|Escaping the Void
Author: passon PM
AU spin off/LotF Invincible During the final duel with Jaina, Jacen has an epiphany. Will his new found clairvoyance guide him back to the straight and narrow or is it a temporary sanity that overcomes him in a moment of weakness... rating may changeRated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Jacen S. & Jaina S. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 16,168 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 26 - Updated: 03-01-09 - Published: 02-21-09 - id: 4880058
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Warmth rushed into his face as he stepped onto the boarding ramp. A crowd of Yuuzhan Vong had assembled at the base of his ship. Some of them were scarred and "adorned" and some looked relatively unscathed. Still others looked sickly and deformed. They were the Shamed Ones, or as they referred to themselves after the liberation of Coruscant: the Extolled. His eyes swept across them and he noted that none of them broke his gaze though something like respect flashed through the eyes of a few of the warriors.
He stepped onto the ground and momentarily relished the feeling of the soft natural ground beneath his boots. A single Ferroan male was facing him. "I'm Commander Akri."
"Ah yes." Jacen replied. "Thank you for showing me the way. It would have been difficult to locate a settlement on my own."
Akri nodded and beckoned him to follow. Jacen fell in beside him and the line of Yuuzhan Vong parted before them. As they passed the warriors Jacen heard the word "Jeedai" numerous times. As he passed one of the more veteran looking warriors he heard the word "yammka". Jacen looked over at the warrior and noted the numerous mutilations which denoted rank.
"Belek Tiu," He greeted, snapping his fists to opposite shoulders. "I am Commander Hul Rapuung. I witnessed the slaughter in what you call the Nursery where we tested the dhuryams."
Jacen nodded. "I nearly made a grave mistake that day."
Hul grinned. "You came to understand our ways more so than any other Jeedai. We came to be redeemed through your efforts. I am honored to be in your presence."
Jacen bowed to him. "I thank you for your kind words."
Jacen returned on his path and continued to follow the Ferroan Commander. They walked through a village of various constructions, some of Ferroan design and some made from the living materials of the Yuuzhan Vong. Jacen attempted to strike up a casual conversation. He learned that the name of the town was Yam'sot and that it was home to members of the warrior caste and more militant Ferroans. It also served as the base of any and all members of the Zonoma Sekot Defense Force.
"I see you took the title of Commander," Jacen said. "Is it because…?"
"… I decided to take on one of the Yuuzhan Vong military ranks?" Akri finished for him. "Yes. I am not so arrogant as to presume to tell the Yuuzhan Vong warrior caste how to structure their military. They did nearly conquer the galaxy after all."
"So you adopted some of their customs into Ferroan culture?" Jacen asked.
"More like we made a conglomerate from both our cultures…" Akri interjected. "We took the best of both worlds and formed a unique mixed culture. Or at least that is what we are attempting."
Jacen nodded. "What is the population ratio?"
"Six to one… The Yuuzhan Vong outnumber us obviously."
"What sort of government have you formed?" Jacen questioned.
Akri led him towards a larger more prominent structure that seemed to be a mixture of the Ferroan style and something unique. "Our towns are governed by a councilor. They have been predominantly drawn from the Intendant caste or the native Ferroan population."
They entered the larger structure and Jacen immediately noticed that the interior was somehow cooled by some technology or biotechnology. "So have the Ferroans been adapted into the caste system?" Jacen asked, curious.
"Yes." Akri replied. "In a compromise, the Ferroan caste was formed. It includes the Langhesi that still remain on-world. And in return the rank of Supreme Overlord was abolished. The ultimate voice of authority on Zonoma Sekot aside from Sekot herself is still a Magister."
They came to a halt in front of a door. Akri turned to Jacen and realized that the former Sith Lord was not yet finished with his questions.
Jacen nodded. "Is Jabitha still the Magister?"
Akri shook his head sadly. "No she died over a year ago."
"So who is the current Magister?" Jacen queried.
Akri smiled and knocked on the door. A moment later a voice responded that stirred Jacen's heart. "Come in."
