Across the Stars
by Wade Kirchner
Bliss. There was no other word to describe what Tara was feeling at this exact moment. After months of being away, Tara was finally reunited with the person she loved most in the entire Universe, Willow Rosenberg. They had only been back together for barely a few days yet it felt so good, it felt like it could last forever.
It was early morning at their house, after another long overdue night of love making. By this point in the morning however, Tara and Willow had made their bed, showered (together of course), and were now dressed, Tara in a blue sweater and jeans with Willow in a white blouse and jeans.
"Hey! Clothes!" Willow said happily.
"Better not get used to them." Tara responded cheekily.
"Mhmm, yes ma'am." Willow said in an alluring voice.
At that moment, Willow put her fingers through Tara's belt loop and pulled her in for a passionate kiss. As Tara embraced her girlfriend, she noticed something outside.
"Xander." she exclaimed.
"Ok, not the response I was fishin' for." Willow responded.
"No, he's here." Tara clarified.
"Think they're making up?"
"I hope so, thats the best part."
Outside, in the backyard garden, Xander, an odd yet good natured young man was meeting with one of his closest friends and occupant of Willow and Tara's house, Buffy Summers. Buffy was a short pretty blonde haired young woman, noted for her immense strength and fighting skills, had been tracking down a group of dangerous super geniuses who had been terrorizing her home city of Sunnydale California, known as the Trio. Two of its members, named Jonathan and Andrew, had been captured by Buffy and were turned over to the police, while its leader, Warren, remained at large. Not just that but Buffy and Xander were reconciling personal issues.
"I love you, you know that right?" Buffy said softly as she hugged Xander.
"Buffy!" an angry voice ripped through the quiet morning air like a cannon.
Into the garden came Warren himself, an intemperate looking young man, wearing all black, with hate in his eyes and voice.
"You think you could just do that to me? You think I'd let you get away with that?" Warren asked furiously.
Warren stopped for a moment and began cackling like a madman.
"Think again." Warren said, as he pulled a 9 mm block from behind his back.
Warren took aim at Buffy and Xander, shooting at them with purpose to kill them. Without even thinking, Buffy pushed Xander to the ground as Warren fired. In doing so, she saved her friend but took a bullet through the back of her shoulder. Warren then began to back up through the garden gate, but a mixture of anger, adrenaline, and stupidity caused him to continue to fire until his gun was empty.
One of the bullets Warren fired found its way through the bedroom window, where Willow and Tara still were. Willow was totally unaware of what was happening, because it all happened so fast but something strange happened with Tara. As soon as the bullet broke the glass and entered the room Tara sensed it and immediately turned around and with one swift upward motion of her right hand, the bullet curved straight up and lodged itself into the ceiling. The bullet then fell back to the carpet, harmlessly.
"W-What was that?" Willow asked, fearfully running to the window.
Tara. still shocked at what she had just done, quickly knelt down and picked up the bullet.
"Oh my god!" Willow shouted.
Tara quickly snapped back to the here and now and stood next to her girlfriend, now with tears in her face and utter terror filling her voice.
Wordlessly, Tara led Willow downstairs, out of the house, and into the backyard, where Xander was already tending to Buffy.
"Buffy! BUFFY!" Willow cried, looking down at her best friend.
"Ambulance! I'll get an ambulance!" Tara said, after which, she ran back into the house.
Tara ran to the kitchen counter and quickly picked up the phone, her hands shakily typing "9-1-1" on the keypad.
"9-1-1, what are you reporting?" the operator asked.
"We-we need an ambulance. Someone's been shot." Tara said very jitterly.
"What's the address?"
"16-1630 Revello Drive. Please hurry!"
"We'll be right there. Just hang tight." the operator said reassuringly.
After this, Tara wordlessly hung up the phone. She paced around the kitchen for a few moments, holding her face in her hands. She then herself over the kitchen counter, let out a brief yet violent scream, and slammed her clenched fists onto the surface of the counter.
"Damn you for making me do this Warren…" Tara said, anger filling her voice.
She then paused for a moment, allowing herself to be recomposed and came back out to her friends.
"Ambulance is on its way." Tara said.
"How long?" Xander asked, frantically.
"I-I don't know. They didn't say." Tara responded sheepishly.
"They didnt say? The hell is wrong with them?" Xander asked angrily.
"Xander…please." Willow said tearfully.
Xander had to back off for a moment, rage was filling his heart and making think rashly. Tara then walked over and knelt down next to Willow.
"H-help me put pressure on it." Willow asked Tara.
As Tara placed one hand over Willow's, which was covering the wound, more tears began to flow down Willow's face.
"I-I-I dont know…" Willow said, shaking with fear.
Tara then took her free hand and used her thumb to wipe the tears from Willow's face.
"Hey." Tara said softly yet confidently, "Strong like an amazon, remember?"
Willow gave a small sad smile to her girlfriend.
"Yeah…s-strong like an amazon." Willow said, still shaken.
At that moment, the sound of sirens could be heard and not long after, Xander was leading the EMT crew to the backyard. Tara watched as the EMTs loaded Buffy into the back of the ambulance, all the while, Willow was continuing to cry and fear for her best friend's life.
"Willow." Tara spoke up, causing Willow to turn around.
"Go with Xander to the hospital."
"What about you?" Willow asked.
"I'm gonna get Dawn." Tara said.
"Oh my god…" Willow said, almost without a voice, "Dawn doesn't know…Dawn doesn't know…"
Tara then held Willow in her arms.
"Look, I'll deal with Dawn. Buffy's gonna need her best friend, now more than ever." Tara said reassuringly.
She then quickly planted a kiss on Willows lips and saw her and Xander off in his car. Just as the ambulance began to pull out and down the road.
For a moment, it seemed as though the whole world was silent. So much stress, fear, and general noise has just disappeared for a second. Tara then went back into the house, going upstairs, pulling down the cord in her bedroom closet which led into the attic.
Sometime later, Dawn was in class when the teacher told her that she was needed down in the principal's office.
"Dawn!" Tara said as Dawn entered the visitors room.
"What's going on?" Dawn asked worriedly.
"Its…its Buffy. Warren shot her. She's still alive but at the hospital."
"What?" Dawn asked breathlessly "Is-is she gonna be alright?"
"I called right before I cam here. She was stabilized but we still gotta go see her."
Dawn followed Tara quickly out of he office and back into the school parking lot, where her car was.
The two hopped in and drove as quickly as they could to the hospital. Tara brought the car through the hospital's drop off rotunda and abruptly stopped.
"GO! Get to Buffy." Tara commanded.
"What about you?" Dawn asked concerned.
"Yeah I'll be back, I just need to deal with something first."
"Buffy knows whats going on. Just go to her room. Second floor, room 2187, she told me."
Dawn was confused but in no mood to debate, so she shut the door and ran to be with her sister. She quickly ran through the hospital lobby into an elevator to second floor and then ran to the correct room. She looked in and saw Willow cradling her weakened yet living sister's head softly, with Xander looking over them. Buffy then looked up and locked eyes with her sister. The two began to cry, as Dawn ran to Buffy and hugged her as tightly as she could.
"Thank god, I was so worried." Dawn said, relieved.
"I'm ok, I'm ok, it was just a shoulder wound." Buffy replied.
"I know, Tara told me you were stablized when she got to school."
"What?" Willow asked Dawn, confused.
"Tara. When she called here. Its how I was able to find your guys' room so fast." Dawn said
"Tara never called us, Dawn." Xander said, leaving everyone in the room in a state of confusion.
At one of the many bars in Sunnyvale occupied by vampires, demons, and other dark oddities, Warren came barging through the door.
"Round for the house fellas!" Warren said, placing a stack of hundred on the counter.
"Oh gee mister, to what do we owe this honor?" the vampire next to Warren asked sarcastically.
"Well chum." Warren began condescendingly, "I just made this town safer for you guys."
"And why's that?" the vampire asked.
"Because, I killed the slayer." Warren boasted proudly.
There was a brief pause in the bar.
Then, the gruff demon bartender burst out laughing, followed shortly by the rest of the bar's various demonic patrons. Warren began to laugh with them, thinking this was celebratory laughter. However, Warren quickly sensed that this was laughter of mockery.
"You really think a small fry like you could kill the slayer?" the vampire asked.
"Hey pal! It took me a long time to get this cash out of the ground, so enjoy your drink." Warren said.
"You listen pal, you keep up this shit and you'll be my next drink."
As Warren and the vampire were furthering their confrontation, they heard the subtle opening and closing of the bar door behind them.
"What'll it be, dungeons and dragons?" the bartender asked.
Warren and the vampire could care less about the new bar patron behind them, about ready to fight.
At that exact moment, Warren felt his throat close up, as if someone was grabbing it and choking him. Then he was lifted up into the air above his barstool. Warren, unable to speak, could only hopelessly claw at his throat, desperate for some form of release.
The other patrons, including the vampire Warren had just insulted, looked over to see a young woman, wearing a long brown robe with a hood covering most of her face standing a few feet behind Warren. Her hand was stretched out in front of her and it became apparent that she was the one afflicting Warren.
"Uh excuse me, little lady." the vampire who had feuded with Warren began, "But I saw this one first, so if you'll kindly-" the vampire's condescending tone was cut short quickly when the woman, pulled a cylindrical metal object off her belt and pressed a button on it, revealing a blue beam of light which came out from the tip of the object, almost like a sword of some kind.
The woman then swung this sword hard and decapitated the vampire, causing all the bar patrons to back away. She then pointed the sword directly at Warren and with one forward stabbing motion, thrusted the sword through Warren's back, into his heart, and ending him. The woman then released Warren from her unseen grip.
Once it was all over the woman walked up to the bar, directly facing the barkeep.
"…I don't suppose you want a shot?" the demon barkeep said nervously.
"I will say this only once." the woman began, "I will leave everyone in this bar in peace. There are only two things I want you all to do. Leave and call the police." the woman ordered.
There was a brief pause.
"Alright bar's closed! Vinnie, get the cops!" the barkeep shouted, as his patrons ran out of the bar.
The woman followed them, with all of the demons and vampires being sure to give her a wide berth.
Back in the hospital, everyone, which now included their strange yet generally amicable former demon friend, Anya, were now not only comforting their healing friend but pondering the strangeness surrounding Tara.
"You're sure she didn't call?" Dawn asked.
"I'm telling you Dawny, no one called and I'm not even sure how she would get the correct number anyway." Willow told her.
"She could have called the hospital." Xander pointed out.
"I guess but how did the woman at the front desk know I was stabilized?" Buffy pondered.
"Lucky guess?" Willow shrugged.
"She could just be using magic though." Anya pointed out.
"I dont know. I have never seen her use magic like that." Willow said back.
During the conversation, Willow was deep in thought and remembered something else about the shooting.
"The ceiling." Willow muttered.
"Come again?" Xander asked.
"After Warren shot Buffy, he fired a bullet up into our bedroom."
Xander began to fume with anger and Dawn grew worried again.
"You guys are alright, right?" Xander asked.
"Yes, of course…but…" Willow stopped.
"But what?" Buffy asked.
"We shouldn't be. That bullet should have gotten me or Tara." Willow said, in a confused haze.
"What do you mean?" Xander asked.
"When that bullet came through the window, Tara…pushed it into the ceiling."
"So she used magic. Simple enough." Anya said, somewhat dismissively.
"No…this was different. It seemed…she just knew that bullet was coming…like she was…ready for it…" Willow said, the more she spoke the more she sounded confused.
At that moment, Tara came into the hospital room, standing still at the door frame.
"Tara." Willow said, snapping out of her confusion.
Tara walked a few steps into the room, where Willow met her, and the two shared a nice hug.
"I was worried. I Was afraid something else happened." Willow said.
"I'm fine. I just had to check on something at the house." Tara responded.
"And what was that?" Buffy said, bringing herself into the conversation.
Tara walked over to Buffy and hugged her.
"I'm so happy your safe. I had to make sure that Warren hadn't come back." Tara said.
"Did you find him?" Buffy asked.
"No, he wasn't at the house." Tara answered.
"Shouldn't we get the cops or something?" Dawn asked.
"Oh no need." Anya said, pointing up to the television which had been left on.
On the screen, the city news was playing and a newscasters voice spoke over images being shown.
"A shocking report from the business district, a young man has been found murdered. The man, Warren Mears, a 22 year old college student, brutally stabbed to death-"
"Buffy!" Tara exclaimed, which caused all of her friends to look at her, "Uh, are you hungry?" she asked, somewhat nervously.
"Well, for someone who almost died thrice, yeah I could go for a sandwich." Buffy joked.
"Great. I'll go. Willow, you uh…" Tara said, gesturing Willow to come with.
"Sure." Willow said, still confused but not so much to turn down more time to be with her girlfriend.
Tara quickly saw Willow out of the room and down thew hallway.
"Tara, are you alright?" Willow asked.
"Yeah…Im just shaken up by Buffy." Tara said.
