Chapter 9: Return of the Jedi
Episode 5 Chapter 9
Return of the Jedi
The next few days on Earth were both hectic and solemn as the survivors of Cloud City rested and recuperated from their varied wounds. Worse off physically was Luke, who had to be given a prosthetic hand to replace the one Halcyon had sliced off in his dual and Han, who suffered mild hibernation sickness once he was thawed. Psychologically, though, all members of the expedition were worse off, with Buffy locking herself in her room for hours on end, meditating and trying in vain to find her center once more. She refused to see anyone, even Dawn and Obi-Wan found themselves shut out. And so, a week after the events on Cloud City, Buffy was once again meditating in her room when she felt a familiar presence settle across from her.
“I don’t want to be disturbed.”
“I brought Corellian whiskey,” Willow replied, hefting a nice-sized bottle of the ale.
Buffy opened her eyes and eyed the bottle warily, then sighed. “Fine, get some glasses.”
Willow raised an eyebrow, then uncorked the bottle and took a long swig. “Why?” she asked as she handed the bottle to Buffy, who took a long pull.
“This is fitting, I think,” Buffy said. “History repeating itself in some perverse way.”
“Buffer history, I just wanted to get drunk.” Willow took the bottle back and took a long drink. “Gyah, this stuff is terrible. Least it’ll do the job.”
Buffy scoffed. “What do you have to get drunk over?”
“I met my daughter,” Willow replied quietly. Buffy took back the bottle and took a small sip, waiting for her friend to continue. “She’s so much like me, it’s scary. And not just looks - her attitude, it so reminds me of how I was when…”
“When you became Traya?” Buffy finished. Willow nodded as she took a drink. “I never fully appreciated how easy it must have been for you to fall, Will. All the pain anger you had at being trapped there, away from Tara, away from home… I was so close, Willow. So close to just letting go, giving in, anything to stop the pain…”
“Dawn had a vision, did she tell you?” Buffy shook her head. “Everyone dead. The Council burning, Imperial Troops expanding into another universe.” She held her finger and thumb a millimeter apart. “That close, Buffy. It came that close. And the scary thing? If we had been able to get home, before I fully revealed myself to you in that hanger on Geonosis, the exact same thing would have probably happened, by my hand. And now I’m scared that my daughter will make the same mistake.”
“She won’t, you know,” Buffy said at length, taking another pull on the bottle.
Willow looked at her oddly. “What makes you think that?” she asked.
Buffy took another swig, handing the bottle to Willow. “Because you won’t let her,” she replied, then hiccupped.
Both girls giggled.
“Damnit, Joyce! I want out of here!”
Han Solo sulked in his bed as Joyce fussed over him. He swore she could be more of a mother hen than Buffy sometimes. “I’m not an invalid!”
Joyce cocked an eyebrow at her brother while Chewi chuckled in the corrner of the room. “You were frozen in carbonite, Han. You have hibernation sickness.”
“I got thawed out a week ago, I’m fine!” he argued, then turned to his friend. "And you be quiet, furball."
“You’re convalescing on this back asswards planet. You’re not fine until I say so.”
“Is my niece giving you a hard time, Captain Solo?”
Han looked up and his face brightened as he saw Leia enter slightly behind Padmé. Padmé smiled as she took up station at the end of the bed, while Leia sat on his right and clasped his hand in hers. “How are you feeling?” she asked.
“I’m feeling fine, despite what some people think.” Joyce threw up her hands as she let out an exasperated sigh. “And hey, didn’t you get stuck in the side? Shouldn’t you be resting?”
“I healed days ago,” Joyce retorted. “Slayer healing. Wonderful thing.” She looked to Padmé “Have you seen my mother?”
“That’s why I’m here, actually.” The former queen sighed. “She’s taken to locking herself in her room and no one has managed to get through to her. I was hoping to convince Han to go try and talk to her…”
“Hoping my father’s ghost will pull her out of her funk?” he slowly climbed out of the bed, pointedly ignoring the growls emanating from Joyce. “Yeah, sure. I’ll give it a try.”
Han accepted the helping arm from Leia and ignored Joyce’s presence as they ambled down the hall towards Buffy’s quarters. “So, what exactly has been happening while I’ve been locked up?”
“Well, the Council will meet today and decide what will be done about Dawn,” Padmé started.
