“Well, young lady, you are quite lucky,” Doctor Tutt said while she examined the readouts.
The medical droid scanned the stump of her leg taking measurements. It looked at Rae and its photo receptors blinked. “Yeah, real lucky,” it said with a slight hint of sarcasm in its voice.
Rae bit her lip at the tone of the droid, not knowing if she wanted to laugh or cry at the comment. “Pay him no mind,” the doctor said not looking away from the scans. “We can fit you with a prosthetic leg within a day if you want something to match your skin tone and texture, or a few hours if you aren’t that picky.”
“Prosthetic?” Rae asked.
“It is the least difficult way to get you your mobility back.” She looked up from her tablet. “I mean we could try to regrow your leg. But that would take at least two or three months on top of a few more months of physical therapy.”
“Wouldn’t a real leg be better than an artificial one?”
“Artificial limbs are not all that bad,” Luke said from the corner of the room.
Rae looked over to him. She wasn’t sure that he was staying here just to watch over her or if he was using her as an excuse to avoid something unpleasant. Either way, she didn’t mind him being there.
Luke pushed off the wall and walked over to them. He rolled up his sleeve exposing his right arm. He pushed on the underside and the skin pealed back to reveal a servo mechanism. “You aren’t the first to lose a limb to lightsaber,” he said.
Rae stared at his arm. “It would seem that would be a more common occurrence,” Tutt said as she too looked at Luke’s arm.
Luke pushed the skin back in place, letting it seal over. “Well, it happened to my father and myself,” he said. “Get the prosthetic leg if you are comfortable with it, otherwise you will have to wait a few weeks until we settle down and figure out what is going to happen to the Jedi.”
“Ok,” she said.
Tutt raised an eyebrow at Rae. “Do you want it to match or do you want it quick?”
“Quick is fine,” she said. “It’s not like I won’t wear pants and boots anyway.”
Tutt nodded and glanced at the door. “Looks like you have visitors. Come on, D1, we have a leg to build.”
Rae and Luke looked to see Leia, Han, and Chewbacca come through the door. Lando, Nein, and Lowbacca followed them. Lando stopped when he saw Rae’s leg. “What happened to you?” He looked at Lowbacca. “You didn’t say she was hurt.”
Leia walked over to Luke and gave him a hug. “There’s something wrong, isn’t there?” she asked in almost a whisper before letting him go. Han put an arm around Luke’s shoulder. “I don’t have the force and I can sense there is something up.”
Luke nodded. “Come on, we have some things to talk about.”
“No,” Rae said. When they looked at her, she looked to Lowbacca then back to Luke. “Master,” she said then paused as her words seemed to fail her.
Lowbacca growled. “I think what she means is that we were involved in this and we should probably tell the story,” MTD translated, “We can answer questions.” MTD was quite a moment. “What are you talking about, Lowbacca?”
Luke thought about it then sighed and pulled a seat over for Leia. He sat on the edge of the bed Rae was in. Leia looked at Luke then Rae and Lowbacca, her hand reached out for Han’s and gripped it hard.
Leia leaned her head against Han’s stomach, tears running down her face as she listened to Rae, and Lowbacca tell the story of what they went through in Imperial space. Chewbacca’s hands clinched and unclenched as he listened, a few painful sounds coming from him as he heard about the fall of his best friend’s son. Han’s jaw was tight as he listened, his own emotions running rampant. He ran a hand along Leia’s shoulder as much to comfort her as himself.
Lando and Nein stood near the door quietly listening to the explanation. They exchanged a couple of glances after hearing most of the story and slipped out of the room quietly. Nein’s face seemed to droop more and he looked at the floor muttering something.
“I don’t know, old friend,” Lando said. “But it makes me want to reconnect with my family.”
“Are you sure that he has fallen?” Leia asked.
Rae and Lowbacca pulled their lightsabers and ignited them. Leia’s eyes widened upon seeing the crimson humming blades. They shut the sabers down and hung them back on their belts.
