Ring of Fire - The Final Story in Anakin's Saga - Author's final replies and goodbyes 2/23

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by geo3, Jan 18, 2005.

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  1. GunraysLawyer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2003
    star 4
    I seem to hav eto do this with depressing regularity, but none of your works should fall so far, ao fast.

    UP, UP and AWAY!
  2. qingauk Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2002
    star 4
    HOLY SITH.. THAT BLEW MY SOCKS OFF..

    did Anakin still become Vader? I am so confused. I like the future but all these puzzles of what happened..not sure my brain can take it! I love how you wrote Leia..
  3. Lando_Plenty Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2002
    star 2
    Well I certainly didn't see that coming :eek:
    I'm very glad that Padme has survived - but I won't be able to really take it in until I learn of Anakin's fate. I'm waiting on the edge of my seat...I'm even tempted to read past chapters to see if there is any hint of it (even though I have no time to do that).
    I'm also glad that the Handmaidens have kept intact through it all. They're just extras in the movies, but here, they're great characters. The thought of Sabe in the Alliance - feels like a perfect fit.
    Again, I can't wait... :)
  4. geo_gnosis Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2006
    star 3
    First off, I loved "The Prodigal Son." What an exquisitely beautiful story! @};- I also very much enjoyed rocketscientist's "Ceremony of Passing." Nicely done! =D=

    As for Day of Reckoning (I)...I feel as if I have stepped through the looking-glass, and, like Alice, I stand there, blinking in wonder as I survey the amazing new world around me! [face_hypnotized]

    She should never have let down her guard, not even for a moment? the girl was much, much too smart for her own good. For anyone?s good.

    Yes! That's Leia, all right. :D

    Padmé had laughed knowingly. "I wouldn?t want to be in your shoes when she starts investigating why..."

    "I can handle her."

    "You are one of the few."


    Sabé is indeed one of the few. After all, she has years of experience dealing with Leia's mother. (Why do I hear Yoda's voice, here... "Mind what you have learned! Remember your training! Save you it can!") [face_laugh]

    He lived there.

    In the shadows.

    Watching over her son. Holding destiny in his hands.

    He was her only home.


    What a wonderful mirror to The Prodigal Son, where "The cycle was complete. He had gone out, and he had returned. He was her heart, she was his home." Beautiful! [face_love]

    This story has certainly taken an interesting turn---I like it. It seems...right, somehow, and fitting, to leap ahead into time and deal with things from, it seems, a somewhat subtler point of view. Readers, like Shmi Skywalker, need a " 'breathing out' time." Like Shmi, I'm breathing out, and waiting...to see what comes next. :)
  5. Art_Of_War Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 9, 2005
    star 2
    =D=


    I knew you were a fantastic writer- one far above the norm in terms of thematics and semantics- but, at times-forgive this one for he is not as staunch of heart as other- I nearly doubted that you'd be able to live up to the-quite literal- years of foreshadowing and buildup that this conflict has been built up. Boy was I proven unequivocally wrong and I couldn't be happier about it.

    The way Anakin fought Dooku and realized who the true enemy was to the moment when he decided he would not be controlled by the shadow that had been lurking there in the dark were pure, fanfic gold. Thoroughly enjoyable and instantly a classic for any true reader who wishes to indulge in the Star Wars Universe.


    Astounding work Geo.

    =D=
  6. geo3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2002
    star 4
    Wow ? great thread! Terrific comments, a discussion, and? be still my heart ? a story! There is so much to respond to. I?d like to address rocketscientist?s lovely story first, then I?ll get to the rest of the replies.

    rocketscientistThank you so much for your beautiful addition to the geo-verse!! I?ll repost here what I said on your Saga thread:

    You know what? I'm blown away, and I find myself unexpectedly tongue-tied. Suffice it to say that I'm deeply flattered and completely delighted that you were inspired to write a scene that I'd barely even imagined. I love it when stories come to life, escape, and generate more and more stories. Love it.

    Quite aside from the tie-in aspects though, this is a beautiful and haunting viggie all on its own. It must be that artist's eye of yours that captures all the details like the silence of the city, the little taper lights spreading out everywhere as a symbol of the continuation of the monarchy, the 'collapse' of the procession - even the old-style light fixture on the wall of the catacombs. There are so many such delights. Add that to the superb pacing and the ever-present sense of foreboding, and you've got a story to read again and again.

    I know I will.


