THE QUEEN STORMED into the throne room, startling Jester and the Riddler who were having a small argument about the decorations for the grand ball the following week. Other than that, the room was empty and it seemed almost too quiet considering the hour. Normally at this time of day the throne room was full of functionaries and councillors all demanding the Queen’s attention, but it was a rest day and so they had all found other entertainments.
Despite making his peace with her, Jester was still a little nervous in the presence of the Queen. He recognised her mood as one in which the person involved looks for something to throw, preferably something fragile, and so was slightly apprehensive when he decided to speak.
“Your Majesty?” Jester backed away slightly as he spoke, and considered hiding behind the Grand Admiral.
The Queen jumped, as if she had been previously unaware that anyone had been in the throne room until he spoke. Suddenly realising how immature her behaviour must seem to Jester and the Riddler, she blushed, slumping down on the throne, which was not terribly comfortable.
“I have just spoken with the Jedi Council on the commlink”, she said, and for the first time Jester noticed that she had more make-up on than was traditional, even for her, and her clothes seemed to be designed to hide her features. There was something in her tone that made his heart sink. “They have decided that you are not to be trained as a Jedi. They feel you are too old.”
Jester’s face fell, the grand ball forgotten as his newly realised dreams started to crumble. Even the Riddler looked somewhat dismayed at this turn of events. “But they said that the Skywalker kid could be trained. Why not me?”
She sighed, and he could see the faint sparkle of tears in her eyes. “The Council said that Anakin was an exception to the rule about the age at which they take on apprentices. They all thought that there had been something special about Anakin, something that meant he had to be trained. They cannot sense any such thing about you.” The words sounded cold and heartless, but there was no way the Queen could have looked any more hurt as she said this.
Jester bowed his head in silent acquiescence.
The Queen looked at Jester for a long time without speaking. Then she met the Riddler’s gaze and made her choice.
She smiled at Jester. “Personally, I would hate to see all that potential go to waste. So even though the Council does not approve of my decision, I will see to it that you do receive Jedi training, to the point where I will teach you myself if I must. Jester, you have great gifts, and you must learn how to use them properly. This is the will of the Force, and I must trust it, even if it means that we endanger Domus Prime’s relationship with the Jedi Council.”
A wave of premonition swept over the Queen as she said this, but she was careful not to let either man see any change in her countenance. As she stood, she found herself being hugged enthusiastically, and was glad to be able to return his joy.
She looked over at the table where Jester and the Riddler had been standing as she entered the throne room. “What were you two arguing about?” Her question was asked lightly, as she tried not to think about any possible consequences of the decision she had just made.
“The colour of the decorations for the ball”, Jester said, walking over to the table and holding up two streamers. “I like red, but the Riddler prefers green.”
She smiled at them both, as she picked up a third streamer, holding it up to the light and watching its long ribbon twist in the air. “Personally, I have always preferred blue myself.”
Devron Zal had come into the throne room as this discussion took place, and he thought for a while about the information they had given him. Sometime later, he typed a query to his Purgatory datapad.
“What should the colours for the grand ball be? Red, blue or green?”
There was a long pause before the datapad produced any output, and when it did Devron sighed in frustration.
“50% purple, 40% yellow, 5% black, 3% red, 1% blue, 1% green.”
He frowned at the datapad screen before setting it aside and fetching from a pocket another datapad, working on a series of crawler droids that would be able to decorate the throne room for the ball to make life easier for Jester. He also left on the table his list of the types of music that he wanted to hear played at the ball.
After a cursory glance at Devron’s datapad, Jester decides to set aside the colour issues for the ball, too excited to deal with it right now. Later he would ask the Queen if the northern wall could be lavender with pink polka dots and as a part of his creative flair he would have to paint many rubber chickens on all the walls. For now, he would contact his friends at Jabba’s Royal Caterers and tell them the good news, both about the job and his training. Then he would go and meditate in preparation for his performance at the ball.
Outside the throne room, the Riddler was confronted by one of the Queen’s Generals, who bowed deeply to the Grand Admiral. The man did not attempt to look at the Riddler’s face, which was concealed by the hood of his cloak, but spoke with his head lowered.
“My Lord”, he said in a panicked tone, “The Sith have rallied an army and are moving towards LucasLand. Many innocents have been wiped out!”
“All of them?” The Riddler’s voice was tinged with apprehension.
“No sir”, the General kept his eyes lowered, but the Riddler could sense his panic. “There are some survivors. A young man, a famous noble of some description by the name of Leonardo DiCaprio was taken prisoner by the Sith. We have been told that they are doing horrible experiments on him!”
“What of LucasLand?” With all the calm of a seasoned military leader, the Riddler allowed himself to focus on his objective, to protect the distant yet ally world of LucasLand.
“Aren’t you concerned with young DiCaprio’s safety?” The General was incredulous, and dared to look up at the Riddler’s darkly shining eyes. The Riddler allowed a grin to cross his face, hidden by his hood.
“He is of no concern to us! Let the Sith do their work, and we will prevent them from taking the rest of LucasLand. What has happened is surely for the good of the Galaxy.”
The General nodded, realising the truth of this statement. Sometimes one must be sacrificed for the good of all. For a time, the man spoke with the Riddler about the proposed actions that the Royal Forces would take against the Sith.
The Riddler nodded at the suggestions, saying softly, “Wipe them out, all of them. With the exception of DiCaprio! He will, unfortunately, suffer a fate worse than death: torture at the hands of the Sith!”
The General left the Grand Admiral at this time, and the Riddler turned to walk back into the throne room and confront Queen Sailor Coruscant with the news that her troops would have to soon leave for battle.
He was half-surprised to find her alone in the throne room.
Seeing him draw back the hood of his cloak, the Queen smiled, knowing the pleasure that came with being one of the few people who had ever seen the Riddler’s face and lived. He bowed deeply to her.
In her gentle voice she asked, “What news do you bring me, Grand Admiral Riddler?”
Rising, the Riddler addressed the Queen in a most distressed voice. “I have just received word from my spies that the Sith have placed LucasLand under siege. They have taken few prisoners and executed most, but they wish to keep one alive for torture. His name is DiCaprio, but despite his minor fame in LucasLand, I do not think that they will look for ransom. The Sith plan to torture him.”
The Queen drew in a deep breath, before assuming an unconcerned expression. “What do you and the Royal Forces plan to do about this invasion?”
“I will leave with our Forces. We will begin our attack by the end of this day.” He pretended not to notice as she thought for a moment about overruling his decision.
Finally, she spoke gravely. “Very good, Grand Admiral Riddler. I take it that you will be taking command from the Apocalypse in your assault?”
“Of course, Your Majesty.” The Apocalypse was the Riddler’s flagship, a Super-Star Destroyer of unparalleled firepower.
Jester came back into the throne room, his eyes looking a little wild at the news of an approaching battle. “Are you not staying for the ball then?”
The Riddler shook his head. “I’m afraid not, my friend. There are evil deeds being conspired, and I need to thwart them.” He paused for a moment, looking up at both of them and then smiling. “That was a little dramatic, wasn’t it?”
“Yes”, Jester nodded, smiling slightly.
“Well”, the Riddler said somewhat happily, “I must be off. I will report to you both in a few days when I return victorious.”
For the first time he noticed how tired the Queen was. She looked tired, her eyes sunken with fatigue. In the past few weeks, much had happened, and the constant manoeuvring of the Sith were fast tiring those who tried to counter them. The Queen looked pale and worried.
In his heart the Riddler knew that with the combined strength of Jester, Queen Sailor Coruscant and himself, Domus Prime could be an un-defeatible force in the Galaxy. If only, he shook his head, breaking his train of thought. He nodded to the Queen and she smiled nervously at the Grand Admiral.
“May the Force be with you”, she said softly, as though the traditional farewell of the Jedi was an effort for her to say.
Jester put a hand on the Riddler’s shoulder. “Are you sure you won’t need some help?”
The Riddler smiled. “No, my friend. Stay here, and look after the Queen for me. That is your duty for now. I am certain that she can help you start to develop your Jedi abilities so that you may come to the next war.”
He left the throne room then, headed for the main hangar where he was taken by shuttle to the Apocalypse. After reporting in to the bridge the fleet departed to hyperspace to LucasLand. When they were safely under way, the Riddler headed to his quarters.
In the corner of the immaculately kept room was a small box, hardly worth noticing. He opened it, looking within to see a lightsaber. With a smile, the Riddler retrieved the weapon, knowing that perhaps now was the time to reveal his secret.
Jester sat silently in the seclusion of the Queen’s private chambers, thinking again about the Riddler’s departure. As his friend had walked from the throne room, Jester had sensed something about him, a secret, something that the Riddler keeps secret even from those closest to him. But despite his efforts, Jester had been unable to pinpoint exactly what it had been.
Both the Queen and Jester were sitting on the floor, each supposed to be concentrating on the Force, each lost in their own worries about how the Riddler was faring.
Deep in concentration the Queen was wondering once again how she had come into the mess in which she now found herself. Although she did realise that training Jester was the will of the Force, she had never tried to teach anyone before.
It was obvious to anyone that Jester had power. After all, he had been able to break out of the crystal prison she had created, and from what she had once been told of the technique, no one had ever done such a thing before. The casting had forever trapped even powerful warriors, but she had intended to release Jester after a little while.
The Queen tried to think of the first moment of her own training, so long ago, but she could not think of a single moment when she had not known of how to use the Force in any number of minor or major ways. She sighed softly, wishing for the first time in several years that her guardian was still nearby.
Finally she reached a decision, that they would start Jester’s training with what he already knew. The Queen stood, and brushed down her immaculate dress. Looking at Jester, it seemed as if he had actually managed to concentrate long enough to slip into a light trance, but upon reaching out with her Force senses, she realised that he was merely asleep.
Reaching out with her mind, she gave Jester a little jolt. He shot up, instantly awake, and the Queen handed him four lightsabers.
“I want you to juggle these for me”, she said, “and for once, I want you to actually concentrate on what you are doing, rather than just going by instinct. Do not worry”, she added upon seeing his startled glance, “these are just training ones. If you drop them on your toes you will get a nasty shock nothing more. Try to listen to the Force as you juggle.”
She sat back down on one of the comfortable lounges to watch as Jester hesitantly tested the weapons for balance looking somewhat nervous.
Devron Zal looked up at the full-scale barely working replica of a droideka that he had created. In the empty throne room, the droid had room to run around in, and so he activated it. With a shudder and a groaning noise, the droideka came to life and stood waiting for orders.
Using a little joystick, Devron made the droideka walk around, putting its three legs to the test. Without a set path, the droid clanks around noisily. Pushing another button, Devron gave the machine its next set of instructions. Aided by the joystick, it rolls up into its wheel form and started rolling around.
Jumping up and down like a small child, Devron screamed excitedly, “It works! It works!” After a moment of joy, he became aware of his surroundings and decided to show the Queen his handiwork.
He ordered the droid to manoeuvre itself to just outside her quarters, and he hid behind one of the pillars in the hallway, grinning in anticipation of the look on the Queen’s face.
Under Devron’s control, the droideka wheeled up to the door and unfolded with a clinking sound of metal touching metal. Walking forward a few steps, the droideka let its presence be known.
Unbeknownst to Devron the resident prankster in the Palace, Jester was still with the Queen practicing his newly discovered Jedi skills.
When the door opened, there was a bright flash of light as Jester destroyed the barely working droid with only a practice lightsaber. Following Jester from the room the Queen looked curiously at the pile of metal wreckage.
Devron stepped out from his hiding place, bowing to the Queen. He spoke with a deep voice that was tinged with a little annoyance at what had just happened, but mostly excitement. “Great and resplendent Queen, I have something to show you”, Devron looked down at the remains of the droid, “Well, I had something to show you. But I have more.”
Two more droideka roll down the hallway seemingly bent on the destruction of the Palace and all within. The first unfolds as was planned, but the other only makes it half way and careens into a stone pillar with a crashing sound that probably was not good for it.
The standing droid takes a few steps towards the Queen, before an outside source interferes with the radio system and Devron loses all semblance of control over the droideka. It transforms back into its wheel form and starts to zip around the hallway in small circles before it falls onto its side and does not move.
Devron met the Queen’s gaze, looking more than slightly embarrassed. “Oops”, he said, “I’ll send for someone to clean this mess up, Your Majesty. Next time, I think I will test them some more before I bring anything here.”
“That would be a good idea, Devron.” She was smiling gently at him, and he found himself smiling back before she walked calmly back into her rooms to continue Jester’s training.
As Jester picked up the lightsabers he had just started to get the hang of juggling, the Queen smiled at him, and took away all but two of the weapons. “Now that you can manage this a little easier, we should add another obstacle.”
Heading over to a hidden closet the Queen pulled out a helmet, which she placed on Jester’s head. She pulled the blast shield down, knowing before he started that he would complain. “But, Your Majesty, I won’t be able to see a thing like this. I am going to get shocked to death!”
“Do not whine, Jester. You have been juggling like this for many years. All we are doing here is concentrating your efforts and starting to make you listen to the rhythm of the Force, which is in all things. It will guide you. Now”, and the patient tone dropped from her voice to be replaced with steel, “Juggle!”
Adopting the traditional stance, Jester throws the first lightsaber up in the air, followed by the second. But he loses his grip in a second and one of them hit him in the shoulder.
“Jester”, her voice was patient and lulling, “calm down and use the Force. Stretch out with your feelings and let the Force guide your actions.” He proceeded meditate for a moment, breathing deeply. “Go on, use the Force and begin!”
With this, Jester began to juggle two lightsabers. Without dropping them, he manages to juggle them for a minute. The Queen said, “good, now here is another one.” Igniting a third weapon, she tossed it in the air at Jester.
“No! Not yet!” Suddenly distracted, Jester made an attempt to catch the lightsaber and add it to the trick. But to no avail, for he dropped all three, receiving several shocks to his upper body.
Jester fell down in pain; his body feeling almost as it was on fire.
The Queen made a few sympathetic noises, and ran some healing power into his body to calm the pain. He found himself drifting off to sleep even as she summoned someone to carry him back to his rooms. He struggled to stay awake.
“Relax for now, Jester, we will try again later.”
A few days later the sun dawned brightly, filling the sky with pink light. It was a beautiful summer’s morning, and Jester was sitting in the throne room enjoying the early morning sunlight. With his eyes closed he was juggling three training lightsabers, trying to hone his concentration skills.
As the Queen entered the throne room, so did most of the functionaries, who made it blatantly obvious that they would not allow her any more time on her own this day. Pressing various documents towards her, each claimed that there was the most important thing she had to think about. She waved them off for a moment.
“Jester”, she called out to him, just as he was getting the hang of the lightsaber juggling again. He stood and moved forward, muttering a few acidic comments under his breath about the noise level in the throne room. He bowed to the Queen, and she smiled warmly. “As you can see”, she said, making a General gesture towards everyone else in the throne room some of whom actually looked sheepish, “I will be rather busy today, so my handmaiden Catherine will assist you in your training.”
Catherine stepped forward, smiling at him. For a brief moment, Jester was about to protest, knowing how much the Queen was already risking in his training, and not wanting Catherine to also risk getting in trouble with the Jedi Council. Looking at her face though, he realised that she knew the consequences of her actions, so he nodded.
“Come along then”, the girl said, and she led him from the throne room to a small chamber away from the main areas of the Palace. He did not recognise the place, but he assumed that it must be one of her rooms. Catherine reached into a chest and withdrew some nondescript clothing, which she handed to him. She pointed to a door on one side of the room.
“Get changed into these”, she said, and before he could ask why, she answered the question she saw in his eyes. “You should not go out into the city dressed as you are. As you know, the world outside the Palace can be a dangerous place, especially in times such as these when we are at war. We will have to blend in.”
He looked closely at her then, and realised for the first time that she was not dressed in her normal blue robes of office, but rather a grey tunic and comfortable pants. Her long brown hair was plaited back from her face and tied with a dark blue ribbon.
When Jester was ready, she led him through the Palace, following a series of turnings so complicated that Jester was not certain that she knew where she was going. Having lived in or near the Palace all of his life, Jester had thought that he knew every passage and hallway, but he did not recognise this area. Catherine stopped and turned off a holoprojector that he had not seen until she deactivated it. Behind it a dark passage appeared in the wall. They stepped through, Catherine reactivating the projection from the other side.
From somewhere Catherine produced a small light, which she used to show the way. After what seemed to be a long time, she opened another hidden door, and Jester found himself blinded by the sudden sunshine.
Catherine was smiling at him in her quiet way, and made a small sound of amusement when Jester looked astonished to find himself outside the Palace.
They were standing far from the Palace walls, in what seemed to be a garden behind someone’s modest-looking house. Catherine led him to the side gate, and when he opened it Jester realised that they were in the outskirts of the city.
“I find life easier without the Palace Guard taking note of my every arrival and departure”, she said, “When you work for the Queen as I do, sometimes secrecy and stealth are the best way to serve her.”
“Whose house is this?” They had started walking in the direction of the city proper, but Jester hoped that they would stay in these more quiet areas.
“A friend’s.” She would say no more on the matter, concentrating on where she was walking. She blended in effortlessly with the crowd as she moved towards the market place. Watching the way Catherine acted, Jester found himself wondering exactly about exactly which way the handmaiden served her Queen. She was more than just a Jedi; that was certain.
Jester was constantly a few steps behind Catherine as he followed her down dirty streets that really should be cleaner, past vendors of all items, many of them junk, and any number of unsavoury characters. So engrossed in his surroundings, it took Jester a few moments before he looked up and realised that Catherine was no longer walking in front of him.
Jester stood still for a time, hoping that Catherine would notice his absence and return down the path she had walked, but it soon became obvious to him that she would not. The crowd seemed to grow thicker and more menacing, and though he tried to look over it, to get a clear view of where Catherine might have headed, he knew that could do little good that way.
Jester then sighed and backed into the nearest break between stalls, trying to think of what to do. He could not search the entire city for the handmaiden on foot, and yet he would have to find her if he wanted to continue whatever training they were going to do.
Belatedly, Jester thought that perhaps he could use his Jedi senses to find Catherine. Not knowing what else to do, he sat down on the hard cement and tried to meditate as he remembered other Jedi doing. He thought about Catherine, about trying to find her, using what concentration he could manage on focussing all his thoughts on her. For a long time there was silence in his mind, and he found himself easily distracted. But just as he was about to give up, Jester managed to draw for himself a fairly complete mental image of Catherine, and he felt a peculiar tug on his mind.
Amazed at this feeling, Jester was startled out of his trance, and the pulling sensation stopped. He cursed his stupidity loudly and tried to find quiet in his mind despite the noise around him. This time it was easier, and he followed the feeling as he started to walk away from where he had been sitting.
Back on the busy street, Jester tried hard to concentrate on his other senses even as he made his body move quickly towards the tugging on his mind. Several blocks down from where he had lost Catherine, he found himself making a turn away from the direction in which the crowd was moving. As he looked around nervously, his instincts told him to glance into a nearby food store. He did so, and found Catherine sitting at a table inside silently drinking a glass of water.
She smiled at him. “What took you so long?” Jester collapsed into the second seat at her table, almost exhausted.
“I was scared, Catherine.” Jester’s eyes were flashing angrily. “I’ve rarely been outside the Palace without some guards, or in a parade of some kind.”
Catherine set down her drink, and ordered a glass for him. “You knew where you were, or at least you had a General idea.” She looked at him curiously. “And still, you were scared?”
Taking a deep breath, Jester calmed down. “It was all so new to me and”, he paused, thinking about it, “well”, Jester stared down at his glass, trying to sort out the emotions he felt. “I couldn’t help bit think about Grand Admiral Riddler’s campaign. I felt that he was hurt, but yet he was ok.”
Catherine shook her head. “You need to learn to focus on the task at hand. Until you are more skilled, you must control yourself!”
She stood and walked out of the store, leaving Jester there to think about what she had said. He realised that she expected him to try and find her again.
“I must be a fool”, Jester said softly to himself, “I can’t even concentrate in front of a crowd. I always feel so pressured when performing an act. I have to concentrate!” After a moment of quiet thinking, he finished his drink and stood, intending to search for Catherine again.
Back in the Palace, the Queen was perturbed.
One of the councillors was standing in front of her droning on about the importance of a new type of data interchange. Both she and he knew that it was a ridiculous concept, but she was still bound by protocol and tradition to listen to his speech without interrupting.
She already knew that this man’s idea would never be approved. Her eyes drifted over to the window, and she found herself wishing to be on the other side of it, in the gardens perhaps, or the city.
As time passed, the Queen also found herself wishing with increasing frequency that Catherine and Jester would soon return; she did not want to deal with the Grand Admiral’s return on her own.
For most of the day, Jester and Catherine continued with their game of hide and seek, although in reality Catherine was the only one who hid and Jester who did the seeking. Taking a quick glance at her timepiece, Catherine decided that this would be the last time they tried this exercise for the day, according to what she had been told that morning, the Grand Admiral and the fleet would be returning in a little under two hours.
Catherine set out once more, quickly escaping from Jester, hiding on the rooftop of a small building in an almost deserted area of what was certainly the most beautiful city in the Galaxy. Catherine sat down to wait, trying to sense for herself if the Grand Admiral had indeed been injured on his campaign. She had been impressed by Jester’s speed in developing his searching skills; she had no doubt that he would be with her again in a few minutes.
Jester waited a few moments before searching out the handmaiden who was still running away from him. He was aware of the fact that she would probably count his behaviour as cheating, but still, it was easier to find her if he knew where she was going.
When she finally stopped running, and settled down to wait for him, he opened his eyes and started walking towards where she was hidden.
“And where do you think you’re going?” There came a voice from behind him.
Jester was startled and turned around quickly, trying to see who had spoken to him.
It was a young boy, around fifteen years of age, with dark hair and a darker face, muddied and bruised. His clothes were like rags, and Jester started to back away, only to bump into a green-skinned youth with a blaster pointed at him. Several more stepped forward from the shadows, and he realised with a sinking heart that he was surrounded.
“Now give us your money” the dark-haired boy, who appeared to be the leader of this motley group, ordered. Jester was about to comply, when he realised that he did not have any money with him, having left it in the castle with his other clothes. He sent a thought out to Catherine, hoping that she would be listening for him.
Jester sighed. “I don’t have any money”, he said, realising that they would not let him go without some sort of payment.
The green boy leaned around Jester and muttered, “We’ll see about that”, before pulling the trigger. Jester had a split second in which he realised that the blaster was only set to stun.
Jester’s world exploded in a white light.
Catherine realised that something must have gone wrong. Reaching out a thought, the Queen’s handmaiden could not sense Jester and her heart started to beat wildly as she remembered for the first time that day the dangers that the city could present to those who were not prepared. Mentally berating herself, Catherine drew from her pocket a small tracking device, glad that the Queen had persuaded her to carry it. Fortunately, there had been a transmitter placed inside the clothing she had given Jester, and it told her that he was only a few streets away, not far from where she had left him.
The tracker gave a final beep and was silent. Catherine suddenly stood, alarmed, and ran a quick test to see if the machine was working properly. It did seem to be, and that increased her worry. Catherine ran to the edge of the building she was on and jumped, using the Force to ensure she landed softly, scouting out with where she had thought his location to be with her thoughts even as she ran there.
There was a large warehouse in the area, and it seemed to be the clubhouse for a gang of teenage runaways. “Oh, my friend”, Catherine whispered to Jester, whose unconscious self she could sense inside, “what have I done to you?”
Thinking for a moment, Catherine tried to find a way to rescue Jester without getting them both killed.
Inside, Jester was beginning to stir, and he was somewhat surprised to discover that he had not been killed. At the time when the child shot him, he had been certain that he was dying. Jester sat up slowly, his head foggy and aching, and he looked around nervously, unsure of what to expect.
One of the children, the one with the green-tinted skin, realised that Jester was awake, and pointed the blaster at him again. This time, Jester was not surprised when he blacked out from the sudden pain.
Catherine sighed, deciding that nothing was worth Jester’s pain, no plan, no galaxy, nothing. No matter what, Catherine had to save him. It was her duty, and a part of her promise. She raised a hand to the sky and whispered as softly as she could, “Coruscant Crystal Power, Make-Up!”
Streaming lights encased her, and when the lights dissipated, instead of Catherine there stood Sailor Coruscant, the Queen of Domus Prime. She was dressed in a white bodysuit, with a black collar and short skirt. Her boots reached up to her knees and were a deep blue in colour. A purple bow rested on her chest and another in the small of her back, the same colour as the cuffs on her long white gloves. Her hair had come free of its plait, and it swirled in an irritating fashion around her knees.
For a few moments, Sailor Coruscant toyed with the idea of making a dramatic entrance, but when she could not think of any way for this to take place, she walked up to the front door and knocked boldly.
A muffled conversation was heard inside before a gangly dark-haired boy of about fifteen years opened the door. Wasting no time on conversation, she used the Force to move him out of her way and strode inside.
The boy’s friends looked up in surprise and belatedly drew their blasters, but they did not attempt to shoot her. Somehow she doubted it was out of loyalty to the crown.
“Let us go”, she spoke softly, gesturing to the inert form of Jester on the floor, “and I assure you that I will not hurt you.”
