Gray Jedi Ch. 11


"Entering the Jedha system now," Serra said. "Any sign we've been followed?"

"Doesn't appear so, but I'm gonna keep the cloaking systems up to be on the safe side," Malik replied.

"There's NaJedha. Its largest moon is our destination."

"Did the holocron give any indication of the specific location of the kyber mines?" Malik asked.

"No, it was pretty cryptic," Serra shrugged. "All it said was 'we are one with the Force, and the Force is with us'. Nothing specific."

"Sounds like something known only to the Jedi Council. These kyber crystals are one of the most heavily guarded secrets of the Order. I suppose we ought to start looking in the Holy City?" Malik offered.

"It's as good a place as any to start our search."

"Morning," said Rex, entering the cockpit.

"Morning, Rex... whoa!" Malik gasped.

"Huh? What's... holy crap!" Serra agreed.

"Whatcha think? Ya like it?" Rex asked with a grin.

Rex's hair had grown longer in his time with Malik and Serra, and he had also decided to stop shaving. A full beard was beginning to come in, giving him a bit of breathing room in being instantly recognized as a clone, and he had further disguised himself by dying his hair blonde. Even though his beard had a ways to go before it was fully-grown and his hair was basically just a buzz cut, the changes were quite striking. One would have to look very close to determine that he was a clone.

"It's kind of shocking, but I have to admit... blonde looks good on you," Serra said.

"To be fair, you're kinda partial to blondes," Malik teased her, pointing to his own blonde hair.

"True enough," Rex agreed. "Did the dye job in the shower this morning. I figured I ought to try and blend in a bit more so I'm not noticed so easily. A stray clone wandering around out of uniform is bound to attract unwanted attention."

"Good thinking, Rex," said Malik.

Jax and Laranth soon arrived as well, having been roused by the ship's alert of their arrival in the Jedha system. Laranth appeared quite chipper, but Jax seemed quieter than usual to Malik's eye, maybe even a little grumpy. Both were appropriately surprised by Rex's new look, but Jax gave a nod of approval, having dyed his own brown hair pitch black a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Serra continued to guide them towards the Jedha moon.

"Scope isn't picking up any Imperial presence in the system. We're probably safe to deactivate the cloaking device," Malik offered.

"Agreed. I think we'll actually be able to dock in a hangar for once!" Serra laughed. "The Empire has no interest in a secluded desert moon inhabited by monks and pilgrims, after all."

"Hopefully, we can keep it that way," Malik mused.

"Remind me again why we're here?" Jax asked.

Malik replied, "Last night, Serra and I were reviewing the holocrons we managed to swipe from the vault. One of them detailed the locations of the Jedi Order's kyber crystals. We all know of the ice caves on Ilum, but there is apparently a vast mine of raw kyber crystals somewhere on this moon. Its exact location isn't detailed, so I can only assume the Jedi Council has kept it a secret for safety purposes. In any case, it's safe to think that the Ilum caves are relatively well protected from intruders, and may even have some Jedi hiding out in them, but we don't know what protections the mines on Jedha might have. If we can find them, we may be able to strengthen their defenses and ensure the crystals remain hidden from the Empire."

"Wow... if the Emperor were to find out where kyber crystals grew, he would be one step closer to preventing the Jedi from ever returning," Laranth gasped.

"Exactly. If there is anything we can do to prevent that from happening, we have a responsibility to do so," Malik nodded.

"But where do we look? It's a vast moon; the mines could literally be anywhere," said Jax.

"We're thinking we ought to start with the Holy City. It's about the only heavily populated area of the moon," Serra mentioned. "I know we don't have much to go on, but I feel like we need to at least look for them."

"I agree," Rex said, ending his long silence. "I don't know much about these kyber crystals, but if they have any sort of significance to the Jedi, it's only a matter of time before the Emperor tries to wipe them out for good. He doesn't just want to make sure the Jedi never return; he also wants to create a mindset amongst the citizens of the galaxy that will keep them from questioning him. Eradicating all traces of the Jedi Order makes it clear who's really in charge."

"Good point," Jax nodded.

As Serra broke through the atmosphere, the group could see Jedha City ahead of them, situated atop a grand mesa. Far from the expansive metropolis that was Coruscant, it gave the feel of a small town community. Vendors and merchants lined the streets, and the entire city felt like a large marketplace. In the center of it all was a large rock formation with doors built into the sides.

