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  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Beyond - Legends Enter the Foreign (time travel AU - Anakin Skywalker, Ben Skywalker, Tahiri, Allana, OCs & more)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by ViariSkywalker, Jan 30, 2010.

  1. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Edit: Removed the link to FF.N as it is no longer needed. All previous chapters have been restored to their full length!


    Well, I'm still here. :p

    As I'm sure everyone knows by now, much of this story is missing due to the truncated post issue, and a lot of the punctuation is weird. This is actually not the worst thing for me, since I have yet to finish the next chapter. I know, I know; I had six months, what's wrong with me? As always, I blame DRL and - to some extent - DWB.

    Anyway, I saw that we've been given the okay to post links to our stories on other websites, as long as they're still TOS compliant, so that's what I'm going to do for now. Here you go! (And feel free to respond here; I actually prefer the JC over FF.N when it comes to reader replies. Easier for me to read and respond. But if you'd rather reply over there, that's cool, too.)

    Also, Rew - I did not forget about you! Once posts are fully restored and we get unlimited editing back, I will return and answer your awesome review! Or if it takes a while for those things to happen, I'll come back anyway and respond to as much as I can, since it looks like your post got cut off by the word limit as well. Thank you for taking the time to craft such a thoughtful response! It totally made my day back in February, and it made my day again just rereading what's there. :D
     
    Rew likes this.
  2. Rew

    Rew Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 22, 2008
    Aw, thank you Vi! It's kind of funny, I was just thinking about this fic earlier today and was wondering about it. Glad to see you back around and posting again. :D

    Ha! It's funny--I knew that I'd caught up on this fic and responded earlier this year, but I forgot I had responded at such length! I do get carried away sometimes. ;) But yes, I look forward to your thoughts (when the posts are straightened out--it's amazing how short 10,000 really is, eh?), and I especially look forward to more chapter updates! :cool:
     
  3. jacen200015

    jacen200015 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 11, 2002
    You're forgiven for making us wait :) While i wait for the next post for this, i'll work on one of my fics that hasn't been updated in a long time.
     
  4. Lord-Lelouch

    Lord-Lelouch Jedi Youngling

    Registered:
    Jun 12, 2014
    Greetings,

    I've recently stumbled upon your Star Wars Fanfics and I have to say that I find them very enjoyable.

    Anyways, since it has been so long since you last updated or published any of your stories would it be alright for me to ask a few question in regards to how you intended to proceed with those stories.

    Questions:

    1. In your story "Enter Foreign", will Anakin eventually manage to return to his own timeline and stop himself from falling to the Dark Side. After all, he now knows that all of Palpatines promises are empty and useless and in the end caused him and his descendants more harm than good.

    2. I also read your one-shots "The Darkest of Shadow" and "The Boy In The Red Room" and I also know you planned publishing a continuation of those stories called "Starting Over".

    Can you please tell me what you had intended for that story.

    I really hope that the title means that Anakin has redeemed himself and left behind the persona of Darth Vader and that Padme managed to save him and bring him back to the light side of the force and that now he is no longer Darth Vader, she finally allows herself to be with him and help him as he works on his redemption.

    As you can see I am really hoping that Anakin and Padme have a happy ending together (possibly getting married as well with Luke and Leia being born), with her managing to redeem Anakin and Anakin working to right the wrongs he committed as Darth Vader

    Of Course I could be wrong but would you be willing to share the plot of this particular storyline with me please.

    After all, the idea of the story sounds very promising but you might never actually get around to publishing it or finishing it if you do. So I would like to get some sort of closure as to what you had intended for this particular storyline and how it progressed. So could you perhaps give me a summary of it plot.

    I promise that I will not share it with anyone unless I have your explicit permission.

    So I hope that I am not asking for too much with my request for the plot summary of the storylibe of "The Darkest of Shadows" and "The Boy in The Red Room"

    I apologize if I have offended you in anyway during the course of this message it is just that I always remain in suspense and have an incomplete consuming feeling whenever I read good stories that might never been complete and make no mistake your stories to seem to be very well written.

    So if its not too much to ask for could you share with me what you can

    Once again I apologize if I have offended you in anyway.

    PLEASE REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE
     
  5. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    I guess the truncated posts are still a thing, huh? I suppose I'll be manually editing previous chapters to return them to their full length. Look for that sometime in the near future. (Edit: all previous chapters have been restored to their full length. Enjoy!)

    I've been on an unintended hiatus from fanfic for a while, mostly due to real life. Lots of changes over the last two years, some really good, some really stressful. I think I'm in a place where I can start working on this story again and hopefully have more frequent updates. And when I say more frequent, just know that it'll still probably be a few weeks or months between updates, and that's me being very optimistic.

    I'm grateful to everyone who has read this over the years, and especially to those who are still following it even after more than two years without an update. Btw, Rew remember that response I promised? I've had it saved in a word doc for almost two years, waiting for the truncation issue to be resolved. Since it hasn't been fixed, I'm just going to post what I have. Better late than never, right?

    RewHi Vi! It's great that you've updated--it's only been slightly over a year. I jest, but I hope everything's going well with the little addition to your family.

    --Things have been going great; thanks for asking! Since we last spoke, we’ve actually had another little addition to the family, so things have gotten even more awesome and crazy around here. :D

    And great update! I went back and reread your whole story to refresh my memory (there were some parts I just skimmed in 2010 ), plus the new update. Everything's coming together nicely!

    --I am definitely guilty of skimming myself, but I’m glad you were able to go back and read the whole thing! Also glad to hear that everything is meshing well. I worry about that sometimes when it takes me months and months (or years and years) to post an update. That’s probably why I reread my stuff so much. :p

    I'm trying to put together a timeline in my head of everything that's going on here. Everything in the EU, you say, is canonical up to about Bloodlines or Tempest. (Personally, I would've made it up to Betrayal since that one was awesome, but Bloodlines was rubbish IMO.)

    --Lol, I’ve never read any of the LOTF books more than once, so it’s been how many years since those first three were released? Eight? Holy cow, I didn’t realize it had been that long. I remember being intrigued by Betrayal at the time it first came out, and then my enthusiasm just faded with each book. I actually never even got around to reading Invincible because I’d read spoilers and reviews from people I trust, and I didn’t want to shell out $20 for a book I knew I would dislike. I figured I’d wait for the paperback so that at least I’d have the complete series on my bookshelf, but by the time that happened… I sort of forgot about it, to be honest. :p I was in my senior year of college, what can I say?

    Anyway! I’m one of those people who will put up with some of the crappy stuff in canon if it comes attached to something I like or find interesting. I seem to recall having that feeling about the early parts of LOTF. I can tell you that the original plot bunny for this story bit me in early 2007, before Exile came out, so that’s where I came up with the Bloodlines/Tempest cut-off. Since I can’t remember all the details from those books, I don’t want to say either “yes, they are canon” or “no, they are not canon”; it’s really more of a situation where I picked out things from those books that I thought would work as backstory for EtF. At least that’s how I remember it. [face_thinking] Point being: just because the events of DN and Bloodlines are canon in this story, that doesn’t mean I particularly liked or agreed with those books. It just means I found some things in them that are useful for the story I want to tell here. Make sense? (I’m not sure I followed all that, honestly. ;))

    Side note: I am terrible at doing short author replies. This reply might end up being longer than the actual chapter you replied to. :p

    From then on, a conflict ensues from Jacen Solo's transformation into Darth Caedus. He kills the legendary Luke Skywalker (which I would LOVE to see, given that Luke is one of the most powerful Force-users of all time--perhaps he tries to talk things out with Jacen instead of fight, which is why he dies? How exactly does Caedus beat the unbeatable?), buying time for his son Ben and others to evacuate. Caedus continues to wreak more havoc until he and his twin sister Jaina kill each other in battle, ending his menace.

    --Obviously I don’t want to give away too much in regards to Luke’s death because I love scattering things like that throughout the story, but I will say that it was there was a lot of chaos surrounding that whole event. I’m not promising that the whole of the situation will be revealed in this story, but there will be more references to it, certainly. And yes, Caedus continues on for about a year after Luke’s death before Jaina is finally able to stop him.

    I'm guessing it's sometime after this that Krayt's One Sith come onto the scene. Is there a connection between Caedus and Krayt? Was Krayt just letting Caedus do his dirty work for him, then once he was gone, found the Jedi Order sufficiently weakened to begin his conquest of the galaxy? How did they establish the Sith Empire so quickly?

    --There will be more on this in future chapters, but yes, the Jedi Order sustains some very heavy losses during Caedus’s time, making them very weak and ripe for conquest.

    Sometime after the death of the Solo twins I'm guessing is when Leia dies taking out those four Sith Lords. (Is she the one who succeeded Luke as Grand Master? When did the Order transition from a Grand Master form of autocracy to the more egalitarian "Round Table" Jedi Council we see in this fic?) When/How does Han die? Mara? Jag?

    --Yep, Leia is killed during a battle with Krayt’s One Sith. After Luke’s death – and the death of a few other Council members – the remaining Council begins the shift toward what you see in this story. Basically, the more screwed up things got, the more fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants the Jedi became. Eventually the Jedi Order goes into hiding, setting up the current system of enclaves that are scattered across the galaxy. The Jedi are ignored for a little while, but then Krayt initiates the Jedi Hunt, and that is when Leia is forced back out into the open and killed. :(

    Other background questions: How do Tahiri and Ben get so close? We know in Invincible they form a bond when Ben talks her away from the dark side. But I'm guessing your Tahiri never goes dark or joins Caedus?

    --I’d say their relationship grew because of the circumstances. Tahiri never fell to the dark side, and before she died, Jaina asked Tahiri to be the guardian of her children if anything were to happen to Han and Leia. Ben has almost no family left, and Tahiri essentially became a surrogate family member. I see their relationship as being that of siblings. They certainly fight like brother and sister. :p

    Also, what of Ben and Jacen's relationship? They're master and apprentice in Betrayal and Bloodlines, and Ben looks up to Jacen immensely. Sometime after that, Jacen's become such a danger to Ben that Luke must sacrifice his life to save his son. I wonder how that relationship deteriorated so? (We know how it does in canon, of course.)

    --Even though I forget half the stuff that happened in LOTF, I’d say the deterioration of the relationship in this story probably has a lot of similarities to what happened in canon. It’ll be touched on in later chapters, but Ben definitely carries a lot of baggage from what happened with Jacen.

    Lots of questions, but don't feel like you have to answer them all--I'm mostly just thinking out loud here. I know you'll provide some answers as the story goes on.

    --No worries, I love that my writing is able to elicit such a response, and I love to answer questions. Even if a lot of my answers are pretty vague… [face_mischief]

    And I also know that Ben hasn't told Anakin everything about what's happened since his time.

    --[face_whistling]

    Anyway, Jacen Solo fan that I am, I'm most keenly interested in what you do with Allana. I have to say, I like her a lot so far! She's snarky, insubordinate but compassionate, cares about Ben but gives him a hard time, has just the right amount of teenage confidence when there's no danger, but sufficient fear during the heat of battle when death becomes a real possibility.

    --Good to hear! I was a teeny bit worried that she would come across as your stereotypical whiny teenage brat, but I tried to show that a lot of that comes back to her relationship with Ben and his role as her master/parent figure/older brother figure. And I try to balance that part of her with her more mature, reasonable, compassionate side, which I think you see a little bit more in her interactions with Anakin.

    I have to admit, her interaction with Anakin so far has been a surprise. I thought she'd be a lot more leery of him, distrustful, but she's taking right to him. I think I like it. He's become very paternal toward her (which we the reader know exactly why that is, but Allana and most of the others don't), and having never had a *real* father figure before, she's gravitating toward him completely. It helps that he's just saved her life too.

    --Yeah, I think she definitely sensed a connection with him, even if she had no way of understanding why she felt that connection. I also think what she’s feeling toward him is very typical of teenage girls, in that she yearns to feel special and valued; even in their short time together, Anakin makes her feel that way. And since Ben hasn’t been around much, it’s easy to see why she naturally gravitates toward this other person who actually seems to pay attention to her. Also, yeah, the whole saving her life thing. That’s a biggie. :p

    I loved that Allana pleaded for that Sith twin's life when Anakin was going dark and Force choking him. That sort of compassion is very much in keeping with the canonical Allana too!

    --I’m glad that scene worked for you! Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really know what Allana is like in canon – other than the few bits and pieces I remember from LOTF – but I wanted this Allana to have the compassion that I remember from young Jacen. I think it would be very important to her – given what happened with her father – to recognize the kinds of actions that lead to the dark side and to try to prevent others from succumbing to it. I think she’d be pretty wise when it comes to stuff like that.

    It was also interesting that Allana's only rumination on her father in this fic is surprisingly positive. Given the reign of terror he unleashed on the galaxy, I would expect it to be otherwise. I'm eager to find out more about what she thinks of her father and how their relationship went the further into the dark he fell.

    --There will definitely be more about that relationship later on, once our characters get out of the mess that is Vjun. [face_devil]

    I'm also curious about these Sith twins. Are they OCs or people we've met in canon before they took on Darth titles?

    --They’re OCs. :) The rest of your original post was truncated, so that's all I've got for now!
     
  6. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Wow, so it's been a few years (or six) since I posted in here. Even longer since the last update. (Eight years?! :eek: Where even did that time go???) And while it may appear as though I'd abandoned this story, that couldn't be further from the truth! From about 2014-2016 I actually wrote most of the rest of the story, and since then I've been sporadically working on filling in all the gaps, a.k.a. action scenes, when I haven't been wrangling my kiddos (I've got four now) and getting distracted by new hobbies (I knit things!)

    Long story short, this story is currently - and has been for the last decade if I'm honest - my most beloved of all my fanfics, so you can believe me when I say it will be completed one way or another. Clearly it will still take a while, but we'll get there, I promise!

    My hope is that I will finish this year. We'll see how that goes, but I feel a lot more confident about it knowing how close I actually am to finishing.

    I have no idea how notifications are done these days since I haven't been on these boards in years. Do people still do PM lists for updates? Do you just follow story threads now? Let me know if you want me to send a PM your way when I do eventually update!
     
  7. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Apparently I've been a member here for 18 years.:eek: Clearly the best way to celebrate is with a brand new chapter of Enter the Foreign!

    If you're new here, welcome! I hope you enjoy this dark and twisty little adventure. If you're someone who is miraculously still here despite my eight-year absence, then you are amazing, and I hope you'll find it was worth the wait!

    ~~

    Chapter Twelve


    Darth Dominius had to give credit where credit was due – young Skywalker was a force to be reckoned with, the most powerful Jedi he’d ever encountered. Perhaps the most powerful Jedi of his time. But he was going to lose this battle.

    The young Jedi flipped through the air, soaring high above the reach of Dominius’s blade. He landed with almost feline grace, parrying each blow with ease. How confident he must be in this moment, thinking he had a chance at victory. Always so focused on the smaller battles; never truly seeing the greater scope of things. If he did not lack the capacity for it, Dominius might have pitied the boy.

    Ben Skywalker could have made a great Sith, given the proper encouragement.

    “How many of your friends have fallen today, Skywalker? I didn’t think you could afford such a loss.”

    Skywalker blocked a low strike, then swung at Dominius’s midsection. “I haven’t lost anyone yet.”

    Dominius smiled as he repelled his enemy’s attack, forcing him to take several steps backward. “You think I speak of death? How amusing.”

    The Jedi’s face was impassive, but Dominius had lived long enough to know when a human was upset. He had struck a nerve. The boy fought back with barely controlled ferocity, and Dominius saw his eyes dart over to his companions, the ones who were fighting Darth Raze.

    Skywalker flashed a smug look. “Your man over there isn’t doing so good.”

    Before Dominius could respond, he heard Raze howl in pain. A quick glance confirmed that the unknown Jedi had just stabbed Raze through the stomach. Too bad. What he lacked in refinement, Lord Raze had always made up for in enthusiasm. His sister would miss him, surely.

    “First Misra, now Raze.” Skywalker swung his lightsaber hard; as the two blades locked, the Jedi pressed in close, trying to use his weight as leverage. “That must make you a little mad.”

    Dominius held his ground. The loss of Lady Misra was the more regrettable of the two, but he wouldn’t waste time feeling sorry. Not when he was this close to killing Ben Skywalker.

    “Not at all,” he answered, letting go of his lightsaber with one hand and raising it in the air. “But I will be upset if your friend over there reaches us before I am through with you.” He made a fist and pulled it back as though yanking on a rope. Across the room, Skywalker’s apprentice cried out in surprise and fell to the floor with a violent thud. Her tall companion abandoned his attempts to reach Skywalker, running to help her instead.

    Skywalker smiled. “You won’t be able to keep him away for long. He’s very persistent.”

    Dominius waved a hand, and the soldiers who had been standing in a circle around them dispersed. He waved again, and they simultaneously moved toward the anonymous Jedi.

    “I am a patient man, Skywalker, but even my patience has its limits. Let’s stop toying with one another and get down to business, shall we?”

    He saw the ligaments in Skywalker’s hands flex as he tightened his grip on his lightsaber. The smug smile was gone from his face; in its place was the grim expression Dominius knew so well. The real Ben Skywalker, ready to fight at last.

    “Have it your way, Darth.”

    Dominius embraced the carnage around him, letting each cry of anguish and each expression of rage feed into him. His skin grew warm and began to take on a faint orange hue.

    He was going to enjoy this.

    ~~


    The Sith starfighters came at them from the south, flying low and in groups of three. The Last Call was in the air even before the Daybreak, cutting a path between it and the incoming fighters. Arden had seen a few of these ships before, during their escape from Ossus. She’d barely had time to process their appearance at the time, but now she could see they shared the familiar spherical cockpit that the TIE series had been famous for. The similarities ended there. Instead of wings, these fighters had a half ring engine that rotated around the cockpit as it flew. Laser cannons were mounted to each end of the ring, creating a deadly double helix as they fired on Myri’s ship. Arden swiveled her seat and lined up the closest fighter in her crosshairs.

    “Get ‘em!” Myri yelled from the cockpit. Arden squeezed the trigger and watched as her lasers shot past the fighter. Growling in frustration, she readjusted and fired again, hitting one of his wingmates. The next trio of fighters came within range, and this time Arden was able to get two out of three before they raced by.

    “Nice!” Myri called out. “Now hold on to something!”

    Arden was about to ask why when Myri sent the Last Call into a barrel roll, firing continuously at the swarm of Sith fighters. Arden watched in awe for a few seconds as several fighters exploded; then she shook her head and joined in the fray. She was getting better with every wave, but there were still so many.

    Myri swung the ship around to chase after the fighters that had slipped past them. As she did, laser blasts crashed against their shields.

    “Dammit!” Myri dove, but two of the Sith were right on their tail, staying slightly below them where Arden’s cannons couldn’t reach. Myri accelerated, and Arden felt her body being pushed forward against the controls. The computer next to her showed the Sith matching their speed.

    The two fighters exploded suddenly, and Arden heard a familiar engine roar overhead.

    “You all right, sis?”

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Myri said through gritted teeth as she yanked back on the controls. “Forgot how fast these suckers are.”

    “Three more at point oh six.”

    “Got it. Now go take cover.”

    “You just worry about yourself.”

    The Last Call and the Daybreak flew alongside one another for a few more seconds before splitting off in opposite directions. They circled around, attempting to herd the Sith into one area. Arden tried to do a rough count of the enemy, but they were moving too fast.

    “We can’t keep this up much longer,” she yelled over the noise from her cannons.

    Myri’s voice was the most serious she’d ever heard it. “We don’t have a choice.”

    ~~


    Anakin lifted Allana to her feet with one hand while deflecting blaster fire with the other. Out of the corner of one eye he saw another squad of soldiers running toward them.

    “Over here!” He pulled her toward one of the massive stones the Sith had torn from the ceiling; they ducked behind it as the soldiers opened fire.

    Allana held a hand against her ribs and winced.

    “You all right?” he asked as he steadied her against him.

    “I’ll be fine.” She pressed her back to the boulder, activating her lightsaber with shaking hands. “We need to get to Ben.”

    Anakin peered out from behind their stone shelter, head whipping back to avoid being hit by another round of blaster fire. For that brief half-second, he saw Ben locked in battle with the Falleen Sith and more than a dozen soldiers blocking their escape route. “We need to secure the entrance, or none of us are getting out of here.”

    His danger sense flared, and he swung his saber in a high arc over his head, shearing off the end of a blaster that had been aimed at Allana. Anakin glared up at the soldier who had crawled on top of the boulder. He wrenched the man down from his perch, using the Force to hurl him against the wall behind them.

    “Where do they keep coming from?” he said with a growl. He almost missed fighting battle droids. He glanced over at Allana and noted the tension on her face. “Hey, we’re gonna make it, okay?”

    She pressed her lips in a thin line and nodded.

    “Ben, are you there? Ben?”

    Anakin barely heard the voice of Valin Horn coming from Allana’s comlink, but he immediately sensed the man’s urgency. Anakin nodded at Allana, positioning himself in front of her while she reached for her comlink.

    “Ben’s a little busy at the moment, Master Horn.”

    “Allana?” Valin’s voice was strained. “What’s your position?”

    “Main entrance. We’re under pretty heavy fire here.”

    He sensed the soldiers converging on them, moving to either corner them or flush them out. Anakin and Allana only had a few more seconds of safety.

    “We have the kids… almost there… to the Daybreak…”

    “Master Horn, you’re breaking up! Master Horn!”

    Allana tapped the comlink against her thigh before hooking it back on her belt. Anakin heard something else above the din of the battle: the distinct whine of an engine. He grabbed Allana by the elbow and gestured in the direction of the main entrance.

    “Time to go,” he said. “Stay with me, no matter what.”

    She swallowed hard. “Okay.”

    Anakin took the brunt of the assault as he leaped out from behind the boulder directly into the soldiers’ line of fire. Allana stayed behind him as they ran for the massive entry doors. He weaved his lightsaber through the air, picking off blaster bolts with preternatural precision. The remaining soldiers were concentrating all their efforts on the two of them, trying to keep Anakin away from Ben.

    Ben.

    He was on the complete opposite side of the room from the entry, still dueling with the remaining Sith Lord. His grandson appeared to be holding his own quite well, but he was still being led away from the others. Or was Ben leading the fight away from their exit on purpose?

    There was a commotion from one of the hallways adjacent to the main entry, and Anakin breathed a sigh of relief as two more lightsabers – one silver and one blue – lit up the gloom. Valin and Elias herded about a dozen younglings between them, running at full speed for the doors. Elias stretched out a hand, and the doors swung open just as the Daybreak touched down outside. Anakin continued to deflect enemy fire as he and Allana made it to the entry. Valin ran past them with the children, leading them up the ship’s open ramp.

    “Don’t stop!” Elias yelled as he broke away from the group and dropped to his knees beside two prone figures. Anakin recognized the boys as Allana’s friends, Kohr and Ames.

    “I’ll cover you!” he called out to Elias, batting away laser blasts as he moved in front of the other Jedi. Elias scooped Kohr into his arms, careful not to disturb his injured head, while Allana took hold of Ames by the torso and began to drag him slowly.

    Enough of this.

    Anakin deactivated his saber, threw his hands out, and pushed. The entire line of Sith soldiers were knocked onto their backs, some of them losing their weapons in the process. Anakin ran to Allana and took Ames from her, hauling the boy over his shoulder.

    “Come on!”

    As they carried the unconscious Jedi to the Daybreak, Anakin sensed more starships approaching. Too many to fend off from the ground. And Ben was still inside. Great.

    Blaster fire scorched past him, spilling out of the open entry doors as the downed soldiers regained their wits. Anakin thumbed his saber on and stood in front of the ship’s ramp.

    “Go!” he yelled over his shoulder. “Take off!”

    Behind him he felt Allana’s panic, felt her dragging Ames the rest of the way up the ramp, anxious to return to Anakin’s side.

    Stay, he called out to her.

    He surged forward through the thick cloud of ozone. There were still a handful of soldiers left, and these ones had stacked bodies and debris to shield themselves as they fired on him. Ben was still on the far side of the room, dodging stone projectiles while he danced just beyond his opponent’s reach.

    And then it happened.

    A cold brilliance opened up over the entry hall, a rush of energy that coursed through him like an icy river. He trembled under its power, its magnificence. It was a presence – a single presence that seemed to take all of Vjun within itself before reflecting it back tenfold. Anakin was vaguely aware that every person in the room had stopped what they were doing and were now looking for the source of this power.

    Anakin spotted him across the chamber, standing calmly at the top of a wide staircase. The coldness vanished, shut down as quickly as it had opened up. But the man was still standing there – if he could even be called a man. His armor was unlike anything Anakin had ever seen, like he’d scooped out the insides of a giant crustacean and fashioned its shell into a full body casing. Only the lower half of his jaw was visible under the jagged outline of his mask. Something ugly reared up inside Anakin as he stared at the man. He knew who this was. There was only one person it could be, only one person who could command the undivided attention of every eye in the room, including Ben and his Falleen adversary.

    This was the Master of the Sith, the one responsible for Leia’s death.