"Well yeah but Buffy is alright so-"
As Willow and Tara were having this conversation, they were standing in the middle of doorway which led to another hallway. As Willow spoke, the doors flew open and grueling was wheeled through as quick as possible. As that happened, Tara grabbed Willow and very gracefully yet quickly, twirled her out of the way.
"Wow! Those reflexes." Willow exclaimed, pecking a quick kiss on Tara's lips.
This little act of affection helped Tara calm herself and the two continued downstairs, to the parking lot, and into the car.
The two drove through town together, headed towards Buffy's house.
"Wait why are we going back to the house?" Willow asked.
"Sorry…I just…anxiety, Im constantly wanting to check the house." Tara said, nervously.
"But we kn ow Warren's-"
"I know!" Tara said, fear seemingly filling her voice "It just…gives me security."
As Tara gripped the steering wheel, Willow took one of her girlfriends hands, slowly peeling it off off the wheel and held it softly and lovingly.
"Its ok baby." Willow said softly.
Tara looked over lovingly at Willow, which did genuinely put her at ease, instead of just receiving a brief respite. After a few more minutes of driving, Willow and Tara pulled up outside Buffy's house.
As soon as Tara put the car in park, she sat for a moment, took Willow by the hand and faced her directly.
"Do you know why I wanted you to control your use of magic so badly?" Tara questioned.
"Because you love me." Willow answered.
"Of course, I love you." Tara said, pecking a kiss on Willow, "but thats not the only reason."
Willow looked at Tara intently.
"What I mean is, magic, it can be a great and certainly helpful thing to have access to. But…you have to understand, I've seen what…over-reliance on magic can do to someone."
"You mean your mom?" Willow asked.
"My mother, family, friends, everyone from my old home." Tara continued, with streams of tears running down her face. "It was all cause by a misuse of magic, corrupting it into something evil."
Tara wiped the tears from her eyes quickly before continuing.
"I couldn't loose you that way. I knew that you had to learn how to live without magic. These past few months…the pain of not having you with me…has only been made bearable by thinking of the alternative. However, I always knew deep down, that you wouldn't succumb to that darkness."
By the time Tara had finished, Willow's face was twitching, tears rolling down her cheeks, and her eyes were filled with sadness.
Tara then brought Willow's face close to hers, rubbing their faces together, which ended with a loving kiss on their lips.
"I love you, Tara." Willow said softly.
"I love you too. So much." Tara said, with a hitched breath in her voice.
"Now." Tara said, wiping away Willow's tears, "Let's go search the house."
Willow laughed through her fading sadness.
"You're sure we still need to do that?" Willow asked.
"Just to be safe." Tara said, as the two got out of the car.
As Willow walked up to the house, Tara stayed behind and subtly unlocked the trunk. Willow didn't notice.
Tara then ran up to Willow as she entered the house.
"Ok, could you check the basement? Call if you see anything." Tara instructed.
"Sure, baby." Willow said, to which both women chuckled and kissed each other.
Willow then walked to the back of the house and rounded the corner to head into the basement. As she was doing that, Tara ran back to the car, opened the trunk, and grabbed hold of an old metallic looking box. She then took the box, ran upstairs, pulled down the attic door again, and quickly pushed the box into it.
"Tara?!" Willow called from downstairs.
Tara then hurridly ran downstairs, to which she found her girlfriend waiting in the kitchen. Fueled by adrenaline, Tara quickly grabbed Willow playfully and kissed her.
"Well, happy to see you too." Willow said smiling. "Now can we go get food?"
"Yeah, let's go." Tara said calmly.
Over the next few weeks, Buffy would heal nicely from her wounds. With Warren murdered, the Scooby Gang spent its time looking for his accomplices, Jonathan and Andrew even though none of them considered these two to be much of a threat. With the Trio practically defeated, things in Sunnydale were generally peaceful for a change.
No one felt this peace more greatly than Tara and Willow. Their love had grown stronger in the wake of the Trio incident and were now allowed to get on with their lives. They were certainly enjoying this night tighter, out with the gang in the desert, gathered around a fire, toasting hot dogs and marshmallows, and of course, telling stories.
"So wait, how exactly did you meet Willow?" Tara asked Xander, amongst a chorus of laughter.
"Ok…" Xander began, preparing to tell his story, "It was the first day of Kindergarten and Willow and I just happened to sit next to each other. She was busy coloring and I was just sitting there silent. Then, I just said 'Hi' to her and she was so startled that she broke the crayon she was using."
Everyone chuckled at that.
"Dont forget, it was yellow." Willow said jokingly.
"Of course." Xander said "So anyway, Willow just cried and cried over this. She was so afraid she was gonna get in trouble."
"Wow, you were a sensitive one." Tara joked.
"Xander always skips over the best part." Willow said smiling.
"Whats that?" Tara asked.
"Xander said he broke the crayon when our teacher came back and he had to sit in time out that day."
"Awww." Everyone said towards Xander, who was slightly looking down with an embarrassed smile on his face.
"And what did you do after?" Tara asked Willow.
"I hugged him and said we could be friends."
"And I never looked back." Xander said earnestly. "Heres" he said extending his drink "To my best friend."
"Best friends." Willow said cutely, clanking her drink with his.
"How'd you meet Buffy?" Dawn asked, somewhat jeeringly towards her sister.
"Oh you know, met at school, same night, I saved her from being devoured by an unspeakable creature of darkness. The usual." Buffy said in her usual casual tone.
"And I have never looked back either." Willow said, with everyone laughing.
"Damn, out of marshmallows." Xander exclaimed.
"I'll go get some more." Tara said, standing up and walking from the fire.
As her friends continued talking and laughing, Tara walked to the bed of Xander's truck and pulled the door down. As she did, Tara heard a voice. It was muffled and quick, almost sounding like a whip of wind but it sounded like it was calling her name.
Tara turned around believing she heard the voice come from the sky, and looked up. At this point, the voice disappeared. Despite this bit of weirdness, Tara continued to look up at the clear night sky, fully entranced by it's wonder.
Then, Tara felt a pair of arms move across her chest and back, with hands connecting on her right side. Tara turned to her left to see Willow becoming very cozy with her.
"Mind if I stand here?" Willow asked cheekily.
"Not at all." Tara said, as the two leaned in for a soft loving kiss.
Tara looked back up at the sky, wondering if she would hear the voice again. Willow then looked at Tara with curiosity.
"Whatcha looking at?" Willow asked, playfully.
"Oh just…space, the stars." Tara said successfully playing down her weirded outness.
"You gonna point out more made up constellations to me?" Willow asked, sarcasm hinted in her voice.
The two chuckled slightly.
"No I was just wondering…" Tara began
"Will I-we, like people, will we ever go back…up there…again?"
Willow looked at Tara inquisitively but quickly brushed this off as a minor flair up of her girlfriend's stutter.
"What do you think its like up there?" Willow asked.
"I…think…its like nothing you've ever seen before. Planets, star formations, kinda like…the Grand Canyon in space."
Willow chuckled "Sounds beautiful."
"I'm…i'm sure it is but there are some things that are more beautiful than even all the wonders of the Universe." Tara said.
Willow chuckled again, "You sap."
Tara smiled and thew two leaned in for another, much longer, passionate kiss.
During the kiss, Tara heard the mysterious voice once again. She heard it call out to her, "Tara". This caused her to open her eyes still lip locked with Willow. Before she could, she was bombarded by sounds and voices telepathically. Among these sounds and voices, she heard Willow's voice shouting, a heavy breathing sound, and finally what sounded like the voice of her mother saying "He is coming. Save her"
At that moment, Tara pulled back and shook her head, causing Willow to become confused.
"You ok?" Willow asked.
"Yeah…." Tara began "I'm just a little sleepy, trying to keep awake."
"You wanna go home now?"
"Nah, we can stay here a couple more hours."
Tara then walked back up to Willow and kissed her again.
The two then rummaged through the truck, found the marshmallows, and other food and brought it back to the group. True to Tara's word, the gang stayed in the desert for a couple more hours before heading back into Sunnydale. It was about midnight by the time Willow, Tara, Buffy, and Dawn actually made it back, Anya and Xander stayed out longer.
With Dawn and Buffy in their beds, Tara and Willow followed suit, briefly making out before falling asleep in each others arms.
A few hours into the night, Tara once again began to hear the voices again in her head. Only this time, it was far more intense. Against a background of heavy labored breathing, Tara could hear her mother's voice, seemingly in pain, various screams of a familiar nature, and then her dream became visual. She saw Willow, first as a normal person but was expressionless, then as Tara got closer to her, Willow's face became full of veins, with eyes and hair dark as the night sky. She then became clad in all black robes and then she gave a big toothy inhuman looking smile, at which point, the haggard cackling of an old man could be heard very prominently, matching the noise level of the breathing. Willow then rose her hands up and huge wiry bolts of blue lighting came from her fingertips and into Tara's body.
At that moment, Tara jumped out of bed with a shout, and once her feet were on the ground, she felt more alert than she could remember.
Within a few seconds, Willow was awake, turning the lamp on to see her girlfriend, standing, looking around frantically. Willow immediately got out of bed and began to comfort Tara.
"Baby!..Baby!…TARA!" Willow called out, raising her voice more each time.
Tara looked around for a moment, trying to refocus on what was happening. She remembered the voice in the desert and now decided to act on it.
"Willow, get dressed now." Tara demanded.
"What?" Willow asked.
"Just go. We're in danger and we gotta go. Now!"
Willow went into the closet. As she was in there, Tara began to look around more, worried about what was coming for them. Within a matter of seconds, Willow was fully dressed in daytime clothes and came out to Tara.
"Tara I need to know what's going on."
"I saw something…you…you were just…"
Tara had just barely began to calm down before her adrenaline shot up again. A scream from Dawn's room was heard and Willow and Tara took off running down the hall and were quickly joined by Buffy who came out of her room as well. Tara then immideately stopped underneath the draw string of the attic.
"You guys go in, I'll be right there!" Tara shouted.
The two thought nothing of it at the moment and ran right into Dawn's room, flipping on the light. Inside, Buffy and Willow saw Dawn cowering against the backboard of her bed, as there were two people, dressed in long black robes, with strange helmets with a somewhat inverted triangular shape, with red visors, presumably allowing vision.
Willow and Buffy drew the attention of the two people and they both threw back their robes, revealing some kind of black armored suits and both wielded long pikes, at the end of which, red light blades extended from them. The two took battle stances as they threw back their robes. Buffy and Willow were unsure of how to proceed, both confused and terrified of the robed people. It was at that moment, Tara quickly pushed her way into the room, lunged forward, drew her blue blade from her own much shorter staff, and blocked the two red blades before they could find their mark on either Buffy, Willow, or Dawn.
As she held them in place, Willow turned around to Dawn.
"Dawn! Off the bed!" Tara shouted.
Dawn quickly jumped off and landed into Willow and Buffy's arms. With that, Tara used her sword to push herself back against the two black robbed figures. Tara then used her magic, pushing them both out the window by propelling the bed at them with intense speed. By luck, the impact of the bed had knocked one of the robed warrior's staffs out of their hand. Tara recovered the staff and turned around to Willow, Buffy, and Dawn.
"Sword or spear?" Tara asked Buffy.
"What?" Buffy asked, incredulously.
"What are you better at using in a fight? A sword or a spear?" Tara repeated.
"Sword! Sword!" Buffy answered frantically.
Tara then let the staff slip down through her hand right up until just before the top, where the blade came out. Then, with a quick swing of her own blue blade, cut the staff until it was now of similar length to Tara's sword handle.
"Here. Take this. Do not let it touch you or them." Tara commanded.
"Tara, I don't-" Buffy began confusedly.
"Listen! Get to the car, go to Xander and Anya's I'll follow you guys."
"Tara, what's going on?" Willow asked, stepping forward.
"Willow…" Tara said, taking Willow's hand with her free hand, "I promise I will explain everything once were safe but right we aren't, so we gotta go."
Willow nodded her head, "Ok, ok." she said.
Just as they were leaving the room, the four of them heard the sword of another laser sword igniting, this time down the hall, in Willow and Tara's bedroom. There stood another robbed figure, wielding the same type of pike with a red blade extending from it.
Tara held up her own sword, "Go now!" she commanded.
Willow, Dawn, and Buffy quickly complied and headed down the stairs. At that moment, both Tara and the robbed figured stared at each other from across the hallway. They stared at each other intently, despite Tara not being able to see the other's eyes.
"Did he send you here?" Tara asked.
"What do you think?" the robbed person asked, sarcasm clearly in their voice.
A voice synthesizer gave this person's voice anonymity but Tara could already tell based on the pitch that she was listening to the voice of a woman.
"You won't take her." Tara said, defiantly.
"Not here to argue about it." the unknown warrior responded.
Then, this warrior slung her pike on her back and from her robe, drew a similar sword to the one Tara possessed, only when she ignited it, it had a green blade. Tara was greatly shocked by this act and looked at her adversary with anger.
"That lightsaber does not belong to you." she said, sternly.
"Perhaps you can have it back once we're done. Come now, lets see how strong you are in the Force." the warrior said back.