Akri excused himself and entered the room closing the door behind him. Jacen caught a glance and noticed the long curly blonde hair of the room's sole inhabitant. Jacen inhaled deeply preparing himself mentally for the inevitable confrontation. He heard his name exclaimed by the only female occupant of the room and he took that as an invitation. He opened the door and was greeted by the smiling face of Danni Quee who rushed to embrace him. Jacen wrapped his arm around her and returned the embrace but a moment later he detangled himself.
Danni only then seemed to realize that Jacen was missing an arm. She gasped in shock. "What happened to your arm?" she asked.
"Long story," Jacen replied quickly.
Danni gave him a curious look. "It's a surprise to see you that is for sure." She said, smiling.
Jacen nodded. "It's been what… eleven years?" He said.
"Yes. When I answered Luke Skywalker's summon six years ago I did not get the chance to see you."
Jacen recalled the Dark Nest crisis. "I was quite busy back then. Trying to orchestrate a swift defeat of the Killik and the like…"
Danni took a step back and seated herself behind some sort of organic growth, that seemed to resemble a table with an assortment of devices, on what looked like a throne. "So did you defeat the Dark Nest?" she asked.
Akri waved him over and Jacen seated himself on the opposite side of the table. "Yes. I myself was incapacitated saving… Mara but the Grand Master went on to take down both UnuThul and the Unseen Queen."
"I noticed some sadness when you mentioned Mara…" Danni said.
Jacen steeled himself but put on a smile while making sure that he was hidden in the force. "So you've been practicing your force skills?" he asked.
Danni shook her head. "No, well yes I have, but that's not how I knew. As a matter of fact your impossible to sense in the force." She seemed a little alarmed by that, which was strange considering she was surrounded by Yuuzhan Vong whom were all impossible to sense with the force unless one had what Jacen called vongsense something that beside himself only Tahiri Veila possessed.
"Ah yes, something I learned on that sojourn of mine." He retorted, feigning nonchalance.
"You never did answer my question about Mara." Danni interjected.
Jacen looked at the floor. "She died some months ago."
Danni seemed stricken. He knew that the two women had gotten to know each other well during their year long search for Zonoma Sekot more than a decade prior. "What happened?" Danni asked, swallowing.
"She," Jacen opted for the truth, "was murdered."
He avoided eye contact with her.
"My condolences Jacen… Do you know who did it?" she asked.
"A Sith Lord." He replied.
Danni radiated anxiety. "There is a new Sith Lord on the rise?" she questioned hastily.
Jacen shook his head. "My sister, Jaina, killed him about a week ago."
Danni's relief was palpable in the force. "Well that's good news at least. How did your uncle take her death? He must have been quite hurt. Their love for each other was apparent to anyone."
He wondered if she realized how this was torturing him. "I have not been in contact with the Grand Master for some time now. The last time we saw each other in a peaceful setting was at Mara's funeral. He did not seem well at the time but Luke is the wisest, most powerful man I know. He will pull through," Jacen paused, "and maybe even be stronger for it."
Danni raised her brow questioningly at his last statement. "So you came here of your own accord?"
"Indeed." Jacen acknowledged. "I felt… called."
Danni smiled at him and Jacen thought that she was more beautiful than he remembered when she did. "That's good enough for me. So how long do you plan on staying."
"Well," Jacen said. "If it pleases you and Sekot… as long as you'll have me."
A presence that had been previously nothing more than a vibrating background noise spiked to sudden clarity. Jacen smiled as he turned around and saw a young boy, maybe eleven or twelve years old. "Hello Sekot."
"Jacen Solo." Sekot responded, grinning. "It's been a long time."
"It has." Jacen replied.
"Walk with me." Sekot gestured to the door.
"As you wish," Jacen followed the embodiment of the planet out through the door.