    Darth Krayt.

    All around him, the battle resumed. Anakin looked over his shoulder, finding Allana through the smoke and debris. She turned away from the Daybreak, ready to run after him; but he raised a hand toward her, holding her back.

    “Wait!” She tried in vain to break his invisible grip on her. He pushed her back onto the ramp as it began to close. “Anakin! You said no matter what!”

    He held her in place until the ramp had closed and the Daybreak shot off into the air. Without further hesitation, Anakin turned and charged back into the chaos, fighting his way toward the Sith Master.

    ~~


    Ben had just raised his lightsaber to block another of his opponent’s attacks when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye: an angry blur of dark robes and cerulean light, hurtling toward the staircase.

    Anakin.

    Panic burrowed into his chest with unrelenting force. “No, don’t!” Ben screamed as he twisted out from under Dominius’s blade. “Anakin!”

    His grandfather either didn’t hear him or chose to ignore him. He was already sprinting up the steps, taking them three at a time, flying up to meet the Sith Master.

    ANAKIN!

    Darth Krayt retreated into the mansion, leading Anakin away from the entry hall.

    Dominius’s saber swiped the air barely a centimeter from Ben’s throat; he blocked clumsily, still trying to crane his neck to see which direction Anakin had gone.

    “Your friend will not survive,” Dominius said, emphasizing the point with a thrust toward Ben’s middle.

    Ben parried, trying to tamp down the despair that had gripped him so suddenly and ferociously. He had no clever retort, no brave words, no argument with which to counter the Sith. He had nothing. Anakin was going to die.

    Or worse.

    ~~


    “Do you have them?”

    Myri’s voice was strained, although Arden marveled that she could even focus enough to talk right now. Another squadron of Sith fighters swarmed around them as they tried to cover the Daybreak.

    “All except Ben and the new guy.” Syal’s response wasn’t quite as stressed as her sister’s, but then she was a career starfighter pilot. “These blasted ships just keep coming.”

    Arden kept her fingers wrapped tight around the controls, blowing up anything that crossed into her sights. There was an uneasy couple of seconds before Myri said, “What do we do?”

    Static, and then a new voice. “We can’t leave them!” Allana sounded close to tears as she yelled into the comm.

    “We’re not,” Syal broke in, but there was hesitation in her voice.

    A pit opened up in Arden’s stomach as she pictured the captain in that damn mansion, fighting off the Sith by himself. Even before she’d known he was Ben Skywalker, he’d always taken crazy risks that somehow worked out perfectly, no matter the danger. Maybe it should have been obvious that those impossible feats were being performed by a Jedi Knight. At the time she’d just thought he was slightly insane. Now that she knew who he was, all those risks made a lot more sense, even if they were still scary as hell. What was his plan now? Did he even have one?

    Her eyes fell on the grand entrance of Château Malreaux, smoke pouring from its open doors as they circled around. And suddenly she felt a little insane herself.

    “Myri!”

    “Yeah?” The older woman cocked her head to the side, one eye on Arden and one eye on the sky.

    “I have an idea.” She explained her plan quickly.

    Myri raised one eyebrow, smiling as she did so. “I like the way you think.” She raised her sister on the comm and relayed the plan to her. Arden wondered what it said about the Antilles sisters’ sanity that they both insisted it was the most amazing idea they’d ever heard.

    The Last Call twisted and turned to avoid fire while Myri switched her comm to another frequency. “Ben! We’re coming for you, so get ready!”

    ~~


    If he’d had time to process it, Ben might have been furious that Anakin had left him on his own to fend off a fully-trained Sith Lord as well as half a dozen fanatical, blaster-wielding soldiers. Fortunately – or maybe unfortunately – he couldn’t focus on that now. He was losing stamina fast, and his only saving grace was that the soldiers were hesitant to fire on him for fear of hitting their master.

    Darth Dominius seemed completely assured of his victory. His normally cool green skin was flushed deep red, and the smug smirk on his face had split wide open into a demonic leer. Ben tried not to think of Anakin facing Krayt alone. He tried not to imagine Sith starfighters surrounding the Daybreak and blasting it from the sky. He tried not to remember the children and the horrors they must have experienced. The dark side was so strong here. So, so strong.

    “Ben!”

    The voice on the comlink brought his mind snapping back to attention.

    “We’re coming for you, so get ready!”

    Dominius laughed. An ugly, guttural thing that might have shaken Ben to his core if he hadn’t just heard the barely contained excitement in Myri’s voice.

    “Fools!” Dominius spat out, still grinning wickedly. “Let them come!”

    They continued to exchange blows, moving up the grand staircase step by step, neither one relenting despite their fatigue. As he locked blades once more with the Sith Lord, Ben reached out with his senses, pushing beyond the boundaries of the great house. And he smiled.

    “Looks like my ride’s here.”

    Laser blasts ripped through the ceiling, tearing the roof right off of the entry hall. A deafening roar vibrated throughout the château as the Last Call flew overhead, cannons firing. Through the gaping hole in the roof, Ben saw a pursuing Sith fighter get caught in the debris and explode in a fiery ball.

    Their fight abandoned, Ben ducked and held a barrier of energy over him, deflecting the hot, twisted shards of metal and chunks of stone that rained down from above. Then he sprung into the air and backflipped to the top of the staircase.

    Murky light filtered through the demolished roof, and Ben realized the sun was setting. He quickly assessed the damage, looking for the clearest path through the wreckage. A metal support beam jutted out into the open air, just beyond the fire that had begun to rage.

    “I’m not done with you yet!” Dominius screamed as he vaulted through the air, blood red saber still ablaze.

    Ben summoned the Force to buoy his aching limbs, and he jumped straight at the broken beam. Dominius followed, barely pausing to touch the ground before giving chase.

    For those few seconds that Ben was airborne, with his enemy in close pursuit and nowhere else to go, he thought he might have finally pushed himself too far. Once he landed on that beam, he’d only have a moment before Dominius caught up to him and ran him through with his lightsaber.

    Then the most beautiful vision opened up before him, and his heart soared.

    The Daybreak came to a screaming halt above the roof, ramp already lowered. As soon as Ben felt his boots hit the beam, he pushed off again, launching himself toward the waiting starship. He hit the ramp dead center and rolled the rest of the way into the ship. He staggered to his feet, and the last thing he saw before the hatch closed and the Daybreak rocketed away was the furious visage of Darth Dominius, perched like a malevolent bird atop the broken metal beam.

    Ben hooked his lightsaber to his belt and stumbled down the curved corridor to the cockpit. Force, his legs felt like they were mired in sludge. He hadn’t been in a fight that intense in years. He opened the cockpit door and fell into the empty co-pilot’s chair.

    Syal looked over at him with a huge smile – which promptly disappeared when she actually saw him.

    “Stars, Ben, you look like hell!”

    Ben winced, leaning forward over the controls. “Nice to see you, too.” He examined the radar for a second as he took control of the main cannons. A capital ship had just entered the atmosphere and was headed straight for them. “Guess we know where all these fighters are coming from.”

    “They’re keeping us boxed in pretty good,” Syal admitted. “We won’t last long once that Star Destroyer gets here.”

    “Then we’d better make a break for it.”

    Syal threw the ship into a tight turn to avoid another swarm of fighters, flinging Ben back in his chair. He sensed a rolling wave of fear and realized belatedly that it was coming from the cargo hold full of traumatized children.

    “What about your new friend?” Syal’s tone was uncharacteristically hesitant.

    Ben gripped the controls tighter as he remembered Anakin charging relentlessly toward Darth Krayt. Heart hammering in his chest, jaw clenched tight, he shook his head. “We have a mission to complete.” When Syal didn’t respond right away, Ben looked at her sidelong and let out a shaky breath.

    “There’s nothing we can do for him now.”

    ~~


    Even with all of that impressive armor, the Master of the Sith was quicker than Anakin had expected. He fled down a darkened corridor, never appearing to rush even as he managed to stay several steps ahead of his Jedi pursuer. The ugly heat in Anakin’s chest spread out to his limbs, racing along every nerve like small, uncontrolled fires, screaming fight me!

    By the time Darth Krayt reached the end of the long hallway he was hardly more than a shadow, nearly indistinguishable from his surroundings. Anakin brought his lightsaber up in front of him, illuminating both the ruined corridor and his enemy. Awash in cerulean light, the Sith looked over his shoulder before pushing open a set of double doors. On the other side, Anakin saw a once-lavish bedroom and an open balcony with tattered curtains flapping in the wind. The Sith Lord jumped onto the railing and shot up like a rocket, disappearing from view. Anakin barreled into the room seconds later and came to a crashing halt against the railing. He craned his neck to see where Krayt had gone.

    Three levels up on an identical balcony, the Sith leaned over the edge, watching. Anakin gauged the distance, determining whether he could make it in one Force-fueled leap. He decided not to chance it, steeling himself instead for a couple of shorter jumps. He launched himself up two stories, pausing for a moment on the balcony below Krayt. His eyes met his enemy’s, shadowy behind the mask. Krayt retreated into the mansion; with a growl, Anakin jumped again, swinging himself over the railing and activating his lightsaber in one fluid motion.

    The Sith was on him before his feet touched the ground, blood-red saber thrumming dangerously close to his throat; but Anakin was ready for him. He dropped down, sliding across the scorched marble floor as he swung his blade at Krayt’s legs. The Sith avoided it with a surprisingly nimble leap. Anakin shot to his feet and spun around, bringing his weapon to bear. Darth Krayt did the same, slowly, as if he had all the time in the world. A faint smirk tugged at the corner of his lips, and he flexed the arm that held his saber. That small action only served to fan the flame of Anakin’s anger. Was he not taking this seriously?

    You will, you damn monster.

    Anakin lunged at his opponent, striking high and then low in quick succession, never pulling back far enough to leave an opening. Their blades battered each other; Anakin could feel the raw strength behind each of Krayt’s blows. And through it all, the man hadn’t once opened his mouth.

    Anakin cut his weapon in a horizontal line, trying to bisect the Sith at the waist; but Krayt twisted and blocked hard. The Jedi tried to push back against their locked blades, but it was like trying to move a wall. The Sith shoved his lightsaber with explosive power, knocking Anakin’s sword arm away in a wide arc. With his center undefended for that brief second, he was unable to prevent Krayt from kicking him square in the chest.

    He flew backward, smashing through the bedroom door and into another dimly lit corridor. He used his momentum to roll back into a crouch and activated his lightsaber once more. The Sith Lord stepped through the wreckage of the broken door, calmly appraising the situation. Still silent.

    Without warning, the château rocked violently, throwing both men against the corridor wall. A distant alarm began to sound, and the ancient fire suppressant system went off, dousing them in water. The sudden rain sizzled angrily against their lightsabers. Anakin wiped a stray lock of damp hair from his eyes as he stood, angling his blade at the Sith.

    Krayt rose to his feet, unhurried and seemingly unbothered by the explosion that had torn through the building. He drew himself up to his full height and cracked his neck. Before he could finish, Anakin attacked.

    The crimson blade snapped up to deflect his blow, and in that moment – barely audible through the sound of sirens and pouring water and engines racing overhead – the Sith Master let out a short, barking laugh. Blood pounded in Anakin’s ears; the heady scent of Vjun’s Force-rich atmosphere filled his lungs, promising power and revenge and anything else he desired. And what he desired most was to choke the laugh right out of that disgusting mouth.

    Without lifting a finger, he grabbed hold of the Sith’s throat and willed it to close. He felt it constricting, felt a flash of genuine surprise from his enemy as the man’s airway shut tight. Anakin and Krayt stood frozen, lightsabers locked between them; and through the interplay of crimson and cerulean light, the young Jedi saw something that shocked him.

    Darth Krayt smiled.

    Anakin shoved as hard as he could, forcing Krayt away from him long enough to punch him in the jaw. The Sith backpedaled, gasping for air as mental fingers loosened around his throat. Anakin swung his saber at the man’s neck, but Krayt reached up and caught his wrist, halting the blade’s descent. The Sith sliced at him from the left, but Anakin mirrored his move, grasping Krayt’s armored forearm in his left hand.

    They tried to wrestle each other to the ground, neither one giving an inch. Anakin’s muscles screamed under the strain, but he gritted his teeth and pushed through the pain. He didn’t sense the projectile until it was too late.

    It smashed into his head, and he staggered backward, dazed. In the dim light he couldn’t make out what it was, but he noticed an open door on his left, revealing another opulent bedroom. Krayt lunged forward, slicing ferociously at him as another object came flying out of the room.

    Anakin managed to dodge that one, a jewelry box or something similar. He parried the next saber strike quickly, wondering if he was imagining the feel of blood dripping down his neck. Suddenly a whole arsenal of furniture filled the air around him. Krayt stepped back and lowered his saber, and the furniture hurtled toward Anakin.

    He sliced through as much as he could, but his head throbbed and there was too much debris. He raised a hand, trying to stop the barrage as he looked for somewhere to retreat. A quick glance over his shoulder showed an open door at the far end of the hallway, with computers and vidscreens and – most importantly – a wide balcony he could use to escape. Abandoning any pretense of continuing the fight, Anakin turned and sprinted down the corridor, ducking and weaving to avoid the worst of Krayt’s projectiles.

    He slammed the door shut as he entered the room. A quick scan confirmed that is was a secondary control center, although it didn’t appear to be in use. Or maybe, he thought darkly, there was no one left to operate it.

    He used the Force to drag a desk in front of the door, though he knew that wouldn’t stop the Sith. He had only seconds to escape. Anakin ran to the balcony, ready to descend to a lower level and rejoin Ben and the other Jedi. His vengeance would have to wait.

    His breath left him as he leaned over the balcony’s ornate railing. There was nothing below him but a sheer, craggy cliff wall and a long drop to the black waters of the bay. He tried to push down the despair welling up in his chest. How had he miscalculated so badly?

    The wooden door burst in, exploding in a hail of splinters; the desk that blocked it slid across the room and crashed into a vidscreen. Anakin stepped away from the balcony, grasping his lightsaber in both hands as he turned to face his enemy. Krayt’s crimson blade carved up everything in its path as he entered the room. Only a few meters and some hardware separated them now.

    The computers and equipment that Krayt demolished became missiles in his hands. Anakin deflected the pieces aimed at his head and torso, but some of them circled around him, striking from behind. A large metal shard sliced across his right thigh, and he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out. The Sith Master advanced, each swing of his saber creating new weapons for his arsenal. Anakin’s arms were lead as he tried to block. A computer struck him across his face, and he saw stars.

    Too late, he sensed the shift in Krayt’s position. Fire burned across the whole of his left side as the Sith’s blade seared a jagged line from hip to ribs. Anakin barely had time to register the pain when a twisted chunk of metal pummeled him in the exact same spot, tearing open the cauterized flesh. An agonized scream ripped from his throat as he fell to his knees. Krayt’s lightsaber battered against his, sending it ricocheting into the dark interior of the control room.

    Drawing ragged breaths, Anakin touched a hand to his left side; it came away soaked in blood. He pressed his whole arm against the wound, trying to stem the blood loss. Darth Krayt stood over him, the tip of his saber centimeters away from Anakin’s heart. And finally, after everything, he spoke.

    “Do you yield?” His voice was a soft baritone that rumbled around the inside of Anakin’s skull. Nowhere near as harsh or ugly as he’d expected, and somehow that made it worse.

    Yield? How could he yield? He’d never surrendered in his whole life, not to the Separatists, not to the Sith, not even to the Force itself. How could he possibly yield while he still drew breath, while his last remaining family was out there fighting for their lives? Instead of answering, he began to crawl backward toward the balcony.

    As if reading the defiance in Anakin’s eyes, Krayt sighed and shook his head. Then he reached up with one hand and removed his mask, revealing an astoundingly human face. Anakin wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but a man hardly older than Obi-Wan was not it. His dark hair was cropped short; and where before Anakin would have sworn his eyes were the color of fire, now they appeared the same dark brown as his hair.

    “I confess,” Krayt said evenly, “I thought Anakin Skywalker would put up a better fight.”

    Anakin was so startled to hear his name on the Sith Master’s lips that he froze. How? How could he know? And more than that, why would he say it as though he believed it were true? Even as pain threatened to overwhelm his senses, Anakin studied the man before him. There was something about his face, his eyes, that was so familiar. But it wasn’t possible. Anakin was seventy years removed from his own time; he couldn’t know anyone here.

    “Who are you?” he demanded.

    “He didn’t tell you? He really didn’t tell you?” Krayt’s face broke into a smile as he started to laugh. “I was certain he would have jumped at the chance to tell you the truth.”

    Anakin clutched at his side and continued to crawl backward. The Sith eyed him with amusement, regarding him as a parent would a troublesome child. “What truth?” Anakin asked between gritted teeth.

    Krayt’s laughter faded and his eyes grew cold. The words seemed to pour out of him like a dam breaking.

    “I didn’t die. They all thought I had, and I let them believe it for many years. When I encountered Ben on Ziost, I was sure he would give away my secret, but he never did. And then you showed up.” The Sith took a few steps toward Anakin, his lightsaber still angled at the young Jedi’s heart. “If there was anyone Ben was going to reveal my existence to, I was sure it would be you.”

    Anakin’s vision grew blurry, and he dug his fingers into the wound to slow the bleeding. “You still haven’t told me… who you are.”

    The Sith Lord smiled again, that same admonishing smile. “Haven’t you figured it out, Anakin? I’m your grandson.”

    Anakin stopped moving away and stared up at Krayt. “No,” he whispered. He felt as though someone were sitting on his chest. “That’s impossible. Ben told me what happened—”

    “Told you what? That my dear sister died and took me with her?” The Sith shook his head. “I’ll admit, I thought it was the end. But the Force had other plans.” He continued toward Anakin, reaching out with his free hand. “With you at my side, I could complete what I began eleven years ago. Join me, and I’ll help you discover the full, extraordinary power of the Chosen One.”

    Anakin’s eyelids fluttered, and his head swayed as the Sith’s dark energy pressed against his defenses. He could feel his own inner darkness swell, as if Krayt’s aura was calling it forth. “The Chosen One… supposed to destroy… the Sith.”

    The Dark Lord held his saber out at his side as he leaned down toward Anakin. “But you weren’t going to destroy him, were you?”

    Anakin shook his head and backed up to the edge of the platform. The wind whipped his hair against his face, stinging his eyes. “I am not Vader,” he growled. “Not here.”

    “Tell that to my dead grandmother. Tell that to Padmé.”

    Anakin nearly choked on his next breath. “What?”

    “Your thoughts betray you. You already made your choice, didn’t you? You were going to join the Sith to save her.”

    The horror of everything he had done and might do and would do coiled around him, squeezing the air from his lungs. “I just needed the secret,” he gasped, pathetic even to his own ears.

    “Spare me your feigned innocence, as if you didn’t know what would happen. I saw it all. Some old recordings that show you betraying the Jedi, killing younglings, killing your wife…”

    Everything else ceased to exist for the space of several heartbeats as Anakin was swallowed whole by the Sith’s revelation. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t make a sound. The Sith had stopped speaking and was staring at him intently, but Anakin could no longer feel his dark presence. The air was suffocating him, drowning him, blocking out everything but the inescapable, unforgivable truth.

    He had killed children.

    He had killed his wife.

    “No,” he choked out. Denial was the only refuge he had left. “I would never.”

    “Search your feelings, Anakin.” Krayt’s face was placid as he reached toward him. “You know it’s true.”

    Anakin shook his head, unable to respond. He couldn’t listen to this anymore, couldn’t search his feelings because he knew what he would find if he did. He needed to escape, to do something, to act without thinking, without facing the consequences.

    Anakin looked over his shoulder at the abyss. Dark water churned angrily against the rocks below, the crash of waves creating a rhythm that was strangely enticing. He recognized this place now, understood that this was the precipice in his visions, the ledge from which he had fallen every night.

    Tonight, he would finally reach the bottom.

    With waning strength and faltering consciousness, Anakin grabbed the rail and pulled himself to his feet.

    “If you are my grandson,” he murmured, “then I’m sorry I failed you.”

    Before Krayt could react, Anakin released the rail and fell from the balcony.

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
    JediMaster_Jen likes this.
  8. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Very powerful scene there at the end. =D= I hope Anakin will be okay.
     
    ViariSkywalker likes this.
  9. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    I've been waiting soooo long to post that last scene, so I'm glad it had the impact I've always imagined! Honestly, if I didn't have to write action-heavy sequences, the time between updates would probably be a lot less. :p But that reveal scene has been more or less written since 2009. (Yikes!) As for Anakin... I'd say he's gonna need some time to recover from that encounter. =((
     
    JediMaster_Jen likes this.
  10. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    ~~

    Chapter Thirteen


    Maybe it was his survival instinct that made him reach for the narrow ledge. Maybe it was the will of the Force that he should do so. Whatever it was, Anakin extended both arms, grasping in the fading light for the rock face. His fingers dragged against the surface, skin and leather shredding as he tried to stop himself from slipping off the ledge. Anakin cried out as his body came to a halt and impacted on the wall.

    He hung there for a moment and listened to the water below. At first, the rhythmic crash of waves seemed to echo the turbulence in his soul, but as the sounds of the sea enveloped him, it took on an almost soothing cadence. It lulled him into numbness, taking him away from his pain, away from the truth.

    It would be so easy to let go.

    He didn’t hear the whisper at first. It rose up from the ocean slowly, closing around him as it had done all those years ago while he stared out at a dead star.

    All things die, it said softly, in the same voice he remembered, the same cold, dead voice that had followed him through the years.

    Anakin shook his head angrily, ashamed of his fear and weakness. He began to pull himself up onto the ledge. No, he wouldn’t give in to the whispers, not yet.

    Anakin pressed his back against the cliff wall, clinging to the rock with both hands, one bloodied, the other shining gold through his torn glove. “Ben,” he whispered, closing his eyes against the wind. He reached out through the Force, searching for some trace of his grandson, but there was nothing. He remained hidden, cut off by his own choice. Anakin finally understood why.

    He could feel the other Jedi above him, tiny pinpricks of light against a black canvas of death and chaos. He had not formed attachments to any of them, at least nothing beyond the common bonds that tied most Jedi together. Surrounded by the dark energy of Vjun and the oppressive hatred that rolled off the Sith in waves, he realized that no one would find him now. No one would even feel his pathetic pleas.

    “Ben, please.”

    As his eyes turned skyward, he noticed another niche in the stone about fifteen meters above him. He might be able to reach it, maybe make his way back up to the roof of the château. Anakin repositioned himself on the ledge and started to climb, keeping his left arm pressed against his side.

    It was slow work, climbing with one hand. The sun had already set, and he could barely see the rock in front of him. Anakin paused for a moment, trying to catch his breath; but his head was fuzzy from the blood loss and the Force-rich air. In the distance – or perhaps it wasn’t so far away – he could hear the whine of starship engines. The Sith were coming for him.

    He started to climb again, but a piece of rock came loose in his hand. Anakin lost his grip and slid down against the cliff wall before landing hard on the ledge below. His momentum nearly sent him over the edge, but Anakin managed to latch onto the rock with his cybernetic arm. The Sith starfighters appeared overhead as he pulled himself onto the ledge and leaned against the face of the cliff.

    There wasn’t much time for him. Sooner or later, Krayt would find him, or one of those Sith fighters would spot him on the cliff and blast him into oblivion. And if no one found him, he would be stuck in this niche, left to succumb to his wounds. He was too spent to concentrate on healing, too battered in spirit to even try.

    All things die, Anakin Skywalker. Even stars burn out.

    He didn’t have it in him to block out the insidious whisper of his inner demon. The promise of death, a dead-star dragon curled around his heart, patiently waiting for the world to crumble. No matter how strong he became, no matter how firmly he stood in the light, it was always there, reminding him that it would all end.

    The loss of Obi-Wan struck him hard in that moment, slashing at him as forcefully as the gusts of wind trying to tear him from the cliff. For one single, irrational second, he tried to reach for his best friend, his brother, the person beside Padmé who he loved most. And in that foolish, delirious second, he had the smallest hope that he would somehow sense Obi-Wan’s presence, feel the reassuring touch of his mind telling him that it would be all right. The warmth of his voice as he reminded his former student that there was no one else – Jedi or otherwise – that he would rather have at his side.

    That second flashed by, and the faint flicker of hope went out like a spark extinguished instantly in the cold vacuum of space. Obi-Wan was gone. Obi-Wan was dead, and Anakin had killed him, just like he killed—

    No. He couldn’t allow himself to think it, even though the truth of it swirled around him, a nebulous thing that promised to become tangible if he dared reach for it. He shrank away from it, a child once more, standing next to Obi-Wan as they stared out at a dead star system. Not knowing or understanding what it meant to live in a universe where anything could die – where everything would die.

    Even after Obi-Wan had explained to him the finite nature of all existence and why the Jedi didn’t form attachments, Anakin still didn’t understand. He still couldn’t accept it. And when the personification of his fear began to whisper to him, he did his best to drown it out, to prove it wrong by being better, faster, stronger than its promise of death.

    All of it – the struggles, the sacrifices, the secrets – it was all in vain.

