Beyond Delenda Est (NJO-Era Dark Jaina AU; first-person POV); Chapter 2 posted 10/31/13

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by DarthSanctimonious, Oct 23, 2013.

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  1. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    Coruscant has fallen. The New Republic lies shattered. Jaina Solo returns from Myrkr alone, the sole survivor of the disastrous mission that claimed the lives of an entire generation of Jedi Knights. Determined to avoid a repeat of what she sees as the mistakes that led to the deaths of her brothers, her friends, and so many trillions of others, Jaina is resolved to destroy the Yuuzhan Vong using any methods available, and at all costs necessary. It’s not clear if any side in such a war will be able to claim victory once all is said and done, but Jaina intends to make one thing certain: even if nobody wins, the Vong are sure as hell going to lose…

    DELENDA EST

    I.
    The Yuuzhan Vong War, 27 ABY. Six weeks after the Fall of Coruscant.

    The dagger-shaped hull of the aging Venator-class star destroyer hung fifty klicks ahead of where we’d emerged from hyperspace, her dorsal armor plating glimmering under the light of the planetless yellow sun half an AU away. A trail of condensed gas and shattered durasteel fragments traced the warship’s course for several kilometers behind her. It wasn’t the only debris in the area; not far away, my sensors were picking up a slowly expanding cloud of yorik coral fragments and unclassified biological matter that must have belonged to a midsized Yuuzhan Vong capital ship.

    “Star Destroyer Vigilance, this is Wraith One, flying off the Assault Cruiser Ralroost,” I said into my headset. “We picked up a single broadcast from your disaster beacon about eight minutes ago, then it went dark. The Admiral sent us to check it out. What’s your status, over?”

    I lifted my thumb off the transmit button and waited several seconds. The channel remained quiet except for the occasional faint buzz of static.

    “Maybe they’re all dead, ma’am,” Wes Janson offered over the squadron frequency. He’d been calling me ma’am ever since he made a fool of himself on the first shuttle ride up to Ralroost a month earlier. I was pretty sure I was the first of his many commanding officers to get any sort of honorific from him. “I’m picking up a lot of radiation coming from near her center of mass.”

    I checked my readouts and shook my head. “Maybe, but I don’t think so. Her bridge is far enough away from that leak that nobody up there should have taken anything close to a lethal dose yet.” I closed my eyes and reached out with the Force—I couldn’t pick out individuals at this range, but there was definitely still life aboard the damaged warship, and plenty of it. I switched back to the emergency channel. “Vigilance, this is Wraith One. Do you copy, over?”

    This time, I got a response after a few more seconds of silence. “Wraith One, thank goodness you’re here.” The man speaking sounded scared, which I supposed was natural enough given the circumstances. I had to remind myself from time to time that there were people who still gave a damn whether they lived to see the end of this war or not. “We got jumped by a Vong cruiser. Took her out, but we lost our entire air wing doing it. We’ve got a serious reactor breach. The initial blast must have fried our disaster beacon. We didn’t know it had gotten anything off at all.”

    That seemed odd. Warship disaster beacons were built to be damn near indestructible. Then again, the Venator-class was ancient technology, so I supposed the beacon could have fallen short of the modern standard. Still, it seemed like the sort of thing that would have been replaced as part of regular maintenance sometime between, say, the Great karking ReSynchronization and now.

    What the hell, we didn’t have to deal with the details of why the beacon had failed; there was doubtless a committee or subcommittee for that somewhere in the labyrinth that was the military bureaucracy. “We’ve got you covered,” I said, opening the throttle a little and bringing my X-wing closer to the crippled star destroyer, but not too close. I didn’t want to be caught up in the shockwave if that hypermatter reactor went supercritical. “Can you contain the breach?”

    “We don’t think so, Wraith One,” Vigilance’s commanding officer said after a short pause. “My entire engineering crew is down. The sensors down there are all fried, but best guess is the core temperature’s about twenty thousand absolute and rising by now.”

    I had enough natural sympathy with things mechanical that I winced at the number. “Then you’re going to have to abandon ship,” I said. “We’ll keep your pods covered until the Ralroost gets here to pick you up.”

    Again, the response took a moment. When it came, it sounded panicked. “Can’t you send anyone over to see if we can put a lid on it? A ship the size of the Ralroost should have the right sort of hazardous environment equipment onboard.”

    “With the reactor that close to blowing?” I frowned and shook my head. This guy should know better. “Admiral Kre’fey’s not going to go for it, and I wouldn’t, either. Get out of there while you can.”

