Chapter Twenty-Six: Picking up the Pieces
They wouldn't look at him.
Wherever Harry went, soldiers and officers alike averted their eyes in a combination of awe, and in most cases, fear.
Harry Potter personally killed over three hundred thousand crewmen of the Vengeance. The Alliance personnel could see the bodies clumped haphazardly at the gravitation high spots around the Vengeance still, since they did not have the resources to collect those bodies while at the same time trying to treat their thousands upon thousands of wounded. Clouds of dead bodies frozen in the vacuum of space danced stiffly around the gravity points of the nineteen kilometer long dreadnought.
Harry was not surprised by the reaction—even his wives moved around him carefully, as if afraid of him. Through the bonds he felt their concern and confusion. How could one man kill so many? How could he live with himself while not becoming dark?
They didn't know that in his many wars fought over the eons, the number of deaths on his conscience numbered more than the worst tyrants in history. The blood on his hands could drown whole worlds.
So he did not give the Alliance time to truly ponder this leader who could wipe out whole fleets seemingly with little more than a thought. He found that Admiral Ackbar of Mon Calamari still lived and placed the being in charge of repairing and assembling the remnants of the Rebel Fleet. Survivors still able to fight were transferred off the damaged or destroyed remnants of the Rebel fleet to the Vengeance and began training to familiarize themselves with the super star destroyer.
He sent his wives on a solo mission to Corellia to see if any of the fleet there survived, and to recall them to Mon Calamari if so.
The decisions were easy—the execution was difficult. But Harry was always there, answering questions, suggesting and guiding until things started to move the way he needed them to move. When newly promoted General Han Solo compared notes with his Naval equivalent in Ackbar, the two discovered at least three occasions where Harry was actually, physically in two places at once.
After two straight days without sleep, Harry finally handed command over to Ackbar and sought shelter in Admiral Thrawn's personal quarters.
The Chiss had lived in relatively Spartan conditions, with the only luxury being an art collection second to none. Harry ignored it all as he collapsed into bed. He fell immediately into his occlumency exercises to clamp down on the harsh emotions that threatened to boil over. He was there for almost an hour when he heard the door to the command suite foyer open and felt the approach of his fifth and final wife. He opened his eyes and watched as she entered the master suite.
Celeste no longer wore her old clothing, but instead wore clothing of a similar cut, but made of black and gray colors. Still, her beautiful stomach was left bare, and her bosom heaved enticingly with each breath. She was breath-taking, as were all his wives.
She stopped at the foot of the bed and looked at him. "Where are your sisters?" he asked.
"They are with Leia and her brother, Luke was his name? Both have lost loved ones. I have met with the last surviving Jedi Master, a man named Obi-Wan. The other masters—Yoda and It'kla, perished at Hoth with most of their padawans. It was an enlightening yet heart breaking discussion."
She pulled off her arm-length sleeves, then unhitched her top and let it fall to the floor, exposing her large, perfectly formed breasts. She then pulled down her pants until she stood before him naked. "Do you remember me now?" she said without smiling.
"I never forgot," Harry said.
"You have been apart from your wives for two days. You led me to believe you drew strength from us. Why then are you here alone?"
He stood from the bed and walked around it until he stood before her, looking directly into her eyes. She was tall for a woman, easily as tall as he was, and her beauty made him light headed.
"They needed time to accept what I could do," he said. "Even in war, to kill so many is a great shock."
She looked back at him, serious and beautiful, and saw into his soul as surely as he could see into hers. "You've done it before."
"You do not feel guilt or anguish," she said. She reached up a hand and pressed it against his cheek. "You feel only sadness. Why?"
For an answer, Harry willed his clothes away, and when he was as nude as her he lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bed. He began kissing her, luxuriating in the feel of her incredible body and pouring magic into her until she was gripping his hair and moaning in pleasure. Only then did he make love to her, pouring his grief into his love.
He was not surprised when moments later the others arrived, drawn by his passion. Wordlessly, a red-eyed Leia stripped off her robes, as did Maris, Juno and Mara. Harry said nothing as he welcomed each into the bed. None of them said anything as the bed widened to accommodate them. He made love to them all, again and again, as the minutes turned into hours.
When finally they stepped, Harry sat up and the others formed a circle around him on the bed, holding hands. He bowed his head a little, feeling Leia's grief and the pain the others felt at the loss of so many friends on Hoth.
"When I was a young man," he began, "on my second life, but still within my initial span of years with my first wives, a genetically engineered madman began to conquer our world. He was frightened of my power, and so as a threat he sent an assassin who killed my first-born daughter. Her name was Celena. She had almost white-blonde hair like her mother, and she liked to whisper secrets in my ear. Of course, the secret of a two-year old was usually just her making funny sounds, but it made her so happy."
He looked up and saw all five had moisture in their eyes, sensing his grief.
"I went mad after that," he explained. "And for the next few years, I and my friends killed millions of the Great Khan's army. We terrified the world with our power, and the resulting backlash got all my people killed. Our whole race was virtually extinguished. But before that, I killed millions with my power; soldiers and civilians alike. Two lives later, I was summoned to find an Empire spanning a hundred worlds threatening the new home for Mages. And again, I led a force that wiped out millions, most by my own hand. Over the years, I've killed so many people I couldn't even tell you the number. Always in the course of war, and never gratuitously. But I've killed. Even in this life, I've killed in cold blood. And I've come to accept that there are times when killing is necessary. After lifetimes of guilt, I've learned that guilt can be self-destructive. So it is not guilt I feel. Just sadness that so many people have to die. That our lives are so short."
