Three days later
As the day began they all suddenly looked up as a ship broke through the atmosphere. They all pulled their weapons, although they could sense no threat from it. Luke soon noticed the force ghosts of his father, Ben and Yoda appear and each had a look of shock on their faces which made him suspect they knew who was coming.
They watched as the ship landed and noted that it was a very old style fighter, bearing the symbol of the Old Republic, which was a dead giveaway. The cockpit opened and they all watched as a tall bald man stepped out. Luke noted the frown appear on the man's face, as he took in the three force ghosts and it was directed sorely at his father.
"Master Yoda, Master Kenobi good to see you again," Mace said in greeting. "Skywalker," he added, moving towards Anakin who looked ill at the sight of the man. "I know you redeemed yourself, but what you did will never leave you or those of us who were there. You betrayed us," he accused unable to control himself.
"I know Master Windu. I wish I could go back and change everything, but I can't," Anakin responded. "I have to live with the knowledge of what I did, of betraying everyone who cared about me. My fellow Jedi and more importantly Obi-Wan and Padme," he continued. "There is no taking back, all I can do is accept that I was wrong, that I made the biggest mistake of my life and that I will never fully be forgiven by some people," he finished.
"It finally sunk into your brain that you were not always right then?" Windu asked.
"Yes Master," Anakin replied sadly. "I am sorry for not listening to you, the council and Obi-Wan. I allowed myself to be blinded and in so doing doomed us all," he went on. Luke went to intervene, but Ben quickly intercepted him and shook his head to ensure he stayed out of this.
"Yes you did, but you also undid your mistake when you turned against the Emperor," Windu acknowledged. "I don't know why, but I know in the end you completed the prophecy of the chosen one," he stated.
"Love Master, it was the reason for my fall, fear of losing my loved ones and it was my redemption. My love for my son and daughter brought me back," Anakin responded. "It woke me up to what was really going on, it was like I had been asleep for a long time and then I acted, no matter what the cost was to myself," he continued. "I died knowing that I had at least saved my son," he finished in a tone, which conveyed his acceptance of this.
Mace looked the Force ghost in the eyes for a few minutes before nodding his head. "Then the past is behind us Skywalker and we are again on the same side. I guess when it really mattered at the end you remembered who you really were," he told him. "I am sure Palpatine never saw it coming," he added with a tight grin before turning away.
"How is this possible?" Ben asked, shocked to see Master Mace Windu alive and well. "We all thought you were dead. We did not sense you at all," he added.
"I built a powerful force shield around myself so I would not be detected. I was going to come out of hiding when the emperor was killed, but a tremor in the force warned me away. Now it showed me that the time was right to come out and help," Mace answered.
"Er..Who is this Ben?" Luke inquired.
"I'm sorry, this is Master Mace Windu the last Jedi Council member left alive, as far as I know," Ben answered. "He somehow survived his brush with death," he added.
Anakin did his best to ignore the pain and horror he felt at seeing Windu again after so long. His action that night in cutting off Windu's sword arm had directly led to his fall, even if he had been heading in that direction for a while. If he had managed to stop him some other way maybe events would not have gone the way they had. He shook his head and tried to focus on other things. Even with their conversation putting the matter to rest he still carried the weight and pain of his actions, he guessed he always would.
"I thought there was no Jedi Masters alive in this universe?" Xander inquired. "Which is why you had to come and get us," he added.
"My force shield ensured that no one could detect me, not Jedi or Sith," Mace responded, as he looked over the people in front of him before he came to rest on the son of Anakin Skywalker. "So you are the last hope of the Jedi, trained by Yoda and Obi-Wan to lead a new order," he mused.
"And I failed," Luke shot back.
"Considering how little training you had Skywalker, you did as well as could be expected. What happened with your sister was proberly bound to happen and for all we know it could have been you who would have been turned and not your sister," Mace countered. "No, you are cleaning up the mess left behind from the end of the clone wars," he added. "We made many mistakes, as did the republic we served and you are paying for those mistakes," he assured him.
