• Published 6th Dec 2012
  • 1,947 Views, 85 Comments

On the Side - DocDelray

  • ...

Field Trip

Birds sang a lovely tune as the warming embrace of the sun began to lovingly caress the smooth stone walls. Rays of light trickled through the glass covered windows of the monastery signifying to all within that daily routines were to begin. The thick cacophony of this world’s native avian population was soon joined by the sounding of a large bell. A dull chime that echoed throughout the temple and surrounding valley forcing all within range to face this new day.

Figures clad in dull simplistic robes began seeing to their daily duties. A wide mix of different races walked the grounds of this sprawling compound as they saw to their chores. Each soul doing their part, be it tending the garden’s collection of varying vegetables, cleaning the monastery grounds or preparing the day’s meals.

The quiet routine of the day was paused briefly as the roar of engines began to drown out the sounds of daily life. This ship’s approach was given little attention by most, save for the youngest of the temple’s members. Several youths quietly slipped away from the duties and responsibilities in hopes of catching a glimpse of these visitors. They all wanted to see the first beings from this newly found planet to set “hoof” in a Jedi Temple.

As the small craft touched down on the landing pad, its gangway lowered as four small eager figures spilled out. Scootaloo, Applebloom and Sweetie Belle, excitedly looked around their new surroundings, the first ponies on an alien world. The three of them had been clad in fairly simple dresses. It had taken their guardians some time to explain the taboos of nudity to the fillies but eventually they understood. Close beside them the half Human half Pantoran Casus joyfully enjoyed the chance to just be off the ship. Behind the children their pair of guardians, Twilight Sparkle and Shin’ima Skirata, descended the ramp.

Twilight adjusted her saddle bag as well as the light grey jumpsuit she had been given. The outfit had been modified and fitted to her shape and mode of travel for dealing with beings far removed from Gaia. She had never minded wearing clothing, having spent so much time living alongside the Princess she had become very familiar with formal attire. Still, it was somewhat strange to wear cloths at all times while off planet. Then again, it was better than risking the chance of offending somepony, or even worse, being ogled by some pervert.

“Remember children,” Shin’ima called out to them, “Ms. Cheerilee is expecting detailed notes from all four of you about what you saw and did on this trip.”

A groan rose up from the four of them as they were forced to remember their school project. Granted, it was the only reason they had been given permission to miss a day or two of school. But a whole one hundred word essay about what they got to see and do off world just seemed so excessive. How were they supposed to write a whole one hundred words?

“Note taking and research can be a lot of fun if you let it kids.” Twilight cheerfully said to them. “I bet that if the four of you put your minds to it, you could make a great game out of it. In fact, I bet if you tried, you could even take more notes than me on this trip.”

Her enthusiasm was met with blank unimpressed stares. “Riiiiiiiiiight.” Casus said wryly before nudging Scootaloo’s side. “Hey, bet I can beat you guys to the front door!”

Before waiting for a response, the half human took off at a mad dash before being chased after by his Equestrian cohorts. “Hey, what happened ta ready set go!?” Applebloom called after him.

“Only got two legs; needed the handicap!” Casus retorted as he kept up his pace.

The purple mare let out an annoyed groan as the youths darted off. Completely shrugging off her praises for the ideals of learning and study. No, she wasn’t about to let rambunctious younglings get her down, not during something as important and monumental as this.

A soft violet glow encased horn as well as the object she heft from her saddle bag. The intricately pieced together cube floated into her view allowing her to examine it one last time. The body of the device was a clear glass like material, smooth and cool to the touch. Along its sides and edges was a gold hued metal that held everything together. Within the cube she could see the meticulous inner workings that radiated a soft blue glow from deep within. With Shin’ima’s help she had constructed this “holocron” and filled it with every scrap of knowledge Equestria could spare.

“Hard to believe isn’t it,” Shin’ima’s voice called her attention back to the Pantoran beside her, “something so unassuming looking could hold so much knowledge.”

“It really is.” The mare replied with a smile. “The breadth of Pony history and experience, every accomplishment to the present date, all stored on this cube. It’s almost sad how small it is.”

