Saga - ST Die Alone, Live Together (TROS AU)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by TheProphetOfSullust, Jan 23, 2023.

  1. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    Title: Die Alone, Live Together
    Author(s): TheProphetOfSullust
    Timeframe: Sequel Era (TROS AU)
    Characters: Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, Finn, Jannah, Rose Tico, Rey, OCs
    Genre: Drama
    Relationships: Rey/Ben Solo
    Summary: Ben had died because he had gone to Exegol alone. Under other circumstances, he might not have needed to.

    The memory of his father faded away, and rain mixed with tears on Ben's face. His eyes shifted to the lightsaber in his hand, and, almost driven by instinct, he hurled the cursed weapon into the sea.

    He stood for a long time, drenched, hurt, and so, so tired, barely registering anything around him. Alone with his pain. Alone with his memories. Alone with his regrets.

    "Hold it right there!"

    The harsh female voice crashed the reality back onto him. Two figures emerged from the sheet of rain. They pointed their weapons at him.

    "You!" Ben and the man of the pair recognized each other.

    "Where's Rey?" FN-2187 demanded.

    "Left. Took my ship." He couldn't quite hold back a laugh.

    "Unbelievable," TZ-1719 raised her energy bow and fired. Ben froze the bolt in mid-air, took a step to the site, and let it fly past him and impact the water surface. The woman blinked in astonishment, and took a few seconds to recover. Then she pulled back the string on her bow once more.

    "Wait, Jannah," her partner said.

    "He's the Supreme Leader!"

    "Was," Ben said.

    "What?" Jannah asked.

    "I'm done with the First Order. Besides, Palpatine will subsume that anyway."

    FN-2187's face grew angry. "And you expect everything you did to be just forgiven?"

    "No." Rey was gone. It was his luck that the first Resistance members he met would be her friends. Getting anywhere now... required an act of faith. He had to try.

    Do. Or do not. There is no try.

    He didn't know if he would see Uncle Luke standing there as a ghost or if that was another fragment of his memories. But he took the advice. Kneeling, he placed his hands behind his head.

    "My name is Ben Solo," he said. "I surrender to the Resistance."

    "This could be a trap, Finn."

    "It's not. Can't you tell?"

    She considered. "I'm not sure."

    Cautiously, the two approached. "What are we supposed to do with him?"

    Finn frowned. "I don't recall ever taking prisoners. Leia taught us all the rules, just in case--"

    "One of which being you can't just kill them?"

    "How'd you learn that? They never gave such instructions in the First Order."

    "Guessed based on how the Republics operated. There was little to do besides study old holotapes. And then she raised her bow. "I've never been one for following the rules."

    "Jannah, is it?" Ben asked.

    "What of it? Did you think I'd keep using that stupid index you gave me?"

    "So easy, isn't it?"

    "What?" Finn asked, confused.

    "Anger and violence. So tempting. So easily justified."

    "It is justified."

    Ben nodded. "Come closer."

    Jannah automatically took a few steps before stopping herself. Finn raised the rifle again.

    "What are you doing?"

    Ben gripped the emitter of the energy bow by the tip and pressed it against his forehead. Jannah gasped as he looked up directly into her eyes.

    "Do it. I won't stop you. And carry it. Have this jump into your mind for no reason. Have it haunt your dreams. The rest of your life. Live with it, if you can. Like I do."

    Rain around them appeared to slow down as Jannah contemplated everything he said. Then, with a grunt, she wrestled the bow away and shook her head.

    "We left to stop senseless killing," she said.

    "Great," Finn muttered. "You don't have restraints designed for Jedi in that pack of yours?"

    She shook her head. "So, we have to take your word?"

    "Nah," Finn said, and before Ben had time to react, he flipped his rifle's setting to stun and fired twice. Blue rings passed through Ben's body and the world vanished.

    Ben slowly came to and became aware of a chaotic rocking motion. He tried to move and found both his wrists and ankles restrained. A blue-gray sky jerked above him. A strange noise, between a whistle and a grunt, came from the right. Ben took a deep breath to orient himself. Craning his neck back, he saw a field of yellowed grass passing by. Occasionally, hairy hoofed quadruped legs flashed by in view.

    Now it made sense. Finn and Jannah had tied him up, loaded him on the back of a local riding animal, and brought him here. He reached into the Force and while it was there, the connection felt syrupy... sluggish... imprecise.

    Is this because I've been in the dark so long? he wondered.

    "Finn! Jannah! You're back!" a voice shouted.

    "And you won't believe what happened!" Finn replied. His face was suddenly in Ben's view and he was jerked up. "Come on," he said, undoing the knot on his ankles.

    When Ben looked around, he had to suppress laughter. Right in front of him stood the Millennium Falcon. Of all ships.

    "I don't believe it!" the new voice said. Poe Dameron, to whom it belonged, stepped out. Then without warning, he punched Ben in the solar plexus.

    Ben collapsed, wheezing, and prepared for more blows. Instead, a very familiar roar racketed the air, and Ben watched Chewbacca simultaneously restraining Poe, shouting Shyriwook vulgarities, and looking at him in a way that made Ben prefer being hit by him. "I'm sorry, Chewie," he managed, breath still not fully regained.

    The Wookiee halted, let Poe go, and walked away without a single word from his lips.

    "How'd you get him?" Poe asked Finn.

    "I surrendered," Ben explained. Poe blinked several times, and very carefully looked Ben over, then looked around in wary curiosity.

    "Why?" he finally demanded.

    "To be better," he answered.

    "That's not much."

    "I didn't do it because it would be easy," he said. "I did it because it was right. I can't do anything about the past. Only about the future."

    Something passed in Poe's eyes. He understands. And he hates that he understands.

    "You want me to help? I will."

    Poe considered for a long time. "We'll be taking you to Resistance HQ. You'll have to face... her, Supreme Leader. How do you expect that to go?"

    "I really don't know.I won't shirk it. I will face mom." He smiled for the first time. "She won't do what either of us expects."

    "No," Poe agreed. "Bring him aboard. One of you watch him at all times."

    In the galley, Chewbacca roared in protest as soon as he saw Ben. Jannah, who was holding him at arrowpoint, jerked at the fury. "What'd he say?"

    "Not fit for polite company," Ben replied.

    That prompted a new set of barks. "I was talking about her, Chewie."

    A low grunt was followed by Chewie storming off to the rear of the ship. "Urgh," Jannah said as she said down across from Ben, wary but not instantly threatening. "I like him."

    "So do I," Ben admitted.

    "It doesn't look mutual."

    "Not anymore."

    Icy water splashed into Ben's face, startling him. "Huh?" he blinked several times before Finn's face emerged from the haze.

    "You just... sat there. Unmoving."

    "I was meditating."


    "I tried to reach Rey," he admitted.

    "What is it between you and her?"

    "Force Bond," he said. "We're linked--or we used to be."

    "How does that work?"

    "Right now? It doesn't."


    "We could... appear to each other. See each other's surroundings. Talk to each other. Even touch. But now... I tried to open the connection... and nothing."

    "Maybe she isn't interested."

    "That never mattered before."

    "You still have the Force, right?"

    For an answer, Ben extended his hand. A hydrospanner flew across the cabin and fell into his grip.

    Poe walked in from the cockpit. "We've finished repairs," he said, "but there's something troubling the powerplant. I can't start it."

    "Let me see," Ben said.

    Poe raised his eyebrows.

    "You think I want to be stuck here?"

    "It's not so bad," Jannah defended her adopted home.

    "Well, I can't see what's wrong."

    Ben went to the engineering bay, pulled up the lid on a mechanical pit, and climbed in. "You sure you know what you're doing?" Finn demanded.

    Lights shut off and lit up again, then flickered out. "No," Ben muttered, and twisted a cable with a hydrospanner. The Falcon got lights back. "Dad would be so mad." The memory--and the guilt--flooded in again. He breathed, forcing himself to be still. If he lost control, if the rage crept back in...

    "You okay?" Finn asked.

    Ben took several more deep breaths. "Yeah," he replied, resuming the repairs. "Yeah. Got it."

    Poe, Finn, and Jannah stared at him. "We still don't have power."

    Ben looked past them, though. "Right there," he pointed behind them and off to the side. Chewbacca, having just left the fresher, growled angrily. "You know I'm right," Ben said.

