The Day of the Battle of Ithor
Lieutenant Jaina Solo ran into her quarters aboard the Ralroost, tears streaming down her cheeks. She tossed her flightbag and helmet into the corner, not seeming to care what condition they were in after she had. The Battle for Ithor was over. Corran Horn had secured a duel with Shedao Shai. But the cost had been high, especially for her.
For a short time during the insertion of the New Republic Forces onto Garqi, she had feared that she had lost her twin brother Jacen. Though initially that had hurt her greatly, somewhere deep down it hadn't because subconsciously she had known he was not dead. Even as her conscious mind was fooled by the illusion the NRI had prepared, she knew he was still alive.
The same could not be said for her loss today. One moment, things were as they had been for numerous missions with Anni faithfully flying her wing. And the next, she was gone. Dead. As the thought crossed Jaina's mind again, her body was wracked with sobs.
Jaina fell to her knees, not even having the will to make it to the chair or her bunk. The loss she felt in her heart was a deep and horrific wound. She had tried to protect herself from it – to protect herself by lying to Anni, telling Anni she feared for the loss of her own life and how that would hurt Anni again. Even though Jaina had somehow known all along she was not the one destined to die.
Somewhere deep in her heart Jaina had known something that even her own mind could not grasp. She was going to live through the war. In the midst of the battle, she had not had time to worry for Anni when she was killed.
But now, Jaina was worried for herself as she was in the same place Anni had been weeks previously. The young Jedi had seen how badly Casey's loss had affected Anni and, no matter what she said to the contrary, Jaina hadn't wanted to live through the same thing. Now she sat on the floor of their room, impotently pounding her fist against the deck, wishing her lover wasn't now one with the Force and not knowing how she would deal with her broken heart.
She stayed on the floor for a long time before finally lifting her gaze to Anni's bunk. Upon it sat Kettch, her stuffed Ewok. Jaina mouth twisted into a strange expression as she took in the sight - half anguished sob, half-adoring smile.
Jaina leapt from the floor and threw herself onto the bed. Latching onto Kettch and hugging him tightly to her chest, Jaina began to cry again with renewed vigor. The scent of Anni's hair on her pillow, memories of the nights they had spent together in this bunk since returning from Adumar, the sound of her giggles as they cuddled, all flooded into Jaina's mind. A gurgling, strangled wail of anguish escaped her as she lay there. She sobbed and sobbed, not even knowing for how long before she was so exhausted, exhausted on every level, that she drifted off into a fitful sleep.
The amethyst blade in her hands cast her surroundings in an eerie light. Blood seeped from multiple slashes on her arms, her legs and even her back. Her arms felt as if she had fought a thousand battles and her senses were muddled by the thoughts of those she had felled. "Vong." She spat more than spoke the word as she realized what she had been doing.
As she looked around her, she first noticed the sky. It appeared awash in blood and seemed to glow as if fueled by it. Suspended, unmoving and forever unchanging were what looked to be the explosions of destroyed snubfighters, freighters and capital ships. On the ground lay the broken bodies of New Republic Forces. Some wore the uniforms of ground troops, others wore the orange flightsuits of starfighter pilots while still others were clad in neatly pressed uniforms of fleet officers.
All of those bodies were just that – bodies - shells of those who had once lived. Some bore obvious marks of death by slashing or impaling. Others had bulging eyes and bore the angry bruising that usually accompanied violent decompression. Others were burned and lacerated almost beyond recognition as humanoid beings. Still others bore no obvious marks at all.
Stepping carefully, Jaina threaded her way through the bodies. She wore her Jedi Robes, but two things appeared to be quite different. The robes seemed dark, darker even than the inky blackness of deep space. They also were stained with blood. As she stared at her hands, she realized they were as well and the smooth shaft of her lightsaber was also tacky and smeared with the crimson fluid.
Jaina Solo, Jedi Knight, Rogue Squadron Ace and now a Hero in her own right, walked aimlessly through the fields of the dead. She felt no fear as she moved, only great sadness in her heart. Sadness so heavy it threatened to smother her. As she looked upon the faces of the dead, her mind did not recognize them but her soul seemed to know them, as if they linked eternally by a bond forged by war.
She walked until the scenery seemed to change around her. She was no longer in a field but on the skybridges high above Coruscant. The bodies still covered the ground but there seemed to be even more of them. Blood now seemed to soak not only her clothes but her hair and face as well. Still, somehow she knew that the added blood was not hers but that of the enemies she had felled.
Before her, looming impressively in the skyline, was a building she had never seen before. In all the years she lived on Coruscant, she could not believe she had never seen it. However, that did not mean she didn't recognize it for what it was. It was a building of great import to the Old Republic. A building that had great impact on history - not only the history of the Galaxy, but her family's as well.
