DISCLAIMER: I don’t own the characters from either show and earn no profit in writing this.
Jacen Solo didn’t know where he was, but he knew he wanted to leave. In his twenty-five odd years, he had visited over a hundred planets, but none seemed as alien to him as this one. The inhabitants were primarily human, but there were others. The others were all of species he had never seen or heard of before. That, in itself, didn’t surprise him. The search for Force lore he had begun at the end of the Yuuzhan Vong war had carried him to some very out-of-the-way places. None like this, though.
Based on the stars he could see, he thought himself to be somewhere in Wild Space, but that didn’t make any sense. He couldn’t have miscalculated the jump that badly, and more importantly, it felt wrong. How it was wrong, he couldn’t be sure, though. The Force was still with him, but his Jedi senses were under constant assault by the darkness that permeated the part of the planet where his skiff had gone down, the darkness that the non-humans seemed to be steeped in.
There was a large population of them in the small town; most were violent killers. This he could have accepted and dealt with, hostile aliens were certainly nothing new to him. It was the human population that baffled him. Inexplicably, they seemed unaware of the threat. They went about their daily lives, ignoring the non-humans unless the creatures were actively attacking them. There were a handful of people who acknowledged the creatures and fought against them, but by and large, the population was ignorant of what was happening right under their noses.
Jacen had tried to speak to the small group of warriors and scholars, but their leader seemed strangely put off by him. He had fought side-by-side with the young woman on two occasions since his arrival. Fleeting, accidental encounters, after which they had parted with barely a word. She was amazing, seeming to shine in the Force like a beacon, and to an extent, she seemed guided by it, but she was no Jedi. Her use of the Force seemed entirely instinctive and she drew on it only to enhance her natural physical abilities.
Her reaction to him also seemed to be instinctive. She regarded him the way one Krayat might react to another intruding in its territory. The others were less standoffish, but they still took their lead from her. The youngest male of the group, a dark haired man with a quirky sense of humor made an effort to be friendly.
“We can tell you’re not from around here,” he had said one evening over a drink they called beer. “The girls can sense it.”
“Sense it? In the Force?”
“Force?” He had puzzled at the reference for a moment then shrugged. “I guess if that’s what you call it. I don’t have that, but I can still tell your… ah, not local. You just don’t blend.” Jacen had raised a questioning eyebrow at that. “It’s a lot of little things, culture things.”
That made sense. He had made several blunders in that regard, drawing unwanted attention to himself. “Ah. Well, you can tell them that I’m doing my best to move on,” Jacen assured him.
“They’re really not unfriendly, and we aren’t trying to run you out of town. We just don’t know what to make of you. You help weed out the bad element, true enough, but you only do it when they get in your way. Makes us wonder if we shouldn’t be worried about your motives.”
Jacen leaned back in the booth they were sharing at the cantina and sighed. “I want to go home, that’s my motive.” For some reason the answer seemed to chill his drinking companion, and he could feel it through the Force as the younger man grew suddenly wary. “Why does that trouble you?”
He considered his answer a moment, before deciding to be straightforward about it. “A while back, we had someone else passing through. All she wanted was to return home. Didn’t care who got hurt in the process. Tortured and killed people along the way, including friends of mine.” The answer shocked Jacen and he was silent for several moments.
“I’m not going to hurt anyone, you have my word. As to helping out more…?” He hesitated. The humans on this world had been there a very long time. Off-worlders weren’t just rare; they were unheard of. This fact alone made him reluctant to tell his story. He had watched some of their popular entertainments, including something called X-files, and found it chilling. If the humans here truly reacted that way to people from off planet… “I’ll make more of an effort to help, but I have to keep certain things to myself.” Up to this point, he hadn’t shared much more than his name. After a moment’s consideration, he continued. “I can tell you that I left home to learn. I wanted to know more about the Force and how other cultures view it and use it. I would like to learn while I’m here.”
“So you’ll get more involved, tell us more about yourself in exchange for some magic lessons?” he seemed to think this over, even as Jacen suppressed his surprise at the use of the word ‘magic’. The Force witches of Dathomir had called the Force magic as well, but for some reason, he doubted that his new friend meant quite the same thing. “I’ll talk to the others. I think we can work something out.”
