Geonosis

"We will not be hostages to be bartered, Dooku." Master Windu's answer was defiant and suicidal.

Behind him and to the right, Metrina Okala nodded emphatically, sky blue eyes blazing. So there.

"Then…I'm sorry, old friend." Dooku's mellifluous voice dripped with false regret as he lowered his hand. The battle droids resumed their aim at the few - so few - Jedi that had survived the battle thus far. Metrina saw her knight-master take a half-step to his left, placing himself directly between the nearest droids and her. She honored him for the sentiment, but he hadn't spent the last decade training her to tuck her safely away in some dark corner. She raised her saber, its green light blazing boldly.

When Senator Amidala cried out, "Look," Metrina obeyed. She caught sight of Master Yoda in an open-sided ship, descending into the arena, shooting the battle droids away. Chaos again erupted all around her, laser blasts spraying out in every direction. She grinned as she blocked blaster bolts, back-to-back with her knight-master.

Master Thak. They knew each other as they knew themselves, surrogate father and daughter, as fiercely protective of each other as if they were related by blood. In a defensive stance like this, they were almost impenetrable.

The troops in white armor were beckoning the Jedi onto their ships. "Go," she shouted. Metrina and her knight-master broke formation and sprinted for the nearest ship. Her beaded blonde braid whipped behind her like the tail of a comet.

Then he was hit. Master Thak died instantly as a blaster bolt hit him square in the chest, shredding his heart. He dropped like a stone. Metrina heard a wordless scream as her feet faltered; her knees gave way, and she hit the ground near her slain mentor. She clenched her mouth shut when she realized that the scream had been hers.

"Metrina! Come on!" Master Windu called from the ship.

"I'll come back," she whispered, struggling to her feet. She got two steps closer to the ship when another blaster bolt burned her right shoulder. The inertia from the impact spun her body around and over, onto her back.

The last thing she saw before her eyes closed was Masters Yoda, Kenobi, and Windu, looking frantically down at her from their ships.

*

Metrina woke up to silence and wondered if she was alive or not. The throbbing burn in her shoulder made her mind up for her; she hurt too much to be dead. She turned her head and looked at Master Thak. Tears welled up in her eyes as she saw that the color of his lips and fingertips had shaded from the normal medium-dark, to purple.

Too exhausted to walk, Metrina crawled on her knees and left arm to her teacher's side. The moisture in her eyes overflowed, tracing tracks down her dirty face. She took a large, cold hand in her own. Then Padawan Okala gingerly laid down on her left side, resting her head one last time against the broad torso that had been her pillow when she was sick, or had awakened from a nightmare. She kept a tired vigil, watching over the dead until the Jedi came back. They just had to finish the battle out there, wherever they were, then they would be back to gather the bodies of their dead. The only thing she could do was wait and watch. And weep.

A faint sound reached her ears, and she looked around. I must be hallucinating, she decided. A child of nine or ten entered the arena. She had studied human-culture mythology as a hobby; the incarnation of Death was usually described as a skeletal figure in a hooded robe. But this boy appeared out of nowhere, jumping and hopping among the droid remnants and dead bodies. Was this Death, coming to collect the spirits of the Jedi? His face was so grim…whoever he was, he wasn't playing.

The child stopped. He crouched down and picked an object up. Metrina squinted. It was that bounty hunter's helmet. She watched as the boy lifted the helmet, pressing its forehead to his own. Not Death, she decided, mourning for the boy. Damn you, Dooku. She hoped he had a mother, if the original owner of the helmet was his father.

The boy was kneeling next to the bounty hunter's body when their gazes met. His eyebrows knitted in rage, intensely angry for a child so young. Trouble. He reached for something that laid near the blue-armored body. Metrina summoned her lightsaber to her, fumbling the right-handed handle into her left. It ignited -

A split second after the blaster bolt scorched her chest.

I was wrong, she decided. He is Death after all.

*

"Metrina. Metrina, look at me," the gentle voice requested. She obeyed, finding the kind eyes of Master Thak. He held a dark-skinned hand out, and she allowed him to pull her up.

Metrina looked behind her. Her broken body was slumped against his, but Master Thak also stood in front of her. She nodded in understanding, but being dead wasn't what she'd thought it would be. Metrina had always expected to simply become one with the Force, fading into nonexistence.

But she was still herself. She concentrated. Metrina remembered the face of her best friend, the earthy smells of her favorite Temple garden, the first time she had sparred with her master and won, even what she ate for breakfast today. "Master?" she began.

He smiled and shook his head. "I don't understand any more than you do. But we're together, my daughter."

She hugged him, ready for whatever was ahead.

***