"Agree I do," Yoda spoke up. "The failure was ours in not seeing the true threat until it was too late, failed to act we did," he added. "Ja'non's survival we also did not see, his darkness you failed to detect because you were not trained fully," he explained. "Let go of your anger of yourself you must and concentrate on saving your twin you must," he advised.
Luke looked at his former master before looking at where Jaina stood and noted how sad she looked. He nodded his head, but knew it would not be an easy thing for him to do.
"What now?" Mara asked, trying to get over the fact there was a live Jedi Master in front of her.
"We continue to train and we can discuss our options as we go," Xander replied, before everyone turned and went back to their breakfast.
Mace sat alone surrounded by the Force ghosts, even Anakin. Luke wondered just how much they had to say to each other.
She sat at a table in her friend's house, in Diamond City on Correlia and blinked disbelieving at the screen of her datapad. While tears were running down her face she looked around and noted the luxurious interior of the house.
All things she saw were of the best quality and would have been quite expensive on the open market or just not be available at all now, if most of the things hadn't been made by her friend or his wife, who both were master craftsmen in different areas, among other things.
Trying to distract her thoughts a bit more, she mustered the beautiful looking fountain in the hall and the chandelier hanging above it. Blinking she looked at the fountain and saw that a part of the fountain disappeared and suddenly her friend stepped out of the hole that had opened there, after he stepped out the fountain looked whole again.
Her friend looked at her and grinned as he said, "What Jen? Don't tell me you didn't found that passage yet with your snoopy nose."
Jan shook her head. "No, I found one in your weapon chamber, but not this one, good work Praiphex."
Praiphex mock bowed before Jan and said, "I would like to take credit for that one, but this was Kiara's work, not mine." He looked at Jan for a moment and then asked with a worried tone. "Why were you crying, Jan? Kyle again?"
Jan nodded and replied, "He is alive."
Praiphex stepped closer and pulled his longtime friend into a hug and whispered. "Jan, I know you loved that blighter, but you have to let him go. It is over three years now that he went MIA."
With tearful eyes Jan mumbled, "No, he is alive, really. You know that I never stopped to check our drop boxes and looked into them from time to time since he went missing?"
"I did that just before you came in and there was a message from him," she said still in a disbelieving tone.
"Are you sure it was from him and not a trap?" Praiphex asked.
"Yes, after he was compromised once we installed a lot of security and a lot of codes. Not even under torture they would have got all of them correctly from him, you know Kyle and all was correct."
"So what did the message say?" Praiphex asked, now very curios to hear more.
"He was freed from an Imperial prison on Coruscant a few days ago and is now on an out of the way planet, where he joined his rescuers and now is in a training exercise," Jan told her friend.
"Ok, Kiara is still working on your ‘Moldey Crow' and that will take at least take a week more. I can't believe in what a mess you brought that ship to us, but my ‘Crescent Hawk' will be ready the day after tomorrow. So we will have time enough to gear up and then go find Kyle."
"We?" Jan asked.
"Of course we, first of I have a word or two to exchange with Kyle and second you really don't believe I would give you my ‘Hawk' after I saw what you did with the ‘Crow'. Do you?" he replied smiling.
"Yeah, I know. The attachment you Correlian have with your YT's is quite unnatural, but at least you have a newer model than General Solo used," Jan replied.
"Yeah, we could build in a few more nice things in a YT-2100 than in the old YT-1300 Han used and tomorrow the new hyperdrive should be finished, as well as my new workbench so that I have something to do on the flight. You want a nice Swoop?" Praiphex asked.
Jan just shook her head and thought, ‘Boys and their toys' loud she said. "Thank you, bro."