He looked at Leia. "I am so sorry, Leia. For you, and for Luke. Han told me Jekria did not survive the bombardment."
"Hardly anyone survived," she said with a sniff.
Harry nodded, and then looked from one face to the other. "Each of you brings your own painful experiences. Leia, you watched your father's crew die by mine and my men's hands while we served the empire. You watched your world shattered. Juno—you told me of the Bombing of Callos, in which on Vader's orders you led a bombing that extinguished an entire species. Maris—in your brush with darkness you killed hundreds of Imperials and almost killed Bail Organa. Mara, you were actually an assassin. And Celeste—you unleashed horrors on hundreds of thousands. And yet, all five of you are pure and untainted by true darkness. The darkness made all of you shine the brighter. Please know that no matter how much blood is on my hands, I kill because I must. Never because I enjoy it. The moment the darkness begins to consume my soul is the moment our bonds fail, and I will die."
The five said nothing at first, absorbing his words thoughtfully. Finally, Mara said, "Harry, just how powerful are you now?"
"How powerful is the Force?" he asked. "It is not something you can measure. But it is likely I'm the most powerful being in the galaxy at the moment. And after a ceremony I will ask you perform on me, I will be even more powerful. When the fleet is ready, we're going to destroy the Emperor."
"And then what?" Juno asked.
"And then, we're going to help the people of the galaxy restore their democratic government, and then we are going to find a world to live in and rebuild the Magus race. If you'll come with me, we can make a world together. We can raise daughters as beautiful and stunning as their mothers. We can raise sons who take the best part of their mothers and learn what true courage means. We'll grow old and happy together, and in the fullness of time we will all pass into magic together. If you'll come with me."
"Like we have a choice," Mara huffed. "At this point, I can't imagine not being with you."
Harry smiled at the fiery red head. "I'm glad. Because right now, everyone in this fleet is as afraid of me as they are the Emperor. When we are done helping them, we are going to have to step back from them and let them decide their own fate. I will never allow myself to become a dictator, and their fear is not something I care to live with."
Celeste took his hand. "As it should be," she agreed.
"And the ceremony you mentioned?" Juno asked.
"Body runes. It was a magical armament created by the last mages in our war against the Q. It will give me additional protections in case the Emperor has any surprises."
"And he will," Mara said. "He always does."
The remnants of Alliance Command gathered aboard the Vengeance in nervous silence: Han Solo, promoted by necessity to General of the Army; Ackbar, now admiral of the entire fleet; Obi-Wan Kenobi, reinstated as a general. Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors now served as co-generals in charge of Alliance Intelligence. Harry's wives were all there, even Celeste Morne who found herself out of time and struggling to find her place.
Luke Skywalker was now a colonel and commanded an entire flight of X-wings, as well as serving as Solo's deputy commander.
There should have been more. Mon Mothma, Bail Organa and Garm Bel Iblis should have been there. Instead, Colonel Tira Pendara represented the remnant of Garm's Corellian fleet. The Lo'gaan family should have been there—Drake, his wife Ekria, and their beautiful daughter Dekria-who for a day at least—loved Luke Skywalker and was loved in return. Qu Rahn, a lost knight who returned to the fold was dead, as was Ylenic It'kla. Chase Piru, who as a padawan saved many Jedi younglings, died before they even left the surface of Hoth, while her companion Seddwia sat near Olee Starstone and Obi-Wan with a lost, hopeless expression.
Most of all, though, the absence of Yoda could be felt most acutely.
Instead, the survivors of Hoth and the Imperial counter-strike all stared at Harry waiting in expectant silence.
Harry met their stares steadily. "The Emperor has built a second Death Star," he began without preamble. "I was able to pull all necessary data from Thrawn's mind. Originally it was to be twice as large as the first, but because of the threat I posed they used a test platform to jumpstart construction. So it is actually somewhat smaller. It was the Emperor's intention to use the Talisman to lure me away from Hoth, while launching simultaneous attacks against Mon Calamari and Corellia, which in turn was to beak the back of the Alliance and prevent us from even finding out about the Death Star, much less attack it. These strikes constituted nearly forty percent of Imperial strength in the galaxy. The loss of the Hoth and Mon Calamari fleets has hurt the Empire significantly. The Emperor did not expect any of us to survive, and is now scrambling his fleets around the Death Star, where he has personally taken up residence."
"Where is it located?" Han asked.
"A small moon called Endor. It is protected by a planetary shield, but that will be easily taken care of. But the problem will be the fleet of ships he has around it. By now I'd be surprised if he has less than a thousand ships there."
Those around the conference table shuffled uncomfortably. Ackbar said, "Admiral Potter, we have less than a hundred ships. And of those, only a handful are capable of challenging a star destroyer."
"I know." Harry looked around the room. "Our ship, the Rogue Shadow, has production facilities on board. We are making the torpedoes you saw used during the battle of Mon Calamari. We will distribute torpedoes to each of the X-Wings in General Solo's flights of X-wing and B-wing fighters. These are one-shot, one-kill weapons capable of destroying any vessel, even the Vengeance. I will distribute as many torpedoes as I can produce. But be warned—I will remote activate any torpedoes left after the battle to ensure they are not studied afterward."
"I've never seen technology like those torpedoes," Ackbar said. "Where did you find them?"