Luke frowned. “I am sure of it,” he said.
“How can you be sure?” Han asked.
Luke met his old friend’s eyes. “I felt him, Han. I haven’t felt such anger and hate since Palpatine.”
“But he was with you for years,” Leia said. The disbelief carried in her voice. “How did you miss it?”
“It wasn’t just him, Ma’am,” Rae interjected. “None of us sensed it. He was hiding his dark side.”
Han looked confused. “But how could he do that inside the Jedi Temple?”
“Han. Palpatine hid himself from some of the greatest Jedi Masters for decades. He planned and worked directly with them, sitting beside them and interacted with them. And none of them were the wiser to who he was,” Luke said. “It wasn’t until the Jedi deduced that he was behind the Separatists and the Clone War did they confront him. And it was only then that he revealed himself as Sith.”
“What turned him? Was he seduced like our father was?” Leia asked looking from Luke to the padawans.
“I wish I knew, Leia,” Luke said.
Lowbacca growled something and Rae nodded. “He said that he had been this way longer than he had been training us,” she said reluctantly.
Han looked at them. “Were you trained as Jedi then?” he asked.
Rae made a face and Lowbacca whined a little in the back of his throat. “They were, Han,” Luke said. “Just because they were Ben’s padawans, doesn’t mean that the other Jedi masters did not help in their training.”
“But how can you trust that they aren’t Sith?”
Lowbacca growled and stepped forward. Chewbacca also stepped forward between Han and Lowbacca and looked down at his nephew. Lowbacca growled and grunted for a bit looking up into Chewbacca’s eyes.
Han stepped around Chewbacca, not letting him get between them. “Look Lowie, it was an honest question, I was not insulting your or her honor.”
Lowbacca put a hand on Han’s shoulder and looked into his eyes growling something quietly. A tear slid from the corner of Han’s eye he sighed. He put his arms around Lowbacca and hugged him. “I know,” he said. He pulled back and sighed.
Leia stepped up beside Han and reached out giving Lowbacca a hug of her own, tears in her eyes as she did. When they separated Leia and Han looked at Rae. “I’m sorry,” Han said.
Rae shook her head. “You have nothing to apologize for, sir. Lowie said it right, we lost a father figure and you’ve lost a son. It still doesn’t seem real for me and can’t imagine what you are going through.”
Leia moved next to the bed and put her arms around Rae hugging her before stepping back. Her eyes widened and she looked at Han. “Jana.”
Han’s expression went pale. “We need to talk to her,” he said. He turned to Luke. “You don’t think Ben would go after her?”
“I don’t think so, Han. Isn’t Jana on Coruscant?”
Han and Leia both nodded. “Yes.”
“Good,” Luke said. “I will have Master Chagee and his padawans go there and keep watch on them until we get this figured out.” He met Leia’s gaze. “As much as this is going to be rough for you, Leia, you need to focus yourself. This is probably the opening move in a new galactic war. The republic is going to need its chancellor.”
Leia took a deep breath then let it out slowly. “I won’t be chancellor for long,” she said. “The Senate will demand I step down once they figure out about Ben. And it will only get worse if I try to keep it quiet.”
Han saw the wheels turning in Leia’s head. She was already laying out plans as to what she needed to do, almost as if they had not found out that their son had fallen. He knew that when the dust settled, she would face it in her own way. Leia met his gaze. “Come on, flyboy,” she said pushing a bit of confidence in her voice. “I need to get to Coruscant, and you still have one of the fastest ships in the galaxy.”
She gave Rae another hug then Lowbacca. She turned to Luke and he put his arms around her. “I saved our father, Leia. I will save Ben too,” he whispered to her.
She laid her head on his shoulder for a second. “I hope you can, Luke,” she whispered back. She pulled away. “Come on you two, we need to get moving.” Han clapped Lowbacca on the shoulder and did the same with Rae before he and Chewbacca followed Leia out of the medical bay.