    Chewie smashed a fist into a panel Ben pointed out. Noise reverberated throughout the ship, and vibration informed them the engines were working. "Told you."

    Chewie barked something.

    "No." The Wookiee headed to the cockpit.

    "Thanks," Poe said, and followed. Finn and Jannha started strapping themselves in at the dejarik table.

    Ben carefully ambulated to join them. Both still kept hands on weapons while in his presence. The Falcon shook slightly, then lifted up and launched into space.

    "So. We were talking about Force Bonds," Finn resumed the questioning.

    "I don't know," Ben admitted. "It's still there, I think. Just inactive."

    Finn grinned. "Maybe she's the one who has to activated it. Where could she have gone, anyway?"

    Ben snorted. "She doesn't tell me her plans."

    "She doesn't make plans to tell," Finn retorted. "Just jumps in and somehow makes it work."

    "That's her, alright."

    "Is it true?" Jannah asked.


    "That she's Palpatine's granddaughter."

    Ben nodded. "I told her."

    "How do you know?"

    "He told me. And... I think mom knew."

    "It doesn't matter," Finn declared. Jannah nodded.

    "If only that were so."

    "What do you mean?"

    "It shouldn't matter. But it does. Such legacies always do. It's not even about how others perceive you--though you can ask mom why she left the Senate. But it's also about how you perceive yourself. I don't know what Rey will emerge like on the other side."

    "You wanted to help her?"

    Ben nodded. "That's all any of us can do. Be there. I didn't have that."

    "You said you were the one who told her in the first place," Jannah interjected.

    "Yes." He met her eyes. "Ignorance is a very fragile shield, Jannah."

    "I suppose. So how do we fight Palpatine?"

    "That's up to mom, isn't it? I can tell you approximately where Exegol is, but you need the wayfinder for precise navigation." And then he burst out in laughter.

    "What is the matter?" Finn demanded.

    "The wayfinder."

    "That's what we were looking for in the Death Star ruins."

    "It was there. I destroyed it."

    "But the book said it was one of two."

    "I had the other one. It was in my ship. That's the irony. Rey has it now."

    "We have to find her!"

    "I can try my bond again, but somehow, I doubt it'll get un anywhere."

    "What will she do with it?" Jannah asked.


    "On what?"

    "On what she'll do with herself."
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  2. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    The Falcon's ramp came down to let in the harsh white sunlight and spring forest scents. Poe disembarked first with Chewier, followed by Ben with his hands bound, and Finn and Jannah, weapons raised, bringing up the rear.

    A large crowd had gathered on the landing pad, and as soon as he emerged, murmurs passed over it.

    "I don't believe it."

    "How did he do it?"

    "He doesn't look that scary."

    Ben didn't pay attention to the conversations about him. The one person he expected to see, whose presence he anticipated and dreaded the most, wasn't there. Instead, he had to face another familiar figure.

    "Dammit," Lando Calrissian snapped, clenching his face. "You look so much like him."

    Ben nodded. "I'm sorry, Uncle Lando."

    "Sorry ain't gonna cut it, kid."

    Ben nodded again, and glanced at Lando's holster. "If turning that blaster on myself would help destroy Palpatine, I would gladly do it. But that's not how it works."

    "Finally got a little wisdom into yourself, I see."

    Ben couldn't spot the speaker at first, until some of the crowd parted to let the diminutive figure through. He knew who this was, though he'd never met her, from his Dad's and Chewie's tales.

    "You're Maz Kanata."

    "And you're Ben Solo.

    "Come here," she gestured, and Ben knelt to bring his head to her level. She lifted the goggles and peered into his eyes.

    "You still have a hunger in you." That prompted concern from Lando and Finn, who moved their hands to weapons. Maz waved them away. "Not for power, not anymore."

    "I thought power would mean no one could hurt me."

    "And you learned that the greatest pain is the one you inflict upon yourself."

    "So there's no way?"

    "To avoid pain entirely? Not until you pass on into the Force." She looked amused. "Which you just said you do not wish to do just yet."

    "That's... not quite what I said."

    "It's what you meant. The hunger. Any hunger can destroy you, not just the one for power. Tread carefully, young Solo. The path of light is not smoother than that of darkness."

    The words from Kanata reminded Ben of things Uncle Luke taught him and the other students at the Jedi school--and to Ben's greatest surprise yet, no hatred boiled up at the thought of Luke's betrayal. He could use the memory to call up the dark side on command, but now... it was just sad. Even the details of the memory itself seemed different.

    Maz interrupted his thoughts.

    "Ask," she commanded.

    "What happened to the Force Bond?"

    "You changed. She changed. The Bond needs to change, too."

    "Not very clear."

    "You remember what it's like. Pull on that memory. It will give you more than my words can." She turned away. "I must go now."

    Ben turned to Lando. "You people have done quite a job on them," Lando accused. "I'm told there's no place for prisoners because the Resistance never needed one."

    "I can't run from myself."

    "Running ain't why you're not trusted."

    "Can I just... see her?"

    Lando looked into his eyes for a long time. "Come on." Finn and Jannah bracketed him and moved across the Resistance base.

    "You're back!" Someone exclaimed, and leaped at Finn, embracing him. "We were so worried."

    "We're good, Rose," Finn said. "Oh, sorry," he turned to Jannah. "Jannah, Rose Tico. Rose, Jannah. She's like me. A stormtrooper deserter."

    "Nice to meet you," Rose shook Jannah's hand. She then assessed the group. "Where's Rey? And who--" she realized who she was seeing and reached for her blaster.

    "Rose, no!"

    "You're the Supreme Leader."

    "He surrendered."

    "Then throw him in the brig."

    "I will go there," Ben said, "after I see my mother."

    Dr. Kalonia cast a worried look at Rose. "Lando agreed to this?"

    Ben stood over the immobile body of his mother, tears streaming from his eyes. "I'm sorry, mom," he whispered, and kissed her on the forehead. "I'm so sorry."

    He faced them. "What was that about?" Rose asked.

    "She's still alive."

    "I knew that," Kalonia said. "But she's like a coma patient. Barely any brain activity."

    "I tried to reach her in the Force."

    "Did you?"



    "I don't know what it means!" he exclaimed. He let a droid part float in mid-air between them and spun it rapidly. "Thinks like that--I can do just as well as I ever did. But anything mental--Rey, her--just doesn't go through." He snorted. "You won't have to worry about me mind-tricking the guards."

    "Is that a plea for pity?"

    "It's a plea for knowledge." The realization hit him. "Oh. Oh. That's what she meant."


    "I'll tell you when I understand."

    Rose shrugged. "You can understand in a cell."


    Rose gestured and several Resistance troopers fell in besides them, convoying Ben out of the medical tent and across the landing field to a battered Corellian corvette. He gout a laugh when he had to point out the way to the brig for the escort.

    "He says he can't do the mind trick anymore, but I don't trust him," Rose said to the guards. "Keep an eye on each other."

    The cell was the barest minimum--four bunks, and a large canteen of water near the head for each. Ben spotted two security cameras instantly, and there were probably more.

    Or maybe there aren't. The First Order would definitely have more, but this wasn't the First Order. Ben drank some water, then stretched out on the bottom bunk and closes his eyes. Again, he tried to connect with Rey in the Force. Again, he failed. He was in the middle of another attempt to reach Leia when sleep overtook him.

    When he awoke, Ben found that his canteen had been refilled, and several ration bars had been left next to it. He ate the food quickly, still consumed by his thoughts. The Force had definitely changed, and he was not able to reach either Rey or his mother.

    The Force hasn't changed. You changed.

    He knocked on the brig door. A shutter opened, revealing the face of a Bith guard.

    "What do you want?"

    "Can I speak to Finn?"

    "That's General Finn," the Bith said.

    Ben smiled. "Tell him he deserves it. And tell him I want to speak with him."

    "And if he refuses?"

    Ben opened his arms. "I can't make him."

    "I'll pass it on, First Order," the Bith said and sealed the viewport.

    Ben had to wait for about a half hour before the door opened. Finn stepped in, blaster rifle in hand. "This better be important."

    "You heard from Rey?" Ben asked.

    "No." He shook his head. "You?"

    "No. I think it's the will of the Force at work."

    Finn scowled. "Is that useful?"