One of the boys, whom she assumed was the leader of their little group, stepped forward and snarled at her. “The little girl in her short skirt thinks that she can hurt us, does she?” He sneered, “I’d like ta see you try, pretty one.” He tried to grab her arm, which she snatched back with a curse.
“My name is Queen Sailor Coruscant”, she said, causing a ball of energy to appear in her hand, “and I do not appreciate the way that you are treating me or my friend.” She through the energy at the boy after checking its strength to ensure he would not be seriously harmed. He slumped to the floor, unconscious, and his friends gasped in alarm, jumping back from her.
“Please, just let us go”, her voice was still polite, but there was the faintest hint of a threat there, enough to make the next oldest boy nod to her. They made no move to stop her as she lifted Jester to carry his still form from the building.
He was not as heavy as she expected, which was a welcome relief as she struggled to carry him back to the house of the Countess of Chikara, from where they could return to the Palace unnoticed. She took the back way so that no one would see her in this form. At one point, Jester’s eyes fluttered open, and he mouthed the words “Your Majesty” before slipping back into unconsciousness.
Finally, they were safe within the Palace walls, and she was able to put Jester down and channel some healing energy into him. For a few moments she sat by his crumpled form, trying to catch her breath. She then transformed back into the form of the Queen’s servant, hoping that Jester would pass off what he had seen as a dream. Reaching out with her Force abilities, Catherine woke Jester up, and he looked around the darkened passageway in shock.
“What happened?” he asked, and Catherine shook her head slightly.
“You were attacked in the city and I brought you back here to wait until you were able to walk the rest of the way.” Jester thought about this, trying to remember what happened. His eyes widened as a stray thought entered his mind.
Catherine noticed this, and stood up quickly, brushing the dust from her clothes. “We must hurry back”, she said, offering him a hand to his feet. “The Grand Admiral is due home soon, and we must not be late. The Queen will be worried.”
Jester thought about this for a long moment before he realised that his head was hurting too much to spend a large amount of time thinking. He stood up, and he had to wait for a few moments whilst his head stopped spinning and Catherine healed him some more. Then they were able to finish their journey through the tunnels in the palace.
Once they were in familiar territory, Jester and Catherine split up, each headed off towards their own chambers to prepare for the arrival of the Grand Riddler, and to find time to get ready to face the Queen and explain what happened. Catherine in particular was looking forward to spending a few moments alone with the Queen.
The Grand Admiral and his fleet arrived back at Domus Prime to find a desolate crowd awaiting them, made up of new widows and the press. The Queen formally awaited his report at the Palace, but the messages she had received earlier informed her that they had lost three Star Destroyers and around twenty thousand troops. The Apocalypse carried new battle scars and a few wounds that would need to be amended. As he left the spacedock in a small Lambda craft shuttle the Riddler held his arm in a sling.
He walked somewhat impatiently from the shuttle and towards the great hall. All the Guards knelt in respect as he passed them to open the two large doors that lead into the throne room.
There was no need for him to wait for permission to enter. The Riddler strolled into the throne room and smiled as Queen Sailor Coruscant nodded to him. They did not speak as the room slowly emptied of all others. She held out a hand in greeting and he kissed it softly.
Her tone was formal and calm when she spoke, but he could see the emotion in her eyes as she took in the sight of the bandage on his arm. “What news is there from LucasLand?”
He looked sad, and his voice was filled with regret. “We have lost many men, Your Majesty. And yet, LucasLand is safe for now. As we were deploying our forces, the Sith cut all communication between the space and land-based troops. I went to the planet’s surface myself to supervise the battle.”
There was a long pause as the Queen’s eyes searched his. “I sense that you have a great secret to tell me, Riddler.”
He looked somewhat startled and breathed, “how did you-” almost audibly before he said aloud “No, Your Majesty.”
The Riddler felt she train her senses along the wound, which he knew had almost healed. “You are a Jedi Knight, are you not? No wound could ever close so quickly without help.”
“Your Majesty exaggerates. This is merely a flesh wound; it has had some time to heal.”
The Queen moved forward quickly before he could stop her, tearing the bandage away. All that showed of what had been a nasty mess that morning was a small burn scar. “You are a Jedi Knight.”
He saw no point in dissembling further. “I was one of them.”
The Queen’s eyes widened as she realised that the Riddler was still not telling her the full truth. “You were a Sith Lord.”
Again he nodded. “I was once, a long time ago. I could not see truth in the Sith teachings, so I escaped them to Coruscant where I was trained as a Jedi. But I could not find balance and so I came here to Domus Prime and became your Grand Admiral.”
The Queen could not think of what to say to this, she would have to think more on it. “Tell me of your battle”, she said finally.
“We were outnumbered. I went down to the planet’s surface with the Force and my lightsaber at my side.” His voice was soft and her eyes flashed with interest.
“You have a lightsaber?”
He nodded. “I keep it in my quarters.”
“May I see it?” He could sense her curiosity to see up close the weapon of one who had been both Sith and Jedi, but now was not the time for such a discussion. He had to report on the battle.
“One day. They tried to negotiate a truce at first. They said that they would spare young DiCaprio’s life if we surrendered LucasLand. That made the troops laugh very loud. So they crucified DiCaprio. They then said, ‘next time…we’ll look for Jar Jar Binks’. I told them to come back when they have a real threat. Your Royal Forces charged the field.
“The Sith had employed a new weapon since the last time I had fought.” The Riddler did not say which side he had been fighting for at the time. “It was a crossbow that fired a double-bladed lightsaber into a crowd. It cut through our soldiers like a hot knife through butter.
“I saw my old teacher, Darth Blade. We fought, and it was a very even match. I allowed myself to turn to the Dark Side so I could beat him. I had defeated him once before, I knew that I could do it again. He swung too high and overstepped; as I ducked I brought my lightsaber into a diagonal position and slashed upwards, taking Darth Blade diagonally in two. I have brought his hand and lightsaber as my trophy for you, Your Majesty.”
The Riddler had brought forth a small box and he opened it. Inside was a severed hand, still holding a lightsaber of Sith-make. The Queen smiled grimly, not certain what she felt.
“You have done well, my Grand Admiral. I sense that you wish to return to your quarters and rest. I will deal with the problem of compensation to the soldiers and to the families of the lost.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
The Riddler nodded and began to leave.
The Queen could sense that he was still waiting for something, for an answer to the secret he had kept from her. She turned to the window and said softly, “Even though you were once Sith, I hold no judgment upon you. Just remember which side you fight for.”
“I don’t think that you ever have to worry about that, Your Majesty.”
“I am glad to have you back, Riddler. I have missed you.”
As the Riddler started to leave Jester walked into the throne room. He placed a hand on the Riddler’s shoulder. “My friend, you are home. Good to see you still have all your limbs still in place.”
“We will talk later”, the Riddler shook his head as he said this, “I must rest.”
The Riddler walked from the throne room then and went to his chambers to sleep, train and meditate.
That night as Jester and the Grand Admiral were resting, and indeed most of the Palace was asleep, the Queen was walking on her balcony, her mind tracing circles around the problems that she was facing. High in the sky above her, Chie shone brightly, a blue crescent of light.
Although the realisation of the Riddler’s secret had come as a relief, the problems posed by this weighed heavily on her mind. She had intended for him to continue the Jester’s training, but this now seemed to be a bad idea.
“It is not fair”, she shouted out to the city below, “I trust him.” Her words were stolen by the wind and she felt that she could never solve this problem alone.
“Do you?” a strangely familiar voice asked her, and she looked up to see the ghost of a long dead Jedi Master standing near her. The Queen did not recognise him, but was not about to refuse whatever advice he had to offer.
“I thought I did”, she admitted softly, knowing it to be true in her heart, “but now I am not so sure.”
“Why are you not sure? You trust him with the training of your armies, why not with the training of your friend?”
The Queen blushed. She was in more trouble than she had thought if the Jedi already knew about her agreeing to train Jester. “I do not know”, she said, searching her feelings for anything that would help her realise what was the cause of the problem.
“Is it because the Riddler was once a Sith?”
The insubstantial Jedi had seen through her, penetrated every defence, and noticed what she had hidden even from herself.
As realisation dawned on her, she tried to sort out what she was feeling, and what to do about it. “He said that during the recent battle he turned to the Dark Side to defeat his old master. I worry that he may not be completely himself any more.”
“The Dark Side is not easy to turn back from, and it is hard to see in those you love. Do you believe that he could be evil without you knowing it?”
“I do not think so. I thought I knew the Riddler so well, and yet, now I am not sure of anything.” She turned her back to the ghost, and started walking away from him. “I fear that if he takes on the training of Jester, he may inadvertently lead him down the wrong path.”
“That is always the danger in taking a Padawan.”
“I know, and something tells me that I should trust the Riddler, but still another part of me says that I should not. Tell me, what should I do?” The Queen spun around quickly, but the Jedi Master was gone, leaving her standing cold and alone on her balcony.
It was late, and both Jester and the Riddler were worn out from the ordeals that they had gone through. They had each rested and meditated for a long time before Jester decided to visit the Riddler’s quarters.
Jester spoke first. “The Queen had mentioned some of your past to me.”
The Riddler looked a little unsure of himself for the first time since Jester had first met him. “I can-“
“There is no need to explain, my friend. I realise that we all go through times in our lives when we do stupid things and we usually don’t realise until later just how stupid that act really was.”
It was more than stupidity, the Riddler thought, but he said nothing. “What else is on your mind? You did not come to talk to me about what I once did when I was young and foolish.”
Jester thought about it for a moment. “That can wait a little while, for now, tell me of your glorious battle.”
The Grand Admiral explained to Jester all the gruesome details of the battle including much that he had not told the Queen. He spoke of the Sith’s newest weapon, and how they used a jamming device to block all communications, but most importantly the Riddler’s encounter with Darth Blade, who had once been his teacher.
“I can still feel his presence,” the Riddler said softly as he finished his tale.
“But you sliced him in half, how is that possible?”
“I am still confused myself and it tires me to speak about this feeling. Perhaps later we will go into more depth.” Jester nodded solemnly. “But for now, tell me about your training. How has it been going?”
Jester began speaking to the Riddler about what he and the Queen had been doing, then calmly waited for the Riddler to stop laughing before he continued. He spoke for a long time about what he and Catherine had achieved in the city, then told the Riddler what he remembered about the gang.
The Riddler’s eyes lit up. “You mean to tell me that we have such a group acting in close proximity to the Palace? I will organise a search party immediately.”
“No”, Jester said softly, “They were only boys, Riddler, and most likely runaways. If you wish to act on their presence, you should try to find their proper homes, not attack.”
After a little more small talk, Jester left the Riddler’s room, and proceeded to make his way back to his own. But as he walked through the darkened Palace, a great wave of feeling overwhelmed Jester, and he collapsed in the corridor not far from his room.
The Riddler did not sleep that night, letting his thoughts play before him. He did not care to dwell on thoughts of the families torn from his fallen allies, but he could not help it. He did not care to think of keeping his guard up. He definitely did not care to look to his left and see the door of his room implode.
He grabbed his lightsaber and activated it. The Riddler kept the fire-red beam at guard, yet he saw no one in his room. For a time he believed that it was empty, until he felt himself being grabbed by the throat by an invisible hand and tossed into the furthest wall.
The Riddler knew then that there was definitely trouble, and he suspected he knew the cause of it. His lightsaber lay on the floor across the room and he tasted rich blood on his lips. As the smoke from his destroyed door started to clear he spat blood and prepared his mental self for battle.
The Riddler shook his head and got to his knees. His head throbbed from the impact of the wall. He was suddenly grabbed again by the invisible assailant at the throat and dragged into the air. The Riddler was sent flying into the opposite wall, a good twenty feet. This time however, the Riddler was ready. Calling upon the Force, he turned his body in the air so that he hit the wall with his feet. The Riddler ran up the wall, and upside down onto the ceiling.
He let himself fall and called his lightsaber to him. As he landed on his feet he caught and ignited the weapon. The assassin was using the Force to shield his presence, so the Riddler had to swing wildly while hoping that he might find a target.
Behind him he heard the unmistakable sound of a lightsaber igniting, and he threw himself into a forward roll to avoid being decapitated. Only the crimson blade of the assassin’s lightsaber was visible, so the Riddler lunged at that, unable to see its wielder but trying to strategically cut, slash and counter-block the movements of the one who was attacking him. In return, the Riddler was kicked and punched, and his assailant threw him again by use of the Force. By the way the other person seemed to move and act it was clear to The Riddler that this assassin must have Sith training.
The Riddler leapt over the crimson saber and its owner and was met on the other side of both with an elbow to the face. The last thing the Riddler heard was the sound of his nose breaking. He slumped to the floor and lay there, unable to move, until a deep sleep overcame him. His last thoughts were that he had no idea what would happen next.
When the Riddler awoke, he was unable to move. He was sitting in a chair, his legs and hands bound by a length of rope. His lightsaber was gone. He could smell something; it took him a moment to identify it as fuel, in large quantities.
The Riddler looked around, but aside from him the room was empty. Blood stung his eyes and his nose throbbed. He called out to his unseen assailant. “I know you’re still here, otherwise I’d be roasting by now. What do you want?”
He was answered by a vicious punch to the face. His cheek was sliced open in a great gash by the hit and he grimaced in pain.
A voice from his past then spoke.
“I want to be your executioner. You are bound like this for the crime of betrayal to your Order. For which there is only one penalty, as you well know. Death.”
Recognising the voice, the Riddler’s opened his eyes wide with shock. “Blade?” he whispered, “Master Blade? You’re dead!” He shook his head slightly.
Darth Blade, Master of the Sith walked forward from the shadows. He wore a black cloak with a hood, and flowing black robes, a stark contrast to the white of the Riddler’s Grand Admiral uniform.
“I was dead. Lord Ravage, if you plan to kill me, next time make sure you take off my head!” He sneered loudly at his former pupil.
“It can’t be.” The Riddler shuddered at the sound of his older name.
“Why not?” The Sith seemed almost amused at the Riddler’s disbelief. “You never did perfect that invisibility attack, Lord Ravage. That I saw a while ago. Your attempt was almost humorous.”
“I no longer believe in the way of the Order, Master Blade. I was wrong! Hate is wrong! I am a Jedi Knight now; I no longer bear the name of the Sith.” There was pride behind his words.
For a long time Darth Blade studied him, trying to see what had become of the Sith he had once taught. His expression was very disappointed, and his tone reflected that. “How foolish and feeble your mind’s working is now. You were my brightest pupil, and my son. Why did you betray me?”
“Because what you wanted was what you couldn’t have. The Order always prohibited there being more than two Sith. You wanted two million. No man would have lasted in power with you in control.” He had spent so many hours thinking about this, in the dark of night, before he had made his choice to leave the Sith.
Darth Blade smiled now, chillingly. “But I do have two million now. I have taken over planet after planet, system after system. I will dominate the galaxy.”
“Why do you let your hate consume you?” The Riddler spoke softly.
“Because I will not let myself become like you.” His eyes flashed angrily. “Weak, foolish, idealistic!” With those words Darth Blade threw a lightning bolt into the wall from his hand.
A spark hit the fuel and the room ignited. Flames danced around Darth Blade, who looked like a cloaked demon as he laughed at the Riddler, still bound to his chair.
The Riddler struggled valiantly against his bonds. Thinking back to his earliest Sith training, he came up with an idea. The Riddler closed his eyes and let the Force surround him; he took the Dark Side to him.
Darth Blade laughed maniacally as he saw his former apprentice embrace the Dark Side. So engrossed in his amusement Blade did not notice as a lightsaber activated itself and flew towards the chair, slashing through the ropes and freeing the Riddler.
In the blink of an eye, the Riddler leapt out of his chair, using the Force to augment his strength. He ran along the ceiling behind Darth Blade and made his lightsaber come to his hand.
Darth Blade ignited his own weapon and the two of them began a furious duel. The flames had engulfed the room and now began to singe both men’s skin. In the distance alarms continued to sound as they had now for several minutes.
The doorway was suddenly filled with firemen and engineers, plus the Queens handmaidens and the Queen and Jester themselves.
Taking note of the new arrivals, Darth Blade delivered a powerful kick to the Riddler’s mid section and the Riddler screamed as he heard his ribs crack. No one else seemed to move as they watched the two powerful warriors fight almost faster than the eyes of the witnesses could track.
Ignoring the pain that was of no importance, the Riddler regained his balance and attacked the Sith Master with all of his strength. He pushed away the shadows of the Dark Side and began to embrace the Light even as he continued to fight.
Darth Blade shouted, “This is a battle that you cannot win, Darth Ravage. I have already been dead once, there is not way that you can win!” The Riddler thought that he heard a woman gasp as Darth Blade said his former name.
The Riddler took advantage of the pause to brush some blood from his eyes.
When he spoke it was with quiet determination. “I will always find a way to win. I have defeated you twice before, I will always beat you.”
“Heed my words, Ravage”, the Sith snarled at him, “They could be your undoing!”
The Riddler tossed his lightsaber up into the air. “Not this time”, he said, catching it again. “I am the Master now.” Holding his lightsaber like a spear, the Riddler threw the weapon at his Master who was also, more sadly, his father and impaled the Sith against the wall. His body then disappeared.
The lightsaber deactivated and fell to the floor with a dull thud that could almost not be heard over the crackling of flames in the room. As if that was a sign, the firemen and engineers suddenly remembered why they were present and set about extinguishing the flames.
The Riddler stumbled forwards towards the Queen and Jester. He fell forward into the arms waiting to catch him. Covered in soot and blood, the Riddler looked up at the Queen and said, “Blade.” He could not speak again until he had coughed on some of the blood in his throat. “It was Darth Blade.”
The Riddler tried to smile at the Queen before he succumbed to the pain and lost consciousness. So he did not see her face pale at the mention of this name, could not notice the tremble in her hands as she wiped his face clean of blood.
A medical team of four orderlies placed the battered and broken body of the Riddler on a hover stretcher to carry him to the medical bay.
Jester was the one to speak to the emotional Queen. “I don’t know if he is going to make it. He is bleeding internally and he has fractures in his skull.” Jester held out to the Queen something he had picked up off the floor. “I found this.”
The Queen turned the lightsaber over in her hands, her face keep impassively calm. Jester could see the controlled panic and shock in her eyes and asked, “What is it?”
She looked the lightsaber over, trying to make sense of what she knew to be true. She had only seen a weapon like this once before, but she had kept it to remember. This lightsaber was almost identical to that one.
“This lightsaber is of Sith make. I did not think that it could have been possible, but the Riddler was battling a Sith Lord.”
There was only silence between them for a long time. It was broken by a message from the medical crew, saying that the Riddler had slipped into a coma.
“What does all this mean, Your Majesty?” Jester asked softly as they still stood in the Riddler’s charred room.
“I am not certain”, she said, “but tonight’s events do explain why you collapsed in the hallway. When that much of the Force is concentrated in one place, it creates a shock wave, called a tremor in the Force. It would have overcome even the most experienced Jedi.”
“It was created by a Jedi then. Do all Jedi have those capabilities?”
“No, Jester, no Jedi does. The Riddler succumbed to the Dark Sith.” He did not notice how odd her voice sounded as she said this. “I do not know a lot about the Sith, but they fight using raw emotion. A Jedi keeps his feelings in check and lets the Force fight for him. From what I saw tonight, the Riddler seems to be able to use both sides of the Force without giving in to either. Somehow he is able to remain neutral between the two.”
The Queen shook her head, suddenly wanting to be alone to think about this. “Go and rest, Jester, concentrating your thoughts on our friend’s wellbeing. We will continue this discussion in the morning.”
He was about to protest, but he could see that she was distracted so he nodded to her. “As you wish, Your Majesty.” He took his leave of her.
For a long time the Queen stood in the Riddler’s rooms, trying to understand exactly what had transpired here.
It had been a long night, and it seemed to the Queen that she would never get any rest. At least the events that had occurred in the last hour had resolved her questions, and allowed her some peace. She was no longer afraid that any harm would come from Riddler’s ability to control both sides of the Force, and was rather worried about the Sith Master who had attacked.
How had he infiltrated the Palace? And when he had disappeared like that, where had he gone? If the Sith had been strong enough to defeat the Grand Admiral in combat, then she was certain that he would attack again. It had been two years since the last time a Sith had entered the Palace, at the time the Queen had hoped that they were gone for good, but now she realised just how foolish her hopes had been.
She had contacted Devron, the Palace designer, and asked him to do what he could to improve the Palace’s security, but she was reasonably certain that the Sith would return, no matter what they did.
The Riddler was in the medical bay, and those attending him there were uncertain as to whether or not he would live out the night. The Queen wished that she could go and see him, to use her own powers, both Jedi and Senshi, to assist in his healing, but she was drained by what she had already done that day.
Finally, the Queen gave up on trying to solve the night’s mysteries. She walked to the medical bay instead, overruling the advice of the medical staff. The Queen decided to stay by the Riddler’s side, where she watched and waited, holding his hand and concentrating all her thoughts on his healing until dawn came and found her asleep, her exhausted form slumped over the recovering body of her friend.
The Riddler was conscious but not in any normal sense of the word. His mind was awake even though his body was not. He seemed to be drifting, floating in remembered sensation.
His listened with both joy and horror to the sound of the screams of the men he had silenced in his years of pure evil. He watched as though from a distance as his father, Darth Blade, gleefully taught his son and apprentice the ways of the Sith. He remembered the excitement of holding his first lightsaber and going to the Sith Temple to receive his birthright, the pain burning in his face as the tattoos of his apprenticeship were stabbed onto his face he did not make a sound. He remembered receiving his first instruction with the lightsaber and his first attempts at learning the martial art of the Sith. He felt the pain of when his mother had died and what he had done as he took his revenge on the doctors who tried to save her.
He saw and recalled his fury at his father’s betrayal as Darth Blade killed his baby brother. He watched how carefully he set charges in their home and tried to kill his father. He remembered stealing his father’s ship and crashing it on Coruscant. And he remembered that a Jedi Knight had found him and saved his life.
He thought back to the time when he took on the name of the Riddler because the Jedi Knight thought of his newfound apprentice as a riddle locked up in a shroud of mystery. He accepted the training of the Jedi; he became good.
He could use both the Light and the Dark Sides of the Force at the same time, and the Council pronounced him one of the rarest of the Dark Jedi Order. The Dark Jedi were an elite force of Jedi Knights who were stronger than the other Jedi but dangerous to the whole.
He remembered accepting his knighthood from the Jedi Senior, Master Yoda, and how within a matter of hours he had enlisted himself in the Royal Forces of Queen Sailor Coruscant after a curious message from his friend Jester.
The Riddler’s subconscious mind was suddenly violated by a streak of bright light. He opened his eyes to see himself in a Sith torture chamber. He was bound to a table and there were others nearby preparing the tools of torture. The Riddler saw razor-sharp saw’s, vibro-knives and other gruesome objects.
He saw his father, Darth Blade, glaring at him.
“You’re not really awake, Darth Ravage”, the Sith Master said. “I did not teach you everything about the Sith. I can play with your mind for hours if I wish before leaving you alone. You’re brain will collapse and you will die from insanity.”
Darth Blade picked up a knife and began cutting into the Riddler’s leg. At the sudden influx of pain The Riddler screamed but no sound was heard.
Dawn came somewhat reluctantly to Domus Prime and the Queen awoke to find that she was still lying by the Riddler’s bed, holding his hand gently. She brushed his hair back from his face but he made no response to this gesture. He had survived the night, but the medical staff had him labelled as being in a critical condition still.
Suddenly, the Riddler’s whole body arched up and she could see that he was gritting his teeth. The life-support unit by his side exploded, showering them both in sparks.
The Queen launched herself to her feet, screaming an order. “Somebody get in here, quickly!”
Even as the medical staff arrived in the room, blood began to flow freely from the Riddler’s leg, where there had been no wound previously. Then from his arms in parallel cuts. As suddenly as the bleeding started, it slowed, and there was a moment of silence.
The medical droid suddenly beeped alarmingly, as the Queen reached out with her Jedi senses to try and find out what was going on. “He is going into cardiac arrest. His pulse is fading.”
As the Queen tried to bandage tightly the new wounds on his body, the other people in the room tried to hook up another life-support unit. Someone was pounding on his chest, but from the machine there came silence.
There was no heartbeat, no pulse. The Riddler was dead.
The Queen closed her eyes, not wanting to believe, even as Jester arrived in the medical bay. “What do we do now?”
She looked at Jester with empty eyes. “He is dead.” The droids and medical staff moved back from the body.
The Riddler’s fingers twitched suddenly and his eyelids fluttered for a moment. His heart began to beat again noisily in the silent room as he seemingly willed himself to live. The Queen found that she was crying as she realised just how close she had come to losing her dearest friend.
She took his hand back into her own smaller one, resting her head on his shoulder to try and comfort the Riddler as he lay still in a coma.
Sith Master Darth Blade sat in his room brooding over the events of the previous night. It was dark and poorly lit where he was, but he did not notice his surroundings. All he was concerned with was Darth Ravage.
He had not expected overcoming his former apprentice to be much of a challenge, but over the course of the night the ex-Sith had proved his worth.