    As if to underscore the point, a blue-white gout of plasma blew out several hundred square meters of armor plating on the star destroyer’s dorsal center. I squeezed my eyes shut against the intensity of the blast, and when I opened them, a lazily-floating reddish afterimage remained seared on the center of my vision for several seconds.

    “Copy that, Wraith One,” Vigilance’s CO agreed. “I’ll give the order to evacuate. It’s just…damn it. I’ve served on this ship since she was launched. She’s been my home under the flags of three different galactic governments.” He let out a frustrated sigh. “Damn the Vong.”

    It’s just a frelling ship, I wanted to say, but I thought better of it. I knew how attached my father was to his ship, even if I’d had to slam my fist down on a couple eject buttons too many to fall into that trap myself these days. In the last few weeks, I’d started to feel the same way about people, too. Damn the Vong—the star destroyer captain I was talking to had that much right, at least. “I’ll talk to you when you get to your pod,” I said instead. “May the Force be with you.”

    He didn’t answer; if he was smart, he’d already stepped away from the radio and was headed for the nearest escape pod as fast as he could run. Moments later, the first pod popped out of its hatch and burned away from the dying star destroyer at full speed. Within seconds, several others had joined it.

    I radioed Ralroost. “Admiral, Wraith One. We’ve found the Vigilance. She’s still in one piece for now, but she’s losing reactor containment fast. The crew just bailed out. Could you swing by and pick them up?”

    “Certainly. We’ve already got the jump plotted out. ETA, six minutes. Ralroost, clear.”

    I watched the escape pods thrust towards safety, glinting in the same yellow sunlight as the ship from which they had come. I shook my head and sighed. Most of Vigilance’s crew would live, and that was a good thing, but the Republican Remnant desperately needed every warship it could get, even a museum piece like Vigilance. We hadn’t even known the star destroyer was out here; she had been listed as missing and presumed destroyed two months earlier.

    “This doesn’t feel right, One,” Elassar Targon broke in over the squadron channel. “There’s something off about his story.”

    “It doesn’t seem right to me either, Five,” I agreed. “I’m just trying to piece out how, exactly, it’s wrong.”

    “Can’t you just read his mind or something?”

    “From thirty klicks out?” I snorted in derision. “I wish.”

    “Wait, there’s a range limit on that?” Janson cut in, sounding quite hopeful. “So when I’m safe in my stateroom and you’re off somewhere else, I’m free to think about…uh, things I want to think about?”

    I rolled my eyes. “Think about whatever you want, but the range limit in question applies to the Force, not to me having a functioning brain. Anybody have something useful to say about the situation?” I almost specified other than Janson, but decided that would be redundant.

    Targon did. “They have to be completely insane not to have all bailed out ten minutes ago. At this point, it’s fifty-fifty whether they’ll even clear the blast zone before that reactor goes.”

    “We’re pretty deep in Vong space,” I said. “We all know what the Scarheads do to their prisoners. Running up to the nearest unstable hypermatter annihilation reactor and giving it a great big hug makes a certain amount of sense under the circumstances.”

    “Yeah, but the entire crew feeling that way?” Tyria Sarkin questioned, her voice doubtful. “Not everybody is quite as grim as you are, One. We’re talking about nearly eight thousand people here, minus whoever’s already dead. What are the odds nobody on there wants to take their chances and see if they get rescued?”

    “Pretty low,” I agreed. “Like I said, it sounds fishy, but we’re not any closer to knowing what really is going on. Unless…”

    My astromech warbled a short series of beeps at me, and I checked the item being displayed on my scanner. It was Vigilance’s disaster beacon, drifting down the trajectory along which it had automatically launched itself the moment its tiny droid brain had detected a reactor containment failure in progress. I’d seen enough types of battle damage to immediately recognize that the beacon had taken a direct hit from an ion cannon. The Vong sure as hell didn’t have ion cannons, and there was no reason to fire anti-electronics weapons at the Vong, so it hadn’t gotten caught up in the crossfire, either. The only explanation was that the beacon had been targeted intentionally by Vigilance’s gunners, and her CO had lied to me about it.

    “…unless they knew they’d get no sympathy no matter who picked them,” I finished, disappointed that I had to say the words but not altogether surprised now that the pieces were coming together. “And the worst part is that if they hadn’t tried to cover it up in the stupidest way possible, we wouldn’t have figured it out until after we’d let them onboard Ralroost.”

