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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. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Agree, 100%. Coruscant is wildly impressive and a fantastic SF planet, and it would be awful to live there.

    Excellent descriptions that show how unstable Festus is without telling us, good job :cool:

    Look, mucous membranes are biologically important, but ew

    *shakes fist*

    I'd forgotten about the Great River until this line. That was a cool idea. And iirc, it was yet another cool idea that really didn't get the follow-through it needed and deserved.

    See, this was plainly who Tahiri was going to become as early as Rebel Stand. Her post-NJO characterization was so far off, she wasn't even recognizable as the same character.

    "Nearly" :p

    Excellent exchange, and Jacen's creepy as all get out [face_plain]

    I saw it, Vi ;)

    Anakin, you doofus :oops:

    The answer to life, the universe, and how often Elias gets the pilot's seat :p

    Did Ben tell Anakin about the hand thing? I don't remember, but I don't think so [face_thinking] Also, believing Jacen here actually makes him creepier than if you didn't believe him o_O

    :eek:
     
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    @ViariSkywalker - if I live to be 100 I will NEVER EVER EVER read another so BRILLIANT characterization of Jacen, with Allana and Anakin particularly! =D= So multi-layered and yes, conflicted. [face_thinking] As I soak up the Allana/Festus interactions I begin to be less mystified by their mysterious connection. [face_laugh] She's the only one who "gets him" and isn't intimidated and he can feel things that he doesn't know are there. @};-
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  3. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    HOW HAVE I GONE THIS LONG WITHOUT COMMENTING?? I'm going to fix that now, especially in honor of WIPtober and with hopes of seeing a new update here soon. [face_batting] [face_mischief] [:D]


    At the very least, it was a treat for me to read this last update again, because the tension really ramped up to truly epic levels. Wow!

    Too daring sometimes, Obi-Wan would still say. Then again, there were times where Anakin had the Shared Brain Cell for the day and this dynamic definitely shifted. [face_laugh]

    I really liked Anakin's entire introspection on Coruscant. The planet is such a living organism; it holds onto its history as it builds and rebuilds over itself. To feel both of what the Yuuzhan Vong and the Sith have done, especially with the former Jedi Temple . . . that has to be a special sort of unsettling!

    I love that we've come so far with these characters this is just so Festus and Ferrus, even in just a few words. :p

    Such a good description!! [face_hypnotized]

    Right back at ya, there.o_O One of these days these two morons have to figure out that this was Anakin freaking Skywalker they were attempting to go up against. [face_whistling]

    Anakin totally has the 'exasperated with the kids' vibe here. [face_laugh]:rolleyes:

    Festus can't read the room to save his life - literally here! (Or, can he? :()

    Loved this visual! Both in the moment, and, you know, metaphorically speaking.

    Welp, this hurt, especially after the last chapter . . .

    =(( =(( =(( I love how this resonated with Anakin. There he is, learning from his mistakes! (Right? [face_batting])

    Also, again: Festus in this headspace literally minutes after his entire life's meaning was turned around and torn apart is just absolutely gut wrenching. (Jacen, you have so much to answer for.)

    Ace descriptions from here on into the throne room! Such an ominous feeling of dread!

    Another great visual. And, somehow, Jacen is just as unsettling here as in Krayt's full ensemble.

    Crazy is crazy. [face_worried]

    But it's the strength of his delusions that make him so formidable - and terrifying!

    Ain't that the truth? [face_plain]

    This was such a fantastic insight; really, it's something so defining about Anakin's character, yet it's oftentimes easy to forget. (Heck, even I sometimes do when I write my happy AUs for Anakin.) Power, to him, is the ability to make the ends to justify the means, to right all the impossible wrongs that even the Jedi can't set to rights. Which is understandable, to an extent, coming from the background of a child slave. Just . . . his ends and means became so horribly twisted along the way.

    The hesitation over the word.

    Then, as for the actual words, yeah: there's no small bit of irony there. :(

    You know, it's crossed everyone's mind . . . [face_batting]

    So . . . that is an answer? [face_thinking]

    . . . ish? :p

    Speaking of a role reversal for Anakin . . . Jacen's path and choices are, in many ways, a distorted mirror of his own.

    Great tension and transition into the action!

    =(( Too many, Jacen. I feel like, in a lot of ways, this is where he differs from Anakin, at the same time. Luke was the sacrifice Anakin couldn't make. Jacen, contrarily, doesn't have a line he won't cross. Then again, were those lives just so many dominoes falling that Jacen feels like he can't stop if he thinks he can fix everything somehow? SO MANY QUESTIONS, VIIII!

    Again: this is Tahiri as she was always meant to be and canon can go throw itself into a blackhole for all I care.

    Nearly! I thought the same as @Gabri_Jade! [face_laugh] [face_mischief]

    I WONDERED ABOUT THE PURPLE BLADE AND GAAAAAAAH, BUT THAT HUUUUURTS!

    Also: touché. :p

    DID ANAKIN SOMEHOW FEEL OBI-WAN ACROSS TIME AND SPACE??? Even if it's just his own part in that bond flaring to life for a moment, that hit me right where I live. [face_love]

    All the epic parallels are epic.

    Oh boy . . . you know, in many ways, Anakin has already been on a low simmer for years. He's had unresolved trauma after unresolved trauma all stacked up on top of each other, with anger as his go-to emotion for coping - and now you throw in this last straw in his desperation to save Allana and do something right. The man's about to boil over. [face_plain]

    To quote Gabri again: doofus. o_O

    Somehow, though, the vibe is that it's not Anakin that Jacen wants, but Darth Vader, which is reeeeeeally curious. [face_thinking]

    Such good action; such poor life choices. :oops:

    Eugh, but Jacen's words crawled.

    I love the power in your wording. So well done! Even if, c'mon Anakin, we do not need a wrecking ball right now . . . :oops:But these are extreme circumstances where control would be tenuous for anyone, let alone Anakin Skywalker, who's usually just holding himself together with stubborn determination as it is . . .[face_worried]

    Heeheee, I'm a simple nerd: you throw in a Hitchhiker's gem like that and I laugh. ;)

    Yeah, it wasn't your best moment, Anakin, but there is still time to do better, to be better. He's nothing like Jacen yet. (It's just that yet that's so terrifying.)

    I appreciate how well you also showed Anakin's crushingly low self-esteem. For all of his arrogance, that perception of self is just as debilitating and dangerous in another way . . .

    Parallels, parallels! [face_dancing]

    You know, that's quite the question. [face_plain]

    Yeesh, what is it with this family and their inability to either hold onto their own arms or stop taking arms from others? :p Your description was great!

    Everything about this hurt: Anakin's constantly trying, and failing, to get the upper hand (He's tried the Dark, how about the Light now? Or, how deep into the RoTJ parallels are we going to go here? I need to stop trying to figure this out! [face_plain]), and his desperation to save Allana, and now this seemingly fatal blow . . . and somehow Jacen is still hanging onto this line through everything.

    AND THEN:


    BEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!!!!


    THIS WHY WE NEED MORE, AND STAT.


    So . . . you know, consider yourself pestered. ;) [face_batting] [face_mischief] [face_whistling]


    =D=[:D]
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
    ViariSkywalker and Gabri_Jade like this.
  4. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Replies! (And then the new chapter! :eek:)


    @JediMaster_Jen
    Yay, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :D

    That's really been one of the fun and interesting things about writing this story, exploring the parallels as well as the differences between Anakin, Ben, and Jacen. We can hope for the best for Ben, but I will say... this next chapter is going to be quite the rollercoaster for him. [face_mischief] [face_whistling] Thanks so much for the lovely feedback, and I hope you enjoy what comes next!




    @Gabri_Jade
    Give me Alderaan or Naboo any day. :p

    :D I was pretty pleased with that passage. Festus is so not in a good place here. Okay, so he's never in a good place, but now he's pretty much in the worst place. [face_worried]

    Lolol, when I read through some of the descriptions of Vong biotech and environments in the NJO... I need an emoji that captures the essence of that one Seinfeld gif, the one where he shudders. :p

    Aw, I got you to care about Ulin. ;) [face_batting]

    Bet you never expected so many NJO callbacks when I started writing this story, lol. And I agree, the idea of the Great River always stuck with me, even if I can't remember any specifics of it from the actual novels. And it seemed like an obscure enough detail that the younger generation might have overlooked, but Ulin, who was in his twenties during the Vong War, would think to look for in his search. [face_thinking]

    I am, as always, thrilled anytime you or anyone else thinks I've gotten Tahiri right here. I was so disappointed in how she was portrayed post-NJO, and from the earliest drafts of EtF - and even the proto-EtF-verse that came before it - I've wanted to write the Tahiri I expected to see, one who felt like a natural extension of what came before, not the hollow shell we were given instead.

    As much as I love the storyline of Tahiri learning to accept Riina and meld with her shadow, you can't tell me that there was nothing of this fierce warrior in the Tahiri who came before. Even without the Yuuzhan Vong, I think Tahiri could have one day grown into a character like this, sans trauma.

    [face_blush] :D (And he iiiiissss.)

    [face_mischief] Parallels!

    Maybe not his best move here... o_O :oops:

    And this is where I hand in my nerd card and proclaim to the world that I have never actually read or watched Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and this was purely coincidence...

    ...or was it? [face_thinking]

    Yeah, I'd say Ben skipped over the hand thing. :p And it's definitely creepier if you believe Jacen here. [face_worried]

    [face_mischief] [face_mischief] [face_mischief]




    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha
    Oh, wow, that's quite the compliment! [face_blush] I'm glad you've enjoyed Jacen's characterization here. I've tried hard to reframe his fall in a way that would make more sense than what we got in LotF while staying true to the caring and deeply thoughtful and principled individual we knew from the NJO. (Which is not to say that he's perfectly caring or thoughtful or principled here - far from it, in some ways - but he should at least be recognizable.) This certainly isn't the Jacen I think we should have ended up with in the profic, but if he had to go dark, I like this version of him so much better than the one we were left with.

    I'm sure after reading through my Allana/Festus decathlon, that mysterious connection probably makes a bit more sense than it did when you wrote this reply. :p I'd say at this point Allana still finds him pretty darn terrifying, even if she does feel some sense of sorrow for all that was taken from him. As for Festus, he hasn't even begun to sort out what he feels here - he's still reeling from Jacen's betrayal after all - but as we know from later events, he does get there eventually. ;)




    @Mira_Jade
    :D [face_laugh] I love this so much!!

    Welp, these comments and WIPtober definitely helped jump-start my writing, and even though I didn't technically finish the next chapter until after the challenge ended, most of it was written during October... so I think that counts as a win for WIPtober and for us! ;)

    Now we'll have to see if the epicness holds out for this next chapter. :p But first, some replies!

    They're the best, Mira, I love them so much. [face_love]

    It's funny, when I write my first drafts, I often skip past segments like this, that establish the setting, because I don't think of myself as a great descriptive writer. But I find when I frame those descriptions as introspection, it flows a lot easier, and I end up liking those parts just as much. And this seemed like a great way to bring back that fish-out-of-water feeling that Anakin is still dealing with, because here's a place he knows, and it's gone through a lot since he was last there. Anyway, I liked tying in to all of that history.

    I really love that this resonated with you as a reader, even if the description was minimal! [face_love]

    I was really proud of this description, not gonna lie. [face_blush]

    I think I can guarantee that this will come up again, someday. [face_whistling] [face_batting]

    I find this even more amusing when you consider that he's only like five years older than them. :p

    Unfortunately, I'd say Festus knows exactly what he's doing here. =((

    Yay, I'm glad you loved it, too! I've gotta admit, there's been more than a few times in the writing of this 'verse that I've written scenes that made me think, "man, I really wish I could see this portrayed in live action, because it'd be a sweet visual." :p And it really spoke to the way I've written Festus (and Ferrus) in this story and all the others - they're not necessarily sophisticated fighters, and I imagine they don't keep to standard forms. Their fights aren't graceful and acrobatic. They're messy and brutal and ugly; and these chaos twins are going to claw their way to victory or get beaten to a pulp (or die) trying.

    Doesn't it, though? =((

    In this instance, at least, he does seem to be! Now whether or not it will last... [face_worried]

    Now just imagine if Festus knew the true extent of Jacen's reasons for grooming him and his brother... because you know, they weren't in the room to hear that little detail... [face_plain] =((

    Success! [face_mischief]

    Yay, exactly the reaction I hoped to get from this. There's definitely something unsettling about someone who doesn't need to rely on intimidation or armor or flashy displays of strength. Show me a great warrior, and I'll show you a Jacen Solo who is completely unimpressed and also totally capable of backing up that attitude with his own formidable skills.

    I honestly think he'd kinda have to be, to fall this far. Not crazy in the way that LotF presented him by the end (ugh), but still dangerously delusional in a different way.

    Right??? [face_worried]

    It really is satisfying writing an Anakin who understands the true depth of Palpatine's evil. A monster if ever there was one.

    There's so much insight into Anakin's character in the RotS novelization that I just adore, but when it comes to this, I love that you really don't have to look any further than the movies themselves. The meadow scene in AotC where he and Padmé are talking about how the system should work? ("Sounds like a dictatorship." "Well, if it works...") He tries to laugh off his comments once he realizes Padmé doesn't agree, but you can tell he means what he said. He doesn't have patience for the endless debate and gridlock and corruption in the Senate; those people live in an entirely different world from the one he was born into and spent his childhood in. And even though the Jedi are adjacent to that life, at least they go out and do things. The problem is, it's still not enough. There's only so much Anakin can do as a Jedi - rules and mandates and lines he can't cross. But then the Clone Wars start, and suddenly the Jedi Order as a whole is crossing lines they never would have thought to cross. For so many of them, this war is a deep concern not just because of what it means for the Republic, but because of what it means for them personally and spiritually, as bastions of light and keepers of peace. But I imagine that for Anakin, it's in some ways a release. Finally, he can take the fight to the bad guys in a way he never could before. And even though he wakes up to the harsh realities of war pretty quickly, I think there's still that part of him that feels more at home on the battlefield than he did in the Temple or anywhere else.

    So then we get to RotS, and after three years of war and spending so much time away from his wife and watching people die, Anakin's frustration with the Jedi and the Senate has reached new heights. And now those frustrations are front and center in the narrative because there's a new problem - Padmé's pregnancy and Anakin's visions of her death. The whole situation really is just the perfect storm, because Palpatine manipulated everyone, and he did so in large part by exploiting the weaknesses that were already there in Anakin and the Jedi and the whole Republic.

    And here's where I am going to swing back to the RotS novelization, because when Palpatine offers Anakin power, he doesn't just offer him the power to save his wife. He offers him the power to do and have anything he wants. He's offering Anakin the power to do what he's wanted all along: to end the war, to go straight to the Separatist leadership and stop them once and for all. No hiding behind diplomacy or the protection of their armies. He can end it all with a few swings of his lightsaber, and they'll never rise again. Palpatine is offering Anakin the power to do everything he could never do as a Jedi, to be himself, to follow his own conscience, always. And yeah, ultimately it was Padmé that clinched it for Anakin, but there were so many other factors driving his fall, and I think even if you take away his attachment to Padmé as a factor, you're still left with someone who is in danger of falling to the dark side, because he still would have craved that power. Not for himself (at least not at first) but because he could use it to correct all the injustices and be the hero that the galaxy needs. The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

    Welp, definitely got a bit rambly there, but anyway, that's my take, and I'm so glad that insight resonated with you!

    Right? :(

    There will be an answer to this, eventually. [face_batting]

    [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    They really are, when you get right down to it. They each came to it by different means, but there are a lot of similarities.

    Thanks! Those transitions are often tricky for me. :p

    Re: Anakin vs Jacen - On the one hand, it does seem that way, doesn't it? On the other hand (ha), Vader did cut off Luke's hand, and Jacen hasn't gone quite that far with Allana, so that's... something? o_O As for your comment on so many dominoes falling... well, that is some very interesting insight right there, yes, very interesting indeed... [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    I couldn't have said it better myself. [face_love] It really means a lot to me, how much you've enjoyed her in this story. :D

    :D Hee... and like I told Gabri, I like imagining that Tahiri would have grown into a character somewhat like this regardless of the traumatic experiences she endured. Not totally the same, of course, but I can see that same determination that helped her through her ordeal being one of the things that defines her in any universe, happy or otherwise.

    Everything about Jacen and Jaina in this 'verse hurts. EVERYTHING. :_|

    [face_whistling]

    Although... who says the feeling was across time? ;) *is cryptic*

    (Have I mentioned how much I love Anakin and Obi-Wan's friendship? Because I doooooo. [face_love])

    :D [face_love]

    So. Much. Trauma. Seriously, where are the therapists in this galaxy?

    [face_whistling]

    Anakin Skywalker in a nutshell, everyone. :p

    He's so eerie here, my gosh. [face_worried]

    I mean, honestly? We can talk about the light side all we want, but what would any of us actually do in Anakin's situation? Facing an opponent with vastly more experience and a connection to the Force that arguably rivals his own? Sometimes the good guys don't win, no matter how pure their hearts are and how nobly they fight. So what is Anakin's option here? And I'm not saying that he made the right choice by any means, but really, what should he have done? This is literally his greatest fear staring him right in the face: that he will find himself in a situation where being the best won't be enough, and he will lose someone because of it.

    I got a bit rambly and repetitive there, so I hope that made sense? :p

    I actually think it's pretty hilarious that I know almost nothing about Hitchhiker's, and yet I still randomly decided on this number. [face_laugh]

    I'll hand in my nerd card now. 8-}

    Despair is just as powerful a path to the dark side as hate, and it can be so hard to overcome. :(

    I do love me some parallels. ;)

    [face_whistling]

    [face_rofl] It wouldn't be Star Wars if someone didn't lose a limb at some point. o_O ;)

    [face_mischief] [face_mischief] [face_mischief]

    :D Ask, and you shall receive...


    ...as soon as I finish formatting the update. :p
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2021
  5. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    ~~

    Chapter Twenty-Three


    The turbolift doors opened on a room that had been almost completely devastated. With its ceiling and walls in shambles and every surface covered in debris, the top of the tower was lit by only a few bioluminescent globe stalks, the shimmering lights of Coruscant that filtered through the window, and now, by the blue-white glow of an old Jedi lightsaber.

    Ben Skywalker held that saber at his side, lifting it just enough to cast its light toward the base of the stairs where Anakin lay nearly motionless, Jacen kneeling at his side. He swept his eyes across the whole room, searching for Allana, only to find her on a raised platform in the far-right corner, wrapped tight in the Embrace of Pain.

    His throat went dry at the sight, and for a moment he couldn’t breathe. Her anguish, though muted by unconsciousness, called out to him, a low, constant moan that echoed across their bond. He could have wept right then for the agony she was in, for the pain of seeing her so small and broken and helpless. Instead, he took a deep breath and forced his attention back to the men at the center of the room.

    His former master looked up, and even in the dim light, he could see the smile creeping across Jacen’s face.

    “Hey, Ben. Welcome home.”

    Ben swallowed his grief, his fear, his desperation, and he stood tall in the face of his adversary. “I’m not here for a reunion,” he said evenly.

    Jacen continued to smile up at him. It was a sickeningly patient smile, the same one he’d given Ben all those years ago when he explained why the path he’d chosen was the only path to peace. Ben hated it. He hated the thought of Jacen’s face being the last one his father had seen before he died. He hated the thought of Allana looking into that face as she was forced into the Embrace. And now this Sith monstrosity held the galaxy’s last hope in his grasp, the one man who could truly make a difference, and he was smiling.

    Anakin lifted his head just enough to meet his eyes, and in that gaze Ben saw the same fear and shame he’d carried ever since his father died. I’m sorry, his grandfather seemed to say as he lay there. Jacen stood up and advanced a few steps, stepping around Anakin’s prone form.

    “You look older, even more than on Ziost.”

    Ben bit the inside of his lip, hard. “Fantastic. Now let them go.”

    Jacen tilted his head to one side and shook it. “Straight to the point, as always. But you know it’s not as simple as that.”

    “It is that simple. I’m here for Allana and Anakin, and I’m not leaving without them.”

    “Who said anything about leaving?” Jacen glanced back at Anakin for a second. Their grandfather’s head had dropped to the deck, his eyes roaming and unfocused. Jacen took in a deep, contented breath and turned to face Ben once more. “I’ve been expecting you, Ben. I wanted you to come here.”

    The sincerity in his voice grated along Ben’s nerves, and he felt such an overwhelming urge to silence that voice, to keep it from infecting his thoughts as it had done before. Ben tried to swallow, but his throat was still too dry. Was it all a lie, or had Jacen really anticipated this? Was this his plan all along?

    “Do you understand now?” Jacen asked, and behind that sincere tone there was a hint of something desperate. “Do you understand why we’re here?”

    Ben flexed his fingers around the grip of his lightsaber. “I told you, I’m here to save Allana and Anakin. I don’t know what the hell you want, and I don’t care either."

    Jacen shook his head again. “You’ve grown so much, and yet you’re still blinded by your stubborn refusal to embrace reality. If you’re not careful, it will be your undoing.”

    “I’m not the one who’s blind.” Ben raised his saber and pointed it at Jacen’s heart. “And I don’t plan on being undone ever again.”

    Jacen lowered his gaze and exhaled with force. “You have every right to resent me, to hate me even – but believe me when I say everything I did, I did out of love.”

    Ben felt a tide of anger surging inside him, threatening to overtake him. How could Jacen still be so delusional? How could the man who fought so hard to end a brutal, galaxy-spanning war really not see how insane this was? Did he honestly believe betraying his family and hunting down his friends and brutalizing entire star systems was the key to galactic peace? That there was any world in which torturing his own daughter was justified?

    He took a step in Allana’s direction, pulled by the pain he still felt in the space between them; but as he moved, so did Jacen. It took only a few steps for the Sith Master to place himself directly in Ben’s path. Jacen spread his hands wide at his sides, his lightsaber still clutched in one closed fist.

    “Tell me you understand,” he said softly.

    Ben looked past him at Allana and felt his pulse beating in his throat. He thought back to his training, the many months he’d spent learning from Jacen, absorbing every scrap of knowledge and every fighting technique. In all their sparring sessions, he’d never once bested his cousin. He’d never even come close. The last time they met before Ziost, Ben hadn’t even tried to fight him, because he didn’t want to keep going down the dark road Jacen had set him on, and because he’d foolishly thought he could convince his former master to turn back to the light.

    He could still feel the snakelike coil of the Embrace around him, barbs dragging across his flesh as Jacen burrowed into his mind. He could still remember the words, the cool, calm rationale, spoken like a balm instead of the poison it truly was. The tremor started in his arms, faint at first but gathering strength until he felt it arc into his throat as the words tumbled out.

    “You told me this was for our family.” The grip of his lightsaber dug into his palms as he held it ever tighter. “That you were making me strong to protect them and the galaxy. You said that, and then you destroyed both.”

    Jacen’s expression shifted, giving way to a familiar earnestness as he took a step forward and reached out with one hand. “The galaxy is already dying, Ben. It’s collapsing under the weight of its own decay. Tell me you couldn’t feel that, even before?”

    Ben shook his head. “I don’t remember what it was like before. This galaxy, the one that’s dying? You created it.”

    “I know that’s what you need to believe. I accept that what I’ve done is horrific, and that you can never forgive me. I don’t need your forgiveness. I need your power. Every sacrifice I’ve made, every life I’ve destroyed – all of it has been in service to one goal: to set you free. To help you achieve that impossible, exalted state that I once did.”

    Bile burned in the back of his throat, and as he struggled to comprehend the enormity of those words, Ben felt his entire body go cold. “What?” he choked out.

    Jacen took another step toward him. “Imagine for one moment that you’re the most powerful person in the galaxy, more intimately connected to the Force than possibly anyone in history – and imagine it only lasts for a few moments. Then imagine you see a future where your child is threatened, and you know that the only way to stop it from happening is to somehow find that power again, that impossible power that you were only worthy of once in your life.

    “I can’t achieve that unity again, but you can. You only lacked the circumstances to drive you to it. A situation as desperate as mine was, fighting a relentless enemy, facing the loss of everything and everyone you ever loved.”

    Ben listened to the words, felt them circle him and drag at him and begin to eat him alive. It couldn’t be— it couldn’t

    “You’re insane,” he whispered, unable to move. Unable to breathe.

    Jacen frowned, as if Ben had merely failed to grasp his words and needed simple correction. “I didn’t understand it for a long time. I searched for years, looking for a way back to that perfect unity with the Force. I learned from many teachers, but none of them brought me any closer to the truth. So I accepted my fate, and I returned to the Jedi and to my family.” He paused to inhale, and it was as if a world of misery were somehow contained in that breath. “And then Allana was born, and I had a vision of unending war and suffering, and I thought if I could stop that from happening, surely that was right?”

    Right?” Ben’s voice shook, and this time he didn’t try to hide it. “That future you wanted to prevent is here. You created it with innocent blood, with the blood of our family, all because of some vision. How the hell is that right?”

    Jacen took another step toward him, close enough now that even in the dim light, Ben could make out the lines in his face, the burdens that had aged him beyond his forty-two years.

    “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” Jacen insisted, shaking his head. “I tried to explain it to them. You don’t know how much— how I tried— but no one would listen.” Jacen looked away for a second, and Ben realized he was glancing back at Allana. The pain that flashed through the Force was pronounced and unfathomable. “I never meant to go so far, but now I can fix it. This is how we fix it. Once you transcend your limits and become completely one with the Force, we can change whatever we want. Bring back whoever we want.”

