Chapter 1: Loss Edit
Jace smiled as he knelt down, handing a piece of chocolate to a young boy. The child smiled back at him, crooked teeth matching his once white hat, now covered in dirt and filled with holes. He turned and ran away towards a small group of kids, just as dirty and poor looking as him. Jace's smile remained, but it hid a small amount of sadness behind it. He felt a hand on his shoulder as he looked up.
"Help who you can, Jac'ika. That's all you can hope for," Ethan said, his gray hair reflecting the little sunlight that was left. Jace got up, forcing Ethan to shift his weight onto his cane instead of Jace. Outside of his SPARTAN armor, Ethan needed at least some assistance to get around after nearly three hundred fifty of combat and fighting.
"I know Et'buir. C'mon, we need to catch up with the others," Jace said, walking slowly with his grandfather. They, with Ethan's children Aurora and Caden, as well as their spouses Loran and Clara, were in a city outside of Kaven Base, helping out the poor in the city's slums. As they caught up, Jace handed off Ethan to Clara and Aurora before moving up to talk with his father, Caden, and his Uncle Loran.
"First time in a while we've actually gotten outside without killing something in a while. Not so bad, right?" Loran asked the pair, leaning two handed onto his lightsaber pike as to lessen the toll on his still youthful legs.
"It could definitely be worse. But a few nice words and a chocolate bar isn't going to do much for these kids," Caden answered, watching as two children argued over the last piece of candy. He used the Force from afar, breaking the bar in two. They both grabbed their piece from the air in awe, staring at it and then at Caden.
"Yeah, well, its giving some good to the world. That's all that matters," Jace added. A reflection shown above him as he watched the children. He reached into his jacket pocket and fumbled around, searching for another candy bar. As he searched, he felt a sound wave ripple through the air, forcing his hairs to jolt upwards. The candy bar fell to the ground as the children ran away, and his hand found the grip of his pistol in a fraction of a second.
Jace dropped to one knee as he slid behind a car, pistol drawn. Loran and Caden stayed where they were in the street, Caden with his sabers drawn and Loran with his pike ignited. Caden turned back to see Aurora and Clara both with their weapons drawn as two young adults knelt behind them, circling Ethan who was laying on the ground clutching his cane. On the rooftops above, a man sprinted from where Jace had seen the reflection and made his way across to other buildings, jumping the small gaps in between.
"Jace, secure the area! I'm going after him!" Caden yelled as he Force jumped upwards, climbing up the wall of the building until he reached the roof.
"I'll follow your old man, make sure he takes the guy alive," Loran called to Jace before sprinting after Caden. Caden ran across the rooftops, quickly gaining ground on the sniper. They got closer to the end of the street, and with it, the end of the rooftops. As they neared the end, the sniper jumped forward wand turned midair, firing his rifle back at Caden once. The bullet clipped his bicep, but did not stop him. Caden reached out to grab the man with the Force, but he fell below his sight line and below the building roof before he could. A moment later, a small speeder rose above the rooftop, the sniper sitting in the passenger's seat. He held up a new weapon and fired once, a grenade heading towards Caden and the building. The Jedi dove backwards, narrowly missing being hit by the explosion. He regained his balance as Loran caught up, but by then, the speeder was at full speed flying away
Caden tightened his grip on his saber hilts. His eyes shot open again as he turned around quickly as sprinted back towards where they had been. He jumped off the roof and landed near the others, who had surrounded Ethan. He pushed through a number of civilians to get to the inner group, where Aurora knelt next to their father, holding his hand. Caden knelt down as well, looking over his body. A hole was in his neck, bleeding profusely.
"Et'buir...Et'buir, say something. Anything," Caden pleaded, tears quickly coming to his eyes. Ethan's eyes were white and cloudy as he slowly blinked and moved his gaze towards Caden.
"Cad'ika...remember...You are a fine man...and a great warrior. You and your sister...must do what you were born to do...do what you think is right...and save the people from the evils of the galaxy. Protect the many...do...what you were born to do, Cad'ika...," Ethan said exhaustively. Caden nodded furiously as Ethan's eyes continued to gloss over. As they did, Caden's grew wide.
"No...no no no...don't do this to me. Et'buir, don't you dare die on me!" Caden said louder and louder, until he was screaming. He felt the heartbeat in Ethan's hand grow fainter with each beat until it quickly disappeared. Caden's free hand curled into a fist as tears ran down his face. He slammed his fist into the ground, breaking the concrete and blowing a wind outwards into the crowd. The civilians stepped back in fear as Clara knelt down behind him and put her arms around him as he cried.
Chapter 2: Vengeance Edit
Jace stood next to his father in the rain, others surrounding the hole in the ground. They watched as the coffin was lowered into the earth, Ethan's body within. Caden had said nothing in the hours they had been at the funeral, not even to say a eulogy. As the coffin hit the ground and dirt began to fall onto the wood, Caden spoke up softly, but did not raise his eyes from the grave.
"Come, Jac'ika. We have someone to meet soon," Caden said, throwing up the hood of his cloak, covering over his Jedi robes. He turned and began to walk away. Jace took one last look at the grave before turning and following his father.
A few minutes later, Caden walked onto a small ship, beckoning Jace to follow him. Jace did and entered the cabin of the ship as Caden entered the cockpit. In the cabin stood two stands, one displaying Jace's black Mandalorian armor and his weapons. The other held Caden's silver and gray armor, as well as some of his own weaponry. Jace felt the ship take off and begin moving out of the atmosphere quickly. Jace slid into the cockpit and sat next to his father.
"Cad'buir, where exactly are we going?"
"We're going to get some payback, Jace. Simple as that," Caden responded, setting the ship to auto-pilot.
"Payback? You found the people who did this?"
"Maybe. If not, they are related at least. I found the hit put out on him, followed that back to a pirate group. Located the base, and now we are about to even the score," Caden said, his tone becoming more angry as he went on. Jace shrugged it off to the situation and nodded.
"Well then, better get ready. We need to take out some bad people. Just like granddad said, right?"
"Yes, Jac'ika, yes. Destroy the evils surrounding us, and wipe them out. All of them," Caden said, getting up and dropping the cloak off of his back and letting his black and red Jedi robes be free. "Suit up. The trip won't be exceptionally long." Jace nodded and watched as his father left the room to prepare for battle.
Jace looked down from the cliff overlooking the pirate outpost, Caden kneeling next to him. There were many small tents around the so called 'base', as well as fire pits and racks hanging dead animals. It appeared more like a campground than an actual base. To Jace, that just made it simpler.
"Seems straight forward, does it not?" he asked his father. Caden's eyes stared into the base below, unwavering. "Cad'buir?"
"It is. This will be easy to win. But we must ensure none get away," Caden said. Jace noted the dark tone of the statement, but agreed with it to an extent. Caden rose up and drew his two sabers, tightening his grip on them. Jace slid his two double bladed sabers off of his back after looking at the base one more time, noting the close quarters between the tents. Jace looked back at Caden, waiting for the cue to engage. Caden took a step forward and fell off of the cliff, landing below. Jace jumped down after him, using his jetpack to lessen the fall. He landed as blaster bolts came towards him, only to be swatted away by Caden's red sabers. Jace ignited his own blades, glowing dark green, as Caden shot Force lightening into an attacker.
The pirate screamed as he was electrocuted, only to be thrown into one of his comrades. Caden pulled another forward, stopping him with his blade entering his torso. Caden tossed the man aside as he continued forward, swatting away blaster bolts with ease and annoyance. As he walked into the center of the base, Jace circled around and fought inwards from the base's side.
Jace cut through a number of pirates, clearing tents on his way. He entered one and instinctively ducked under a knife coming at his head. He swung upwards, cutting the man in half. He glanced around the room as the man fell and saw a woman in the corner, grasping a pair of children. Jace's eyes widened at seeing the small family in the tent. Suddenly, Jace could hear everything around him. He heard screams from across the camp and raced out of the tent, heading towards the sounds.
He turned a corner and saw Caden cut through a woman and the rifle she was holding. He let out a strong Force push to his side, demolishing a tent. Jace saw a small body fly away with the tent.
"Cad'buir! Cad'buir, be careful! There are families here!"
Caden continued on, slashing through fighters and destroying tents as he passed. Jace swung his sabers around, cutting through pirates and mercenaries with fluid like motions as he fought towards his enraged father. He cut through another enemy before jumping upwards, lifted by his jetpack. He landed behind Caden before swinging around a deflecting a blaster bolt back where it came from, burning through the shooter's helmet. Jace turned back to Caden, unable to not see what was on the ground.
There were two young children, which did not look to be any older then ten, laying on the ground. Each had a large burn mark across their chest, made from a lightsaber. Even though each lay dead with a weapon in their hands, the sight couldn't not shake him. He slung both of his sabers onto his back and ran up behind Caden. He grabbed his shoulders and turned him around.
"Cad'buir! Cad'buir, dammit, what are you doing! Those are kids!"
"They were armed and have lived lives of piracy! They were too dangerous to be left alive!" Caden yelled in response to his son. As his voice stopped, he looked over at another mercenary aiming at them. Caden raised his hand, the soldier rising into the air in unison. Caden closed his fist as the man began to choke. Jace shook his father to bring his attention back. Caden threw the man through the sky as he turned back.
"Are you crazy? I know they're dangerous, I know they were armed, but we are not here to commit genocide!" Jace said as he drew one of his pistols. He raised his left arm and blind fired to the side, killing yet another soldier. Caden shook his head and pulled away from his son, hooking his lightsabers onto his belt.
Caden bent down and focused, eyes glued shut. He slowly raised up, Force gripping onto the tents around him. All the tents around the camp began to raise up, leaving those dwelling within them without shelter. As the dozens of tents floated into the air, those around the camp stopped and stared in awe. Caden began to move them all together, creating a clump of debris above the camp.
The members of the camp began to group together, hoping to find safety in their numbers. Their luck did not change from what it was moments before. Caden threw the ball of debris into the group, crushing and mauling the pirates with tons of metal, wood, and fabric. The ball broke apart as it rolled through the crowd of individuals, leaving most either dead or injured. Caden quickly ripped his sabers from his belt again and flung them outwards, blades igniting as they went. The sabers spun through the air, slicing through many of the survivors as the blades circled back towards Caden. As they returned, Caden caught them out of the air and lowered them back onto his belt.
Whoever remained began to run away as fast as their legs allowed them. Caden pulled one last soldier into the air with the Force, the man screaming as he was pulled up. Caden shot a ball of lightning at the man, bringing more screams from his mouth. His fist closed one last time, and new sounds added to his screams. Jace heard as bones broke within the pirates body, snapping and breaking as Caden crushed him. As the man's body crumpled, three blaster bolts hit his back, ending his suffering. Caden dropped the body as he looked over at Jace, blaster smoking as he held it in the air. Caden turned and began to walk back to where they had come from, staring at Jace as he walked by. Jace saw hate in his father's eyes, which were surrounded by dark and tired shadows below. Jace followed his father, watching as a small number of women and children ran away from the camp. He sighed, prepared for a long, silent shuttle trip back home.
Chapter 3: Verrat Edit
Aurora sat on the grass, eyes closed as she meditated. Her lightsaber floated in front of her, both sides torn apart as she motioned the pieces back together slowly and methodically. Her nose twitched once, then again, then again once more. She sighed as the soft wind blew her hair into her face. She wiped it away with one hand and let out a long breath as she attempted to refocus. She connected the last piece of her blade's hilt back together. She pulled it towards her and let it fall into her hand, skin slightly searing against the cool metal. She smiled at her work for a moment before looking at the blue sky.
She felt her body shake for a moment before sound rumbled through the atmosphere, the shockwave blowing dirt into the air around her. She coughed and covered her eyes as the dust settled. As it did, she looked back and saw smoke coming from one of the Squadran's command buildings. She gripped her saber hilt and sprinted towards the blast, leaving her second blade laying on the ground, still in a state of dismantlement.