"What is that?" Laranth asked in wonder.

"I believe that is the Church of the Force," Malik replied. "Many pilgrims who believe in the Force travel to this moon from across the galaxy. I wonder if the monks in the church know anything about the kyber mines?"

"Could be. We'll start our search there." Picking up the comlink, Serra said, "Come in, tower. This is the Middle Way, requesting permission to land. Over."

"Copy that. Permission granted to land in hangar 1138. Over."

"Understood. Thank you, tower. Over and out."

As the ship landed, Malik turned to the rest of the crew. "Gonna be cold, so better bundle up. This may be a desert moon, but it's also an eternal winter out there."

Checking the supply closet, Jax said, "Not much available. We've got some simple cloaks that'll do for now, but we're gonna need more durable cold weather gear than this."

"We should be able to find something more suitable in the market," Laranth remarked.

"Good call. You three head to the market to gear up while Serra and I check out the Church of the Force," Malik replied.

"Will do. We'll meet you there when we're finished," Rex said.

"But how are we to pay? We have almost no money to our names," Laranth said.

"I'll get you some petty cash from our safe. A... friend of the Jedi Order helped us out shortly after Order 66," Serra answered, thinking of Bail Organa. "He outfitted us with supplies and even gave us a sizable amount of emergency funds. We have plenty, just don't spend too much," she said with a wink.

"We'll pay you back," Jax said.

"We're in this together, Jax," Malik replied. "We were in your debt, now you're in our debt... if we keep score like that, this'll go on forever. Let's just say that we're friends and crewmates and leave it at that. No debts to be repaid."

Jax sighed at seeing the stubbornness in Malik's eyes. "Fine. You win."


"Wow... this is amazing," Serra gasped, gazing up at the structure they were about to enter.

"Yep, the Church of the Force. Let's check it out."

Pushing open the large doors, Serra and Malik soon found themselves inside a large sanctuary. Torches lined the walls to provide dim lighting, allowing them to see a large number of benches around the room. At the front stood a simple altar bearing the emblem of the Jedi Order. On the wall behind the altar was a banner displaying the Jedi Creed.

"Welcome, travelers," came a deep voice.

The two Jedi turned to see a tall human male approaching them. He had tanned skin and dark black hair tied back into a ponytail, along with a moustache and beard on his face. A simple black robe adorned his body, giving him the appearance of a holy man.

"Hello. My name is Malik, and this is my wife, Serra."

"Well met, Malik and Serra. I am Baze Malbus, one of the Guardians of the Whills," the man replied with a smile.

"Guardians of the Whills?" Serra inquired.

"We are the keepers and protectors of this sacred temple," Baze replied. "Though none of us are sensitive to the Force, it is nonetheless a guiding presence in our lives. Pilgrims travel from across the galaxy to visit our humble abode and learn the ways of the Church of the Force."

"Wow, you must meet so many different kinds of people here," Malik said.

"Indeed. The Force touches all peoples across all races and walks of life."

"I happened to notice the emblem of the Jedi on your altar up there. Does that mean that the Jedi come here too?" Malik asked.

"We have met the occasional Jedi Knight over the years, but I have not known a Jedi to come here in quite some time. I surmise it is because they have had their hands full with the war," Baze replied.

"From what I have heard, the Jedi were defeated and have gone into hiding," came a voice from a nearby hallway.

Malik and Serra turned to see a man of about thirty joining them. He wore the same black robes as Baze and also had tanned skin, but his face was clean-shaven and his hair was cut very short. As he came into view, both Jedi immediately noticed why he walked carefully with a staff: the man was blind. Yet in spite of this handicap, he moved with grace and confidence, never once doubting where he was.

"Ah, good of you to join us, Chirrut. May I introduce our traveling visitors, Malik and Serra?" Baze said.

"A pleasure, my friends. I am Chirrut Îmwe of the Guardians of the Whills."

"We're glad to be here, Chirrut," Serra replied. "Did you say that you received news of the Jedi all the way out here?"

"Not so much news as it was rumors," Chirrut chuckled. "Many traders and pilot pass by here to replenish their supplies, and whispers have circulated as to the fate of the Jedi. Some say the new Emperor has eradicated them for a massive takeover attempt. Others say the Jedi managed to escape and are in hiding, waiting for an opportunity to strike back."

"I have heard those rumors," Malik grinned. "Of course, if the Jedi had managed to survive, I suspect some are resourceful enough to hide in plain sight."

