We've used up half our time…we gotta get outta here before we all get roasted alive. Oh, we have to get out of here…
Shaak Ti's optimism was fading fast as she and the other Jedi raced down the hallways of the Death Star, hearing the sinister rumbling from below that signified the first of many bombs going off. Her other Jedi companions had been working on sabotaging the ship for the entire time they had been dueling Sidious, and now, it was time for all of their plans to come to fruitation. All they had to do was get off the bloody ship. Which was proving difficult. So far, the Jedi had shot, sliced, and cut their way through seven patrol groups, four bomb squads, and the odd Dark Acolyte who decided to show up for some odd reason no one knew about. Shaak Ti had easily dispatched the Dark Acolytes while her comrades dealt with the troopers and whoever else decided to show up; somewhere along the way, Quinlan had patched a communication through to Olee Starstone and informed her that they had succeeded, and working their way towards the hangar bay. Olee had mentioned that they were headed there too, and they figured that they would run into each other at some point. Shaak Ti had then taken off again, running even faster, leaving everyone else no choice but to follow.
"Oh, would you put that thing down?!" Shaak Ti snapped, seeing Maris lugging a huge rifle around on her shoulder. "So primitive, uncivilized-"
"I can shoot this baby at five hundred rounds per second," Maris said, grinning. "Any troopers come along, they can suck laser!"
Shaak Ti just rolled her eyes. "Have it your way," she said, slightly put off by Maris's desire to hold onto the weapon. Quinlan said nothing, but the look on his face indicated amusement beyond normal.
The Jedi charged into the hangar bay, ignoring the loads of troopers scattered in small clusters over the landing platforms. Maris skidded to a stop, rifle cocking, braced on her shoulder. All of a sudden, red bolts laced the air as troopers discovered their presence: and decided they weren't welcome. Armies of white raced towards them, weapons ranging from sniper rifles to hand blasters. The hiss of lasers whizzing by Shaak Ti filled the Togruta's montrals; she ducked, dodged, and bent her body in acrobatic forms around the bolts she couldn't block, her blue blade flashing as she reflected bolts back upon their firers. Through the chaos, Shaak Ti searched for the odd trooper out, the one who wouldn't be firing at them. Their spy had to be waiting somewhere around here! The Force flickered around the room, darting in and out of troopers' psyches. No…no…no…Shaak Ti was starting to worry. Where?
Finally, Shaak Ti discovered a few more presences that hovered in the light. They were in the small, sleek cruiser three ships down and seven to the right. And all of those presences seemed familiar. "This way!" Shaak Ti called, pausing for a moment in her furious battle. She barely dodged another bolt headed for between her eyes: she ducked to the left, and then spun around and ran. It seemed these soldiers were terrible shots: Shaak Ti hardly had to worry about their bolts. Two…three ships passed her on the left. Shaak Ti abruptly changed direction and took off again, mentally checking off ships. The hail of laser fire ceased for a moment. It seemed that the troopers didn't want to risk shooting and damaging their own ships. They had a few seconds, then. Two, three…these were big cruisers! Shaak Ti increased her speed, seeing the landing ramp fall on one of the ships. Han's brunette head poked out of the ship, motioning them forward. If they could make it before the troopers caught up, that would be perfect.
Four…five…they were so close! But, apparently, so were the troopers. Laser fire caught up with them, chasing them down the corridor. Shaak Ti returned several laser bolts to those who had shot them, the bolts racing right back down the barrels of the blasters and exploding. Three troopers left. "Go!" Quinlan's voice reached her ears. "I'll hold them off!"
"No!" Shaak Ti insisted, grabbing Quinlan and quite literally dragging him along behind her as she ran. "You're coming with me!"
"Don't worry about it," Anya called from behind them, turning in a slow circle to deflect several more shots. "I see Tholme, Roan, and Olee already. They'll come up from behind, we have nothing to worry about."
Famous last words, Shaak Ti thought ruefully. Still, she tried to keep her mind clear, and focused on their escape. Quinlan had given up on fighting, and was now running with them. Sixth cruiser…so close! Just a hundred more yards, and they were home free!
A massive explosion rocked the ship to its very core.