As she approached the building, she saw smoke spew from one of the upper floor's broken windows. There was a red tint within the smoke, but not from fire. A small piece of metal emerged from the smoke, holding up the red source. Caden floated down on the slew of wreckage, his pair of red sabers disarming as he descended. Aurora saw his black and red robes covered with soot and smoke as his uncovered arm leaked blood from a cut. Caden stepped off of the platform as he neared the ground and began to walk away, unmindful of those around him. Aurora strode up besides him as he walked, sirens emitting from both the building and incoming firefighting speeders.
"Caden? Cad'ika, what just happened in there? You're hurt," Aurora spoke, touching his bare arm near his injury.
"It's fine, just shrapnel," Caden responded in a deathly monotonous tone, hand clutching the life out of his lightsaber hilts.
"Alright, but what happened up there? Why did the building just explode?" she asked again, this time with increased urgency and force. Caden continued on, ignoring his younger sister like they were a pair of young children again. Aurora's annoyance swelled up more and more as each step passed. She threw her arm out to the side, still clutching her dual bladed lightsaber. Both her arm and the metal hilt pressed up against Caden's shoulder and chest, running the width of his body. He halted and looked down at her arm.
"Caden. Tell me what happened. Now," Aurora demanded. Caden merely glanced over at her, head still down towards the dirt.
"There was a disagreement," he stated, deadpan and cold.
Aurora kept her glare strong, unwilling to accept any less than perfect responses. Caden inhaled and angrily continued, his emotions beginning to fester and emerge near the surface.
"There was a tip on people who may have been involved with dad. I wanted to take people there and make them pay. They refused."
"So you explode the entire wing of the building? Caden, you are acting crazy!" Caden's head shot up from the dirt, eyes wide and burning.
"Do you not care? Et'buir is dead! Dead! And they may have been responsible. Do you not care enough to avenge your own father?" Caden exploded as he turned towards his sister. Aurora's arm dropped from his chest as she felt his words stab at her.
"You think I don't care? He was my father! Our father! Of course I want the people responsible for taken care of, but that does not give me the right to destroy everything in my way. Or nearly slaughter an entire village of people," Aurora shot back, her meditations minutes earlier now being for naught.
"They were part of it! They deserved what was coming to them!" Caden screamed back, parts of his veins becoming visible.
"I know some were part of it. Caden, that was a village of two hundred. Two, two of them were all that were involved, and they were just the getaway drivers. I spoke to Jace when you got back from that mission. Of the two hundred people in that village, there were only fifty people there who were soldiers. Fifty. And of them, again, only two were guilty. Jace did defeat his fair share of pirates, but guess what? He only attacked pirates. There were one hundred seventy-three casualties at that village, including all fifty of the mercenaries. That means you, you, not Jace, attacked one hundred twenty-three innocent civilians. Women, children, families, you went after them simply because they were there. You destroyed their home, and now you just harmed your own. This is your home, Caden. Kaven Base is still your home."
"They...were not...innocent. None of them!" Caden screamed back at his sister, nostrils flaring outwards and widening as far as his eyes had already done. Aurora stepped back from her brother, unbelieving of what he was saying. She glanced down slightly and felt as her own eyes slowly opened wider and wider. She had not noticed as he had descended, but up close, it was obvious. Blood was splattered across the pants and belt of his robes, as well as over his boots. The dark red blood, now dried after being outside of their host bodies and exposed to the chilled air, blended in with both the black fabric of his robes as well as its red accents.
Aurora looked back up at her brother after what had felt like eons. She saw them walking up behind him. Three guards, carbines drawn, were about twenty feet behind him, crosshairs locked on their obvious target. Aurora looked back down again, knowing her brother sensed them behind him. Even when furious and emotionally distraught, his connection to the Force was still incredibly strong. If he was paying even the slightest attention, he would have felt them there. Aurora's eyes drifted to his hands, which still gripped his lightsabers from when he had descended from the building's upper levels. His thumbs rested on the hilts' activation buttons, moving back and forth, almost unnoticeable in both speed and distance.
"Caden...listen to me. Give me your lightsabers...before you do anything rash and stupid," Aurora calmly prodded, gentleness and worry both occupying her voice. She prayed as she walked a verbal tight rope, hoping not to trigger his powder keg mind. As she prayed, she knew it hopeless.
"Commander Caden Ferran, you are under arrest. Put your hands in the air or you will be fired upon," said one of the guards as he walked forward towards Caden's rear. Aurora's heart sank as the man neared arm's reach.
Caden's left arm exploded into red light as his saber ignited. In one fluid move, he spun and let go of the blade, letting it fly past the approaching guard. In the same motion, his now free hand gripped onto the barrel of the man's rifle and pushed it up towards the sky as two bullets flew from the chamber. Caden's right fist came and pushed up into the guard's stomach before igniting red itself, his second blade ejecting from the unfortunate soldier's spine.
Aurora looked behind the pair to see the other two guards. One laid on the ground, the only motion being his helmeted head rolling away from its body. The last guard sat on his knees, gasping and clawing at the hilt of the blade sticking out of his chest. Caden threw the guard he was holding to the side, ripping his blade out sideways. As he pulled his other blade back to him, the kneeling guard finally fell to the dirt, and Caden resumed his walk. Aurora looked at her brother and held her arm out and spun her blade in her hand. As she finally settled it in her hand, she ignited both ends of her lightsaber, one at a time. Caden stopped and waited for a moment, not looking back.
"Brother...it is time you came with me," Aurora said. Caden finally glared back over his shoulder, both blades still burning in his hands.
"Sister, you have never beaten me. Today is not the day it starts. Walk away, now," Caden responded.
"My duty is to ensure that you don't," Aurora shot back.
"Don't make me destroy you."
"You can try, brother," Aurora said. Sparks emitted from her gripping fist as lighting enveloped both glowing blades of her saber. As the sparks stopped shooting from her fingers onto her blade, Caden jerked around and threw his sword towards Aurora. The Jedi Knight leaned backwards as she pushed her blade up, connecting with Caden's and deflecting it away as lighting shot back from one to the other. Caden jumped into the air as he caught his second saber and held them both over his head, ready to strike as he dropped back to the ground.
Aurora felt the impact through her whole body as she caught Caden's blades on either side of her hilt. The red and blue light clashed on both sides of her head, her pupils shrinking as she squinted to block the blinding light. She pushed her brother off of her and spun her lightsaber around in her left hand, collecting herself. Caden came back towards her, sabers coming at her from both sides as she blocked and flipped over the burning blades of light again and again.
Caden swung both blades together as hard as he could, aimed right at the left side of his sister's head. Aurora held her saber with both hands and held it straight up, barely connecting with the incoming swords. They held there, locked in combat for a moment. Aurora heard Caden quickly exhale a breath over the humming and crackling of their blades. As soon as the breath was heard, Caden spun around on the sole of his left foot, his right heel rising. Aurora attempted to disengage from their sword lock, but cursed at her mind as she felt herself be simply a step slow. She had pushed off and away from Caden's lightsabers, but still felt his kick on her cheek.
As she stumbled backwards, she glimpsed Caden coming after her again. Aurora felt her back tingle as a chill found its way to her spine. Aurora planted one foot and spun around, one side of her blade cutting through the dirt. As her spin neared completion, she drug her hilt upwards, the dirt cutting blade rising up from below. Aurora saw a flash as it rose up towards Caden's body.
She had become accustomed to many smells. Her lightsaber, for instance, burned the air around it. She recognized the smell everytime it came around, still able to pick it out, but she knew it enough that it never bothered her. Some smells, however, never would become accustomed to her. Burning flesh was a horrid smell to her. Being a soldier, burning flesh was an unfortunate thing she had to smell more than she wished. Even more so due to her weapons of choice, Force lightning imbued lightsabers.
The smell was filling her nose now. Not a huge amount, but some.
Her eyesight focused back on her brother. A burn went from the waist of his robes up to the shoulder, and a streak sat across his face. Her blade must have barely skimmed his skin, as the brown streak on the left of his face did not look either deep or enough to incapacitate Caden. The cut on his chest and stomach did not seem to have found the body.
Caden stumbled back, holding a hand to his eye and cheek as he turned away sideways, his covered eye facing his sibling. Aurora, kneeling, lowered her lightsaber slightly and began to get up. Before she saw a movement, it seemed to have already happened. Caden threw his left hand and blade away from his face, slashing his opponent across her stomach. As his momentum slowed, Caden attacked again, his right blade this time cutting through the air, and then, Aurora. His red sword cut into her right knee, shredding the tendons and ligaments. Aurora fell to the ground in pain, her lightsaber deactivating as it fell from her hand and into the dirt.
Aurora's grunts, as well as the wind which had just picked up again, filled her own ears just enough to make Caden's words muffled. She heard mumbles, but made out one line. Shuttle Terminus, ready for pickup. She opened her eyes, tears blurring her vision, as Caden deactivated his blades and walked away. The dirt flew upwards as a dropship neared the ground. Even when blurry, she recognized it as a shuttle from the Jericho, both his ship and the one his unit was based out of. She watched helplessly as he entered the dropship and it floated into the sky, returning to orbit where the cruiser was waiting. Aurora let her head drop back down into the dirt as sirens neared closer and closer to her.
Chapter 4: The Next HunterEdit
Sparks hit the floor as Katalena entered the gray, dimly lit workshop. Burnt metal filled the air as she walked towards the sparks and sounds of metal being ground down. She saw Jace standing in the corner, holding something to a metal grinder. His jacket lit up in the sparkling light, his helmet hiding his head from shrapnel.
Since moving to the planet Kahn about two-thirds into the Ancient Reaper War, Jace's workshop was a place where he could escape. He was tasked with not only running some of the Coalition's most dangerous special operations, but he was also in charge of protecting both the planet's secret location and the city of Bastion in the valley below. Inhabited almost entirely of refugees unaccepted by their host countries during and after the war, the planet was outside of all government influences. Jace's Zeta Wing base, which was said to be a simple militia outpost, was technically Coalition, but was unknown to nearly all those outside of Zeta Wing.
Katalena placed her hand on Jace's shoulder as he pulled the unknown metal from its grinder. He slid his helmet off and placed it on the table and turned to her, forcing a smile upon his face.
"Jace...something happened back on Earth, and I think you should know...," Katalena said, but Jace shook his head.
"I know, sweetie, I know. I heard what happened," Jace responded sadly, leaning back against the machine. Katalena placed her hand on his chest and sighed.
"I know. I got the updates on your aunt from Clara, but-," Katalena started to say, but watched as Jace's eyes light up as she spoke about his aunt. He must have not heard this part. "She is expected to make a recovery. Your father...your father was too far away from her when he struck to inflict fatal injuries. Her surgery is believed to be successful, and her leg should be able to heal. He only severed some tendons and ligaments ." She saw Jace's expression soften at the news of her injuries being not critical. She put her arms around Jace and embraced him. They sat there for a few moments, quiet before Jace spoke up.
"I need to do it, Kata. Only I can do it," he said cryptically. She pulled away slightly and looked at him quizzically. "My dad is out there doing terrible things right now. It isn't him. But that doesn't mean he is innocent. He has to be stopped."
"What are you saying, Jace?" Katalena asked, letting go of Jace as he turned. He picked up the the metal he had been working on, which turned out to be one of his gauntlets and hand armor. Jace slid his hand into the armor and flexed his hand. As he flexed, Katalena thought she saw small, sharper edges on the tips of his fingers.
"I'm saying that he has to be stopped...and he will be stopped. I need to end this...by any means necessary, if I have to," Jace walking towards a body shaped sandbag a few feet away. Katalena heard tension in his voice as he spoke, getting worse as he went on. He stopped in front on the human sandbag and swung his hand at its stomach. His hand slid by easily as the sound of fabric ripping tore through the room and sand poured onto the floor. Jace turned back towards Katalena, his hand held up towards his face as he inspected the armor. Light illuminated the small blades installed on the fingertips as Jace exhaled, sadness the only visible emotion on his face.