Darth Blade was aware that Darth Ravage had become a Dark Jedi in his time since leaving the Order. A man who could utilise both sides of the Force was rare indeed.
With the Grand Admiral of Domus Prime in the coma he had constructed, Darth Blade could take over her land with little effort. It would be ironic that he would end up controlling this world as well as all of the others he had collected.
Chuckling to himself, Darth Blade slipped easily into a meditative trance, from which he continued to haunt and torture the helpless Darth Ravage.
That evening, Jester sat in his room, contemplating what was happening to the Riddler.
What would happen to the Royal Forces if he were to die? Who could be his successor, could the military recover?
Jester himself could never take up another military position. In the early years of the Sith War Jester had led a small garrison of troops, and he had been made to save twelve men from certain death by pulling them from the battlefront to safety. It was around this time that he had met the Riddler.
They had both been given medals for what they had done in those horrible days. He and the Riddler were the only two men on Domus Prime who had been bestowed with that particular medal and were still alive.
Jester held in his hands two lightsabers. In his left hand was the Riddler’s, in his right, the unknown Sith’s. This was an unusual weapon, with Sith writing over most of its surface and shielding over its twin ends. Looking at it, Jester realised that whoever had built and used this lightsaber had to be one of the most skilled and deadly men in the Galaxy.
There were three buttons on the grey metal shaft. The first was purple. Letting his curiously overcome him, Jester pushed the button and a crimson blade was ignited on the right end. The third button was orange and when depressed the left blade was also released.
The middle button was deepest black, with some indecipherable writing under it. Somewhat nervously, Jester pushed this button and watched, amazed, as the entire handle of the lightsaber became invisible so that all he could see were the glowing blades.
Holding the invisible lightsaber before him, Jester twirled it a few times in his hands before he accidentally hit the bedpost with one of the blades. The bedpost was cleanly sliced in half, and the entire support was brought down on him. Jester turned off the cloaking device on the handle, deactivating the weapon.
Jester lay down on what was left of his bed and thought of his friend, praying that the Riddler would have the strength to live another day. Jester wanted to know what was going on in the Palace, and he suspected that the Riddler was the only one who would be able to tell him.
He stood and went out onto his balcony, high in the Palace. Jester looked out upon the wide-ranging colours of the beautiful sunset. It seemed that every colour from fire orange to purple was represented in this sky at this time, slowly changing as the sun fell below the horizon.
Jester had so many questions he needed answered, but there seemed to be no one willing to tell him.
He walked down to the medical bay, and was surprised to find that the door to the Riddler’s room was locked. Pressing his thumb to the identifying scanner, Jester watched as the door slid open, revealing to him the distinctive smell that characterised every hospital in the universe.
The Queen was still with the Riddler, her head resting against his chest. She looked so peaceful sitting there asleep. Looking at the scene before him, Jester almost decided not to disturb her.
He gently shook her shoulder, and waited as she awoke silently before asking, “Has the Riddler stirred at all?”
“No”, the Queen sighed. “The doctors fear that his brain might be bruised from that impact with the wall. There is a lot of swelling and they think that if he awakes he will lose his sight, hopefully only temporarily.”
Jester looked at the dark shadows under the Queen’s eyes and realised why she would look so tired. “Have you been with him ever since the attack?”
She nodded slightly. “I was trying to use my Jedi powers to see if I could make a connection with his mind and awaken the Riddler. But there is something blocking my abilities. I have never tried to read his mind before, so I have no idea if it is he blocking me, or if it is someone else. I have tried so hard, but I just cannot get past his shield.”
Jester offered her his hand as she stretched slightly, trying to awaken tired muscles. “I have only a little power, but I would like to try to help. If we combine our abilities, maybe together we might make a gap in the block.”
For the first time he saw hope in her eyes. “I think that it is worth a try. After fourteen hours of this, I cannot do much more for him.”
Standing one on either side of the Riddler’s bed, the Queen took Jester’s right hand in her left, creating a bond between the two of them. They then placed their hands on the Riddler’s forehead, focussing all of their energy and ability on trying to break through the shield around the Riddler’s mind.
In their minds they could see the Riddler’s mental form. He was screaming out, though neither thought that he could see them. “Help me”, the Riddler’s thoughts screamed impotently, “Somebody help me!”
It was at this moment that the Queen realised that the blocking was not of the Riddler’s doing. As she noticed this, the person who was keeping them from his mind must have discovered their presence, for something of unbelievable power that seared like fire struck the joined mind probes of Jester and the Queen, and reached out to their physical bodies.
Both the Queen and Jester were thrown away from the bed by an unseen force, and they landed badly on the floor. On the place where their hands had rested on his forehead, the Riddler began to bleed. As the Queen pulled them wearily away from his mind, the bleeding promptly stopped, suggesting that whoever had attacked them was watching them still.
Pulling herself upright, the Queen looked over at Jester who was rearranging his clothing after the fall. Her blue eyes were somewhat fearful as she said, “We are in serious trouble.”
Jester simply nodded.
Devron was brooding at his desk. Was the Riddler going to pull through? The doctors were a bit worried, and though Devron barely knew the Grand Admiral, he realised the importance of his position, and what a fragile predicament the Queen and Domus Prime were in at this moment, not to mention all that is Star Wars.
Devron made a choice. Although he knew that some people might get very, very angry at his actions, perhaps everyone, Devron knew that this was for the best. He looked down at his datapad, which had a sensor program set up, and aligned it on a specific spot. Soon, a blip appeared. Devron picked up his commlink and activated it, sending an open link to the Queen.
“Queen, this is Devron Zal. We have a problem. Three hostile ships have just set down four miles from the palace. They’ve unloaded two MTTs each and one AAT, in addition to a squadron of TIE Bombers between the three. We need military leadership right about now! What do we do?”
The Queen immediately signs off after giving a cursory reply.
In the TIE Bombers, one of the pilots absently checked his load. He noted that the standard payload of eight proton bombs has been replaced with an unnamed object, that looked slightly like one of the standard programmable noisemakers you could get anywhere. Figuring that it is some new weapon, the pilot thinks no more of it.
The droids, hanging in the racks of the MTTs, were not programmed to check the settings of their weapons, or to check if there was a kill setting at all.
Nobody who saw the massive MTTs rolling towards the Palace or the TIE Bombers screaming towards it noticed the presence of a logo on their side that Devron championed as his own when he was supposed to be working, and never told anybody about.
Devron frowned slightly as he activated a holographic map of the supposed battle area and saw none of the Queen’s Royal Forces moving towards it. Was the military really that indisposed without the Riddler to lead them?
“Like droids all borg-implanted into a combat computer…” he mumbled softly.
Since his newly hired assistant, the Jedi Ami-Kin Kenobi, hadn’t yet found the Dungeon that was his domain, Devron turned to one of his droideka. “What do you think?” He asked the droid, “Should I wait a few more hours?”
The droid shook its head as best as it could and levelled its weapons at a spot on the wall, charging toward it with its legs skittering against the floor.
“No, not yet,” Devron said. “Let’s wait a little bit. If there’s no support after the TIE Bombers start their drops, I’ll start them off. I was hoping someone else could take charge, but it seems like Riddler’s the only one.”
The droideka mimicked its peculiar headshake again. “Maybe the right person has not been notified,” it intoned in a flat, metallic voice.
“Maybe not,” Devron agreed. He realised that someone who talked to his or her droids was probably crazy, but until Ami-Kin arrived, there was nobody else for him to talk to. Unless you counted the weapons test mannequins.
He looked down at his holographic map again as the TIE Bombers neared to within 2.5 kilometres of the palace walls.
The Queen was pacing, her make-up smudged from her earlier tears, and her clothing in disarray. She had not slept for more hours than she could remember, and was now exhausted beyond belief. Fear and hatred for the Sith warred in her for the position of more dominant emotion.
“It is all falling apart.” she muttered, “Everything we have worked so hard to achieve. I have no doubts that Darth Blade is behind all this. He knew that without the Riddler we would be vulnerable, and so he has moved to take advantage of this. To make matters worse, we lost many of our troops in the battle for LucasLand. Surely there is some alternative to this?” She turned to the Jester, who was still fingering Darth Blade’s lightsaber.
He looked up and shook his head. “If this Darth Blade is as powerful as you say he is, I have no doubt that he will not stop until he controls all that is Star Wars. And that means that you are his target.”
She knew this, but it did not help her decide on a course of action. “And yet, Darth Blade attacks the Riddler in his sleep. I am not sure that we can withstand this attack without him. No one has his military experience, or his leadership qualities.” She sighed and moved away. “I need help. I do not know what to do.”
She turned back, resolution shinning in her eyes. “I will try and make contact with the Jedi Council. I fear that they will refuse to help us because I started training you, but we have no other option. We will not be able to survive on our own if Darth Blade has sent all of his forces against us.
“For now, you, Jester, are in command of the Royal Forces. Put out the order that all troops are to be placed on alert, and stationed around the Palace. We must not lose Fuhenteki Na Shiro, even if that means we have to sacrifice the city below. This will not be a pleasant day for any of us.”
Outside the throne room the sun began to rise.
Jester was a little overwhelmed by the sudden responsibility that the Queen had placed on his shoulders. It was mid-morning and he was busy debating the best strategy with the Captain of the Palace Guard when suddenly the Queen burst into the War Room. Both men started to bow, but she stopped them with a wave of her hand.
“We have no time for protocol right now. Captain, I am sorry for the disruption, but Devron Zal, whom you will find in the Dungeon, is now your commanding officer. It is he who will be coordinating the defence of the Palace.”
Jester looked disappointed, and the Captain was gloating slightly. The Queen’s voice took on an ironic tone. “Do not think that just because Devron is in the Dungeon he is unable to issue orders, Captain.” She handed over a small commlink. “He is waiting for your report on the situation now. I suggest you listen to what he has to say, or I will be upset. Now, come along, Jester.”
She led the way from the War Room towards the medical centre. “Your Majesty, I am sorry if I have offended in some way”, Jester began, as he tried to understand the sudden silence between them.
“What?” She was startled out of her reverie. “No, no, you have not done anything wrong. I just need your help if we are to rescue the Riddler.”
“Rescue him? But he is merely in a coma.”
“The coma is not of a natural origin. That is why we were attacked whilst trying to enter his mind. Darth Blade is behind this, and I think it is time we stopped him.” The Queen quickened her pace as she spoke, so that he almost had to run to keep up with her.
“Is that even possible?”
“We shall find a way.”
By now, they had reached the medical centre. The Riddler was still as they had left him; the medical staff having done all that they could to stabilise his condition.
“But how can we do anything? The last time we tried to force ourselves into The Riddler’s mind we could have been seriously hurt, and I know that he was.”
She kneeled down on the edge of the large bed, with no regard for her clothing, and motioned for Jester to follow her example. “That is exactly right. We tried to attack the block surrounding his mind, and that is not the Jedi way. That is the way of the Sith. We must be patient, and find a weakness. Perhaps we can find a way to become a part of the block and as such, pass through it.”
Jester took the Queen’s small hands in his own, and they started to concentrate.
“No matter what happens”, she said, “do not let go let go of my hand.” Sparing one last glance towards her beloved friend, she closed her eyes to wait, placing their hands on his forehead.
The Queen and Jester began to subtly poke at the Riddler’s mind, trying to understand the nature of the block that was preventing their access. After a time the barrier became visible to them as an intense wall of place flame like nothing either had seen before. Somehow, as the linked minds examined the barrier, they found themselves being pulled towards it, unable to control their movements are they were drawn inwards towards the Riddler’s mind.
Both screamed as they approached the fiery blue wall, but no sound was audible in the physical world. And yet, both were unhurt. Looking around at their new surroundings, Jester noticed that the form of the Queen seemed to shimmer for a moment, as though she her mental form could not decide what exactly it should look like. He wondered if he underwent a similar change of appearance.
They were standing in a dungeon of some description. It was dark, and there was no real sound in this place. The Queen looked at Jester, and her eyes seemed to shine abnormally bright as she spoke to him. “We must focus all of our energy together at all times, or the connection between us and the Riddler will be severed immediately. I do not think that Darth Blade has noticed our intrusion. Be aware, for the second he does find us he will try to force us from the Riddler’s mind.”
Jester tried to speak, to answer her and show that he understood, but no sound came out. The Queen nodded to him, explaining how he could hear her. “I am not talking aloud. I am projecting the words, tone and pitch of my voice directly into your mind.” That must be why her voice sounded different in this place, it was how she heard herself. “It is a little like the Jedi mind trick. With time I could teach you how to achieve the same effect, but we have precious little time now.”
Together, they walked up a staircase and found themselves standing at the beginning of a long corridor that seemed to stretch into infinity. Sterile and white, the hallway was punctuated at intervals by large doors. Somewhere in here the Riddler was trapped.
Jester and the Queen exchanged concerned looks.
There was sound in the corridor, echoing conversations and remembered voices from the Riddler’s past. It seemed that this was the place of his memories.
The Queen walked up to the closest door to her, and opened it. Within, a young man and woman were standing together, nurturing a baby boy who could have only been a few months old. She smiled as the baby screamed healthily, and realised just how happy the young family looked together. Closing the door on their interlude, for she did not wish to intrude upon what must be a cherished memory for the Riddler, she stepped away and gestured that Jester should try the next door.
Trying to look as brave as he thought the Queen did, Jester opened the wooden door before him. Inside the room, he saw the couple being brutally butchered as several men in jet-black robes stole the baby from its home. There was no mercy offered, the couple were left alive long enough for them to bleed to death in each other’s arms. Looking at the carnage, Jester felt quite ill. He quickly closed the door.
Opening another door, the Queen saw for the first time the Sith Temple, and watched in horror as a young boy of perhaps eight years of age received his tattoos. She was amazed at how he did not flinch or cry out, despite the pain he must be experiencing. She closed the door over and they moved further down the corridor.
Jester opened a dark-coloured door and saw the Riddler as an angry adolescent, wielding a double-bladed lightsaber and fighting three foes at once. Jester could not track the number of blows that were being exchanged, but somehow the Riddler was able to defeat all of the skilled warriors at once.
On her next try, the Queen looked into an open door carved with intricate symbols to see the Riddler training as a Sith, his lean body doing amazing acrobatic kicks, punches and high jumps. She understood then how it was that he had been able to defeat Darth Blade.
Upon opening a strangely painted door that was covered in a flame-design, Jester saw the Riddler placing charges around a temple. As he watched, the temple exploded in a fiery blast, and the Riddler left in a stolen spacecraft.
As they moved further down the corridor, they looked in each doorway and watched the Riddler age, for the key moments from his life were captured in the memory rooms. The Queen saw the Riddler’s arrival on Domus Prime and she watched with amusement the first time she met him. She knew that they had to be getting nearer to him as she closed that heavy door and moved away from something she herself remembered well.
The Queen looked over at Jester and saw that he was sweating from the strain that this place was putting on their minds. She herself was beginning to feel exhausted, and wondered bitterly if they could find the Riddler before their tired minds were pulled back to their physical bodies, which seemed so far away.
Jester saw an iron door and gestured silently to it. Beyond the door, the corridor turned dark and shadowed. Jester and the Queen rushed to it, pulling hard, and revealed a brightly lit room full of terrifying equipment that could only be used to torture someone. The Riddler was lying half-naked on a dissecting table, unconscious.
With a small cry the Queen rushed over to him, and she created a cloak from her mind that she used to cover the parts of him that were showing. As she gently touched his face, the Riddler awoke, looking incredibly tired. She smiled, and some tears escaped her control over her mental form.
“I knew that you would come”, the Riddler projected the words into her mind.
“I could not leave you here”, she replied behind a tear.
Jester did not hear this exchange, but he watched as the Riddler struggled to be free of his steel bonds. Strangely, he reached into his tunic and retrieved the Sith lightsaber. The Queen looked puzzled as to how Jester had been able to bring it with him, but she did not waste any of her time on words. Jester ignited one of the blades and sliced the bonds away. As they helped him to stand, the Queen poured some of her remaining strength into the Riddler, helping him to walk. He put his arms around the shoulders of his friends and they helped carry him out of the torture chamber.
As they reached the iron door, a voice from the Riddler’s past came forward from the shadows. “You can’t escape your past, Riddler!”
A man stepped forward and confronted the trio. He looked exactly like the Riddler, only much younger, and with tattoos on his face. Dressed in black robes, there stood Darth Ravage, the Riddler’s younger Sith self.
The Riddler looked stunned. “How is that possible?”
Darth Ravage only looked him over with a sneer. “Well, I can tell you this now. If that is what I am going to look like twenty years from now, you can keep the future because I don’t want it.” He drew from his belt a lightsaber and ignited its twin crimson blades.
Jester stepped in front of the Queen and the Riddler, igniting his own weapon. Darth Ravage looked upon it with a smile. “Ah, Sith-made. Only the best, for the best!” Darth Ravage reached with the Force and pulled the ignited lightsaber from the Jester’s hand and turned it in mid-air, impaling Jester against the wall. Amazingly though, Jester was unhurt as he slid off the lightsaber and pulled it from the wall.
As the Queen and the Riddler made their way back towards the dungeon, Jester leapt at Darth Ravage. Although the Sith was noisy as he fought, Jester made no sound – he did not know how.
The duelled lazily, Darth Ravage toying with Jester who before this day had never used a lightsaber before.
Finally, they reached the end of the corridor, and the Queen and the Riddler limped down the stairs, followed by Jester and the Sith. As they approached the wall of blue flame, the Queen turned to Ravage.
“If it is a war you want”, she said angrily, “A war you shall have!”
The Sith Lord threw his lightsaber as a spear at the trio, but they had already pushed themselves backwards through the barrier, and the weapon clattered noisily to the ground. Darth Ravage screamed in defeat!
Back in the physical world, the Riddler opened his eyes still looking rather battered and exhausted. He looked up at the Queen and Jester, who were now standing at the sides of his bed. He said, “I knew that you would come.”
Looking closely at her, he realised that the Queen was crying. She brushed the tears from her face and looked down, rearranging her clothing somewhat self-consciously. “I did not think that we could have recovered if you had left us.”
Jester looked a little concerned still. “Who was that Sith Lord who attacked us?”
The Riddler’s face fell, and his expression changed to one of extreme regret. “That was me, twenty years ago, fifteen at best. My name was Lord Darth Ravage, and I was the elite, best Sith of them all.”
He looked uncomfortable, and the Queen spoke next, placing a hand gently on his shoulder. “I am going to get a doctor for you and then you are going to spend some time in a Bacta tank to re-energise your broken ribs. You must be in a lot of pain.”
“I do hurt a bit”, the Riddler admitted ruefully, “how long have I been out?”
Jester looked at his timepiece, unsure of just how long they had been in the Riddler’s memory palace. He was a surprised himself at the number. “Five days”, Jester said.
“My God”, the Riddler breathed. “I don’t want to go through a fight like that again. My former master truly had the upper-hand in that fight.”
Jester’s curiosity was ignited. “What do you mean?”
“My master was one of the few Sith at the time who had perfected the Stealth attack as we called it. Your entire body bends light, so that you appear to be invisible. I thought that I had killed him off at LucasLand but I must have been mistaken. He has grown in strength and speed since the last time we fought.”
The Queen looked the Riddler straight in the face. “What do we do now?”
“Well, the best I can figure is for me to get into that Bacta tank and get well. Then my friend, Jester, I am giving you a, pardon the phrase, crash course in Jedi training. I sense much disturbance and un-rest in you, Your Majesty, and I am feel an urgency to have him trained.”
The Queen was shocked. “You cannot train, Jester!”
“The Council forbad it!”
“To Hell with the Council. They brandished me an outcast from the Order so I must remain neutral. Master Yoda has no understanding of the words, ‘excruciating circumstances’.”
Jester said, “You are one of the Dark Jedi, aren’t you?”
The Riddler was silent for a long time, and when he spoke he voice was full or sorrow. “When I left the Sith, I hoped to find a new way of life from evil and tyranny. What I found was a new life of discipline and backstabbing. The Jedi were furious and jealous of my abilities to use both the Light and Dark sides of the Force without giving in to either. I was to remain away from the Order as a Dark Jedi Knight, one who was powerful and yet dangerous to the whole Order. I left the Jedi and came here.”
The Queen knew his next question of her, and she shook her head, not knowing what to say yet.
The Riddler nodded in acquiescence to the plea in her eyes. “I will train him or I will not. I leave it to you. Think about it overnight but don’t think to long. Darth Blade must know by now I am no longer his prisoner and he will work quickly to execute his new plans.”
She stood then, and hugged him for a brief moment before leaving the room to summon the doctors. Jester did not move yet, for he still had one question he wanted to ask his best friend. He took out Darth Blade’s lightsaber and held it before the Riddler.
“This is probably a bad time, but I wanted to know what this says, and since you were once a Sith.” Suddenly feeling that he might have made a horrible mistake, Jester apologised. “No offence meant.”
The Riddler smiled weakly. “None taken.”
“I thought that you might be the only one who could help me decipher it.”
“It is SithSkript”, the Riddler said, looking at the weapon intensely, “an ancient form of writing that most have forgotten. I was taught it as a child.”
“What does it say?”
“‘Tajytoo Kaphraddi Kjarecavedi’: May death come swiftly to all I strike down!” His tone was morbid. He knew that this was his former master’s favourite saying, Darth Blade had repeated it many times during the Riddler’s intensive lightsaber training. “Go now, Jester. Let me rest. I need to gather my strength for the fight that lies before us.”
“What do you think the Queen will say about you training me?”
“I can’t say. Are you sure you want to do this, Jester?”
“All my life I’ve wanted to be a Jedi!”
“I remember what the Jedi Knight who found me said: ‘It will be a hard life. One without reward, without remorse, without regret. A path has been placed before you; the choice is yours alone. You will do what you think you cannot do. But you will find out who you are.'” His voice sounded strangely in the medical bay, as though he was reminiscing. “I need to be alone.”
“I will come back and see you later. Okay?”
“Fine.” Jester walked out of the medical bay slowly. He stopped at the sound of the Riddler calling his name.
“I owe you and Sailor Coruscant my life.”
Jester smiled. “I know”, he said brightly, “I know.”
The Riddler could not help but smile back. “Thank you.”
Jester left the room at this point, and before the medical staff accosted the Riddler he turned his head to the window to gaze out at the beautiful setting sun. It was one of his favourite things to do.
Devron turned his head to look at the Captain of the Palace Guard who came in the dungeon and snapped off a salute. After a brief pause, the weapons creator and Palace designer understood and returned the salute.
“The Queen has placed you in charge of the Royal Forces, sir,” the Captain announced in his deep voice.
Devron nodded slightly. “A bit surprising, but I can accept it.” He looked down at the tactical holograph of the battlefield, which spanned 4 kilometres with the Palace at one end and the landing craft at the other end. A quick glance confirmed that the TIEs had reached the outskirts of the city. “The first thing we need to do is dispatch a squadron of X-wings.” Devron picked up his commlink and quickly addressed orders to Gray Squadron leader.
The Captain looked puzzled. “Gray Squadron, sir? Why not Gold Squadron, our best?”
“Because,” Devron explained, “TIE Bombers aren’t meant to dogfight, and these ones sure aren’t. See the way they manoeuvre? That indicates a full load. I’ve studied starfighter designs enough to know that. Now, we have to meet these six MTTs and three ATTs.” Devron frowned down at the holographic picture before turning to a wall and tapping some buttons in a niche. The stone wall – actually a hologram – turned into a list of the Royal Forces.
Devron took a few seconds to look closely at it before turning to the Captain. “We need to meet this force with a force of equal or greater strength. We have ten AT-ATs in storage, and forty AT-STs as well as thirty AT-PTs for the ground. If we send three AT-ATs, ten AT-STs and ten AT-PTs, that should be about enough to handle what… oh, say ninety troops between three Sentinel-class landing craft can’t pick up immediately.” Devron shut down all the holograms in the room and turned to leave, picking up his commlink to issue some of the necessary orders.
The Captain followed, looking a bit bewildered. “Where are you going, sir?”
On his way out, Devron reached into another niche. He came out with a PLX-2M shoulder-mounted warhead launcher and two BlasTech A280 rifles. Turning to toss one to the Captain, who caught it, Devron explained, “Captain, just because I’ve hung out down here for a long time making weapons for her Majesty doesn’t mean I hate combat. I lead from the front, not from the rear, and my profession gives me an understanding of these weapons.”
The Captain nodded in understanding as Devron continued down the hall. “Where is the launch bay, anyway?”
The Captain gave him the necessary directions, and both were soon standing in the midst of an organised chaos as the AT- vehicles were dispatched and the troops were loading onto the front-line Sentinel shuttles. Devron picked one and stepped into it, getting weird looks from some and salutes from others. After the Captain of the Guard made the necessary introductions and Devron fastened the PLX-2M to his right shoulder, all of the troops saluted him, still not getting it.
Devron looked at his shuttle mates, subordinate officers and enlisted. “Since Grand Admiral Riddler is currently incapacitated from a previous battle, I’m taking his place for this battle and any that happen before I’m replaced or he awakens. I’m not sure how he ran things, but I like to lead from the front. It gives me a better idea of how to operate.