“What do you mean ‘done about Dawn’?” Han interrupted. ”Didn’t she basically save everybody? Why would she be punished?”
“She was ordered a few years ago never to cross over without approval from the Council or permission from a Master, neither of which she had,” Leia explained. “Even with the mitigating circumstances, it looks like they’ll excommunicate her from the Order.”
Han scoffed. “And you want to be one of those people?” he asked Leia. She just shrugged and sighed.
“It’s the family business,” Joyce added.
“Besides that, Luke has been spending some quality time with Anakin. Right now they’re dueling, trying to get Luke used to his new hand.”
“What is it with your family and replacement parts?” Han asked Leia, who merely shrugged again.
“I still have everything,” she said. Han smirked.
“Good to know.”
“Fred has continued working on the Falcon, putting a few more goodies in it,” Joyce added. “She even managed to put an upgraded version of the cloaking device in it.”
“Why didn’t she put it in the Prometheus?” Han asked. Joyce winced and felt tears welling up in her eyes.
“Prometheus was destroyed on Cloud City,” she replied, the ache of losing the last link to her father still strong.
“Sorry,” Han said softly, turning and wrapping her sister in a warm hug. “I know how much she meant to you.”
“No, it’s not,” Han insisted. ”I’d feel the same way if the Falcon was lost.”
The two separated and then continued walking down the hall. “Other than that, everybody else is just resting and taking stock,” Padmé continued. “Lando’s planning on how best to help the Alliance to make up for what he was forced to do to you, Joyce’s husband is trying to figure out how to get a new ship…”
Padmé said that last bit with a smile, ignoring Joyce’s fervent shaking of her head, then nearly plowing into Han’s back as she stopped dead.
“Her husband,” Padmé said, again patiently. “He lost his X-Wing at Cloud City…”
Han spun and glared at Joyce. “Not LUKE?!” he exclaimed. Joyce’s face scrunched up in disgust.
“Please! He’s practically a brother!” She lifted her chin defiantly and stalked past her brother. “It’s Wedge.”
“ANTILLIES?!” Han practically screamed. “How long?”
“A little over a year,” she replied defiantly as Han sputtered.
“At least he’s Corellian,” Leia said soothingly. “It could have been another Mandalorian.” Han whirled on her.
“I expect you knew all about this?”
“I only found out last week,” Leia argued. “And don’t get tetchy with me.”
Chewie let out several short barks and growls and Han stared at his best friend.
“You knew? And didn’t tell me?” Chewie chortled and Han let out a small harrumph. “Some friend.”
Joyce was about to reply, but the sound of breaking glass startled the small group. “That came from Buffy’s room…” Padmé noted and the five ran the rest of the way. Han got there first and threw open the door-
Only two find Buffy and Willow, flat on their butts, laughing like crazy. The remains of Buffy’s coffee table lay scattered on the floor; Buffy’s lightsaber hilt lay in the center of the mess of broken glass. Han looked at the two women, then at the bottle in their hands.
“Buffy!” Han exclaimed.
“Willow!” Padmé added, staring at her sister in dismay. The two looked at each other and then giggled.
“No, I’m Buffy,” Willow slurred, pointing to herself, then at Buffy, “That’s Willow.”
“That’s not rot…RIGHT! That’s not right!” Buffy exclaimed, looking pleased at getting the words right. “I can’t be Willow! I’m not a redhead!”
“You’re not a blonde, either,” Willow snickered and Buffy mock-glared at her.
“You’re drunk?” Joyce stated, amused and disgusted at same time. She looked over at her brother. “Spirit of our father, indeed.”
“Your father!” Buffy exclaimed with a sigh. “Your father was such a great man…and such a great lay…” she sighed. Han looked stricken and even Joyce, the hardened Mandalorian, looked queasy.
“Oh, god!” Han exclaimed. “I don’t need to know that! I never needed to know that!”
“Where do ya think Joyce came from?” Willow snickered and this time Joyce bolted down the hall towards the bathroom. Buffy looked at Willow reproachfully.
“That wasn’t nice.”
“Ah, she earned that,” Willow said, pulling herself to her feet. She swayed for a moment and Han rushed in to steady her. After a moment, Willow looked up at him and he was shocked to see tears in her eyes.
“I really am sorry for what I did –HIC- did to you,” she admitted. “If I could go back and change one thing, it would be that.”
