Well everyone, here we are! Finally, at long last the epilogue. Hope that you all enjoy and please read the A/N at the end of the chapter. Hope you all enjoy!
Sitting in his office, nursing his wounds, Dumbledore felt every one of his nearly one-hundred and thirty years weighing down on him like a lead weight he was unable to shake. For over fifty years he'd been carrying the Death Stick. And for fifty years he failed to realize just what it's true significance was. For sure he knew that it was one of the three Deathly Hallows, but he was blinded by legend and failed to see the true evil behind the wand. It wasn't a mythical powerful object; it was a horcrux for the greatest dark entity to ever curse the surface of Earth. And he'd been in possession for it for over half a century!
Hearing a soft cooing and a light nudge on his hand, Dumbledore absentmindedly began to scratch his familiars head. "For over half a century Fawkes," He said to his phoenix. "I carried that accursed wand for over half a century and never even realized just what it was. But you my friend…you knew. You always tried to take it away from me whenever you could. I should've have listened to you my friend…I should've listened to my instincts. I should've listened to Gellert when he told me after our duel to destroy the wand at all costs. But I didn't. In my hubris…I ignored you all. I failed."
"Failure. The greatest and harshest mentor, it is."
Sighing, Dumbledore made a quick glimpse out of the corner of his eye. Sitting peacefully on the balcony railing was a small green creature reminiscent of a goblin cross breaded with a house elf. He briefly wondered why he hadn't sensed the little beings approach, but than a quick mental scan, which was thoroughly rebuked, answered that question. The little being was powerful. Incredibly powerful. And given that he had never seen anything like him before, there was no doubt as to how he'd arrived. Yet, despite the being's sudden and unexpected appearance, Dumbledore wasn't afraid. He was ready.
"Yes…it is," Dumbledore nodded, agreeing with the little being. "And just when I thought I'd learned from my failures…I ended up repeating them again and again. And with each successive failure…the fallout grew exponentially. And now…here we are. At the end of the road I guess."
"End?" The little green creature asked, one of its eyebrows rising. "No. This is not the end. Not for you. Not for me."
Now Dumbledore was confused, "Didn't Nox send you to kill me?"
At this, the little creature looked offended. Hoping off its perch, the little creature used its cane to help it limp across the space between them. "Kill you? No no. Misunderstand Nox, misunderstand myself, you do. Your death, serve no purpose it does. In life, help still you can."
"Help?" Dumbledore scoffed. "Some help I am. For nearly fifty years I've led the wizarding world down a path of ruin. It was only because of one whom I considered my enemy and did everything in my power to stop, that we managed to avoid total annihilation. How many people are going to want my help now?"
"Misunderstand me again, you do," The little green being said, hoping gracefully up into a chair across the desk and settling down into the cushion with his legs crossed. "Help others you can. Lead others, you and I, cannot. Our time as leaders, over it is. Our time as aides, advisors and mentors, begun, it has. Learn from failure you must. Teach oth of what you learned, you still can."
Feeling a shift under his hand, Dumbledore watched as Fawkes left his perch and went over to the small green creature. The little being stared up at the phoenix with a smile on his face as Fawkes began to trill a peaceful tune. "Fawkes likes you," Dumbledore said calmly, letting the song of the phoenix settle over him. "So…if I'm not to be killed…then I might as well do as you say and make myself useful. I have but two questions: Who are you and what does Nox need of me?"
The green creature smiled at Dumbledore nodding in agreement, "Yoda, I am. Jedi Master, the last I will be." Yoda sighed. "Long the Jedi protected the Republic and galaxy until betrayed by the Sith we were. Misunderstand Nox, you did. Yes?"
Dumbledore frowned, "Jedi? Sith? So the Sith are your enemies? Yes, I greatly misunderstood her. I thought she was leading young Harry down a dark path. I realize now how wrong I was."
Chuckling Yoda shook his head is amusement, "Dark the path is the way of the Guardians. Necessary it is. To defend and defeat the darkness, Guardians must tread within. In balance they are. Correct you are…but incorrect. A dark path awaits many Guardians. Jedi seek the dark places with caution we did."
Dumbledore furrowed his brow in memory trying to recall the words Harry spoke to him that he ignored, "I see. You have much wisdom, yet you are no Guardian?"
"Guardian I am not. Too old I am to change. Nearly nine hundred years I am…long have I trained Jedi I have. Teach still I will. But too old, yes, too old to change my path." Yoda smiled at Dumbledore's shocked look.
Standing upon her balcony overlooking the Guardian Temple, Nox frowned as her mind raced. Despite the death of the Emperor and elimination of most of the upper ranks of the New Sith Order, the war was still very much still in full swing. Nightshade had survived the encounter and was now more than likely consolidating what was left of her forces. Forces that Nightshade controlled now severely diminished. More frustrating that it was forces would have a hard time countering especially considering how nearly three-quarters of the world was currently warring against itself.
Nightshade wasn't all that concerned her either. While she expected that Vitiate's death would trigger the downfall of the shroud around Earth, she hadn't anticipated just how fast Darth Sidious would latch upon their location. Within seconds of Vitiate's death, she could sense Sidious's foul presence scouting out Earth. Luckily, the Sith had been so astounded by what he'd found that he left himself completely open for a split second, which was all she needed. With his sense stretched so far, she was able to send an attack of her own back at the Sith, using his own Force presence as a guide, and she blinded his Force vision. He could still see the future, but his ability to stretch his senses across the galaxy would be next to non-existence. At least for a decade or two. Long enough for Nox and her allies to properly plan on how to combat the Galactic Empire.
But while the future and its outlook had many in the Temple anxious and unsure, it wasn't the reason why Nox had sought out isolation. Harry, her son, had yet to still awaken since the battle. Her only source of comfort came from the fact that she could still sense her son's presence through their bond. Her son still lived, but after getting thoroughly mind fucked by the Emperor; his mind had retreated into itself to try and preserve him. Every moment she had to spare was spent at her son's bedside, using every technique she could to try and help him. But so far, everything she'd tried had failed. Even Master Fay was having little to no luck in reaching her son.
"He'll be fine Nox. Your kid's a strong one."
Blinking, Nox turned around. "Ashara," She breathed, staring at the semi-translucent form of her former lover standing just a few feet from her. "You're…"
"Yup," Ashara smirked as she accented the 'p'. "Still kicking. Well…metaphorically at least."
Taking a step forward, Nox reached out and tried to touch Ashara's face. To which her former lover leaned in, causing her hand to pass right through. "Worth a shot," Nox muttered as she let her hand drop.
"Definitely," Ashara agreed before letting out a breath. "Unfortunately, though Nox…this is where we say goodbye."
Clenching her teeth, Nox couldn't meet the togruta's eyes. "I know," She said, cursing her own weakness as she felt her eyes swell. "Doesn't mean that I have to like it though."
"I know," A ghostly hand came up and touched her on the cheek, making Nox close her eyes as she felt Ashara's touch through the Force rather than through physical contact. "But you need to let me go now Nox. For your sake…and for hers."
Opening her eyes, Nox stared at her former lover. "Ashara…"
"She deserves to be loved fully Nox," Ashara added quickly. "And you can't do that while you're still holding onto the past. Let go Ziri and look to the future. Just like you always told me to do whenever I would revert to some of my less than desirable Jedi habits. And for what it's worth Ziri, I approve of your choice. But then again, you always did have good taste. I mean you did choose me to begin with after all."
Unable to help herself, Nox chuckled. "Conceited much?"
Ashara returned her chuckle with one of her own and a cocky grin. "Well, I learned everything from you my love."
"Touché," Nox laughed, shaking her head. "Alright, the rest of you may as well come out here now as well."
One by one; Revan, Satele and Darth Marr appeared before her. "We thought it would be best to give you two a moment to yourselves first," Satele said serenely as old Jedi Grand Master stood tall and proud beside Marr.
"Why Satele," Nox said mockingly. "Is that sympathy I hear in your voice? I didn't know you were even capable of processing such a powerful emotion."
One of Satele's delicate brows rose. "I should've realized you haven't changed. But then again…after spending several days in that vast emptiness you call your mind, I shouldn't be surprised that you lack the mental capacity for change."
