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Joined: 20 Jun 2004
|Posted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:32 pm Post subject: The final Mission: Book Seven: Endings and New Beginnings.
|The Dark is Generous, and it is paitent, and it always wins
-But in the heart of its strength lies weakness: one lone candle is enought to hold back the dark.
Love is more than a candle.
Love can ignite the stars.
“That final conflict that heralded the near collapse of civilisation was never about the Republic versus the Empire, It wasn’t even about the light versus the dark. It was about one person simply striking out to inflict upon the galaxy the same level of pain she had suffered in her life.
Had Bel Tarn not been stopped at Skye then she would have unleashed such devastation that in a thousand years our descendants would have still been gibbering and eating each other in the ruins of it”
Garik Loran speaking at a conference on Corellia.
Halley Kadorto eased the X-Wing into a landing within the hanger at Python Base. Even as other fighters landed around him the hanger continued to seem empty, a stark reminder of the hideous losses suffered by his command.
Of the five wings he had launched with, two were still occupied over Nashira. The other three had been reduced to just over a single operational wing. Thirty seven percent of the missing pilots were listed KIA and the remainder had been forced EVA and subsequently picked up by shuttle.
His own Rogue Squadron was at slightly over fifty percent strength, only one pilot dead and four EVA. Another pilot, his wingmate Jenna Tarn was last seen flying her fighter into Skye’s atmosphere somewhere over the planetary capital.
With a sigh Halley popped the hatch and clambered out of the cockpit. Tossing his helmet back into the cockpit and slumping against the fuselage he let out a sigh. His whole body was racked with exhaustion and it was all he could do to prevent his legs collapsing under him.
He’d been in pretty vicious battles during his career, but this one had been one of the worst. The sheer ferocity displayed by pilots on both sides had been overwhelming; in some cases no quarter had been given to pilots in stricken craft no matter their allegiance.
Halley looked around the hanger and noted that although many pilots engaged in back slapping and minor celebrations, there was no outright celebrating over the victory in orbit; everyone was just too tired and too shocked at their own survival.
“Hard flying?” A voice asked. Halley looked up and saw the chief tech, the Zabrak named Zuma, coming towards him.
“Yeah” Halley nodded and returned to looking around the hanger.
“Y’know” Zuma said quietly, “Most of the kids they sent up were used to be techs, trained them myself, but they had enough flight time on sims to land themselves in a cockpit” She shook her head sadly, “Most of them aren’t coming back are they?”
Halley massaged his temples with the balls of his hands, “Some will” He said, “Those that won’t….they’ll be remembered”
Zuma said nothing for a few seconds then finally looked at Halley again, “They want to see you up in the control room” She waved in the general direction of the command centre somewhere several floors below.
“Right” Halley sighed, easing himself away from the fighter.
For Halley his part in this battle was done.
Shin Yodama opened the hatch of the Champion-XT battle tank and took a deep breath of the air. It was filled with the myriad smells of battle, smoke, blood, missile propellant and burnt flesh and not much better than inside the tank with its odours of sweat and over-heated electrics.
Still it was good to feel the wind on his face, even the rain didn’t seem so bad. A short distance away Shin saw Don Carlos being help from his own Demolisher tank. Shin was alarmed to see Carlos’ pants soaked with blood down the left leg.
Dropping to the road Shin trotted over where Carlos leant against the side of his tank.
“What happened?” He asked,
“Rocket penetrated the armour, caught some shrapnel in my ass” Don Carlos said in his gruff twang, “Reckon its my own fault for letting it get to be such a large target. But then, it’s pretty well padded too, so I guess it all evens out”
Shin looked around this temporary staging they’d set up at the base of the citadel. Apart from a smattering of resistance with other parts of the city, the Imperial forces had surrendered in the face of the Skye/Republic assault.
“So we’ve won,” Shin said in a contemplative tone.
“Not quite” Carlos shook his head, “Word is Horn and Tarn went to deal with those high and mighty Dark Jedi that led the Imps. Soon as they’ve finished cleaning up..well, then we’ve won”
Shin nodded, “How do you think they’re doing?”
The two of them looked up towards the towers of the citadel.
“Your guess is as good as mine” Carlos shrugged.
An abyss of despair reached up to swallow Deven Tarn as his long dead sister dropped the remnants of her mask to the floor. A detached part of his mind tried to convince him that going through the door the wrong way had given him a concussion and that he was merely hallucinating.
But the rational part of his mind knew that this was real.
Images flickered through his mind.
Twelve years ago on a small insignificant world where the Empire had a secret cloning facility. Deven laying his eyes on the sister he had never seen.
On Kenimpallii. Saying goodbye to Bel as he headed off to find supplies, little knowing that he would be reunited with the Rogues.
On Grenfield. Hearing his sister’s confession about her Dark Side allegiance. Battling her in one of the hangers aboard the Aggregator. Inflicting the killing blow on his own sister.
Watching the life fade from her eyes.
Watching her die. She HAD died.
Yet she now stood before him. Alive and leading an Empire.
“How are you alive?” Deven shouted, “I killed you. You couldn’t have survived”
Bel Tarn laughed, “I survived the same way the Emperor did. Cloned bodies with empty minds, just waiting for my consciousness to be imprinted upon it” Her expression hardened, “Except in my case it was punishment. My Master brought me back after Gremfield and forced me to serve as his apprentice once again”
“A clone!” Deven whispered in shock.
“A cloned body, yes” Bel sneered, “But still my mind” She laughed, “I languished for four years serving that old fool, making my own plans and setting everything in place” Another laugh, “The first he knew of my intentions was when I cut out his black heart. After that, I simply took over. Everything that was his became mine”
“Of course” Deven muttered easing himself to his feet despite the pain he was feeling, “After all, betrayal is the way of the Sith”
“That it is Deven. I’ve taken on five apprentices over the years and I killed each one before they could pose a threat to me. Just as well horn killed Hades, it saves me having to do it”
“Why this war?” Deven asked, glancing around the balcony for his lightsaber, “The Emperor proved Sith ideals don’t sit well with the common people, yet you’re still trying to seize power”
Bel shook her head “This wasn’t about power Deven, this was about starting over. Cleansing the galaxy, destroying centralised government. Just think Deven, no sides, no was of ideals, everybody fighting for survival, not to feed a greed for power” A far away gleam flashed in Bel’s eyes, “And I will guide the galaxy from the ashes towards a new utopia”
At that moment Deven knew his sister was completely and utterly insane.
Bel gazed at her brother and felt a mixture of pity and hatred for him.
Pity because he could never truly comprehend the power open to him.
Hatred because he was everything she could never be.
She looked carefully at him. Marvelling at how he had barely changed in appearance since their last encounter. His hair was starting to grey and he had a few wrinkles in the corners of his eyes, but the same youthful looks shone through. The only thing marring the image was the hideous gash that cut down the left side of his face from his forehead, bisecting his eye and ending at the cheekbone. Blood decorated the left side of his face, but was insufficient to cause him any lasting problems from blood loss.
She hated him.
This is Bel Tarn.
Witness to the murder of her father and elder brother by Imperial hunters when she was eight, Bel was introduced to pain and fear at an early age.
Taken in and trained in the Dark Side from an early age Bel had become the perfect Dark Jedi, capable of hiding her true allegiance and intentions until the time was right. Though her master taught her much of the basic teachings of the Sith, she hungered for more.
Secret trips to the Sith burial world of Korriban, the tomb of Freedon Nadd on Onderon, slipping under the nose of Luke Skywalker and his weak students to the various temples on Yavin IV, including the tomb of Naga Sadow deep beneath the Great temple taught her much more than her Master could ever do.
Finding the lost archives beneath the old Jedi temple on Coruscant and the former Jedi library on Ossus also yielded knowledge to her.
She soon had more knowledge than even her master could ever possess.
Then Deven walked into her life.
When she had last seen Deven he was little more than a swelling of her mothers stomach. Bel had believed the unborn child and her mother had also died when the hunters came. Instead Lysete Tarn had escaped and one month later had given birth to Deven, who had grown up unaware of the gifts he possessed.
Bel and Deven had encountered each other on the world of Ald Suran, a small near insignificant world far from the space lanes despite its proximity to the Core. Bel had been sent there to report of the loyalty of Ulias Kravven, a fellow Dark Jedi in command of a vast cloning project. Kravven had been showing signs of possible disloyalty and Bel had been sent, under the guise of a rogue smuggler, to observe Kravven and take any steps if he proved treacherous.
Deven had arrived on world almost as if by luck, fleeing the attack on Coruscant Deven had crashed on world, undergone training under Yaddle, one of the few surviving Jedi Masters of the Old Republic and had brought down Kravven and his plans with only slight assistance from Bel.
Shortly after leaving Ald Suran Bel and Deven had become separated on the world of Kenimpalii during the fighting there. Not long after Bel committed her first major act of rebellion against her master. Forced to choose between slaying her brother and dying from the Sith poison used to ensure her loyalty, Bel had forced Deven into a fight that led to her death in battle.
One week later her eyes had opened once again and Bel had found her self in a new body. Cloned from her old body, it had been enhanced to make her slightly stronger, faster and more agile. The scar on her face that she had carried for six years had been eliminated from her template leaving her features unblemished.
Though many would see this chance at being reborn as a miracle, Bel saw it as a punishment. To Bel’s way of thinking, being brought back denied her the death she desired and the freedom from her master’s oversight. Forced to endure under her master for four more years Bel began to plot her second rebellion. Secretly undercutting her master’s support had been easy, eliminating his allies had proved only slightly more taxing.
The hard part had been to wait for the day her master let his guard down for that one heartbeat.
Her chance came one day during a training session between master and student. A neuro-toxin had been carefully applied to a tiny and delicate blade hidden on the base of the pommel of her lightsaber. Reversing her grip and striking the old mans shoulder with the so-called safe end of the weapon had been more than sufficient to deliver the toxin.
The neuro-toxin had been a favourite among the Sith for centuries, completely immobilising the victim, but leaving them fully aware and completely at mercy. It also heightened nerve sensitivity so that a mere pinprick felt like a dagger of fire.
It had been used to torture those who resisted the Sith ways, not for information, but simply for the fun of it. Sith lords had often competed to see who could keep their victim alive the longest, with some victims finally succumbing in the high eighties, low nineties.
Bel blew all records away. Twenty-Six years of anger and hate directed at her former master were unleashed. By the time he died after one long year the former Dark Jedi was no longer recognisable as a human being or any kind of being. Limbs amputated, skin an endless mass of scar tissue and lesions and every bone broken, the unrecognisable lump of flesh resembled one of the slime moulds of Nim Drovis more than it resembled the man it used to be.
Death had finally come when Bel, acting out of boredom, had cut out the man’s heart and thrown it to the carrion eaters. Afterwards she ordered the body crammed into a garbage unit and fired into a star.
The reign of Darth chaos was over.
Like Palpatine after his ascension, Chaos had used lesser Dark Jedi as hands to act as agents thus opening the way for treachery. After all, Kravven had tried to betray Chaos, others including Vader had attempted to betray the Emperor. Of course, only Vader had been successful, killing the Emperor, but in doing so had forsaken the Dark side and brought about his own end.
Bel upon her own ascension had instigated the Old Sith tradition originally laid down by Darth Bane after the Battle of Ruusan.
One Master, One apprentice. For all time.
From that day Bel took the name Darth Shiva, the Destroyer.
To Bel Tarn, her brother was weak. He refused the idea that the Dark side was stronger, that it offered far more power than the light ever could. Instead of using his abilities to take what he was due, he simply carried on doing what he had always done, saving lives and putting others before himself. Instead of holding himself above the weak, he called them friends. Instead of using his abilities to get what he deserved, he used them sparingly and only when no other choice was available.
And she envied him.
Deven had a family, a wife and a daughter with whom he had a future. He had friends who respected him, not because they feared him, but because he had earned that right through hard work and trust.
When all the fighting was over Deven would be a hero, but rather than allow himself to be elevated above all others he would likely hold up others alongside him.
He was everything Bel had ever wanted to be.
And she hated him for it.
Bel knew she wanted everything other people took for granted, but she instinctively knew she could never have such dreams. She could have had children at anytime, yet had never done so from fear her offspring would reject her because of the things she had done.
Above all she was terrified of rejection.
She had taken many lovers and discarded them just as easily, often taking a perverse joy in their deaths as she manipulated them into attacks and schemes that benefited only her.
Yet she had never been loved. Not since she was eight years old.
At some point in her life she had decided that if she was forbidden happiness then so was everybody else. A childish and immature reaction perhaps, but Bel had never truly grown up.
Somewhere in amongst the hatred, the anger, the bitterness and the madness, a small child cowered in fear sobbing for her lost family.
“Aren’t you done fighting yet?” Bel asked Deven as he finally got his feet under him and called his lightsaber to his hand.
“Not by a long shot” Deven grimaced, his features becoming clearer as the heavy rain-washed away the blood from his face. Bel noted almost unconsciously that the wound on his face had stopped bleeding; clearly Deven had at least taken the time to learn basic healing techniques.
“You cannot be serious about continuing?” Bel said with disbelief in her voice, the disbelief faded and she replaced it with contempt, “You’re half blind and even with both eyes you were outmatched. You have no chance of winning”
It took Bel a moment to identify the look in Deven’s remaining eye, it was a mixture of pity and resignation. Her lip curled in disgust, he was resigned to death if that was his fate and…..he pitied her.
“If I don’t do anything” Deven said, “Then I’m as guilty of letting you commit your acts as you are of carrying them out”
“So you don’t care that you’re likely to die?” Bel sneered, “Your death is hardly going to stop me turning your daughter to the Dark Side in fact the anger and hate she’ll have towards me for killing you will make her conversion so much easier”
To Bel’s amazement Deven didn’t respond with the anger she’d expected; instead he simply shook his head and allowed himself a slight smile.
“You won’t get the chance to turn her” Deven replied, “I promise you here and now, if I die I’m taking you straight down with me”
For a moment Bel felt regret that she could have never turned Deven to the Dark side, “We would have been unstoppable” she mused silently. She looked at Deven and gave a tight smile, “So be it”
She brought her lightsaber up ready to activate it and nearly lost her hands when Deven leaped immediately into the attack.
Though lacking finesse, Deven’s attack was fast enough and aggressive enough that Bel found herself back-pedalling through the doorway back into the throne room. Admittedly she was at a slight disadvantage, she’d spent many years adapting to the Jar’Kai technique that traditionally used two sabers, but since Horn had succeeded in destroying one of her sabers she was forced to fall back on Soresu, which she hadn’t practiced in a long time.
She considered locating the still unconscious Corran Horn’s lightsaber and using that, but dismissed the idea as unworkable since Deven wasn’t giving her any breathing room.
As the two combatants moved towards the elevator Bel sought a way to penetrate her brother’s defences. To her surprise, each and every thrust and strike was countered by one of Deven’s own.
“Why is he fighting better than before?” She asked herself silently, before arriving at the answer a second later, “Because he knows he’s dead anyway and he plans on keeping his promise to take me down.
He’s changed. The last time we fought at Gremfield he refused to kill me and when he had no choice it broke his heart. What has changed?” A small voice emerged from the distant corners of Bel’s mind, “He knows you’ll turn his daughter –your niece- to the Dark Side, if he kills you, even if he dies Jenna will be safe from you”
Ignoring the voice Bel continued to defend against Deven’s furious attack waiting for him to make a mistake. That mistake came a moment later when Deven’s blade swung to wide and left him open to an attack that would split him from crotch to forehead.