Han awkwardly patted the distraught, drunken former Sith on the back. “That’s… that’s okay, Willow. Really.”
“I can’t believe you got her drunk, Willow!” Padmé hissed. Willow hiccupped and giggled.
“Least could I do.” Willow smiled, then frowned. “Wait, I didn’t right that say…”
“No more tear!” Buffy exclaimed, jumping to her feet - then nearly falling on face before Chewie rushed forwards and steadied her. Buffy snuggled into his fur and giggled. ”Furby!”
Willow snorted. “Furby!” she agreed.
“This is the Sith Lord that tied to conquer to galaxy?” a returning Joyce stated. “Hey! Red! What the heck are you doing to my mother?”
“We were celebrating!” Willow replied proudly.
“Yup, see, we decided we liked Corelelelelian ale,” she paused and giggled at her mispronunciation, “but we also decided it’s decidedly evil.”
“So then we both decided we were quitting all this hero business and become Dark Lords of the Scotch!”
Joyce groaned as Leia and Han both coughed back laughter. Buffy suddenly looked sad as she turned over the now empty bottle. “Aw, we killed it!”
Willow giggled. “Silly! That’s what Dark Lords –HIC!- do!” she exclaimed, before promptly passing out. Buffy stood triumphantly.
“HA! I knew she wash as lightweighhhhh….” She was unconscious before she even hit the flood. Padmé looked at the two sadly.
“Anakin will never let her live this down,” she said.
Dawn looked herself over in the mirror with a somber expression and, for the nineteenth time, smoothed her robes.
“You look fine,” Zett said, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her. He nuzzled her neck lightly, then looked in her eyes through the mirror. “And everything is going to be fine. I promise you that.”
“Only people who could guarantee that are the Masters, which you ain’t,” Dawn said lightly, then sighed. “I’m not as upset as I thought I’d be. Disappointed, sure, but not upset. Buffy’s alive and relatively sane; the Council’s safe, nobody else will die today. If the cost of preventing my vision was being kicked out of my second Council, then so be it.”
Zett smiled. “A couple of months ago and you would have been smoldering about this.”
“Vi wouldn’t want me to dwell.” Dawn turned around and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. “Shall we go?”
The two walked in companionable silence towards the Council’s chambers. Dawn looked out at the waning sun and frowned. “I wonder why they pushed the meeting back?”
Zett bit back a grin. “I heard Willow paid Master Skywalker a visit to, er…cheer her up.”
Dawn looked at her boyfriend wryly. “She got her drunk, didn’t she?”
“Passed out at Padmé’s feet.”
Dawn let out a loud laugh that startled several Padawans around her. “Oh, I’m never going to let her live that down!”
They continued walking, with several of the younger Slayers stopping to wish her luck. As she approached the Council doors, she found her old squad waiting out front.
“They kick you out and we’ll take them down,” Rona joked, pulling Dawn into a tight hug. “And if that doesn’t work, we could always use another hand.”
Dawn wiped the tears from her eyes. “Thanks, everyone. It means a lot - truly.”
“Give ‘em hell, Dawn!” Belle said. Dawn gave the girl a confident smile, then turned and walked into the Council chambers. The first thing she noticed was that it was much darker than it normally was - and soon the reason became obvious.
“Master Skywalker, may I get you a cup of coffee before I get kicked out?” Dawn teased. Buffy groaned and sank lower into her chair.
“Somebody kill her,” Buffy mumbled, causing a ripple of laughter through the Council.
“Only if you can point out which one is real,” Anakin added, drawing even more snickers. “Dark Lord of the Scotch, indeed,” he added under his breath.
“If we’re quite done?” Master Shryne asked. At the collected nods (very slight, in Buffy’s case), Roan began. “We are here today to decide the fate of Dawn Summers, Padawan, in regards to her status in the Jedi Order. Before we begin, there are two things. One, for obvious reasons, both Masters’ Skywalker will abstain from voting. Master Kenobi, despite his neophyte relationship with Buffy, will be allowed to vote, as I trust in his impartiality. Second, as we are all aware, one of our seats remains empty. And I believe that now is the time to fill it.” Roan looked directly at Zett and then gestured towards the empty chair. ”Take your seat, Master Jukassa.”
Zett bowed, gave a sheepish smile to the stunned Dawn, then moved and took his seat in the Council. “For obvious reason, Master Jukassa won’t be voting as well.”