"...by any means necessary...," Jace got out one last time before Katalena walked over and pulled him close.
Jace walked through the building that he grew up within, the walls and rooms feeling bare, save for a feeling of dread. It appeared as though nobody was home, the only noise being Jace's boots on the floor. He entered the basement, searching for anything that could lead him to where his father had left for. He stood over a desk, small stacks of holograms, papers, and data sheets littered across it. Jace placed his helmet on an open spot as he began to shuffle through the stacks of information. As the minutes past, he heard a noise approach behind him. He looked back to see his mother standing there in the doorway, hair disheveled.
"Jace? You're home?" Clara asked, her arm across her chest and holding onto her other bicep nervously. Jace turned and took a step towards his mother, a sad smile on his face.
"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry, I did not think anybody was home," Jace explained as Clara returned a small smile.
"No, it is okay. I just got home. I visited your aunt at the recovery station," Clara said as she fully walked down the stairs and into the room.
"I heard she was doing well, right?"
"She is getting there. Physical injuries were substantial, but not life threatening. The mental trauma...well, you can see how they are with me," Clara said as she moved some stray hairs away from her eyes.
"What do you mean, you look as great as always," Jace said, chuckling. Clara smiled as she looked towards the ground, her son's attempt working at least slightly. Jace's smirk died down as he moved on. "I wish I was home for different reasons."
"Yes, yes...I know, sweetie. What are you looking for down here? Nothing down here but dusty documents and some old equipment," Clara said. As she did, the pair heard metal scraping from the other side of the room. Jace's hand shot to one of his sidearms, ready to draw it as they turned towards the noise. Two red lights lit up from the dark corner as the scraping continued. A moment later, the droid walked out.
"Offended. Very offended. This unit is dusty, but not nearly the age of you," Wolf said, the robot's joints creaking as it walked forward. Jace and Clara looked at it, amazed it was still around. During the Ancient Reaper War, Wolf had been severely damaged, to the point where they believed Caden had disposed of the remains. But, however, here it stood. Jace let his hand fall off of his pistol as both he and his mother relaxed.
"Wolf? You're operational?" Clara asked, having gotten familiar with it over her years with Caden.
"Affirmative. Systems are 67% fully operational, 22% partially operational," Wolf replied as he listed his diagnostics.
"If you are operational, why were you not let out of here?" Jace asked. Wolf turned his head from Clara to Jace, but as he stopped, his head twitched back and forth, sparking, before settling back to normal.
"Damage has yet to be completely repaired, numerous vital systems are not fully operational, and upgrades were being installed-potatoes-Humanoid Weak Points; Knees, Eyes, Neck...," Wolf said before he trailed off onto what seemed as random tangents. They were all quiet for a moment before Wolf began again. "Vocal Cohesion systems at 48%...random words may unfortunately happen at times."
Jace and Clara nodded as he spoke. Jace looked the robot up and down, just now noticing how much of the black stealth paint had been chipped and peeled, as well as what looked like rust eating away at some of Wolf's shoulder armor. Wolf tried to take another step towards the pair, its shoulders creaking and the robot limping heavily. Wolf's front left leg gave way, its head slamming onto the floor as it struggled to quickly get up.
"Inquiry...where is Ferran Commander?" Wolf asked as he resumed standing, giving up on movement. Clara held her fist up to her mouth, lightly biting down onto her index finger. Jace noticed and placed his hand on her shoulder as he turned his head back to Wolf.
"You don't know? He...is not here, right now...," Jace answered. Wolf stared at him blankly for a moment before answering.
"...entering Hellcat Squadran and Coalition wireless mainframes...hacking completed...firewalls bypassed...downloading public files...downloading classified files...downloading eyes only files...downloads completed...Ferran Commander privately wanted on 1,502 counts of murder, attempted murder, arson, evading authorities, terrorism, theft, desertion, trespassing, and treason...situation understood. I am...sad," Wolf stated, his voice changing ever so slightly.
"Yeah...that's basically it," Jace responded.
"Angel Erachi, how did this happen?" Wolf asked. Jace's head turned at the name Wolf used as Clara looked up from the floor, taking her hand away from her mouth as tears welled in her eyes.
"Excuse me? What...what was that name you used?" she asked.
"Designation: Angel Erachi. Vocal Usage for Renner, Clara. Original Designation: Renner Commander. Overwritten by Commander Ferran, Caden," Wolf explained, reading off his coding to the intergenerational pair. Tears began to fall down Clara's cheeks without pause and she stared at the robot.
"...Angel Erachi...," she whispered under her breath as her voice began to choke up. Jace pulled his mother closer to him as she cried. "He was always knew how to find a soft spot on a girl..."
"Keyword: Spot. Playing audio recording 21191/8...Awe yes, that's the spot Cad-," Wolf began to play before Clara yelled out.
"Stop! End the recording!" she yelled.
"Ending audio file. My apologies, Angel Erachi," Wolf stated, actually sounding apologetic. Clara wiped away her tears and looked at Jace before motioning him towards the robot. Jace let got of his mother and knelt down in front of Wolf.
"Wolf, listen...I need to find my father. Do you have any files in your head that can help me get him and bring him home?"
"Affirmative. Accessing system upgrade 0061, tracking of all personal and vital equipment deployed to the Jericho. Tracking initiated...all personal and equipment found," Wolf replied. Jace looked back at Clara, both of their eyes wide. Jace turned back to Wolf.
"Where are they, Wolf? Where?" Jace asked.
"Coordinates of Ferran Commander transmitted to Ferran Commander's helmet."
"Wait, what? You sent him his own coordinates?"
"Negative. Coordinated transmitted to your helmet, Ferran Commander," Wolf said. Jace sighed.
"Wait...you refer to both me and my father as Ferran Commander?" he asked.
"Affirmative. Profile: Ferran, Caden. Captain of HSS Jericho and Commander of Hellcat Squadran Shocktrooper Unit 0981, alias Valkyrie. Profile: Ferran, Jace. Commander of Hellcat Squadran Special Operations Unit 01/138, alias Zeta Wing. Both referenced as Ferran Commander."
"Okay...can you refer to us as different names, please?" Jace asked. Wolf's red eyes flickered for a second as he stayed quiet. Once they relit, he spoke.
"Young Ferran Commander, request granted. Retransmitting Senior Ferran Commander's coordinates to Young Ferran Commander's helmet," Wolf said as the inside of Jace's helmet lit up on the table behind them. Jace got up and retrieved it, looking at his mother. His look told her all that could be said. He walked by her and jumped up the steps and left out through the home's front door. Once he was outside a voice stopped him.
"Young Ferran Commander, halt!" Jace turned around to see Wolf standing in the doorway. "What are you to do when you find Senior Ferran Commander?" Jace felt his throat tighten as the sun nearly blinded his eyes.
"I'm...I'm going to try and bring him home, Wolf. If not...then I will do what I have to do," Jace explained.
"Young Ferran Commander, this unit has a request. May it accompany you to find Senior Ferran Commander?" Jace felt pure disbelief at the favor asked of him.
"Wolf, what? Can you even keep up? Or do anything if you could?" Jace asked.
"Minor repairs needed for acceptable speed and mobility. Combat Simulations, Targeting Systems, Threat Analysis Computers, and Weapons Systems all 100% operational." Jace stood there for a moment, long enough that Wolf opened his shoulder pods, revealing the barrels of the guns embedded within.
"Isn't your programming to protect him, though? How do I know you will not shoot me if we fight?" Jace asked.
"Retrieving Main Priority Files. Protect Individuals: Clara Renner, Aurora Ferran, Loran Bendak, Keryn Renner, Jace Ferran. Protect Civilian population within combat zones. Protect Caden Ferran. Protection of Senior Ferran Commander is overridden by other objectives. Worries are unneeded." Jace sighed, but conceded.
"Okay, okay. I'll do what I can for you on the shuttle ride there. Come on, let's go," Jace said, before another noise, this from the side of the house, grabbed his attention. A white and gray speeder bike flew out and hover between them.
"Rapid transport is best for both of us. The speeder was left by Ferran General when he retired to Mandalore," Wolf said, referencing Jace's ancestor, Ryan Ferran. Jace walked forward and got on, Wolf hopping on behind him and digging its claws into the seat. Jace revved the engine as he sped off towards the base's starport, both afraid to start and eager to finish.
Chapter 5: Through the Heart Edit
Jace felt the shuttle decelerate as they neared the planet's atmosphere. They descended onto the ocean world of Lehon, an ancient world of hatred and evil whose bright blue and dark green appearance lied to all unknowing visitors. Jace shook his head, bewildered at why his father would bring his forces here. Yes, the world's original inhabitants, the Rakata, fed off of violence and the evil that was the dark side of the Force, but they were long extinct. All that may be there were scavengers hunting for any ancient technology, or the possible dark side adept in search of a mysterious holocron. Either way, there was likely no one there that would warrant Caden to come out so far from the civilized galaxy in order to stop, even while on his delusional 'crusade'.
The ship shook as they entered the atmosphere, black void changing to blue skies. Wolf sat silent, bare metal shining after it had been ground down, even some adhesives ensuring other pieces held together properly. No, Jace's repairs were far from perfect, but they would be enough for the time being. As the shuttle's landing gear slid out from their holdings, screens and sensors started to blur and twitch. Whatever technology still worked on this planet, millennia old or not, was still doing its job for the most part. It mattered not, though. Jace saw the Jericho, Caden's cruiser, landed on the far side of an island, ancient temples and ruins on the hills above it. The shuttle quickly and quietly set down about a mile away from the ruins as to not draw any attention.
The landing ramp dropped as Wolf dove out of the ship, head it the air as he surveyed the surroundings. Jace followed behind, helmet in hand as he looked at the lush, tropical island around him. Due to his Skulblakan Hybrid powers, any connection he would have had to the Force was tremendously diminished. However, he did not need any other-worldly powers to feel the darkness that penetrated every grain of sand and blade of grass he stood on. A chill worked its way up his spine as he slid his helmet on, shutting himself in from the outside world.
The pair hiked their way through the sandy, tropical forest without issue. No guards, no sensors, nothing at all until they came within close proximity to the cruiser. A handful of guards patrolled the area around the ship, coming and going from around the corners of the ancient ruins. Many came in and out of one of the larger and more intact temples.
"There. That is where I want to go," Jace said, with none of the noise escaping his helmet. Wolf was connected to it, able to see and hear everything Jace did and able to listen to everything he said, allowing Jace to keep the helmet's speakers muted. Wolf's communications were also confined to the helmet's inner ear pieces, allowing them to keep their presence even more of a secret. Oh how I love modern technology, Jace thought to himself.
"Young Ferran Commander, I have analyzed the guards movements. A new guard exits the temple every 32.6 seconds, while a window of 15.2 seconds exists where no known line of sight is on the temple stairway," Wolf explained. "Estimated time to clear the area without visual contact is just over 14 seconds."
"So we are cutting it pretty close, huh?"
"Estimated chances of remaining undetected are-"
"Wolf, rhetorical. I don't need the math."
"Thank you, Wolf," Jace said as he shook his head. They snaked their way through the ruins, avoiding any and all guards they could have encountered. Their unknown presence was key. If they were found, Jace feared that not only would his father run, but troopers that Jace had grown up knowing would have to be injured, or worse, killed.
They reached the stones right in front of the stairway and waited as the guard walked down towards them. Jace waited for Wolf's call on when to sprint. It was only a few seconds, but the waiting felt like an eternity. He felt as the sweat crawled down his face. Jace inhaled sharply as his ear piece clicked on. He had pushed off of the ground seemingly before Wolf had even said to run. They shot up the stone stairs, their metal boots and paws scratching the rubble beneath their feet. They scrambled around the corner and into the temple's safety. At least now, nobody outside would be able to see them.
