning to think somebody had engineered a second strain. The question was why they would release it here. The Carcharo system was small and out on the Rim ... but it was so close to vital Rim systems that anybody releasing it would have to realize that there would be a Jedi presence within days of the first reports.

So why would somebody take a disease that already had a cure, make it more contagious, then put it somewhere it could be cured reasonably easily? It didn't make sense.

A chill tingled along her spine, a warning of Darkness of more sentient origin than the disease she was fighting.

It was a fairly familiar feeling; something about this was connected to the Demon.

Which meant Jay was going to be in danger.

"Damn it," she swore under her breath, turning to her console to send a message to Jay. She had to get back to the Beldin system as quickly as she could, but he needed to know what was happening first. Whoever was behind this was probably on the dig with him.

What sort of sick bastard would do this to an innocent system to lure a Jedi away?

She typed in the message, opening the door behind her. At least her latest patient was reasonably healthy.

"I'm afraid something came up, but you're recovering nicely," she called back. "You should be fi-" She cut off as she felt a dart hit her throat, reaching up and spinning around, ripping the needle out of her neck even as she felt the poison on it burning into her system.

The Otter in the next room, her patient, was holding small, concealed dart pistol, watching as her breath started to grow short. She didn't have to reach out with the Force to realize that her 'patient' was working with the people behind this.

She did, however, have to work to keep the poison from killing her. She recognized the symptoms as her hands started trembling; green zyla.

One of the poisons out there that didn't have a known antidote.

She summoned the Force to her, knowing that using it was her only chance to live through this, her blood burning and nerves beginning to function randomly.

The Ice Walker fell to the ground, twitching for a few moments before lying still, her eyes staring lifelessly forward.

Most of the way across the galaxy, Kanna gasped, her eyes snapping open as she sensed her Master and Aunt fall. She pulled her hands free from Master Charn's and Master Zaian's, thunder cracking the normally peaceful skies of Coruscant outside the meditation spire.

"Master," she murmured, starting to stand as she put together what she'd felt. Her bond with Shivasta was deeper than the normal Master-Padawan connection; the two of them had never truly broken it because of their familiar relationship. Thanks to that, and her meditation with the two stronger Seers, she had felt the ripples caused by ....

She swallowed hard, unwilling to believe what she'd felt. Intense pain that gave way to the Force ... she couldn't be sure, but death seemed like a very real possibility.

"Knight," Master Charn's voice stopped her in her tracks as she turned to leave, his tone clearly expecting an explanation.

"I'm sorry, Masters," she said, turning to face them again, bowing. "I sensed something, in meditation ... something happened to Master Shivasta. She has been injured, badly ... possibly killed."

That raised an eyebrow slightly on the aged male Panther. "Where are you going, then?"

"I ...." Kanna trailed off as she realized she didn't honestly know. "To try and find out what happened," she said after a moment. "See if anybody's with her, knows about it. I might be the only person who does."

"Knight Clawson most assuredly knows, given they are on the same mission." Master Charn pointed out; no longer privy to the Council knowledge that Shivasta had left the dig and her mate several systems away.

"With all due respect, Master Charn, if Knight Clawson is aware of what I felt, then he is in no position to help her right now," Kanna said simply. There was no way Jay would have allowed something like that to happen if he could possibly help it.

"You and Knight Dyreth should check with Master Fenrik first, then. He also shares a bond with them." His concern for the other Panther clear to the Jedi. "I will alert Master Essani to send the nearest Healer to their location."

"Thank you, Master," Kanna said, bowing. "We will check with Master Fenrik, then try and determine what happened." With that, she turned to leave, hurrying without giving any observers a clear view of how concerned she truly was.

Mina waited outside the Jedi's quarters, ready to open the door as soon as the Demon told her it was time. She could feel the turbulent Darkness in there, the Light fighting it, but the proportion of the two told her as clearly as any words that it wasn't the Force that was fighting the Darkness back. The Jedi wasn't using the methods she'd have expected him to when under attack by a creature of the Dark.

Yet he was still winning, by force of will alone, apparently.

If Darth Tembris hadn't told her how to contact the Demon, how to hear its words without letting its host in on the fact, she'd probably have left by now. It was no different than any other morning so far.

Then she heard the scream of rage and pain from the kat inside. She hit the key to open the door, rushing in, her face a mask of concern as the Force became a visible, living, chaotic entity around the tom struggling in bed. He wasn't truly awake; she could feel that as much as see it in his open, sightless, terrified and panicked eyes.

"*Pretend to be her,*" the Demon's deep voice rumbled in her mind. "*Hold him, croon comforting things to him, touch him when he calms. Reach out to his mind so I can work.*"

Mina moved to do so, shifting onto the bed and presenting a warm, comforting presence.

"It's all right," she told him softly, using most of the words she remembered from her early mornings spent eavesdropping on the two Jedi during this little 'ritual.' "It's all right, I'm here for you." She just hoped that the obvious differences between herself and his newly-former mate wouldn't get in the way.

On the other hand, for the critical part of her mission, she only needed him to accept her this once. Darth Tembris had does things to her body to ensure that she would conceive well this morning if she even got close to what the mates normally did.

She was more than glad she'd picked up a tolerance for pain. His claws were still very sharp and he was oblivious to what he was doing as the Demon did its work in his mind and Mina held his body. She smiled slightly as he began to show signs of relaxing as the Demon backed off, leaving the new pseudo-mate-bond between the felines in its wake.

"Shh, it's all right," she murmured, kissing him lightly and drawing him back with her onto the bed, glad she was only wearing a light gown. It was probably more than his real mate did, but she couldn't very well have walked around the camp naked, and there hadn't been all that much time to change once he was ready.

It felt incredibly weird, and a touch unsettling, to feel the way his mind worked; to know anyone that intimately with the realization that is she wasn't incredibly careful, and he wasn't as weak a telepath as she'd been told, that he could know her just as well, just as fast.

Then her attention was no longer on the long-term consequences but focused on coaxing the slight physical arousal she could feel forming into fruition.

She kissed him tenderly, rubbing his back and neck, letting the Demon give her the tips she needed to work him just awake enough to do what was necessary, without being conscious enough to realize what was happening and respond as he probably would. It was a bit fascinating to watch, from the inside and the out, how readily he accepted her actions once the bond was in place. He knew she wasn't Shi, but whatever the Demon had done had walked her right past everything that cared.

He would probably kill her once this was all over, or want to at least. She was already planning to be well and truly gone by that time.

But first, she had to do what she'd been told to.

She slipped her nightgown off slightly, then wrapped her arms around him, rolling him up on top of her as he began to kiss her back in the half-awake way of lovers in the early morning.

It was working perfectly. Nothing in him resisted her desires as they became his own and he slid down her body slightly to kiss her breasts, the Force stroking her sex gently before plunging deep inside her.

"Oh yes," she groaned, tightening her body around his telekinetic shaft and wrapping a leg around his waist. It had been a while since she'd done this, and even warming up he felt good.

Especially with the brief heat cycle she was going through.

She whimpered and spread her legs when he moved further down and nuzzled her slick sex, inhaling the pheromones he'd normally have fought like hell to avoid. Then his tongue swirled around her clit in a practiced counter-rhythm to the telekinetic thrusts filling her sex.

Mina whimpered, her tail flicking against his chest as she enjoyed his touch, and the feel of being filled without really being taken yet. She wasn't going to settle for that too much longer though. It was something he felt and allowed the telekinesis to fade as he kissed his way back up her body. The real thing pressed into her with a single smooth thrust while he closed her mouth with a kiss.

It was in that moment she realized he was fully awake and aware that she was not his mate, and as confused as it had him, he wasn't contesting the idea that this female in his bed, that he was making love to, belonged there and they belonged doing just that at this hour.

He hadn't forgotten about Shi, but the pain of her passing was all but gone from him. That confused him even more, but there was something blocking him from investigating it too much for now, and it wasn't her body.

Something for which the tabby he was fucking was devoutly grateful for. She kissed him deeply, tightening her body around him, working his shaft with her sex. She wasn't as skilled as Shivasta was by now, but she knew what she was doing and Jay's pheromone-keyed up body was in no condition to resist.

Mina cried out sharply when his teeth dug into her shoulder, drawing blood even as her body was flooded by his seed and he stiffened in the peak of pleasure that she realized was just the beginning.

She fought not to respond the way her instincts were telling her to, not to fight back. Unless he started going way too far, she was going to go along with whatever he wanted at this point. She could taste how used he was to the blood and violence mixed with his pleasure, both in giving and receiving ... no wonder his mate was a Healer. They'd need it just to survive if what she saw in his mind was real.

Then her body stiffened in response to the pleasure flooding her mind from him and his own skill at giving pleasure.

Bloody or not, he did care about his lover's pleasure.

"All right, Nemik," Fenrik said soothingly, watching the senior student who was still holding his training 'saber nervously as the two of them practiced in front of the class. "Form Alpha, we'll take it from the top, I'll take defensive."

The young, blue-skinned Twi'lek shifted to an offensive stance, and the two of them began the simple combat exchange. For a few moments, everything was going well. Despite Nemik's uncertainty, he wasn't making any serious mistakes, and the small ones he made Fenrik could compensate for with ease.

Then he felt a near scream across the Force, painfully similar to what he felt when Master Kiris had died, as Shivasta's bond with him carried a sensation of incredible pain, then faded away.

It only became worse as Jay's response echoed through to him mere moments later; a panicked, disturbed sense not unlike the time he'd been drugged on Alderaan ... but made all the worse because, somehow, there was the sense of somebody he trusted doing this to him.

Somebody he trusted as much as Shivasta or Fenrik ... somebody who, as far as Fenrik knew, didn't exist.

The Panther hissed as he was snapped back into the waking world by the feeling of Nemik's training 'saber striking him on the arm, burning his robes and the arm beneath them.

Fortunately, the blade flashed off as soon as it detected a living body being struck, everybody in class, most of all Nemik, looking at Fenrik with a slightly panicked expression.

"Master Fenrik, I'm sorry!" The Twi'lek said quickly. "I-I didn't think I was ...."

"You didn't do anything wrong, Nemik," Fenrik reassured him quickly, holding his injured arm and shutting down his own lightsaber. "I felt something, it distracted me. Your form was perfect, I missed my steps. Class, practice the form with each other. I'll check in at medical, let them yell at me, and be back in a couple minutes."

After he'd figured out what the hell was happening to his mates. He noticed Kanna and Jenna waiting outside the door, reinforcing his sense that something was very, very seriously wrong.

Shi wasn't dead, but she was clearly very close, probably in a deep healing trance to preserve what chance she still had of surviving whatever it was. Jay ... Force, even if nothing else happened, having Jay alone on an Outer Rim world when Shi went down like that was grounds to find the fastest ship on the planet and get there as fast as he could.

"Master," Jenna said as the Knights fell in step with him on the way to medical. "Kanna's belief that Master Shivasta is nearly dead is correct, isn't it?"

"I believe so," Fenrik nodded. "You felt it too, Kanna?"

"Yes, Master," the Ice Walker nodded. "I'm not sure about Jay, but if -"

"Shivasta left the Beldin system to deal with a Plague outbreak," Fenrik explained. "I was told, but nobody felt there was any need to mention it to anybody else, since everything seemed to be going well. I'll have to go to Beldin, see to Jay. Can you two go to the Carcharo system, find out what happened to Shivasta?" He asked, looking back over his shoulder.

