Yep... I've returned to the crazy world of fanfic... somebody slap me. And oh God, it's a Star Wars fic. We are in huge trouble.
Potential spoilers for Revenge of the Sith and Shatterpoint. This is a slight AU in that Order 66 takes place over a few weeks rather than just five minutes.
Disclaimer: I own nothing that is of Star Wars; it is all belongeth to George Lucas, who has imbibed a large amount of my paychecks when it comes to movies, music, and video games.
Note: The only prequel-era book I've read is Shatterpoint, so I've basically drawn my own conclusions regarding how the Jedi pick up their padawans/younglings – some of it's not too different from the Jude Watson canon, but if any of the differences bother you, just chalk it up to further AU-ism.
You can basically subtitle this fic "Attack of the Background Characters." It features two background Jedi, awarrior from an obscure video game, a couple of OCs, and Elan Sleazebaggano. You can expect plenty of cameos to top it off. Fun? Maybe. Crazy? Absolutely. Intrigued yet? No? Oh, well. Can't say I didn't try.
Master Windu & his Jedi have left to ensure that Chancellor Palpatine surrenders power. The Jedi Temple is in good hands…
Prologue - Depa
His visits often coincided with Master Windu's.
The older Jedi always greeted him with a solemn nod before returning his attention to the woman on the bed. Words were rarely exchanged; pleasantries at best, sometimes discussion of temple goings-on or the latest missions.
They never spoke of her anymore. Instead, they talked over her, each one sharply aware of her empty presence but unwilling to comment on it. Master Windu had said his piece when he first brought her home, and now an uneasy truce existed between the men. Each wanted only the best for her, and that was enough to make them bitter allies.
Master Windu invariably stayed on long after the younger man departed, perhaps hoping to reach into darkness and bring his former padawan back from the void. He kept a quiet vigil throughout the long night of the Clone War, lending her the presence of a friend and father. It was the best he could do - the best any of them could do.
Thus, Joclad Danva was somewhat surprised to find the man absent from the tiny room that Depa Billaba now called home. Master Windu was generally by her side in the evenings, silently reading the news or contemplating her still features. She was alone on this particular night, hands folded across the covers of her cot. The room smelled faintly of Chalactan bree vines, their sweet fragrance something Joclad had often associated with her. Such a scent was likely Master Windu's doing, carrying on the task that Adi Gallia – Depa's longtime friend on the Council – had started two years prior.
Joclad took a seat by her bed, reaching out to her through the Force and finding only dark glass reflected back at him. The first time he'd visited her like this, he feared he might tip into a black ocean if he looked too long. There was no trace of Depa Billaba, not then and not now.
I miss you, pirate, he thought at her, not really expecting a response. Depa simply lay there, silent and empty and full of darkness.
Master Windu's words came back to him as Joclad studied her. I believe she was conflicted when she left, and dwelled on that conflict in the jungle.
Conflicted… my fault. If I hadn't pulled that stunt on the launch pad before she left…
He bowed his head, immediately banishing such thoughts. It did no good to dwell on the past; he possessed no power to change it.
He glanced around idly. None of the healers were present; they had wounded Knights and sick younglings to tend to. He casually took up her hand, noting how small and dainty it seemed. Faint calluses still decorated parts of her palm, the legacy of more than two decades of lightsaber combat. Even now, two years after her collapse on Haruun Kal, her hands still vaguely felt like those of a Jedi Knight.
But those calluses were fading quickly, along with any real hope that Joclad, Master Windu, and the rest of the Order held for Depa.
He studied her face, peaceful in its repose. The healer had given her something to keep her eyes closed; the half-lidded stare she produced without it unnerved far too many. He reached out with his left hand and touched the scar left behind by her forcible removal of the Greater Mark of Illumination. The tissue felt rough against his palm, an odd contrast to the silkiness of her forehead. In another life, Depa might have snapped awake, grabbed his wrist, and sent him flying across the room.
That life was long gone.
He took up her hand again, examining her knuckles. "Are you in there somewhere?" He dropped the Coruscanti accent he tended to maintain in the temple and stared pleadingly at her face. "Do you even know I'm here?"
His voice sounded out of place in the quiet serenity of the little room. After her return from Haruun Kal, the healers had specifically set aside this chamber for Depa in hopes that she might fully recover and come out of her stupor. One had to pass strict emotional tests to visit with her, in order to expose her only to calm, to peace, to the way of the Jedi. Joclad thought it a noble idea, though Force knew he probably wouldn't pass all those tests if he had to take them today.