    I sighed and shifted my weight in my seat, then dialed my transmitter back to the emergency channel. “Captain, this is Wraith One. I know you’re listening. My astromech unit just picked up the wreckage of your disaster beacon. Seeing as the Vong haven’t cracked the positional encryption on those things, we both know there’s only one reason you wouldn’t want it to transmit. How long ago did your ship defect to the Peace Brigade?”

    For a moment, I thought he wouldn’t answer. Then I thought he must have been busy trying to come up with a lie. Finally his voice came across the radio, defeated. “Just before Coruscant. Listen, Wraith One. We all made a mistake, and we’re willing to face justice for it. Just please don’t leave us here.”

    Red started to creep in around the edges of my vision. The Peace Brigade were the lowest form of scum. They were worse than the Yuuzhan Vong—and nothing was worse than the Yuuzhan Vong. “Would you still think you’d made a ‘mistake’ if the Vong hadn’t just finished trying to clean up their little ‘mistake’ that they made when they hired you?”

    “Please, Wraith One. My name’s Senis Felev. I have a wife and three kids. The Vong told me—” He stopped abruptly, and I heard a choked sob. He was actually crying.

    “My name is Jaina Solo,” I said softly, silencing his sniveling with the turn of a dial. “And I had two brothers.”

    I was tired of listening to him, and whether he was cardboard cutout Peace Brigade scum or a family man with a name didn’t matter. I already tasted bile on my tongue, and I honestly felt as though I might vomit if I heard another word from his mouth. I checked my chrono—Admiral Kre’fey wouldn’t be here with Ralroost for another three and a half minutes. I switched back to the squadron channel.

    “Wraith Squadron, form on me.” I angled my X-wing toward the mass of escape pods gathered twenty klicks from the abandoned star destroyer, easing my throttle lever forward. “Lock S-foils in attack position.”

    ***


    Author’s Note: Hello there! Thank you for reading. It’s been about three years since the last time I posted here. I mainly wrote humor then, much of which was pretty dumb in retrospect, but there was plenty that I’m still proud of. :p The idea for this story was kicking around in my head back then, but I moved on to other things and never got around to writing it. A couple weeks ago, I decided I’d give it a go again. I’ve got about a seven-chapter head start drafted, so I can promise reasonably frequent updates for a good while. If you liked what you read, comments are always appreciated; I respond to all the comments my stories get, and I enjoy discussing these things. If you didn’t like it, then, well, comments are still appreciated. :p I’m open to constructive criticism, either here or by PM.
    Last edited by DarthSanctimonious, Oct 31, 2013
  2. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    I like this very much!!! =D= In the EU timeframe, my canon stops right at TUF [face_laugh] and having Jaina's POV and in first person -- very cool!!! I also like your techie detailing. :D I admire that particular skill in writing very much. :) I have to rein in my mush fanatic self and resist the urge to ask if Jag Fel will be making more than one appearance? [face_dancing] All in all, this has a very promising, tightly plotted start. @};- @};-
  3. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    Thank you very much! From what I've read around here, you're hardly alone in where your canon stops. :D In this fic I start making changes to the timeline partway through Star by Star, although the story itself doesn't really begin until shortly after the conclusion of that novel. In the next update, which I'll hopefully :)p) have revised to my satisfaction within the next couple days, we'll be going back a few weeks. Glad you liked the tech stuff. I try not to get too carried away with it seeing as Star Wars is space opera rather than science fiction, but who doesn't like star destroyers? :p

    Re: Jag, I've never been much of a romance writer, but he'll definitely have a substantial role to play in how things unfold.
  4. Jedi_Lover Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    Yeah, get that Peace Brigade scum! I also would like to see some Jaina/Jag interaction. :D
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  5. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    I like the sound of this. Continue!
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  6. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    Alright, I've got the next chapter written, and I'll let it sit overnight and probably post it tomorrow unless I find anything glaring when I go back over it in the morning.

    When I write human rights abuses being committed against the Peace Brigade, half of it is me taking out my frustrations on whoever thought that faction existing in the universe would make any sense. :p And Jag should be showing up in another 2 or 3 chapters. Thanks for reading!