Tara took a fighting stance, legs spread and her saber pointing straight down the hall at her opponent. The two continued to stare intensely at each other, before the two came running towards each other. They met in about the middle of the hallway before the two locked blades. The black robbed figure moved back slightly before striking down at Tara but Tara was able to parry the move with ease. The two swung their blades at each other with a great deal of ferocity and vigor. The hallway was not terribly wide but wide enough to allow them to circle each other, with each side trying to gain the advantage with a new hard stroke, but the other was able to parry it, block it, or was able to get out of the way, resulting in the blade striking a patch of wall or a piece of furniture.
At the same time, Buffy led Willow and Dawn down the stairs, out the door, and across the lawn towards their car parked on the street. As they ran, red laser bolts began flying past them. The two warriors who came into Dawn's room were around the corner of the house and the one who had lost their lightsaber pike were now firing at them with a large blaster pistol. As that guard provided cover fire, the other rushed at the three women as they got close to the car. In response, Buffy quickly ignited the red blade of her lightsaber.
"Willow, Dawn, behind the car." Buffy instructed, to which the two complied.
Just as she did that, Buffy rose her blade to block the advance of the other warrior's lightsaber pike. Thinking fast, Buffy swung back around attempting to strike her blade into her adversary but alas, her sword was not quick enough. The two traded blows as they stepped across the yard. All the while, the warrior with the blaster pistol continued to fire at both Buffy and Willow and Dawn as they hid behind the car.
"We gotta get out of here!" Dawn shouted.
"Buffy has the keys." Willow exclaimed.
Fearful of being shot, Willow shouted from behind the car, "Buffy, keys!"
Buffy looked back as she held the warrior, locked in fighting stance.
Back in the house, Tara and the warrior continued to fight in the upstairs hallway. Their swings had left burn marks all over the hallway but neither side would budge. The two swung repeatedly at each other until they were interlocking blades once again. Quickly, the warrior pressed a button on a control panel strapped to the inside of her forearm. Tara pushed forward but the warrior quickly stepped back into the adjacent room.
"Well Tanara, it's been fun catching up…but my master will be growing impatient." she said, before pushing Tara hard into the wall behind her.
The warrior then walked through the room and threw herself through the window, where Buffy was still fighting the other warrior. The warrior fighting Tara stuck the landing on the lawn and used the force to push Buffy hard onto the ground.
Willow and Dawn quickly stood up from behind the car, preparing to make a break for it, but Willow was being held in place. Dawn quickly began to shake Willow attempting to free her, but nothing worked.
"I can't move." Willow said, frightened.
"Come on! Come on! Come on!" Dawn shouted, wildly.
Dawn was then pushed hard up against then car and then thrown into the street.
The warrior who had fought Tara then gestured to the other two warriors. They then stood side by side to each other, arms stretched out, as they lifted Willow up off the ground.
Behind them Tara flew out of the window, lightsaber drawn. She saw Willow being lifted into the sky, screamed in anger, and ran to attack the three warriors. The main one rose up the blue lightsaber she wielded and kept her back.
As this was going on, Willow was loaded onto an uncloaked black spaceship several feet off the ground. The two warriors then jumped in after her and finally, Tara was pushed back by the main warrior, and then she jumped into the spaceship. Tara quickly regained her footing but by that point, it was too late, the ship had already flown off. Seeing the starship lift off, left Tara in complete despair and fear, as she knelt with both knees on the ground. Before she could start crying however, both Buffy and Dawn stood over Tara.
"What…was…that?" Buffy asked shakily, tears in her eyes.
Tara looked over at Dawn and saw that she was crying too, face full of fear.
She quickly collected herself and stretched her arm out. The metal box her lightsaber and come from came to her quickly from the house.
"Get in the car, we're going to Xander and Anya's. I will tell you the whole truth…and how we're going to get Willow back." Tara said.
When Willow came to, she found herself in a small jail cell. Outside that cell was two of the robbed figures that attacked the house, both of them had their helmets removed. One was a man and the other was a woman, the former of whom had his head in his hand while the latter looked on, they were talking quietly but Willow wasn't paying enough attention to hear them. She then looked behind her and saw a small window in the back in the cell. Looking out it, she saw stars surrounded by blackness, it was like she was in a planetarium.
"Where are we?" Willow asked groggily.
Willow walked back to the bars of her cell and looked at the two warriors.
"Hey!" Willow shouted, starting to get angry, "Tell me where were going! I'm talking to you!"
"Quiet girl! Or you'll be making the rest of this trip bound and gagged." the woman called back.
The woman glared at Willow with a piercing set of hazel eyes. She had an otherwise lovely face, despite the scowling, with long jet black hair and the only imperfections that could be spoken of were a couple of facial scars running along her left cheek.
Willow decided to bite her tongue, unsure of what to do at the moment, not wanting to risk the wrath of this woman. Just then, a voice came over the intercom, it was a woman's voice.
"We're coming up on the castle." the voice said.
The two robbed warriors went to Willow's cell and opened it, Willow clearly in fear for her life.
"Struggle and you'll wish you were never born." the woman said.
Willow nodded and allowed the other warrior to put some kind of futuristic handcuffs on her. As they restrained her, Willow looked out of the window and saw them approaching a truly hellish sight. It was a planet, covered in lakes of lava and charred black surfaces. As the ship descended onto the planet, Willow observed more volcanos, many of which were exploding, and obviously, a stark rise in the temperature. She felt the ship rumble as it made its approach to land and finally it did, with a light thud. Shortly after that, the third warrior came from the pilot's seat, it was indeed a woman, and joined the other two and Willow.
"Flank her." the dark haired woman told the other two.
The ramp to the ship opened up and Willow was led down to it. They were on a landing platform, all around Willow could see lava and fire. The sounds of exploding volcanoes filled the air. In front of her, a huge dark tower that rose thousands of feet into the sky was before her. A river of lava seemed to pass underneath the structure, as Willow got a brief glance at what was behind them before the warriors straightened her gaze forward again. The four walked towards this imposing edifice and Willow was able to make out more of what was on it's edifice, a number of different symbols, themselves seemed to be lit by lava. There was also an impending sense of doom, as though someone was watching her but Willow could not see who.
The four then got to the front gates of this place, which were guarded by two more of the black cloaked warriors who took Willow in the first place.
"Contact Vanee. The Grand Captain has returned with his prize for her master." the main warrior said with an evil grin on her face.
That statement horrified Willow, as the two warriors standing guard at the gate opened the doors to the innards of this building.
At a different room in the space station, at the exact same time, there was a large tank of opaque liquid, which was flanked by two more warriors, also guards clad in black. Vanee, an old man in a dark cloak entered in and knelt before the tank.
"My lord. The Grand Captain of the Shadow Guard has returned." Vanee said in a raspy voice.
The sound of draining filled the room, as the liquid was evacuated. The old man looked down as the man in the tank, naked, disfigured, and maimed was revealed.
Willow was now in a massive room, with a main pathway leading north, south, east, and west. The rest of the floor was clear though it did seem to her that there was a floor actually there.
A loud noise from the other end of the room drew Willow's attention dead ahead. The wall at the other side of the room turned out to be a giant door and it was slowly but surely pulling up. The room the giant door was opening to was filled with a thick mist, almost like a fog. However, in the middle of the doorway, Willow could see a dark figure just standing there.
"Kneel." the Grand Captain said, to which Willow responded almost automatically, captivated by what she was seeing.
Willow began to hear the sound of heavy, measured, mechanical breathing. From the mist, the dark figure began to walk towards her and was able to get a proper look at it. It was tall, immensely tall, clad in a black uniform and cape, with armored shoulder and boots. The most striking feature of this figure was its head, having a large black helmet and face mask, with a triangular shaped grill covering its mouth, at least as far as Willow could understand. Within a few steps, this thing was standing right in front of Willow and it quickly became very apparent to her that this was the source of the mechanical breathing. She glanced left and right of her and saw all three of her captors kneeling before this thing, but the Grand Captain was slightly yet visibly shaking, as though she had something to fear.
"Grand Captain." the figure said.
"Lord Vader." the Grand Captain responded.
"How was your trip through the wormhole? Acceptable?" Vader asked
"Was surprised by how smooth the journey was actually."
"You." Vader said, glancing at the male guard of the group, "You seem to have misplaced your pike."
"It's not my fault my lord, the Jedi got the-"
The man suddenly started choking.
"You will speak when spoken to." Lord Vader responded.
Vader paused and looked down at the Grand Captain, who continued to look down with a determined look on her face.
At that point, Vader positioned himself so he was standing right in front of the kneeling Willow. Vader then knelt down so he was face to face with her. Willow was deeply frightened but held strong, making no noise, trying to show no emotion, and was even trying not to make eye contact.
Vader stared at Willow for just a few moments but to Willow they felt like hours, all the while, she could feel his mechanical breath blowing on her face. Although Willow was scared, she was curious about what this thing was, and began glancing into the eye holes on Vader's mask. She didn't get the best look but she did see actual human eyes behind that mask. Once Willow began to realize what she was seeing, Vader stood back up and readdressed the Grand Captain.
"Good work, Rise." Vader said.
"Yes my lord." she responded.
Afterwards, all three Shadow Guards stood up.
Willow continued to kneel, uncomfortably silent as Vader looked out the giant window, facing away from her. The only noise filling the room was Vader's breathing.
"When did you first feel it?" Vader asked, breaking the silence.
"..w-what?" Willow asked fearfully.
"When were you first connected with the force?" Vader reiterated.
"The F-Force?" Willow asked confused.
"Oh I suppose you outliers may have called it something different. When did you first use…sorcery?"
"You mean like magic?"
"If that is what you call it."
"Well…in high school….I used…magic to restore someone's soul."
There was a pause for a moment. The three guards looked at each other somewhat surprised.
"Rise." Vader said.
Willow instinctively followed his command. Now, the two could interact on a more face to face level.
"You restored someones life force?" Vader asked, now moving very slowly so he was circling Willow.
"I guess." Willow said, still frightened.
"What else have you done?" Vader asked.
"Well…I've used magic for all sorts of things, like…locating people, fighting,…bringing my best friend back to life."
At that moment, Vader stopped in his tracks, causing Willow to be startled.
"Only a few Sith lords in history have ever been able to supplant death…and you've done it…at your age…twice?" Vader asked.
"Forego the modesty, for both our sakes." Vader interrupted. "You have demonstrated that you have more talent than the past 10 centuries of force users…and you are still practically in your infancy."
At this moment, Willow found her courage and decided to stand her ground.
"Beg your pardon sir, but I have no intention of finding out." Willow said.
Vader took a couple of steps back from Willow.
"What?" he asked in a confused tone.
Willow put her head down slightly.
"No, speak. Now." Vader demanded.
"With all due respect sir but magic…the Force, whatever you call it, nearly ruined my life. I almost lost everything to it. I had to learn how to let go of it to gain what I really wanted. Love, happiness, and peace."
There was another pause.
"Peace is a lie." Vader said, who was once again facing away from Willow.
"W-what?" Willow asked.
"There is only passion." Vader continued, turning to face Willow. "Through passion…" Vader stretched his arm out and with a quick jolt, grabbed the male Shadow Guard, to which he yelped, "I gain strength. Through strength, I gain power." he continued, ripping his lightsaber off of his belt and activating its blood red blade. "Through power, I gain victory." Vader then stabbed the Shadow Guard through the chest, all the while his two colleagues looked deeply disturbed by this action. "Through victory my chains will be broken."
Vader stopped for a moment, he then waved his hand in front of Willow, unlocking her wrist restraints.
"The force shall free me." Vader finished, with Willow's shackles falling to the floor.
"But I'm not being held back…" Willow began, before being interrupted.
"Yes you are." Vader began, "You are held back by your attachments. You need to take control of those attachments and make them work for you. The only way you can do that is by embracing the dark side of the force. Once you realize its power, there is nothing that can hold you back."
"No!" Willow defiantly said "I have everything I've ever wanted and don't want any of this dark side."
At the moment, Willow felt a tight grip around her neck. She immediately dropped her staff and began clawing at her throat.
"Perhaps you need more time before you're ready to learn." Vader said, almost mockingly.
Vader then released Willow from his force grip, to which she began coughing and hacking on the ground. Vader then addressed the two Shadow Guards.
"I see what it is." Vader said, looking down at Willow as the Guards began to pull her up, "Its the person who taught you the ways of the Force."
"Wait how…" Willow began to ask.
"An excellent Jedi knight. One I faced so long ago. I had no idea Tanara would go to those lengths to survive."
"Wait who?" Willow asked, confused.
At that point, the Guards began walking Willow across the clear floor of the room to a chair that was rising out of the ground. She was forced to sit in it as the hand restraints came up and locked her down. Vader, who had followed, then stood on the other side of the desk.
"Who are you talking about?" Willow asked again.
"Don't play foolish with me. Your master. The one who showed you the ways of the Force. The one you seem most attached to in your life. The one who sings to you even." Vader said.
"Tara?" Willow mouthed to herself.