Shin’ima placed a hand on her shoulder. “Everything seems small when compared to the vast span of the universe around us, but even the smallest thing can affect planets light years away.”

A smile quickly returned to her face as she reminded herself, not only about the honor of being the first representative of her species to set hoof here. But also she was going to be given the chance to lay eyes upon one of the most extensive libraries in the known galaxy. Princess Celestia was counting on her to make a good impression during this exchange of knowledge.

“I just wish you’d picked somepony else to be this thing’s avatar.” She stated meekly. “It’s weird thinking about how somepony in a thousand years could turn this thing on and carry on a conversation with a holographic version of me.”

There was more on the young Unicorn’s mind than just awkwardness of her image and personality forever preserved in hologram. This trip across the stars presented her with an opportunity she very well could not turn down. Here she was in front of a Jedi temple. From she had gleamed from both Kad and Shin’ima, if any beings in the galaxy could answer her questions about the Force it would be the Jedi Order.

Twilight could feel her heart race a bit as they neared the front doors of the temple. She could feel it, the untold ages worth of knowledge just beyond these doors, the answers to her questions and maybe even ones she never thought to ask. There was something else about this place it exuded a strange sense of calm that seemed to permeate her very core. This temple was not only a place of knowledge it was a place of peace and serenity.

The closer they drew to the temple, Twilight became more aware of those tending the grounds. So many various creatures and species dressed in simplistic robes that would cause Rarity to go on a tear. She had seen quite a variety of races from other worlds since meeting the Mandalorians, though now she was starting to feel that all she had seen was a small fraction. Aliens of many different sizes and shapes milled about their tasks and greeted her with a warm smile.

Her mental trek was brought to a stop however as a small ruckus caught both her and Shin’ima’s attentions. Aaplebloom had apparently caught up Casus after his little stunt that gained him the lead and tackled him to the ground. She was quickly reminded herself of an old Ponyville adage, ‘Never cheat an Apple.’

“Force, give me strength.” Shin’ima sighed in frustration.

“It’s alright Shin’ima, I’m sure I’ll be fine on my own.” Twilight reassured her.

With a faint smile the Pantoran gave her a nod before turning her full attention and wrath towards the children. “Applebloom, young lady, you will let him out of that headlock this instant!”

Trying not to pay too much mind to the childish excuses of whose fault it truly was, Twilight approached the large wooden double doors of the temple. Waiting for her was a young woman she mistook for human until getting closer. Though human in appearance, her skin was a deep emerald green with several diamond shaped patterns etched into what skin she could see. Neatly kempt blond hair framed her youthful face, from what Twilight had learned of humanoids she ventured this one was in her late teens. Her well toned form was clad in what she was quickly learning these robes were a sort of uniform for the Jedi Order. At the young woman’s hip however was a device Twilight knew all too well, the hilt of a lightsaber. A phantom tinge of pain ghosted through her shoulder for a moment before it was squashed.

The young humanoid stepped towards Twilight and bowed her head to her. “Greetings, I am Padawan Kassaria Yumell.”

With a wide friendly smile the Unicorn lowered her head in turn in a well practiced bow. “Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle, I am here as an envoy of the planet Gaia and a representative of the Equestrian court.”

“We’ve been expecting you Ms. Sparkle.” Yumell she stated as she lead her into the temple itself. “Welcome to the Talgear temple.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide as she saw the inside of the temple proper. For the entire trip she had fantasized over what the inside of it would look like. Imagining powerful computers and alien devices strewn about, grand halls and vast tapestries. What she hadn’t expected however was how simple everything was. Simple stone walls simple windows, simple everything, save for a few obvious things it looked almost bereft of technology. This looked more akin to an old monastery used by the ancient Unicorn monks of old.

It was a jarring shift going from intergalactic space vessel with specialized alloy plating to ancient temple with archaic stone masonry. “Not what you expected was it?” Her guide inquired.

“Oh, uhm,” Twilight had forgotten that empathic sense that both Kad and Shin’ima had displayed. She quickly fought to find the words. After all she was representing her planet as a whole, she couldn’t appear rude. “Considering all the technology and such that I’ve been exposed to over the past few months, this is a rather jarring change. I was starting to believe that all factions and races of the galaxy lived with technological marvels at their beckon call.”