Chirrut cocked his head at this, seeming to detect something in Malik's voice. He walked up to the man with a huge smile on his face and placed a hand on Malik's shoulder.

"We are one with the Force," Chirrut said.

Remembering the holocron, Malik replied, "And the Force is with us."

With a hearty laugh, Chirrut dropped his staff and wrapped Malik in a hug. Malik coughed at this, realizing the blind man was stronger than he let on.

"I just knew the Jedi would live on!" Chirrut exclaimed.

"Yes, yes, now keep your voice down, you fool," Baze chuckled.

"Of course, I apologize," Chirrut said, composing himself.

"What just happened?" Serra asked.

"Serra, you remember the cryptic message from the holocron? We are one with the Force and the Force is with us? When Chirrut here said the first half of it, I figured out that it had to be some sort of password," Malik replied.

"Wait, does that mean you know something about... the kyber crystals?" Serra inquired of Baze and Chirrut.

"In fact, we Guardians of the Whills are the protectors of the kyber mines," Baze grinned. "How do you know of them? You must have the permission of the Jedi Council to come asking about them."

"Unfortunately... the Jedi Council is no more," Malik replied. "The Emperor made them his top targets to be eliminated in his power grab, knowing they would be the greatest threat to his authority. To our knowledge, none survived. We managed to salvage a holocron from the Jedi Temple, which told us of the existence of kyber crystals here on Jedha."

"We thought we should come here to ensure they had been given ample protections. Can't risk the Emperor getting his hands on them," Serra agreed.

"I can assure you they are in capable hands, but if you wish to see for yourselves, I would be honored to show you," Chirrut said.

"Thank you," Serra replied.

At that moment, the main doors opened once more, and Jax, Laranth, and Rex entered the sanctuary. Having discarded their simple cloaks, the three were now properly geared up for cold weather. Laranth now wore a black form-fitting leather coat with a turtleneck and a knitted headband to keep her head and the base of her lekku warm. Jax had opted for a brown pilot's jacket, adding a scarf around his neck for additional warmth. As for Rex, he now wore a thick hunter's coat and a hat that concealed his ears and the back of his head, further allowing him to hide the fact that he was a clone defector.

"Good timing, guys," Malik said. "We've come to the right place. Chirrut, Baze, these are our friends, Jax, Laranth, and Rex. They're on the run with us."

"Well met," Baze said, extending a hand to Rex.

"Indeed. Welcome to the Church of the Force," Chirrut agreed, shaking Laranth's hand.

"Why thank you," Laranth replied. "Oh, you... you are..."

"Blind?" Chirrut grinned. "It is alright; I take no offense to the truth. And judging by your accent, I would venture a guess that you, my dear lady, are Twi'lek, yes?"

"A rather easy guess," Laranth giggled.

"Perhaps, but further, I would say that you are... of the plains of Ryloth. Perhaps... a green Twi'lek, am I right?"

"Oh my, you are!" Laranth gasped, blushing at the attentions of the handsome monk.

"If I may, we should be going if we wish to reach the mines well before nightfall," Baze said in a hushed voice.

"Of course. Come," Chirrut agreed, leading the group out the door.


As the group strolled through the streets of Jedha City, Malik couldn't shake the feeling that they were being followed. He had not picked up on anything with his own eyes, but his instincts were screaming that something was amiss. A quick glance at Serra indicated that she also felt something.

"Chirrut, is someone tailing us?" Malik whispered.

"I believe so," he replied. "From the southeast."

Catching a glimpse over his shoulder of a hooded individual, Malik nodded and gestured for the group to separate. Malik and Serra went one direction, Laranth and Chirrut another, Jax and Baze yet another, and Rex another still. Turning down a nearby alley, Malik kept an eye out for the stranger and saw him on the other side of the street. He didn't appear to be after any of the Jedi, but he was drawing close to Rex. Before Malik could warn him, the stranger had grabbed Rex and tossed him into another abandoned alley.

"Shit! Rex is in trouble!" Malik cursed.

Serra ran right behind him as Malik converged on the alley, finding a tall, dark-skinned human male with a blaster drawn on Rex.

"Time for retribution, Imperial scum," he muttered.

"Drop the weapon. You're outnumbered," Malik commanded.

Rex's assailant looked over his shoulder at Serra and Malik, followed soon by the rest of their party.