Everyone was sent flying: debris fell from the ceiling in massive chunks. All of the remaining troopers, without the aid of the Force, were caught under debris, and crushed. The Jedi were all able to dodge the pieces or shield themselves directly: at a quick glance, Shaak Ti could see that no one was injured. Still, the two groups of Jedi were separated by a huge wall of debris. And, to make matters better, the shots had started coming again. Reinforcements had arrived, and snipers had also taken up position. Shaak Ti felt the sting of a laser bolt she had sensed just in time as it singed her sleeve, burning the skin slightly where it passed. That was too close! They had to get out of here, now! And if those explosions kept up…well, Shaak Ti was suddenly very aware that the second prophesied death was nigh. But who was it? Who was going to die, and how, and where, and why, and-? Shaak Ti stopped herself. Worrying would get her nowhere. She just had to watch out, and make sure she didn't die.
Another explosion rippled through the ship. Luke appeared, charging down the ramp of the ship he had commandeered and activating his lightsaber with a hiss. Maris joined Shaak Ti at her side; the Zabrak and the Togruta began fighting side-by-side, fighting off the debris as well as the soldiers. There seemed to be no end to the flow of troopers who came through the hangar's huge, sliding doors. And they didn't seem to run out of ammunition, either. Shaak Ti couldn't figure out, for the life of her, how they were coming up with so many troops. She and Maris began to edge backwards, towards the ship. Luke ran past them, charging right into the troopers and cutting them down by himself. Shaak Ti recognized the fury in the boy's movements: it was dangerous.
"Luke, no!" she called. "Start trying to get through to the Jedi on the other side!"
More debris flew as a third explosion rocked the ship. Shaak Ti pushed Maris in front of her, and clipped her lightsaber to her belt. "Cover me!" she called over the hail of fire. Maris spun her lightsaber in a blurred circle, not questioning as Shaak Ti began directing the Force in and around the fallen chunks of permacrete, twisted metal, and fallen pieces of the ships' hangar. Shaak Ti closed her eyes, concentrating on the very essence of the ship. The debris suddenly parted, as if propelled by compressed air. The shocked faces of the Jedi on the other side were revealed; then, they, too, ran past Shaak Ti and into the ship. Shaak Ti breathed a sigh of relief; safe! Luke finally gave up on what seemed to be his mission to slaughter as many troopers as she could: he turned around and ran back into the ship, Shaak Ti covering him with the Force. Bolts changed paths; projectiles flew off course. Maris and Shaak Ti then turned and ran, leaping up the landing ramp at the last second. The hatch closed behind them, and Shaak Ti crashed into the opposite wall, the momentum from her leap sending her flying. Another explosion rumbled through the Death Star, the entire space station heaving and groaning.
"What are we waiting for?!" Shaak Ti barked, seeing Han and Luke hesitating to take off.
"Anya," Luke replied, lips pursed. "She's not here."
Shaak Ti felt her heart leap into her throat. That last death…was it happening after all? "Anyone else?" she asked. Luke sighed softly.
"We have you and Maris…Olee, Roan, Tholme, and Rahma all got here a second ago. Han and Chewbacca were with me the entire time. Leia and a few of our other spies are already gone. All of our diplomats and politicians are already a few miles away in a cruiser. Even got here first, and told me that Obi-Wan passed. And that's everyone: except Anya." Luke shook his head. "She didn't come back with you?"
"I thought she was with Even," Shaak Ti murmured. "Her Force-presence places her in this room, still. If you give me a moment, I can contact her."
"Hurry," Han warned. "Our shields can only take so much."
"Don't worry about it," Maris said, shifting into a cross-legged position right on the floor where she was. She closed her eyes, sat up straight, and placed her hands on her knees. Immediately, everyone felt a surge in the Force around the ship, and it almost seemed like the bolts had stopped hammering the shields. Han looked confused, but decided not to question the Jedi. Maris just remained where she was, perfectly still, protecting the ship. Shaak Ti trusted her; the Togruta slipped into her semi-conscious state, finding Anya almost as soon as she did. It was almost like Anya had been expecting her. The Dark Woman was strangely calm, like a criminal about to be led to execution. Someone who had accepted what they had done, and was fully prepared to atone for it.
Anya, what are you doing?!
I'm fully prepared to die, Master Ti, Anya responded, still amazingly calm. I saw that I would die in the Death Star's explosion. Now, I know why.
Where are you? We can come back and help you!