“We’re going into battle against six MTTs and three ATTs. We have three AT-ATs, ten AT-STs and ten AT-PTs to cover our backs, and Gray Squadron is handling the squadron of TIE Bombers that came in on the landing craft.
“I’m not much for long speeches that inspire and rally troops. Let it just be said that I’ll be right there fighting with you, and I’m going to do my best to fill the shoes of the Grand Admiral during his leave. There’s some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’ll do what I can.”
As he sat down and snapped his safety webbing together, the Sentinel-class shuttle lifted off and started toward the battle zone.
The Sentinel-class landing craft started to descend in front of the MTTs, and Devron unbuckled his crash webbing and stood up. “Remember, all we’re going up against is a bunch of battle droids! They may outnumber us, but we have ground support arriving in about a minute!” He yelled loud enough to be heard over the whistling wind and the firing of the AAT’s main cannon outside. “You shoot anything that’s metal and walks around, you get me?”
“We get you, sir!” they yelled back, reminiscent of an old movie watched a few years back in the Palace theatre.
The landing craft touched down, and the egress ramp slowly extended down. With a wave of his arm and a shout, Devron charged down the ramp, followed by the rest of his troops. The other two Sentinel-class craft disgorged their company of troops and closed their ramps, waiting. As they ran out, an AAT fired its last shot before stopping. The blue spear hit one of the landing craft and played over its shields for a half-second. One of the troops briefly thought of an ion bolt before dismissing it and turning with the rest of the ninety to the six MTTs.
As they watched, the MTTs stopped and extended their bubble noses out to reveal ranks of droids, all folded up neatly with their weapon on their back.
Simultaneously, all the MTT racks set down and flattened out to let off their version of troops. After all of the droids had been dropped on the ground, the bubble noses slid in and the droids started to deploy out.
Devron activated his PLX-2M as the racks started to slide in. “Fire at will!” He announced to all his troops, even before the droids were ready. Having set his launcher to blind fire, Devron loosed three of the six Arakyd 3t3 missiles into the company of droids, then started firing discreetly into the sea of extending droids with his BlasTech A280 heavy blaster rifle.
His troops did not hesitate either; sending volleys of fire into the droids, but what survived started firing back. Red bolts from the Royal Guards and blue bolts from the droids were traded, with both sides taking downed people/droids, but still more surged forth from either side to cover them.
Devron fired the last three 3t3 warheads into the droid army, then kneeled to reload both his exhausted weapons. As he did, though, one droid levelled its rifle at Devron and fired it. His world became black as he slumped over his weapons.
K slowly opened his eyes, awakening from the deep trance that had allowed him to watch the events involving the Riddler. After a time he began to remember why he had taken such an interest in the Riddler.
Upon first hearing of this man’s abilities, a long time ago, K had decided to try and unravel the mystery they embodied. They seemed oddly like K’s own, but somehow different. The Riddler was able to use both the “Light” and “Dark” sides of the Force.
K sighed at the Jedi and their pitiful attempts to classify the Force. K’s Master had taught him the true nature of the Force. Of course, that was not been what his Master had called it.
K pulled himself from the recollections that were running through his mind. After watching the scenes in the Riddler’s mind unfold it became obvious that the Riddler was what the Jedi Order referred to as a Dark Jedi.
He pulled out an old, leather-bound book and opened it up to a page near the centre. The book’s pages were covered in writing; names and faces were scribed within.
K stopped his turning of the pages of the book when he found the picture of the man he was looking for. He thought carefully for a moment before beginning to edit the entry. It seemed that this man had two names.
When Devron woke up, he was lying on the open ramp of one of the Sentinel-class landing craft. Two field medics were kneeling near him, and they sighed with relief when he stood and started to pick up his weapons.
“Sir, you were lucky!” One of the medics spoke to him, and Devron gave the man a cursory nod. “In fact, the whole army is lucky! Those are only-“
“I know what they are. Did the troops retreat?”
“No, sir. AT-AT, AT-ST and AT-PT support arrived about thirty seconds ago, and now we’re turning the tide of this battle.”
“Good. Please go attend to other patients.” Devron shouldered his PLX-2M and ran at a fast clip towards the battle.
While Devron had been out, the battle had turned from all-out firing to more than nine separate battles. The AT-series vehicles had already incapacitated two of the AATs, and the third fired blue bolts at the two AT-ATs that they were attacking. One AT-AT stood there, ionisation energy playing over its body.
Devron saw two droids run out from behind a broken and burning AAT husk, the Captain of the Palace Guard chasing after them. Hurriedly, Devron levelled his blaster rifle at the front droid and fired a crimson bolt, causing the droid to collapse in its version of death. The other following close behind tripped and fell over its partner. After putting a couple of bolts in the tripped droid’s back, Devron ran over to the AAT husk and crouched behind it with the Captain. The Captain salutes and says, “Sir, it looks like we might win this specific battle, although we have no idea when reinforcements will arrive. Gray Squadron has reported in with a total success, losing no starfighters and the worst bombing damage was noise and the crushing of an outdoor cafe’s patio and one of its tables by one of the bombs. They seem not to have exploded-” The Captain snapped a couple of shots into some of the battle droids that were firing at other Royal Guards and continued on. Both men were shooting at droids once in a while as they hold their brief council of war.
Half an hour later, it was all over.
After the Sentinel-class landing craft touched down in the palace walls, Devron went with the Queen towards the Grand Admiral Riddler’s hospital room, to be debriefed by her as she went back to visit the Riddler after meeting him in the hangar.
Devron continued his debriefing, feeling somewhat nervous. “Please don’t get mad for this, Queen, but I engineered it all as a test.”
She stops and stared at him in bewilderment, surprise playing over her face. “A test?”
“Yes, a test,” Devron explained, after submitting a brief prayer to a random god to not get placed in front of a firing squad or thrown in a cell for years on end. “You see, with the Grand Admiral gone and the Sith perhaps threatening to attack us again, I decided to run a test of our defences to see who would be able to take charge.”
“I see,” the Queen said, after brooding over that for a second. “You should have talked to me first.” She began walking again, wishing that she could speak with the Riddler about this.
Devron steels himself. “It was a test of you, too, Queen.”
She stopped again, looking into his eyes with a piercing stare. “Why?”
“Because I felt it was for the better. Your Grand Admiral is in a coma, you’re a little incapacitated yourself by being with him and helping to heal him, and the military is left out. By running the test, we actually tested how you would react in that situation, who would-” He stops, unsure, then continues. “Who might be the Grand Admiral’s backup, and how the troops would react to being under new leadership. Again, I stress this particular point: The battle droids were using stun weapons, with no kill setting. The AATs were refitted with ion cannons. The TIE Bombers only had targeting lasers, so Gray Squadron would be tagged, not killed. Also, the “proton bombs” were really machines you could buy at any store, programmed to emit the sound of a proton bomb exploding upon impact with ground. There was no danger, and nobody was hurt. It was a test. Just that.”
The Queen began walking, somewhat stiffly, as she thought about this. Devron followed, hoping he had not earned himself a solitary-confinement cell or a painful death by any number of means on the grounds of treason.
Walking behind them, out of sight, Jester had heard much of what Devron had told the Queen. Now he stepped forward. “Your Majesty.”
She turned around to him, not surprised to see him. “Jester, how long have you been there?”
“Long enough”; Jester said flatly, turning to Devron Zal with anger burning fiercely in his eyes. “I can’t believe that you would waste so many of our military resources to perform a test. I don’t even want to know how the Grand Admiral will react when we tell him!”
Devron looked somewhat surprised, and pleased. “He’s awake?”
“Yes”, the Queen said, “but he only recently awoke. He will need rest and a lot of healing. But I am certain that he will fully recover.”
“Unfortunately”, Jester said, looking furious, “All the doctors in the medical bay were put on alert this morning because they were informed that Domus Prime was being invaded. The Grand Admiral was not impressed when they refused to let him leave the medical bay, and apparently they were about to sedate him when I arrived.”
Devron suddenly became nervous again and started to stammer. “Now look, all I-“
Before he could go any further, alarms started to sound across the Palace, blaring sirens that seemed to fill the hallway with echoing screams. All three suddenly looked alarmed, and the Queen drew forth her commlink.
A metallic voice could be heard from the device. “Unknown vessels in orbit around Domus Prime. Pods have been launched and are approaching the surface.”
The Queen looked up sharply, meeting Devron’s gaze. “Is this another test?” He shook his head. She pressed a button on the commlink and sighed before giving the order, “All hands to battle stations.” Turning to Devron, for the first time since his confession he saw anger in her countenance. “I hope that the Royal Forces are not too worn out from your tests to face a real threat.”
Jester stepped between them, distracting the Queen. “I will go and speak with the Riddler.”
She nodded. “Inform the Grand Admiral of the situation we face. Ask him to plan appropriate strategy for the battle.” She stepped around Jester, and he left her, running towards the medical bay. In the distance the sirens were still sounding, although they had stopped in this area of the Palace. “Devron Zal, it falls to you to prepare the troops and inspect our weapons systems. You did a good enough job with your test, for now we have need of your leadership abilities until the Grand Admiral Riddler can take his place at the head of our Royal Forces once more.”
Devron looked at her for forgiveness, but she had none to give. “Thank you, Your Majesty”, he said whilst bowing, before running off to the War Room to coordinate the preparation for battle. The Queen sighed and headed to her own chambers to gather the handmaidens together and prepare her bodyguards for what would happen next. She sent a thought out to the Riddler, telling him of her decision.
Jester reached the medical bay to hear a commotion inside. Fearing another attack by the Sith, he burst into the Riddler’s room. Inside, the Riddler was practicing a number of acrobatic and martial manoeuvres, and although he was not using any weapon, Jester realised that the Riddler would still be moving as gracefully while fighting properly. He watched for a time, knowing that the Riddler could sense his presence and was continuing his exercises for the benefit of his audience.
The Riddler stopped and turned to Jester, who smiled. “You’ve recovered.”
“Yes”, the Riddler said, “now shut the door. It is time you and I discussed a number of things.” From the bed he picked up a heavy book which he threw to Jester. Looking at its pages, Jester saw that they were filled with long passages in SithSkript.
“We don’t have time for this”, Jester spoke somewhat reluctantly, “Domus Prime is being invaded.”
“I know”, there was an unidentifiable emotion in the Riddler’s voice. “I can sense Master Blade. He has returned.”
Devron grimaced as he ran toward the War Room, from where the defence of the planet would be coordinated. As he ran through the empty corridors of the Palace, Devron frowned at the thought of what he had done with the test he had engineered, pondering whether or not the Queen really trusted him when he said, truthfully, that this one was not a test.
He hoped he could reclaim her trust, but he also knew that this battle was not a game. It was real. Whoever sent these guys was not going to have them play nice, with ion cannons and stun rifles. As Devron reached the door, he made a silent vow to reclaim the trust he had previously held with the Queen, whatever it took.
Devron pushed open the door and burst inside. Already, the Captain of the Guard and two Lieutenants were present, frowning over a data chart. They all snapped off a salute as he walked in, which Devron returned. “Thank you for the courtesy, gentlemen, but I’m afraid there’s no time for protocol. What’s the model of the ships in orbit?”
“An unidentified model, sir. They look like something between a Carrack-class cruiser and a Star Destroyer, and they’re about the size of a Dreadnaught. There are four of them, and they’ve each launched several pods. Some look like AT-AT pods, while others resemble drop ships more. What do you think our best course of action is?”
Devron activated a flat hologram projector and pulled up a detailed hologram of the city, and the Palace walls. “Our first priority is the Queen’s safety, followed by that of the city. We must meet those demands before we relegate troops to the front line.” He frowned. “We have two Star Destroyers on call nearby, don’t we?”
“Yes, sir. We also have six others, but they’ll take an hour and a half to call in. These two can come in fifteen minutes.”
“Good.” Devron dismissed one of the lieutenants to issue orders. “Call in half of the strike force of six and the other two that’ll take fifteen minutes.” After that was done, he concentrated on the matter at hand. “Set up four of our AT-ATs here, at the city outskirts where the landing force is going to penetrate,” he says. Four AT-ATs appeared on the hologram to defend that spot, effectively sending orders to the commander of the AT-AT forces. “Also, put four here.” He touched the Palace walls in front of where the strike force would penetrate. “Have Gold Squadron sent up to take out any more pods that come down as reinforcements. Blue Squadron and Gray Squadron can stay here and patrol the city as proof against any bomber attacks, and”, he paused for a moment to think.
“Let’s have Green Squadron accompany Gold. Green and Gold can have B-wings for this occasion. Also, for defence, let’s relegate fifteen AT-STs and ten AT-PTs to each line of AT-ATs on the walls. That leaves two AT-ATs, ten AT-STs and ten AT-PTs to accompany the front line.”
He gazed at the hologram for a while before he made another decision. “I want our Sharpshooter and Eagle-Eye Y-wing squadrons to go to the front as support bombers. A Sentinel-class craft can hold…what, fifty men each? And we have at least seven hundred men capable of front-line action. We should send five hundred and seventy five of them to begin with; me included. You, along with the other one hundred and twenty five men, are going to stay here and secure the inside of the palace. You are our last hope.”
Devron paused. “Do you agree with my strategy, or do you want to do something else?”
The Captain started to say something about all the troops being pressed into service, but remembered what Devron had said: “We need to meet an enemy force with a force of equal or greater strength.” The Captain was about to demur, but then he remembered something. “Do we need the Jedi?”
Devron nods his head. “Agreed, we do. Thanks for reminding me. Ami-Kin is a trained Jedi Master, but I say we need two groups. Should we put her at the front or behind, to guard the Palace?”
The Captain thought on this for a moment. “Probably at the front lines. We’ll need some help from the Masters there, too, and I’m not sure how many Jedi we have. Probably close to fifty, considering our position.”
“Alright, we’ll bring forty with us and leave ten behind. Let’s make it happen, Captain.”
The Captain nodded, and they both sprinted toward the hangar bay to prepare for battle, as warning klaxons and orders to various people continued to reverberate throughout the Palace grounds.
As they neared the hangar bay, the Captain of the Palace Guard tossed a salute at Devron and ran off towards the Queen’s protected chambers. Devron returned the salute and charged into the hangar bay, where he was presented with chaos ten times greater than the one during the previous battle. The lieutenants that had been in the War Room with the Captain and the dull, low whine of the Y-wing squadrons departing greeted him.
Devron looked around to see troops and Jedi running up the ramps of fourteen Sentinel-class landing craft, preparing for battle. Noticing his PLX-2M and his A280 sitting where he left them after the battle, Devron picked them up, strapping them to their necessary spots and walked up the ramp of the nearest Sentinel. As he came aboard, some last few soldiers followed then the ramps closed. Since there was not time for a proper briefing, Devron had one of the soldiers orient a camera on him so that he could holographically relay a briefing to the troops, like he did last time.
“Soldiers and Jedi, we are about to go into battle again. For some of you it may be the first time following me. Some of you may have been assigned to the drill staged just about an hour ago, and maybe a select few of you are seeing battle for the first time here today, though I don’t think so.
“Rest assured, though, that this is not going to be a drill as far as I know. For all purposes, we should consider this a full-fledged battle. There will be no stun rifles; there will be no ion cannons.” Devron paused, then decided to forge on ahead with his personal speculation. “There will probably even be Sith here. That is why I chose to bring the Jedi along.
“We have fully ten Jedi and one hundred and twenty five troops defending the Palace proper. We also have eight AT-ATs, thirty AT-STs and twenty AT-PTs defending the Palace in two stages, along with Blue and Gray squadrons defending from the air. But, we still have a lot to fight with.
“We have two AT-ATs, ten AT-STs, ten AT-PTs, five hundred and seventy five troops, forty Jedi, and twenty four Y-wings to provide support bombing. Gold and Green Squadrons are piloting B-wings to intercept any reinforcements coming from above, and in an hour and a half, five Star Destroyers will be on call to make piecemeal of the four Dreadnaught-sized ships up above dropping pods. Still, though, when you boil down to it, they’re just men. Men against men, and in some cases, women fighting alongside the men. Men piloting starfighters, men piloting walkers, everything revolves around the men and women of the Royal Forces. Even though we’re but one of five separate barriers against invasion, we need to fight like we’re the only one, down to the man. Because every last one counts.”
Devron sat down amidst applause from the troops flying with him, surprised but accepting of the evoked applause. Meanwhile, the Sentinels came within point-six kilometres of where they are to set down.
Nearly simultaneously, the Sentinels let down their landing gear and touched down onto the slightly rocky plain of the current battlefield. As the egress ramp slid open, the troops on each Sentinel ran out and converged to form a wall of troops about six meters from the landing craft. Devron, at the head of his group, looked around to see… nothing.
The pods lay littered around where they had impacted, their skin intact. Whatever was inside had to be waiting for something.
As the last of the troops exited the shuttles, Devron waved Ami-Kin Kenobi, the Master leading the Jedi, over to him. “You sense anything?”
Ami-Kin’s face broke into a frown as she concentrated on the scattered pods. “I don’t know. Something’s in there, I just can’t place it.”
“Is it the Sith?”
“I’m not sure. Something’s interfering with my–“
He waved her off, watching. At first, he thought that he was imagining things, but examining one pod with electrobinoculars Devron confirmed that the pod had broken open. Devron zoomed in for a closer look, noticing something that might be a…
“Drop!” Ami-Kin shouted. Reacting immediately, Devron hit the dirt, followed by the Royal Forces, who were trained well. A half-second later, red bolts started spraying out from the pod, and the noise of more pods hissing open was heard.
“Find some cover, you guys! Fire at will!” Devron shouted and activated the holographic targeting on his PLX-2M. The acid rain of blaster bolts stopped and was followed by not so errant shooting from both sides and a hum of energy. Devron picked himself up and ran behind a nearby rock for cover.
“Jedi, to the front!” he heard Ami-Kin shout in her melodic voice. “The Sith are here!”
As the Jedi ran to the front, the Royal Forces lay down covering fire. After a quick assessment of the situation, Devron turned to a pod that was starting to open and fired a couple of Arakyd 3t3 missiles into its widening gap. An explosion resulted, contained mostly within the pod and engulfing a lot of the enemy contained within.
Another pod opened, and troops clothed in black spill out. Some carried wicked-looking lightsabers, both single and double-bladed, and even more carried gleaming blaster rifles. Levelling his blaster rifle at one of the Sith, Devron snapped off a couple of shots. However, the Sith quickly ignited his lightsaber and swept it around, deflecting both bolts into the atmosphere.
The PLX-2M on his shoulder beeped; it seemed one of the missiles had a lock on the Sith’s heat signature. Quickly, Devron pressed the firing stud. The Sith grinned and hurled his lightsaber at the missile. Too fast for a non-Jedi eye to see, the lightsaber cleaved through the explosive core of the warhead, blowing it up. As the lightsaber returned to the Sith, he smiled evilly and started toward Devron. The latter, not wanting to face down a Sith, snapped off several blaster bolts at his attacker, which the Sith deflected with ease.
Then, unhooking a spare lightsaber off his belt, the Sith tossed the weapon to Devron. “You made a mistake”, he said, “to try and shoot Darth Conquest with your weak little toy.” With these words, he sliced neatly through Devron’s A280. “Or your big, bad popgun.” He chopped off the barrel of the PLX-2M.
“Now, it is time for you, a puny little mortal,” he says, stressing the last word, “who doesn’t have the Force as his ally, to pay the price.” Darth Conquest smiled revealing rows of white, sharp teeth, and gestured with his hand. The lightsaber in Devron’s hand ignites, the rich blue blade extending to challenge the Sith. Devron looked down at his new lightsaber then took advantage of his situation to lash out with the blade at Darth Conquest’s knees. Conquest easily blocked this, laughing.
“You think you can defeat me that easily? Try again, I dare you.” He held his lightsaber at bay. Devron tried again, this time looking to cleanly lop off the Sith’s head. Again, Conquest blocked it, grinning. “My turn.” He launched a series of three attacks at Devron that were only barely blocked, and only by luck. “Your turn, little mortal.”
Devron nodded, and started with an upward slice that was aimed more for Conquest’s nose than anything else. Laughing, Darth Conquest blocked it, but as he did so, Devron put all his strength into a flat-footed kick aimed at Conquest’s left knee.
The wet snap of bones breaking and ligaments tearing could be heard, along with a cry of agony as Conquest fell to his good knee, then onto his back. He dropped his lightsaber and looked at his knee then up at Devron, an expression of rage on his face.
That expression was preserved forever as Devron neatly decapitated the Sith with one swipe of the borrowed lightsaber. Then, after deactivating the blade and sliding it into his pocket, Devron ran to one of the downed enemy riflemen and kneeled, reaching for the gun. He snatched the gun out of the dead man’s grasp and ran behind another shard of cover to assess the situation.
The Royal Forces were outnumbered by about two to one or more. Both AT-ATs had been taken down by the enemy’s force of eight ugly ground craft with wheels and guns that were obsolete but still effective.
“Begin retreat! Move to the second wall!” Devron yelled and the cry was relayed along the battle line. The troops ran back to their Sentinel landing craft, which lifted off as soon as they could. Below, the Sith and their allies cursed at the retreating Royal Forces, then ordered the crafts to fire at them. As the shots sliced up the air around the quickly retreating craft, Devron surveyed the number of troops he had left on his ship.
It did not look good. Out of the fifty soldiers he came with, thirty were dead and another five injured beyond means to fight.
The mood on the ship as they approached the second wall was sombre, each man lost in his own thoughts. Devron’s mind was occupied with how the Grand Admiral was going to take this retreat back to the second line of defence. Would he be angry or understanding? Devron had no idea, he was not sure about anything anymore besides his will to defend the Queen and the Palace.
His commlink started beeping at his side. He picked it up and activated it. “This is Devron, yes?”
The Queen’s voice came through. She sounded rushed yet royal and, something else that Devron could not place. He did not bother to think about the inflections in her voice, for the message gave him enough trouble.
“Devron, this is the Queen. We have a landing craft due south of the Palace. It has disgorged two MTTs and a squadron of TIE Bombers. You’ll need to place support over there. Out.”
“Copy that, out,” Devron said, frowning. Two MTTs full of droids would be easier than about five AT-ATs and four hundred Sith and company. He arranged a commlink to three of the Sentinels. “Pilots, we have MTTs coming from the south side of the Palace. You are to be relegated to deal with that threat. Out.”
The three Sentinels changed vector, and the remaining eleven touched down at the second line of defence three minutes later.
Devron and his battle-able comrades walked out of the Sentinels and started to set up. While some of the men began digging trenches, Devron learned that one of the AT-ATs had brought along a full cargo bay of E-WEB portable blaster cannons at the behest of the Queen. These were set up along the blockade. After the AT-PTs were moved to the front line and the AT-STs ready to be there, with the AT-ATs stationary, Devron settled in to wait the duration of time before the Sith arrived.
High above Domus Prime, on the bridge of one of the many unknown ships that orbited the planet, two black-robed figures were conferring.
“Look at them run!” The elder of the two exclaimed somewhat excitedly.
“They are being crushed like small ants, Master.” The apprentice spoke with a smile, watching the battle that was taking place on the surface below.
“Indeed”, his Master agreed, “We should be training.”
Fingering his lightsaber, the apprentice looked eager to join the battle. He looked confused at his Master’s suggestion. “What for? I am prepared to take on this Dark Jedi that you speak of!”
“Silence!” The Master rebuked him. “He is mine!”
“Then why do I need to train, if I am not to fight him?”
“You naive young apprentice. Can you not feel it?”
“Feel what?” Like an angry teenager, the apprentice seemed to sulk.
“Our former friend, Darth Ravage, has taken on an apprentice of his own. He is training this one to follow in his footsteps.”
“Lord Blade, this apprentice is new, he will be easily defeated.”
“You know nothing”, Darth Blade snarled, “Darth Ravage’s apprentice has a power that even the Riddler does not know of yet. We must take this one and turn him to the Dark Side. He is already learning our ways. Can you not feel it?” he repeated angrily.
“No, my Lord.”
“Then go and practice, the time draws near for our first contact with our new friend. A time when you must prove yourself, or you will perish from my sight forever.”
“Yes, my Master”, the apprentice said softly, going to one of the launching bays to practice. His double-bladed lightsaber glowed a fiery red and he used the Force to concentrate on the battle still to come.
Darth Blade watched the screen before him, thinking of the Riddler. “My son”, he said, “you will regret your change of heart so many years ago. And your new Padawan will be mine. Yes, this one will be a mighty Sith, Master Jester a Sith for life!”
Darth Blade laughed evilly as he walked slowly to the launch bay, imagining the many ways in which he could kill his son, the Riddler.
Seated on the floor in an empty room of Fuhenteki Na Shiro, Jester and the Riddler meditated on the Force. Outside in the bright morning others were fighting and dying, but despite the shaking of the Palace walls these two focussed their minds on what lay ahead. And in the hall, distant sirens echoed screams of warning.
His voice sounding softly in the still room, the Riddler said, “Repeat after me. Torus. Torus hidefous jace denti. Fear. Fear attracts the fearful.”
Jester repeated the words, taking them to heart.