    He imagined now that he was the star at the center of that dead system, finally burning out and collapsing under its own weight, destroying everything around it.

    So this is what it feels like to lose everything.

    He thought of Ben once more, knowing he’d never reach him. Ben lied to him. He lied, and he left him here to die. Anakin wouldn’t argue whether he was justified, because of course he was. Never trust a monster, and when you get the chance, cut it loose.

    He became cognizant of a warm glow at the periphery of his awareness, radiant like the suns. He couldn’t help drawing to it, cold as he was from the wind whipping up from the sea. And he realized there was one other person here who shared his blood, one other person who might hear him.

    The name was barely a whisper on his bruised lips, but he put everything he had left into it.

    “Allana…”

    ~~


    The Daybreak shuddered as another laser blast struck the rear shields. Allana’s fingers ached from squeezing the trigger of the dorsal guns, but she couldn’t let up now. They were almost through.

    Allana…

    Pain bled into the Force and into her, and she gasped at the sheer magnitude of it.

    “Anakin,” she whispered.

    His relief, so pure and profound as he found her in the living Force. She saw him in her mind’s eye, clinging to the side of a cliff, battered and bloodied and broken. All around him darkness pressed in, a serpentine shadow held at bay only by the thinnest ray of light.

    “Ben,” she said into the comm, “I found him!”

    He didn’t answer her, and the shadows swelled. Taking leave of her senses, Allana jumped out of her seat and sprinted to the cockpit. She reached for Ben, wrapping both hands around one of his arms.

    “What the—?” Ben tried to yank his arm out of her grasp.

    “Turn around! We have to go back!”

    The ship jolted under enemy laser blasts. “Are you crazy?” Ben shouted, tugging his arm away from her. “Get back on those guns!”

    “Ben, I know where he is!”

    In spite of the chaos all around them and the ever-widening chasm between them, Ben stared into her and she into him, and for the first time in ages they were of one mind.

    “Syal,” Ben said firmly, “turn the ship around.”

    The elder Antilles, who had listened to their exchange with almost amused resignation, didn’t even try to argue. She pulled back on the controls, and the Daybreak climbed at an impossibly steep angle before flipping over toward the planet’s surface. Fighters scrambled out of her path as she barreled toward them at breakneck speed.

    “Where?” Syal asked, all business.

    Allana’s eyes flitted across the ruined château below them. “The cliff over the bay.”

    “Where are you guys going?” Myri couldn’t disguise the shock in her voice.

    “We’ve got one more pickup, sis.” Syal glanced over at Ben and blew out a short breath. “You Jedi sure don’t like to make things easy, do you?”

    Ben didn’t answer her. He looked up at Allana and raised both eyebrows. “Guns?” he said, impatience bubbling just under the surface.

    Her cheeks reddened as she ran back to her post and flung herself behind the controls.

    We’re coming, Anakin. Hold on.

    ~~


    Darth Dominius stared down at the unconscious boy at his feet, lips curled back in a sneer. Weak, pathetic. Too young for the mantle he’d been gifted. Not that it was his place to say so, and he never would, at least not out loud. It was a risk even to think it, although after the day’s events, he wouldn’t be surprised if his master wanted to kill every last one of them.

    Darth Ferrus let out a childlike moan, and Dominius kicked him none too gently in the ribs.

    “Wake up, brat.”

    Ferrus coughed and opened his eyes, glaring up at Dominius with a hatred that was almost impressive. And then he said something so stupid that Dominius nearly felt the urge to laugh:

    “Why is everything on fire?”

    The elder Sith Lord rolled his eyes and turned to survey the damage. The grand hall was in shambles, and it was indeed on fire. He determined that while the main house might be somewhat intact, it wouldn’t be worth it to stay here. He stretched out with his senses and felt a familiar presence on the other side of the mansion. It seemed Doctor Mezzon had managed to survive yet again.

    Stone scraped against stone, and Dominius looked over his shoulder to see Darth Festus shoving a great boulder out of his path. He looked positively murderous.

    “Where are they?” he growled, his voice horribly strangled. For all his usual facetiousness, Festus was far more terrifying than his twin when he wanted to be.

    Dominius gestured toward the demolished roof. “In the skies above.” He was about to say more when the incredible weight of his master’s presence descended on them.

    All were silent under the eyes of Lord Krayt, and they kneeled in unison.

    “I have failed you, my master.” Dominius felt the iron grip of fear clutching at this throat, but he would accept his punishment.

    A long, terrible pause. Then, “Rise, my apprentice.”

    Dominius stood quickly. The twins remained on their knees.

    “Look at me.”

    Dominius obeyed, staring into the inscrutable masked face of the Sith Master. Darth Krayt sifted through his mind with ease, but his mental invasion lacked the violence he’d come to expect. If he had to identify his master’s mood right now, he’d say it was almost contemplative.

    The ghost of a smile – so faint and fleeting he might have imagined it – twisted at Darth Krayt’s lips. “Bring my shuttle,” he said at last.

    ~~


    This is crazy. This is crazy, and we’re all going to die.

    Ben obliterated three more fighters as Syal hurtled the Daybreak toward the château and the cliff it was nestled in. His decision to turn back defied all logic, all reason. How insane was it that he could give such a dangerous order and that it would be followed without question?

    Focus.

    He could hear the Last Call just behind them, picking off the ships on their tail. There were still several enemy fighters hanging in there; and with that Star Destroyer incoming, it wouldn’t be long before the Jedi and their allies were heavily outnumbered again.

    “Do you see him yet?”

    Ben closed his eyes, extending his perception to the cliff. He had seen a brief flash of it when Allana stared him down, had seen Anakin losing his grip against the encroaching night. A deep well of despair, of agony, of heartbreak…

    “There!” His eyes flew open as he pointed to a spot on the cliff about thirty meters above the harbor.

    Syal swore under her breath and descended. As she toggled the thrusters, she threw a pointed look at Ben. “Go get him.”

    Ben darted out of the cockpit and ran to the rear of the ship to open the hatch. The Daybreak leveled out, and he strode carefully to the end of the ramp, looping one arm around one of its hydraulic cylinders.

    Anakin was barely visible, huddled into a shallow niche that barely fit his body. He was still too far below them. Ben yanked his comlink off his belt.

    “Down about five meters, Syal.”

    “Copy.”

    Ben held fast to the hydraulic cylinder as the ship dropped below Anakin’s perch and hovered. The starfighters were already circling around, engines screaming as they prepared for another pass. Anakin’s face appeared over the edge of the precipice; he nodded at Ben and began to lower himself over the side.

    The Last Call fired at the incoming fighters, blasting through the leader’s engine. The craft spiraled out of control, shooting past the Daybreak and crashing further down along the cliff wall. The rock face shook violently, and Anakin’s grip on the ledge started to slip.

    “Hold on!” Ben shouted over the sounds of laser fire. Syal kicked the Daybreak away from the wall and turned so that most of the ship’s guns were aimed at the enemy fighters. She and Allana fired with pinpoint accuracy, but it didn’t stop the onslaught. Ben held his breath as the fighters closed in on them.

    There was an explosion of metal and fire; Ben ducked back inside the ship to avoid the debris bouncing off the shields. From the cockpit, he heard Syal utter a loud, whooping battle cry. His comlink, still joined to the ship’s comm, crackled to life.

    “I’ll hold off the rest, Syal… dammit, Skywalker, just grab him already!”

    Ben felt relief flood him. He’d never been so happy to hear Tahiri Veila yell at him. He braced himself as the Daybreak once again approached the ledge Anakin was hanging from. Syal tipped the ship toward the sky so that the ramp was open at an angle, ready to catch the battered Jedi. Ben positioned himself under Anakin and met his gaze.

    “Ready?” he shouted.

    Anakin nodded, wincing.

    Then he let go, and Ben realized he was going to tumble right past the edge of the ramp.

    He lunged forward, reaching to snatch Anakin out of the air. Their hands met, and Ben’s breath left him as he was slammed down against the deck, his shoulder wrenched by Anakin’s momentum. He flattened himself out on the ramp, one arm still looped around the hydraulic cylinder while he strained to hold onto his grandfather’s hand. Anakin dangled dangerously under the ramp.

    The ship bucked, causing Ben to cry out in pain as his shoulder twisted. But he held firm, pulling with every ounce of strength he possessed. Finally, he managed to haul Anakin up onto the ramp.

    “I’ve got him!” he yelled, his comlink forgotten. He tried to drag Anakin further into the ship, but they collapsed onto the deck, a tangle of limbs and blood.

    “Anakin!”

    Allana was on them in an instant, her slight arms wrapping around Anakin, pulling him against her. There was something painfully childlike in the way he clung to Allana, but Ben didn’t have time to reflect on it more. The ship trembled as enemy fire crashed against the shields. Ben rolled over and staggered to his feet, bracing himself against the bulkhead as he ran toward the cockpit.

    “There she is,” Syal said evenly as he entered the cockpit, indicating the massive wedge-shaped silhouette emerging from the black storm clouds directly above them.

    Ben dropped back into the co-pilot’s chair, taking over weapons control. “Great. Do we know which one it is?”

    “Like it matters?” Syal gritted her teeth and adjusted a few levers as she made a path straight for the Star Destroyer. “Got any more crazy ideas you’d like to throw at me?”

    Tahiri’s voice crackled over the comm. “I have one.”

    “This’ll be good,” Myri interjected, without a trace of sarcasm.

    Syal ignored her sister’s excited comment. “What are you thinking, Tahiri?”

    “Form up behind me,” Tahiri ordered. “We’re about to get real friendly with that Star Destroyer.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, Ben saw Syal grin. “You read my mind,” she said.

    “Wait a minute.” There was a spark of mischief in Myri’s voice. “Did she really?”

    Ben could practically feel Tahiri rolling her eyes. He allowed himself a small smirk at the thought of it.

    Syal shook her head and let out a noise somewhere between a laugh and a groan. “Cut the chatter, sis. Time to play follow the leader.”

    ~~


    After spending so long in the dimly-lit château and then the twilight of Vjun, the bright interior lights of the Daybreak stabbed at Anakin’s eyes. He shut them tight, allowing Allana to guide him through the ship’s curving corridors. Her presence was a gentler light in the Force, one that he could bask in even as he felt himself crumbling to pieces.

    “Elias!” she called out, a trace of panic in her voice. Seconds later, Anakin sensed someone jogging toward them, and he cracked one eye open to see Ben’s friend reaching for him.

    “Here, let me help you,” Elias said as he pulled Anakin’s right arm over his shoulder and lifted him off of Allana. “Get the med kit, hurry.”

    Allana ran off to retrieve the kit, and Anakin swayed a little as that warmth went with her. How pathetic was he? The only thing keeping him from completely falling apart was the presence of one young girl. Had he never been able to handle the darkness on his own? Had he always relied so heavily on others to keep him in check, to ground him? His mother, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Padmé, Allana… what was he without their light?

    You know who you are, a cold, deep voice rumbled in his head. He thought it might somehow be his own. You know exactly who you are without them.

    Traitor. Murderer. Monster. Sith.

    Vader.

    “It’s gonna be all right, just sit here.” Elias had led him into the crew’s quarters, a long, narrow room with two sets of double bunks. He lowered Anakin onto one of the bottom bunks and gently lifted his shirt to examine the wound in his side. Anakin sucked in a sharp breath as his tunic peeled away from the jagged and burnt flesh.

    “Sorry,” Elias muttered, lowering the shirt. Allana ran in then with the med kit, and Anakin allowed the two of them to tend to his injuries. Every few seconds, the ship would jolt from laser fire or from whatever death-defying acrobatics the pilot was attempting. He couldn’t even remember who was flying the ship. He wasn’t sure it mattered if he did.

    “Can you finish?” Elias said after he’d wrapped Anakin’s torso and bandaged the back of his head. He held the med kit out to Allana. “I need to get back to Kohr.”

    “Of course.” Allana took the supplies and glanced down at Anakin.

    “It’s just his leg and hand left to do.”

    Allana gave Elias a tight smile. “I’m on it. Go ahead.”

    When they were alone again, Allana pulled several antiseptic wipes from the kit and unrolled a long piece of gauze. She kneeled in front of Anakin and set to work cleaning the deep gash in his right thigh.

    Anakin…

    The voice crept softly into his mind, curling up at the base of his skull as if it belonged there.

    No,” he whispered, shaking his head to get Krayt out of it.

    We can save them all, together.

    He didn’t know which “them” the voice was referring to – the loved ones he’d lost or the family he’d found – and right now he didn’t care. All he knew was he wanted it and every other voice to leave him the hell alone.

    Join me…

    Anakin tumbled off the bunk and staggered toward the door, steeling himself against the burning pain that shot through his abdomen.

    “Wait!” Allana cried out. “I’m not done yet!”

    He kept moving, into the curved corridor now. Allana came after him, fingers grasping at his tunic. The ship trembled violently, knocking Allana away from him into the bulkhead. She pulled herself up and reached out to him. “You need to lie down!”

    Anakin ignored her, moving with halting steps toward the open cockpit.

    ~~


    The Star Destroyer loomed large in their viewport as the Daybreak accelerated toward it, following tight on the trail of Tahiri’s X-wing. The Last Call fell into formation with them, so close Ben could see Myri in the cockpit. If they could evade those massive turbolasers long enough, they might have a shot of escaping in one piece.

    “Artoo,” he said into the comm. “Increase power to the shields.”

    The droid screamed back something about working at his maximum capacity just to maintain hull integrity. It was a little hard to make out, he was wailing so loud.

    “Okay, fine, never mind!” Ben winced as he switched off the comm. “Emperor’s bones.”

    Laser blasts sizzled past them, their green energy lighting up the inside of the cockpit. Most of the Sith starfighters had peeled away, but Ben continued to fire at the ones daring enough to keep pace with them. Then Tahiri angled sharply upward, nearly scraping against the hull of the Star Destroyer; the Antilles sisters followed without hesitation.

    Ben relaxed his grip on the main cannon trigger as the Daybreak skimmed the surface of the capital ship. It was all up to Syal’s piloting skills now. They raced along the hull, swerving here and there to avoid enemy fire. Ben had flown with countless amazing pilots, some Jedi, some not. Syal Antilles was easily one of the best.

    They still had about two-thirds of the Star Destroyer’s length left to go before they could break for open space. The shields were holding, but only just. A couple more direct hits, and it’d all be over.

    A chill raced up his spine just then, like he’d stepped into the mist of an icy waterfall. He stared down at the Star Destroyer and knew beyond certainty that Darth Krayt was close, possibly already on the ship below. Then he felt something else, eyes boring into the back of his skull.

    Ben glanced behind him and saw Anakin’s battered figure appear in the doorway. His grandfather clutched the metal frame with his right hand while holding his left arm close to him. As Ben examined the other man, he realized Anakin was looking right at him, his eyes gaping maws of desolation. There was accusation in that stare, too, laser-sharp and unrelenting. Even though fire exploded all around them, Ben couldn’t look away. They stared at each other for an interminably long moment, and Ben’s breath caught in his throat as he tried to quell the panic rising up in him.

    He knew.

    Finally, Anakin’s dark gaze shifted, eyes landing on something beyond Ben, beyond the Daybreak. Free from his grandfather’s stare, Ben turned around and faced the viewport. The sensation of icy mist intensified, becoming a frigid deluge that threatened to drown him. He grabbed the controls, ready to blast any part of the Star Destroyer below them if it would stop the overwhelming, penetrating cold.

    Even though he had already tamped down his own presence to be completely undetectable, Ben tried to make himself smaller still, knowing deep down that no matter how well he managed to hide in the Force, there was one person who would eventually find him.

    ~~


    Darth Krayt stood on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Eradicator, watching with interest as three vessels skimmed the surface of his ship, evading both its turbolasers and its smaller, more numerous turrets. Around him he could hear Eradicator’s crew working furiously to scramble additional fighters, to change their course, anything to shake the Jedi out into the open where they could blast them to pieces.

    They needn’t have worried. He wasn’t in a killing mood today. Not that he would let them know that.

    There was a reason he hadn’t used his formidable battle meditation to unite his forces as one. Several reasons, actually; and they were all on board the black YT-series freighter flying in formation behind that Jedi X-wing. If he wanted them dead, they would be.

    There was one person on that ship he longed to reach for… but no, it was too soon. There would be time for that later, he told himself. Instead, he stretched out with his feelings, searching the ship. Anakin had already tried – and failed – to resist his intrusion. They all tried to resist. They all inevitably failed.

    Except one.

    The Master of the Sith smiled. If he didn’t have Lord Dominius’s sworn word that Ben Skywalker was on that ship, he would never have known the young Jedi Knight was there. He had grown quite skilled at his disappearing act, much more adept than he’d been on Ziost. It was a far cry from the boy he’d once known, whose mental shielding was perfectly adequate but hardly powerful. He felt a glimmer of something resembling pride.

    He might not be able to sense Ben, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t reach him. He, too, was a master of becoming small in the Force, so small as to vanish completely. It was his default these days, giving him the upper hand with enemies and followers alike and keeping his apprentices on their toes. It was what had allowed him to ambush the original Darth Krayt while the old man was in stasis, killing both him and his protector, Darth Wyyrlok.

    Now, however, he allowed his presence to expand outward, filling every corner of the ship with his power.

    Ben…

    The Jedi and their allies shot past the bridge, a whole squadron of fighters screaming after them. Krayt turned to track their movement and imagined his presence closing in around them, encircling Ben’s ship in his embrace. Two of the pursuing fighters – lacking the skill and daring of the enemy pilots – collided with a pair of defense towers, exploding in a brilliant, colorful blaze against the Star Destroyer’s shields. A murmur of fear rippled through the crewpits on either side of Krayt as their quarry broke for open space.

    The three ships sped away, blasting his fighters to dust as they angled sharply upward and disappeared above the dark clouds of Vjun. A few fighters followed after them in vain. In a moment, the Jedi would be in hyperspace. Untraceable.

    Krayt smiled again. Despite the damage done to Doctor Mezzon’s fortress, the day had gone quite well. He hoped the crew and his Lords would appreciate his good mood.

    Far above the Eradicator, he sensed the bending and warping of realspace as the Jedi freighter made the jump to hyperspace, taking the last remnants of Jacen Solo’s family with it.

    ~~


    “Ben.”

    He hears the voice through a haze of pain so thick he can barely muster the energy to decipher the word. It tumbles around in his brain, losing all meaning as it ricochets and repeats, benbenbenbenben…

    Ben.

    Ben. The word means… him. His name.

    He opens his eyes to find a pair of brown ones staring back at him.

    “I’m glad you’re awake. I was worried about you.” The voice is gentle. Patient. Loving. The pain digs down deeper. His back arches, fingers splaying wildly as he fights to get free.

    No, that’s wrong. He isn’t fighting anything. Only reacting to the pain.

    He shuts his eyes to ward off the voice and the pain and the face of his tormentor.

    “Ben, look at me. Ben.”

    “Ben?”

    He opened his eyes quickly and sat frozen in his chair as he counted to ten and remembered where he was. Starlines streaked past the cockpit; his hands were wrapped around a set of controls. He turned his head to the left only to find Syal Antilles looking back at him.

    “Are you okay?” she asked in a quiet voice.

    He exhaled slowly, trying not to shake. “Yeah. I’m okay.”

    “We’re away. On route to the enclave.”

    Ben shook his head and stood up. “Take us off course. We can’t continue on until we know for sure we’re not being tracked.”

    Syal looked like she might argue, but she nodded and pulled up the navicomputer. “I didn’t detect any homing beacons. You know what you’re looking for?”

    “Not exactly, but I know where to look.”

    He turned and exited the cockpit, fighting down the panic that was still lingering in his system. It had been so long since he’d had an episode like that during waking hours; he didn’t have to wonder what had triggered it, but it still took him by surprise. As he walked swiftly down the corridor toward the cargo bay, he reached out to run his fingers along the curved walls. There was something about the cool, hard metal that helped him bring his focus fully to the here and now.

    He ducked into the cargo hold where the younglings and the rest of Ben’s crew, save for Allana and Anakin, were waiting. Elias and Ames were tending to a still-unconscious Kohr, while Valin distributed food, water, and blankets to the children. Ben approached the former, his gut lurching a little at the sight of Kohr’s bloody bandages.

    “How is he?” he said. Ames was applying pressure while Elias wrapped fresh gauze around the boy’s head.

    “He’ll be all right as long as we can get to a healer or a medic soon, I think.” Elias wiped his forehead with the back of his wrist, then frowned at the sound of the hyperdrive disengaging. “Have we stopped?”

    Ben nodded. “Just changing course until we can verify we’re not being followed.”

    “You think we are?”

    “It wouldn’t surprise me. Everything about our escape… it was too easy.”

    Ames glared up at him, his hands still on Kohr's wound. "You call that easy?"

    Ben ignored him and stalked across the room. "We can't go back until we know for sure those kids aren't being traced. Everything needs to be checked."

    Elias tied off Kohr’s bandage and said a few hushed words to Ames before standing up. “Where do you want me?”

    Ben looked around the cargo hold. Some of the younglings were asleep, but the rest were staring back at him with frightened faces. Dirty, gaunt, in some cases bruised. How must he appear to them now?

    “Start over there,” he said a little more gently, pointing toward what looked like the youngest group of survivors. “Valin, keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll take this side.”

    He moved toward the cluster of children opposite Elias and kneeled down next to them. “It’s all right. You’re safe now. We’re going to take you somewhere the Sith will never find you again.” He looked into each set of eyes. “Do you understand?”

    The younglings nodded slowly. They didn’t look like they believed him entirely, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t trust him.

    “Okay,” he said. “My name is Ben. I’m looking for a tracking device. The Sith might have planted it on your clothing or even under your skin.” The children cringed and exchanged terrified glances. “I know it sounds scary, but if they tagged you, we need to know so we can get rid of it and get away from the Sith.”

    The children – four of them, all human – stared at him silently. Ben sighed.

    “Were any of you tagged?”

    One little girl with curly, black hair shook her head slowly. The rest were motionless. This was going to take forever; in the meantime, the Sith could be zeroing in on their location.

    “Ben.” Elias’s voice came from across the hold. “Over here.”

    Ben turned away from the children and met Elias’s eyes. He was crouched over a young girl, no more than eight or nine years old, who had fallen asleep against one of the storage containers. Elias swept aside several long strands of dirty brown hair to reveal the child’s neck. Around it was a silver necklace, tarnished and with several knots in the chain. Ben crossed the hold, careful not to step on any of the other children who had collapsed on the deck in exhaustion. He kneeled down next to Elias and examined the oval pendant on the chain.

    “Dammit,” he muttered so that only Elias could hear. Ben pulled the necklace over the girl’s head, taking care not to wake her. He handed it to his friend. “Look.”

    Elias held the pendant up and examined it closely. He frowned. “A tracking device.”

    Ben retrieved the necklace and nodded stiffly. “Yep. See this groove around the edge of the pendant, where the two silver pieces were soldered together? It’s been taken apart and repaired.” Ben placed the pendant on the deck and stood up. He positioned his heel over the pendant, steadied himself for a second, and then crushed the oval under his boot. “There,” he said, staring at the shattered remains of the child’s necklace. “That should keep them off our trail for a while.”

    Elias swept up the pieces, eyeing them sadly. “Poor kid.”

    Ben patted his friend on the shoulder and turned away. “Time to get this ship back on course.” He stood and pressed a button on the hold’s wall comm. “Syal, we’re all clear. Take us to the enclave.”

    Elias nodded toward the door. “You heading back to the cockpit?”

    Ben shook his head. “Got something else to take care of first.” He left his crew to care for Kohr and the children. With Syal flying the ship, that meant that Allana had probably taken it upon herself to tend to Anakin’s wounds. His grandfather had allowed her to pull him away from the cockpit once they went into lightspeed – good thing, too, because Ben wasn’t sure he could have had Anakin in there for much longer.

    He couldn’t avoid him any longer, though. Not if he wanted to keep him from falling into that dark place that was so fond of producing monsters.

    As he approached the crew’s quarters, one of the doors opened, and Allana slipped out. She looked exhausted, and Ben couldn’t blame her. Vjun was more than she’d ever had to handle, both physically and emotionally.

    “How are you holding up?” he said, trying to muster up a small smile.

    Allana shrugged, avoiding his gaze. “I’m fine. Just a few scrapes and bruises, nothing fatal. Anakin’s pretty banged up, though.”

    Ben looked over her shoulder. “Is he in there?”

    “Yeah. Elias helped me bandage him up real quick, but he needs rest and probably a healer.” Suddenly she looked at him suspiciously. “Why?”

    “I need to talk to him.”

    Allana cocked her head to one side. “Can’t it wait? I told you he needs to rest.”

    Ben jerked his head in the direction of the cargo hold. “Why don’t you give the others a hand with the kids?”

    She glared at him just a little as she gave him a mock salute. “Yes, Master.”