    "Maybe. Maybe I need to do something."

    "If you think you can smooth-talk us to let you go--"

    "That would be futile. But I came up with an idea of doing something from here."

    "Involving me?"

    Ben nodded. "Ever thought about helping others do what you did?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "Other stormtroopers. Break the First Order conditioning."

    "Thought? Of course. But it never looked possible--I was unique."


    "It all makes sense. We have the Force."

    "So do I, and I was trapped. But now that you know it's the Force--it can be used."

    Finn considered. "Sneaking onto a Star Destroyer isn't easy."

    "Speaking from experience?" Ben grinned.

    Finn snorted. "You know I am."

    "That's where I can help, so you don't have to infiltrate anywhere."


    "Remember Luke Skywalker on Crait?"

    "He wasn't really there."

    "The body wasn't. It's not your crude matter that broke away from the Order in the first place. It won't be crude matter that will persuade others."

    "I don't know how to do that."

    "I do."

    Finn considered. "And you want to teach me."

    "Eventually, maybe. But I don't think there's time. Is Jannah still here?"

    "She is. You want her in this, too?"

    "She did the same thing you did. My idea is that we--all three of us--join our minds in the Force. I will let you project, you two can pull out the brainwashing, and between the three of us, we can share the strength so that no one dies from the effort."


    "Like Luke. He was alone. But Rey and I could project to each other."

    "Isn't that because of a bond?"

    "Bonds are made and broken. I wouldn't force it even if I could. It's up to you and Jannah."

    "I'll speak with her," Finn said, and left the cell.
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  3. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    "Are you serious?"

    "You'll be there, watching me," Finn told Rose.

    "That's just it. Watching. I don't have the Force."

    "We all have the Force."

    Rose replied to Ben's interruption with a glare. "I just don't like him poking around in your mind."

    "I promise to keep any secrets I discover to myself."

    "Very reassuring," Rose growled.

    "Where's Jannah?"

    "Sorry. I was held up. We really doing this?"

    "I can try myself the first time."

    "No," Jannah shook her head. "I'm ready."

    Finn input the access code to unlock the brig door. Rose unslung her blaster and stood outside at the ready as he and Jannah entered.

    "What do we do?"

    "Sit down," Ben instructed, illustrating what he meant as he took a cross-legged position against the wall. "Closer," he said. "Take my hands."

    Finn did so from Ben's left side. On the right was the bunk, so Jannah had to reach from above.

    "Close your eyes and remember the moment of your defection."

    "You were there," Finn said.

    "That will not help. Remember what you felt. Remember how you realized you would not comply with the order."

    "And then?"

    "We'll have to let the Force guide us," he said. "Concentrate."

    Finn did... and then his memory of that night on Jakku blurred and was briefly overlaid with another view of the same place, but seen differently. He saw Phasma, Poe, the old man... and himself, in the stormtrooper uniform with a bloody handprint over the helmet.

    "Sorry. I told you it wouldn't help." Ben's--Kylo's--memory vanished from his mind, to be replaced by another. Stormtroopers were convoying a large huddle of prisoners down a corridor in a Star Destroyer, and he felt the anxiety and the fear of what was about to happen.

    Except Finn knew this wasn't his experience, his feelings, though he understood them. Briefly, he remembered his recent ordeal--very similar, but he'd been the prisoner--

    And everything went black, and collapsed in on itself. They were back in the Tantive IV brig, having fallen down. Rose was pointing her gun at them, and the cell was filled with laughter.

    Ben's laughter. The former Supreme Leader brayed with no semblance of control whatsoever.

    "What the hell?" Jannah demanded, overcoming the humor's contagion through sheer force of will.

    "Enough!" Rose shouted. "What could be so amusing?"

    Ben managed to stop to get one word out. "Hux."

    "General Hux?"

    "He was our spy."

    "What?!" Rose exclaimed.

    "That's what I said."

    "So that's how you got the Falcon back," Ben finally stopped laughing.

    "I still don't see the humor."

    Ben laughed again. "It's the reason Hux gave them," he said.


    Finn produced a laugh of his own. "He said that he didn't care if we won. He wanted him--" and pointed at Ben, "--to lose."

    When that sank in, Jannah joined in the laughter. Within a few seconds, so did Rose.

    It took several minutes for anyone to regain composure. "He's probably dead," Ben declared, cutting off the merriment.

    Everyone had to breath deeply to recover themselves. "Want to try this again?"

    Jannah clicked her tongue. "Any other tripwires?"

    "I don't think so," Finn said. "You?"

    She shook her head. "Let's do it."

    "Focus on the moment you made the choice. In fact, focus on the feelings behind it, rather than the event itself."

    Finn closed his eyes and clasped Ben's hand. The Force made a tense link with him, and through him, with Jannah. Finn recalled everything again--Jakku, the prisoners, Phasma's order. This intermixed with other events he'd not been a part of, but he remembered Ben's instruction to focus on feelings rather than details. He could ask Jannah later.

    He found himself floating in the void, but there were flashes of all sorts of events, coming too fast to grasp. On planets, aboard ships, and even in the deep vacuum of space, life went by. He felt like his mind was being hurled across the galaxy.

    He concentrated to try to find Jannah. She was far away, but experiencing much the same things, and whose mind was the first to receive the tiny slice of existence became indistinguishable. He remembered their goal, and focus returned. He was getting closer to Jannah, but they weren't heading straight for each other. They were conversing on something.

    In a flash of light, he plunged into the blue-white swirls of hyperspace, and finally saw the traveling Resurgent-class Star Destroyer. He gasped when he accelerated towards it, but of course, his mind simply went through the hull and continued into the interior, finally stopping in the familiar location of one of the trooper barracks, among rows of neatly made bunk beds.

    Next to Jannah, who was looking about in wonder and fascination.

    "Hands up!" a voice baked from behind.

    Finn put his hands on his hips and glowered. "I wouldn't shoot if I were you, FR-6081."

    The stormtrooper narrowed here eyes. "How'd you--"

    "I used to be FN-2187," Finn continued.

    "The traitor?"

    Finn ignored the remark. "Now I'm Finn. This is Jannah."

    "Formerly known as JZ-1719," she supplied.

    "JZ?" someone asked.

    "They told us you were dead."

    "They lied," Finn snapped. "They lie about everything. They do not deserve your loyalty."

    "Shut up, traitor!"

    That's when a blaster shot rang out. Finn instinctively winced as the bolt sped at him, and just went through. He glanced behind, noting the scared face of another trooper nearly killed by his comrade.

    "They're Jedi!"

    "Spread out!" Finn commanded, and the scared soldier was the first to leap away--just in time to avoid more bolts as they penetrated his and Jannah's projections.

    THe two turned towards the shooters, who stopped and stared in astonishment.

    "Jannah," he said. "Now."

    He closed his eyes and imagined the impulse not to kill Jakku villagers as a hammer. He smashed that hammer into the crowd of troopers, knowing that Jannah was doing the same with her impulse to desert. The effort put him out of breath, and he staggered back. Jannah held him up, which oddly worked as they leaned on each other. Projections can interact with other projections. Good to know, Ben's voice echoed in his head.

    "What... what happened?" FR-6081 mumbled.

    "We gave you some of what made us leave," Jannah explained.

    "Your conditioning broke," Finn elaborated. "You are free."

    "Free to do what?"

    "They'll come--"

    The barracks' door opened to admit a First Order officer with a squad of gray-armored internal security troopers behind him. "What's the meaning--?"

    Blaster fire erupted. Finn winced as the invaders fell. "I don't like this."

    "What, did you think they could be won over?" Jannah asked, pointing at the corpses at the door.

    "Some, maybe," Finn said. "We'll never find out, now."

    "We have to leave," FR-6081 declared. "They'll flood this with knockout gas."

    "Hang on!" someone shouted. "We haven't decide--"

    "Then stay and get reprogrammed!"

    "We won't force anyone," Jannah said.

    "We're leaving," FR-6081 did a quick headcount, muttering to herself. "Ten people per escape pod--"

    "You mean you plan to run?"

    "That's what you did."

    "I was one person. Jannah was one company. It's time to think bigger."


    "There are more of us, and with your along, channeling the Force in that direction is easier." They didn't seem to understand. "Like I said--no one will force you. And it is a risk. You can run, we can cause enough chaos so that you succeed, and the Resistance will welcome you.