“Higu Urandu. The Strong. Higu fisil. The Weak. Higu Orangiuj. The Innocent. Hugy deca pright jiler. Fear is my ally.”
As he repeated the unfamiliar words and their translation, Jester felt the strength within him grow.
“There is no love; only hate.
“There is no peace; only war.
“There is no duty; only honour.
“There is no trust; only loyalty.
“These are the ways of the Sith.”
Jester obediently repeated the Sith code, and the Riddler looked on amazed as he memorised every words. In all his years as both a Sith Lord and a Dark Jedi Knight, the Riddler had never seen a pupil who had learned so much, so quickly.
Looking at the innocence on Jester’s face as he recited the words that would help him to understand the Force, the Riddler found himself worrying that Jester might be learning too much, too quickly. He did not wish to see his friend and new apprentice converted to the Dark Side.
“Jester. To defeat the Sith, you must think like a Sith, understanding their ways. You must learn to fight with hatred to beat this kind of enemy. Obi-Wan Kenobi never defeated Darth Maul without falling to the Dark Side. Luke Skywalker never defeated Vader without going to the Dark Side.
“Yet, I must warn you. The Dark Side is tempting. If you start down the Dark path like we are doing, you could be corrupted. You must keep your hatred pure and your emotions in check. Fight using your hatred, not emotion.
“Many fall to the Dark Side because they try to fight with both emotion and hatred. If you do this you will fall and the Dark Side will begin to consume the whole.”
Jester looked up at him, eyes shining. “I understand, Master. I am ready to take that risk.”
The Riddler handed Jester the lightsaber that had once belonged to Darth Blade. “Then we will continue.”
Instead of simply teaching Jester how to fight with the lightsaber, the Riddler implanted into Jester’s mind knowledge of the art of duelling and how to execute certain patterns, strategies and techniques. Listening to the voice of the Riddler in his mind, Jester eagerly took on this knowledge and new skills.
The Queen walked quietly into the room, not wishing to disturb them while meditating. After a few minutes, she saw the Riddler’s eyes open and he looked intensely at her.
“The Sith army are approaching the city. If you are well enough, Grand Admiral Riddler, General Zal wishes you to lead the charge against them.”
The Riddler looked truly concerned at this news. It was obvious to the Queen that he had not expected the Sith to make it this far so quickly.
“What is the status of the invasion?”
The Queen looked tired and indescribably sad. “They control a quarter of Domus Prime already. Villages in the mountains have been pillaged and the villagers massacred. We have lost communications with a number of desert settlements. Our cause seems hopeless.”
Looking at the despair in the Queen’s eyes, the Riddler ignited his lightsaber and with a surgeon’s precision tapped his finger gently against the blade. A drop of blood appeared there, shining red in the artificial light.
“I swear to you with my blood that I will not let Darth Blade harm you, Your Majesty. If it comes to that, I will do us both in.”
The Queen blinked suddenly at the intensity of his words. She touched the Riddler’s arm, almost as though she was reassuring herself that he was still there. “Thank you”, her voice sounded a little reassured. She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. When the Queen next spoke, for a moment she sounded like her normal confident self. “Take care, both of you. If anything happened, I-“
The Riddler interrupted her, shaking his head. “We know.” Tenderly, he placed a hand on her face. The Queen smiled nervously up at him, before nodding. She left the room silently, placing a hand on the Jester’s shoulder as she walked away. He gave it a squeeze as she passed, then turned to face the Riddler once more.
The Riddler smiled wickedly at his friend. “Let’s go kick some ass!”
They both were cheering excitedly as they went into the Riddler’s bedroom, where he drew from a closet a set of Jedi robes for Jester to wear. The former Entertainer quickly changed in a side room even as the Riddler donned the black robes that showed he was of the Dark Jedi Order. He pulled a black hooded cloak on over them, and together the two walked out into the city.
In a spacecraft high above the planet, Darth Blade and his apprentice trained together, even as the Riddler and Jester trained together on Domus Prime. After a time, Darth Blade looked away from his apprentice, realising something important.
“Jester has grown in knowledge”, he said impatiently to his apprentice.
“I can feel his presence now, Master.”
“Good”, the Sith Master nodded to his apprentice, “It is now time for our departure.”
The two Sith boarded a shuttle, bound for the planet’s surface. Both were dressed in heavy black Sith robes, and Darth Blade made certain that his apprentice’s face was completely concealed, for his wished to conceal the apprentice’s identity.
As the last parts of the trap fell into place, Darth Blade allowed himself a chuckle at what was being conspired. Soon all would realise the power of the Sith.
Their shuttle was launched.
Devron settled into his section of the trench to wait out the Sith. After a time, he heard his commlink beeping. Picking it out of his pocket, he activated it. “This is Devron, yes?”
The Queen’s voice came over the comm, as before. “General Zal, please come to the Palace from the front lines for a meeting concerning only the higher officers.”
“Copy, out”, Devron said, switching off the comm. Slightly disgusted, he turned to one of his lieutenants. “I have been pulled off the front lines for a meeting of the high officers concerning this invasion. You are in charge now, along with Lieutenants Carrier and Parks. If you need help, call the Star Destroyers for troop reinforcements.”
“Yes, sir”, the lieutenant said, snapping off a salute. Devron hoists himself out of the trench and walks over to Lieutenant Parks, who is in the body of an AT-PT. Knocking on the side brought Parks out, and after a few brief words Devron had Parks running to join with the other two lieutenants and Devron controlling the AT-PT. He headed for Fuhenteki Na Shiro at a clip of sixty kilometres per hour, and immediately ran through the Palace to the High Officer Council of War. Devron would have rather been in the trench, but he knew that this meeting had to be important.
The Grand Admiral ran calmly from his room to the War Room.
Primarily, maps and a gigantic wall picture of Domus Prime dominated the War Room. The Riddler strode in confidently with the Jester by his side and everyone stopped to stare at the two Jedi. Loudly, he said, “The Queen has made me aware of everything up to this point. General Zal?”
A man stepped forward, his Royal Forces uniform still creased and new, despite the few bloodstains that now decorated it. He snapped a smart salute that seemed at odds with what the Riddler remembered of the weapons designer. This did not seem like a man who had only taken control of the Royal Forces this morning.
“At ease”, the Riddler said quickly, “What is our current situation? I need a status report on our Forces.”
General Zal began activating holographic maps and he talked for about twenty minutes. He described in detail the Sith weaponry that had been deployed, and certain procedures that they could enforce to prevent the Sith from easily gaining access to the city. Looking over the plan, the Riddler nodded at Devron.
“I want everyone in this room to leave except for The Jester, The Queen and General Zal. I also want security to Ami-Kin Kenobi and bring her here. I sense that she needs to find some direction in her life. Bring her before the Queen.”
Everyone did as they were told until only the four remained in the room.
The Grand Admiral looked upon the group for a long moment before speaking. “I am pretty certain that everyone at this table has heard that I was once a Sith Lord?” They all nodded.
“I want to say a few things and then we will begin to plan our counter-offensive. First, the Sith very rarely take prisoners. They wouldn’t think twice about walking right in here and slitting all our throats if they were given the chance. I have a plan that might stop them but I want to run my backup plan up by you before we go through with it.”
The Queen and General nodded and Jester’s face showed his curiosity. The Riddler went on. “If the Sith manage to make it this far into the city”, he gestured to once of the three dimensional holographic maps of the city, “then we are all to get to this emergency shuttle and gather as many people as possible.”
“But here’s the catch. Deep below the city is the thermal reactor that powers pretty much everything here. I suggest that some of us go down there today and place charges on the reactor. They can be detonated remotely when we are free of the planet.”
The Queen was the first to react, her shocked outrage echoing through the War Room. “But that will destroy the city!”
“Actually, Your Majesty”, the Riddler looked calmly at her, “It will destroy the entire planet.”
The Queen’s heart cried out at the words, and it took her a moment to be able to reply. “I thought that we were going to defend Domus Prime! That is our duty!”
“If the Sith make it this far, there won’t be much of a planet let to defend. Don’t you understand, Your Majesty?”
Looking at his eyes, the Queen knew that she could not win this argument. But privately, she vowed that she would never let this come to pass. She had come too far and lost too much to give up now.
Not sensing the Queen’s internal dilemma, the Grand Admiral continued with his analysis of the situation. “I’ve done the math. The initial blast itself will wipe out the army on Domus Prime while the blast wave should either destroy or disable the surrounding ships in the atmosphere.”
General Zal recognised the other danger in this plan. “What about us? Will the blast wave get us?”
“It is possible”, the Riddler said coldly, “a calculated risk, I’m afraid.”
All present hoped that they would never need to implement this plan.
The Riddler began to outline his plan for a counter-offensive then, and they all listened intently, knowing that this strategy would have to succeed.
“General Zal, according to your last reconnaissance it has shown that the Sith control regions here”, he pointed to the map, “here, here and here. They have major artillery in these areas. We will position the Royal Forces in and around the city and around Fuhenteki Na Shiro while we send out our reserves to attack the Sith head on and see what damage we can do there, if any.”
As Devron listened to the Riddler set out their defences, he nodded slightly. It never occurred to him that it would come to this, but as he listens, Devron realises that it would be his fault if they brought to bear that last course of action, because he had retreated. But even as he thought this, he knew that if he had not retreated the Sith would have overpowered them, and there would be no one left for a counter-offensive. No backup plan.
Even though Devron could not banish the thought of his supposed failure from the dark void of his mind, he concentrated on the Grand Admiral’s plan, trying to see any weaknesses that might be present there. Not out of personal pride or insubordination, but rather out of a need to protect his Queen. And her handmaiden Catherine too.
Devron shook his head. Think about something else, he thought, keep your mind focussed on the here and now, you need to help prepare a defence.
As Devron cleared his mind, he noticed something that the Grand Admiral might have missed. “If we are setting a certain point to be the last stand, should we pull the AT-series vehicles off the Palace walls and put them with the lines at the outskirts of the city, since they will never see any action otherwise?”
For a second the Riddler thought about it. “Yes, by all means, General Zal. Would you please relay the orders?”
Glad to be doing something, Devron jumped on the commlink to the AT-AT commander to inform the man of his new orders.
The Riddler spoke again when Devron was done, not meeting the Queen’s gaze. “I am sending the Queen to the Super-Star Destroyer, Apocalypse. She will be safe there while Jester and I will take out the Sith that make it into the city.” He turned to Devron; “I am sending you to the frontlines. I have been informed of your ground-force expertise and it will be extremely useful out there.”
They all looked up in surprise as a security team brought in a young woman, who was complaining noisily at the way she had been brought in from the field. The Jedi Master looked up at the Grand Admiral in barely controlled frustration as she was thrown unceremoniously to the floor.
“Are you going to kill me?” She asked, fingering her lightsaber.
The Riddler smiled warmly, copying her gesture even as he spoke. “Not in the least. I am aware of your capabilities, Master Ami-Kin, and I wish to exploit your abilities to aid our cause. I do apologise for the behaviour of those that brought my message, I never intended for them to treat you like that.”
“What do you want me to do, Grand Admiral?”
“I have heard it said that you once lead a guerilla army against the Empire and succeeded. There are a number of Jedi who would benefit from your leadership in similar circumstances here.” He noticed that she was holding her breath, and nodded. “Therefore I am giving you the automatic rank of Commander of the Royal Forces, under General Zal. I want you to use the outer city’s structure and designs to our best advantage against the invading forces. If you need anything the Royal Armoury is open to you. If you fail, you will pay for your failure with your life.” Ami-Kin nodded and left the throne room making no further sound. The Riddler turned to Devron. “General Zal, prepare your men.”
Bowing, the General followed the Jedi Master from the War Room.
Jester took a step back as he sensed for the first time the Queen’s built up anger that was directed at the Riddler. She took a few deep breaths, trying to control her emotions, but could not.
“You want to send me out of the battle to the Apocalypse?” She screamed loudly, her blue eyes flashing dangerously. “Why?”
The Grand Admiral did not flinch before her; instead, he smiled. “I have two reasons for that choice. One: you have a better chance of saving us all if you and the Apocalypse take out the Sith Capital Ships. We need you up there to lead this attack.”
He looked down at the little Queen, and she realised that he was not merely trying to get her out of the damage path. The Riddler knew that she was more than capable of defending herself against the Sith, but he thought that she might be able to do some more good for her people on the Apocalypse.
Sensing her revelation, he continued, still smiling fondly at her. “Two, if we do have to blow up the planet, I want you on my ship where you should be safe.” She looked about to protest, but he stopped her. “Believe it or not, we do care for you, Your Majesty, and we will not let anything happen to you while we are still alive.”
Sighing, the Queen pulled her emotions in, wrapping herself in a Jedi’s cloak of calm. When she next spoke, it was with a tone of profound regret. “Where exactly do you want me to place the thermal detonators?”
“Come here my apprentice.” commanded Darth Blade.
“Yes, Master.” The apprentice’s deep voice sounded strangely in the shuttle as it moved down towards the surface of Domus Prime. “What is this?”
“A plan.” Darth Blade had unrolled some papers and turned on a holographic image of the city. “General Zal and the Riddler have set up their troops in very good order around their Palace, except for right here.” He pointed to a spot on the map. “Five Jedi are guarding this entrance, along with some insignificant trinkets of the army. We will defeat them easily and find the Riddler in this area.”
“But what challenge does that provide us? Our entrance will be easily gained.”
“Do not underestimate our opponents!” Master Blade hit his apprentice hard on the face. “The two Jedi that we must face will be challenge enough for you! Now, land the shuttle here. About a mile outside the Palace walls.” The apprentice did so.
The shuttle landed unnoticed amid the chaos around the Palace and the two Sith moved with stealth towards the Palace.
The passage that led to the reactor was dusty and had not been used in a long time, or so it seemed to the Queen as she and her handmaidens walked down there, the detonators heavy in a bag on the Queen’s shoulder.
As she placed the detonators around the reactor, the Queen whispered softly, her voice filled with regret. “May our children and the Force forgive us.” Closing her eyes to stop herself from crying, the Queen activated to charges.
The Queen and her escort then ran back up to the shuttle bay from where they would leave to meet the Apocalypse.
Standing in the War Room still, the Riddler suddenly felt a disturbance in the Force, and looked over at Jester in alarm.
“Be wary”, he said suddenly, “Blade is here!”
Jester grimaced, flexing his grip on the Sith lightsaber that hung at his side. Together, they walked from the Room, mentally preparing for the battle to come.
Devron smiled as he rushed out of the War Room with Ami-Kin at his heels heading for the hangar bay. Battle was something he understood. Not the Force, or how the Jedi levitated, or anything. Devron understood weapons.
He ran up the open ramp of a Sentinel shuttle, Ami-Kin following. As the shuttle ramp closed, Devron sat down, strapped in and began to look at his ruined PLX-2M. As he did, he had an idea.
Devron brought out his appropriated lightsaber and he jammed it in the firing mechanism, overriding all the safety features. Ami-Kin, sitting warily on the other side from him, looked up when he brought out the lightsaber. “You’re a Jedi?” She pauses. “Or a Sith?”
He laughed. “No, I’m just playing with a lightsaber.”
Apparently satisfied, she waited out the rest of the ride in silence.
Like the past two times, the shuttle descended and the egress ramp opened. Devron and Ami-Kin walked out of the shuttle and it closed up and flew off now that it was not needed.
Devron walked into the trenches. Ami-Kin followed, unsure of the looks she received, as Devron walked toward his three lieutenants to relieve them. “I’m back on the lines. There has been a backup plan hatched that will be a last resort, but one that we don’t want to use. I regret I’m not able to speak of it, but we have to fight like there’s no tomorrow. Because there very well might not be.” The lieutenants nod.
About a minute later, Devron saw something odd. Raising his electrobinoculars to his eyes and thumb wheeling them into focus confirmed it. Devron allowed himself a tight-lipped grin, remembering tales of the Battle of Hoth. Picking up his commlink, Devron said, “Queen, we have spotted Sith rollers. There are Sith rollers on the North Ridge.” That done, Devron took another look through the electrobinoculars only to set them back down, and pick up his commlink again.
“Y-wings Eagle-Eye and Sharpshooter, commence support bombing. Refrain when the first shot is fired from the AT-ATs.”
The two squadrons of Y-wings flew overhead, and some of the trenched troops cheered them on as hold the first strike in this defence. The Y-wings dropped blue proton bombs from their load of twenty and wreaked havoc on some of the twelve Juggernauts and more than four hundred men present. Still, they marched on, what was left coming on ever stronger.
Ami-Kin mumbled something about the hate that she sensed coming to engulf them all. Devron, not really caring to learn anything about the Jedi and the Sith other than that they’re dangerous when enemies at this time, he got on the commlink again.
“AT-ATs, fire at will on my mark. AT-PTs and AT-STs move to take the ground forces when the Y-wings stop bombing. AT-ATs and all heavy artillerymen, concentrate on those rolling slabs. All other troops, go for the Sith and the gunners. Three…two…one…Mark.”
The powerful guns of the eight AT-ATs lined up behind the trenches fired out. Seconds later, the Y-wings peeled off and headed toward home, some waggling their wings in passing. The AT-STs and AT-PTs started clanking forward to meet the ground troops, who were still out of E-WEB range, and the AT-ATs traded shots with the seven remaining Juggernauts, who had gotten close enough to let loose their own fire. Devron set his PLX-2M down and activated the lightsaber within, trusting himself to manually aim it to level with a Juggernaut’s heart. A few seconds later, he pressed the firing button and hoped all went well.
The lightsaber, wedged within the firing mechanism, flew out with great velocity toward the Juggernaut. It started to waver, and Devron looked behind him to confirm what he thought was happening; Ami-Kin, sensing his intentions, was controlling the lightsaber’s path, giving it true aim. Devron watched, hoping it would work.
The lightsaber pierced the drive core of the Juggernaut, stopping it in its tracks. Expecting a big explosion, Devron grinned in anticipation of what would come next. The weapons stopped momentarily, then continued firing. It seemed his ploy had taken the Juggernaut’s movement, not its life.
A quick glance revealed the Sith and their allies within firing range. Devron shouted, “Fire at will!” and fire erupted from the trenches and from the E-WEB stations, adding to the fire laid against the Sith by the AT- vehicles. The Sith, now seeing a threat from this direction as well as in their basic midst, started diverting their fire in both directions. Behind them, a Juggernaut subjected to too much fire from the AT-ATs exploded, silhouetting the Sith as they fought against the Royal Forces, determined to enter the Palace.
Devron smiled grimly as he took over the controls of an E-WEB whose gunner had been shot and loosed moderated volleys of fire into the black-garbed men. The personal portion of the Battle of Domus Prime was here.
As he controlled the E-WEB, Devron did not pay attention to his personal thoughts. He only revelled in the joy of defending what he knows is right, in protecting the Queen by cutting down the Sith as they advanced. He smiled and left the firing buttons depressed, cutting a swath through the Sith ranks. As more stepped in to take their place, the E-WEB beeped warningly. Devron ignored this, his grin increasing as the bolts lanced out to take out people in their place.
The firing stopped, and the beeping, which had increased to a steady tone, went silent. All the lights were red. Devron’s grin disappeared. “Sithspawn! It overheated!” Picking up his new A280 blaster rifle, he began to aim at one of the Sith while waiting for his E-WEB to cool.
A lightsaber blade, crimson red, flashed down, cleaving off Devron’s A280 barrel at the middle. He spun, the useless grip in his hand, to face another Sith, this one with a double-bladed lightsaber.
“Greetings”, despite the noise of the battle this Sith’s voice was clearly audible. “I am Darth Ares, and you, I believe, are the one that killed my apprentice, Darth Conquest.”
Devron shook his head in disbelief. Another Sith? “Nice name”, he said mockingly, “‘Incarnation of War’, right? Well, I did kill your Conquest, and I have his head somewhere, littered on the battlefield.”
Darth Ares handed Devron a lightsaber. As he took and activated it, Devron looked up at Ares. “So, you want to have some fun too?”
“Of course.” The Sith launched into action, twirling his double blades in such a complicated series of manoeuvres that Devron could barely parry them, let alone get through the defences.
“You see, my apprentice was foolish,” Ares said as he slowed his relentless attacking to be heard. “He gave you a chance, which I will not.” There was another series of attacks exchanged, even harder to parry or dodge, following the words.
“Now, young General…you will die,” Darth Ares said, mimicking one of the most infamous Sith of all time. A cleave too fast for Devron to see well followed, gouging a slice in Devron’s stomach and a small nick in his wrist that only touched the bone. Devron let out a small growl of suppressed pain, staggering back a few steps. He still clutched the lightsaber.
Darth Ares grinned, letting Devron suffer for a few seconds before he would inflict the final blow.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, a green lightsaber flew in, directed towards Ares. The Sith pivoted to defend against it, striking at the Force-levitated saber.
That was all the opening that even a pained Devron needed. He lunged forward, sliced down and out with his lightsaber and cut Ares in half from shoulder to waist. Both pieces fell to the ground, the lightsaber falling from his grasp and automatically deactivating, its double-hilt silent.
Stooping down to pick up the lightsaber, Devron turned to Ami-Kin, who called her lightsaber back to her. “Thanks…I owe you.”
“That’s okay,” she said as he dropped into the trench and leaned against the side. “If you were killed off, I would have had to lead the battle, and I barely know anything about conventional weapons. By the way, your E-WEB’s ready for use.”
He smiled at her, shaking his head at the seeming casualness she had in dispatching his foe. Devron got out of the trench and began to control the E-WEB with his left hand, only allowing the field medics to bandage his stomach and wrist while he was actually making a difference.
As the shuttle took her up to the Apocalypse, the Queen looked out one of the side windows at the planet below, and made a silent wish that they could make it to the Super-Star Destroyer safely. Her fear showed clearly on her face and on the faces of her handmaidens, with the exception of Catherine, who smiled with a warmth she did not feel as she told the others that everything would turn out all right.
Beside the Queen, Catherine held the device that would activate the detonators placed so carefully on the planet below. Her heart was heavy, and she knew that she could never destroy her home. As she looked out a viewscreen at the three moons, she found herself wishing “Please, protect my friends.”
In her lap rested a small lightsaber, bearing the inscription, “The path I follow is determined by the choices I make. May I always have the wisdom to chose the path of peace so that I will not have to make use of this weapon of war.”
As they grew closer to the Grand Admiral’s ship, Catherine suddenly leaned forward with a gasp of pain. “Devron!” she cried out, seeing in her mind’s eye him facing the Sith. She watched as Ami-Kin’s lightsaber caused the Sith a moment of distraction, and was relieved to see the General kill him. He left the field to receive medical attention, and so Catherine’s attention was directed elsewhere, and she saw that the Riddler and Jester had not as yet met up with Darth Blade.
On a whim of the moment, she tried to scry out the Sith Master, and was amazed when she realised that he was not shielding himself. He was rapidly approaching her Grand Admiral and the Jester, but that was not what concerned her. With him was another dressed in black, and his mind was shielded. It was a clumsy shield however, and she quickly managed to circumvent it to discover that he was Darth Blade’s apprentice.
Reaching out with her mind, she tried to call to the Riddler, to warn him that they had to fight a double threat, but his mindshield, with its powers of both Light and Dark, was too strong for her to break. So instead she turned to the Jester, and made contact.
‘Jester’, she cried almost despairingly.
‘Your Majesty?’ his thought asked in astonishment.
‘I do not have time to explain. You must inform the Grand Admiral that Darth Blade has his apprentice with him. I do not know what this means, save that you both must be careful. I do not think that we should go ahead with this plan.’
By this stage, the Riddler had realised that his apprentice was no longer following, and he stood and waited.
A blast rocked the shuttle, and Catherine was jolted back to reality. She only hoped that the Jester had understood her meaning and would relay her message.
Devron smacked the E-WEB and picked up his A280 before dropping back into the trench for support while using it. Although he and his comrades were fighting valiantly and had held a slight advantage at the outset, the Sith were slowly whittling away at the defences. It was obvious that they would need reinforcements very soon.
Ducking down and sitting under cover of the trench, Devron brought out his commlink. “Apocalypse, this is General Zal. Repeat: Apocalypse, this is General Zal.”
There was a brief flash of static. “This is Super-Star Destroyer Apocalypse,” the Queen’s voice came though clearly after a moment. “Devron, you sound different. Are you hurt?”
“Just a flesh wound,” he said, trying not to worry her. “We need some reinforcements. A few AT-ATs and about double that number of AT-STs would be appreciated.”
“All right, Devron,” she said still sounding a bit apprehensive, or so he thought. “We’ll send them right away.”
“Copy, out,” he said, and clicked off the commlink. That was good, and necessary. He stood up and began picking off various Sith and their allies. The Jedi, led by Ami-Kin, continued to engage the Sith in small battles, being more competent to handle them. Meanwhile, the troops that were left and the small number of
AT-ATs, AT-STs and AT-PTs continue to engage.
Ten minutes later, some pods dropped from the sky, falling behind the Juggernauts. Belatedly, Devron prayed to a random god that the reinforcements were on his side, not theirs.
His prayer was answered. AT-ATs and AT-STs broke out of their shells and started firing on the Juggernauts from behind. The AT-STs advanced to start wiping out the people. And the morale-boosted Royal Forces fought on.