"No alarms triggered. We have successfully infiltrated the temple," Wolf stated. Jace refused to let any feeling of relief fall over him. He knew they had only gotten halfway to where they needed. His hands slipped onto the grips of his pistols, but before he drew them, he let go. He raised his palm and began to wander into the maze of hallways, ready to fire Skulblakan crystals at need be. They were a part of who he was. They were a part of his heritage, a part of his life he had not fully embraced until this moment. He felt...stronger, now, for some reason. He would worry about it later, though, as he returned to the task at hand; hunting his father.
As Jace slide around a corner, what felt like a metal pipe slammed into his head, stunning him and knocking him to the ground. When he looked up, he stared straight down the barrel of a shotgun, a brown and gray suit of armor standing behind it, the visorless helmet still able to glare at the young Hybrid.
"Idiot," the soldier spoke to him. Jace held his breath, knowing he could not get off any type of shot in time. He felt the air leave him only when the robotic voice sounded.
"Captain. Dvorakin, Katlyn. Greetings, Kat," Wolf monotonously said, walking by the leveled Jace. Katlyn petted the robots head with one hand while the other kept aim on Jace.
"Hey, hound dog. Its been a long time. Wanna tell me why you and him are sneaking around here?" she asked.
"Mission objectives are to locate and neutralize old Ferran Commander. New Ferran Commander has requested nonlethal take down, but deadly force has been approved if necessary," Wolf explained. Katlyn looked back at Jace and lowered her weapon, letting it dangle from her belt.
"You're trying to stop boss man from continuing with his crazy shit? Well then, I guess I can try and get behind that." She offered her hand to Jace, who took it and felt her augmented suit strength pull him up. The pair both removed their helmets. "Long time no see, small fry."
"Likewise. I appreciate you not shooting me, at least," Jace said, wiping a small amount of blood from his forehead. "Why would you want to help stop my dad?" Katlyn sighed as Jace asked, closing her eyes.
"It doesn't take a Jedi or a doctor to know that something is wrong. Something has snapped in his head. He is killing too much, making us kill too many people. Don't get me wrong, they are bad people, but most of them should be in jail, not swinging dead from a tree. Maybe its this place corrupting him, maybe he really just feels his crusade is right, but...he is going too far with it. Pretty soon, he is going to go for someone big. A politician, a corrupt judge, someone who he will get in a lot of trouble for killing."
"He won't do it. I won't let him. I'll talk to him, get him to come home, and we'll get him any help he needs. Losing grandpa was hard on him-," Jace started to explain, his voice beginning to get more frantic until Katlyn cut him off.
"No, Jace, listen. He's...he's different now. He's pushed most of us away. There are 100 of us, and only 30, those who are probably crazy and just want to kill, are all he let's close to him. The...the man I knew doesn't seem to be in there anymore."
"No...no, no, no, he is. He has to be, dad wouldn't just forget who he is!" Jace exclaimed. As the words left his mouth, Katlyn grabbed him by his collar and pushed him around the corner, shoving him against the wall with her hand covering his mouth. Jace felt the heat of her body as her cheek pressed against his, her head barely looking out from around the corner. After a second, she let out a breath and released him.
"You have to be careful. Nobody knows you are here, and if they figure it out, the alarms will sound."
"But you said most of you don't support dad anymore."
"Yes, but we still have our jobs. Listen...I can sneak you two around, get you to him. From there, I can rally the others, get them to help me detain those who will try and kill you. After that...if you're right, we can bring your dad and the others home and get them help."
"...thank you, Katlyn. This is an unexpected surprise."
"Don't worry about it, kid. Worst case, we'll have a nice big ship to escape in. C'mon, let's get you two to where Caden hides."
Katlyn ran down the hall, leaving Jace and Wolf standing before an entrance leading into the deepest part of the ruins. She told him that he has three minutes before her and the others began taking over the Jericho and eliminating those loyal to Caden. As the door opened, a staircase led downwards, far beyond what the hallway lights illuminated. The pair slowly made their way down into the depths of the ruins as Jace drew a lightsaber from his belt, spinning it in his hand. A blue light shone at the bottom of the staircase, marking the end of the descent.
"Wolf, stay here, guard the stairs. If they're hostile, don't let them pass," Jace ordered once they stepped onto flat ground again. Wolf turned and stared back up the lowering hall, two slots on its shoulders opening up to reveal the machine's weapons.
"Affirmative, new Ferran Commander."
Jace scanned the room, three large stone pillars orbiting above a deep pool that shone blue, more stones barely sticking out of it. The room felt cold. He could feel the air as it went up his nose, even after his helmet had filtered it. The sensation sent an ever so small chill down through the arch of his back as he acclimated to the temperature.
Standing in front of the pool, with their back to Jace, stood a figure clad in black and red robes, a long sleeve covering their left arm. Jace slid his helmet off and placed it on the ground, causing what he noticed to be the only sound in the room. When he remained still, everything was silent. In a way, he felt as if he could hear the nothingness. He continued his walk, every step he took slightly echoing in the chamber. He stopped some distance behind his father, heeding the warnings of Katlyn and caring not to startle him or set off a mental bomb.
"You should not have come, Jac'ika," Caden said, surprising Jace by both speaking up first as well as using his Mandalorian name. Caden's voice was low and and calm, sounding to Jace as something unlike anything he had ever heard from him. It sounded emotionless, with the only possibility being the smallest drop of sorrow on his words.
"Neither should you. You should be on Earth, with your family. We miss you, and we're worried. Everybody is. We want to help you," Jace pleaded with his father. Caden stood there silent, still refusing to turn to face his son. After a moment of silence, Jace felt the urge to speak up again. "What is this place?"
"An ancient Rakatan temple, a remnant of their Infinite Empire. This chamber specifically? A brilliant invention of theirs, one of a kind and never seen before by anyone other than their top officials. It is half power generator, half weapon. Do you recall how they powered their technology?"
"Through the Force. Specifically, the Dark Side," Jace responded.
"Correct. This pool is pure Force energy, used to power the weapon you see floating above. This weapon would siphon the Dark Side energy from those across the galaxy, draining them. This would not only kill those infected with this Dark Side, but also power their ships. I find this to be...extremely useful. The galaxy is an evil place, Jac'ika, and that evil has to be cleansed." Jace shook his head as a look of confusion crept across his face.
"What are you talking about? I understand trying to stop evil, but... Our family has defended the galaxy for centuries by flirting with the Dark Side. Are you telling me that anybody who has even a shadow of the Dark Side should perish?"
"The evil that infects the galaxy needs to be exiled from the realm of the living. You must see that, son."
"I agree that evil needs to be stopped, but too many good people will die this way. You'll die this way." Jace stepped towards his father as he spoke, praying to trigger the man he knew to come out from within his soul.
"I would not. My crusade for the Light is pure," Caden responded, for the first time raising his voice. Red light began to bleed into the room from behind them as an alarm echoed from the top of the staircase. Jace's three minutes were up. "Worse yet...you came here with ill intent, intent to kill me."
"What? No, never! I came here to bring you home," Jace yelled, Caden's words striking deep into his heart.
"And yet, here you stand, blade in hand before you even entered this righteous chamber, guard dog ready to kill behind you, and a mutiny organized above us. Saddening..."
"No, Cad'buir, its not like tha-," Jace began to argue, but the sound of bullets flying startled him as he turned around. Wolf's shoulders were exploding with light, firing up the stairwell. A figure in black armor tumbled down the stairs, helmet visor shattered. The ripping sound of energy filled Jace's ears and the smell of burning ozone filled his nostrils as he turned back towards his father, both red sabers ablaze as he spun through the air, blades spinning like those of an aircraft. Jace instinctively ignited his golden saber, barely bringing it up in time to save the severing of his head and shoulders. As he was thrown onto his back, fear ran through his veins for the first time in an eternity.
Jace drew his second lightsaber as Caden leap at his son. Their blades met in between them, sending sparks flying as Wolf continued to fire behind them. The pair began to violently dance between each others weapons, Jace able to match Caden's powerful strikes, but barely surviving his unworldly precision through raw recovery speed alone. Caden was considered by many to be one of the two greatest swordsman to have ever existed, with his wife Clara being the only equal. Jace knew this fact all too well, a straight up sword fight likely being suicide for the young man.
Jace pushed his sabers away from Caden and jumped upwards, his jetpack igniting and keeping him afloat. He clenched tightly onto his left lightsaber, holding it in his fingers while freeing his palm to fire golden crystals down onto his opponent. Caden lunged out of the way before the crystals stabbed into the stone floor. When Jace rained more down upon his father, Caden caught them with the Force and swung them around his body, firing them back up with expert precision. Jace brought up his arm and turned to protect his head, instead allowing his own crystals to penetrate deep into his jetpack. Sparks flew out of it as he fell to the ground near the pool of energy, landing on his shoulder with a loud thud that he could feel deep within his chest.
Both lightsabers rolled from Jace's hands and he struggled to regain his breath and slide the jetpack off of his back. It fell to the ground and echoed again in the chamber, four golden pieces of mineral running up the side of it. When he reached for his blades, an explosion rung through his ears and blinded his eyes momentarily. His sight returning, he saw Caden firing blast of lightning into the crystals stuck in the floor.
"Such a...weird property that these have, would you not agree? But, weird properties do seem to be a common theme when it comes to you. You are a Hybrid, but never fully embraced it. You lack any Force potential and are incredibly easy to track, but somehow, while you were sneaking around my complex, you became a void...no Force energy emitted from you, or from anything around you. Odd, and very peculiar.
"However, that is no longer a concern. I can sense your fear and your anger. These lead to the Dark. You have been holding back, afraid of losing someone close to you. I am sorry, Jac'ika, but in order for the galaxy to be safe...the darkness must be cleansed," Caden said, walking closer. Jace looked up at him, feeling scared of the fighter he was facing. Caden stopped well before Jace and held out his hand. Before any reaction could be thought of, Caden fired Force lightning into Jace's jetpack, exploding the crystals, fuel, and explosives right next to Jace. He screamed out in agony as the blast blew him back into the pool, the liquid energy washing over him and the waves settling after a few seconds.
"New Ferran Commander!" Wolf called out, ten black clad bodies laying at the bottom of the staircase. The robot charged at Caden, who simply turned and picked him up from afar, throwing him against the wall with enough strength to make the room's foundations shake.
Jace began to sink to the bottom of the pool, the stone pillars around him seemingly growing taller and taller every moment. His face burned, both from the blasts and the pure energy chewing away at him and his armor. His back hit the pool's bottom twenty feet down, a soon to be unmarked grave for a young Hybrid known only to the world as the son of his parents and brother of his sister.
Caden began to walk away triumphant, prepared to end the rest of his crew's rebellion. As stopped and stared down at Jace's helmet, still lying where it was placed in the middle of the the floor. He shook his head and took another step forward until he felt as if his soul left his body. His eyes widened, and much like his son, he felt the cold of the room as it ran through his body. He turned around just in time to see the pool of energy explode outwards. splashing across the room. Caden lowered his arm to unshield his eyes, and again, just like his son, shivered at the feelings that ran up his spine.
Jace hovered there above the pool, his head mere feet away from hitting the weapon's stones orbiting above. Black blast burns and cuts covered the left side of his face, blood dripping down his forehead. His armor was burned, damaged by the blast and appearing as if it had been soaked in acid due to the Force energy. His eyes, usually golden already, now glowed the color, as with aura surrounding the rest of him. Crystals covered the top of his hands and feet, quickly spreading up his forearms, shins, and calves. Energy pulsated out of him and shook the room, most noticeably the rocks used as the Rakatan superweapon.