    Thank you! Glad to have you reading. :)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  7. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    You're welcome! AU NJO stories are the best! Not thrilled about everyone from Myrkr being dead but getting to see Jaina kick some serious butt? I'm ready. Do your worst!
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  8. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    Yeah, I had concerns over how that would be taken, but I’ll explain why I did it. I feel that whenever I’m writing a character in an AU (especially AU of the Dark!Whoever sort), my first responsibility is still to be true to their established characterization regardless of whatever actions I have them take. This means that if I want someone to do something they didn’t do in canon, I need to provide them with some sort of stimulus that they didn’t receive in canon. Since what happened in canon wasn’t enough to push Jaina to the extremes that are going to be depicted here, some sort of more drastic stimulus was needed. Jaina came back from the precipice toward the end of Dark Journey largely as a result of interactions with characters who won’t be in a position to influence her here. Killing off characters solely to spur others to action is of course its own can of worms, but I’ll do my best to address it.

    My main point of contention with how character deaths were used in NJO wasn’t that they made the universe too dark or the story too depressing. Rather, what I take issue with is the extent to which the characters killed constrained future storytelling in the EU. Star Wars is a universe with probably a hundred-plus contributing writers and maybe a thousand or more individual works, and it’s constantly growing and will continue to grow. Under those circumstances, permanently getting rid of a developed character through any avenue is something that should be thought about very seriously. NJO survived all the character deaths and (mostly) worked as a series because the entire arc was laid out with certain people dying in mind; however, the effects on the universe were seen in LotF and even more acutely in FotJ (so I’m told, haven’t read it myself).

    Since nobody else is writing in the continuity of my AU, and I can ignore it in any future works I write, I don’t have to worry about that particular consideration. What I’m doing here is something that would have been a complete disaster if Del Rey had written it and entered it into canon, but that’s why we have AUs where we can just kill whomever the hell we want without any lasting consequences. :D

    And now on to the next chapter, before this gets longer than the update itself. :p
  9. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    II.
    Six weeks earlier, four hours after the Fall of Coruscant.

    With the slightest spinning motion, the lines streaking over the stolen recon coralskipper’s canopy slowed and resolved themselves into the dense starfield of the Deep Core. I checked the heads-up display that the skip’s cognition hood projected in front of my eyes, and saw that every single dot on the sensors glowed the steady crimson of what the Vong strikecraft’s symbiote-brain regarded as a hostile ship. I let out my breath, and with it came a single choked sob. After Myrkr, after Coruscsant, we were back in New Republic-held territory. We were safe.

    I grimaced as I forced myself to correct the thought: I was back in New Republic-held territory. As of a few hours ago, the still form sitting in the copilot’s seat just centimeters to my left was nothing more than a lifeless piece of meat. The twin brother who had been a part of me since before birth was gone, on the far side of the only barrier in the universe that could break the strands in the Force that had bound us together. Just like Anakin. Just like everybody else. There was no more we.

    And if I thought either I or anyone else in the galaxy was safe …well, that would make me completely insane, and I wasn’t quite there yet.

    Time to try and hail one of the ships up ahead. After following the withdrawing New Republic fleet here to the Empress Teta system, I’d brought myself back into realspace well short of the end of the hyperlane so that any warships blockading it wouldn’t be in position to fire on me before I could try to persuade them otherwise. The radios we’d all had implanted in our ears and throats before the mission had limited range and not a lot of juice, but here I at least had a clear channel to broadcast over. The odds I’d be heard still weren’t great, but they were better than they had been in the impenetrable haze of ECM that I’d had to deal with over Coruscant. Only raw determination not to be gunned down by my own side after surviving Myrkr had kept me dodging fire from both sides of the battle long enough to plot a jump out.

    “Anyone receiving this, this is Lieutenant Jaina Solo in the coralskipper thirty AUs from the Empress Teta primary star,” I said, twitching my jaw to the left in the manner that set my radio to transmit. “Don’t shoot. If you can hear me, please respond and relay.”

    I repeated the message three times, waiting half a minute after each for a reply and receiving nothing. I was about ready to try transmitting Mon Cal light code through grav pulses from my remaining dovin basal when a static-filled response came through my radio. “This is Lusankyatactical. Barely reading you, Lieutenant Solo. Do you copy?”

    Lusankya, Solo. Copy.”

    “Solo, Lusankya. You are to jump toward us until you hit our interdiction field. Upon exiting hyperspace, you will immediately shut down all gravitic systems and hold position. Any deviation from these instructions will be interpreted as an indication that you are a Yuuzhan Vong infiltrator, and we will open fire.”