As they walked through the village Jacen noted that none of the Yuuzhan Vong warriors seemed to be pursuing any real menial tasks. Usually technologically primitive villages were quite lively with the bustle of individuals pursuing one task or another. Yet that was not the case. Jacen reminded himself of the fact that, although the Yuuzhan Vong armada had been dismantled, their shapers still grew devices whose biotechnological level rivaled that of the Galactic Alliance's technology. So in essence they were brilliantly post-technological.
He saw many warriors engaging in vicious amphistaff practice matches. As he observed he realized that the word practice could only be applied in the loosest possible sense. Short of dismembering each other they seemed to hold nothing back.
Sekot's voice jerked him out of his observance. "I am not as ignorant of the events unfolding in the greater galaxy as my inhabitants are."
Jacen tensed. "I see."
"Tell me, did the philosophy of Potentium not serve you well?"
Jacen inhaled deeply. "It had its uses… and its limitations."
He looked over at the embodiment of the planet, in the form of his twelve year old grandfather. The expression of Sekot was surprisingly stern. An expression that seemed distinctly out of place on so youthful a face…
"Limitations? Limitations that the Sith did not share?" Sekot asked, sounding curious.
"Force wise I'm limited in the same way. If I draw too heavily on the force I subject my body to harm. What the dark side offered me was a way to get things done without being hampered by a perpetual string of moral confines."
"Confines that would have stayed your hand when you destroyed the Vagaari vessel?" Sekot shot back.
Jacen felt like he was being put on the defensive. "For example. And that vessel would have just retreated into hyperspace, same as the other two, taking the slaves with them."
"You're justifying yourself." Sekot said. "Either the mark of someone who feels guilty or someone who feels morally superior."
"Neither." Jacen reproved.
"If you say so... I'm no stranger to death but I detest innocent sentient life being spilt." Sekot explained. "See to it that you do no such thing while you walk my surface."
"I did not come with hostile intentions."
"So you say Darth Caedus, so you say." Sekot said in a dubious tone. "For the good you did in your past you may stay. Do not cause me any regret for making this decision. Vergere would be ashamed at your choices."
"I have since found out that Vergere started me on the path to the dark side. She was a Sith acolyte."
Sekot scoffed. "I sense no duplicity in you. Then again I barely sense you at all. Even if you're right, mentors merely lay out a path for you, it is your choice whether or not to set foot on them."
"It was my choice. Some of my choices I regret, some I do not. If I could go back I would make the same choices I did for they have brought me here."
They had since approached a river that bordered the village. Sekot sat down at its shore. "And where is that?"
"A galaxy that has not been enslaved by the Yuuzhan Vong… A galaxy that has not succumbed to an eternal war spread by the Dark Nest… A galaxy that isn't torn by civil war..." Jacen extrapolated.
"True. The greater good then? A few must suffer so the many may live?" Sekot asked.
"I think so. Am I wrong?" Jacen asked.
"That is for you to figure out."
Jacen dipped his hand into the cool stream marveling at the perfect beauty of the shallow water following over the smooth rocks. He felt Sekot's presence return to the quiet rumble in the distance and knew that if he looked over he would see nothing but thin air in the place of where the twelve year old look alike of Anakin Skywalker had been a moment ago. Jacen quietly pondered the conversation he had with Sekot.
Jacen sampled some of the stones and flung them out across the stream watching absent mindedly as they skipped across the clear surface four or five times. Sekot knew that he had become a Dark Lord, something that was not as surprising as it was disconcerting. The Potentium did not believe in a dark or light side but it definitely believed in the darkness of a person's heart. Which in a way made Sekot think less of Jacen than a Jedi… For a Jedi would consider Jacen's will enslaved to the insidious nature of the dark side and Jacen's own lust for power … whilst Sekot considered Jacen an evil man at heart for the choices he made. It would not surprise Jacen if the planet would keenly observe his every action.
However, Jacen did not know what Sekot's existence was truly like. For in the end, would that not be like Jacen focusing keenly on an individual cell on his body. It would be straining. Jacen did not know whether or not his analogy was correct or unfounded in truth.