"Yes Master," Kanna agreed, swallowing. This was about as close as the triad could come to a worst case scenario without both of Jay's mates being incapacitated or dead.

"Are there any other Healers dealing with the outbreak?" Kanna asked quietly. "If she's that injured, we'll need the help of one."

"There certainly should be by now. An alert was sent out for every Healer in that sector. She'll probably be found soon. I just hope that whoever tried to kill her fell for what she did ...."

"If he didn't, she would be dead, Master." Jenna tried to reassure them as they reached Medical. "Who's telling the Council?"

"*The Council knows.*" Master Essani's mind broke in for all three of them, her fur no doubt a deep grey by now. "*Go, and hurry.*"

"*Thank you, Master,*" Fenrik responded, deciding to skip medical and just handle the minor injury himself. "*Knight Duroth will be eager to take over my classes while I'm gone.*"

With that the three headed to the landing pads to claim the fastest ships still available. It was already going to take far too long to reach their destinations.

Mina groggily opened her eyes to the dark room, though she knew full well it was quite late in the afternoon. The tom sleeping next to her had eventually exhausted himself and gone to sleep, though not before she'd all but passed out from the exertions of trying to keep up. Apparently he'd healed her too, before closing his eyes. She was aching all over, particularly her scruff, hips and sex that had seen the most abuse, but she could feel that the damage itself was largely gone.

Still, she had to admit that the abuse had been worth it. He was one hell of a good lover.

She couldn't deny the fact that it was a hell of a thrill too, to be able to control a Jedi's reactions like this. Even with how clearly he knew what was going on, at least the basics of it, and really didn't want to go along, she was in where he couldn't really fight her much.

Mina tried to shift his arms lightly, planning on grabbing a shower, but he was holding her close very tightly and even that small motion seemed to rouse him a bit as he pressed closer to her and tightened his arms a bit.

She frowned slightly, snuggling up against him as she realized she wasn't going to go anywhere without waking him up.

Great. She'd figured that somebody with two mates wouldn't be particularly territorial, but she'd run into behavior like this before. She wasn't going to go anywhere until he was conscious, and she could try and talk some sense into him.

Or him into sharing a shower with her.

At least Tembris had arranged for them to be "excused" from her duties on the dig; nobody'd come looking for them.

Her attention was drawn back to Jay when he began to nuzzle her. He was waking up, and he was already aroused.

She couldn't be too surprised; her body was in heat, even if only just enough to make him willing and her fertile. The pheromones could cause some impressive changes in personality and temperament in many toms.

Still, if he was going to keep her here for now, there were worse things to do than indulge him.

"You are going to have to let me out of bed eventually," she murmured, flicking the tip of her fluffy tail against his balls lightly as he went from a nuzzling her to running his hands along her body to spread the thick lips of her sex wide for him. His third finger trailed its way up to her clit, circling and teasing it as he roused himself enough into the waking world to take advantage of the situation.

She rurred, pressing against his fingers, and reached down to splay her hand over his own. He definitely knew how to pleasure a fem, better than most of the toms she'd met. She guessed over five decades with a female mate as active as they were here would teach him as much. She shifted to kiss the side of his muzzle that he turned into for a real kiss. She was already purring deeply when he began to stroke her clit rhythmically, the Force gradually filling her sex.

As possessive as he acted, even half asleep he allowed her to guide his fingers and rhythm to suit her pleasure best.

Her tail played along his sheath, balls, and hardening cock as she whimpered slightly, feeling his fingers rub her clit, his other hand moving around to roll her nipples between his fingers, her body being filled deeply by the telekinetic shaft he was pressing into her. She kissed him again, drawing his rough tongue into her mouth as she worked to get him ready to replace the false cock with his real one.

It didn't take long before he shifted on top of her and drove into her achingly hot sex, their mouths still locked in the kiss that now mimicked their actions.

She could feel that he wasn't completely conscious yet, but he was more than enough to wear them out again.

Fenrik frowned as he read yet another panicked, half-formed message from Jay. They'd practically been streaming in since he felt the attack on Shi. Words, feelings, a desperate plea for help from the part of Jay's mind that wasn't still coping with Shivasta's apparent death and what was happening to his body. All created at his command by the computers, not his hand.

As he came out of hyperspace in the Beldin system, the Panther tried to calm himself, reaching out mentally towards his mate, trying to contact him and reassure him that he was coming. It wasn't easy, not from this far away, but he had to try.

He followed the bond he had with his male mate, more grateful for it now than ever before. Even as he sensed he was getting close to Jay's mind, he slammed right into something sticky, cold and unbearably Dark.

The Demon.

Fenrik put the borrowed fighter on auto-pilot and focused, trying to steel himself to force his way through the creature's defenses. He knew he shouldn't be surprised to find out it was involved in this somehow.

The only question was how. It couldn't have arranged everything ....

But if it didn't it was almost worse. It meant that it had allies in the physical world now. Allies that were now working on breaking Jay and had probably arranged for Shi's condition.

It almost assuredly meant that a Sith was involved, possibly more than one.

And they practically had Jay, not only thinking that one of his mates was dead, but in a state of confusion and conflict that had him believing he had another mate who was probably one of them.

He had to get through, try and break whatever was affecting Jay's mind so he could get away.

In an instant his main concern shifted from reaching Jay to surviving himself.

The Demon didn't wait for Fenrik to come to it, it reached out along the bond and lashed out with a powerful surge of pure Dark Force designed to cripple, if not kill.

The Panther pulled back, knowing he didn't have the training to deal with this. Shi would have, Essani would have, but what it would take to counter that sort of attack was something he'd never bothered to learn.

Damn it.

He cranked the fighter's ion engines to maximum, hurtling towards the planet his mate was on, hoping he could get there in time.

A few minutes later and the Whitecloak fighter was screaming down through the atmosphere, approaching the sole spaceport in the middle of the jungle. Fenrik made the adjustments necessary to land safely, but as quickly as possible, the ship nearly shaking around him.

Technically, it wasn't really built to handle this sort of speed in these conditions. If it hadn't been one of Jay's test ships, it probably would have ripped apart when Fenrik had hit the atmosphere at ramming speed.

The Panther didn't care right now. He leveled the ship out, approaching a clearing in the middle of the spaceport, broadcasting an emergency clearance code to alert the dig's security forces that he was coming and that they shouldn't shoot.

He just hoped that they weren't working for the Sith involved here. That would be the one situation where "I'm a Jedi and this is an emergency" wouldn't help his case.

As the ship started to touch down, he stood and grabbed his lightsaber, opening the cockpit and jumped out while the fighter was still a good three meters from the ground.

If the Demon had allies, they'd almost certainly be moving Jay by now. Or getting ready to ambush Fenrik when he landed.

The greeting party was definitely not friendly. Several locals opened fire as soon as he was visible, their blasts deflected by the Jedi Master's lightsaber as soon as he'd landed. For all that a frustrated part of him wanted to return the attack, he restrained the impulse, instead reaching out with the Force to yank the guard's blasters from their hands, crushing the weapons and hurling them to the side before he started to run towards the space-port.

Of course, the Sith here would have to choose both. An ambush, and moving Jay.

This close and he could sense his mate's state even with the Demon's interference. They'd drugged him to move him. Not quite unconscious, but far enough gone that he wasn't in any shape to resist whatever they were doing.

The worst part was at this range Fenrik could feel what bothered Jay the most right now, and that was having another male anywhere near his mate in heat. It was pure, instinctive possessiveness of who would father her kits.

Part of Fenrik dearly hoped that they'd make the mistake of doing something that would be just enough to knock Jay out completely - and let out the part of him that had nearly torn Navik a new one. Everything Jay had done to try and avoid the question of kits, and the Sith were trying to breed him even before they turned him.

The Panther bolted for the space-port, getting there just in time to see an ancient Wolf in a repulsor-lift chair moving Jay with the help of a female tabby and a handful of other helpers. Two of them, a Panthress and Sabertooth, turned and opened fire with blaster rifles, forcing Fenrik to stop and defend himself while the others finished loading Jay into the Sharufa.

Damn, if they had that ship, he was going to have hell catching them if they got off the ground. His was a top notch fighter, it could outmaneuver and outrace the transport-fighter, but it also had cloaking shields and he couldn't shoot to destroy it.

He closed the distance between himself and the two shooters, cutting through their blasters with his lightsaber and using the Force to push them both away.

"Jay!" He called out, hoping to get his mate to fight against the drugging enough to realize he was there and break free.

That hope was largely dashed as more 'guards' attacked him from behind, forcing him to focus on defending himself.

"*Fen?*" A mind came back that was badly dazed and disoriented. A second later a snarl of pure rage exploded among the Dark Siders as Jay lashed out at those attacking Fenrik with the only thing he had available; telekinesis. It was quite enough to shatter the organized assault.

It was also the precursor to a roar of Darkness as Jay crumpled completely and Fenrik nearly went down.

The Panther rode out the wave, turning to attack and stop them. Regardless of the pain, he wasn't going to let them get away with this.

The hover-chair turned around, and Dr. Kell - Darth Tembris - looked at the Panther with a disdainful expression.

"Farewell, Jedi," he sneered, raising a hand and stretching it out towards Fenrik.

The Panther had just enough time to brace before the Wolf channeled the energy of the Dark Side itself into physical form, projecting the Force Lightning into Fenrik's frame and wrenching a scream of pain from the Jedi Master before he collapsed, feigning unconsciousness, knowing that a second attack like that would remove the need to pretend.

He just hoped that no one decided to put a blaster shot threw his skull before it was safe to get up again.

Darth Tembris reclined in his seat as Mina and Janos finished settling Jay, the Sharufa taking off, piloted by one of the Wolf's mercenaries.

The Jedi's first mate was dead in the Carcharo system, his second one unconscious or dying on the spaceport tarmac. Mina had replaced the first bond, and already the Demon had suggested that Janos, a young, powerfully dominant Alpha wolf, might take the place of the second.

"I don't trust this Demon," a shadowy figure in the corner cautioned Tembris.

"You don't trust anybody, Kressh," the Wolf chuckled to the spirit. "And you assume much if you think I do."

"You're going too far. Killing two Jedi, taking another to turn ... the Republic will seek you out."

"Not before we have the Kraken and Red Tide," Tembris said dismissively. "Won't you enjoy that, Kressh? Your old nemesis' flagship under our command? He'd turn in his grave, if he still had one."

"Don't patronize me," the Sith Spirit growled, his shadows flaring a light red. "You still aren't a true Sith Lord, Zykell."

"That will come soon enough, Kressh," Tembris rumbled dangerously, sitting up straight as Mina and Janos started into the room, Kressh retreating back into the shadows. The relationship between the spirit and Wolf was a secret they intended to maintain for now, at least from his 'apprentices.'

"Jay is settled in his usual quarters," Janos reported smoothly, his manner only just giving Tembris the respect he was due. "She should stay with him." He glared at Mina, who was still giving off enough pheromones to irritate the big canine.

"She will, once it's necessary," the Sith Lord said, meeting Janos' eyes long enough to force the younger Wolf to look away and submit to his decision. "Besides, the false heat should be over in another day or so, assuming the Jedi isn't sterile."