    "Or you can go to the adjoining barracks and help us free them. And the next, and the next. Until we have enough to take over this ship."

    A nudge came through Finn's mind. "Did you feel that?"

    Jannah nodded. "It's your lives at risk. It's your decision. We'll be back in a little."

    Finn took Jannah's hand, closed his eyes, and imagined letting go of the Force. THe touch of Jannah's hand vanished. He opened his eyes and was greeted by the view of the Tantive IV's brig cell.

    "You guys alright?" Rose asked.

    All three of them had foreheads glistening with perspiration, and Finn felt as exhausted as he had after some battles. "The Force does not give results for free," Ben said.

    "You wanted us to return," Finn frowned.


    "But we were going to free more!" Jannah exclaimed.

    "I was listening. They haven't decided yet."

    "I doubt they'll run," Finn said.

    "If they do, we can try my idea on another ship."

    "Your idea?" Rose inquired.

    "You and your memories," Ben pointed to Jannah and Finn, "are what provides the initial trigger. So yes, you're going back. But once the mutiny starts, you won't be able to contribute much. Projection of a blaster bolt will do no damage."


    "So, at that point, we should switch roles. You use the Force to support my projection onto the Hundredth Talon."

    "The WHAT?" Rose demanded.

    "That's the name of the ship they've been on."


    "It used to be Voidmaker," he said. "But it's registry number is 689-100. 689 identifies the specific variant of the ship as well as the yard that produced it, and 100 is the sequential number."


    "The name change was a thank you to the crew of the ship when its former commander was promoted to admiral."

    "I still don't get it."

    "I don't remember this."

    "It was after you left. Kind of a joke, but they liked it. You see, that commander's name is Weidi Claw. 'A Claw has many talons,' as she put it. Hundred is an exaggeration," he assured them. "It's more like thirty."

    "Is she any good?" Jannah asked.

    "She's dead," he replied, and didn't go into specifics.

    "So you want to project there," Finn turned the conversation. "Why?"

    "To appear as Supreme Leader," he said. "I can give them override codes, and I can give pointless orders to those who don't want to join to make their response ineffective."

    "But you need us."

    "If I'm not going to die, like Luke did."

    "And if that's the price we asked you to pay?" Rose demanded.

    "If it was a question of final defeat of Palpatine? Absolutely. For one ship? No."

    "Others risk it--"

    "Risk, not certainty. It's a very big difference. Give me a fighter and a lightsaber, and I'll fly to that ship to help any mutiny you want." He smiled when Rose snorted. "You might have to acquiesce to the idea."

    "Not yet."

    "Very well. Then let's return and see what FR-6081 decided." He nodded at Finn and Jannah. "It gets easier with practice."

    "You've never done this," Finn told him.

    "I haven't found a Force technique that's an exception to that. Unfortunately."

    "Unfortunately?" Jannah asked in surprise.

    "Works for everything you do with the Force. Light or Dark."

    Turbolift doors opened and Kylo Ren strode onto the bridge of the Hundredth Talon, into the chaos of the effort the command crew were making to keep control.

    "Supreme Leader!" Captain Freen quickly saluted.

    Kylo stared him down. "You seem to be unable to deal with a mutiny, Captain."

    "We are putting it down, Supreme Leader. I have signaled the rest of the fleet. They're on the way."

    "Captain!" a junior officer called out. "There has--"

    "You were not given permission to speak, Ensign," Kylo snapped.

    "Sir, we are still in control."

    "My trip up here puts that in doubt. Captain, you're relieved. Commander Nurla, your assessment."

    The executive officer gulped. "If they wanted to destroy the ship, they already would have, sir. As long as we have this bridge, we're in control. Turbolaser batteries are on alert for any launched escape pods." She shuddered. "What could have come over them?"

    "Autopsies might tell the story," Kylo suggested.

    "Captain--er, Commander," the same ensign who interrupted before approached. "Ma'am--sir--permission to speak?"

    "Denied," Kylo barked.

    "But they--"

    "Arrest him," he jerked his hand at a pair of waiting security troopers. "Insubordination will not be tolerated."

    They moved to seize him. "What the hell?" several voices exclaimed.

    Kylo and Commander Nurla turned to see a pair of TIE fighters rise in front of the bridge transparisteel viewport.

    "I've been trying to tell--" the ensign shouted.

    The TIE fighters opened fire. Wind howled and the vacuum of space sucked everything unconnected out, including the crew. Kylo was, of course, unaffected, being only there as a Force-projected image. He approached one of the consoles and read out the updated status text.


    Perfect. That part of the ship was already in the hands of the risen stormtroopers. He sat down in the captain's chair and looked at the stars without any obstruction. An intraship comm hologram popped up from a projector on his left, displaying the figure of a helmeted stormtrooper.

    "Crew of the Hundredth Talon, we greet you," the figure said. Then it reached up and took off the helmet, revealing the face of a young woman, bright-eyed, determined. The hologram expanded, showing more troopers pulling off their helmets. "Today, we were allowed to see that the First Order is a lie. We refuse to serve the lie, and now that we control this ship, we do not have to. Any who do not wish to join us may surrender to be dropped off on a neutral planet."

    The Talon shuddered slightly and then the stars ahead turned to starlines as they went to lightspeed.

    "Feels good, doesn't it?"

    Ben Solo blinked at the figure sitting in the executive officer's chair. He didn't even try to avoid tears. "Mom. I--"

    She didn't look the way she did in the Resistance propaganda holos--stately and dignified with age. Rather, she looked younger than he'd ever known her, her dark brown hair without a single strand of gray woven into a thick braid, dressed in the uniform of the old Rebel Alliance.

    "I don't understand."

    She pinched the uniform and smiled. "I'm not really here, and it fits the circumstances."

    "I'm not either."

    "I know, Ben."

    "You can't have the strength--"

    "You went looking for me. Here I am."

    He shook his head. "I still don't understand."

    "I'm not projecting like you," she said. "That would be beyond my strength."

    "Can... can I help?"

    "You already have. Seeing you, like this, having overcome the dark side--"

    "But you're still--"

    "--comatose? That cannot be helped."

    "You will die."

    "When was I unwilling to pay with my life for a better galaxy?"

    I... I never understood, mom." He considered what she said again. "What do you mean, it fits the circumstances?"

    She laughed. "This whole hijacking--it just reminds me so much of what your dad and I did with the Harbinger."

    "I never heard that story."

    "You will. Dad and I had a race to see who'd take control first. I won--"

    "Is that how'd he'd tell it?"

    Leia laughed again. "Unlikely." She turned serious. "Ben, you're doing good. And like I said, it feels good. But you must be careful."


    "If you start doing things for the sort of thrill you got here, instead of doing them to help people, it'll lead you back where you started. The dark side will give you what you ask, but not so it makes you happy."

    Tears poured down Ben's cheek. "I know, mom."

    "Don't forget it, then. My time is coming soon."

    "Mom, you can't--"

    "Don't tell me what I can and can't do, young man. No one ever did. I will die, Ben. So will you, one day."


    "There's Palpatine's route, of course."

    He almost vomited. "No."

    "Then you have to keep going, despite all. Always worrying if you're doing the right thing, or for the right reasons, and always knowing that sooner or later, it will be over."

    "I will, mom."

    "I love you."

    "I know."

    "So much like him," he heard a whisper as she faded off the bridge. Then the ship itself vanished, and Ben found himself back on Tantive IV. His body ached from exhaust and he fell on his stomach. Finn and Jannah had to pull him to sit and support him. They were drenched in sweat themselves, but seemed slightly better.

    "What were you doing? I thought the hijacking was over."

    "I talked to mom."

    Rose jerked up. "To General Leia? But she's still--"

    "In the Force. Oh, damn!"

    "What is it?" Jannah asked.

    "I should have asked her about Rey. I need..."

    "None of you are doing anything with the Force right now," a new voice intruded.

    "Uhm..." Finn started.

    Dr. Kalonia stopped at the cell door, with Chewbacca standing nearby. "Help them," she ordered Rose. "I want these three in sickbay ASAP. Stun them if you have to, Chewie. I know all about Jedi stubbornness. The Force does not give infinite stamina, and it doesn't exempt you from needing to take care of your bodies."