    Once she was out of sight, Ben opened the door to the men’s quarters. There were four bunks, two on each side of the room, with a long, narrow table in the common area between them. Anakin was lying on the lower bunk along the left wall, his back to the rest of the room. His clothes were torn in several places, and Ben could see bandages peeking out from under them. The biggest one seemed to wrap around his entire abdomen, although it was impossible from this position to tell where the actual wound was. There had been a lot of blood on the ramp after he’d pulled Anakin aboard. There had been a lot of blood everywhere today, it seemed. Amazing how even when their weapons cauterized wounds, the Sith and the Jedi still found ways to make each other bleed.

    The smallest of coughs from the lower left bunk let Ben know Anakin was awake. He waited for a minute, not knowing how to start this conversation, hoping that maybe his grandfather would make the first move. Dreading either scenario. After another minute of complete silence, Ben finally relented.

    “I’m sure you have a lot you want to say to me,” he said carefully, trying not to rush the words. His first statement was met with silence, so he tried another. “I know you’re angry that I didn’t tell you the whole truth.”

    Anakin didn’t move. He hardly even seemed to be breathing. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe neither one of them was ready.

    “Listen, I’m not going to stand here all day. If you don’t want to talk to me, I’ll go.”

    Ben had his finger on the keypad when Anakin spoke.

    “Were you hoping I would kill him?”

    The question hung in the air between them, hard and accusing. Ben wasn’t sure how he should answer – the truth was more complicated than any quick explanation he might give. He turned around, watching the back of Anakin’s head. “I didn’t know he’d be there,” he said. And it was true, although maybe he should have known better, should have known Anakin’s presence in this time would not have gone unnoticed by the Master of the Sith.

    But he hadn’t really answered Anakin’s question, so he continued. “I would never have wanted you to fight him alone. I didn’t want you to fight him at all.”

    More silence. Then there was the soft rustle of fabric as Anakin rolled over and slowly pulled himself to his feet. He still held his left arm close to his body, probably to brace himself against the pain. There were other injuries Ben hadn’t had time to notice before. Bruises around both his eyes and along the left side of his face. A bandage wrapped around his right thigh. The skin of his left hand red and raw. The exposed gold metal visible through his torn leather glove – while not an injury – was a bit startling. He’d assumed it was a prosthesis, but he hadn’t realized it wouldn’t be nearly as advanced as the ones he was used to seeing. All in all, his grandfather was a mess.

    No, it was more than that. He looked as though he’d been shattered.

    They stared at each other for a moment before Anakin took a step toward the table and gripped the back of a chair with his right hand. And then he looked straight into Ben’s soul and asked the one question Ben had hoped never to answer:

    “Is it true about Padmé?”

    Ben froze. There wasn’t any way he could explain it, was there? Not without destroying his grandfather.

    “Is it true?” Anakin repeated. Even through the anguish in his voice, Ben could hear that tone of command, one that compelled the listener to bend to the speaker’s will.

    For one second, Ben felt a powerful urge to put Anakin in his place, show him that there were more important things than his own pain. The feeling passed, leaving only grim resignation and the slimy chill that meant he’d just brushed the darkness.

    There was only one way he could tell Anakin the truth.

    “Sit down,” Ben said quietly. When Anakin didn’t move, Ben turned to face him fully, his eyes narrowed. “If you want the truth, then sit down.”

    Anakin dropped into the chair at the end of the table and leaned forward apprehensively. Gone was the edgy darkness that had stained his presence up until now. As Ben reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, the only thing that clouded around Anakin was fear, pure and unadulterated.

    Ben removed a small holoproj from his jacket and placed it on the table in front of Anakin. He pressed a button, and a narrow blue beam emerged above the device. Anakin shifted in his seat before going completely still.

    Two miniature figures appeared in the hologram, a man and a woman. As the image focused, Ben heard Anakin gasp. They were looking at smaller versions of Anakin – of Darth Vader – and his wife, Padmé Amidala.

    “—I have brought peace to the Republic,” Vader was saying. “I am more powerful than the Chancellor; I can overthrow him. And together you and I can rule the galaxy, make things the way we want them to be!”

    As Vader finished his impassioned speech, Padmé took a step back and shook her head. “I don’t believe what I’m hearing. Obi-Wan was right! You’ve changed.”

    Vader’s expression darkened. “I don’t want to hear anymore about Obi-Wan. The Jedi turned against me. Don’t you turn against me!”

    In his seat, Anakin raised a hand to cover his mouth, shaking his head as he stared unblinking at his holographic counterpart.

    “I don’t know you anymore!” Padmé’s tears weren’t clearly visible in the recording, but Ben could tell from her voice that she’d begun to cry. “Anakin… you’re breaking my heart! You’re going down a path I can’t follow.”

    Vader’s tone was colder, more distant than before. “Because of Obi-Wan?”

    “Because of what you’ve done! What you plan to do!”

    Vader’s eyes left Padmé, clouding angrily as he looked over her head at something beyond the projector field.

    “Stop! Stop now, come back!” Padmé reached for her husband. “I love you!”

    As it always did at this moment, Ben’s stomach twisted in a tight, icy knot as his grandfather turned on his grandmother and roared, “LIAR!”

    Padmé glanced behind her, eyes widening in shock. “No!”

    “You’re with him!”

    “No,” Anakin moaned, hand falling away from his mouth. He watched in horror as Vader raised his hand and began to squeeze his fingertips together.

    “You brought him here to kill me!”

    Padmé’s hands flew to her throat, choking out a desperate, “No!”

    Ben had viewed this scene so many times, he’d lost track. He’d wanted to understand how it could have happened, why it had to happen like this. What drove someone to try to kill the people they loved most? Was it the same thing that had driven Jacen?

    What would drive Ben to kill like that, and how many people would he destroy in the end?

    “Let her go, Anakin!” Despite the age of the recording, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice rang out clear.

    Padmé gasped for air and whispered something the recorder hadn’t picked up. Anakin rose from his seat and reached for the image.

    “Padmé…” His fingers stretched toward her, as if hoping he could release the hold on her throat.

    Obi-Wan’s voice again, hard as durasteel: “Let. Her. Go.”

    Padmé fell away, disappearing from the projector field.

    NO!” The device flew off of the table and smashed into the far wall, erasing the hologram completely.

    Anakin’s chest heaved as he took several loud, ragged breaths, staring at the spot where the hologram had been. Then he fell back into his seat, tears in his eyes.

    Ben waited, because he knew what Anakin would say next. He knew because it was the way people always reacted when someone close to them committed a heinous crime. It was the way he had reacted when Jaina revealed the full extent of her brother’s dark deeds.

    Anakin would swear that it couldn’t really be him. He would deny it and rationalize by saying he would never hurt her. He would try to convince Ben that he was not the man in that recording. And then he would break down as he realized the horrible, soul-crushing truth.

    But Anakin didn’t say anything. He took another shuddering breath, put his head in his hands, and wept.

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2020
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  11. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Hey friends, I've got a new chapter for you! But first, I'm going to take this opportunity to shamelessly plug my newest short story, The Lands of the Dead, which acts as a sort-of-prequel to Enter the Foreign. It takes place in the future timeline, a few years before the start of this story, and focuses on some of the Sith characters – I won’t spoil who, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out fairly quickly. ;) It also gives a bit of a look into what Jacen was up to before the events of EtF. The genre is a bit more angst and psychological horror, definitely darker than this story. I wrote it as a response to the Monster Challenge; when I saw the prompt, the idea grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. If you check it out, let me know what you think! And, as always, I hope you enjoy this newest chapter of Enter the Foreign!

    ~~

    Chapter Fourteen


    After spending the better part of a day navigating the less-traveled hyperlanes from Vjun to the Inner Rim, the Jedi and their allies finally reached the edge of the Transitory Mists – a vast region of beautiful and dangerous nebulae that formed a protective barrier around the Hapes Cluster, their destination. It had been several months since Tahiri checked on this particular enclave, and the ever-changing nature of the nebulae meant that they would have to tread a careful path through the Mists, lest they end up getting pulled into one of its many hidden stars.

    Tahiri checked her navicomputer, plotting a series of micro jumps that should take them to Haven, a small, uninhabited planet gifted to the Jedi Order by Hapan Queen Mother Tenel Ka Djo shortly before her death. It didn’t appear in any Hapan records, and though it technically fell within the boundaries of the Hapes Consortium, it had never been explored or claimed by their government. Less than a parsec from Terephon, it was nestled in a particularly hard-to-reach pocket of the nebula. Tahiri had to adjust her course every time she came here, using the Force to detect fluctuations in the ionized gases that could wipe out old hyperlanes and reveal new ones. Charting a course to Haven was often a long process, but it was worth it.

    “Sending coordinates,” Tahiri said into the comm as her fingers flew across the navicomputer’s screen. “With any luck, we’ll be at Haven in time for breakfast.”

    “Don’t you mean dinner?” Myri’s voice held – as usual – just a hint of mischief.

    “It’s the middle of the night, as far as I’m concerned.” Syal yawned a little as she spoke. “I really am getting old. Can’t pull the all-nighters like I used to.”

    Tahiri shook her head and smirked. “Wait until you’re pushing forty. It doesn’t get any better.”

    “Okay, we get it,” Ben’s voice broke in, exhausted. “You’re all so old.”

    “Hey!” Myri said, a hint of resentment in her voice. “Don’t pick on me, I just said it’s dinner time.”

    “Listen, kids, I’m going to Haven, if anyone wants to join me.” Tahiri finalized her course and prepared to make the jump. “See you on the other side.”

    Comms went silent as Tahiri made the first jump, coming out of hyperspace in a field of brilliant blue-violet gases. While she waited for the others to arrive, she stretched out with her senses, checking the navicomputer’s course against the swirling nebula before her. Satisfied that the hyperlane was intact, she prepared for the next jump. The others arrived, and she gave the all clear.

    This process continued for several jumps – nine in all – until the bright vortex of hyperspace gave way to a small green planet, tucked into the deep blue folds of space like a smooth, sparkling emerald.

    Tahiri leaned back in her seat for a moment and sighed. Then she opened a comm channel as her companions reentered realspace behind her. “Welcome to Haven,” she said.

    They touched down on the planet’s dark side – or what was closest to its dark side, as there was hardly ever true night in the Hapes Cluster. The Daybreak and the Last Call landed first, maneuvering into a hangar hidden by a rocky overhang. Tahiri followed after, setting her X-wing onto a floor made of tightly packed earth. Before she even opened her hatch, she saw Jysella Horn and Orion Tivas hurrying across the hangar to meet them. Tahiri popped the hatch and climbed out.

    “The children?” Jysella said quickly.

    Tahiri jumped to the ground and nodded toward the Daybreak. “Ben’s ship.”

    “How many?” Orion asked. He was the resident Jedi Healer at Haven and the only fully trained one besides Tekli that they had left. Orion had been trained by Tekli and was very skilled, but he was also young and relatively inexperienced.

    “Not sure. I got there after they were on board. But I know Tredo Kohr was wounded pretty bad.”

    Orion exchanged a glance with Jysella. “I’ll take care of Kohr if you’ll look after the younglings.”

    The Daybreak’s ramp began to lower, and Orion ran to meet Ben and Elias as they exited the ship, carrying Kohr on a stretcher between them. The boy was still unconscious, and his clothes were covered in the blood from his head wound. Geridan Ames was at his friend’s side, looking as though he was still somewhat in shock. Orion took over for Ben, and he and Elias hurried down the ramp with Ames close on their heels.

    “Come on,” Tahiri said to Jysella after they’d gone by. “Let’s get these kids inside.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw Myri and Arden Veiss jogging over from the Last Call. They watched solemnly as Kohr was carried into the enclave, then made their way over to the Daybreak.

    “How can we help?” Myri said.

    Ben was still standing on the ramp, staring off in the direction Elias and Orion had gone. He shook his head as though a jolt of electricity had just shot through his body. “This way,” he said, turning to head back up the ramp.

    They entered the cargo hold and found about a dozen younglings strewn about the room in various states of dress and consciousness. Valin was holding what looked to be the youngest of the children, a small, dark-skinned, human boy who looked about five years old. Syal was next to him, pressing a hand to the child’s forehead.

    “This one has a fever,” she said as Valin stood up with the boy. “I’ll take him to the medcenter, Valin.”

    Valin nodded at Syal and put the boy in her arms. She hurried past them as the other children watched with wide eyes. Tahiri’s thoughts traveled briefly to another time, another cargo hold filled with frightened, battered younglings. At least this time there were no mothers weeping over lost sons and no sons screaming for lost mothers. Her eyes found Ben’s, and – as if sensing the direction of her thoughts – he looked away quickly.

    Jysella stepped past Tahiri and flung her arms around Valin’s neck. “You are such an idiot,” she said quietly.

    Valin let out a tired laugh as he wrapped his sister in a tight embrace. “Glad to see you, too, Jys.”

    Tahiri joined the Horn siblings, eyes sweeping over the cargo hold again. “How are the rest of the kids?” she asked, keeping her voice low.

    Valin released Jysella, and his eyes clouded a little. “Physically intact, I think, but they’ve obviously been through a lot. They’ll need a lot of care.” He sighed and moved to the center of the hold.

    “Everyone,” Valin said gently. “My name is Master Horn. These nice ladies and I are here to help you. We’re going to get you clean clothes, some food, and a warm place to sleep. I promise, you’re safe now.”

    Some of the children rose quickly, without prompting; Tahiri recognized most of them from her visits to the enclave on Denon. A few of the children were noticeably slower to stand up. Fear and mistrust clouded around them, a gray, wispy smoke that refused to clear. She stepped out of the way as the kids shuffled toward the ramp where Myri and Arden were waiting. She caught Myri’s eye over their heads.

    “Think you can manage without me for a few minutes?” Tahiri asked.

    “Sure, we’ve got this.” The Corellian woman nudged Arden in the side. “Come on, kiddos! Follow me!”

    As the children followed Myri, Arden, and Jysella down the ramp, Tahiri joined Ben and Valin. “We seem to be a couple of hands short. Where’s your apprentice?”

    Ben looked over his shoulder toward the interior of the ship. “I told her to get some rest. She’s probably still sleeping.”

    “I’m surprised you let her go in there with you.”

    “I didn’t let her; she snuck off the Daybreak once we were on our way in.”

    Valin patted Ben’s shoulder and shrugged. “She did find the hidden entrance into the mansion. You trained her well, Ben.”

    Ben looked more irritated than proud. Tahiri shifted her gaze to Valin and smiled. “Valin, could you give us a few?”

    The older man smiled knowingly. “Sure. I’d better help with the kids.” A moment later, Tahiri was alone in the cargo hold with Ben.

    “Is there a reason Anakin isn’t with the healers?” she said, careful not to sound too accusing.

    “He’s stable,” Ben said. “I didn’t want to move him if it wasn’t necessary.”

    “Uh-huh. You sure there isn’t something else going on you want to tell me about?”

    Ben rubbed at his eyes. “Like what, Tahiri?”

    “Like how your time-traveling grandfather ended up hanging off a cliff, cut off from the rest of your team, looking like he was beaten halfway to hell? Or why you’re hiding him on this ship instead of getting him the medical attention he probably needs?”

    “I’m not hiding him, and it’s not my fault he couldn’t handle the Sith Master all by himself.”

    Tahiri blinked a couple of times as she processed this new information. “Krayt was there?”

    “Yeah,” Ben said, voice cracking from fatigue. “And I already told Anakin about how Aunt Leia died, so you can guess what happened when he saw Krayt.”

    “I’ll bet,” Tahiri murmured. There were moments when she thought about how crazy it was that she believed this time travel stuff, but there it was. “Did he… are you worried he might be starting down that path?”

    Ben’s voice was very far away when he answered. “I don’t know.”

    Tahiri watched his expression carefully, but he was back to his usual closed off self. Whatever it was that was really bothering him – and she had a couple of guesses what that might be – he wasn’t going to share it with her. Not right now.

    “I think you need to take him to Orion,” she said firmly. “Healers work on more than just the body, you know.”

    Ben sighed audibly and nodded. “I know, I know. Fine. Help me get the stretcher. But I’m warning you, he is heavy. He doesn’t look like he should be, but he is.”

    Tahiri gave him the side-eye as she pulled the extra stretcher down off the wall. “Might as well wake Allana up while we’re at it. She and Geridan both should make some time for a counseling session after they’ve eaten and gotten cleaned up.”

    Ben picked up one end of the stretcher and helped her carry it to the crew’s quarters. “Do you really think that’ll help them?”

    “Just because you don’t like counseling doesn’t mean others don’t find it helpful.”

    Ben raised one eyebrow. “Spare me the lecture?”

    Tahiri stopped in front of the door to the men’s cabin and set down her end of the stretcher. “Stop getting so defensive. This is about Allana and Geridan, not you. Maybe counseling won’t help, but they should least have the opportunity to find out.”

    Ben was silent as he lowered his end of the stretcher. He stayed crouched to the floor for a moment, staring into space. Tahiri wondered what was coming next; what secret burden was he about to unload on her?

    “Why did you go to Vjun when you said you wouldn’t?” he finally asked.

    Tahiri stared down at the top of his head. Why had she gone? Out of loyalty, or friendship? Because she didn’t want to see Ben get killed? Because she knew what it was like to be experimented on and turned into something unnatural? Because even though she knew it didn’t make sense to risk so much, she also knew deep down that Ben was right? That it was what Luke Skywalker would do, and wasn’t he the standard she still secretly wished to hold herself to? Maybe it was all those reasons. But when it came down to it, there was one reason that stood above the rest:

    “Because I’m a Jedi Knight, and you and your crew and those children are a part of my family. And it’s my duty to protect you all.”

    Ben looked up at her and gave her the smallest of smiles. “I’m glad you came. I don’t think we would have made it without you.”

    Tahiri took a deep breath and cracked a smile in return. “Don’t let Syal or Myri hear you say that.” She gestured toward the cabin door. “Shall we?”

    Ben helped her lift the stretcher, and the two of them entered the cabin to find Anakin sitting on one of the lower bunks. His eyes were puffy but dry, although that didn’t really matter with all the bruises on his face. Darth Krayt had really given him a beating.

    “We’re going to take you to our healer,” Tahiri said, nodding toward the stretcher.

    Anakin stared up at her, blankly at first but then with slow recognition. “I can walk,” he said. He sounded hollow, like the only thing inside of him was the words he’d just spoken. “Where are we?” he continued.

    “At one of our enclaves,” Tahiri answered. “We’re safe for now.”

    Anakin nodded in a way that suggested he didn’t entirely believe that, but that wasn’t surprising given what they’d just been through. Hell, she wasn’t sure she really believed it either.

    Anakin stood up slowly, looking only briefly at Ben. Something was going on between those two; the uneasiness she’d sensed from Ben earlier was multiplied here in his grandfather’s presence. Tahiri set her mouth in a grim line. “Come with me; I’ll show you to the medcenter and get you cleaned up.”

    Ben stepped out of the cabin first. “I’ll wake Allana and meet you two inside.”

    Tahiri nodded, then began to head for the ship’s exit. Anakin followed close behind. They walked across the dirt floor hangar and entered the enclave, which was itself buried deep under a heavily forested mountain. It was one of the newer ones and was under the supervision of Jysella and Orion. The latter was working on training a new generation of healers, but Tahiri couldn’t help wondering how much they would be able to do for Anakin, not to mention Kohr or the poor younglings. They simply didn’t have the necessary experience or resources.

    The corridor they were in sloped gently upward, leading to the enclave’s common area. A few teenaged apprentices were eating at a table in the corner, but the room was empty otherwise. Tahiri supposed most of the older Jedi were assisting with the new arrivals. The younglings from the Denon enclave would probably adjust well enough, but the Force-sensitive children who’d been kidnapped elsewhere would need a lot of care and time to get used to their new environment.

    Tahiri turned down another hallway opposite the apprentices and walked for about thirty meters before stopping in front of a white door. She keyed it open and led Anakin into the medical center. A very young Togruta woman named Yasha – one of Orion’s trainees – approached them. She seemed a little uneasy as she looked Anakin over.

    “Master Tivas is tending to Jedi Kohr,” she said, “but I can see to your injuries until he is free.”

    Anakin nodded and stepped away from Tahiri. She felt as though she should say something to him, some words of encouragement to get him through the pain that was so clearly eating away at his heart. She wasn’t good with all the emotional stuff.

    “You’ll be all right,” she said with as much certainty as she could muster. Still, the words sounded empty to her own ears.

    Anakin turned and met her eyes. He didn’t smile, and he didn’t say anything in return; but he did give her a nod before following Yasha into one of the healing rooms. The door slid shut behind them, leaving Tahiri alone. She took a long, weary breath.

    You have to be.

    ~~


    “Is he going to be okay?”

    Arden stood slightly behind Ames as he spoke with the Jedi Healer. Kohr had been in there for over an hour, but Arden had just arrived after helping to get the rescued younglings settled, so she didn’t know what was going on with their friend. Apparently, Ames was equally in the dark, despite having waited in the medical center for every second of Kohr’s stay.

    The Jedi Healer – who could hardly have been much older than her – placed a hand on Ames’s shoulder. “He needs some uninterrupted rest, but I believe he will make a full recovery.”

    Ames’s shoulders relaxed, and the look on his face was nothing short of grateful. “Thank you, Master Tivas. When can we see him?”

    “No earlier than tomorrow. I’ll let you know when he is awake. In the meantime, let’s get some bacta for that shoulder.”

    Ames looked like he’d forgotten about his blaster wound, and Arden had to hide the smile that crept up on her. The boy sure had a one-track mind when it came to his best friend.

    “Right,” he said, following the healer into another one of the medcenter’s rooms. Arden watched them go, wondering which of the other doors Kohr was behind.

    She heard the main door slide open behind her and turned to see Elias walking in. “Where did you get to?” she said. “I thought you’d be in here or helping with the younglings?”

    Elias looked down at his hands and wiped them on his pants. “I started repairs on the Daybreak. She took a few good hits back there, but I think I can sort her out in a few days.”

    Arden nodded, returning her attention to the row of closed doors. “Kohr is going to be okay,” she said with a sigh. “Ames and I just heard the news.”

    Elias stepped toward her and wrapped his arms around her from behind. “Thank the stars. I wasn’t sure what would happen. There was so much blood…”

    Arden turned in his arms and laid her head against his chest. “I wasn’t sure any of us would make it out of there.” She closed her eyes for a moment, thanking every deity both real and imagined that they had made it off of Vjun alive, intact, and without losing anyone.

    “Yeah. We got lucky.” His voice had taken on a kind of far-off tone, like he wasn’t quite present in the here and now.

    She leaned her head back to look up at him. His eyes had clouded over, unfocused.

    “Hey,” she said, curling her fingers against his shirt. “What’s wrong?”

    Elias shook his head, and his gaze refocused on her. “Nothing.”

    “You had that look on Heibic before the Sith showed up,” Arden said, the beginnings of true worry rising up in her. “Is this some kind of Jedi thing? Like when there’s danger?”

    “No, it’s not that,” he said quickly. “Just a bad memory.”

    A word came to her then. A name.

    Yalena.

    She wasn’t sure why it had popped into her head. She’d only heard it mentioned during their mission briefing before Vjun. Something about a failure to kill the Sith doctor many years ago. It had been a passing mention, but Elias had almost definitely been involved, and the mere mention of it had shaken him.

    Arden reached a hand up to his cheek. “You know you can tell me anything?”

    There was something in his eyes that she’d never seen there before. It reminded her of an animal caught in a trap, or of the way she’d felt the first time she tried to swim on her own and got stuck underwater for a few seconds too long. Elias grasped the hand that was pressed to his face, turning into it to kiss her palm. “I know, Arden. I just… I can’t…” He averted his gaze. “I’m sorry. It’s hard to talk about.”

    She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tight. “Don’t be sorry. Forget about it; let’s go work on the ship.”

    He pulled back a little. “You want to?”

    “Sure, what other use am I in a secret Jedi base?”

    She saw the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Okay. Let’s get out of here.”

    When they arrived at the ship, they found Syal and Myri working on the Last Call just a few meters away. Myri was whistling a tune as she tried to pry a panel off the underbelly of her ship; Syal had on a pair of goggles and was busy welding something back together. Myri noticed them first.

    “Hey there, you two. Come to join our little party?”

    Syal turned off her torch and pushed her goggles up onto her forehead. “Looks like the Daybreak could use a little love. Okay if I give you a hand?”

    “Fine by me,” Elias said. “I’ll never argue against more help.”

    Myri held her hands out at her side. “Hey, sis, remember me? Your flesh and blood who you were in the middle of helping?”

    Syal flashed a smile that was far too sweet. “It is my fault the Daybreak got banged up in the first place. Yours was barely scratched. Guess you’re just a better pilot than me.”

    Myri folded her arms across her chest. “Who are you, and what have you done with my sister?”

    Syal winked at Arden and Elias, then waved at Myri as she walked over to examine the Daybreak.

    “Sith got a few lucky shots in while the shields were down,” she said, running her fingers along a scorched length of metal on the ship’s underbelly. “Managed to punch a shallow hole in the hull. Not enough to put us in real danger, but it needs to be fixed or the integrity of this entire section will be compromised.”