Staring at the Jedi, Nox blinked, then quickly turned and looked outside. "Okay…no flying cows or pigs. The sky isn't falling…and the galaxy isn't ending. Are you sure that you are the real Satele Shan? Cause I could've just sworn that you made a joke at my expense."
"I did," Shan replied, completely straight faced.
"Fine," Nox sighed, as her reply failed to garner the reaction she wanted from the Jedi. "Well…I guess this is goodbye then."
"Yes, it is," Revan nodded as Ashara stepped back so that she was in line with the other three. "You have succeeded where we have failed Nox. You have done much and brought a measure of balance back to the Force. Yet your trials are not yet done."
"I know," Nox nodded. "Still have one pesky Sith Emperor to deal with. Only this time he has most of the galaxy backing him."
"Not all support him Nox," Darth Marr intoned. "Many in the galaxy resent the creation of "Galactic" Empire. In the years to come, you will find allies in the strangest of places. Some old and some new. But never let your guard down. Sidious is nearly Vitiate's equal in terms of power. And Vader is not too far behind."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence Marr," Nox sighed before sinking down to her knees. "Well…thank you. All of you. And now…may my light redeem you and send you on to be one with the Force once more."
One by one, the Force ghost before her began to glow as she channeled the Force through her and into them. Bit by bit, each part on their body began to become more and more translucent as they found their conduit into the Force that Nox had opened for them. And bit by bit, she could feel the power they'd given her slowly seep out of her body. 'Thank you, my love,' Ashara's voice rang in her mind as her form disappeared. 'And goodbye…until we meet again in the Force.'
Opening her eyes, Nox stared blankly into her empty office. Getting up slowly, Nox all but collapsed into her chair as exhaustion took hold. 'Fuck…' She cursed, letting her head fall back. 'That…was a lot more taxing than last time.' "Come in Tonks."
The door to her office slid open silently, allowing a more than slightly nervous Nymphadora entry. "Is this a bad time? I can come back."
"No," Nox said, shaking her head and shutting the doors behind Tonks with a wave of her hand. "In fact, I think right now I would prefer your company more than anything."
Nodding, Tonks silently made her way around Nox's desk until she was standing directly behind her. Her soft hands gently brushed against Nox's shoulders for a moment before her thumbs and fingers began to expertly move across her aching muscles. Relaxing into her lover's touch, Nox let out a low groan as Tonks's fingers began gently coaxing her muscles to relax. "Do you want to talk about it Nox?"
Taking Tonks's hand, Nox brought it around and gently placed a kiss to the back of her hand. "Not right now…but one day soon yes."
Sensing a more than familiar feeling coming from Tonks, Nox reaffirmed her hold on the younger woman's hand and pulled her around and into her lap. "Nox!" Tonks half laughed. "What ar-"
That was as far as she managed to get and Nox sealed her lips with her own. Whatever complaint or objection Tonks had was lost as the two lost themselves in each other. "Master Nox."
Letting out a low groan, Nox reluctantly pulled herself back from Tonks, who gave her an all too knowing look of amusement. "Someone either be dead or dying," Nox growled, making Tonks giggle even more as she reached over and activated their end of the commun-link. "This had better be important."
"It is Master Nox," The voice, who Nox recognized as Master Fay, responded as Tonks began to burrow into Nox's neck while leaving a trail of light kisses starting at her jaw line.
"Then what is it?" She asked, trying to pay attention as Tonks renewed her assault against her neck.
"Harry is beginning to regain consciousness."
Tonks's ministrations immediately ceased as both women went stock still. "Go," Tonks said, rising off Nox before she could utter a word. "He needs you now more than I."
"I'll be down in a minute," Nox responded before shutting off the comm-link. Rising from her seat, she took a half step around it before stopping. "Nymphadora."
Tonks managed to get her hands up in time to catch the metal cylinder that Nox had thrown at her from her desk. The young woman's eyes went impossibly wide as she stared at the lightsaber in her hands. "Nox…this…"
"I expect you to be ready to train with myself and Astoria first thing in the morning," Nox said, cutting her off. "I don't want you cutting your own limb off with that thing when you use it."
"Nox," Tonk call out again, this time more insistent. "This…this lightsaber. It…it was…"
"It was Ashara's. Now it is yours," Nox answered, turning around to face her lover fully. "She wanted you to have it. And so do I. It belongs in the hands of the woman I love. Not on a shelf gathering dust."
Nox clearly saw tears starting to form at the corners of Tonks's eyes. Tonks opened her mouth to respond, but Nox merely turned on her heel before she could, apparating out of the office and leaving one thoroughly stunned young woman behind.
Standing on the bridge of the Satele Shan along with his mother and Admiral Hackett, Harry was doing everything in his power to keep himself calm as he watched yet another asteroid pass them by. His mind was…not what it once was. At least not yet. A consequence of getting royally mind fucked by the greatest dark entity the galaxy had ever known. It'd taken nearly three days for Harry even to regain the mental capacity to awaken. And even then, it was only three days because his mother and Master Fay had taken rotating shifts at his bedside to help him heal his mind.
It was only because he had begged, on his hands and knees, that he could go on this mission. But even then, it was on the condition that if he showed even the slightest bit of unease or weakness he would be sent to the med-bay and sealed within even if his mother had to ward off the entire level to ensure it.
"Harry, are you alright?"
Turning his head, he nodded to Ahsoka who was standing just off to his left. "Yeah," He nodded to her before he resumed staring out of the forward viewport.
He felt something warm brush against his hand as Ahsoka's hand settled into his own. 'There's no shame in admitting your not well Harry,' Ahsoka said, speaking through their mind-link to avoid any eavesdropping. 'Even Master Nox and Master Yoda take a break when they need too.'
'True,' He admitted. 'But whatever Vitiate hid out here has to be incredible. He crawled out from the rock he was hiding under just because we discovered where it was located. It must be big. A ship…or some sort of weapon. Whatever it is, I want to be here when we find it. If, for no other reason than to throw one last insult at the bastard that tried to steal my mind and body from me.'
"Visual confirmation of target in thirty seconds Admiral, Grand Master," The pilot called out as he roughly banked the cruiser around an asteroid, causing most of the crew to grab hold of something to make sure they didn't tilt.
"Thank you, Mr. Monreau," Nox called out. "And I would like to remind you that this is a cruiser, not a fighter. Continue making maneuvers like that last one and I will turn you into a figurehead and mount you on the prow of this ship. Am I understood?"
"Yes ma'am," The pilot, who Harry had learned went by the nickname of 'Joker', yelled back in a slightly higher pitched tone than normal. "Right…no crazy maneuvers…no fun at…whoa…that's a big rock."
Keeping his eyes forward, Harry couldn't help but silently agree with the pilot. The asteroid right in front of them was positively enormous. It was so big Harry was half convinced that it wasn't an asteroid at all, but rather a small moon that'd somehow gotten knocked out of orbit. "How did we miss something that big mothe-"
But Nox wasn't paying attention to him. In fact, she wasn't paying attention to anyone or anything save for the large asteroid right in front of them. "Scan the asteroid," She called out to no one in particular.
"Um, for what ma'am?"
"Anything," She shot back, her eyes still on the rapidly approaching rock.
The crewmen immediately got back to their task, their hands moving blindingly fast over their control panels. "Huh…well that's odd."
"What is it?" Nox asked, finally prying herself away from the viewport.
"There's…nothing there," The crewmen responded, clearly confused. "There has to be some sort of interference or something. But every sensor we have on the ship Grand Master, both magical and non-magical, are saying that there is nothing but empty space in front of us."
Nox didn't look necessarily surprised for some reason. In fact, she looked…pleased. "Good," She said, moving forward until she was almost on top of Joker as she reached over and began typing into his terminal. "Take us as close as you can to these coordinates Mr. Monreau," Turning and facing Harry, she strode past the two of them without a glance. "Admiral, have the shuttle prepared for immediate departure. We're heading down to the surface."
"Yes ma'am," Admiral Hackett nodded, sparing Harry and Ahsoka a parting nod before returning his attention back to the ship. "Take us in nice and easy Monreau. Any scratches and it comes out of your pay."