It's too late for that. I'm staring at the body, charged with electricity, falling down the reactor core right now. Hurry up and go: you only have a few seconds.
Go! Now! I can buy you a few seconds! Don't let my death be the one that's in vain!
Shaak Ti yanked herself out of her stupor, knowing that if she paused to think, she would feel too guilty and turn around and try to save Anya. "Go!" she cried. "She's buying us time! We have to get out of here now! She says she was the second death we saw!"
Han wasted no time. Even with Maris's shield around the ship, he was still nervous. The ship's engine roared to life, and they lifted off immediately. Maris kept her shield around the ship, knowing that to lose it now would jeopardize them in the future. There was, undoubtedly, a space battle happening outside, and she also got the sense they would be getting shot at a lot. The ship picked itself off and streaked for the opening gate in the hangar, flying right out the door without issue.
They were chased out by flames, debris, and a supernova-sized explosion.
Chewbacca roared something unintelligible. Han pushed the ship into a higher gear, jamming the throttle forward. Still, the explosion chased them out of the ship, threatening to overcome them. Luke, Han, and Chewbacca were all screaming at each other, each co-pilot telling each other what to do. And none of it was working. In the midst of it all, they lost Maris's soft sigh: all of a sudden, the ship gave a lurch, a groan, and then surged forward again, much faster this time. Maris had used the Force once again, watching calmly as they streaked away from the explosion. Other ships were all swallowed up by the huge destruction, sucked into the inner ring of the fires. Shaak Ti was still trying to catch her breath from the first encounter: this new brush with death wasn't helping her at all. Still, just sitting and breathing had its benefits. They were safe for now, and those who had died would be honored properly later. The Death Star was destroyed. Sidious was dead. Darth Vader was long dead. The dark side was virtually obsolete. The universe was in balance again. The politics could be left to others. Shaak Ti was content for now.
Back within an atmosphere, the rebels were all gathered around a meeting table, all smiles. They had achieved their ultimate triumph: the Empire itself was defeated, and the Death Star was destroyed. Still, Shaak Ti remained leaning against the wall in a corner, ignoring the festivities and going-ons. She sipped lightly at a drink held in one hand, the other wrapped around her midsection. Distracted was probably the best word for her: she wasn't sad, or angry, or bitter: she just wanted to think. And a party was not the ideal place to do it.
"Hey, Tiger, you comin' any time tonight?" Han said, slinging an arm across Shaak Ti's shoulders. Shaak Ti's nose immediately detected alcohol on Han's breath: and leaking from every pore, for that matter. She didn't feel like dealing with a drunken playboy. Resorting to a Jedi mind trick, Shaak Ti told Han to go sleep it off. Han wobbled off, and Shaak Ti returned to watching the rest of the people have a fun time. She was content, for now, to just stand quietly.
"Hey," Maris said, walking up to her. She held a bottle clearly labeled as an adult beverage in one hand, and Shaak Ti found herself slightly taken aback by this.
"Nah, just took it to be polite," Maris said, shrugging. "I took a few sips, that's all. You want it?
"Pass," Shaak Ti said, grimacing. "So, what brings you over here to the Lonely Corner?'
Maris laughed. "You," she said. "Just a little worried. What's on your mind?"
Shaak Ti sighed softly, turning the glass in her hand. Maris understood immediately: the losses. "They're in a better place," she offered. "Don't mourn their death; rejoice in their life. Don't dwell on it: they died to save us. Don't you think they would have wanted us to be happy?"
"I guess," Shaak Ti said, shrugging again. "But the face still remains that I can't just brush that aside. Obi-Wan was my life-long friend, even though I didn't know Anya for very long or very well, she was still a friend and a fellow Jedi. Again, I can't just put all that aside."
"Of course not," Maris said, shaking her head. "And I'm not asking you to. But just keep in mind that you can't hide in a corner forever."
With that, she left Shaak Ti with a smile and those parting words. For a moment, Shaak Ti just stood and pondered: then, a smile graced her features, and she quietly slipped into the dancing, celebrating crowds.
A/N: So, holy crap, I'm not dead. I have no excuse…I'm sorry. T_T I'm going to try to get that one last chapter out, so bear with me. Just so we can put it all to bed. Tie up all the loose ends. All that jazz. So, I apologize again for the lateness, and I hope that I can finally put this story to bed before next year.