Yumell gave her an amused smile. “I would think considering your own people’s technology curve, this would be a welcomed sight.” The Padawan chided her as she continued to lead her through the stone halls and corridors. “Not all Jedi cloisters are like this one. This temple in particular prefers the ‘rocky path’ in order to focus us on the Force around us rather than rely on machinery to do our bidding.”

“This is not to say that we are without necessities.” She continued. “We of course have a well up to date communications hub. Fully stocked and staffed medical ward, and…” Yumell paused for effect as her hand rested upon the electronic lock that held a fairly out of place metallic door shut. As the door slid open Twilight found her jaw landing firmly on the floor. “…One of the largest archives this side of the core systems.”

The Unicorn could not believe her eyes. She beheld rows upon rows of what appeared to be bookshelves housing lines upon lines of electronic books that gave off a soft bluish glow. Her heart began to throb as she tried to calculate the untold knowledge and history housed in each one of those devices. Twilight was far from an expert of alien tech but she had paid very close attention to Torb’s lessons on how the simplest of it worked. She knew that standard information devices could hold entire libraries of knowledge and here in front of her had to be thousands, maybe millions of them. So much to learn, so much to study, she could feel the ever dutiful student within her crying out to tear into every shelf and read every word.

“I had a feeling you would like it.” Her guide stated with no shortage of joy in her voice. “Shin’ima had told me about your job as a librarian and your love of books.”

“This is… this is amazing.” She managed to stammer out as she took a few tentative trots into the room.

“Normally, we don’t allow those outside of the Order to delve our archives.” Yumell said. “However, I don’t see any harm in letting you browse around while I place your holocron amongst the others in the vault.”

Twilight’s mind immediately snapped back to attention. This is what she’d been wanting, what she’d been counting on. All of her questions about the Force, what was it, what was its relationship to Magic? This was her chance to find the answers in the place that had never failed her, books. With an eager smile she floated the boxy device to the waiting hands of the Padawan before turning her attention to the rest of the library.

Hours had melted away as Twilight pried everything she could from every datapad and device she could get her hooves on. She learned a great deal about the seemingly endless wars between the Jedi and the Sith. She had gritted her teeth and forced herself through the atrocities of one Darth Sidious and his purging of the order. Twilight had read about heroes and villains, and the countless conflicts that had raged just beyond her night sky. However, she was no closer to learning anything about what the Force was.

She had breezed through several volumes on techniques and meditation. She had learned of a number of great figures in galactic history, from Luke Skywalker to Jedi Master Hoth. The Unicorn had learned a great deal about philosophy and other beliefs. But nothing on what this thing was, where did it come from, how was it related to magic, and how could beings who weren’t Unicorns use it?

Her search was starting to feel hopeless as she moved between the rows of bookshelves as she made for the next section of the library. Something slightly out of place brought her to a standstill however: an old wooden door that sat ajar. Slowly she inched towards it, noticing a scant casting of light from under the door. Curiosity getting the better of her judgment, Twilight nudged the door open a bit further to slip inside.

Twilight tentatively entered the mostly darkened chamber. The familiar smell of dusty pages and long burning candles wafted across the air. Her path was lit by dim candles that cast ominous shadows away from their inviting light, revealing stacks of ancient texts and scrolls. The sight of so many parchments and scrolls started to make her feel far more at home than her journey through the archives.

“So, you approve of my personal study I take it.” A gruff tired voice spoke to her from across the room.

Her eyes searched the dim light and found the one who had spoken to her. At the center of the room sat a large wooden desk laden heavily with stacks of books and scrolls, behind it sat a vaguely humanoid figure in heavy brown robes. As he leaned forward she could make out the face of a human that had been battered by time, a long white beard obscured many of his wrinkles but did little to hide his age. Deep blue eyes shone from beneath his heavy hood reflecting wisdom and knowledge obtained over decades. One worn limb motioned for her to come forward.