    Ben thought of his parents, of everyone he’d lost. Force, there were so many. Not just his dead, but all the others, across all the worlds, for years and years. All for this? They were all dead because they needed to be dead, to wear him down and push him to his limits, so that he wouldn’t have any other choice?

    For a single instant, he wondered if it was actually possible. The power to cheat death, to turn back time, to change everything.

    He looked into his cousin’s eyes, not the strange yellow eyes of the Sith, but the brown ones he had grown up knowing. There’d never been a time when he hadn’t known those eyes, or that face, or that voice. He’d trusted him with his whole heart, once. A child’s heart. But he wasn’t a child anymore.

    “You’re crazy,” he breathed out. “Your whole sick plan is crazy.”

    Jacen’s eyes narrowed a fraction. “Is it, Ben? Is it any crazier than a species that exists beyond our ability to sense with the Force? Is it any crazier than a sentient planet? What about our grandfather, dead forty-seven years, traveling across time and space to end up right here, at this moment? Don’t tell me that’s a coincidence, and don’t you dare tell me I’m crazy for seeing the truth that you refuse to acknowledge.”

    White-knuckled and losing his grip on any semblance of calm, Ben lifted the blade of his weapon to aim once more at Jacen’s heart. “You let her go,” he said through clenched teeth. “Right now. I won't ask again.”

    Jacen’s expression flickered from frustration to something far darker and more possessive. “If you believe nothing else I say, believe this: no one is taking my daughter from me ever again. If you want to try, then you will fight me for her.”

    Ben brought his other hand to the hilt of his saber and shifted his stance, raising the blade to his right shoulder. “So be it.”

    ~~


    The sky over Salis D’aar was cloudless and bright with sunlight, its endlessly and vibrantly blue expanse appearing like something out of a painting, or a children’s fairy story. On some worlds, the sky always seemed so close, like you could reach up and touch it and carry some of it with you. Tatooine had been one of those worlds, and despite the vast divide that separated it from Bakura in almost every way, when Tahiri Veila thought back to her youth on the desert planet, she remembered a sky very much like this one.

    She and Valin stood back-to-back under that sun-bright sky, turning in a tight, unified circle as they fended off three crimson blades from three relentless and merciless Sith Lords. Their weapons tore a blue and silver path through the dust and debris, halting each attack a split-second before they could find their marks. They shifted in and out of each other’s spaces, united in thought and purpose, blocking and parrying and evading with near-perfect coordination. It still wasn’t a battle meld, exactly, but just as the Jedi had done over Zihrent, so she and Valin fueled one another, lifting each other past their individual limits.

    Shots fired from behind her, and out of the corner of one eye, she saw Myri and a few of her soldiers trading fire with the Sith troops across the plaza. A rebel transport ship flew overhead, swinging around to land in a clearing beyond the plaza. Tahiri breathed a quick sigh of relief as she heard Myri yell for the kids to get to the ship.

    “You think you’ve saved them, Jedi?” Darth Dominius’s blade slipped under hers and thrust up, trying to create an opening. Tahiri shut off her saber and drew her elbows in, weaving to slip past the Falleen Sith Lord’s defenses. She aimed the hilt at his chest and activated her weapon again; Dominius wasn’t quite fast enough to block, but Darth Satrus intercepted her blade, twirling his saber in a move that pushed her backward.

    “Clever,” the human Sith murmured, a hint of a smile on his otherwise stoic face.

    “You like that?” she said, bringing her lightsaber across her body for a series of blocks. “I’ve been practicing.”

    Unlike Dominius’s more traditional lightsaber form, Satrus’s movements were liquid and hard to predict. While the former occasionally telegraphed his attacks, his companion gave away nothing, forcing Tahiri to rely more on the Force than her own natural reflexes to counter. She sank into that current, surrendering to it, trusting that it would lead her where she needed to go.

    Behind her, she could feel Valin’s fatigue, and she did what she could to bolster him. There was still a part of Tahiri that yearned to let loose, to meet her enemies in unrestrained combat and employ every deeply-ingrained fighting tactic seared into her over the years. But they were outnumbered by experienced opponents, and despite their unified front, Valin wasn’t the strongest duelist. Though they worked brilliantly in tandem, she feared what would happen if they broke from their defensive circle.

    The ground shook beneath them, and as Tahiri narrowly evaded Satrus’s agile blade, she caught a glimpse of another AT-AT rounding the corner of a building several blocks away. The comlink on her hip issued static for a few seconds before a familiar voice broke through.

    “Tahiri!” Myri said with an urgency that held, as ever, just the faintest hint of mischief. “Malinza said to tell the Sith she sends her regards!”

    Wind gusted around them as the rebel transport ship kicked up into the air, and Tahiri nearly missed a block as she glanced back at it, Myri’s words not quite registering in her brain. Malinza?

    Tahiri caught Satrus’s saber against her own, avoiding a swipe from Dominius as she pivoted to press her attack. The ground shook again, and she extended her perception toward the walker – and in a Force-driven explosion of clarity, she realized the AT-AT wasn’t targeting the fleeing rebel ship or the soldiers on the ground, because it wasn’t a Sith trooper driving it at all—

    Her comlink crackled once more. “Oh yeah, Malinza also said to duck.”

    The blast hit the building nearest them, shattering in a hail of crumbled duracrete and transparisteel shards and hot, twisted metal. The force of the blast sent Tahiri flying away from Valin and the Sith Lords. She clung to her lightsaber as she fell back toward the ground, landing on a section of wall that had been thrown several meters away from its original location.

    As she staggered to her feet, she saw Valin’s silver lightsaber ignite a fair distance away from her, snapping up to block a blow from the Twi’lek woman. Rebel and Sith starfighters streaked through the air overhead, trading fire at a frantic, unsustainable pace. Tahiri turned to vault in Valin’s direction, when in her peripheral vision, she saw a dark-robed figure hurtling toward her, crimson saber blazing a trail through the haze. Behind that blade, two eyes burned like fire from within a flame-red face.

    Dominius catapulted toward her, leaping through the air like a bird preparing to take flight. He crashed hard into her cerulean saber, beating her down with every blow. No longer outnumbered or bound by the defensive strategy she and Valin had employed, Tahiri allowed muscle memory to take over. Ritual Tusken gaderffii combat blended with years of Jedi training; it was strengthened by the brutal energy of the Yuuzhan Vong and sharpened by skills she’d developed in answer to the renewed Sith menace.

    She probably wasn’t anything like the Jedi of old, the ones to whom Anakin Skywalker belonged, the ones the Galactic Empire had tried to wipe from existence. And she probably wasn’t anything like Luke Skywalker or Anakin Solo, or even the person she herself would have been in a different, better world. But that was okay, because right here, right now, she was exactly the Jedi she needed to be, the one who would end Darth Dominius and any other Sith who came after her family.

    Dominius slammed his blade into hers again, over and over, trying to drive her to her knees. Instead of fighting it, Tahiri dropped to her back and kicked his legs out from under him. Dominius didn’t fall, though; he planted one hand on the ground and pushed off in a cartwheel that seemed to defy the effects of gravity. Tahiri jumped to her feet the same moment he landed on his, and they hurtled toward each other again.

    As they circled one another, Tahiri caught a glimpse of Valin across the plaza, still locked in combat. He was holding his own against the powerful Twi’lek Sith, but she knew the fight had to be wearing on him. At least they each only had to deal with one opponent. Tahiri stretched out with her senses but couldn’t detect Darth Satrus anywhere. She wondered if he’d been caught in the falling debris.

    “Where’s your friend?” Tahiri asked, swinging her lightsaber from her hip to catch Dominius’s descending blade. Her question seemed to spark a new fire in the seemingly unflappable Sith Lord.

    “You will die today, Jedi,” Dominius spat, his typical composure crumbling away as thoroughly as the ruined buildings around them. “I’ll send you and all your kind straight to hell.”

    “That’s funny,” Tahiri replied as she parried another blow, “because I was going to say the same thing to you.”

    Dominius roared and pushed her backward through the debris, gaining momentum as his saber battered hers. Tahiri backflipped onto a narrow support beam jutting out from the wreckage of the building, balancing nimbly on the twisted metal as she searched for higher ground. The Falleen Sith gave chase, navigating the beam with a grace and lightness that was more avian than reptilian, and he grinned a broad, sharp-toothed grin as they ascended high above the plaza. Then he did something totally unexpected.

    He threw his lightsaber at her.

    She should have reached out with the Force and plucked it from the air, but the sight of it whirling toward her head in a deadly blood-red pinwheel caught her by such surprise that she followed her first instinct, to duck under it. As she did so, Dominius lunged forward and caught her under the chin with a swift kick, and she fell back and hit her shoulder against the beam before toppling off of it completely.

    The drop was at least five meters. Tahiri tried to slow her fall, but she still landed hard on her side among the shattered remains of the plaza, gasping at the pain that wrenched through her as she sucked in a breath. Her ribs, she realized. At least a few of them were certainly cracked, maybe even broken. She grunted as she climbed to her feet, forcing the pain back into a small corner of her awareness. She’d lived through worse injuries, and she wasn’t about to let these ones stop her.

    Dominius was still perched high atop the beam, the pigment of his skin cooling to an ashen green as he regarded her. “All that you’ve endured, and still you stand.” He shook his head and gave her a pitying smile. “The world you fight for is gone, Master Veila. You cling to the dying embers of a galaxy that cannot hope to sustain itself. We will tear it down so that it might begin anew, unencumbered by the countless millennia of rot that came before.” He closed his left hand in a fist and raised it toward the sky. “Can you not see your defeat is inevitable? Why fight against it? Why not join us?”

    Tahiri tasted the copper tang of blood in her mouth, and she kept her eyes on the Sith as she spat it out. “You really need to work on your recruiting tactics. I know a thing or two about fanatics, including the fact that every civilization built by them eventually falls.” She thumbed her saber to life and angled it at him. “I’ll take my chances with the dying embers, thanks but no thanks.”

    Dominius shrugged and flashed another smile. “It was worth a try.” He leapt to the ground and flourished his crimson blade at his side.

    Tahiri forced herself not to grimace as she brought her weapon to bear. Luminous beings, she reminded herself again, closing her eyes for a single second. Not this crude matter.

    The Bakuran sun was warm on her skin and bright in her eyes, and Valin’s nearby presence was steady; and Tahiri smiled because the Force was with her.

    ~~


    Blaster fire echoed all through Eradicator’s durasteel gray corridors, and Arden Veiss turned to look over her shoulder, listening.

    “It’s getting closer,” she murmured, trying to ignore the frenetic racing of her pulse. Next to her, Ames fidgeted, passing the hilt of his lightsaber from one hand to the other and back again.

    “Nothing we can’t handle,” he replied, eyes forward, focused on the astromech droid rolling to the front of their group, one mechanical arm outstretched. The soldiers parted before R2-D2, then reformed in a protective semicircle around both him and the computer terminal. Artoo plugged in, and the dataport cycled and whirred as the little droid sifted through Eradicator’s system.

    “Can you sense the others?” Arden asked Ames quietly.

    The tall boy nodded slowly. “Yes, but not like what you’re thinking. I can feel them as a group, and Master Horn is more distinct… but my senses aren’t as attuned as someone like Ben or Elias or one of the masters.” He took a deep breath, and then he, too, looked over his shoulder at the empty corridor. “I can tell they’re under a lot of fire, though.”

    Arden nodded and glanced down at the blaster in her hands. She knew how to use one, of course. Couldn’t get very far as a smuggler and thief without learning how, but she’d never been in a situation like this one, where a firefight against impossible odds was all but guaranteed. And even though she still felt that strange sense of hope – of faith – it would be a lie to say she wasn’t afraid.

    Artoo retracted his arm and issued a long string of clipped, urgent beeps. The soldier next to him glanced down at her datapad. “Medbay, two levels up,” she said, reading the translation off the pad. Her eyes went wide as she continued to scan the screen. “He says the children are slated for… testing.”

    Arden looked up and found Elias at the head of the group. He’d blanched noticeably at the soldier’s words, and she saw him swallow hard.

    “We need to hurry,” he said. “On me. Ames?”

    The boy stepped forward and stood at attention. “Sir.”

    Even with the gravity of their situation weighing on them all, Elias couldn’t seem to help the small smile that tugged at his lips. No matter what position he was in now, he was still the stalwart first mate of the Daybreak, and Ames’s friend. “You take the rear. No way we’re getting there without a fight.”

    They made their way up the levels and were nearing the last turn to the medical wing when the fight finally found them.

    “Rebels!” a muffled voice yelled, and Arden turned in time to see a whole squad of Sith troopers at the end of the intersecting hallway, raising their blasters to fire.

    Elias and Ames swept past her, lightsabers igniting with a sizzle as they intercepted the enemy fire. The rebel soldiers behind her started to fall back in the direction of the medbay, shouting over the noise for everyone to run.

    The medical wing was a brightly-lit spot of white at the end of the corridor, and Arden jogged toward it, hovering near Artoo, who was surprisingly calm even as laser blasts peppered the air around them. Instead of growing larger, though, that spot of white began to shrink.

    “Blast doors!” one of the strike team members shouted. The reinforced durasteel doors shut before they could reach them, trapping them in the corridor with the Sith troopers. Following the rebels’ lead, Arden moved to one side of the hallway and ducked behind the closest archway.

    “Master Jedi!” one of the rebels shouted. “A little help?”

    Elias turned and sprinted to the blast door, and he plunged his lightsaber into the center. The metal glowed molten orange around the bright blue of his blade.

    More enemy soldiers poured into the corridor, and the man next to Arden cried out as a blaster bolt caught him in the chest. She tucked as far back against the wall as she could, hardly able to return fire. Ames stood in front of them, lasers deflecting off his emerald saber, whirling too fast for her to keep up with.

    “Elias!” the younger Jedi called out, an edge of panic in his voice. “I can’t hold them!”

    Melted metal shards fell to the floor as Elias yanked his lightsaber out of the door and spun around to join Ames in the middle of the corridor. “Artoo!” he yelled over the din. “Get those doors open!”

    The droid squealed in reply, and Arden hefted her blaster to take up a defensive position in front of him. “Ready?”

    She fired off several shots as she and the ancient astromech emerged from their shelter, making a direct line to the terminal while Elias and Ames weaved a brilliant web of protection between them and the enemy. Artoo extended an arm and began to sort through the electronic tumblers that locked the blast door in place.

    “Come on, come on,” Arden muttered under her breath, watching the Jedi out of the corner of her eye. They still moved with incredible speed and precision, but she could tell by the set of their jaws and the sweat on their brows that they were coming up against their limits.

    The droid let out a triumphant string of beeps and whistles, and a blast door at the opposite end of the corridor closed, cutting them off from the Sith troopers. Elias and Ames lowered their weapons and staggered backward, breathing heavy.

    “Thanks, buddy,” Elias said, still fighting to catch his breath.

    Artoo warbled what Arden thought might have been an affectionate response, and then the blast door behind them opened, revealing the sterile white walls of the medical wing. What remained of Beta group stepped across the threshold.

    Apart from the soft echo of their boots on the polished floor, the medbay was silent. Arden wasn’t sure what she’d expected to find here; after what Ben had told her of Yalena, she hadn’t really wanted to imagine what might be waiting for them. Somehow, this eerie calm was more unsettling than anything she could have conjured in her imagination.

    Doors lined each side of the too-bright corridor, all of them closed. “Spread out,” Elias ordered. “Check each one.”

    The strike team dispersed, and Arden followed Elias as he headed for one of the doors. The room inside appeared to be a typical medbay, with a few beds and medical equipment and more white walls. There was no sign that anyone had even touched this room recently.

    “Come on,” Elias murmured, his hand resting lightly on her arm. “Let’s keep looking.”

    They exited the room and looked around for the rest of Beta group. Ames was leaving the room across from them, and as their eyes met, he shook his head.

    “Master Jedi!”

    Arden and Elias turned quickly toward the voice and spotted one of the soldiers standing outside an open doorway at the far end of the corridor.

    “I found them!” the soldier called out before running into the room.

    Elias tensed for a split-second, and then he sprinted down the hallway, skidding to a stop in front of the door. Arden saw him slump against the doorframe and breathe a long sigh of relief. He looked back at her and smiled, exhausted but victorious.

    “They’re okay,” he said. He disappeared into the room, following after the soldier. By the time Arden reached the room, they were already leading the children out. Most of the kids were still in their nightclothes and appeared disheveled and disoriented, but there were no obvious injuries.

    Ames stepped past Arden, scanning the group of children before looking over at Elias. “Master Tivas?”

    Elias shook his head, but one of the children raised a hand and pointed to a set of blast doors at the end of the hallway. “They took him in there when we got here. We haven’t seen him, but he’s…” The girl trailed off, tears in her eyes.

    Arden gripped her blaster tight as every eye turned to the blast doors.

    “Artoo,” Elias said, “get those doors open.”

    The little astromech made short work of this set of blast doors, and they opened to reveal another brightly-lit room, easily triple the size of the smaller ones they’d searched. Arden wasn’t sure what this room might have been before, if it had always been part of the medical suite or if it served some other purpose; but a large space had been cleared to make way for a ring of carts and computer monitors, and at their center, the Jedi healer Orion Tivas lay on the room’s sole operating table.

    Arden only caught a glimpse before Elias and their team’s medic rushed forward, blocking her view, but what she saw was enough to turn her stomach. Ames came up beside her, and she reached out without thinking, grasping her friend’s arm. He turned toward her, looking away from the center of the room. The last time they’d been in a medcenter together, they’d been waiting for news about Kohr, and Master Tivas had been the one to deliver that news, to reassure them that their friend would be all right.

    “Is he…?” Her throat tightened around the words, and she looked to Ames for a response.

    The young Jedi covered his mouth with one hand. “He’s holding on, but I don’t—” Ames shook his head and glanced over at Elias, who was assisting the medic in wrapping Orion’s torso with swaths of gauze. “They just left him here, like that, and—”

    Arden squeezed his arm where she held on to it. In the center of the room, Elias and the medic finished bandaging Orion, and they sat him up slowly.

    “Easy there.” Elias took the brunt of the other Jedi’s weight as he shifted him to the edge of the table. “We’ve got you.”

    The medic moved to one side, draping Orion’s right arm over his shoulder. As Elias did the same to his left, Arden finally got a clear look at the man.

    His thin flimsiplast shirt was open down the front, revealing a torso wrapped almost entirely in bandages, scarlet already blooming like little flowers against the white gauze. He was sickly pale, too – hardly anything like the man she’d met just a few days ago.

    “The children?” he whispered through dry, cracked lips.

    “They’re here,” Elias reassured. “They’re okay. They’re all okay.”

    Orion closed his eyes and sagged against Elias, relief evident in the tears that slipped down his face and the ragged breath that shook his thin frame. “Thank the Force.”

    Elias lowered Orion gently to the floor, then pulled out his comlink. “Jysella?”

    The answer was immediate. “Do you have them?”

    “Yes. We found them all.”

    Arden didn’t miss the way the other Jedi hesitated, or the faint tremor in her voice as she said, “Orion?”

    Elias held the comlink up in front of the healer. “I’m here, Jys,” Orion answered, still weak. “It’s good to hear your voice.”

    “Yours too.” Jysella’s soft tone turned urgent. “Elias, the detonators are in place. What’s your location?”

    “The medcenter. They know we’re here. Artoo jammed the doors, but it won’t be long before they get through.” Elias inhaled deep, his eyes catching Arden’s for a second. “We could use a diversion.”

    “I think I can arrange something. Sit tight – we’re coming to you.”

    ~~


    In the eerie dark of the ruined Sith throne room, two men clashed.

    Born of the same lineage, the same blood, they carried in them a legacy of bravery and heroism, a legacy of light – but also one of darkness, one that had always lain in wait, should they ever stumble. And they had each struggled with the duality of that legacy, the duality of walking in brightest light while casting the darkest shadows.

    Maybe it was appropriate that the battle between them should be waged with weapons forged by their grandfather, and that those two weapons should be one and the same, separated only by time.

    There was a deeper meaning there that neither man had time to fully appreciate – for as much as theirs was a battle between light and dark, between the conflicting aspects of their family’s legacy, it was also a battle between two people who had loved and cared for each other, who had been bound as master and apprentice, whose bond had been built not because they were grandsons of the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker or the Sith Lord Darth Vader, but because one was Jacen and the other was Ben, and that was all that had ever really mattered to them.

    Twin blades of cerulean crashed and hissed in the gloom, battering against each other as these two men – bound together by blood and love and fate – fought on.

    ~~


    Against all of Ben’s hopes to the contrary, age had not diminished Jacen’s combat prowess in the least. If anything, time had only deepened his former master’s skill: his form was precise and economical, and he moved swiftly from one counterattack to the next without ever seeming to rush. As an apprentice, Ben had studied those forms diligently, and he had tried to imitate Jacen’s minimalist fighting style; but no matter how hard he trained, he’d never gotten the better of his cousin. Ben had hidden his feelings well after those matches, rarely voicing just how frustrated he was at his own inexperience, but Jacen could always tell.

    One day, was his master’s oft-repeated reply in the face of those frustrations, you’ll be even better at this than me.

    Ben swung at Jacen’s midsection, a tight horizontal blow that would have sliced the Sith from hip to hip if it had landed. But very few lightsaber duels ended that quickly, and they still had many more blows to trade before they reached that point.

    “The last time we sparred, you were a whole head shorter than me.” Jacen danced out of reach of Ben’s saber and observed him as one might a work of art: critical, but interested; analytical, but also moved. “Seems so long ago.”

    “Not long enough.” Ben punctuated his words with a downward thrust, which Jacen intercepted effortlessly, turning his momentum back on him. Reeling a little from the sudden shift, Ben spun away from the blade, putting enough distance between them to regain his footing.

    Jacen stood back, continuing to observe rather than pursue. “You look just like him, you know. I didn’t realize how much until now.”

    His father’s face flashed unbidden through his thoughts, and he remembered the last time he’d seen him, striding forward to meet the Sith head-on, so focused he hadn’t even looked back.

    The rage that had been simmering just beneath the surface began to boil over. Ben brought his lightsaber in line with his center and grasped it tight in both hands. “You shut your mouth. I don’t want to hear you say anything about him.”

    Jacen’s rueful smile twisted just slightly as he raised one eyebrow, saying nothing. He retreated up the grass-covered staircase, and Ben followed, battering Jacen’s saber with his own, each swing becoming more exaggerated, more aggressive. Their blades crossed high in the air, then swung low where they crossed again. Ben leaned into the blow with all his weight and forced Jacen’s sword hand away from his body, and he used that split-second to slam his elbow into Jacen’s face.

    The Sith Master staggered backward, clutching his face with his left hand. Blood trickled from his nose and into his mouth, and the sight of it triggered in Ben an animal-like rush of satisfaction and a desire – no, a need – to see his enemy thoroughly crushed. That swell of dark emotion propelled him forward, carrying him across the debris-filled room as he and Jacen continued to trade blows.

    “That’s it, Ben!” Jacen’s eerie smile was tinged red. “Let go of your limits. Stop worrying about light and dark, and fight me.”

    Ben growled and shoved back hard against the next attack. “Shut up!”

    But Jacen wouldn’t be deterred. “If it takes the dark side to get you to open your eyes, then so be it. Once you lose everything, once there is nothing holding you back, then you’ll achieve a power greater than any Jedi, greater than any Sith, and you’ll finally understand why this was the only way.”

    Ben roared as he ducked past an overhead strike and rammed his shoulder into Jacen’s gut, knocking him to the floor. He resisted the urge to pursue him and end him, trying to ignore that sly whisper that told him he could do it all too easily if he really wanted to, if he just let go.

    Jacen stood slowly, saber held in a horizontal line in front of him as he brushed grass from his shirt. His motions were deliberately casual, but Ben could see the heavier rise and fall of his chest, and the sweat gathering on his brow. His old master was growing tired after having already fought Anakin.

    “You’re so close,” Jacen said, taking a deep, satisfied breath. “You don’t even know how close you are.”

    Gods, would he just shut up? Ben fought to suppress that slow boil of rage, even as he felt it roll through him. “Why me?” he gritted out. “Why am I so fragging special? Why not Jaina or Aunt Leia, or my father?”

    Jacen’s calm expression faltered, and Ben saw that same earnestness from earlier. It made him sick. “Because you were the only one who would listen to me, really listen to me back then. But after Uncle Luke— after what happened— I knew you would never hear anything I said.”

    —a supernova burst in his brain, and his knees hitting metal, and Mom’s voice screaming through the comlink—

    Ben held onto his saber as if it were a lifeline. Maybe it was. Across from him, Jacen shook his head and continued.

    “I kept making mistakes; I couldn’t stop – the coup, the Academy, the alliance with the Sith, thinking I understood them, that I could use them – and then I lost Tenel Ka, and Allana, and Jaina…” Jacen’s shoulders sagged, and his voice broke over the words. “I’d shut her out for so long, and then it was too late. I killed my sister, my other half. After that, I knew there was no hope going forward, no hope of ever correcting the balance. The One Sith betrayed me and swept across the galaxy, and that was my fault.” He shook his head again, jaw clenched and eyes suddenly damp. “But I survived against all odds, and I have to believe it was for a reason.”