“Was there something you wished to say, Padawan?” Master Secura asked, vainly trying to hide her smile and failing miserably.
“Zett’s a Master?” she asked. Aayla nodded. “Zett’s a Master...” she repeated to herself, thinking rapidly. In an instant, her head shot up and she looked directly at Roan. “For how long, sir?”
“A little over a week, now,” he replied casually. “We asked him to keep it quiet…”
“Because you knew I’d ask him for a PPG!” Dawn exclaimed loudly, causing Buffy to wince. “You knew I’d ask, even after you all turned me…” Dawn’s shoulders sagged. “It was a test. My trials.”
“Dawn…” Anakin started, but was cut off by her glare.
“I told you my vision. I showed you what would happen. Yet you decided to make this – THIS - my trials?”
“I’ll explain,” Buffy said quickly, cutting off Roan. Buffy rose unsteadily to her feet and was steadied by Obi-Wan, who got a glare for his efforts. “I thought long and hard about your trials, Dawn,” Buffy started. “I meditated for days. In the end, the Force guided me to this event. Unfortunately, the Force doesn’t always disclose everything.
“I had no idea how bad it would get,” she continued. “I had no idea that C’baoth…when I saw you standing on that walkway, god…”
Anakin laid a comforting hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Nobody was expecting what happened to happen,” he said. “Master Kenobi and I were in on this from the start, despite where we were; both of us agreed to it as well. If we had known then what we know now, then perhaps we would have sent more across the barrier than a Padawan and a demon-hunting group. Would we still have triumphed? I don’t know. But this does bring to mind a question I have for you Padawan - when you went across, what did you think would happen?”
“You mean, did I expect to win?” Dawn asked. Anakin nodded. “Yes, I did.”
“Explain, please,” Master Kilwallen asked.
“When I decided to go, I made a conscience choice to succeed ,” Dawn explained. “In my mind, if I failed, then all that I saw would come to pass. And that was unacceptable to me. So I decided that I was going to succeed.”
“Or die trying?” Obi-Wan asked; Zett visibly tensed.
“No,” Dawn replied calmly. “That wasn’t an option either.”
“Do, or do not. There is no try,” Anakin quoted. “You certainly took that to heart.”
“Believe it or not, I took all of my training to heart,” Dawn replied. “Unlike you people.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Roan asked with an amused smile.
“Secretly promoting Zett, knowing that I’d ignore what the Council said and beg him for a PPG anyway. You set me up!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. “This is revenge, for me sticking it to you last time…”
“Nonsense,” Master Sibwarra said, not even trying to hide her smile. “A Jedi never seeks revenge…”
“Perhaps we should get back to the matters at hand, Masters,” Obi-Wan said, rising from his chair. “Today this Council meets to decide if Padawan Dawn Summers is ready to advance to the level of Jedi Knight. All those who agree, say ‘Aye’.”
One after another, all the voting Masters said ‘Aye’ to an astonished Dawn. As the last vote was cast, the Masters all lit their lightsabers. “Padawan, kneel,” Obi-Wan instructed. Dawn got down to one knee, but looked warily as Buffy approached.
“Uhh… not that I’m not honored that you’d want to be the one, Master,” she said nervously, “but I don’t trust you to be anywhere near my head with that saber right now.”
Buffy hesitated and then sighed. “Yeah. Wouldn’t do well to kill my first Padawan right as she graduates.”
“I shall do it,” Master Kilwallen said. Buffy fell back as the elder Master approached. She paused and gave Dawn an appraising look.
“I never quite agreed with Buffy taking you on, nor have I always been in favor of you remaining in this Order.” She paused, then smiled softly. “Never before have I been so happy to be wrong about my opinions.” Ydra lowered her lightsaber and with a slight flick severed the Padawan braid that hung over Dawn’s right ear. “By the will of this Council, I now proclaim you a Knight of the Jedi Order. Rise, Jedi Knight Summers.”
Dawn rose, then sent a glare towards Zett that clearly said Later. She bowed in respect, then smiled.
“Well, if there isn’t anything else…”
“There isn’t,” Buffy assured her.
“Good. ‘Cause I’ve got something to do. Masters.” She bowed once more, then turned and walked briskly out of the Council chambers. The Masters could hear the Slayer congratulating their old Watcher and Anakin looked over at Zett with pity in his eyes.