Instead of attempting to block Bel’s attack, an action that would have resulted in failure, Deven simply jumped up and over her head so fast it seemed he had vanished.
And in the space previously occupied by Deven’s chest Bel saw only the gold lightning of Horn’s lightsaber driving towards her heart.
Only a desperate twist to one side turned a fatal blow into a scorched line across the front of her armour. Spinning away from the two Jedi, Bel felt realisation dawn upon her, Deven had been fighting like a demon in order to by time and distract her long enough for Horn to recover and get into position.
As she saw the determined looks on their faces Bel knew what had once been a challenge was quickly becoming a deadly serious situation.
For the first time in many years Bel Tarn began to fear her opponents.
Halley Kadorto strode into the command centre of Python Base half-expecting Trinity Oslo-tarn to give him a dressing down for miss-placing her daughter. Striding up to Trinity and her own mother Marthe Oslo, Queen of Skye, Halley snapped to attention.
“Reporting as ordered,” He said saluting. To his surprise Trinity grinned back at him instead as burning him down.
“Loosen up Halley, if this is about Jenna, she’s fine. A little banged up from landing and soon to be grounded until she’s my age, but she’s okay” She looked at the datapad in her hand, “Also another seven pilots have been found alive if slightly cold”
“Who?” Halley asked. When Trinity read off the names Halley mentally amended the KIA list he had memorised on the way down. Seven less names on that list, seven less families suffering heartbreak. “How goes the rest of the fighting?”
“Apart from a scattering of fighting in Nashira the majority of the Imperial forces have surrendered. Apparently the loss of the Smoke Jaguar hit their morale pretty hard”
Halley nodded, he’d seen the way the Imperial forces had come apart after the SSD had broken up and burned up in Skye’s atmosphere.
“What was the damage from the Smoke Jaguar’s entry?” He asked,
“Fortunately, two of the fragments hit unpopulated areas. The bow hit the southern ocean and the resulting wave is estimated to do very little damage by the time it hits land. The Stern hit somewhere in the deserts on kurita, no damage and no ill-effects other than a couple of tremors in townships hundreds of miles away”
“And the mid-section?” Halley asked,
Trinity hesitated, “We’ve got early reports of a active volcano where the fragment hit as well as massive damage from the initial impact. We’re looking at the loss of perhaps three or four towns with complete loss of life in at least one of them” She took at deep breath, “As for the debris in orbit we’re going to be spending a few years cleaning up and making sure nothing big enough to survive re-entry gets by”
Queen Marthe came up on Trinity’s side and rested a hand on her arm, “I would speak with you for a moment Trinity”
“Okay” Trinity responded before looking back at Halley, “Get some rest Halley, you deserve it”
As Trinity and her mother walked away Halley decided to take the advice he’d been given, but rather than bother returning to his quarters, he simply found an empty chair, settled in it and was asleep within moments.
“Is something wrong mother?” Trinity asked as they found a quiet area away from the activity in the control room.
“No, nothing is wrong dear” A smile touched Marthe’s lips as she gazed at her daughter. Although into her thirties Trinity still reminded Marthe of the little girl she had been forced to leave behind when she’d fled from Trinity’s father, Feinleck Reillor.
For years she’d worried that Trinity would follow her father’s footsteps, even more so when she joined Imperial Intelligence. Her fears had proved unfounded when year’s later trinity tracked her down and mother and daughter were reunited. Hearing of Reillor’s death had brought a mixture of relief and regret to Marthe. Relief because he could no longer hurt her and regret because he had loved her in his own way and she him.
Looking at Trinity now and realising that despite some physical similarities Trinity was nothing like her father only hardened her resolve to continue with the decision she had made.
“Trinity” She began, “Do you remember when you grandfather stepped down from rule and declared me Queen?”
“Yes” Trinity stared into space for a moment as she sorted through her memory, “It was just after the original liberation, when we kicked the Imperial’s off-world” Her eyes widened as she realised the implications, “You can’t be serious! I’m not ready!”
Marthe’s smile grew wider as she placed her hands on her daughters shoulders, “You are more than ready my dear. In the last few weeks I have watched you closely as you organised things and gave out orders. You display all the skills necessary for a leader and your compassion for others shows you to be the Queen Skye will need for the future”
“But what of the negotiations with the Republic?” Trinity asked, “Presumably they’ll continue after all of this is over…assuming there still is a Republic”
“Tell me, do you think that Skye’s entry into the Republic will benefit us or the Republic more?”
Trinity bit her lip for a second, “It will likely benefit us more in the long run, giving us greater access for trade and the mutual defence pacts will be welcome. On the other hand, the Republic’s main interest in us is the access to the ore and minerals on the outer planets and moons”
“So…?” Marthe prodded.
“So in light of the rebuilding the Republic may require after this conflict, they’ll need a large amount of resources for rebuilding”
“Meaning we now have a dominant position on the negotiation table. We could use that to get greater concessions from the Republic, better prices on the ores, access to greater supplies of bacta instead of having to purchase through third parties. Modern construction equipment”
“See you are already thinking like a leader” Marthe smiled.
“But I’m not ready!” Trinity repeated.
“Trinity, I felt the same way when your grandfather handed rule over to me. I grew into the role and you will too. In many years you’ll be having this same conversation with Jenna when the time comes or maybe even one of your other many children”
“Other children!” Trinity gasped, “Isn’t it a bit premature saying that?”
“Why? You have Deven, he loves you, and you love him. What more is needed? A great man once said ‘All you need is love’ and it’s true”
“I understand” Trinity nodded, “I won’t let you down”
“I know” Marthe said embracing her daughter.
Bel Tarn, also known as Darth Shiva blocked the near clumsy attack from her brother easily and turned it aside so that Deven’s scarlet blade nearly impaled Corran Horn as the elder Jedi charged forwards. In yet another surprise to Bel, instead of twisting or resorting to turning away his partners blade, Horn instead dropped to his knees and slid under Deven’s blade, his own gold blade swinging at her legs.
Faced with a crippling attack Bel leapt up and away to land on the only table not to have been used as a weapon, disengaging for a second to recover and plan a new strategy. But by the time she had landed Deven was there to meet her, his lightsaber looping through an aggressive pattern so fast that Bel was forced to pull her own weapon in close to her body to defend.
With barely a thought Bel grabbed an object from the shadows and hurled it at Deven’s head. The object missed, but it forced Deven to back off with a look of surprise on his face that matched her own.
As the late Darth Hade’s head thudded to a stop somewhere in the darkness Bel used the momentary and almost comical distraction to flip away from Deven.
And almost impaled herself on Horn’s lightsaber as the Corellian Jedi raced into her path. As she dropped she used the dark power within her to flip herself right side up and brought her saber to meet Horn’s own.
For a moment the blades locked and squealed as the energy within the weapons attempted to overpower an equal source. With a flick of his wrist Horn disengaged his blade from the other and with a second twist brought the blade back round in an attempt at a killing blow. His attack was true and very nearly successful, only her reflexes allowed Bel to duck the blade, an effort that was nearly in vain because Deven was back and launching an attack that passed under Horn’s blade and so close to the back of her head, she could feel the air being ionised.
The stink on burnt protein filled the air and handfuls of silver-grey hair fluttered to the ground. Staggering back in shock Bel’s hand shot to the back of her head and felt her once long and beautiful hair was now shorn ragged at the back.
The situation had just gone from serious to terrifying.
She had to escape.
With one last back flip she landed at the doors of the elevator and ducked inside. Punching in a special code she watched with some degree of satisfaction and relief as the two do-gooder Jedi rushed to the lift in vain.
As the doors closed and the elevator began to rise far slower than Bel would have liked she noticed and object still clasped in the cold hands of Hade’s corpse.
Stooping down she picked up the lightsaber and felt a smile on her lips. At last things were going right.
“We have to stop her!” Deven snarled as the elevator doors closed despite his best efforts.
“Who is she Deven?” Corran asked with some concern as he finally took note of the brutal injury to Deven’s face.
“We don’t have time for this” Deven ignored the question as he sliced both doors free and sent them tumbling down the elevator shaft.
“Who is she?” Corran repeated, fearing he already knew the answer.
“My sister” Deven scowled as he dug in the pockets of the jacket he wore.
“This isn’t about revenge is it?”
No, not revenge” Deven shook his head, still looking through his pockets and occasionally glancing up the shaft at the slowly rising elevator car. “It’s about stopping my psychotic sister from razing the galaxy to its foundations simply to make her feel better” Quickly he filled Corran in on what he could.
“I see” Corran nodded upon hearing Deven’s story, “Then it’s best we stop her”
“No we, just I” Deven said producing a small grappling gun and checking it, “I going alone from here”
“Just a minute!” Corran protested but Deven cut him off from saying more.
“It has to be this way Corran” Deven sighted down the utility weapon and checked it over, “I have a feeling that anyone who goes up won’t be coming back down”
“All the more reason for both of us to go”
“Wrong! I need you alive”
“What?” Corran looked at the younger man in confusion.
“If I don’t make it back, I want you to train Jenna”
“What?” Corran again asked.
“If I don’t make it, Jenna is going to need someone to train her in the ways of the Force” Deven grinned, “I’d like that to be you”
“Good. Listen, if I do die tell both Jenna and Trinity I love them and I’ll always watch over them” He leaned out over the shaft and took aim with the grappling gun.
“Wait…!” Corran shouted.
“Too laaaaaaaatttttttteeeeee!” Deven replied as he fired the grapple at the elevator. The claw at the edge of the high strength cable locked against and into the base of the car and Deven disappeared up into the shaft as the cable snapped taught and he began to reel himself in.
Corran stood silently for a moment and then shook his head in exasperation.
“He never changes”
Garik ‘Face’ loran looked in surprise at the man being supported between two of Soria Onasi’s surviving scouts. His body was battered and his clothes tattered, but his eyes still showed defiance and more than a measure of surprise at Face’s presence.
“Garik Loran” The man said dryly, “You are the last man I’d expected to see rescuing me”
“Sorry to disappoint you councillor Rodan” Faces said in reply, “But we were unaware you were still alive. We were here to capture Lon Sur, although he proved a little too resistant to that idea”
“I see” Fyor Rodan looked at the floor with a realisation that he wasn’t as important as he believed, “And what of Marcus Gresh? Did you at least eliminate that traitor?”
Face shook his head, “Nobodies seen him since the invasion. In fact you and Alya Ven were the last people to see him”
“And what brought you to Skye without authorisation?”
“I wasn’t aware I required your permission to come here” Face replied with a smirk, “In any case I came here with Jedi Master Corran Horn at his request”
At the mention of the Jedi’s name Rodan’s face settled into a scowl and he turned his back on Face and limped away between the two scouts helping him.
“Well, that was just lovely” Face frowned.
Bel Tarn swiftly negotiated the numerous catwalks and walkways that comprised the top ten floors of the Citadel tower. Up at the very summit of the tower lay the vast communications equipment that would have allowed world-wide and system-wide communications…had it been finished.
Though the equipment was in place the main transmitting equipment had never been fitted, leaving this communications facility as useless as cooling fan on Hoth.
Though it did serve one purpose.
Bel quickly moved towards the small fighter craft she had ordered placed up in this facility. The TIE Advanced sat on the make-shift landing pad waiting for her to climb in and fly away from this accursed rock.
Once feared as being the personal fight of Darth Vader the TIE Advanced had never made it past the prototype stages. After all what other pilots besides Darth Vader were important enough to warrant a fighter with a hyperdrive. That philosophy changed in later years with the development of the Defender and Avenger models and later with Grand Admiral Thrawn’s order to have Interceptors refitted with hyperdrive.
Bel had procured one of the last T/Ax1 prototypes as her personal craft. After all if it was good enough for Darth Vader.
She was about ten paces from the ship when her danger sense lit off with a warning. Her hands dropped to the lightsabers on her belt in preparedness and she spun around expecting the threat from behind. Instead she heard the sound of someone landing on top of an object.
Spinning around she was surprised to see Deven standing casually on the top of her ship. He stood with an almost carefree air to his attitude and stretched his arms above his head as if he wasn’t in risk of mortal danger.
“You don’t give up do you brother?” Bel spat.
“Actually” Deven replied with a wink of his remaining eye, “I’m here to warn you about making a mistake that would kill you”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, I can’t let you go into space in this wreck” He indicated the ship beneath him, “There seems to be some rather nasty damage to the port side”
“You’re insane! There’s no…”
With a shrug Deven drew his lightsaber and sliced the entire port wing off the TIE. As the fighter crashed down heavily on its side Deven leaped clear and landed between Bel and the crippled fighter.
“Lets settle this shall we?” Deven asked with a casual wave of his saber.
Bel’s only answer was a scream of rage as she leaped towards him lightsabers blazing.
Jenna Tarn nodded gratefully accepted the mug from older man and brought it to her lips in inhale the aroma of hot chocolate. “Thank you Jonah” She said with a lopsided smile.
“My pleasure highness” Jonah Levin replied with a bow. The ex-storm trooper had appointed himself as Jenna’s unofficial bodyguard after bringing her to the med station in near the Imperial Citadel. “How’s the leg?”
Jenna looked down at her right leg, which was encased in a cast after the medic had diagnosed a clean break of the bone. “Hurts a little, but the painkillers are doing a lot to ease it”
“You’ll be back on your feet in no time” Jonah grinned,
Jenna looked at the man for a moment. Still clad in his storm trooper armour minus the helmet, he looked every bit the Imperial. Only his attitude and actions gave a different view of him. Faced with the choice of capturing Jenna for the Empire or turning against his comrades and getting Jenna to safety, Jonah had gone with his conscience.
After getting Jenna safely to the Republic/Skye forces at near the Citadel he had faced being placed under close arrest until Jenna regained consciousness and vouched for him. Out of gratitude he had made it his temporary mission to act as body guard/errand boy for her.
Jenna raised the mug to her lips and savoured the taste as the hot chocolate warmed her up inside. The calm that fell over her was shattered a moment later by the sense of unease that seemed to descend upon her.
Something was going to happen. Something bad.
She settled into the force, something that became easier the more she did it and reached out for her father, instinctively knowing whatever was going to happen involved him. She found him at the very summit of one of the Citadel towers though the anger and hatred rolling off the other person she could sense made her pull back swiftly.
“I’ve got to get up there,” She said aloud.
“Highness?” Jonah asked confused.
“My Dad’s in trouble” She said looking around the area, “I need a ship or something”
“You’re not seriously considering flying a ship of any kind in your condition” Jonah protested.
“I am” Her eyes stopped on just what she was looking for, “Perfect!” She said pointing to draw Jonah’s attention, “We are going to steal that”
“You can’t be serious, surely”
“I’m serious and my names not Shirley” Jenna grinned, “Now move it, I’m giving you a royal order by royal decree by royal me”
“Ummmm..okay” Jonah replied with just a hint of confusion.
Lightsaber blades came together in a clash of light and energy. Three red blades dancing a ballet of death. One blade was red because of an error; two were the colour of choice.
Deven blocked Bel’s first attack and turned it aside before bringing his saber back to deflect the other blade away. Despite his successful defending Deven found himself being driven back along the catwalk. He’d known it was a risk to antagonise Bel like he had, but in his defence, he hadn’t expected her to have a second saber. His gamble was that the angrier she was, the more off balance and prone to mistakes she’d be.
Unfortunately Bel thrived on anger. It was the only thing that had kept her going all these years.
It wasn’t specific anger at Deven -although his destruction of her fighter and constant interference hadn’t won him any points- it was an anger at the galaxy and life in general. A galaxy that had given her nothing but pain and a life that had been nothing but pain.