    Arden wasn’t well-versed in ship mechanics, but the gaping hole that Syal was pointing at seemed plenty dangerous to her.

    “I noticed some sluggishness in the controls while I was flying her,” Syal continued, “so I’d like to run some diagnostics and see if I can tune her up a little. If Ben doesn’t mind, that is.” Arden got the feeling the elder Antilles didn’t particularly care if Ben minded.

    Elias shrugged. “Should be fine. I’m sure he wants the Daybreak in top condition. And no one knows how to fix 'em up like you do.”

    Syal glanced over her shoulder as she fiddled with a cluster of wires near the open hatch. “Flattery,” she said with a shake of the head.

    Myri’s voice drifted over from the Last Call. “Is that all it takes to get your help? Flattery for my talented, beautiful, incredibly intelligent big sister?”

    Syal didn’t miss a beat. “Go back to work, Myri.”

    Arden stepped onto the ramp. “How long will this take?”

    “A couple days, tops. I work fast, and I’ll have you two for help, right?”

    “Of course,” Elias said. He looped his arm around Arden’s waist. “Should be fun.”

    Syal picked up her torch and pulled her goggles back down over her eyes. “And let’s keep the tender gazes and touchy-feely stuff that you think no one notices to a minimum, okay? It’s all fun and games until someone has a circuit board blow up in their face.”

    Arden looked at Elias and grinned. “Has that happened before?”

    “Yeah,” Elias groaned, a sheepish look crossing his face. “Twice.”

    ~~


    Twin suns burned bright overhead as smoke enshrouded the horizon. He ran back to the camp, rousing the occupants of every tent he passed. Children and adults stumbled out onto the hot sand, some crying frantically, others staring at the chaos in stunned silence. The smoke was coming closer, dark and thick as it licked at the edges of the camp.

    He corralled as many people as he could toward the opposite edge of the camp; those who remained behind began to scream as the smoke enveloped them. From deep within the smoke he saw a fire raging, angry and wild and unfettered, destroying everything in its path. Tendrils of flame wrestled for dominance, climbing higher and higher into the air.

    Suddenly they were surrounded on all sides by fire and smoke, and then he heard a sound that curdled his blood.

    The war cry of a Tusken Raider.

    ~~


    Anakin’s eyes flew open, and he sat bolt upright, still screaming at the top of his lungs. He reached for his lightsaber, but instead of its hilt he felt the thin material of the pants they’d changed him into in the medbay. He looked down at the matching tunic. No smoke, no burns. His bionic arm was completely exposed, and the fingers and palm of his left hand were freshly bandaged. He turned them over just to be sure there were no burns on the other side, either.

    The door across from his bed slid open, and the healer – a slender, dark-haired young man whose name he couldn’t remember – rushed in. “Are you okay? I heard a scream.”

    For a moment, Anakin was tempted to tell the healer that it was just a dream, nothing to be concerned about. But how often were they just dreams, really? The cliff on Vjun, Padmé’s death, his mother on Tatooine…

    Tatooine.

    Anakin swung his legs over the side of the bed and tried to stand up; the healer was there in an instant, muttering reassurances that he was safe while trying to coax him back into bed.

    “Ben,” Anakin said, resisting the healer as best he could. “Where’s Ben?”

    “You need to lie down before you tear the sutures!”

    Anakin grabbed the man by the front of his coat. “Where is he?”

    “I haven’t seen him since he arrived. Now would you please lie down?”

    Anakin pushed past him, staggering a little as he headed for the door. “My robes?”

    The healer looked at him incredulously. “They’re being cleaned, although they were in pretty rough shape.” He pointed toward a shelf on the adjacent wall. “I brought you some spare clothes to wear for now. Better than those scratchy things.” He indicated the stiff medcenter garb Anakin was currently dressed in. “I’m Orion, by the way. I treated you while you were passed out.”

    Anakin nodded absently as he turned to reach for folded stack of clothing. He began to strip right there. The gray pants were utilitarian, though not uncomfortable. They hit above his ankles, but they would do for now. As he went to pull the black shirt over his head, he realized it didn’t have sleeves. He frowned at the shirt, already missing the generous cut of his Jedi robes. Then he put it on and looked over at the healer. “Where are my boots?”

    Orion nodded toward the foot of the bed. His boots were there, along with a long black glove. Anakin picked up the glove and studied it for a moment. It was much thinner than his old one and was made of some kind of synthetic leather. He pulled it on over his prosthetic and flexed his fingers, listening to the material creak. Then he slid on the boots and turned once more to face the healer.

    “What did you do with my lightsaber?”

    Orion looked surprised. “You didn’t have one.”

    An aching hollowness in his gut, followed by a stab of white-hot anger. “What do you mean, I didn’t have one?”

    “When Yasha brought you to the exam room, you had no lightsaber.”

    Anakin fought down the panic that was already rushing through him. He shouldn’t assume anything; maybe he’d left it on Ben’s ship. He told himself it didn’t matter right now. What mattered was that they get to Tatooine before it was too late.

    He sprinted from the medical center, reversing the path he’d taken with Tahiri to get there. As he entered the common area, he spotted Allana talking quietly with the boy called Ames.

    “Allana!” he shouted, drawing her attention away from Ames. Her gray eyes lit up.

    “Anakin! You’re okay!” She stood up and ran over to meet him. She stopped just short of flinging her arms around him and looked him up and down. “You are okay, aren’t you?”

    He waved her concerns away, ignoring the pain in his side. “I’m fine, but we need to find Ben.”

    “What for?” The voice came from behind him, and Anakin turned to see Ben standing there. His grandson looked as though he hadn’t slept in days. How long had they been here?

    Anakin held out a hand toward him. “Ben, we need to get back to Tatooine. Right now.”

    Ben’s eyebrows knitted together. “Why?”

    Anakin’s breath caught in his throat as he remembered the Tuskens’ war cry. “Because the enclave is in trouble.”

    ~~


    Allana sat with Anakin outside the holotransceiver room, waiting for Ben to return. The man who had saved her life on Vjun – she thought of him as her friend, whether or not he felt the same – was hunched forward, bouncing one leg up and down with impressive speed. She wanted to ask him what he’d seen that made him think the Jedi on Tatooine were in danger, but the expression on his face made her think better of it. She also resisted the urge to tell him everything would be all right because most of the time she hated it when adults said things like that. It was so rarely true.

    Finally, the door to the transceiver room slid open, and Ben emerged looking calm, though not as relieved as she’d hoped.

    “They’re fine,” he said. “I spoke to Karanya, and she said everything is normal. No disturbances in the Force or otherwise.”

    Allana frowned. “You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself.”

    Ben scowled at her, but he didn’t deny it. Next to her, Anakin stood up.

    “We have to go to them,” he said.

    “Based on what?” Ben shot back. “One of your visions?”

    Exactly.” Anakin took a step closer to Ben. “One of my visions.”

    The two men stared at each other for a long moment, and Allana got the distinct feeling of being pressed against a pane of transparisteel, trying in vain to reach something vital on the other side. She didn’t know what it was she was missing, exactly, only that it was important.

    “You know we need to go,” Anakin said, his voice quiet but intense.

    Ben glanced at Allana; she was surprised to see concern in his eyes. Why would he be worried about her right now? Unless it wasn’t actually her that he was worried about. Her stomach churned as she realized what that look meant.

    “Davin and Dolan,” she said. “They’re on Tatooine?”

    Ben swallowed hard and nodded. Allana looked back and forth between him and Anakin.

    “Well, shouldn’t we go now?” she said.

    “Yes,” Anakin said, but Ben was already shaking his head.

    “Why not?” Allana asked, eyes narrowing a fraction at her cousin.

    Ben turned to her, and she already knew what was coming. “I’ll go, but you are staying here.” She opened her mouth to argue, but he cut her off with an abrupt wave of his hand. “No. I don’t care how much you hate me for it, I am not putting you in danger, not when the boys are already at risk.” He looked up at Anakin and jerked his head in the direction of the hangar. “Let’s go.”

    Allana felt tears warming her eyes as every separation, every excuse, every false promise came back to her. “Ben, wait!” She tried to go after him but was stopped by Anakin’s hand on her shoulder.

    “Please stay,” he said. There was a slight tremor in his voice that Allana couldn’t ignore. As angry as she was at Ben, as hurt as she was that he was leaving her behind again, she began to feel the first stirrings of doubt.

    “Okay,” she said, rubbing her eyes quickly to erase any evidence of tears. “But be careful.”

    Anakin gave her half a smile before hurrying after Ben. As the two men turned toward the hangar, she saw her cousin look back at her. Part of her wanted to wave or smile or shout at him to stay safe. But she couldn’t make herself do anything but cross her arms and stare at him. He tilted his head to one side, and then he was gone, and Anakin with him.

    ~~


    Arden was on top of the Daybreak holding a panel in place for Syal when she saw Ben Skywalker and Anakin-the-crazy-stowaway jogging across the hangar toward them. Well, maybe jogging wasn’t the best word for what Anakin was doing. More like labored shuffling, but that was probably normal when one had a hole in his side that even bacta couldn’t quickly heal. She’d heard the mysterious Jedi was unconscious for a day and a half after the healers worked on him, and that he’d spent part of that time thrashing about, muttering things that were too garbled to be deciphered.

    Below her, Elias emerged from the ship and met them at the bottom of the ramp. She leaned forward to get a better look and noticed that Syal was doing the same.

    “Is the Daybreak ready to go?” Ben was saying.

    Elias wiped his hands on a rag. “All the major repairs are done. We were just working on some modifications to the controls.”

    “Modifications?” Ben looked up to where Arden and Syal were perched. “I didn’t think you were going to completely change my ship.”

    Syal made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a snort. “You’ve never cared that much about this ship. What’s going on?”

    Ben’s expression was stern. “I’m leaving, and I need the ship to be ready now.”

    Arden and Syal exchanged a worried look. “It’ll be a couple of hours before I can finish,” the older woman said.

    Anakin looked more curious than worried. “How much external work do you have left?”

    Arden glanced down at the panel she was holding. This was the last thing they had to do outside the ship, but Syal still had to do some recalibrations and other technical stuff that Arden didn’t have terms for.

    Syal frowned at Anakin. “We’re almost done out here, just a few minutes. Why?”

    Anakin turned to Ben, and she heard him say, “It’s fine. I can finish the modifications in hyperspace.”

    Syal was clearly appalled to hear this. “You haven’t even seen what I did!”

    Anakin glanced up at her. “It’s not a problem, believe me.”

    “Oh, believe you, okay.” Syal rolled her eyes. “Ben, I’ll have her ready in less than two hours.”

    But Ben was staring at Anakin, a faint smile on his lips. Arden thought maybe he was almost as crazy as Anakin.

    “No, Syal. We have to go now.” Ben finally looked up at her. “But thank you. If you could get the hull patched up, we’ll get out of your hair.” He and Anakin disappeared from view, heading into the ship.

    Elias rubbed the back of his head, then craned his neck to meet Arden’s gaze. She shook her head. “What was that about?”

    Elias shrugged. “I’m not sure. But I think we might be tagging along. Come on in when you’re done?”

    Arden nodded. “See you in a few.” When she looked back over at Syal she saw the older woman shaking her head.

    “Damn Jedi think they’re all born mechanics and starpilots,” she grumbled. “I’m an Antilles. Starships are in my blood!”

    Arden tried to placate her with a smile. “I think you’re doing a great job.”

    “You’re just being nice,” Syal said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Here, hold that steady while I finish welding.”

    Arden did as instructed, and within a few minutes Syal had finished the patch. They climbed down through the ship’s top hatch and met the others in the cockpit. Ben and Elias were readying the ship for launch while Anakin lay on his back between the pilot’s and co-pilot’s chairs, fiddling with some wires under the main control panel.

    “So where are we going?” Arden asked.

    Ben raised one eyebrow. “We?”

    “Well, yeah.” Arden folded her arms across her chest. “Am I not still part of your crew, Captain?”

    Ben smirked. “I guess you are. We’re going to Tatooine.”

    Arden had heard of the desert planet that was once home to Luke Skywalker, but she’d never been there. She didn’t imagine there were many who would want to go there. “What’s on Tatooine?”

    “One of our enclaves,” Elias answered as he dropped into the co-pilot’s seat.

    “Ben!”

    Arden looked behind her and saw a blonde woman with a distinct scar on her forehead walking down the corridor. Just behind her was one of the Jedi from the Vjun mission – Valin, maybe? It was the woman who had spoken.

    “Allana commed me; she said the Tatooine Jedi are in danger?” The woman’s eyes widened as she spread her palms. “What’s going on?”

    Ben had one hand on the back of the pilot’s seat. He glanced down at Anakin, who had stopped what he was doing and propped himself up on one elbow. “A disturbance in the Force,” Ben said steadily. “We’re going to check it out.”

    “Then I’m going with you,” the woman said.

    “Me, too,” Valin added.

    Ben looked around at the cockpit that was practically bursting with people. “That’s not necessary. I’ve already got these three.” He gestured to indicate Arden, Elias, and Anakin.

    “My children are on Tatooine,” Valin said. “Of course I’m going.”

    “It’s not up for debate,” the blonde woman said in a tone that brooked no room for argument. “We’re all going.”

    Syal raised a hand and started to inch toward the doorway. “I’m not. I just came to see if you’d change your mind about… this.” She pointed at the mess of wires hanging near Anakin’s head. Or maybe she was actually pointing at Anakin. Arden couldn’t be sure.

    Ben offered Syal a patient smile. “We’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

    “How can I not?” Syal muttered as she backed out of the cockpit. She put a hand on Valin’s shoulder as he brushed past him. “Give Savl and Carin hugs for me.”

    Valin smiled. “I will.” He reached up to squeeze her hand before she left them.

    Arden was a little sad to see Syal go. After working with her for a day and a half she realized she really did like the Antilles sisters. They weren’t Jedi, but many of their closest friends and allies were; and if they could do all right surrounded by Force-users, maybe Arden could, too.

    Beneath her she felt the deck rumble as the engines came to life. Ben’s fingers flew over the controls. “Everyone grab a seat,” he said. “We’re out of here.”

    Arden sat down behind Elias, but she found her eyes drawn to the mysterious Jedi stowaway, who had stopped what he was doing under the control panel and was staring off into space. There was something hard in his expression, the same look she’d seen on the captain’s face so many times over the last six months. The one that had always scared her a little. She shivered and looked away.

    As the Daybreak lifted into the air, she couldn’t help wondering what was waiting for them on Tatooine, and if it was possible they were bringing something worse with them.

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  12. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I like this!
     
    ViariSkywalker likes this.
  13. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Glad to hear it! I hope you continue to enjoy the story! :D


    Next chapter coming up!
     
  14. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    ~~

    Chapter Fifteen



    Anakin spent almost the entire trip to Tatooine tinkering with the Daybreak’s various systems. Fixing the controls, even with the hyperdrive engaged, had been easy. He’d had to make similar recalibrations about a year ago on a mission deep in Separatist territory. After the controls he’d moved on to the nav system, then the atmospheric regulators. No one bothered him while he worked, and for that he was grateful. He needed to use his hands. He needed to keep his mind busy. He needed to block out the constant ache in his side and forget about the circumstances that had led to his injuries.

    At one point he could feel Tahiri Veila’s eyes on him, like she was waiting for something. Did she know the truth about Darth Krayt? No, of course not. Hadn’t Krayt – Jacen – said as much when he revealed himself? Ben hadn’t told anyone the truth.

    The pain in his side overtook him for a few seconds, and he gritted his teeth to get through it. So much for keeping his mind on his work. He pushed the atmospheric control panel back into the wall and picked up Ben’s tool kit. By now they would be nearing Tatooine, and if his former homeworld wasn’t enough to set him on edge, then the memory of his Force vision was.

    Anakin stowed the tools in the main corridor and made his way to the cockpit. When the door opened, he was greeted with the sight of the brown desert planet in all its ingloriousness. Ben and Elias were seated, and Tahiri and Arden had taken the chairs behind them.

    “I definitely sense a disturbance down there,” Tahiri said, leaning forward to hover over Ben’s shoulder. “You’re sure the Tuskens are behind this?”

    Ben hesitated a second before saying, “We’ll find out soon enough.”

    Elias looked over at Ben. “How far from the camp should we set down?”

    It wasn’t Ben who answered, but Tahiri. “The usual distance. I don’t sense any danger from the enclave, and if we get too close to the chaos, we might spook the Tuskens and make things worse.”

    Anakin remembered how long it had taken to get to the camp last time he’d been here, and the thought of waiting that long to find out what was happening made his skin crawl. Didn’t Ben realize how urgent this was? Didn’t any of them?

    He suffered in silence, though, because as much as he wanted to park this ship next to the camp and rush in there lightsaber blazing, he knew Tahiri was right about spooking the Sand People.

    His lightsaber. He’d completely forgotten that it was missing. He tried not to think of what Obi-Wan would say, because that made him think of the lonely little hut at the edge of the Dune Sea.

    Anakin edged past Tahiri and leaned over Ben’s other shoulder. “What happened to my lightsaber? When I woke up in the medbay they said I never had it with me.”

    Ben looked a little startled, then slightly guilty. “You don’t remember?”

    Anakin felt a pit open up in his stomach. “Remember what?”

    Ben’s eyes met his. “You lost it on Vjun. When we snagged you off that cliff it was already gone.”

    So that was it, then. His lightsaber was lost, his robes were back at Haven. Literally the only things he had left of his own were the boots on his feet. The last connection to the galaxy and time he had come from.

    Anakin moved to the rear of the cockpit. Maybe it was better this way. Without his lightsaber he’d have one less weapon to hurt anyone with.

    “Let her go, Anakin!”

    He braced himself against the open doorway. What had Padmé thought of him in those last seconds before blacking out? How terrified had she been as he squeezed the life out of her? He couldn’t breathe picturing it, and he realized he was going to be sick.

    Anakin got to the fresher just in time, but since he hadn’t really eaten anything for a couple of days, there wasn’t much to come back up. When it was over, he washed his face and spent several minutes just staring at his reflection in the mirror.

    Monster, he thought.

    There was a knock on the fresher door. “You okay in there?” Valin Horn asked. Anakin wiped his face and opened the door, brushing past the older man as he headed for the ship’s main hatch. It was still closed, so he sat down on the floor cross-legged and leaned forward to cover his head with his hands.

    He swore he could feel the heat from the planet radiating through the hull of the ship. For a split-second he wished he could just catch fire, burn up until there was only ash, fade into nothingness. That brief agony he would gladly endure so as not to feel the pure torture of knowing what he had done to his wife and to the children in the Jedi Temple. And then the second was over, and he reminded himself that this was the only acceptable penance: to live with the knowledge of what he’d done in this world, to feel every ounce of pain, to know that if he hadn’t been ripped from the past, he would have become a monster.

    Maybe I’ve been one all along.

    The click of the hatch opening startled him from his thoughts, and as he looked up behind him, he saw the others walking toward him. Ben was carrying a thin, gray jacket, which he tossed at Anakin.

    “Wouldn’t want you to get sunburnt,” Ben said. Anakin caught the jacket and slid his bare arms into the sleeves.

    “Thanks,” he muttered, standing up. He followed the group down the ramp and found a banged up old speeder waiting for them. The pilot was the same tan, dark-haired girl – Kala Di – who had met them last time. Unlike last time, her face was grim.

    “Mom got your message,” she said, glancing at the group assembled behind Ben. “We should definitely leave the Daybreak here. I can take whoever wants to go to the enclave.”

    Ben nodded, eyes scanning the horizon. “What’s happening?”

    “The Sand People attacked a small settlement a few hours after you talked to Mom. We’re safe for now. I’ll explain on the way.” She climbed into the driver’s seat and waited for them to decide who was making the trip.

    Tahiri spoke up first. “How far are the Tuskens from the enclave?”

    “Several kilometers, at least,” Kala Di replied.

    Tahiri seemed to consider the answer a moment before turning back to face the rest of the group. “Elias, you and Arden stay with the ship. The rest of us will go.”

    Elias nodded, taking Arden’s hand in his. “You got it, Master.”

    Anakin climbed into the backseat with Valin and Tahiri, sitting directly behind Ben. Kala Di shot off as fast as the speeder would allow. Even though the journey to the camp was no more than half an hour, it seemed to stretch on and on. The twin suns were high in the sky, baking them without mercy. Anakin found himself belatedly grateful for the jacket Ben had offered him.

    When they arrived at the edge of the camp, Anakin noticed right away that he couldn’t hear the children at all. He felt them, however, huddling silently in their tents. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Karanya running toward them.

    “Thank the Force!” she said. “We have no idea what started it, but the Sand People are attacking settlers. I sensed a disturbance in the Force, and not long after we heard about it over the local comm channels. They haven’t gotten close to us yet, but we need to be prepared.”

    “Thank you, Karanya,” Tahiri said. She indicated Valin next to her. “Could you take us to check on Valin’s kids and the twins? Then we can help you with the rest of the younglings.”

    “Of course,” Karanya replied, still looking concerned. “But what about the settlers?”

    Anakin watched as Ben and Tahiri shared a sad but knowing look.

    “Right now,” Ben said, “there’s nothing we can do for them.”

    “The protection of this enclave has to be our first priority,” Tahiri added.

    Even under the burning Tatooine suns, Anakin felt suddenly cold. “You’re not even going to try to help?”

    Tahiri looked like she was about to answer him, but instead she turned back to Ben. “Comm if you need anything. I’ll let you know how the boys are doing.”

    “Thanks.” Ben waited until Tahiri, Valin, and Karanya had gone before answering Anakin. “It’s too risky,” he finally said.

    Anakin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Risky how? We’re Jedi, they’re not. We could stop them easily.”

    Ben laughed, but it was a laugh completely devoid of mirth. “Easily? You think so? Huh.” He shook his head. “Even if that were the case, it doesn’t help us with our other problem – exposure.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “If we go after the Sand People, we might as well broadcast our presence to the entire planet. How long after that before the Sith are on our tails again?” Ben took a deep breath. “Just trust me on this, Anakin. This is my world, my time. I know what I’m talking about.”

    Anakin wanted so badly to ignore Ben and run off to the settlers’ rescue, but he forced himself not to act on that instinct. If he wanted to change – if he wanted a chance at redemption – he had to stop relying on his passion all the time, rushing headfirst into situations. Be more detached, like Ben.

    “Fine,” he muttered. “What are we supposed to do, then?”

    Ben looked out at the horizon. “We wait and see if they spot us.” He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced at Anakin. “I think I’ll try meditating for a bit. Want to join me?”

    Anakin scowled and broke eye contact. “No, thanks.”

    Ben gave him a look that Anakin could only classify as suspicious. His grandson sat down in the hot sand and closed his eyes. Anakin took a few steps away from Ben, and then he, too, sat down. His eyes roamed the camp before turning toward the open desert.

    He could feel them out there, the settlers and the Tuskens. Farmers and their families fleeing in terror, only to be cut down. He felt their pain, their despair. It reached deep inside him, dredging up all the horrors he’d experienced in his lifetime. His mother being beaten by Gardulla’s slave keeper. Watching Qui-Gon’s body burn. The first time he took a life. The searing agony as Dooku’s lightsaber sliced through his arm. Seeing clonetroopers under his command blown to bits and not being able to stop it. There were many more, some he hadn’t even realized were there.

    He tried to block out the pain, but instead of drawing away from the conflict in the desert, he found himself focusing on the other side of it. The Tusken Raiders’ anger and hatred was almost as intense as the settlers’ fear. At first Anakin recoiled from that hate, but it, too, called to something rooted even deeper inside him. For every painful memory that came to mind, there was another that inspired his wrath. He had seen so much death in the last three years. Jedi and soldiers senselessly killed by armies of droids. Innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. He hated the Separatists who hid behind those droids. He’d hated the Sith for manipulating the war and trying to bring down the Republic from within.

    What a cruel joke it was that Palpatine had been a Sith Lord all along, and that Anakin had become his enforcer. The kind of man who would choke his pregnant wife to death.

    Two more memories clawed their way to the surface, despite his efforts. Darth Krayt’s face as he revealed Anakin’s crimes, and the hologram of Padmé pleading with him to turn away from the darkness.

    A sound pulled him roughly from his memories. It wasn’t very loud, but Anakin would have known it anywhere. It was forever burned into his brain: the animal-like war cry of the Tusken Raiders. As he regained focus, he realized there was fire on the horizon.

    He was on his feet without thinking, running through the camp to the place where the swoop bikes were kept. He barely noticed the pain from his injuries, or the fact that Ben was right behind him, shouting something he couldn’t hear. It didn’t matter anymore; he was done pretending he could be some stoic Jedi who let others dictate who lived and who died. He may not have been able to save Padmé, or Luke, or Leia, or the rest of his family. But he could save the settlers who were being massacred. That he could control.

    He could only find one swoop, and it was tied to a stake at the edge of the camp. Smoke from the fires had begun to waft through the tents.

    “Hey!”

    Anakin spun around to find Ben about a body’s length away. Now that he’d stopped running, his wounds seemed a lot worse. Each breath brought a new stab of pain.