Two weeks later
The day had not started that well in Luke's opinion, perhaps it was the cold wet rain or the fact that he manage to discover exactly how cold the water in the muddy water hole really was. During their morning run they had all taken the same road each and every day. They had run over an old fallen tree stump that lay like a bridge over the water hole. Xander with his full armor and a ship load of weapons had run right over it with no problem and he was only the first. Jaina, Dawn all with heavy armor and weapons, Kyle with light armor, but heavy weapons and the tree stump held.
It held for Jade, thanks for small favors, he had no urge to see his friend who he had started to feel quite a lot for in the last weeks, half drown in the dirty water.
Then he came armed with a lightsaber and no armor and it broke, sending him crashing down in the coldest dirtiest water he ever had the bad luck of ending up in.
Luke -mud monster- Skywalker was forced to run back, shower and change to something clean. Just to get rid of the leeches he had stuck on his body and suffer the humiliation of having both Danni and R3 Xander's droid that apparently had healer droid programming making sure the leeches did not poison him.
The day could have started better.
As he saw the others run into camp tired and wet from the local rain he reconsidered. He got a whole extra hour resting today.
Perhaps this was a good day.
The breakfast was as normal blend with a bad taste on the side, but hungry as they where they would have eaten steel plating if that was offered.
Now it was time to train battle again.
"Right, today we are going to do something different," Xander said. "Home in my academy this is part of the training exercise all of them have to do." He looked at them "What is the single greatest weakness both Sith and Jedi have?" He saw that Dawn was waving her hand. "No Dawn let the others guess."
Kyle narrowed his eyes. "Over confidence, they put their trust in their force powers so much they are handicapped when the power of the force can't solve the problem."
Xander blinked. "Alright not what I was thinking about, but correct. You could argue yourself blind what weakness is the greatest. I think the overconfidence is second greatest weakness a Jedi or a Sith suffers from, but the weakness I think about should be obvious to those of you with military training. Yet it is not."
Jade frowned. "This is silly, but are you thinking about team work? I mean that can't be it. Can it?"
Xander grinned. "Give the girl a hug Luke, she got it. Yes team work is the greatest weakness. Both Sith and Jedi relies on themselves far too much. The lacking of teamwork is also connected to the overconfidence problem. Home we have our lovely Force Guardians and Force Rangers to keep us connected to reality. Force Rangers are people with no training or ability in the force, but a Master Ranger is part of the Jedi council to advice us Jedi. Just as a Master Guardian is part of our council, both as equals because our new Jedi order has recognized that it is a weakness we have."
Luke nodded. "I think I understand, but I would say it's overconfidence that's the main problem."
Xander shrugged. "I can't do anything about overconfidence as a problem, but I can teach you how to work as a team. Give you the training and understanding that sometimes you have to put your trust in other people's skills and abilities. This training has been proven to help a Jedi overcome his own overconfidence."
Mace who has listened to this only could nod in agreement to those things, as much as it hurt to see that Xander is right in those things. He was wary at first of the young Jedi Master, but he really seemed to know what he was doing.
Jaina interrupted Xander. "Normally at home we do training drills where Jedi trainees and non-force user like the Force Rangers are teamed up to do some battle drills. We instruct them to try to solve the problem using all the available resources. It teaches our Jedi to respect and put their trust in the skill of our Force rangers and help them work together. Most Jedi nowadays work side by side with a Force ranger and if they are lucky a Force Guardian. We don't have that many yet."
Luke frowned. "So how are we going to do that training here?" he asked.
Xander replied. "By doing one part of the training, both, Jedi and Sith, lack the ability to work in teams. Even when two or more Jedi team up to fight against a darksider they don't work together that well. It is one of the reasons so many Jedi dies, even when they are two or more against a Darksider. They fight one against one and are not combining their skill and ability at the same time against the darksider."
Kyle was now frowning as he considered the idea. It was not a new idea. A team working together well did not double their potential strength. It increased by a factor around four times in rare times even more, if the team was fighting in perfect harmony. Just as a team that did not work together or combine their skills during the fight would actually fight with less then half their own skills, because they would constantly get in each other's way. It's wasn't rare that friendly fire came from a friendly team. "You are right. Each training I have seen so far is one VS one. The books you let me read is one Jedi VS one darksider or one Jedi VS many enemies."