The longer he hovered, the more violently the rocks shook. Quickly, the first one fell, followed by the second. Jace began to descend down, gently landing in the blast crater where he believed his life had left him.
"The void...the lack of the Force...it has returned," Caden stammered, stepping back once.
"You, father, are a threat. Not just to me, or the galaxy, but to the ones close to me. The ones I believed were close to you. You will not use this weapon, for if you do, you will kill my mother. You will kill my sister. You will kill Katalena. I refuse to let any of that happen." Jace spoke with what felt like a hefty weight on his voice, the words carrying across the room with enough power that they felt like they would destroy the world themselves. Jace reached up and drew both of his remaining lightsabers from his back. One by one, he ignited the green blades until all four were set ablaze.
Jace reached down within himself, feeling power he had never felt before. His Hybrid powers were off of his scale, beyond anything he had sensed in his own body. But, there was something else, something he had never known or felt. This new power was all over his body, unlike anything he could have imagined. It felt...intrusive, but amazing.
He summoned this power, lunging across the room towards his father, farther than he had ever gone before. His strength was more than it had ever been. His blades struck down onto Caden's, screeching their way down the red sabers. Caden spun them around, allowing his back to be towards the pool once more. Jace struck out furiously, disallowing his father to once again come on the offensive. His strikes continued, four green swords twirling around in perfect unison for what seemed to be an eternity of attacks. Caden felt the end of the stone near, his foot close to slipping into the Force pool.
He parried Jace's latest attack, sending his son to a single knee and creating an opening that he knew he must strike at. Jace watched as Caden brought down his two red sabers and held up his forearm, simple reaction causing what seemed like an idiotic block. Jace felt the heat of the blades near his face, but they sat there, not coming closer. He looked to his arm, gold crystals covering it. On them sat Caden's two weapons, unable to burn through them. The power flowing through Jace amassed in his hand, feeling bloated and like it was ready to burst from the inside.
Jace refused to hold it in, and when he released it, Caden was thrown upwards in a spectacular push, crashing into the final stone above. It tumbled into the pool, falling on its side as Caden grabbed onto the ledge of another one, barely pulling himself up onto it. Jace walked out onto the rocks, the pair of them standing on opposite ends of one of the crashed down stones. Jace again felt this new power surging through him, this time in his legs. He lunged forward again at his father, who was prepared this time around. Caden swung both sabers at him, only to feel his eyes widen as Jace slid underneath the strike. As he slid by his father, Jace struck out, cutting through both of Caden's legs. JAce's body stopped right then and his arms immediately brought his blades upwards, cutting through his opponent's left arm in two places before he had a chance to even fall to the ground.
Caden's limbs splashed into the pool, his body falling onto the stone and nearly rolling off. He grabbed the ledge desperately, barely holding on. Jace lowered his weapons as he stood, sliding both onto his back again. He shook his head and looked to the side, seeing both of Caden's red lightsabers rolling towards where Jace originally was. He picked them up and held them in his hands, both still warm from Caden's grip. He turned back and saw his father, grunting and grimacing at the pain of his dismemberment and the Force energy burning what remained of his lower body.
"You left me no choice, father," Jace said calmly, his anger wearing off as the crystals receded into his body.
"You are no son of mine! You would have helped me rid the galaxy of the evil that is in it!" Caden screamed back at him. Jace's heart hurt immensely, and he turned away, jumping back onto solid ground. He began walking away, head down and he attached the two sabers to different sides of the rear of his belt. Slowly, he felt his throat able to muster one final sentence.
"I will complete your legacy...the right way," Jace announced, picking up his helmet as he walked by. He heard a splash behind him as he walked, but did not dare to look back. Goodbye, Cad'ika, may you rest in peace.
Wolf hobbled up to Jace as he neared the stairs, stepping over the dead bodies of Caden's loyal soldiers. Wolf looked back to the pool and ran over, gathering Jace's pair of golden saber in his teeth before heading up the stairs to return to Jace.
Jace sat in his father's cabin, staring at the two red lightsabers in his hands. He shook his head and tossed them on the bed. He looked up and saw Caden's armor sitting on a mannequin, standing at attention. Jace stood and walked over to it, running his hand over the visor. He looked down and saw straps connecting his father's two kukri knives to the sides of the armor. Jace thought for a moment and nodded to himself, unlatching the straps from the metal plates. he slid the straps around his back, connecting the knives to his own sides.
Jace began to slide off his gauntlets, tossing them behind him onto the bed as well. He slid the custom ones off of the mannequin and put them around his forearms, the armor fitting like gloves. He ejected the unique, foot long barbed blades for the first time in his life, watching the metal reflect the light coming from the ceiling. He flexed his arm and watched the blades return to their sheathes while he moved back towards the bed. He picked up the two red lightsabers and attached them to the back of his belt, one on either side, then turned towards the mirror on the opposite side of the room. Jace looked at the gray gauntlets, barely contrasting against his black armor. The knives fit perfectly on his sides. And the blades on his belt were an omen to what once was. He nodded repeatedly and stared into his own reflection's eyes.
Jace thanked no one in particular that the Jericho was small enough to travel in most atmospheres. He walked off of the ship's exit ramp to see hundreds of dock workers and other Kaven Base personal frantically trying to get everything organized. Katlyn directed soldiers to take away eighteen prisoners, those loyal to Caden's ideals who lived through the fighting. As Jace passed by, she gave him an appreciative nod, an unspoken thank you. Jace returned the gesture as he walked on by, Wolf at his side.
He looked forward again, seeing his mother and sister anxiously waiting. Once he reached them, he stopped. Staring at their feet was all he could do, as he could not bring himself to look them in their eyes. He felt Clara's body ram into his, pulling him close in her embrace. He shut his eyes as Keryn's eyes scanned the dock rapidly.
"Jac'ika," Clara began, pulling back to look at her scarred son. "What happened?"
"I...I did what...I had to do," Jace tried to explain, but his throat felt swollen as tears began to build behind his eyelids. Even with his eyes closed, he could feel his mother frozen in place. Keryn stared at him momentarily before pulling him in.
"Jace...what happened?" she asked.
"He wasn't the same anymore...it was all in self-defense, I swear to the both of you...I promise it was." After barely being able to get the sentence out, Jace unclipped his fallen father's two lightsaber and held them out in front of his body for his family to see. Clara remained frozen, a statue of emotionless turmoil. Keryn stared at the blades as her mouth dropped open, unable to comprehend. She looked back up at him and slid her arm around his shoulder lovingly.
"Jace...we need to get you to the medics...come on?" Keryn asked her brother. She could see his face struggle, but finally, he was able to open his eyes before looking deep into hers. She stammered back a step once he lunged into her, hugging her tightly.
"Please...please, for the love of god, please don't run off this time, okay?" Jace pleaded with her, who was known to disappear for months on end to fulfill her duties as Erachi.
The sibling both felt as Jace began to shake rapidly, the trauma of the situation currently too much for him. He lowered his head and began to weep into her shoulder, unable to emotionally handle what had happened. While he sobbed, Keryn began to walk them towards the medical center right off of the docks. She saw Katalena sprinting towards them, similarly unable to hide her worried expression. Behind them, Clara stood, frozen in time. For what felt like hours, she stood there, everything about her blank.
Eventually, once everything began to die down and her family was far off into the distance, she dropped to her knees while her body completely gave out on her, no muscle being able to respond to her commands. That is, if she could even muster one. She yelled out as tears began streaming down her cheeks, the worst part of her life so far only just beginning.
The sounds of dripping filled the room. The war torn body was laid onto the hovering medical capsule, skin ghost white except for where red cuts and tissue were exposed. The robed man stood there, a small smirk on his face but a disappointed look in his eyes. His hand reached out and began to stroke what remained of the robe's black sleeve.
"Do not fret, young Jedi. Your work is not done quite yet."
Chapter 6: Widow's WebEdit
Keryn sat at the base's bar, staring at the bottom of a recently emptied glass. Two partially melted ice cubes stared back up at her, a pair of colorless eyes boring into her. They morphed and became the eyes of her father, foggy and unseeing, yet staring right at her. His colorless, motionless face silently taunted her, cutting straight into the core of her deepest regrets. She could almost hear his voice whispering in her mind, plaguing her guilt and her failures. She could almost hear him asking Why did you let Jace do it? It should have been your burden to bear.
The clink of glasses snapped her from her reverie as the bartender replaced her empty glass with a full one. She looked up and nodded briefly, not wanting to see whatever thoughts may be behind his gaze. She lifted the drink to her lips and drank deeply. She had long forgotten what she had ordered and no longer cared. She barely tasted it anyway, all that there was was the slight burn at the back of her throat as she swallowed it. She put it back down on the bar and watched as the two ice cubes floated in the bronze liquid, staring back up at her once again.
With the recent passing of Colonel Caden Ferran-
Keryn's head snapped up and met the eyes of the newscaster, an Asari with eyes as blue as her skin. Keryn sighed and looked back down, running a hand through her hair and closing her eyes.
Considering that the late Colonel's forces are being redistributed to other units, per our sources, it calls into question the focus of such forces and organizations-
"Mind changing that?" A voice called out beside her. Keryn straightened up and saw Katalena sitting at the barstool beside her. She shrugged out of her jacket and hung it on the back of the stool, the red falling back and revealing the dark clothes she wore. There were dark circles beneath her eyes and she was paler than she usually was. "Whatever she's having." Katalena said as the bartender approached. The man raised an eyebrow, but served up another of the drink that had been haunting Keryn.
"How is he?" Keryn asked as Katalena finished a swig.
"Better than yesterday." Kata said as she shuddered briefly. "But worse than the day before that."
"So about as good as we can expect?" Keryn said and began to down the rest of it.
"About." Kata said. She sighed and shifted her stool closer to Keryn. As Keryn put the glass down Kata pushed it away from her. "What about you?"
"Bullshit, you're here alone." Katalena said. "I haven't seen you out alone since you turned eighteen."
"Yeah, you haven't seen me. Funnily enough I happen to do things when you're not around." Keryn said.
"With other people." Kata snapped. "Your wife called and asked where you were. I told her I'd look for you."
"You didn't have to."
"No, but I wanted to." Kata said. "Keryn just because you're not disappearing from Jace anymore doesn't mean you get to vanish from her too." The second the words left her mouth Keryn's glass shattered in her hand. Keryn's eyes bored into the wall behind the bar and the muscles in her jaw clenched. Kata sighed and waved a hand, reforming the scattered shards of glass back into form. "I'm sorry, that was bad of me."
"A bit." Keryn growled.
"We're just worried." Kata said, waving at the bartender for another round. "About all three of you."
"Have you even seen mom?" Keryn asked, looking over at her. "She's been avoiding me."
"None of us have." Kata sighed. "Not since she left her house."
"Have you checked her ship?"
"Which one?" Kata sighed. "I've looked but I've also been watching Jace."
"Ok." Keryn said. The bartender reached them and put two drinks in front of them. "Thank you, for keeping an eye on him."
"You don't need to thank me, you know." Kata said, drinking again.
"I know, but still." Keryn sighed. She gazed into the recently filled glass and shook her head. "Finish that for me?"
"Gladly." Kata said, taking it from her. Keryn watched as Kata finished her own and moved on to the second drink.
"You know she's alive, right?" Keryn asked.
"Yeah." Kata said, putting the second glass down. "I send pings out looking for her, she's alive."
"Is she ok?"
"Physically, yes." Kata sighed. "Are any of us ok though?"
"Fair." Keryn sighed. "Ok, you're right."
"Oh?" Kata said, her eyebrows rising.
"Yeah. I'm being a shit and I shouldn't be in here alone." Keryn said. She opened her mouth as if to say something more, but stopped for a moment, then slumped back against the back of the stool.
"You can say it, Keryn." Kata said.