And then he had to ask himself if Sekot was correct. Was he truly wrong to believe in a philosophy, which had seemingly become a giant tool to excuse any deed no matter how heinous, merely to further his agendas? He did not think so but maybe he was deluding himself. He did want to avoid war after war, all his life. And the last attempt cost him nearly everything. Almost everyone he cared about abandoned him this time. He may have ultimately avoided a galaxy enveloping civil war but at what cost. Was it worth his soul? Was anything?
And that was the truth of Jacen Solo, he surmised. Jacen Solo never hesitated when it came to sacrificing himself for another unless it would have caused greater suffering. It was ironic that just five years before he killed Mara Jade he nearly died saving her life.
In fact it was strange how often he had been nearly killed in recent years. He'd had a remarkable tendency of acting reckless ever since he began his gradual steps towards the dark side. He had been at various individuals' mercy and they had spared him. That fact was something that stung his pride. His overconfidence was his weakness, Luke had once said of Palpatine regarding their encounter over the forest moon of Endor.
Jacen felt a murky presence approach through his vongsense. He rose to his feet and turned around flinging his hand to dry it of any excess water. Hul Rapuung and a younger warrior approached.
"Greetings," Jacen welcomed him.
"Jeedai Jacen," Rapuung responded, "would you care to spar?"
Jacen smiled. "You would voluntarily cross your amphistaff with a lightsaber?"
"No." Rapuung said hastily. "But Nuntuk Cha has accompanied me. He is young and wishes to see a Jeedai in action. He will loan you his staff."
Jacen acknowledged the younger Vong with a nod. "Domain Cha? Did not your domain suffer heavy losses at Borleias?"
The younger warrior bristled. "We fought well but the metal monstrosity you called Lusankya proved too great a foe for my Domain. We were one of the first to be sent in and took the brunt of the attack."
Jacen chuckled. "I wasn't accusing you of lacking valor or honor. I was simply inquisitive."
"Of course, Redeemer," he dropped to his knees, before Jacen. "My outburst was unforgivable. Take my life if it pleases you to do so."
Jacen looked at the young Yuuzhan Vong baring his neck to him perplexed by the young warriors subservience. He looked over at Rapuung who was following the exchange with interest. "Why do you call me Redeemer?" he asked finally.
The warrior did not raise his head. "Zonoma Sekot herself has told us that you sought out to find her amongst the stars in order to resolve the war between the Yuuzhan Vong and your own people with as little bloodshed as possible. Our kind survives through your efforts. Belek Tiu yammka!" The warrior snapped his fists to opposite shoulders but remained kneeling. A strange devotion glimmered in his eye.
"Well don't bow to me for one. And if you're alright with it I'd like to borrow your amphistaff." Jacen said kindly.
The youth coiled his amphistaff around his forearm and dropped it to the ground. The snake like creature hissed. Jacen reached out and touched its mind with the force and beckoned it to him, coaxing it with gentle soothing emotions. It immediately responded slithering up Jacen's leg and his chest, finally curling itself around his arm.
The younger warrior retreated a few steps to allow the two duelists room to maneuver.
"He to whom the amphistaffs flock..." Hul Rapuung said with a subtle undertone of reverence.
"I have my ways with creatures." Jacen replied.
With a hand motion the staff hardened in his arm and he spun it in an elaborate flourish. He held the amphistaff in the middle like a double bladed lightsaber and positioned it diagonally, guarding his unarmed side from upper cuts.
"Now do you want to exchange pleasantries or do you want to fight?" Jacen asked tauntingly.
Hul snarled and with typical Yuuzhan Vong viciousness and speed he grasped his amphistaff and charged Jacen. Jacen parried his two handed strike but danced instantly away. He knew that his one handed grip could very well cause him to be disarmed if he put too much force into a parry. The Yuuzhan Vong responded quickly and slashed at Jacen's legs. Jacen flipped backwards and pushed himself off the side of a tree propelling himself straight over the startled Hul. Hul slashed at Jacen's legs as he landed but Jacen parried once again burying his staff in the ground to avoid being tossed to the side.
