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First Steps | A Short Story

“What did I tell you? You need to go to bed earlier, else you might start seeing things.”

Auteme’s eyes opened, the familiar voice rousing her from sleep. She blinked, trying to clear her blurry early-morning vision. She glanced at her clock. Three A.M.

Too early. Her gaze shifted to the person at her door. The Jedi Temple was a place of light, but Auteme found it difficult to get to sleep when it wasn’t dark. The only light in her room was the dull green glow of her clock, allowing her to just barely make out the shape of a man just outside her door. The hallway was dark, hiding his features.

But she recognized the voice. “You’re back? You’re really back?” The padawan sat up and moved her legs over the side of the bed.

“Come quickly, little light. We have much to do.”

Her mind felt fuzzy. Had he ever called her that before? She'd only heard her father call her that. She needed a few hours more of rest, but if the monk had returned she couldn’t keep him waiting. Of everyone in her life it was only him who’d kept his promise to come back. Auteme got up and started towards the door as the shadow flitted away. She grabbed her coat and followed it out the door.

He’d always been fast, but Auteme had thought she could keep up with him. Today she was falling behind. Perhaps it was the tiredness. Maybe it was her lack of practice and training. The padawan watched as the monk pulled away and rounded a corner.

She followed as quickly as she could but when she turned the corner she found herself standing at the edge of an enormous chasm. Some ethereal light descended from above, illuminating the other side of the chasm. The monk stood there, his features still cloaked in shadow, just as her surroundings were hidden by darkness. This wasn’t right. Auteme realized she could barely picture his face anymore.

“Follow me, Auteme.” The monk turned and began to walk away.

She wouldn’t lose anyone again. She didn’t want to feel alone. The chasm was wide, but Auteme thought she could make it. She took a few steps back, then ran towards the edge, gathering speed to jump…

Only to knick her foot on a little rock that hadn’t been there before. The padawan tumbled into the darkness, watching the light above fade and disappear.

“I’m paralyzed on the sidelines.

I don’t know how to help.

I’m not enough.”

Her own voice followed her, dragging her deeper into the depths of darkness. The air tore at her hair and clothes as she fell. That feeling of fear and inadequacy gripped her heart even as she fell to her apparent death. The padawan closed her eyes and let out a scream. The sound echoed off of the invisible walls of her surroundings. Another reminder of how trapped she felt.

There was no thought, no learning, no knowledge here. She lost her sense of orientation, feeling suspended in nothingness.

When she opened her eyes again, the sound of footsteps had replaced the tearing winds. Even so, she couldn’t feel a floor beneath her feet.

The words came out of her mouth without a thought. “How do you… cope, with it?”

There was a pause before the warm voice of Master Celeste Rigel floated to her ears. “Time,” she said. “Time and trust in the Force.”

More footsteps followed, and for a moment she could see a group of children, playing. Their laughter made Auteme smile.

“It is important to acknowledge the feelings in your heart,” Master Rigel continued. “Meditation certainly helps. Eventually, you will be able to let go and move on. But, it's a process that shouldn't be rushed.”

Auteme had forgotten those words. It was a pleasant reminder that the wisdom of others could stay with her even years after.

A warm wind carried the words of Master Quill next.

"You're a good kid, Auteme, and a great fething Jedi. You're one of the few true bridges between Wyatt's Order and Elise's, and you always have been. Give it ten years and you'll be running the place. Take care of yourself."

He hadn’t said it to her directly, but those words had given her a sense of pride like nothing else. Where had all that gone? Now she felt like nothing, not even holding onto the dreams that others had for her.

Auteme reached out and grasped the cold beskar of an old Mandalorian helmet. She could picture it clearly -- the scratched red paint, the intimidating metal visage. Further she could picture the red-haired woman who’d given it to her, and hear the grunt that escaped the woman as she handed the helmet to Auteme.

An unfamiliar voice followed it. “You’re blessed, padawan. You have more strength than you know,” the man said, his voice rich and soothing.

Her surroundings were still dark and silent, but the more time she spent here the clearer the voices became and the further she could see.

Next was Master Morga, pacing at the front of the classroom as he delivered his lesson. “Hear the Force without filter or bias.” The vision flickered, and the Grandmaster delivered more wisdom. “Focus on the Force. Learn what it wants from you.” As always, Wyatt gave the best advice on these things. Soon it was swallowed by darkness again.