"I should have gone after dad." Keryn said. "I should have been the one to go find him. If it had been me I could have stopped him and Jace wouldn't have had to-" She stopped herself as the bartender took the empty glasses. "If it had been me I could have brought him back."
"Don't do that to yourself, Keryn." Kata said. "It will eat you up forever."
"I know, but-"
"Don't." Kata said. "Please, just spare yourself that." There was a long moment of silence, Keryn staring into the middle distance for what felt like forever, before she nodded. "Come on, let me walk you home." Kata said and slipped her jacket around Keryn's shoulders. Kata left a credit chit on the bar and the two walked out into the night. They walked quietly to Keryn's house, and Keryn turned and hugged her tightly. Kata hesitated a moment, then put her arms around Keryn.
"You're an asshole, Katalena. But I'm glad you're one of us." Keryn said.
"Me too." Kata said. Keryn squeezed her for a moment before heading inside. Kata began the long walk back to her and Jace's home. She let herself in and locked the door, sighing. She slipped down to the bedroom and winced as the floor creaked in the hallway. Shit.
She slowly opened the bedroom door and saw Jace sitting up, his right hand raised slightly. "It's ok, love." She whispered and walked over to kneel beside him. "It's just me." She whispered as he wrapped her hands around his.
"You smell like smoke." He mumbled as he lay back.
"Had to help Keryn with something, didn't want to wake you up." She whispered, raising his hand to her lips to kiss it. "Go to sleep love, I'll turn in in a couple minutes." He nodded and closed his eyes. She waited there until he had returned to his slumber, then hung her head and let out a long, tired sigh.
Loran ducked under a swipe of Keryn's sword and backed up a couple of feet. It had been the last strike of a sequence that until that point, had been particularly gentle for her. "Easy, Keryn." He said. "That was close."
"Sorry." She said, lowering the weapon. She shook her head and dropped the weapon. As the blade began to clatter to the floor it vanished into thin air. "Maybe it'd be best if we stop for the day."
"Alright." Loran said, putting his training pike on a weapon rack. He looked back at her and saw she hadn't moved, other than shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "What's wrong, kid?"
"Uncle...you've been through a lot of shit." Keryn sighed.
"Boy have I."
"Do you ever wish you'd done things differently?" Keryn said. He stopped in his tracks and nodded after a moment.
"Yeah." He said. "There are a lot of things I would change if I went back."
"How do you deal with that?"
"For a long time, I didn't." Loran said. "I stewed for a long time. But eventually I decided to forgive myself."
"I realized nobody else blamed me." He said. "If it was just me then I wasn't doing anything wrong."
"I don't think it's the same." Keryn sighed.
"No, it is." Loran said. "Nobody blames you for what happened, kid. Trust me, you'd have heard about it by now if they did."
"Then why won't my mom talk to me?" Keryn said. "Why won't she even show herself around here anymore?" Loran let out a long sigh and picked up his lightsaber pike from a different weapon rack.
"Because your mother never learned what I'm trying to tell you." He said. "She, much like you, believes the world is on her shoulders, and maybe for a time she was right. But she makes herself personally responsible for everything around her, even if it is beyond her control."
"Sounds familiar." She said, shaking her head.
"Exactly. So I'm hoping you'll listen to me and everyone else when we tell you that it isn't your fault what happened, ok?" There was a long silence between the two before Keryn nodded. "C'mon, your aunt and I are going out for food tonight, why don't you grab your wife and join us?"
"You sure?" Keryn asked. If Loran hadn't been looking for it, he wouldn't have noticed her eyes light up ever so slightly.
"Yeah, she'll like the company."
"Ok, we'll meet you at your place?"
"Sounds good." He said, giving her a small smile before leaving the training area.
The silence was what got to her the most. The silence brought with it a stillness, an emptiness, a void. All that remained in the void were her thoughts. Her ceaseless, endless, agonizing thoughts. Constant images of her past, examining every possibility she could have changed the course of the future. The face of her son, sobbing as the reality of his actions crashed down upon him. The face of her daughter, lip wobbling as the guilt began to slowly crush her. Her own face, frozen and blank, incapable of processing what had happened. The face of her husband, twisted and contorted with blind fury, then, still and motionless. Pale. Lifeless.
Clara snapped and started slightly. She glanced at the clock. Three in the morning. "Fuck." She whispered and leaned back against the couch. When was the last time she had actually slept? Long before Jace came back, surely. Long before Ethan had died, most likely. She had been trying to meditate, going back to her Jedi teachings in order to clear her mind, but the images and thoughts would bore through any defenses she had put up. The images and voices never left her mind. At all times they whispered in her head and called to her.
"Shut up." She whispered, gritting her teeth. A picture hanging on the wall, her and Caden, seemed to be contorting as his frozen eyes seemed to meet her own.
"Shut. Up." She said aloud, rising from the couch. The face contorted and seemed to grow.
"Shut up!" She shouted and threw her lightsaber hilt across the room at the picture frame. It fell to the floor, but the face remained. It grew and grew and grew until it was life sized. It was so lifelike. It was so alive.
Argadea...our mountain...come to me...Angel Erachi...
The face vanished and her mouth dropped open.
Katalena was rudely awoke by the ringing of her commlink. She groaned and sat up, glancing at the clock as she did. Jeez, waking me up at five better be worth it. She thought as she held the commlink up to her ear and answered. "Hello?"
"Kata, it's Keryn." Kata immediately blinked away the remains of her sleep at the panicked tone of Keryn's voice.
"What happened?" She asked.
"Security footage from a couple of hours ago shows mom steal one of the Phantom Legion's gunships." Keryn said. "She jumped to lightspeed and disabled the transponder."
"What?" Kata asked. She looked behind her and saw Jace wasn't there. "Is Jace with you?"
"Am I with you?" Jace's voice said from the door. She looked over and saw him in the bedroom doorway, a confused look on his face visible even in the dim lighting. "Nevermind, we'll be over in a couple minutes."
"What's going on?" Jace asked, sounding immediately awake as well.
"It's your-" She stopped herself, realizing what she was about to tell him. "It's about your mom."
And her heart broke as his face fell.
Clara leaned back in the pilot's chair of the gunship she had stolen and let out a deep breath. It had been a day since she had launched, but her attempts to sleep were constantly interrupted by either the beeping of the ship or the visage of her sobbing son. She sighed and glanced at the pack she had brought with her. Nothing more than rudimentary camping gear and her array of lightsabers. Why did I take all of them? She thought. Will I really need them?
She paused and stared at the pack. She knew why she took them, she was just afraid of admitting it. She groaned and rose from the seat, walking over and opening the pack. She skipped over the array of weapons and pulled out the sleeping mat. She ran it along the floor, as there wasn't much for sleeping quarters in the small ship, and she lay down. She stared up at the ceiling of the gunship, counting the buttons in the cockpit. When the number of buttons was determined to be eighty seven, she moved on to the wires. After the wires, she moved on to banthas that she imagined were tripping over a low fence, and it was then that she finally, blissfully, fell asleep.
Beep beep...beep beep...beep beep...
Clara jolted awake and looked around hurriedly. The ship was in no danger, and the navigational computer was silent. It was her commlink that was beeping. A pit grew in her stomach, and she pulled it closer to see who was calling. He heart fell into the rapidly growing pit in her gut as she saw that it was Jace. I'm sorry, son. She thought as she pushed the commlink away from her and listened to it ring. When the ringing finally stopped, she picked it up and turned it off. She took in a long, sad breath of air, closing her eyes, and sighed it out for a long moment.
She sat up and moved back to the pilot's seat. She looked at the navicomputer. 1 hour to destination.
Here we go. She thought and reached behind her head. She slowly wove her hair into a tight bun, all behind her head. She rose and strapped her lightsaber belt around her waist, her green saber at her right hip, her yellow at her left. Across a sheath on her back she placed the double ended white saber. For a moment she considered putting her cloak on, but the thought was cast from her mind as she pulled out of hyperspace. She took over the controls and flew down into the atmosphere of Argadea.
She flew down until she could see the mountain. Her mountain. Their mountain. The mountain where she and Caden had married, so many years ago. The mountain was silent, still, save for the slight breeze that moved over it. Even from the cockpit she could see that some of the scars of the climactic battle with Vythica, the Skulblaka. Stones remained scorched, areas of grassland were blackened, and some trees were gnarled and twisted. She noticed something in these gnarled and twisted trees. A blue light, crackling and dancing erratically. It seemed to be growing, pulsing, and glowing brighter. Her eyes widened and she pulled the ship up, just a moment too late.
Tendrils of blue lightning cut through one of the engines and the gunship was sent spinning through the air. She jumped out of the pilot's seat and punched the back door control. The back of the gunship opened and she sprinted out, leaping into the open air. She flipped to land on her feet and rolled forward as she landed. She heard the ship crash into the side of the mountain with a resounding explosion. Clara sighed and rose to her feet, looking up the mountain at the area of gnarled trees. They were not a result of the battle with the Skulblaka, she realized. Clara sighed at the sight as she recognized the corruption of the dark side, and she could hear from it, mechanical footsteps. Growing closer with each second. She waited, motionless, as her feelings were proven true, and Caden emerged from the corrupted treeline.
What she noticed immediately was his left arm, mechanical and exposed to the air, the tattered and torn remains of the robe's sleeve dangled uselessly around it. The other was flesh and blood, but the skin was red and black and burned. The bridge of his nose had a gash almost an inch wide that looked as thought it had been picked at. Both cheeks and jawbones had a patchwork of cuts covering them, and his forehead looked as thought it had been scraped against shattered glass. The burned holes in his pants revealed his mechanical legs, the source of the mechanical footsteps. The thing that frightened her the most, however, were his eyes. Burning yellow irises, the whites growing red around them, as though he had been weeping blood.
"Caden." She said. No response came. Clara tentatively took a couple steps forward. "I heard you calling me. Why here?" Once again, he was silent. "Why didn't you come home?"
"Home." He said, and she froze. His voice cracked and shook, as though he had been screaming for days straight. "It is no home."
"Yes, it is." She said. "It can still be."
"No." He snarled, but his voice was closer to a loud whisper than a true growl. "Not anymore. Evil lives there and you all accept it."
"Have the years we spent defeating evil beings not proven otherwise?" Clara asked. "The people there are good, we are good." She said, gesturing to herself.
"I would have purged evil from the galaxy. Why stop it?" He called down. She winced at the crackling in his voice.
"You were going too far, Caden. You would have wiped out all life. Evil wouldn't be the only thing touched by that weapon."
"The good ones would have been spared. If the darkness touched someone they do not deserve their life."
"If you believed that why call me here?" Clara asked, and silence reigned, save for the wind moving past them. "Were you hoping I would help you purge the darkness from the galaxy? Wipe out the dark side as husband and wife?"
"Yes." Came the reply, sounding almost strangled. "Join me."
"If I did, what would we do?" Clara said.
"Destroy the dark side."
"What would we do first?"
"Destroy the ones that have betrayed us."
"And who is that?"
"All of them. Everyone at that base." He said, and her heart sank.
"Like who?" She said. "All the Jedi, Sith, the Hybrids, the Spartans, all of them?"
"We could do it, Clara." He said. "Together, as we were meant to be."
"Who would you destroy first?" She asked. "Which of them would you kill first?" He didn't respond. "Caden...answer me."
"Ok." She said. "What if I don't? What if I just turn around and let you leave?"
"I do it myself."
"Ah." She closed her eyes. "And you would come and destroy them all, starting with our son." She opened her eyes and watched him freeze as she glared up at him. "I will not let that happen." She reached behind her and drew the hilt of her double ended saber.
"What will you do?" He asked. "What Loran and Aurora would do?" He spat their names out as though they were poison. "What Morrigan or the Hybrids would do?" A snarl formed across his mangled face. "What Sola, Dinaya, or Ziva would be doing if they were here?" A pang shot through her stomach, and for the first time, she imagined how their old friends would react if they saw what had become of Caden.