On a bright sunny day, it would have shimmered white before her. But, like the sky, it seemed stained by the blood of the righteous and the villainous alike, those who had lost their lives in the war that still raged. As she walked across the bridge and into the building, she noticed there were no bodies strewn about this sacred place. Turning to take a spiraling set of stairs, she began to climb. Each step seemed to take hours. Then, what seemed like years later, she finally reached the landing that Jaina knew was the highest point in the Coruscant skyline.
A few meters away was an archway leading into a room that seemed suspended in blood - the same blood that had filled the sky. As she looked at it, she suddenly saw two bodies lying there - one a meter or so in front of the other.
The first belonged to her brother Jacen. His eyes were ruptured and dried blood clung to his cheeks where blood had oozed out, his skin was bruised and much of his flesh burned away. He wore the combat jump suit he had worn to Garqi, or at least its tatters. Broken weapons lay about him like the discarded toys of a monstrous child.
Hesitantly, Jaina began to step over her brother's corpse. As she did, her boot came down on something hard and she heard it crunch beneath her heel. The shards were so sharp, she felt them pierce the sole of her boot and embed themselves in her foot.
She looked down to see the hilt of a lightsaber peeled away and shards of green crystal around her foot. "Jacen," she whimpered in grief, but immediately knew it was wrong. "You lived," she announced, her voice becoming stronger. "I only feared that you were dead."
"So you did, young Jedi," she heard a familiar voice called from the chamber. "Look again."
She had to glance back down at the body, having taken her eyes from it to look into the room searching for the origin on the voice. Jacen's face faded away but the features that replaced it were obfuscated from her. She was unable to see who it was but that she felt she knew him. Felt even as if she loved him. She looked away from his hidden form to step over the second corpse. Looking down, she saw the body clad in an orange New Republic flightsuit. The Rogue Squadron patch was beautiful and bright on the suit's shoulder but the rest of it was burned and charred. Taking a large step, she moved her wounded foot and stepped down on something soft on the other side of the body
She turned her attention to where she had stepped. Beneath her heel was a small stuffed toy, a soft brown Ewok. "Kettch," she gasped. "Oh no," she said, shaking her head in denial even as she knew it was false. Jaina could not prevent her gaze from shifting to the face of the body beneath her to see Anni Capstan's lifeless eyes staring up at her. Her face and hair seemed untouched by the explosion that killed her. It would be easy to pretend that she was asleep save the vacant stare of the dead in her eyes.
"Anni," Jaina sobbed, tears welling in her eyes then running down her cheeks. Kneeling beside her, Jaina gently reached to touch her friend's face and the tears rolled off her cheeks to splash against Anni's face. As Jaina looked at her, Anni's face became dotted with blood. She quickly raised the hand not holding her still lit lightsaber, touching her cheeks then withdrawing her hand to look at it.
Her hand was stained with the blood that ran from her eyes. The blood, she thought, sobbing harder. I can't escape it. Her mind spun and her heart pounded and this time she did feel fear. Yet, not only fear but a flood of almost every emotion. Some of the emotions were more prominent than others but the most prominent seemed to be far darker than the rest.
The voice roared from the nearby room again. "Step over your friend!" it commanded. "It is your destiny."
With a last sob, Jaina kissed the tips of her fingers and laid them against Anni's lips before she rose and stepped over her friend's body and into the room. Blood still lightly running down her cheeks, Jaina stared at the solitary figure standing in the center of the room.
The room itself was round with a marble floor. While there was a design in the stone, Jaina could not seem to see it. The room took up the entire top of the spire upon which it sat but, other than the figure in its center, it was completely empty.
Jaina Solo met his gaze, his hard eyes seemed to offer no sympathy for her tears or anything else. The figure stood over two full meters in height. The young man had close cropped brown hair and his eyes were a sparkling blue. He wore a black outer cloak over an old Jedi tunic of dark brown that was accented by a black leather outer tunic. Although she had never actually met him before, she recognized him immediately.
"You," Jaina hissed but the figure did not respond. "Why have you brought me here?"
He laughed, not a light and happy sound, but a sardonic and evil one. "Oh little Jedi, I had nothing to do with it and it is that kind of brash and foolish assumption that led to the fall of our pathetic little Order the first time."
She felt her fear morph into anger at the young man and, almost of its own volition her hand flinched, raising her blade. As she did this, the individual before her instantly changed. His robes melted away to reveal a hard black armor and the sounds of his heavy, respirated breathing filled the chamber. His face was shrouded in a black mask that had come to symbolize one of the greatest evils in the Galaxy.