Jacen had plenty to occupy him while he waited for an answer. His skiff, carefully hidden in the woods outside of town, had been damaged in the forced landing that had marooned him. Although raw materials were available, there was nothing resembling the technology he needed. Getting the vessel to work again would have been slow going even if that were the only problem, but it wasn’t. The systems that did work refused to do so properly despite repeated diagnostics that said all was well. He could find no logical reason for that and was beginning to suspect some kind of interference, perhaps natural, perhaps deliberate.
The ambient evil that seemed to permeate the town clouded his Force sense. He could detect direct threats to himself, and he could locate others that were using the Force or who ‘stood out’ as the group’s leader did, but the general sense of unease that constantly assailed him kept him, he was beginning to believe, from picking up on subtle vibrations that would warn him of indirect threats. It was all the more reason to leave. So far, though, he had been unable to do that.
It was two days before he got an answer and another three before he was able to meet with the redheaded ‘magic’ user to begin instruction. Their view of the Force was very different indeed, but he did learn some important lessons about the nature of the world he found himself marooned on. He learned even more from their leader as he patrolled with her and watched her fight. She still felt uncomfortable around him, but she had accepted that he was not an enemy. One of the things he learned, although it took him a while to accept, was that he was farther from his home than he had previously imagined. It was his teacher who discovered this during one of their lessons, and her only response had been a raised eyebrow and a dismissive shrug. Jacen found it harder to accept.
Advanced mathematics and quantum theory had never been his strong suit. He knew enough to plot a hyperspace vector and fly a ship at sub-light, but little more than was demanded of any pilot. He had never given the idea of other dimensions or parallel realities a second thought, or a first for that matter. The import was staggering. If the physical laws of this place were ever so slightly different from those of his own universe, that could explain why he had been unable to fix his ship. If the Old Republic had never existed in this reality, it would explain why this world had gone for thousands of years without being discovered. Humans might actually have evolved here in this reality
. He knew scientists who would find the very notion, let alone the reality fascinating. He was no scientist.
“Interesting,” he mused aloud, after he had finally convinced himself to accept it as fact, “but it doesn’t help me get home.” It had been nearly two months, and the more he saw of the world he was marooned on, the less he liked it. He had foregone patrol that night in favor of a Jedi healing trance. Although the most common type of non-human, a species of blood drinkers, posed no real threat to him, there were others that were considerably more dangerous. His sense of responsibility kept him going out, trying to help, when he knew his time would be better spent in getting his ship to work, and it was costing him. The planet needed more than a single displaced Jedi. The darkness seemed all encompassing at times, although he knew that was an illusion. It fatigued him. The constant sense of unease in the Force, of danger just at the edge of awareness like an impending attack that never came, beat at his defenses. It would have been better farther from the small town, he was certain of that now, but he couldn’t find a way to move the ship safely, and he couldn’t risk drawing attention to himself and his only means of getting home. Somewhere out there was the means by which he had entered this bizarre universe, and he was determined to find it.
As time dragged on, the magic lessons tapered off. The human population’s protectors seemed to move from crisis to crisis with increasing speed even though there were fewer humans to protect every day. There seemed to be a mass exodus underway. Even the bloodsuckers were clearing out, the ordinary ones anyway. Something Harris called ‘uber-vamps’ had supplanted them, and they were far worse. The feel of them in the Force made Jacen want to scrub himself clean, and he killed as many as he could find.
Harris and the rest were grateful, and made more of an effort to reach out to him, but Jacen found himself pulling away, wanting nothing to do with the situation that was rapidly coming to a head. His actions against the ‘uber-vamps’ had somehow caused the sense of unease that pervaded the town to increase, as if something vastly malevolent had turned its attention his way. For the first time in his life, he found that his sense of responsibility was at war with his instincts, and his instincts, which told him he was dangerously outmatched, were winning. Busy themselves, the town’s protectors apparently wrote him off and went about their business as if he weren’t there.
Almost a week passed before he saw one of them again.
Jacen easily ducked under the primitive weapon and brought his lightsaber around and through the eyeless creature. There were more though, at least a dozen remained, throwing themselves at him without a care for their own lives. He suddenly felt a strong presence in the Force approaching rapidly. It felt similar to the group’s leader, but was distinctly different.