"No one in this galaxy has seen them," Harry said, "because I built them. They are based on technology that never developed in this galaxy, but was well established in my old one. And that is why I will not allow these weapons to be replicated. The Rogue Shadow also has a primary weapon you have seen that is a one-shot, one-kill weapon. I will expand our own compliment of torpedoes as well. I believe I could fit another hundred or so into our existing 100-shot magazine."
"How can your ship hold so much weaponry?" Ackbar demanded. He had never actually met Potter in person and was having difficulty accepting anything the seemingly young man said.
"Because the interior is ten hundred times larger than the exterior," Harry said. "I magically enlarged it, and at the same time shrank the missile compartment. The missiles resume normal size as they enter the launch tube. And you've seen the proof of my words."
"And you are unwilling to share this technology? Why?" The Mon Cal said.
"The torpedoes I will not share because, frankly, this galaxy is not developed enough to handle the responsibility safely. As for the expansion of my ship—that is not technology I can share. It is magic. A pure application of power that no one but I and my five wives could hope to accomplish. Understand, Admiral, that I did not want to be the leader of this Alliance. I do not have the emotional investment in this galaxy that Mon, Bail and Garm did. When the Empire is destroyed and we have re-established your republic, I will step aside. But until then, I have more experience leading armed forces than every officer in this galaxy combined. I will ensure that our lost friends are avenged, and I will ensure the Emperor and his Empire are destroyed."
"Even with these torpedoes, we will still be vastly outnumbered and outgunned," Ackbar pointed out. "They will have more ships than we have weapons to destroy them."
"By then, I will be on the Death Star and the Emperor will be dead," Harry said. "The Emperor uses the Force to coordinate his military forces. With his death, that will throw the fleet into momentary confusion. We will take advantage of that moment by luring the fleet closer to the Death Star. When I destroy it, the explosion should take most of the Imperial Fleet with it."
"How are you going to destroy it?" Luke asked.
"Magic," Harry said.
"You're that powerful?" Han asked.
"It sounds as if you don't need us at all," Ackbar said.
Harry shrugged. "What would it mean to the galaxy if I won the battle by myself? It would be exchanging one tyrant for another. But you see—I have no intention for taking credit for anything I do. As far as the galaxy is concerned, a force of Alliance soldiers and ships led by a Jedi hero from the last war, and the Jedi son of another, will bravely take on impossible odds and overcome the power of the Empire in the name of freedom. Skywalker and Kenobi will once again save the day. Each of you has the power of hope. That is power not even I have. You here in this room are the future of the Galaxy, if you but step forward and take it. All I offer is a chance to even the odds."
"You don't want to rule the galaxy?" Ackbar, ever the devil's advocate, asked.
"I don't think I could stand the responsibility," Harry said honestly. "After a few hundred thousand years, Admiral, one grows to dislike people. I like individuals. I love my wives. I like and Han and Luke. In fact, I like or respect all of you around this table. But people as a whole—I don't like them. I could never be good leader of the galaxy, because I don't love it like you do. I see in your eyes, admiral, not just a love of your planet, but of the galaxy as a whole. You fight for the freedom of all sentient beings. Han and the rest are the same way. You will be better leaders of the Republic than I ever will be, because you love it. I don't."
"So then why do you fight?"
The question came surprisingly from Obi-Wan Kenobi, who sat watching patiently. "It is a question I've often pondered," the old Jedi continued. "You were pulled into this life against your will. Your first wives were brutally murdered. So why do you fight, Harry Potter?"
Harry smiled without humor. "Because it's what I do, Ben. It's what I've always done, life after life, eon after eon. I fight the good fight because that's all I know how to do. And when the fighting is over, I go home to my wives and live as best I can."
Obi-Wan nodded. "Very well, then, Admiral. I think since you wish to have no role in the Republic, you should excuse us. For my part, I have faith in your ability to win this battle. And because of that faith, I believe it is now time for those of us who do love the galaxy to sit down and decide what happens next."
Harry stood with a nod. "I agree. Know that if you need any assistance, I will make myself available." He looked at his wives, especially Leia. "And I know that you five have a stake in this as well. Stay and help."
With that, he left the conference room and walked onto the command deck of the Super Star Destroyer. He paused as he caught a familiar face. "Crix Madine," he said, smiling in spite of himself. "General, no less. How are you?"
"I've been better," Madine admitted. The last year had visibly aged the man, leaving an abundance of gray in his hair. "We lost admiral Nogdra in the first moments of the battle here," he said.
Harry's smile weakened. "I gathered he perished. What happened?"
"They swarmed us in numbers we couldn't repulse. Nogdra led a thrust to try and break through the blockade for the rest of the fleet to escape, but I think even he knew it was hopeless. His ship was torn to pieces before he even got close to the enemy lines."
Harry nodded somberly. "But he died trying. He would never give up, not while he had breath."
"Never," Madine agreed. "I heard of a fifth wife. It's true, then?"
"So you're at your full power?"
"I am. And in a few days, I'm going to show Palpatine exactly what it means to harm a Mage."
"Good," Madine said with a firm nod. "It's been a long time coming."
"I couldn't agree more," Harry said.
"And then?" Madine asked. "The Empire will not end because the Emperor dies. Who will we kill next?"
"No one," Harry said. "My job is to level the playing field. Once that's done, I'm going to find a nice empty world—maybe that one that Kyle dragged the weapons designer out of. I'm going to remake it into something livable, and I'm going to start a family."
"A nice dream," Madine said with a distant expression. "Do you think the Princess will be happy to be so far removed from the center of the galaxy?"
The question startled Harry. "She said she would come."