"No." She said. "I'm doing what I would do." And she hurled herself through the air, flying up and over him, activating the two white blades as she fell down towards him. The hum of two lightsabers sprang to life as a green and a blue blade sprang from hilts in each of his hands. The burn of ozone in the air stung at her nose, magnified by the adrenaline of what was about to happen. She landed four feet behind him and he spun, the green blade arcing out towards her neck.
One of the white blades sprang up and caught the green saber mid swing. She spun the saberstaff around, pushing the green away and batting back the blue as it stabbed towards her. She swiped at his head with a backswing, which he ducked, and she used the momentum to swing for his neck with the other blade. His left weapon, the blue, caught the attack and he pushed the blade down towards the ground, and the two blades began to burn a hole in the grass and dirt as he pushed them down. She saw the green blade cross in front of him as he pulled back to swing for her face with it.
She deactivated the blade he was pushing with his blue weapon and swung the remaining one forward to catch the green. She brought back the deactivated blade and swung at him with it. He deflected the strike with the blue saber and slashed, not for her, but for the hilt of her weapon. Knowing his intent, she shifted the hilt up slightly, just so that he would cut through the welding she had done to fuse two hilts together. The blue blade slashed through the hilts and separated them. She dove away from him and landed, holding the two blades forward, pointed straight at him.
The moved in towards each other, Clara stabbing with her left saber, Caden beating it away with his right. Clara slashed down with an overhand right, Caden deflecting it downward with his left. She swung back up with her right blade and stabbed forward with the left. Caden ducked under the slash and pushed the blade to the side with his right. He spun with the momentum of the block and slashed at her head with the blue blade. She ducked below the attack and danced away. Chasing her down, he stabbed at her with the blue blade in his left hand, which she blocked, and he swung recklessly, overhand, right at her face. She caught the blade once with her left weapon, then beat it to the side with her right. Her arms crossed with the momentum and she slashed forward with both of them in a criss-cross motion. He jumped back, but the sizzling of flesh told her he'd not fully escaped injury.
He lifted a hand up and touched the bubbling, burning skin on his neck where she had just grazed him. She seized the opportunity and swung down with both blades, aiming for his forehead. He raised his weapons and crossed them, catching hers between his. Immediately he pushed forward with a burst of physical strength she couldn't hope to match, and she allowed him to, jumping make and making space between them once again. He sprang forward, cutting at her from both sides. She ducked under the slashes, deactivating the two white weapons, and rose up as they crossed, reactivating them and slashing downwards at his head.
He got his left weapon in front of her attacks at the last moment, but his block was not strong enough to stop her from pushing his own blade into the bridge of his nose. He reared back before too much damage could be done, roaring in agony. That is why his voice is broken. She noted as she raised the weapons to strike again. A flash of green moved between them, and the white blades vanished. Instinctively she jumped back, dropping the hilts, their emitters slashed clean off. Idiot. That was too open. She thought, summoning her green bladed weapon to her right hand. The fencing saber, the makashi saber, sprang to life and she held it in front of her, waiting.
Caden lunged at her, whirling like a dervish, a tornado of blue and green light. She backed up as he came upon her, carefully placing her parries to just move the attacking weapons away from her. Then she saw them, the brief moments in between strikes where a thrust could pierce him. She waited, she blocked and parried and backed away, then, as he spun, his back to her, she pushed off with her back foot and stabbed forward, ducking down as she did so.
Then, as the blade was about to pierce his back, a blast of lightning burst from his right hand, catching her square in the chest and sending her flying back twenty feet. She landed hard on her stomach and the wind was immediately knocked out of her. Gasping she looked up and saw him leap up into the air. She rolled to her back, still gasping, and caught his weapons on her green blade at the last moment. His face contorted and snarled down at her, and she felt the rage showing in her eyes, glaring up at him. She opened one hand, reaching out with the force, and she watched as his eyes widened as his breath constricted.
With him distracted, she pushed up, giving herself enough space to roll away. She lost focus on the choke, and he slashed at her and she escaped him. As she rolled to her feet she slashed up and batted away another attack from him. She reached forward and force pushed him away. He flew back and struck one of the blackened trees he had corrupted. She jumped after him and launched another push into him, pinning him there. She loosed another, and another, and another, growing in power each time. With the sixth, she heard ribs break as the force impacted him. She jumped forward and slashed at him, one of his blades meeting hers as she landed in front of him.
She felt the cold metal of his other hilt touch the side of her temple and she threw her head back, the blade springing to life just as she got out of the way. She backed up and attacked again, but he deflected it away from her and attacked again. Every strike she threw his way, a stab, slash, or full power hacking at his defenses, he overpowered and kept her on the back foot. She tried again and again but everything she tried he threw right back at her. I won't get him like this. She thought as she circled to avoid a slash at her collarbone. She stabbed for his stomach and he blocked with both sabers, trying to throw her balance off and get the weapon from her.
Then it clicked. That was her opening. It was small, too small to be safe to really try. Then again, safe won't get him. She steeled herself for what she was about to do, and, after circling away once more, she stabbed at his stomach. As she was stabbing, she let go of the weapon, letting it deactivate and the hilt to fly at him harmlessly. His instinctive block crossed his own blades and cut through the hilt, destroying it. As he did this, she drew her last lightsaber and stabbed for his chest at the opening between the blades, activating the yellow blade at the last minute as his green and blue weapons continued their momentum outwards.
The yellow blade activated and stabbed Caden through the heart less than a second before the blue blade slashed through the lightsaber's emitter, destroying it. His blue blade, moving only just behind the green, slashed upwards just in front of the green, cutting through both her wrists. The first thing that hit the ground was the remains of her saber. The second her left hand. The third her right. Caden looked down at the hole in his chest, the color draining from his face, and he collapsed to his knees for a moment, looking up at her. In the brief moment before he died, she could see him, the real Caden, looking at her one last time. As he fell back, she dropped to her knees, nursing her dismembered wrists, and she let all of her emotion, held in for the duel, finally release in a burst of pain and anguish through the force, in a small sentence before the pain took over her senses.
Rorii, help, please.
Chapter 7: Truth and ReconciliationEdit
Rorii was sitting in a meeting in the conference room of a Phantom Legion Star Destroyer, listening to the various captains answering to her report on their duties. It was routine, but the routine was nice compared to the chaos of her personal life at that moment. As a captain began to talk about financing repairs for their ships, her eyes fluttered shut, then, as she came close to dozing off, a voice crept into her mind, and then exploded across the surface of her consciousness, forming three words.
Rorii, help, please.
"Huh?" She said as her eyes shot open. She looked across the room and found nothing out of the ordinary.
"Ma'am?" One of the captains said.
"Uh, nothing. Please continue." She said. As the captains continued, she reached out with the force, looking for the source of that voice. Clara? Is that you? There was a long moment of pain, radiating from the force and washing over her, physical and mental. Argadea. Come with Loran. Please. Clara's voice said, her voice growing meeker.
I'm on my way, sister. She sent back. "Excellent report, captain. Please, send me all your needs and I'll address them soon." She rose from her chair and strode out of the room, leaving behind the confused captains she had interrupted. She rushed to the hangar and sprinted into the personal transport she and Loran had taken. Rorii found him in the cockpit, leaning back in the pilot's chair and staring into space. "Loran, come on, we need to hurry." She said and sat down in the co-pilot's seat.
"What's wrong?" He said, immediately alert.
"It's Clara." Rorii said. "She's on Argadea, and it feels like she's dying." Without a word, Loran launched the ship, flew it out of the hangar, and launched into hyperspace. the journey was largely silent. Loran was focused, staring out of the cockpit into the tunnel of hyperspace, while Rorii was anxious, constantly shifting and moving around the ship. It took half a day, but when they left hyperspace and looked down at Argadea, they felt a wave of dread wash over them, channeled through the force and projected towards them.
"This place feels...haunted." Rorii said after a moment.
"I would think so." Loran said. "It's where the Skulblakan War ended."
"No, no...this feels different." Rorii said.
"Yeah..." Loran said after a moment. "It's Clara. She's projecting at us."
"We need to get to her, quickly." Rorii said. Loran nodded and flew the ship down into the atmosphere. They followed the feeling of dread until, at the top of a mountain, they saw her. She was sitting cross legged on a stone, next to what appeared to be a grave of stones. Loran punched a button on the dash.
"Ramp is open, go." He said, giving Rorii a nod. Rorii sprinted out the ramp and jumped down, landing about fifteen feet down the mountain. She dashed up the mountain and towards Clara.
"Clara! Clara!" She shouted. As she drew closer, Clara jumped, as though startled, and her hood fell back. Her hair was strewn in every direction, tear streaks covered her face, and she looked as though she hadn't eaten in days. "Oh, lord. Sweetie, what happened?" She asked, leaning down beside Clara.
"Jace..." Clara started. "He didn't kill him."
"Caden escaped." Clara said. "I felt him in the force and followed him here." Rorii slowly looked at the stone grave, then slowly back at Clara. She gently pulled Clara into an embrace.
"Clara...no words can describe how sorry I am."
"He was gonna kill him..." Clara whispered. "He was gonna kill my son..."
"Clara, listen to me. Nobody can hurt your son now, I promise. He is as safe as he can be back home, but we need to get you out of here, ok?" Rorii said quietly.
"...Ok." Clara said and started to slowly rise to her feet. The cloak dropped from her shoulders and Rorii's heart dropped as she saw both of Clara's hands were missing, haphazardly bandaged stumps where the appendages once were. Rorii's hands jumped to her face and covered her mouth.
"Oh my god..."
"I...may need you to help me onto the ship." Clara said, giving her a half-hearted smirk.
"Oh stop it." Rorii said throwing her cloak around Clara and helping her to her feet. They walked towards the ship and Rorii helped Clara board.
"Pyjaks at them." Clara said bluntly. "Gonna need mechs."
"You'll be good as new soon enough, Clara." Rorii said, pulling her in slightly. "You've survived much tougher than this."
"Just have to survive telling them, now." Clara said, barely audible over the engines of the ship as the door closed behind them.
"We'll come with you if you like." Rorii said. "Loran, grab the medkit." She called up to the cockpit.
"No." Clara said. "That is for me to do."
"If you insist." Rorii said. "We'll always be here for you."
"Thank you." Clara mumbled. She took a couple of steps forward, then passed out and fell to the deck of the ship.
Keryn sprinted into the medical bay and pushed past a trio of security guards. She turned a hallway and saw a pair of lightsaber pike wielding guards outside a door at the end of the next corridor. She ran up to them, ignoring their gazes. "Let her in." One said to the other, and she only broke pace as the door opened. Inside, she found her mother, lying back on the medical bed, a droid operating on her right arm. Her left arm was propped up, an iv running into it. Keryn's eyes began to water as she saw the stump at the end of her mother's left arm. Clara's eyes were closed, a heartbeat monitor moving steadily and calmly.
"Renner, Keryn. Please sit." The operating droid said. Keryn nodded and sat down, watching as the droid continued its work. She watched on as the droid operated, paralyzed, unable to truly comprehend what had happened.
"Guard." She said, and one of the guards poked his head in the door. "What happened?"
"Master Renner has requested that we remain uninformed." The guard said. "We know nothing, ma'am."
"Ok. Thank you." Keryn said and the guard returned to his post. Why isn't she telling anyone? The door opened once again, and her uncle Loran walked in. "Uncle, when did she get here?"
"Your aunt and I, we just got her back." Loran said, sitting down next to her. "I was just looking for you to get you."
"Where was she?" She asked, and he fell silent. "Uncle, where was she? What happened?"
"She...she asked us to let her explain it." Loran said.
"Well she wound up losing her hand, so I feel like I deserve to know now."
"Both." Loran said. Her eyes widened and she looked back at the operating droid. The droid shifted and she saw the beginnings of a mechanical hand being placed on yet another stump on her mother's right arm.