Luke was thinking hard as he looked back on his past training. Each of his masters in the force had trained him to fight by himself and to rely only on himself, unlike his trainer in piloting and his time in Rogue Squadron. He knew all to well how much a good team's strength increased. "I agree."
Jade nodded to herself.
Xander smiled. "We do some exercises where we take turn being the president and being an evil one. The others are his bodyguards."
Luke, Kyle and Jade blinked their eyes in confusion.
"I can explain," Dawn said, waving her hand and when Xander nodded she said, "It's simple one is the president. The president can't fight. He can only run. The others have to protect him from enemy attacks and Xander is going to set those remote seeker droids out to shoot the president. Buffy and Rona are going to attack with lightsabers. Our mission is to go from point A to point B without loosing the president. Right?"
Xander nodded, they had done this exercise many times. "We're going to use training lightsabers during this exercise. If one of the aggressors is hit, she is dead for nine seconds. Then she can attack again. In this exercise we limit the use of the force. No telekinetic or similar skills."
Luke looked at Kyle and Jade before asking. "How will we do this then?"
Xander looked "South side of the island is home. I put a flag in the safe spot and the president is safe if he is home. North side," he pointed at a flag R6 just planted into the ground, "is the starting point. If the president is standing by the starting flag he is safe for five minutes then he has to move away from it." He grinned. "I think that Dawn you are the president. Luke, Kyle and Jade are the bodyguards. The ‘EVIL ONES' are Buffy, Rona and I. Remember girls, they are new at this exercise, so give them some slack until they work together. Jaina you are the judge."
Buffy, Rona and Jaina nodded.
Dawn swallowed. "eeep. Help me. You're my only hope."
Nearby R3 activated the seekers, small ball shaped robots with tiny blasters, so called stingers on them. They hurt, but did not really wound a person. They were a perfect training tool to teach Jedi to dodge or parry blaster bolts. He activated only four seekers to begin with.
Xander looked at them all and said, "Remember the PRESIDENT is unable to protect him or herself from the seeker attack. If the president is shot he is dead and you have failed. If one of us hits the president, you fail."
He pulled up a pair of training lightsaber snap hiss. Snap hiss.
"Let the game begin."
The seeker came in high and fast. Mace watched this for a few minutes before he turned and went back to his own training. He had decided to leave Master Harris and his friends to continue training Luke and Mara, as they had undated techniques which seemed to work quite well. He had joined Han Solo in training on their own to get fit again.
Dawn begin to run as quickly as she could under Jade's cover. Both Kyle and Luke followed on the side.
The attack started way to fast, as both Kyle and Luke parried the same blaster bolt Jade parried the second one and the fourth.
"Ouch that hurts," said Dawn. "Damn it, now I died. This is so you fault," she said pointing at Kyle and stomped back to the flag.
"Well now you see the use of team work. Dawn back to the flag and Dawn, you have done this before. Remember how you solved this then," Xander said.
Dawn blinked. "Oh yeah, Lexa, Anakin and I talked it through during our five minutes of safety." She was almost jumping. "Oh I get it. I get it."
Xander shook his head and moved away from sight.
Back at the north flag Dawn said, "Right. We all chose an area to guard. Luke left side and front, Kyle right side and front. Jade my backside and above me," she blinked then slowly started to smile. Quickly moving away and whispering in her communicator she sent a short message. "R5, song no 98 on my command."
Luke slapped his head. "Of course, we all just rushed away like idiots." He did not care to mention that it was because Dawn had started to run and they just had followed, caught up in the rush. He wondered what the girl was whispering about.
"Four and a half," Jaina yelled. "Better start moving guys."
"Eeep," Dawn screamed and the game was one.