"Of course she did. But will she be happy?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "Probably not. All plans are subject to change, and none of my wives are slaves. If she wants to continue to serve the Republic, I'll never stop her."
"Something to consider, at any rate," Madine said. "I'll be on board, of course, in any capacity you need me."
"Thank you, Crix. You were my first ally in this galaxy, and you've been a good friend. I hope to see you after."
"I'm sure you will." With that, Madine nodded and left the command deck. Harry walked down the center of the deck, conscious of the many eyes on him, until he stood at the exact spot Thrawn stood before Harry killed him.
Outside, the orbit of Mon Calamari was littered with the corpses of dead ships, hundreds of them with both imperial starbursts and Alliance flames. The carnage was mind-boggling, especially considering the huge crews the ships carried. He remembered other ships from his past, and thought it curious how this galaxy required such massive complements for their ships compared to those of the old Federation, or the Unified Confederation that grew out of the Federation's ashes a thousand years after.
He turned and looked back at the ship, and the men and women trying to make it work. The ship was cold and sterile, just like all imperial ships. In the Federation of his third life, captains often went out of their way to make even militarized ships look warm and comfortable. White or pastel walls. The occasional plant. The ships themselves were white, giving them a sense of purity of purpose that seemed to be missing from the Empire.
Things were so different here.
"Harry?" He blinked in surprise, confused to see Leia standing before him with a concerned expression.
"I was going to ask you," she said. She stepped aside and Harry saw the interior of the bridge was now a light, pastel blue. Moving mosaics of clouds and birds drifted lazily over the walls. The stunned crew were clad in beautifully tailored Confederation naval uniforms.
Harry turned and looked out the viewports and saw that not only was the Vengeance a brilliant, pure white against the backdrop of space, but so were all the other Alliance ships.
He felt Leia's hand on his shoulders. "Harry, what's wrong?"
"Lost in memories," he admitted. "I didn't mean to do this."
She turned and smiled at the shocked crew. By then the newly formed Executive Council had emerged and looked concerned as well. "I don't know, I like it. Did you come up with the uniforms yourself?"
"No, they were the uniforms from a past life," he admitted.
"Still, I like it," she said. She leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Don't worry, everything will work out."
"Then why do I suddenly feel so worried?" he asked softly.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Hell Hath No Fury
The fleet was assembled. The command hierarchy was established. Over the next week the crews were trained and fighters were armed. With the delay of establishing the line of battle, the Rogue Shadow was able to produce an additional three hundred torpedoes, two hundred of which were distributed throughout Solo's fighter squadrons.
With the information ripped from Thrawn's mind, Harry had the schematics from the shield generator on the surface. There would be no attempt to land ground forces—they didn't have any troops to land in any event. The massacre of Hoth eliminated more than three quarters of the Alliance ground force capabilities.
Instead, the Rogue Shadow would go in under cloak and eliminate the shield generator. The assembled fleet would then make a short jump through hyperspace until they reached the Death Star and the fleet that protected it, and battle would be joined.
That was the plan, anyway.
Harry joined his wives in the cockpit of the Mage-enhanced ship and waited for the signal from Ackbar, who would have tactical command of the fleet while Harry was out of contact. "Nervous?" he asked.
"A little," Leia and Mara both admitted.
Juno nodded and Maris wiped her sweating palms on her slacks. Only Celeste seemed calm and collected. "Our fate is in the hands of the Force," she said somberly.
"Remind me to tell you how I created the Force someday," Harry said with a smile.
The signal came. "We're ready to go," Juno said.
"Then let's move out."
The Shadow disappeared from both the naked eye and sensors of the Alliance fleet. They appeared minutes later from hyperspace over the blue-green orb of Endor. "It looks a lot like Earth," Harry said.
The other wives smiled at each other, concerned over the strange distracted behavior of their husband. "I've found the generator," Juno said. "We're going in."
Through the viewports, they saw the myriad twinkling skies that blinked around the half-finished form of the second Death Star. Thrawn's estimates were, if anything, low. "Twelve hundred forty three capital ships," Leia said as she finished her passive scan. "Over four hundred Imperial-I and Imperial-II class star destroyers. These aren't empty hulks, either. Our sensors are detecting full complements on each ship."
Harry nodded. Millions of men and women were about to die today, starting with the poor souls manning the shield generator.
"We're in range," she said.
"Shoot a simple nuke," he said. "No need to waste our big weapons."
"Right." While still cloaked, a nuclear-tipped torpedo shot out of the ship almost as soon as they were in the atmosphere. In the shield generator housing, alarms started to blare and bleary-eyed officers and enlisted men scrambled to alert stations, but it was too late. The twenty kiloton device was relatively small by inter-ship combat standards, but for a tactical strike, it provided sufficient energy.
The mushroom cloud exploded up toward the Death Star as the generator vaporized under the point-blank nuclear strike. "Send the signal," Harry said from the weapons station. "And let's start killing ships."
The Imperials knew something was happening immediately. The Emperor was many things, but he was not a fool. Ships began to change their orbital position as they adjusted formation to better protect the Death Star.
The Rebel fleet emerged from hyperspace just as the Rogue Shadow emerged from the atmosphere of the moon. "All ships, this is Potter," Harry said. "Concentrate enhanced torpedoes on the star destroyers. Designate your targets—do not waste munitions. Leave the smaller ships for the fleet."
"Copy that," came the terse voice of Han Solo. The channel remained open as Solo continued to give orders to his pilots. Harry half listened as Juno, among the finest pilots alive, took the Shadow into the thick of battle.