After a short time, two more pods dropped, falling about point-two kilometres to the side of the Juggernauts. Devron smiled, expecting more reinforcements.
A commlink message came through, alerting Devron to a problem. “This is Gold Leader, sir. Two Sith pods fell through our defences. Expect more company.”
“Sithspawn!” Devron cursed, causing those nearest him to turn and look, curious. He activated his commlink “I need six AT-STs to meet those two dropped pods.” Signing off, he directed the closest E-WEBs to fire on the newly dropped pods, and a small thirty guard regiment of his force to watch for any that survived coming to join the main force.
This done, he kept an eye on the new pods as he blasted away at the remaining Sith and their allies, the battle tipped in the Royal Force’s favour again.
After a while of shooting, and getting shot at, Devron dropped down into the trench again. Bringing out a datapad, he called up a real-time overview of the battlefield and the number of forces remaining.
The outlook was not pleasing. The Sith were slowly gaining the upper hand again. Although only three Juggernauts remained, and five AT-ATs, the Sith and their allies were constantly killing more of the Royal Forces than they were losing themselves. Devron thought on this, then had an idea.
“Lieutenant Kyte, this is General Zal,” he said into the commlink. “How are the droids coming along?”
“We’ve almost got them defeated. Only about fifty remain, while we’ve barely taken any losses.”
“Very good, leave fifty men behind to fight them, and bring the rest of the troops here to the Sith battle. We need you more than they do.”
“Yes, sir. Out.”
Devron switched his comm to Lieutenant Snead, who was placed in charge of the one hundred troops and ten Jedi remaining at the Palace. “We need your help on the front lines. Leave one Jedi and ten troopers in case of an emergency, and bring the others here to help against the Sith.”
“Yes, sir.” The voice faded out.
In a period of twenty minutes, all of the one hundred and forty troops and nine Jedi arrived to help with the battle, giving the Royal Forces a definite advantage. The battle would take a while to resolve, but with those added forces and no more enemy reinforcements, the outcome was never really in doubt at all.
It took the better part of the day, but finally, the Sith were mostly taken out and the Sith ships were chased away by the Star Destroyers, fleeing into hyperspace. By the time the fighting slowed to an easier pace, the losses were heavy, leaving only one hundred and forty seven troops alive and combat-ready out of the seven hundred who once were, and the force of fifty Jedi taken down to twenty-one combat-ready Jedi.
Morale was high as the troops were assured of their victory being close at hand.
Nobody had been told of the secret appearance of Darth Blade on the surface of Domus Prime. Nobody knew that the Sith ships lurked behind the sensor shadow of one of the planet’s moons, waiting for another chance to strike.
“Riddler!” As he cried out, Jester’s face regained some of its normal colour, and his eyes suddenly focussed on the Riddler’s.
“What is it Jester?”
“The Queen has contacted me! She said that Blade has another Sith with him, she believes him to be his apprentice!”
“An apprentice?” The Riddler looked even more wary of the fight to come. “I can not sense him. He is being shielded from us somehow.”
“What does this mean?” Jester himself felt suddenly worried.
“I don’t know. But Blade is mine, you will fight the apprentice.”
“Yes, Master”, Jester answered obediently. A surprise look came over the Riddler’s face as he realised that he has been called Master.
“Our forces have withdrawn on schedule. They should return shortly after I give them the signal.”
“Just as you have planned Master Blade.” His apprentice smiled bleakly as they walked towards the Palace, each seeking out the enemies that they would fight this evening.
They stopped walking as the Palace came into view.
“Hold here!”, Blade said enthusiastically, “We will rest for a moment.” The Sith Master turned on his communicator. “It is time to return; organise the drop ships to come in close to the palace, behind their lines!”
In space, hidden behind the third moon of Domus Prime, the Sith vessels sound their battle alarms and look over the invasion plans one more time, before starting towards the planet, this time, to finish the job.
“Catherine, send the handmaidens to a safe location. Then join me on the bridge.”
Nodding, Catherine obeyed the Queen. When this was done, she walked calmly up to the bridge from where she could survey the battlefields. “They are safe, Your Majesty”, she said, and several of the soldiers around her snickered loudly.
“That is good”, the Queen said. She paused a moment before commanding, “Open a comm channel to General Zal.”
She was answered by a bright voice. “General Zal at your service, your Queenliness.”
There was a pause as the Queen formulated her answer. “General, from up here it seems as though our enemies may have fled.” Looking up at one of the screens, Catherine had a vague feeling that something was still terribly wrong.
The General agreed loudly with the Queen. “Yes, Your Majesty, we have lost many good men, but we do seem to have won the day.”
“I am sorry to hear of that loss General, but right now you must return to the palace, the Grand Admiral-” The communication link ended abruptly with a burst of static, as the ship was hit by weapon’s fire. “Captain! What is going on?”
“The Sith vessels are returning, Your Majesty, this time with reinforcements.”
The Queen looked stunned, and she could not think of what to say. Catherine stepped forward crying, “All hands to battle stations! The Sith must not be allowed to reach the surface once more!”
A number of soldiers shouted “Yes, my Queen”, without thought as alarms started to sound and the Super-Star Destroyer Apocalypse prepared to face the renewed threat.
“General Zal at your service, my Queen.”
“General, it seems as though our enemies have fled.”
“Yes Your Majesty, we lost many good men, but….”
“I am sorry to hear of the loss General, but right now you must return to the palace, the Grand Admiral-” As the Queen spoke those words, the commlink erupted in a burst of static causing Devron to drop it in surprise. Picking it up, he tried for a few minutes to find an un-jammed communications channel. Finding none, he muttered something in disgust and threw the useless comm at one of the many bodies littering the field. Thinking fast, he made a decision. “Lieutenant Carrier!”
Carrier walks over to him, snapping off a precise military salute. “Yes, sir?”
“Load the troops onto Sentinels and lift off. Communications are jammed, so I want you in the Palace to receive orders directly. In case of a quick deployment, do not leave the hangar bay. I’ll be there with you for a short period of time, in case orders get through. Otherwise, I’m going to…” Devron trailed off. “Either send a messenger up or go up myself to the Apocalypse to see what the Queen wants.”
He stopped to think again, unsure, as the Sentinels lifted off with everyone inside and headed for home. Devron strapped himself in and continues to think. “She said to return to the palace, because the Grand Admiral is… and she was cut off.”
Devron sighed, regretting having to choose between the lesser of two evils. “I’ll go up there myself in a few minutes after we reach the hangar bay. Hopefully it’s the right choice. In the meantime, do not leave the hangar bay. I want our remaining troops ready for a one-minute deployment.”
Lieutenant Carrier nodded in understanding.
The Queen and Catherine stood together on the bridge of the Riddler’s Super-Star Destroyer, the Apocalypse. Both were worried, for despite the ship’s firepower, it manoeuvrability was limited, and their meagre forces were greatly outnumbered.
A chill passed down Catherine’s spine, and she turned around apprehensively. Standing behind her, looking very imposing and at peace, was the long dead ghost of a Jedi Master.
“Oh”, she muttered, “It’s you again.” He beckoned to her, and she nodded.
The Queen turned around, not seeing what her handmaiden did. “What is going on?” she asked.
“I must speak with someone. Hopefully, we will soon have a plan for dealing with this awful mess. I will return in a moment.”
“I hope that you do.” The Queen turned back to the viewscreen, her face confused as she tried to understand what was going on.
Catherine followed the ghost down several corridors, past a few soldiers on the way to their attack stations, and finally into a darkened area that she supposed was near enough to the Apocalypse’s reactor core.
“Have you come to offer me some advice?” she asked, hoping that he would give some response.
“I must give you a warning. Your friends down on the planet’s surface face not one, but two, Sith in their current battle. A Master, and an Apprentice.” His voice was slow and stately, and in her rush and worry Catherine felt an almost overwhelming desire to throw something at him.
“I know this already.” The Jedi looked slightly shocked at this, but Catherine pushed on. “Indeed, I wonder if they can survive such a fight. The Jester is still new to his powers, and in his haste to learn the ways of the force I fear that the Dark Side may corrupt him. And the Riddler is still not fully recovered from Darth Blade’s attack on his mind.”
“And you are still worried about the people on the planet’s surface.” He finished.
She dropped her head in a submissive fashion that would have startled those who knew her best. “I fear that a lot of people will die as a part of a war that does not concern them. Darth Blade is ruthless, and he will stop at nothing until he controls all that is Star Wars.”
“You hold the key to putting a stop to the fighting.”
She looked up in alarm. “If you refer to the detonators on the city’s reactor, I will not use them. I will not sacrifice the lives of everyone for the sake of killing one Sith Master.”
“Even if it means that he will kill them?”
“I do not know anymore. Once, my path was clear to me, but now I do not know which path to choose. Please, tell me, how can I stop the fighting without anyone else getting hurt?”
“I cannot tell you that.” The Jedi smiled slightly, a strange sight in the dimness of the reactor core. “Even in death, the Jedi are bound by some rules.”
“Oh great”, Catherine muttered, “I finally get someone who’s willing to give me advice, but he only does so according to his rules.”
Aloud she spoke politely, and with the calmness that was her trademark. “So, what can you tell me?”
“Only that you hold the key to stopping the fighting.”
“But you said that already!” she exclaimed in dismay.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty” he sighed, irony dripping from his voice, “But I am an old Jedi, and it has been a long time since I was asked to give anyone advice. Now, since I have done my duty, I’ll be leaving.” And before she could thank him, not that she particularly wanted to, he was gone.
“I hold the key”, she murmured to herself as she walked back to the bridge.
The Queen noticed her return immediately. “Thank the Force that you’re back” she exclaimed, “We have lost fighters all over the place, and we can’t seem to get any of them back.” She gestured to the viewscreen. Several of the commanding officers looked up in alarm at the Queen’s outburst, and so Catherine reached an arm up and gently touched the Queen’s shoulder.
“You must calm down,” Catherine spoke softly, so that only the Queen should hear her, “now, we have not lost that many troops. It only appears that way because there is a lot of wreckage out there. You must issue some commands. Do you see that no one ship out there is leading their attack?” The Queen nodded, “I suspect that they have some kind of command ship hidden behind the second moon. Instruct the Captain to send some fighters over to investigate. You will be alright.”
“I don’t think I can cope with this for very much longer.”
“Hopefully, you will not have to. I am returning to the surface. It is my task to be there when they face Darth Blade. As long as I am his target, along with the Riddler and Jester, there can be no peace for any of us.”
“Please don’t leave me”, the Queen looked her handmaiden in the eyes, begging her to reconsider, but there was no change in their icy blue.
“I must. Do not fear. You and the handmaidens will be well protected here. You have my word on it, and you know I never break a promise.” With a small smile, Catherine left the bridge, hiding the fear in her heart from those she passed.
As she boarded the small shuttle, and piloted it from the Apocalypse, Catherine found herself wishing for reassurance that she had chosen the right path to follow, and that she had not made a very large and costly mistake.
As they neared the Palace, Devron went up to the cockpit on a whim, just to see if the jamming hurt the sensors as well. It did, but maybe not as badly. The jamming was present in static, but every once in a while, he could see through the static. And what he saw was…
He waited for a chance to confirm it, not liking what he thought he saw. The chance came.
“Festering tanks of cloned, deformed kludge!” Devron muttered to himself, inventing a new curse on the spot. “Perform an emergency landing! Now!”
The pilot dropped his Sentinel to land hard on the concrete hangar bay floor. Surprised, the other pilots mimicked the move. Devron ran into each one, telling the pilots and troops the same thing.
“The Sith are back! We have to hold them off until our reinforcements arrive!” After he gave coordinates to each pilot, they all lifted off, and headed towards the battle zone.
Devron was left alone in the hangar bay, and he started toward the starfighter section to coordinate their attack.
Darth Blade stood before the section of the walls of Fuhenteki Na Shiro that he had previously scoped out. He began to wave his arms back and forth above his head with a deadly calm about him. The ground instantly began to tremble and the Palace wall in front of him exploded in a shower of metal and rock. His apprentice rushed forward, and after a moment so did Master Blade. Through the fire and the dead soldiers they passed, until two men finally confronted them.
Two men who were prepared to do anything to stop them.
Darth Blade and his cloaked apprentice stood before the Riddler and Jester in the ruins of a smouldering courtyard. This was the last challenge that the Sith invasion had to face, and Darth Blade knew this. That was why he would finish the job himself.
Chuckling, Darth Blade smiled at his former apprentice, making his name a sneer. “Riddler, have you come back for a rematch? I hope that you have healed since our last encounter.”
Riddler snarled angrily, his Dark Jedi robes making him seem almost as Sithly as his adversary. “When I’m done with you, they’ll have to tattoo feeding instructions on your forehead.”
“Oh, so savage! To think that you are my flesh and blood.” Darth Blade looked pleased at this comment, and the Riddler’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
A look of bewilderment crossed Jester’s face. He spoke as if he was afraid his words were out of place. “Master, when the Queen and I were in your memory portal, I saw a baby boy in your lifeline who was kidnapped by the Sith. His parents were murdered.”
Shocked, the Riddler stared at the Sith Master. “Is this true?” he whispered.
“Does it really matter?” Darth Blade smiled mockingly, and the Riddler suddenly felt anger flowing through him like never before.
“I’m going to rip your spine out I swear to God!”
As if seeing him for the first time, Darth Blade took a step towards Jester, who tried to mimic the Riddler’s confidence. “So, this is the Jester I have been hearing so much about. Not much to look at, are you?” Jester snorted with heartfelt contempt. “No matter. Jester, allow me to introduce my apprentice. He has been dying to meet you!”
With that, the cloaked figure beside Darth Blade drew back his hood, revealing his face for the first time. The Riddler felt a peculiar jolt as he looked at the Sith Apprentice, his eyes opening wide with shock.
It was Darth Ravage.
High above Domus Prime one board the Sith Capital Ship, The Stigmata, the Sith Lord, Darth Viper, a cunning Admiral who had years of experience, prepared to send down the real invasion force.
They were simply called the juggernaughts. Comprised mostly of dead victims who had been saved from past battles and cybernetic components added to the bodies where certain limbs were lacking. The juggernaughts were fighting cyborg pieces of meat, but with incredible strength and agility.
And there were literally thousands of them.
Darth Viper began loading the ships by instructing the Juggernaughts to march on board them and lock themselves into place. When each ship was locked up it began to move down towards Domus Prime.
Darth Ravage stepped forward smiling in an unnerving manner that reminded Jester of the Riddler, only more menacing. His dark eyes gleamed against the background of the late afternoon sky, emphasising the shadows around his face. Darth Ravage spoke in a voice that was too like the Riddler’s for comfort.
“Jester, it is an honour to meet someone whom I feel is worthy to be struck down by my blade. I have heard about your abilities and I am eager to put them to the test, before I put you down to rest.” He laughed menacingly.
Jester nervously activated the lightsaber he had appropriated from Darth Blade’s last battle with the Riddler. Smiling at the Jedi, Darth Ravage activated his own doubled-bladed weapon. A fiery red blade shot out of each end of the Sith lightsaber and he stood in the en guard position.
Taking the initiative, Jester lunged at Darth Ravage but his movement was not fast enough as Ravage flipped over Jester’s head. Landing nimbly the Sith kicked Jester in the back of his head. Drawing on his first training as an entertainer, Jester fell forward into a roll, bringing up his lightsaber as his stood. The two engaged in a fierce series of vicious cuts, slashes and blocks.
Despite being impressed with the way Jester was handling himself, the Riddler’s eyes did not leave his former Master. The Sith’s smile and mocking countenance amid the debris and smoke of his surroundings gave the Riddler the strength to vow this would be the last time he met with Darth Blade on any battlefield.
Darth Blade, one of the greatest Sith warriors in the history of their Order, pulled out from under his cloak a new lightsaber. From the length of its handle and the way Blade held it the Riddler realised that it had to be double bladed. Although the distinctive hum of the weapon could just heard against the sounds of the battle that raged elsewhere, no energy blade could be heard.
The Riddler looked in surprise at the stealth lightsaber. When he had left the Sith, the weapon had only been a concept, no one had held the technology to build it. And now Darth Blade had somehow come into possession of the technology. Somehow, the Riddler was not surprised.
With a slight inclination of his head, the Riddler ignited his lightsaber and a second duel began. Master and apprentice faced off for the last time, even as Jester and Ravage continued their own fight.
For many minutes they fought, and no observer could have said which side had the upper hand. As Jester was driven to the floor repeatedly by kicks and punches to the face and mid-section, the Riddler made Darth Blade take a number of steps back by fighting intensely with both sides of the Force.
The Riddler kept a thought on his apprentice though and sensing that Jester was in trouble he reached out with his mind to throw a huge piece of rubble at Darth Ravage, stopping the Sith from loosing a killer blow at Jester. The Sith apprentice was thrown backwards by the impact not having sensed the movement of the Dark Jedi. He was flattened against the far wall of the courtyard and slumped to the ground.
Darth Ravage lay unmoving for a few moments as he shook off the injury. He stood with a snarl, prepared to continue his fight with Jester. Taking the hint of the Riddler, Jester used his newly discovered mental powers to hurl things at the Sith Lord. Concentrating fiercely on what he was doing, Jester did not see the well-placed boot that nearly broke his nose as he tried to lift Darth Ravage into the air. But he quickly got back to his feet, and continued to use his lightsaber to defend himself using lightsaber techniques learned only that morning.
The Riddler and Darth Blade were well matched. Neither gave any ground as they punched, kicked and bit each other trying to gain some small advantage. The fight was wide-ranging, they moved all over the courtyard, the Riddler knowing the terrain better than the more experienced Sith Master. The course of their duel led them up the stairs on the edge of the courtyard to the balcony that overlooked it.
Without any warning Darth Blade executed a jumping kick that took the Riddler by surprise. The Dark Jedi lost his balance and his lightsaber clattered to the floor noisily in the sudden silence. The Riddler knelt on the floor with a look of defiance on his face.
Standing above the Riddler, Darth Blade stood triumphantly, dripping sweat and blood.
“I would have waited an eternity for this moment”, with a smile Darth Blade raised his lightsaber, “it’s over, Riddler!”
The Riddler looked up and met the eyes of once Master, the spark in his eyes suddenly turning angry. Using the last of his strength, the Riddler uttered one word.
“Never.” The Riddler gave an uppercut to Darth Blade even as he snatched up his lightsaber, in one move spinning as the blade ignited to take off Darth Blade’s head.
For a brief moment a surprised look crossed the Sith’s face as he still stared at the Riddler’s angry glare. Darth Blade’s body fell backwards from the balcony and smashed into the floor below.
Looking up, Darth Ravage saw his Master hurl to the ground already dead, and gave a cry of rage and sudden grief. He looked up at the Riddler who stood staring triumphantly down at him, taking his eyes off the Jedi for the briefest of seconds.
Jester knew what he had to do to take advantage of the Sith’s momentary distraction. He spun his lightsaber, cleaving off Ravage’s arm at the elbow. Biting back a scream, the Sith realised his defeat and ran from the Jedi. Heading towards the Sith Infiltrator that his Master had left parked some distance from the Palace, Darth Ravage leapt through the flames that covered the destruction of his arrival and disappeared.
Neither Jester nor the Riddler could find it in themselves to follow Darth Ravage. Jester was breathing hard as the Riddler joined him in the courtyard placing a hand on his shoulder.
The Riddler smiled at his old friend. “You have done remarkably well”, he said, “I am extremely proud of you, Padawan Jester.” For a brief moment, Jester rolled his eyes at the title, although he appreciated the Riddler’s use of it. “I will talk to the Jedi Council myself and suggest that they consider giving you proper training, so that under their authority you can become a full Jedi. I-“
A beeping from his commlink interrupted the Riddler, suddenly reminding them both of the battle that was taking place outside the city. Retrieving his commlink from his belt, the Riddler was greeted by a burst of static.
Considering the jamming of the communications systems that was taking place, many of the words of the message that followed were lost to static and interference. But the meaning of General Zal’s short cry for help was obvious.
“Grand Admiral! We have under heavy fire here, with a huge loss of life. At this moment we have considering surrender.”
“Give me your position, General.” The Riddler’s eyes seemed to light up at the thought of joining his troops for the first time since this invasion started.
“Ten kilometres due east.” Panic seemed clear in the General’s voice. The Riddler moved to counteract it.
“Reinforcements are on their way. Out.” Turning off the commlink, the Riddler turned to Jester, who was staring out of the courtyard as though looking to see the battle in greater detail than just the smoke that was visible on the horizon and the flames around the walls of the Palace here.
“They need our help. I don’t think the Royal Forces will be able to survive much longer without us.”
“I agree, Grand Admiral.”
They ran towards the hangar bay where the Riddler and Jester borrowed two speeder bikes that they found there. Following General Zal’s direction, they took off and headed towards the smudge of smoke on the horizon.
General Zal had never in all his years of battle ever encountered an enemy of such brute strength and unwillingness to feel pain. He ordered his men to attack these zombie creatures and some were struck down successfully but most just kept advancing, sending the Royal Forces back towards the palace. It seemed hopeless at one point. That was until the zombie men stopped and retreated back towards their massive ship.
They carried disintegrator rays and Sith crossbows. The Royal Forces had taken a huge blow.
Devron Zal ordered his men to rest for a moment as the enemy seemed to retreat, making sure that they were still prepared for another attack. The combined ground forces of Domus Prime lined themselves up opposite against the zombie creatures and prepared to make a charge.
Someone announced to him the two speeder bikes that were approaching the rear, and raising his electrobinoculars Devron saw that it was the Grand Admiral Riddler and Jester, who did not seem to have any military rank, but was dressed in the garb of a Jedi. General Zal gave the order that they would be allowed to pass without question.
The Grand Admiral whispered something to Jester who nodded and marched towards the front of the Royal Forces.
There was a flash of light in the sky above them, as what seemed to be a small shuttle with only the barest of weaponry slipped past the many shots that were being fired at it by the enemy ships. The pilot had to be insane to attempt such a manoeuvre, but just as all seemed lost the remaining Y-wings came in quickly, laying down covering fire. Behind the lines of the Royal Forces the shuttle landed and all were amazed to see one of the Queen’s handmaidens walk from it.
Many stepped aside to let Catherine move quickly to the front lines where she walked directly up to the Riddler who did not give any sign of welcoming her presence there. After a moment she left the Grand Admiral to stand next to Jester.
Morale amongst the Royal Forces had hit an all-time low, and most of the soldiers still alive on the battlefield seemed certain that they would not live out the next charge of the enemy, let alone the day.
“How many have we lost, General?” The Grand Admiral’s voice was harsh, as though he blamed Devron for the loss of every man who had died fighting the Sith here on Domus Prime.
“Too many”, Devron replied cynically, “Give or take a few hundred. What exactly are those things?”
“They are called juggernaughts, and they are unstoppable Sith drones. What good you have managed to do against them has already been countered, because they’ve probably already adapted to become immune to the standard blasters of the Royal Forces. They have some fancy shielding that allows them to become pretty much invincible against all conventional weapons. The only thing that will work now are our lightsabers.”
“There aren’t enough of us with those. We only have a few Jedi left.”
“They will have to do. The rest of the Royal Forces can lay down cover fire for the rest of us to cause a distraction as we charge the enemy.” As the Riddler said this, Devron realised just how desperate their cause now was.
“Will you lead the charge?” There was an unusual tone to the General’s voice.
“Only if you take up a lightsaber and lead alongside me.”
General Zal retrieved a lightsaber from under his coat. Seeing the confused look on his commanding officer’s face, he smiled. “I was just saving it for a rainy day.”
The Riddler nodded to him, and moved to stand in front of the troops, making sure that his commlink was activated so that every soldier heard his words. “I am the Grand Admiral Riddler, Supreme Commander of the Royal Forces of Domus Prime. I have been informed of your many valiant efforts to rid our world this day of tyranny and oppression and I am more than proud of you all.”
Catherine smiled at the Riddler’s words, and for a brief moment wished that it was her addressing the troops that had sworn their lives for her and had fought so bravely to protect their homes. He went on and she found herself straining to hear every word.
“We have one more battle left to win this day, against a most unusual enemy. They cannot be shot, but they can shoot you. The only way to defeat them is to strike them down. But I have confidence in you all. Now, let’s get rid of this enemy so that we can go back to enjoying the peaceful world we lived in a short time ago. We are the Royal Forces of Domus Prime and we will win the day!”
From around the trenches a cry went up as the soldiers realised that it might just be possible to defeat their enemies.
The Riddler ignited his lightsaber and looked at the friends gathered around him. He turned to face the enemy and let out a fearsome battle cry. Those standing closest to him followed his actions, brandishing their weapons high.
Together as one unit, the Royal Forces of Domus Prime charged the battlefield at a run.
As Devron Zal charged alongside the Grand Admiral into battle, the Riddler wielding his personal lightsaber and Devron brandishing the double bladed weapon of Darth Ares, the General grinned ferociously. Devron was suddenly glad of his instinct to take his B-wing, not to the Apocalypse as he had originally planned but to the battle front instead. He was also happy that the Queen had managed to send down some more reinforcements. But those thoughts were pushed aside in his mind as he reached the point where he had to fight.