Harry and Ahsoka were left scrambling to catch up with Nox, and the two just barely made it onto the elevator behind her before the shut just behind them. "Mother," Harry said cautiously, seeing that his mother's focus was still on the strange asteroid they were approaching. "What…what is that asteroid? I've never seen you so…well…spooked."
Nox's eyes blinked as she shook her head and regarded her son. "I'm not spooked Harry. Merely…momentarily confused if you will. But if this asteroid is what I think it is, then it might just be the answer that we've been looking for."
"The answer to what, Master Nox?" Ahsoka asked as the elevator stopped and the doors opened, revealing the hanger bay.
"To how we're going to fight against the Empire my dear," Nox said, hurrying out of the elevator.
Following closely behind her, Harry saw several members of the ship's flight crew scrambling to prepare the LAAT shuttle while General Rex and Commander Gregor watched on. "Grand Master Nox," Rex called out, snapping to attention as the three of them approached. "The shuttle is just about ready for departure ma'am."
"Good," Nox nodded, sweeping past the two clone troopers and into the shuttle. "Pilot, take off immediately."
"Yes ma'am!" The pilot responded, flipping through the last of his pre-flight checks as Harry, Ahsoka, Rex, Wolffe and half a dozen other soldiers stepped up into the shuttle and took their seats.
Nox didn't take a seat, as she stayed almost directly behind the pilot as they flew out of the hanger and towards the asteroid. As they grew ever closer, with Nox guiding their every movement, Harry couldn't help but notice something. "Ahsoka…you've seen quite a few asteroids, right?"
"More than I care to count," Ahsoka nodded. "Sky-guy was a little…unconventional during the war."
"That's one way of putting it ma'am," Rex added. "Remember that time he had us tanks on an asteroid and them used the cruiser as bait to draw in a Seppy command ship in close to us? That was an interesting mission. Still can't believe we pulled that off."
"Well…" Ahsoka chuckled before a wave of unease settled over her and seeped through the bond. "Sky-guy was…unconventional."
Reaching out, Harry blindly placed his hand atop of hers to give her some comfort. "Well…have any of you ever seen an asteroid like that one before?"
Leaning forward in their seats, Ahsoka and the clones stared out the forward viewport. "No," Ahsoka said after a pregnant pause. "Some of the rock formations seem almost…man-made."
"Not man-made," Nox interjected with her back still turned towards them. "Pilot, head for that spot along the canyon wall."
"Yes ma'am," The pilot nodded as the shuttle slowly descended until it was almost touching the surface of the asteroid.
Once they'd reach the location Nox had pointed out, everyone in the shuttle was struck speechless at was embedded into the canyon wall. "Well…call me a clanker," Gregor mumbled. "That's a blast door…and pretty damn strong one by the looks of it. Bet we could fire every ordnance we have aboard the Satele Shan at it and it wouldn't even blink an eye at us. And I don't know about the rest of you…but I don't see a control panel anywhere on the surface either."
"Luckily, we don't need one," Nox said cryptically as she raised her hand.
For a second, nothing happened. But then the shuttle lurched slightly as a crack formed in the blast door as they slowly opened. At an almost excruciatingly slow pace, the door slowly slide to the either side, revealing a room beyond. Once there was a large enough to fit the shuttle, Nox lowered her hand, her breathing more than slightly labored. "Move us in and then turn us around. Harry, Ahsoka. I'm going to need your help to close the door once we're in."
Slowly, the shuttle inched its way into the darkened room. The floodlights on the shuttle illuminated the interior, revealing a small room that was just barely wide enough to fit two maybe three shuttles at most. "This looks like some sort of airlock," Ahsoka muttered to him as the shuttle slowly turned around towards the exit.
"That's because it is," Nox commented. "Now help me shut the doors."
Reaching out, Harry could sense his mother and Ahsoka grabbing either side of the sliding doors. Adding his strength to their own, the three of them slowly closed the doors until they were pressed tight against one another and then slid the seals into place. The moment the doors shut, the emergency lights within the shuttle came to life, providing a small amount of illumination. "Grand Master," The pilot called out. "Admiral Hackett is requesting an update immediately. Apparently, we disappeared from scanners the moment the doors shut."
"Tell him that we're fine," Nox said simply. "There's minerals within this asteroid which interferes with just about every form of scanner invented. Oh, and check the atmosphere. I want to know if we can step out or not."
The pilot nodded, relaying her message to the admiral before checking a few of the instruments in front of him. "Atmospheric readings are…normal? Nitrogen and oxygen levels are in the green and…and there's even gravity."
"Good," Nox nodded before opening the shuttle doors and hopping down off the shuttle and marching away, leaving Harry and the others to catch up to her.
Pulling out his wand, Harry created a sphere of light and hung in the air above them as Ahsoka did the same and Rex and Gregor activated the spotlights on their helmets. "Mother," Harry called out as Nox reached the wall that was on the opposite side of the main door. "You know what this place is, don't you?"
"Yes, I do," Nox nodded as she pressed down on a seemingly random spot on the wall.
A loud groaning echoed thorough the immediate area as a section of the wall cracked away from the rest and moved back, creating a path for them to follow. "Tell me," Nox continued as she stepped through the new opening while creating her own sphere of light and sending it ahead of her. "What do you all know of the Rakatan Infinite Empire?"
"The Rakatan?" Ahsoka asked, clearly confused. "I– I think I remember reading something about them during my years in the Jedi Temple. Didn't they control the galaxy before the creation of the Republic or the Empire?"
"Yes," Nox nodded as she led them deeper into the asteroid. "The Rakatan predate the Republic, the Empire…even Sith and Jedi. They were arguably the first to truly conquer the known galaxy. Until one day they just…disappeared. No one knows how their empire fell or even what happened to them. Almost all records of the Rakatan have been lost to time. But there is one thing that is known. The Rakatan where known as the 'Builders'. A name they earned after several of their constructs were found thousands of years after their disappearance. Three of which were of note more so than any other."
Coming to a dead end, Nox searched the wall for a second before pressing down on another random section of wall to open a new another path. "What were these…constructs ma'am?" Rex asked as his head kept in constant motion, searching for threats.
"The first, and the most well-known, was the station known as the Star Forge," Nox continued with her lecture as she led them deeper and deeper. "It was a giant mobile space station that was capable of creating capital ships, dreadnaughts, supply ships and droids. And if you remember your history well, you will remember that Revan destroyed the Star Forge. The second construct is one that has only been read about and has no name. But, if what has been theorized about it is correct, then it can terraform an entire world faster than any current or even theorized process. And the last…and the one that we are currently on board is known as the Foundry."
Opening another section of wall, Nox led them into a large open chamber. As they stepped inside, Harry couldn't help but gaze around in awe as the three spheres of light filtered into the room. Even with all three lights spacing themselves out, barely half of the large room was illuminated. The room was…empty. Save for a few smaller rocks that were floating in midair. And the single platform that they were standing on, which led towards a large control center located in the middle of the room.
"The Foundry?" Rex question as he stared around. "So…this is a giant manufacturing facility then Grand Master? What can it make?"
Chuckling slight, Nox made her way towards the center of the room. "The question isn't what it can make General. The question is what the Foundry can't make. During my brief time studying this place and based off the reports that I read from the Imperial scientist who were sent in to study it. This facility can create an almost inconceivable number of droids in a matter of days. Everything from battle droids to protocol droids. It can also create fighters and frigates. Unfortunately, it cannot create a cruiser or dreadnaught like the Star Forge. But it can create the pieces of the ship which can be assembled at a different location easily."
"And best of all," Nox said, coming to stop before the control panel in the center of the room. "All that it takes to run this facility, is a single Force user."
Raising her hand, Harry watched in amazement as the panel came to life under her outstretched hand. The entire facility shuddered as the sound of gears turning echoed. Lights began turning on, illuminating the room they were in as the rock that'd been suspending in the air began to slowly drift downwards into the depths below. As he watched, Harry breathed the only word that he could think of now, "Wicked."
"Indeed son," Nox smiled as several screens began coming to life above the panel. "General Rex…something you wish to add?"