    [:D] @};-

    DarthSilious Oooh. This story has gone off at an interesting tangent. It actually makes it more enjoyable and fascinating truth be told even though it isn't anything like I expected. Can't wait for the next update.

    I?m glad the abrupt shift hasn?t put you off!

    GunraysLawyer [/i]This is a great idea, and it would appear that we have gone very AU. [/i]

    I think we?ve been headed in that direction for a while. As bobilll pointed out (see below) my fundamental premise about Padmé?s role differs from Lucas?, so the way the story plays out is necessarily different ... but yes, we certainly have!

    Not just very AU, but extremely well-executed AU.

    Why, thank you! * is relieved *

    Also, thanks for the up ? but the simple truth is that we have a small but select group of readers here on this thread. When it falls? it falls. *shrugs *

    Now, does she really mean what she implies: Anakin survived and is in the Obi-Wan role in the desert; Leia shouldn't go to Coruscant because the Emperor would recognize who and what she is; and everything is about to change...

    Um? yes. She does :p

    ? you manage to do something with my Kalinadians that even I haven't quite been able to do: Give a good, succinct, non-Jedi outsiders POV on them.

    I feel as though I know them personally by now :p, but I?m very, very pleased that you approve.

    BRAVO!!!!

    Thank you!

    MoAngel I get it, I do. That I've been flown to an AU of an AU! But still, I'm sooo confused! Such an intelligent other worldly writing style will do that to you. This is not the end I hope?

    Don't worry - it's NOT the end. There is still a bit more to tell? hopefully things will become clearer once we?re done. I?d hate to leave the story in a muddle.

    rocketscientist ?Ring of Fire? has gone very, very AU. Do tell?
    [face_laugh]

    I sort of loosened the reins and let it have its head. Sometimes that's all you can do.

    It is. Pesky stories! Pesky characters!

    I loved your blow-by-blow description of your reactions as you read the post! It?s amazing to be allowed to ?see? how the different story elements work for you. Thank you!

    So - is he who I think he is? Or is he someone else? And who built the Death Star? And who's on Coruscant? and what's on first? or is that who?

    [face_laugh] I promise that those questions will be answered soon.

    geo, you. tricky. lady.

    :D

    Can't think of a better way to get a reader to pour over every single word in the post! Have I mentioned that I love this?

    I?m so glad! I?m afraid I?m pouring lots and lots and lots of stuff into every one of these final posts?

    I also think you are
  7. GunraysLawyer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2003
    star 4
    One bit of praise that I forgot in my ego driven pleasure at the use of the Kalinadians...

    It is very difficult to handle world changing events in fiction. It can really only be done a couple of ways. The first is the way that I picked in my story Succession. The event is personalized and the focus made narrow. The changes in the world are clear on the horizon, but only the very perceptive see the event as world changing as it actually happens
    to be. The second is to rush forward and by showing outcomes demonstrate the event. This is harder and rarely done well, in my opinion.

    Needless to say, it is done very well here. Once more another reason for my previous BRAVO!

  8. geo3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2002
    star 4
    GunraysLawyer One bit of praise that I forgot in my ego driven pleasure at the use of the Kalinadians...

    Hey, they're your creation! As long as you're pleased, I'm happy!

    It is very difficult to handle world changing events in fiction. It can really only be done a couple of ways. The first is the way that I picked in my story Succession. The event is personalized and the focus made narrow. The changes in the world are clear on the horizon, but only the very perceptive see the event as world changing as it actually happens to be. The second is to rush forward and by showing outcomes demonstrate the event. This is harder and rarely done well, in my opinion. Needless to say, it is done very well here. Once more another reason for my previous BRAVO!

    I absolutely agree about the two basic ways of dealing with vast events. I've usually stuck to the former. I really feel that I've taken a bit of a risk here, especially after the driving intensity of the last few chapters, but your enthusiasm is very encouraging! Thank you!

    *

    All right, without further ado, here is the next post...


    Chapter 40. Day of Reckoning (Part II)


    The Kalinadian cruiser?s arrival on Tatooine was seamless in every respect. There was no jostling for docking space. Amazingly, the mass of bureaucratic documents that the ship had to file had been pre-cleared. Best of all, for once the entire requested complement of loader droids was ready and waiting on the designated cargo platform. The Captain and crew were surprised, but they weren?t about to complain. It made for a nice change.

    To her hosts? dismay and deep disapproval, the ship?s sole guest had repeatedly refused all offers of an escort to her final destination.