Harry used the phased particle cannon on the first ships to come into their sights—a Nebulon-B frigate and a pair of heavy cruisers. But as soon as he spotted his first star destroyer, he painted it with a targeting laser to warn the rest of the fighters, and launched a torpedo.
The mile-wide sphere of light left nothing of the star destroyer but silvery dust. Nearby, he saw another sphere envelope another star destroyer, and another. The Imperial Fleet, having heard of but never seen such weapons, started to break formation under the onslaught. However, through the Force Harry could sense the Emperor's will begin to exert itself. The ships closed formations and continued fighting, taking a toll on the Alliance fleet despite their heavy losses.
"He's here," Celeste breathed. "I've not felt such power from a Sith before."
"Yeah, he's a nasty bugger," Harry admitted. He fired two more torpedoes.
Juno broke through the Imperial line and brought their ship back around for another pass. Around them, a few fighters did the same, at least those with torpedoes. They brought with them a veritable wall of TIE-fighters.
"Not all fighters are getting their torpedoes off," Mara said.
"We can," Harry said. He fired both their cannon and the torpedoes, destroying ships hundreds of times the size of the Shadow with impunity. They heard distant thuds as TIEs trailed them and fired on their runically enhanced shields.
"Ignore the fighters," Harry advised. "Nothing short of a Death Star blast will get through. Just keep finding me Star Destroyers."
There were fewer white spheres as the Alliance exhausted its supply of torpedoes, or as fighters carrying the weapons died one after the other. In the center of the Alliance formation, the Vengeance stabbed deep into the Imperial fleet, as large as any twenty star destroyers and as lethal as at least that many. It made quick work of the smaller assault cruisers and frigates that were all that remained of the front lines.
Even so, Ackbar's new command started taking damage.
Harry fired off the last torpedo. "Solo, weapons count," Harry said.
"All weapons fired or destroyed," Solo said. "We've already got fifty percent casualties among our fighters and we've lost three capital ships. But we've taken out ninety two percent of the enemy star destroyers. It's just the hundreds of smaller ships we have to worry about."
"Good job. All ships, the Shadow will finish off the Star Destroyers. Concentrate your fire on the smaller capital ships." Harry said. "Admiral Ackbar, Han, we're going into the Death Star after we take out the last Star Destroyer. If the fleet drops below fifty percent fighting capability, retreat. The Rogue Shadow has enhanced defenses that will allow us to get out regardless. Good luck."
"May the Force be with you!" Ackbar called.
"And with you, Admiral."
Juno, having heard, was already taking the Shadow toward the nearest surviving Star Destroyer. Harry fired, and once again the phased particle canon tore through the armor to the hypermatter reactor. If the Empire had ever developed transporter technology, they could have easily shielded against the cannon. For while a phased particle canon was incredibly powerful, it was essentially a beam of superluminal particles partially phased into hyperspace, increasing its firepower a thousand fold.
In fact, he suspected the Empire could have shielded against the weapon within a year given research.
He did not intend to give them that year.
He fired again, and again, destroying the star destroyers with impunity while the hundreds of small Imperial ships opened battle with the Rebel fleet. He ignored the flares of dying X-wing, B-Wing and A-Wing fighters and concentrated on taking out the last two star destroyers.
"That's it," he said with a deep breath. "Take us in."
Juno was looking back at him, smiling bravely. "It's not my first time flying into a Death Star," she said.
"Hopefully it'll be your last," Harry said, smiling back. "Let's go."
The Rogue Shadow cloaked again and weaved flawlessly through the battle debris and fighting ships, easily losing the TIE fighter pursuit.
The previous night, he explained his personal plan to his wives, and all agreed to his reasoning. The Sith obviously had knowledge of soul magic to a certain extent, and he did not intend to give Palpatine a chance to escape in any capacity. Even though Rogue Shadow could easily destroy the Death Star, he had to face the Emperor personally to make sure the man stayed dead.
They flew directly toward the northern hemispheric command deck were every single one of them could sense the powerful, dark presence of the Emperor. Harry left his station and stepped to the spot between Mara and Juno as he stared at a massive tower that protruded from the surface. "So like him to sit atop a tower," he muttered. "He's obviously compensating for something."
Mara snickered. Juno, though, was staring at his hand. "Harry, what is that the rune we drew? I thought they were supposed to be invisible?"
Harry blinked and looked down. On his left hand was the old Ravenclaw tattoo from when he first came into his power. Around the tattoo, his skin seemed to be swirling with runic tattooes. "That's strange," he said. "You're right, they're suppose to be invisible unless activated. For whatever reason, my subconscious mind is activating all my defensive runes."
"What do you mean?" Mara asked.
"Like I told you, in the last war we developed runes to protect our bodies against the Gods. They're power was so overwhelming that unprotected eyes would burn out looking at them. Unprotected skin would burn and vaporize. So we developed these runes to protect and strengthen us." He looked back at the tower. "Palpatine may be even more powerful than I thought. I didn't have a full understanding of power when I served him. I'll have to be careful."
"You'll come back to us?" Mara asked.
He smiled at her. "If I don't, then it won't matter because we'll all be dead." He leaned down and kissed his first and youngest wife passionately, and then quickly made the circuit of all of them, taking strength from the power of the bonds.
When at last he finished, smiling at Celeste as their lips parted, he said, "Stay close."
"We will," Juno promised from the pilot's seat.
With that, Harry apparated to the tower, letting the dark presence of the Emperor guide him.
"Wedge, break right, break right!" Luke called.