    The woman speaking sounded like she hoped that she was dealing with a scarhead just so she could light it up…and considering where we’d both just come from, I couldn’t exactly fault her for feeling that way. “Copy that, Lusankya,” I said, closing my eyes for a moment in weary relief. “Will do.” I plotted a microjump to Lusankya’s position, and one barely-perceptible hop through hyperspace later, I was facing the massive super star destroyer head-on. The sight through my canopy was the last thing a lot of people had seen over the past couple of decades, but at that moment those angular planes of hard blue-gray durasteel, bristling with turbolaser banks and missile batteries, looked like a particularly beautiful piece of art. I shut off my dovin basal and let my skip drift slowly along its previous trajectory.

    “Here I am,” I told the woman running the coms on Lusankya. “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you. I didn’t think anyone was going to hear me.” I bit down and made myself shut up before I could start blabbering any more than I already was.

    “Solo, Lusankya. Certain persons on board wish to speak with you, and one of those people’s advice was the only reason we had our directional sensors pointed where they could pick up your transmission. Keep your drives cold—we’ll scan you and tractor you in.”

    Great. None of the people who would be eager to see me were people who I was looking forward to showing my face to, and that was doubly true for the ones who would have been able to sense my presence. Oh, well. Best to get this over with.

    Lusankya’s active scanners swept over my coralskipper for several seconds. I suspected that if tactical didn’t like what they saw, they’d probably start shooting and let the Force sort out whether I was Jaina Solo or an exceptionally short Yuuzhan Vong in an ooglith masquer. It was a good thing they liked what they saw, because the Force was probably having a busy day dealing with that sort of thing and I would have had to wait in line.

    My coralskipper shuddered slightly as the tractor beam locked on and started pulling me toward Lusankya’s forward hangar opening. While I waited, I checked the various ships popping up on my coralskipper’s sensors. Anything to take my mind off what I’d need to do in a few minutes.

    Lusankya, the battle cruiser Mediator, and about twenty smaller ships in the size class of an ISD were spread out in front of me, forming a blockade across the terminus of the only hyperlane that connected the Empress Teta system to the greater galaxy outside the Deep Core. Farther away, I could see the star defender Viscount in orbit over the system’s fourth planet. She was showing heavy battle damage, and I could only assume that all the other warships not on the blockade line were in a similar state. All in all, there were dozens of star destroyers and star cruisers, along with hundreds of escorts and untold thousands of strikecraft. Even ignoring the impossible number of freighters and transports heading deeper into the system or already in orbit over various worlds, it was the largest fleet I’d ever seen by nearly an order of magnitude.

    It was the fleet we’d had at Coruscant—and it had lost.

    No, I corrected myself, it was what was left of the fleet that had tried to defend Coruscant. I had arrived over the galactic capital near the end of the battle and didn’t know exactly how much bigger our fleet had been to start with, but I’d seen enough to know our losses hadn’t been light. I’d been there when Guardian’s crew disengaged their collision safeties and made one last hyperjump straight through the hulls of two of their super star destroyer’s Yuuzhan Vong analogues, instantly transforming all three ships into enough relativistic debris to destroy everything within twenty klicks. Guardian’s sacrifice, and the chaos that followed among the Vong fleet, had bought the last of the New Republic rearguard the time they needed to neutralize interdictors and plot their jumps to the rally point here at Empress Teta, but I could safely assume that Guardianwasn’t the only major loss we’d suffered. I could only hope the Vong had been forced to pay for their victory in blood, but all the same no price would have been steep enough to satisfy me.

    With those thoughts in mind, I braced myself as the tractor beam lowered me to the flight deck. I felt my mother’s Force presence seconds before I saw my parents enter the docking bay alongside a pair of YVH droids and a cadre of New Republic marines. The marines had their blaster rifles raised; Lusankya’s scan should have included biometrics, but I supposed there was no such thing as being too careful. The one who looked to be in charge said something to my father, who responded with a few words I couldn’t hear while pointing to the provisional rank insignia pinned to his collar with one hand and making a rude gesture with the other. The marine saluted Han and said something to his comrades, who lowered their weapons but still held them ready.

    I slipped the cognition hood off my head and popped open the skip’s canopy. The familiar flight-deck smells of grease and ozone wafted in, and I sucked the air into my lungs. I hadn’t realized how thick the stench of blood and death had gotten in the cockpit until I had something fresh to breathe.

    A pair of deck crew rolled an access staircase up alongside my cockpit, and my father was running up it before it was even fully in place. As soon as he was at my side, he leaned over the edge of the cockpit and wrapped his arms around me in a tight hug, burying his face in my blood-matted hair. I felt his tears run down my cheek. I twisted my upper body toward him, trying not to move my wounded right leg too much, and returned the embrace.