    ?The Outer Rim Territories are no place for a lone traveler,? the leader of the trade mission had lectured her sternly. ?Particularly, if you don?t mind my saying so, My Lady, for a woman of rank.?

    Padmé had smiled and gestured at her clothing. What rank she might have, at least in the eyes of the Kalinadians, was not at all evident in her subdued and rustic robes. ?As you can see, My Lord, this is not my first visit to the Territories. I have friends here. I assure you that I am in no danger.?

    Even so, the Kalinadian nobleman had arranged to have her discretely followed as she made her way through the busy, sprawling spaceport at Mos Eisley. Her shadower observed that she blended in well with the crowds around her and seemed to attract no unusual attention. The moment she exited the facility, three vehicles seemed to appear out of nowhere in front of her. Without hesitation she entered the middle vehicle, and the convoy roared away.

    Secure escort, her pursuer thought with satisfaction. Professionally done. With a clear conscience, he broke off his pursuit and returned to his ship to make his report.

    *

    Instead of climbing into the back of the discretely armored personnel transport, Padmé settled herself next to the driver, who greeted her only with a nod before roaring off after the lead vehicle.

    ?To what do I owe the honor?? she teased. ?A droid driver would have done as well. Surely you have more important business.?

    ?Funny,? he said dryly. ?Very funny.?

    ?Honestly, is this really??

    ?Lemme explain it ter ya? this way, Lady. Gettin? ya there safely ?? he broke off briefly as he swerved the vehicle violently around a slow-moving string of heavily laden dewbacks, ?means the difference between me livin? happily in my skin, or me kissin? my ass goodbye.?

    Chastened, Padmé gazed out the windscreen, watching the disorderly crowds in the streets shift and seethe when the vehicles in her convoy showered all passersby with clouds of sand and grit. It wasn?t long before the crowded spaceport town gave way to desert. The convoy picked up speed.

    ?How is he, Pell?? she asked after some time.

    ?Moody,? he said judiciously. ?We?ve all been hopin? yer?d get here soon an? all.? He didn?t look at her. He kept his eyes on the road ahead.
  9. DarthBreezy Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    What? No one jumped in???

    So here we have it - another unpredictable, yet brilliant yank on the tale!

    Anakin didn't escape unscathed spiritually and physically, Luke doesn't know his parentage (I love the image of Luke storming across the desert) and Palpy still has his claws in the galaxy....

    What a wonderful way to keep everything and everyone on the tip of their toes!!!
  10. JediMasterRev Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 2, 2004
    star 4
    A very interesting turn of events...

    Despite not following the path of canon, it seems here too that Anakin has physically paid for his 'association' with Palpatine.
    I thought the conversation about him keeping 'balance' while the Emperor plots and schemes was quite ingenious and I think, more fitting with his Chosen One mantle. While I'm glad both Anakin and Padme are still alive, I have to admit that I liked the fact that there was a consequence to everything--in other words, there wasn't a truly 'happy' ending or at least not for the moment. This segment felt like real life conveyed in already epic story. I enjoyed the new wrinkle and am curious where this will all lead.

    Excellent job, my friend. Exceptional work as always.
  11. VA_Parky Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2005
    star 4
    WOW! Another breathtaking post, geo! Of course, I knew it would be as soon as I saw you had updated. It's a bit of trend with you! :D

    Soooo... you revealed quite a few intriguing things in this chapter. I literally squeaked in joy when I realized where Padme was headed - and Pell made an appearance too!

    Our darling Anakin sure is caught between a rock and a hard place, isn't he? Of course, Padme is there to keep him balanced. She really is his anchor, isn't she? I love the way you write the two of them. The emotions between them are so tangible, they're almost a third character in their own right! :p

    But oh, the weight that rests on their shoulders is staggering. Even through their playful banter, I could still sense it. Stupid Palpatine. He's like a storm cloud that just won't go away. Grrrr... Talk about suspense! The latest developments are dripping with it and yet I have a sinking suspicion that we are only getting started. *deep breath* That's okay... I can handle it.... *covers face and peeks out between fingers*

    I still say this should be a movie. When you run into a millionaire who's willing to put up the cash, just let me know. I'll be the first in line to buy a ticket. Heck, I'd even camp out just to be sure I was the first one through the theater doors! ;)

  12. rocketscientist Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2005
    star 3
    There aren't any good emoticons for this sort of thing. I guess I'll have to do without.