In every exchange Deven was forced to defend and give ground, he had no choice. Bel was the superior sword fighter and had the advantage of two blades; Deven had only one blade and hadn’t exactly mastered his chosen style.
In any case, despite his statement to Corran earlier that Bel had to be stopped, he just couldn’t do it.
She was his sister; he just didn’t have the heart to kill her. To do so would turn his heart to ash.
Of course, she showed no such restraint against killing him. He twisted to avoid one attack and watched as the crimson blade sliced through the railings off the catwalk. Beneath his feet the catwalk shuddered as he blocked another attack.
Bel’s nest attack arced at his head and he brought his lightsaber up to bat it aside and almost missed the second swipe at his legs. Skipping back carried him away from the attack and caused Bel’s saber to cut clean through the rail on the other side of the catwalk.
With a lurch Deven’s stomach rose as he, Bel and the catwalk suddenly dropped straight down. Deven managed to gather enough of the force for a vaguely acceptable landing on a lower catwalk.
He heard the sound of metal crashing further down, but heard no screams or other sounds from Bel. Deactivating his lightsaber he listened out for the hum of her twin blades and heard nothing.
“You still alive Bel?” He shouted.
“Would you be disappointed if I wasn’t?” Bel’s voice called from the shadows.
Deven ignored the question, “Why do we have to fight Bel?” He asked, “Why has fate brought us to this point where it’s brother versus sister?”
“Because that’s how things work” Bel laughed from the dark, “And as for why us? It’s because you’re good Tarn, and I’m bad Tarn. You’re a goody little two shoes, goody little two shoes, goody little two shoes…”
“I am insane and you are my insanity!” Bel laughed, “Tell me, why did you come up here to confront me thinking to stop me?”
“I calculated the odds of succeeding versus doing something very stupid, and I decided to go ahead anyway” Deven replied with his own laugh as he looked around before heading towards what looked like a control cabin further up the catwalk.
“You know Deven?” Bel’s voice sounded thoughtful, “I think you’re almost as crazy as me”
“Well, think me a cup of caf and a chocolate donut with some of those little sprinkles on top, will ya, as long as you’re thinking” Deven shouted back into the darkness, “It’s not about being crazy, it’s about being willing to stand up and do what’s right, no matter what the risks or the cost. And anyway I didn’t say you were crazy, I said you were insane. Actually you’re psychotic”
“I’ve killed people for less slanderous words,” Bel said coldly.
“If I’m going to die because of a word. My word is harpaxophobia!” Deven laughed stepping into the cabin and nearly losing his head because at that moment Bel emerged from the shadows, ignited her sabers and attacked Deven.
Deven’s defensive response was to ignite his own weapon, make a half-hearted attempt at defence and stagger backwards into the control panel behind him.
His flailing limbs caught several controls that set the massive communications antennae moving as it rotated to a new position. As massive cogs and pulleys worked to move the massive transmitter array, the air was filled with the rumbling of heavy machinery and a constant tremble could be felt through the floor.
Of course, Deven and Bel in the midst of combat barely noticed the activity around them. Nor did they notice a new sound as the remnants of the fallen catwalk became jammed in among the cogs and moving machinery, but they did notice the violent shudder as the antennae was jerked to a stop. Of course, the basic systems were unable to recognise the problem and continued their pre-programmed operation oblivious to the results of such.
Deven and Bel never noticed any of this. After falling against the control program Deven had dived for the floor as Bel’s follow up had carved the console in two. Rolling as and spinning he came to his feet far better prepared for combat and easily parried his sister’s next flurry of attacks. Rising to his feet he went of the defensive and began to force Bel back out of the cabin. As soon as they were clear Deven used the opportunity to leap up onto a higher area and take a quick breather.
“Don’t make me destroy you Deven” Bel sneered with contempt, “You’re nothing next to the Dark Side”
“I’ve heard that before“ Deven laughed, “And many of those who used that phrase are now dead” He barked a laugh, “Funny story! One guy said that, leaped away to claim the higher ground and got hit by a fast moving air-speeder”
Bel’s response was to wrench a cooling unit from the wall and hurl it at Deven as fast as her force powers would allow. Even with only one eye Deven saw the object hurtling at him and easily flipped out of the way, only realising after he had jumped that the cooling unit had been a distraction.
Bel landed on the catwalk at almost the same moment as Deven. Forced onto the defensive again Deven knew he had to get rid of Bel’s second saber in order to even the odds. As Bel swept at his head with her right hand saber, Deven blocked it and feinted at her face forcing her to bring her left hand saber in close to defend. As she did so Deven changed the direction of his attack and swept it through the top of the pommel.
There was an explosion of sparks and a howl of pain from Bel. As she staggered back Deven saw that he’d hit the pommel at an angle, not only taking the weapon’s upper section, but also Bel’s left thumb and most of her index finger.
“You hurt me!” she whispered staring at her maimed hand.
“I’m sorry” Deven replied flatly.
“YOU…..HURT…..ME!” Bel shouted before raising her maimed hand and unleashing a blast of force lightning at him. The first blast caught him unawares and slammed into his chest throwing him back and making his lungs feel like they were on fire. Another burst slammed into him and threw him against the railings; the third he was more or less prepared for and he caught and turned it away with his saber.
At that moment, all hell broke loose.
As they had been fighting the machinery had began to feel the strain of its hindered operation. Though motors continued trying to turn cogs they met with little success because the cogs were unable to turn. Heat began to build up in the motors and feedback into the power units. It was only a matter of time till one blew.
And one did.
The first Deven and Bel knew of the problems around them was when one of the closest motors exploded with a loud thunderclap that shook the chamber and spat white-hot fragments of machinery in multiple directions. Deven was astounded to see what was left of the motors main shaft embed most of itself in the wall where moments before he had been standing.
“Had Bel not blasted me…..” He thought silently.
The main power units were the next to go and Deven belatedly realised they were underneath him. Faced with charging Bel or letting the power units take him down Deven chose the less sensible option.
He charged Bel.
Fortunately Bel had been distracted by the events around them and Deven managed to swiftly force her onto the defensive. His rapid and slightly panic filled attacks drove Bel back, even as the exploding power units exploded one by one taking apart the catwalk piece by piece. As the catwalk collapsed Deven leaped high onto the next level closely followed by Bel as she sought to regain the initiative. Almost as soon as they had landed they were engaged again, lightsabers cutting though the gloom and crashing against each other.
Above them the massive transmitter began to feel the effects of the destruction below. It began to shudder violently, spilling massive fragments into the chamber below.
Deven felt his danger sense light up like Liberation Day fireworks and without thinking threw himself backwards down the catwalk they were on, whilst simultaneously used the force to throw Bel in the other direction.
A chunk of transmitter smashed into through the catwalk where moments before the two had been standing and fighting. For the first time Deven finally took note of what was happening around them.
“Bel!” He shouted above the noise, “We have to stop this fighting and get out of here!”
“Why?” She shouted in reply, “It’s only fitting that we both die here, victims of our own actions”
“Is that truly what you want?” Deven asked as Bel leapt across the new gap to join him own the platform he stood on. “Do you seek death so much?”
Deven’s words were punctuated by another explosion that tore away part of the dome above the transmitter and tumble the debris out towards the city below.
“I’ve sought my own death in battle my whole life” Bel said with a sad tone, “You were the only one to defeat me and even then I was robbed of my reward. Every other opponent I have faced I have slain. Yes, this is what I want”
“So you seek death by unleashing it upon others” Deven shouted in disbelief, “Have you any idea how absurd that sounds? What would Mom and Dad think of you?”
“Mommy! Daddy!” Bel said quietly. All anger, hate and pain gone from her face.
Suddenly Deven found himself looking into the eyes of an eight-year-old girl.
Corran Horn had just emerged onto the streets outside the Citadel with Alya Ven when he heard the shout.
Corran looked up and saw a large fragment of masonry dropping towards an APC. He watched helpless as the crew scrambled clear before the fragment crushed the armoured vehicle.
“What in blazes!” Alya shouted as the two of them ran into the street and looked up at the Citadel. Flames could be seen licking out from the summit of the primary tower.
“Deven’s up there!” He said more to himself than anybody.
“Figures” Alya replied “Only he could cause damage like that”
“What’s going on?” Ezikiel Crow asked
“Trouble” Corran responded, “Contact anyone still in that tower get them evacuated and clear as many city blocks as possible. We need a ship to get up there”
“Sure” Crow nodded, “There’s a gunship over….Hey! She’s not the pilot!”
Corran spun around and saw one of the gunships taking off in what could only be described as a drunken fashion. It took him a moment to recognise Jenna Tarn at the controls.
“C’mon!” He shouted to Alya, “That’s our ride” The pair charged towards the gunship in the hopes of getting on board before it got to high. Before they’d covered half the distance Corran realised he’d never be able to reach the gunship now. He had no abilities that would allow him to jump that high.
Alya Ven solved his problem. Without a word she grabbed a handful of his tunic and activated the jump units on her armour kicking them both into the air and into the gunship’s hatch. To their surprise, they were met by a helmet less stormtrooper.
“Hi, I’m Jonah Levin” The stormtrooper said with a smile, “I take it you two are also interested in Princess Tarn’s rescue effort?”
Corran nodded quietly and wondered if maybe that bump on the head earlier had affected his mind.
Despite the destruction occurring around them brother and sister stood silently waiting for the other to move.
Bel moved first.
“What in the name of the force have I done?” She wailed, her lightsaber dropping from her hands to roll across the platform and fall into the depths below.
“You did what you felt was necessary to suppress your own pain, by making your own seem insignificant to that suffered by everyone else”
“But why?” Bel screamed as tears ran down her eyes. Clutching her arms around her mid-section she folded over and vomited, “What is wrong with me?”
The pain rolling of Bel threatened to break Deven’s heart as he knelt down close to her. “Come with me Bel, we can get help for you”
“No!” Bel shook her head violently, “It’s too late. I can’t be helped. Nothing can change what I’ve become. What I’ve always been”
“I’m not leaving you” Deven said dropping his own lightsaber to the floor and slipping his hands under Bel’s arms. At first she resisted, but as if a switch had been flicked all the strength and resistance went from her and he lifted her easily. As he began looking for an exit he saw the massive hole in the dome and began moving towards it half-carrying, half-dragging Bel there.
As he reached the hole he was astounded to see a friendly gunship rise into view. He was equally astonished to see Jenna piloting and Corran Horn, Alya Ven and a storm trooper in the hatchway. As Jenna eased the gunship closer to the hole Deven moved shuffled his position in order to pass the seemingly catatonic Bel into the hatch first.
At Corran’s questioning look Deven shouted to him, “She’s coming, I’ll take the responsibility”
At the moment his attention was occupied by the gunship and his conversation with Corran, Bel suddenly slipped from his grasp and shoved him hard towards the hatch. As he tumbled into the hatch Deven turned and saw Bel retreat back into the comm facility.
“Bel!” He shouted, realising what she intended, what she had always intended.
“No Deven” She shouted back, “I told you it’s too late for me” She bent down and scooped up Deven's lightsaber from where he had dropped it. She hugged it to her chest and backed further into the building, “Goodbye brother!”
“NO!” Deven shouted trying to jump back out of the gunship even as Corran, Alya and the stormtrooper sought to hold him back. The last image he had of Bel before his tears blinded him was of the platform on which she stood collapsing and carrying her away.
Still he tried to leave the gunship to go after her.
“Sedate him!” He heard Corran shout.
The next thing he knew an armoured fist arced into the side of his head and the lights went out.
Corran looked at Deven’s unconscious form and then looked at Alya in annoyance.
“When I said sedate him, I didn’t mean punch him in the head”
“Sorry, But I guess I misunderstood you. I thought you were implying that I sedate him by any means necessary” Alya shrugged.
Corran shook his head and turned to their pilot “Can you get us to Python Base?”
“Yes” Jenna nodded, “Is my dad okay?”
“He’ll be fine” Corran answered, “He’s had worse” He said honestly.
Jenna nodded and returned to the controls, afraid to let anyone know that she had opened herself to the force and had felt every once of her father’s pain and anguish over the death of his sister, her aunt.
This is the death of Bel Tarn.
Bel coughed and a fountain of blood sprayed from her mouth before splashing back down on her. She couldn’t feel anything below her waist, hadn’t felt anything since landing.
“Back’s broken” She thought, “I think I’m definitely dying this time”
And it would be permanent this time; she had no clone bodies to be brought back in. No Sith Master’s with the ability to bring her spirit back from the netherworld. No, this time it would be final.
And for the first time ever Bel Tarn felt acceptance.
There would be no more pain, no suffering, no hate, and no anger. Just peace.
She marvelled at how silent everything seemed to be. No explosions, not falling machinery.
“Wait, there is a sound,” She thought.
“Bel!” A woman’s voice, “Bel, where are you, honey?”
“I’m here mommy,” Bel heard herself say. She stopped herself. That was a child’s voice she’d shouted in.
A face moved into her view. A beautiful face. The face of an angel. Her angel.
“Hi sweetie, what are you doing there?”
“I fell mommy” Bel answered and indicated her grazed knee. “I hurt myself”
“Oh dear sweetie” Her mommy smiled at her, “Corl!” She shouted, “She’s over here”
Seconds later the face of Bel’s father popped into view as he reached down and picked her up in his arms.
“Getting rough with the ground again munchkin?”
“Yes, daddy” Bel replied taking the opportunity to snuggle against her daddy’s chest. Suddenly she coughed twice and sneezed and tasted something on her lips. She instinctively stuck out her tongue to examine whatever it was, but her mommy got there first with a tissue.
“I wish you wouldn’t copy your fathers habits so much” Her mommy said jokingly.
“Me” Her daddy replied.
Eight-year-old Bel never heard the rest because she began to slip into a dreamy sleep. Safe in her daddy’s arm’s with her mommy close by.
She was happy to be with her family she loved them and they loved her. She even loved her older brother Max, even if he was a gross boy and when the baby came she’d love the baby too.
Bel Tarn was happy.
And she would be forever.
Joined: 20 Jun 2004
|Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 5:40 pm Post subject:
|Two Days After Victory.
Nashira General Hospital.
06:04 hrs Galactic Standard Time.
Consciousness slowly seeped into Deven Tarn’s brain drop by drop. Disjointed and fragmented memories slowly arranged themselves in his mind. Words, feelings and images flashed by, each becoming clearer with each passing second.
He remembered those last few moments clearly.
The scene played out in his mind, but seemed disjointed and surreal as if he was merely watching a play being acted out before him. He watched as Bel slipped from his grasp and shoved him towards the gunship. The scene shifted and he watched as Bel and the platform she stood upon fell into the flames. He could hear his screams as he called for his sister; in response he heard only her voice repeating the same sentence over and over again.
“I told you it’s too late for me” She called, “Goodbye brother” Her voice echoed in his head.
A slight throbbing in his head brought a moment of lucidity and he latched onto it, seeking to drag himself from this darkness. The harsh anti-septic odour assailed his senses and brought up memories of hospital visits over the years.
“How bad was I hurt?” He thought as memories of the battle with Bel resurfaced. He could feel pressure around his head, but it took him a moment to realise his eyes had been bandaged. A spark of fear shot through him, “No! Not blind! Anything but that!”
He tried to lift his right arm to touch his face, but gentle pressure from a hand on his forearm restrained him to keep the IV needles in his arm from tearing out.
“Easy Deven” A voice said gently.
“Trinity” He whispered recognising his wife’s voice, “Am I blind?”