Devron was in his own fashion a form of berserker, whose raw instincts worked side-by-side with his melee fighting ability and a healthy portion of anger and rage to create first and foremost a desire to kill, to hack apart into pieces. This fury Devron took out on the zombie-like juggernaughts, spinning his double blades to cut through any and all resistance to the Queen and her handmaiden Catherine.
One of the juggernaughts came up behind him and laid a crushing hand on his shoulder, about to reach for his head to crush it. Devron dove for the ground, twisting halfway so he landed on his back, in the process bringing both blades to bear on the thing so that three pieces fell with him. With a satisfied smile, Devron rolled to the side and lunged forward and up to slice one man from bottom to top as Devron stood.
Devron let out a roar and charged into a mass of the zombies, deactivating one of the lightsaber blades and using the other like a bat. He needed to hack, to cut and slice and utterly butcher in a purely random pattern, letting the others behind him take care of what he did not.
One of the zombie men got his DL-44 blaster to bear on Devron and snapped off a trio of shots as the General cut his way through the crowd. Two of the bolts missed, but the third struck him his right shoulder. Devron, having given up his body to his berserker instincts, turned towards the shooter. With a snarl of rage, he leapt toward the zombie, activating both blades to hack through the man. Deactivating one blade again, he arranged the handle of the lightsaber in his hands bat-fashion and started beating the dead thing with it, slicing through the lifeless corpse in hate again and again, unrelenting.
The Grand Admiral paused in the battle to watch his newly elected General. To his surprise, General Zal seemed to be giving himself over to the Dark Side of the Force completely, doing battle in a way that would match some of the Sith-in-training, but without the finesse. Strangely though, the Riddler could sense no Force abilities in General Zal. ‘What was going on?’ he wondered. The questioning part of his mind remembered the tales of the berserkers that existed before, but were basically gone now. Could Devron be part berserker, in such a manner to give himself over to hate to enhance his fighting capability? The Grand Admiral made a mental note to ask after this battle.
Meanwhile, oblivious to his scrutiny, Devron launched himself into the midst of the zombie things again, showing no concern for his well being or safety. Another zombie thing lands a shot into Devron, this one in his previous lightsaber cut. Devron, in his trance-like state, felt no pain, but realises the existence of it and butchered the hostile attacker into four pieces. Spinning his lightsaber, Devron cut through the zombies as before, knowing only one method of battle.
K gasped at the horrors he was witnessing. The sheer magnitude of the death and destruction that was taking place was of a kind he had never seen or dreamed possible.
He had watched the cool precision and efficiency with which the Jedi had duelled and had been amazed at the manner in which they had fought.
Now, as the battle turned larger in scale, the two sides came together in a frenzy of twirling lightsabers and laser fire. The one that they called Devron Zal was carving paths in the enemy as he fought with a ferocity of one consumed by only half of Ettall Makt. This was an odd thing for one without the gift. It seemed that a new man deserved attention and a new page needed to be started.
Catherine ignited her lightsaber, and followed the charge of her friends, conscious of the fact that they did not really want her to be with them, believing her to be an object to be protected, rather than one who could take care of herself. But that did not matter to her, all that mattered was the fact that finally she was making a difference.
It had been many months since Catherine had last donned her Jedi robes, and in that time she had felt stifled by her new robes, the ones of office. Now that she was fighting as herself again, she was relieved by the fact that she no longer had to pretend to be someone she was not, she simply got to be herself. The almost-navy single blade of her lightsaber had a calming affect on her mind, and she found herself pressing forward with renewed ferocity.
Catherine blocked a number of blaster shots with her lightsaber, instinctively reflecting them back in the direction from whence they came, when suddenly she tripped over one of the many corpses that littered the battlefield and fell. As she lost her balance, one lucky shot got through her guard and grazed her cheek, and she knew that she was fortunate it had not caused any real damage.
Whilst waiting for a still moment to get back on her feet, Catherine reached up a hand to feel the long cut, and the thin trail of blood that was beginning to mark it.
“That’s going to scar”, she muttered under her breath. “So much for being able to move around without anyone recognising me. And how am I going to explain this to the others?”
But before she could get any further in her musings, Catherine leapt to her feet, calling her weapon back to her hand with a thought. Grimly ignoring the now throbbing pain on her face, she pressed on, stopping every few moments to send out a questing thought and check on her friends, glad that none of them had been hurt.
A wave of premonition swept over her, and though Catherine could not place its meaning, she knew that she still had an important role to play in the saving of her home.
“Devron Zal”, the sound of the Jedi Master Ami-Kin Kenobi calling his name broke through the spell of berserker-rage that had engulfed him. He brought his lightsaber up to slice through another of the zombies, listening to her words. “What exactly is the Riddler? He seemed like a Sith for a while, but now I’m quite confused.”
With a grunt the General answered her. “He is, I do not know the word, but they say he is one who has been trained as both a Jedi and a Sith. He can use both sides of the Force without either dominating him, and so he is a powerful man. That is why he is the Grand Admiral, and the Queen trusts his judgement completely.”
Although Ami-Kin was a little unnerved by the fact that the one leading the battle had once been a Sith, she nodded her head in acceptance, and the two began to carve their way in unison through the lines of the enemy.
Jester ignited his saber, uneasy because of what had happened. He was not used to witnessing so much blood, so much death. He thought he had left it behind so many years ago when he and The Riddler fought side by side, only back then they were soldiers, not friends, and certainly not Jedi.
He took cover behind a fallen tank, not because of the attack, but because he had become sick at the sight of battle. Jester fell silent and calm, and he only heard the Riddler’s thoughts, focused on battle. But then another voice broke through, “Jester, you must fight, join us!”
“Catherine?” His head moved to view the battlefield as if searching for her face so that she could comfort him, “I can’t… I can’t face another war!”
“Jester, this time, you have the Force to guide and protect you. Use it, it is your strength. I can sense it in you.”
He arose knowing that what she said was true. He looked once more at the battlefield, but this time, it was different. He saw only friend and foe, fighting for their respective causes. He did not see the river of blood rising at his feet and he did not see the hate in his enemies’ eyes. He only saw the movement and falling of bodies. Jester stepped out onto the battlefield, knowing that it was time to face his fears.
He began walking to an enemy, a juggernaught. He was spotted and the creature raised his gun and fired at Jester. He calmly activated his blade, never stopping, always moving, the shot was reflected back to the monster, its weapon was knocked out of its hand and it stood there as Jester walked up to it and ran his blade through the heart of the creature. It stood there for a moment, looking at the blade and then at Jester. It began to glow a dim red, as its cybernetic systems began to melt away. Its skin burst into flames and its metallic parts were like its blood, one and the same, running down its body.
The Jester retracted his lightsaber and used the Force to throw this juggernaut into a small group of four Sith fighting against three Jedi. The Sith were caught off guard by this sudden assault and several caught on fire from the tremendous heat of the flying fire bomb. The Jedi glanced at Jester for a moment then they ran off to find another opponent. Jester felt nothing, no hate, no lust for battle, he only thought of Harold, his rubber chicken. He knew that Harold would be jealous of his new lightsaber.
Jester pressed on, looking for another victim, looking for another way to end the threat to his home.
The Riddler charged into battle and let the Dark Side go to work. He gritted his teeth and swung his lightsaber into what seemed to be a long line of juggernaughts. They fell apart as they hit the ground and he moved quickly to deflect many bolts of laser fire into his enemy.
The battle was more than intense but one huge problem soon became clear to the Grand Admiral. For every juggernaught they cut down, two came back in its place, he did not know how or why this happened but the fact that it was happening was clear to him.
The juggernaughts brought out their disintegrator rifles and began unloading their weapons into the warriors that faced them. Many were instantly vaporised from existence. Jester let his lightsaber cleave through many zombie warriors and Catherine, the Queen’s heroic handmaiden, was clearly one of the best fighters, as she sliced and mauled all that stood in her path. Looking at the young Jedi, the Riddler was truly impressed.
The voice of General Zal came over the commlink, clear for the first time since the battle had started. “Grand Admiral, we are fast becoming outnumbered. We must retreat back to the city and come up with a new plan. We are losing far too many men.”
As the Riddler let his lightsaber glide through the torso of a juggernaught he replied distinctly over the open channel the Royal Forces were using the relay orders. “All sectors, authorisation code 8567. Begin retreat. Retreat to fall back spot and front runners lay down a suppressive base line of fire to give cover to our main artillery men.”
The Royal Forces began to move to accommodate their new orders and the Riddler ran over Jester, ordering him personally to retreat along with Catherine, General Zal, and Ami-Kin. As they left the battlefield, someone had the thought that they should take Catherine’s shuttle.
On the shuttle back to the city, the Grand Admiral sat brooding on how bad the situation had become in only a matter of an hour. He had successfully led the Royal Forces to dispatch a good number of the Sith incarnates and they had simply multiplied in a manner he had never seen before. Lost in his thoughts and plans, the Riddler paid little attention to what was going on around him.
General Zal sat tending the large wound in his shoulder. Now that he was away from the battlefield he allowed himself a grimace of pain. As Devron looked up at Catherine, he saw what he thought were tears in blue eyes that were the same colour as the lightsaber he had seen her wielding earlier. The ribbon that had held the end of her braid tightly in place was gone and as she ran her hands along the length of her hair the braid slowly came unravelled.
“Are you crying?” Devron had asked his question lightly but he was not entirely surprised to see the handmaiden slightly emotional at what had happened back there. If he did not think of it as a sign of weakness the General would probably be a bit emotional himself.
She met his gaze his resentful eyes, wishing that he had not noticed her. Thinking about what was happening to her people all over the planet, Catherine found herself quickly losing what hope she had left. She found herself asking him bitterly, “We are all going to die, are we not?”
Looking up at the handmaiden, the Grand Admiral shook his head. “Not today we aren’t”, he said in such a determined fashion that Catherine almost found herself believing him. But the fire on her cheek belied what confidence she could have felt for any last stand they had yet to fight.
Sitting in the rear of the shuttle, Jester began to snore softly, exhausted after his own long personal battle.
It was a tired group of warriors that assembled in the War Room sometime later. The maps on the wall showed that three quarters of Domus Prime was now under control of the Sith, the city and the Palace being the two remaining strongholds under the Queen’s power. Devron Zal calculated the speed at which the juggernaughts were able to move, and even factoring in time for the destruction of the city it seemed as though they would arrive at the Palace walls within the space of two hours.
General Zal stood with his shoulders slouched as he looked over the holographic maps that told him what he already knew. Domus Prime was beaten. It had all come to nothing and now they would have to flee.
Catherine had left them for a time to change out of her bloodied Jedi robes. Rather than replacing the heavy clothing, she had decided instead to wear a white suit that clung to her thin form with comfortable black boots. She wore her lightsaber attached to her belt and carried in their holsters two blasters at the ready. She had taken the time to see to the graze on her cheek, and though Catherine’s hair was loose of its bindings it would not trouble her when she left for the battle.
The Grand Admiral had loosened his clothing since arriving back at the Palace, but he was still sweating as he rapidly typed at one of the many consoles around the room trying to find a simulation of a battle to come that would give Domus Prime the victory.
Still wearing the Jedi robes that the Riddler had given him, Jester watched the Grand Admiral in awe as he tried to dissect the Sith’s attack plan to launch another offensive.
Despite the hope of the others in the room, General Zal knew better. As he started over to the Grand Admiral, Commander Ami-Kin placed a hand on his arm. “What are you going to do?” The Jedi Master shook her head, knowing Devron’s intentions. “He is in command, and what he says goes!”
Devron gestured to the Riddler’s latest simulation, in which the last remaining members of the Royal Forces gave up their lives to defeat the Sith. “I will not let our men be slaughtered like lambs.”
Brushing off the Jedi Master’s compulsion to stay put, the General walked over to the Grand Admiral who did not look up from his console. Even as he typed, the Riddler spoke in a calm voice. “Is something wrong, General? I am too weary to read your mind right now.”
The General took a deep breath before speaking. “Grand Admiral, I feel that we must evacuate what is left of Domus Prime and begin preparations for our last action.”
The sound of the Riddler’s fingers on the keyboard stopped, but he did not look up from the console. “What?” he asked incredulously.
There was suddenly silence in the room, and all looked at the General in startled horror. “We must destroy Domus Prime like you suggested.”
The Riddler looked at him with sharp fixed eyes. “No!”
General Zal looked at Jester, who nodded and looked to the Riddler. He said gently, “Master, if we destroy the planet, we destroy the Sith.” Jester paused, looking uncertain as he proposed that they obliterate the only home Jester had ever known. “This was your idea from the start.”
“We have lost Domus Prime, Grand Admiral”, the General concurred, “we must do this.”
But the Riddler thought otherwise. “We have not lost this planet, and we are not going to lose this planet. Not to the Sith and not while I am in command.”
General Zal could not believe his ears, earlier the Grand Admiral had been the only one to support this course of action and now he was the only one who refused to see it implemented. “Sir, I must object to your course of action!”
The Riddler stood up with militaristic precision, and looked at the General politely. “Your objection is noted, General.”
Devron would not be silenced and he stood up to the Grand Admiral. “I think that you are allowing your personal experience with the Sith to influence your judgement!”
Spinning away from the, General the Grand Admiral marched to another control panel and hit it hard with his fist fully clenched. He came away with a bloody cut on his hand.
Jester had never seen the Riddler like this. To Jester’s eyes he seemed obsessed and bent on vengeance as he angrily brought his fist down on the control panel. Silently Jester expected the General to continue his argument with the leader of the Royal Forces of Domus Prime, but instead another moved in.
Jester watched in fascination as the Queen’s handmaiden, Catherine, walked up to the Riddler, taking his hand in her own. She made him meet her gaze as she looked into his own bloodshot eyes, and Jester was so intent on watching their faces that he did not see the blue healing energy that passed into the Riddler’s hand.
“We have no choice”, her voice was heavy with grief and some other emotion that Jester could not place, “There is no other way for us to win. I saw it too, you know. The juggernaughts multiplied.”
“I will not sacrifice this planet!”
Not certain why she was not taking his side, Catherine unleashed her fury upon the Riddler. “You are being unreasonable. Think of the Queen, think of me, think of us! Staying here and fighting the Sith is suicide!” She knew that no matter what he decided, she would stand with him until the end, but a part of her did not want to die, even as the rest cried out at the thought of destroying the only home she had left. She had to argue with him, though it broke her heart to do so.
The Riddler turned around so that he was facing her completely and spoke quietly despite her screaming. “This act would go against everything I stand for. There are other ways to beat them; I was one of them, I know how to fight them.”
“You are bent on revenge!”
“This is not about revenge!” Looking at Catherine, the Riddler found it hard to deny her accusations. He did not know why she was so vehement now when she had been so fierce earlier when he had first proposed this plan.
He went on as if she had not interrupted him. “This is about saving the future of our humanity!”
“Riddler, blow up the goddamn planet!”
A control panel on the far wall of the War Room exploded, showering the group with sparks.
Catherine’s eyes did not leave the Riddler’s as he clenched his fist and said, “I will not sacrifice this planet. We have made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade one planet, and we fall back. They devastate entire worlds, and we fall back. They will not again, for the line must be drawn here, this far and no farther! I will make them pay for what they have done!” He ended in a scream of anger that frightened Catherine more than the Sith and juggernaughts she had already fought that day.
The handmaiden backed away slowly from the monster that stood before her. She had never seen the Grand Admiral like that before. He was a man who had never known defeat, and now it seemed as though he was having difficulty accepting what had transpired here. Normally he was a man who would fight at all costs.
Seeing the fear on Catherine’s face, the Riddler turned away from her and whispered to himself, “Once with the Dark Side, always with the Dark Side.”
“What?” She looked back at him in concern.
“A long time ago, when the Jedi Knight who found me on Coruscant brought me to see the Council, I was forced to wait outside the Council Room and I overheard what Master Yoda said about me. He said that once a person had been exposed to the Dark Side, he was saturated by it and that was why they had me placed in the Order of the Dark Jedi Knights. I guess I never understood what he had meant until now.”
Catherine put an arm around him for a moment. “Even the Dark Jedi have their faults.”
The Riddler nodded to her and began to walk to the exit. He stopped just before he left and said without turning back, “General Zal, begin programming the detonation sequence. Inform me when you are done.”
He left the room and those that had witnessed what had happened were stunned. Catherine closed her eyes and prayed for forgiveness.
A defeated Grand Admiral retreated to his quarters, away from the War Room. He lay down upon his bed and thought back to the events that had taken place barely five minutes ago. He had been hit by a harsh reality; he was beaten.
What had he wanted to do if they stayed? Have the Jester entertain the Sith juggernaughts with his juggling lightsabers?
His failure hurt him more than he cared to think about.
The Riddler stared out his window and saw smoke on the horizon. The zombie-like things would be there soon. If he ordered his men to stay here it would be a bloodbath when the juggernaughts arrived at the city.
Suddenly the answer came to the Riddler. He dashed out of his rooms and ran back into the War Room, where General Zal was explaining to Catherine the final instructions for how to activate the detonators. Both were deep in concentration, but somehow knew the moment he arrived back in the War Room.
Seeing the look on the Riddler’s face, General Zal asked, “Grand Admiral, have you thought of something?”
For a moment the Riddler paused, gathering his thoughts. “I don’t know. When I was still a Sith, I heard Darth Karnage, who invented the juggernaught prototype, talking about a duplicator. The device was worked in a manner that was sort of like cloning, only a quicker process.”
Jester and Catherine both looked up at this. She spoke. “I do not understand, I thought that the juggernaughts we faced had cybernetic components?”
The Riddler nodded. “True. But like all life forms they cannot survive without some organic flesh. The juggernaughts may have a computer processor for a brain, but this is something that we can use to our advantage.”
Jester’s eyes lit up and became fully alert. “How?”
“The shuttle that brought them to Domus Prime would act as a spinal cord between the juggernaughts and the ships up above. Sever the spinal cord…” He left the expression in the air as General Zal clapped his hands in anticipation.
“And we sever the connection to the brain!”
“Yes. The ship would have all the components to make a juggernaught in about twenty seconds. Flesh would be cloned and grown rapidly, placed over a titanium-based endoskeleton. The computer would be given a list of orders, operations, directives and objectives, then the completed juggernaught would be handed weapons and armour and sent out into the world to complete its tasks.”
“Therefore we must find and destroy that ship, which could be a problem since none of us saw it. Stealth capabilities?”
“Possibly. Commander Ami-Kin”, the Riddler sounded more like himself with every order, “pull up the radar read outs from early this afternoon. We need to discover exactly when the juggernaughts first appeared on the grid.”
The Jedi Master began punching keys into a computer, scanning the entire planet in a matter of moments. “Got it. Grid nine, square AA23.” She pulled up the appropriate holographic maps.
The Riddler punched the table triumphantly. “That is where our ship is, but this is not a task for us.” He pushed a bright orange button on his commlink and within seconds for heavily armed men walked through the door. They marched in unison to the Grand Admiral and bowed to him. Taking note of the General, the soldiers bowed to him as well, never speaking.
It was the Riddler who spoke, answering the General’s questioning look. “General Zal, let me introduce you to my elite commando squadron. This is their leader, Commander Axe, former Jedi Knight. I fought alongside him at the Battle of Concord Dawn.”
The Axe stepped forward and shook the General’s hand warmly. The he stepped back and looked at the Riddler. “What are our orders, Grand Admiral Riddler?”
“I have a difficult, if not impossible, mission for you.”
“We don’t know the meaning of the word ‘impossible’, Grand Admiral!”
“Good”, the Grand Admiral smiled wryly, “You are to infiltrate a Sith juggernaught drop ship, located at approximately these coordinates. You must place proton detonators throughout and then get out of there alive. Got it?”
Four commandoes answered him enthusiastically. “We’ve got it, Sir!”
“See the armory on your way out to pick up everything you need. It’s been pretty much stripped bare but you should find the essentials remain.” They nodded. “There is one catch to this mission, however. We’ve placed nuclear warheads on the city reactor. If the juggernaughts make it to the city before you stop them, I will detonate the warheads. So if you fail, you won’t live long enough to see a court-martial. You have an hour and thirty minutes to complete your mission.”
“When did the clock start?” Commander Ace asked impudently.
“Ten seconds ago.”
The four soldiers saluted quickly and ran from the War Room. Axe paused for a moment and glanced at Catherine, who nodded to him. This exchange went unnoticed by the others who were all watching the Grand Admiral. The Riddler was clearly back in charge again as he went straight to the console, giving orders.
“General Zal, please set the timers on the charges to an hour and thirty minutes. Catherine, inform the Queen that the Apocalypse should set a course for Hoth if we are to blow Domus Prime the gravitational forces from the blast could disable the ship and send it adrift. We shall leave the planet ten minutes before the bombs explode and this should give us enough time to escape to hyperspace.”
“As you wish, Grand Admiral.” She nodded to him, and moved
“Jester, tell the forces to post heavy artillery by the walls and ensure that most of the ammunition is given to the soldiers on the front line. Ration the pulse rifles for the back men. We need to organise an escape route for our soldiers before the juggernaughts arrive.”
The Riddler continued to give out orders. Jester, impressed, sent a man to carry out the Grand Admiral’s orders and waited to hear what would happen next.
Commander Axe, one of the most seasoned veterans in the Royal Forces, was a survivor of the Alderaan disaster and now did covert operations for the Grand Admiral. He went about the armory, picking up mostly bombs, pulse rifles and other useful tools of death.
His men were doing the same. He loved war. Without it he would not be whole or even a man.
Few men could live like this. If Domus Prime were not engaged in war, he would ask the Grand Admiral’s permission to volunteer his services to another army that could use him.
It was by sheer luck that Commander Axe was on world when this invasion began. He was not pleased with the retreat of the forces form the field but now he understood why.
Commander Axe formulated a plan. They would take a shuttle out to the battle-field, pick up some whole juggernaught corpses, rip out the insides, such as the endoskeleton and other things, and then wear them as suits to gain successful access to the ship.
The explosives would be hard to conceal but he did not care. He had known worse conditions to work in.
He gathered up his old lightsaber, which he kept with him at all times as a last resort. He was a Jedi Knight but he had retired from the Order and did not want his past to be the only reason people trusted him.
He and his fellow commandoes boarded the shuttle ten minutes later and they flew out to the battlefield.
Devron let himself down into a chair to rest for a few moments before new orders arrived. As his adrenalin bled off, the pain from the lightsaber cuts and the blaster bolts started to become noticeable, hardly an ache at first, then becoming more and more prominent. Trying to ignore it, Devron glanced around the room.
His eyes fell on Catherine. As she turned around to speak to a subordinate, he noticed for the first time the presence of a blaster bolt graze on her cheek. Instantly his berserker abilities surge into being, the pain abruptly cut off as rage finds its way into his system. ‘If I wasn’t stuck here in this palace waiting for the Grand Admiral to give me orders, I swear I’d go out there to the zombie who did that and kill him with my bare hands’, he thought, baring his lips slightly to reveal the tips of his teeth.
As abruptly as the hate came, it left, leaving him knowing that the victory over the Sith will avenge that, in time. So, possessing that knowledge, he leant into his chair, letting the last moments of inaction prepare him for eventual action.
On board the Super-Star Destroyer, Apocalypse, Queen Sailor Coruscant was talking to Catherine, via-commlink, and the Queen was not happy about what she heard.
Catherine talked for a long time about the Riddler’s outburst.
“I have never seen him like that. I talked to some of the Jedi Knights down here and they said that Dark Jedi could not handle huge amounts of stress without breaking down. Their minds work overtime to balance the Force in their bodies and the extra stress, well, their bodies just cannot handle it. He exploded a huge console with his mind. There was definite Dark Side energy there. I must apologise, My Queen-“, here Catherine paused to gather her thoughts.
“Why?” The Queen showed an obvious look of confusion on her face.
“I helped him decide on destroying Domus Prime.”
“Have the charges been timed?”
“Yes. They are set to detonate in the next hour.”
There were too many people in the War Room, Catherine could not think in there. For the first time she realised that perhaps coming back to the planet’s surface was indeed a mistake.
Although it was dangerous to walk around the Palace unguarded, she left the room and tried to find a quiet place to contact the Queen.
It was in the Queen’s chambers that Catherine eventually found herself, and she looked around sorrowfully. Many of the small ornaments and decorations had been knocked to the floor by the blasts that had shaken Fuhenteki Na Shiro and in General the room was in disarray. She shook her head sadly. So many happy moments had taken place in these rooms, Catherine was sorry to know that she might never return to them.
She activated the commlink, and immediately, heard the Queen’s voice. “You’re all right?” she asked immediately on the private channel, and Catherine smiled in response.
“A few cuts and bruises, but nothing serious. Everyone down here is fine”, the handmaiden dutifully replied. Then Catherine realised that she had to continue with what she had intended to say.
“Your Majesty,” Catherine began, and she heard clearly the Queen’s gasp in response, “I must call you that, for you are now the Queen.” She sighed. “I fear that this battle may not turn out as we had hoped, and I felt I should warn you that should something happen you will be Queen. No one must ever know about the change, and I think you will do a fine job.”