Moving carefully as he continued to fight, he positioned himself on the opposite side of the group from the approaching presence. In seconds, she was there, dark hair and weapons flying. The point of a sword appeared briefly from the chest of one of the creatures whose reckless attack had gotten it entirely too close. It was gone almost before he could register the sight and the creature next to it lost its head in the next second. Jacen watched in some surprise as the creatures that had so eagerly thrown themselves at him retreated from a young woman about Tahiri’s age armed only with a metal sword.
“Thank you,” he offered gratefully. The outcome had not been in doubt, but the eyeless ones gave off a feeling in the Force that made his skin crawl. The farther from him they were, the better.
“No prob,” she answered her eyes moving over him in a blatantly suggestive manner. “Yum,” she added in a low voice, obviously not meant to be overheard.
“What?” Jacen decided to ignore her interest.
“Nothin’. The name’s Faith. Happy to help.” She was clearly not reacting to him the way the other did, but Jacen wasn’t sure that was a good thing. “Heard about you, you doin’ okay out here?”
“Fine,” Jacen assured her. They were less than a mile from the skiff, and he wanted to keep that a secret.
“Okay then. We thought you should know things are coming to a head. Big fight, probably in the next day or two. We could use you.”
“I…can’t.” Jacen felt ashamed, even as the words left his mouth. The pressure exerted by the strange presence had grown in intensity over the last day or two. He felt like a bug under a microscope, naked, exposed, helpless. “Not directly,” he amended. That was his father’s stubbornness showing itself, he was sure. Han Solo did not respond well to intimidation, and neither did his son. That didn’t change the fact that it was becoming increasingly difficult to function, and engaging in battle as part of a group might become problematic. If he lost his focus, he could become a threat to them. “I will assist as best I can from the edge, but I can’t get directly involved.”
Faith considered this for a moment. “Okay. We’ll take whatever you can give.”
The next 24 hours were very difficult and confusing. He could sense a gathering of power at the center of the deserted town even as he fought a running battle against the eyeless creatures that seemed intent on keeping him well away from the ensuing battle. He hoped he was helping the town’s protectors. At the very least, he seemed to be tying up at least a hundred of the creatures Harris had called Bringers.
Without warning, they stopped. Breaking off combat with a startling abruptness the creatures turned and fled, almost as if answering a summons he could not hear. He moved to follow, but was stopped in his tracks by a disturbance in the Force as profound as it was debilitating. A vast disturbance in the Force passed over him, leaving him numb and breathless. It seemed to surge forth from the site of the battle, and it possessed what he could only describe as a purity of purpose. Whatever it was he could feel it continuing to spread, moving across the face of the planet like a ripple spread across the surface of a pond. It took him a moment to realize that the oppressive presence he had been feeling constantly since his arrival was suddenly gone. For the first time since his arrival, the place felt… clean.
“Stars!” he gasped. “What just happened?” Intent on finding out, he headed toward the battle, calling on the Force to increase his speed and stamina.
H e never made it. Another burst of power, this one similar but distinctly different, brought him to a skidding halt. His danger sense had suddenly kicked into high gear and a few seconds later, the ground began to shake.
He had barely made it out ahead of the collapse. The entire town was simply… gone. Of Harris and the others, he couldn’t say. Any intention of tracking them down, finding out if they had survived, was derailed by a polite, well-dressed man. The stranger was waiting for him by his skiff.
“Good day Mr. Solo,” the man smiled. “Don’t be alarmed,” he raised a placating hand as Jacen drew his light jacket back to ensure he could make a clean draw with his lightsaber. “I assure you, I’m not here to fight. You’ve just done us an enormous favor. We merely wish to return it by helping you.”
“We’ve been aware of you for a while now Mr. Solo, but we honestly didn’t know what to make of you. It has become clear though that you are on the right side of the fight.”
“-no part of the fight,” the man interrupted. “Understandable. What you want is to go home, and we want to show our gratitude by helping you do that.” He drew a business card from his jacket pocket. “My name is Stevens. I’m with Wolfram & Hart.”