“I don’t envy you tonight.”
“This is all your fault,” was all he said before taking his leave, much to the amusement of the other Masters.
Several hours later, Dawn approached Joyce down at the Memorial Wall, where she was paying respects to her father.
“Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc, ni partayli, gar darasuum Jacen Solo.”
“Am I interrupting?” Dawn asked, coming to a stop behind the other girl.
“Me'copaani? “ Joyce asked as she rose, but stopped and stared in amusement at Dawn. “What did you do to your hair?”
Dawn smiled and brushed her now-long hair behind her neck. “Got a promotion.”
“Kandosii!” Joyce replied. “So that’s the first thing you do? Get your hair done?”
“Do you know how long Tara’s been holding onto that hair-restoration spell for me?” Dawn asked. “I was just waiting for that promotion to get rid of that god-awful haircut.”
“So what are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be celebrating with your boyfriend?”
Dawn scowled. “He and I will be having words later. Right now, though, I’m here about you.” She glanced worriedly on her niece. “I heard about what happened on Cloud City.”
“I didn’t use my powers…”
“Not your Jedi powers, no,” Dawn replied. “But your Slayer powers, yes. You tapped into that darkness that is the Slayer and I know that must have scared you.”
“It still wasn’t enough,” Joyce snarled. “Fett still got away.”
“That’s because you lacked the proper training.”
Joyce just shook her head. “I already told the old man. I don’t want any more of hat new-age Jedi crap. It just doesn’t suit me.”
“No, I agree,” Dawn said, crossing her arms behind her back. “You’re too much like your mother, when she was younger. No, you don’t need a Master.” Dawn smiled. “What you need is a Watcher.”
Joyce looked at her unbelieving, then turned and looked back at the wall to where Dawn’s gaze was traveling.
Violet ‘Vi’ Dames
“Uh, Dawn…” she started. “Two things - one, you quit that Council and two, your last Slayer… well, was killed. After that, I was under the impression you didn’t want that anymore.”
“For a while, I didn’t,” Dawn admitted, still staring at her friend’s name. “Vi was more than my Slayer; she was my best friend here. After she was killed, I was so angry for so long…” she sighed. “The point is, I know how you’re feeling, because I’ve felt the same thing. I know what it’s like to want skira, to let it consume you. But I also know how to help, if you’ll let me.” At Joyce’s incredulous look, Dawn pressed on. “Look, I know we haven’t always gotten on. Part of it is how similar we look - I see myself every time I look at you and it reminds me exactly how I came about. And I guess we’ve both been striving to gain Buffy’s love, in our own ways. But it’s time we put that all behind us. If you fall, Joyce, it would destroy Buffy just as much as it would if I fell, or were killed. I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen. So please, let me help you.”
“But what about your Watcher’s Council?” Joyce asked. “Won’t they have something to say about this?”
“Benefits of being a newly minted Jedi Knight with a Sith Lord under her belt. They’ll allow me to take an apprentice.” Dawn grinned. “I always love finding ways around the rules. Cheat to win, you know?”
Joyce chuckled. “Not a very good policy for a Jedi.”
“But a pretty good policy for a Slayer.” Dawn reached out her hand. “So what do you say?”
Joyce considered her Aunt for a moment, then stared back at the wall. The two names - Violet ‘Vi’ Dames and Jacen Solo - stood out to her. Finally, she looked back to Dawn and grasped her hand.
“Vor entye,” she replied, shaking her hand.
“I trust you’ve learned your lesson?” Anakin said softly as he entered his quarters. Willow lay splayed out on the couch, with Padmé tending to her. Willow nodded weakly. “Good. No more getting my sister drunk. Nor yourself - it’s unbefitting to a Padawan.”
“And no more knocking me out to go on adventures!” Anakin added, a smile in his voice.
“And here I thought I was following your lofty example.”
Anakin smirked, then turned to his wife. “Don’t keep her up too late. I got a big day planned tomorrow.”
“Joy,” Willow replied dryly.
Padmé smiled at her husband as he entered their bedroom and closed the door, then turned back t her sister. “So, how are you really holding up?”
“Well, I finally got to meet my daughter,” Willow sighed. “I hope I was able to talk some sense into her. I want her to break free…”
“Well, once we defeat the Empire, it should be very easy for her to break…” she trailed off as she saw the look on Willow’s face. “What?”