    Ben’s breath shook as he exhaled. “You think we’ll just bring them all back and everything’s okay? You think you’ll be forgiven for what you’ve done?”

    “No. I told you, I don’t expect forgiveness. But it’s not enough for us to bring them back, Ben. We have to go further than that, or else the whole cycle will start again. Without balance, the threat I foresaw will come, and Allana will die – and I refuse to let that happen.”

    Ben glanced over at Anakin, lying motionless among the grass and the coral. His grandfather’s presence flickered; he was still alive, but fading. Ben turned back and met Jacen’s eyes, and a shiver went up his spine at what he saw there. “What do you mean, ‘go further’?”

    “I wasn’t strong enough; I know that now. I need you and Jaina to help bring about the peace we’ve dreamed of. And I need— we need Anakin.”

    Ben slashed his saber through the air. “You killed Jaina. You stabbed Anakin in the—”

    “Not him,” Jacen said with a growl. “My brother. Anakin.”

    The words echoed inside his head for a minute, refusing to make sense. Ben’s voice sounded small and hollow to his own ears. “Your brother is dead. He’s been dead for twenty-five years.”

    “But we can change that. We can bring him back. We can fix everything I did wrong, and everything I’ve done since.” Jacen reached out with one hand, and his fingers curled into a fist. “I can do it, with your help. I can go back, save him at Myrkr, save everyone, and then we’ll be able to face the threat I foresaw. No one will be able to hurt our family ever again, and Allana will live a long and happy life.”

    Ben raised his lightsaber, readying for his next attack. “You really are insane,” he growled.

    Jacen lowered his hand and assumed his own defensive stance, his mental shields wavering long enough for Ben to sense the icy fury contained beneath. “If you think I’m insane,” Jacen said in a cold voice, “then put me down. If you can.”

    They moved in the same instant, hurtling toward each other, their twin sabers sparking wildly as they collided. It didn’t matter that Ben had never beaten Jacen in combat. It didn’t matter that he lacked the older man’s experience, or that they were in a temple filled with his evil minions, or that the dark side of the Force all but sang here, inviting him into its furious current. Ben was going to end this deranged monster once and for all.

    He attacked with a series of quick strikes, each one coming tantalizingly close to hitting its target. Jacen blocked one after the other, his blade maneuvering into position at the last second to parry with seeming ease; but Ben could see the weight of fatigue in his enemy’s movements. The delayed responses weren’t nearly as deliberate as they appeared, and Ben continued to press the attack, a predator smelling blood.

    Then Jacen missed a block, and as he dodged the sweep of Ben’s blade, he tripped over one of the twisted ceiling panels that littered the floor. Stumbling backward, he fell against the yorik coral throne, lightsaber held high to block the coming blow. Ben surged forward and raised his weapon to his shoulder, ready to strike, when he caught a glimpse of Allana in the far corner of the room.

    The Embrace of Pain was wrapped around her still, and the muscles in her face contracted from the torture it was inflicting on her. The sight of her like that – so small and broken and completely at the creature’s mercy – was a knife to his heart. The fury that had filled him bled out in a rush, leaving him cold and empty.

    “What are you waiting for?” Jacen breathed out, a ragged edge to his voice.

    Ben’s shoulders sagged, his saber lowering naturally to a defensive stance. What was he waiting for? He had every right, every reason to end the Sith Lord’s existence. This was the man who’d tortured him, murdered his father, facilitated the kidnapping and abuse of countless children, hunted and killed the Jedi. He was responsible for the loss of almost everything and everyone Ben loved. He deserved to die horribly after all the evil he’d done.

    Ben stared down at the brilliant cerulean blade in his hands, the blade forged by his grandfather, passed on to his father, and carried by his mother for most of her life. This weapon had seen years of war, decades of it… but there had been peace, too, hadn’t there? Maybe not as lasting as his parents had hoped for, but still so very precious, and worth guarding to the end.

    “I wanted to kill you,” he whispered, still staring at the glowing blade. “I dreamed about it night after night; I wanted it so badly I could taste it. But now…” He shook his head, glancing once more at Allana before meeting Jacen’s eyes. “I can’t be what you want me to be. I won’t. That’s my choice, Jacen. To rise above my own darkness, and yours.”

    He took a deep breath, and he couldn’t help the small smile on his lips as he thought of his father’s compassion, and his mother’s strength, and his grandfather’s wry, undaunted grin.

    “I’m a Jedi Knight, like so many before me. Like you were, once.” And he knew, in that moment, that he didn’t hate Jacen. Maybe he never had. Maybe it had always hurt too much to admit that he still loved his cousin, his master, his friend.

    And before he even realized what he was doing, Ben spoke again, and he said something he couldn’t have imagined saying until that very instant.

    “Jacen. It’s not too late to turn back. You can still do the right thing.”

    Jacen was silent, head tilted to one side as he looked from Ben’s eyes to the gently humming saber, and back again. The deep furrow of his brow was the only sign that he’d heard Ben’s words, or that he was considering them at all. In the Force, his cousin was as ever a blank.

    “The right thing,” Jacen murmured, lingering over the words. A sad smile quirked his lips. “What is that, do you think?”

    Ben breathed in and felt it shudder in his lungs. “Call off your fleet. Stop the attack. Let Allana go.”

    Jacen reached a hand out to the coral throne and pulled himself fully upright, lightsaber thrumming softly at his side. Ben took a wary step back and raised his own weapon, and Jacen sighed.

    “I wish, more than anything, that that would be enough, Ben.”

    Sharp, searing pain stabbed across his left side, and Ben nearly stumbled as he jerked his head toward the source of that pain. In the dim light, he saw a serpentine creature rearing back to strike him again. He’d never seen an amphistaff in person – like many of the Yuuzhan Vong biots, they had either been destroyed at the end of the war or transformed into tamer creatures upon returning to Zonama Sekot, and this more lethal version was now considered a relic of the past – but Ben still knew how vicious and deadly they were supposed to be.

    The beast sprang at him, slicing once more into his side before he could counter it. As it coiled for a third attack, Ben was blasted into the air by an enormous burst of kinetic Force energy. It threw him across the room, and he landed a few meters away from the Embrace. As he stood, he was hit with another wave of energy that buckled his knees and sent him crashing to the floor.

    Legs aching, he stood again, holding his saber in front of him. Jacen hadn’t moved from his place next to the throne. His arm was outstretched, and Ben heard a frenzied, hissing chorus rise up around him in response. He spun toward the closest amphistaff, knocking the creature away with a deft flick of his saber. Two more lancing, searing blows behind each of his knees, and as he fell to the ground, he saw four amphistaffs circling him, ready to strike.

    “Enough.”

    At Jacen’s soft command the amphistaffs halted their attack. As they slithered away, Ben pressed a hand to the wound in his side. His fingers came away slick with blood, and he almost laughed at the sight of it. He tried to move from his knees to his feet, but the motion sent a wrenching burst of pain through his entire body. Defeated by his own flesh, Ben collapsed onto the floor, and his lightsaber shut off with a static hiss that echoed loud in the silence that followed.

    “There’s only one way out of this, Ben,” Jacen called from the other side of the room, approaching slowly. “You know what you need to do. Stop fighting it.”

    Ben’s vision swam, and he gripped the hilt of his saber so tight that his knuckles ached. He tried to push off the ground with his right elbow, but he buckled once again under the intense surge of pain. He wondered what it would feel like to die, if it would be any worse than knowing the fate that awaited Allana now that he had failed her. Would he see his parents again? He didn’t know, but he hoped they could forgive him.

    Stand up, Ben.

    The voice was gentle and unwavering; it filled the dark reaches of his mind with warmth greater than any he could have imagined. For a moment he wanted only to bask in it, to close his eyes and listen to that precious whisper forever.

    Ben, you have to stand. The voice was more insistent this time, and he felt as though it was trying to drag him to his feet through sheer force of will. Stand up, I said!

    He planted his left hand on the floor and pulled himself to his knees, bracing himself there as he summoned the strength to stand. Jacen was nearly upon him. How could he fight him in this state? How could he hope to win?

    Ben, the voice continued. My son, you must stand.

    Ben lifted his head and closed his eyes. Instead of darkness, he saw his father’s face, saw his clear blue eyes shining like fire.

    Stand up now!

    Ben’s eyes snapped open, and with his father’s words echoing in his ears, he ignited his lightsaber and stood up in time to meet the descending blade.

    “Impressive,” Jacen said, bearing down with all his weight. “I always knew you would become stronger.”

    Ben smiled through the pain. “Does this mean you’re giving up?”

    Jacen laughed and swung at his legs, and Ben angled his saber to block. They circled one another, trading blows at an unsustainable pace. Ben surrendered himself to the Force, letting it guide every step, every swing of his lightsaber, every breath. He found he was no longer afraid of what might happen, because the Force was with him, and his father was with him, too. But though the energy of the universe burned bright in him, he was still bleeding too much from too many wounds, and he could feel his body starting to fail.

    Allana, he thought, trying to disentangle himself from Jacen’s continued attacks. She was all that mattered now, if he could only reach her—

    Jacen’s blade caught against his and tugged hard, ripping Ben’s weapon from his hands. It clattered against the rubble as Ben pitched forward, too weak to halt his momentum. He sensed a flicker of panic in a far-off corner of his mind – not his own panic, but Jacen’s, perceived through the shattered remains of their old training bond. Before he could hit the ground, Jacen grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him into the air. The assured veil had fallen from his cousin’s eyes, and what Ben saw in them now was closer to madness.

    “Jacen,” he gasped, weak, pleading. “You can stop this… just stop.”

    Jacen let out a guttural noise that was as much as sob as it was a growl. “If I stop now – if you don’t ascend – then all of this was for nothing, do you understand?” He lifted Ben even higher and pulled him close. “I won’t stop, Ben. I’ll never stop, not until you do what needs to be done. So stop holding back.”

    Lightning arced from the Sith Lord’s fingertips and tore through him, and as he fell writhing to the floor, Ben knew with profound and terrible clarity that this would be his final lesson on the subject of pain, and that Jacen would once again be his teacher.

    ~~
     
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    [face_hypnotized] :eek: [face_hypnotized] :eek:

    GAAAAAAAH,
    THIS WAS JUST SO - I MEAN, IT WAS - YOU KNOW??? (Especially after reading your Jacen meta yesterday - which was brilliant, btw. ;))

    I've gotta get my thoughts together so that I can leave more intelligible feedback than that, but just know that this was good. Like, amazingly good. So, stand by. [face_mischief] [face_love] [:D]
     
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  7. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Welcome to Creepsville, population of one o_O

    Mara's son :p

    Methinks Jacen is a bit unhinged...

    You know what I like about this? LotF tried this same tactic, except they played it straight, like it was some genuine revelation on Jacen's part, and it fell flat, because obviously. Here the absurdity of such a claim - that torture and destruction and murder are done out of love - is laid bare. Jacen still believes it, Jacen says it with conviction, but Ben reacts with all the disbelief and horror that such a declaration warrants. Even all these years after LotF, it's a relief to see this stupid notion properly gutted.

    We all know I'm not the biggest Jacen fan, but this is so much better than LotF (pardon my damning you with faint praise there) in that at least this Jacen is trying to fix the mass death, as opposed to just diving headfirst into wholesale slaughter out of love. (Although as I recall, that notion was in truth so absurd that they couldn't sustain it for long, and Jacen was soon acting just as hateful as any other Sith and any motivations supposedly stemming from love faded into the background pretty quick. Maybe don't base a nine book series on such a stupid idea next time, guys.

    Every now and then my conscience whispers, you only read those books once and it's been years, to be fair, you might not be remembering all the details correctly, maybe you should reread them. And then I whisper back, shut up, conscience, life is too short to wallow in garbage.)

    This is a really beautiful description, and I like the contrast of it prefacing a combat scene.

    Myri and Malinza, 1. Sith, 0 :p

    This is who Tahiri always was and should have been by this point in her life: insightful, mature, pragmatic. (As opposed to how she was depicted in the aforementioned garbage, as significantly less mature than she'd been at sixteen.)

    You know, sometimes when you're writing, you write a character as doing something dumb and reaping some unpleasant consequences, and you, in the role of all-knowing author who has the time to ponder all possibilities and revise ideas and change details, sit there and think, well, really, that's a dumb thing for them to do, maybe this narrative idea I have isn't so great after all, maybe everyone will see right through me because my character is being so dumb. (Or maybe that's just me?) But here's the truth of it: people, no matter how smart they are, do dumb things all the time, especially in the heat of the moment. No one always makes the right decision under every circumstance. The trick is just to find the circumstance where doing the dumb thing is understandable.

    And why am I thinking about all of this? Because I read this passage and instantly thought, hell yeah, I'd have ducked too. There is no possible way I'd have thought to do anything else in the split second that I see a lightsaber flying at me. This is a perfect example of finding just the right circumstance that justifies your character making a mistake that costs them dearly.

    Look, sometimes I react as a reader, sometimes I react as a writer :p My reader reaction here is that I once saw a football player get his jaw broken when someone's helmet came up under his chin, and also I'm afraid of heights anyway, so ow ow ow ow ow ow ow *cringes until the end of time*

    I really love this, because it's such a vividly visual description, and an unexpected one. A less skilled writer would have put "just then blast doors began to close, cutting them off from their goal" or whatever, and it would have been a perfectly serviceable description. But this puts a brilliant spin on the mundane.

    Also, Artoo has seen so much worse, ain't no laser blasts gonna faze that droid :p

    Artoo is the best [face_love]

    Vivisection whhhyyyyyyy

    =(( =(( =((

    I'm with Ben here o_O

    Viiiiiiiiiii :_| =(( :_| =((

    See, this is a way I can see Jacen falling: by mistake. By digging himself in deeper and deeper until he doesn't see any way out but through. And the "but through" bit is a delusion, he's completely nuts despite maintaining a pretty sane facade most of the time, but that makes sense too, because if Jacen had in fact made so many incredibly terrible mistakes that cost him so much, that hurt so many people he loved, I can see him grasping for any straw that gave him a hope of undoing it, and clinging to it desperately. And since, as he says before this, the GFFA has some conveniently bizarre things like sentient planets, it's not like he can't convince himself that this particular bizarre thing that will fix all his mistakes could be real too.

    Honestly, I've been ignoring so much canon and thinking so much about happier AUs where the Skywalker/Solo family isn't torn apart, that I'd actually forgotten that canon Ben never knew Anakin, and was sad for a moment upon reading this. But in the context of canon where that was the case, yeah, that's gonna be an "exactly how far gone is he" moment for Ben.

    Of course. Leave it to Jacen to have a bunch of amphistaffs hanging around. o_O

    [face_love]

    (I still want my Mara-Ben story :p )

    Yup, this is how Jacen realistically goes dark side, by making so many mistakes that he's desperate to undo them at any cost and goes insane under the weight of it. Good job, you angstmonger, you :p
     
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  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Welp, I am just going echo a lot of what @Gabri_Jade, but here I go anyway - because wow! [face_hypnotized]

    Eugh, what a creep. o_O

    But beyond that very eloquent initial reaction, I have to applaud just how masterful your portrayal of Jacen was here and throughout the story! This is the sick confidence of a man who believes he's in the right, who has done unspeakable things to his own family for what he thinks is an enlightened path to peace. The line about Jacen's face being the last thing Allana saw before the Embrace - that Luke saw . . . that only twisted the knife. =((

    You got good at twisting the knife throughout this chapter, that said. Even for you. ;)

    Knife Twist: Exhibit No. 1!

    That hard detail was soooo good.

    Again, the juxtaposition between benevolent mentor, loving cousin, and the evil twisted thing Jacen that has allowed himself to become was beyond poignant to see in action. [face_hypnotized] [face_bleh]

    That desperate sincerity is really what cinches it. Oh, Ben . . . =((

    Says every abusive tyrant ever. :rolleyes: o_O

    I had to go back and read this section twice, and I still have questions.

    Let's start small: first, I love how you took the bare bones of an idea and made it a more believable impetus for Jacen's fall than the, ahem, osik, we got in LoTF. Here, Jacen is a fanatical believer in his own self-imposed sense of destiny, and that's so much more substantive than how his motivations were presented in canon. This, in contrast, can burn and keep him fueled as a villain for longer than the niche Sith of the day routine his character fell into and it has.

    But, you know, there's a thing about self-fulfilling prophesies and all that. Jacen really has become the evil - the threat - he wanted to destroy and he doesn't even get it.

    :rolleyes: Yeah, because your crazy is talking there, Jacen . . .

    Ben's rightful horror for Jacen's motives contrasted with Jacen's fervent belief in his own twisted logic was just so powerful, again.

    Ben. [:D]

    Your parallels are fantastic, yet again! I love how this mirrored Palpatine's grooming of Anakin, in a sense. This really called to mind that sense of betrayal Anakin felt when he first figured out that Palpatine was the Sith Master they'd been looking for, except that Ben is using his head here and not dwelling on what Jacen is spewing besides that very understandable moment of doubt and what if. =((

    This really makes your Ben decathlon hit all the harder, too. To know all that was done to forge his own crucible, on purpose . . . there aren't the words to describe that.

    Then again, I like Ben's question, too: how much of this was truly precognizant on Jacen's part, and how much is him justifying his own actions to himself? [face_thinking]

    This would be a stunning introduction to any scene, let alone an action one! :D

    Every time you say that you struggle with writing action I just want to say hush, you and point to excerpts like this. Or, if this is the result of a labor of love, I have to doubly applaud your work as particularly well done. ;) These were great details, and I could visualize fight all the way through. (I also appreciate how often you use deactivating and activating a lightsaber as a tactic - because it should be!)

    As another aside, I still love Dominius and I'm going to miss him. (And I hear creepy bastard every time Satrus shows up now, and it makes me laugh. :p)

    So many great details! [face_hypnotized]

    I LOVED Tahiri wanting to go absolutely feral over these Sith but holding herself back - especially for Valin!

    Myri is just the best and I love her, and Malinza too - and *all* the ladies kicking butt and taking names!

    I'm gonna shout this until I'm blue in the face: THIS IS THE TAHIRI WE DESERVED! Every bit of her. I need no other. There is no other. [face_love]

    Her introspection was just so powerful! From her reflecting on her entire heritage and the events that have shaped her into who she is today, to thinking about who she could have been and who the Jedi once were - gah! Yep, it was all perfect. [face_love]

    EVERYTHING Gabri said. Yikes, but I would have ducked too! :oops:

    :D :D :D I swear my stupid grin was swallowing my face by this point.

    Artoo is most definitely the MVP of all of Star Wars. Hands down.

    I have to applaud your gift for saying so much with so little, again. Leaving so much to the imagination just makes the doctor's work all the more horrific . . . [face_hypnotized] :(

    Blooming like flowers really struck me as darn good writing. There were a quite a few gems like this in your prose from a purely technical standpoint!

    Why hello there, Stover. :p [face_mischief] Look at you, channeling a genius that's all your own at the same time, but my if this didn't hurt like Anakin versus Obi-Wan all over again . . .

    Well, that irony hurt like pain.

    I heard Luke so clearly in this line, and that made me smile in the midst of all the terrible angst.

    Also, I've gotta repeat for emphasis: the juxtaposition between loving cousin and relentless foe makes Jacen's lines all the more powerfully awful. I loved the description of as one might a work of art: critical, but interested; analytical, but also moved, in particular. =D=

    Ben's last memory of Luke . . . =((

    Also: exactly what Ben said. :mad:

    Welp, your parentheticals are always brutal but this one was particularly agonizing. =((

    Say what? :p Speaking of lines I had to go back and read twice just to make sure that I understood . . .

    I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS, VI, YOU MUST KNOW!!!

    I had to quote this entire passage! I couldn't leave anything out, because I feel like this is the backbone of Ben's arc - the backbone of the entire story, even - and it's sooo good!

    From the top: BEN'S REFLECTION ON ANAKIN/LUKE/MARA'S LIGHTSABER WAS SPOT ON PERFECT. That's an entire contained story, all by itself.

    Then, I love how this isn't going at all how Jacen thought it would go. Ben has endured so much loss, so much pain and suffering, but he's making the choice to rise above his own darkness. What a powerful line. Isn't that what so much of SW is really about? The Dark is easy, but the Light is so worth pursing in the end.

    Lastly, Jacen may not want redemption or think he needs it, but for Ben to put aside his hate and offer him a hand out of the darkness . . . Ben truly is the great sum of everyone who's come before him. He's a Jedi Knight in the truest sense of what that means to be. [face_love]

    (I had no small few feelings while reading this scene, and I still don't think I'm doing what I felt justice! So: gold stars all around! [face_love] =D=)

    What a Vergere line. :rolleyes:

    You've got to be kidding me! An amphistaff, really, Jacen?

    I mean . . . maybe it's not so surprising with the Embrace of Pain right there, but still. :p

    Here's another passage I couldn't par down to quote in the slightest. [face_hypnotized] =D=

    I don't . . . I don't often cry at stories, but this part had actual tears in my eyes.

    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love] You know that ultimate unity with the Force Jacen was talking about? If Ben's not there, he's close.

    Huh. So. Beyond it being hard to read just how unhinged Jacen is in this moment - he's gone so far down this path that he feels his only choice is to see it through to its conclusion. Otherwise, what has it all been for? This is very interesting for me in that Jacen needs Ben alive. How does he think Ben is going to 'ascend'? What is he trying to accomplish if/when Ben does beyond his broadly stated bring Anakin Solo back? How does he think that messing with the timeline is a good idea, seeing how his attempt to circumvent a vision is what has landed him in this mess in the first place? (If he even looks at his actions with the clarity of hindsight, of course.) What domino effects could this have instead, if his crazy plan comes to pass? WHAT DOES ANAKIN SKYWALKER HAVE TO DO WITH ANY OF THIS??? VIIIIIIIIIIII???? [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized]

    I just . . . I have thoughts to go with my feelings. :p

    Whew! What a line to end this on!


    I am MOST DEFINITELY on the edge of my seat for more. It's been a true delight to see this story unfold, and I can't wait for whatever comes next. =D= [:D]
     
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  9. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    I'm here!!! The next chapter is finally finished ( :eek: ) and is currently with Gabri for the beta. Expect that sometime this week - in the meantime, here are some long overdue replies! [face_batting]



    @Mira_Jade
    This reaction absolutely made my day back in... omg, November? How has it been five months already??? 8-} :oops:

    Anyway! I angsted so much over this chapter and whether it was a good enough pay-off for all the build-up before it, so reading this was such a huge relief, you don't even know. [face_relieved] :p (And I have replies to the rest of your lovely feedback down below. ;))




    @Gabri_Jade
    Success! [face_mischief]

    He iiiissss. [face_love]

    Just a little. :p o_O

    I had a whole rambling response to this and your next comment typed up, but you and I have had these discussions before and I’m going to try to hold off on the full-on meta essays for now, so I’ll just say that I’m always glad to hear that you think I’ve done better than the profic in this regard (even if the bar was set pretty darn low. :p)

    Life is indeed far too short to wallow in garbage. ;)

    This was another comment that I wanted to write an essay response to, but again, I should probably save all of that meta for later, maybe after I finish the story properly. :p Honestly, one of the biggest compliments you’ve given me here and in response to my other vigs is the fact that you find this version of Jacen interesting when you’ve never been a big fan of his. I mean, that has to be worth something, right? Even if the version of Jacen I’ve written probably isn’t one that most of his fans would recognize. I sometimes feel like I’ve written him in a weird limbo where he’s not empathetic or caring enough to be the person we knew from the NJO, but at the same time he’s not sadistic or unhinged enough to be the Caedus of later LotF. I suppose you could argue that him spiraling into brutality and despotism in those books is in keeping with the whole lure of the dark side thing, but it just never felt like enough to me. I much prefer the idea that if he had stumbled that far into the dark, he would have eventually woken up to the reality of what he was doing, been absolutely horrified by it, and then done anything he could to fix it.

    Okay, so I got a tiny bit meta-y there. 8-}

    Aw, thanks. [face_blush]

    Myri has truly been one of the unexpected joys of writing this story, and I love this exchange a ridiculous amount. :D

    I could not agree more. [face_love]

    I love everything about this, because this was exactly my thought process writing this scene. [face_laugh] I’m glad and relieved to know that the whole scene worked. I tried really hard to make it not dumb. :p

    *cringes along with you but also yay, success!*

    [face_blush] [face_blush] I even remember getting to this part and thinking "okay, Vi, don't slack off now just because you've written so much action stuff that you're cross-eyed and nothing makes sense anymore"... so I'm happy that my efforts paid off! :p

    I imagine Artoo’s perspective during this whole mission is that he’s the wise veteran taking care of a bunch of fresh-faced kids. Seriously, every member of that strike team is like an actual child to him, of course he’s got this. :p

    The very best. [face_love]

    [face_whistling]

    (Just in case anyone had any questions about what happened to Orion in Turn Ourselves Into These Ashes[face_worried])

    (Okay, I guess it still might not be perfectly clear unless you’ve also read TLotD, but whatever, you guys know what I’m about by now. o_O)

    =((

    (I’m really happy with how that section turned out.)