"Too late!" came the voice of Luke's friend and fellow pilot. To the naked eye, Wedge Antilles' death was nothing more than a momentary flare. In the Force, it was one of hundreds of brief stabs of pain that signaled the deaths of all those around him.
Luke let the Force guide him as he pulled out from a full squadron of TIEs on his back, only to watch half the squadron explode under the furious fire of a TIE-advanced. "You okay, kid?" came Han Solo's voice.
"Hanging in there. Green squadron is gone."
"Red stripes too," Solo said. "Let's just hope Harry doesn't take too long."
Luke barrel-rolled his X-wing out of a flurry of turbolaser fire from a swarm of TIEs and instead took his ship directly toward one of the heavy assault cruisers pounding away at an Alliance frigate. He felt as much as saw the TIEs following him as he led them directly into the crossfire between the ships.
TIE after TIE died while he weaved his way through, guided by the Force. As soon as he pulled up, he brought his fighter around and strafed the cruiser's turbolaser emplacements, concentrating on the larger guns. He fired steadily until one of the cannons exploded, weakening the barrage and giving the Alliance frigate a chance to fight back.
He did not have time to enjoy his victory, though. He pulled up immediately, rolled and then swept back down onto a squadron of TIEs that had targeted him, but which were not targeting a Y-wing that was also making a strafing run on the same cruiser.
He adjusted his fighter's firing rate and picked them off, one after the other, before they had a chance to take out the Y-wing.
Though the bomber did not have any more of Harry's special torpedoes, it did have a hull full of concussion bombs and let three of them fall onto the already wounded side of the heavy cruiser. The resulting explosion destroyed its weapons placements on that side. The ship's captain, realizing what happened, attempted to roll the ship to bring its other guns to bear, but instead ended up taking a full Alliance broadside directly into its belly. With its shields down and its armor damaged, the assault cruiser cracked its hull, and a moment later the ship exploded.
"Good shooting, Y-53!" Luke called.
A moment later, as the Y-wing pilot was attempting to answer, it was hit directly by a turbolaser blast from an Imperial frigate.
Luke ground his teeth and selected that frigate as his next target.
"Toprawa, move to shield the Alderaan!"
Admiral Ackbar virtually yelled the command as one of the Alliance fleet's few star destroyers listed to its port side, trailing plumes of vapor under the combined fire of five assault cruisers and frigates.
The Nebulon-B frigate Toprawa moved into the center of the larger formation of Imperial ships, blazing with all weapons to give the Alderaan time to move out of the worst of the fire. Unfortunately, the space was so crowded it had nowhere to go. The Alliance star destroyer moved directly into another Imperial heavy assault cruiser, which itself was engaged with an Alliance cruiser.
The Imperial assault cruiser was 800 meters long, half the size of the larger star destroyer. As the Alderaan slammed into it, the cruiser tore down into the superstructure of the Alderaan. A halo of flame flared around the impact point as explosive out gassing ignited, even if only briefly.
Unfortunately ships that large could not simply stop on a credit chit. The Alderaan, having greater mass, continued up into the Imperial cruiser, crushing both ships. The fusion reactors aboard the assault cruiser suddenly ruptured and exploded with titanic force, which because of the angle and the fact it was half-embedded in the Alderaan, sent the energy of the explosion directly down into the hypermatter reactor of the Alliance star destroyer.
On the bridge of the super star destroyer Vengeance, Ackbar sagged as the Alderaan exploded in a massive ball of plasma that enveloped the imperial cruiser and the second Alliance frigate as well. Unlike Potter's weapons, when the light faded the Alliance frigate remained, but it was burning in several places where its armor was weakened. The opportunistic TIE fighters, sensing weakness, began to hit the frigate like carrion eaters taking down an already injured animal.
"Fleet strength is now at seventy percent and dropping," Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi said somberly.
"It was a fool's chance we had to take," Ackbar admitted reluctantly. "I just hope we live to see this battle end."
Harry appeared in the center of a dimly lit chamber that occupied the top level of the tower. He knew from the Shadow's scans that the tower itself could serve as an emergency escape vehicle for the Emperor, should the need arise.
The Emperor himself sat on an ornately carved throne on a raised dais set before a wall-wide view screen. The battle raged in the background, reduced to flashes of red and green light. Around him were clustered his ministers, while behind Harry the Emperor's vaunted crimson guards were already bringing their weapons to bear.
"Harry Potter," the Emperor's voice rang through the chamber, sharp and hateful.
"Hello, Sidius," Harry said. "Long time no see. How's Thrawn doing?"
"How droll," the Emperor said as his pale faced, soulless ministers stepped away from the throne. Harry did not move as the Crimson Guards surrounded him with their Force pikes. "You have become a constant irritation to me, boy."
"Palpatine, I'm two million years old," Harry said. "Compared to me, you're an infant. And I'm here to spank you."
"Are you now?" Palpatine said with a suddenly feral grin.
Harry held up his hand; behind him the twenty imperial guards exploded, all at once. The gore and blood flew back, coating the courtiers who stayed in the background of the chamber. "Yes, I am," Harry said. He stepped forward and waived a hand again. Over the Emperor the air shimmered for a moment.
"Just in case you've mastered soul transference or any other dark rites," Harry said. "When I kill you, I intend your death to be permanent. And when I'm done killing you, I'm going to blow this station to hell."
The Emperor settled back in his seat. "Your overconfidence is your weakness."