    I don’t know for how long we hugged each other in silence. Finally, Han pulled back and shook his head slightly, tears under control for now. “Jaina,” he said, my name a dry whisper. “If I’d lost you, too…”

    “I know.” I was all my parents had left now—and with an axe still dangling over the head of every Jedi in the galaxy, I couldn’t make any promises, even if I spent the rest of the war doing nothing but trying to stay safe. Not that I could have allowed myself to do that, not after what the Vong had done to my brothers.

    My mother had climbed up the stairs right on my father’s heels, and now stood just behind him. Her lips trembled ever so slightly, and her nose and the tissue around her eyes were pink and raw, but her brown eyes still held a familiar fire, burning with an intensity I’d seldom seen before. Leia was devastated, as any mother would be—but more than that, she was angry, and she was wearing her lightsaber. The thought flashed through my mind that even if I were the most formidable killer the Yuuzhan Vong warrior caste had to offer, I’d tremble to be placed in the same room as Leia Organa Solo right now.

    She did her best to keep her eyes on me as she tried—and failed—to put word to the thoughts and emotions that I could feel swirling through her head, but she couldn’t keep her gaze from darting to Jacen’s blood-slicked body. I reached past Han and took Leia’s hand in mine, giving it a gentle squeeze.

    “I’m sorry,” I said, my voice raw. “I tried—I—we were so damned close to making it.” Jacen, alone among the three of us, had taken after our mother. With or without the Force, I always knew that she loved all of us dearly, but all the same I’d failed to save the one child she could really see herself in.

    “It’s okay,” Leia said tenderly, squeezing my hand back. “I felt everything—I know you did everything anyone could have, for both of them. I still have you, and you are all the light in the galaxy to me.”

    I shuddered. Seeing Jacen right next to me, yet feeling absolutely nothing come across our severed twin bond suddenly seemed like a horrible obscenity to me, and I had to get away. I pushed myself up out of my seat with both arms, slowly transferring my weight to my legs and putting as little as I could on my right, but that was still too much. I let out a short but sharp scream of pain and collapsed back into my seat. I felt horrible spikes of panic shoot out from both of my parents, but I hurriedly waved my hand in dismissal. “Just my leg—it’s not getting any worse. Help me up.”

    “We need to get you to a bacta tank.” My father leaned into the cockpit and wrapped an arm under my right shoulder, helping me stand. My right leg hung limp, swaying painfully, but it was tolerable. Han examined my injury—an entry wound came in through the back of my thigh, and an exit wound poked out the front. The charred hole between them was nearly three centimeters wide, and brushed up against the bone. Without Jedi pain-control techniques, I wouldn’t possibly have been conscious. Han’s eyes widened as he saw how bad it was. “If the Vong put one of their spears through you and it was poisoned—”

    “It wasn’t a frelling amphistaff,” I said, more strongly than I intended. I took a deep breath before continuing in a more moderate tone. “And there wasn’t any poison on it. Dad, there’s half a trillion people out there that just came from a war zone, and a lot of them are going to die if they don’t get into a bacta tank pretty damn soon. Me being able to walk can wait a month if it has to.”

    Han looked like he was getting ready to snap something back, but didn’t. Maybe he decided I’d be safest stuck in a bed behind the nigh-impregnable hyperspace chokepoint at the end of the Koros Trunk Line. With help from both of my parents, I hobbled out of the cockpit and started down the stairs, to find myself face-to-face with my uncle. Luke had waited a respectful distance back while I reunited with my mother and father, but my brothers and I had grown up just as close to him as we had to Han and Leia. He needed to see me with his own eyes, to affirm in person that his niece had survived the slaughter that had occurred half a galaxy away. He could feel me in the Force, of course…but we’d trusted the Force going in to Myrkr, and we knew how that had turned out.

    “I’m so sorry about Jacen and Anakin,” Luke began. “And all the others—and I’m sorry for what I know you’re going through, Jaina. What happened is completely my responsibility.” When I didn’t say anything, he cleared his throat and continued. “I know it’s the last thing you want to hear right now, but you and your brothers saved the Jedi. Every single one of us owes you, and them, our lives.”

    I bit my lip, closed my eyes, and swallowed. When I opened my eyes, I inhaled and exhaled, then said, “Luke, I…I need to talk to you. In private. Help me walk.”