    Yeah, I’d probably be thinking the same thing. :(

    *pats you on the head* [:D]

    I love everything about this paragraph and I want to stick hearts all over it. [face_love] [face_love]

    It would be a really interesting exercise writing a happier AU where Anakin Solo and Ben Skywalker are both alive and well and part of each other’s lives. [face_thinking] [face_whistling]

    Naturally. :p

    lolol, I know you do ;) :*

    *curtsies* I tried. :p Thanks as always for your lovely and insightful feedback, dearest. I’ve read over it many, many times and enjoyed every word of it. [face_love] [:D]




    @Mira_Jade
    Hee. :D

    Well, as you know, this all makes me so, so happy to hear. [face_mischief] [:D]

    =((

    It's that contrast that I find so fascinating to explore in writing, honestly. Don't get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the unrepentantly evil characters like Palpatine or the doctor, but it was really rewarding to try something a little different with Jacen.

    (And Ben really is skating on the edge of his control here, isn't he? [face_worried])

    That sincerity flies directly in the face of the narrative Ben has built in his head about who Jacen is and what he feels, and I imagine it makes it even more difficult for Ben to do what he needs to do here.

    And the thing is, he believes it. [face_plain]

    I know I probably should focus less on how this all compares to LotF and just embrace it for the complete AU that it is, but I can't ignore that this story was built on some of that framework and as a reaction to it, so I'll just say that I'm always very glad to hear that anyone thinks this version of Jacen's fall is more believable than what we got in the books. There were some kernels of interesting ideas in LotF - and that includes the idea of Jacen falling to the dark side - but in more of a "that would be a cool fanfic idea" sort of way, not in a "let's make this the official canon" way. :rolleyes: So I like to think that's what I've done here. It's like writing happy AUs where Anakin doesn't turn the dark side: obviously it's really fun and makes us feel good, but it's not like we actually wish the PT and OT had gone that way, because otherwise SW as we know it wouldn't exist. So yeah, my preferred canon for Jacen would have been something far more hopeful and heroic and positive. But in fanfic? You already know I've got no problem exploring the darker aspects of his character, and it's really been through exploring those darker parts that I've learned more about who Jacen is and who he could have been.

    Or something like that. :p (Clearly I'm warming up for some more Jacen meta when this story is all over, but I swear I'm trying to contain myself right now. 8-})

    Again, Ben's world is sort of being flipped on his head, because until now he told himself Jacen didn't care about any of them anymore, that he was an insane, power-hungry monster who was fine murdering his loved ones and destroying everything, so to hear that there's more to the story than that has to be so difficult to deal with.

    I'm really glad you saw those parallels! I've surprised myself with how often I've come back to those dynamics again and again, with Vergere & Jacen, Jacen & Ben, Mezzon & Dorian, Jacen & Dorian... (Maybe it's because I've taken so much inspiration from Stover [face_thinking]... his portrayal of Anakin and Palpatine's relationship really elevated what was already there in RotS.) None of the mentor-mentee pairs are exactly alike (some exist in shades of gray while others are much darker), but I think that's what make them all the more interesting to write.

    And then you're right, thankfully Ben is able to keep his head and not fall into the trap that Jacen has (and Anakin, in the original timeline), of thinking that such horrors can be justified as long as the end goal is achieved.

    Yeah, that Ben decathlon was sort of perfectly timed, because obviously I knew I was preparing to dive right into this stuff here in the main story. [face_mischief]

    It is a very interesting question to consider. [face_thinking]

    Why thank you! :D I enjoyed juxtaposing the almost dreamy quality of that introspection with the violence of the battle.

    Awww [face_blush] Well, I’m just glad to know that all those action details work! I know that lightsabers are usually treated as straight-up swords, and I have zero problems with them being used as such in the OT and especially the PT. But the Jedi who came of age during the NJO had to adapt to completely alien technology and fighting styles that were far different from anything they were used to. I thought it made sense that Tahiri, and by extension Ben, would develop new, sneakier tactics in response to the renewed Sith threat. My use of this technique is also a bit of a running gag. Ben uses it against Anakin when they spar in ch. 8 (a scene which was partially inspired by the scene in the RotS novel where Obi-Wan uses the Force to reverse the polarity of the electrodrivers in Anakin’s mech hand), and since Ben trained for a time under Tahiri, it makes sense that he might have learned it from her (and possibly Mara also, since she was often less conventional in her use of a lightsaber)… and then of course, you know that Ben passed that particular trick on to Allana, which she used against Festus on Reialem. :p [face_batting]

    (Also, I learned after writing Tahiri’s scenes that she used a technique similar to this in the FotJ series, so… similar brainwaves, I guess? I honestly didn’t know it was a thing for her in the books, but I did enjoy working with it here.)

    Who says there’s going to be a reason to miss him, Mira? [face_batting] (And your Satrus comment makes me laugh every time, by the way. :p)

    :D Thanks!

    I loved writing it! :D Tahiri is the best. [face_love]

    Right??? [face_love] I didn’t fully realize how many kick-butt women I had in this story until I got to these last few chapters. :p I love them so much.

    Truly the highest compliment you could pay me in regards to Tahiri’s character. [face_blush] Writing this part, the synthesis of Tahiri’s heritage and her realization of her own unique place among the history of the Jedi… it felt really huge to me, and I’m so glad it resonated with you. [face_love]

    Lolol I’m very glad to hear this, because I did wonder if it would seem kinda dumb. [face_laugh]

    Gah, the best reaction! :D

    Absolutely no doubt about it. ;)

    I’m trying to think of a non-creepy way to say “Thanks! I’m glad you found it horrific”, but… Thanks! I’m glad you found it horrific. :p [face_worried]

    Apart from being an accurate description of how I imagined Orion looked in that moment, this part might have also been a callback to a certain line in TLotD that Gabri once told me she was going to try to erase from her mind after reading it. I'll put it under a spoiler tag, for her sake. (Love you, Gabri :*)
    “…he lies on the table and watches himself open up, unfolding like damp, crimson flower petals awakening toward the sun.”

    [face_plain]

    Definitely what I was going for, and I am deeply flattered by any comparison to Stover, as you know. Not that I would ever put myself on that level, of course. [face_blush] :p Those passages in the RotS novel clearly made a big impact on me, because I find myself focusing in on the personal aspects of lightsaber duels far more than the details of the choreography. Not that those details aren’t important, but for the most part, they’re not what I remember. Stover’s poetic description of the deterioration of a bond between brothers? Unforgettable.

    :(

    I love that you made this connection!

    I’ll admit, I was proud of that line. [face_blush]

    =(( :_|

    I do love my parentheticals. =((

    I may or may not have answers. ;) [face_mischief]

    :D :D (It really is the backbone, you're right!)

    It's probably fitting that I once wrote a story where Mara reflected on the lightsaber and her connection to Anakin Skywalker through it. :p But yeah, I definitely love the mythological quality of the lightsabers and their place in the history of the Jedi and the history of the Skywalker family in particular. This part was a no-brainer for me, and I loved being able to draw on all of those parallels and connections. [face_love]

    THIS. [face_love] Rising above your own darkness doesn't mean it goes away, and it doesn't mean you'll never have to face it again. It means you look that darkness in the eye, understand that it's there and that it's a part of you, but that it doesn't control you. And then you make a choice.

    LotF/FotJ Ben can take a hike, this is my one and only Ben Skywalker, and I think he's pretty awesome. [face_love]

    You did it perfect justice! :D [face_love] [:D]

    Do you think she would be frustrated or proud? ;) :p

    Lolol, no, probably not surprising, all things considered. :p After rereading the part of Traitor where Jacen stands unharmed in the amphistaff grove, I was like “man, I really need to find a way to get some amphistaffs into this fight…” o_O

    Don’t mind me, just reading this comment for like the fiftieth time and beaming like an absolute idiot. :D [:D]

    [face_love]

    I suppose it’s a good thing I’m finally finished with the next chapter, isn’t it? [face_batting] ;)

    Another one I was particularly pleased with. :p I’m glad you liked it, too!

    It’s been as much of a delight for me to have you along for the journey, my friend! [:D] I’m excited to tell you that this next chapter is the longest one in the entire story by about 1,700 words, so I hope you enjoy it! [face_mischief] [face_batting]



    Okay, so like I said, I'm not quite ready to post the new chapter, but since it's such a long one, I figured I'd provide a little breathing room for these replies. But the update is coming soon, and after this one there's only one more!! :eek: [face_hypnotized] We're so close!
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2022
  10. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    [​IMG]


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  11. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Omg, you figured out gifs. [face_hypnotized] Welp, we're all doomed now. :p

    (Get back to work! [face_whistling] [face_batting])
     
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  12. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    @Gabri_Jade, look at you, giffing like a pro!! (And lording it over the rest of us. ;) :p)

    Also:

    [​IMG]

    I AM SO READY FOR THIS NEXT UPDATE, PAIN AND ALL!!! YAAAAAAAS!!!

    [face_dancing] [face_dancing]
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2022
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  13. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    You hear that, @Gabri_Jade? Mira is ready for the next chapter. [face_batting] [face_batting] [face_batting]

    [face_whistling]
     
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  14. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    [​IMG]


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  15. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    I laughed so hard at this the other night that I nearly cried, it was awesome. [face_rofl]


    Also, prepare yourselves. [face_mischief] [face_mischief] [face_mischief]
     
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  16. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    After five long months, I'm pleased to finally be able to give you the next (and longest) chapter of Enter the Foreign. After this we only have one more! Enjoy!


    ~~

    Chapter Twenty-Four


    Dying, it turned out, took forever.

    The blade that had burned through Anakin Skywalker’s stomach had also burned away his ability to think in any linear, orderly way. Just as surely as his life leeched out of him, so did his concept of time; and he spent days— months— years just lying there among the debris and alien vegetation, his face tickled by long stems of grass.

    Naboo, he thought, and he could feel the warm sun shining on him as Padmé called his name, as he played dead in the field. He couldn’t remember laughing as much as he did that day, pulling her down to join him in the grass, heart pounding at how close she was, and how beautiful, and wasn’t it a good thing he wasn’t really dead after all?

    He’d never really laughed like that again, not during the war, not even in the safety of his wife’s embrace. He would have liked to laugh like that, one more time. To see her smile and laugh, too.

    A laser blast sizzled overhead, and cerulean light sparked in the gloom. What world was this? What battle? There had been so many, all piling up, one on top of the other. It never ended; it just kept going and going, and all he’d wanted was for it to stop, but then what happened to the Hero With No Fear once the war was over? A force of nature, of destruction. Why bring balance when he was all but born for war?

    What was his destiny, after all? To bring peace, or to fall? To commit every horrible crime he knew himself to be capable of? To die? His choices had all led him here, hadn’t they? Did he even have a choice anymore? Or was it all just an illusion, a predetermined path laid out long before he was born? The path of the Chosen One and his scions, forever doomed.

    Anakin…

    The voice was a whisper, one he knew he should recognize. Steady and patient and warm. An old voice, he thought. A tune half-remembered. Light reflecting off metal, the glint of sunset on a departing starship. He stood watching as Obi-Wan boarded that ship without him. Another battle to fight, far, far away from home. He hadn’t realized how much he needed his best friend, his brother. That was the last time he ever saw him, wasn’t it?

    Anakin, listen…

    Thunder roared down from the heavens, herald for the lightning splintering across the sky. The storms on Tatooine were dangerous when they did come, and he always knew not to stand out in the open. Even with his eyes squeezed shut, he could feel the lightning crackling with dark, unnatural intensity, electrifying not only the air around it, but the Force itself. He remembered the first time he’d ever been struck by it, the way it jolted through his body, burning way down deep. Not just a physical assault, but a mental and spiritual one as well.

    Anakin… open your eyes, old friend…

    His vision was hazy as he cracked open one eye, then the other. He could make out the long, jagged tendrils of lightning arcing through the air, wrapping around—

    Ben.

    Anakin blinked and squinted his eyes to focus past the haze, and the blurred images before him sharpened enough to see. The lightning ripped into his grandson, dragging him down; but he kept digging in, kept trying to stand and fight back. Jacen was a few meters away, his back to Anakin as he advanced on Ben, who lay near Allana and the Embrace of Pain.

    Another blast of lightning struck Ben, and still he refused to go down. His lightsaber was absorbing some of the energy, though not nearly enough, and the blade sparked with white-hot intensity under the assault. Electricity fractured around the beleaguered Jedi, and Anakin heard a single agonized scream as Ben fell to the ground, unable to rise, his lightsaber lying just beyond the reach of his fingertips.

    The lightning ceased, and the cavernous throne room was eerily silent. Jacen’s footfalls were soft against the moss and grass-covered floor. He stopped in front of Ben’s outstretched hand and stood over him for several long seconds; then he swept his foot to one side and kicked the lightsaber away from Ben. It disappeared into a pile of rubble somewhere in the darkness.

    Jacen reached down and took Ben’s face in his hands, and he whispered something Anakin couldn’t hear. After a moment, he stood, and he lifted Ben in the air with him, holding him close. The young Jedi’s side was drenched in blood, and he didn’t fight back against Jacen’s grip. Then the Sith let out a strangled growl and flung Ben across the room where he landed hard in a heap of durasteel and coral. Ben managed to stumble out of the wreckage, but no sooner was he out than the lightning struck again. He cried out and collapsed onto the ground, writhing in agony.

    Anakin could barely feel any part of his body, and yet Ben’s pain washed over him and through him, becoming his own. Wasn’t this what he’d always feared, that one day his best wouldn’t be good enough, and that he would have to watch someone he loved die? Their fates – his and his entire family’s – written before he was born, written in the stars, even. Stars that would one day burn out, just like everything else. All of his choices meaningless in the face of his destiny…

    No, he felt himself whisper from someplace deep within, a dying ember still yearning for the flame. After all, what was his destiny? His choices had all led him here, to this moment. His choices… and his love for his family, past and future.

    Maybe it wasn’t one or the other, destiny or choice. Maybe his destiny was – maybe it always had been – simply a matter of choosing.

    For the first time in his life, Anakin Skywalker surrendered totally and absolutely to the Force, trusting it beyond his own will and desires as he relinquished his ego and his need for control. He felt it course through him and around him, sweeping him up in its current; but instead of trembling under its might or thirsting for its power, he basked in the totality of its warmth and serenity and light – and he found himself buoyed by it, carried toward the dark maelstrom of grief and pain that whirled and raged before him.

    Anakin reached out with his remaining hand and began to drag himself across the ruined throne room, into the heart of the storm.

    ~~


    The worst thing about dying wasn’t the pain, Ben realized. It was knowing that he would never see his family again, that he would never have a chance to say goodbye or tell them just how much he loved them.

    Lightning ripped through him again, rendering his legs completely useless. He dropped to his knees before falling face first onto the floor, and when he did manage to look up, he could barely see anything through the storm of dark energy. Jacen’s face, like most of the room, was a blur of shadow illuminated only briefly by each flash of lightning. Ben stretched his right hand out across the floor, searching for his fallen lightsaber. He sensed it very faintly, but with the electricity coursing through his body he couldn’t focus enough to retrieve it.

    He was going to die here. Anakin was going to die if he hadn’t already, and Allana would suffer a fate worse than death before following in her father’s footsteps.

    Ben extended his will to his lightsaber, trying once again to wrap mental fingers around it. If he was about to die, he had to try… he had to do something…

    Too much, he thought. Too clouded and too hot and too strong… the lightning filled his mind, burning away everything, even the most basic impulse to survive. The lightsaber slipped right through his telekinetic grip, and his hand dropped to the deck. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

    Distantly, he heard an enraged and disbelieving shout, and the violent onslaught of Force lightning ceased. Ben gasped for breath and struggled to lift his head; when he did, he saw Anakin standing with his feet planted wide, holding Jacen in a headlock. His grandfather leaned back with all his strength, lifting Jacen off of the floor. Anakin’s eyes met his and went wide.

    “Now, Ben!”

    He would never fully understand how he was able to stand at that moment – maybe it was the will of the Force, or maybe it was the sheer stubbornness he’d inherited from both sides of his family – but stand he did. Ben held out his hand and called his lightsaber to him as he staggered forward. The weapon connected with his palm, igniting in a flash of cerulean light.

    Jacen fought frantically against their grandfather’s grip, pouring lightning through both of his captor’s arms; the electricity arced through the remains of Anakin’s prosthetic limb and snaked across his torso, but he refused to let go. As Ben ran, he raised his lightsaber over his shoulder like a dagger, aiming it for his former master’s heart.

    In the seconds before he struck, Ben’s eyes met Jacen’s. There were many things he expected he might see in those dark depths: hatred or rage or fear, or maybe shock, disbelief, panic.

    He wasn’t expecting relief.

    Ben plunged the lightsaber into his cousin’s chest, and Jacen and Anakin gasped as the blade passed through their bodies. Jacen’s hands fell to his sides, and when Anakin finally let go, they dropped to the floor in unison.

    Ben released the hilt of his lightsaber and collapsed to his knees beside the fallen men. Jacen was breathing rapidly, eyes staring straight up at the destroyed ceiling of the throne room. His lips moved, and Ben realized he was whispering.

    “I tried— I tried to fix it—” His eyes found Ben’s, searching. “Tell Roan… tell Allana, I didn’t— I never meant—”

    One hand rose slightly off the ground, shaking; and Ben stared at it for a moment before reaching out to grasp it in his own. An image flickered in Ben’s mind’s eye, of his cousin cradling Allana in his arms for the very first time.

    Then Jacen Solo – the traitor, the fallen hero, the man who had helped save the galaxy, once upon a time – breathed his last. At the same moment, Ben heard a strange shrieking sound behind him. He turned to see the Embrace of Pain release Allana.

    Ben crawled over to her and pulled her into his arms, checking her vitals. Her breathing was steady and her pulse surprisingly normal. He smoothed her hair back from her face and kissed her forehead. He would have given anything to spare her from the Embrace, but it was over now. It was all over.

    Behind him, Anakin groaned. Ben laid Allana down gently and dragged himself back over to his grandfather’s side. The saber had entered through the center of his abdomen, leaving a charred wound in its wake, a twin for the one Jacen had inflicted earlier. Anakin looked up at Ben and smiled weakly, indicating the various wounds that riddled his body. “Luminous beings are we, Ben. Not this crude matter.”

    It was then that Ben realized his eyes were damp with tears. He tried to return the smile, to let him know that everything would be okay. “I’ve got to get you to a medic,” he said with more confidence than he felt, staring at the holes in Anakin’s stomach.

    “It’s too late for that.”

    Ben shook his head, wiping the tears from his eyes. “No, I can still save you.”

    Anakin reached out with his flesh and blood hand and gripped Ben’s arm just below the elbow. “You already have.” His grandfather let out a faint laugh. “You know, I finally figured something out.”

    “Oh yeah?” Ben tried to smirk in response, but it felt more like a grimace. “What’s that?”

    Anakin’s words came between struggling breaths. “I always wanted to be the hero… but that’s not why the Force sent me here. I came here… to save the real hero, so that he could save everyone else.”

    Ben raised one eyebrow, ignoring the rapid rise and fall of Anakin’s chest as he strained for air. “You think the Force sent you here to save me?”

    Anakin gave the faintest of shrugs. “I’d say… it’s a solid theory.” His eyelids drooped for a few seconds, and he gulped down another breath. “Tell Allana… I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

    Ben looked away, examining the wounds again. There had to be a solution, something he hadn’t thought of. “No… no, you’re going to be fine—”

    “Ben.”

    He met his grandfather’s eyes and swallowed hard. “All right. I will.”

    Anakin squeezed his eyes shut, wincing with every shallow breath as his fingers tightened around Ben’s arm. “I wish I could have met them,” he whispered. His head rolled back, and his grip slackened. Ben looped one arm under his shoulders and pulled him close.

    “Come on, Gramps, stay with me. Stay with me.” He looked around at the ruined throne room, at Jacen’s body, at Allana lying unconscious nearby. “You can’t leave me,” he whispered.

    Anakin’s eyes opened ever so slightly, and he smiled up at Ben. “I’ll never… leave you.”

    His eyes closed again, and he took one more breath; and as that breath left him, the last of his life went with it. Ben stared down at Anakin, waiting for the shock wave, or the black hole, or the collapse of a dying star – but there was only silence, and the body in his arms was still.

    No,” he whispered. He shook his grandfather, gently at first, then harder when there was no response. “No, no, no… please, no… come on, wake up!” He crushed Anakin to his chest, and he felt a great sob rising up in him, constricting his insides as it clawed its way into his throat. It seemed to come from someplace deep down, buried under years and years of pain and loss and now, after everything, set free.

    “Please,” he choked out, rocking back and forth, still holding on. “Please.”

    As if in answer, he felt something shift in his arms; when he looked down, Anakin’s body had vanished, and he was left holding an empty tunic. Every carefully constructed defense crumbled in the wake of his grief, and Ben bent his head to bury his face in the cloth, finally allowing himself to weep.

    ~~


    Arden wasn’t really sure what sort of diversion to expect as she stood huddled together with the group of frightened Jedi children. One hand clutched her blaster tight while the other squeezed the hand of a small girl with dark curly hair. A few paces away, two soldiers were supporting the Jedi healer Orion Tivas, and the remaining members of Beta group had taken up positions around the children. Elias and Ames stood near the entrance to the medical wing, the hum of their lightsabers filling the silence.

    “Don’t worry,” Arden bent down to whisper to the little curly-haired girl. She hesitated a moment before adding, “The Force is with us. We’re going to make it.”

    The girl nodded silently and tucked in closer to Arden’s side. Then there was a deafening boom and a metallic grinding sound, and the deck quaked violently beneath them. Arden was nearly thrown to her knees from the force of it; she caught the girl against her and fought to keep them both upright.

    One of the soldiers stumbled forward and grabbed Elias by the shoulder. “Those are Alpha’s detonators!” she shouted above the noise, and another explosion ripped through the ship at nearly the same instant, sending everyone careening to one side of the corridor.

    Elias raised a hand toward the ceiling, and it looked to Arden as if he was anchoring himself in place with an invisible tether. “Time to go!” he shouted. He deactivated his lightsaber and used his other hand to Force pull Artoo over to the terminal beside the door. The old astromech whistled a response that struck Arden as being completely unfazed – if they made it out of here alive, she would definitely have to ask Ben about the little droid’s history with combat – and went to work on the blast door.

    By the time the door opened, the long hallway before them was bathed in the crimson glow of emergency lighting, and warning sirens echoed loudly off every durasteel surface. They advanced carefully at first, looking for the troopers who had pursued them earlier; but when it became clear that their enemy had abandoned the corridor, they picked up speed. Another detonation shuddered through the Eradicator, and a couple of the Rebel soldiers stopped to scoop up the youngest of the children in their arms. Arden holstered her blaster and did the same with the little girl beside her.

    She caught fragments of chatter through her comlink as she ran: some unintelligible shouting, one member of Alpha group giving a countdown, and Jysella Horn ordering everyone to run for the Daybreak. Arden kept her eyes on Elias’s back as they sprinted through the Star Destroyer’s corridors. They were going to make it, they were going to make it, they had to make it…

    The hangar was on fire when they reached it, a ceiling-high wall of flames separating them from the Daybreak. Arden wondered if it had been caused by the Rebel explosives, the battle outside the ship, or if this was the result of Kohr enthusiastically trying to hold off the Sith. The girl in her arms shied away from the heat of the fire, but Arden recalled her first time witnessing a Jedi in action on Heibic, and she smiled to herself.

    “Watch this,” she whispered to the little girl.

    The child peeked her head out from Arden’s shoulder just as Elias and Ames stepped right up to the wall of flames and spread their arms wide. The fire parted almost instantly, and Beta group rushed through the breach. Arden caught Elias’s eyes as she followed after the others; he shook his head and shot her a tired grin.

    As Arden guided the little girl to the cargo hold along with the other children, she heard a muffled victory cry from the direction of the cockpit and turned to see Jysella and her team coming up the ramp.

    “Elias, get us out of here!” the Jedi Knight shouted, slapping her palm against the controls that operated the ramp. The Daybreak lifted off the hangar floor seconds before the ramp sealed shut; then it turned and blasted out of the Star Destroyer.

    Arden set her young charge down on the deck of the cargo hold with the other kids and touched a hand to her cheek. “I’ll be back, okay?”

    The girl nodded bravely, and Arden raced to take up her gunner position. What she saw when she finally settled behind the dorsal laser cannons took her breath away.

    Arden watched in absolute awe as explosions bloomed across the entire length of Eradicator’s fearsome black hull. Though the fires went out almost instantly as they met the vacuum of space, they left behind massive plumes of debris that spiraled about the dying Star Destroyer, catching several passing Sith fighters in the process.

    “Something’s happening,” Elias said, in that distant way she’d started to associate more and more with his use of the Force. “Their fleet, it feels… off.”

    Through the viewport, Arden saw the Mon Cal cruiser Harbinger and two dreadnaughts advance through the Sith line, cannons firing on the enemy’s failing flagship as well as the warships that had flanked it – and she thought she understood what Elias had picked up on. Those smaller Star Destroyers seemed paralyzed by the destruction of the Eradicator, and though they attempted to return fire, their attacks lacked coordination or accuracy. What had previously been an angry yet focused swarm was now a panicked, chaotic mob. Helix fighters scrambled to regroup around them, but the Rebel ships tore through them as well, creating smaller fires that vanished just as quickly as the ones still erupting from the Eradicator. They burst like stars across Arden’s vision, and that inexplicable hope from earlier burned all the brighter inside her.

    Another voice came over the comm, this one strong and assured. “All groups advance,” Commander Syal Antilles ordered, and Arden could perfectly imagine the tight, satisfied half-smile on the Corellian woman’s face. “Show these bastards the Jedi aren’t the only ones favored by the Force.”