"Yes, Master," Janos said, almost reluctantly. He didn't like having another Alpha, particularly not one as physically weak as Tembris, but the ancient Wolf had proven time and again that he could force Janos to submit every time. The show in the spaceport just now was yet another example of the power the invalid could wield against an opponent.

"*You should too.*" The Demon entered the conversation without a form to wear, but a presence that none could refute. "*A male to dominate him as his other male did.*"

"He'll try to rip my throat out if I try that while Mina's still in heat," Janos pointed out.

"If necessary, I can end the heat cycle prematurely," Tembris shrugged slightly. "I would simply prefer to give as much opportunity for conception as possible at this point. Besides, if he managed to do that, it would simply prove you're not suitable for the Sith."

Janos' tail lashed, but the younger Wolf didn't dispute what Tembris said.

"I'm not sure I'll be able to keep walking in another day," Mina pointed out.

"*She is with a Clawson child. Three in fact.*" The Demon rumbled in extreme excitement. "*He will not attack his mate, and you would be in that place. Even if you were feline, he would let you be with her. It is how they are.*"

"And with two mates who are Sith apprentices, he will turn far more easily," Tembris pointed out, not needing to emphasize the carrot offered in exchange for helping with this.

"Very well, Darth Tembris," Janos acquiesced. "When should we start?"

"*Now, when he is still unconscious and unsettled by his mate going down. I can make him believe both are dead.*" The Demon informed them.

"With any luck, it will be true soon enough," Tembris rumbled. "Go, both of you."

Suddenly, the Sharufa was rocked by a glancing blaster hit. The ancient Wolf swore under his breath.

"Get to the Knight, work with him," he told his apprentices, moving his chair towards the cockpit. He had to open his mouth about the Panther ....

"Would you please keep this thing steady?" Ricki asked Fenrik with a growl as she manned the main gun of the Whitecloak fighter the Panther was piloting.

"I know what that ship can do," Fenrik pointed out, pulling hard to the side as one of the turret spun around to target them with its quadlasers, four high-energy blasts lancing out for the smaller fighter. "And frankly, this is only the start of it. Just hit the engines, okay?"

The Panthress had woken up shortly after he'd decided everything was safe, the Sith's "guards" proving to be fighting under the force of the Wolf's mind control. A brief talk, and Ricki had volunteered to gun for him in an attempt to disable the Sharufa.

Fenrik was beginning to regret the decision; she was a decent gunner, better than he would have been on his own without an astromech droid, but she wasn't quite good enough to handle this.

One of the turrets on the Sharufa landed a hit, his shields glowing for a moment as the energy was dissipated.

"Some time today would be appreciated," he added, his frustration with the situation growing.

"I'm working on it," Ricki growled, dialing in what should have been a direct hit ... only to see the transport disappear completely off her targeting computer. "The fuck?!?" She snarled.

"They engaged the cloak," Fenrik growled. "At least we still have visual, and they won't be able to see - hey!" The quadlasers fired again, landing a direct hit on the starfighter's main guns, destroying them. "Damn it!" He snarled, pounding the control panel. "They installed a better cloak! Get us ready to go to hyperspace, if we don't keep them in visual -"

Almost on cue, the Sharufa pulled away, its profile elongating before it disappeared into hyperspace, leaving two very pissed off Panthers behind it.

"Set in a course to Carcharo system," Fenrik said after a moment to recover his composure. "We have to make sure Shivasta's okay."

"But what about -"

"If Shivasta doesn't survive whatever your boss had done to her, then finding Jay won't mean anything," the older Panther said softly. "Set the course, or I can drop you off on the planet again if you want. The Republic will send a security team out here soon enough to make sure everything's cleaned up."

"Setting a course for the Carcharo system," Ricki muttered. "You're just lucky I got into college from fighter duty."

"Very lucky," Fenrik said, biting off the remark he wanted to make and waiting until the course was set, before pulling the damaged fighter around to make the short trip to find his other mate.

Janos raised an eyebrow at Mina when she undressed without a glance at him once the doors slid closed on their new quarters where the Jedi was limp on his own bed.

"You might as well. Sex is coming up, and soon." She shrugged.

"*Correct.*" The Demon agreed with her. "*You are his mate, play the part.*"

"All right," the Wolf shrugged, working off his vest and the rest of his clothes while Mina climbed into bed in front of the kat. He had to admit, the Jedi was attractive, especially for being well into his sixties by Mina's previous comments. "He'd better be willing to bottom," he muttered to himself, climbing in behind Jay.

At least the ship wasn't rocking anymore; they'd been worried the hit would wake up their 'mate' before they were ready for him, but he seemed to be sufficiently out of it that wouldn't happen.

"*Good, now just relax.*" The Demon instructed him simply as dark energy flowed into the Wolf's mind, adding links and securing a semi-permanent line that was overlaid on an existing one.

It wasn't perfect work, but by the time Jay began to rouse Janos could feel it in his mind before he felt any change in the tom's body.

It was definitely not a normal feeling, but it was one the Wolf could learn to handle. He also began to pick up on the confusion and arousal in Jay's body, the latter encouraging his own responses as he watched Mina work the tom easily; her hands and tail running along his body as he began to get to the waking world and noticed her pheromones before he truly noticed the newly redirected bond in his mind.

The tabby kissed Jay tenderly, with all the apparent caring of a real mate as her hands worked his sides and back. She indicated a spot where Janos should start working Jay's back and neck once he was a bit more into it, and the Wolf gave a slight nod. It was actually rather arousing to watch her work, and even more when Jay began to touch and kiss her back with a familiarity that belied the fact they hadn't been together more than a day.

Jay's fingers slid between her legs, the Force filling her as he teased her into whimpering.

Mina moaned softly, spreading herself to make a display for the Wolf and Kat alike when Jay slowly began to open his eyes. There was something distinctly appealing about doing this here, one of the places the Jedi had shared with his mates before.

Her body stretched as Jay worked her sex telekinetically, the two felines making out, her whimpers caught in Jay's mouth as her hand found his barbed shaft, starting to stroke it lightly. He wasn't difficult to make eager, but she could feel his intent to get her off before he sank into her again.

She held off, slowing her strokes and simply teasing Jay's barbs with her claws as he quickly worked her towards her own climax. Mina closed her eyes tight, her body tensing up as she felt the pleasure of an orgasm wash over her, her insides squeezing as her wombs tightened, ready for another kit.

"Take me," she whimpered to him softly and was rewarded by the disappearance of the Force-dildo and the hot roughness of his real one driving into her. He grabbed her hands and pinned her with a hot kiss, his weight on top of her a familiar pleasure as he pushed her to a second climax on the heels of the first.

As the two felines started to mate, Janos watched, reaching up to place a dominant hand on the back of Jay's shoulders, working that spot and others that Mina had indicated, getting him used to the idea that there was a third person there. Both Sith could feel how natural that realization was for Jay, even mating in front of that third person.

Jay moaned and lifted his tail in invitation, part of his mind actively rejecting that these were his mates, especially the Wolf that wasn't a Panther, but unable to reject them yet.

Janos rumbled and shifted to press his weight against Jay's back, sliding up until the slick, tapered tip of his cock pressed against the older tom's anus, then pressing in further at just the right moment, pressing his shaft into Jay's ass, and adding his weight to the power of Jay's thrusts into Mina's hot, tight body.

All three moaned in unison, the tom in the middle the most accustomed of the three to how this arrangement worked as he thrust and tightened his own body, working both his mates towards a climax that he was not far off from.

The newest member of the 'triad' bit down lightly on Jay's shoulder instinctively, a hold meant simply to say he was in charge as he pumped his shaft in and out of Jay's body, growling with pleasure around his shoulder and pleased that Jay had no resistance to being dominated or taken. It was a sweet sensation, to have a senior Jedi so willingly under his control.

They felt Mina go over the edge, followed quickly by Jay.

The Wolf pulled back, making one final thrust that forced his rapidly swelling knot into Jay's pulsing, twitching ass, groaning deeply as he pumped his seed into the hot, willing body beneath him. It had been far too long since sex had felt quite this good. The half-rape, half-willing connotations made it even better than usual. Tying to such a bedmate was just exquisite.

Janos growled when he felt Jay begin to thrust again, only now catching how long the tom was used to having these games go.

Fortunately for him, he was sure he could keep up for quite some time.

Knight Healer Cirran frowned as she looked at the vital signs for Master Shivasta. The Twi'lek sighed, turning back to look at the most senior Healer present ... still comatose after the poison had hit. The poison was based on plant spores ... any attempt to heal her with the Force had just made her condition worse, helping the spores to become more virulent.

And there was no natural antidote that had been discovered yet. The most they could do was help keep her alive at this point, hope that her body was able to fight it off somehow.

"Healer?" The Twi'lek's attention was drawn to the doorway and a seriously distressed Panther in Master's robes. "How is she?"

"Master Fenrik," Cirran said, bowing her head respectfully, her violet lekku making gestures of regret and contrition. "She is stable, but I'm afraid that is all I can say for her just now. Green zyla is a very ... unusual poison. Nubian in origin, I believe. We know almost nothing more about it. And what we're discovering now isn't helping," she admitted softly, stepping back to let the Panther and his two companions into the room.

At least the Plague wasn't being as much of an issue anymore.

"At least she is stable." He said softly and stepped close to his mate's bed to gently brush her hair, using the physical contact to reach out to her with caring and support; all he could really offer at the moment.

"We have made progress in determining what not to do," Cirran said, trying to be as reassuring as she could. "And what she did to deal with the poison was probably the best thing she could do. The spores try to drain the oxygen from her blood cells ... between her biology and the hibernation trance, she'll survive them. Given time, they'll starve to death."

"How much time?" He glanced up at the Healer, the two Knights that had come in the room with him as worried as any daughters. They were as close as the triad ever came to children, and Jenna's attraction to her Master aside, they all felt like family. A family deep in crisis right now.

"Days, weeks ... with the effects of the trance, it's hard to tell how much it will spill over to the spores. Normally, the technique would only have stopped the progress of the poison until an antidote was administered," Cirran admitted. "This is unmapped territory; we don't know how long they can survive normally, let alone in their current state. If it's not intruding ... where is Knight Clawson? We had expected him here just a few hours after we found Master Shivasta and sent the message, but ...."

"He ... has been captured." Fenrik admitted very quietly. "By Sith, with his ship. I just needed to know she would recover, or going after him would be rather pointless right now."

"She will, Master Fenrik," Cirran said, swallowing as she heard the news. A Jedi Master nearly killed, her mate captured by Sith, and she could tell that Master Fenrik hadn't fared particularly well in the battle either; his robes were still scorched from it. "Force be with you, Master Fenrik."

"Thank you, Healer." He replied, a touch of honest emotion slipping out to color his words. He leaned down to kiss Shi's forehead, offering a bit more silent support before he turned to gather the Knights and Ricki, who'd remained out of the room, and head to the dining room set up for the Healers to grab a bite and talk about their plans.

"She will live, Master," Kanna said softly as they picked up some small meals and took their private seats. "I'm just ...." She trailed off, clearly not entirely sure she should say the rest just now.

"Worried about Jay." He finished for her, at least for himself, and forced himself to eat. "They've got him in the perfect condition to turn him, or at least confuse him enough to do some very bad things."

"That's the main thing," Kanna nodded.

"Would somebody please fill me in on what's going on here?" Ricki asked the trio of Jedi. "All I know is one minute I was working with Dr. Kell, the next minute we were all being told to help move Knight Clawson to that ship and stop you," she explained, gesturing towards Fenrik.