    Luke took my arm from my father, who shot me a concerned glance but didn’t say anything. “Jedi thing,” I muttered, and mentally kicked myself. Sweet Force, I was a worse liar than Han.

    With my uncle’s help, I limped a few dozen paces across the flight deck. When we were out of my parents’ earshot, I stopped and turned to face my uncle, keeping half my weight on him.

    “What is it, Jaina?” Luke asked.

    Here we were, the moment I’d been dreading. “I need to tell you something,” I began in a low whisper. “Something my mother and father are going to figure out along with everyone else in a couple months, and it’s going to be better if someone breaks it to them before then…but it’s something they absolutely can not know right now, because they need to believe their sons died for a reason. Do I have your word?”

    “Of course.” Luke nodded once. “Jaina…this isn’t about why you have a lightsaber wound in your leg, is it?”

    “No,” I said hurriedly. The answer to that little mystery was pretty damn innocuous in comparison to what I really needed to say. “It’s not that. It’s that we…we couldn’t kill the voxyn queen,” I admitted, my stupid tongue still dancing around the real issue. Idiot.

    Luke stared at me for what felt like a minute but couldn’t have really been more than a handful of seconds before he blinked once. He looked like he was going to turn black with anger—not at me or any of those who had died trying, of course, but at himself. “Then I’m going to Myrkr,” he said finally, in a tone so icy that it seemed completely alien coming from between his lips. “Danni Quee claims to have built an interdiction-proof hyperdrive that she needs tested. We can have it installed on the Jade Shadow by morning.” He clenched his jaw shut and ground his teeth together. “It should have been me to begin with. Chaos take it,” he spat.

    “That won’t help,” I said in a tone that was barely audible, staring at the ground. I had to get the rest out before my uncle got himself killed for nothing, just like the others had. “We didn’t kill the queen…because she never existed. The Vong planted markers in the genetic code to make it look like there was one, just so we’d do exactly what we did….” I made myself look up. “…but so long as they have one of those monsters, they can clone as many as they damn well please. And if we kill the last one and toss its cells into a supernova? They’ll pull the information out of their cortices and be back in business within two weeks.”

    There was nothing more for either of us to say. Two weeks earlier, Luke and both of my parents had voted, with my encouragement, to send both of my brothers and fourteen other young Jedi to their deaths…in an attempt to kill a piece of Yuuzhan Vong misdirection. And now that we’d discovered the truth, the cold reality was that a predator was out there that was designed perfectly for hunting Jedi like animals, they weren’t about to go away, and in a matter of months they’d be more numerous than the stars. A matter of months was also the measure of the rest of our lives for both my uncle and I.

    Over Luke’s shoulder, I saw my mother standing in the coralskipper’s cockpit. She planted a gentle kiss on Jacen’s forehead while my father held her. I squeezed my eyes shut and looked away.

    “I need to lie down,” I mumbled. “I haven’t slept in over a hundred hours. Help me get to a bunk.”

    Luke wordlessly picked me up in both arms, one under my shoulders and the other under my knees, and carried me just like he had when I was a little girl. I was too exhausted, too overwhelmed by all that had happened during those hundred-plus hours, to be embarrassed. A few berths away, he took me up the Falcon’s ramp. The outside of the battered old freighter was painted matte black as it had been ever since the Yuuzhan Vong murdered Chewie, but the interior was still just like it had been during all those years when the ship was the closest thing my brothers and I had enjoyed to a permanent home. Luke took me past the galley table around which the three of us had shared so many meals and games…and horrid jokes, courtesy of Jacen. Through one open door, I glimpsed the hyperdrive core that Han had been absolutely livid to discover 11-year-old Anakin and 12-year-old me had taken apart and rebuilt…until he ran diagnostics on it and realized that the fastest ship in the galaxy now topped out about four percent faster.

    Finally, Luke set me down on the floor of the ‘fresher and left me to peel off the blood-soaked armored jumpsuit and wash the gore and grime from my skin and hair while he waited outside. When I was finally clean, I slipped on one of my mother’s bathrobes and let Luke know that I was done. I put my arm around his shoulders, and he helped me a few dozen meters farther down the hallway before easing me into the bed that I had more often than not shared with Jacen when he got scared during the night back in our single-digit years. I pulled the sheets up over myself, and my uncle gently patted me on the head once before stepping away; then I was alone, listening to his footsteps fade away down the corridor.