    Chewbacca picked Ben up with one arm, Finn with the other, and carried them over the shoulders. Rose and Kalonia linked hands and lifted Jannah into a sitting carry, and together, the small group marched down the Tantive IV's corridors past the surprised crew busy prepping the old corvette for flight once again.
  4. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    "No!" an anguished cry from Connix brought Poe and everyone else's heads in the comm tent up. When he approached, Kaydel wordlessly pointed at the map display for the vicinity of Ajan Kloss. In orbit, almost right on top of them, was the unmistakable shape of a First Order Star Destroyer. Shouts from outside told Poe this was not a computer glitch.

    "Run!" he ordered. "They might not bother blasting the whole forest."

    "Uhm--General," Connix, still wide-eyed, rapidly worked switches in her comm gear. "They want to speak to us."


    "They're asking for Finn and Jannah, actually. Where are they, anyway?"

    "Right here," Finn interrupted from behind. He looked very tired, and next to him, Rose radiated concern. "Yeah," he said upon a glance at the display. "The Hundredth Talon."

    "Don't ask," Rose said.

    "May I?"

    Connix nodded. "Hundredth Talon, this is Finn. Is everything alright?"

    "Well, our attempt to convince others didn't work. Every transmission from us to the First Order is being jammed."

    "Give it time."

    "So it's just us, unfortunately. But we wish to join."

    Poe stared between Finn and the comm unit. "What is going on?"

    "We--Ben, Jannah, and I--"

    "Ben? You mean--"

    Finn nodded, but raised his hand. "We used the Force to break their conditioning. It's exhausting, but it works--at least in this case. Nice work."

    "I picked a name, by the way," the woman formerly called FR-6081 said.

    "What is it?"

    "Freya. Took the letters, like you. I think it fits."

    "Then, Freya, welcome to the Resistance. In fact, I think we have a perfect use for your ship."

    "Infiltration? Won't do," Freya said glumly. "Fleetwide order went out almost the moment we jumped to lightspeed. We're traitors, to be killed on sight."

    "No, I expected that. Your tractor beams in good order?"

    "They are," Freya assured him.


    "Excuse me, but who's this?"

    "General Poe Dameron," Poe introduced himself.

    "General, I'll be blunt. I don't know you, and given what we just got out of, it's hard to trust. Neither running nor fighting by ourselves seemed good ideas, but this doesn't mean we'll be just doing everything you say."

    "Understood perfectly. We don't have much to give you right now--"

    "We want Finn."


    "He and Jannah freed us. We trust them. We'll accept Resistance orders through him. Jannah, I understand, isn't actually one of you."

    "Let's leave the pedantry to the First Order."

    Freya laughed.

    Poe frowned. "I don't like this much. You by yourself--"

    "Not by myself," Rose declared. "I'm going with you."

    Finn shook his head. "Not that I wouldn't like your company, but I have another idea, and you'd be better there. Don't worry. It'll all come together on Exegol."

    "Exegol?" Freya asked.

    "That's right. We learned where it is, and how to get there. So we're taking out the heart of Sith power."

    "Wow," Freya said. "And I thought seizing a Destroyer was ambitious."

    "I'll join you," Finn told her. "On one condition."


    "Ben Solo," Finn said.

    "Kylo Ren, you mean."

    "If you're interested, debate it with him yourself. Even if we wanted to, we can't spare the guards. I'm sure he'll find a way to get to Exegol by himself, and the Force tells me he needs to be there. He'd helped you get the Talon."

    "We'd manage ourselves."

    "Some wouldn't have made it."

    There was a long pause. "Very well," Freya finally said. "I'll send a shuttle down--for both of you. You have to win this."

    "Wrong, Captain Freya," Finn said.


    "We have to win this. You know the First Order. If we lose, no one will care if we joined five years or five minutes ago."

    Allegiant General Enric Pryde had gotten to where he was now by treating every moment of his life as if he was on duty. He hadn't been more than five minutes away from being fully uniformed since his cadet days, and never more than a minute when not formally on leave. So when the Steadfast's comm officer woke him up, it did not disconcert him, only tickled his curiosity. Things were running smoothly, preparations to launch the Sith Fleet from Exegol almost complete.

    He straightened the uniform and knelt on the holotransmission pad. The expanded bluish transparent form of Palpatine loomed over him.

    "How may I serve you, my Emperor?" he said.

    "Kylo Ren has proven himself unreliable. You are now Supreme Leader of the First Order, Allegiant General Pryde."

    "Thank you, your Majesty. Do you wish me to hunt him down, like I did with Hux?"

    "No. He is still dangerous, and I will deal with him in time myself. Continue the preparations. The forces will merge and once again enforce the rule of the Galactic Empire. And you will command this forces--unless you fail me."

    "Yes, my Emperor."

    "I am entrusting you with another task, General. An encoded file has been sent, sealed with your personal code. Inside are coordinates to a warehouse world, and what I want you to retrieve from there and bring to Exegol with all possible speed.

    "Once you have it, destroy the planet and all records that it ever existed."

    Pryde heard the datapad chime. "Of course, your Majesty."

    "Report when it is done and you are on your way with the item. Do not fail me, General Pryde." And with that, the hologram vanished.

    Pryde rose and picked up the datapad. The arrived file was not indicated to be special in any way, and was named with a meaningless string of letters. He drew his rank cylinder from the uniform's breast pocket and took off his glove to give it a biometric reading. A series of numbers lit up on the cylinder's side, providing a temporary decryption key. Pryde tapped it into the datapad, and the file opened.

    "Kriff," he said. He never liked the Emperor's dabbling in mysticism, and though he respected Lord Vader as a combat pilot who'd done the impossible on behalf of the Empire, he always wished--though never foolishly enough for someone to overhear and have it get back to Vader--that the fearsome black-clad figure was in the official military structure. This was absolutely one of those times. He was certain the Empror knew about his dislike, though what Palpatine thought about it was a mystery. He wasn't going to voice his opinion now. The Republic, Rebellion, and Resistance wallowed in far more dangerous mysticism, which killed two of the three already, and Pryde would be the architect of destruction for the third. There were already rumors that former Senator Leia Organa, Darth Vader's daughter, was dead. He would wait for proof before celebrating, but the thought cheered him up.

    So, the Emperor wanted to continue his research, and ordered Pryde to bring it to him. There was only one thing to do. Obey.

    "This is a hare-brained idea," Freya declared. They hadn't had time to repair the viewports on the main bridge; operating from the secondary command center deep within the ship only added to the claustrophobia.

    Artoo-Detoo rolled up and whistled a little.

    "That's not a contradiction," Finn told the droid.

    "What did he say?"

    "It's Poe's idea," Ben Solo told her.

    "Did you know him, sir--er--I mean--"

    Finn wasn't sure how--or even if--he could diffuse the awkwardness. Other liberated stormtroopers tended to either be angry at the former Supreme Leader, or still afraid of him. Freya did neither.

    "From before I had gone over? Not really. And we were both kids. But when you fight someone for a year, even indirectly, you get a feel for him."

    "That works both ways."

    "Never said it didn't."

    The Sith Fleet was waiting in Exegol's thick, misty atmosphere that hid it, that required all the delicate launch procedures. And that allowed the Talon, having dropped out of lightspeed and instantly cut off all power, to lower itself even deeper and crawl its way around the planet to get underneath the great armada.

    An attack from above was expected and constantly watched for. An attack from below...

    "Mine complex five complete."

    "Understood. Proceed to location six." Poe wanted to use the Talon as the trump card if the rest of the plan failed as well as an augmentation to secure a better victory if it succeeded. If these mines detonated just right, the resulting eruptions from the planet would not just cripple, but wreck the Sith fleet.

    But there would always be some scanning done downwards. And a Star Destroyer wasn't designed for atmospheric--or any other--stealth mode. Freya was in her stormtrooper uniform sans helmet, with a broad orange stripe across each arm. Finn thought she'd put it on just for the gloves, to remove the temptation to bite her nails.

    Then something tingled in his head. He glanced around, but there was no change in anyone--except the suddenly smiling Ben.

    "What is it?"

    "Rey. She's here."

    "She would be. It's how we know the coordinates. Why didn't we feel here before?"

    "We need to go."


    "To help her."

    "She can take care of herself."