“You must be the young lady I heard the Padawans speaking of.” He spoke softly to her in a tired rasp as she neared. “I am Master Carso Laan, chronicler of the archives. Welcome to our temple, young one.”

Twilight dipped her head in a low bow as she addressed him. “Hello sir, my name is Twilight Sparkle. I was taking in your people’s archive when I stumbled upon this room. I apologize for intruding.”

With a chuckle, Carso rested a withered hand upon her shoulder. “Think nothing of it Ms Sparkle, you are quite welcome here. Far too many of our youthful Padawans and Knights rely on the technology of our archives these days. The breadth of our knowledge, spanning centuries and reachable by any Jedi with a holo-net connection.” His words carried a hint of annoyance that Twilight easily picked out. “They forget sometimes where our most ancient of knowledge comes from.”

“Where are my manners? Please, have a seat.” He offered her one of the few chairs not piled high with archaic information. “Company is a scant blessing for me these days and I can sense that your mind is heavy with questions.”

Twilight took the offered chair as she continued to look the room over. “To say the least, I was hoping I could learn something about the Force by coming on this trip.”

Carso stroked his beard as he leaned back against his chair. “That is not an easy question to answer, my young friend, but I will do my best to help you.”

“To understand the Force, you must first understand that it touches all life. The Force binds and connects us all throughout the galaxy.” He began as Twilight looked on eagerly. “It flows through everything, me, you, the walls of this temple, and even the very mountain it sits upon. All things in the galaxy are touched by the Force. Life creates it, surrounds us in it. We are more than these crude shells, through the Force we are all as one, the concepts of race and species are meaningless.”

His expression began to darken slightly. “However, as with all things in life, where this is light, shadows are always cast.” He motioned her attention to the ones stretching across the walls. “There is a darkness as well as a light within the Force, a dark side and there are those who would tap into this power. The dark side of the Force is one that promises power to those who touch upon it.”

Twilight watched the shadows twist and dance around the room bringing a sudden feeling of dread to her heart. “How does somepony learn to avoid this dark side?”

“How does someone avoid the night?” Carso asked with a wry grin. “We deal with the dark side of the Force everyday, Ms. Sparkle. Hate, fear, anger, these are dealt with every day by every being in the galaxy. It is when we give into them and their promise of power and personal gain that our fall to the dark side truly begins.”

Her mind suddenly leapt back several months ago, back to Gaia, back to the palace, and back to Teth. She could feel the burn of sweat in her eyes, the tearing pain the racked her entire body, and the smell of blood and burnt flesh that choked her nostrils. Twilight also felt the rush of hate and anger course through her body as she glared up at Teth from the wound she had put in his side with her own horn.

“I think I know what this Dark side is,” she said hesitatingly, “I’ve felt it, I… I’ve given in to it.”

Carso said nothing, the ancient Jedi merely sat and paid audience to the Unicorn’s soul. “During the final battle to retake Canterlot, I faced a Sith named Davian Teth. He and his soldiers had done so many terrible things, killing civilians, enslaving our people, and taking our rulers as his ‘pets’.” She said with no shortage of disgust. “When Kad Skirata and I fought him, he left himself open to me. I was hurt, tired, but most of all I was angry. I killed him, I drove my horn into his side then bucked him off the edge of the cliff. All I could think about in that moment was how much I absolutely wanted him dead.”

The old Jedi watched as tears began to form in the sides of her eyes. “You have been touched by the darkness Twilight,” Carso said as he gently guided her back to the present, “but you are not lost to it.”

Twilght’s lip began to quiver as she could still feel that hate and anger at the mere thought of Davian Teth. “But I took a life!” Tears began to well at the edges of her eyes as she fought to keep herself under control. “He’s dead because of what I did, because I killed him!” The sides of her face became soaked by a line of fresh tears. “I just… I just couldn’t let him live, after everything he’d done, everyone he’d hurt and would hurt, I had to stop him, but... but, oh Celestia, why did I have to kill him?”

Master Carso felt his heart sink as the girl before him began weeping her eyes out. “The tests that the Galaxy places before us can sometime be cruel and harsh.” He said sadly before placing a hand on her trembling shoulder. “I am so sorry that this has been your path, Twilight Sparkle.”

