Disclaimer: Star Wars is the property of George Lucas
and Lucasfilm. I am not making any money off of this,
nor do I intend to. Characters herein are the
property of their creators, including Gillian
Skywalker, who is mine.

Author's note: I don't like clones. I also don't like
the Dark Empire comics and what passes for their
plotlines, and I think this story reflects that. I
wrote this a while ago on the spur of the moment,
because I was curious to see what might happen if the
Palpatine clones did exist, and Gillian had to deal
with them.

Thanks to: a girl I knew in the 8th grade, who loaned
me Dark Empire, and told me what it was about when I
couldn't get past the first page.

"The Bitter End"
by Christine Anderson
alias Elayne Trakand

The planet was Imperial, and so far as the woman
leaning against the monument knew, it always had
been. It had started life as a colony built from the
ground up by Imperial citizens, each of them loyal to
the point of fanaticism. They called themselves
patriotic, of course. Fanatic having as negative a
connotation as it usually did. Although, she thought
with no small amount of irony, the Empire had skewed
the galaxy's perceptions on any number of other
things, why not that as well? She supposed the
propagandists (the Imperial Ministry of
Information, as they'd termed it) had had better
things to do.

The colonists, showing all signs of Imperial ego to
excess, had named their world Palpatine, gifting as
many towns, cities, and natural land formations with
the same name as was possible. And so it was that she
stood in Palpatine Square, Palpatine City, on the
planet of Palpatine itself.

She loathed the place, loathed its grandeur and its
never-ending displays of ego. But they always
returned here, each and every one of them, and there
was no other way she could isolate them, deal with
them on a singular basis. And so she swallowed her
pride and all other things that made her hate this
place, and leaned back against the Palpatine
Monument, arms crossed beneath the folds of her
cloak, biding her time. It wouldn't be long now.

Already she could sense the presence moving closer,
familiar and yet absolutely unknown.

She'd always hated clones, but had a particular
distaste for clones of those she knew or had known.
Something about their living flesh had always seemed
dead to her, lacking some crucial element. The clone
could never replace the original. Some had never
realized that, and apparently were never going to.
Hence why she was here again, in a place she loathed.
A place she would destroy utterly, given half a
chance.

In what sometimes seemed another lifetime, she had
been Gillian Skywalker, and a more loyal daughter of
the Empire had very likely never been born. She had
lived to serve her Empire and her Emperor, until the
day he had betrayed her. She had killed him that day,
though her uncle, Darth Vader, took the credit for
it, and she never spoke of it. She had done her best
to go on with her life after that, marrying a man
from a world so far beyond the Core that he had not
known the Empire existed, looking after her two
younger sisters, and trying to redeem the Empire.

All had been well until the first clone had appeared.
Until they had realized who it truly was, and what
his goals were. Then things had begun to unravel, and
there had been only one way to save what she had
worked so hard to build.

What she didn't know that first time was that it
would never get any easier.

She leaned back against the monument wall, the folds
of her cloak enveloping her and casting her into
shadow. Even should this one have the capacity to
recognize her- and the others hadn't, so she doubted
this one would either -it would not be able to see
her until it was very close. Too close to run, having
gone too far to turn back. It was how she'd taken the
first few, how she'd taken the ones that followed.
And how she would take this one as well. This one,
which she believed, hoped, to be the last.

*Please*, she thought. *Let it be the last of them. I
cannot take this again. I know I cannot.* But she
would. If she had to, she would go through these
motions again, and again. Until the end.

It was within sight now, crossing the square. It was
young, younger than the original had been when she
had known him, but they all were young. He'd thought
they would last longer that way, though with them
it had never been a matter of years but a matter of
use and abuse. They were only human, after all. Or,
as human as he had been when he'd created them.

They all returned here, she supposed to pay homage,
though certainly they would not understand what they
were paying homage to. This one approached, lay its
hands against the stone before it- and she moved
forward and was upon it, the blade in her hand
unwavering.

"How many times must I destroy you, old man?" she
asked quietly. "How many times must I relive this
nightmare moment?"

It stared back at her- and in those vacant eyes
something changed, solidified. Not an empty shell
now, but something occupied- and something familiar.
She cursed herself silently for waiting too long.
Something of the old man's consciousness was a part
of it, now, and the only way to destroy it would be
to destroy the clone. And even that was no guarantee.

"Who are you?" it hissed.

She smiled thinly. So it did not know even that much.
Perhaps she needn't have worried.

"Really, now. I'm insulted you don't remember me."

"Who are you?" it demanded again.

"Leave her to me," came another voice, this one
absolutely, intimately familiar. The shade stared
back at her, and she forced her eyes to meet his,
forced her gaze not to waiver, even as she thrust the
sword forward, even as she felt it slice air,
clothing, skin, muscle- felt the clone's body resist
and then suddenly cease. It was easy, that motion.
Perhaps too easy.