    As Elias flew the Daybreak against the tide of the battle, its crew watched in amazed silence while another Star Destroyer went down, and then another. Dozens of Rebel warships poured through the holes in the blockade, and some of the enemy vessels even turned to flee. Arden had never seen anything like it; she could never have imagined such a thing was possible.

    “We’re going to win,” she whispered to herself, and once again, she wondered if it was her newfound faith in the Force that made her so certain. Whatever it was, she was happy to trust it, wherever it might lead.

    ~~


    In all his time as Darth Krayt’s apprentice, Darth Dominius had never thought to wonder what his master’s death would feel like, or whether it would hurt him personally, or if it would shatter the preternatural coordination of their armies. How foolishly naïve it seemed now, that he’d never truly considered such things, that he’d operated under a total and unwavering belief in his master’s invincibility.

    A rift tore open in his center, and Dominius felt himself suddenly untethered and cast adrift, at the mercy of a current he couldn’t hope to understand or control. The hole that Lord Krayt had filled inside him was achingly, hopelessly empty, and the gossamer strands that bound their forces as one were broken, left dangling aimlessly in the wind.

    His master… his master

    Veila’s blade vanished from sight, and he tipped forward, unbalanced as his own weapon met nothing but air. She swept past him, ducking and twisting to the side, and he felt her boot connect with the back of his knee, cracking loud enough for him to hear over the sounds of the battle. As he went down, he sensed her hands moving, the hilt of her lightsaber pressed against his spine—

    Fire seared through his body; he looked down to see her cerulean blade extending from the center of his torso, burning between his ribs. And all he could do at the sight of it was laugh.

    Veila deactivated her lightsaber, and Dominius fell backward, breathing hard as he slumped against a mound of rubble. The Jedi walked around and crouched in front of him, calling his saber to her hand. She studied it for a few seconds, then looked up at the sky, watching as fighters screamed across the brilliant blue expanse.

    “Was it worth it?” the Jedi Master asked, lowering her gaze to him once more. “All the destruction and chaos and death?”

    Dominius sucked in another breath and felt it gurgle in his lungs. “What is anything worth, really? In the end, it all becomes nothing, doesn’t it?”

    Veila watched him in silence for a moment, green eyes narrowed. Then she spoke again, less harsh than he would have expected from the woman who was said to be half-Yuuzhan Vong.

    “Maybe,” she said. “I suppose if my life amounted to nothing in the end, I’d try to comfort myself with that notion.”

    He felt another bitter laugh scrape its way from his throat. His stomach burned from the effort. “I don’t seek to comfort myself, Jedi.”

    “No, because comfort is for the weak, isn’t it? Compassion, mercy, love… you’re above all of those, aren’t you? Because you’re strong. You’re so strong.” She looked down at the hilt of his lightsaber, gripped tight in the palm of her hand, and shook her head. “In the end, what did you achieve?”

    He cast about for an answer, realizing in that moment that he didn’t have one. His thoughts flitted briefly to the Sith history lessons of his youth, to the tenets of the Banite order that Krayt had brushed aside. One to embody power, the other to crave it… But had he ever truly craved his master’s power? Had he ever considered doing anything but what Lord Krayt ordered him to do? Had he ever once dreamed of a time when he wouldn’t stand at his master’s side? They were going to change the galaxy, together.

    Veila watched him, her expression inscrutable, though he thought he saw a flash of pity in her eyes. He hated her for that more than he hated her for anything else. He neither wanted nor needed a Jedi’s pity. He was his master’s chosen apprentice, the most trusted, the most competent, the strongest. He was—

    Alone. Completely and utterly alone, and somehow that made him hate Veila and her pity even more.

    He laid his head back against the rubble and looked up at the sky. What had he achieved? With Darth Krayt dead and his forces descending into chaos, what had any of it meant?

    “Everything ends,” he whispered. “All things die, and become nothing.”

    “Yes,” Veila replied, “all things die. All things end, but that doesn’t make them nothing. Everything that lives and dies is bound together. In the Force, everything is one.”

    Dominius couldn’t help laughing at her sentimental rubbish. “What about us? The Sith and the Jedi… are we ‘one’?”

    “I knew someone once who could have answered that question,” she murmured, eyes turning to the sky for a brief instant. “But he’s dead now, and neither of us will be able to ask him.”

    She paused, taking a deep breath. The air around her was touched with sorrow, an echo – he was loath to admit – of what now filled the empty place inside of him.

    “What was your name?” she asked softly.

    Dominius, he thought to answer, an old reflex he’d drilled into himself over the years. His Sith title wasn’t just a rite of passage – it was the name of his truest self, far more real to him than the name he’d been born with. Should he answer her question? He hadn’t thought of that name in so long… but it hardly made a difference. He’d chosen his path a long time ago, and a little thing like death wouldn’t change it now.

    “It doesn’t… matter,” he answered. “Not anymore.”

    Veila’s eyes flitted down to the hole in his stomach. “No. I suppose it doesn’t.”

    Silence followed, and he tried to slow the rapid pace of his breathing. He felt only a trickle of air enter his lungs with each gasp. Veila watched him, and he stared back for a moment before returning his gaze once more to the sky.

    He was still afraid, had always been afraid of so many things. Pain, failure, death—

    The sky was so blue. He’d never seen anything like it. So close, like he could reach out and touch it, just once…

    ~~


    Dominius exhaled, and was still. Tahiri regarded him for a long moment, calm settling over the ruined plaza as the whine of starfighter engines grew distant; then she reached out with one hand and gently closed her enemy’s eyes.

    Valin joined her a moment later, and she could sense his eyes on her, assessing the extent of her injuries. “You need a medic.”

    She turned to look at him and offered a small smile, trying not to wince. “Sure. When it’s over.”

    Before Valin could respond, a pile of rubble several meters away began to quake, and a burst of energy sent debris flying into the air in all directions. Valin tensed next to her, while Tahiri’s hand twitched around the hilt of Dominius’s saber. She remained still, waiting for the violent eruption of duracrete to end.

    The debris settled, and standing in silhouette against the brilliantly sunlit sky was Darth Satrus, right arm limp at his side as he staggered forward a step. His eyes found them and went wide, and Tahiri noticed he was bleeding from a head wound, and from other wounds both seen and unseen. He drew a breath that seemed to shake his entire frame as his gaze turned to his fallen comrade. Then, without a word or threat otherwise, he turned and fled.

    Tahiri and Valin watched the surviving Sith Lord limp away, until he was little more than a dark blur against the battle-scarred horizon. “Well,” Valin said quietly, letting out a long breath. “I guess that means it’s over.” He paused, then turned toward her, hesitant. “Should we go after him?”

    “No.” She took as deep a breath as her broken ribs would allow and hooked Dominius’s lightsaber to her belt, alongside her own weapon. “Like you said, it’s over. Let’s go get our family.”

    ~~


    When Darth Ferrus finally regained consciousness, his head was pounding in time to the klaxon blaring overhead. He pulled himself up on his knees and pressed a hand to his temple, as if doing so would drown out the shrill alarm or distract him from the fact that he’d been knocked unconscious for the second time in less than a week and almost definitely had a concussion. He picked his lightsaber up from where it had fallen and was tempted for half a moment to hurl the weapon as hard as he could at the opposite wall. Instead, he swallowed a growl and turned to where Festus lay, still out cold.

    His brother’s face was riddled with cuts, and Ferrus felt his temper flare at the thought of the Jedi who’d torn through them so easily. The Master had ordered them to guard the tower at all costs, after nearly killing them himself. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what that meant.

    “Is anyone there?” His comlink was undamaged, and he heard Darth Varice’s strained voice through it. He almost didn’t bother replying, but old habits were hard to kick.

    “This is Ferrus.”

    Despite the tension in her voice, he heard Varice let out the tiniest laugh. “You’re alive.”

    He thought about crushing the comlink in his hand, but he let that urge pass as well. “Of course I’m alive; don’t be a moron.”

    She clicked her tongue at him. “There’s no need for name-calling, Lord Ferrus,” she said. “We have a situation.”

    “Oh yeah?” He rolled his eyes and winced at the pain that one small action sent shooting through his head. “What is it now?”

    Varice paused, and he heard her take a breath. “A Rebel fleet has just come out of hyperspace over Coruscant.”

    That sent him snapping to attention. “What?

    “A fleet of Rebel ships,” she repeated impatiently. “Led by three Hapan Battle Dragons.”

    Dammit. That was the fleet that had given the Empire so much trouble in the Inner Rim over the last decade. They were difficult to track and had collected an impressive array of warships since those Battle Dragons had split with the current Queen Mother. But they’d never pushed to the Core before, let alone made a play for Coruscant. How were the Rebels faring at Bakura, if they could afford to spare this much firepower?

    “The Master isn’t responding to my comms,” Varice continued. “We have to do something.”

    Next to him, Festus began to stir. “Yeah, I’ll get back to you.”

    “Ferrus, wait—”

    He switched off the comlink and threw it at the wall, watching with only the barest hint of satisfaction as it shattered into a dozen pieces. He growled and turned his attention to his twin. “Wake up!” he said, shaking him hard. “Wake up, idiot!”

    Festus cracked both eyes open and glared up at him. “Who are you calling ‘idiot’, idiot?”

    “Stand up, we’ve got more company.”

    “What kind of company?”

    “The kind that wants to kill us, what else?”

    Festus gave a noncommittal shrug. “That’s the best kind, isn’t it? So much fun.”

    “You’re pretty mouthy for someone who got thoroughly destroyed and knocked unconscious.”

    His brother stood slowly, holding onto him for support until he was on two feet. Festus touched his fingers to his face, tracing over his wounds. “He went through me like I was nothing. I might as well have been fighting the Master himself.”

    “He did it on purpose, you know. We should be dead.”

    Festus lowered his hand from his injuries, staring off into space. “Where’s the Jedi now?”

    Ferrus jerked his thumb in the direction of the turbolift. “Guess.”

    Festus’s typical wicked smile returned as he glanced down the corridor, but Ferrus saw something else working behind his brother’s eyes.

    “That’s just perfect,” Festus said. “Let them have each other.” He called his lightsaber to him and hooked it on his belt.

    Ferrus shook his head. After everything else, now his brother was ready to walk away? “What are you saying?”

    “I think you know.”

    “I want to hear you say it out loud.”

    Festus clicked his tongue. “So picky. Fine, brother mine, I’ll put it plainly for you: I’m saying we should get the hell out of here.”

    Ferrus arched an eyebrow at him. “What about all that talk, about our orders, about following the Master’s plan, no matter what?”

    Festus reached up and wrapped a hand around the back of Ferrus’s neck, pulling him close. He made a fist with his other hand and pressed it against Ferrus’s chest.

    “Survival at any cost, brother,” Festus said in a quiet voice. “Or have you forgotten?”

    It had been years since Ferrus had allowed himself to think of that cramped storage compartment where they’d hidden from the Sith, where his brother had pulled him close like this and promised they would survive whatever came for them. And they had survived. They’d eventually thrived, even if they’d done so in different ways. For a long time, he’d secretly marveled at the change in his twin, at how thoroughly he’d adapted to their new reality. It was sometimes hard to imagine he’d ever been anything else.

    “I haven’t forgotten anything,” Ferrus said, mouth suddenly dry. “I thought maybe you had.”

    His twin was silent, still holding on as he stared up at him. “Come on,” Festus said after a long moment. “Let’s get out of here.”

    Ferrus shoved his brother’s arm away and punched him in the shoulder. “We could take the ship we came in.”

    “Like I’d trust you to fly us anywhere.”

    “Then what do you propose?”

    “I say we go right out the front door. See what the city has to offer.”

    Ferrus crossed his arms over his chest. “I should probably mention there’s a Rebel battle group incoming, and it’s very possible that said city will be a war zone before long.”

    Festus shrugged. “We’ve survived worse.” A rumble rolled through the temple – the shock from a nearby explosion. Festus tilted his head toward the sound. “Look at that; right on cue.”

    Ferrus snorted and started down the corridor, then stopped when he noticed his brother hadn’t moved. Festus was looking off to one side, eyes losing focus as they rose toward the ceiling.

    “What is it?” Ferrus asked. Apart from the explosion, he hadn’t sensed anything unusual.

    Festus released a slow breath and shook his head. “It’s nothing. Let’s go.” He strode forward, and Ferrus fell into step beside him, grinning a little as he nudged his twin with his arm.

    “You’re so damn weird.”

    “Always with the flattery…”

    ~~


    Ben wasn’t exactly sure how he made it to the hangar. He could barely put one foot in front of the other, and yet he managed enough control of the Force to tow Jacen’s body behind him while he cradled Allana’s still-unconscious form in his arms. Klaxons rang as he passed through the wide hangar entrance, their shrill wail interrupted by the whine of starfighter engines and the distinct percussive impact of detonating bombs. Ben would have allowed himself to be pleased that the Rebel battle group had arrived, if he wasn’t currently standing inside their primary target.

    None of the Sith had attempted to prevent his ascent to the top of the tower – Jacen’s orders, he assumed – and now with the death of their master and the arrival of the Rebels, it appeared that they’d all but deserted their fortress. Ben’s X-wing was sitting unharmed where he had left it, though that was only a small comfort. He could probably fit Allana into the cockpit with him, but he would have to leave Jacen behind. He would do it, of course; he wasn’t foolish enough to risk their lives over a corpse…

    His eyes landed on a larger shuttle, an old Lambda, its ramp open and waiting, and Ben took a deep breath and trudged toward it. Syal would probably kill him for leaving the X-wing behind, but even though he had every reason to abandon Jacen’s body, the truth was that he just didn’t want to.

    Once he was on board the shuttle, Ben laid Allana and Jacen down on opposite sides of the hold and closed the ramp, then made his way to the front of the ship. Bombs continued to rain down around the temple, but the whine of helix engines was increasingly faint. From what he could sense, the Sith had been thrown into a panic upon Jacen’s death. Ben wondered if they even realized how deeply entrenched their master’s battle meditation was. As the Imperial fleet had once crumbled at Endor in the wake of the Emperor’s demise, now it seemed the One Sith were poised for a similar fall.

    The shuttle’s engines sputtered and hummed as they came online, and Ben took a minute to examine the wounds in his side. They still looked pretty gruesome, and he closed his eyes, calling upon the Force’s healing energy to permeate the wounds, stemming further loss of blood until he could attend to them properly. After a few seconds, he felt a shudder, and the engines roared fully to life. He took the controls in his hands and guided the shuttle out of the hangar, narrowly avoiding a couple of X-wings as they circled the temple.

    The complex around the Sith fortress was ablaze, smoke billowing from it in massive plumes, and only a few enemy fighters remained in the sky. Ben wondered if the others had been destroyed or if they, too, had abandoned the temple. The rest of the city appeared largely untouched by the chaos, and though he sensed a sober, apprehensive air had fallen over the planet, there was a glimmer of cautious hope beneath it all.

    Ben transmitted his security clearance to the Rebel fighters sweeping past him, and within minutes they had patched him through to the man in charge of the entire battle group.

    “Ben Skywalker,” the voice on the comm said with a low chuckle. “Commander Antilles said to expect you.”

    Ben breathed a shaky sigh of relief. “Admiral Darklighter,” he replied, his own voice not quite so steady. “Thanks for not blowing me up.”

    “Well, I figured you’d probably had enough of that from the Sith…” There was a pause, and when the admiral spoke again there was a note of concern in his voice. “Son, if you require medical attention, Resilient is standing by…”

    Ben winced and looked back at Allana before leaning forward to search his scope for the medical frigate’s location among the cluster of Rebel ships that had entered the system. “Thank you, sir; I think I’ll take you up on that.”

    “Anything else I can do for you?”

    His thoughts turned to the other Jedi, and the battle that might still be raging on Bakura. He tried to reach for Tahiri through the Force, eager to have her survival confirmed; but she was so far away, and he was tired, and though the Force might not have had limits, he still did.

    “Could you relay me to Tahiri Veila at Bakura?” he said after a beat.

    “That I can. Stand by.”

    The comm went silent, and Ben waited for several minutes. Finally, the comm crackled, and he heard a muffled, staticky voice speaking indecipherably. Ben’s relief hit him harder than he could have anticipated as he recognized his friend’s voice.

    “Ben?” she said as the static cleared, and he could tell she was just as relieved as he was.

    Ben sighed and rubbed a hand over his mouth, fighting back a swell of emotion. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m here. It’s over, Tahiri. It’s all over.”

    She didn’t answer at first, and he imagined he could feel the weight of that revelation sinking into her. “Thank the Force,” she said at last, softly.

    Ben shifted forward in his seat. “The battle?” he asked.

    “Coming to an end.” She hesitated, a long pause that spoke more to her concern than any words she might have said. “Is Allana okay?”

    Ben glanced over his shoulder at his cousin’s unconscious form. “She’s okay for now.”

    There was another pause, longer than before. “Anakin?”

    The words stuck in his throat for a few seconds before he was able to force them out. “He’s gone. Him and Jacen.”

    Tahiri’s exhale crackled over the comm. “I see. I’d thought as much.”

    Ben looked out at the medical frigate looming ever larger in his viewport. He switched the shuttle’s controls over to autopilot and sat back in his seat, and as he did, his eyes were drawn to the body of his former master lying on the deck behind him. He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until he exhaled loudly.

    “What is it?”

    Ben shook his head, unable to take his eyes off of Jacen’s body. “I thought I would feel… relieved. I thought a burden would lift, or something.”

    “What do you feel?”

    Ben closed his eyes and bowed his head. “Tired.” Deep down in the bones, like he would never fully recover. For so many years they’d been on the run from the Sith, and now he wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest.

    Behind him, Allana stirred, and Ben felt a pang in his gut. He turned back to the comm. “Allana’s waking up. I’d better go. I’ll comm soon with an update.”

    “Sounds good. May the Force be with you.”

    “May the Force be with you.”

    Ben gritted his teeth against the pain from his injuries as he crossed the hold and kneeled next to Allana. He placed a hand on her forehead, and she turned into his touch. “Easy there, that’s it.”

    Her eyes fluttered open, and she stared up at him for several long seconds. “I felt you there,” she whispered.

    Ben bit back tears as he cupped her face with one hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t get there sooner.”

    “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.” Her chin trembled as she spoke. “I just thought— I wanted to—” She stifled a sob and closed her eyes, and he watched tears slip from beneath her lashes.

    “Hey, hey,” he said gently, brushing a finger across both of her cheeks. “It wasn’t your fault. None of this was your fault.” He imagined the look Tahiri would have given him if she were here. Maybe some of her wisdom had rubbed off on him after all. The guilt he’d carried for so long seemed more distant now, and he wondered if he might finally be ready to let it go. He hoped he could help Allana reach that same point one day.

    She sniffled and raised a hand to wipe away the rest of her tears, and as she glanced around the ship, a shadow crossed her face. “Where’s Anakin? I felt him, too—” From the sharp intake of breath that punctuated that thought, it seemed she already knew. Her grief swelled, and Ben bowed his head, averting his gaze. That loss was still too raw.

    When he looked back up a moment later, he saw Allana staring across the cargo hold where Anakin’s clothes were draped like a shroud over Jacen’s body. Ben felt the confused clash of emotion inside her, feelings of betrayal, sorrow, and – in spite of everything – love. They were tangled and twisted up in a painful knot, one that she would need time to sort out. Even then, it might never make sense to her.

    Allana finally tore her eyes away from her father’s body. “Ben?”

    He tried to smile, but it was weak, and he was tired. “Yeah?”

    The expression on her face told him it was important. “There’s somewhere we need to go.”

    ~~


    Tahiri leaned forward in her chair, one hand reaching out across the bed to grasp the hand of the man lying in it. His breath fogged the mask covering the lower half of his face, and the array of monitors on the opposite side of the bed indicated that he was stable, a fact which was supported by her own sense of him. Still, it couldn’t hurt to add a little Jedi healing to the mix, and she gave of her own energy to boost what the medics had already done for him. Medical droids and staff came and went while she kept watch; the last nurse to leave had reassured her that Ulin would likely wake soon, adding that he was lucky to have such a devoted companion.

    Tahiri smiled to herself as the nurse closed the door behind him. It was a good thing no one else was around to hear that comment, especially Ben; she’d never have heard the end of it otherwise.

    She took a deep breath, as deep as she could manage with her fractured ribs. She’d already received some pain meds – she could handle the pain but knew better than to take on an unnecessary burden – and a bacta treatment before coming to check on Ulin; and she fully intended to pay a visit to Tekli on the Errant Venture as soon as she was finished with the post-battle clean-up, including debriefing Orion and settling all of the displaced Jedi children.

    The blockade of Bakura had ended swiftly once the Sith line broke with the destruction of the flagship Eradicator, and nearly a third of the enemy’s fleet had fled outright after the Warhammer and the Wyyrlok met the same fate. They received reports in the aftermath that some of those fleeing ships had attempted to return to Coruscant, only to be met by Admiral Darklighter’s fleet, which had just finished bombarding the Sith Temple complex. The admiral had confirmed for the Rebels what Tahiri already knew to be true – that Darth Krayt, the Master of the One Sith, had perished during the battle. Jacen’s battle meditation must have been unfathomably powerful, to cause such utter chaos in the wake of its loss. Without that linchpin holding their forces together, the Empire was vulnerable in a way that would have been unthinkable before.

    Ulin stirred, and Tahiri squeezed his hand and scooted closer to the bed. She felt him squeeze her hand in return, and looked up to see a faint grin on his face. Eyes still closed, he tilted his head toward her.

    “Am I dead?” he asked, his voice muffled by the mask.

    Tahiri shook her head and raised one eyebrow. “You’re not getting ready to tell me that you must be dead because there’s some kind of celestial being holding your hand right now, are you?”

    “Naw, I know you hate lines like that.” He laughed under his breath and opened his eyes to look at her. “Do I get credit for following your orders, at least?”

    “Orders?” She gave him a bemused smile, wondering what in the worlds he meant.

    “Yeah, you told me I’d better not die while you were gone.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Mission accomplished.”

    It wasn’t often that Tahiri was caught off guard by her emotions, but she suddenly felt a swell of laughter bubble up in her, and she made no effort whatsoever to suppress it. And even though her ribs probably wouldn’t thank her for it later, it felt so good to laugh, to really laugh. How many years had it been since she’d felt free enough to do so?

    The door to the medbay slid open, and a familiar face peeked around the doorframe. “How’s the patient?” Myri Antilles asked brightly, eyes twinkling as she stepped into the room and looked from Tahiri to Ulin, grinning all the while. “What’s so funny?”

    Ulin met Tahiri’s eyes and smiled behind the mask. “I’m not dead.”

    Myri clapped her hands together, then spread them wide on either side of her. “That’s great! Does this mean you’re up for sabacc? I’m trying to put a game together—”

    Myri,” a voice called from the doorway, and Tahiri looked past Myri to see Syal standing there shaking her head. “You think you could let the man convalesce a little before you start wrangling him into playing cards with you?”

    “Aw, it’s fine, Syal, I’m okay.” Ulin pulled the mask off and inhaled deep, then turned to Myri. “Who else have you got?”

    Myri tapped a finger to her chin. “Right now just you and me, but I was going to look for Elias and Arden next, and maybe find some of the fighter pilots, they’re always fun—”

    “I wouldn’t count on Elias or Arden right now,” Tahiri interrupted, aiming a small smirk at her friend. “Pretty sure they’ve become unofficial den mothers to those kids they rescued. I’m not sure you could pry them away.”

    Myri perked up at that. “Kids? How many kids? Enough for sabacc?”

    Syal dropped her face into her hand and groaned. “Oh my gods, Myri.”

    “Come on, sis, you’re never too young to learn sabacc.”

    “Pretty sure that’s not true.”

    As the Antilles sisters argued over the educational merits of high-stakes card games, Ulin leaned toward Tahiri and said in a quiet voice, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

    Tahiri glanced down and realized that their hands were still entwined. She quirked one corner of her mouth up and shrugged. “Did you ever doubt that I would be?”

    “Nope. Not for a single second.”

    “Ulin!” Myri cut in with a shout. “I’m going to go turn these kids into pros, you’d better be ready when I come back.” She stepped over to the bed and bent down to give Ulin a quick kiss on the cheek. “Rest up, old man. You’ve earned it.”

    Ulin reached up and ran a hand through his short gray hair, and he frowned a little as Myri and Syal left the room. “Do you guys really think I’m that old?”

    Tahiri studied him for a moment and smiled. “No,” she said warmly. “I think you’ve got plenty of life left to live, Master Slicer.”

    “That’s really good to hear, Master Jedi, because I was planning to do just that.” He squeezed her hand, longer this time. Funny, how natural and welcome that one small action had become. “So,” he said in a casual tone, “what’s next for you?”

    “Well, after we finish up here, I was planning to head back to Zonoma Sekot for a few days. I promised a couple of boys that I would be back soon.” Tahiri met his gaze and breathed in deep, and she hardly noticed the ache. “I could use a ride. Know anyone with a dependable ship?”

    Ulin grinned even wider at that. “Yeah, I think I might know a guy.”

    ~~


    The stolen Lambda shuttle set down on the moon’s surface just as night was falling. In the dying light, Ben walked down the open ramp and surveyed the ancient forest around him. It smelled of earth and leaves and new growth, and save for the gentle chirping of nocturnal insects, the night air was quiet. Ben leaned his head back as a faint breeze ruffled his hair. Apart from that small gust of wind, it seemed the forest moon of Endor was calm and at peace.