“We’ve talked about this, Padmé. It’s not as simple as that.”
“I refuse to believe that the Republic that stood for ten thousand years cannot rise again…” Padmé started, but Willow held up a pained hand.
“The Republic is dead, Padmé,” she argued. “It was dying, even before Palpatine took over. It would have died if he hadn’t taken over. The Empire appeals to a lot of worlds and will still appeal to worlds after Palpatine is dead. What you have to do is help others prepare for that eventuality. Contact the old crowd, Padmé. Make your presence felt. Prepare them, not for a total victory, but for an uneasy, but working, peace.”
“And what will you be doing, Willow?” Padmé asked suspiciously. Willow sighed.
“Making use of my contacts,” she replied. “And hopefully preparing a galaxy where my daughter can live in peace.
“May I join you?”
Obi-Wan stepped out onto the balcony where Buffy stood, looking over the lake as night fell. Down below he spied Dawn and Joyce clasping hands, before they both turned and headed inside. “Wonder what that was all about?”
“I think Dawn found her first apprentice,” Buffy said, a smile in her voice. “Sorry.”
“Well I’m not,” Obi-Wan replied, rubbing his jaw. “That girl packs quite a punch.”
“I’m just glad they’ve been able to put their differences behind them.”
“And how are you holding up?”
Buffy sighed. “Better, now. Willow really helped - don’t!” she said sternly at his amused look. “It may not have been the best way, but she pulled me out of my funk. Now I just have to keep myself out.”
“You don’t have to do it all by yourself,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “I’d like to help, too.”
Buffy turned towards Obi-Wan and leaned against the balcony. “You know, there was a time… before the war, before Jacen… that I thought that maybe you and I would end up together, Council be damned. But then Corellia happened… I loved Jacen,” she said, trying to make Obi-Wan understand, “and in a lot of ways, I still do. But I’m starting to think that maybe I’m ready to move on…”
Obi-Wan moved to Buffy and put his hands on her shoulders. “Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. I shall never forget Siri; but I won’t deny my feelings for you any longer. She wouldn’t want me to. Just as Jacen would want you to be happy.” Obi-Wan smiled. “I hope I can be the one to make you happy again.”
Buffy moved in and wrapped her arms around Obi-Wan and rested her head on his shoulder. “Can we take it slow?”
Obi-Wan chuckled and kissed the top of her head. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Han sighed as he looked over the schematics to the Falcon that Fred had given him. She had made a lot of changes to his ship - all of them good, many of them things he wish he’d had when he was smuggling. His father’s cloaking device was now fully integrated, as well as the Ship Portal Generator. She had also added some new weapons, ablative armoring on the hull and a bunch of other things he couldn’t begin to understand.
“Everything okay, Han?”
Han looked up to see Leia leaning against the doorway, a cocky look on her face that closely matched the one he usually wore. “Why are you so happy, Princess?”
“Well, I got good news and bad news,” she said, pushing off the doorframe and walking into the room. “The good news is that you’ll be released tomorrow. The bad news is that you won’t be leaving Earth for a while, at least until we get things settled with Jabba the Hutt.”
“How are we going to do that?”
Leia smirked. “Well, Luke actually came up with an idea,” she stated. “It needs a bit of work, but give us a few weeks and we’ll nail it.”
“How is Joyce doing?” he asked seriously. Leia sighed and sat on the edge of his bed.
“Better, I think. She dropped Obi-Wan as a Master and Dawn’s taken her on now…”
“Dawn? Buffy’s sister Dawn? Wasn’t she just promoted today?”
“I talked to her briefly; she said she was going to be more of a Watcher than a Jedi Master.”
“Whatever keeps her honest,” Han replied. “Speaking of which…”
“You will not hurt Wedge. At all. For any reason,” she said, her tone brokering no argument. “Understand?”
Han smirked, then pulled her down to him. “Whatever you say, your Worshipfulness,” he said, before kissing her senseless.
“My father went through the same thing.”
Luke sat down across from Wedge in the crowded commissary. It was after ten, many of the teams were preparing to go out on patrols across the country and were catching a last meal. More than a few were staring at the two pilots with lust-filled eyes.
“Don’t suppose telling them I’m married would do anything?” he asked. Luke shook his head and Wedge sighed. “What did Anakin do?”