Blinking, Harry turned around towards General Rex. The clone had taken his helmet off and was watching the rocks floating downwards with a bemused smile on his face, "Just…ironic ma'am. My brothers and I fought against the clankers to try and keep the Republic alive. And now…now we're going to be fighting with the clankers to bring the Empire down. Just…ironic ma'am."
Ahoska's lips turned upwards as Harry felt amusement filter through their bond. "Yes, it is General," Nox nodded as specifications for droids began appearing on screen. "But as any halfway decent Force wielder will be able to tell you: The Force loves its ironies."
The sun was shining down brightly on the small village of Godric's Hollow as a lone man wearing a long dark robe walked down its streets. Coming upon a small cemetery, the man hesitated only a moment before he pushed the opened the gate and made his way in. Walking between the headstones, the man made his way towards the back until he came upon two that were side by side. Kneeling, Harry Potter gently brushed off some debris that'd covered his parents' headstones. "Hey mum, dad," Harry said, gently tracing the name of his parents as he talked. "I'm sorry that I haven't been to see you in…well a long time. But I've…I've been more than a little busy as I'm sure you guys no doubt know."
Reaching into the folds of his robe, Harry pulled out two pristine red roses. Laying one on each headstone, he rolled back on his heels and sat down between his parents' graves. "It's been over two years since the war started. Or rather, since the Day of Reckoning, as everyone has come to call it. And, well…it's been a rough ride."
Pausing, Harry looked up at the blue sky and just sat there, enjoying the feeling of the sun on his face. "Despite losing the Emperor, the Sith didn't lose as much ground as we'd hoped. Nightshade was right there to pick up after the Emperor's death. She took over command of the Children and the Condemned. And they have the same blind obedience towards her that they did towards Vitiate. Not to mention those dragons that she modified, Merlin's balls were those things a pain in the arse to deal with. But instead of attacking us head on, she went underground and operated purely from the shadows. Stoking the fires of war that were already spreading across the world. The problem was…we simply didn't have the numbers to quell so many civil wars. Even with the droids that Foundry was able to supply us with. It seemed like we would just manage to stop one fight and then three more would spring up. Merlin knows all of us within the Guardian Order were starting to get exhausted."
Stopping again, Harry once again reached into his robes and pulled out a small hip-flask. "I hope that you don't mind mum," He said, taking a sip from of firewhiskey. "I know that dad wouldn't care, but Sirius helped me to develop a taste for this. I don't drink it too often, but…we'll you know. It does help on occasion. The non-magicals don't call it 'liquid courage' for nothing right?"
Taking another sip, Harry closed the flask off and put it back. "Where was I? Oh yeah, so we didn't seem to be making any head way at all. We couldn't find Nightshade and one conflict after another just kept getting in our way. And then…I really don't know how it happened…but one day nearly a third of the world's population just seemed to have enough and they joined up with us. Might have something to do with the fact that the countries that were under the protection of the Guardian Order were prospering thanks to the droids. Anyway, after that everything just seemed to go our way. Mother took a leading role in the formation of a new world government, and even right now there's talk of making her position permanent. Despite quite a few protests, but those are few and far between."
"And that day might not just be too far off either. Considering about ninety percent of Earth is now a part of this New Earth Government…although Mother said she's seriously thinking about changing the name of that. I think she'd prefer something along the lines of the 'Imperial Republic' or something like that," Harry added with a smile. "And speaking of the war…it should almost be over now. We've finally managed to track her down Nightshade that is. The last remnant of the New Sith Order that plunged Earth into chaos. She was slippery…not even her own subordinates knew where she was. But she slipped up. And now we have her. And with one last campaign we're looking to bring an end to the Sith on Earth."
Feeling a soft wind blowing across his face, Harry tilted his head back and basked in the moment of peace. "Of course, not everything has been smooth sailing. Politically, things were a nightmare for a long time and still are. The reveal of the fact that magic did indeed exist nearly caused another civil war to break out. And then Mother's reveal that she too was magical didn't really help matters, not that she could've hidden it. But still, after all the death and destruction more than a few people were and still are, leery of magic. And the same can be said of the magicals being leery of world knowing of their continued existence. The memory of the witch hunts is still fresh in their minds.
"And then came the even bigger bombshell, so to speak. The reveal that most of the Guardian Order, and most of Mother's trusted advisors, are in fact alien refugees. That caused more than a few protests. But at the same time, it seemed to stop more protests than it started. Everyone became fascinated. And scared. But with all the good the Guardians, specifically the non-humans among us, had done seemed to win the people over. And soon the fact that they weren't even human didn't seem to matter. At least to most. There are still a few die-hard groups out there that are completely xenophobic. But they're few and far between."
"In fact," Harry continued. "Things have actually gotten to the point where Mother is pretty much in control of four-fifths of the planet right now. All the world's official military have been centralized and now report to her. It was quite a shock when one day we looked at it and realized just what was going on. Without even meaning too…Mother had basically become an Empress in all but name seemingly overnight. And the bigger shock came from the newly created world senate…a referendum had been presented to make Mother's position permanent. Of course, the former Jedi Masters that came with us didn't necessarily care for that too much, despite the good she's done. And it took Mother dosing herself with veritaserum to get them to believe that she had no hand in the referendum. And once they realized that this was in fact the will of the people, they stepped back and agreed to it. It passed through the world senate almost unanimously, and it's now gone onto a world vote. Which just so happened to occur two days past and we're now waiting to hear about the official results."
"But that's enough of that," Harry said, letting out a low breath. "I'm sure you two don't really care about what's going on in the war. On to things you two probably do care about. Believe it or not dad, Amelia managed to drag Sirius to the altar before she gave birth to their son. James Regulus Black. I was half afraid that Sirius would name me his godfather, but Amelia or someone must've talked to him before that happened because he ended up naming Remus James's godfather. And it was a good choice too. Remus is an excellent godfather. Oh, and about Remus. He asked Aela to marry him, and she turned him down flat! She then slapped him upside the head and said that they were already mated, which apparently means more than just a simple marriage to the werewolves. Anyway, about two weeks ago Aela dropped a bombshell of her own. She's pregnant. Remus fainted on the spot! I don't think I've ever seen Mother laugh so hard in my entire life."
"And speaking of having someone in your life…I've found the 'someone' for me," Harry continued, unable and unwilling to stop the smile from spreading across his face. "Her name is Ahsoka Tano. And dad, I'm keeping the family tradition going cause she's not human. She's not even from Earth. But I know that you would both like her. Mum, you'd like her cause she's wicked smart, strong and caring. Dad, you'd like her cause she's drop dead gorgeous and a total badass. She's kicked my arse more than once already when I deserved it."
Pausing, Harry stared up at the sky, allowing the wind to gently brush across his face. "I really wish that you two could've met her. But I know that you're both one with the Force, and that you're both looking down on us," Rising to his feet, Harry brushed off his knees as he stood fully. "I love you both mum and dad. And I miss you…more than words can describe. But one day I know that we will see each other again. But not yet."
Resting his hand atop each grave stone one last time, Harry gave each of his parents a smile before turning his back on them and walking away. Less than two blocks from the graveyard, a lone LAAT was sitting in the middle of the street. Ahsoka and Ginny were both standing just beside the LAAT as they waited for him. Ahsoka was the first to spot him, her eyes lit up slightly as he approached, and she took a step forward to meet him before he could reach the LAAT.
"Are you okay Harry?" She asked as she wrapped her arms around his middle.
"Yes," Harry answered.
Ahsoka pulled back and met his eyes. 'There's still pain within you Harry.'
'And there always will be,' Harry answered back. 'Nothing can change that. But I won't let that pain consume me.'
'I know Harry,' Ahsoka shot back as she pulled away from him. 'I'm not worried about that.'
"By Morgana's bloody knickers…I told you two that this is like peeping through the bed curtains when you two do your mind speaking shite so close to me," Ginny called out, ending the moment between the two.
Pressing a light kiss to Ahsoka's forehead, Harry pulled away from his girlfriend. "And you're still a peeping Tom Ginny, or is there another phrase that would be appropriate seeing as how you're a dame?"
Ginny waved him off, but Harry could still feel a slight amount of embarrassment from his apprentice. "In your dreams Master. As if I would ever want to spy on you. Ahsoka maybe. But you…no."