"The short of it is that your boss is a Sith Lord and used the dig to get close enough to Jay to capture him, after setting up a situation where turning him to the Dark Side might work."

"Dr. Kell?" Jenna asked, cocking her head slightly. "That name sounds familiar somehow ...."

"He's who Jay and Shi went to help with the dig." Fenrik answered wearily. "He was known as Master Zykell years ago, when he was one of us."

"Master Doruth's old Master," Jenna murmured. "But how is he still ... he has to be almost two hundreds years old by now ...."

"He must have found a way to use the Dark Side to prolong his life, the way Jedi use the Light Side," Kanna said simply. "There are theories about how, but that's all I really know about it."

"And it's not the important part," Fenrik said simply. "What's important is that we find Jay, and fast ...."

"Dr. Kell did say something about going to see an old friend of Knight Clawson's, whatever that meant," Ricki offered.

Fenrik regarded her for a long moment, his mind going over more than fifty years of joint history.

"Kraken." He shook his head. "Or possibly Yavin 4 and Exar Kun. They're the only two Darksiders he's really had any contact with."

"Well he could hardly expect to be able to find Kraken that easily," Jenna mused. "Yavin 4 would be a better bet ... closer too. Besides, Kraken had its Sith components removed, didn't it? It'd hardly do any good to try and take over a Republic warship with the Sharufa."

"Didn't he have a run in with Meskin too?" Kanna added.

"Yes, but all reports indicate the Meskin died about ten years ago," Fenrik explained. "We ran into him en route to Yavin 4 when we were going to visit the Tam clan. We're pretty sure he didn't make it out of the asteroid field we chased him into, and we waited a good long time to make sure. So it sounds like Yavin 4's our best bet ... thanks, Ricki," he told the Panthress. "My friends can drop you off back on Beldin on their way back to Coruscant."

"Master!" Jenna raised her voice a bit. "You are not sending us away."

"Knight Dyreth, you can't expect me to take the two of you along, can you?" He asked her pointedly. "We're dealing with at least one Sith Lord, probably a Sith spirit, and they have Jay."

"All the more reason to take us with you," Kanna pointed out. "Besides, the Whitecloak you're using doesn't carry enough supplies to make the trip to Yavin 4 and back, even to the Carcharo system."

"And the ship we took here can't be piloted by one crewmember," Jenna added, before Fenrik could suggest switching ships.

"Yes, and Jay is my family too." Kanna actually challenged him. "My aunt and Master's mate. He's as much kin to me as she is."

"Master Doruth will be showing up too, if this really is his Master." Jenna pointed out. "He's got a stake in this too."

Master Doruth wouldn't have been a problem, as far as Fenrik was concerned. He just wasn't sure about bringing the two Knights along.

But he also didn't have a choice in the matter, and his reluctance was more about protecting them out of habit, than out of a sense that he really had to.

And he knew it.

"All right," he nodded. "But you, we're taking back," he added, looking over at Ricki. That, he would insist on if he had to. She might have helped him in the fighter, but there was no way in hell he was taking her into this any more than he already had.

"Thanks," she actually looked relieved. "You guys live way too exciting lives for me."

"Don't worry, we don't drag civilians around when they don't want to come." Jenna smiled faintly and made quick work of the rest of her meal. "The sooner we're done, the sooner we're after them."

"That would be now, unless somebody's still eating," Fenrik said, pushing away what was left of his food.

"I'm done," Ricki said easily, her plate clean.

"Same," Kanna nodded, pushing away a bit less than Fenrik had, though she still hadn't finished. "If we can get hold of them, my appetite'll be a lot better."

"I think that's true of all of us." Jenna nodded and stood with her tray in hand to drop it off. "It'll be better, too, when Master Shi can join us."

"That's very true," Kanna murmured, standing as the group stood, then moved off to do what they had to before going off to look for the missing kat.

"Mina?" Janos asked, after nearly a day and a half of "honeymooning" with Jay, broken up briefly by stops for food. "You conscious?" He asked, smelling that the feline was finally out of her heat cycle.

"Conscious, yes. Can I move, not so sure." She groaned slightly. It was an incredibly pleasant reason to be this sore, but damn, her body was reminding her why you don't fuck Jedi very often. She had no idea how Shi managed those mornings every day for fifty-something years.

Of course, 'those mornings' didn't include the heat-drive most of the time, even if they did last an hour or two most times she'd listened in.

"Let's see if we can get a shower before he wakes up again," Janos said, crawling out of bed with a groan of his own. "And pray he's not horny again when he does."

"I can definitely agree with that." She winced as she got out of bed on shaky legs, but managed to stand, grateful to the designer of this ship that the master bedroom came with a bathroom. "At least it'll be at normal levels now."

"Have to admit, it's been a hell of a day and a half," Janos chuckled, helping her into the shower. "You have any better idea than I do what Darth Tembris wants with this guy?"

"Besides making very sure I came out of this with his kids, not really. I expect he's planning on turning him, but why a Knight's worth killing two Masters for I haven't a clue."

"Figures," Janos muttered, helping her into the shower and starting the water up. "It'd be nice to know what the hell we're pissing off the entire Jedi Order for. I mean ... the site's one thing, especially with what we found here, but this is nuts."

"Might have something to do with that critter that's so attached to Jay," she shrugged, and then groaned as the hot water flowed down across battered muscles. "I'm pretty sure there's another entity around too, that Darth Tembris doesn't talk about. Things like that don't always have plans that worry about things like the Jedi getting upset."

"Or about us actually living," Janos muttered, moving around her to help wash her back. "Have to say one thing though," he added with a chuckle. "You're not bad in bed."

"You aren't bad either." She stretched a bit before gingerly cleaning her sex. "I'll be happy if I never go through the last three days again though."

"That I don't blame you for," he agreed, starting to work on his own body after her back was clean. "I've come out of fights without being this sore before."

"And you weren't on the bottom more than twice." She added. "At least he can heal some of what he does."

"I don't leave mates injured." Jay's voice startled them both before he stepped into the shower designed for three and stood still, just letting the water run over his stiff body.

The two Dark Siders were silent for a few moments, finding themselves in the middle of what could very well be one of the most dangerously awkward moments of their lives if he'd been up long enough.

"How long've you been up?" Mina asked him, deciding to go along with her role and help the larger tom with his back, try and keep the 'mates' illusion going.

"Long enough to know you aren't my real mates; not long enough to figure out how you did this." He said simply and reached for the shampoo to work their smell from his fur. "Long enough to know you're pregnant too."

"Your mates were killed, remember Jay?" Mina asked him cautiously. "I came to you when you felt Shivasta die, and you turned to me." It was true enough; even if the Demon had helped him turn to her, that was what had happened.

"I know." He murmured, not able to counter the statement with anything other than he knew something had happened that wasn't his idea and this didn't feel right. He wasn't about to tell them just how much power they really had over him now.

"When we were helping you to the ship, your other mate arrived and started attacking the people at the dig," she continued softly, giving him the story the Demon was helping to reinforce in Jay's memories. "He came after Dr. Kell, but somebody managed to stop him ... there wasn't any other way to stop him from killing somebody."

Jay simply nodded. He knew it was a twisted truth, but close to the truth. Fenrik wouldn't do that without a damn good reason. He was too good a Jedi to snap.

It didn't change what he was facing now, though. He had two strangers with mate-bonds to him, his ship was under someone else's command, the Demon was doing an exceptional job of crippling his ability to take her back and he had no one who could rescue him anymore.

If he got out, it was up to him to figure out how.

That meant not only resisting what the mate-bonds did to his ability to fight them, but somehow keeping the mother of his kits from disappearing on him while he was escaping.

He felt Mina move around in front of him, wrapping her arms around his front as the Wolf's powerful arms wrapped around him from behind in a reassuring hug that felt right, for all that it felt wrong as Hell too.

"It'll be okay, Jay," Janos murmured into the tom's ear. "Just trust us; it'll be easier to handle with time."

"I know," he whispered, closing his eyes for a long moment to deal with the conflicting reactions and knowledge. For right or wrong, better or worse, what the Wolf said was true. It would become natural in time, along with whatever they intended for him.

"After fifty years, you'd think the Kaminoans would know better than to try suggesting 'improvements' they could make on the original design," Doruth muttered, rolling his eyes as he and Tes got home from negotiating the services of the cloning world in developing their next litter of kits.

"I think it's just their nature to try." She chuckled softly and rolled her shoulders as they entered their quarters to the insistent beep of a priority message. "Not good."

"Probably somebody needing to put a Hutt in his place on Corellia or something," Doruth said, moving over to the console and hitting the display.

Tes could tell in less than a moment that it was anything but a routine mission call.

"You finish unpacking, I have to go talk to the Council," Doruth said brusquely, turning and starting out of the room.

"What's wrong?" She caught his arm, missing having a pack to talk to once again.

"Jay was captured by the Sith, Shivasta was almost killed," Doruth explained quickly. "According to Fenrik, Zykell is behind it," he added more softly. It was bad enough to discover that the old Wolf had been behind the Plague in the Necropolis system, but everybody had assumed age had killed him since. To find out he was really alive ....

"I'll pack for a hunt." She said simply with a slight nod and let go. "I'm sure the Council will let you go."

"Thank you," the Panther said gratefully. "And they'd better," he added under his breath, turning to leave for the Council Spire.

A surprisingly short period of time later, Doruth stood before the full Jedi Council.

"You've gotten the same message I have, Councilors," he said respectfully. "I request permission to leave immediately to help find Knight Clawson."

"You are too emotional about this." Master Noloth pointed out. "You are not the one to finish this hunt."

"With all due respect, Master Noloth, no living Jedi knows Zykell better than I do," Doruth pointed out. "I just found out that a good friend was captured by my old Master, who betrayed the Order, and also tried to kill my former Padawan and his mate. An emotional response to that sort of news can't be unexpected."

"*It isn't, Master Doruth,*" Essani pointed out. "*However, that you act on this response is something not suited to a Jedi of your experience.*"

"That does not change the fact that I know Zykell better than any living Jedi." Doruth replied. "I defeated him once. I can again."

"With the same results as the last time, Master Doruth?" Master Sarapas asked pointedly. "Your history with Zykell has been marked by victories that you yourself have considered tainted."

"I was younger then, Master Sarapas," Doruth said firmly. "I know that my past record doesn't speak well for my ability to control myself dealing with him, but that was decades ago.

"The Council doesn't want me to react with my emotions clouding my judgment," he stated simply. "I only ask the same. Regardless of emotion, we are dealing with the search for a Sith who has, alone, tried to annihilate entire planets. If his attack had been on Coruscant instead of Dantooine, the results would have cost millions, if not billions, of lives if the defensive shields hadn't held. Now he not only has a support network of other Sith, but Knight Clawson, who probably believes that both of his mates are dead.

"If Zykell succeeds in turning him, the results will be catastrophic. It is crucial that he is found and recovered as quickly as possible, and that requires knowing Zykell more than it requires knowing Knight Clawson."

"*He has a point.*" Master Ty'thri'ku'mo said silently to the other Councilors. "*I have read his records. While he had a very questionable decade as he became a Knight, his conduct in the five decades since has been exceptional.*"

"*This is true,*" Essani granted. "*But I question the wisdom of sending only he and Tes. If they catch up with Zykell and the others alone, they would be two against an unknown number of Sith, including a Sith Lord.*"

"*Then I will go with them.*" Master Miya offered.