“What about us, Master?” Rae asked.
Luke turned to face them. “Before all of this went down, Ben and I talked about if you were ready for your trial.” He saw the mixture of emotions on their faces. “I am inclined to believe that you are ready even though your training is not complete yet.”
“What will our Trials be?” Rae asked.
Luke was quiet a moment as if listening to someone else talk. “Your trial,” he said gestured to their lightsabers. “Your crystals have been corrupted with the dark side. You are to purify your crystals, when you do that, you will be recognized as Jedi. You may ask any of the Jedi for training that you feel you will need to complete your trials.”
Rae and Lowbacca looked at Luke. “But how do we do that?” she asked.
Luke’s eyebrows raised. “I haven’t the foggiest idea. That is why it is your trial.”
Lowbacca growled something. Luke’s expression grew stern. “If you can’t, then perhaps you were not meant to be Jedi,” he said. “I have faith that you can pass this though.” He looked out the view port of the ship to see ships start jumping to hyperspace. “Now, I have to go talk with Master Chagee.”
Luke closed his eyes and sighed after the door closed behind him. “A difficult path they are on,” a voice said. “Much peril they will face.”
“I know,” Luke said. “But I think it is the right path.”
A chuckle was heard, “We never said that it wasn’t the right path, Luke. Just a difficult one.”
“But can they succeed?” Luke asked.
“Faith in the force they must have and success they will find.”
A one-man shuttle appeared out of hyperspace in orbit of the green and blue planet. The Tie-fighters and other ships in orbit did not deviate on their courses when the ship passed by them. The three black wings were pointed upward until the shuttle entered the atmosphere. Two wings folded down making the shuttle look like a small version of the Lambda class shuttles that were the work horse of the empire but adorned with solar arrays from tie-fighters
Captain Phasma guided the shuttle down through the atmosphere focusing in on the guidance beam coming from a large black tower. The tower hundreds of meters tall and almost three hundred meters across. Numerous landing pads of all sizes stuck out from the side of the tower. The lights lit up on one of the pads began strobing as she flew closer.
She landed the shuttle with the barest thump of its landing gear on the metal surface. She climbed out and jumped to the ground looking around for a moment. Over the edge of the landing pad, she could see grasslands that stretched as far as the eye could see. A door opened on the tower behind her and a glossy black protocol droid stepped out.
“Captain Phasma,” it said, “You are expected. Follow me.” She noticed the smooth articulation of its joints as it turned to go back inside. Even military protocol droids were a bit stiff. She followed the droid. She knew she was being brought here to have her fate determined for allowing the Jedi, the doctor, and the traitor clone Finn escape.
The droid walked without talking to her until it came to a heavy blast door. “The general is waiting for you inside.”
Phasma said nothing as the droid walked off. She keyed the alert on the door frame. It slid open a moment later. “Come in, Captain,” a voice said from inside. The voice was enough to set her nerves on edge. When she entered the room, she saw an empty desk with a single chair behind it and two before it. “Have a seat, Captain,” the voice said from the side of the door.
Her head turned to see the speaker and her hand had already drawn the blaster out of its holster. “That will be quite enough, Captain,” the man said.
Captain Phasma stopped before she had the gun pointed at the man who looked very much like that Traitor Finn. “Caff?” he asked holding a cup out to her. “You seem like you could use it.”
She stared at him for a long moment and he sighed. “Holster your weapon, Captain and take your helmet off,” the man said.
“Yes, Sir,” she answered through gritted teeth. Her blaster pistol dropped into its holster and she unlatched her helmet. She resisted the urge to shake her hair.
“Again, caff?” he asked and held a cup out to her again.
Phasma studied him again. He looked like Finn but with decades of experience in his eyes and sliver flecked in his hair. While he was the same height, he was bulkier than she remembered Finn being.