    He looked over his shoulder to see Allana standing at the top of the ramp. After they had both been patched up on the Resilient, she had insisted on coming here, to this moon, before heading to Bakura. She said this was the only place their dead could be put to rest.

    “Are you ready?” she asked, holding onto the bulkhead for support.

    Ben strode up the ramp and gathered Jacen’s body and Anakin’s empty clothes in his arms. “Yeah.”

    After a short walk through the forest, they reached a very small clearing. Ben looked it over before setting Jacen down. “This’ll do,” he said, examining the open patch of grass as he circled it.

    Allana nodded. “I’ll get some wood.”

    Ben eyed the bacta patches visible on her wrists and thought of all the others that had been applied. “Are you okay to do that by yourself?”

    “I can manage,” she reassured him gently. “I’m not the one with a hole in my side.”

    “Details,” he said with a shrug.

    Once she had disappeared from view, Ben began to strip Jacen of his clothing. Piece-by-piece the black uniform came off, until all that was left was a man, naked for the universe to see and judge. His body was riddled with scars, testament to the hard life he’d lived both before and after his fall from grace. Ben was tempted to think about how things might have been different if Jacen hadn’t gone down the dark path; but such thoughts were insidious, holding him captive to the past. He tried not to dwell on them, focusing instead on dressing his cousin in the clothing of their grandfather.

    They weren’t actually Anakin’s clothes; those had been ruined or just plain left behind. Still, it seemed important that he dress Jacen in something connected to the light. And since he couldn’t give Anakin a proper funeral pyre, this was about as close as he could come.

    Once the clothes had been exchanged, Ben sat back and studied Jacen’s face, breathing slowly, in and out. It was still true, what he’d said to Tahiri. Killing Jacen hadn’t brought him any satisfaction or relief, and he had the feeling his cousin’s mournful last words would forever haunt him. Could he have done more to save him?

    He reached out and ran his fingertips over Jacen’s brow. In the end, he had done what his old master taught him. He had made a choice, and now he had to live with it.

    Allana returned not long after, and they went to work building the pyre. They were silent, although for the first time in a long time Ben felt as though they were operating in unison. The bond that had been strained by resentment and secrets was already beginning to mend.

    When they had finished, Ben and Allana stood side-by-side, staring at the mound of branches and earth.

    “Are you ready?” Ben asked.

    Allana shook her head. “No.”

    “That’s okay. We can wait awhile.”

    Allana blew out a shaky breath. “How can I say goodbye? How can I let him go when I still don’t have answers? When we never got a chance—” She cut herself off and inhaled slowly, tears filling her eyes.

    Ben placed a hand on her shoulder. “Maybe one day you’ll get that chance.”

    “Would you want to talk to him again if you could?”

    He considered the question for a moment. His first thought was to say no. After all, what could he say that he hadn’t already said?

    “I don’t know,” he finally answered. “Maybe.”

    “What would you say?”

    He had spent countless nights imagining Jacen’s death and how their last conversation would play out. He still wasn’t sure what had changed. Jacen had tortured him and taken his family from him, and that still hurt to think about. But the anger, the bitterness – those had evaporated like water under Tatooine’s twin suns.

    “I guess… that I forgive him. Maybe not for everything, but for what he did to me. What he took from me. I think… I think maybe I can forgive him for that.”

    She nodded, but remained silent. They stood still together, listening to the sounds of the forest as the night stretched on. Ben turned to Allana, suddenly curious. “Why did you want to come here, of all places?”

    She shrugged a little too nonchalantly. “It was close to Bakura.”

    Ben nudged her shoulder gently with his. “The real reason.”

    She sighed. “Because of Anakin. Because of his sacrifice. It seemed fitting, I guess.”

    “Fitting?”

    Allana nodded and looked up at him. “That we should remember him with a hero’s funeral like your father did.”

    Ben’s eyes widened. “Allana—”

    “I know, Ben. I know who he was.” She looked away and stared off into the distance. “If I’m honest with myself, I think I’ve known all along.”

    Ben smiled a little to himself and looked down at the forest floor. “He wasn’t what I’d imagined he’d be.”

    “Really?” Allana looked over at him, her expression thoughtful. A small, private sort of smile tugged at one corner of her mouth. “He was exactly what I imagined.”

    Ben reached one arm around her shoulders and pulled her against his side, leaning over to kiss the top of her head. “I love you,” he whispered.

    Her arms circled his waist, and she hugged him tight. “I love you, too.”

    Finally, the time came. Ben carried Jacen’s body to the funeral pyre and laid him atop it gently, arranging his hands so that they were clasped together over his abdomen. He lit a flame and cast it upon the kindling, and soon the fire burned hot and strong, engulfing the pyre and the man within.

    Allana took a step away toward the flames, and Ben felt her anguish as clearly as if it were his own. She sank slowly to her knees, hands pressed to her mouth to muffle her sobs. A knot had begun to form in Ben’s chest as he watched the fire consume what was left of both Jacen and Anakin, and Allana’s tears tightened that knot further and further until he could hardly breathe.

    He knelt down next to her and wrapped his arms around her. They fell against each other, weeping for all they’d lost. As the flames rose higher, Ben pulled away from Allana and dabbed absently at her tears.

    “I miss them both,” she said. “Is that wrong? After everything he did?”

    “No,” Ben whispered as his gaze wandered to the blazing pyre. “It’s not wrong. You loved him.”

    “But—”

    “Before all of this, he was a hero. A true hero who saved so many people. Who loved you.” Ben looked down at Allana and cupped her face in one hand, and he smiled. “That’s the man I choose to honor.”

    She didn’t say anything more, and Ben held her close as they watched the fire burn on.

    ~~


    Allana Djo stood at the edge of the clearing as morning began to break, its pale light just barely touching the tops of the ancient trees around her. The air was cool, and a hush had fallen over the forest as nighttime creatures settled down to slumber and their daytime counterparts started to wake. The fire had finally gone cold, its contents reduced to ashes. She’d asked Ben to give her a minute alone with them before they left, but now that she was here, she wasn’t sure what to say. She kept her eyes on the base of the pyre, unable to look at the remains.

    She felt a prickly sensation in her arms, a stray impulse traveling along her nerves, and she looked down at the bacta patches peeking out from under her sleeves. Allana brought both arms to her chest, the fingers of her right hand lightly circling her left wrist as they brushed against the patch. There were similar bandages on the insides of her elbows and along her forearms, hidden by her clothing. Ben said the bacta should help prevent scarring, especially since she hadn’t been in the Embrace for long. But he’d admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure, and that he still bore scars from his own time as its prisoner.

    Right now she didn’t really care one way or the other if she was left with a few scars. Their presence or absence wouldn’t change anything that had happened, and they would never be as painful as that last moment before passing out, when she’d looked into her father’s eyes and realized that there was no safety in him, and that the strength and love she’d longed for all her life had been used against her in the most treacherous, vile way. And even the pain of that moment paled next to the knowledge that in the deepest places of her heart, she still loved him as much as she ever had, and probably always would love him. How was that fair, that she had to live with everything she felt and everything he’d done, while he was just… gone?

    Allana lowered her arms and sat down in the mossy undergrowth, placing her hands palm-up in her lap. She still couldn’t quite look at the pyre, so she picked out a patch of clover in front of her and took a deep breath.

    “I’m not sure if I can forgive you,” she said, hesitantly. “Part of me wants to, but part of me doesn’t, and I don’t know why I should have to feel that way. I don’t know why you couldn’t just… why you couldn’t…”

    Gods, more tears. As if she hadn’t already cried enough these last couple days. She wiped her eyes and tried to steady herself.

    “I wish I could have known you before. I didn’t need you to be a hero or a great Jedi or anything like that. All I ever wanted was my father. That would have been enough. I wish…” She took a deep breath that shook her. “…I wish I could have helped you. Somehow.”

    She twisted her fingers together for a moment, then forced them apart again. “I’ll take care of Roan,” she continued. “You don’t have to worry about that. He’ll have friends and a family, and he’ll be safe and loved.”

    Allana leaned her head back and looked up at the treetops and the warm rays of sunlight filtering through them. “I guess that’s it,” she whispered, closing her eyes. “Goodbye, Daddy.”

    She rose, then, and brushed damp leaves and grass from her clothes, still not looking directly at the pyre. It didn’t seem like enough, and yet it was the only thing that had felt right. No one else would have wanted to honor her father in this way, and no one else would ever understand the full truth about her great-grandfather and what he’d done for them.

    Her great-grandfather. It was still a little hard to believe, even though she did believe it, and even though she still wasn’t sure exactly how or when she’d realized it. Had it been as early as their first meeting, when she’d sensed the warmth he’d tried to hide from her, a feeling adjacent to the love she’d always sensed from her mother? Or had it been over Vjun, when he’d reached out to her in his desperation, his blood calling out to hers? Maybe it had been on Zihrent, when they sat together and watched the sunrise, and she felt as though the whole universe spun around them and held its breath.

    Or had it been in those seconds before waking in Ben’s arms, when she heard a voice whisper her name – only her name – and she knew, she knew, exactly who he was, in a way that somehow went beyond knowing?

    Allana tilted her head back again, this time looking past the treetops to the pale blue sky, imagining the countless stars that burned brightly beyond it.

    “Goodbye, Anakin,” she whispered. “Thanks for everything.”

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2022
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  17. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Apparently I was trying to match your record of making people wait :p [face_mischief]

    I do love this line :D

    "It was good, Corissa thought, that she wasn't dead and could still eat cake" :p

    I'm not even sorry, it's entirely your fault that story got written in the first place :p

    :_| :_| :_|

    And yet, now things will turn out so much better than they did when that wasn't the last time he saw Obi-Wan...

    That was just a brilliant creative choice of Stover's, to have Anakin haunted by a dead star. Good work carrying that theme through :D

    Viiiiiiiiiiii, Luke and Mara would have thought exactly the same thing, how very dare you :_| :_| :_|

    My gosh, what a perfect bit of Jacen characterization. The EU largely botched Jacen, and totally did so once they went down the Sith route - not that Jacen was ever immune to the dark, not even a little bit, but that they did it all wrong. To explain at length just how and why it was wrong would mean writing an essay that would rival the average Lit post and also thinking about books I hated with all my heart and soul, so I'm not going to do it. But look, if Jacen fell, it would be exactly like this: he tried to make something better, screwed it up completely because that's not what the dark does, then just gotten himself in deeper and deeper trying to fix things. And it wouldn't make him less dark, just because his ultimate motives weren't a parallel of Palpatine's "personal power at all cost" philosophy. Anakin tried to use the dark to fix something, too, and look what he became, just within the span of RotS. After RotS, the parallel isn't so exact, because to Anakin, everything is lost and there's nothing left to fix, only hatred to wallow in and power to seize, whereas Jacen keeps losing more and more and trying harder and harder to fix it at any cost - but again, before Padmé dies, while he's still trying to fix things, Anakin betrays the Order that raised him, commits genocide, and slaughters children, all in the name of fixing a vision and saving Padmé. That's how Jacen would fall. Maybe the LotF writers tried to give him that depth and just failed, or maybe they never saw it that way at all and just wanted to turn a Skywalker kid dark again and Ben wasn't old enough yet. It was all trash either way.

    But this, this is how a dark Jacen should be written. Undeniably evil, but with just enough of himself left to be relieved when the end finally came.

    [face_love] This is how Ben should have been written, too. I swear, the DN trilogy, LotF, FotJ - flaming garbage, all of it. Considering that every bit of profic written after Ben's toddlerhood was a joke, what chance did Ben's characterization ever have? But this is Ben Skywalker. This is the person Luke and Mara would have raised. I'm so proud [face_love]

    Artoo, the true hero of the entire saga. Nothing's going to faze that droid :p

    Aw [face_love]

    Aw yeah, that's Wedge's daughter, all right :cool: [face_love]

    Also Tahiri's characterization! My gosh, was she ever done dirty with LotF. This is Tahiri. Look at you absolutely nailing everyone's characterization :cool:

    Perfect line is perfect. Heartbreaking, but perfect :cool:

    lolololol

    The more Festus gets whupped, the mouthier he gets :p

    Aw, yeah :cool: So much buried trauma, look at you go

    [face_mischief]

    Biggs's cousin calling Luke's child "son" :_| [face_love] :_| [face_love] :_|

    The Skywalker family is simply awash in trauma and eventual emotional maturity, they're a complicated bunch

    [face_mischief]

    Atta girl, Tahiri :cool:

    LOL

    Myri is absolutely indefatigable :p

    I feel this deep in my bones some days :p

    I will go down with this ship, Vi [face_love]

    Mara's son :p

    Allana has inherited the Skywalker tendency toward sentimentality :p

    Is all so good and perfect and heartbreaking :_| [face_love] :cool:
     
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  18. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    IMO, Jacen's question here is the center-of-gravity for this story, and possibly the whole Enter!verse. Unfortunately, what he doesn't seem to grasp is that no one will be able to understand it. It was bad enough that he put everyone through this once...but to do it twice? That is an impossible sell -- even to someone who might otherwise be sympathetic.

    So many Quantum Leap-y questions about Anakin.

    ***sob***


    .
     
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  19. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Just popping in here to say that the last chapter of this story is finished. [face_dancing] It still needs to go through the beta and final edits, but it's finally done. [face_relieved]Be on the lookout for that soon-ish. In the meantime, I have some replies for chapter 24...



    @Gabri_Jade
    Technically my record for this story is eight years. 8-} Thank goodness neither of us are trying to match that. :p

    Why thank you :D

    Lolol I am happy to take the blame. ;) [face_mischief]

    [​IMG]

    Honestly, if I had started writing this story more recently, I might not have relied so heavily on that metaphor and tried to do my own thing... but at the same time, this is RotS Anakin, and Stover's work was brilliant, and it just fits. So I'm happy if I did it justice.

    [face_mischief]

    Well, I'm not even sure where to begin responding to this praise. [face_blush] You and I have discussed this at length over the last couple years, and I know I've already written some lengthy Jacen-related essays both in this thread and others, but it does mean a lot to me that you've enjoyed my portrayal of his character, especially when I know you never much cared for him in the canon material. And look, I know Jacen was done dirty in the novels. He should never have become Darth Caedus. He just shouldn't have. But this is fanfic, and I had an interesting idea I wanted to explore, and Jacen as the villain - even if it was a version of his LotF self - gave me an opportunity to do that. Does that mean I think Jacen never could have fallen so far? No. Like I've said before, I think just about any character could have a convincing fall to the dark side, if the circumstances were right. But there was no reason for TPTB to make him a Sith Lord, and there was no reason to write a dark side journey that ended in his death. (And I get that that might sound hypocritical considering that I literally killed Jacen off in the previous chapter, but again, I'm writing fanfic, not profic. Nothing I write is permanent. I've turned Luke and Leia to the dark side, too. Doesn't mean I think they would or should have gone that way in canon.) But you know, sometimes we like to rework storylines that we dislike, for a variety of reasons. So even though I didn't like the LotF story, I've found it immensely rewarding to try to reframe portions of it, especially when it comes to Jacen and his motivations. I feel like I've come to a deeper understanding of his character throughout this process, which has also been very rewarding.

    And you know what else? I really love my dark version of Jacen. He's incredibly interesting to write, especially in his Sith hermit years on Korriban. (Which we'll be seeing more of in the Ferrus fic [face_whistling]) So I guess in a weird way, I can't be entirely sorry that canon went the way it did, because otherwise I wouldn't be writing this story and these characters that I love. Hmm... [face_thinking]

    My writing of Ben in this story was in many ways a reaction to how I saw him being written in LotF, where he was doing all this shady crap but somehow, magically, all the adults in his life were like "oh Ben, your moral compass is still so good, you know what the right thing is even when we don't know", and I was like WHAT?? Ben was thirteen, he accepted what Jacen told him and trusted him, and then he was exposed to things no kid should be, and I'm supposed to pretend that wouldn't screw him up a little? And it's been so long since I read those books, but I remember Ben being sort of insufferable (along with everyone else I suppose), which really irritated me. Look, I don't need any of the Sky/Solos to be perfect, but I do want to enjoy reading about them. And since I never really got a clear picture of who Ben Skywalker was supposed to be in the novels, I felt pretty free to interpret him how I wished when it came to writing this story.

    Interesting tidbit: apparently my very early notes for this story (or maybe they were for the proto-Enter!verse story that didn't involve time travel... my gosh, we're talking 15+ years ago) said something about "what if Luke and Mara pulled Ben out of the GAG in Tempest?" I no longer remember what significance that has, because I don't really remember what happened in each book, but I guess it was one of the first AU alterations I considered. By the time I was actually writing EtF in earnest, LotF was over and done with, and I knew I was going to ignore a good portion of it and try to write my dystopian future as a continuation of the first two or three books in that series. (With, you know, a whole bunch of Sith Lords added in, because why not?) And at that time, I set out to write a somewhat jaded Ben Skywalker who was fully aware of the terrible path Jacen had been leading him down and all the stupid and/or morally questionable things he did as a result and who absolutely didn't want to go down that path ever again but still carried plenty of emotional baggage from it. Since I branched off during or before Tempest, he never got around to assassinating anyone (that was a thing, wasn't it? oh well, didn't happen in this 'verse), and we never had other ridiculous things like Mara and Jacen trying to kill each other or Tahiri becoming a Sith apprentice and child molester or any other number of nonsensical things that happened as the series went further and further off the rails.

    Am I rambling? I think I am, just a bit. :p I guess my point is this: I wrote this story because I love AUs, and I love a good time travel story, and I thought it would be interesting to see Anakin interact with his descendants this far forward in the future. But in the process of writing what I thought would be a fun and interesting story, it also became my attempt to salvage Ben's character and give him a chance to be a genuine hero, something I did not see in the books. I'm very happy with how it all turned out. [face_love]

    Artoo is the best. [face_love] [face_love]

    I was pretty excited when I got to this moment and realized how I could bring Arden's little arc full circle. :D And that would be quite a sight for a kid to see, wouldn't it? [face_love]

    Syal is such a badass, I love her. :cool:

    [face_blush] I've probably written enough essays today, so I'll just say how glad I am that you've enjoyed my take on Tahiri, and that you think I've done a good job with the characterizations in this fic. :D

    (Also, this was one of my favorite parts of this chapter to write. [face_love])

    Thanks, dearest. [face_blush]

    Ferrus is so done, I love it so much. :p

    This is 100% accurate. :p o_O

    You know what's kinda cool about this particular snippet of the scene? I wrote it a few days before I started writing TLotD, so that entire opening scene where they're hiding from the Sith comes from this little moment. And the scene itself, with Ferrus shaking Festus awake and Festus being all "oh yay, more people want to kill us"... I wrote the bones of it back in 2015, when I was trying to finish EtF for NaNoWriMo (lololllll o_O). Anyway, it's been really cool seeing how all these pieces of story that I wrote here and there across many years have all come together.

    [face_whistling]

    I'm so glad this scene came together the way it did. [face_love]

    Lolol, that about sums it up! :p

    [face_mischief] [face_tee_hee]

    They didn't make her a Jedi Master for nothing. ;) :cool:

    Nothing stops her, Gabri :D [face_mischief]

    Myri is amazing, and I love her, too. [face_love]

    Lololol [:D]

    Aw yeah :cool: [face_love]

    Lol yeeup :p

    And maybe a bit of the author's tendency in that direction... [face_whistling] :p

    Aw, thanks, Gabri. [face_blush] Your constant support and unwavering confidence have meant a lot to me throughout the writing of this story, and I so appreciate both it and you. [:D]




    @SiouxFan
    That's certainly the tragedy of Jacen's story in this 'verse. :( And we'll be dealing with the time paradox questions very soon...

    That part was very emotional to write. Thanks for reading!
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2022
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  20. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    ~~

    Well, guys, this is it! After twelve-and-a-half years, we’ve finally reached the last chapter of Enter the Foreign! I'm going to wax nostalgic for a little bit because this is a Big Deal for me, but if you’d like to skip right to the actual update, scroll on down to the next post, and enjoy!


    When I returned to the boards two years ago to post a new chapter for this story (the first one in eight years [face_hypnotized]), I didn’t realize the journey I was in for. I've been more prolific these past two years than I've been in the last two decades, and I’ve explored stories and characters that were completely unexpected but have ended up being so incredibly rewarding. And that’s almost entirely thanks to this epic AU. I had no idea when I started posting it back in 2010 that this story would someday lead to a whole crop of new stories. This fic never really left me, not in all the time I spent away from it, so maybe it's fitting that it should continue to stay with me and inspire new works, even after its conclusion. So even though this particular tale is coming to an end, I can confidently say there will be more stories in the Enter!verse.

    Before we get this show on the road, I’d like to thank all of my readers for following along on this twisty little time travel adventure, and I want to give a special mention to everyone who has replied in this thread at some point. Some of them are no longer posting on the boards, but if any of them are still reading, I hope you know how much your support meant to me in those early days. And of course, I so appreciate all of you who have joined in since I came back to the boards. [face_love] So! Many sincere thanks to:

    Gabri_Jade (my awesome beta! [:D])
    Lady_Tahiri (miss you, LT!)
    RebelMom (sadly, “Mom” passed away in 2010, but I will always be grateful for her friendship and encouragement throughout my early years on the boards @};-)
    EmperorFel
    The_Slilent_One
    lost_lauries_grapes
    Allana_Djo_Solo
    Darth_Cable
    Bri_Windstar
    (chica! [:D])
    baritonejedi
    voxynking
    Jedi_QueenBee
    Falcon
    DARTH-COPAZIE
    pregnantpadme
    Rew
    DarthCambius
    mavjade
    Master_Jaina1011
    Darth_Kiryan
    jacen200015
    Lord-Lelouch
    JediMaster_Jen
    Cowgirl Jedi 1701
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha
    Mira_Jade
    ( [:D] )
    Force Smuggler
    Destiny975
    SiouxFan



    I am planning to include a comprehensive guide (with links) to all of the related spin-offs/sequels/prequels in a separate post following the conclusion of this story, and I’ll do my best to keep that updated as I work on new stories! So be on the lookout for that soon! [face_batting]


    Thank you for joining me on this wild ride, guys. It’s been awesome. [:D]


    ~~
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2022
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  21. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run & FoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    ~~

    Chapter Twenty-Five


    Here in the void, he floats.

    It’s a strange sensation, strung up by nothing, caught somewhere between dreams and reality, death and life, cradled by a darkness that waits not to strike, but to envelope and protect. A cocoon for the soul, and he wonders what he’ll be when he emerges.

    “He’s so young.”

    The voice is soft, a tender sound echoing in ears that have gone too long without hearing, and it seems to drift into the void from some distant, ancient place.

    “Yes,” another voice – this one slightly deeper – replies.

    “I almost don’t want to wake him,” the first voice says.

    “But we must. His destiny is not yet fulfilled.”

    His eyes open, and they are filled with pure white light, blinding in its intensity. He lifts a hand to shield his eyes as he searches for the source of the overwhelming radiance before him. There are two individuals floating with him in the void, hovering just beyond his reach. They are the source of the light, and as he takes in their beautiful faces, he’s filled with so much joy that it hurts.

    “It’s you,” he whispers.

    They smile at each other before gazing down at him.

    “Hello, Father,” Leia says.

    Luke’s eyes are warmth itself. “It’s good to see you again.”

    A kernel of doubt remains, despite the delirious happiness of this moment. “But how? I mean, I’m dead, aren’t I?”

    “It’s a bit complicated,” Luke says. “You see, you already died once in our universe.”

    “And it seems our netherworld can’t accept more than one Anakin Skywalker,” Leia finishes.

    Anakin shakes his head, turning to glance around the endless expanse. “Your universe? I don’t understand. Where am I?”

    Luke looks around at the void. “A gap between our universe and yours – a plane beyond the physical, where the Force joins all together.”

    Sorrow grips him as he recalls the searing blade that passed through his body, and Jacen’s. “This is the place, isn’t it? The place he wanted to reach?”

    His own sorrow pales next to what he senses from his children. “Yes,” Leia whispers. She breathes in deep – he wonders if she’s actually breathing, or if it’s simply the memory of that reflex – and shakes her head. “But I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work the way he expected.”

    He wishes he could feel relief at that revelation, that there was never any chance of Jacen’s plan succeeding, that his choice to stand against his own grandchild was the right one. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save him.”

    His daughter smiles at him, a sad smile, but one that holds more than a little hope as well. “You still can,” she says.

    His pulse quickens at her words. “How? How can I do that now?”

    The twins share a knowing look, and his son answers. “You’re being sent home, to your world.”

    He lifts his hands without thinking, absently running his fingers over his abdomen, right where the lightsabers had burned through him. “Then I’m not dead?”

    Luke shakes his head, and Anakin wonders if he’s imagining the faint spark of mischief in his eyes. “No, you’re not dead. Not yet.”

    “And you’re sending me back?”

    “Not us,” Luke says. “This is the will of the Force. For you to return to your world, to your time, and bring balance.”

    It’s… it’s more than he’d had any right to hope for, and he sinks to his knees before them. He finds he can’t even look at them. So pure… so good. He bows his head and covers his eyes, unworthy to be in their presence. “I’m so sorry, for everything. I don’t deserve this. Seeing you… it’s what I wanted, but I don’t deserve it.”