"*Very well,*" Essani nodded slightly, knowing that the Caracal female was an old acquaintance of Jay's from the crèche. She would be sure to make sure that decisions were made in favor of returning him safely and swiftly. "*Are there any objections?*" She asked, focusing mostly on Noloth.

"*I will accept that.*" The ancient lizard acquiesced. "*This must be dealt with swiftly. Clawson cannot be allowed to turn to the Sith.*"

"*He will not be, Master Noloth,*" Miya said firmly.

"*We will allow you to join the hunt, Master Doruth,*" Essani told the Panther. "*However, Master Miya will be joining you. Leave as soon as you are ready.*"

"Very well," Doruth nodded slightly. "Thank you, Councilors," he added, bowing before turning to the younger Caracal as she stood to follow him to the Gurath.

Dr. Kell relaxed in his chair at the sole table in the small galley later that day, knowing that Mina and Jay would be coming in soon to get something to eat. It was time to start introducing Jay to the idea that he was in charge now.

He expected quite the uphill battle.

The two felines walked in a few moments later, Janos already warned telepathically that it would be a good idea to take a brief shift in the cockpit before coming down to eat. Tembris had no interest in having to deal with the younger Wolf's rebellious nature while he was establishing that he was in control.

One look told him that while Jay was aware of his presence, the kat had other priorities at the moment, mostly filling an empty belly, and was in no mood to have that countered.

It was also fairly clear that at least this morning, Mina was taking a decidedly submissive stance towards Jay as she sat down silently and watched as he moved about the small galley fixing a meal for two.

He still trusted her to do what she was supposed to for the time being. She wasn't completely submissive to the tom. It was closer to knowing that letting him do what he had likely insisted on was the best course of action.

For now, Dr. Kell waited until Jay was done and had sat down; sipping his own dark tea. The tom seemed to be a reasonable cook, and was definitely familiar with the galley. He'd made quick work of heating meat, cheese and seasonings into an egg scramble while he poured juice into two glasses and set a pot for tea to boil with telekinesis.

It was all on the table in short order, including a few extras he added for Mina's meal to help compensate for her condition.

"*Make sure he stays controlled,*" Kell warned Mina as she started eating. "*I expect he won't be happy once the two of you have finished.*"

"*He's already very unhappy.*" She replied, careful to shield the words from her new mate. "*He's simply too hungry to care at the moment. Just wait till he has a full belly. Kat's got a temper on him.*"

"*That's why you're here, and Janos isn't,*" Kell pointed out, taking another sip of tea and watching Jay, trying to come up with the best way to explain this without shutting him down. The temper was a good thing though; if he still had a visible one after over fifty years as a Jedi, it was definitely a way to turn him. The possessively protective nature he was subtly displaying even now towards Mina was good too.

What wasn't so easy was how they were going to get him from where he was to where they wanted him, when he would no longer resist the Dark Side. That would take time and some carefully choreographed events.

The Wolf smirked mentally; he, like most Sith Lords, was a master at choreographing events. If it hadn't been for a clumsy slip early in his own training, he would have had a fine apprentice and at least one world laid waste by now. He'd learned subtlety quickly after that.

"So where are we headed?" Jay opened up the conversation. He wasn't making it at all clear by the tone of his voice just how irritated he really was, but neither Sith was the least bit fooled by the show.

"Tatooine for now," Kell said easily. "A quiet, out of the way place where we can track down certain people."

"You know, you could have just asked for the help." Jay pointed out a bit sharply. "There are far better choices than me to help hunt down people."

"Knight Clawson, we're not having you help us hunt for people," Kell chuckled. He was going to play along with Jay's desire to avoid drawing attention to the 'kidnapped' aspect of his situation. Or to the Demon's decision to block off his Gift, something the spirit had offered to do to keep the Knight from making a decision like shutting down the ship or simply turning them around to head for the nearest Jedi Temple. "We're offering to help hunt people for you. The person who murdered Master Shivasta, for example?"

That got the reaction they were both hoping for. The shiver that passed through Jay's body was small, the emotions largely kept off his face, but under the tight control there was pure, primal rage desperate for more of an outlet than the claws pricking his own palm.

"So why do all this?" He demanded quietly, the stress of the past few days finally beginning to show.

"Because I was worried about you," Dr. Kell explained. "When I discovered what happened, I knew you'd need to get away somewhere where you wouldn't be bothered until we found the person responsible."

"*Tell him the Ice Walker wanted you to go to him,*" he told Mina silently, the words echoing faintly across the Force, practically a telepathic whisper from Master to Apprentice.

"Shi asked me to look after you while she was gone," she added gently, reaching across the table to place her hand over his. The reaction was instant and profound. He stilled and relaxed his hand, a glance at her showed just how confused he was at the statement, but that it also fit into the warped view of events that were starting to develop to protect himself from the reality of being mate-bound to two Sith.

"I should go back to the Temple." He countered quietly. Despite it being the truth, and what he wanted, there was little determination behind it right now.

"The Jedi won't let you do what you know you have to," Kell pointed out. "They'll expect you to sit and accept what happened, never let justice be served."

"Jay," Mina squeezed his hand, "Shi suspected that the Order might turn on you. Your ideas are dangerous to them. Too dangerous now that you're getting powerful. It's not safe for you to go back to them."

The stare she got for that from the Knight bordered on a glare, but she'd done her digging very well. He did believe her, deep down. Maybe not enough to say it soon, but she'd gotten him.

"They wouldn't." He shook his head sharply.

"They've done it before," Kell pointed out. "Consider everything they've hidden, everything they've destroyed for the 'greater good.' Think of how long they spent trying to convince you that they were right, despite the fact that you knew they weren't."

"And why you are still only a Knight," Mina added, knowing it wasn't a very sore spot for him, but it fit with the argument and every bit helped. "When everyone else your age and with your accomplishments would be a Master years ago."

"I never trained a Padawan." He shook his head, countering the only thing he could if their assertions. "My Master wouldn't turn on me like that."

"Your Master wouldn't. But what about Master Noloth and his allies on the Council?" Kell countered. "They were the ones Shivasta was most worried about." He would have reinforced what Mina had mentioned, but didn't have a way to do so without giving too much information about what he knew about the Council.

"Jay, she probably died trying to protect you." Mina said gently and squeezed his hand. "They know the best way to get to you is to break your support structure. We couldn't let that happen. Tatooine is a safe place to lay low until we figure out how to fix things."

Kell almost added something, then stopped as he realized that as wild and unplanned as her statements were, she was getting to the Knight. Maybe she really was good Sith material after all. Such keen reading and manipulation of the facts was a prime talent. Anyone that could get this far with an experienced Jedi Knight in only a few days was worth training, even if she did have help, was displaying a lot of promise.

"What's the deal with Janos? I never saw him before."

"He's a friend of mine from the dig," Mina explained gently. "When your second mate died, I thought you'd want somebody else there to help comfort you. I'm sorry, Jay, they were supposed to be trying to stun him, not kill him. Somebody didn't have their settings right."

"He was only trying to protect me." Jay's voice finally broke. He may not have seen his Panther mate go down, but he'd seen too much.

"Then why did he attack us?" Mina countered, trying to be gentle while talking her new mate out of a dangerous path.

Jay held her gaze for a moment, and then lowered his eyes. "I don't know. He wouldn't have hurt me. He wouldn't."

"Not knowingly. But he trusted the Council, just like you do," she pointed out, the older Wolf staying back and letting somebody Jay couldn't help but trust work on him. "If he'd taken you back to them, they would have had you, been able to break you, and he couldn't have stopped them. We had to protect ourselves, Jay. He attacked Ricki, of all people. He would have attacked us if he'd had the chance ... would have attacked me," she added, the 'and our kits' part unspoken, but understood.

The could both all but see Jay chancing his own mental tail trying to work his way out of that logic. For the first time in decades, he really did doubt the Order and his place in it. Then his gaze landed squarely on Mina and an entirely new set of priorities and instincts took the forefront: protecting his young.

He may have doubted the Council would turn on him, but he'd never wanted his children near the Jedi ways, even when he believed in following them himself.

Jay closed his eyes with a bone-deep shudder and made his choice.

"Our kits are going to be a handful to raise on Tatooine." He said quietly.

"We'll find somewhere more comfortable as soon as things have cooled down a bit," Mina smiled softly, taking his hand and rubbing the back of it with her thumb lightly as he worked through the difficult aspects of the choice.

Tembris had to approve; she'd managed to accomplish in one conversation what he had expected would take days. Even with the Jedi still struggling to accept the choice, he had chosen her over the Order. It was an excellent start.

Either the bond was stronger than he'd believed, or she was definitely Sith material. He was going to have to speak with her about the next stage of Clawson's turning.

Doruth wasn't at all surprised to see the welcoming committee of two Panthers and one Ice Walker waiting for them as the Intrepid set down Yavin 4 not far from the ruins of the Red Tide. He touched down with a sigh; if they were here, and bothering to wait for him, it meant there was a damned good chance that they'd already found out Jay wasn't anywhere on the moon.

He wasn't honestly that surprised. It was too obvious for Zykell, but the reason to take him here would have been sound.

"Let's hook up and compare notes," he told Tes quietly, standing and holstering his lightsaber.

"Yes," Master Miya nodded as she joined the pair on the way to the exit ramp. "Hopefully they have learned something new."

"At least some suggestion where they'd be going," Doruth nodded, the hatch opening as they started down the ramp to meet the younger Master and two Knights, who offered brief bows in greeting, which became a little longer when they noticed the Councilor present.

"He's not here," Fenrik said, trying not to show his frustration at that fact. "According to the Tams, no ships but theirs have been to the moon in over a year. We came down to check, in case the cloaking device was interfering, but no luck so far."

"I'm not surprised," Doruth nodded. "It's too obvious a first stop for Zykell, and it's unlikely Jay would have turned enough to be useful here yet."

"I'd hope not," Fenrik said, his tail starting to lash for a moment before he caught himself. "Shi's in stable condition, but there's no telling how long it'll take for her to recover. If Jay isn't here, we don't have any better idea where he would be."

"Somewhere on the Rim," Doruth said easily. "Come on; we'll sort this out inside, where we can be pretty sure nothing's going to try and eat us," he said, gesturing towards the Independence and turning to walk back in. "Never did like this place," he muttered under his breath.

"No Jedi should." Miya said quietly as they left the jungle for the largest of the four ships in their tiny fleet. "Exar Kun still exists here."

"Which is why we thought they'd bring Jay here," Fenrik nodded. "The other obvious choice was the Kraken, but while they might have been able to use Yavin 4 to help turn Jay, they couldn't talk him into trying to steal the Kraken until he already had."

"Be a good trick even if he had," Doruth chuckled grimly as the hatch closed. "That ship's still got a mind of its own from what I've heard, even after they pulled the Sith programming out. But no, Zykell wouldn't have brought Jay somewhere to help him do something ... he'd go for somewhere he could work on him." The elderly Panther walked into the small briefing room on the Independence, taking a seat at a holo-console and bringing up the display he'd put together on the trip, an interactive hyperspace map of the Republic.

"Work with him how, Master Doruth?" Jenna asked, cocking her head at the display.