The shade sighed. "I suppose I know what will happen
if I try to take that body now."

"Yes."

"Why must you be so difficult?"

She sighed. "I killed you once, Duncan. I didn't
intend to have to do it again."

"Then why do it?" The man who had been Emperor once,
Palpatine to the galaxy, Duncan to her, in private,
raised an eyebrow at her, as he so often had while
still alive.

"Because this is my world now! I fought for it, I
killed for it- and I won't have it taken from me, not
by you, not by anyone."

"Unrealistic, my dear." The shade moved towards the
body.

"Take it," she hissed. "Take it. Do what you must,
but know this and know it well: So too shall I. And
what I must do is kill you."

"Why not spare me, for old times' sake? For memory of
what we had?"

"I killed you because you betrayed what we might have
had. To call on it now is beyond contempt."

"Yes, I always was that for you, wasn't I?"

"Not always, Duncan. Not always."

The shade slid into the body, and she could see it
moving outward, taking over. He glanced down at the
sword wound, already beginning to heal now.

She sighed. "Don't make me, please. Do it yourself
and save me the trouble."

He approached, a hand extended. She raised the sword
in answer, but still he moved forward, and she made
no move to stop him, save that one. He extended his
hand till it brushed across her cheek; in answer she
flicked her wrist, and a thin line of blood, traced
by the sword's blade, slashed its way across his
cheek, a crimson diagonal.

"Why?" he asked at last. "You loved me once. Why
couldn't we-?"

"Don't," she snapped. "You should know why. Times
change, Duncan."

"Do they now, my dear Empress? Yes, I suppose they
do. I do wish you'd not given that young man my
titles, but-"

"He deserves them far more than you, Duncan. And make
no mistake; I rule here."

He stepped forward, closer, closer, until when he
spoke again they were nearly touching. She allowed
him that close but no closer, the sword raised
between them, a barrier. To reach her he would have
to cross it. "I mistake nothing, child. As I mistake
not that you loved me once."

"I was a child. I was also a fool. I know that you
swore you loved me, and I know also that you lied. To
me you will always be an oathbreaker, living or dead
or something in-between."

"Gillian..."

"This pains me greatly, it always has. But I will do
it. I will." She paused. "I had what they called
religion once, Duncan. Do you know what I prayed for?
I prayed that there was a hell, and that I'd see you
there. I prayed you would have suffered longer than
I, and that perhaps it would make things closer to
even." She paused. "It hasn't happened yet. And more
and more with each passing day I long to see you
suffer as I did. So no, I won't spare you, not for
the sake of old times or the sake of anything else."

"My last clone," he whispered. "My last, do you
understand? If you kill me now it is final. You'll
never have another chance to hurt me, and I will
never be back. Never. So think carefully, choose
wisely."

"My choice...was made long ago."

He saw the downstroke, might perhaps have avoided it
if he were both very quick and very lucky, but he did
not even try.

Carefully, she cleaned the blade before slipping it
into its sheath oncemore.

"Damn you," she whispered, nudging the clone's body
with her boot. It didn't stir. "Was I truly so
foolish that I loved you once?"

For an instant she thought she sensed his presence
again, thought she saw the shade standing beside her
again. Surely not. But the whisper of a thought
brushed across her mind, and she knew at once that it
was not hers.

Farewell...my dear. Farewell.

* * *

She stood in the secret cavern below the Imperial
Palace on the planet Byss, a room recently discovered
and thus far unexplored. But she knew what she would
find here.

She unsealed the door with a touch of her hand, and
stepped into the room. Before her was a single
Spaarti cloning cylinder, the last in the galaxy,
already growing another clone. She sighed, shook her
head, and gestured slightly with one finger, at empty
air.

"Duncan, will you ever learn?" she asked softly,
knowing that there would be no answer. "Even at the
end, you still found it necessary to lie to me. You
should have known how distasteful I'd find that. I'm
afraid you're going to regret having done that."

From a small pouch on her belt she withdrew a
carefully prepared explosive charge. She tested its
weight in her hand, then set it and turned towards
the door, tossing it over her shoulder with an almost
negligent gesture.

"No more clones, Duncan."

She felt then another alien touch upon her mind-
alien, but not unfamiliar.

Dearest Gillian...how I wish that I could hate you.
My one failing, perhaps, that I cannot.

"No more lies, either. I'm finished with you,
Duncan." And even as he might have responded, she
felt a nonexistent wind, a force barely sensed, sweep
away what remained of him, carrying the shade's
presence off to whatever might lie beyond. She smiled
sardonically as the muffled sound of an explosion
trailed her along the corridor, and up the stairs,
out towards the sunlight.