"Stay out of this. This is between me and the clone," he growled. "You did a pretty good disguise job, but I'd recognize a clone anywhere," he continued, turning his attention back to Rex.

"Son, do not make us kill you," Jax said, a firm hand on the hilt of his lightsaber.

"Jax, I can handle this," Rex said, waving him off. Looking up, he continued, "It's good to see you again, Saw."

"SHUT UP! How do you know my name?!" the young man demanded.

"Know you? I trained you!" Rex laughed. "I trained you, your sister, and your group of ragtag rebels on Onderon. Hearing of your efforts to beat back the Separatists made this old soldier so proud, Saw Gerrera."

"Captain Rex?!"

"That's me."

"You are still a blasted clone! That means you serve the Empire now, and my purpose in this new galaxy is to kill Imperials by the dozen!" Saw seethed.

"I defected!" Rex protested. "I figured out something bad was going to happen to the Jedi, so I removed my inhibitor chip that prevented me from disobeying orders. I'm a fugitive now."

"It's true," Serra said, placing a gentle hand on Saw's elbow. "If your fight is with the Empire, he's not your enemy. Put the gun down."

"I'm just supposed to believe you?" Saw pressed.

"I need you to trust me, as Steela did," Rex replied.

Choking up at hearing his sister's name, Saw's hand began to shake as he slowly lowered his weapon back into its holster.

"When I heard the reports of the Clone Army turning on the Jedi," Saw managed, "I knew there was no way the Jedi had betrayed the Republic."

"You're right about that," Rex said, rising to his feet. "The Emperor had it planned from the beginning. Every last clone soldier had a secret program embedded within them that would force them to turn on the Jedi. All Palpatine had to do was give the order. As far as I've seen, I'm the only one that managed to resist, and only because I removed my chip a few months ago."

"He's telling the truth. All of us are fugitives from the Empire, except these two," Malik said, pointing at Baze and Chirrut. "He's still the same old Captain Rex."

"Rex, I... I almost killed you!" Saw realized. "I could've shot you!"

"Ah, it's alright. No big deal," Rex laughed. "Nothin' I haven't faced every day for the last several years!"


"Tell ya what? Let's you and me go have a drink. That's the usual custom when former teammates meet up again, right?"

"Yeah... yeah, sounds good!" Saw agreed.

"Will you guys be ok without me for a while?" Rex asked.

"Shouldn't be a problem. Our destination is about a quarter day's ride into the desert, so we should be back late tonight," Chirrut replied.

"Perfect. Saw and I will be at that tavern we passed a little while back," Rex said.


"It's them. I'm sure of it."

"Hmm... the Twi'lek for sure, but the humans look a bit different from their mug shots. No beards on the guys, one of 'em has black hair instead of brown..."

"Still, it's them."

"What about that one? I suppose he could be the clone defector, but then he might not be. Hard to tell."

"If I can get just a bit closer, I'll confirm for certain that's him. After all, who would know better than me?"

"You're right about that, my friend. Look, they're splitting up."

"I'll stay on the clone. You tail the rest. Do not engage until we're certain we have the advantage. Let's not waste the element of surprise."

"Well, look at you. Fast learner, you are."

"I was raised by the best..."


Baze Malbus piloted the skiff with precision across the surface of Jedha. Though the sun was high in the sky, the air was cold and dry, keeping everyone alert throughout their journey to the kyber mines. While Malik, Serra, and Jax sat on a bench seat on one side of the skiff, Laranth sat close to Chirrut on the other side.

"You must be very strong with the Force," she remarked. "You walk everywhere with such confidence, despite your blindness."

"You are kind, but also incorrect," Chirrut grinned. "My entire life, I have been unable to touch the Force, no matter how hard I have tried."

"What? Are you saying you are not Force-sensitive?" Laranth asked.

"That is correct."

"But how? How are you able to move with such grace?"

"Because I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me," Chirrut replied, repeating his mantra. "Even though I cannot call on the Force of my own choosing, I am still touched by it every day. Through the will of the Force, my other senses have increased several times over, allowing me to hear even the smallest disturbances around me."

"And determine what color Twi'lek you're speaking to by her accent," Laranth giggled.


Across from them, Jax gave a derisive snort at seeing Laranth growing fond of the blind man. She whipped her head around and glared at him in warning, but said nothing otherwise. Unknown to either of them, Chirrut heard everything, confirming a suspicion he already had. At that time, the skiff began to slow as it approached a mountainous area.

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