    “What do you think you’re doing?” Ben said.

    Anakin started to turn toward the swoop. “I’m going to help them.”

    “No, you’re not.” Ben reached out and grabbed Anakin roughly by the arm. “You can’t give away our position.”

    Anakin looked at Ben in surprised disgust. “You’d rather let those farmers die? That’s who we’re supposed to protect!”

    “I’m supposed to protect the Jedi. That means no helping, not against the Sand People, not against anyone when it could mean bringing the Empire down on these children.”

    The smoke had grown thicker, and the smell of it was making Anakin nauseous. He could feel the throb of blood against the insides of his wounds, and he wondered for a moment if they might split open again.

    “I can protect them,” Anakin insisted. “I’ve fought the Tuskens before.”

    “I don’t care what you think you can do. We’re staying here, and that’s final.” Ben turned away and began to walk back toward the enclave. A small crowd was starting to form at the edge of the encampment, no doubt drawn by the arguing and the anger they sensed. Anakin held his ground.

    Ben walked several paces before he seemed to realize Anakin wasn’t following him. Ben stopped, and as he did so, Anakin noticed the apprehension on the faces of the other Jedi. Finally, his grandson turned toward him and stared.

    Anakin swallowed what little moisture remained in his mouth. “I’m going, Ben. And that’s final.”

    Ben narrowed his eyes and crossed the distance between them in the space of a few heartbeats. Keeping his voice low, Ben leaned close to Anakin. “You’d put us all in danger, then?”

    Anakin looked past Ben at the crowd, which was steadily growing bigger. “The only people in danger are out there.” He gestured toward the smoke on the horizon. “Do you really think they’ll turn us in if we save them?”

    An icy expression crossed Ben’s face. He stared directly into Anakin’s eyes. “I know they will.”

    Anakin bit his tongue and shook his head before turning toward the horizon. The wind gusted around him, bringing with it the smell – real or imagined, he couldn’t say – of carnage. “You’re wrong,” he said. “And I’m going.”

    Anakin backed up a few steps before turning away from Ben and the Jedi. He winced with each step, but around him the Force was crackling with energy, with anticipation. He knew what he had to do, and nothing was going to get in his way. Not his injuries, and not Ben.

    He was almost to the swoop bike when Ben called out after him.

    “You think that’ll be the end of it? Kill one group of Sand People and that’s it? Job well done, no repercussions?”

    Anakin closed his eyes and tried to imagine Ben’s words were a wave breaking against him.

    “It doesn’t end there,” Ben continued bitterly, his voice loud enough for the other Jedi to hear. “They’ll keep coming after you, and you’ll have to keep killing them. And what do you do once you’re finished? Go to their villages and kill their women and children? Hunt down each and every clan?”

    The words were a wave, but instead of breaking against him they were drowning him; and all he could hear now were the strangled, grunting cries of Tusken men, women, and children as they fell under his blade. And try as he might to forget why he’d done it, why he’d slaughtered an entire camp instead of escaping into the night with his mother’s body, the only thing he could focus on was the guilt and the rage and the fact that Ben was forcing him to remember it.

    “Coward,” he muttered.

    Ben’s response was sharp. “What was that?”

    Anakin turned back toward the encampment and glared at Ben. “I said you’re a coward.”

    There was an eerie hush as Ben once again closed the gap between them. “You can call me whatever you want. Doesn’t change the fact that you want revenge, and you think this is the way to get it.”

    Anakin shook his head. “What revenge? This is about saving people!”

    Ben gestured wildly in the air, his hands coming close to Anakin’s face. “This is about you taking out your anger on the Sand People because you lost the fight on Vjun! This is about your mother and your wife and everyone you ever lost, and for some reason you think murdering Sand People is going to magically make it all better!”

    Anakin went blank for a moment, all thought seared out of him by the precision laser strike of Ben’s words, leaving him deaf and dumb beneath the oppressive heat of the twin suns. The seconds stretched on, and he felt himself heavy with sweat and fury and more pain than he knew what to do with. Then he did the first thing that popped into his head.

    He planted both hands on Ben’s chest and shoved him backward as hard as he could.

    As he reeled from the attack, Ben looked straight into Anakin’s eyes, completely stunned.

    Anakin stood with fists clenched at his sides, the gate that held back his rage swinging wide open. “I am not a murderer.”

    Ben’s fingers hovered near the hilt of his lightsaber as he fought to regain his composure. His expression darkened. “I’m sure Darth Vader said the same thing once.”

    Anakin snarled and threw up his hands, sending a blast of energy at Ben. The other man countered with equal effort, kicking up sand in every direction. The Jedi at the edge of the enclave gasped; some of the younger ones cried out in horror. As the sand settled, Anakin and Ben collided, each trying to wrestle the other to the ground.

    They grappled with each other for several fruitless seconds. Anakin tried to use his greater height and weight to bring Ben down, but his wounds kept him from pressing the advantage. Ben butted his head against Anakin’s shoulder, grunting as he worked to stay on his feet. “You think… this is the way… to keep from turning?”

    Anakin managed to get under Ben and flip him over; but in the process he lost his balance on the shifting sands, and they both went down. Before he could get up, Ben tackled him, shoving his face into the sand. Anakin used the Force to propel himself upward in a quick burst, knocking Ben hard on his back. Anakin fell face up next to him, and for a moment he was blinded as he looked almost directly into one of the suns.

    His vision cleared just in time for him to see Ben raising a fist. Pain from his injuries flooded his senses, but he ignored it and lifted both hands to block, catching Ben’s fist and twisting his arm to deflect the blow. Then a new pain flowered across his jaw as Ben’s other fist made contact. Anakin let go and raised his hands to defend himself; as he did so, something hit him in the side, and he thought for sure he’d just been ripped open.

    “How does it feel?” Ben screamed at him. He climbed on top of him, straddling his waist. Then he reached down and grabbed Anakin by the collar, yanking his head and torso off the sand. “Do you feel powerful now?”

    Anakin tried to pry his jacket from Ben’s grasp. “Do you?” he spat out. Ben’s face contorted at those words, and he raised his fist again. Anakin looked into Ben’s eyes and smiled bitterly, tasting blood. “Go ahead,” he said.

    Ben hesitated for a moment, but then he gripped Anakin tighter and punched him hard, over and over. Anakin stopped trying to fight. This was what he deserved, after all.

    Enough!”

    Tahiri Veila’s voice carried across the sands to every Jedi and child listening. Ben’s body was partially blocking his view, but Anakin could see her standing at the edge of the enclave, parting the sea of onlookers. Her blonde hair was loose around her face; blowing wildly in the breeze, it gave her the air of a woman gone mad.

    She left the others behind, stopping when she reached Anakin and Ben. “Enough,” she repeated, quieter this time.

    Ben climbed off of Anakin and collapsed on the sand next to him. Tahiri crouched down near them.

    “Look at you both,” she said, her voice sharp and low enough that only they could hear. “You’re Jedi Knights, and they’re all watching.” She looked back at the crowd and sighed, shaking her head. Her anger drained away, leaving behind the bitter taint of disappointment.

    “I expected more from the blood of Luke Skywalker.”

    Anakin’s stomach twisted at her words, and he couldn’t suppress the sob that rose up in his throat. Beside him, Ben stared at the horizon. The fire was growing brighter.

    Tahiri stood up, but instead of returning to the camp she headed toward the swoop bike. All around them the air grew still.

    “You’re going alone?” Ben said quietly as Tahiri mounted the swoop.

    She looked back at them, first at Anakin and then at Ben. “I have battled Yuuzhan Vong warriors and Sith Lords. I think I can walk safely among my own people.” She gunned the engine. “Don’t come after me. I’ll be back by nightfall.” And with a burst of sand she was gone, speeding toward the fires in the distance.

    Anakin lay still on the sand, listening to the frightened whispers of the other Jedi. His last awareness before passing out was of the intense heat and the feel of several pairs of arms carrying him away.

    ~~


    About an hour before nightfall, the fires that had blazed in the distance finally subsided, and though the blight that the massacre had left on the Force was still easily felt, it had lost some of its intensity. Ben took that to mean Tahiri had succeeded in making the Sand People halt their attack. While he was relieved that no more settlers would die tonight, he knew what that meant for the Jedi enclave. This would probably be their last night on Tatooine.

    Ben trudged up a sand dune just southwest of the camp and spotted who he was looking for. Anakin was sitting atop a narrow, rocky ridge that jutted out of the dune for a few meters before vanishing under the sand. Ben climbed the rest of the way up to the ridge and stopped a couple of meters behind Anakin.

    “Karanya’s looking for you,” he said. “She said you’re supposed to be resting.”

    Anakin kept his back to him. “I am resting.”

    Ben pursed his lips. “In a bed. Not traversing the desert.”

    “I’m fine.”

    That was a lie if he’d ever heard one. Ben took a few steps forward and sat down next to Anakin. His grandfather was watching the suns as they began to sink below the far-off dunes. The wind was cooler tonight, cooler than he had ever remembered it, but that might have had more to do with the residual darkness that tainted the air than with the actual weather. Ben leaned forward and used his index finger to draw little circles in the dirt.

    “I think you bring out the worst in me,” he said, keeping his eyes locked on the circles. “Not you, exactly, but the idea of you.”

    Next to him, Anakin shifted. “What a relief.”

    Ben supposed he deserved the sarcasm. “I’m sorry,” he said even though the apology sounded feeble to his own ears. “I shouldn’t have… I wasn’t…” He sighed and gave up trying to find the right words, the kind of words that would magically absolve him of all wrongdoing. Instead, he and Anakin sat in silence for several minutes, eyes on the horizon.

    When Anakin spoke again, the bitterness had drained from his voice, leaving only resignation in its wake. “You shouldn’t be sorry,” he said. “You were right about me. I am a murderer.”

    Ben was startled by this admission. Deep down he still had a hard time separating this Anakin from the one who had lived as Darth Vader, but his grandfather seemed to be internalizing that connection to an even greater extent. “You’re not a murderer, Anakin. You aren’t—”

    “I am, Ben. And I’m not talking about what I did as Vader.”

    If the air had seemed cool before, it was downright chilly now. “Then what are you talking about?”

    Anakin kept his gaze forward. “Before, I told you I’d fought the Tusken Raiders, but that’s only partly true. My mother was kidnapped by a tribe of them, and when I went to rescue her, she died in my arms. I could have left the way I came, without anyone noticing. Instead, I fought my way out. And when I didn’t have to fight anymore, I decided to make the rest of them pay. I murdered the entire tribe.”

    Ben stared down at the circles he’d drawn.

    —her mind calling out to his, telling him to go, to leave her behind—

    —a wave of hatred meets a wall of light as the Sith break through, surrounding her—

    —I love you, Ben—

    —one last mental touch before he loses her forever—

    He realized he was digging his fingers into the ground. “They killed your mom,” he said, barely a whisper.

    “I killed mothers, too. And children.”

    Ben thought maybe he should be horrified by that revelation, but he wasn’t. What did that say about him? That under the same circumstances he would have done exactly what Anakin did? He had felt the despair and rage that came from losing loved ones, and each time it became harder not to lose control.

    “You made a mistake,” Ben said, “and that doesn’t excuse what you did; but it doesn’t make you evil.”

    Anakin shook his head. “Last week I executed a defenseless man, an unarmed prisoner. Was that a mistake, too?”

    Ben closed his eyes. “Why did you do it?”

    “Does it matter?”

    There is no why. That’s not the question you should be asking.

    They weren’t Jacen’s words, exactly, but he could hear his old master’s voice in the thoughts that flashed through his mind. Jacen used to question him – sometimes relentlessly – about what he knew and how he knew it. It had always frustrated him and challenged him, and at the time he thought it was making him smarter, making him a wiser and more thoughtful Jedi. Now it just seemed like a mess of riddles and questions and half-truths, and he sometimes wondered if there was anything he truly knew.

    Does it matter?

    “I don’t know,” he answered. And he didn’t, really. He still didn’t know, even after all these years.

    Anakin paused, shifting ever so slightly beside him. Flexing his right hand. “He was a Sith Lord. The one who cut off my arm. Palpatine’s apprentice.”

    “And he was defenseless?” Ben wasn’t sure he believed that, but maybe it was because he didn’t want to believe it.

    Trying to bury your head in the sand again, Skywalker? And what good has that ever done you?

    Anakin’s voice wavered slightly. “I had just cut off both his hands and taken his lightsaber. He was an old man, and he was at my mercy, and I cut off his head.” An ugly, bitter laugh scraped its way from his throat. “The Chancellor watched the whole thing. Grooming me, I guess. And I let him.”

    Ben didn’t know what to say. He tried to imagine what that must have been like, standing before the Sith Master, being goaded into killing his apprentice… and he realized he’d heard this story before. History really did have a way of repeating itself, and in this case, it wasn’t very subtle.

    “This might not make you feel better,” Ben said, “but my dad faced the same situation aboard the second Death Star. And he made the right choice.”

    Anakin’s lips curved into something resembling a smile. “I know. I remember you telling me when we were in Obi-Wan’s hut.”

    “I didn’t tell you what my dad said to the Emperor.”

    For the first time since Ben had arrived, Anakin turned and looked at him. “What did he say?”

    It had been one of his favorite stories when he was little. His dad had always tended to focus on the moments after, when Anakin Skywalker had returned to the light; but as much as Ben loved hearing that part, it was Luke Skywalker’s stand against the darkness that stood out to him most.

    Ben smiled. “That he was a Jedi Knight, just like his father.”

    The two men sat in silence, the rays of the setting suns warming them. Ben thought he saw tears forming in his grandfather’s eyes, but Anakin turned away before he could get a closer look.

    “Even at your darkest, your son believed in you. If he could see the good in someone as evil as Darth Vader, then I think you need to try to see the good in yourself. Not just see it, but embrace it. Because I think if you tell yourself you’re a monster, that’s what you’ll become.”

    Anakin nodded slowly, drawing in a long, steadying breath. “Earlier you said I bring out the worst in you?”

    “I said the idea of you.” Ben’s mouth started to go dry as Anakin looked to him for an explanation. It was so much easier to counsel others than it was to open up about himself. Why was that? What was so hard about admitting when things were hard, when he felt everything building to a boil and wasn’t sure he could contain it anymore? Why did he try to keep it down so deep and then fool himself into thinking it wouldn’t come back up? People used to comment on how alike he and his mom were, sharp and focused, never descending into despair or wallowing in their own tragedy, even when they had every right to. Protecting themselves, like Tahiri said. But he’d never seen Mom lose it like he had, not even when Dad died. What would she think of him now? What would both of them think?

    Ben looked away from Anakin, eyes focusing once again on the circles he’d drawn in the dirt. “I used to want to be just like my dad,” he said, his voice suddenly quiet. “Like most boys, I guess. Only my dad was a hero, and he was incredible and compassionate and noble, and who wouldn’t want to be like him? But I wasn’t like him, not really. I looked a lot like him, and people always looked at me like they were seeing him; but I knew I would never be him.”

    Anakin was very still, listening. Ben thought about stopping there, but he took a deep breath and kept going.

    “After a while, I realized I was okay with that. I thought if I wasn’t like my dad, it was because I was more like my mom. She was guarded, but so strong. Not just powerful in the Force, but resilient. It seemed like nothing could knock her down. And she cared about others deeply, even if she was careful in how she showed it.”

    Ben tilted his head up, staring out at the suns. Tatoo II was nearly gone; only a sliver of the blood-red sun remained visible above the dunes. Tatoo I had begun to deepen in color, its soft yellow-white glow turning slowly to gold. He closed his eyes, and her face flashed across his vision, as bright and fleeting as the afterimage following a burst of light.

    “Sometimes we used to sit together,” he said. “Just like this, in silence, watching the sunset or the sunrise on whatever planet or moon we happened to be on. And I’ve never felt more at peace than I was during those moments, because we understood each other. We didn’t have to talk about all the bad stuff that happened. We could just be.”

    Any residual warmth he might have felt from gazing upon the suns left him in that moment, and the cool night air gusted around him.

    “But ever since you got here, I can’t help thinking… maybe I’m not like her. Maybe I’m not like either of them. Maybe I’m like you.”

    He finally looked at Anakin and found his grandfather’s eyes on him, something nebulous darkening his gaze. “And that frightens you,” Anakin said quietly, with a hint of the earlier resignation.

    Ben held onto the breath he’d taken, then released it slowly. “Yes.”

    Anakin tilted his head to the side and looked away. “I would say that the worst in you isn’t nearly as bad as the worst in me, but I doubt you’d believe me.”

    Ben looked down at the bruises forming on his knuckles. “Probably not.”

    Whatever Anakin was going to say next, it was interrupted by the distant whine of a swoop engine. They both turned toward the sound, eyes focusing on a fast-moving smudge on the horizon. It continued to grow larger until Ben could make out Tahiri’s long coat flapping behind her.

    “She’s back,” Anakin said.

    Ben stood up and brushed the dirt and sand from his pants. “Guess we should get going.”

    They climbed down from the ridge and crossed a couple of dunes to get back to the enclave. When they arrived, they found Tahiri already there, speaking with Valin and Karanya. She glanced over at Ben and Anakin as they approached, her eyebrows arching slightly.

    Ben pretended not to notice. “How did it go?”

    Tahiri looked exhausted but unharmed. “The attack is over and won’t resume,” she said. Ben got the feeling that was all they were going to hear on the subject. “The settlers were grateful,” she continued. “So grateful that I suspect by this time tomorrow all of Tatooine will know we’re here. We have to leave tonight.”

    Karanya looked around at the tents that had been her home for a few years now. This wasn’t her homeworld, but Ben knew she’d grown attached to it. “I’ll get Kala Di and Dira, and we’ll gather the younglings,” she said with quiet firmness.

    Tahiri turned to Valin. “Get the older kids and start packing up all the equipment.”

    “Got it.” Valin and Karanya left to perform their tasks, leaving Ben with Anakin and Tahiri.

    She drew in a long breath, as if it was the first truly deep breath she’d taken in a long time. “Ulin is on his way to help us evacuate. Ben, I need you to go through the camp and make sure we don’t leave behind anything that could be used to find us. Elias will be here any minute in the Daybreak. I’ve got a couple of comms to make.”

    Ben nodded at Tahiri and watched as she disappeared into the darkness. He’d known this was coming, but it was still hard to accept that he was leaving Tatooine for good this time. He should have been glad to wash his hands of the whole planet – so why did he feel an ache deep in his bones at the thought of saying goodbye?

    He looked out at the dark horizon, at the trio of moons already rising high in the sky. He glanced over at Anakin and saw his grandfather gazing at the moons as well. Their eyes met, and something passed between them in the fading light – an understanding born out of years of war, a sort of mutual mental shrug, as if to say, All right, that’s that, time to get moving.

    So they did.

    ~~


    Tahiri watched as Ben and Valin finished loading the last of the cargo onto the Daybreak. Most of the children were already aboard the freighter; the rest were filing onto Ulin’s ship, the Happy Ho’Din. The slicer had only just arrived from Nar Shaddaa, and Tahiri suspected he’d been eager to get away from the empty safe house.

    “Been a while, Ulin,” she said as the older man strode down the ramp toward her. “Thanks for coming.”

    Ulin put his hands in his jacket pockets and shrugged, grinning a little. “I was just waiting for you to call.” He looked over his shoulder at the open hatch. “You sure I’ve got enough room for everyone?”

    “We might be a little cramped, but between the Ho’Din and the Daybreak, we’ll make it work.”

    His grin widened. “You riding with me?”

    Ben was passing behind Ulin at that moment, and he slowed down long enough to raise both eyebrows at Tahiri. She resisted the urge to glare at him.

    “I suppose I will,” she answered. She didn’t actively encourage Ulin’s affections, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t enjoy the attention just a little.

    After the children were all settled, the adults congregated in the space between the two ships, with Tahiri at the center. “Thank you for working so quickly,” she said. “Karanya, Valin. You’re with Ulin and me on the Ho’Din. Ben – you take the rest of your crew on the Daybreak. We’re meeting up with Syal and Myri at the Zihrent base.”

    “We’re not going back to Haven?” Elias asked.

    Tahiri shook her head. “We can’t afford to have so many of us in one place, especially if it’s true the Sith have renewed the Hunt. Haven already took in the kids from Denon. The Zihrent base is practically empty, though, so there will be plenty of room for all of you. It should be an uneventful trip. I’ll send you coordinates once we break atmosphere.”

    She hoped it would be uneventful. After everything they’d gone through the last few days, they could use a break. She found her gaze drifting to Ben and Anakin, standing next to each other as though nothing unusual had happened that day. It had been a long time since she’d seen Ben lose control like that. As much as she wished he would talk about it, she knew it would be futile to ask.

    Tahiri took a long breath and looked around at the two crews. “May the Force be with you. Now let’s get out of here.”

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  15. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Haha, look at me, I figured out how to use the quote function [face_dancing] I appear to have become the old fogie Bri always said I was :p You already know how much I love the chapter as a whole, dearest, but I do especially love this bit [face_love]

    Winter Soldier parallels aside, it does remind me of a certain Jedi when his sister was threatened [face_whistling]

    'Tis a lovely installment, as always [face_love]
     
  16. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    If you're going to be an old fogie, you definitely need someone to thwack. We really need to get Bri back here... [face_mischief]

    I know I’ve been saying it so much lately that you’re going to stop taking me seriously, but I got a little misty-eyed the first time I read back over this passage. I must have had the right music playing. :p But really, this was one of my favorite parts of their conversation. And I thought it seemed fitting that each of the sons would focus on their fathers' roles in the story.

    Hey, that’s why I’m all in if Disney ever wants to cast Sebastian Stan as Luke.[face_batting] But dang, if he wouldn’t be perfect as Ben in this story.

    And here it is for the benefit of all, Gramps and his grandson ;)
    [​IMG]

    Thank you, dearest! [:D]
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2020
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  17. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    ~~

    Chapter Sixteen



    The Daybreak and the Happy Ho’Din touched down on Zihrent without incident, landing under cover of darkness. Anakin could feel the hangar hidden under a canopy of tall trees. He leaned over Ben’s shoulder as his grandson maneuvered their ship into the hangar. “You guys have a lot of secret bases. I’ve never even heard of this place.”

    Ben powered down the engines and flipped a few switches overhead. Additional cabin lights flickered on. “Aunt Leia was very thorough when she took the Order underground. She made contingency plan upon contingency plan.”

    Anakin peered out at the enormous tree trunks shielding the base. “Smart.”

    “Come on,” Ben said, motioning for Elias and Arden to follow as well. “Let’s get everyone settled.”

    The others grabbed their gear while Anakin, who had only a borrowed lightsaber and the clothes on his back, strode down the open ramp to get a better look at their new home.

    The hangar was very old, made of huge blocks of gray stone that had been reinforced over time by durasteel supports. A control room overlooking the hangar looked like a relatively new addition; he thought he recognized the faded seal of the Republic above the bank of windows. Under the control room was a large doorway about seven or eight meters wide that probably led into the base. He sensed only two lifeforms in the entire base, not including the occupants of the two freighters.

    “No one to meet us?” someone called out from behind him. Anakin turned to see a gray-haired man crossing the distance between the Ho’Din and the Daybreak. He guessed that this was Ulin, the slicer who had piloted the Ho’Din here. Ben, who was walking down the ramp with Arden and Elias, reached out and gave the man a firm handshake.

    “Someone’s in there,” Ben said, “but I don’t know who. We’ve never been to this base before.”

    “Neither have we,” Valin said as he and his children appeared behind them. Little Carin was staring at Anakin as if he had a second head. He felt a pang of guilt at the realization that she and most of the other children had witnessed his fight with Ben on Tatooine. He wondered what explanation they’d been given. Then he noticed two more familiar faces coming toward him, and the feelings of guilt intensified.

    Davin and Dolan walked just ahead of Tahiri, still bleary-eyed from sleep; but they froze when they saw Anakin. At least he thought they were looking at him, although they didn’t run to greet Ben as they had done before, so maybe it was him they were reacting to. Either way, his actions had affected them, and that was bad enough.

    Tahiri placed a hand atop each of their heads and ruffled their hair. That small gesture of affection seemed to relax them. “I’ve never been here either, but Leia said she left it in the care of someone with unwavering loyalty.”

    As if on cue, two figures appeared in the doorway at the end of the hangar. They were non-human, but it wasn’t until they came closer that Anakin realized he was completely unfamiliar with this species. They were shorter than the average human but more powerfully built; everywhere he looked on them he saw muscle. Their skin was dark gray, and their faces had a somewhat feline aesthetic. Every part of them looked dangerous, especially the needle-sharp teeth that poked out of their mouths.

    Anakin noticed that while a few of their companions – Arden, Karanya, and the children – seemed as surprised as he was, the rest of them looked downright pleased to see the base’s inhabitants. To his left, Ben stepped forward to greet them.

    “I’m Ben Skywalker,” he said, extending his hand. The taller of the two creatures took his hand and pressed the back of it against his flat nostrils. It – he – let out a happy sigh and released Ben’s hand.