"How was she when you found her?" Keryn asked, slumping back in her chair.
"A mess." Loran said. "A mess, but aside from her hands she wasn't too physically bad. We healed her as best we could and made sure she had food in her."
"What happened?" Keryn asked.
"Keryn, if I told you that she'd never forgive me." Loran said, turning to look directly at her. She kept her gaze locked on her mother, on the sight of her second great failure. "Keryn?"
"Why didn't I stop this?" She asked. "I could've. Why the hell didn't I? I could have stopped all of this."
"Keryn...you didn't know." Loran said.
"But I should have." She whispered. "I should have." The water growing in her eyes began to increase. She put a hand over her eyes and began to cry. The tears kept flowing and didn't stop for some time. Loran put an arm over her shoulders and pulled her in closer, resting her head on his own. She cried for what felt like hours, the only other sounds being the work of the droid as it operated on Clara.
The door opened and Loran looked up and saw Rorii walk in with Jace and Katalena. Jace took a couple more steps in, jaw hanging open and his eyes wide. Rorii came up behind him and put an arm around him with her left hand, her right reaching for and resting on Loran's shoulder. Katalena sat down and they noticed as tiny red tendrils went from her hands to Clara's temples.
"I'm easing her dreams, don't worry." She whispered. Loran and Rorii nodded to her, Keryn and Jace didn't do anything to acknowledge it.
"...I didn't do it, did I?" Jace said after several minutes. Keryn said nothing, tears continuing to flow. Loran didn't look at him, staying silent. "Aunt Rorii, did..." He turned to Rorii. "Did what I think happened happen?"
"Implantation successful." The droid chimed. "Awakening to commence shortly." It said and floated out of the room.
"She's the one who wants to tell you what happened, Jace." Rorii said. "We're respecting her decision."
"She say that before or after her hands were cut off?" Keryn said. "Because if something's out there that did this to her we deserve to know-" She was interrupted by a a burst of movement as Clara jolted awake. Clara started shaking, looking around the room wildly. Before the others could move, Kata was on her feet, holding one hand out towards Clara, the tendrils glowing brighter. Her other hand flared up and gently pushed Jace and Keryn back.
"Shhhh..." Kata whispered. "It's ok, it's just us." Clara looked up at Kata and grew still as the tendrils glowed still brighter. Kata was silent for a long moment, then, she turned and looked back at the others. "Loran, Aurora, if you could give them the room?" Loran rose, nodding, and Aurora looked briefly at Jace, pulling him closer for a brief moment before the two exited. Kata released her powers, letting the tendrils and restraints fall away. She gently brushed Clara's hair out of her face and kissed her on the forehead. "Thankyou, Cla'buir." She whispered. Kata backed away, looked briefly at Jace, and walked out of the room.
"Mom, please, tell us what happened." Jace said.
"I will." Clara said. "A few days ago I heard your father's voice in the force. It was angry, pained, terrifying. It was calling me, so I went. I went, and I found him." She paused a moment, her eyes seeming to see something that was not there. "Alive. But not. Someone had replaced his body with machine parts, and his mind was gone. He was not him. He wanted me to join him." Jace collapsed into the seat beside Keryn and stared at the floor. "Jace, when you came back...I can still see you. I can still see you breaking while I did nothing."
"It wasn't supposed to be your fight, though." Jace said. "I knew full well what the mission could hold. It was my fight, my battle, and because I didn't finish it, you're...you were hurt."
"How long after that did you start to wish you did things differently?" Clara said. "When did the regret happen?"
"Every second of every day after we raided that pirate village." Jace said. "It haunted me from every moment until he said I wasn't his son anymore. Then...then I knew he was gone, and I had to do my duty."
"He told me he was coming for you first." Clara said. A sob came from Keryn as Jace stared at the floor, shaking his head. "I didn't have to engage. I could have come home, warned everyone, warned you. But the moment he said that, I knew what I had to do. He was going to try to kill my son. And...for once, I had to do something for my son. My son was going to be hunted down, and there was something I could do about it." Clara said, her voice starting to shake. Jace looked up at her and met her gaze.
"Thank you mom. Thank you for keeping me safe." Jace said. He rose and walked over to her bedside, kneeling beside her.
"Have I told you about my mother?" Clara asked.
"She...she became one of the beings Keryn has been training to fight, years before I was with your father. She told me before she turned that she regretted having me and my siblings, and she tried to kill me." She paused a moment, eyes watering. "For years, I regretted and hated myself for fighting and trying to kill her. When your father told me he was coming for you...I knew I couldn't let you live with that too. I'd rather you hate me than yourself for killing him." The tears began to roll down her cheeks.
"You're the only mother I'll ever have, how could I ever hate you?" He asked, reaching up and wiping her tears away.
"I sure tried to make it happen, didn't I?" Clara said, shakily.
"No. You didn't kill my father, you killed a pale imitation of the real thing." Jace said.
"I mean before." She whispered.
"You...had a job to do." Jace said. Some things are bigger than any of us. You were protecting me then, even if you didn't know it."
"I'm sorry, son..." Clara said. She lifted her arm, trying to reach out to him with her new mechanical hand. As she lifted the hand up it began to quake.
"You have nothing to be sorry for." Jace said, taking the mechanical hand in his own. "I hold nothing against you."
"Nor I you." She said, gesturing with her head towards the mechanical hand. "I love you, son."
"I love you too, Cla'buir." Jace said. Keryn rose and came up behind him, wrapping her right arm around his shoulders and her left on Clara's right shoulder. Keryn leaned her forehead on Clara's arm, the tears finally subsiding slightly.
Clara couldn't help but run a hand over her left wrist, massaging the tissue connected to the new mechanical hand. Her left was the problem one. She had spent time with a mechanical right hand, so it wasn't as alien to her. As she stood outside the gated fence to Katalena and Jace's backyard, she glanced nervously at the cloth she had in her left hand. She'd taken some time to prepare the presentation of this gift, but as she got closer to giving it, she felt strangely afraid. "Clara?" Clara spun and saw Katalena, poking her head out one of the windows of the house, looking down at her.
"Hi, Kata." Clara said. "Just...have something for him."
"You ok?" Kata asked, quirking her head to one side. Clara hesitated briefly, then opened the cloth to show Kata what she had wrapped inside.
"It's...one of his." Kata said. "But it's different."
"For a weapon." Clara said. A wave of relief hit her as Kata slowly smiled. Kata raised a hand and Clara heard the back gate unlock.
"He's training, shouldn't be too hard to get his attention." Kata said and slipped back inside the house. Clara turned and gently pushed the door open. Immediately she could see and hear Jace's lightsabers swinging back and forth. She took a couple steps inside the yard, then stopped, looking on and watching, observing him as he hacked and slashed at the air. He was calm, composed, entirely focused on his practice. She watched as he began to go through the motions of breaking saber locks. She tilted her head to the side as she inspected his technique, looking for things she could help him with. After a few minutes he turned mid motion and saw her.
"Mom?" He said. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you there. How are you?" He said, deactivating his lightsabers.
"I'm alright." She said. "Still adapting." Clara held her left hand up, wiggling a couple fingers, which still shook slightly from their installation.
"Knowing you, you'll master it in no time at all." He said. She smiled and help up the cloth wrapping.
"I brought you something." She said.
"Oh? Now what could that be?" He said, approaching her. He took the cloth and gingerly opened it, revealing one of his crystals, but energized and glowing bright with a dancing energy within it.
"Woah, is this one of mine?" Jace said, glancing down at his open hand. "Where did you get this? And what did you do to it?"
"That is the very first one you ever fired. I dug it out of the drywall and kept it for years. I also kept the second." She said. "I meditated with it and the force, and it should work as a lightsaber crystal."
"Wow..." Jace said, holding the crystal up and inspecting it. "I didn't know they could be used like that."
"Neither did I." Clara said. "Happened by accident when I was using it to make a necklace."
"That is extremely sentimental." Jace said. "Now need something to put this in."
"I found the third and made this." Clara said, removing a lightsaber hilt from her belt. It was a sleek hilt, with both metal and wood in the handle. "But I had an idea for the other two."
"That is amazing." He said with a smile. "Now you'll always have a piece of me with you. Thank you, mom."
"I couldn't help but notice," Clara said with a smile. "that you're missing something from your collection."
"Oh? And that would be?" Jace said.
"Well, your Uncle has offered to teach me how to use a pike like his. I could use a training partner."
"A pike?" Jace said. "Well, that would definitely fit my collection alright."
"Good." Clara grinned. "Before we get to that though...I noticed you were working on blade lock breaking."
"I am, I am. Just something I need to get better at." Jace said. "That and about everything else."
"Want help?" Clara asked.
"That would be most appreciated, but can I ask one other favor beforehand?" Jace asked.
"Can you train me in the ways of the Force as well?" Jace asked quietly, knowing what his mother's reaction would be. He nodded as her head tilted in confusion. "I believe I found a way to unlock my potential. During my fight with dad, he called me a 'void in the Force', but whenever he did, I think I was able to channel it. I pushed him with it."
"Did anything else happen?"
"It felt weird. I lunged farther and faster than ever before."
"Did you retain your Hybrid powers?" Clara asked her son, trying to understand everything that was being told to her.
"Yes ma'am." The crystals even began to become like an armor for me," Jace explained, motioning to his arms and legs where they covered him.
"Well...from what I know, I may need Kata's help teaching you for a bit then."
"Perhaps I should show you?"
"Sure," Clara responded, backing away from her son. Jace nodded and closed his eyes, doing his best to draw from the same power as before. After a few seconds, Jace opens his eyes, gold gleaming out of them as the aura begins to return, illuminating him. He screams out, a blast of energy being released around him as the crystals cover his hands and feet again, slowly growing up his arms and legs. Clara stepped backwards at the sight of her son, swearing she could hear cursing coming from within the house a few feet away from them.
"Wow, you're...I can't sense you. At all," she stammered out, staring at her boy. He did not feel there, but the energy around his body felt immense. It was like a black hole sucking in light from the surrounding stars, becoming lost after they crossed the event horizon.
"Hence the void description. Please, let me know if you can feel this," Jace said as he held his hands close together, gathering strength. At last, he unleashed a powerful Force push up into the sky, blowing clouds away from over the home.
"Oh my god...how?" Clara asked, doing her best to try and not smile at the event.
"I do not really know," Jace answered. As Clara looked back at her son and noticed something peculiar. The grass around his began to wilt, some even turning brown. The air in the backyard smelled stale. Even her energy felt as if it was being zapped, a wave of exhaustion quickly coming over her as she heard another swear from within the house.
"Can you deactivate it?" she asked. As he did, the crystals receded as before, but the grass began to return to form, the air felt fresh again, and Clara began to feel like her usual self again. "From what little I know...I think you found your Vakning. You seem to draw Force energy from the world around you. This may put your body into overdrive and activate the powers that your Hybrid half locked away."
"That's...I may actually have to go see Aednat for once, she loves researching this stuff. Either way, I guess I got some upgrades. I promise not to kill your drywall this time," Jace joked, smiling at his mother.
"Eh, its not like we can't afford it."
"True. So, would you like to get started?" Jace said through his grin.
Clara smiled and backed up a few paces, taking her saber from her belt. Jace reignited one of his golden sabers and they began training.
Inside, Katalena watched from the window, smiling. She looked away when she heard a knock on the door. "It's open!" She called out.
"Kata?" Keryn's voice came in with the door.
"Kitchen." Kata said and Keryn found her way to her. "Look." Kata said as Keryn reached her. She watched as Keryn peered through the window, a slow smile forming across her face. "Maybe just let them."
"Yeah." Keryn said.
"I'm glad." Kata said, putting an arm around Keryn. The two watched as the mother and son talked and trained and worked together until the sun set and into the long night.