A hesitation, “No, not blind. But the drugs they’ve given you dilate your pupils somewhat. The bandages are to prevent accidental damage to the vision of your eye”
Trinity laughed, “Do you have any idea how many toxins you inhaled up in that communications facility? The Empire uses slave labour for a reason. Not only that, but you picked up an infection in your eye socket as well. The doctor gave you drugs to cleanse your system”
“Can the bandages be removed?” Deven asked,
“Can they?” Trinity asked another person in the room.
“If you wish” The deep voice of the doctor replied, “Nurse, dim the lights and draw the shades please” The doctor paused before speaking again, “Before we continue, there is something you need to understand”
Deven shook his head, “I want to see first, doctor. Any problem I can see, I can defeat”
“Oh Deven” Trinity whispered.
Deven frowned at her response but any thought of reply was cut short as he felt a line of steel slide down beside his right ear as the doctor carefully scissored away the dressings. With two quick snips the bandages tumbled down over his nose.
He frowned again, he could feel a cotton pad against his right eye, but his left remained bandaged tightly. Before he could speak he felt pressure against his right eye and then the nurse removed the pad.
“Open your eye slowly. Everything will be dark, but that’s because we’ve darkened the room. Go ahead, open”
Taking a deep breath, Deven opened his eye slowly and immediately shut it again as even the low light seared into his vision. Once more, he forced the eye open and blinked rapidly until he finally became accustomed to the darkness. Trinity sat next to his bed looking pale and withdrawn as if she hadn’t slept much in days. He eyes though were alert and full of happiness that was matched by the smile on her lips. A sandy haired doctor stood on the other side of the bed and off to one side a Bothan nurse was disposing on the removed bandages.
“I can see,” He thought, but then the question he wanted to ask came to his lips, “My other eye?” In response the doctor coughed into his hand and Trinity bit her lower lip.
“I’m sorry” The doctor apologised, “But the damage was too severe to save the eye. I can have you scheduled for a prosthetic if you wish”
“No!” Deven said a little more forcefully than he meant to, “No, I’ll…I’ll adapt”
“Are you sure?” The doctor frowned, “Without a replacement, you will no longer fulfil military health and fitness directives”
“Doesn’t matter” Deven smiled as he looked at Trinity, “I’ve retired anyway”
“Since when?” Trinity asked looking at him curiously,
“Since I decided my place was with you and Jenna”
“Well, if you reconsider, just let me know” The doctor nodded and left. Seconds later the nurse followed leaving Deven and Trinity alone.
“Where’s Jenna?” Deven asked,
“Sleeping” Trinity clasped her hands around his, “It has just gone six in the morning. In fact she’s just in the next bed over” Trinity pulled the curtain between beds back to reveal Jenna sleeping soundly with her right leg in a cast.
“She punched out of her fighter and took a nasty spill on landing” Trinity cracked a wry smile at him, “She’s as clumsy as you when she gets over-excited. Then she spent last night here in the hospital insisting that she wanted to watch over you”
“How is she?”
“Exhausted, like everyone else” As if to emphasise her statement she yawned and stretched, “Everybody has been taking part in clean up efforts and helping with the wounded. Corran and Face spent all of yesterday digging a family out of a shelter. Apparently they felt if they left and went to the refugee camps, when they returned their house would have been looted. During the fighting an AT-AT went over and brought the house down and trapped the family”
“Spent four hours sleeping and then jumped in a shuttle to run supplies between Python Base and Nashira for seventeen solid hours. Alya and the rest of the Genyosha have been busy cleaning up some Imperial holdouts that didn’t want to believe their commanders had surrendered. Like I said, everybody’s been doing something”
One name Trinity hadn’t said brought a cold pit to Deven’s stomach, “Jan?”
Trinity bit her lip and looked away.
“What happened?” Deven asked sitting up and feeling the sting of pain as the IV’s twisted in his flesh.
“I’m sorry Deven” Trinity looked at him sadly.
06:37 hrs GTS.
Clad in a patient jumpsuit and hospital slippers Deven stood looking through the window into the room were Jan Bal lay close to death. Numerous tubes snaked in and out of his body and a bio-monitor beeped out a steady rhythm. Deven turned to the doctor, this one a red haired woman and looked at her with his good eye.
“How bad is he, doctor?”
“I’m afraid your father is in a critical condition, sir” The doctor, Alice Newkirk, pursed her lips, “He suffered a major stroke that incapacitated him quite severely and while he was being treated, he also suffered a very bad heart attack. We’ve done what we can, but he doesn’t have long. All we can do for him now is make his remaining time comfortable”
“Can I speak to him?” Deven asked.
Newkirk nodded, “He doesn’t have long, so it’s best to say your goodbyes now”
“I understand. Thank you” As he moved to step through the doorway, he felt Trinity squeeze his arm. When he turned to her she gave him a weak smile.
“I’ll wait here,” She said quietly and he nodded in response.
Stepping into the sterile room Deven found his senses assailed by the myriad smells of anti-septics, anti-bacterials and the too weak perfume of flowers. Stepping closer to Jan, Deven was astounded by how weak the man looked. Even at ninety-three Jan had possessed a vitality that made him seem far younger. Now as Deven looked on his dying stepfather, he felt a trace of fear that another part of his life was passing on.
As if sensing Deven’s presence Jan’s eyes flickered open and after a few seconds of focusing finally settled on Deven.
“By the stars!” The old man croaked weekly and barely managing a smile, “You look almost as bad as I feel”
Deven smiled in spite of himself as his hand unconsciously reached up to touch the bandage still covering half of his face, “I learned that there’s a right way and a wrong way to go through a glass door”
Jan’s eyes lit with amusement despite his weakness, “Did you win though?”
In response Deven could only nod, unable to trust himself to speak.
“I see” Jan said narrowing his eyes in concern, an action that seemed to leech strength from him, “So what did those quacks say about me, bearing in mind I usually go to Jawas when I want garbage”
Deven sighed, “They said you’re not doing too good and might not have long left”
“Hmmpphhh!” Jan grunted, “Thought as much” He went silent for a moment, “When I’m gone, you’ll probably need various documents and stuff to deal with all the red tape in getting me declared dead. You’ll find what you need in a lockbox in my quarters along with some other items you might be interested in”
“What items?” Deven asked,
“You’ll have to see for yourself” Jan wheezed, “But for now lets talk about other things. How about getting my granddaughter and your lovely wife in here?”
09:57 hrs GTS.
Corran Horn walked slowly through the downtown district of Nashira and smiled to himself as life in the capital began to show signs of returning to normal. Within hours of the Imperial surrender, the citizens, who only the week before had been herded out into camps, were returning to the city in an attempt to rebuild their lives. Along this street an improvised market had been set up, with fresh food being offered to the soldiers helping with the rebuilding or simply to the civilians who had little.
As he walked through the city Corran had marvelled at how the people of Nashira and of Skye as a whole had come together to help each other. He’d witnessed hotels offering free rooms to those whose homes had been lost and restaurants preparing meals and then taking them out to the people in the streets.
He’d met one woman who before the invasion had been living alone in her large house ever since her husband had passed away. Since returning to her home the woman had taken in three homeless families and a dozen orphans. When he’d asked her why she had chosen to do this, her answer had been short and simple.
“Because I can” He reply had been.
He’d seen the same sort of thing many times over the years. Conflict always brought people together. Of course, it always made heroes out of the winners.
A smile touched his lips as he remembered one of the rumours he’d heard over the last two days. Though Deven was credited with defeating the mysterious Darth Shiva, (whose true name was unknown and probably would never be) the rumour claimed Corran had not only defeated Darth Hades, but also an entire Sith army over one hundred strong.
Though he’d attempted to correct the accuracy of rumour, his attempts had been waved away as modesty and he’d been told that a Jedi Master shouldn’t be embarrassed by his feats.
He’d given up after the fiftieth time and tried a different tactic. He’d started correcting people and saying that there had only been fifty Sith, but they’d all been fairly powerful. Later when someone mentioned the fifty Sith, he’d correct it to twenty-five and so on.
Despite his attempts, Corran was viewed as one of the many heroes and even now market holders were coming forwards and offering him something from their wares. A glitter-silk cloak here, a fine crystal beard trimming kit there, all items the traders had kept hidden from the Imperials and looters. He’d politely turned each item down, but thanked each person for their generosity and told them that their simple gratitude was more than enough, although he did accept a fresh apple from a delightful little girl with an entire basket full of fresh fruit.
He stopped towards the end of the street and looked at the Imperial Citadel. Though still several miles away at the edge of the city, the structures size allowed it to dominate the skyline.
“But not as much as it used to” Corran thought as he crunched into the apple and savoured the juice flowing around his teeth and tongue.
After the collapse of the antennae in the primary tower had taken thirty-three floors with it, the decision had been taken by Queen Marthe Oslo that the entire structure should be razed to the ground and the rubble be used for new homes and a memorial to those whose lives had been lost in this conflict.
The demolition work would begin later today, but last night Face, Trinity, Halley and the former storm trooper Jonah Levin had secretly entered the ruins at the top of the primary tower and retrieved the remains of Bel Tarn. As one of her last acts before abdicating in favour of her daughter, Marthe had secretly drawn up the necessary documents that would not only remove any link between Bel Tarn and Darth Shiva, but would also allow for Bel’s remains to be interred in the royal crypts beneath the Skye Royal Palace.
Though Bel had been Sith and had attempted to kill Corran, he agreed with the Queen’s decision. Bel Tarn had never known peace though out her life, perhaps now in death and secrecy she would have that she had so desperately sought.
Thoughts about one Tarn brought him to another, Deven.
Corran had briefly spoken to Deven at the local hospital before heading out on this walk of the city. Though Deven had only just woken up and was on the way to see his dying stepfather, Corran could clearly see the younger Jedi was hurting inside. The death of his sister despite that last attempt to save her had hit him hard and he knew when Jan Bal passed away, it would inflict another body blow on Deven.
Still, Deven was too level headed and strong to allow his pain to destroy him. He’d pull himself together, stand up straight and move on through life. Deven had shown a remarkable resilience for whatever the galaxy could throw at him, especially now that he had a family to stand by him and help him along.
“He’s too stubborn to fall” Corran mused silently.
For a moment Corran idly wondered about what would have happened had Deven trained with Yoda and faced off against the Emperor.
“Deven would probably have reeled off those terrible jokes of his until Palpatine cut his own throat out of despair” Corran mused,
“Hey! Hey Corran!” A voice called out behind him. Turning Corran saw Halley rolling up aboard one of the Genyosha’s Warthog scouts. “Have you heard?”
“Heard what?” Corran glanced at Alya Ven sitting in the Warthog’s driver’s seat before looking back at Halley.
“The war is over. It just came in over the comm-net. A courier ship dropped out of hyperspace and contacted the commander of the fleet. Apparently the Imperial attacks across the Republic collapsed after Bel Iblis led an attack force on the Imperial’s rear worlds and cut off their supply lines”
“Halley, stop and breath” Alya grinned from her side of the hog.
Halley shot Alya an annoyed look then continued, “Turns out the Imp’s were so confident of total victory, they let Shiva and Hade’s talk them into stripping every last ship, fighter, tank and trooper from the Imperial holdings. Bel Iblis not only rolled over the militia’s defending the world, but he then went and hit every single shipyard the Imp’s had” Halley shook his head as Corran’s eyes widened with the realisation of what this meant.
“Faced with no shipyards or anywhere to retreat to, half the Imp fleets surrendered” Alya carried on. “The rest fought to the death. Whatever happens now, the Empire is finished for good. What we did here is just another nail in the coffin”
“And what of the Republic?” Corran asked,
Halley’s shoulders slumped slightly, “Hurting bad, Brentaal, Rori, Eriadu, Manaan and at least fifty other worlds are a complete loss. Apparently several Imp commanders developed a ‘If they can’t have them, no-one can’ policy. Bothawui, Zhar, Thyferra and hundreds of other worlds are going to be rebuilding for years” He sighed, “The entire Republic fleet is at something like forty-five percent strength and the army is almost as bad. Overall, unofficial figures put the death toll up at the billion-billion marker and ten times that in injured”
“But its likely the true numbers will never be known” Corran said quietly, “The Empire is defeated once and for all and I for one don’t think the price was worth it”
“Unfortunately too many in the Republic government will disagree with you on that, Master Horn”
Corran turned and saw Fyor Rodan limping towards them and relying on a cane. He had suffered extensive torture by the Empire after his capture on the day of the invasion and his very appearance suggested it would be a long while before he recovered fully.
“And are you one of those who would disagree, councillor Rodan?” Corran asked warily.
“A month ago, maybe even a fortnight ago, I would have said yes, I was. But what I’ve seen here the last week, the hardships I’ve suffered and the people I’ve spoken too. It’s all made me rethink my previous stance” Rodan grimaced, “I’ve already sent a message to Coruscant detailing my resignation and intent to return to Commenor. I’m expecting them to send a message back about how they’ll be sorry to see me go and at the same time they’ll be laying all manner of things at my feet. It’s how things work. They’ll call the dead heroes and seek to elevate themselves to the top of the pile” He sighed, “It took my own involvement in all this and the death of my nephew to open my eyes. Well, I bid you good day” With a nod to each of them, Rodan turned and walked away leaving three stunned people behind him.
“Well….that was surreal” Halley said in amazement.
“Who was that and what’s he done with Fyor Rodan?” Alya shook her head as if to purge the bizarre scene from her mind.
Corran looked at the two of them and gave a half smile, “I guess people can change after all,” He laughed.
10:08 hrs GTS.
Garik ‘Face’ Loran watched as the last of the shuttles launched for orbit taking the next batch of Imperial prisoners off planet. They would be taken aboard the Cardinal; an old Venerator Class Cruiser command had dug up somewhere and taken to some undisclosed facility for processing.
Most of them would likely be repatriated back to their home worlds in the case of lower ranking officers and stormtroopers and the higher rankers would be questioned for any important information.
Those at the top of the pile would likely face trial and imprisonment.
“Well, that’s the last of them for today” Howard Blaylock said from Face’s side.
Face turned slightly to look at the unlikely military commander. Of below average height, with a receding hairline and with a pair of large round sunglasses, Blaylock looked less like a military man and more like a lawyer. In fact, not only was he the architect of the wildly successful defence of Python Base two days earlier, but he was also a certified genius responsible for a variety of combat gear used during the last few days as well as the Excalibur mine system that had decimated the Imperial fleet.
“For now, yeah” Face replied with a slightly irritated look as Blaylock lit one of his foul cigarettes.
“So how’s it feel to be one of the heroes of Skye?” Blaylock asked blowing out a plume of smoke.
“So-so” Face shrugged, “Feel’s like it usually does when you save a world”
Blaylock snorted, “Are you seriously telling me you don’t feel something special? My creation smashed the Imp fleet and you know what? I feel like I’ve done something truly magnificent. Something that’s right up there with democracy, hyperdrive and microwave burritos”
“Yeah, but it gets old hat after a while”
“The two Jedi, Horn and Tarn are just as bad. They both defeated Sith Lords and one spends all his time wondering around quashing rumours that exaggerate his feat and the other is one step away from depression. What’s with Tarn anyway? What happened up in that tower?”
Face just shrugged in answer to the questions, having been sworn to secrecy over the fate of Darth Shiva/Bel Tarn. “I couldn’t really say. It’s a complete mystery”
“Yeah right!” Blaylock laughed, “So how many more batches of prisoners is there to do?”