    Intimate. I would say that might be the key word to this chapter. I feel like I'm in on the secret and I like that. It can't be easy to reveal so much without resorting to outright 'telling' - but somehow you've done just that. In truth, it was telling, but like the telling of a confidence among friends. I felt like Padmé was my friend and she was sharing her thoughts with me. It made me feel good.

    Not that all the facts were good, mind you. Poor Anakin is suffering. But that's the way it should be. That is the price of greatness. Sometimes it shows and sometimes it doesn't. For Anakin, the Hero, it must show. It's the only thing that makes sense (unlike this meta I've got going here:p).

    The Emperor is a threat and something will have to be done. But what, and by whom? Physically, it can't be Anakin. [face_mischief] So whom does that leave?

    Oh and I just wanted to say that I was feeling very sorry for Leia all the while, thinking that Luke knew who his parents were and poor Leia was left out in the cold. Well, not cold, exactly, but you know what I mean.

    So what's going to happen to Alderaan? Suddenly I'm feeling very apprehensive. [face_worried]

    Wonderful chapter geo - it ranks up there with my favorites.

    @};-
  13. GunraysLawyer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2003
    star 4
    Wow, just wow.

    First, you again get the Kalinadians right. Honorable (after a fashion) and practical to a fault.

    Then you give us what is in many ways an essay on Love, Change, and Deals with the Devil.

    Of course, you also brush a powerful traditional story-telling meme: The wounded or imperfect knight, and his far more pure successor/son.

    Lancelot and Galahad, for instance....


    All this has really gotten interesting, and oh, how our friend Palpatine must hate it.

  14. FitJedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 14, 2006
    star 4
    Geo you have done it yet again, I was completely captivated throughout this entire chapter. Poor Anakin feeling like he isn't good enough or whole enough for Padme's love yet Padme's love continues to surround him and thrive through him. Very well done you have taken this incredible tale and continue to make it better by the posts.
  15. Darth_Null Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 5, 2003
    This is a terrific post that completes the stories of those characters we love, and shows the fragile balance - the carefully danced minuet - between Anakin and Palpatine. In reading it, one gets the feeling of two rapidly spinning planets orbiting each other, kept in check by gravity, but fragile because the slightest movement out of place suggests mutual destruction. Wow!

    ?I have an image of the two of you circling one another, locked in eternal conflict, but never engaging.?

    Despite what I wrote, I was not going to post on this thread. This is the end of the three novels. You have taken us in a rollercoaster ride of emotions, highs, lows, tension, resolutions, and now it is the end. Don't get me wrong, I want to keep reading what you write, but I feel less sad if I read without commenting, knowing that in just one or two more posts it will be over.

    Thank you for the rollercoaster rides!!
  16. DarthBreezy Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    I'm just giving this a friendly bump - it's too wonderful a post to just let slip by....

    @};-
  17. qingauk Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2002
    star 4
    AWSOME.. TRULY AWSOME ANAKIN IS ALIVE AND THIS CHAPTER MADE ME SO HAPPY EVEN IF HE IS SCARRED.. you have been so creative with this, that it just blows me away. I did not expect this turn of events and you have done an outstanding job. There is a shadow chasing them and will find Anakin? I love how you have humbled him and yet he is so strong to fight Palpy.. you are #1 girl..
  18. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    Like the great DarthNull, I find myself reluctant to post a response. There is always a bittersweet sensation when we approach the end of a journey as fun and moving as this one. I can see the end just over the horizon and I know that the time for us to all disembark is nigh?

    *sigh*

    But I?m here because I simply must respond to this marvelous addition to this superb story!

    I absolutely loved the anticipation that you built as Padmé grew more and more anxious to see Anakin. I definitely got the sense that they had been apart for what felt like an eternity to them.

    Of course, just before you bring us back to the heart of your story?the love story between Anakin and Padmé (more on this in a sec)?you remind us that Palpatine continues to consolidate his power. I loved that vital detail?the Death Star, the dissolution of the Senate?reminding us that this is no happy ending?.

    But the heart of your post is, indeed, the heart of your entire Saga. You call this ?Anakin?s Saga? and, in many respects, it truly is. But it?s more than just Anakin?s Saga. It?s a love story, through and through and you remind of us of this beautifully here. These two lovers, after facing near-unimaginable challenges ultimately find in each other the home that neither of them truly had.

    I adore the symbolism of Anakin?s third way. He walks a different path, as he always did. He is not a Jedi and he?s not a Sith. He stalks in the shadows of his cloak?scarred by his choices on one side while smooth and vibrant on the other?hiding from the universe. And yet, Padmé loves him as he is, whole and complete.