"Thanks, Apprentice," Harry grumbled as he stepped past the two chuckling women. "Just for that, I think you've earned three hours of meditation after the battle is over."
"Are you three done flirting yet?" Daphne asked as she leaned forward enough to poke her head around the side door of the LAAT. "Our forces are at the final staging area before Nightshade's headquarters. If we don't leave now, Grand Admiral Hackett will start the battle without us."
"Well," Harry said, pulling himself into the LAAT with Ginny and Ahsoka stepping in right behind him. Making a quick turn, he spotted Hermione, Susana and Luna were all still seated with their eyes closed as they mental began preparing for what was to come. "Well ladies…let's go end a war."
Sitting on her makeshift throne, Empress Nightshade took a long pull from her pipe as she listened the bombardment that was currently leveling what little was left of her forces and her primary base of operations. She knew that her time was almost over. Not that she necessarily planned on going quietly either. No. She was going to make these fools that foiled her plans work for it.
Another bomb went off, this one close enough to shake the very foundations of her empty throne room. Tapping her pipe to against a golden plate, Nightshade watched stared blankly at the empty room. Everything had been going perfectly. The Children were awakened by the Emperor. Dragons altered and made to follow her every order. The world was in chaos. And the forces of light were pushed back to the brink of extinction. All had been going to plan. And then it all went to shit the moment Vitiate got himself killed.
Not that his death was unwanted. No, far from it. But Nightshade was supposed to have been the one to kill the ancient entity. At a time of her choosing once she'd learned everything she could from it. She'd learned how to create the Children with a bond to the Emperor. But she was not able to replicate the procedure again for some reason. At best she'd only been able to turn the few Children that were still around to her side. She also never learned how to fully create the dementors. She studied the memory of Voldemort creating them time and time again, she even tried to replicate the ritual, but she failed every time. And now she never would be able to do it right. Because the bitch killed the Emperor long before she could learn what his secret was.
And then came the blasted droids. How Nox was able to make so many so quickly, or even create them in the first place, still confused Nightshade. And just about everyone else in the world as well. It was well known that the Guardians had managed to find or create some sort of factory that could pump out the walking rust buckets faster than veela went through partners. But no one outside of the Order knew where this factory was. Every attempt Nightshade made to find it was for naught and often cost her valuable resources that she couldn't easily replace.
And as Nox and her precious Order started claiming one victory after another across the war-torn Earth, both muggles and magicals started to flock to her banner. One by one, nations stopped their infighting and threw their lot in with Nox. In private, Nightshade could almost admire Nox for what she was doing. The bitch was creating a world order that followed her every command. It didn't matter that Nox was a magical. It didn't matter that some of her most trusted advisors and a fair portion of the Guardian Order were in fact alien refugees. The people looked up to her with a devotion that was almost fanatical. It was sickening. A vote had already been called for on a global scale about whether Nox's position would be made into a lifetime appointment. And from what her own spies, the few she had left, had reported she wouldn't really be surprised if after this battle Nox would be named the 'Empress of Earth'. And the people of earth just seemed to accept it!
'Not that I intend to allow her to have the position,' Nightshade thought as she set her pipe aside and gracefully rose to her feet as the sounds of fighting grew ever closer to her throne room. 'There is only room for one Empress of Earth.'
Walking down her dais, she soundlessly summoned her wand to her left hand and her goblin wrought sword to her right just as the doors to her inner chambers were thrown open. Coming to the base of the stairs, Nightshade cocked her head slightly at the lone figure that stood in the doorway, "I should've known that Nox was too much of a coward to come and fight me herself."
Standing just within the now open doors was none other than the one that Voldemort feared. The one that'd been 'prophesied' to defeat the Dark Lord. Nox's own adopted son, and personal lapdog, Harry Potter. "My mother isn't a coward," The boy snapped back, but without any real heat in his voice. "She simply had larger issues to deal with at the moment. So, she sent me to deal with taking out the trash."
"Ha," Nightshade laughed slightly, shaking her head. "Almost amusing boy. Did it take your feeble mind all day to come up with that insult?"
"Nah," Harry replied, shaking his head. "I'm just quick like that."
Huffing, Nightshade stared past the boy. "Tell me boy. Where are your well-known protectors? The Valkyries, if I am not mistaken. If not Nox, I was at least expecting that you and your Valkyries would be the ones to come for me. But here you are, alone. Not even your pet apprentice or that alien slut you parade around."
The boy's lightsaber snapped into existence and was pointed right towards her as the air in the room became physically heavier, "Do not speak of Ahsoka like that again."
"Or what?" Nightshade asked mockingly. "You'll kill me? You're already here to do that. You'll torture me? I doubt that as well. No. Save your breath boy. Your threats mean nothing to me now. Everything I have worked so hard for is gone. You have nothing left to threaten me with."
The boy stared hard at her for a moment before his shoulders dropped and he let out a slight chuckled. "Well, I guess that you got me on that one. So…what do we do now? Skip the whole insulting each other phase and get right to the part where we try to kill one another?"
Reversing her grip on her sword, she drove the blade down hard enough to sink it several inches into the tile floor. "I like you boy," She said, letting go of the sword, which stayed in place, and tucked her wand back into her sleeve. "And I believe that we shall do just that. But before we begin, I would have you humor me for a moment. Tell me…were you the one who killed Sanguine?"
"Sanguine?" Harry asked, clearly caught off guard. "Now that is a name that I haven't heard in a long time. But to answer your question, no, I didn't kill him. My mother disarmed him, quite literally, and let Daphne end his miserable existence. Why? Did he mean something to you?"
"No," Nightshade responded. "But I meant everything to him. For without me, he wouldn't have even existed."
Grabbing hold of the small necklace around her neck, Nightshade roughly snapped the chain around her neck and threw the offending object away from her. Across from her, Harry's eyes widened in surprise as he took a half step back to turn his body sideways.
Not that Nightshade could blame him of course. The necklace wasn't some simple illusion. It was a powerful enchantment that changed her entire physical being. And after wearing it for so long, she could feel each change that occurred. She could feel it as her hair lengthened and turned white. She could feel it as her skin went ashen. She could feel her ears elongated and become pointed at the tips. She could feel her fingers extend and nails lengthen and sharpen. And most of all, she could feel as her jaw altered, and her teeth became fangs in her mouth.
"You're just like Vlad," Harry stated as he stared at her. "You're the other Vampire Dread Lord."
Feeling the change cease, Nightshade rolled her head around as she adjusted once again to her true form. "I am nothing like Vlad," Nightshade responded, opening her now blood red eyes and staring down at the boy. "I was one of the first to be granted this gift. And I am the eldest vampire on this world boy. Every vampire that walks this Earth has blood that can be traced back to me. And it was my destiny to turn this world into a paradise. A destiny you and your mother ruined when you destroyed the key to my ascension."
"The Emperor," Harry stated.
"Yes," Nightshade drawled, grabbing ahold of her sword and roughly pulling it from the ground. "Now come boy. We have wasted enough time with this pointless chatter."
Shifting his stance, the boy held onto his lightsaber with two hands and brought it up to his back shoulder, "Your funeral, Nightshade."
Standing on the balcony overlooking the Guardian Temple, Nox stared off into the horizon as the sun began its slow descent. While she was present in physical form, her mind was anywhere but at the Temple as she watched through her mind's eye the battle going on across the world. A battle to end the Sith. She could sense her armies steady advance despite everything Nightshade threw at them. The mixture of Guardians, magicals, non-magicals and droids cutting through the last of the Sith's forces with ease. She felt as Harry cut and unrelenting path through Nightshade's inner sanctum until she was left standing alone in front of the last of the Sith on Earth. She felt the rush of emotion from her son as the end was within his grasp. She felt him draw his weapon and prepare himself. Then…she felt it end.
"Over, it is."
Coming out of her mental state, Nox turned her head slightly and spied Master Yoda sitting cross legged on a small platform hovering several feet off the ground just off to her left side. "Yes," She nodded, not bothering to hide the smile that came to her as she felt the end of the last of the Sith. "Nightshade is defeated. The Sith's hold on this world is now gone."