"You're being an evil ass is yours," Harry snapped back. He raised both hands, summoning power. The air around him crackled. The grates below his feet melted. Ministers and courtiers alike screamed as his power burned away their skin and melted their eyes.
The Emperor grimaced as he summoned his own not inconsiderable power. It would not be enough, though. There was never a question in Harry's mind over how this would end. He was going to destroy the Emperor so thoroughly not even quarks would remain from the atoms that composed his cells.
When his full power was summoned, he unleashed in a thick beam of white. The explosion of the titanic forces ripped apart the tower. From the Rogue Shadow, it appeared as if a torpedo had struck. A sphere of white light blossomed out from the tower.
Juno's quick reflexes took the Shadow back from the ever growing sphere, which at its largest easily measured four kilometers in width. When the light faded, though, somehow the tower remained. While the walls of the tower were gone, the floor of the audience chamber remained.
Harry blinked in shocked surprise. The Emperor remained on his throne, momentarily shocked himself by the power. The moment passed quickly, though, as he threw his head back and started cackling. Harry spun around, but for all intents and purposes it looked as if he were standing on an exposed platform atop the north pole of the Death Star.
Yet he breathed, so a field was keeping air in.
The Emperor continued to cackle madly.
"Okay, I'll admit I'm surprised," Harry said. "What will it take to kill you? Decapitation, insufficient adult diapers? How can you still live after that?"
"Because you are not the only Celestial I found!" the Emperor all but howled. "You fool! Only now do you understand the true power of the Dark Side! Only now do you…"
And like that, the Emperor's head went splat. The blood and brains shot out in a nebulous cloud that rose up as if free from gravity. Moments later, the headless body followed. The moment the body rose above ten feet, it instantly froze as it encountered the vacuum of hard space. Harry watched as the body stilled and then started to sink back down toward the surface below as the battlestation's weak gravitational pull captured it.
"Hello, Harry," a familiar voice said.
The runes over his body flared with burning red light. Inside his chest, Harry's heart skipped a beat as a moment of undiluted, primal terror slipped past his occlumency. In the Rogue Shadow, all five wives gasped as, for the very first time, they felt their husband's fear thrum through the bond.
Harry slowly turned around to face the voice.
He saw what appeared to be a woman in her late twenties with shoulder-length blond hair and soft brown eyes. She was beautiful—stunningly so—save for the fact that one entire side of her face was burned to cinders. The burn went all the way to the bone, leaving half her face and one arm blackened and skeletal. And yet she moved freely.
"Hello, Amanda," he whispered.
Amanda took another step toward him, swaying her hips—both the healthy one and the skeletal one—in a parody of seduction. She was perfectly nude, and like her face one side of her body was as perfectly proportioned as any human female who ever lived, while the other side was burned and shriveled.
"It's been so long," she purred to him. He did not move as she reached up with a charred, skeletal hand and caressed his cheek. At her touch, the runes on his skin flared from red to white hot. He hissed in pain but did not move.
"What are you doing here, Amanda?" he said.
"What do you think I'm here for?" she asked. All humor fled before an expression of fury made all the more horrifying for her burns. "You did this to me!" she hissed. "You killed us all."
"We didn't start the war," he said.
"But you made sure to finish it, is that it?" she demanded.
"You were wiping us."
"You deserved to be wiped out."
"Why? For trying to help the people of the galaxy?"
"For trying to assume roles that were not yours to fill," she snapped. "That fool should never have summoned you, Harry. I was content to remain at the end of the Universe knowing you were gone forever. But he summoned you, and when you kissed that pretty little Jedi of yours, that fifth wife, I felt you. And I remembered."
She stepped close to him again, so close her one intact breast rubbed against his shirt. "Are you ready to die now, Harry? Are you ready for me to destroy your soul and devour your wives? I'm going to burn this whole galaxy, Harry. Just like I burned our old one. And when I'm done I'm going to throw that damned heartstone of yours directly into the End of All. After all, it's the least I can do for the Forever Mage."
"I can't let you do that, Amanda," Harry said in a resigned, broken voice. "You've still weak from the war and you're injuries. You exhausted yourself to destroy our old galaxy. I'm at the height of my power. I don't need a command module to destroy you. Please don't make me. You're the last of your kind."
Amanda Rogers, the last of the Q, smiled a grim, humorless smile. "You think you can stop me, Harry? Then try."
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Acta Deos Numquam Mortalia Fallunt*
Amanda Rogers was born on August 14, 2351, in Topeka, Kansas. She remembered every moment of her life, including the safety of her mother's womb and the pain and shock of being exposed to the world as an infant. Though her playmates at school never believed that she remembered the moment of her birth and she finally stopped telling them, her parents did believe her.
"You're special, that's why," her mother would tell her at night with a kind, loving smile. "In your own way, you are the most unique child that has ever been born."
She was seven years old when her parents died. The funnel cloud appeared out of a bright, clear blue sky almost directly over her parent's ranch house. She was playing across the road with her friend Stephanie Itzak, who pointed out the strangely shaped cloud.
Amanda stood on her friend's porch and looked. She could just see her parents step out onto their own porch as the tornado hit. She caught the briefest glimpse of her mother's face. The moment would forever be ingrained in her mind because it was not terror or pain on Delia Rogers' face at the time of her death: it was an expression of sadness and regret. She was looking across the field directly at Amanda when she died.
At eighteen, Amanda had degrees in neurobiology, plasma dynamics and eco-regeneration. Her IQ was estimated to be a whole order of magnitude above even Vulcan norms, much less human ones, though she made sure not to do as well on the tests as she could have.