“Just one more tommorow and that’s it tell command sends another prison ship”
“Good, the sooner those gutter-maggots are off this world, the better”
“They’re not all that bad” Face laughed, “What about Jonah Levin? He signed up with the Royal Guard”
“Okay, so there’s an occasional good apple in the basket. But only three days ago most of those prisoners were shooting up homes and doing their best to kill you, me and everybody else”
“You do know that most of those guys were conscripts?” Face asked, “Apart from a handful of Clones and a few die hards that believe in the Empire’s ideals, the majority were given the choice of serving or dying”
“And those conscripts get to go back to their homes or they can go wherever they like. It’s a big galaxy after all”
“As long as they don’t come to Skye?”
“Exactly!” Blaylock grinned around his cigarette, “Knew you’d see things my way”
Face simply shook his head, he didn’t blame Blaylock’s attitude, he’d seen many people feel the same way after being liberated from the Empire. It just wasn’t a very productive attitude, serving only to foster anger and mistrust.
Still everyone was entitled to his or her opinion.
12:57 hrs GTS.
Vran Breil’lya ignored the questions of his mistress as he continued cramming clothes into his case; as it was he couldn’t even think straight enough to remember which one she was. Was she Lisnynn? Was she Abst? Jorsel? Inir? Or force forbid, was she actually his wife Larnir?
“Vran, will you tell me what’s going on?” Whoever-it-was asked.
“No! There is no time, I have to leave Coruscant for urgent business” Breil’lya shouted at her, whilst silently cursing Marcus Gresh for his incompetence. Gresh had assured Breil’lya and his cabal of conspirators that a devastating war between the New Republic and the Empire would allow them to ascend to the highest reaches of power.
All they had to do was strike a deal with Darth Shiva. According to the deal Shiva would decimate the Republic whilst simultaneously seeking her own death and leaving the Empire open to a gutting counter-attack from the remnants of the Republic military. After that it would be up to Breil’lya, Gresh and the rest of their group to take control of the situation and led the people of the galaxy to salvation.
Unfortunately events hadn’t proceeded as planned. Instead of heading straight for Coruscant as planned, Shiva had headed to the world of Skye where she had gotten herself killed a year ahead of schedule. In addition, Republic forces had rallied far too successfully and earlier than expected and the accursed Garm Bel Iblis had cut the Imperial supplies lines too early.
Also Chief-of-State Cal Omas had seized the initiative and allowed the news of Bel Iblis’ successes and the victories at Mon Calamari, Skye, Telos, Lianna, Fondor, Bothawui and hundreds of other worlds to be broadcast across the remnants of the Holonet. He’d even employed a vast armada of Couriers to deliver the news by hand to worlds that had been cut off.
Literally overnight morale had rebounded and Republic Forces had staged massive counter-strikes. With the help of Leia Organa-Solo, Omas had also managed to convince the Hapes Consortium to mount a series of devastating attacks against the flanks of the Imperial advance.
Omas had stolen Breil’lya’s thunder before the Bothan had even given it a thought.
Not to mention the rumours of Jedi squadrons blasting in and out of hyperspace and wreaking havoc on Imperial fleets. The lesser-known names of Jedi like Ganner Rhysode, Bowman Gavin, Kirana Ti, Rosh Penin, Daeshara’cor, Deven Tarn and Jaden Korr were being touted as heroes along side better-known names such Luke Skywalker, Tyria Antilles, Kam Solusar, Kyp Durron and Corran Horn.
And it wasn’t just the Jedi. There wasn’t an hour went by when the news didn’t carry the news of somebody being the hero of this battle or the liberation of this planet. Breil’lya had already heard reports of Garik Loran and Halley Kadorto on Skye, Ailie Dutal on Mygeeto, Carlist Reikkan and Wes Janson at Lianna and Octavia Terah and Kapp Dendo on Bimmisaari.
Not only that, but three days ago the aging Admiral Ackbar in command of the first fleet and with the assistance of Firestorm Squadron had hit an Imperial Fleet massing in what was left of the Byss system.
And it wasn’t just the well known names, a militia unit comprised mostly of farmers and retired soldiers on Kuat had not only held off the Imperial Ninth Legion, but had forced the Ninth to surrender.
In the end, not only had the plan come apart, but Gresh had now disappeared and scuttlebutt had it he had been caught in the act of treason. It was only a matter of time until they traced the connections from Gresh back to his co-conspirators.
Which was why Breil’lya was in the process of leaving. A process only hindered slightly by the fact that his wife/mistress/maid/sister(?) was standing in the doorway continuing to demand that he tell her what was happening.
Instead of trying to push past her, Breil’lya grabbed his case and went through the door to his study, intending to cut through there to the main hall. He pushed the door open with more gusto than expected and stopped dead in his tracks as what he saw turned his stomach to ice.
A green skinned Twi’lek in the uniform of Republic Intelligence and the rank of Colonel lounged in his chair with her booted feet on his desk. To his anger, she had even dragged his desk over to the wall in order to assume that very position whilst simultaneously poking through his liquor cabinet. Of course, that also put the Twi’lek and the two Republic soldiers flanking her between Breil’lya and the door.
“In a rush Councillor Breil’lya?” Colonel Kaiu’kes, aka ‘Kai’ asked without aborting her inspection of his alcohol supply, “I just that I’m going to have to arrest you and everything”
Breil’lya didn’t answer right away, he was to busy debating his course of action. He had three choices, rage at the Twi’lek for having the gall to enter his home and his liquor cabinet with out permission, he could drop to his knees and confess everything or he could make a run for it.
He chose option C, dropping his case and making a break for it through the bedroom.
He didn’t even get out of the doorway.
A massive wall of fur and muscle blocked his way and he bounced off and too the floor with even causing a noticeable effect on the wall. From his new position on the floor Breil’lya, looked up and found himself looking into the grinning visage of a Togorian, as his memory clicked through the haze of shock Breil’lya remembered that a Togorian had served with Kaiu’kes some years ago back in Wraith Squadron.
Vran Breil’lya dimly wondered if it was the same one before he fainted.
Kai took her feet from the desk, rose to up and walked to wear Rrowv stood over the unconscious Bothan.
“Awww!” She pouted, “I was going to read him his rights as well”
“You still could” Rrowv rumbled as the two soldiers moved to pick up Breil’lya.
“No, no point” Kai said shaking her head and setting her Lekku swinging, “I’d only have to do it again later”
“What are you going to do with him?” The female Bothan asked from where she stood in the bedroom trying to keep her distance from Rrowv.
“And you are?” Kai asked.
“I’m…I’m his mistress” The Bothan answered.
Kai frowned and exchanged a glance with Rrowv, who simply shrugged before she turned back to Breil’lya’s mistress.
Nashira General Hospital.
13:49 Hrs GTS.
Doctor Alice Newkirk gently and quietly reached over to disconnect the bio-monitor and silence the keening wail that had signalled the passing of Jan Bal. After quietly recording the time of death, the doctor nodded to Deven before leaving the room. For few moments Deven simply sat and stared at Jan’s body marvelling at how he the old man looked as though he was merely sleeping. With a sigh he forced himself to acknowledge the fact that Jan wouldn’t be waking up ever again.
A gentle squeeze of his hand reminded him that there were others in the room. Though he didn’t feel like smiling Deven turned and gave Trinity one anyway. Just beyond her, Jenna was pretending that she hadn’t been crying too much and not doing a very good job of it.
Rising to her feet a little unsteadily, she smiled at her parents “I’ll leave you to say goodbye. I’ll just be outside” She turned to Jan’s body, “Goodbye Grandpa, I wish I’d got to know you better” With one last smile she turned and manoeuvred out of the room on her crutches.
“She’s tougher than she looks” Deven said thoughtfully,
“She always has been” Trinity replied, “But it’s you I’m worried about. After what you went through two days ago and then for this to happen….” She looked at Jan’s still form, “Even with his age he seemed so strong and full of vitality”
“I know” Deven agreed, “He’s at peace now though”
“Yes, at least he had the chance to go peacefully with someone by his side who loved him. I guess there’s nothing worse than dying alone and …” She suddenly stopped and her eyes widened as she realised that alone was how Bel had died, “I’m sorry”
“It’s okay” Deven said pulling her close, “Nobody dies alone. As long as somebody is loved, even if separated by distance, they’ll never die alone” He sighed, “I think even she knew that at the end and found peace through it”
By ‘she’ Deven had meant Bel, but he was careful to avoid mentioning her by name. The fact that Bel Tarn and Darth Shiva were the same person had been made a state secret and sealed behind so much red tape and security that it was likely that all the Jedi to escape the Great Purge would be found before anyone learnt the secret known only to a handful of people sworn to secrecy.
“You’re right” Trinity wrapped her arms tight around him, “Back before we met all those years ago, I always feared dying alone and unloved. After we met, that fear was no longer there, because I knew even if the entire galaxy separated us that you would always be there to protect me” She paused, “After Jenna was born, I knew it was only a matter of time until you re-entered my life”
“If you were afraid of dying alone..”
“Why did I run? Because of that vision” Tears began to run down her face, “If you had died, who would have protected me”
“Shhhhhh” Deven comforted her as she sobbed quietly in his arms, “I’m here now and I will always be here”
Nashira General Hospital.
13:59 hrs GTS.
Jenna Tarn cursed under her breath as she fumbled the cred chits whilst trying to obtain a drink from the machine. Several of the chits fell to the floor and proved to be quite the feat to retrieve while balancing on crutches with one leg held rigid.
“Let me get that” A voice startled Jenna enough that she dropped the rest of her cred chits.
Turning she saw Shin Yodama walking towards her. Still trying to overcome her sudden shock and berating herself for letting her force sense down, Jenna stood silently as Yodama stooped down and collected her cred chits.
“Here you go” Yodama said holding his hand out for Jenna to collect her chits.
“Thanks” Jenna said taking the credits and making a second attempt at placing them in the machine. This time she succeeded and seconds later had a cup of hot chocolate.
“So how’s the leg?” Yodama asked,
“Hurts a bit” Jenna replied looking down at her right leg in her rigid cast, dozens of signatures already covered the cast. Among the many who had signed were her parents, her grandmother, Face, Halley, Alya, Soria Onasi and Jonah Levin along with the survivors of Halley’s Rogue Squadron and several troopers and pilots as well as some kid her age called Marty. She’d even talked the usually morose Don Carlo Camancho into signing his name. “Itches a lot”
“I imagine it does” Yodama grinned, “I once spent a few months in a lower body cast. I was in a tank that flipped over and unfortunately my seat had a flaw in the supports. Normally they would have knitted the bones and dipped me in bacta or at a stretch Kolto, problem was the same they have here, lack of medical supplies and too many casualties to go round”
“I know” Jenna nodded taking a sip of the chocolate and wincing at the temperature, “I had trooper with only basic med training strapping up my leg because all the full medics were dealing with the most critical casualties. They were having to decide who would live and who would die because there just wasn’t enough med supplies and medics to deal with everybody in the middle of a combat situation”
“It’s the hazards of war. Some live, some die, we don’t like it, but we live with it and go on fighting in the hopes that no more have to die”
“I know” Jenna sighed, “But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. There was a girl on a stretcher next to me; she must have only been a few years older than me. A lone storm trooper with a couple of plasma grenades had ambushed her squad. She was the only survivor, which probably made her the unlucky one since dying with the rest of her squad would have been preferable compared to her last few hours being spent in agony”
She shuddered as the memory surfaced, “Her flesh had been seared raw by the plasma and the explosion had taken her legs and left her insides hanging out. She just lay there screaming with what was left of her throat, and thrashing with the remains of her arms” Jenna began to tremble as the memory became more vivid, “In the end she eventually passed out and bleed to death. They didn’t even have anything to take away her pain. I tried to close down on my force sense, but I could still feel her agony. I didn’t even know how to use my abilities to help make things easier for her”
Yodama nodded, “We can’t help everyone, now matter how hard we try some people will be beyond our ability to help”
“I know” Jenna sighed and drained the last of the chocolate, “But you know what really got to me and made me sick and ashamed to be human”
“What?” The older man frowned.
Jenna said visibly holding back her tears, “The whole time she was lying there screaming and dying, I was glad that it wasn’t me”
Six Days after Victory.
Skye Royal Crypts.
11:36 HRS GST.
Deven Tarn watched as the small group began to break up and move out of the crypt. Apart from the priest officiating the ceremony, the small group consisted of only the people that had known the true identity of Darth Shiva.
As the group began to funnel out Deven received a nod or a few words from each of them, Corran, Face, Halley, Jonah Levin, Alya Ven and Father Francis Flynn. Jenna was the last to leave, hugging her father tightly, but saying nothing.
After Jenna had left Deven turned to Marthe Oslo as Trinity moved to his side and slipped her arm through his.
“I can’t thank you enough for allowing this, highness” Deven bowed his head in respect.
“Deven” Marthe lightly, “I’m no longer Queen and because of what you have done for Skye and since you are family, Marthe will be fine” She nodded to the polished stone of the sarcophagus. On it’s lid, an armour-clad angel had been carved holding a sword aloft above her head. Underneath the image, a single word had been etched.
‘Senshi’ The Old Skye word for Warrior.
“Though her name will never be recorded in the crypt records” Marthe continued, “Your sister deserved this peace. Even after what she brought to Skye, I still believe my choice to have her interred is correct”
“And I thank you High..ah…Marthe” Deven bowed again and adjusted his eye patch.
“You are welcome Deven” Marthe replied,
“What do you plan to do, mother?” Trinity asked, resplendent in her robes, with her crown of ruler ship perched on her head. Her new position required her to be resplendent and dignified in appearance even out of the public eye.
“What will I do?” Marthe laughed, “I will relax, I will spend time with my family, especially my granddaughter and I think I will take up painting again”
“But you’ve always painted” Trinity responded in a confused tone.
Marthe again laughed, “Not in any serious way. I was always a dedicated painter as a young girl, but the trials of rule do tend to leave you with little time for hobbies” She embraced her daughter before Trinity could reply and smiled, “I’ll leave you alone to say your goodbyes and will see you at the celebration tonight”
After Marthe had gone Deven turned to the sarcophagus and ran his fingers across its surface and feeling around the edges of the etchings. The presence of his sister’s body within the stone coffin brought a mixture of sorrow and relief to him.
Sorrow because he had never had a chance to know her or to save her and relief because she finally had the peace she had sought for so long.
“Ironic, isn’t it?” Deven said quietly.
“What?” Trinity asked.
“All of those who will laud our victory over the evil and morally corrupt Darth Shiva will do so completely unaware that she lies buried in this crypt underneath the royal palace”
“Except Darth Shiva isn’t in this crypt” Trinity smiled, “Bel Tarn is. Even though no-one outside our group will know, we will always remember and honour her”
“And what about when we are gone?”
Trinity’s smile grew wider, “You don’t know?”
“Know what?” Deven asked in confusion.
“Because from now on the Skye Royal Family will be Tarn’s, this will be a secret passed from queen to queen until such time as one of our descendents decides that the time has come to name the unknown ancestor within this sarcophagus”
“Tarn....royal….descendents?” Devcen stammered.
“How eloquent of you” Trinity laughed, “Yes my love, our children and our children’s children and their children will all be royalty of Skye and each will be honoured within this place of remembrance” She indicated a particular area, “In fact, when our time comes, we will be placed on that very spot”
“You have places picked out for us when we die?” Deven was shocked, “Now you’re starting to creep me out” His shock only lasted as long as it took for Trinity to begin convulsing with laughter, “You!”