    He feels someone removing his hands from his face and sees Luke kneeling before him. “You’ve got a second chance, Father. Things don’t have to be the way they were in our world. You can still choose.”

    Leia joins Luke, resting a hand on Anakin’s shoulder. “You have all the strength you need to defeat him. Just remember who you’re fighting for.” Her fingers brush against his face. “And let go of your shame.”

    He closes his eyes and basks in the warmth of their presence, the softness of their touch, his face damp with tears. The air grows heavy around them, as if bending under a great burden. His children stand.

    Luke’s voice is gentle but firm. “It’s time, Father.” The void begins to fill with sounds and images and sensations, past and future colliding, all spun together in a tangled, confusing web. For a second he wants to shut it all out, but then Leia reaches out to him.

    “Take my hand.”

    He gazes up at Leia, and at Luke, before allowing his eyes to rest on the hand offered to him.

    Destiny is simply a matter of choosing. It always has been.

    He reaches for his daughter, and she pulls him up through the void, rushing toward the chaos, toward the crossroads.

    Toward his destiny.


    ~~


    Anakin awoke with a start, his cheek pressed against a cool and unyielding surface. The boundless white of the void had been replaced with smooth walls and curved archways, all in rich, soothing earth tones, and all of it suffused with a warm, lambent glow. He tilted his head back, taking in the sight of the corridor before him and the open doorway behind him. This was no Sith throne room. He was lying outside the council chamber in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.

    Home.

    He was home.

    Anakin began to lift himself up, startled to discover that his artificial arm was intact, as if nothing had happened to it. He flexed that hand in front of his face, staring at the familiar leather glove that covered it. Next, he noticed his sleeves – they belonged to the same dark brown tunic he’d always favored, loose and practical and comfortable. From there, his gaze wandered down to his abdomen, and he took in a sharp breath as the memory of his wounds seared through his gut for an instant, a phantom of the blades that had pierced him. But had any of it truly happened, or were those memories simply products of an agitated psyche, things his own mind had conjured up in a dream?

    As he rose slowly to his feet, Anakin sensed something at the edge of his awareness, a disturbance in the Force that was growing more urgent and insistent by the second. He turned back toward the open doorway, his gaze caught by the last rays of sunlight setting through the windows of the council chamber. By instinct more so than choice, he found his eyes drawn toward the Senate building, to the place where he knew the Chancellor’s office to be. He found his lightsaber – his own, this time – at his hip, relief and a sobering sense of purpose washing over him as his fingers brushed against the hilt.

    Maybe it didn’t matter if his time in that world was real. What he had learned there was.

    And so Anakin turned away from the council chamber and the setting sun and the foolish choice he had made once upon a time, and he ran to the closest hangar, because it was up to him to save the future.


    ~~


    The window shattered, shards of transparisteel whipping about in a frenzy as the wind howled and tore at the ledge; and for one moment, Darth Sidious thought to imagine it as the very howling of the Force itself, an echo of the triumph he concealed even as his lightsaber flew from his grasp and he stumbled backward to escape the lethal edge of Mace Windu’s amethyst blade. The Jedi Master was a fierce opponent, and far cannier than most of his brethren, and Sidious felt a thrill race through him at the apparent danger he found himself in.

    There had been an instant – not even half a second – during the battle when the Force had seemed to surge against him, bucking at the web of control he’d weaved around this world and its people, tugging at the snares he’d set across the galaxy; and in that single instant, he had felt strangely and inexplicably vulnerable, as though he were caught in the midst of a bright and unending void. A world without shadow.

    That instant ended before it had barely begun, and he had relished in the power that rose to meet him, that buoyed him in the face of the storm that was Mace Windu. The Jedi Master was strong, yes, but Sidious was stronger still. The darkness wasn’t simply a side to be chosen – it was everything. It was the heat of matter colliding in an endless cycle of creation and destruction, it was stars burning into existence, incredible and dreadful and doomed, and it was the cold dark of space, the still and eternal night that bound the universe together. The Force that the Jedi knew and followed was hardly more than a shade, and for their arrogance in believing it to be more than that, Sidious would gladly destroy them all.

    How he had longed for this day, this great and glorious day. How he had yearned to face the Jedi in combat just once, in a magnificent battle that would cement his rule and unify the galaxy under the might of the Sith. He had been patient and careful and unwaveringly dedicated to the tenets of his ancient order. This day would finally see his patience rewarded. This day would see the end of the Jedi.

    Master Windu leveled his blade at Sidious. “The oppression of the Sith will never return. You have lost, my lord.”

    A presence flickered across Sidious’s awareness as he braced himself against the open ledge: a supernova that flashed and burned in the Force too brightly to be contained, and he knew that young Anakin Skywalker would be here soon, perhaps within minutes. That would be a victory every bit as sweet as the death of the Jedi themselves – the final and irreversible corruption of their chosen savior.

    “No,” he replied with a smile, making no attempt to contain his dark glee. “No, no – you have lost!”

    He unleashed a torrent of lightning from his fingertips, exulting in the pain as it deflected off the Jedi’s lightsaber and arced back at him, tearing away the mask of Palpatine that he had long presented to the galaxy. The lightning he commanded was fueled by a bottomless well of hatred and loathing, more powerful than Mace Windu’s feeble attempts to repel him, and he called upon every drop of that power. His attack began to overwhelm the Jedi Master’s weapon, crackling along its length and hissing as it crawled up the man’s arms. He could see the Jedi weakening with each passing second, unable to absorb or deflect so much energy and bending dangerously under the pressure.

    Mace Windu went down on one knee, defiant even while lightning licked at his body and his face, and Darth Sidious smiled again and ceased his attack, because the time had finally come, and he still had one last role to play.


    ~~


    Anakin burst into the Chancellor’s office and found Palpatine and Master Windu at the edge of the shattered window. The Chancellor was on the ground, smoke rising from his body as he clung to the ledge, one hand outstretched toward his opponent to ward him off. “Please,” Palpatine begged. “Please, don’t kill me.”

    Master Windu struggled to his feet, and Anakin noticed wisps of smoke coming off his clothes as well. The Jedi Master angled his lightsaber toward Palpatine and eyed the Sith Lord warily. He turned his head as Anakin approached, and the look of surprise on his face was followed quickly by relief. “Skywalker. Help me—”

    But Palpatine shook his head and looked up at Anakin with desperate eyes. “The Jedi have taken over, Anakin. Didn’t I tell you it would come to this? Help me, my boy. Save me.”

    Anakin stared down at the Chancellor, at the Sith Lord who had deceived him and the entire galaxy, at the man who would see himself as Emperor over all, with his chosen puppet by his side. A familiar rage kindled in his heart, but he could see it now for what it was: an emotion like any other, one that he didn’t need to fear, just as he didn’t need to fear the darkness inside him, so long as he kept his gaze fixed on the light.

    “Never,” he said, igniting his saber and stepping to Master Windu’s side. It was with deep satisfaction that he watched pure shock register on Palpatine’s face. “You can take your dark side and go to hell, because I won’t join you, and I won’t save you either.”

    Palpatine’s eyes went wide, and his visage darkened, caught somewhere between disbelief and unadulterated rage. “Young fool,” he growled. “Only I have the power to save your wife. If you kill me, she will die.”

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

    Yes, he replied to that insidious whisper, recognizing it, too, for what it was – a truth and a lie he had told himself over and over again, so wrapped up in all the things that he might lose that he’d never considered everything he had to gain. He thought of Ben and Allana, and Davin and Dolan, and all the people he’d fought alongside in that distant future. And he thought of Padmé and Obi-Wan, and Luke and Leia.

    All things die. Everyone I love will die one day.

    But they won’t die because of me.

    Anakin gripped his lightsaber in both hands and took a step forward. “You’re right,” he said with a grim nod. “She will, someday. But you won’t be there to see it.”

    Palpatine’s hands flew up, and Anakin snapped his blade up to deflect the wild rush of lightning that poured from them. Master Windu’s lightsaber flashed as he brought his weapon to bear, taking as much of the attack as he could. Anakin gritted his teeth against the onslaught and moved forward; with each step he took, the lightning intensified, snaking around his lightsaber and traveling through his body.

    Finally, he stood over Palpatine, and the Dark Lord of the Sith stared up at him with fear and fire in his eyes. As Anakin centered the cerulean blade of his saber over the would-be Emperor’s heart, Palpatine made one last effort to sway him.

    “I will make you the most powerful being who has ever lived! You can still save her. No life will be beyond your control!”

    Anakin breathed in deep, ignoring the continued burn of the lightning, and he couldn’t help the wry grin that tugged at his mouth. “Goodbye, Your Highness.”

    He drove his lightsaber through Palpatine’s chest, and the Sith Lord screamed with rage before perishing in an explosion of dark energy. That energy pulsed violently outward, throwing Anakin out the window, and even as he reached for something to grab hold of, he wondered if this would be his end.

    If it was, he decided it was worth it.

    A hand closed around his wrist, and the sudden change in momentum slammed him against the side of the building. He looked up into Mace Windu’s dark eyes – eyes that were full of an emotion he’d never seen the Jedi Master direct at him: gratitude.

    “You did it,” Master Windu said as the night air whipped around them both. “You defeated the Sith.”

    Anakin winced. “No disrespect, Master, but can you pull me up first?”

    Master Windu heaved him up onto the window sill, and the two of them lay there for a time, unable to move, gulping in as much air as they could. Anakin closed his eyes and reached out through the Force to find the two people he loved most in this world. Padmé’s presence was anxious but strong. He could feel the faintest hint of consciousness in her womb, and he nearly wept knowing his children were alive and that he would get the chance to meet them.

    Once he had soaked in that reality, he stretched out further, homing in on the part of him that was in Obi-Wan even when they were light years apart. His former master was indeed far away, finishing his mission on Utapau most likely. He wanted to tell him everything that had happened, even if some of it wasn’t real, even if it was only a dream. Maybe, when he returned…

    His head throbbed, and his vision started to go white.

    The last thing he heard was Master Windu calling his name.


    ~~


    “Anakin…”

    He heard the voice through a fog of pain and fatigue, calling to him in soft tones he would have recognized anywhere. He tried to mumble a response, but he wasn’t sure if it made it past his lips.

    “Anakin!”

    He cracked one eye open as a pair of warm hands touched his face. “Padmé?”

    She smiled wide, and in her eyes he saw such unguarded love that it left him speechless. Her arms were wrapped around him, supporting him, her pregnant belly pressed against his side. He wondered for a moment if this was a dream, too.

    He didn’t realize he’d closed his eyes again until he felt Padmé’s lips against his, trying to rouse him. He responded to her kiss with more than enough energy to reassure her he was alive. Her fingers tangled in his hair, and when he looked up at her, he saw that her eyes held the beginning traces of tears.

    “You’re okay,” she whispered, laughing a little as she ran one hand along the side of his face.

    Anakin smiled up at her and raised a weak hand to mimic her gesture. “I am now.”

    He noticed movement behind her, and she turned to follow his gaze. “Master Windu commed me and told me what happened,” she said. “I came as fast as I could.”

    Anakin stared at Mace in disbelief. “How did you know?”

    The Jedi Master fixed him with the sort of long-suffering look that he usually reserved for unruly Padawans; it was a look that Anakin was well-acquainted with. “I may not have known you were married, Skywalker, but I’ve known for years how fond you are of Senator Amidala.” Master Windu glanced away from them and raised both eyebrows. “I just didn’t realize it was that kind of fondness.”

    Padmé straightened up and shifted her body toward his in a protective stance. “You’re not going to expel him from the Order, are you? Not after what he’s done?”

    For a few seconds, Master Windu looked like nothing so much as an exhausted old man. “Let’s not worry about that right now.”

    Before he could say more, a whole swarm of people entered the office, including two Jedi Anakin recognized as healers. Behind them he saw HoloNet reporters, Senate guards, and Force knew who else. He smiled weakly at Padmé. “I guess our secret’s out now.”

    He was glad, though. No more secrets. No more lies. No more places the darkness could hide and fester inside him. A burden lifted off him in that moment, and as he looked up at his wife, he realized he had finally found some small measure of peace. He could accept whatever decision the Council made because it wouldn’t change who he was inside.

    He was a Jedi Knight, and he would be one until he drew his last breath.


    ~~


    The weeks after Chancellor Palpatine’s death were tumultuous and difficult for the Republic and the Jedi Order. It wasn’t every day that the leader of the galaxy was assassinated by his own trusted ally. Testimony had to be given, evidence gathered. A war was still being fought, although that conflict was thankfully coming to a close. For a time, it seemed public opinion might turn against all the Jedi, especially the Hero With No Fear who had admitted to killing the Chancellor. The poster boy for the war effort became a mysterious, reviled creature. Wasn’t he one of Palpatine’s favorites? Why had he done it?

    In the Senate, Mon Mothma of Chandrila was elected Interim Chancellor. Padmé Amidala – revealed to be the secret wife of the traitor Anakin Skywalker – took a leave of absence while her husband prepared to stand trial. Investigations were launched against the Jedi Order, even while their generals continued to serve on the front lines of the war.

    The turning point came when the Senate’s investigators stumbled upon a directive called “Order Sixty-Six”. Details were still forthcoming, but it seemed to be a secret fail-safe that called for the deaths of not just the Jedi generals, but the entire order itself, down to the last babe. And even though the citizens of the Republic were hesitant to trust the Jedi again, they were shocked and appalled that their beloved Chancellor could devise something so heinous. Perhaps there was some truth to the Jedi’s claim that Palpatine had orchestrated the entire war.

    A few days before he was to go on trial, Anakin Skywalker was released and all charges against him dropped. The Jedi Order requested he take a sabbatical; it just so happened to coincide with his wife’s last month of pregnancy. It would be a while before he found out the truth of his release – that through the tireless efforts of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Senator Bail Organa, evidence proving Palpatine was the Sith Lord Darth Sidious was brought to light – and in that time, the great Jedi hero and the beloved galactic senator welcomed their twin children into the world.

    And so it was that four months after his journey to the future, Anakin sat on the balcony of Padmé’s lake house on Naboo, leaning back to accommodate the babies sleeping on his chest. It still amazed him that they could be so tiny and yet so perfectly formed. Their heads were turned to face each other, and he noticed that they even breathed in unison. He bent his head forward to place a kiss on each of their smooth foreheads. Luke and Leia. His son and his daughter.

    “I thought I might find you here.”

    Anakin looked over his shoulder, slowly, so as not to disturb the babies, and smiled at Padmé. “I couldn’t resist.”

    Padmé walked over and put her hands on Anakin’s shoulders. “I don’t blame you. I never want to put them down.”

    Anakin focused on their warmth, on the way they instinctively burrowed into him whenever he held them. He still found it hard to fathom that these were his children, that they were bound to him in a way that no one else in the entire galaxy was. That one day they would be grown up and start families of their own, and there would be grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He wondered how many he would live to see. He wondered if any of them would be Allana or Davin or Dolan.

    He wondered if any of them would be Ben, or Jacen.

    “You’re thinking about the future again.” It wasn’t a question. Padmé squeezed his shoulders and bent down to kiss just below his ear.

    Anakin sighed. “When I think about everything that’s coming… it can be overwhelming.”

    “Then don’t focus on all of that. We have the rest of our lives to fight those battles, but we only have a few precious years with our babies.”

    She was right, of course. He kissed Luke and Leia again, before being distracted by a familiar presence. He glanced back at the interior of the villa. “Obi-Wan is here.”

    Padmé nodded. “He commed a few minutes ago; I was coming to tell you.”

    He must have been too awed by the twins to notice his friend’s presence before now. He offered Luke to Padmé and stood up with Leia as they headed for the dwelling’s entrance.

    Obi-Wan grinned when he saw the twins. “They’ve gotten bigger.”

    Anakin cocked one eyebrow and tried not to laugh. “They tend to do that.”

    Luke stirred in Padmé’s arms, and Obi-Wan reached out to touch his cheek, a tender expression on his face. “I didn’t mean to interrupt their naptime—”

    Anakin cut him off with a wave of his free hand. “Obi-Wan, you know you’re always welcome here.”

    “Yes,” the older man replied. “Thank you. But I do come with news, this time.”

    “Good or bad?”

    “I suppose that depends on your point of view.” There was a hint of a smile on his face, but Anakin also sensed uncertainty. “The Council has decided you may end your sabbatical and return to the Order whenever you are ready.”

    “Isn’t that good news? Why do you look worried?”

    Obi-Wan hesitated. “In all honesty, I wasn’t sure you’d want to return.”

    Anakin exchanged a glance with Padmé. “Last time we talked you said the Order would be making some changes.”

    Obi-Wan nodded. “In light of recent events with the Chancellor, the Council has decided to look inward for ways to improve the Order and our connection to the Force. We would like you to help us do that.”

    Me?” Anakin certainly hadn’t been expecting that. “Why?”

    A mischievous grin quirked Obi-Wan’s lips. “You are the Chosen One, are you not? Destined to bring balance to the Force? Perhaps destroying the Sith was only part of that destiny.”

    Anakin eyed his friend with amused suspicion. “This was your idea, wasn’t it?”

    “I may have suggested it.” Obi-Wan’s expression turned from innocent to serious. “Anakin, we want you to return as a member of the Council. A true member this time, to help us adapt the Jedi Order to a changing galaxy.”

    “Obi-Wan, you know I don’t blame them for anything that’s happened. Not when I… what I almost did…” Anakin shook his head and sighed. “None of them could do worse than what I might have done. But I’m not sure I’d be a good fit. In fact, I know I wouldn’t.”

    Obi-Wan gripped his shoulder, and the look of pride in his eyes was unexpected. “Anakin, any one of us can fall. All our teachings about resisting the dark side would be meaningless if there was no possibility of our falling. You chose to serve the Force and fought a great evil. You are more than equal to any member of the Jedi Council, and they all know that.”

    Anakin glanced down at his daughter, still asleep in his arms. “I won’t be separated from my family,” he said, a firm set to his jaw as he looked up at Obi-Wan.

    “I don’t think that will be a problem,” his friend replied.

    “You’re serious?”

    Obi-Wan nodded. “I believe we are entering a new era for the Jedi. By the time your children are Knights, there may be many families in the Order. And I truly believe that to be a good thing.”

    Anakin looked over at Padmé, then at Luke cradled against her shoulder, slumbering peacefully. “I’ll have to think about it.”

    “Of course.”

    Padmé rubbed Luke’s back gently and swayed in place. “There’s caf in the kitchen, Obi-Wan – or tea, if you’d like me to get you some?”

    “Tea sounds lovely, Padmé, but you mustn’t go to any trouble. I can prepare my own tea—”

    “It’s no trouble—”

    “—and I suspect you two will want to talk in private.” Obi-Wan’s gaze turned to Anakin, then to Leia lying nestled in his arms. He reached out to stroke her tiny forehead, and when he pulled away, he rested his hand on Anakin’s arm for just a moment. Nothing more was said, but his former master’s small smile and the unguarded warmth Anakin sensed from him were more than enough to convey his meaning.

    Anakin watched his friend disappear into the house, and he considered his offer. A chance to shape the future for not only his family, but generations of Jedi to come? A chance to prepare the Order and the Republic and the people of the galaxy for what was coming? How could he refuse?

    “You want to go, don’t you?”

    Anakin wrapped an arm around Padmé’s shoulders and drew her close, noticing the way Luke and Leia shifted toward each other. “Not if I can’t take you with me,” he murmured.

    Padmé’s gaze lingered on the twins for a moment before she lifted her chin to look at him. “We’ll always be with you,” she said, as if there were no question of it being otherwise. “And I think we both know where we belong.”

    “Maybe. But for now, I’m going to follow your advice and live in this moment.”

    Leia squirmed and opened her eyes, looking up at him. He stroked her cheek, and she fell back to sleep almost instantly. Next to him, still leaning against Padmé’s shoulder, Luke yawned and stretched an arm out. Anakin reached out with one finger and touched his son’s closed fist, and Luke instinctively wrapped his tiny fingers around it.

    “Come on,” Padmé said softly. “Why don’t we join Obi-Wan for some tea? You know he’s probably already prepared some for us.”

    Anakin grinned a little at that, and he followed Padmé to the kitchen, leaving the cares and worries of the future for another day.


    ~~

    Forty-Six Years Later


    A delighted squeal issued through the lake house, and the copper-haired baby that had uttered it wobbled a bit as he happily banged his fists against his legs. He’d been listening to his grandfather tell him a story, and they’d just reached his favorite part.

    “—and Ben reached out to his enemy and told him it wasn’t too late to turn back, that he could still do what was right. And as the Dark Lord of the Sith looked up at Ben, a deep sorrow filled him, and regret for all that he had done, and the fire left his eyes – and he finally took the hand that was offered to him.”

    The baby on the floor wobbled forward again, and his grandfather caught him and tickled him under his chin, eliciting another happy gurgle.

    “And that’s how you got your name,” Anakin told the baby. He glanced up at his grandson’s mother and grinned. “Ben was your mom’s favorite character when she was a Padawan.”

    Mara Jade Skywalker kneeled down next to Ben and brought her face close to his. “He still is my favorite character,” she said as she nuzzled his nose. Ben giggled and offered her a shy, sweet smile.

    Anakin watched the exchange, a knot forming in his chest as he remembered the true story of Ben’s namesake. He’d never told anyone but Padmé and Obi-Wan about that strange journey, but he carried the memory of it with him wherever he went. Over the years he had faced many trials and temptations; through them all he had trusted the Force and found strength in the love of his family. Not just his family here, but the ones he’d left behind in that distant galaxy.

    “You should tell him the one about the Kessel Run,” a voice called out from across the room. Anakin looked up to see his son-in-law shooting him a lopsided smirk. “Now that’s a great story.”

    Anakin shook his head, laughing under his breath. The one time he’d let Han Solo beat him in that death trap of a starship of his, and he was never, ever going to live it down. “Maybe I should tell him the gundark story,” Anakin replied with a grin. “He likes that one, too.”

    Han draped an arm across the back of the sofa and scooted closer to Leia, exchanging an amused glance with her before turning his attention to Mara. “I can’t believe you let him tell that story in front of the baby.”

    Mara shrugged. “You’re assuming Ben hasn’t already heard it from me,” she said with a small grin as she gathered her son in her arms. She planted a kiss on his chubby cheek before setting him back down. “Silly Uncle Han.”

    Anakin rose from the floor and hooked his thumbs in his belt. “The twins have been listening to the gundark story since they were Ben’s age, and they turned out fine.”

    “Of course they turned out fine.” Han jerked his thumb at his chest, smiling wide. “They’re my kids.”

    Anakin met his daughter’s eyes across the room; she rolled them affectionately, then leaned over to kiss her husband on the cheek. “You two are being ridiculous again,” Leia said, unfazed as always by their friendly rivalry. As she and Han turned to talk more privately with one another, Anakin surveyed the rest of the room.

    The lakeside villa on Naboo remained one of the few unspoiled refuges for their family, and for the first time in many, many months, they were all gathered here – Luke and Mara and their children, Leia and Han and theirs. They’d even managed to get Owen and Beru and Tahiri and most of Sola’s family here for a few days; the extended Naberrie clan had returned home for the night, but Anakin’s stepbrother and sister-in-law were sitting with Padmé across the room, sipping at their drinks as they watched the older grandchildren play an unusually noisy game of dejarik. And as long as there wasn’t any trouble along the hyperspace lanes from Alderaan, they were expecting Bail and Breha in the morning.

    Anakin sighed and tried not to think too much about the risks involved with such travel, the dangers that had become almost routine by now. The war against the Yuuzhan Vong had raged for over two long years, and though they’d been prepared for the invaders, the conflict was still more brutal and devastating than he could have imagined. The Republic was finally coming close to winning the war, but Anakin feared what that victory might cost.

    A chime sounded, and See-Threepio walked into the room, his arms raised halfway to his chest in a way that always made him appear rather alarmed. “Miss Jaina,” the golden protocol droid announced, “there is a comm for you, from a Colonel Jagged Fel of—”

    “You hear that, Jaina?” Little Anakin – not so little anymore, not by a long shot – grinned as he looked up from the dejarik board. “Colonel Fel is calling you.”

    “Thanks, Threepio!” Jaina all but shouted, tossing a glare at her brother in the process. “I’ll take it in my room.”

    Anakin watched his granddaughter hurry away, smiling to himself as he did. Then he sensed movement behind him, and he looked over his shoulder for the source.

    Luke was standing alone in the doorway to the veranda, his eyes following Ben’s every movement. He was trying hard not to project his feelings, but Anakin could tell he was troubled. The older Jedi joined his son at the door.

    “You’re worried about something.”

    Luke looked up at Anakin and frowned. “Am I that transparent?”

    Anakin shook his head. “I may not be Leia or Mara, but I can still read you fairly well, son.”

    A half-hearted laugh. “And here I thought after all these years I was finally getting good at masking my emotions.” Luke crossed his arms and looked away, his eyes once again on Ben. “Something’s come up.”

    “Bad?”

    The muscles in Luke’s jaw visibly tightened, but he shook his head. “We have a chance to take out the facility where they’re cloning the voxyn, maybe even eradicate the source. I was asked to lead the strike team.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “We leave tomorrow.”

    Anakin’s breath caught in his throat. He might as well have been twenty-three again, sitting in that abandoned hut on Tatooine as Ben described the mission that had killed one cousin and irrevocably changed the other two. How long had he been waiting for this singular moment?