    I glanced at the floor a few paces from the edge of my bed, and used the Force to lift one floor panel, indistinguishable from those surrounding it, out of place. I telekinetically grabbed the bottle that looked to have the highest alcohol content of anything in my father’s not-so-secret reserve, and with its help drifted off toward sleep.

    Tomorrow would be the first day of a very different life in a very different galaxy. I’d lost the battle, and there was a good chance we’d just lost the war, too, but Chaos take me if I was going to lose it meekly. I just hoped that everyone who had been calling the shots in the New Republic and the Jedi Order over the last two years felt the same way. What had just happened had to be a wake-up call to every person in the galaxy not on the Vong payroll. That call could not be ignored, and anyone who tried to ignore it needed to have it screamed in their face. If I had to drag myself nineteen kilometers along Lusankya’s spine on my belly to do the screaming, then that was what I’d do. Failing that, I could still kill plenty of Vong by myself.


    But for tonight, it was time to close my eyes and let my dreams take me where they would.
    Sticks likes this.
  10. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Intense and gripping. Now time to strategize. [face_thinking] =D=
  11. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    That was good. Real good. The Voxyn misdirection was interesting. Was wondering if you had killed Jacen or had him captured and thought dead like in cannon but guess you went the whole distance. At least Jacen, Tahiri, Alema, Raynar (I'm assuming he wasn't flown off?) won't have their characterizations butchered like the post NJO. I hear on the issues between the NJO, LOTF, Character deaths and darkness etc.
    The NJO had character deaths had meaning and ended amazing character arcs. After that they are killed for kicks and giggles it feels like. The NJO was dark but at no time did I feel like the main characters couldn't win. There was a mix of good and bad moments. After that it just feels hopeless. Another war after war, LOTF split the Skywalkers and Solos which I found interesting at first but have soured on that. We nee more Wraith Squadron. The injuries are getting out of hand. Time to tone things down. A lot.
    You're gutting us from the beginning with this AU alright but it finally gives Jaina time to shine. Which is needed. What-if stories are awesome. NJO AU's are even better.
  12. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    There's probably going to be a bit of a delay on the next installment, but it's coming. I wrote most of what I intended to be chapter 3, but decided after reading it that what I felt a little forced at this point in the story and would make more sense later. I'm going to be heading out to sea for about a week starting tomorrow, and I won't have anything ready to post before I go, but I'll have it written by the time I come back.

    Thank you!
    Thanks!
    I have to admit that I spent much of SbS thinking OMG DENNING GENETICS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY, so a little bit of that may be bleeding through here. :p I mean, really--if Anakin uses a thermal detonator to blow up sufficient voxyn tissue "to clone a million" independent of the queen, then what's wrong with the tissue that's already in the existing voxyn? And what's to prevent the Vong from making another queen? That was the only major problem I had with SbS as a standalone novel.
    There are a lot of things about Myrkr that I'm leaving undefined for now, but I think I'll put a little more information in the next chapter.
    Yeah, last time we had something with an actual focus on Jaina was, what, Enemy Lines? Well, I'm having a lot of fun writing her here at any rate. I hope it continues to entertain!
  13. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    Hmm. You bring up good points about genetics and the tissue in the existing Voxyn. Science isn't my thing so I just let it slide in fiction. The entire universe is lightyears ahead of us technology wise so weird things like that can slide imo.
    Mystery is good. Bring stuff out from that slowly. I want to know what happens but then again I don't.
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  14. Sticks Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2001
    star 4
    I cannot express the extent of my love for dark!Jaina AUs, and this one is hitting all the right notes. Her voice is spot on and I am hooked. If you plan to tag people in future updates, please tag me.

    You've mentioned there will be some Jag involvement later. Can I anticipate a bit of Kyp Durron as well? :D
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  15. DarthSanctimonious Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 3
    Thank you very much! I confess to being a Kyp fan myself, even if we have kind of been bowled over by canon and the prevailing winds in the fandom. :p

    So, it's been a while since I posted here. My apologies. As can happen sometimes, while I was writing chapter 3, a number of ideas occurred to me that I'd precluded by the way I opened this story. So instead of plowing ahead, I eventually decided it would be best if I re-outlined certain things and started over, with a bit more of a head start in my writing to make sure I was happy with the way things were working out. I expect I'll be ready to start posting within the next couple of weeks. Anyways, those of you who like this and are willing to put up with my crap :p, I'd appreciate it if you'd continue reading. Sticks, I'd be happy to tag you when I repost.
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
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