"By giving the ones who have taken Shi and my places in his mate-bonds time to turn him." Fenrik answered quietly.

"That would be one option," Doruth nodded. "Beyond that ... Zykell was always one hell of a persuasive speaker. When the two of us fought ... he made a decent case for the Sith, I'll be honest. When that didn't work, he managed to goad me to the point where he almost won anyways. Between him and two other Sith with bonds to Jay, false ones or not ...." He sighed.

"It's only a matter of time," Miya finished quietly. "We have to find him, and fast. The influence anybody bonded to that kat has on him is too strong for him to hold up against for long."

"That's what this is for," Doruth explained. "Before we leave, I'm uploading a copy to each of the ships we have available. The Sharufa is already listed as a stolen ship; any system picking up its transponder code will immediately report it to the Order. That won't stop them from changing it, which Jay could do in an instant if he wanted to.

"Zykell will probably hide in the Rim," he continued, keying in a few commands to the map. "The assorted ships the Order has on patrol in the Core through the Inner-Rim systems are already on alert to look for the Sharufa, but it's not likely. Zykell always understood the advantage of hiding where nobody wants to find out, and that would be any world that doesn't have a lot of legal traffic."

"Hutt space," Fenrik muttered.

"A good possibility," Doruth nodded. "Top possibility, as far as I'm concerned. Zykell has experience blending in there, and there's no place in the galaxy better for losing yourself in the crowd than Nar Shaddaa. Fenrik, do you still have any bond with Jay at all?"

"Yes." He nodded. "It's very weak, I can't get through to him, but I can sense he's still on the other end and badly disturbed. I don't think he knows I'm here though, same as he can't sense that Shi is still alive."

"That'll help you locate him best," Doruth nodded as the inner systems of the Republic dimmed, leaving the Mid-Rim, Outer-Rim, and Expansion Regions illuminated. "The next best chance would be other worlds with illegal trade as a primary resource," he explained, highlighting the Hutt-controlled systems of the Outer Rim, Kessel, and a handful of other systems.

"Unfortunately, that leaves us with a shitload of worlds to check out, most of which are heavily populated and where a stern glance and a blaster get you through immigration without more than a second look. The rest of them are heavily populated and a couple hundred credits will get you through with no questions asked. Either way, we're going to have to split up to make anything resembling decent time."

Fenrik regarded the map for a long moment. "Give me half an hour to meditate, and I should be able to narrow that down by a good chunk. I can't pinpoint him, but I can get a feeling for what direction he is, and I think I can figure out how far."

"You've got the time," Doruth said easily. "We'll resupply all the ships while you do."

And make the Tams incredibly happy doing so, he was sure.

"He's been in there for almost two days." Janos complained as the crew of four sat down for a meal. "I don't like this."

"He's meditating, Janos." Mina rolled her eyes at him. "It's what Jedi do when they're disturbed. Listen to the echoes on the bond; he's not going anywhere we can't handle."

"Yeah, but the last time I checked we wanted him to stay disturbed, not sort it all out and decide we're the enemy again," the Wolf pointed out.

"Do you want to go tell him he can't meditate?" Mina challenged him outright.

"I know, I know," Janos muttered, rolling his eyes slightly. "Still, I don't think leaving him alone to think is the best idea in the world here."

"You also don't think, overly much," Tembris interrupted them. "The Jedi isn't going to turn in a day, even if things are going more easily than I'd expected. Events on Tatooine will unfold to make him begin to return to a more violent nature. After that, we'll need to coax him further into it, and make sure we stay below the Order's notice while we do so. It doesn't matter how much he 'returns' to the Order during his meditation. What I have planned will start him down the dark path again."

"Yes, as protective as he is of his mates, he's positively primitive when it comes to protecting his young." Mina smiled slightly, an evil glint in her eyes. "He will turn. The violence is not so far below the surface in him."

"And that is a spark I am quite capable of kindling," Kell rumbled deeply. "As for the two of you, continue your work with him. Be subtle, but stay close to him, a coax him towards the Dark Side in what he does. Your training will begin shortly, but I will not tolerate him being allowed to turn back to the Jedi."

Both nodded, but didn't get a chance to say anything before intense, burning pain lashed through the right side of their faces and an explosion of Dark energy erupted from the back of the Sharufa.

Mina didn't even hesitate; despite the agony, she was already on her feet and running back towards the meditation chamber, Janos and Kell shortly behind her.

It took a frantic moment to bypass the locks and get the door to open to a scorched floor, a lightsaber shattered into thousands of pieces and Jay kneeling with his hands cupped over the right side of his face. A few inches away from his robes lay the tip of an ear and he was still cursing fluently in a number of languages from two galaxies as he did his best to heal himself.

"Janos, work on the damage," Kell told the younger Wolf simply, knowing that he was the one best able to do so yet.

Janos moved over, wary of Jay's reactions, to try and see what damage had been done and how much of it could be fixed. For as violent as he was, he was surprisingly tender and almost caring now.

A reaction Tembris would have to watch; he suspected that it was more than simply acting the part of concerned mate.

Jay reluctantly moved his hands away from the half-missing ear and badly burned face for his Wolf mate to tend to. No one missed his surprise that Janos knew something about Force-healing.

"*It won't do either of us any good if he kills himself accidentally before we turn him,*" the Sith told the Demon mentally. He could tell what had happened; without being able to use his lightsaber the way he was used to, he'd managed to make a mistake while practicing.

And mistakes with lightsabers, especially given the kat's Form, tended to be exceedingly painful. They were quite lucky he'd only damaged his appearance and not cut his head clean open.

"*I will see to it that he can talk to his weapons.*" It agreed reluctantly. "*It is still a very effective way to anger him. It strips his most used senses from him. He hates it.*"

"*I don't need an angry corpse,*" Tembris pointed out. "*I already have one of those to deal with. Give him enough that he can practice without seriously injuring himself. The occasional burn is acceptable; bisecting his own head isn't.*"

"I won't be able to fix all the scarring," Janos explained to Jay, doing what he could. He was hardly a healer, but he'd learned long ago that if you were going to fight, you needed to be able to undo the damage you and your partners took. Lightsaber damage was always the worst to deal with. It didn't leave a lot to work with; vaporizing flesh instead of simply burning or cutting it.

"Not even Shi could do that," Jay closed his eyes, tears wanting to fall that he would not permit. "Thank you." He added as he slowly stood and looked at the damage he'd done to one of Fenrik's spare lightsabers that had been on board. He paused for a brief moment then summoned the power to finish what he had begun; disintegrating the remains of the weapon into its component molecules with a wave of his hand.

The act drew the attention of all three Sith, but they quickly returned it to the injured tom and not thoughts of why a Jedi knew how to disintegrate things. Mina moved in to help comfort him, Tembris stepped back to let them work, surreptitiously moving the bit of severed ear out of the room.

It wouldn't do to have that lying around.

Master Zraii was giving a report on the Order's income from assorted tech projects when Essani heard a soft beeping from the datapad on the arm of her seat.

"*One moment, Master Zraii, I apologize for the interruption,*" she told the green, insectoid Verpine and lifted her datapad to pull it close. "*A priority message,*" she explained, her fur turning grey as she saw who it was from. "*From Knight Clawson.*"

"More than excused, Master Essani," the Verpine said easily, setting hir own datapad aside, keenly interested in any message from hir missing friend. Hopefully it would include his location.

Essani nodded and played the short message.

Jay's head appeared; the right side of his face scarred by a fresh lightsaber strike and his right ear half gone. He'd seen some healing, but not nearly what the injuries needed not to leave a serious mark. His expression was no less grim, and to his former Master, more than a little scared behind the confusion.

"Master, I do not understand what is happening or what I did, but I am not the Order's enemy." He said quietly, the message ending with only that, but not before she could see that he was holding back fresh tears of loss and grief.

As short as it was, it spoke volumes about what was happening to him.

"*They're trying to convince him the Order turned against him,*" Essani said silently, her fur darkening. "*And it seems they're being fairly successful.*"

"What have they done to him?" Master Zraii asked softly, hir mantis-like face not showing the concern in hir voice.

"Whatever they have done, it has to be stopped," Noloth said simply. "Master Zraii, can you trace the message?"

"I may be able to," the Verpine nodded. "But if Knight Clawson is trying to avoid the Order, he'll have made it very difficult at best."

"It is a priority," he nodded to hir. "Any assistance to the hunters to narrow down his location."

"Understood," the Verpine nodded, keying it into hir datapad to send the information to hir main computer so it could start working. "If he didn't want to be found at the time, I'm afraid it won't work, but hopefully he won't have thought to tell the computers not to let me trace."

"*We'll have to inform the others,*" Master Essani said. "*They'll need to know that Jay may not trust them at first sight. Is the Starseeker currently on patrol?*" She asked, looking up at Master Ty'thri'ku'mo.

"In the Outer Rim," he nodded, curious what she wanted of the capital class exploration ship Jay had co-designed with Zraii some years before.

"*I would appreciate it if you would send them an order to tune their scanners to deal with hybridium cloaks and scan for the Sharufa. The sensors on board that ship might be the only ones that can detect it from an appreciable distance.*"

"Of course," he inclined his angular head slightly and made quick work of formulating the order.

"How can anyone work on turning him while his mates are still alive?" Master Jamni looked to Master Essani.

"*Bonds can be broken, Master Jamni,*" the Kushiban explained. "*And replaced, with the Demon's help. With Master Shivasta's near-death, her bond could have been usurped by a sufficiently powerful telepath, focused on somebody else. Hers is the most important; without Master Fenrik there to counteract it, he would have one 'mate' with incredible hold over him, trying to lead him to the Dark Side, and another gone, elsewhere in the galaxy and searching for him, but unable to reach him across the distances involved.*"

"And with him believing that one of his mates was murdered," Master Noloth added with a frown. "Something that, given his temper and ethics, would be a prime opportunity to turn him."

"*Yes,*" she nodded quietly. "*If he has not turned yet, it is not likely enough, but the situation makes it unlikely he will be able extract himself before it is far too late. This is why we must find him as quickly as we can. The damage he could do if turned is ... incredible.*"

"I doubt he will turn to the Sith quickly if they are doing things like that to him," Zraii pointed out, gesturing towards the injured hologram with insectoid fingers. "The Dark Side perhaps, but I would not want to be the Sith afterwards. However, I doubt anybody here would not say that finding him is a priority.*"

"Agreed," Master Noloth nodded. For once he did not even have an 'I told you so' thought. It was simply far too serious a situation to have such petty ideas involved.

Janos drew a surprised breath when he felt a telekinetic caress gently draw his hands over his head in the bed made for three and his feet apart. He could feel it, along the bond, that this was Jay's doing. He couldn't be so sure of why he was being held in the light grip by the tom just stepping out of the shower in the other room.

The Wolf struggled, but took a deep breath, trying to keep from panicking. Jay was still a Jedi, for the most part; they wouldn't kill or torture somebody. Especially not if Mina was right about how strong that bond was.

He just hoped Mina wouldn't be working with Tembris on her training too much longer.

"*Shu,*" Jay's voice touched his mind for the first time, a surprisingly gentle mental touch as he walked into the room wearing nothing and sat on the bed and put a light hand on Janos' chest. "*This isn't for pain.*"

"Then what the hell is it for?" The Wolf asked with a light growl, fighting to keep his reactions at that for now. This was not the place or time to red out. Especially not given what Tembris would do to him if he survived long enough to get a grip on himself with a Jedi Master holding him.