R3 had fun controlling the seeker droids playing assassin droid. It was something he had done lots of times before and he had over sixteen seekers he could use when the game started to become more advanced.
This time, the moment they rushed out, the seekers were on to them, but both, Luke and Kyle, moved faster then the seekers could sent the stinger bolts and then sent the bolts back at the seekers making them deactivate for a short moment.
Then Rona attacked. "Death to El Presidento," she screamed in joy.
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa," Dawn screamed, while running even faster. She grabbed the communicator and yelled, "Now R5, now."
Rona and the rest run after her.
Xander sighed while seeing Dawn hunted by Rona, Rona hunted by Luke and Kyle, and Jade desperately trying to run at Dawn's speed while giggling. He blinked, where was that music coming from? He looked down at his communicator and blinked it was playing Yakety Sax. He sat down enjoying the show that had just turned funnier, as Buffy joined in hunting Dawn, while being hunted by Kyle.
Jade, Kyle and Luke blinked and almost stopped when a strange music started to play in a fast beat on their portable radio.
Buffy and Rona that both grow up on Earth and seen the Benny Hill show were now giggling madly as they tried to catch the president.
Four hours later it was time for lunch by then all of them had taken turns being president.
So far none had made it back to HOME with a living president, but they were coming close.
Han and Mace came back from their run and joined them. They were almost wiped out from the increased pace they had set for themselves. Mace had kept in shape, but he was still somewhat off from having not had to push himself for a long time. He quickly grabbed some food and water and began to eat and Han quickly followed his example. He was in much better shape now than he had been two weeks ago and he just hoped that when the time came it would be worth it, especially when they confronted Leia.
As they were eating lunch the two older men joined Jade, sitting down on each side of her.
"This training is hard, but the kids sure know their stuff," Kyle said with pride. His counterpart must have been one hell of a tough son of a bitch or the kids have been trough hell and back repeatedly. He hoped it was just his dimensional counterpart that had trained them to hard. Somehow it felt wrong.
Luke nodded. "Never been in this good of a shape before," he said thinking it over before continuing, "or so tired before."
Kyle snorted out a laugh. "Know what you mean. You had it bloody easy in the beginning all those Jedi healing crap and meditation let us recover faster. You knew them, I did not."
Luke rolled his eyes.
"Kyle, the moment you mastered those skills, they picked up the speed and the hardness of the training. You know that," Jade stated.
Kyle nodded. "Well. Yeah. Still all fly boys are soft spoiled nancy boys compared to real soldiers," he said grinning.
Luke sighed. ‘Would Kyle ever stop teasing him about being a fly boy? Most likely no,' he thought. "I know they know what they are doing. I learned more about the lightsaber forms these weeks then I have learned from all my earlier teachers and the team work exercises? I wonder why the Jedi did not think of that before."
Kyle shrugged. "Who knows?"
The shimmering image of Anakin appeared beside them. They had seen many Force ghosts, some they never had seen before, visiting. When Xander said he was a ghost magnet he was not kidding, that was for sure. The Force ghosts said that visiting Xander took less energy for them.
"You are wrong. The Jedi and the Sith, both, trained themselves in team work once, once when the Jedi had numbers that were greater than we had. Jedi were trained to work in small teams of Padawan's under a more experience Jedi or a Jedi master. Later when the number had dwindled, the Jedi order trained Jedi to work with Republic soldiers. Sadly that tradition was lost during the long years of peace," Anakin explained.
"Dad, is there a reason you arrived here?" Luke asked curios while smiling at his father's ghost.
Anakin smiled at him. "Just a short visit, I have seen your improvement and I am proud. Before your training is over, you will have to face you greatest enemies, your own fear and anger. Leia's fall has made you doubt yourself and your abilities, but you cannot blame yourself for her actions. You are a child of the Force, always remember that," he said before he faded away again.
Kyle shook his head.
Luke was silent his apatite was long gone and this time it was not the fault of the food.