Humming, Yoda stared off into the distance with her. "One war ends…another begins. Endless cycle, it is."
Nodding, Nox turned her back on the view and made her way in. "There is an old saying, Master Yoda. 'Only the dead have seen the end of war'. Confrontation is an unfortunate and indisputable part of all sentient beings. And while the wise will not actively seek out confrontation, they must always be ready for it."
"Wise words they are, Master Nox," Yoda agreed, his floating platform following along beside her.
Using a brief push with the Force, Nox moved her chair to the side and sunk down into it. Laying her right hand on her desk, her fingers twitched and itch to press down on the small panel on the corner of her desk that would activate the large television in her room. "Nervous, you are."
"Really?" Nox asked rhetorically, casting side-eyed glance at the ancient Jedi Master. "What was your first clue?"
"Because nervous, you are," Yoda responded, completely straight faced.
Chuckling in spite of herself, Nox leaned back. "Oh Yoda…I'm glad that I will always have your dry humor to fall back on. Perhaps you'd like a permanent spot as a court jester?"
Yoda's faced scrunched up at that, "Jester, I am not."
"No," Nox agreed. "You're right. You're too short for that position."
Grumbling, Yoda floated away from her. Just as he did, the door to her room opened and Tonks strode in. Nox's metamorphmagus lover had defiantly changed in the past two years, and not just physically. She had an air of confidence and grace about her now that reminded Nox of Ashara greatly. And with the fact that Tonks now preferred to wear the robes of the Guardians, despite her not being associated with them, and she wore Ashara's lightsaber at her hip always…it was hard not to compare the two no matter how hard she tried not to.
"Nox, Master Yoda," Tonks said, greeting the ancient Jedi respectfully with a slight bow.
Fighting down the lump in her throat, Nox met the obviously forced neutral face of her lover. "Tonks…I take it that the vote has been finalized?"
"Yes," Tonks nodded, which garnered Yoda's attention as his ears twitched. "Eighty-five percent of the world vote has been collected and it was so overwhelming that the senate decided to call it. So, let me just be the first to say…congratulations Empress Nox. Although that title might change soon as well…bit of a bad vibe according to the senate but…you get the picture luv."
Letting go of the breath she hadn't even been aware she was holding in, Nox felt herself relax, if ever so slightly, for the first time in several years, "Congratulations…. Empress."
Turning her head, she felt her elation fall slightly at the look on Yoda's face. "Despite what many may believe Master Yoda, I did not arrange for this to happen. Maybe when I first came to Earth I would have, but now…I was content in my role. And before you start thinking that this is just going to be another Sith Empire, don't. I've lived through the tyranny of the Sith Empire before. And I'm going to aim not to repeat the same mistakes the current Empire, or the Empire of old, have made."
"Know this, I do," Watching him close his eyes, Nox could almost feel the ancient little creature reach out into the Force for guidance. "Pleased with this…the Force is. Follow the path laid by the Force, I will."
"Good," Nox nodded, for some reason she couldn't explain, the little bugger had grown on her quite a bit as of late. Like an annoying relative that you both tried to avoid and sought approval from at the same time. "And besides, this is a promotion for you as well. Chief Advisor. That is of course unless you'd like to stay out of it all and continue to teach the younglings instead."
"Served as Advisor in the past, I have," Yoda nodded, his face pensive. "Unsure if I will again…meditate on this, I will. Answer you soon, I will."
"That's all I can ask for," Nox said, turning back towards Tonks. "Anything else dear?"
"Yes," Tonks nodded. "The senate won't be announcing the tally until tomorrow. But until then they want to send over an armed security detail until a new division can be formed."
"No need," Nox shot back, grabbing one of the dozen of datapads up off her desk and tossing it over to Tonks. "These seven, should they agree to the transfer, will be the first wave of my security detail. Who knows…maybe we'll name the new division after them. Something-seven I think would work the best."
While Tonks was busy scrolling through the names and reading up on their credentials, Nox sent out a mental wave to the next individual that she wanted to talk to. Who'd, conveniently enough, just now arrived back at the Temple. "Whoa Nox," Tonks breathed as she finished the list. "This is a proverbial who's who of war heroes."
"Of course, they are," Nox nodded, sensing the next individual making their way towards them. "This…whatever-seven, is going to be the best of the best. Magical and non-magical. Now dear, if you could please go about seeing to that list please. The next conversation about to take place is of a rather…delicate nature."
Nodding, Tonks gave her a half-salute and wink before turning making her way out of the room. Just as Tonks disappeared, her next guest arrived. "Ah, Master Kenobi, please. Come in and have a seat."
The middle-aged Master nodded politely as he entered the room, "Thank you Master Nox, Master Yoda."
"Tell us, Master Kenobi," Nox said as Obi-Wan took his seat across from her. "How goes the relief efforts away from the front lines?"
Folding his hands together, Kenobi took on an air of serenity as he leaned back, "Well enough. The new agricultural droids have made enough headway in the damaged countries that supplying food to the population in those areas will not be an issue. Cleaning up the debris from the cities and finding new housing for the refugees however is taking some time. But those projects are coming along as well. Our best estimate right now is that within a year, maybe two, almost all damage done by the Sith attacks will have been eradicated."
"Good," Nox nodded, glad to hear of the progress that was being done with the restoration of Earth.
"Yes, it is," Obi-Wan nodded, shooting a look between Nox and Yoda. "But that is not the reason you asked for me is it?"
"No," Nox said plainly, seeing no reason to beat around the bush. "No doubt you have heard about the vote and its outcome, even if it hasn't been publicly announced."
The corner of Kenobi's eye twitched, "It was pretty much a forgone conclusion."
"Maybe to some Kenobi," Nox added, narrowing her eyes. Of all the Masters, Kenobi was one of the few that still opening voice his concerns about Nox being elected as a permanent head of state. "Now I know well your concerns on the matter, and I actually share some of them as well. Don't forget, I lived through a time where a single being controlled the Sith and the Empire. I know full well the danger of 'wearing too many hats', as it were. So, to alleviate that I've come to a decision that was, frankly, not easy. As of tomorrow, Master Kenobi, I will be stepping down as Grand Master of the Guardian Order. And as my last act, I'm naming you as the Order's new Grand Master. Congratulations."
In one of the very few times since she'd known him, the 'Negotiator' was left speechless. Slowly, his head turned back and forth, alternating his gaze from Master Yoda to herself several times before stopping, "You're…you're appointing me as Grand Master?"
"Yes," Nox answered simply. "Is that so hard to believe? And before you ask, I did offer the position to our little friend here, but he turned me down."
"My place, to lead the Guardians it is not," Yoda commented before Kenobi could say anything. "Best choice for this position Master Kenobi, you are."
"And don't get me wrong Obi-Wan," Nox cut in. "I didn't select you as my successor just because Yoda didn't want it. In fact, you were always my first choice should there ever come a time when I had to step down."
Leaning back in his seat, Kenobi's eyes went downward as he visibly tried to process what'd just happened, "Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment Master Nox, because I do. But-"
Leaning back against her desk, Nox crossed her arms over her chest. "I assume that you mean why you over Master Fay, Shaak Ti, Vos or even Secura. Master Fay will not be here long. Sure she has Gabrielle as an Apprentice and that will keep her tied to Earth for a time. But she follows the will of the Force and one day soon she will leave and there is no telling when she will be back. Vos…well he's too much of a maverick to hold such a position of responsibility for long. And as for Shaak Ti and Secura, while it is true the three of you are pretty much on equal footing you have something that the other two do not. Narcissa."
That got a slight reaction from the middle-aged man, not much of one. No more than ever so slight reddening of his ears and an uncomfortable cough, but a reaction none the less. "You mean…the fact that I'm-"
"The fact that your banging Narcissa has nothing to do with it," Nox cut in, making Kenobi cough more than slightly uncomfortably as his cheeks reddened. "Nothing to be ashamed about Obi-Wan. Jedi stamina is something of a legend. And Narcissa certainly appreciates it if the noises coming from your rooms are anything to go by. But it's not the fact that you are in a relationship that tipped the scales in your favor. It's the fact that you've come to love her. And don't bother trying to deny it. You're still getting used to both accepting, and suppressing, such a powerful emotion to not wear it on your sleeve. And because you are so open about the fact that you love her…well that just tells me that you truly have accepted the Guardian philosophy."