    "It's Palpatine," Ben said. "I will--"

    "I can't let you do that."


    "We're tying to hide," Freya declared. "A launch will be detected--"

    "So what am I supposed to do? You won't give me a weapon--"

    "I won't give you a ship, for the same reason."

    "Then not until you've detonated the mines and openly joined the battle?"

    That brought consideration. "We'll be launching fighters anyway."

    "It's too late. I'm going down, not up. Things fall all the time."

    "You need power to land," she said.

    Ben grinned. "We're in atmosphere," he said. "Give me a glider trooper suit."

    "They were discontinued as too dangerous!" Finn exclaimed.

    "Every ship still has a prototype of every piece of equipment used--just in case. Or did that policy change the moment I left? I don't think Hux had the time."

    Freya growled. "We have one," she said. "I knew people killed in training with it."

    He laughed, then lifted one finger. "The most powerful fleet ever assembled," he said and pointed up. "Resurrected Emperor and his Sith cult," he raised another finger and pointed down. A third finger. "Giant mines that'll reshape the planet, and we'll have to set off whether or not we have time to get away." A fourth finger. "The First Order we'll have to fight through to get our sabotage in. And you're concerned about equipment malfunction?"

    Freya parried the outburst. "I can do something about it. The others..."

    "I need to go."

    "So do I--"


    Now Ben and Finn both glared at her. "I can order you--"

    "It's not symbolic. We need to coordinate with the Resistance. You need to stay. As for you, Mr. Solo, can the Force really do the things it is said to do?"

    "Well, I don't know what people are saying, and there are exaggerations. But--" and with a thrust, he extended his arm and Freya's pistol flew out of her holster and into his hand. he tossed it up and made it do several spins in mid-air above his head, then took it back, switched to a lower setting, and fired into the floor. The bolt hung frozen, brightly lit, stuck a downward angle.

    "Three. Two. One," Ben flexed his fingers and the bolt proceeded, impacting with a bang and leaving a scorch mark on the deck.

    "No more demos, Captain. Yes, or no?"

    "Captain? But--"

    "The Talon is your ship," Ben declared "Actual rank--who cares. You're the captain."

    "Captain... I like it. Alright. You can have the glider. I will drop you the moment the battle up there starts."

    "Better hurry, Captain," Finn informed her.

    "I don't see anything," she inspected the IFF screen carefully.

    "Yet. I feel it. I can't show off like him, but I also have the Force."


    "Ben," Finn called as the other man left the command center.


    "May the Force be with you."

    The orbaks scattered from the tongue of fire. "Flamethrower!" Jannah shouted.

    "I see it!" Rose replied, pulling the reins of her mount to get away from the blast. "Aim for the fuel tanks!"

    Jannah raised her bow and fired. There was a flash, but the large turret turned and spat more flame.

    "Shielded!" she said. "No good."

    "Fall back!"

    Rose didn't answer, but drew her comlink. "Poe, we're pinned down. We need to get to that transmitter!"

    "A little busy up here!"

    "We'll try to hold out, but I can't last long. Just destroy the flame cannon!"

    "Incoming!" Jannah yelled.



    Rose looked and her face turned to horror. Four First Order Heavy Lifter transports were descending straight towards them, and she knew how fast they could drop their cargo--and come back for more. The core of the vehicle was a long, narrow hull brimming with powerful engines, and two cross-beams embedded into it at bow and stern. Cargo would be mounted at the ends of each cross-beam, and could be anything the mission commander wanted. Right now, each carried an AT-AT, legs flexed and ready for deployment. Sixteen walkers altogether. A full battalion.


    The Star Destroyer vibrated as the transports impacted the surface and released their load. Orbaks bleated in terror, some riders getting thrown off, unable to control the beasts. The leading rank of walkers took their first steps, leveled their heads, and opened fire.

    The heavy blasters tore through the shields on the flame cannon, and when the fuel tank exploded, it engulfed the rest of the Sith line. "Come on!" Rose rode through her band, rallying them.

    Jannah questioningly stared at the AT-ATs when the viewport on one of them opened to reveal Finn.


    "Finn! You made it! Is the rest--"

    "Freya has the ship." He tossed a coil of cable from the walker's cockpit and slid down it, joining Rose on orbakback. "We're still working on the mines. Thought I'd give you a hand here."

    "But didn't you say you're traitors now? How'd you not get shot down?"

    Finn laughed, but before explaining, glanced back up to the walker and gave the driver a thumbs up. The viewport closed, and the combined group of First Order defectors and Resistance cavalry turned to advance again.

    "What's funny?" Jannah asked as she rosde up.

    "Something we found when we dug into the specifics of the order banishing us as traitors. Because we took over the Talon, that's what it referred to. Thus, it came down Navy channels."

    "So?" Rose asked.

    "People don't wear multiple hats the way they do in the Resistance there. The Talon and our TIES, when they join, will be identified as enemies by the First Order. That's navy." He pointed at the walkers. "These are Army. The order failed to mention them."

    "They'll correct that mistake when they see you shooting at them."

    "Probably," Finn said cheerfully. "As long as the surprise works, why not use it?"

    Something dark flashed up in the periphery of her vision. In the next instant, a bolt whizzed by her head, and Rose turned to fire back. With the aid of Finn's walkers, the Sith defense line broke, and they rushed up the hull of the Star Destroyer.

    "Can't you shoot it out?" she asked, pointing at the AT-ATs and then the comm tower.

    "Shields," Jannah and Finn said in chorus.

    "Turbolaser rated," FInn added. "Have to do it from the inside."

    A strange vibration came through her orbak's feet, and Finn's comlink simultaneously erupted in shouts.

    "What was that?"

    They turned behind to see one of the walkers lying on its side, emitting smoke. Next to it was...

    "Monster!" shouter went from Jannah's riders, Resistance fighters, and Hundredth Talon's troopers alike.

    A stream of lightning erupted off the planet. It was unnatural, flowing up and seeking out vehicles to disable as if hit by ion blasts. The tendrils hit two walkers; one stood ungracefully on three legs, the other toppled over and must have it something, since its neck exploded.

    Even the monster seemed distracted for a moment, though it quickly turned and rushed straight at them.

    The thing was an enormous, scaled bronze-green serpent with three pairs of wings spaced evenly along its thirty-meter body, and which it now used to greatly increase its speed. Electricity pulsed on the tip of its tail, and on two tentacle-like appendages on the crown of its head. Occasionally, it spat gobs of liquid that produced spots of corrosion on metal and killed people and orbaks.

    "What the hell is that?" Finn shouted.

    Jannah raised her bow and fired two bolts in rapid succession. THe first uselessly deflected off the monster's scaled flank, the second caused it to reel up, as it cracked one of its poison spitting teeth. When it lowered its head again, the woman from Kef Bir released a steady well-aimed third shot, which went right in the monster's eye.

    But the creature's momentum was too great to stop before it reached them, and it looked to be in the throes of a new frenzy. Rose yanked the reins, making her orbak rise on its hind legs and leap out of the way, Finn having to grab onto her to hold on. But Jannah, whom the monster snake seemed to target directly, fared worse. She managed to swing her left leg over to avoid getting bit when it chomped its jaws on her orbak's flank, but her right was still in the stirrup at the moment. So when the creature yanked its head up to swallow, Jannah got hurled away with all the power of the monster's neck muscles. She slid helplessly across the hull of the Star Destroyer and fell over the edge down towards the planet.

    "Jannah!" Finn shouted in terror, and leapt off the orbak to grab onto the snake's scales. Rose instinctively dodged in the next second when the monster's tail stabbed at her and electrocuted her mount, killing it instantly and leaving Rose in pain from the current transmitted through the orbak's body. To even greater horror, the snake sprung forward, expanding all three pairs of wings to fly off the ship after Jannah, apparently not noticing that Finn was on its back. They plunged out of view.

    Tears, sweat, and blood mixed on Rose's face. Still stiff from the jolt of electricity, she got to her feet and picked up a blaster rifle.

    People stared at her. Stormtroopers with hastily painted orange stripes on their arms, Kef Bir riders, a few Resistance soldiers. Only with the last group did she have any legitimacy of leadership. The others had been following Finn and Jannah, who--

    She squeezed tears out of her eyes with a tight clench of eyelids and put rage on her face. It was not hard to summon.