She reached out and took the cup. The older man walked around the desk and sat behind it. When she didn’t move, he gestured to one of the empty chairs. “This is not a judicial review, Captain,” he said, his voice holding a slight edge. “Sit down.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said and sat in the chair. She looked at his chest and saw his ranking pips as General and the name Finn stenciled on a patch attached to his uniform.
“Am I to take it that one of my progeny left an impression on you?” Finn asked.
“Your progeny?” she asked.
“You have never met one of the progenitors before have you?” he asked.
Finn took a sip of his coffee before setting it on the desk. He leaned forward, his elbows resting on the desk and his fingers laced together. “So, tell me about my wayward clone,” he said. “Tell me everything.”
The Sienar Tie-Scout entered the cloudy atmosphere and was almost immediately buffeted by raging winds. Kylo grit his teeth as he held onto the controls. The raging winds matched his dark mood. The trip back from Republic space had been long and torturous as they had to stop several times to make repairs on some of the other ships in the fleet due to damage that they had taken.
Kylo could only imagine that suffering a loss of half the fleet and one of the Augment Star Destroyers would appear to Snoke. He looked at the instruments following the guidance beam down through the storm. The ship cleared a ridge of rock then descended into a valley out of the raging winds. The valley turned out to be a crater. There were large buildings covering the floor of the crater.
Kylo flew over all of them until he saw the largest structure in the middle. A hangar door slid open in the side of the building and Kylo flew inside. The ship shook as a tractor beam snared it and guided it to an empty patch of deck near the back wall.
He looked out the viewport to see six of the red heavily armored stormtroopers that were Snoke’s personal guard along with a man wearing an Imperial Army officer’s uniform. Kylo stood and reached for his helmet. He stopped when he remembered it had been damaged beyond easy repair by the flames when he had been outmaneuvered by Rae and Lowbacca.
The officer stood straighter when Kylo descended from the antique Tie-scout. He could hear the six guards do the same, the butts of their force pikes striking the ground in unison. “Lord Ren,” the officer said as he approached.
Kylo looked at them. “So, am I to be arrested?”
The captain looked surprised. “Arrested? No, of course not, Lord Ren. However, Lord Emperor Snoke is awaiting you in the throne room. Please come with us.”
Kylo sensed no deception from this man and when he went to follow him, the Emperor’s guard fell behind them. They walked in silence down a long corridor. “Has Emperor Snoke been making plans for the campaign to come?”
The captain nodded. “Yes, Lord Ren. Almost non-stop since the padawans escaped.”
“So, this all comes down to my failing?” Kylo said aloud.
The captain glanced at Kylo. “The Emperor was disappointed in the fact that the padawans escaped, Lord Ren. I believe that he does not hold you solely to blame for accelerating the timetable he had set out.”
“Solely to blame,” Kylo repeated with a bit of scorn in his voice.
The captain gave a wry smile. “Lord Ren. Emperor Snoke has the utmost faith in your abilities and has said so on many occasions in meetings with his advisors. And the Emperor expects those who fail to learn from their failings.”
Kylo started to say something but stopped when they approached a large blast door. The door slid silently open upon their approach. The throne room beyond was smaller than Kylo had expected. At the end of the room was a raised dais were Snoke sat. Adorned in deep crimson robes, only his scared and withered face was visible.
When they reached the foot of the dais, Kylo took a knee before Snoke. The captain bowed his head and placed his hands behind his back. The guards did not move from the positions behind them. “Rise Lord Ren,” Snoke said, his voice a gravely whisper.
Kylo pushed himself up to his feet. “I have arrived as ordered, My Lord,” he said.
“As I knew you would.” Snoke said. His eyes went to the Captain. “Captain Hyglen, you are dismissed.”
The captain raised his head and met Snoke’s gaze then gave a deep formal bow. “Emperor Snoke, Lord Ren,” he said then spun on his heal and walked toward the door, making a subtle gesture that Ren almost did not pickup.