Kenobi stared at her as she finished, his emotions such a chaotic mess that even the cool 'Negotiator' couldn't keep them straight. After several long moments he manage to get himself under control and he rose to his feet. "If this is truly what you wish for-"
"It is Obi-Wan."
"Then I accept," Kenobi nodded.
"Good," Nox smiled, feeling as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. "Now just because I'm stepping back from the Order does not mean that I'm leaving it entirely. I don't want what I've built to fall apart. Not that I think it will under your leadership, but I still wish to be kept appraised of as much as possible."
"I understand," Kenobi nodded.
"Good," Nox nodded, standing up and holding out her hand. "Well then, congratulations Grand Master Kenobi."
Taking her hand, Kenobi gave her an ever so slight smirk. "Thank you, Grand Master Nox. I will not fail you."
Sitting with her back straight and her head held high, Miranda Lawson studied every face that was sitting around the large conference table she was sitting at. At the young age of only twenty-one, many in the room were more than likely questioning why she was even here at all. And while any normal twenty-one-year-old would be nowhere near these individuals, Miranda was anything but normal. At the tender age of eight she'd already graduated top of her class from the most prestigious high school her father could get her into. At the age of eleven she received her first bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and biology. And then at twelve she received her bachelor's in psychology. She obtained her double master's degree in chemistry and psychology and then her doctorate at eighteen.
Naturally she had her pick of careers…but then the Day of Reckoning came about. And everything Miranda thought she knew was thrown out the window. It was during the war that she was approached by her current employer about an opportunity. One that wanted humanity to not only survive the war…but to come out stronger and better than ever before. She spent the entirety of this war performing numerous experiments to try and better humanity. Somewhere…not necessarily to her tastes. But she did what she had to make the most of a terrible situation.
And now, the war was over. Nox and her alien Guardians had won the war, a fact that rankled her boss more than slightly. And now that same woman who brought the aliens to their doorstep had been declared 'Empress' of Earth, for lack of better term. Which most definitely did not sit well with her employer. Nor did it sit well with the other two dozen individuals who were sitting with them at the table.
"Gentlemen, ladies," Jack Harper, Miranda's boss called out, bringing an end to the idle chatter that'd been going on around the room. "I thank you all for meeting us here today. I know this location is more than a little unorthodox…but secrecy is our greatest asset now. Especially for a discussion such as the one we're about to have."
"And what sort of discussion is that?" A middle eastern man asked while others nodded in agreement. "You contacted all of us through unorthodox means to arrange this little meeting…and that is the only reason why I even entertained the idea of attending."
Pulling a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket, her boss calmly pulled one out and lit it before continuing. "Let us rewind the clock to three years ago. All of you here were the leaders of the world. You had the money and the power to do whatever you wanted. And then the Day of Reckoning came. Your once secure position's where thrown aside as survival took precedence. And now that things are stable…all of you are still stuck on the outside looking in as Nox takes power."
"And what do you want us to do about it Mr. Harper?" Miranda's father asked as he leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. "Despite many of our best efforts…that sorceress bitch still managed to get herself elected to the position she now holds. There is nothing that we can do now but adapt and move on."
Taking a long pull, Harper nodded as he let the smoke exit through his nose. "You are correct Mr. Lawson. At the moment Nox is untouchable. Which means we must adapt. Evolve."
"And what do you suggest we do then?" An older Asian woman asked.
"We take a page out of Nox's own playbook," Harper explained. "Nox was brilliant in her plan. She started small, taking over companies and coming out with one innovation after another until she controlled quite a bit of the market. Innovations that I am now certain came from her alien advisors. I'm suggesting that we do the same."
"You're suggesting that we try to out innovate beings from another planet?" A dark-skinned man laughed. "I doubt we will be able to compete."
"The only reason we failed in the first place was because we were not united," Harper said sharply. "Together, our combined assets will be able to match anything Nox can put out. And slowly, we will erode her credibility and take her powerbase out from underneath her one piece at a time. And once we are ready, we will remove Nox and her aliens from our planet. And then humanity will be back on top, where it belongs."
Most around the room looked all too ready to agree. 'And why shouldn't they?' Miranda thought, noting the smug look of satisfaction on her father's face. 'Most of them have been burned by Nox in the past. It shouldn't be too hard to convince them all to work together. At least until Nox is removed. It is keeping them together after Nox has been removed that will be the problem.'
"Let us here more of this…plan of yours Mr. Harper." The same middle-eastern man from before said curiously.
Putting out his cigarette and smiled, "I'm purposing that we all pool our resources into a single entity called Cerberus. From there we will work in the shadows doing whatever is necessary to not only remove Nox from power. But to make sure that humanity is truly the dominate power amongst these…aliens."
"And how can we be sure that we all receive equal shares from this, Cerberus organization?" Another voice asked.
"By contract, this body here will be the board of directors," Miranda spoke up, taking over for her boss as he'd instructed her beforehand. "You will each have equal say in what goes on within the organization and will receive equal payouts to all advances, technological or not, and profits that are generated from our expenditures."
'Of course, that is what they're supposed to believe,' Miranda thought as the sheep around the table once again began conversing with one another. 'But considering this is going to an organization that, technically, doesn't exist. Who will they complain too if the terms of the contract are not met? The Empress? She'd arrest them immediately for being part of an illegal organization.'
"But there is still one fatal flaw in you plan Mr. Harper," A middle-aged woman said, gaining everyone's attention. "Nox herself is a powerful sorceress, or witch if you will. None of us here are godless enough to be cursed with magic. How are we supposed to stand against such a devil spawn?"
Miranda's fingers tensed slightly at the slur, but she forced herself to remain perfectly calm on the outside. "For that my dear," her boss said calmly. "I have a simple answer. On the oldest in history. 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'. And I found us a 'friend'. A powerful friend."
More than a few in the room stared at Harper with confusion. "And where is this, 'friend' of ours, Mr. Harper?"
"I am right here crone."
Even though she knew that her boss had invited his newly acquainted friend to this meeting, she had no idea of just who this 'friend' was. And now that she did…Miranda was staring to seriously wish that she hadn't. And the fact that the 'friend' had apparently apparated into the room without a single sound was…unsettling. "Ladies and gentlemen." Her boss said with a smile, rising to his feet. "I'm pleased to introduce you to our ace in the hole against Nox. Bellatrix Lestrange."
Miranda felt her heart skip a beat. She never in a million years thought that she would one day be sitting in the same room as one of the most infamous killers in the magical world. "My my," Bellatrix purred as she walked down the line of people sitting at the table. "You all look like you've just seen a ghost."
"Bellatrix Lestrange," One of the people around them choked. "You died."
Stopping in place, Bellatrix stared at the one who'd spoken, and then raised her hands and clapped them together. "Nope…still solid. So, I'm not a ghost. Guess that means I'm not dead. I could be an inferi…but I'm still warm and blood still flows through my veins so that's out. A vampire? Possibly…but nope. No thirst for blood either."
Clearing his throat, her boss nodded for Bellatrix to take the lone seat directly across from Miranda. "Ms. Lestrange just barely managed to survive the goblins turning on her and her husband. She's been on the run from Nox and her Guardians ever since. Two months ago, I came across her as she was on the run. She was near death and since then I've been sheltering her in one of my private facilities. Not even my assistant Ms. Larson here knew of her existence. And now, Bellatrix is in perfect health. And more importantly, she's more than a match for Nox. Especially once she finishes undergoing a few…enhancements that she's agreed to."
"Of course, I will be," Bellatrix replied calmly, taking her seat.
"And what is your price?" The middle-eastern man asked. "No one does anything for free."
To this, Bellatrix merely smiled and leaned back in her seat while placing her hands behind her head. "My dear…I owe a debt. And it's a debt I intend to repay in full. That is all you need to know. Now…are all of you in…or out?"