“Got Buffy to put a stop to it,” Luke smirked. “In your case, don’t hold your breath. You married her only daughter, in secret. She won’t be very forgiving of that.”
“I thought everyone knew?” he groused. Luke laughed outright.
“Everyone did know. But that won’t change a thing.”
“So what’s next, Boss?” Wedge asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
“Well, first thing first is we settle things with Jabba,” Luke said. “Then we prepare for the final push. We’ve gotten some intel from Karrde- Palpatine is building a new Death Star. My mother and Willow are cooking something up, I know. But we’ll have to start planning on how to take it out before he can make the station fully operational.”
“Do you think we can actually win this thing?” Wedge asked at length. “Do you think we’ll know peace in our lifetime?”
“I certainly hope so,” Luke replied, lifting his cup in a salute. “To peace.”
“To peace,” Wedge replied.
Mara sat in her darkened quarters on the Executor, meditating quietly on what her mother had said to her. She was nothing like I expected, Mara thought to herself. If I only knew her, truly knew her…
Her door chimed and Mara pulled herself out of her meditation. “Enter!” she called, then stood at attention as Lord Halcyon entered the room, sealing the door behind him. “Lord Halcyon,” she said, bowing. “How may I serve our Emperor?”
“I could feel your distress on the bridge, Hand,” Halcyon said simply, walking past her to stare out the viewport behind her. “Rest assured, our Master can feel it as well.”
“My apologies, Lord Halcyon. My mind has been…cluttered, since Cloud City.”
“Since your mother, you mean.” Halcyon turned to face her. “What did she say that upset you so?”
“I met my mother, that was upsetting enough,” Mara snapped, then sighed. “I’m sorry, Master. It’s just… she said that I should ask who I should be serving - the Emperor or the Empire. And for the life of me, I just can’t figure out the answer.”
“The Emperor is the Empire,” Halcyon said simply.
“And when he dies?” Mara shot back. “Despite everything he’s done, he’s still not immortal. When he dies, I’ll bet that the Empire will have very little use for people like us.”
“There will always be a need for people like us,” Halcyon replied.
“And if I don’t want to be that kind of person?” Mara retorted. “It’s been said that a person is defined by the choices they make. But I’ve never had the opportunity to make those choices. Ever since birth, I’ve been raised on Imperial City, taught by the finest teachers, guided by the most powerful man in the galaxy, all towards one goal - to make me the perfect assassin, the perfect warrior - neither Jedi nor Sith, who would follow the command of the Emperor without question or hesitation. And it’s worked - his hold over me is so great, I can hear him across the galaxy. He can compel me to kill anyone, anywhere, any time. But a person can only go through so much before it starts to get to them.”
Halcyon moved in close. “If you find yourself unable to do your job, then you can be replaced…”
“And what of you, Nejaa?” Mara asked. “You chose to become what you are today. But your family is still out there - we both know it! What’s stopping you from going to them…”
“Your MOTHER made this choice for me!” Halcyon snarled, his hand shooting up and grasping Mara by the throat. “She made the choice when she and Anakin mutilated me and left me for dead!” In anger, he tossed her away and Mara hit the far bulkhead hard. She staggered forward slightly, ready to fight if necessary, but Halcyon’s shoulders sagged and he fell into a nearby chair. “As for my family - how could I face them like this? I forsake my Order for revenge - revenge that turned out to be merely superficial. I thought I was avenging their deaths; instead, I only wanted to avenge my own disfigurement. Everything I was, everything I fought for, died that day in the temple; all that’s left is this bitter husk of a man. You say that our choices define who we are; this is who I am now.”
“But what if it wasn’t who you had to be?” Mara asked quietly. “What if you could be more?”
“There is no more,” Halcyon replied sadly, rising to his feet and moving to the door. As he passed through the now open door, he stopped and turned to look at Mara. “This is all I have left. Though I pray that you can find something more for yourself.” With that, he turned and walked out of the room, letting the door close on Mara and leaving her in the darkness once more.END
And so ends Star Wars - Episode V: Trials of the Empire. It’s taken me longer than I expected, but I finally did it. Coming soon will be Star Wars - Episode VI- Jedi Rising.
Vor entye vor-ENT-yay Thank you (lit. "I accept a debt")
skira SKEE-rah settling scores, revenge. feud (different to vengeance - more personal)