“I’m teasing you, Deven” Trinity ran her hand over the left side of his face tracing her finger where the edges of a scar emerged above and below the eye patch Deven now wore.
“I’ve just thought of something” Deven said remembering something Trinity had said, “You said children. Does that mean you want some brothers and sisters for Jenna?”
“Actually that was a slip of the tongue” Trinity grinned, “I was waiting to tell you during the celebration, but well, the brothers and sister are on their way”
“What!” Deven was stunned, “How…how long??”
“Two weeks, I had a med-droid confirm this morning”
Two weeks! Deven’s mind whirled. The evening they had been reunited.
“Hold on. You said sister and brothers. Singular and plural”
“Triplets!” Deven theatrically grabbed his chest, “Are you trying to kill me?”
“No chance. Not when I’m going to need help changing diapers and handling midnight feedings” Her smile faded slightly, “I’ve give you some time alone”
“Okay” Deven replied, his mind still spinning in circles.
Leaning forwards and kissing him on the lips, Trinity turned and left the crypts leaving Deven alone with only the eternally sleeping occupants of the dark.
Turning back to the sarcophagus Deven once again rested his hand upon it.
“Well, I don’t know if you heard any of that Bel, but I hope you are listening now because I swear to you now whatever it takes, I will find a way to make sure that at least a part of you is remembered”
“You were a Tarn and Tarn’s always look out for each other. I’d forgotten that, but I swear a Tarn will never be lost and alone ever again”
Advisory Council Chambers.
11:59 hrs GTS.
New Republic Chief-of-State Cal Omas watched the reactions of each member of the Advisory council as New Republic Chief-of-Intelligence General Showolter entered the council room followed closely by an aide.
To Omas’ left sat Pwoe, the council member from Mon Calamari. The Quarren’s face tentacles were writhing in agitation and his eyes narrowed dangerously. Omas estimated that Pwoe would seek to cause trouble during this emergency meeting.
To Pwoe’s left, an empty chair betrayed the absence of the Bothan, Vran Breil’lya. The news of Breil’lya’s arrest had left no time to find a replacement.
Beyond the empty chair sat the Kuati Senator, Viqi Sheesh. The exquisitely beautiful senator was a replacement for Marcus Gresh and despite lingering fears that the spectre of Gresh’s betrayal might dissuade Sheesh from easily accepting his position, those fears had proved unfounded after the Kuati woman had successfully managed the damage control surrounding the arrests carried out by the intelligence division.
On Omas’ right another empty chair signalled the lack of presence from the councillor from Brentaal, Rebekah Vash. She too had been arrested during the last two days.
Beyond Vash’s chair sat the Sullustan, Niuk Niuv. Omas considered the diminutive Niuv to be another potential troublemaker.
On Niuv’s right sat the immense form of Hanrakk, the Wookie member of the council and an emergency replacement for Triebakk, the previous Wookie councillor who had unfortunately been reported killed during the Imperial attack on Kashyyk. At the time Triebakk had been attending to his eldest offspring’s coming of age, when the Imperial force had launched its assault. Though the Wookies, along with reinforcements from the nearby Hapes cluster had defeated the Imperial’s, Triebakk had fallen during the final moments of battle.
Triebakk had been a staunch ally of Omas and the Jedi; it was likely Hanrakk would continue the trend. Behind Hanrakk stood a silver protocol droid the Wookie would be relying on to provide other councillors with translations for his own speech.
Beyond Hanrakk sat another emergency appointment, Elegos A’Kla. The Caamasi senator was a replacement for Fyor Rodan, whose resignation had been received only this morning. Like all Caamasi, A’Kla was able to see the full picture of a situation and would likely be a welcome change from the aggressive manner of the departed Rodan.
Watching the reactions of his fellow council members allowed Cal Omas to anticipate how they would react to the information Showolter brought with him.
Pwoe and Niuk Niuv reacted with barely concealed agitation. Either they were worried of being added to the list of arrested senators and councillors or they were worried that the NRI’s digging had uncovered the details of several little schemes they had on the side.
Elegos A’Kla and Hanrakk both greeted the NRI head with a simple nod. Neither of them was of the character to engage in the sort of underhand deals Pwoe and Niuv were involved in. Hanrakk was too dedicated to his code of honour and A’Kla just wasn’t the sort.
At the far end of the table Viqi Sheesh was studying Showolter quite keenly, though Omas was unable to tell if she was merely curious about his report or if she were sizing him up as an ally of sorts.
As Showolter stepped into the centre of the chamber, stopped and saluted, Omas stood to welcome him.
Pwoe, however, got there first.
“I hope you are here to tender your resignation” Pwoe said angrily, “Allowing your operatives to engage in unauthorised operations and arrests of important senators is inexcusable” The Quarren turned to face each of the councillors one-by-one, “I move that we strip General Showolter of rank and force him to divulge the names of all his operatives who engaged in activities against innocent senators and council members”
“I second!” Niuk Niuv called out rising to his not-very considerable height.
Hanrakk rattled off a series of roars and barks in his own language which the protocol droid duly translated, “Councillor Hanrakk, says that such a motion would be pointless and wasteful, since we have not yet seen the evidence General Showolter brings today, we do not yet know if they are innocent” When the droid had finished Hanrakk barked of a series of angry sounding roars at the droid, “He also says that if they were innocent why were the majority of them caught fleeing under assumed names?”
“Agreed” Vigi Sheesh added her voice, “If they were innocent what were they trying to hide? From what I hear Councillor Vash was arrested in the process of burning a number of documents. If she was innocent as my fellow councillors claim, then what were these documents and why was she burning them?”
As if waiting for such an opening Showolter coughed into his hand, “I believe I should be able to answer any and all questions anyone may have.
For a moment it looked like Pwoe was going to continue to cause problems, but finally he sat down and withdrew his motion.
Restraining his smile Omas nodded to Showolter, “Please continue General”
“Yes sir” Showolter said signalling his aide, who began moving around the chamber handing data-cards to each council member. As soon as each council member had inserted the card into their readers and brought up the data within, Showolter began to speak.
“What you see before you is a summery of the evidence that led to arrests of two members of this council, seventy-three senators, six prominent businessmen and two regional governors as well as a number of Senatorial aides and military personnel including twelve officers of the rank of major and higher. Also implicated are four Imperial Moffs. A number of other suspects are under surveillance pending further investigation” Showolter paused to allow the numbers to sink in, “However, I will say that it’s likely that many of those arrested and under investigation are guilty only of poor judgement as opposed to actual treason”
“Then you were wrong to arrest Councillors Vash and Breil’lya if there is a chance they are innocent” Pwoe again rose to his feet.
“On the contrary” Showolter affected an apologetic look as he answered Pwoe, “It was evidence found in the apartments of Councillors Vash and Breil’lya that allowed us to make subsequent arrests”
Silently Pwoe sat back down in his seat in disgust.
“Where did the information that allowed the start of this investigation come from?” Elegos A’Kla asked as he spoke for the first time in this meeting.
“I’m sure you all remember a report of an A-Wing from the Skye System reporting to General Farlander at Naboo ten days ago. That A-wing brought with it a full report of the action taking place at Skye, as well as a report of Marcus Gresh’s treachery. When the report of Gresh’s actions were made public we watched to see who ran”
“And someone did?” Omas asked.
“Yes, Gresh’s aide, Aleksander Zane panicked and tried to make a break off planet. We picked him up and almost immediately he began to spill the beans”
“You made arrests based on the confessions of a man who likely only talked to save his skin” Niuk Niuv said disgustedly.
“Actually no, one of the items he divulged was the password to Marcus Gresh’s computer. This gave us basic access and with the help of Crypt Chief Ghent we gained access to the rest of the files on the computer. Those files gave us the necessary evidence to begin making arrests”
“That evidence could have been planted” Viqi Sheesh added, cutting off Pwoe, who though he would have said the same thing would have been far more aggressive and accusatory, “I’m assuming the documents councillor Vash was burning supported that which you found on Gresh’s computer”
“Correct” Showolter nodded a quick salute to her quickness in heading off Pwoe, “Additionally evidence recovered from the home of Vran Breil’lya also supported the evidence as well as giving us a list of those involved in the conspiracy”
“What were the aims of this conspiracy?” Hanrakk asked through his translator droid.
Showolter was silent for a moment as he organised his thoughts, “The aim of the conspiracy was actually quite ambitious. By engineering a war between the empire and the Republic, a war in which the Republic emerged victorious after finally defeating the Empire, the conspirators hoped to manipulate public sentiment to elevate themselves to the very top of the stack of power. To this end the core group consisting of Vran Breil’lya, Rebekah Vash, Marcus Gresh, Senators Dor'shas, Korvan and Bree and Imperial Grand Moffs Disra, Regan, Powell and Tal enlisted numerous other senators and powerful figures to weaken the Republics defences”
“But the Empire hasn’t been a unified entity since the death of Supreme Warlord Malthus, how is it that they were able to combine forces in order to attack in such a co-ordinated manner” Omas asked.
“Unfortunately, we have been informed that the collapse of central control in the Empire was a mere blind” Showolter responded, “As of seven years ago, the Empire has been under the control of a Lady of the Sith called Darth Shiva” The intelligence chief paused to allow the revelation to sink in.
“Are you sure?” Vigi Sheesh asked with a whisper of shock that went well with the paling of her face.
“My sources are beyond doubt and additional evidence has been gathered to support the claim,” Showolter said in reply.
“How did this Darth Shiva factor into the conspiracy?” Elegos A’Kla asked.
“Apparently Shiva sought her own death and to this end, was willing to assist the conspirators plans as long as they could guarantee her death in battle at the end” Showolter answered A’Klas question confidently.
“But the plan failed” Hanrakk said through the translator.
“It did” Showolter nodded to the Wookie, “The plan invoked by the conspirators was ambitious, but it made a number of assumptions and risks. First, that the initial Imperial offensive would roll over unprepared planetary defences’
‘Second the plan required the Empire to strip almost all its worlds of troops and material in order to field the largest force available. We’ve also seen many cases of outdated Clone Wars vintage vessels being used’
‘Third, that Shiva would live long enough to uphold her end of the bargain’
‘Finally they were dependent upon a single strike that would eliminate the entire senate and leave the way open for them to take power”
At that last one, the gathered council members let out a single gasp of horror.
“The plan failed” Showolter continued, “Because of several unexpected variables. Admiral Ackbar and General Rieekan had brought forward the Galahad exercises, so that they took place three weeks earlier than originally planned. As a result a large number of units weren’t where the Imperial’s expected them. Next, the leap-of-faith assault by General Bel Iblis against the undefended Imperial holdings was unexpected and severed the Empire’s supply lines far earlier planned than allowed” He glanced at his data-pad for the next piece of information, “I’ve received a report from Skye that confirms the death of Darth Shiva and her apprentice Darth Hades at the hands of Jedi Deven Tarn and Jedi Master Corran Horn respectively. Shiva’s early death left the Empire without a solid central leadership causing a vast amount of confusion our forces took advantage of”
“And eliminating the senate?” Pwoe asked, his tone far different from his earlier aggressive manner.
“Admiral Ackbar put paid to that when he hit that fleet massing at Byss. That fleet had been slated to attack Coruscant and destroy a packed senate hall through the use of orbital bombardment. Of course, the main conspirators would have been nowhere near at the time, though many of the ‘lesser’ conspirators would have been eliminated in the destruction” He took a deep breath before revealing this next piece, “Also there seems to have been a third party running interference against the Empire and providing us with information that we used to our tactical advantage numerous times”
“A third party?” Omas repeated.
“Yes sir. A report from Corran Horn and Garik Loran indicates the presence of an unknown woman on Skye who whilst masquerading as the secretary of Supreme Admiral Lon Sur, betrayed his escape plan to Republic Forces and generally caused headaches for the Imps. When questioned briefly by Horn, she claimed she was working for an organisation separate from the Empire and the Republic and claiming no affiliation to any other known groups. Other lone operatives have been encountered elsewhere in the Republic, each one helping us in someway”
“Some of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi maybe?” Viqi Sheesh suggested.
“It was considered” Showolter answered, “But all of Skywalker’s Jedi are accounted for. We are definitely looking at an unknown organisation, who are possibly helping the Republic for their own gain”
Omas felt troubled, “Remember that mysterious message about how a dark age was coming and that an unknown someone would be the light of redemption. Do you think there could be a connection?”
“I don’t know sir” Showolter said after a moments thought, “I honestly don’t know”
14:37 hrs GST.
Deven Tarn firmly grasped the hand of Halley Kadorto and shook it. The two men stood on one of the landing pads at Nashira spaceport a short distance from the X-Wing Halley would use to return to Lianna.
“Sorry I can’t hang around for the celebrations tonight,” Halley said as he released his hand from Deven’s, “But I want to get back to Tela and the kids, I mean I know they’re alright and everything, but I just want to go home and hold them tight”
“Halley, it’s okay” Deven grinned and readjusted his eye patch, “I understand completely and though me and Trinity would love to have you here for the celebration, we both know you’d feel better with your family” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small box and handed it to Halley, “This is from me and Trinity, to apologise to Tela for dragging you into this war and for separating you two for nearly two weeks”
“You shouldn’t have” Halley laughed taking the box and opening it. His eyes grew wide and he looked at Deven in shock, “You shouldn’t have!” He repeated louder this time, “Is that a durindfire gem?” He held up a necklace of exquisitely carved and weaved gold leaf with single Durindfire gem inlaid in the centre.
“Yeah, we found it among Sur’s effects. We figured he’d planned to give to a mistress, but Trinity decided it would have a far better home with your and Tela” Deven grinned at his friend, his one eye shone with amusement.
“I don’t know what to say,” Halley said, “Thank you, I can safely say that Tela will love it” He looked at Deven, “Did you ever think things would turn out like this?” He asked.
“You have a daughter with the potential to be a brilliant pilot, a wife who just happens to be the ruler of an entire planet and you, yourself played a major part in this planets liberation and may have helped stop the most devastating war for decades”
In response Deven’s mood clouded over, “In some case’s though the price was too great”
“Sorry” Halley winced.
“No, no it’s okay” Deven waved the apology away, “I’ve got to stop reacting like that anyway” He sighed, “So what are your plans for the future, planning on still teaching at the academy on Lianna?”
“You’re right. It pays well and I get to be near Tela and the kids. Plus I get to fly without getting sent all over the galaxy”
“Oh yeah!” Deven laughed, “How was it you ended up her again?”
“Touche!” Halley grinned, “How about you? Got any big plans for the future?”
“Well, career wise, I’m taking a commission as a General in the Skye Defence Force although due to my disability” He tapped his eye patch, “I’ll be handling a training and advisory role unless things get so dire they have to activate me and bring me to full military status” His grin grew wider, “Family wise, I’m going to be busy with Jenna’s training and then there’s the triplets”
“Triplets!” Halley laughed, “You always go one better don’t you?”
“You and Tela set the bar when the two of you had Jaren and Mira” Deven laughed along, “Besides, what’s this about you training the next Rogue Squadron?”
“Yeah, the details haven’t been fully worked out yet, but I’m going to be overseeing the rebuilding of the squadron at the academy on Lianna. As well as a couple of the survivors from here, I’m going to get first choice on anyone I feel is suitable”
“No more political interference?” Deven asked.
“No more than what Wedge faced back when he rebuilt back before the original liberation of Coruscant. I’ll oversee training and rebuilding and hopefully the New Rogue’s will be an echo of the old days”
“Will you be commanding them?”