Fortunately, the Clone War had requisitioned nearly every available healer in the temple for some task or another, and Depa was left alone. As a result, Joclad received no trouble when trying to visit.
It was the same every time he saw her: Depa did not answer him. Nothing changed in the room, and nothing changed in the Force.
Joclad nodded slightly. This was no different from his other visits: he ended up doing all the talking. "I'll be dispatched to Rhen Var to help Meridian with the stand there," he told her, absently massaging her palm. "I've been on field duty the last few months – you can call me General Danva. What do you think of that?"
He paused, letting the words sink in. If Depa were aware of anything, surely she must recognize the lunacy of the Council sending the Code-breaker out onto a battlefield as a ranked Republic officer. Joclad, always a trifle too proud of his skills, now had genuine pull within the galaxy's governing body, and thousands of clone soldiers to call his troops.
Depa might have smiled. She might have screeched.
Joclad would never know.
"I got the commission after my… work… on Orto." If one could refer to the catastrophic defeat as work, then Joclad felt he was severely in need of a pay raise. "Being the only survivor has its perks, though. They called me heroic and gave me a medal… and now I get to go to Rhen Var."
He forced a smile for her silent friend. "Master Drallig can't decide whether he's horrified or proud of me. He's making supper tonight to celebrate. I'll be sick for weeks."
The Depa he remembered might have chuckled at this, and then slipped him something from the healer's for the indigestion that would inevitably follow. She might have taken his arms on the landing pad and said Joclad, the Force will be with you - make sure you bring it back.
He supposed it was as close as she could get to saying come home safe.
"You need to snap out of this," he said abruptly. "We need you. Jedi are being cut down in battle, and we're - it's not good for us. Orto – what happened on Orto--"
He paused, and put her hand down. Better not risk upsetting her. "I'm not supposed to tell you these things, because it might damage your head. Well, you've been napping for two years, so I gather your head is already damaged enough. We are losing this war, Depa." He looked down, and took a deep breath. "The clones are losing on the battlefield. We're outnumbered, though no one wants to speak of it... and it is being lost most of all by the Jedi. We are not meant for this sort of thing."
She knew this, though. The events of Haruun Kal were hardly a secret, and Master Windu freely acknowledged his former padawan's half-sane observations while training his new generals. Depa was right, he'd say. If only she were here to help us make it so.
Instead, Depa lay in a coma, and the Jedi slowly realized that war's destructive forces reached far beyond the battlefield.
"It's destroying us," Joclad said. "Slowly. The killing, the madness, the endlessness. The clones don't feel it, and regular military personnel - but we feel it. I feel it. It's always in my head, just like the arena. The nightmares never went away, you know. You promised they would, but they didn't." Speaking to her like this eased the pressure in his mind, though he scarcely knew if she heard him or not. "It's just... it seems so hopeless at times. I come here and all is as it should be, though the temple is nearly emptied. But out there..."
He didn't finish the thought as a familiar presence pinged gently in his mind. A moment later, his comlink beeped. He sighed and picked it up. "Danva."
"Hey, Code-breaker, dinner."
Master Drallig had apparently finished scraping a meal together. "I'll be there soon," Joclad replied, shutting the little device down and looping it back onto his belt. He was already dressed for travel in his typical dark tunic and light trousers; he'd receive a better cold-weather uniform once he arrived at Rhen Var.
"That was Cin," he said, standing up. He replaced Depa's hand on the bed and tried to smile. "Time for a last meal, and then I'll be off to the Redeemer. I'll see you when--" He paused, troubled by the sudden wariness that flooded him. When would he see Depa again?
The Force chose not to tell him, instead leaving him with a foggy notion of something not quite right going on. He tried to peer around the veils, but only succeeded in catching flashes of a bleak, frozen landscape not unlike that of Rhen Var. He gave up, the odd sensation curling through his mind and tracing uneasily down his back.
Something didn't feel right.
But then again, nothing ever felt right anymore. "I... I don't know when I'll see you again, Depa. It may be... some time."
Am I going to die on Rhen Var? He shivered, imagining Dack stumbling upon his corpse in the snow. "If you wake up, come find me. I could use a sparring partner again." And we have unfinished business, you and I….
He brought his hand to her cheek, brushed his fingers ever so slightly against her flesh. In another world - a better world - she might have opened her eyes and smiled at him, or at the very least reacted to the sensation. But there was only her skin against his, and the silent darkness that threatened to drive him mad – madder than he already was. "Goodbye, Depa. May the Force be with you."
He left the sanctity of her little room, that strange feeling still playing about in his mind. He shook it off, though, and went on to visit with Cin Drallig.