“Do not speak like that. You must survive; I can’t cope on my own. I’m not the one who is supposed to be doing this, you are.” Tears began to fall down the Queen’s face. Catherine’s fingers lightly traced the path of the graze on her cheek and the pain made her remember her vow to stop the fighting, so that she could stop her friends from suffering.
“Very well”, Catherine said, determination showing in her voice where before there had been none, “Take the Apocalypse to safety. You must not be risked, for you are still our contingency plan. I will find a way to stop all of this, or I will get as far away from the planet as possible before it blows up. Perhaps the Grand Admiral and I can find a way to save us all. Either way, I will see you again once this is over, and then perhaps we can set things to rights.”
“Thank you”, the Queen breathed, and closed the commlink channel.
For a brief moment Catherine called the Crystal Staff to her hands, and was comforted by its cool touch on her skin. She reluctantly put it away, and, her head held high and her blue eyes glowing with a confidence that she did not feel, she returned to the War Room.
Walking into the War Room, Catherine gave it a quick scan and located the Riddler hunched over a computer terminal as he mapped out what was left of their defences. She walked over to him and gathered together the courage to speak.
“Grand Admiral, we must evacuate the city.”
He turned around, startled at the sound of her voice. “I wonder if you know what it is you ask”, he replied, but without any of the venom that had been there earlier.
She entered a few commands into his computer terminal, using a complicated access code that he was certain belonged to the Queen. A different map was displayed.
“There are a number of transports hidden below the city in case of emergency. They will be able to take a moderate portion of the population to safety. We can spare several of the pilots for this task, considering how many of our fighters we have already lost today. The people came to this planet freely; it is their home too. It would not be right if they are slaughtered over a dispute that they do not understand or are a part of. The Queen wishes it.”
The Riddler mulled it over for a few moments. “I’m not certain that this is a good idea, but if the Queen wishes it, then so be it. The General Zal has already proven his wisdom, and I do not think that he should return to the fighting because of his injuries. Tell him of your plan, and have him coordinate it. Remember, you have less than an hour.”
Catherine nodded and resisted an urge to embrace him in gratitude. She reactivated his previous map on the computer, and ran to tell the General of his new duties.
Devron was not impressed. “You are asking me to do the impossible”, he fumed.
“Listen”, Catherine stated with an air of command that did not allow him refusal, “I will activate the communications system that you will use to coordinate things.” As she spoke, she reminded him of the Queen, and it was obvious that she spoke with the Queen’s authority. “Put out a message that all who want refuge will have to come to the Council Hall near the centre of the city. The concealed entrance to the transport hangar is near there. Take several of the remaining Jedi, and some of the pilots, and get as many people of planet as you can before our time runs out. Be careful, I want you to be in one piece at the end of this.”
With a wave of her hand, she dismissed him, and he was on his feet and running before he realised that it was the handmaiden, not the Queen, that had been giving him his orders, and he marvelled at the girl’s strength of character before continuing on his way.
Catherine moved over to where Ami-Kin was resting. The Jedi Master had watched the last exchange with interest, and was looking at the girl with a strange expression on her face.
“Jedi Master”, Catherine began, nodding her head in respect, “I want you to go and watch over the General, and to make sure that he makes it off planet before the charges explode. Please, I know you wish to fight the Sith still, but this battle is out of our reach now.”
Ami-Kin nodded, and left the War Room. Catherine pulled a small commlink from one of the pockets of her robe and activated it. She began to give the orders for the evacuation of the city, and did not envy her friends the task of containing the panic that would soon break out in the city below.
General Zal ran off towards the concealed transport bay. As he did so, he looked at his watch, synchronised to the time of explosion. Little numbers counted down, showing just over an hour. Not much time. Doing some General math in his head, he decided that he needed to be on the last transport five minutes from zero hour. That left him fifty-five standard minutes to do his duty.
As Devron reached the bay, he gazed around to do a rough count. About one hundred and fifty ships of a strange make lay dormant in the great cave of a hangar bay. By the size, Devron estimates at least two hundred people in each. That combined with the fifty people that can get into each of the thirty Sentinel-class shuttles up above in the main hangar bay, made for twenty-one thousand, five hundred people that could be rescued. That was a far cry from the few million people that inhabited Domus Prime. Devron sighed in resignation as he made the announcement that Catherine assigned him, then slumped in a chair, putting his hand on his forehead. Taking a life of an enemy was so much different than watching helplessly, as someone else had to perish, who had never been in a war before.
In a matter of minutes the first of those wanting to be saved rushed into the hangar bay and ran into the transports. Devron decided on a whim to give his seat up to someone else and go up to sit in one of the less comfortable Sentinel-class shuttles which he had grown accustomed to. As he does, he looks down at his countdown watch. Fifty minutes left.
The Apocalypse took to hyperspace as the first of the transports left the planet under heavy fire from the Sith.
Standing at her favourite window in the throne room, Catherine looked out at the chaos below. She knew in her heart that the effort she had made to save the people of Domus Prime would be too little, too late. Despite her calm exterior, her heart was already mourning those innocents who would suffer the same fate as the Sith, and the various creatures of the planet as well. From the aquatic swamp morags to the ‘faeries’ that used to dart across the sky in their large numbers, all would soon be extinct, and none would ever value their beauty again.
Catherine’s heart was breaking, but she knew that she had made the right decision for the Galaxy, if not for her world. The breaking of her promise had not come easily to her. The Sith had to be stopped and if this was the only way to do so then so be it. Once they left here they would use what resources they had left to retake the many other systems that the Sith had enslaved, and maybe, one day, she could find another world that she could call her home.
She looked at her timepiece. “Fifty minutes to go”, Catherine murmured to no one in particular, and continued with her vigil.
Commander Axe finally made it onboard the “spine” of the evil Sith ship. His elite group, Biggs, John, and Gavin, were all still breathing and with him. They had encountered some mild resistance on the deserted battlefield from a few sentry droids, and had to split up. Fortunately, they each had special micro-2way earphones; he could hear them and vice-versa. The four of them had been through a lot and were like brothers to each other. He hoped that he could at least get them out before the thing blew.
While he loved to fight, Commander Axe also hated for innocents to die. His first son had been killed as part of “a show of force” back on Alderaan. He was away on a three-hour training mission, only two systems away at the time. The millions of voices crying out in pain would have been terrible enough, but to hear his own son, as well as many of his loved ones, die; that was the greatest pain imaginable. After that, Commander Axe had vowed to fight on the side of right. He had not always judged right and wrong by moral values, but rather on which was the greater evil. He gave up his Jedi heritage on that fateful day that Grand Moff Tarkin had “demonstrated” his new ultimate weapon on his life.
Now, these three friends were all the family he had. If anyone were to die this day, it would be Commander Axe!
K knew that coming to this planet was a bad idea. This division of the Ettall Makt was wrong but such an event should be seen from a perspective of one on the planet not light years away in safety. Still, he should have known that only bad things could happen when the two sides of the all-powerful are set against each other.
K entered the Palace knowing that perhaps the safest place to be was with the Queen. Not the one that everyone thought was the Queen but the true Queen, the one called Catherine. Having already having run through the Palace many times with his mind’s eye, K made his way easily to the throne room. Using the Ettall Makt it was an easy enough task to keep himself from being seen. He entered the throne room and saw Catherine sitting in the window. She was even more beautiful to his real eyes than the dreamlike state he had watched her and her friends in. Yet, she was a user of only half the Ettall Makt and one who should be used only because of need.
As he came in, no one in particular responded to her statement about the time.
“Greetings, Your Majesty,” K kneeled to her with his face down, smiling the smile of one who knew death could not catch him.
She spun around, and saw a man kneeling before her. She sensed a strange power surrounding him, and so when she spoke it was with respect, but also caution.
“In this time and place, I am known as Catherine”, she began, and he nodded, keeping his eyes downcast. “May I have the honour of knowing your name?”
He smiled, and her heart was set at ease. She knew that she could trust this friendly stranger, even though he knew her secret. He would tell no one.
“I am K.” The man spoke with a boldness that did not seem to fit with the chaos of the moment. “I believe you can help me get off world.”
“My Lord K, it would seem as if you are a wise man. Very well, come with me to the War Room, and I will see if we can find a place for you in our deployment.”
The Sith juggernaught ship sat motionless as Axe and the others crept inside under disguise of dead juggernaught skin. They crept into the main reactor room of the ship and it was there that they placed the many charges they had carried all this way. There were about twenty in all. Each had the potential to create a blast radius of eight miles.
Commander Axe was sure that they would be away in time. He flipped on his commlink. “Grand Admiral, this is Axe. Over.”
The commlink crackled to life in his hands. “Go, Commander.”
“The hot dogs are on the grill. Be prepared to turn off the detonators”
The Commander’s commlink exploded in his hand. He turned around and saw the charred remains of his corpsmen. Looking up he saw the hulking form of a juggernaught standing right over him. Commander Axe reached down and grabbed his lightsaber, activating it and brought it up in a slice, chopping the juggernaught in two. He looked around and saw two more heading straight for him. He flipped in a turn, sliced the first through the torso and took the other’s head clean off.
He was thrown to the ground as a well-placed juggernaught fist brought him crashing into a near wall, the impact causing him to lose his lightsaber. He frantically looked for it but instead he saw six more juggernaughts advance. He did the last thing he could think of; he reached down and grabbed the remote detonators. Just as he did so, he was picked up into the air by two juggernaughts.
They grabbed his legs and his arms and pulled. The last thing Axe remembered before he was pulled in two was pushing the detonator button and watching his world bloom into a white light.
The Grand Admiral tried to frantically reach the strike force but could not. When he felt the blast wave from the explosion hit the Palace, he knew that the mission had been successful. Yet, he saw juggernaughts advance over the city walls: they were not stopping. He looked at his chronometer in dismay. It read that in another fifteen minutes, the bombs would go off and the planet would erupt.
With a sinking heart, the Riddler gave the order he most dreaded. “All hands, prepare to evacuate. Get to the ship.”
Jester and the Riddler stayed behind and looked out of the window at the advancing enemy.
The remaining officers in the War Room ran for the ship. Catherine was running with them before she realised what had happened. After a moment Catherine sensed that something was wrong and turned to see this act of heroism, walking over to them.
“Grand Admiral, Jester”, she said, trying to keep the terror from her voice, “you must flee.”
The Grand Admiral faced her, and replied in a tone of civility that made Catherine want to hit him. “Go to your Queen”, he said. “There is nothing left for us but to join the Force.”
In an instant of hysteria, she wanted to lash out, to reveal everything, and command the two of them to escort her to the ship. But at the same time, she understood the sacrifice that they were making, and decided to do the same.
‘I am sorry, Tamira’, she thought, ‘I could not keep my promise to you’. A sense of overwhelming guilt flowed over her, and she knew that it was fitting that she would share the same fate as her people.
Catherine looked back up at the Riddler, prepared to tell him this, when she was interrupted by a cry from the Jester.
“Master! The juggernaughts have stopped!”
The Grand Admiral spun around to see that it was true. The juggernaughts lay upon the ground, motionless. His eyes opening wide, he realised that there was no way to remotely stop the detonators. He gave his last order for the battle. “My God, the bombs! Stop them!”
Handmaiden and Jedi sprinted down the stairs towards the reactor. They jumped mostly eight steps at a time, using the Force to steady their movements.
They reached the bottom of the long staircase with fifty-five seconds remaining. Catherine and Jester made a mad dash to the locked gate that led to the main reactor, Catherine swearing at the fact that she had locked it earlier that morning.
There were thirty seconds remaining.
“Is it locked?” Catherine nodded in response to Jester’s question. “Watch out.”
He gave Catherine a moment’s warning before focussing his anger on the gate and blowing it inwards. Taking Catherine’s hand he helped her over the rubble before they ran towards the detonators, applying the Force to speed their movements.
Jester and Catherine began to deactivate each of the devices. There seemed to be an almost infinite number of the things. After ten seconds twenty one were deactivated.
In her panic Catherine dropped an armed bomb. She screamed and grabbed it before it could hit the floor, deactivating it as she put it down gently.
Jester realised in sudden horror. “One more, on top of the reactor!”
Catherine focussed on the Force within her and used it to help her jump. She grabbed hold of a nearby bar and used her momentum to flip her onto the top of the reactor.
Catherine lost her footing and fell, but even as she did she reached out and caught hold of the bomb. As she slipped off the reactor and fell she tried to deactivate the final device.
The clock stopped with one tenth of a second remaining.
Catherine closed her eyes and waited for the silence.
When it did not come, she slowly opened her eyes once more and realised that the Jester was jumping up and down, screaming wildly that they had did it, and hugging her fiercely.
‘Done what?’ Catherine thought in a daze, looking around her in amazement at the world that was still around her.
Suddenly it all broke in on her. Everyone was saved, the battle was over, and she had finally made the right choice.
Jester gave her a small kiss on the cheek and said softly, “Good job.”
Catherine screamed excitedly, and as she walked back up the hundreds of steps to the Palace and the War Room, her smile was almost as wide as the bridge of a Star Destroyer.
The Riddler was the only person present in the War Room; everyone else had fled from the planet while they had the chance. The sun was setting and he was silhouetted against the window by the setting sun.
Sensing the return of Jester and Catherine, he turned around, smiling wildly. The three of them embraced, Catherine crying tears of joy.
The Sith had been defeated.
The invasion had been halted.
Domus Prime had been saved from total annihilation.
The Queen was pacing, wearing a track in the bridge of the Apocalypse. She refused the relaxant that one of the handmaidens offered her, preferring instead to wait for the countdown to end and the future to present itself.
Her heart was torn into shreds. If the last plan on the planet’s surface failed, then everyone would turn to her and she would not know what to tell them all. She was not destined to be Queen, and so tears fell down her face unchecked.
The timepiece stopped, and a silence fell over the bridge as everyone waited for something to break the silence.
Then a crackle of static and a short message announced to all that were listening that Domus Prime still existed, and that the battle had been won.
A great cheer spread around the room, and as several of the Ship’s Officers congratulated her on the strategy that had saved everyone, Tamira’s tears changed to those of happiness. The Apocalypse turned towards home.
Undetected by the rejoicing people of Domus Prime, a Sith Infiltrator left the planet. Darth Ravage, although severely wounded from his battle against Jester, plotted a course to an unlisted region of space where it was rumoured that the Sith were hiding.
Thinking back over what had happened, Darth Ravage swore that he would always remember the names Jester and Riddler, and vowed that he would one day have vengeance for the death of his Master.
The Grand Admiral went into his room to be alone. He thought about all the events that had transpired over the past few days. He had been more than impressed by his apprentice’s performance. He knew that this was the time to relinquish his role as Master and teacher. He would talk to the Jedi Council and force them to train Jester in the ways of the Light Side.
The Riddler wanted to live out the rest of his days as Grand Admiral to the Royal Forces under Queen Sailor Coruscant. He now gave a lot of respect to her head handmaiden, Catherine, a powerful woman who could do a Jedi’s work plus more.
The Riddler was more than impressed. He lay in bed staring at the setting sun.
Closing his eyes to the world the Riddler went to sleep and finally found himself a good dream.
Devron sank back into a familiar chair in the War Room, relieved immensely. The Palace Guards and Royal Forces could begin training new recruits again, and hopefully build up a respectable force before another attack.
Devron put his feet up on the holographics table in front of him and smiled. Maybe, just maybe, he could be awarded his own ship for use in the military. Yes, he was General of the Royal Army, but he could still use a Star Destroyer to ferry around his troops, could he not? And some squadrons of Y-wing support bombers and X-wing escorts, and his own little task force of AT-ATs and AT-STs.
He shook himself out of his reverie. No, what he did was not for personal gain. It was not for a Star Destroyer. It was to protect the Queen and everyone else.
Including her handmaiden.
He leant back, eyes already closed, letting himself slip into the weary sleep that he had neglected for over a day and a half.
Catherine managed to slip away from the celebrations early that night, seeking only a place where she could fall asleep in peace. Without thinking, she reached the Queen’s chambers and went in, her mind asleep before her head hit the pillow of the Queen’s bed.
As she slept without dreams, her body trying to catch up with her mind, the Palace celebrated long into the morning, enjoying the fact that in the morning, there would still be life.
Devron frowned at the appropriated double-bladed lightsaber in his hands, having woken up from his nap and moved to his private chambers. He had always known that he was a berserker, and was privately proud of the fact. Instinctively he grabbed an inscribing tool and carefully started to write on the hilt of the blade, “Berserker’s Wrath- I will defend.”
After that was done, Devron lay back on his bed and gazed without focus at the ceiling, absently turning one of the blades pointed toward the ceiling off and on at random intervals. He had a lot to think about, particularly now.
He remembered when he became infused with his ability upon seeing Catherine’s blaster bolt graze. Why? At first, he had thought it was simply because he was supposed to defend her, but with a start he realised something, that he might be falling in love with her.
Devron stopped flipping the lightsaber blade and considered this. He had thought he was done with those emotions after the rebellious military faction on the planet Tuebor had cut down his wife. His wife had just started a new job in the military as a Weapons Appropriator, her only job was to sit at a desk all day and handle the weapon forms – rationing weapons off to different units, ordering new ones, all those boring administrative details. The planet’s rebels had taken over that military base and brutally slaughtered all that were in it. Including her.
Devron shook his head, remembering, a tear winding its way down his cheek even after those ten-odd years. He had signed up for a commando unit after that incident, taking his pain out on anyone who stood in his way. That was the first time he had learned of his berserker ability, and he had been scared of it at first. Then he learned that it was not corrupting, it did not hurt him, and it helped his fighting abilities. Little by little, he learned to master it, to implement it and strike down those that had struck down his wife.
He was booted out of the military on charges of assaulting a commanding officer after he had spun around during battle and neatly sliced off one of his commanding officer’s legs, thinking that the hand laid upon his shoulder was one of hate, not of command. After he was thrown out, he bought a small shuttle and piloted it offworld. Scrolling through his navigational computer, he picked out a random planet and launched into hyperspace to that planet.
Which happened to be Domus Prime.
Devron shook his head again, not bothering to scroll through the rest of his memory banks. He decided to take another nap, to see if he could reason his emotions and thoughts out later, to sort them into their proper places.
Stretching out on the bed he started to fall asleep. His last conscious thought was gratitude that he would be able to sleep longer now that he was not propped up in a hard, uncomfortable chair.
The Jester couldn’t rest. He walked the battlefields, looking for survivors.
“Jester, come in, Jester.” His commlink was still active. The familiar voice seemed somewhat soothing to Jester’s jangled nerves.
“Come back to the palace, you need to rest.”
“No!” He had to stay; he had to keep looking.
“Listen to me! We have searched the battlefields already, there were no survivors.”
“I won’t believe it! There were so many men. There was so much destruction. There was too much confusion. There has to be somebody left!” Jester threw down his commlink and smashed it under his foot. He climbed atop one of the tanks and sat down, his eyes looking into the sunset and his mind searching the battlefield for anyone who could still be left.
The next day, the Queen arrived back on Domus Prime with those who had also fled the planet.
She remained on the Apocalypse until most of the other passengers on board the fleet had gone back to the city to try and rebuild their lives. She knew that orders had been placed to organise some sort of refugee camp for those who had lost everything, but was unconcerned with the details. She knew that waiting outside the ship would be the Queen’s friends, and those she cared for most, and she was afraid to meet them.
A few tears fell down her face. In her distressed state, she knew that the Grand Admiral, the Jester, Devron Zal and all the others would see immediately that she was not really the Queen, and she was afraid of what she might say when the secret was revealed.
Finally, she realised that her time was up and that she now had to face her fears, and give her most convincing performance yet.
She called the handmaidens to her, surrounding herself with their familiar presence, and slowly walked from the Apocalypse.
However, when she saw them all standing there waiting for her, smiling weary smiles of joy, the Queen broke down.
Catherine, who had been standing next to the Riddler, seemed to have been prepared for this. She raced forward and caught the swooning Queen in her arms. In an instant the Jester was beside her.
“Help me carry her to her chambers. The ordeal has been to much for her.” the handmaiden spoke with authority, and suddenly those willing to help surrounded her.
Catherine found herself being pushed further and further from Tamira, and soon she was alone on the landing bay with the Riddler, who had also stayed behind, not wanting to get involved in the crowd.
He looked down on the small handmaiden, and smiled at her. “You’d better go after her, Catherine” he said “Hopefully, the Queen will recover soon, and we will be able to talk.” She nodded, walking as quickly as she could to the Queen’s chambers.
Once there, Catherine found that herself and the handmaidens had to try to frantically to clear out the main chambers, which was filled with well-wishers and servants, all wanting to know if the Queen was alright.
“She will be if you all leave her alone”, Catherine shouted as she stormed into the room. One by one, the people left, and she locked the door behind them. There was a moment of silence before the handmaidens crowded around her, demanding to know where she had been and what had happened. The graze from a blaster bolt on her face caused a few alarms too.
“Please”, Catherine said to them all, “I will tell you the story later, but for now, I must speak with Tamira. Is she alright?”
Catherine walked into her room to see her friend and was surprised to find the Jester sitting by her bedside. The Queen was lying on the bed, fainted or asleep, Catherine could not tell. But it was the Jester’s appearance that startled her. He looked up at her and Catherine realised that he had heard what she had just said.
“If she is the Lady Tamira”, he began, understanding dawning in his eyes, “Then who are you, my Lady Catherine?”
“I am the same person I always was. Does my title make any difference?”
“Of course it does. If we had known, you would never have been risked-“
“And perhaps we would not be here having this conversation. What I had to do was necessary, and the only way I could do it was by hiding my true identity. Surely you understand that?”
“But still”, Jester sighed.
“I had a responsibility to protect my people, especially those that are my friends. I could not trust anyone else to do that, so I did it myself.”
“You took a foolish chance.”
“We all take chances. That is how we discover who we are.”
“And who are you?”
“I am the Queen of Domus Prime and all that is Star Wars. I am Sailor Coruscant. I am Catherine. I am also a Jedi.” And the other name that she had put aside when coming to Domus Prime. She was no longer the person who had borne the other name. Musing to herself she added, “All these names, do they really matter?”
“Everything has changed” Jester muttered, turning away from her to face out the window.
Catherine walked over to him, touching his shoulder for an instant. “Do you not see? Nothing has changed. It was necessary to become Catherine for a time. It meant I had a freedom that I do not always enjoy when I am Queen. It also meant that I was able to take you out to the city that day, it seems like so long ago now.”
“I thought I saw the Queen in you that day, but I was certain I was mistaken. Now I know that everything you ever told me was a lie.” He stormed from the room, and it was only her frantic cry that stopped him.
“Jester”, Catherine called, suddenly panicked at the thought of trusting someone with the secret she had kept so painfully, “Please, do not tell anyone.”
He glared at her then, the dark side throbbing painfully between them, and he turned and left the room.
For a few moments she hung her head, ashamed of what had passed between the two of them and uncertain as to what would happen to their friendship. But Catherine stood and moved resolutely to the mirror where she began applying make up identical to Tamira’s on her face, covering up the scar that now marred her right cheek.
The High Council made up of Queen Sailor Coruscant, the Grand Admiral Riddler, General Zal, Commander Ami-Kin Kenobi, Jedi Padawan Jester and a few notable others, including the Queen’s head Handmaiden, Catherine, stood in a concrete dome. This was where they held a funeral for Commander Axe, the man who had single-handedly destroyed the Sith craft.
The flames danced off of his uniform. As his body had been destroyed in the blast the Queen had decided that the Commander’s uniform would be burnt as a mark of respect and honour for the fallen man.
The Grand Admiral spoke, his voice echoing softly around the funeral dome. “In all the years I have served in the Royal Forces, I had never met anyone quite like Commander Axe. A man with more than nine lives, he laid his life upon the altar of freedom many times so that people could continue to live free from tyranny, oppression and persecution. All those who continue his work will always remember him. He was and will always be my friend.”
With that, the Grand Admiral snapped off his best salute. The General and others did the same and the Queen bowed her head in respect. The flames from the pyre reminded them all of the price they had paid for their freedom.
After what had seemed a short period of time the funeral was over and those present began to leave. The Grand Admiral stayed behind the others, and Catherine upon seeing him walked over to the Riddler to comfort him.
Looking at her gentle face he said, “When we were younger and had just completed our training as Jedi, we both enlisted in the Forces and we were shipped out to a desolate planet called Concord Dawn. We lost many men there. I remember how he took a laser blast for me. He didn’t think even twice. He was like a brother.”
Catherine could feel the pain in the Riddler’s voice and saw his face grow tired from painful and repressed memories. She leaned against him and kissed his cheek.
“Come on”, she said with a with a small smile, taking his hand, “we must celebrate and then tomorrow, we will start to rebuild what has been taken away from us. Tomorrow will be another day of freedom for Domus Prime.
“I did not believe you before, but I do now. The Sith will never win.”
The Grand Admiral smiled at the small woman standing before him. Whatever you say, Your Majesty.”
Together, they walked out of the concrete dome and Catherine led the Riddler to a party where they enjoyed being alive with their friends. The flames in the dome did die out eventually, but not the spirit of Domus Prime.