"Pleasure," Jay answered, his voice low and soft. "Returning the trust I put in you."

"This isn't trust," Janos said, trying to breathe evenly even as he stopped struggling for the time being.

"Then what is it?" He cocked his head and let the Wolf go, not surprised to see his hands come down fast. "If not trusting in me to give you pleasure and not go too far?"

He could tell that Janos was trying to think of a way to explain something he'd learned instinctively when he was young. It wasn't that different for Janos that trying to explain Clawson things was for him.

"Weakness," the Wolf said eventually, quietly. "Nothing to do with pleasure for anybody but the guy on top."

"Let me prove it wrong?" Jay asked as much as offered.

Janos wasn't sure, but was about to say 'no,' letting his natural reaction win out.

Then he was reminded, silently, of what he was supposed to be doing by the older Wolf in another room.

"All right," he nodded warily. "But if you try anything ...."

"Why would I bother giving you a choice if I intended that?" Jay shook his head and pinned the larger male down again with the Force and began with a long, gentle kiss as his hands worked on finding the places that would give his mate the most pleasure. "Besides, I'm not that much of a masochist."

He could feel the tension in the powerful body beneath him, the barely restrained urge to fight, try to get away. He couldn't help but wonder what had trained this sort of a response into him; it couldn't just be a cultural thing, not this strong.

This was going to be an uphill battle, for all that Janos was responding as well as he could.

It was time to drop slow and subtle and just go for pleasure.

Jay kissed his way down the Wolf's thick-furred chest until he reached the velvety sheath and balls and turned his full attention to arousing his mate quickly and directly.

He earned a soft, lupine moan of pleasure for his efforts, his rough tongue bathing Janos' heavy, downy-furred orbs, drawing one into his mouth to enjoy the musky flavor. Almost despite himself, the Wolf was getting aroused, and clearly surprised at what Jay was up to.

It was quite enough encouragement for the tom, who shifted his attention to the other ball and reached up to gently fondle and stroke his mate's swelling sheath with skilled fingers.

Janos' hips pressed up into Jay's fingers as he whimpered slightly, restrained by the Force. He was still tense, but he was starting to get used to the idea. At least with this male, restraint could be a pleasurable thing.

He moaned as Jay shifted his attention from his balls to the smooth cock that had begun to peak out, using the soft, slick back of his tongue on the sensitive skin while his hands continued to fondle Janos' balls.

"Fuck," the Wolf groaned, his thighs tightening slightly around Jay's head, but only until the restraints Jay had on him stopped him.

"*Not quite yet,*" Jay rumbled hotly across their bond as he continued to work until pre-cum began to ooze into his mouth and Janos was breathing hard.

Only then did he leave his manual attention and slid forward to claim a kiss, rubbing his muscular body along his mate's.

"Ready to come?" Jay asked with a throaty purr.

"Yes," the Wolf groaned, pressing up against Jay's body.

The tom smiled and shifted back to straddle Janos' hips. He reached back to easily guide the Wolf's cock deep into his body with a moan of his own.

Janos pressed up instinctively, trying to bury as much of himself in Jay as he could. His cock throbbed deep in Jay's body, spasming as the Wolf howled, pumping his seed up into the smaller tom's tight, hot ass.

Jay squeezed lightly and let him come, then panted to catch his breath before he began to work again. With the experience of a long lifetime of pleasuring a male, he slid up and down the pulsing shaft, working it with his body to keep Janos hard and on the edge.

It wasn't too hard at this point; for all he could tell the Wolf was confused inside by the mix of being bound and being inside another male at the same time, there was no denying the fact that he was enjoying at least part of it. He thrust lightly, unable to move much from his position, but doing what he could to pleasure the older male on top of him.

It wasn't something Jay was much in the mood to resist either, and as he came close to his climax he let his lover loose with a shuddering moan, his head falling back slightly.

Janos' powerful hands were on him shortly, running down his sides as the Wolf leaned up to kiss him and found Jay eager even as he shuddered and cried out into the Wolf's mouth. Jay's hot seed pumped out between them, messing their fur with ribbons of white pearls.

"You are one hot tom," Janos rumbled as their mouths parted. "Up for something a little less kinky for round two?"

"Yes," he smiled slightly and nuzzled his mate affectionately as he caught his breath.

"Good," the Wolf rumbled, reminding himself that the mate business was just part of the job, but returning the nuzzle all the same as he rolled over on top of Jay and started to thrust into his very willing body.

"Setting down on Tatooine in a few minutes," Janos called back into the Sharufa.

"We'll have to deal with the port officials," Dr. Kell said as he, Jay, and Mina ate. The other Wolf working with them was up in the cockpit helping Janos bring the transport-fighter in for a landing. "But since we're not importing anything, they should leave us be with a nominal fee. Fortunately, I already have some Hutt coin from my last visit."

Jay nodded, but kept silent for now. It wouldn't have been his first choice of how to stay out of site of the Order, but he didn't feel like arguing the point yet. He hadn't spent much time out here after all. Maybe the old Wolf knew something he didn't.

The Sharufa entered the atmosphere, the ship shaking slightly before the two pilots adjusted to the differences in flying it. The Anchorhead settlement, the only settlement still occupied on the planet, was just ahead.

Minutes later, they touched down, Kell's chair rising to carry him to the exit.

"While we're here, I have some business to take care of," he explained. "It won't take long, and it will get us closer to the people we're looking for. We'll need to visit the Cantina, but from there we'll be able to resupply the ship."

Jay nodded again, not particularly interested in either event, but familiar with the expectation that he'd come along anyway and play the part, whatever that actually turned out to be.

One glance outside was plenty of warning that his habitual civilian clothing, colorful and flowing, was decidedly out of place here. It was, however, all he had to wear other than the Jedi robes he'd carefully put in storage after sending the message to his Master several days before.

That would be something to try and fix here ... possibly along with getting something to hide the distinctive scar from his practice accident.

Or at least pick up some good field clothes. Jay was liking this place less by the second. He could feel the call of the endless deserts and badlands not so far away. The Force was out there, like it had been in the deep forest. It offered protection and home when he wanted that more than anything.

"Come on," Mina said softly, taking his hand and squeezing it lightly as they stepped outside into the dry heat of an early Tatooine morning. "At least it's somewhere comfortable," she pointed out, trying to be cheerful as Kell negotiated a 'docking fee' with the port authority. A few moments later, and a handful of small coins traded hands, the Wolf gesturing for them to follow him.

They made their way through the half-crowded mining settlement, most of the people not paying any serious attention to the newcomers. Anchorhead was a cornucopia of species; Rodians, Twi'leks, Duros, assorted morphs ... it was definitely not a racially isolated settlement. At least it seemed to be reasonably peaceful.

A massive ronto lowered its horned, beaked head, sniffing at the two felines curiously before its handler yanked on its reins and called out a command, earning a bellowing bleat of annoyance before the beast of burden continued down the street, hauling a cart of Tatooine's low-grade ore behind it.

The threesome entered one of the larger businesses in the settlement, full of drinking, gambling and general killing-time behavior common on a frontier settlement, taking seats in an out-of-the-way corner. Jay couldn't help but notice the Hutt in the back of the room, watching the comings and goings, his flunkies speaking to him briefly, then leaving with one assignment or another.

"Try to relax?" Mina asked him with a soft smile, licking his cheek affectionately. "The show's pretty good, for what it's worth," she added, indicating the dancing Twi'leks and the band playing behind them.

"I'll be back shortly," Kell said, his chair moving off through the room as he went to speak to one of the Hutt's men.

"I guess so," he tried to find it interesting, but with all he'd faced recently, the females simply weren't appealing and the music wasn't anything he normally enjoyed.

Mostly his attention kept to the Hutt and those he found instinctively unsavory as he tried to keep from becoming any more unsettled than he already was.

"It'll get better," she reassured him, leaning against him lightly, intentionally making herself look submissive and slightly vulnerable while he wasn't paying attention to how she was acting as long as she was right next to him.

"If it doesn't, there are better places to be." He replied simply.

"There are," she consented, noticing a likely mark for what Tembris wanted her to set up next; a Twi'lek looking her over and having a brief word with the Hutt in charge after the elderly Wolf was finished.

She leaned over to nuzzle Jay's shoulder likely, carefully using her powers to enforce the green-skinned male's desire to acquire her for his master without tipping off her own mate as to what was about to happen.

When he stood and walked off, apparently to get a drink, she already knew everything that was going to happen up to the point where Jay's reaction was in question.

Even then, it wasn't much of a question. He was viciously protective of his kits no matter where she looked in his mind.

"I'll be back later," Kell said, returning with drinks for the three of them and setting them down. "I have to go meet somebody to get a line on the Otter."

Jay nodded to him and shifted just a bit. Only the sensitives really knew just how uncomfortable he really was, or how little it would take to provoke him.

It was also something both the sensitives there were counting on.

A few minutes passed after the older Wolf left, and the two of them were reaching the point they were just about ready to head back to the ship. Just then, Mina felt a long, slender hand brush her side.

"Your pet is quite attractive," the green-skinned Twi'lek told Jay, his Basic accented, but quite understandable. "Tell me, who did you buy her from?" He didn't seem the least bit perturbed by the way the tom flattened his ears and glared at his hand.

She was more than a touch surprised to catch the first, unvoiced answer: 'she's the old Wolf's', but kept it off her face.

"She is not a slave." He answered instead, every line in his body and voice a warning that things were about to get serious.

"Come," the Twi'lek said smoothly, his hand moving up to ghost along Mina's bust before she swatted his hand away and smiled inside at the flashpoint rage that was building in her mate. "There may be legal issues elsewhere in the Republic, but it's not as great an issue ... "

His words were stopped dead as he was abruptly flung across the room to slam into the far wall with the pieces of a freshly shattered large mirror pinning him in place. It wasn't quite the explosive kill the Sith were hoping for, but the bloody Twi'lek made the exercise a success even as Jay pulled Mina to her feet with a glare and Force-aura all but daring anything to stop them as they stalked to the door.

She followed him easily, the Twi'lek's cries of pain still echoing as some of the Hutt's other helpers went to remove the sharp pieces of mirror from his body and found it much harder a task than it should have been thanks to Jay's continued interference.

"He's going to have to do without civilization, or without me." Jay growled softly, almost more to himself than to her.

"Jay, it's not safe outside the settlement," she pointed out. "The Raiders -"

"Aren't Jedi-trained." He pointed out with a snap and low growl. "It's a lot less safe in here."

"All right," she relented, privately glad that things were going according to plan. "We'll probably have to camp though. Don't know if the ship will handle the conditions away from the settlement, Tatooine has some strange conditions."

She caught the silently 'whatever' from his mind, though he didn't say a word as they walked back to the ship, the populous actually making way for him on several occasions.

What she did catch, and didn't like, was a sudden burst of surprise and distress from Janos once they entered the spaceport.

The ship was starting to prepare for takeoff; obviously the Demon didn't have perfect control. She shouldn't have been surprised. Even only knowing him a few weeks now, she knew full well how strong willed he could be, no matter how rarely he tended to exercise that will.

"We have to wait for Dr. Kell," she warned Jay as they hurried to climb on board.

"He'd better hurry." Was the only reply, along with a growing dislike for the old Wolf as Jay made short work of figuring out what he intended to do from a galactic map and surveys of several worlds.