    Anakin listened as Luke provided what details he could about the mission. Eventually Ben caught sight of his father and let out a happy, high-pitched greeting, and Luke’s sense in the Force lightened considerably as he strode forward to sweep his son into his arms. Anakin watched the two of them playing together, a heavy weight gripping his heart.

    “I see he’s told you.”

    Anakin kept his eyes forward as Obi-Wan joined him in the doorway. “You knew?”

    “I spoke with him before he came in here.” Obi-Wan paused for a moment and let out a small sigh. “You know, I never once doubted you when you told me about the future and everything that happened in that other world, but I did hope it would turn out you were wrong.”

    Anakin crossed his arms over his chest. “So did I.”

    They watched the younger generations for several long seconds before Obi-Wan broke the silence again. “I take it you’ll be going in Luke’s place?”

    Anakin nodded slowly. “I knew this day would come. I just didn’t realize the choice would be so easy.”

    “When your children are at stake, the choices do seem to become clearer, yes.” A fond smile crossed Obi-Wan’s face, as if he were remembering an old, well-worn joke. “I’m going with you, of course.”

    No.” Anakin rounded on him, fighting to keep his voice down. “Absolutely not. You’re too old for this sort of mission.”

    “Anakin—”

    “It’ll be dangerous.”

    “Anakin, I know dangerous situations are your speciality, but believe it or not, I could use a little adventure. And do I need to remind you again how old Dooku was when he wiped the floor with you?”

    “That was different—”

    “It’s only different because you want it to be different.” Obi-Wan placed a hand on Anakin’s shoulder and smiled impishly. “Face it, my old apprentice. You’re stuck with me.”

    Anakin blew out an exasperated breath. “I should have known better by now.” He gave his friend a pointed look. “I’m not kidding about the danger, though. Ben told me what he knew about Myrkr, and it was beyond anything I could comprehend at the time, but now that I’ve fought the Yuuzhan Vong firsthand…” He trailed off, unable to finish.

    “You don’t have to say it, Anakin. I know. But in a way I’m glad. How many people get to go on their last mission knowing that it’s their last? And to go with their best friend, no less.”

    The muscles in Anakin’s face twitched into something resembling a smile. “We’ve had a good run, haven’t we?”

    Obi-Wan’s eyes twinkled. “The best, I’d say.”

    From across the room – almost as if she’d sensed the direction of their conversation – Padmé looked up and met Anakin’s gaze, and she took a long, deep breath. After nearly five decades together, she could read him as well as Obi-Wan could, maybe even better at times. He tried to give her a reassuring smile.

    “Everything okay, Gramps?”

    Anakin looked away from Padmé and turned his attention to his oldest grandson. The eyes that looked back at him were so different from the ones he had seen a lifetime ago. Those eyes had been mercurial and bitter, twisted by pain and grief and darkness. It hurt to remember those eyes and the way they had stared off into space before closing forever. But unlike the sad, broken person Anakin had known, the young man in front of him radiated compassion and warmth, and he took the pain of others so very seriously. He still struggled at times with his place in their family, and in the war, and with who he thought he ought to be – but he’d never once given Anakin any reason to doubt that he would grow into a good and wise man, Jedi or not.

    Maybe his Jacen would never face the trials and tragedies that had shaped his counterpart. Maybe the ripple effects of this mission to Myrkr would never be as widespread as they had been in Ben’s world. Maybe none of it mattered in the grand cosmic scheme of things, or maybe it mattered more than anyone could guess. Right here, right now, all Anakin truly knew was that he loved his family, and if he could spare even one of them from being lost, he would gladly give his life.

    He slung one arm over his grandson’s shoulders and hugged him tight. “More than okay, Jacen,” he answered. “I love you. Always remember that.”

    He ruffled the boy’s hair so as not to worry him, even though they’d long passed the point where Jacen was fooled by such things. “I know, Gramps,” his grandson replied in a soft voice. “I love you, too.” Jacen’s brow furrowed. “But you’re sure you’re okay?”

    Anakin nodded. “Absolutely.”

    Jacen studied him for a moment, a small, sober smile on his lips; then he nodded and turned away, walking over to where Luke and Mara were playing with Ben. The baby laughed as soon as he saw his cousin, and Jacen reached down to scoop Ben up into his arms. That, perhaps more than any other interaction Anakin had witnessed tonight, touched something deep inside him, a part of him that few had ever seen. A piece of himself that was left behind in another universe where he’d died in his grandson’s arms.

    As Anakin ruminated over the peculiarities of fate, he sensed his oldest friend join him once again.

    “Do you think we’ve really changed things?” he said quietly to Obi-Wan, asking the question that had started a thousand similar conversations over the years. “I know so many things are different now, but sometimes it still seems like we’ve hardly deviated from the path Ben described to me.”

    As always, Obi-Wan reached out to grasp his shoulder, and smiled. “Anakin. The fact that you’re here now changes everything.”

    Anakin took a long breath, and he let his gaze travel around the room, pausing on each member of his family. Stars, there were so many of them now. He couldn’t have imagined it would be this way one day. He couldn’t have imagined the impact one decision would have on the course of his life or the fate of the galaxy.

    Over the years, Anakin had caught glimpses of the different paths he might travel down. Many of those potential paths were shrouded in the Force, twisting and turning in ways that he already knew might end in heartbreak and despair. But there were others – many, many others – that shone brightly, hinting at futures filled with peace and hope and love. He never saw himself in those futures, but he recognized the beacons of light that were his children, and his grandchildren, and so many others, standing firm against the darkness. That was the true legacy of the Chosen One, he’d come to realize. A legacy of balance that would endure long after he was gone, because it had never really belonged to him to begin with. It had always been so much bigger than that.

    “Ani!”

    He turned toward the sound of his wife’s voice and found her smiling at him. Even after sixty years and all the incredible things he’d witnessed throughout the galaxy, Padmé’s smile was still one of the most beautiful sights he’d ever seen. “Come inside,” she called out, motioning for him to join her.

    Anakin heaved a deep, contented sigh as he gazed at her, surrounded by the family they had made, and he silently thanked the Force for the second chance it had given him, such a long time ago. He might not have very many moments left to live, but he was going to live in this one for as long as he possibly could.


    ~~

    Epilogue


    Another universe. Another time.

    Beneath a new set of stars, the inhabitants of the Jedi enclave on Zonama Sekot emerged from their dwellings and came together in celebration. The Dark Lord and Master of the Sith was dead and his forces scattered. In time, the Empire would crumble. There were still battles to be fought and systems to liberate, but tonight was for celebrating. The lower branches of the boras were alive with bioluminescent insects, adding their light to the otherworldly glow of the towering globe-stalks that ringed the amphitheater – the site of the evening’s festivities. Members of the closest neighboring Ferroan and Yuuzhan Vong villages arrived with food and drink and even, to the delight of the children, a few musical instruments. Before long, the Yuuzhan Vong musicians had struck up a tune that got everyone else dancing.

    It was to this joyous scene that Ben Skywalker and Tahiri Veila and all their companions returned, battered and bruised, but victorious nonetheless. One-by-one the revelers noticed their arrival and came to draw them into the festivities. Carin and Savl Horn reached them first, and Ben smiled a little as Valin dropped to his knees and gathered both of his children in his arms. Syal kneeled down next to him, fielding Carin’s excited questions and ruffling Savl’s hair, and Valin leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.

    About time, Ben thought as he watched them for a few more seconds. Myri echoed his sentiments out loud as she swept past them all, dragging Ulin along behind her, clearly on a mission. A reminder from Tahiri to take it easy on their slicer friend was met with a wink and a casual wave from Myri and a slightly sheepish grin from Ulin, and Ben didn’t miss the way Tahiri smiled wider in response.

    A whooping laugh caught his attention, and he turned to see Kohr spinning Dira Nal into his arms. They continued to laugh as they tried to keep up with the rapid tempo of the music. Behind them, Karanya and Kala Di were beaming as they watched the pair and whispered to each other. Meanwhile, Myri and Ulin had already managed to procure a table and chairs and looked to be setting up for a card game. Myri called out to Elias and Arden, who stood just outside the circle of dancers, holding each other and laughing along with their friends. Elias caught Ben’s eye and waved, and Ben returned the wave, smiling at his friend and at the aura of peace he sensed in him.

    Finally, he found the two people he’d been looking for. Davin and Dolan zigzagged through the crowd and flung themselves into his and Tahiri’s arms. Allana joined in the embrace, and the five of them stood huddled together for the longest time. Then, because they were still eight-year-old boys, the twins broke away and began pulling Tahiri toward the dancers.

    Ben noticed a small, blond-haired boy standing a few meters away, staring at him and Allana. Before he could say anything, Allana went and picked up the little boy and carried him over.

    “Ben,” she said, “I want you to meet my brother, Roan.”

    The boy was silent, but he looked at Ben more out of curiosity than fear. Ben smiled. “Hey, Roan. Welcome to the family.”

    Roan nodded before burying his face in Allana’s shoulder. She kissed the top of his head and rubbed his back. “Let’s go find Davin and Dolan.” She looked up at Ben. “You coming with us?”

    Ben briefly surveyed the party. “You go ahead. I think I’ll just watch for a little while.”

    Allana took Roan with her, leaving Ben alone at the shadowy fringes of the enclave. He observed the celebration for a while, content to see his family and friends so happy and free. He even smiled at the sight of Allana grabbing Ames for a dance. Davin had partnered with Roan in perfect imitation of the adults, and Tahiri was spinning Dolan around in circles, making the usually somber boy laugh out loud.

    Ben was about to head toward the others when he sensed something behind him. He turned his head to glance back, and what he saw left him breathless.

    They were standing there, a trio of luminous figures distinct from the glow of the tempasi – figures that he knew. Aunt Leia and Jaina gazed at him with all the warmth that he remembered, and he felt that warmth like a balm on his soul. The third ghostly figure stood between them, his arms draped over their shoulders as he grinned at Ben. He’d been too young to remember meeting him, but he’d seen enough holos to recognize Anakin Solo anywhere.

    The air around his aunt and cousins shimmered, not unlike the way it often did under the intense glare of Tatooine’s twin suns. Another woman stood there with them, her braided hair framing a fiercely proud and regal face that he wouldn’t soon forget. How could he, when he saw so much of that face every day in her daughter? Tenel Ka held a hand to her heart and bowed her head, and Ben returned the gesture.

    Other forms materialized, less distinct shades that nevertheless pulsed with an energy all their own. He felt a comforting weight on his shoulder, a strong, confident hand that had always known just what direction to aim him, even without the Force. Next, he experienced a profound sense of gratitude, and Davin and Dolan’s faces flashed through his thoughts. He might not have been able to see Uncle Han or Jag as clearly as he saw the others, but he knew they were there.

    Aunt Leia looked over her shoulder, and Ben followed her gaze as two more figures appeared. If his heart could have stopped from shock and happiness, it would have in that moment.

    His mom and dad stood together, their expressions filled with such joy and love… Force, he’d nearly forgotten what it was like to be on the receiving end of their love, and now he wondered how he’d managed so long without it. He wanted so badly to go to them, to run into their arms; knowing that he couldn’t made him ache. There was so much he wanted to say to them, things he hadn’t been able to tell them while they lived. But as he stared into the tempasi and met their silent gaze, those words no longer seemed important. He realized they’d been with him all along.

    A twig snapped behind him, and he spun around to find Allana and Tahiri approaching him slowly with Roan and the twins in tow. At first he thought he was going to be dragged back to the celebration, but then he noticed the awed expressions on their faces. Allana was holding a trembling hand to her mouth, and the three boys couldn’t have opened their eyes any wider if they’d tried. Tahiri looked on the verge of tears.

    “Ben?” she whispered, unable to say more.

    Ben nodded at her and turned back to where the ghosts of their loved ones had appeared. Behind his parents, two more figures took form, both wearing the traditional, nondescript robes of the old Jedi Order. He didn’t recognize the bearded man smiling in approval, although he had a feeling he should have. The tall man next to him, however, he knew instantly.

    Ben gasped as he took in the sight of his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, leaning casually against a tree, arms folded across his chest. His eyes rose to meet Ben’s, and he nodded. They were old eyes, Ben realized. Eyes that had watched the galaxy from behind a mask and seen the true depths to which a person could sink. This was his grandfather, certainly, but he wasn’t the Anakin that Ben had known. His friend.

    The weight of that loss was still heavy on him. He wondered where Anakin was if not here. Maybe he was at peace. Maybe he’d been given a second chance to make things right. Maybe one day there might be a world where Jacen was given the same chance.

    As if in answer to his thoughts, his grandfather smiled, and for a brief moment the tempasi was gone. He saw a villa overlooking a lake and his family alive and well. He saw his mom and dad, younger, sitting on the floor with a baby between them, and realized he was looking at himself. He saw Aunt Leia and Uncle Han, and his cousins Jaina and Anakin, and Tahiri sitting with a couple of girls about her age that he didn’t know, but who nevertheless struck him as strangely familiar. He saw a woman sitting next to Aunt Leia, and though she was much older than she’d been in the hologram Artoo had captured long ago, he knew this was his grandmother, Padmé.

    Finally, he saw Jacen, standing out on the veranda underneath a sea of stars. Next to him, arm around his shoulders, was an old man with a familiar lightsaber hanging from his hip. The old man looked straight up at Ben, blue eyes still as clear as he remembered them.

    Thank you, Anakin whispered across time and space.

    “Thank you,” Ben whispered back as the vision faded. The sounds of the celebration rang loud in his ears, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Elias and Arden waving at them to rejoin the party. They hadn’t seen the ghosts.

    Ben looked back at his parents. They nodded at him, and even without words their meaning was clear. He had spent so many years running and hiding and fighting to survive. It was time for him to live.

    It was time for all of them to live.


    Fin

    ~~
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  22. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    [​IMG]

    IT'S FINISHED!!! :D =D= [face_party] [face_dancing]

    YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION FOR WRITERS EVERYWHERE, VI, AND I BOW TO YOU. I know that I still owe you all of the words, and I will be back with a proper review(s), but I have to say again just how special it is that you came back and completed a story ten years in the making. I'm thrilled to have been here for even just part of the ride. It's been an absolute blast and a privilege to see this universe grow and expand, and I can't wait to see what stories you have to tell next about these characters! [face_love] [:D]
     
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  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    BRAVO A MILLION TIMES! I love alternate parallel twisty universes and ones where Anakin and Padme raise their kids and Obi-Wan and Anakin stay best buds and Mara and Luke get together anyhow... my cup brims with the awesomeness! Thank you!! =D=
     
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  24. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Sooooo, remember way back when, when I wanted to comment on Chapter 24 the same weekend it was posted? Yeah, all those months ago? I didn't quite meet that goal (by a longshot), but I'm here now and ready to go!

    In short, my initial reaction can be summed up by:

    [​IMG]

    As a result, I may have gone on a bit of a quoting spree with this one. But you know what? This chapter was special and this story is special, and it's especially special that this was literally years in the making. Though I know there is one more chapter left to go, you did such a beautiful job tying up so many plotlines in this update. This was peak storytelling at its finest, and I just . . . well, I'm gonna ramble a bit about that now . . .

    This was such an Anakin comment. :p

    I know it's not quite the point here, but it really struck me just how far from home Anakin is in this story. There's such a sense of desolation and otherness with the debris and alien vegetation. He's so far away from everything he's ever known and he's dying and it just feels so empty and lonely. This is a possibility he's faced countless times during the war, but it's here now in such a huge way, and it's awful.

    Gorgeous; absolutely gorgeous! =D= (I'm gonna overuse all my adjectives for good and beautiful in this review, just you wait. :p) The wasn't it a good thing he wasn't really dead after all? really got me, in particular. [face_love]

    The beauty and the pain of this! =(( [face_love]

    THIS, THIS, THIIIIS!!! This introspection was spot-on for Anakin - reflecting on the hopeless monotony of war and longing for peace, yet what is a soldier without a war to fight in? Who is the Chosen One without that expectation of fulfilling some great destiny, in the end? [face_thinking]

    I love how often you reflect on the concept of choice in this 'verse. Because, when it comes down to it, life is as much comprised of circumstances as choices, but when we can choose . . .

    Stunning prose. Light reflecting off metal, the glint of sunset on a departing starship. *chef's kiss*

    Then, of course, Obi-Wan is as close to his thoughts as Padmé is, in his own way. [face_love]

    TOP TIER GORGEOUS IMAGERY. [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized]

    Shhhh, I know that I'm quoting everything, but there's just so much that I need to quote! I can't tell you how vividly Anakin's introspection struck me here. Your parallels with the OT have been masterfully crafted throughout this story, but here I could see the lightning reflecting in Vader's mask when you just knew his thoughts were swirling.

    Also: whew, but what a way to capture then horror of Force lightning in words! There's a reason it's a tool of the dark side. :(

    Obi-Wan!!!

    I couldn't even fling my phone down to pace! My eyes were glued to the screen and I swear I didn't even breathe.

    I'm running out of things to say but for BRILLIANT. This was so powerfully reminiscent of RotJ and you're killing me with the star imagery, again! [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized]

    THIS, EXACTLY THIS!!!

    [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized]!!!

    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]!!!

    You can't tell me that this wasn't exactly what Vader was feeling when he made his last stand, too. And for Anakin, now . . . this moment of absolute unity with the Force was just brilliantly expressed. I'm running out of words!

    This was such a powerful image!

    Oh, Ben . . . =(( =((

    I love how much his thoughts paralleled Anakin's, too.

    He's such a fighter. Like both of his parents and all of his legacy and something that's just specially Ben, himself, too. [face_love]

    Another stunningly powerful image!

    =(( =(( =((

    You're so good at twisting the knife - you know that, don't you? [face_mischief]

    But this was . . . fitting. Jacen has been living such an unnatural existance for so long, spiraling so far away from who he once was and where he once wanted to be, digging deeper and deeper even as he tried to lift himself up again. It doesn't excuse what he's done, by any means, but it is . . . pitiable, in a sense.

    I still tilt my chin at everything profic did with Jacen's fall, but if he had to fall, I imagine that it would have been something more like this.

    As was this. [face_plain]

    Oh, Jacen. =((

    DANG. NINJAS. CUTTING. ONIONS.

    I wasn't expecting Jacen's death to hurt so gosh darn much. But by goodness did you hit this emotional mark and then some!

    I love that it was Anakin giving voice to Yoda's wisdom here. AND THE ROTJ PARALLELS. VI, THE ROTJ PARALLELS!!!

    I have mentioned before I don't cry easily at stories - which seems to go out the door for this 'verse :p - but you better believe that I was tearing up by this part. :_|

    Oh . . . that's why. This is just so simple, but so perfect! Of course, the Force has chosen Anakin for this. [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    You will, Anakin. You will. [face_love]

    (It's been months, yet I started tearing up again just working on this review - THAT'S how powerful this section is. Truly, I'm not doing it justice with what words I have available to me. =D=)

    Because Ben has been left so many times - but he's never been truly left. They are all still there. All of them. [face_love] [face_love]

    [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized]

    =(( =(( =((

    =D= =D= =D=

    This was so, so fitting. (And I love that this is how Anakin can finally go home. [face_love])

    [face_laugh] [face_love]!!

    You have been so, so good at balancing emotional notes throughout this story! This chapter was a perfect blend of profound and heartbreaking and hopeful and just plain amusing that I always associate with SW at its best. [face_love]

    BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT THE JEDI ARE AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO THE REST OF THE GALAXY; IT'S ALL ABOUT THAT HOPE!! The sense of awe you managed to convey here was just so tangible - it reminded me of watching SW for the first time as a kid. [face_love] [face_hypnotized] =D=

    Aw, yeah! :cool:

    I swear, my heart was ready to leap out of my chest at this point!

    Because how would a Sith respond to the death of their own? Adrift is the best way I could think to describe the severance of a training bond for a practitioner of the Dark Side - if they weren't the ones sundering that bond themselves, of course - and you captured the emptiness that's truly at the heart of a Sith Lord's lust for more, always more. Because here at the end, what's left?

    A cold comfort, indeed. [face_plain]

    I don't have the words for how much I appreciated this entire interlude. =D=

    Alone. Completely and utterly alone. [face_hypnotized] =((

    Exactly.

    THE BRILLIANT, AWFUL SYMMETRY OF THIS! =(( :_|

    HOW AM I HAVING ALL OF THESE DARTH DOMINIUS FEELINGS, OF ALL THINGS?? =(( [face_hypnotized]

    Such gorgeous prose! A fitting last moment for such an unfortunate, corrupted creature. =((

    Now that's a loose end for the future. [face_thinking]

    Ferrus! [face_laugh] :p

    Ferrus has a true way with words. :p

    Brotherly love, at its finest. :p

    THIS. THIS. THIIIIS. (In case you couldn't hear my keyboard smash through my caps lock, I must tell you it was there. ;))

    It's come full circle, hasn't it? They've survived and survived and survived, and now it's hard to imagine they may have ever been anything else. =((

    After everything, escape is just that simple.

    In a nutshell.

    BUT THEN THERE'S STILL THAT AWARENESS. [face_mischief]

    Perfect lines for these two to part on - for now, in this story, at least. [face_mischief] [face_love]

    This line was so Mara. :p

    I loved this detail. It's absolutely staggering, just how powerful Jacen was - and yet not powerful enough, in the most important ways. And again, this is an excellent parallel to how the Imperial fleet fell apart after Palpatine's demise. [face_thinking]

    That cautious hope. [face_love]

    Tired is an understatement. Everyone here deserves a nap. And a drink. And a vacation full of naps and drinks. And therapy. :p

    Allana!! Ben!! I know that I am just randomly screeching at this point, but these two dears and their pain was just so heartbreakingly vivid. Of course that guilt is something Ben is able to empathize with and wants to help Allana through in her turn. And I loved the detail about Tahiri's wisdom rubbing off on him, too. :p

    Fair. [face_plain]

    [face_rofl] [face_love]!!

    Shipping these two rather crept up on me, but then you came out with WMOOL and now I'm just a hundred percent smitten. Smitten, I say! [face_love]

    Again, it's all about that balance of emotions, and the relief and elation of this moment was gorgeous! [face_love]

    MYRI! [face_rofl] [face_love]

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_love] [face_love]

    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]!!!

    Oh . . . they went to Endor. They went to Endor! [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized] [face_hypnotized]

    T H I S!!! A+ plot point couldn't be more perfect if it tried!!!

    Absolute trifles. :p

    This was another detail that was just so perfectly fitting. =D=

    [face_love] [face_love] !!

    For some reason, the idea of the Solo/Skywalker youngsters imagining what an equally young Anakin Skywalker must have been like brings me joy.

    Very beautifully expressed! I hope that same knowledge is able to help Allana, in time.

    Such a great detail!

    Oh, this darling girl! She certainly has more scars than are visible thanks to Jacen's betraying that most fundamental trust between a parent and child. And of course she still loves him because of that intrinsically natural bond, and is angry for that same fact all at once! Every emotion she feels is completely understandable, and all the more heartbreaking for being so.

    Including this. =((

    I'm glad they'll have each other at the end of this. =(( [face_love]

    The image of the sunlight through the trees while Allana says her goodbyes . . . and then Goodbye, Daddy. This really struck me and had me tearing up all over again!

    Allana and Anakin's relationship has come to mean everything to me, and there's nothing about this passage that isn't completely perfect. [face_love]

    Perfect. Absolutely perfect. [face_love]


    I really can't say enough, again, just how wonderful a chapter this was - it was worth the wait in every way, and I hope that you are as proud of it as you ought to be!

    All right, then! I already have my quotes selected for Chapter 25, and I intend to be back in a much more timely manner than I was this last time around. ;) So, until then!

    =D= [:D]
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2022
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  25. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    [face_love]

    Multiverse, baby :cool:

    I love this wording :D

    That's right :cool:

    I could see it, Vi ;)

    Just gorgeous writing here [face_love]

    I love this, look at this masterful foreshadowing :cool:

    You know, I just bet he did. However much of a master manipulator he was and however much satisfaction he gained from playing puppet master with the whole galaxy, I bet he was longing for this exact day, where he could cut down the Jedi openly and make sure they knew who was behind it all :emperor:

    You go, Anakin :anakin:

    LOL

    And here I thought Mace Windu was a wise and insightful Jedi :p

    lol, poor Mace has had a hard day :p

    Just imagine what SW would have been if Anakin had attained this measure of self-awareness and confidence [face_thinking]

    Oh wait, you did :p

    Obi-Wan is the best. THE BEST, I SAY

    I think it was in Mira's Song!verse where I first saw Obi-Wan portrayed as a tea drinker, but it was so entirely right that I can only say that if canon hasn't already jumped on this train, they're missing a huge part of Obi-Wan's characterization. He absolutely is a tea connoisseur and has a wide selection of teas and pots and knows exactly how to brew and use each one [face_coffee]

    I love seeing Mara as a mother [face_love]

    THE WHOLE FAMILY I'M NOT CRYING YOU'RE CRYING

    J/J forever [face_love]

    LOLOL

    (spe-ci-al-i-ty)


    :_| [face_love] :_| [face_love] :_| [face_love]

    There's the Jacen that the EU should have given us o_O

    MY BABIES

    Honestly, not the weirdest thing Ben's experienced that day :p

    LUKE AND MARA [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    Gonna need more of this to find out who Ben's other AU big sisters are, you know :p

    Look at you, finishing a masterpiece ten years in the making [face_love] [face_love][face_love] [:D]
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2022
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