There was a gentle sound of waves in the distance, a feeling of ebbing and flowing of something not entirely real. She could see Loske, in the cockpit of her X-wing, the muted sounds of explosions in the distance. “We’re all helping how we can,” Loske said. Auteme felt a different weight on her shoulders, but for a moment she was happy to bear it.

The image shifted to a city street; Auteme recognized the Muun architecture. A low, mechanical buzz muted the sounds of battle in the distance. She watched as Emperor Carnifex threw Allyson Locke through the window of a nearby building. Again the sound was dulled; Auteme could only watch as the Jedi fought desperately against the Sith. Even in the darkest hour she could hear the words of the Corellian, accompanied by the smell of a sweet fruit pie: “There’s nothing to be afraid of, Auteme.” It was terrifying to watch, but Auteme knew that she’d come out alright. She knew just enough about Allyson to really feel what was happening here -- the Corellian hadn’t believed it before, but she was now a Jedi.

Auteme wasn’t sure if she felt like a Jedi.

Next it was Jamie, sitting in that classroom as she began her struggle against the Rancor’s Grace. “Thanks, Auteme.” It was small but it was everything. The kindness tugged at her heart and filled her with warmth. It was the little things that stuck with her. After all, Auteme wanted to help people, even if it was in a small way.

Last it was Ryv. His saber was held high as he led soldiers and Jedi against an unseen enemy. No words of his came to her; instead the kind voice of an older man came to her, and she knew instantly that it was his late father.

“What is holding you back, little one?” His voice was welcoming. He spoke with the calm and care of someone who spent a life helping others.

Auteme was compelled to share. “I just… I feel so alone,” she admitted. “Everyone I’ve ever known, ever loved… losing them just feels so inevitable.”

"Oh, Auteme… No matter what happens, you will never be alone. The memories of those you love, and the feelings they bring you will always be with you. The Force walks beside you, incorporeal, but ever-present. If you fear this isolation, you need only break the cycle of loneliness. Reach beyond yourself, take hold of another, and do not let them go."

Auteme reached to the image in front of her. They’d grown apart, but that didn’t mean she didn’t care. Every kindness, every reminder that she was worth something, she still had that. And for a moment the padawan could feel it in her hand. It was warm, it burned bright, it comforted and healed. Every person had such a thing. A heart, a soul of sorts, a Force -- a feeling of love so often hidden away under the layers of pain and walls of caution.

But that tiny maggot of doubt still gnawed at her. She tried to grab it, to save that image, but in an instant she was dragged back into the darkness.

That feeling was there but it was so far. It felt unattainable -- how could she, a padawan, touch the heart of another if she couldn’t control her own? She was so far from the other Jedi, and yet not even they had scratched the surface of that truth. She wasn’t nearly as much as them.

But still, she was a Jedi. She was something. She reached out again, grasping the void and taking hold of someone dear to her. A warmth washed over her as she was enveloped in a hug; she knew the presences before her as her father and mother. For a time they’d been far apart, but by some miracle they’d returned. And she had them with her, even when they were far away.

“Find your voice, little light.” She couldn’t see them, but she could tell that they were smiling — she could see the off-white and goofy grin on her father’s face, and the calm, understanding smile of her mother, the one that looked just like Auteme’s. “You are loved.”

Soon a cacophony of the voices of those dear to her sounded off, guiding her to the answer through the darkness.

“Trust in the Force.”

“Take care of yourself.”

“You have more strength than you know.”

“Hear the Force.”

“Find your voice.”

Auteme focused and brought a hand to her heart. With a deep inhale she found that little light inside herself. She closed her eyes for only a moment, but when she looked again she saw the entire galaxy, all blended together in a moment — the Force and everything it had. In the palm of her hand she held her little light, and it shone brighter than a thousand suns.

And finally her own voice came to her.

“These are the first steps.”

The light shone even brighter, filling her with warmth. The galaxy faded, engulfed by the light, and her with it.

Auteme woke up the next morning, well-rested and with a feeling of warmth in her heart. She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She extended a hand out in front of herself, her palm facing the ceiling, and brought forth the little light that she had. It danced in her hand and filled her heart with warmth; the warmth she got when she saw her friends together, hugged her family, or saw the galaxy change for the better. She was reminded of all the people she’d loved and everything she had. But most importantly she recognized that she, too, was important -- she was the unifying factor in all these disparate little moments. The thought made her smile.

When she set out of her room, she had a sense that today was the day she started sharing her light with the galaxy.
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Pretending to be a good writer; always looking for feedback to deepen the disguise.


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