The strong parry unbalanced Repuung momentarily and Jacen used this opportunity to strike across the warrior's chest. The Yuuzhan Vong barely parried and was forced to take a step back. Jacen spun his amphistaff and brought it down in an overhead blow. The Yuuzhan Vong guarded his head with a two handed block and Jacen's weapon bounced back. Rapuung took immediate advantage of this and pressed his attack once again, striking first high and then low.
Jacen was forced to retreat step after step. A particularly vicious low slash at the legs forced Jacen to block with all his strength but the one handed grip on his weapon proved too weak. His own amphistaff cut slightly into his leg. Jacen jumped backwards immediately. Rapuung was emboldened by the sight of the blood and pressed onward.
The warrior was by now completely aware of the severe limitation brought about by Jacen's dismemberment and took full advantage of it. Jacen had to make use of an esoteric method or he would find one of his parries knocking his amphistaff out of his hand or create a sufficient opening that would allow Rapuung a killing strike.
Rapuung directed a strong two handed thrust towards Jacen's chest and Jacen twisted to the right to avoid it, simultaneously forcing the warrior to duck beneath a swing aimed at his head. Hul twirled his weapon and struck at Jacen's face. Jacen simply collapsed beneath the attack. This move surprised the veteran warrior who tried to correct his mistake by stepping backwards. Jacen took advantage of his momentary vulnerability on his right side by kicking him powerfully.
The warrior stumbled and barely caught himself but Jacen pressed his attack quickly swinging at Hul's exposed neck, bringing his attack to a sudden halt when the blade was an inch away from Rapuung's throat.
The warrior glanced at the weapon for a moment and then broke into a grin. "I see that the years and your injuries have not dulled your skills."
Jacen chuckled. "Dulled? I've gotten better."
Rupuung cocked his head. "Perhaps," he replied. "But if you will excuse my curiosity…" The warrior paused and then suddenly looked angry. "My tizowyrm must have indulged some of the local inebriating mosses. I meant to say interest and it makes use of a far more juvenile and contemptible notion."
"Curiosity is perhaps of a juvenile nature but it's also the primary drive to learn." Jacen retorted.
Nuntuk Cha approached the duo. "That was a very thrilling bout."
Jacen touched the mind of the amphistaff and cancelled the momentary infatuation it had for him and handed it to the young warrior. "It was," Jacen agreed. "Multiple times I felt as though I was in danger of serious injury."
"Pain inspires growth." Rapuung added. "What I had meant to ask was why you have not chosen to attach a—" He tapped his ear in irritation. "My tizowyrm does not know the proper word. It refers to it as "machine arm". I am quite certain there is a proper term for the abomination. Prosthic?"
"Prosthetic," Jacen amended.
"Did you decline the attaching of a prosthetic because you resent the idea of being part machine?" Nuntuk asked.
Jacen shook his head. "No. Well not entirely… Before I came here I was constantly busy, either with matters of state or war, and I was opposed to the idea of devoting an entire day to a complex surgery at the time."
Rapuung made a quizzical expression. "So you would not be opposed to replacing your arm?"
"Of course not," Jacen replied. "I am fully aware of how it limits me in combat and quite a few times it has restricted me from decisively going about day to day activities."
The veteran warrior gave him a pointed look. "We have a shaper who attends Yam'sot's warriors' medical needs."
"And you think the shaper could supply me with a replacement for my arm that looks like my other?" Jacen asked.
"I am not a shaper, Jeedai Solo. You will have to ask her."
"First thing tomorrow then," Jacen replied. "If you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to return to my ship."
The sky had steadily been growing darker. Jacen was unaware of the day/night cycle of the planet but he was exhausted from the events of the day and wished to sleep. The two warriors inclined their heads slightly and returned in the direction of the village. Jacen went the opposite direction, towards his ship. When he entered the Wayward Knight he went directly to the shower and after washing himself and tossing his one set of clothes into the appropriate washing unit, he went to sleep.