Jade so wanted to hug him and ease his fears away with soft comforting words, but she could not at the moment. Anything she did would just force those fears to hide, just to return later.
Luke would have to find help and strength inside himself. "I believe in you Luke," she said simply.
The man she come to care about nodded and then moved away into the eternal fog, vanishing from sight quickly.
The swamp hardly made a sound, as he walked along the muddy path they always run along. He stopped by the water and mud filled pit he so recently had taken a bath in.
Looking at the dark pit was like seeing the twisted evil looking eyes of Leia back at him.
"Why sister, why?" Luke asked.
"I can always feel him, my twin brother Jacen I mean. Whenever we go out into other dimensions, it's like an empty hole in my heart is filled with pain and longing. Force twins. Two side of a coin but still connected, still part of a whole." Jaina said, while sitting down beside him. "Xander and the Force ghosts said that Anakin brought balance to the force. With us and with you, all of us with Skywalker blood and those of Xander's blood can dive deeper inside the darkness and return to light."
Luke watched her spellbound by what she said. "You think she could return?"
Jaina shrugged. "She's mom. In my reality you fell for the darkness, because the emperor returned, but mom and dad pulled you back. Mom or Leia..., you have to listen to the voice inside of you, the force allows it to guide you. Perhaps you can bring her back and save her. Perhaps you can save her by ending her pains," she said with tear filled eyes. "Whatever you do uncle, I know it will be the right thing to do. I trust in you and I love you uncle."
Luke nodded hugging his niece closer. A niece that would never be born here, thanks to Leia's fall. How unfair that was.
If he cried or not, Jaina could not tell as the rain started to fall making his face drip of water. She never could image seeing the mighty LUKE SKYWALKER this vulnerable and hurt and worse, so lost.
But what would she do if Jacen had fallen to the darkside? Could she kill part of herself and survive?
Back at the camp Danni looked out at the direction and sighed sadly, if she only could help him, but she knew that would not work. His trust in himself was broken and only he could heal it the right way.
Then the rain came and the world was crying.
"Let's cut today's training short," Xander said. "Tomorrow we make up for being lazy today."
"Hyper. Xander, can I go and explore the swamp?" Dawn asked. She had seen some strange things out there and was curios.
Xander opened his mouth and then closed it again. He looked over at Buffy and Rona and saw the two of them shook their heads. They were tired.
Buffy glared back at him.
"Sure Dawn, let's go," Xander said.
"Yay adventure," she yelled.
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Kyle said to Jade.
"No idea, but I feel the same way." She shrugged. "Just think about it. What kind of trouble could that girl really find out here?"
Buffy hanged her head and banged it on the table she sat at. "You just had to jinx us."
Meanwhile, armed with his lightsabers and a Thunderer, Xander walked after Dawn, as she carefully navigated the swamp. "Dawn try to use the force, spread out your weight equally along the surface then glide above it."
Dawn blinked, looking back at where Xander stood and then she blinked again. "Hey that's unfair, you are doing a Jesus," she whined. Seeing Xander was standing on top of the water.
Xander grinned. "Yeah and I told you how to do it. Use your telekinetic skill to spread out your weight on top of the water and the mud under your feet and you to will do a Jesus." He suddenly waved his hand wildly along, as he almost fell down. "It's like standing on ice, really slippery ice."
She blinked grinning. "Ice skating, I rock in that." She walked out only to sink in knee deep.
Frowning she focused and slowly rose out of the water, standing on unsteady feet now and then waving her arms to keep herself upright.
"Wow this is hard," she whined. "But fun." Slowly she pushed off with her feet, as she started to skate forward. "It's real fun."
Xander followed wiggling around like a drunk as he tried to keep up. "Dawn, DAWN not so Sith spit fast," he yelled. Damn it there she vanished into the rain.
Meanwhile an YT-2100 dropped out of hyperspace and prepared to land on Gelgelar.