“Only until one of them shows themselves as being capable for command” Halley answered, “My place is on Lianna with my family, not racing around the galaxy” He shrugged, “Besides, I’ve seen enough combat and bloodshed here to last me a lifetime”
Deven nodded, “From what I hear the war has been bad enough that maybe everybody else will feel the same”
“Hard to believe a war could erupt and burn out in the space of two weeks” Halley said.
“The Empire threw all its weight behind a series of lightning assaults. I guess when Bel Iblis hit their worlds and cut off the Imperial supply lines, it robbed them of momentum” Deven frowned, “Without those supply lines they were unable to repair their ships, replace troops and replenish consumables. The assault collapsed and Republic forces just rolled over them”
“But what could they hope to achieve in the long run?” Halley asked, “They lacked the numbers to really devastate the Republic. Even if they had allied with the corporate Sector or with the Remnants of the Noz, they wouldn’t have had the numbers to overwhelm the Republic”
“They couldn’t achieve anything. But they had been convinced by Be….” Deven hesitated and looked at the various techs working around them, “But Shiva and Hades had the Imperial commanders convinced they could win. I think this whole conflict had some other aim. Somebody aimed to profit from a war, I don’t know who though”
“According to Face there’s been some arrests on Coruscant in connection with this whole thing. Still no sight of Gresh though”
“He’ll turn up sooner or later” Deven shook his head, “Though it’s a question of who gets to him first. Republic intelligence wants him for questioning, what’s left of Imperial Intelligence probably wants him for his part in the Empire’s downfall. Everybody else just wants him dead”
Halley nodded, “He get what he deserves soon” He glanced at his chrono, “I’d best get going. Captain Brahe isn’t going to keep the ‘Cameron’ in orbit all day and I don’t feel like making the trip to Lianna in a cockpit”
“Well then” Deven offered his hand, “Good luck and tell Tela I said hi”
Halley shook the proffered hand, “Thanks, I’ll try and save a place with the Rogue’s for Jenna if she wants”
“I’m sure she’ll appreciate it” Deven grinned, “Although I think she’s interested in keeping her feet on solid ground for a while”
Halley paused in the process of climbing into the cockpit, “I’ll try to keep a space open anyway. I guess this is goodbye then”
Deven looked around, “I’m surprised Corran and Face aren’t here”
Halley settled into the cockpit, “They both claimed to have something to do, so they said farewells earlier”
“That so” Deven moved toward Halley’s fighter and pulled the access ladder away, “Listen Halley, if you ever need a hand, whatever it is you just give me a call”
“Will do” Halley gave a thumbs up as the cockpit began to close, “And if you ever need a good pilot, you know how to look for” He grinned and pulled on his helmet as the cockpit sealed.
Deven stepped back and sketched a salute as Halley engaged the X-Wings repulsors and eased the fighter into the air. Seconds later the fighter was only a speck in the Skye and a heartbeat later wasn’t even that.
“So long old friend” Deven said quietly readjusting his eyepatch and leaving the landing field.
25km west of Nashira.
15:36 hrs GST.
Deven Tarn knelt by the banks of the fast flowing river and examined the urn in his hands. The funeral urn was of a very old design Deven was only vaguely familiar with and contained not one, but two sets of ashes.
For years Deven had believed Jan Bal had scattered Lysete Tarn’s ashes not long after her death. Instead, in an uncharacteristic show of sentimentality Jan had carried the ashes of Deven’s mother with him for almost twenty-five years. It was only when Deven was looking through Jan’s meagre possessions that he discovered the truth.
Also among Jan’s possessions was the old mans last will and testament, which detailed the particulars of what was to be done with his body after death. He had requested for a cremation and that his ashes were mixed with those of Deven’s mother, a request Deven had been only too pleased to fulfil.
Deven’s first choice of location for scattering the mixed ashes of his parents would have been somewhere on the banks of Lake Sah’ot on Chandrila, near the Brionelle Military Academy and the city of Hanna. Unfortunately following the recent Imperial assault, that entire area was a radioactive wasteland and no longer suitable.
It had been Jenna who had come up with a solution, she had given him a set of co-ordinates and told him to go and see for himself and having seen the site Deven had to agree with Jenna’s choice.
At this location the river Elysian cut through a small valley that brought new meaning to the word beautiful. Sloping banks on either side of the river were covered with lush green grass and a rainbow of various flowers. The only sounds were the rustle of wind in the leaves of nearby trees and the gentle splash of the river. Deven had to agree the valley was perfect.
He looked carefully at the urn and considered what he would say before scattering the ashes and found himself lost for words. Within this urn were the ashes of his mother and his stepfather; the only father he’d ever known and he couldn’t think of anything appropriate to say.
He thought for a moment then looking deep into his heart he found the words he was seeking.
Joined: 20 Jun 2004
|Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 5:44 pm Post subject:
|Some time later Deven worked his way up the path from the valley towards the low orbit transport he had borrowed for this task. As he approached he saw Corran rising from where he had been sat meditating near the transport.
“All done?” Corran asked quietly.
Deven nodded, “Yeah” He cast a glance back towards the valley, “They had to wait almost a quarter of a century, but the two of them are together again”
“Do you think this could have been the ‘business’ Jan spoke about when he talked his way onto the shuttle with me, Face and Halley back on Coruscant. Corran asked.
“Possibly, Jan always like to plan well ahead” Deven shrugged, “If he knew his health was failing, it’s likely he decided to seek me out, knowing that I’d do what was needed”
“Unlike you” Corran stated matter-of-factly.
“Hey!” Deven felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth despite his sense of unhappiness, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Deven” Corran shook his head, “You’re are an able warrior and a skilled Jedi. You proved here on Skye that you can plan an operation if pushed”
“I sense a ‘but’ there”
Corran laughed as the two of them moved into the cockpit of the transport, “You are far to impulsive. You act without thought and you are prone to getting into situations that you could have avoided if you had stopped to think about what was happening”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Deven grinned settling into the pilot’s chair.
“Thank you for making the point I was working towards” Corran sighed as he sat in the passenger seat and his hands over his face, “You don’t take life seriously enough”
“I take it plenty seriously enough” Deven frowned activating the transports engines and easing them into the sky.
“Only when it suits you. For the most part you view life as a game or as a challenge with a prize at the end” Corran shuffled in his seat, “And what is this down the back of the seat?” He reached behind him and brought his hand back up with a handful of small objects, “Peanuts?”
Deven shook his head solemnly, “Nah. I’ve been trimming my verrucas”
Corran’s expression iced on his face as he opened his hand and peered at the contents.
“You really think I’m psychotically disgusting, don’t you? They’re peanuts, OK?”
“Where’d you get them?” Corran asked tasting one gingerly.
“Remember that dead Imperial officer we found in the Royal Palace Throne Room. The Major? I found them in his jacket pocket”
“You did what?”
“Don’t look at me like that. You enjoyed that Mint Imperial didn’t you?”
“That was in his pocket too?”
“No, he was sucking on it when he got shot. I had to prise his jaws apart with a crowbar”
Annoyance crossed Corran’s face, “Do you see what I’m saying Deven? It’s like being with a seven year old. In fact, its like being with Janson!”
Deven grinned in return and his one eye sparkled with youthful amusement.
Offices of New Republic Intelligence.
Interrogation room 7.
16:01 hrs GST.
Former Republic Councillor and senator for Brentaal Rebekah Vash, sat on a metal chair at a metal table in the featureless room and felt the rivers of sweat running down her brow. Though not considered beautiful next to Viqi Sheesh or Leia Organa-Solo, Vash was very good looking in her own right. Her hair was styled elaborately and her make up perfect and the clothes she wore were tastefully expensive.
Of course, Vash’s appearance meant nothing to Katrin Halcyon, who sat across from the treacherous councillor and listened to yet another of the other woman’s rants.
“I demand that you release me this instant!” Vash shouted for what was probably the hundredth time, “My arrest and current incarceration here is completely illegal, as it is based on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence. After the council is finished with you, you will be lucky to get an assignment at a remote outpost…”
Katrin sighed; this was pretty much how the entire session had gone. A mixture of denials, threats and boosts to Vash’s ego. In truth Katrin didn’t want to be doing any interrogations, but her presence was the result of a lack of manpower. The sheer number of conspirators meant that there just wasn’t enough trained interrogators to be choosy, Intelligence operatives carried out questioning of those they arrested.
“Wonder how Kai’s managing with Breil’lya” Katrin mused; she had visions of Kai driving the Bothan to confess through judicial use of mood swings and heroic poses.
Turning her attention back to Vash, Katrin realised the disgraced councillor was still shouting away.
“…And you and every single one of your friends will be sorry you chose to cross me…”
“That’s it!” Katrin thought, “I’ve heard enough of this!” She rose to her feet and brought her hand down against the surface of the table in an open palmed slap that sounded un-naturally loud in the small room. The guard by the door stiffened as if expecting trouble, but Katrin ignored him. “That is quite enough Councillor!” She shouted.
“What?” Vash whispered harshly as her face reddened in anger.
Katrin all but ignored her, “You can protest and make threats all you want, but we have sufficient evidence to revoke your position as a senator and councillor and we have enough to put you away for a very long time” She grabbed a handful of the documents on the table and waved them for effect before throwing them before Vash allowing her to see the information on the top sheets, “With the information recovered from your computers and the documents you failed to burn, we have enough to find each and everyone of your co-conspirators and link them to you”
Any anger Vash might have mounted disappeared and her face paled as the import of her situation sank in.
With a sigh the defiance went out of Vash and she began to tell the full story.
Some time later Katrin emerged from the interrogation room and met with General Showolter in the corridor outside.
“Well?” He asked keeping words to a minimum.
Katrin quickly filled the intelligence chief on Vash’s confession and the information she had revealed.
Showoltor nodded, “Pretty much confirms most of what the other interrogations turned up”
“So what happens to her?” Katrin nodded towards the room she had just vacated.
“We charge her with treason, conspiracy and probably a handful of minor charges” Showolter said, “Since treason still carries the Death Sentence, she won’t have to worry about getting time off for good behaviour. She’ll be joined by Breil’lya and about forty percent of the others”
“And the rest?”
“Minor charges mostly. The senators will be relieved of their positions and sent home in disgrace to face trials on their home planets according to their law. Military personnel will face court martials and probably get a considerable amount of prison time. The rest will face civil proceedings and will likewise face prison time” Showolter sighed, “Seven people including Marcus Gresh are unaccounted for and until they turn up will escape justice for the time being”
“What’s next on the agenda?” Katrin asked.
“We find out just how the Sith we missed this conspiracy and do what we can to repair the damage done. In addition I want us analysing every lead we have on this unknown third party that seemed to be helping us, the last thing I want is for them to stab us in the back when we least expect it”
Ksatrin nodded, “Plus we’re going to have our work cut out making sure nobody takes advantage of the current situation within the Republic”
“Agreed. With what’s left of the fleet in disarray, the corporate sector could feel brave enough to try and take a few worlds, the Hutts might think they can start up spice trade amongst Republic worlds, maybe even try to take Kessel from Calrissian and the Smugglers alliance” Showolter stopped to massage his forehead, “And the Ssi Ruuk and Yevetha are a little too quiet these days”
Katrin winced in response; the last anyone wanted was for those two races to resume their crusades.
“Let’s get to work,” Showolter finally said, “We have a lot to do”
Skye Royal Palace Ballroom.
Though this night had been chosen for the celebration of the liberation of Skye, most of the planet had been holding celebrations for much of the previous week. Tonight’s gathering was delayed until now so that the ballroom could be prepared and minor damage repaired. Although the people gathered in the ballroom consisted mostly of nobles, diplomats, military officers and honoured guests, the night was also a celebration for the people of Skye and to this end dozens of Marques had been set up across Nashira and many capital cities, each offering a focal point for celebration.
Deven had no doubt the celebrations of the common people would be far more natural than the artificial celebrations here in the palace. Outside they would drink, sing, dance and generally enjoy themselves. Inside the palace they would sip wines, engage in polite, yet stilted conversation and dance slowly to the sounds string quartet who looked like they’d much rather be celebrating themselves.
Deven was sorely tempted to just head outside, find a keg of beer and drink himself silly. They only thing stopping him was his promise to Trinity to stick out the party in the ballroom for at least four hours.
Glancing around the vast ballroom Deven caught sight of his wife. Trinity was surrounded by a group of advisors, minor nobles, a single Republic diplomat and two representatives from Sienar and Kuat Drive Yards. Each had his or her own reasons for being in the presence of Skye’s new queen. The nobles sought to curry favour in an attempt to increase their prestige, the diplomat and corporation reps made their attempts to get close enough to Trinity in order to put forward their viewpoint before the negotiations in a few days time.
Deven was about to head over to help his wife, but a hand held a bottle of beer out before him. Turning his head Deven saw Face standing there with a pair of beers.
“Thanks” Deven said, accepting the offered beer.
“Figured you wouldn’t be interested in the stuff they have here so I snuck out to one of the parties in the guards quarters and appropriated a supply” Face grinned.
“Appreciate it” Deven nodded, taking a swig of the beer and savouring its coolness.
Face glanced over at where Trinity was skilfully handling the attentions of those around her. “So what attracted you to her in the beginning?” He asked with a wicked grin.
“The legs. Oh yeah, definitely have to say it was her legs” Deven nodded, “Her legs, and where her legs meet her back. Actually that whole area. That, and above it”
Face laughed, “No, seriously”
“I can’t really say” Deven sank back another mouthful of beer, “The first time we met, we just connected. I can’t really explain it, its like we were meant to be, almost as if fate decreed it”
Face looked at Deven curiously, “How much have you drunk?”
“First one” Deven said indicating the bottle, “I know what you mean though. That sounded out there, even for me”
Face snorted, ”You’re always ‘out there’ There were times when I wondered if you were truly sane” He laughed, “Hey, remember that time when you tried to set Hayden up with that girl from Akropolis and she was more interested in you, and then it turned out she wasn’t a girl at all, but she was in fact a flesh eating shape-shifter”
Deven scowled, “And how exactly is speaking about it ‘Never speaking about it again?”
“Don’t worry” Face laughed, “I won’t tell….for a price”
Deven grimaced for a moment before his face lit up, “You know, I still have clippings from that issue of the Galaxywide Enquirer. You know, the one with all the stories about Rogue and Wraith Squadrons” Deven grinned, “Most notably ones with untrue claims about certain things you may have worn or affected”
Face narrowed his eyes, “You wouldn’t dare”
Before Deven could respond an aide arrived and whispered in Deven’s ear.
“Sir, there is a message for you” The aide said, “You can take it in the upper office”
Deven nodded, “You’ll have to excuse me for a moment Face”
“No problem” Face shrugged, “I think I need to take a couple of beers to Alya. She looks about ready to kill something if she drinks any more wine”
Several minutes later Deven let himself to the upper office and moved to the comm unit and punched in his access code. Immediately the holo projector lit up and displayed the head and shoulders of a woman Deven didn’t recognise.
“Jedi Tarn, I am Aria Su from the Galactic Enquirer. I was wondering if you’d be free to give me an interview tomorrow. If so please contact me at the Hotel Daggoth”
Deven sighed and cut the holo off before it could continue. He and pretty much everyone else had been bombarded with requests for interviews for days.
“Should talk to an aide about screening these messages” Deven muttered aloud.
“I hear you’re very popular these days,” A voice said from the shadows.
Startled, Deven spun around and dropped his hand to rest against his lightsaber where it hung from his belt. Reaching out with the force he tried to sense the intruder but whoever it was shielding themselves.