"Where are you planning on going?" She asked, trying to put the bond to use at working him down. They'd expected him to be pissed off, but not this pissed off. "*Tembris, get back now,*" she told the Wolf. "*I have no idea what he's doing next.*"

"Someplace nice and quiet where we'll be left alone." He rumbled, something in his manner making it distinctly likely he intended to ditch Dr. Kell and Markos, their other pilot, as soon as he could manage it.

"Malachor V," Kell told him, arriving at the ship just in time. "This ship is the only one that can go there, nobody else will give us any trouble."

Everyone felt the instant tension in the room and just how little Jay trusted the old Wolf now.

"So why can this one go there?" Jay asked with remarkably little of his emotions showing.

"The hyperdrive on this system is strong enough to overcome the gravity well around the world," Kell explained even as Jay did his own calculations. "I visited it once, destroyed the ship I was on in the process. It is possible that another ship could go there, but the world is uninhabited, and the odds of anybody deciding to follow us to the system are astronomical."

"Have you arranged for supplies yet?" Jay asked quietly. Just the world's name made him uneasy, very uneasy, but then so did listening to the mother of his kits.

He wanted to stay here, in the heat and sand and known prey.

To be fair, the only reason he couldn't was because of what they were telling him.

The old Wolf was telling him where to go again. What to do again.

"I have, but they probably haven't been loaded yet," Kell said easily. "They didn't exactly have much time."

It was the realization that Mina was mentally leaning on him that broke the stalemate inside Jay.

"*Cut it out.*" He snarled at her silently, a mental blow almost as sharp as the physical one he was capable of inflicting, and just as startling for her. "*You haven't earned that right.*"

"No," he answered the old Wolf as he slowly turned to face the Sith Lord down. "This is not your ship and not your command."

"Very well," Kell said. "It was merely a suggestion."

The Wolf heard Kressh chuckle in the background, and made a mental note to have a long, hard conversation with him later.

"You will live more comfortably elsewhere." Jay was as subtle as he got in suggesting the two Wolves outside the family leave without making it an outright order. "There is no need for you to hide."

"No need," Kell said 'graciously,' trying to fight the urge to growl and put this tom in his place. He was well on his way towards aborting the plan, killing Jay, and taking the kits as compensation for his time. "I did promise to make sure you were taken care of."

It was a reminder of something Jay had all but forgotten; that Shi's hand was in this. A simple choice of words instantly broke Jay's temper and anger towards the old Wolf, at least for a while.

Jay turned his attention back to the map of Tatooine and let his gaze fall where it may; at the edge of a small, low mountain range, and he knew exactly how to pass the next few months.

Jay stood from the controls with Sharufa at a hovering stop just in front of a large outcropping of rock in the badlands not far from low mountains.

"What are you doing?" Mina asked quietly, careful not to lean on him lest she spark the directed anger that had almost ruined everything only hours before. That had been a real wake-up call for all the Sith. The mate-bond could do amazing things in directing him to a desired result, but he was neither ignorant of that fact nor incapable of resisting it when he wanted to enough.

It also gave him the ability to strike back harder than he could at most.

"Making a safe and comfortable place to camp until things have settled down a bit." He answered simply and stepped out of the open hatch to land easily tens of meters below.

"I hate it when he does that," she murmured, turning back towards Tembris. "I think things are officially derailed."

"No, merely to plan B." The ancient Wolf chuckled. "If he is more comfortable here, he is less likely to resist our efforts."

"In case you didn't notice, we also both lost hold on him," she pointed out. "Another shake like that, and I'm not sure what'll happen."

"If he becomes too uncontrollable, we kill him." Tembris shrugged. "One less Jedi to worry about."

"Let's just keep him from hearing that," Mina muttered, glancing at the open hatch, then up at the cockpit. "And Janos."

"Now what makes you say that?" He raised an eyebrow at her.

"I don't trust him," she said, shaking her head. "Clawson's having as much an effect on him as he is on Clawson."

"Well, we'll just have to make sure it doesn't cause any problems then." Tembris told her simply.

"*I told you not to trust that creature. It's turning your apprentice against you.*" Kressh smirked at him from the shadows of insubstantial space.

"*His weakness, nothing more,*" Tembris responded.

"I was simply bringing it to your awareness, Master," Mina said easily. "If I may be so bold, when will my training be beginning in earnest? I suspect we'll be spending a fair amount of time here before I have the opportunity to get myself captured."

"After you deliver the kits, and he's not quite so focused on your protection." Tembris said before flattening his ears and moved his chair closer to the open hatch to get a look at what was creating such a significant use of Force. "What is that kat doing?"

He blinked a couple times to see a chunk of rock half again as large as the Sharufa being pulled out of the plateau about half way up it's face and slowly remolded into the surrounding stone so the change didn't look like a change.

"I can see why you want to turn him," Mina murmured, watching her 'mate' at work. "His powers are incredible ...."

"Yes, he is very impressive." He nodded, keeping his surprise to himself. Jay hadn't felt nearly this strong at the dig. Whatever the kat was doing was definitely not solely the results of the natural strength and Jedi training that were readily apparent.

"He wants me to back into that cave and land." Janos called back, a bit uncertain about whether to actually do it.

"Do so," the ancient Wolf said easily. "It's certainly safer than a natural cave around here."

"Yes, sir." Janos nodded as the ship began to move, slowly backing into the large cave as Jay watched intently from the ground.

"When we land, have Markos modify my chair for sand," he told Mina, "I believe we're in a convenient location."

"Yes, Master." She inclined her head slightly.

"I'll be in my quarters, meditating," he said, moving off towards his room, preparing to complete the new contingencies he'd been working on.

"Master!" Markos yelled in alarm. "He's sealing us in!"

"Would you relax?" Janos sneered from next to him. "He's only sealing the ship in, not us. We'd hardly be hiding if people could see it at a glance."

"If necessary, we can still blast our way out," Tembris said, shifting to move up to the cockpit. "This ship is very well armed for its size and type."

"Besides, with Janos and I in here, he wouldn't do that," Mina said, following Tembris with her mind shielded from even Jay. "He might not be totally on our side yet, but we still have several very potent bargaining chips for the next few months."

"He'll be up once he's sure the outside looks right." Janos said with easy certainty as he stood to go look at the work his mate had done first hand.

"For somebody who wasn't sure he could be trusted to be in a room on his own for a few days, you're very certain of him," Tembris observed.

"That was before I knew what anger and scheming feel like in him." The younger Wolf said simply. "His intent is very simple to read if you pay attention."

"Is there anything we should be aware of?" Tembris asked him pointedly.

"No, Master." He said a bit more submissively. "His scheming so far has been about 'surprises' in bed, and that message he sent to the Jedi. It has a distinctive feel, when he's planning something he doesn't want known."

"It's true," Mina agreed. "And it isn't what he's feeling now. He's focused on protecting us, not harming us," she added, letting up on her shields a bit as Janos left the ship. "I'll have to talk him into making sure we have an easy way in and out."

"Do so." Tembris nodded and turned around to go to his quarters.

As Mina prepared to do just that, Janos was waiting at the small opening for Jay to fly up to it. He had to admit; it was impressive work, and the location was as secure as you could get and still have any opening.

"Impressive," he said with a smile for Jay as the older tom touched down, walking in through the door-sized opening he'd left. "What happened to the rest of the stone though?"

"It's made the mesa larger." Jay answered easily. As exhausted as he was, mentally and physically, he wasn't showing it to anyone that wasn't very good at noticing, or had an inside track to his state. "Where you're standing on used to be open air."

"Added a story," Janos nodded, understanding. He moved to help support his mate, rubbing his side lightly. "Be careful," he said softly even as Jay stiffened for a second, then relaxed and leaned against the bigger male as they walked back to the ship and their quarters.

"Something like that." He nodded, his eyes closing briefly. "It's the most secure way I could think of to stay safe for a while."

"Let's hope it works," Janos nodded. "At least we won't have to worry about Krayt dragons. Though Mina might end up getting a little claustrophobic."

"I'll work on that, after a nap." He murmured. "That was a lot of work."

"I'll bet," Janos agreed as they walked into the ship, giving Mina a sharp look as she started to approach them to try and work on convincing Jay to make an easier way out. "Haven't seen anything like that before."

"You probably won't again," he murmured. "It's a significant drain, and not something many would probably think of doing."

"We'll have to get out of here eventually," Mina pointed out, following as Janos helped lead Jay towards their quarters.

"When it's time to take Sharufa out, she can simply blast her way out. We won't need this place any more then." Jay told her.

"All right," she nodded, not willing to test her bond again so shortly after his backlash across it. Janos helped Jay undress, stripping down himself before joining him in bed.

"Just take it easy for a while," the Wolf murmured, kissing Jay lightly.

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3         Part 4         Part 5         Part 6        

A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 9.99: The Price of Survival part 1 of 6

NC-17 for M/F, M/M, F/F, M/Herm sex, Violence and a bunch more
Het Level is HighHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is High
Femslash Level is LowFemslash Smut Level is Low
Herm Level is LowHerm Smut Level is Very Low

185 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written August 15, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Star Wars (Furry)

Primary Races: Cheetah, Feline, Ice Walker, Kat, Kushiban, Panther

Contents: Furry. Herm. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Femslash (F/F). Cannibalism, DarkFic, Genocide (Attempted), Mass Murder, Necrophilia, Rape (M on F), Rape (M on M), Rape Recovery, Relationship (Established), Sex (BDSM), Sex (BDSM), Slavery (Legal), Snuff (M on F), Torture, Torture (Sexual), Violence (Graphic)

Pairings: Doruth Parn/Tes Ramaris, Jay Clawson/Shivasta Stormwarden/Fenrik Aren, Jay Clawson/ Mina Callan/Janos Miklar, Various others. A lot of various others.

Notes: Thank you to Shane Nelson of http://www.ShaylaThePinkMouse.com for coming up with such an interesting character and race that he did with Shayla. No, she's not in here, nor any of his other characters, but some ideas are.

We have fun chatting on occasion. This came up when discussing what Doruth and Tes are up to when Shi and Jay are at the dig. Tes wanted more cubs, Doruth is remembering Nasim and Abayomi and the thought of litters of 4-6 like them that have followed in the years since ....

K: More accurately, he's saying something about preferring the idea of being sent out to track down Zykell and finish him bare-handed to the idea of trying to raise another litter like Nasim and Abayomi at this age (80, for reference). ^^()
R: ~giggle~ There were worse litters. Later ones had 4 or even 6 cubs as bad as that pair.
K: ~chuckles~ Doruth does ~have~ ears left, right? :-P
R: Of course, unless he refused to have the tears healed ;)
K: ~chuckles~ I just have this mental image of assorted Jedi hanging around the water cooler.
"Yeah, lost my hand fighting a Sith."
"The Emperor took off half my face."
"A Hutt got hold of me. You do not ~want~ to know what needed replacing afterwards."
"So Doruth, what's the story behind your ears? Nasty run-in with a Dug? Your old Master show up and try torturing you?"
"Fifty years of raising kits with my mate."
~dead silence and sympathetic looks all around~

Blurb: It's everyone's worst nightmare come true and it's not about to go easily for anyone concerned; Jedi, Sith, Darksiders, Clawsons or the universe at large. This is also the end of Jay's Story.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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