In Sunnydale, the gang had relocated to Xander and Anya's apartment in the city. The gang was in the kitchen trying to calm themselves, while Tara was in Xander and Anya's bedroom.
"So Willow was…abducted?" Xander asked, confused.
"I guess. I couldn't really get much out of Tara on the way over here." Buffy said.
"You think she knows who took Willow?"
"I think so. She didn't say much. All I know is she has that weird light stick, knew how to use it, and the people who fought her had the exact same things."
"Are we gonna see Willow again?" Dawn asked, her voice choked with tears.
Buffy began to comfort Dawn, rubbing her head softly. Then, the sound of the door opening caught everyone's attention and they watched Tara come out of the bedroom in a strange outfit. Tara was dressed in a light brown colored over tunic, with a belt running across her waist to which her lightsaber was fastened. She also wore white, somewhat baggy pants, brown leather boots that ran a great deal up her shin and above all that, was a long dark brown robe.
Everyone was stunned by Tara's apparel, with a couple of them even standing.
"Hey there. Miss Druid." Xander said, wholly confused.
"She's not a druid. I've seen druids, she's more of a pagan and-" Anya said before being interrupted by Buffy.
"Guys!" Buffy said, refocusing there others.
"I'm going after Willow. I know where she was taken and I'm going to find her but you guys deserve an explanation of where she is." Tara said.
"Where do you wanna start?" Buffy asked.
Tara took a deep breath.
"You know how I said I was a witch?" Tara asked, to which everyone nodded.
"By your standards, that's true. I use magic but…but magic is not the word we use where I'm from."
"And where are you from?" Buffy asked.
Tara took a deep breath.
"Another galaxy…a galaxy far far away from this one and in that galaxy, magic, as you know it, is called the Force. I happened to be part of an order of people who used the Force, known as the Jedi."
Everyone looked at Tara, as though lobsters were coming out of her ears.
"You know, if you hadn't have fought that dude and his robots with your light stick, I would have said you were insane." Buffy said.
"Lightsaber, by the way. It is the weapon of a Jedi. We were the guardians of peace in the Galactic Republic." Tara responded.
"Then how did you end up here?" Dawn asked.
Tara began to look down and got visibly emotional but quickly composed herself to answer.
"A few years ago, by your standards at least, a great tragedy struck the Galaxy. Planet Systems no longer loyal to the Republic separated and began launching devastating attacks on us. The Jedi were called upon to lead the Republics armies of Clone troopers against these Separatists."
As Tara spoke, she was internally flashing back to the most critical moment in this war for her.
In the dark, cold troop compartment of a Republic dropship, a nervous younger Tara sat surrounded by Clone troopers in light brown colored armor. Outside, explosions was all that she could hear.
A hand placed itself on Tara's shoulder, snapping her out of her fear but startling her slightly.
"Oh. Mother." Tara said, pleased, looking up her.
"Tanara, you must not dwell on your anxieties. The Force has always guided you." her mother reassured her.
Maculya was always a calming presence in Tara's life. A tall elegant woman with long light blonde hair, she was very much like Tara in appearance and body shape.
"You know, this has never gotten easier, with or without the force."
"I know, just…trust in me, who trusts in the Force." Tara's mother said, to which both of them slightly chuckled.
"General Maculya, orders." a Clone trooper asked from behind Tara's mother's back.
"Very well." Maculya said.
She took a small circular device out of her Jedi robe, while surrounded by her daughter and the clones.
"Ok people. These orders are straight from the council and we gotta pull through by tonight."
The circular device lit up and showed a giant tower with many bridges sticking out from it.
"This fortress were about to land at is the main defense of the Banking Clan's capital. We take it, deprive the capital of resupply and defense, and we knock the Banking Clan out of the war."
As she spoke, she used a diagram of the fortress to aid her explanation.
"Master Mundi and Commander Bacara are currently mounting their offensive on the upper bridges. We're her to take the lower ones. We push across these bridges, smash into the lower levels of the fortress, put pressure on the droids, and give Mundi a chance to come in with the final blow."
"So what are our orders, general?" the clone trooper asked.
"Basically, move forward and smash as many clankers as you can find." Maculya said, causing all the troopers to laugh and cheer.
"May the Force be with us. Dismissed."
"Yes ma'am!" the Clone troopers responded.
Within a few minutes, the drop-ship flew through louder and more violent explosions. It was almost time to land.
"Everyone up!" the Clone commander ordered.
Tanara too quickly stood up, once again she felt her mother's comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Remember. Trust in the Force." Maculya told her daughter.
The drop-ship then settled down and a loud alarm sounded off.
"Alright soldiers. Let's do this!" Maculya called out.
Within seconds, the door of the drop-ship slid open. The view Tanara, Maculya, and the Clones were greeted to was a long metallic bridge, defended by battle droids, with gusts of cold wind and snow blowing all around them.
As the Clones got off the ship, Maculya and Tanara drew their lightsabers, activated them, and began their battle. At the same time, Clones with the same color armor pattern began to land all around them. Opposite from them on the bridge, the groups of battle droids began firing directly at them.
"Move! Get those heavies up!" Maculya called out, to which certain Clone troopers brought up tripod weaponry.
Firing at the Clones and the Jedi, along with battle droids, were large 4 legged spider droids, towering over them. They fired long green beams at the Clones.
"Were getting nowhere with that thing in our way." Maculya said to her daughter.
At that moment, Tara sheathed her lightsaber and stretched both her arms out, eyes closed. Above the main battle were the bombed out remnants of a bridge. Focusing her connection to the Force, Tara pulled chunks of the debris down from the bridge and with a great thunderous crash, the chunks of debris smashed into the spider droids, and a few seconds later the debris slid off the bridge.
"Knight of the Jedi, indeed." Maculya said, smiling to her daughter.
Tara blushed and smiled momentarily, before raising her lightsaber back up and rejoining the fight.
Hours of brutal combat passed, Maculya, Tara, and their clones pushed down the several mile long bridge, smashing through line after line of battle droids. As the day was coming to an end, Maculya's forces were within striking distance to the entrance of the fortress.
Out front, Maculya and Tara were blocking blaster fire and even sending them back into the battle droids.
"Less than a mile yet to go boys! Almost there!" Maculya shouted back to her troops.
Tara moved side by side with her mother, incredibly focused on fighting the droids but as she was, she began to focus on something else. In her head, she heard a voice, a clone's voice.
"Good soldiers follow orders." it said
Tara heard that phrase repeated, over and over again, until very quickly she heard another voice come through her head.
"Execute Order 66." that voice said.
As soon as that voice crossed through her brain, she instinctively pushed her mother behind some rubble and turned to face the clone troopers. At this point, all of them had raised their guns up at Maculya and Tara but with the former protected, Tara wasted no time in cutting into these clones with acrobatic ferocity. The Clones attempted to blast Tara down but she was able to deflect their bolts and in fact, send them back into the clones. She quickly overwhelmed this group of clones, until the entire platoon was dead.
Maculya then appeared from behind the rubble.
"I missed it. How could I do that?" Maculya asked shocked, to which Tara hugged her.
"Mother, we have to go." Tara said, looking both ways on the bridge, seeing droids come from one side and Clones rushing toward them from the other.
"Here. Back to back." Maculya told her daughter.
The two stood as such, with Tara facing the Clones and Maculya facing the droids. The latter pressed some buttons on a small computer on her belt.
"Did you call it?" Tara asked.
"Yes. On my mark." Maculya responded.
The droids and clones closed in.
"Mom?" Tara asked, concerned.
Both groups of soldiers got closer.
"MOM!" Tara shouted.
"NOW!" Maculya shouted back.
Immediately, both Jedi cut their lightsabers through the bridge, and did so for several minutes until they were through its thick metal plating and into free fall. The two then landed into the open cockpit of a two person Jedi straighter and with speed and agility, flew up to the planet's orbit, avoiding both Republic and Separatist ship fire. They quick docked with a hyperdrive generator and flew away from the planet as quickly as they could.
Back in Xander and Anya's kitchen, the gang were simply awestruck by what they had just heard.
"So…you were like a general?" Dawn asked.
"Well, kind of." Tara began, "My mother was more the leader."
"Is that the point you decided to come here?" Buffy asked.
"No. At first, me and my mom drifted in our star fighter, trying to figure out what was going on. Then we got a retreat message from the main Jedi temple, in the capital of the Republic, but my Mom, wisely, did not trust it. Then, after several days of bouncing around from planet to planet, avoiding Republic contact, we received a message."
Using the Force, Tara opened the box and out popped a hologram of a man dress in a similar uniform to her, but with a beard and light brown hair. The gang looked at the device with undivided attention.
"This is Master Obi Wan Kenobi. I regret to report that both our Jedi Order and the Republic have fallen with the dark shadow of the Empire rising to take their place. This message is a warning and a reminder to all surviving Jedi, trust in the Force. Do not return to the temple, that time had passed, and our future is uncertain. We will each be challenged, our trust, our faith, our friendships but we must persevere and in time, a new hope will emerge. May the Force be with you, always."
There was a pause in the room, with Tara clearly emotional.
"So this Empire…" Buffy began, "They drove you out of your galaxy?"
"Yes…but not immediately." Tara began to speak, "We knew the Empire had taken over and its Emperor, who had actually led the Republic during the wars, was behind the destruction of the Jedi. Now if you knew my mother, she was a bit of a maverick in her own right, and after receiving the message, she decided that she would become that 'new hope'."
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.
"We rallied together our allies from various systems who fought with the Jedi during the Clone Wars. We tried to start a rebellion against the Empire, it failed. However, my mother decided that she would take what fighters we had left and lead a last mission to end the Empire. The plan was to raid the capital and kill the Emperor before his forces had any time to respond…"
Once again, Tara spoke, but as she did, her mind flashed back to these events.
In the lower level room of a Jedi Temple, Tara stood beside her mother, surrounded by soldiers of a different type. This time, her mother was leading a ragtag army of a few thousand warriors. As she stood with her mother, Maculya stood next to a hologram of their target, the Imperial capital on Coruscant.
"Once we come out of hyperspace over Coruscant, we'll fire our missiles at these offices. The groups of guards will infiltrate the hangars and set up defensive perimeters there. With the guards distracted, Tanara and I will get into the Emperor's office through the window and subdue him."
"Will you still be coming in out of hyperspace after us?" a tall, muscle bound, bald, dark bearded warrior asked.
"Yes, Castor. So you must secure your objectives by then, otherwise, we wont have a chance."
"Got it." Castor replied.
"The entire galaxy rests upon us. Get to your ships. And may the Force be with you."
"Yes, ma'am." Castor replied, smiling at Maculya, "Alright you heard the Jedi, lets move, get to your crews!" he shouted as the warriors started to quickly file out of the temple and towards their fleet of just a couple dozen ships.
By the time the shuttles had flown away, only Maculya and Tara were left in the temple. In the main worship hall, Maculya knelt down at the altar of an ancient Jedi, deep in meditation. From behind her, Tara walked up.
"Mother?" Tara asked, causing Maculya to come out of meditation. "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes." Maculya said, standing to face her daughter.
Maculya smiled and brushed back her daughter's light brown hair.
"I am so proud of you Tanara. You have grown into more of a beautiful, strong, wise Jedi than I could have ever hoped to deserve."
"The new Jedi order is gonna need women like us, right?" Tara asked.
"Right…" Maculya said forlornly, her smile fading.
"Mom." Tara began "We can do this. We've grown so much these past two years."
"I know, but…" Maculya said
"But what?" Tara asked.
Maculya reached into her belt and handed Tara a small device.
"What is this?" Tara asked.
"Its an ancient device. If something happens…"
"Mom, nothing is…" Tara began before her mother put her hand up to silence her.
"If something happens to me, put that device into the Star-fighter's interface and fly into the center of the galaxy."
"The center of the-?" Tara began.
"Tanara, the path through the Unknown Regions isn't deep outside our galaxy, its right in the center of it. f we should fail, go far beyond this galaxy, let the force guide you to a new….hopefully better home."
"Why are you asking this of me?" Tara asked.
"These past two years, with the rebellion and…everything you and I have lost, I have accepted that I might die at the Empire's hand. It's not what I want…but I would rather face that then the thought of the Empire turning you into anything but the beautiful, kind, selfless young woman that you are."
Tara truly was touched by what her mother said. She quickly wiped the small tears away and looked at her mother with resolve.
"I will go…" Tara said, taking the small device, "but I take this with a promise. That when I arrive, I will never stop practicing the Force and your memory will live on with me. I will not abandon you, Mother."
Maculya put her hand on her daughter's shoulder and gave her a smile that was full of pride.
"I knew you never would." Maculya said, taking her daughter into her arms and sharing a hug with her.
The two turned back to look at the temple.
"I've always loved this place." Maculya said.
"Let's hope its not the last time you see it." Tara responded.
"Yes…now, let's go." Maculya said, leading her daughter out of the temple hall.
The two walked out of the temple and into the courtyard, where their starfighter was. They got in, flew over the rocky desert surface of the planet, connected with their hyperdrive generator in orbit, and headed towards Coruscant.