    "See that?" she lifted the blaster and actually fired. "If we don't destroy the transmitter, Finn and Jannah died for nothing!" She grabbed the reins of a spare orbak and hurled herself into the saddle. "Do you want that?! NO?! Then follow me!"

    She flipped the blaster to rapid fire and unleashed a stream of bolts as she galloped forward towards the Sith line. She didn't look back to see if anyone followed her.
  5. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    Finn didn't know how much longer he could hold on. The monster was plunging down to Exegol, for some reason having chosen Jannah as the most desirable thing to eat. He'd already nearly fallen when he pried loose a scale and fired his pistol--the only weapon he still had with him--into the gap. The creature writhed in pain and almost managed to throw him off, but wasn't hurt otherwise. The only possible way to kill it required getting to the head. He climbed up along its back, but apparently, the electric tentacles on its head had a sensory apparatus, since as soon as he got close enough, they twisted back to shock him.

    Red bolts rushed past him, and he held on tighter, knowing that if it got hit, there'd be more writhing. That came in the next instant; Finn pressed himself closer to the monster's back. Then the serpent stretched out its wings slowed down the descent, and resumed horizontal flight.


    Jannah's voice shocked him. Now that the flying was less erratic, he lifted himself up, careful to always keep the grip on the scales with both hands. He saw an X-Wing, flying backwards on repulsors, with Jannah in the opened cockpit. "Since when do you know how to fly?"

    "I'm not! Artoo is!"

    The blue astromech beeped from its slot behind the pilot. "I can't use my bow from this seat, and Artoo says he can't shoot the cannons." There was a correcting chirp. "He doesn't want to hit you!"

    "What do we do?"

    "Jump, and we'll fly off and blast it!"

    But at this point, the snake turned and struck with its electric tail. The X-Wing fell away, and with a last, desperate beep, something flew out of Artoo. Then the beast plunged down again, forcing Finn to grab on tightly.

    He watched the object Artoo shot and extended his hand, trying to summon the Force. The thing changed its trajectory, but not accurately enough, and whizzed by when Finn lost concentration from a stream of raindrops they flew through. He focused again, closing his eyes to filter out as much as he could, the way he sometimes saw Rey do when she concentrated on the Force.

    The metal thing smacked into his hand. Opening his eyes, Finn saw that it was a lightsaber. Not one he'd ever seen before, and he briefly wondered where it came from.

    Repulsor engines roared again nearby. Finn saw the X-Wing, but it was almost fifty meters away, keeping the distance from the monster.

    Artoo must have made some repairs, the thought. Then he put everything except the snake out of his mind.

    Holding on with one hand, he bent his legs and with push, thrust his torso forward, into the range of the head tentacles. They swung forward and Finn activated the lightsaber at the last moment. The green blade sliced through the electric tips, and the serpent roared in pain, buckling to try to throw Finn off. But he pulled up, climbing forward further and further, and finally reached the base of the head. He drew the lightsaber again, placed the emitter to the spot he judged would be the closest to the monster's brain, and pressed the activator.

    The writhing was powerful, instant, and directionless. Finn fell, and barely managed to avoid slicing himself before he turned the saber off. A second later, he hit something with his back and was pulled into a sitting position with a pair of powerful arms.

    "Let's get out of here, Artoo," Jannah said, and they turned away after flying past the monster the last time, watching it fall in death throes.

    "What do you mean, no fuel?"

    Artoo produced a string of text on the readout display. The shock damaged the lines. I plugged, but not perfectly. Atmosphere alright. We're not spaceworthy.

    "Then I guess we have to land."

    "On Exegol?" Jannah asked.

    "No choice. Where did this X-Wing come from, anyway, Artoo?"

    It's Rey's.

    "Then let's go back where you found it and help her."

    Finn extended his lightsaber and peered down. "It's fine," he called to Jannah, who was climbing after him. "Four meters." He took a breath and leapt.

    Pain pierced both his feet on impact, but he kept his balance and didn't break anything.

    "Come on, Jannah."

    In the next instance, everything around them shook with great force. Walls broke, rocks splintered and flew through the cave as projectiles. The ledge Jannah stood on cracked and she fell with a yelp.

    Finn reacted to catch her, and they huddled together, compacting themselves under the barrage. It felt like it lasted forever, though when Finn glanced at his chrono, not even a minute passed. He rose and winced in pain, feeling heavy bruises in several places.

    "You alright?"

    Jannah nodded and coughed up a mouthful of stone dust. There was a bleeding gash on her forehead, walking appeared just as painful to her as was to him, but she did it. Finn handed her a canteen.

    "Oh, no," she murmured.


    She picked up the pieces of her bow and showed to him. "I don't have the tools to repair it here."

    Finn unstrapped the holster with his pistol and gave it to her. "You need a weapon."

    "What about you?"

    He tapped the lightsaber. "This is is odd," he said as they resumed the track through the cave.

    "Anything here that's not odd?"

    "The moment we entered that inverted pyramid, we had to start whispering, and even then, it felt better not to talk."

    She nodded and voiced what they both had felt. "Those echoes were creepy. Magnifying the gloom all around, even when it looked impossible."

    "We're not whispering now."

    She considered and managed a smile. "Something happened."

    "Something good."

    "Though I doubt it's because of that."

    The chamber they were in still had a few fires burning, but it was strewn with corpses. Finn recognized the armored, masked figures and the misshapen weapons. "Knights of Ren."

    "Even back in the First Order, I never liked them."

    "Never met any besides Kylo," Finn said.

    "Lucky you."

    Jannah poked at a few bodies, but didn't find any suitable weapons. "Let's go."


    The next cavern was enormous, and opened up to the skies of Exegol where the battle was still raging. The stadium seating at the distant edges was covered in rubble, deep cracks plowed through the rock from the center--from the throne carved out of jagged black stone. And at the base of the throne--

    "Rey!" Finn rushed across the floor, past corpses of Sith bodyguards and dropped to his knees besides her. "No!"

    His friend lay there motionless, staring up with lifeless eyes. Each hand still gripped a lightsaber, but Finn needed barely any effort to unfurl the fingers. He felt for the pulse on one wrist, then, holding out for hope, the other. Nothing.


    "Why?" Jannah asked. "None of the wounds look--"

    "I'll tell you later," someone declared from behind.

    Jannah whipped out the blaster and Finn activated the lightsaber. Ben Solo looked as haggard as they felt, and said nothing more as he approached Rey.

    "What's he doing?"

    "Force healing," Finn recognized the motions as the former Supreme Leader held his hand over Rey's body and closed his eyes to concentrate.

    "You can do that?"

    "You give away some of your life force. But if she's dead--"


    "He's going to give it all."

    "He'll die?"

    "For her."

    "Can we help him?"

    "Do you want to?"

    Jannah stumbled. "Do you?"

    "Listen, if there's anything I know about the Force after a year around Rey, it's that intent matters. You need to be committed, or it won't work."

    Jannah took a deep breath. "I uprooted my life because I refused to be an executioner. I will not become one now."

    "Then remember how we linked together to project to the Talon."

    Jannah nodded and went forward. The two of them each grasped one of Ben's shoulders, backing him up in the effort. Then, Finn opened up to the Force.

    When he came to, it didn't feel any different at first, though once again, he was breathing heavily and his clothes were wet with perspiration. Jannah was equally sweaty and tired, barely shaking on her feet.

    Rey and Ben Solo were in front of them lips locked together in a kiss.

    "You got to be kidding me," Jannah drawled.

    "Let them," Finn shook his head.

    The kiss ended and something painful jolted through the Force, causing Finn, Jannah, and Rey to all wince. Ben drooped away from her and lay on the floor, eyes closed.

    Rey gasped in horror, but then stared in surprise.

    "He's not dead?" she looked at them questioningly. "I can feel him. He's just sleeping. But what was that feeling?"

    "Me, probably," a bemused voice spoke to them. Finn and Rey leaped in recognition before a shimmering figure with a presence far stronger than any hologram appeared in front of them.

    "General Organa."

    "Leia will do. Now that your life force and my son's have mingled, naturally, you have felt my passing."

    "You're dead? Master," Rey added hastily.

    "I'm afraid so, my apprentice. And you are quite right," she told Finn. "This effort would have killed Ben. Thank you."