The six red troopers fell in line behind him and were joined by eight more that Ren had only been vaguely aware of. When they had left and the doors slide shut, Kylo returned his gaze to Snoke. They stared at each other for a moment. “I am disappointed in you Lord Ren,” Snoke said without preamble.
Kylo’s mouth opened to say something when Snoke raised a hand. “I am not done, Lord Ren,” he chastised. “I am disappointed that you underestimated your padawans and over-estimated your apprentices. I would like you to explain why you felt the need kill your apprentice.”
“Her emotions were her undoing,” Kylo said. “She had developed feelings for the other apprentice. When she found out he had been killed, she went into an uncontrolled rage. She should have been able to defeat the two padawans by herself. She was instead, disarmed and locked in a room and had the audacity to lie about it to my face.”
Snoke reached up and rubbed his chin. “But why kill her?”
Kylo fought to not look annoyed at the line of questioning. “Because she was broken. I would have worked to train her how to control herself had she admitted she lost control. Since her first reaction was to lie about it, I saw no point in wasting time with her.”
Snoke pushed himself slowly to his feet. Kylo had seen Snoke move before. With the force, Snoke could move with alacrity that Kylo had difficulty in keeping up with. “I approve of your reasoning, Lord Ren,” Snoke said and motioned for Kylo to follow him.
“My lord, a question,” Kylo asked.
“What is it?”
“The captain…” he started.
Snoke let out a genuine laugh that seemed at odds with his appearance. “Let me guess, you are wondering why he talked to you about my state of mind toward you?” Snoke asked to which Kylo nodded. “Because he has my best interests as his sole motivation. I have given him free `reign to do as he sees fit to ensure my safety and wellbeing. He enjoys a latitude of movement and decision making that few others save yourself do, Lord Ren. And he is also the progenitor of my personal guard.”
Kylo was quiet as they ascended the steps at the side of the room. Snoke waved his hand over a second of wall and a thick blast door rumbled up into the ceiling. They stood looking out over a large open area that could have been an arena. There were thousands of individuals there lined up in formational groups.
The floor slid out of the wall and over the arena. “Our timetable has been moved up, Lord Ren,” Snoke explained. “Unfortunately, we were unable to take the Jedi by surprise and destroy them as well as Yavin 4. It will only be a matter of time before the Republic wants payback for the destruction we caused.”
“What is your plan?” Kylo asked. His eyes focused on those below him. There were 100 men and women, most human but a few not, standing meters apart at parade rest. They wore black armored uniforms that reminded Kylo of what the Jedi wore during the Clone wars. Behind each of them were one hundred storm troopers standing ten abreast, each holding a pike like the ones that Snoke’s personal guard carried. Their armor was also jet black, but they wore helmets. And behind them were ten times as many storm troopers, each in similar armor but a smoke gray in color.
“To wage war, Lord Ren. These troops are yours to do with as you will. You have 100 of the best of my Sith Warriors, Knights for you to lead. Each has command over 100 clones trained in combat against force users and 1000 elite commandos. Every soldier here is loyal to you and through you to me.” He smiled as he looked out over the mass of soldiers below him. “I present to you, Lord Ren,” Snoke said and his voice boomed over the arena.
The Sith Warriors each stomped a foot. “HAIL EMPEROR SNOKE, HAIL LORD REN!” they called back. In unison the thousands behind the repeated the gesture causing a sound of thunder in the arena. “HAIL EMPEROR SNOKE, HAIL LORD REN!” They called out as well. They repeated this twice more, the Warriors leading the chant and the soldiers behind them calling back.
Snoke smiled, a look that brought no warmth to his scarred features. “We shall claim this galaxy as our own if we have to cleanse it and seed in our image, Lord Ren. The Sith shall rule once again.”
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading this. I hope that you, the reader, have enjoyed my vision of what could have been. I may continue this in another arc about what happens next. (Truth be told, I have written about 6 chapters or so in the second arc already.)