Within a matter of minutes, Maculya and Tara arrived in orbit above Coruscant.
"Lets see how were doing?" Maculya began "Gold leader?"
There was an uncomfortable silence that came after.
"Gold leader, please respond!" Maculya asked again.
Finally, something was coming through the radio.
"Roger that, ma'am. We got pinned down for a moment. All groups have made their targets and the Senate guards and Supercommandos have pulled back to secondary defensive positions." Castor said.
"Excellent! We're moving in now." Maculya responded.
"Good luck, ma'am!" Castor said before signing off.
"You ready?" Maculya asked, looking back at her daughter.
Tara looked at her mother with a face of determination and nodded.
Maculya brought the star fighter down from the planet's atmosphere, through the vast unending groups of buildings and rows of Spacecraft, to the Empire's dome shaped Executive building. Also known as the personal office of the Emperor.
The building was fuming with smoke in certain places. Maculya angled her star fighter in a way to get within jumping distance of the Emperor's office. The two then jumped from their craft, using the Force to push them the necessary distance. When they got close enough, Maculya used her lightsaber to slash open the glass of the Emperor's office and the two Jedi landed in front of the Emperor's desk. Once landed, Tara took out her lightsaber and activated it, like her mother had already done.
"Palpatine." Maculya addressed the man in the chair facing them.
"Maculya. Reckless as ever. Didn't your defeat at the Citadel teach you?" the Emperor said in his haggard evil voice.
"You have one chance to stand down and I will spare your life." Maculya demanded, now pointing her lightsaber at the Emperor.
The Emperor laughed softly.
"Oh I see." he said slowly, "I'm afraid you are mistaken. For it will be you and your precious daughter who will have to beg for you lives."
A beeping came from Maculya's belt. She picked the Communicator of it and answered.
"Gold Leader, what is it?" Maculya asked
"HELP! We're being over-AHHHHH" the voice of Castor was harshly cut off.
Maculya once again looked at the Emperor, who's smile was now as wide as could be.
"We're not leaving till you've been defeated." Maculya reasserted.
"You're arrogance blinds you, as it always had, Maculya, now you and your daughter will suffer the full power of the Dark Side."
The Emperor began to laugh as the floor under him opened up and his chair was allowed to move down into a protected compartment. The room was silent for a moment, but was soon replaced by the humming of an engine and the sound of heavy, mechanical breathing.
Then from below the window, Vader, standing atop his own star fighter, rose up. Vader then jumped into the room, landing in front of the table, causing Maculya and Tara to recoil.
"Vader." Maculya said coldly, holding up her blade.
To which her daughter also did the same.
"Perhaps I should reiterate the Emperor's gracious offer. Submit to the Empire. Come under my command and become heroes." Vader said.
"We will never submit to anyone as vile as you or your Emperor." Maculya responded harshly.
"It's treason, then." Vader said, as he unlatched his own lightsaber from his belt.
Vader then activated his lightsaber, revealing its brilliant red blade. The two Jedi then swung their sabers at Vader, locking blades with him, and thus, the duel was on. Vader pulled back and first swung down at Tara, but both her and Maculya blocked the advance simultaneously. Vader then pushed them back, with both Jedi swinging their swords with graceful athleticism but Vader was able to parry the strikes. Vader forced the two out of the office, down the hallway, and as they fought, into the Emperor's private room. At a certain point in the fight, Tara unleashed a great burst of force energy, pushing Vader back towards the door somewhat, and striking his shoulder armor, causing Vader to wail in anger and pain.
Although Vader was giving it his all to try and subdue these two, he hadn't used the Force much. That changed immediately as Vader used the Force, catching Tara off guard and pushing her out the small office's window.
Without even thinking, just acting on motherly instinct, Maculya struck Vader in the shoulder, much the same way her daughter did. Caught off balance, Maculya swung her saber rapidly at Vader, each strike more vicious than the last. The heightened ferocity took Vader off guard, which allowed Maculya to force Vader back into the Emperor's main office. By this point, Imperial Supercommandos, stormtroopers with sleeker armor and jetpacks, had started flying into the room. They saw how viciously Maculya was fighting and prepared to fire but Vader put his hand up, ordering them to hold their fire. At the same time, Tara had not fallen. She held on to the ledge of the window and was doing her best to get back into the office and in the fight.
Vader and Maculya continued their fight, who's audience of Imperial super commandos was only growing. Maculya struck another blow to Vader's armor, causing him to cry out again.
"Enough!" Vader shouted, holding up his right arm to Maculya.
Vader began to Force choke Maculya, causing her to drop her lightsaber and claw at her neck. Vader then used the Force to smash Maculya into the ceiling. Then, while suspending her in the air, forced her back down into the ground in front of him, hard. Macula attempted to get back up but was kneed int the ribs by Vader and then he used the force to smash her up against the adjacent wall. At this point, Maculya was pretty well spent but as Vader walked over, she still slowly got back onto her knees.
Once Vader was next to Maculya, he used the Force to grab her lightsaber. He ignited it and admired its blue blade for a moment. Maculya held her bloodied head back up.
"It's like your kind always said. The Force…shall free me." she said defiantly.
Vader then took Maculya's lightsaber and held it above him with two hands. Right at that moment however, Tara ran in and was ready to fight. However, before she even realized what was happening, Vader swung her mother's lightsaber down, brutally decapitating Maculya.
Tara saw it happened and the shock of the moment was so overwhelming, she fell to her knees, dropping her lightsaber.
"I claim this lightsaber as a symbol of the Empire's victory over this insurrection." Vader said, as he walked toward's Tara, who was in the middle of the office. "However, even now, it's not too late. Join me and save yourself." Vader offered.
It took every ounce of Tara's being to recompose herself but she did, standing to face Vader.
"Never." she said bitterly, "No true Jedi will ever join the Empire."
Vader took a few steps back.
"If you won't join me, then you will face death." he said, as Supercommandos got into position to fire on her.
"Vader." Tara addressed him directly. "The rule of the Sith will never last."
"Unfortunately Tanara, after you, there will be no one left to oppose us." Vader said, he then pointed her mother's lit lightsaber at Tara, "EXECUTE HER!" he ordered.
The Imperial Supercommandos began to fire on Tara, but by this point, Tara had reactivated her lightsaber and blocked their blaster fire. She ran down the hallway and pressed a button on her belt. She continued to hold off the Imperial Supercommandos until she saw her star fighter waiting for her just below. She hoped in as she was still under fire and as she began to angle the ship upwards, she saw Darth Vader had followed his Supercommandos. Tara then flew up, reconnected the Star fighter with the hyperdrive generator, and flew away from Coruscant.
Back in Xander and Anya's apartment, all of Tara's fronds were utterly shocked and even saddened by the story.
"Tara…I'm so…sorry." Buffy began.
"I wish what I had said about my mother was the whole truth, that magic had killed her." Tara responded.
"But this…Vader guy, he has Willow?" Xander asked.
"I can't see who else would know. He must have found something with my mother or just found the wormhole I used to get here."
"How did you end up in Sunnydale though?" Anya asked.
"I listened to my mother. After I came out of the wormhole, I followed the force. It led me into this solar system and then I felt a great deal of Dark Side force energy floating in this area, so I decided to at least be a safe guard to it."
"Are you saying the Hellmouth is part of the Dark Side?" Anya asked.
"They were talked about in Jedi lore, so yes." Tara responded.
"Off topic again, what are we doing?" Buffy asked, now standing.
"Look, I am sorry I did not tell you all about the truth of who I am. Perhaps if I said something we could have prepared for this. But…I'm going to make this right. I am going to get Willow back…and I won't be going alone." Tara said, noting the determination on Buffy's face.
Without a moment to waste, the gang loaded up in Xander's truck and Tara's car and began driving out of the city into the dark desert surrounding Sunnydale. Tara led them off of the paved highway and onto an unpaved, windy, and bumpy Jeep trail into the dry desert hills. Finally, after about 45 minutes of driving, Tara and Xander parked their vehicles on the side of the Jeep of trail, at the opening of a cave. The group got out of their vehicles and followed Tara to the cave.
"Where is it?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, I thought this where you put it." Xander chimed in.
Tara stretched out her hand and with the Force, picked up a small metal orb that was buried in the sand just at the mouth of the cave. She then pressed a button on it and a quick blue beam of light shot out of the orb. After which, the Star-fighter Tara had spoken of was revealed in to have been cloaked in the cave.
Everyone was amazed at the sight.
"You flew here in that?" Anya asked, noting its very worn outward appearance.
"Yep." Tara said proudly.
"You sure it'll still work?"
Tara pressed a button on her belt, which turned the ship join and began warming up its power generators.
"Its not much, but it'll hold." Tara said, with a smirk.
Tara looked back and saw Buffy, now dressed in something she'd usually wear, talking and holding onto her sister affectionately.
"You almost-" Tara began to ask, when Dawn, tears in her eyes, threw her arms around Tara and hugged her.
"Please come back….both of you!" Dawn said.
Tara reciprocated the hug as tight as she could and looked Dawn directly in the eyes.
"I promise you we will and we will bring Willow back." Tara said sternly, yet softly and comforting as well.
Tara then looked down at Dawn, smiled, and kissed her forehead.
Dawn then stood back a little from Buffy and Tara so those two could speak to each other.
"Are you sure about this? When I said that back in the kitchen, I didn't mean that you had to." Tara said.
"Tara. I know you could feel what I was thinking. I can survive there, honestly other than you, probably the only one here who has a chance up there. Plus, when you face this Vader guy, you'll need someone watching your back." Buffy said supportively.
"Buffy…Darth Vader is one of the most dangerous beings in the galaxy I was from."
"And you're a…Jedi and I'm the slayer. I'm sure we can take this guy on, whoever he is." Buffy said smirking.
Tara grinned and put her hand on Buffy's shoulder. "You know I can't thank you enough for this."
"Willow's my best friend. I wasn't about to leave her up there."
"Me neither." Xander said, walking over with Anya and Dawn "But even I admit…kind of outclassed here." the group smiled slightly.
"We'll be back. I promise." Buffy said, hugging her sister one more time.
"Can I sell your stuff if you guys fail?" Anya said.
The group laughed at this somewhat.
"Anya. I'm almost going to miss that…thing you do." Tara said.
Anya smiled and awkwardly waved at the two of them.
Tara and Buffy walked into the cave and boarded the two person Star-fighter. Buffy took the front cockpit, while Tara got in the pilot's seat in back. She switched on some controls, revved up the engine, and slowly began to take the craft out of the cave and up into the sky.
Once beyond the atmosphere, Tara pumped some more speed in the craft.
"So, I don't suppose you left your hyperdrive generator on earth." Buffy asked.
"I put it in fixed cloaked orbit around the Moon." Tara responded.
"Is there anything tech from your galaxy can't do?"
"Honestly, I don't think so, now that you mention it."
After a few extra moments of calculation, Tara activated the hyperdrive generator, taking her ship deep into space, and flew straight through the wormhole. After just a few hours, Tara's navigational computer began to beep, signaling they had closed in on their location.
"Buffy, wake up!" Tara called out.
"Where are we?" Buffy asked, jolted out of her sleep.
"Cutting the sub light engines." Tara said, pulling some switches on her control panel.
When Tara did this, the Star-fighter came out of hyperspace into an area of space full of wondrous sights, star clusters, meteor showers, planets, and many other things that were all around.
"Is this it?" Buffy asked.
"Buffy, welcome to the galaxy I was born in." Tara said, proudly.
Buffy looked out the window and took in the awe inspiring look of this galaxy.
"You left…all this?" Buffy asked amazed.
"Well, home I feel is more who you're with than where but…yeah it is a pretty great view, isn't it."
Tara then took manual control of the ship and began to fly it through space.
"So where are we heading exactly?" Buffy asked, still looking around.
"The temple I was born in, the one I told you about back at Xander's. That's where I trained to be a Jedi at before I got to the main one, I have my strongest connection to the Force there. I should be able to use that connection to find Willow." Tara said.
"Is this temple called anything?"
"The Temple of the Whills. It's on kind of a desert like planet called Jedha."
As Tara flew the ship out from the center of the galaxy towards the Outer Rim, Tara remembered her life at that temple. Playing in the desert and ancient ruins of the Jedi, being showered by love from her mother, the sunrises, learning about the Force, all things that made Tara smile. Something interrupted Tara's happy thoughts however, and that was the beeping of her navigational computers.
"We're coming up on Jedha. Cutting the sub-light engines." Tara said flipping some switches.
In an instant, the star fighter came out of hyperspace and was now in orbit above Jedha. However, what should have been a happy occasion for Tara quickly turned to horror when she saw what kind of state the planet was in. Jedha's surface was blackened, with rivers of lava leaking all over it from a massive crater which went all the way down to the core.
"Is…is that it?" Buffy asked, confused.
All Tara could do was stare, her face turning from shock into sadness as she realized what had become of her home planet since her absence began.
She was not allowed to mourn for long as her computer began beeping again. Buffy looked back to see if she could see anything.
"Uh Tara! We got company!" Buffy shouted.