    Balanced.

    It?s what love truly is.

    (Damn! I love this story!!! *happy sigh*)
  19. dietcokeani Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2005
    star 1
    Wow. It's all really coming together. What an interesting idea of how Anakin balances the force! There is just so much to absorb here. I feel so relieved that they've had this time together and have been able to watch (even if from afar) their children grow up. What a relief!
  20. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    I don't think I can explain how much I love Anakin and Padme's interaction here.

    The sheer uniqueness of the plot twist--how Anakin and Palpatine are connected, how Anakin was burned, Anakin watching Luke on Tatooine--it all is so perfect and right that I don't even bother considering it an AU. The characterization is flawless, and everything just seems to fit. It is Star Wars to me, in a way Star Wars should have been. For that, I adore this story.

    Anakin and Padme's romance here is just perfect. It has matured, but it is still the same somewhere basic. The way they talk to each other and adore each other is just gorgeous without ever being overtly romantic. I love it.

    Much =D=, geo--I look forward to updates of this story like I used to look forward to RotS coming out. That should tell you how I much I can't wait for more. Loved it doesn't even cover it. Thank you for always bringing back my love of Star Wars each time I come back.
  21. bobilll Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 8, 2002
    star 4
    Dude, ok, now it's all clear. Mmm, I love how Anakin made that plot for Padme... It's so sweet of him, in a non-you're-my-damsel-in-distress way that he usually is. Luke and Leia, both angry and ready to break away, eh... That doesn't necessarily mean they'll react well at all to the news about their parents. Now I see there's much more of this story to be told... very interesting!
  22. dietcokeani Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2005
    star 1

    What a great idea.......for the next saga?????? Geo, don't you want to tell that part of the story? [face_praying]
  23. dietcokeani Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2005
    star 1
    Just so you know......It was Palpy who made it rain during the SuperBowl.....
  24. geo3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2002
    star 4
    Thanks for all of your comments! Apologies for having been delinquent in replying, but I?ve been pushing hard to finish ?Ring of Fire,? and I am now in the position to announce that ... I have!

    There is one more chapter to the story. I?ll post it right below these replies.

    DarthBreezy So here we have it - another unpredictable, yet brilliant yank on the tale!

    Than you! :D

    Anakin didn't escape unscathed spiritually and physically, Luke doesn't know his parentage (I love the image of Luke storming across the desert) and Palpy still has his claws in the galaxy....

    Yeah. No matter what I do, I can?t make things easy...

    What a wonderful way to keep everything and everyone on the tip of their toes!!!

    Thanks again, and also for the bump?

    JediMasterRev A very interesting turn of events... Despite not following the path of canon, it seems here too that Anakin has physically paid for his 'association' with Palpatine.

    He has. I no matter how I twisted and turned the story, it seemed unlikely that he would get away unscathed? in any universe!

    I thought the conversation about him keeping 'balance' while the Emperor plots and schemes was quite ingenious and I think, more fitting with his Chosen One mantle. While I'm glad both Anakin and Padmé are still alive, I have to admit that I liked the fact that there was a consequence to everything--in other words, there wasn't a truly 'happy' ending or at least not for the moment. This segment felt like real life conveyed in already epic story. I enjoyed the new wrinkle and am curious where this will all lead.

    I?m delighted that we?re on the same wave length here!

    Excellent job, my friend. Exceptional work as always.

    Thank you!

    VA_Parky WOW! Another breathtaking post, geo! Of course, I knew it would be as soon as I saw you had updated. It's a bit of trend with you!

    [face_blush]

    Soooo... you revealed quite a few intriguing things in this chapter. I literally squeaked in joy when I realized where Padmé was headed - and Pell made an appearance too!

    I?m glad! :D

    Our darling Anakin sure is caught between a rock and a hard place, isn't he? Of course, Padmé is there to keep him balanced. She really is his anchor, isn't she? I love the way you write the two of them. The emotions between them are so tangible, they're almost a third character in their own right!

    Wow, thanks!

    But oh, the weight that rests on their shoulders is staggering. Even through their playful banter, I could still sense it. Stupid Palpatine. He's like a storm cloud that just won't go away. Grrrr... Talk about suspense! The latest developments are dripping with it and yet I have a sinking suspicion that we are only getting started. *deep breath* That's okay... I can handle it.... *covers face and peeks out between fingers*

    Um? I couldn?t possibly say? [face_whistling]

    I still say this should be a movie. When you run into a millionaire who's willing to put up the cash, just let me know. I'll be the first in line to buy a ticket. Heck, I'd even camp out just to be sure I was the first one through the theater doors!