    “We are pleased to welcome you to Zihrent, Ben Skywalker, son of Luke. I am Deekmawr clan Eikh’mir, and this is my companion, Matabakh clan Kihm’bar. We are here to serve you and the Jedi in any way possible.”

    “Thank you, Deekmawr,” Ben said. “Right now we need food and a place for our younglings to sleep. We’re also expecting another group of Jedi within the hour. I don’t know what your supply situation is?”

    Deekmawr grimaced – at least that’s what it looked like, although his tone was nonplussed. “We have plenty for all. Please allow us to escort you inside.”

    By now the occupants of both ships had joined them, forming a dense semi-circle around their hosts. Deekmawr and Ben had turned to go into the base, and the displaced Jedi began to follow. As he started forward, Anakin noticed Matabakh sniff the air and then look at him out of the corner of his – or her – eye. He waited until Matabakh looked away before moving again.

    The rest of the base appeared to be as old as the hangar, if not older. Deekmawr and Matabakh led them down several winding corridors before stopping at the entrance to a large room where tables had been set up in long, narrow rows. The mess hall, most likely. There were hallways branching off from each corner of the room. Deekmawr pointed to the hallway opposite them.

    “Sleeping quarters are that way. The other two paths will take you to training facilities and spare rooms for any purpose.” He looked at the children. “After your younglings are settled, we can show you to the council room and the command center.”

    Ben looked impressed and mildly amused. “We haven’t had an official council room in years.”

    “The Mal’ary’ush wanted the Jedi to be equipped to survive, but also to remember.”

    It sounded a little cryptic, but Anakin thought he understood what the gray alien meant.

    Tahiri stepped forward, still holding Davin and Dolan’s hands. “Thank you both for watching over this place. I think we’ll get some food for the kids and then let them rest.”

    Karanya and her children helped guide the younglings to the closest set of tables while Valin and Tahiri went with Matabakh to get the food. Anakin hung back with Elias, Arden, and Ulin. Ben was conversing quietly with Deekmawr

    “So, what now?” Anakin heard Arden say to Elias.

    “Now we enjoy our new home until Ben or the Council tell us it’s time to go,” Elias said.

    “I won’t complain about being out of danger, but after the last week it seems kind of… boring? For the Jedi, anyway?”

    Anakin surprised himself by butting into the conversation. “You’d be amazed at how boring the Jedi can be.” And in that moment, he realized that he actually missed the Order, the one he’d grown up in. He missed the tranquility of the Room of a Thousand Fountains. He missed the lectures on Jedi history that seemed so useless to a young boy who’d blown up a starship by age nine. He missed the way he used to see Jedi meditating all over the Temple, like they could find peace anywhere, even amidst a group of rowdy Padawans playing ball. His Order wasn’t perfect, and it had driven him crazy sometimes with all its rules and traditions; but it had in many ways been his family. And he had betrayed them.

    Anakin shook his head to clear it. Elias was describing to Arden just how boring Jedi training could be, while Ulin edged closer to the tables. Tahiri, Valin, and Matabakh were returning with trays and a couple of pots.

    “Younglings first,” Tahiri said, eyeing Ulin. “You’ll get your turn, old man.”

    Ulin chuckled and held his hands up in surrender. “Yes, ma’am.”

    Anakin waited until everyone had been served before taking a tray. One pot contained some sort of stew; the other looked like a variety of rice. Anakin took a helping of each and looked around at the seated Jedi. The ones who weren’t busy inhaling their food were engaged in lively conversation. Children laughing, joking around. Adults looking relieved to be safe and to see the kids smiling. The muscles in his chest tightened. He didn’t belong here with them.

    Without a word, he slipped out of the mess hall and began to navigate the network of corridors that had brought him here.

    ~~


    “Master Veila.” The voice was a soft purr at her elbow. Tahiri put down her spoon and shifted so she could better see the speaker.

    “Matabakh,” she said. “How can I help you?”

    The Noghri woman shuffled closer. “You wanted to know when the other Jedi arrived.”

    Tahiri looked instinctively toward the exit, then back at Matabakh. “They’re here?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    She reached out with her senses, and sure enough she sensed a ship approaching the hangar. A little nudge in the Force was all it took to get Ben’s attention and motion for him to join her.

    “So,” she said once he was within earshot, “do you want to be the welcoming committee, or shall I?”

    Ben glanced down at the twins seated next to her. “I guess I’ll go. You stay and finish your meal.”

    It was truly fascinating how well children could eavesdrop even when they were deep in conversation.

    “No, Ben! Stay here!” Davin’s attempts to retain Ben were aided by Dolan, who tugged none too gently on the hem of Ben’s jacket. “Please!” the boys said in unison.

    Even though he tried not to show it, Tahiri could see how happy Ben was to be at the center of his cousins’ affections again. “I’ll go greet the newcomers,” she said with a smile.

    Ben looked up at her as he sat down between the twins. “Thanks,” he said.

    Tahiri shrugged. “No problem.” She followed Matabakh back to the hangar and waited while the newly arrived ship set down behind the Daybreak and the Ho’Din. Once the steam had settled, she trekked across the hangar, the Noghri guard still at her side. They reached the ship as its ramp opened; on the other side was Myri Antilles.

    The younger woman came down the ramp and pulled Tahiri into a hug. “Long time no see, eh?” she said, winking for good measure.

    Tahiri grinned. “Well, to be fair, we didn’t get much downtime back at Haven.”

    “She’s just giving you a hard time,” Syal Antilles called down from the top of the ramp.

    “I can handle it,” Tahiri replied. “So you brought the Force-sensitive children and left the Denon younglings with Jysella, correct?”

    “Yes, ma’am, that is correct.” Myri tilted her cap to the side and pulled it down snug on her head. “And we brought a few surprise guests.”

    Tahiri looked skyward and pretended to think. “Hm, I wonder. You wouldn’t be talking about Geridan Ames, Tredo Kohr, and Allana Djo, would you?”

    Myri whistled. “Very good!”

    Tahiri tapped a finger against her left temple. “They didn’t make me a Jedi Master for nothing.” She glanced up at the ship. “How is Kohr, by the way?”

    “Doing much better,” Myri said.

    “Yeah,” Syal interjected as she joined them at the bottom of the ramp. “So much so that he wanted to fly the ship. Ha!”

    “He still needs rest, though,” Myri added. “Orion said that was the one condition for bringing him here, that he had to get plenty of rest.”

    Tahiri nodded. “I think we could all do with some rest. Come on; let’s unload your passengers and join everyone else in the mess hall.”

    Behind her, Tahiri heard Matabakh make a soft, grunting noise. Then she realized Allana was striding down the ramp. The Noghri moved forward and bowed in front of her.

    “Welcome, Princess Allana, granddaughter of the Lady Vader.” When Allana extended her hand, Matabakh took it and breathed her scent in deep. Satisfied, the Noghri woman released Allana’s hand. “I am Matabakh clan Kihm’bar.”

    Allana’s smile was warm and genuine, but also regal. Tahiri wondered if she had any idea just how much she resembled Tenel Ka. “Thank you, Matabakh. But please, call me Allana. I’m not a princess anymore.”

    Matabakh bowed once more. “If you so wish it, Lady Allana.”

    The other passengers – Ames, Kohr, and the five non-Jedi younglings who’d been rescued from Vjun – had assembled behind Syal and Myri, waiting.

    “All right, kids,” Myri said. “Ready to get some food?”

    No answer, but there were smiles on two out of five faces, which wasn’t a bad start. Tahiri and Matabakh led them all to the mess hall, where the members of the Tatooine enclave were still gathered. “Help yourselves,” Tahiri said. Kohr and Ames didn’t have to be told twice. In the blink of an eye they were holding food trays, bickering over who got to scoop their stew out first. While Syal and Myri helped the newly-arrived younglings, Allana found her way over to Tahiri’s side.

    “So,” she said nonchalantly. “Where’s Anakin?”

    Tahiri frowned and scanned the room. “I don’t know. He was here when we started eating.” At least she thought he was. “Maybe I should go look for him—”

    “No, no, that’s okay,” Allana said. “I’ll find him. It’s no big deal, I just wanted to say hi.”

    Tahiri smiled as Allana turned to walk away, and she thought how sweet it was that even though the girl had no idea who Anakin really was, she was still drawn to him. The Force truly worked in wondrous ways. And if it was the Force that had brought Anakin here, then Tahiri hoped it knew what the hell it was doing.

    ~~


    She found him in a far corner of the hangar, sitting in front of a rusted binary loadlifter, his dinner tray held loosely in both hands. It looked as though he’d barely touched his food. Allana sat down next to him and took a long, conspicuous breath.

    He glanced over at her and smirked. “Subtle.”

    Allana grinned and nudged his shoulder with hers. “So why aren’t you in the mess hall with the others?”

    Anakin looked down at his food and shrugged. “Guess I wanted to be alone.”

    “Oh.”

    “Hey.” He returned the nudge and smiled at her. “I’m glad for the company.”

    Allana played with the hem of her sleeve, smoothing out the creases in the fabric. “I actually came here to thank you,” she said quietly. “For helping me with that Sith. I owe you one.”

    She heard the gentle clang of the dinner tray setting down on the duracrete floor. Anakin turned to face her. “Allana, you don’t owe me anything.”

    “But I… you saved me.” Didn’t he understand that this was important? “Look, I know there’s not much I can do to repay you, unless I somehow happen to save your life, but I’ve got to at least try, right?”

    He stared at her for a few seconds, and she could see something sad behind his smile.

    “What?” she said.

    “You did save me,” he said. “Twice. You found me on that cliff and came back for me. And inside, when I attacked that boy… you saved me from myself.”

    Allana looked away, unsure of how to respond. Okay, sure, maybe she’d helped rescue him from the cliff, but the other thing? She hadn’t really done anything; all she’d done was tell Anakin to stop choking Festus, and anyone could have done that. “It’s no big deal,” she said. “You probably would have stopped on your own.”

    “No,” he said, “I wouldn’t have.”

    Allana hesitated for a moment. Guess I already knew that, didn’t I? Still, it was a little unnerving to hear him admit it out loud.

    “He used to be a Jedi,” she blurted out without fully knowing why. Maybe to steer the subject in a different direction, or maybe because she didn’t like the awkward silence that had crept up between them.

    “Who did?” Anakin said.

    “That Sith Lord, Darth Festus. Well, I guess he wasn’t technically a Jedi, just one of the kids in the enclaves. I was too young to really know him; I only have one or two memories of him. He and his twin brother were captured by the Sith a long time ago.” She vaguely recalled something about a transfer between enclaves that had gone horribly wrong. “I think I remember him being nice. His brother was kind of a jerk, but he was nice.” Allana paused and took a long, steadying breath. “Sometimes I still can’t believe how much the dark side can change a person.”

    The sadness surrounding Anakin grew heavier. “Sometimes the dark side brings out what was always there.”

    His words might as well have been a punch in the stomach. “I don’t think I can accept that,” she said, trying to control the waver in her voice. And why couldn’t she accept it? Because she had memories of a good person and couldn’t reconcile them with the monster they’d become? Because she needed to believe redemption was possible, even if the case seemed hopeless?

    She realized she wasn’t thinking of Festus anymore, but of another Sith Lord, long gone. Allana pressed her lips together and stared out across the hangar.

    “I’m sorry about your father.”

    “How—?” Allana snapped her head around to look at Anakin. “How did you know I was thinking about him?”

    “It’s who I would have been thinking of.”

    Allana shrugged. “It’s been over eight years since he died. And before that I barely knew him. I lived with my mother.”

    A twinge of pain amidst the sadness. “But you loved him,” Anakin said quietly.

    Allana tried to answer but couldn’t get the words past her lips. She nodded in response.

    “I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want.”

    “It’s okay, I don’t mind.” She took a deep breath to contain the tears that had crept up on her. “I don’t really talk about my parents much. It makes people uncomfortable.”

    “What about Ben?”

    Allana looked down at her tunic and went back to playing with her wrinkled sleeve. “Him maybe most of all.”

    Anakin leaned over and nudged her again. “Well, you won’t make me uncomfortable. Talk away.”

    She felt her cheeks redden. “I don’t know, it’s not like I have some speech prepared or anything like that.” Now that she finally had the space to open up, she was at a loss for what to say.

    His eyes lost focus for a moment, as if he was recalling some distant memory. When he looked at her again, his expression was warm, if a little bittersweet. “Tell me about your mother.”

    She smiled down into her lap as an image flashed through her mind, unbidden but certainly not unwelcome. Her mother kneeling in front of her, her only hand cupping Allana’s cheek gently as she sang her favorite lullaby. Beautiful copper hair arranged in Dathomiri braids. Fierce gray eyes that softened only for her.

    “She was…” A queen. A Jedi Knight. Proud Dathomiri warrior, noble Hapan beauty, stoic and strong and devoted. A hero. She was all those things, and they were all wonderful and important parts of the incredible person who was Tenel Ka Djo. But they were things Allana knew mostly because she’d been told about them. Her own memories were… different. Quieter.

    Allana looked up at Anakin. “She used to sing me lullabies every night before bed. They were spells from her mother’s clan on Dathomir – the Singing Mountain Clan.” She caught the slightly puzzled look on Anakin’s face and tried to clarify. “The witches of Dathomir used incantations to channel the Force. My mother trained as a Jedi under my great-uncle Luke, so she didn’t have a need for the spells; but I think the lullabies were her way of teaching me when I was very little. Introducing me to the Force, even though she’d left the Order.”

    That seemed to spark Anakin’s interest. “She left the Jedi Order?”

    Allana nodded. “She had to put her people first. Hapes needed its Queen Mother.”

    She knew she should feel proud of her mother for making that choice, and a small part of her was, truly. She was proud of the strong sense of duty, the unshakable determination that her mother was famous for; and she liked to think that maybe some of those qualities that made Tenel Ka such a fierce queen had been passed on to her daughter. But the choice itself, the choice to leave the Order and focus everything on Hapes – well, it hadn’t exactly worked out in Allana’s favor, had it? She never blamed her mother for everything that went wrong, but she couldn’t help wondering sometimes what it would have been like to be born outside of the shadow of the Hapan court, free of the intrigue and death threats and constant speculation about her paternity.

    It would have been nice to be acknowledged as Jacen Solo’s daughter before his name became synonymous with evil.

    “A queen, huh?” Anakin lowered his gaze and smiled, laughing a little, as if at his own private joke.

    His smile shook her from her attempted melancholy. “What? You don’t believe me?”

    He looked up at her, and some of the earlier sadness seemed to fade. “I do believe you. I just think it’s funny.”

    Over the last fifteen years, she’d been on the receiving end of a lot of comments regarding her royal heritage – some good, some less than complimentary – but never once had anyone said it was funny.

    She must have been making a weird face at him, because his smile widened. “Not you,” he clarified. “I meant the Force, or maybe the cyclical nature of life. I don’t know, it just makes sense. Of course you’d be a princess.”

    “I’m not a princess.” She wasn’t like her mother in that way. Hapes had given her a few nice memories in a sea of terrible ones, and she’d never felt a strong sense of loyalty or duty to it or its people. Since they’d exiled her as a child, clearly the feeling was mutual.

    “I’m sorry,” Anakin continued, sobering a little. “I didn’t mean it like that. I was thinking of how much like your grandmother you are.”

    Allana still wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at or why he was giving so much thought to the Hapan royal family. Her grandmother Teneniel Djo had died before Allana was born, and the less said about her great-grandmother Ta’a Chume, the better—

    Oh. He meant Grandma Leia. She relaxed a little and gave him a teasing look. “I guess I can’t go wrong if I remind you of the great Leia Organa Solo.”

    “Well, I actually meant your great—” He cut himself off abruptly, an odd look passing over his face. “You know what, never mind.”

    She was about to question him further when she caught sight of someone hurrying across the hangar, a friend she hadn’t seen in ages.

    “Hey, Kala Di!” Allana waved the older girl over and smiled up at her. “It’s been a while. How are you?”

    Kala Di Nal smiled in return as she jogged over and stopped in front of them. The tan, dark-haired girl put her hands on her hips and sighed. “Hanging in there. I was finally getting used to Tatooine.” She looked out toward the open hangar entrance. “But I guess this is more like home, with all the trees.”

    Allana leaned toward Anakin. “Kala Di is from Dathomir, same world my mother’s family comes from. Well, her mother’s family, anyway.”

    Anakin nodded, looking up at Kala Di. “I grew up on Tatooine. Trust me, you won’t miss it.”

    Kala Di acknowledged Anakin with a wary glance and shrugged. “I liked the sunsets.”

    “Yeah,” Anakin said a bit wistfully, “I guess they weren’t bad.”

    Allana smiled up at her friend. “What’s got you running around in here? I thought everyone was eating?”

    Kala Di shifted slightly. “Ben needs something off the Daybreak. He asked me to get it for him.”

    Allana fought the devious grin itching at the corners of her mouth. “He asked, or you volunteered?”

    The look Kala Di shot her was nothing short of murderous. Her lovely tan cheeks turned pink as she took a step backward. “My mom volunteered me, actually. And I’d better get a move on. Don’t want to keep him waiting.” She turned away quickly and waved over her shoulder, calling out “See you!” in a tone that was a little too cheerful.

    Allana noticed Anakin frowning at Kala Di’s retreating form. “What?” she said.

    He shook his head. “I feel like I’m missing something here. Does she like Ben?”

    Allana let loose the grin she’d been holding back. “Oh, Kala Di adores Ben. She’s been in love with him since we were kids.”

    “She’s a little young, isn’t she?”

    “I guess, yeah. I mean, she’s nearly eighteen. But it’s not like Ben even notices. He doesn’t really notice anyone that way. Too busy being the protector of the Jedi. Too busy being my protector.” She rolled her eyes a little and shrugged.

    That same sadness from earlier started to curl up around Anakin again. “Maybe he’s protecting himself. The more people you love, the more you have to lose. And he’s lost a lot.”

    She understood why he would say that, she really did. But Ben didn’t have a monopoly on tragedy, not by a long shot. “We’ve all lost people we love,” she said, a little harder than she meant to.

    Anakin paused and shifted next to her. “Did you know I was married before I came here?”

    Allana looked up at him, startled. “No. You never mentioned…”

    He nodded, hands fidgeting restlessly where they lay in his lap. “I had a wife. We were going to start a family, and then I lost her. I would have done anything to save her. Sometimes I think—” He drew in a long breath, as though preparing for a deep, deep plunge. “—I think that I still would do anything if it meant I could get her back. That kind of devotion… that kind of attachment… it’s dangerous. When you bind yourself to someone else like that, and you can wield so much power… what stops you from deciding her life is worth more than all the others?”

    He turned to her then, clear blue eyes burning intense from under his troubled brow. She wasn’t sure if he was asking the question to teach her something, or if he was still searching for the answer himself. She met Anakin’s gaze, and she thought she understood now why every action, every glance, every word he spoke seemed tainted by sorrow. The loss of his wife, of his family, was etched so deep in him that he couldn’t separate himself from it even if he tried.

    There was a strange flutter in her chest, and she felt suddenly unbalanced, as though she’d stumbled upon some sort of cosmic tipping point and was teetering on the edge of it. She wondered if Anakin sensed it, too.

    “I guess,” she said softly, carefully, “I guess the thing that stops you… is understanding that she’s not worth more. That none of the people we care about are worth any more than all the other people in the galaxy. We’re all a part of the same universe, the same Force, right? And… and even if it might feel like losing someone precious to you is too much to bear, you have to realize that you can survive it, and you can keep moving forward.”

    He sighed, and the universe swayed. “It sounds so easy when you say it, but it’s hardly ever that simple.”

    We’re just talking, she told herself. That’s all this is.

    “I don’t know if it’s simple or not,” she said. “I just know it’s wrong to treat people like they’re expendable, like they’re less important just because they aren’t someone you love.”

    He shook his head slowly. “It’s not fair,” he murmured.

    Allana stared out across the hangar, at the open door overlooking a forest that was only just beginning to awaken. She leaned her head against Anakin’s shoulder. “I know,” she said gently. “None of it is.”

    She felt him tilt his head to rest against hers. “You would have liked her. My wife. And she would have loved you.”

    She found his left hand and grasped his fingers in hers, squeezing just a little. “I’m sure I would have loved her, too.”

    ~~


    Once the meal was over and all the children had been taken to their quarters, Ben made his way to the hangar and climbed up on top of the Daybreak, where – with the shield doors open – he had a decent view of a distant, tree-lined hilltop. The sun was just beginning to peek out from behind it. He hadn’t been sitting there long when he felt a familiar presence on the ground behind him. Ben leaned over the back end of the ship to greet his visitor.

    “How do you like Jedi living?” he asked wryly.

    Arden Veiss craned her neck to look up at him. “It’s definitely interesting, that’s for sure. Mind if I join you?”

    He’d been hoping for some solitude, but what the hell. “Come on up.”

    A moment later, she appeared through the ship’s top hatch. “Checking out the repairs?”

    In truth, he’d forgotten all about the repairs that had been done while they were at Haven. “Nah, just catching the sunrise.”

    Arden sat down next to him, not too close but not so far away as to be awkward. “So, what am I supposed to call you now? Master Skywalker? Master Jedi?”

    “Ben is fine,” he said with a chuckle.

    Arden made a face. “Can I keep calling you ‘Captain’?”

    “If you really want to.”

    “Sorry, it just feels weird. Being on a first name basis with a living legend.”

    Ben winced. “Arden, I’m not a legend.”

    “Sure you are. Jedi Knight, outlaw, son of Luke and Mara Skywalker. They used to have a Skywalker Watch on our local news to report sightings.”

    Ben raised an eyebrow at her. “Skywalker Watch? They must have had you all pretty terrified of me.”

    Arden shrugged. “They called you a terrorist. All of the evidence we saw supported that.” She offered him a small smile. “I know better now.”

    “So, you and Elias… you guys are okay then?”

    “Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to stay mad at someone so adorable.” She hesitated for a moment, inhaling deep as she gazed down at the hull beneath her. “Can I ask you a question?”

    “Sure.”

    Her eyes found his again. “What happened on Yalena?”

    Ben pursed his lips and stared out at the line of trees in the distance. “You want to know why Elias won’t talk about it.”

    Arden looked down at her lap, then back up at Ben. “It must have been bad if he can’t even say—”

    “It was. It was really bad.”

    Arden shifted next to him, and Ben realized he hadn’t actually given her an answer. He bent one knee to his chest and propped an arm on it, leaning forward to run a hand across his chin.

    “That Sith Lord on Vjun, Doctor Mezzon? He used to have big time support among the other Lords.” Ben glanced sideways and saw Arden watching him intently. “They gave him whatever he wanted: credits, victims, you name it. Yalena was his fortress. Our mission was to stop him and to rescue the Jedi he’d kidnapped.

    “We couldn’t save everyone, but we managed to get most of the kids to our ship. My mom was cut off, surrounded by the Sith. I didn’t realize it until it was too late, but that was their plan all along. They wanted to take down my mom. Figured it would cripple us. And it nearly did.”

    Arden let out a long breath, almost as though she’d been holding it. “I’m sorry.”

    Ben shrugged, trying to shake off the weight of that terrible day. “You don’t have anything to be sorry about. It’s not your fault.”

    “So, this Sith doctor – he experimented on the children?”

    Ben nodded. “It was pretty horrible. Elias was only sixteen when we went in there. I think it just hurts him too much to remember.”

    “And he’s never talked about it? Not even to you?”

    “No, I was so focused on my own loss at the time that I wasn’t much help to him. We just threw ourselves into the next mission, and then the next one, and the next one.” Ben gestured toward the rest of the base. “And now here we are seven years later.”

    Arden looked down at her hands and clasped them together. “I wish there was something I could do to ease his burden or help him get past the pain.”

    Ben shook his head a little and frowned. “Some things I don’t think you ever get past. You learn to live with them, but they never really go away.”

    “You don’t think that sounds kinda defeatist for a Jedi?”

    “That’s reality,” Ben replied. “Elias may never tell you what he experienced on Yalena, but that doesn’t mean he’s broken, or that he doesn’t trust you. In fact, he’s been pretty happy lately.”

    A smile tugged at the corners of Arden’s lips. “You think so?”

    “Yeah, I do.”

    Her smile widened, and then she laughed.

    “What is it?”

    “This is the longest conversation we’ve ever had. Didn’t realize you were such a conversationalist.”

    Ben raised an eyebrow and allowed himself a small grin. “I have my moments. Don’t tell anyone.”

    “Wouldn’t dream of it.” She hugged her knees to her chest and leaned back. “So, what’s next for all of us here?”

    “You mean what’s next for you?”

    Arden shrugged. “Both?”

    “You don’t have to stay here, you know. Syal and Myri will probably leave soon. Ulin, too.”

    Arden’s demeanor went from friendly to reserved. “I get it. Jedi only.”

    “That’s not what I meant,” Ben said. “All I’m saying is, I know you didn’t sign up to be a Jedi rebel when you joined my crew, and I don’t expect you to stick around. But if you do want to join us, that doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up in this base, either.”