Tara looked on her computer.
"Damn! Imperial TIE Fighters. Hold on!" Tara alerted as she took hold of the controls.
The TIE fighters, a squadron of 4, came up rapidly on Tara's starfighter, firing numerous green blaster bolts at her. Tara however expertly maneuvered around the blaster fire. She then quickly swung her fighter around, doing a 180, until she was facing the TIE squadron. Without a moment's hesitation, Tara opened fire and was able to take out two of her adversaries. The other two flew past her, coming around, and preparing to open fire again. Buffy all the while was becoming disoriented by all the kinetic action.
Tara looked out the cockpit and saw a large triangular shaped white space ship coming from behind the ruins of Jedha.
"What's that?" Buffy asked.
"Imperial Star Destroyer. If we don't get out of here soon, we're done." Tara responded.
Tara rapidly prepared her computer to make the jump to hyperspace, all the while, being mindful of the two TIE fighters that were rapidly coming up on her.
As she did so, her computer began beeping again.
"Oh now what?" Tara asked, stressfully.
Immieadtely, four rough looking large spaceships, smaller than the Star Destroyer, came out of hyperspace right in front of Tara's star fighter. The two TIE Fighters were quickly obliterated by the ships' guns and fired at the Star Destroyer as more fighters were dispatched from it.
The star fighter began to shake as it was pulled up near the "lead" ship of the group of four.
"What's happening?" Buffy asked frantically.
"Tractor beam! Get your saber ready, we might be in for a fight." Tara said.
The Star Fighter was pulled up into a hanger bay on the underside of the ship. Inside were a number of different fighters and smaller shuttles and from the doors around the hanger, groups of well armed but variously dressed warriors came rushing out to greet Tara and Buffy.
Tara assumed the worst, believing them to be pirates of some kind, and so as soon as the ship was rested on the floor of the hangar, she jumped out of the cockpit and drew her lightsaber. She looked around, ready for a fight with these guys. Then came a voice from within the group.
"Tanara!" the voice said, sounding very pleased.
Emerging from the crowd was Castor, somewhat older than what Tara remembered him, but still as strong, tall, and bearded as he was.
"Castor!" Tara shouted in glee, as she withdrew her lightsaber.
She then ran to him, stopping just in front of him, glancing up and down his face and body. Tara then embraced Castor in a tight hug, tears rolling down each other's face.
"Castor, it's so good to see you." Tara said.
"Likewise Roehnen, you haven't aged a day it seems. How long's it been, just over 20 years I imagine." Castor replied.
"Wait, 20 years? No that's not possible, I've only been gone for like 5." Tara said, shocked, as she started to look around.
"Tanara, I assure you, it's been longer than that. I'm just curious why you think differently."
Tara looked around more and realized.
"The wormhole." Tara said.
"What?" Castor asked.
"Uh guys!" Buffy's voice called from behind the pair.
Tara, Castor, and the other crew members looked into the cockpit and saw Buffy awkwardly waving at them.
"Oh." Tara said, smiling, "Castor I'll explain later, anyway, this is Buffy Summers, a friend from…my new home."
"Hello Buffy! Come on out!" Castor roared, happiness clear in his voice.
Buffy climbed out of the cockpit and walked over to Castor, to which Castor gave her a hearty hug.
"Oh! Nice to meet you too." Buffy said awkwardly.
"Sorry. It's just any friend of the Roehnens are a friend of mine. My ship is yours." Castor exclaimed.
"Well thanks for the ship…giving, we could actually use it." Buffy said.
"She's right. Castor I'd love to catch up, but I need your help more than ever." Tara interjected.
"I had a feeling as such. I didn't think you'd come out of hiding for nothing."
"Castor, the love of my life was abducted, by forces under the command of Darth Vader."
The crew started looking around nervously but Tara continued.
"We needed to come to the temple on Jedha, I was going to use it to locate her, but now that-" Tara abruptly stopped.
The reality suddenly hit her, her home planet was gone, and with that, any link of finding where Vader may have stowed Willow away at.
"Castor, I need to go." she said quietly, trying to remain composed.
As she ran past the crew and threw the doors, she found an empty dormitory room, sat on the bed, and started crying. She lamented the loss of her world but worse yet, she began to cry painfully yet silently out for Willow, saying her name over and over again, just barely making a sound, clutching her chest as she did so.
Back in the Castle, in Vader's office, Willow was still yet restrained to Vader's chair, contemplating on how to escape. Despite being cared for, given food and what not, any time Willow attempted to run, she was caught. Willow grunted and squirmed as she tried to twist her wrists out of the restraints on the chair. She then stopped for a moment, exhausted, and gave thought to a very real possibility now floating in her mind.
"Magic." Willow said, "Should I use it…what am I going to do though, maybe teleport."
Willow's mind was running wild with possibilities to use her magical potential but she then began to focus on something far more important to her.
"Tara. You worked so hard to be clean and you know she knows whats going on. She'll be here. She won't-"
"She won't what?" Vader's voice called out from behind Willow.
Willow pivoted the chair so it was now facing the body of the room. As she did, she saw Vader walk in from the hallway outside the office, flanked by two Shadow Guards.
"Leave me." Willow said.
"Hmmm." Vader said in a scoffing attitude "Because by my recollection she was not much on your planet. How did she put it to you on that bridge, like she was a shadow?" Vader continued.
"Shut up!" Willow blurted out angrily "How dare you use magic to probe my-"
Willow's angry outburst was harshly interrupted and silenced with Vader's use of the Force to choke her.
"AND…" Vader began commandingly, "I believe you used the Force to dampen Tanara's mind, twice. I was only following your example." Vader finished, releasing Willow from her grip.
Vader looked down at Willow, seeing in her eyes feelings of guilt and self loathing, with bitter tears rolling down her face.
"What do you want from me?" Willow asked, frightened.
"I have already told you, young one. I simply want you to understand. Understand the full power of the Dark Side, a power which you were on the verge of tapping into."
"That power almost ruined my life." Willow said sadly.
"NO! It was the lack of that power that almost ruined your life…and can still." Vader said.
Vader then stood back and began to intensely focus on Willow, to the point it seemed as though he was staring through Willow's soul.
"What are you doing?" Willow asked, terrified, as her head and body began to twitch.
"I am giving you the gift of…insight, into what you could have been and what you still can be."
"No…No….No…NO, NO, NO!" Willow repeated over and over again in agony.
"Know what you could become!" Vader said.
Willow then entered into a red colored fog, where voices and images began to flash through her mind. Although hazy, she knew who was being represented in these visions.
"Your shirt." a dying Tara said to her.
"THERE HAS TO BE A WAY!" A weeping version of herself called out.
She saw Warren, screaming and writhing in pain, before being ripped apart and set on fire.
"Are we really gonna do this?" she heard Buffy ask.
Then she saw her home town of Sunnydale just burst into flames.
Unable to bear it any longer, Willow cried out.
"NO!" she wailed before she was released from her nightmare.
Willow began to look around, completely wired by her experience but also greatly afraid.
"I…I did that…with magic?" Willow asked.
Vader then stepped closer to Willow.
"Child." Vader began "I've seen this vision too, the reason all of this was to happen was because you cut yourself off from the Force. If you realized your true potential with the Force, there is nothing that would stand in your way, even death itself would cower in your presence, you wouldn't need menial trinkets to counter it. Join me…become my apprentice, learn to use the Dark Side properly. Then you will have the strength to keep the ones you love alive, safe…and happy." Vader finished.
Willow thought long and hard about Vader's words. Willow loved Tara more than anything, and Buffy, Xander, Dawn, and all the others meant so much to her and would loose herself if they went away. However, she knew deep down, magic, or the Force, was not the way to keeping them safe. She remembered what Giles said to her that night in the kitchen, "a rank, arrogant amateur", and she knew he and Tara were right. She knew what she had to do.
"Never. I am never using magic and I'm never…going over to the Dark Side." Willow said mustering all het courage and remaining strength to do so.
"We shall see." Vader said, as he began to walk out of the room with his entourage.
As soon as Vader left, Willow began to break down and weep. She wept in such a way, she thought it was impossible to feel such despair.
"Tara…." she said "Please…help…I'm…scared….please" she stuttered out through her tears.
Tara sat in the dormitory room on the ship, quietly contemplating what she could do next. Her eyes were red from all the tears she cried but she had to find some way to free Willow, but first she had to find her.
"Tara." a voice called to her.
Tara looked up. It was the voice from the desert and her dream. She began to look around the room, this time frantically. Then in the center of the room, a blue and white mist began to form, and after a few moments it fully materialized. The mist was given form, shaped into that of a person, and took on an identity. It was Maculya.
"Mom?" Tara asked, unsure of what she was seeing.
"Hello Tanara." Maculya said smiling.
Tara hugged her mother, tight as she ever had before. She had expected to fall through her mother, but she was as solid as when she was alive. Tara looked at Maculya, about ready to start crying again, but this time tears of joy.
"Mom, is…it really you?" Tara asked.
"Yes, it is." Maculya responded.
"How is it possible?"
"The Force. I did many things on my journey to find you safe passage out of the galaxy. My training was incomplete though, and it's taken me time to get here."
"I'm just glad you're here mom….I…I"
"Tanara I know, please listen to me. I can help you get Willow back."
"How?" Tara asked enthusiastically.
"Get to Dagobah. I will guide you there and together, we'll meet with someone who can get you ready to face Vader."
"Mom wait, I-"
"Tanara, I don't have much time left. I will see you again, I promise. Go to Dagobah."
Tara looked up in determination, with a smile on her face. Macula ran her fingers through her daughter's hair.
"I love you, Tanara."
Just after that, her mother faded away. Tara's initial reaction was to be sad once again, but those feelings were quickly replaced by that of purpose and clarity. She knew what had to be done.
She got up to the bridge of the ship, where Castor, Buffy, and the primary pilot crew of the ship were.
"Tara." Buffy said turning around.
The two shared a quick hug.
"Castor! We need to go to Dagobah." Tara said.
"Dagobah? What the hell is-" Castor began.
"Please, Castor. I need this. This is our ticket to finding Willow."
Castor paused for a moment.
"Alright, we're going. Helmsmen, head a course for Dagobah." he said.
"Tara I dont-" Buffy started.
"Buffy, I promise we are going to get Willow, but I've just received…something, a message from my mother."
"Your mother?" Buffy asked.
"Yes. She is going to show me where Willow is and how we can get her back."
Buffy looked displeased that this was going to take more time but did trust Tara's judgement.
"Alright." Buffy said.
Tara hugged Buffy again.
"Im sorry…about all of this." Tara said.
"What's done is done, we're going to get Willow back, I know you will." Buffy said.
"Hey, we're doing this together Buffy. I need you, Willow needs you too." Tara said, causing Buffy to smirk.
"So, what have you been doing?" Tara asked.
"Talking with your old friends." Buffy said.
"I must say Tanara, you've had quite the journey." Castor interjected.
"To say the least, but it was worth it. I have a wonderful family now, but that doesn't mean I ever forgot about you."
"I understand and I know you never would."
"Tell me, how did you get out of Coruscant."
"I knew we we're cooked. We fell back, trying to draw out Imperial forces as much as possible, but after we saw your Starship lift off, we knew the jig was up. We fled, we had a window of opportunity as most of the Imperials in the area went after you."
"We stuck together, spent time as pirates and mercenaries for several years. Then, about a decade ago, we ran into the Alliance. We've been fighting with them ever since against the Empire. We're risking hell right now from it's leadership just to get you here."
"Then why did you?"
"We're family too, remember?" Castor said, putting his hand on her shoulder, causing Tara to smile.
"So, Jedha…" Tara began to ask.
"Yes. When we were with the Alliance, we learned that the Empire had built a planet killer. A…Death Star. They tested it on Jedha."
"Tested?" Tara exclaimed.
"Yes. They destroyed Alderaan with it. Fortunately the Alliance was able to get together and destroy it."
Tara was largely silent after this. She contemplated what the Empire had done to her in the years since it's creation, all the pain and death it brought her. All she knew is that she hoped whatever training Maculya was going to give her, she would use to teach Vader a lesson he'd never forget.
A couple of hours passed and the ship finally entered into orbit over Dagobah. Tara decided to go alone, taking her Star-Fighter down to the surface. She allowed the Force to guide her pilotage and it led her into an open area in a swamp, a swamp which seemed to stretch all across the planet.
Once landed, Tara got out of her fighter and looked around the dark swamp.
"Hello!" she called out.
She began walking forwards to a group of trees. It seemed as though that in between these trees, there was a small hut wedged in between them. Tara looked through a small opening in it, and sure enough there was a room set up for something to live in.
On her back, Tara felt the gentle impact of a small pebble, as though it had been softly thrown at her. It was enough to cause Tara to turn around and as she did she heard a happy yet raspy laugh.
Tara focused her eyes on what was behind her and she began to smile.
"Master Yoda." Tara said.
"Young Roehnen, missed you have I." Yoda said, standing atop her Star-Fighter.
Tara walked back to her Fighter and without a moment's hesitation, hugged the small yet kindly and wise Jedi master, all the while he laughed.