    "What will we do?" Jannah asked.

    "Trust in yourselves. Trust in the Force. It's your galaxy now. I will be with you. Always."

    She leaned down to give her sleeping son a kiss on the forehead and faded away. Rey, still seemingly disbelieving, touched Ben's neck to feel the pulse. Then, rising, she met Finn and Jannah's eyes.

    "You gave him your life force."

    Jannah nodded.

    Rey pulled them both into a hug and squeezed tightly. "Thank you," she choked through pouring tears. "Thank you. Thank you."

  6. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    "Rose? You alright?"

    Her voice in the comlink cracked--they were retransmitting the signal through Artoo-Detoo's comlink on the surface of Exegol, and even though the dark side energy had dissipated with Palpatine's death and stopped the complete jamming, ordinary blockages remained.

    "Yeah. We did it! We won!"

    "You got the transmitter!"

    "Yeah. But your friends' ship got blasted by their own mines. They have no hyperdrive. What happened down there? One moment we're all getting blasted by lightning--"

    "I'll tell you later. Listen, we need evac. Jannah and I wrecked Rey's X-Wing--"

    "You did what?"

    "Rey!" Rose yelled with delight.

    "Hey." Rey still looked weak, and wouldn't let either Finn or Jannah support her, which they weren't able to do anyway, having to carry Ben. Jannah had checked the route they came in, and told them not to bother. The turbolift platform had been destroyed, and none of them were fit to climb right now.

    "I'll have a ship sent down," Rose promised.

    "Don't forget Artoo."

    "How could I? Rose out."

    "What's that about destroying the X-Wing? It's not mine, you know. It was Master Skywalker's."

    Finn gave a short version. "Any idea what that thing was?"

    "Sith monster. Jedi texts mention it, and Master Skywalker's notes say Palpatine experimented in the area, though they also say he'd never found evidence of it."

    Finn rubbed his torso where the scales left a gash. "We have now. Could there be more of them?"


    "Wonderful," Jannah snarked.

    "Can I see that lightsaber?"

    Finn handed it over. Rey carefully inspected it. "Where did you get it?"

    "Artoo had it. Why?"

    "Makes sense. Well, I never seen it, so it all comes from the dyad bond." She gestured at Ben. "But I think it's Master Skywalker's."

    Finn looked the weapon over. "Really? But then--"

    "Keep it," she said. Their conversation was interrupted by humming engines, and the same First Order cargo transport that they used to bring AT-ATs to aid Jannah's band descended into the throne room. It carried nothing this time, and had to extend fragile-looking landing struts. A door hissed open.

    "You guys coming?"


    Behind the stormtrooper turned captain, Artoo happily beeped. She greeted as they came aboard. "You must be Rey," she said. "Good to meet you."

    "Is everything good with the Talon?"

    "Except the hyperdrive." She shook her head. "The mines' circuitry stopped working when that lightning blasted the fleet, like the others. And when it collapsed--boom. We're going to remove one from the enemy wrecks and install it. I'm no engineer, so I'm doing things to free others up for useful work."

    "Thanks. Nothing behind?" he asked Rey.

    She nodded. "Let's get out of here. Even with him dead, there's more dark side here than I like. Especially for Ben."

    Freya gestured at two of her crewmen. "Take him to sickbay."

    "I'm going with you," Rey declared.

    "What do we do now?"

    Rey lifted eyebrows. "Why are you asking me? The point of the war was so you could decide for yourselves what you want to do."

    "But we could be Jedi," Jannah said. "Couldn't we?"

    "Potentially, yes. But I can't make you. I'll be glad to have you, but if you want to return to Kef Bir, or find your family... well, I certainly understand."

    "But... you didn't like what you found," Finn said.

    Rey laughed. "Oh? I found you, didn't I?"

    "Aww," Rose grinned as a Porg hopped onto her shoulder. "So this is where they come from."

    "Almost like home," Jannah said. "But there's something..."

    Chewbacca roared. "Oh, I'm sure they'll be here."

    As if in reply, the sky thundered and revealed a black spaceship descending towards the island. The First Order shuttle still looked menacing with its tri-wings, despite the fact that the sixteen-rayed emblem had been painted over with the crest of the Jedi Order.

    The ramp lowered and Ben and Rey walked down, hand in hand, Artoo rolling behind them. "Hey, guys," she called.

    They exchanged hugs. "Well, come on," she urged.

    "What about them?" Finn asked, indicating the grey-skinned, white-robed avian aliens going about their chores in the village, but occasionally throwing hostile glances at the visitors.

    "Respect the place, and they'll respect you," Rey insisted. "So, what do you think?"

    "About what?" Finn asked.

    "Does the place feel right? If we are going to rebuild the Jedi Order, I want to start right."

    "And you'll base this on a feeling?"

    "Why not? Your feelings served you well."

    "Mine certainly didn't," Ben countered.

    "Which is why you chose to stay here," she jested.

    "What?" Jannah asked.

    "I could submit to a trial and execution, which would please a lot of people, but produce absolutely no good at all," he said.

    "I'm sure it'll be possible to reduce the sentence to imprisonment," Rose said.

    He met her eyes. "Rey won't be my warden, and without a Jedi, everyone will know I could escape at any time if I wanted. I could go on the run and have people try to kill me everywhere I show up."

    "You could wear a mask," Jannah suggested.

    "Not funny.

    "Kind of is," Rey said, and he glared.

    "The Force is strong here, and few know the location. If someone comes for revenge, I will know in advance. Meanwhile, I can assist the next generation of Jedi."

    "This place will certainly play a role, as it had for all the Jedi in the past. I'm just not sure about this being a good place for a permanent academy. Here we are."

    Rey showed them into one of the huts. Things inside were a wet mess. "What happened?"

    "Storm must have come through. The door... I sort of took it."


    "Because it was made from the S-foil of Luke's X-Wing! I needed to put it back!"

    Ben only shook his head. "Oh, well. At least it's clear what needs to be done first."

    Rey nodded, then squeezed Ben in a tight hug, and followed that with a kiss. "I will return. And we'll decide how to go on. Together."

    Finn shook Ben's hand. "May the Force be with you."

    Chewbacca barked something that made Ben exhale. "You don't have to."

    Artoo chirped something.

    "What?" Ben and Rey exclaimed.

    The droid repeated himself.

    Ben smiled. "Are you sure?"

    An affirmative whistle. "Thanks," Ben said. He made a few more beeps. "Sure, I'll tell Beebee," Rey promised. "Come on."

    The group descended down the stone path and Rey, Jannah, Rose, Finn, and Chewbacca boarded the Millennium Falcon. Chewie growled a frustration as the ship was once again infested with porgs.

    In the cockpit, they saw Ben and Artoo standing on the roof of the First Order shuttle, looking right at them.


    Chewbacca roared.

    "Strap in," she called, and leaned forward to the viewport to meet Ben's eyes. He smiled. She blew him a kiss, and then pulled herself back into the pilot's chair.

    The Wookiee roared a long phrase.

    "Sounds right," Rey suggested and pushed the controls to lift the Falcon off and point her into space. "Let's see what that looks like."
  7. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Force Ghost star 4

    Dec 9, 2001
    Great job! It was fascinating to take a look at how things might have played out differently in TROS from some changed decisions by Ben.

    I also liked seeing how, like the title says, the times when people were alone they couldn't make it through (like Luke on Crait, and in the original version of TROS with Ben giving his life force to Rey), but instead when others helped with the Force projection and life force transfer, they were able to live.

    The idea to break the conditioning of other FO troopers to free them was very interesting, and I hope after Exegol they were able to pursue that activity. I also hope Freya and her group were able to make good lives for themselves.

    The scene when Ben is able to talk with Leia in the Force before she passes is very touching. You also did a great job with Maz's dialogue - that mixture of wise and cryptic is hard to pull off. :)

    Great work! =D=
  8. TheProphetOfSullust

    TheProphetOfSullust Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2003
    Thank you, glad you liked it!

    That was very much the idea -- and also to explore something a bit uncommon: a redeemed Ben navigating the light side without Rey to mediate it.

    I just love the comics that we got exploring the gaps between ANH and ESB, and wanted a reference to them. Also, I'm a firm believer that we never got a reconciliation talk in TROS between Ben and Leia due to Carrie Fisher's death.