“I… I haven’t let myself think about it for months.” She sniffled out. “Like as if it never happened if I didn’t acknowledge it. I didn’t want to kill him, I hated him for what he did to us, to our people, but, I didn’t want to kill anypony. When I saw him standing over Kad, I knew he was going to kill him if I didn’t do something to stop him. I just… I just acted.”

Carso used the sleeve of his robe to dry the sobbing Unicorn’s tears as he spoke softly to her. “Twilight Sparkle, you do not hide from what you have done and you do not revel in the taking of a life, in anger or otherwise. You understand the sanctity of life. This is a rare virtue in this galaxy, and through it you are able to find your strength in the Force.”

She turned her gaze to him in slight confusion. “The Force, but, I don’t understand.”

With a kind smile the old man patted the back of her neck. “Surely you can feel it. Even for an old fogy like me, I can sense you like a beacon within the Force. Perhaps it is something that comes easily to your kind, or maybe it is as rare a gift as for the rest of the galaxy. It doesn’t matter. You have a gift Twilight Sparkle, it strengthens you and guides you, heed its advice.”

This brought a weak smile slowly came back to the Unicorn’s face as her tears came to a stop. “Thank you, Master Laan. I think you’ve really helped put a lot of things into perspective.”

The trip back to the landing pad had given Twilight a great deal of time to think on her time spent in the company of Jedi Master Carso Laan. His words still echoed through her head, most importantly was his revelation on her own presence within this seemingly alien power. Her mind drifted for a moment to that hazy morning in the woods running for her life alongside the rest of Epsilon squad. How she had made the quick connection between the Force and her own understanding of Magic. Maybe they truly were one in the same, maybe there wasn’t any kind of difference.

It was starting to make sense to her if they really were one in the same. After all, even Teth had told her he could feel her power within the Force. Her friends and even some enemies had admitted that Twilight was powerful even by Unicorn standards. That was to be expected though, having been trained by Princess Celestia herself. But if these theories were true, just how powerful were the Princesses?

Her meditation was brought to a standstill however as she neared the ship. Twilight suppressed the urge to giggle as she saw the three fillies and one boy sitting on the ramp with looks of defeat on their faces. Standing over them was Shin’ima giving them each a very critical stare with her arms crossed over her chest. From the scuffs and dirt on the children as well as their dour moods that whatever trouble they had caused, obviously didn’t result in their cutie marks.

With a smile she trotted her way up the landing ramp. “I see someponies have been up to their usual crusading.”

“It would’a worked too if Applebloom hadn’t dropped that arc spanner thingy.” Scootaloo grumbled.

“It wasn’t mah fault the dang things ain’t made fer hooves.” The tiny Earth Pony complained.

Twilight’s curious gaze fell on the young half-human sitting with the rest of the culprits. “Casus, you can’t even get a cutie mark, we’ve been over this.”

“I know, but I’m not about to miss out on an adventure. Sides, it might have been my idea to use power tools.” He said with an innocent smile.

“It was totally your idea.” Sweetie Belle reminded him completely deflating him.

“What am I going to do with you, children?” Shin’ima sighed before looking to the mare. “I trust you enjoyed your visit to the temple archives.”

A soft smile spread across Twilight’s face. “Yes, it was very enlightening, very soothing.” She cast her gaze across the temple grounds. “This whole place, it gives off an air of peace and tranquility. Like the entire galaxy is standing still all around you.”

“You would have made a good Jedi.” Shin’ima commented before turning to enter the ship. “Alright children, time to go home before you end up burning down the temple.” She playfully chided them. “And I want to see rough drafts of each of your essays before we reach the first port.”

Twilight giggled at the sounds of groans rising up from the children as they loaded onto the ship behind Shin’ima. As she ascended the ramp she couldn’t help but cast one last look upon the temple. She had to admit, something about it called to her to stay. The young mare broke her gaze away from it all as she reminded herself of everyone still counting on her, still waiting for her to return. She could not shake the feeling that there was still so much left to do before she could rest.