More than a few looks, and words were passed over the next few minutes as everyone around the time took their time making their decisions. And through it all, Bellatrix remained sitting there, her hands behind her head like she didn't have a care in the world. "Very well Mr. Harper," The pious woman from earlier spoke up after the talking had died down. "We are with you and this plan of yours."
"Splendid!" Bellatrix grinned, rising to her feet and placing her hands into the sleeves of her robes. "Then I have no qualms about this. Avada kedavra!"
The green streak shot out from Bellatrix's sleeve, sailing through the air and striking the pious woman in the face, sending her head over heels and to the ground. Her attack was so sudden that she managed to fire off the deadly curse three more times before anyone was even able to leave their seats.
"Oh no you don't," Bellatrix sung as several people tried in vain to pull on open the doors. "Ignis vincula!"
A burning red rope shot out from the end of her wand, wrapping around the people at the door. Several screamed as their clothes and skin burned, but Bellatrix showed them no mercy as she flicked her wand and tightened the burning chain, cutting all those that were in its confines in half before disappearing.
For Miranda, it seemed like the slaughter took forever when in fact it only took a minute tops. By the time Bellatrix finally lowered her wand, the only three left still alive in the room were herself, Bellatrix and her boss. "Bellatrix. This was not part of the plan," Harper sighed, drawing out another cigarette. "You were supposed to kill them after they signed over their assets to Cerberus. Not before."
Bellatrix didn't seem to care as she flopped down in her seat with seemingly not a care in the world, "Whoops."
"Yes…whoops," Harper sighed, lighting up his cigarette. "But luckily, this is not the worst-case scenario. I've already arranged it so that no one will come looking for these individuals, so their deaths will never even be noticed. Also, while it will take some time I can still take control of their assets, now that they're no longer around to fight against me. But I will say that there is one good thing to come of this little display of yours my dear. You've certainly proved that you have the power to fight against Nox and her Guardians. And once we've tested the cybernetic enhancements we have planned out…she'll be no match for you. Just make sure that you do not deviate from the plan from here on out. My patience has a limit."
Bellatrix started laughing at that, a deep chuckle that sent chills down Miranda's spine, "Oh Jacky boy…I've never deviated from the 'plan'. This was just the first step. And now…this is the second."
Miranda didn't even see the witches hand move as a loud snap echoed through the room, and Jack Harper's head was suddenly facing backwards. His neck snapped clearly in half. The body twitched once, and then fell forward. Leaving Jack Harper's surprised, and dead, staring up at the ceiling.
Miranda couldn't help the slight tickle of fear that shuddered through her body as Bellatrix brought her wand to bear. A cloth appeared out of nothing and gently settled over her ex-boss's face. Next, the bottle of bourbon that'd been set on the table along with two glasses slid down the smooth polished wood, coming to a stop in front of the witch. Grabbing the decanter, Bellatrix poured one glass for herself, and then a second which she pushed towards Miranda. "That should help with the nerves Miranda."
Picking up the glass with an only a slightly shaking hand, Miranda drained the entirety of its contents in one go. "I– I never thought that you would be the one that the Empress would send."
Taking a sip of her own glass, Bellatrix leaned back in her seat, "I'm loyal the Empress, and to the Empress only. She saved me from a hell you cannot possibly imagine. I would gladly give my life or suffer any torment imaginable for her. Oh, and about your father, did you know that he was going to be here?"
Nodding, Miranda reached across the table and grabbed the bourbon to refill her glass. "Yes. Although besides being half of my genome…that is as far as the relationship between he and I goes. He was an absolute ass…and if I could've killed him years ago and gotten away with it I would've," Polishing off her second glass, she fought to keep herself under control as memories of the hell her father put her and her eight-year-old sister through. "Not that I question her…but the Empress will uphold her end of the deal, right?"
"Of course," Bellatrix nodded. "The Empress is a woman of her word. This…'Cerberus' will be under your control from here on out. And your sister's name will be at the top of the registry for the Guardian Order. Provided that she passes the tests of course."
"She will." Miranda nodded with conviction.
Her sister had started to show signs of magic abilities just after the start of the war. Her father had of course been gleeful. Not because his daughter had the ability to use magic of course. But because he now had a test subject. After all, that was all Miranda and her sister had even been to her father. Large lab rats. "Good." Miranda nodded, setting her glass down and rising to her feet. "Then I suppose that this is goodbye."
Draining her glass, Bellatrix rose to her feet, "Yes, it is. Now, I don't need to tell you the consequence of turning against the Empress now do I?"
"No," Miranda said, sparing a quick glance at all the bodies littering the conference room. "You don't."
"Good," Bellatrix clapped. "Then I will bid you farewell my dear."
"Yes," Miranda nodded, before turning and staring down at her dead father, a small smile forming on her lips. "And Bellatrix…thank you."
One of Bellatrix's delicate eyebrows rose as she laughed, "No need to thank Bellatrix my dear. Bellatrix died two years ago in the vaults below Gringotts in London. I am the Empress's Wraith. Nothing more, nothing less."
Standing in his office overlooking the Imperial City world of Coruscant, Emperor Sidious watched as life continued below him. While his face was completely passive, underneath the facade he was anything but. It had been two years since the great Dark Entity disappeared. He remembered the day all too well. While it could be said that the mysterious Force user that managed to stem the tide of the purge had managed to stabilize the Force. It was the disappearance of the Dark Side Entity that'd now caused the Force to shift back away from the dark and towards the light. Which was something that he could not afford.
'But even if I wanted to stem this trend,' He thought angrily, turning his back on the scene below. 'I am incapable of interfering with this mysterious Force user…even though I have a rough idea of where she is hiding.'
While the disappearance of the dark side entity had been a serious blow, there had been one benefit that had arisen from its disappearance. Whatever protection this mysterious Force user had, had wavered when the entity disappeared. He had, of course, immediately latched onto the disturbance to try and identify the Force user, but what he'd found was something else entirely. An entire world that was saturated in the Force, much like Korriban or even Tython. And on the surface of the planet he felt thousands, no, millions of Force users.
He'd been so astounded by what he'd found, that he'd forgotten to shore up his own defense, which the mysterious Force user took advantage of. And while he was busy marveling at the planet…the Force user somehow blinded him within the Force. He could still catch glimpses of the future, but his ability to sense across the galaxy was simply…gone. He could tell that he still had the ability to do so, but it was almost as if he'd simply forgotten how the technique was performed. It was incredibly infuriating and had led to the death of three of his personal guards when he'd discovered just what she'd done to him. But even with his blindness, he still knew approximately where this Force user was hiding. Deep in the uncharted section of the galaxy.
'A perfect place to hide,' He sneered, throwing himself into his seat. 'Even if I wanted to go after her and her Jedi allies, I am unable to do so. My Empire is still in its infancy, and there are pockets of resistance across the galaxy that are against my rule. It's taking most of the military just to keep these insurgents down. And even if I did have the manpower to spare…I could not reach her. There are no hyperspace routes through the unknown regions. And mapping out a new route for the Imperial forces could take decades…if not centuries. No. Going after this Force user and this new world is impossible. We will have to wait. Be patient. Even with the forces she has, she does not have the power to combat the might of my Empire. She will have to gain allies. Allies here in the known galaxy. Which means she will have to send out emissaries. Emissaries that will have a route through the unknown regions. Yes…that is what we will do. I just need to have patience. Soon she will slip. And I will have the map to this new Force world. And then…then the Sith will control not only the known galaxy…but the unknown as well.'
Well everyone…there we go! The end to the second arch of In All Things Balance. And I must say…I never expected it to be this long. This definitely got away from me. Anyway, hope that you all enjoyed it! Now…onto the bad news. As all of you have not doubt noticed, but my chapters have come out at a ridiculously slow pace as of late. The reason for this is twofold. First, my muse has all but abandoned me as of late. I had my outline and knew where I wanted to go…but the words just wouldn't come out. Second, well my wife is pregnant with our first child so my attention is, hopefully, understandably diverted at the moment.
So anyway, I do plan on continuing to write, but things will be coming out at a much slower pace from now on. I am going to start working on the third installment 'IATB: Unification War', but right now I'm going try and get a few chapters in before releasing it on FanFiction here.
Again, hope that you all enjoyed it! Please leave a review and let me know what you all thought!