    “Thanks, but I think I’ll stay here for now. I didn’t have much going on before I met you guys, and apart from the whole secret Jedi thing, things have been pretty good. Besides, I’m not sure what use I’d be to you on the outside. I’m not a super spy or an ace pilot or a slicer.”

    “You’re a decent gunner,” he conceded.

    “Well, that settles it. The Daybreak needs me.” She stood up and stretched as the sun’s rays began to illuminate the entire forest. “One last question.”

    “Shoot.”

    Arden’s grin had disappeared. “What’s going to happen to the kids Myri and Syal brought here, the ones who aren’t Jedi?”

    “We’ll try to find their families, but chances are they were already orphans or lost their families to the Sith. So I guess we’ll help them heal and then go from there.” Ben sighed and offered a half-hearted smile. Arden returned it before treading carefully across the hull to the top hatch. As she lowered herself in, she looked back at him.

    “She must have been pretty amazing. Your mom.”

    “Yeah,” Ben said, his throat tightening around the words. “She was.”

    Arden disappeared down the hatch, leaving Ben alone once more. He stared at the open hatch, trying not to go back to Yalena and unable to think of anything else. His mom hadn’t been the only Jedi who died that day, and in light of the horrors he’d witnessed, it seemed almost trivial to prioritize her death over the others; but he couldn’t help it. If he could change one thing about that day – and one thing only – it would be to bring her back.

    Was he really so different from Jacen after all?

    He laid back flat against the hull, reaching up with both hands to cover his face. I’m sorry, he tried to tell her, unsure if she would hear, if she could hear. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so damn sorry.

    He laid there for a long while, letting the sun warm him.

    ~~


    At Allana’s insistence, Anakin went to see Karanya Nal to ensure that his wounds were healing properly. Though not technically a healer, she seemed to possess an aptitude for it. She determined that he would need a few more days of rest and little activity for his injuries to completely heal, but with a fresh application of bacta he was free to go.

    Anakin pulled his jacket back on and left the medical center to find Allana waiting patiently just outside the door. When he didn’t say anything, she frowned at him the way his mother used to when admonishing him.

    “Well?” she said.

    Anakin adjusted the collar of his jacket and tugged the sleeves down so they covered his wrists. “I’m doing better. Should be bandage free in a couple days.” They began to walk side-by-side down the corridor in the direction of the mess hall.

    “So, are you going to tell me what happened on Tatooine that got you even more beat up?”

    Anakin cringed inwardly. “I wasn’t planning to,” he admitted.

    “Don’t trust me, or don’t think I can handle the truth?”

    Anakin stopped walking. He was beginning to understand what Obi-Wan must have gone through all those years. Withholding information from a teenager was exhausting. “What do you think happened?” he said, an edge of exasperation seeping into his voice.

    Allana had stopped also. “I don’t know,” she said. “That’s why I’m asking you.”

    For a moment he considered telling her everything – about the fight with Ben, about being her great-grandfather, about wanting to protect her from the dark side and all the evil in the galaxy.

    About her father being alive.

    He was spared from answering when he noticed Kala Di Nal jogging toward them. The look she shot Anakin wasn’t exactly friendly, but it was better than the way she’d looked at him in the hangar, like she was expecting him to murder everyone in sight. She didn’t waste much time on him, though, as she turned to speak to Allana.

    “You haven’t seen your cousins lately, have you?”

    “No,” Allana said slowly. “I haven’t had a chance to see them at all yet. Why, what’s up?”

    Kala Di looked more than a little annoyed. “All the younglings are supposed to be resting in their quarters; but I just did a room check, and we’re missing six, including Davin and Dolan.”

    “That’s not surprising.” Allana looked up at Anakin. “We’ll help you look. Who else are you missing?”

    Kala Di counted them off on her fingers. “Savl Horn, Lomm Vedii from the Tatooine enclave, and two of the kids who arrived with the Antilles sisters. A Togruta girl and a human boy – blond, I think. Both pretty young. I don’t remember their names, just what they looked like.”

    Anakin closed his eyes and reached out through the Force. The base really was a labyrinth, but he recalled what Deekmawr had said about a wing of spare rooms. It didn’t take long to find all six of them there, playing in one of those rooms.

    “Did you check the north wing?” he asked, opening his eyes.

    Kala Di cast an embarrassed glance at Allana before looking up at Anakin. “Which way is north?”

    Anakin resisted the urge to shake his head. He supposed that was another effect of his years spent fighting in the Clone Wars, moving from planet to planet. Without thinking about it – and having spent only a few fleeting minutes in view of the surface – he had acclimated himself to Zihrent’s geography and had a fairly clear sense of direction, even while underground.

    He turned a little and nodded over his shoulder. “Back that way.”

    “Not yet,” Kala Di answered. “Do you sense something?”

    Anakin smiled at her. “They’re all there. First room you come to.”

    Kala Di sighed. “Thanks. Sometimes being around all these kids makes it hard to focus.” She turned to leave, but Allana reached out to touch her arm.

    “Why don’t we go with you? I should say hi to the twins, and you might need help getting all six back to their rooms.”

    Anakin saw naked relief in Kala Di’s eyes. “I appreciate it, thanks.”

    The three of them made their way to the north wing, and sure enough, the six missing younglings were in the first room. The council room, Anakin realized as the door opened. In the middle of the room, four of the children were arguing over what to play.

    “We already played ball,” Valin’s son, Savl, was saying. “I’m bored with that.” Next to him a dark-skinned boy with short, curly hair was nodding in agreement.

    Davin and the Togruta girl looked at each other. “Well, we don’t want to play cards, so…”

    The four children realized they weren’t alone, and they turned in unison to face the doorway. “Busted,” Savl whispered.

    Anakin tried not to grin. He looked around the room and saw Dolan in the far corner with the blond boy. It looked like he was demonstrating how best to throw a ball.

    Kala Di planted her hands on her hips. “You guys are supposed to be resting in your rooms.” She turned her attention on the two older boys. “Savl. Lomm. You two know better.”

    “Sorry,” they muttered as they shuffled toward the door. Davin, Dolan, and the two rescued children followed suit. As they left the room, Allana placed a hand on each of the twins’ heads.

    “What am I now, a nerfherder?” she said with a smile.

    Davin and Dolan exchanged glances before attempting to knock Allana over with a group hug. “We missed you,” Davin said.

    “Really? I couldn’t tell.” Allana regained her balance and hugged each of them individually. “What have you guys been up to since I last saw you?”

    “We got to hang out on Booster’s ship for a few months,” Dolan said.

    “And then Master Horn took us to Tatooine for a few days,” Davin added.

    “And now we’re here.”

    Allana ruffled their hair. “And already making trouble, I see.”

    “We’re making friends, too,” Dolan pointed out.

    Davin held his index finger above his head. “And that’s important.”

    Anakin hung back to give his grandchildren space while they walked together; he allowed himself a genuine, unguarded smile as he watched them interact.

    Maybe there was hope for this future after all.

    “Excuse me, Master Jedi.” A tiny voice drifted up to him as he felt a gentle tug on the hem of his jacket. He looked down to see the little blond boy. He wasn’t great at guessing kids’ ages, but this one looked about five or six.

    Anakin knelt down in front of the boy. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there. Are you okay?”

    The boy nodded and looked at him with wide, anxious brown eyes. “Can you take me back to my room?”

    Anakin experienced a slight twinge in the pit of his stomach. “Sure, I can.” He stood up and offered the boy his hand, but the boy didn’t take it. There was something very solemn about the way he held himself that made Anakin wonder what kind of life he’d had before being kidnapped by the Sith. As they followed after the others, Anakin looked down at the child. “I’m Anakin,” he said. “What’s your name?”

    The little boy kept his gaze forward. “My name is Roan.”

    For some reason, Anakin thought of the first time he’d met Obi-Wan, after they’d narrowly escaped that mysterious Sith Lord on Tatooine. He remembered how wide-eyed and excited he’d been to meet another Jedi Knight, how his entire future had seemed like an open expanse of shining, golden promise. Pretty much the opposite of what he sensed from the little boy next to him.

    Anakin inclined his head toward the child and tried to put on his most reassuring smile. “Pleased to meet you, Roan.”

    The boy glanced up at him for only a moment, his lips twitching as though he wanted to smile but had forgotten how. The pit in Anakin’s stomach opened further.

    “Hey,” he said, resting a tentative hand on the child’s shoulder. Roan jerked ever so slightly, but he didn’t pull away. Anakin inhaled and pressed on. “It’s going to be okay. I know everyone always says that, but it is. The people here really care about you, and they’re not going to let anyone hurt you ever again.”

    The boy nodded. “Thank you,” he said.

    “No problem.” Anakin pulled his hand away, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.

    ~~


    The rest of the day was uneventful. Meals were eaten, children played, Knights and their apprentices trained and sparred until they were sore. Under the protection of the old base and the pair of Noghri who guarded it, the Jedi could sleep soundly and peacefully. As night fell over Zihrent, only a few remained awake, if not vigilant.

    Anakin Skywalker, alone in his new quarters, afraid to fall asleep.

    Tahiri Veila, watching over the twin boys she’d raised from toddlerhood, thankful that she’d been able to return to them.

    Ben Skywalker, trying once more to reach his parents somewhere in the netherworld of the Force, only to receive no answer.

    The little blond Vjun survivor, Roan, who had slipped from his bunk and snuck out of his quarters without waking the other boys.

    Roan made his way to the empty room he and his new friends had found earlier that day. No one would walk in on him in here. He rolled down the waistband of his pants and ripped out the tiny comlink that had been sewn into the fabric.

    “Papa,” he whispered into the device. “I’m here. I activated the beacon like you said.”

    There was only static for several seconds, and the boy grew worried that his papa wouldn’t hear. Then the static cut off abruptly, and he heard someone take a breath.

    “Good work, my son.” His papa sounded pleased. “We’re on our way.”

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  18. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    That's right, Leia would have everything organized within an inch of its life. Luke may have built the Order, but Leia and Mara kept it going.

    Yay, Noghri! :D

    Sometimes boring is by far the better option! Frequently, in fact! This does make me wonder how often Vader might have had slivers of such thoughts before he shut them down again. You have to think he must have had the occasional flashback. And then probably channeled it right back into rage, as a good Sith should [face_thinking]

    I really do like seeing Tahiri and Ben as the senior Jedi. Well, except for the fact that it means everyone else is dead. But you know what I mean

    I know you probably didn't mean it this way, but every time I read this line I see Bri in Myri's place :p

    You angst-monger, you [face_mischief]

    Let Hapes play out their soap opera existence on their own, is what I say. Didn't do the Djo women any good, that's for sure.

    That's right, Tatooine has its own beauty. Gotta do the poor place justice. (Hey, it's a lot less murdery than Hapes!)

    Go on, break my heart, I don't mind [face_not_talking]

    SO MUCH HAPPY!FIC, VI
     
  19. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Hmm. Methinks I have found teh mole. And I never won that game when I was playing it back when I was new on the boards.

    Also that picture of Hayden Christiansen and Sebastian Stan was something I didn't know I needed in my life.
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    @ViariSkywalker

    All caught up. I am a huge fan of time travel fics and this is definitely one of the best.
    Superbly riveting misssions on Vjun and Tattooine. =D=

    I like Arden and Elias very much ;) and the entire dynamic between Ben and Anakin. You have given depth to Anakin's character and portrayed him very poignantly. Ben is complex and multi-layerered, and I loved his description of his Dad and Mom and how he wanted to be like either of them. [face_thinking]

    You do splendidly with dialogue between the various characters by the way, combining candor with vulnerability.
     
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  21. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Replies!

    @Gabri_Jade
    I have to imagine that this is the culmination of so much of Leia’s heritage, both adopted and biological. Definitely things she would have learned from Bail during the Rebellion, about how to organize and stay hidden in plain sight and have backup plans… and maybe just a smidge of Padmé’s shrewd mind and Anakin’s strategic prowess. [face_thinking]

    I love the Noghri. [face_love] *eyes Rebels hard*

    I’m sure he had those thoughts often when he was young. How could he not? Even if he shut them down quickly, I imagine those memories would have been a lot closer to the surface in the months following his transformation. By the time he’s in his 30s and 40s? Maybe not so much. But as an early-mid 20s Sith Lord who had lost everything? Definitely. And there would have been so much rage. (And now I’m thinking of Stover’s RotS novelization, AGAIN. Dang Stover. :p)

    Lol, I do know what you mean. I’ve enjoyed showing Tahiri and Ben as leaders of the Jedi, even if they are still relatively young, especially Ben. You know, after this story is over, I really think my next great writing challenge will be writing a story in which everyone is alive. [face_thinking]

    LOOOLLL, YES. Does that make you Syal? ;) OMG, DOES IT??

    And just like that, a tragic backstory was born. [face_devil]

    [face_dancing] ANGST! [face_dancing]

    (Also, vivisection.)

    But teh DRAMA, Gabri! Teh DRAMAAAA.

    *cue Binary Sunset* ;)

    And you keep knocking Hapes, but think of all the delicious light-angst and princess tropes at play in that other, happier AU… which keeps trying to take my attention away from this story and the sequel and all the other stories I promised myself I would finish. *facepalm*

    I love Allana so much. [face_love] And I don’t think I realized when I started this story just how much I would love her, or how pivotal she would become to both the story as a whole and Anakin’s journey here. It’s been quite a revelation. Nice job, brain! :p

    I mean, we’ve got to be up to like a dozen one-shots by now, right? With how much angst I’ve been sending you behind the scenes? ;) [face_mischief] Let’s see, we’ve got Padawan Mara, a certain Hapan princess and her shadowmoth, matchmaker Anakin, happy Skywalker family shenanigans, great-grandma Padmé, Anakin Jr. not dying… so many possibilities! [face_batting]


    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701
    Ha, I never played that game, but I do think you have found teh mole. ;)

    RIGHT?! I almost didn’t believe it was real at first. I thought, surely it must be photoshopped, but it looks pretty dang real to me. (And even if it isn't, I don’t care.) I was so giddy, you don’t even know. :D I’ve only fan-casted a few of the characters for this story, and Sebastian Stan as Ben is one of them. If Disney wants to cast him as Luke for any of the shows/movies, I will be there in a heartbeat because that resemblance is uncanny – but he will always be Ben to me. [face_love]


    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha
    Time travel stories have always been some of my favorite things, ever since I was little. (Hey there, Back to the Future.) I thank you for your kind words and am glad you enjoyed the action on Vjun and Tatooine! :)

    Arden and Elias may have hit a couple bumps in the road, but they’re pretty crazy about each other, so I think it’ll work out in the long run. ;) (If they survive the attack on Zihrent, that is… [face_worried])

    Ben and Anakin’s relationship is truly one of my favorite things about writing this story. They’re alike in a lot of ways, but they have some pretty crucial differences, and that’s always fun to explore. I’ve enjoyed fleshing out Ben’s character in this AU setting, seeing how he would have grown in a more dystopian world, what about him would have been influenced by being Luke and Mara’s son, or by being Jacen’s apprentice, and what about him is uniquely Ben. Anakin has always been my favorite, and I expected to do a deep dive into his character while writing this story… but I didn’t expect just how deeply I would delve into Ben’s character, nor did I expect to become possibly more invested in his journey than I was in Anakin’s. It’s been a trip, I tell ya.

    Thank you! Sometimes I just write pages of dialogue and let the characters talk things out to see where the story should go, before going back and filling in all the other details. I find it helps make the emotions more raw, somehow, at least for me. I’m glad to know it works!


    Still working on the next chapter... or trying to work on it, lol. Hopefully I can finish it by the end of the month!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
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  22. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    *cracks knuckles*

    Oooh boy but isn't this just as fantastic a story as ever there was one? I'm a sucker for Time Travel fics anyway, and Anakin Skywalker not being Dumb and Sithy - or Anakin Skywalker and his Terrible No Good Life Choices, too, I'm not terribly picky. Then you throw in some good ol' EU Legends characters as they are still so near and dear to my heart and angst and action and drama and the potential to set everything to rights, maybe? This just has all of the ingredients for an absolutely delicious story, and I've been savoring every word. [face_love]

    So! This review goes through the big Ben Skywalker reveal, because that seemed like the perfect chunk to start with. :D

    Oh boy. Anakin. [face_plain] Ya know, I feel for him to a certain extent. He's a mess, and he's panicking and betrayed and scared and angry - a terrible combination for a super powerful space wizard prodigy whose powers are linked to his emotions. There's a reason the Jedi frown on attachment in the first place, I understand, in a way. He's a wounded animal baring his teeth and backed into a corner, ready to bite, and you perfectly captured the mess of emotions that was Anakin Skywalker tipping over the precipice of his fall. =D=

    :rolleyes:

    This reminds me of Gandalf turning down the Ring, saying that he'd be a more terrible force than Sauron from his desire to do good. It is a terrible thing, what awful power can do in self-righteous hands.

    It's amazing how self conscious and unworthy Anakin feels, all the while being so amazingly pig-headed arrogant at the same time. This absolute trash king.

    &
    &
    Chills. Seriously: wonderfully evocative and intense writing.

    Whew! But Anakin definitely isn't in the proverbial Kansas anymore, now is he? This dark, empty, angry place is definitely a skewed mirror of a reality he was more than ready to cause himself.

    And still Padmé is so close to his thoughts! =((

    Oooh, intrigue! Jacen was my first knee-jerk reaction with that particular Force power, before remembering who he passed that trick onto. [face_love]

    I loved the pinwheel of deadly emerald energy, too! Great prose!

    These short, clipped sentences scattered throughout are just gutting. What a way to ramp up the tension and mystery!

    Yeeeeaah, Anakin really does have a lot to unpack here. Like he maybe should have stopped and did without, you know, jumping straight to the arms of the Dark Side and mass murder and all that jazz.

    I like Arden. ;)

    You know, my reaction was somewhat similar to Arden's. :p

    Intriguing. [face_thinking]

    And I really like Arden/Elias so far. [face_love]

    Heh, and still that trademark Skywalker sass. :p

    Oh, great characterization! And you know how much this perceived lack of respect just gets under Anakin's skin and festers. You could feel him twitching here.

    [face_rofl]

    Oh, the irony. And I love that both sides are just so equally irritated and flummoxed by each other. I could feel Anakin taking a deep breath and counting to ten here. Funnily enough, it's as if he's channeling as much Obi-Wan-esque energy as he can!

    Oh, ouch. Given what Anakin was just moments away from . . . =((

    [face_laugh] They're kinda thinking the same thing . . .

    Whew, but the metaphor is strong here isn't it? Whether pushed or jumped, Anakin is falling here. Who knows where he's going to land.

    Quintessential Anakin: hiding his fear and uncertainty behind arrogance and charisma. [face_plain]

    So close, but so far!

    And, I am fully invested in this entire crew so far. I really like their dynamic, and am enjoying getting to know all of them as OCs.

    Oh. =(( The tension and the back and forth between Ben and Anakin was just spot on perfect here. =D=

    Classic! :D

    Yeeeeah, Arden is in a lot deeper than she has any idea, that's for sure . . .

    Oh! I remember that term from TLotD. I am looking forward to getting to know more about your big bads and the all around state of the galaxy here, too. [face_thinking]

    Classic dorky Skywalker sarcasm is classic. [face_laugh]

    Loved the dialogue. :p And poor Arden still trying to figure everything out.

    Ooooh, veeery interesting. Except not so much. If Palpatine was a menace who had an eye on Anakin's potential, that's nothing when compared to what the One Sith could do with the power of the Chosen One, something tells me. And, with Anakin willing to use the Dark Side as an answer to his problems before . . . [face_worried]

    Oh, but this hurt like pain. Suuuuuch good pain. =((

    Everything about this was perfect,

    GAH!!! I knew it was coming, but I still kinda screamed a bit there. And then I had to pace back and forth and rant to my sister about it - hey, it's been a while since we had some good Legends goodness to fangirl over, and I am just grinning such a stupid grin right now. I am really enjoying this story so far!


    Anyway, in short: you have me hook, line, and sinker, and I can't wait to read more. Onwards into the abyss I go! :D =D=

    [:D]
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
  23. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    Found this fic on A03, and found my way here. AU EU story FTW!
     
  24. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    More replies!

    @Mira_Jade
    Yay, you’re here! [:D]

    I’m also a sucker for all of those things. ;) Now it remains to be seen whether the angst-monger in me will allow for everything to be set right… [face_mischief]

    I am always glad to hear if I’ve captured Anakin’s character. It’s funny, at the time that I started writing this, I was almost afraid to because I’d only written maybe one vignette from Anakin’s POV. He’s been my favorite since… well, probably ever since I watched the George Lucas interviews from the ’95 VHS release and he started talking about these prequels he was beginning to work on, and I really just latched onto this idea of Darth Vader (who I already thought was amazing) having been this good and noble Jedi Knight once upon a time. I mean, yes, I already knew all of that from the OT itself, but there was something about knowing I would see his fall happen on the big screen that really sparked my imagination and interest. Fast forward to 2007-ish, with the PT and the RotS novelization behind me, and I decided to take the plunge and write this character I love so much, starting right at the moment when he’s just made this horrible choice. I’m sure I don’t always hit the right notes, but I try my best!

    I think this quote wins the thread. “Absolute trash king” – yep, that’s Anakin Skywalker in a nutshell! [face_laugh] Come to think of it, there are more than a few characters I enjoy who are that special combination of self-conscious, unworthy, and arrogant as hell. Hmm [face_thinking]

    Aw, thanks! That second line was one of those recent additions I mentioned in PM. I’m glad to see it had an impact! I feel so validated. :p

    She certainly is! Although whether that’s a good thing… [face_worried]

    Good catch, with the passing on of that Force skill! ;)

    I will always and forever love the look and sounds of lightsabers. [face_love]

    I was just thinking about this actually, how my writing tends toward being clipped and concise. I had never really considered it to be that way until recently, and I think if it is, it’s because I’m impatient to find out what will happen next in the story, lol. Or maybe it’s a way of hiding my deficiencies when it comes to knowledge of the world, battle tactics, choreography, etc. :p Always glad to hear that it works though!

    Seriously! He really needed to take a minute there. I guess this is my way of giving him that minute! (Or week… or however long it ends up being :p)

    Poor girl is in way over her head here. ;)

    I enjoy Arden & Elias’s relationship dynamic, especially once we get past the initial angsty parts. They’re both just good people, you know?

    Always!

    Precisely what I wanted to convey! :D

    This is one of my favorite aspects of time travel stories, that moment when past and future collide, and they have no idea what to make of each other. Anakin would definitely need to channel Obi-Wan in order to deal with this. :p

    Eek, yep. And I’m sure he doesn’t like being reminded of his terrible choices, either…

    I’m going to be honest – I can’t actually remember if I had a plan for this when I first wrote it, (other than “Anakin has a disturbing Force vision because Star Wars”,) but I am really pleased with how it ends up playing out later on… [face_mischief]

    He certainly does that a lot, doesn’t he?

    Trash king. :p

    I’m so happy you’re enjoying them! All of my OCs are pretty close to my heart, but the ones in this story have become real to me in much the same way that profic characters like Jacen and Jaina and Mara have. This is especially true for a couple of characters who have yet to make their appearance in this story, but with whom you are already pretty well-acquainted. ;)[face_mischief]

    I’m going to sound like a broken record by the end of this story, but the development of Ben and Anakin’s relationship is one of my very favorite things about writing this. [face_love]

    I do love a well-timed movie quote. ;)

    "Secret team of Jedi" was another thing I found extremely fun to write! (And I'd be lying if I said it wasn't something I was hoping might have happened in the ST. [face_not_talking] Seriously, no other Jedi anywhere?!)

    I know I originally wanted things to branch off seamlessly and believably from early LOTF, but honestly, at this point, I don’t even mind if my deviations are far-fetched or implausible. I love this crazy AU world. :p And there will be more information!

    Right? Never change, my snarky sons. Never change.

    Haha, she'll get there!

    The Sith Master’s Evil Grand Plan(TM) is another area that has seen some development and expansion since I first started writing this story, and looking back at these early chapters, I’m really happy with how well things still mesh. [face_mischief]

    Artoo being suspicious and uncertain around Anakin was surprisingly satisfying to write, lol.

    :D He’s so petulant, I love it. It does make me wonder how many people are able to understand binary? I always assumed it was pretty rare, and Anakin being mechanically inclined and preternaturally strong with the Force makes it more of a given that he would pick up the language. [face_thinking]

    Lol, I love this reaction! It’s always so rewarding, too, when you know what a reveal is going to be, and then you still love it so much when it happens. (This happened to me with another fandom very recently, and it was amazing to have something confirmed that I’d speculated for so long… and also the way it was confirmed was just so good.) Anyway, I am thrilled to elicit any kind of outward, fangirly response. :D

    Thank you so much for all your lovely comments! It’s been fun returning to these early chapters and reading what you like about them and seeing what still holds up well. :D[:D]



    @Force Smuggler
    Glad you made it over here! I’m really excited to be updating this again. AUs – specifically ones based off the old EU – are my happy place. And like I said on AO3, feel free to respond on whichever site you prefer! :D
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2020
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