"Now there, little one," his mechanical voice boomed. "I would think that you would be more vigilant of your emotions knowing of the often Dark Legacy of Skywalkers who give into their anger."
"I am a Solo!" Jaina screamed. "I have my own legacy to make. My own destiny to realize!"
"Do not be so foolish," he admonished. "You might have a father of that name, but the blood running through your veins is Skywalker. The weak blood of that smuggler had no effect on your lineage."
Jaina quivered with anger and the lightsaber in her hand crackled and hissed as air passed around it. "This is your fault!" she cried. "You came to me and showed me a vision of what was to come! You killed Anni!"
The armored figure shook his head. "You are assigning blame improperly. The Yuuzhan Vong killed Anni Capstan. Or perhaps you did through your negligence or maybe through your lack of ability in flying or commanding your flight element. But it is foolish to think I killed her for I am already long dead."
"No," Jaina shook her head defiantly. "This is your fault. You and your wretched visions!" She raised her lightsaber over her head and charged forward. Snaphiss. A brilliant red blade emerged from the hilt held within his gauntleted hand.
As her blade came crashing down, he raised his lightsaber with one hand to effortlessly bat her slash aside. Jaina spun and lashed out with a brutal sidekick. It connected with his midsection but did not move him. Pain shot up her leg as she connected with the armor covering his abdomen. Trying to keep her footing, she swung wildly with her blade as she stumbled back a few steps. She stood unsteadily as she retook the offensive, jumping towards him.
The weapons clashed and hissed against one another. The Sith Lord knocked away her blade with such strength it drove her back again. Her eyes burning with rage, Jaina straightened into a defensive posture. Her body seemed like a coiled spring, ready to leap at any moment.
"While I can not fault your passion and strong will, it is misdirected," he calmly stated, not seeming to have exerted himself at all.
Jaina's breath came quick as she glared at him incredulously. "Is that so?"
"It is so." He held his blade still at the ready, his mask's featureless eyes seeming to stare at her. "You will need every ounce of conviction to keep your path true. You will realize your destiny no matter what road you take. Whether it is to be a dark journey or a righteous pilgrimage is something that is yet to be determined."
A primal scream emerged from Jaina as she charged again. Slashing wildly, Jaina was unable to land a blow against the dark figure for he batted away every attack with brutal strength, sending her off balance with each parry. "In battling me and fighting your destiny, you accomplish nothing. You only give the darkness an avenue to approach your heart and seize it within its talons."
"You lie!" Jaina shouted, her chest heaving. "And when I defeat you, just as Uncle Luke did, I will be free to choose." Standing back, Jaina searched for an opening to exploit.
"You are forgetting one thing. Luke Skywalker was a Jedi and acted as such," he said, holding a perfect defensive posture. "His ally was the Force; he was calm. Without fear. Without hatred. Without darkness." Gesturing with his lightsaber, he added, "You are none of these things. You act with darkness and hatred and fear. You are nothing. Your hatred could fuel you if you were properly instructed in the Sith teachings but you do not even have those."
Jaina felt tears of blood staining her cheeks again. "No!" she screamed before swinging wildly at the neck of the figure more machine than man. As the blade neared him, he lowered his own weapon allowing the blade to connect. In a shower of sparks and smoke, his head tumbled away and his body slumped into a heap a moment later.
As the helmet crashed to the floor, the mask shattered into thousands of needle-like shards. It slowly rolled over to face upward with the broken pieces of mask hanging from the helmet's side and within the helmet lay the severed head of the armored figure. As she stared down at it, long brown hair tumbled out of the side and the face within was intimately familiar to Jaina.
As her gaze remained fixed, she saw the brandy-brown eyes that stared back at her from the mirror each morning, though they stared blankly like all the eyes of the dead. She gasped as she recognized the face as her own. Suddenly she felt deathly cold and felt frigid eyes boring into her. Spinning wildly around, she saw the same young man that had transformed before her eyes. Though, something was different.
His expression was hard and he was bathed in an aura of cold blue light. Glaring at her hatefully, he said calmly, "So much for being a Solo. You are a Skywalker - through and through." Jaina shook her head, fighting back more angry words and tears. "This is your legacy if you rebel…" the apparition continued as he bowed deeply before her. "Lady Vader."
Jaina's scream could be heard through the entire section of the Ralroost as she bolted upright in Anni's bunk, desperately clutching Kettch to her chest and frantically searching for her lightsaber hoping she could fend off the nightmare with it. But even the mighty weapon of the Jedi could not do such a thing.
"It was just a dream," she panted. "Just a dream. It meant nothing."
Foolish child, she heard in her mind, the voice of the grandfather she had never met. A vision. Jedi do not just dream.
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