    I?m so flattered I can?t think of anything to say other than ?thank you!?

    rocketscientist Intimate. I would say that might be the key word to this chapter. I feel like I'm in on the secret and I like that. It can't be easy to reveal so much without resorting to outright 'telling' - but somehow you've done just that. In truth, it was telling, but like the telling of a confidence among friends. I felt like Padmé was my friend and she was sharing her thoughts with me. It made me feel good.

    Oh, lovely! I?m so glad, because that is the way I think of it too.

    Not that all the facts were good, mind you. Poor Anakin is suffering. But that's the way it should be. That is the price of greatness. Sometimes it shows and sometimes it doesn't. For Anakin, the Hero, it must show. It's the only thing that makes sense (
  25. geo3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2002
    star 4
    Well, here it is ? the final chapter of ?Ring of Fire.? I can hardly believe it myself. It has been an often fraught but generally amazing two ? year journey for me.

    I?m incredibly grateful to every reader who ever stopped by to let me know they were reading. I?m astonished and awed by the hardy few who stayed with the story from the beginning. Thank you so much. I?ve loved this thread, and I will miss you all.

    I owe a special thanks to all the people who have helped me along the way by reading drafts, beta-reading, and just generally listening to me moan or ramble. DarrthBreezy, thanks and hugs for always being there through thick and thin! ELDRITCH, I owe you big time for all your time and energy and support. @};- JediMasterRev and Souderwan, thanks for being there and for pinch hitting when I needed you!

    Most of all, thank you for reading ? whoever and wherever you are. I hope you'll stop by one last time - or one first time! - when you've finished reading.


    Chapter 41. There Are No Endings, Only Beginnings


    On the day when Democracy finally died in the Galactic Republic, Alderaan?s last Senator thought for one overwhelming moment that he had seen a ghost. Afterward he couldn?t say what, precisely, had shocked him to a standstill in the middle of a crowded corridor in the Senate Building ? was it the face he had glimpsed, or the impossibility of having seen it?

    It was a face Aeron still found himself searching for in crowds, in holofeeds, and sometimes, dreamily, in the cloud formations of his native Alderaan. He still thought of her often, and always with guilt and sadness.

    But he couldn?t have seen her. Dellia was long dead.

    The enormous corridor outside the Senate Chamber was mobbed with people trying to get inside for the final session of Congress. When Aeron abruptly halted in the midst of the flow it took several collisions, accompanied by mumbled apologies or muttered oaths, to get him moving forward again.

    He looked around; desperately seeking another glimpse of the face that had frozen him in place. It was nowhere to be found in that crowd. Everyone was in such a hurry to get inside ? and what for? To observe first hand the final blow in Palpatine?s systematic extermination of Democracy? To approve it?

    Emperor Palpatine. It was incredible. How was it possible that the Senate hadn?t stopped him long before this? But they had not stopped him. After today, Aeron and his colleagues slink home wrapped in failure and futility and fear. Henceforth the Emperor and his military machine would govern the Galaxy in dictatorship and rule it with terror.

    Aeron was surprised that the brief appearance of a face from the past could make him momentarily forget the terrible present. Perhaps he was losing his grip on reality in the face of the nearly unbearable tension and anger that had marked his term as Alderaan?s last Senator? Perhaps he was more worn out than he had thought? The face he had seen (surely he hadn?t imagined it?) had been young ? as young as she had been the last time he?d seen her. But nearly twenty years had passed. She would have changed as much as he had? I?m being ridiculous. Dellia died in the Temple that night along with her Jedi ?protectors,? and I coudn?t save her?

    To the utter annoyance of a number of hurrying Senators behind him, Aeron halted in his tracks a second time, searching his memory for details of the face he had seen so fleetingly. It had been so familiar ? that pale oval, those wide-set eyes ? but when he thought about it more, there had been differences. It was hard to be certain given the corridor?s subdued lighting, but the eyes had seemed a different color; lighter, perhaps. And the hair ? well, it had seemed darker, with glints of red that he didn?t remember Dellia?s hair having.

    The crowd continued to stream around Aeron on both sides while he stood stolidly in place, thinking and wondering.

    When the corridor had emptied out and penultimate session of th
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