“Who are you?” he asked, “Show yourself”
“Really Deven. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me after all these years?” The female voice said from the dark with just a hint of amusement. Though Deven recognised the voice he couldn’t place it. A figure stepped from the darkness, a sneak suit pulled tight across the ample curves of her body and the hood pulled back to reveal short dark hair, Deven recognised her from Corran’s description of the mystery woman he had encountered.
Deven mentally kicked himself for not recognising she it really was from Corrans description to begin with.
“Sara!” He blurted, “Sara Channing!”
“That’s my name Deven, Don’t wear it out” Sara Channing smiled tightly, “Or I’ll make you buy me a new one”
Deven was silent for a moment. He had dated Sara Channing years ago back on Chandrilla. They had eventually broken up after Deven had signed up for military service, something Sara was philosophically against and it had hurt her badly. Six years later they had encountered each other briefly aboard the Ligare shortly after Rogue Squadron’s escape from the prison world of Gremfeld, he had hurt her there as well. But he had known nothing about any force powers or anything about working for a mysterious organisation.
“Sara, what’s going on?” He asked, “Why are you here?” He didn’t move his hand from the lightsaber on his belt.
“I don’t have much time so I’ll keep this short and simple” Sara sighed, “After we parted on the Ligare I headed to Corellia. Whilst there I was approached by a man who offered me a job with his organisation, a powerful cabal known as the ‘Society’ He also helped me unlock my potential in the Force.
“And your job?” Deven asked cautiously.
“Problem solver and general spy” Sara shrugged, “It’s up to operatives like me to clean up the mess caused by others. Most notably, the mess caused by Marcus Gresh’s actions. He was a member of the Society, you know. Till he tried to strike out on his own with this madcap scheme”
“Where is Gresh now?”
“Far from here. But don’t worry the Society always takes betrayal very seriously, rest assured, Gresh will be dealt with”
“Though it’s a question of who gets to him first,” Deven stated.
“What are the Society's aims and why are you here?”
“Well, our aims are secret for now, Deven” Sara laughed, “As for why I’m here, there are two reasons. The first is to warn you that this is only the calm before an even greater storm that will threaten to plunge the galaxy into darkness so vast that it will be millennia before it begins to recover. You need to make sure Skye becomes a fortress that will be a beacon of light in the dark age ahead”
“And the second reason?”
Sara moved close to Deven and wrapped her arms around his neck. She pulled his head down and kissed his lips. “I came for you Deven”
It took a moment for Deven’s resistance to kick in and when it did he pulled back sharply before placing his hands on her shoulders and pushing her away gently.
“Sara, I no longer feel anything like that for you. I will always care for you, but I have a wife, a daughter and triplets on the way. They are my life now. I appreciate the warning, but I think you’d better leave now”
Sara stepped back and feigned a hurt look, “Yes, they said you were incorruptible”
Before Deven could reply somebody knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” Deven shouted turning towards the door.
“It’s me, Jenna” The voice of Deven’s daughter answered back, “Mom sent me to find you”
Deven glanced back towards Sara and found she had already gone. The window was open and the drapes moving gently in the breeze.
“I’m coming,” He said mulling over what had been said.
Deven stood on the balcony overlooking the ballroom and watched as the remaining guests milled around or finished their drinks. Next to him Corran stood and also watched the scenes below.
“They never change do they?” Deven asked the elder Jedi.
“Diplomatic functions? No, they don’t” Corran replied, “Even after all these years I still think of them as dull, stilted and completely lacking in character”
“Except in this case the host wasn’t a dull, two-dimensional politician” Deven grinned wistfully.
“Yes, some things can and do change” Corran nodded, “You, for instance, have definitely changed”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember when you first joined Rogue Squadron?”
“Yeah, I spent most of the time wondering how I made it in and then we went to Hoth where I got cold, shot at, stuck with an implant, then I shot you and Tyria cut me open”
“I was referring more to how you seemed content to follow orders and spent a lot of time over-analysing your actions. You rarely joined in squadron activities and we practically had to bully you into those you did join” Corran shook his head, “After Hoth, when we got to Coruscant you began to open up and Involve yourself more. After you disappeared and returned to us the change was far more noticeable”
“In what way?” Deven asked curiously.
“You were more confident and assertive. You showed yourself capable of independent action and planning and took charge of the situation once or twice. In fact, you handled yourself quite well on the Avenger back during that mission to rescue Tyria”
“You mean when Bowman had his lapse?” Deven laughed, “Tell the truth I knew I’d hold back for fear of injuring him, which might’ve allowed him to defeat me. I tell ya, I came within a micrometer of messing a good pair of army pants”
“My point is you didn’t force the issue. You showed that you could keep a level head in a tense situation. Which is why you tended to be selected for some of those little missions that didn’t always require the full squadron. You went from being the squadron’s newbie to being one of its best pilots. Quite a few pilots came after you and didn’t last as long. Others joined long before you and fell much later.”
Deven nodded, “Some of them left and fate caught up with the others” He sighed as he remembered some of them, “Aaron, Calypso, Dar, Edor, all of them killed in battle” He frowned, “Whatever happened to Josen Fedd?”
“Disappeared. Nobody ever saw or heard anything of him ever since” Corran shrugged, “You’ve changed as Jedi too”
“I was never really a Jedi” Deven protested, “I had a months training and learnt the odd thing from you, Tyria and whatever I could teach myself. I’m more of a solider with force training. I never took any trials and was never granted the title of Knight”
Corran shook his head, “You’re a Jedi in everything but name. Some of the things you have done over the years would easily pass as your trials. Of course in the Old Republic, things would have been a lot different”
Deven nodded, “We would have been trained from an early age and of course I would be single and wouldn’t think any different about it”
“Indeed. But the old ways are no longer viable in this day and age. The Jedi of the old Jedi Order were ill-prepared and unable to cope with a galaxy that was changing to fast for them. They spent millennia training for a war that had already been won and were unable to fight the kind of war Palpatine unleashed” Corran sighed, “The New Jedi Order has to be capable of adapting to the conflict without sacrificing itself to the Dark Side. If that means that Jedi will marry and have children, then so be it. Though family bonds can create a risk of falling to the Dark Side, they can also strengthen the Light Side and help shine a light against the dark”
“But will the Order be able to handle what lies ahead?” Deven murmured quietly.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, just a feeling”
Five Months Later.
Star Liner ‘Pegasus’
Marcus Gresh sat in the main restaurant aboard the Pegasus and savoured his Roast Nuna. He wasn’t really Marcus Gresh of course; he had been forced to abandon his true name after what had happened on Skye when Marcus Gresh became a wanted man. These days he changed his identity and appearance on a regular basis.
Today he wore a very expensive suit and with his beard and hair neatly trimmed and dyed blond and dark blue contacts he looked like a wealthy businessman enjoying a meal. For this trip his name was Kaul Gilder, a shipping magnate from Coruscant.
On either side of him sat his entertainment for the evening. Two beautiful women lounged on the couch running partially around his table, both wore expensive gowns and a trove of priceless jewellery.
The girl to his left was Tiffany. In a sheer black dress with a low cut front and an even lower cut back and slits in the hem that displayed her legs, Tiffany was a vision of beauty who seemed to lay down the challenge to the other girl without actually saying anything.
The other girl bore the unusual name of Solstice and wore a white dress with a high neck and long flowing skirt, almost in acceptance of Tiffany’s challenge Solstice’s dress had a number of cut outs that displayed the exposed flesh underneath and was in fact slightly more daring than the other girls dress because of what they almost revealed.
Using two forks he speared two pieces of Nuna and maintaining perfect timing fed the delicious meat into the mouths of the two girls, who both smiled lovingly as he did so. After chewing and swallowing both girls then leaned forwards to kiss Marcus and they fought gently over who got to kiss him the longest.
Suddenly Solstice pulled away and looked at sorrowful eyes at him.
“Kaul sweetie” She said in that air-headed voice he liked so much, “I have to go and powder my nose”
“Of course, my love” Marcus laughed, “But please hurry or I may have to console myself completely with Tiffany and forget all about you”
Solstice didn’t answer, but she did walk just that little bit quicker.
Pegasus Docking Bay.
Face Loran stepped from the boarding ramp of the shuttle and matched the salute of the Pegasus’ captain, a Bothan by the name of Rey El’kar. Behind him the squad of troopers disembarked from the shuttle and took up position behind him.
“General Loran” El’kar said warily, “I welcome you to the Pegasus. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“You can do quite a lot for me Captain” Face replied, “I’m ordering a full security lockdown on your ship. We have reason to believe you have a wanted criminal aboard this vessel”
“Preposterous!” El’kar spluttered, “We do not have such people aboard this vessel!”
“I’ll be the judge of that” Face waved away the Bothan’s protests, “If you give us access to your computers we will be able to find out if he is on board soon enough”
El’kar nodded weekly.
A few minutes later Face and two of his men stood on the bridge with an increasingly nervous Captain El’kar. The data analyst with Face’s team was in the process of loading a series of search parameters into the ships computers.
“Who is it you’re searching for?” El’kar asked weakly.
Face glanced at the Bothan, “Marcus Gresh” He said simply.
“Oh, OH!” El’kar said in shock.
“Bingo!” The analyst pumped his fist in the air, “I have a probable on board. Ninety-Nine percent match”
“Who?” Face asked.
“Kaul Gilder, boarded two days ago on Corellia. Currently at the Elegant Lord’s Bistro, deck 13”
“Face nodded to his men, “Let’s go”
Marcus was disappointed when Tiffany pulled away from him.
“I have a surprise for you, Marcus” She whispered to him.
His curiosity piqued Marcus half smiled before it hit him that she had used his real name. As he pulled away she moved her leg in such a way that her skirt shifted revealing a large amount of thigh.
And the blaster strapped to her thigh.
Before Marcus could stand Tiffany had pulled the blaster and had it pointed at his head. Dimly he could hear the screams of the other patrons in the restaurant as they came to the realisation of what was occurring.
“Nothing personal, Marcus” She smiled, “But what’s left of the Empire is paying me a lot for your death”
“Please, I can pay you a lot of money” He whimpered.
Tiffany laughed, “I doubt you can pay me anywhere near what the Empire is paying” Her finger began to tighten on the trigger, “Goodbye Marcus”
Marcus flinched as the sound of a blaster echoed through the restaurant. But watched in shock as a blaster bolt slammed into the side of the woman’s head. Tiffany’s features disappeared in an explosion of blood and bone and Marcus flinched as he was showered with the disgusting spray.
He opened his eyes and looked up in shock as Solstice appeared and threw down a single shot hold-out blaster onto the table.
“We have to go now!” Solstice ordered pulling him to his feet. Through his shock Marcus noted that Solstice had lost the air-head quality of her voice and now sounded far more assertive.
Numbly Marcus followed.
“Sir, we have shots reported in the bistro” Face’s comlink crackled as they rode down to Deck twelve in the turbolift.
“What? Who’s shooting?” Face asked the officer on the other end.
“Unknown. Reports indicating one of the targets companions pulled a blaster on him and the second woman killed the first. The second woman is now running with the target”
“Where are they now?” Face demanded.
“Somewhere on Deck Thirteen. We’re having trouble tracking them in the panic that has begun down there”
Face cursed, things were quickly going pear-shaped.
Marcus was panting as Solstice pulled him through the crowds. The shooting in the restaurant had started a spreading panic throughout the passengers, a situation not help by Solstice continually shouting that Ssi Ruuk had boarded the Pegasus.
“In here” She ordered pulling him into a cabin.
“Thank you” Marcus panted, “You saved my life, how can I repay you?”
“By sitting down and shutting up” Solstice replied tersely rummaging through a drawer.
“Would you take credits as payment?” He continued as he sat down.
“I don’t want any kind of payment” Solstice said angrily.
“Then why did you save my life?” Marcus asked in confusion.
“Because I didn’t want to give that Imperial Di’kut the satisfaction of killing you instead of me”
Solstice’s arm moved faster than he could register and he felt a tugging at his throat. His eyes registered Solstice’s hand holding a viciously curved blade, a tiny droplet of blood collecting on the tip seemed almost hypnotic.
He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came, only gurgling as blood began to flood down his throat and into his lungs. Marcus dropped to his knees clutching at his throat and choking on his own blood. His vision began to fade as darkness crept in from the sides.
As the life faded from him Marcus barely heard Solstice’s final words to him.
“Nobody betrays the Society”
Sara Channing took one last look at the corpse of Marcus Gresh and began removing her disguise. The expensive dress, shoes and jewellery were the first to go followed by the blond wig. Within seconds she had pulled on a skin-tight sheath of flesh-toned polymer that gave her skin a worn, haggard look and aged her by thirty years. This was followed by a series of heavy robes and a pair of sandals. A wig of lank, greasy, brown hair finished the disguise.
Scarcely five minutes before Face’s men located the cabin, a member of the Ffib order had exited the cabin and was milling around with the other passengers.
Face scowled as the ships coroner zipped up the body bag with the corpse of Marcus Gresh inside and gave instructions for two orderlies to load the body onto a gurney and take it to the ships morgue.
“This is a disaster,” He muttered. He had one dead traitor namely Marcus Gresh and he had one dead Imperial assassin Tiffany Santorini, aka Bree Kain, aka Delaana Kosekan. He also had one unknown assassin, known only as Solstice Storm, somewhere on the ship who just happened to be an expert on disguises.
“Going to have to chalk this one up to experience” He thought.
Three Months later.
Nashira General Hospital
Trinity Oslo Tarn, Queen of Skye, let out a scream as yet another contraction hit her. Next to her Deven was holding her hand and letting out a scream of his own as Trinity crashed his fingers in time with her contractions.
She had gone into labour early in the previous evening and the birth of Triplets was entering its tenth hour. Trinity had successfully carried the triplets to full term, although her growing size had restricted her to the hospital for the last three months.
“Just few more Highness” The midwife announced.
“Aaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhh!!!” Trinity screamed as the contraction hit her.
“Aaarrrggghhhh!!” Deven screamed as his fingers were crushed once more.
“Deven!” Trinity grunted, “If you ever come near me ever again, I will break your legs”
“Yes ma’am!” Deven replied, grabbing a wet cloth with his free hand, “Can I mop your brow? I am at the ready with the fearsome brow-mop”
Despite the pain of another contraction Trinity managed a smile.
“You never change,” She whispered.
Labour time-20+ hours.
Jenna Tarn looked up wearily as her equally weary father emerged from the delivery room. Though his expression was mostly exhausted, joy shone through clearly and his sense in the force was pure happiness.
“Is it over?” Jenna asked.
Deven nodded, “Why don’t you come and say hello?”
Jenna quickly followed her father into the delivery room and found her mother holding two of the babies and a nurse holding the third.
“Hello sweetheart” Trinity said with a tone that was equal exhaustion, relief and happiness. She indicated the baby in the nurse arms. “Would you like to hold her?”
Jenna nodded and took the baby girl from the nurse who then excused herself from the room. Jenna looked down at her little sister and marvelled at the infant’s expression of contentment and innocence.
“Have you named them yet?” She asked.
“Yes, Jenna meet Malcom” She nodded to the boy cradled in her right arm, then the baby in her left “Jasek” She smiled at Jenna. “And cradled in your arms is your little sister Bel”
“Bel?” Jenna looked at her parents.
Deven nodded, “Perhaps this way a small part of her fallen aunt will be remembered” Deven looked down at the three newborns, “Malcom, Jasek and Bel, welcome to the family. From this point on you will have a home and a family, You will need never live in fear of anything or anyone, this I swear”
“Whatever the future holds” He said quietly.
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