"Yoda. I can't even say Im surprised you survived." Tara said frankly.
Yoda laughed some more.
"Oh Roehnen, quite surprised I was when survived I did." he replied.
Tara helped Yoda off of her Star-Fighter.
"Yoda, I need your help." Tara said.
"Ah yes. You seek Maculya do you not." Yoda replied.
"You know about all this."
"Mhmm, go indoors we must, and begin our journey we will."
The two Jedi walked from the Star Fighter and squeezed into the tiny hut. They then sat across from each other.
"So what do we do now?" Tara asked.
"Hmm." Yoda emitted.
"Sorry about that." Maculya's voice called out.
She shortly materialized soon after, sitting in the lotus position, next to both Tara an Yoda.
"Mother!" Tara exclaimed once again, hugging her.
"Tanara, let's go forth with this." Maculya said.
"Now I see, you brought us here so Master Yoda could complete the training."
"And the Force power coming from this planet will allow that to take place."
"Join hands we must." Yoda said.
The three then took each other's hands, forming a circle of sorts. They entered a deep state of meditation. From Tara's point of view, she could see her life flash before her eyes, even from the moments after her birth. She then started to see the memories of her mother and even Yoda, seeing everything they experienced, all of their skills, power, knowledge, all of it flashed before Tara's eyes. Although not opening their eyes, all around the huts, swirls of bright lights were formed all around. Tara began to tremble as she experienced an overload of information. Then as this joint meditation reached its peak, Tara focused on some specific memories from her mother, training with her master, and from there the memories of that same master. Tara was then released from the mediation, which jolted Tara causing her to fall flat on her back. She shook her head, clambering back up.
"What happened?" Tara asked, exhausted.
"Tapped into the Force itself, you did." Yoda said.
"What?" Tara continued.
"Combined with Yoda and the Force energy emitting from this planet, we were able to combine and tap into the Cosmic Force itself. I've given you an ability that will give you the advantage you need against Vader." Maculya said.
"What ability?" Tara asked.
"When the time comes, it'll come to you." Maculya replied.
"And Vader's location?"
"Hidden on Mustafar, Vader is."
"Good. Thank you guys." Tara said, starting to stand up.
"Not so fast." her mother interjected, "Your upcoming duel with Vader stands as a crossroads in your life."
"Yes, to your mother, you will listen." Yoda said.
"What do you mean, Mom?" Tara said, sitting back in her original position.
"Tanara, if you slay Vader in retrieving Willow, you will become a symbol to the galaxy. They will expect you to lead them to a new beginning."
"Mom, I have no intention of living in this galaxy anymore."
"I know, that means when you face Vader, you must not kill him. No matter what he's done to Willow, you must leave him lie after you've defeated him, unless you want to become a symbol to the galaxy."
"Mom, I already am important…not to this galaxy, but to a young woman named Anya, a young man named Xander, a girl named Dawn, my girlfriend Willow, and a young woman up on that ship who followed me to help me save Willow. Those people are my world, my galaxy, and I am going to be there for them."
"Wise you are, young Roehnen." Yoda spoke up.
"Master Yoda?" Tara asked, somewhat confused.
"I know what Council said about relationships and love." Yoda began, causing Maculya to put her head down somewhat. "Many things my exile has taught me. Overrated power and perfection is, happiness I have found, is the true path to enlightenment. A very wise woman and Jedi you have become, Tanara."
Tara smiled. She knelt down and hugged Yoda once again.
"I'm going to miss you Yoda."
"Perhaps we'll be together sooner than you think." Yoda responded.
Tara chuckled somewhat before going to hug her mother.
"Whatever you decide, I am proud of you Tanara and we will be together again, no matter what." Maculya said.
"I love you Mom, I'll see you again when this all over." Tara responded, hugging her mother.
Afterwards, Tara left the hut, climbing back aboard her Star-Fighter, flying out of the swamp to rejoin Buffy aboard the ship.
Tara came back aboard the ship's hangar bay and made her way back up to the bridge. Buffy quickly turned around and greeted Tara.
"So what did you find out?" Buffy asked eagerly.
"I know where Willow is." Tara responded tearfully gleeful.
"Yeah?" Buffy said, herself feeling euphoric.
"Castor. What's the strength of the Empire around Mustafar?" Tara asked.
Castor turned around and addressed Tara. He shrugged somewhat.
"Not much, a few outposts but nothing we couldn't fight through. Why?" Castor responded.
"Vader. He has a personal castle on the planet, that's where Willow is being held. We have to go there." Tara said.
"Helmsmen, take us to Mustafar. The rest of you not working the ship, gather round, we gotta get a plan in place."
"Ok, so what do we do once we get there?" Buffy asked.
"Alright, well what we should do is bring our ships down into the atmosphere over the castle. Castor will scramble his fighters to keep the TIE fighters busy, while Buffy and I sneak into the castle."
"Just you and her?" a crew member asked.
"There's no one else I would trust more to watch my back than her." Tara said, as Buffy looked over at her.
"Then it's settled. We'll be to Mustafar in just a couple of hours." Castor declared.
"May the Force be with us all." Tara said.
As the ships made their way towards Mustafar, Buffy came by Tara, who was sitting down mentally preparing herself for battle.
"Hey." Buffy said.
"Hey." Tara said looking up at her.
"So you ready?"
"Getting there. I'm more ready to see Willow again."
"Same. So, about what you said."
"You trust me with your life?"
"Buffy, I know when we first met we were kind of separate, but I've seen what you've become and I'm happy to have you as a friend. You are one of the bravest people I've ever met and you've fought for me and Willow more times than I can even count. You're more than a friend actually….you're my sister Buffy."
Buffy just looked at Tara, smiling with tears welling in her eyes.
"Buffy." Tara said, gesturing towards her eyes.
"Oh god, crying." Buffy said, starting to chuckle along with Tara.
"You'll be alright." Tara joked.
Buffy then hugged Tara.
"Tara, I love you. You've been there for me when no one else was. Having you around, raising Dawn, it's been like having mom actually." Buffy said.
Tara smiled, looking down as she processed that.
"When we get back, we're going to be a family. We already are family." Tara said, hugging Buffy once again.
"Wow, this is your first big fight your quarterbacking." Buffy said.
"Any tips?" Tara asked.
"Move fast and strike hard?"
"Seems like pretty solid advice."
Tara and Buffy chuckled some more.
"Hey, we're going to get Willow back. I know it." Tara said.
After a couple of more hours, the four ships came out of hyperspace above Mustafar.
"Ok, lets get started. Castor, started firing around the castle. That should get their attention. Then start descending. Me and Buffy will go from there." Tara said.
"Roger that, open fire!" Castor ordered.
The four ships began blasting down around Vader's castle.
Within Vader's castle, the Grand Captain stood next to Willow.
"You can't hold out much longer." the Grand Captain berated her.
A lower Shadow Guard then came barging into the chamber.
"Grand Captain! We're under attack, Lord Vader requests us on the upper levels." the Guard said
"Coming!" the Grand Captain replied, taking off.
The four ships continued their bombardment around the castle as they descended towards the fiery surface of Mustafar.
"Wow, it looks like Hell down there." Buffy said quietly.
"Tell me about it." Tara responded.
"Scramble fighters!" Castor ordered.
From the four ships, a collection of fighters came rushing out and began attacking the castle's defenses. From the base of the castle, black colored TIE fighters rushed out and engaged in combat with Castor's fighters.
"Alright, you guys are up. Watch yourself, Tanara." Castor said.
Tara hugged Castor.
"Thank you again, for all of this." Tara said.
"Just get that girl back. We'll call it even after that." Castor replied.
Tara and Buffy got into a shuttle in the hangar bay and flew it out. Tara managed to maneuver it past the bulk of the fight and landed it on the flight pad.
"Alright. You got your saber?" Tara asked, to which Buffy nodded.
"Then let's run."
The door of the shuttle opened and the two women took off running, saber blades drawn, as they ran beneath the battle. Once they reached the door of the castle, Tara quickly cut through the door and they made their way into the hallway of the imposing castle.
"She's here, I can feel it." Tara said.
In Vader's Chamber, the room was largely lit by the outside glow of the lava. Willow was still in the chair, exhausted, both physically and emotionally. However, despite Vader's best efforts, she continued to resist the urge to use the Force against him. She had not lost hope that Tara would find her, but she was on the verge.
Then, electrical light came through the other side of the room. Willow turned the chair around, almost automatically, expecting to see the silhouette of Vader. However, what she saw almost didn't look real. At first, she saw two shadows, one clad in regular earth clothes but the other in flowing light brown robes. As the two figures got closer, they began to resemble people she knew very well, her best friend Buffy Summers and the love of her life, Tara Maclay. She began to recoil, believing this to be another one of Vader's tricks. She turned the chair around, facing away from the two.
Tara walked around and saw Willow, alive, though having suffered torment through Vader, she knew her spirit was intact.
"Willow! Willow!" Tara called out.
No response from Willow, just shaking and tears rolling down her face.
"WILLOW!" Tara called out again, this time far more desperately.
Buffy, who was standing behind Tara and Willow, was in utter shock at what Vader had reduced her best friend to, beginning to cry, she muffled her cries by covering her mouth with her hands.
Tara then placed her hand on Willow's forehead. Using the Force, Tara focused on her girlfriend's life energy and was able to unlock it. With a scream from Tara, she was thrown back somewhat but when she looked up, she saw a much more pleasant sight. Willow was now looking around, far more conscious and aware. Her exhaustion gone but memory of it remained. Tara stood back up and looked Willow in the eyes.
"Tara?" Willow asked softly, unsure if what she was seeing was real.
"It's me." Tara said, walking quickly up the chair.
"You found me?" Willow asked, a sad smile beginning to form on her face
"I found you!" Tara blurted out, kneeling down to hug Willow, tears in her eyes.
Willow tried to hug Tara but was still restrained. Buffy stepped in and ripped the restrains off, freeing her friend and allowing her to hug Tara.
"We'll always find each other, remember?" Tara said, looking lovingly at her girlfriend.
Tara then stepped aside somewhat and allowed Willow to reconnect with Buffy.
"Buffy" Willow exclaimed, running up to her.
Buffy tightly embraced Willow in her arms and began to openly cry in relief at her best friend.
"Oh god, Willow, I was so worried. I'm sorry I didn't fight harder to keep you safe!" Buffy said.
Willow stood back from Buffy a tiny bit.
"Buffy, you and Tara saved me. I love you." Willow said
Buffy happily nodded, still tending to the tears in her eyes, but stood aside for Tara. Willow then walked up to Tara and gave the two gave each other the most passionate kiss they possibly could. The two were so elated and euphoric it was almost beyond description and their kiss only heightened their feelings of bliss.
After their passionate embrace, Willow stood back and addressed both Tara and Buffy at the same time.
"Guys, can we get out of here?" Willow asked.
Before either of them could answer however, the door they came through flew open once again and the sound of Vader's mechanical breathing filled the room. From the elevator, Vader himself, flanked by a half dozen Shadow Guards, walked into the room. Vader looked over and saw a freed Willow, standing with Buffy, and Tara by the chair.
"Tanara!" Vader exclaimed "We finally meet again."
Tara stepped forward to within a few feet of Vader. She then shed her large over robe.
"You came all this way for revenge?" Vader asked.
Tara took a deep breath.
"I came here to save Willow but I also came here to face you. I do not come here for revenge over what you've done to me" she paused, "or the Jedi…my family…my father…my mother…or her." Tara said, gesturing back to Willow as she was ending that statement.
"Tanara, you must listen-"
"NO, you listen!" Tara shouted, doing her best to contain her anger, "I will face you today, I will defeat you, and you will never come near me or take away someone that I care about again."
"It doesn't have to be this way. Both you and Willow can join me, together." Vader offered.
"Buffy, keep Willow safe." Tara instructed.
She then unhooked her lightsaber from her belt, ignited its blue blade, and with a two handed fighting stance, pointed it towards Vader.
"Captain." Vader said, which signaled the Grand Captain and the other Imperial Shadow Guards began moving towards Buffy and Willow.
"If you will not join me willingly, you will suffer the same fate as your mother and the other 10,000 Jedi Knights of this Galaxy." Vader said, before igniting his own lightsaber.
"If that is the will of the Force…then let it be." Tara said defiantly.
Tara walked closer to Vader and both locked eyes for a moment. Then, Vader pulled his arm back and railed his sword down at Tara but with quick reflexes and great strength, she moved her sword up and blocked Vader's advance.
Vader then pulled back his sword and swung at Tara's side and yet again, Tara was able to block it again. Vader continued to swing at Tara but she held firm, not allowing Vader's blade to find its mark. As Vader applied more force to his swings, while Tara was able to block each advance, Tara began to move backwards, towards the large metal door on the other side of the office. To counter, Tara picked her own pace with her lightsaber movements, becoming far more acrobatic and trying to apply more force in places Vader would not accept. At a certain point in the middle of the walkway, Tara spun around and struck Vader's blade, hoping the extra momentum would knock the blade out of Vader's hand. This did not happen but the speed and ferocity of their strikes and parries made the duel they were having extremely reminiscent of the Jedi duels of old. Tara looked behind her and saw she was about to have her back up against the wall, in the form of the door to Vader's medical chamber. Using the Force, Tara opened up the door to the chamber and the duel continued in there.
Meanwhile, as the duel was going on, the Grand Captain and the Shadow Guards had surrounded Willow and Buffy.
"Got no where to run kids." The Grand Captain said condescendingly.
"Look, this isn't gonna go well for you guys." Buffy said, confidently, as she took out her lightsaber
"Do you know who your talking to girl?" the Grand Captain asked.
"Do you?" Buffy asked, igniting the lightsaber.
"Get her." the Grand Captain ordered.
The Shadow Guards quickly threw back their robes, swishing out their lightsaber pikes and igniting their red blades. Four of them ran in for Buffy, while two more ran after Willow. Buffy used her strength and tenacious acrobatic fighting style to terrible effect against these Shadow Guards. Buffy flew back and blocked the blades of the pikes of the Guards going after Willow. She used her expert acrobatic sword skills to outmaneuver the Guards and slay both of them.
"Willow! Stay behind me." Buffy commanded.
The other four Guards all engaged Buffy at once and as best she could, held them all back at once.
Meanwhile, back in the medical chamber, Vader kept up his assault on Tara, with heavy deliberate swings of his lightsaber. Tara continued to be pushed back and no amount of acrobatic and complex sword moves could give her an advantage over Vader. The two fought their wear into the center of the room, where Vader's bacta tank stood.
The two then locked blades momentarily, each looked at the other with fiery determination to win. The two pushed each other back, with Tara spinning around and slicing the bacta tank open with her lightsaber. Tara threw herself back with the Force before being drenched by the deluge. Vader too avoided being soaked and quickly walked back up to Tara.
"Good trick." Vader noted, before swinging his blade down at Tara again.
Tara parried the advance and locked blades again with Vader.
"You'll find us Jedi are full of tricks like that." Tara said, straining to hold back Vader.
"I remember no such resourcefulness from other Jedi I've killed." Vader responded.
Tara swing her sword at Vader and the two continued to lock blades. With Tara leading her adversary back through the puddle of liquid, which was actually not as slick as one may think, to the back of the broken tank. Once there, Tara used the force to push Vader back somewhat and threw her lightsaber at the ceiling mount of the tank. This caused a covered bundle of wires to fall down into the liquid puddle, the frayed ends connected with the liquid, and generated huge surges of electricity.
Immediately after throwing her lightsaber, Tara jumped up and grabbed the ceiling, holding on with all her might. Vader, who had been walking through the liquid and was on the edge of it, felt his robotic legs get shot full of electricity and himself jumped up and latched himself on to the ceiling. Both held themselves there as the electricity surge fried the power to the room and when they came back down to the ground, the room was completely dark, except for a small fire coming from the ceiling and the occasional light being generated by the sparking frayed wires.
Vader reignited his lightsaber, providing an extra source of light to the damaged room. Not only that, but except from the sounds of blasters from the main office, the room was totally quiet. Tara had yet to reignite her lightsaber and was hiding somewhere.
"There is no point in resisting the inevitable." Vader called out, slowly walking around, trying to work out the stiffness in his legs.
"I will not submit." Tara called out.
"More than that. This Willow girl you are fond of…there is no point in keeping her from her destiny."
There was a pause.
"What did you see?" Tara's voice called back.
"Your death…at the hands of that worthless boy. But moreover, I saw what it awoke in Willow. The anger, the pain, the hate, she would have reduced your world to ash, far better than any Death Star could have."
"…What is it that you want with Willow?" Tara asked.
"The Empire will take control of this galaxy and when it does, I intend to return the Sith to their former glory. The new Knights deserve to have such talent in the Dark Side to lead them." Vader said.
"Shut up!" Tara said back bitterly, "Willow is not some monster you can just order around. She is a kind, loving, beautiful woman…she's just…afraid."
Another pause fell upon the room.
"Fear…" Vader began, "Fear attracts the fearful…the strong…the weak…the innocent…Fear is my ally…and so too shall it be the ally of Darth Orpheus."
At that moment, Tara ignited her lightsaber and let from the darkness. Her lightsaber connected with Vader's. Tara, clearly filled with rage, pulled her sword back and swung down at Vader, again, and again, and again. Each time was stronger than the last but Vader was still blocking the advances.
Out in the office, Buffy and Willow were still holding out against the Grand Captain and the remaining Shadow Guards. Buffy lashed out at one of them, cutting their arm off and stabbing it in the chest. By this point, only the Grand Captain remained.
"Willow, stay here, I'm going to get that door open." Buffy instructed, as Willow hid on a lower part of the floor.
Willow nodded her head as Buffy ran.
As Buffy reached the door, the Grand Captain ran right up behind her. Buffy turned to face the Grand Captain.
"Got no where to run." The Grand Captain said.
"Then I guess there's only one thing left to do." Buffy said contently.
She then engaged in an acrobatic sword fight with the Grand Captain. Every conceivable sword move that Giles had taught her as well as ones she came up with on her own were employed by the Slayer as she fought against the Grand Captain. Unfortunately, the Grand Captain still had the power of the Force and was able to get the upper hand on her, knocking her sword from her and cornering Buffy. However, as the Grand Captain cornered Buffy, she had failed to notice that Willow was moving quietly but quickly across the room towards the combatants. Buffy was knocked to the floor but as Willow got closer, she tried playacting and pretending she was far more injured than she actually was.
"Sorry Slayer, it's over now." the Grand Captain said, raising up her lightsaber pike to strike down Buffy.
At that moment, Willow, who had snuck right up behind the Grand Captain, knelt down a little behind him, snatched Tara's mother's lightsaber from the Grand Captain's belt, and ignited it. Before the Grand Captain even knew what was going on, Willow sliced into her back with one awkward yet deeply penetrative upward swing, causing the Grand Captain to yell in agony as she fell back on the ground, unconscious and defeated.
Willow deactivated the lightsaber before reaching down to help Buffy up.
"Wow…good job." Buffy said amazed.
"Yeah…" Willow said, panting, adrenaline still coursing through her, "These things are heavier than they look." Willow said.
The two then heard the clashing of lightsabers, looking around, to see both Tara and Vader bringing their duel back into the main chamber.
Willow reignited the lightsaber and began walking slowly towards Vader as he was busy with Tara. Buffy picked her own lightsaber back up as well, igniting it and preparing to run over to face down Vader. As Vader and Tara stopped to lock blades again, the former noticed the actions of Willow and Buffy. Vader then held his lightsaber with just his left hand, while using his right to throw Buffy back up against the wall, knocking her out, and then used it to hold Willow in place, disarming her of her lightsaber.
Tara, enraged by the sight of Vader paralyzing her girlfriend, broke from Vader's lightsaber block and swung at Vader's arm. Vader then refocused his hand towards Tara, though her still held Willow in place, and began to force choke Tara.
"NO TARA!" Willow shouted out, struggling against Vader's grip.
The grip around Tara's neck became tighter and tighter, as Vader sought to end her forever. As she was being choked however, Tara remembered back to her joint meditation session with her mother and Yoda. She started to get glimpses of memory from her mother, her mother's master, and even her own Jedi training. Specifically, a piece of obscure Jedi wisdom passed down from her mother's master.
"Mother, you must test this on me." Tara said.
"No. It is far too dangerous, you need only learn the technique in theory, hopefully you'll never have to use it." her mother said.
"Vapaad can make a Jedi unstoppable, I just want to perfect it."
"It is not about perfection, Tanara. You must find utter inner peace if you are to allow the darkness to pass through you…its why I was never trained in Vapaad, and never can be."
"Do you think I am that incorruptible?"
"If I didn't think you were, I wouldn't be teaching you this." Tara's mother said.
It was at that moment, Tara realized what her mother had brought her to Dagobah for and now, it was time to finish this fight. As Tara was being choked out by Vader, she began to concentrate. She focused on Vader's anger and hatred. She focused on how it was being directed at her. She began to use her own force energy as a magnet of sorts, and in doing so, she began to pull Vader's darkness through her body and redirected it back into Vader.
Vader then began to feel his suit buckle and break. As he continued to choke Tara, parts of his suit became crushed, his respirator damaged, and Vader released his grip on both Willow and Tara.
With Tara free, she used the force to reclaim her lightsaber from the floor and once reignited, she used a powerful upward stroke to sever Vader's left hand and his connection to his lightsaber. With a loud painful yell, Vader fell back onto the ground.
Tara then stood over Vader, deactivating her own lightsaber and holstering it. She then stretched out her right hand and with the Force, took hold of Vader's lightsaber. Tara ignited its impressive blade and changed her grip on it, so the blade was pointing down. She looked down at Vader.
"DO IT!" Vader commanded, through his broke respirator.
With both hands, Tara rose the lightsaber up and stabbed it down. There was a momentary pause. Tara then let go of the saber, allowing its handle to roll a few inches to the left where it was touching the side of Vader's helmet.
"You Jedi are cowards….but…I concede this." Vader said, a clear tone of despondence in his voice.
"You're right…I am a Jedi. And you can tell the galaxy whatever you want about what happened here. I just wanted you to know that there was still one Jedi left in this universe who could beat you and that you'll NEVER cross me again." Tara said.
Tara walked away from Vader and quickly embraced Willow in her arms. The couple then ran over to Buffy who was just coming to.
"Buffy?" Willow asked, kneeling down to look at her.
"Did…did we win?" Buffy asked, somewhat disoriented.
"…yeah, we did." Tara said softly, yet proudly.
As she came to, she recovered her lightsaber.
"TARA." Vader's voice called from across the room.
Tara walked over to hear what Vader had to say, even though, she took her lightsaber back out in preparation if he were to try anything again. Willow accompanied her, retaking her mother's lightsaber where she had dropped it.
"Tara." Vader said again, this time much softer, looking up at her and Willow.
"Perhaps…you will find solace in the fact that the men and women who destroyed Jedha have all died, including your old friend Tarkin."
"….I know…but how is that supposed to give me peace?" Tara asked.
"Because the person who destroyed it is someone with as much force ability as you, your mother, even her." Vader said, gesturing to Willow.
Tara interrupted Vader by pointing her lightsaber at him. There was pause.
"Who?" Tara asked.
"….Luke…Luke Skywalker." Vader choked out.
There was another pause. Tara then deactivated her lightsaber. Willow looked at his girlfriend, her eyes wide with wonder and amazement.
"Tell me, did you murder his father as well?" Tara asked.
"….yes." Vader responded.
"Then I will leave it up to him to decide your fate, and the fate of this galaxy. My time here is done." Tara finished and walked away with Willow, rejoined by Buffy, and went aboard the elevator that Vader had come into this room on.
With Willow retrieved, Tara led her and Buffy out of Vader's castle and back to the then flew it together back up to Castor's ship and once back together, the remaining fighters rejoined their ships, and the four main ships jumped back into hyperspace before larger Imperial forces could show up. The ships then jumped back through the center of galaxy, flying through the wormhole, and returning them to the Milky Way galaxy. As a token of their gratitude, and with Castor's help, the shuttle they had used to complete the mission was provided to them,as well as Tara getting her Star-Fighter back. They parked the Star Fighter in the mountain where it had been originally. At the same time, Castor dropped Tara, Buffy, and Willow back off to Buffy's house. As it turned out, the three had only been gone for barely a week.
The three reunited with Dawn, and soon after Anya, Xander, and Giles, who had flown back in from England all came over to welcome Willow home. Just a few days later, the crew decided to go out to the Bronze to celebrate the success of their mission. It was a lovely evening as all them got to reconnect after a rough past few months, but specifically the past week. One thing that was interesting was Willow, who many believed would be traumatized, was actually in really high spirits. Tara even knew she was not faking, as she could sense Willow's feelings through the Force.
During the party, Willow came up next to Tara as she was talking with all the Scoobies.
"My dance?" Willow asked smiling.
Tara got up and walked with Willow to the dance floor. They put their hands on each other's sides as they slow danced to the music being played on stage.
"Feeling Good?" Tara asked.
"Never better." Willow said, smiling.
"I still can't believe you didn't tell me about your life before me and all that stuff."
"I was just afraid if you knew what I had done, all the horrible things I saw, you would think I was some kind of damaged shell. That you wouldn't want to be anywhere near me."
"See thats where your a dummy. I think about what you had to go through, all the fighting you had to do to get here. Then I see what you are now and it makes me proud. It makes me love you more."
Tara was starting to get choked up at what Willow was telling her.
"Everytime I-Even when I'm at my worst, you always make me feel special. How do you do that?" Tara asked.
"Magic." Willow replied, smiling.
"Now thats where you're the dummy. Its the Force." Tara said jokingly.
The two then embraced each other, spinning around slowly with each other. Then, just to make it a little more interesting, Tara subtly used the Force to levitate both her and Willow off the ground. They were together again and would be forever more.