She was not surprised when Star Fleet Academy began wooing her, seeking to capture the brightest mind in the whole of the Federation. Their promise of an internship on the USS Enterprise-D under the command of one Jean Luc Picard was more than even she could resist.
When she went home to pack for the trip, she paused and stared at the signed poster of Commander William Riker. It was actually a blown up and enhanced image of him giving a speech at their high school after the Battle of Wolf 359 against the Borg. He looked so strong, confident and handsome.
"Amanda's question deserves an answer, Q," Captain Picard said in a clipped, angry tone. "You've made yourself judge, jury, and—if necessary—executioner. By what right do you appoint yourself to this position?"
Q lounged comfortably in Captain Picard's personal quarters aboard the Enterprise. Amanda found out to her horror that the Q killed her parents, who themselves were Q who took human form. And now this god-like being was threatening her life because of: "Superior morality."
Picard huffed much like Scrooge at the idea of Christmas. "I recall how you used your superior morality when we first encountered you. You put us on trial for the crimes of humanity."
"The jury is still out, Picard. Make no mistake."
The captain shook his head while Amanda stood still next to him, humbled and thrilled that this great man would defend her against a being who in essence was a god. "Your arrogant pretense to being the moral guardians of the universe strikes me as a bit pale today. You have shown no evidence that you are guided by a superior moral code - by any code whatsoever. You may be nearly omnipotent—I won't deny your parlor tricks are impressive—but morality? No, I don't see it. I don't acknowledge it. I would put human morality against the Q's any day."
It was a brilliant response, and Amanda could see in the elder Q—no, she could feel in the essence of his power—that he had no true answer to the brilliant, piercing truth of this mere human being.
In that one moment, Amanda loved Jean Luc Picard.
It was all for naught, though. She was Q, born of Q who took human form out of boredom and a need to understand life. Though born into human form, she had the essence and power of the Q. And with that power, the Contiuum informed her, came responsibility and duty.
Never use your power again, or join the Continuum.
Whether it was fate or Q himself, when Riker and the others were threatened with death, she had to act. Q appeared immediately while Picard looked at her with an expression so very similar to that of her birth mother when the Tornado hit. "I couldn't let all those people die," she said softly, knowing she had condemned herself to a loss of her humanity.
A million years later, Amanda Rogers screamed in an agony that tore planets from their orbits and made stars go nova. Around her, the Continuum burned, ripped apart by the unleashed primal energies of the Universe itself. The walls of creation trembled and failed as the Mage command ships attacked the Q in their home.
Amanda, among the youngest and weakest of the Q, fled the annihilation of her race. But she did not escape without scars. She fled into the void, hoping the cold of space would dull the fire. But she was a god. Q did not heal, for Q were not ever supposed to be injured. Not like she was injured. The thousands of Mage command ships moved on, and within them she could feel the mages not celebrating, but weeping. For as evil as their actions, even they could feel the true horror of the Universe's first children dying in the fires of creation and destruction. If only they knew that by destroying the Continuum, they had halved the life of the Universe itself.
In all her years of existence, never had Amanda felt the rage she felt at that moment. The agony of the fires that still burned on her face and body she poured into rage powerful enough to cause whole solar systems to explode.
She reached out with her power, stretching herself in a way she never had, and grasped onto the Large Megallanic Cloud galaxy. She poured her rage and pain into the universe itself, erasing the laws of physics that the lesser species depended on to understand the existence.
In her superior morality, Amanda Rogers brought the neighboring galaxy slamming into the Milky Way with sufficient speed and force to utterly destroy both. The cosmic storm of destruction hurt even her, exasperating the agony she already experienced from the destruction of the Continuum.
She saw the Mage ships moving planets out of the way of the fires and plasma storms she unleashed. She wanted to stop them, but her last orgasmic spree of destruction left no power with which to strike. She struck anyway, burning her very life energy to destroy almost all of the mage ships save two—a major and minor ship.
She howled in rage when she realized the major ship survived because he was aboard. Harry Potter, the one being who taught the Mages how to strike back. The one she wanted to kill the most was now completely out of her power.
There is a place only Q can go. A place at the End of all things. A place where the walls of the Universe are weakened. Around her is the absolute black of final entropy. This place drains even Q, for this is the end of existence, after all galaxies have fallen apart and all stars have lost their fire. After all matter breaks down and the universe dies, there is this last place.
Amanda floats in the void of true emptiness, her presence alone preventing space from dropping to absolute zero energy. And through the weakened walls of the Universe, her mind alone can perceive another Universe just beyond. Like the universe that created her kind and saw it die, she can sense emptiness and weakness from the other universe as well. The two are both approaching the end of their cycles of existence and are drifting toward each other.
The Q often spoke of the Omniverse, but it was a misnomer. They were, like all beings, confined to their individual universe. Though they could hop dimensions and travel from the beginning of the Universe to the End, they could not leave the Universe itself, for they were the universe. The Q's very energy was directed from the same primordial mix that gave rise to the Universe itself. The act of a Q trying to pierce the walls of the Universe would trigger another Big Bang, destroying that Q, the Universe, and all within it. It was the ultimate suicide, an act no Q had ever contemplated.
Time does not exist in this place. Time is a measure of effect: the decay of an isotope; the death and birth of an organism; the consumption of matter through the process of entropy from one thing to another to another. In this place, there is no matter. There are no organisms. There are no isotopes to decay. There is nothing but Amanda. Q. And she burns with pain.
From the far distant past, though, she senses a call. An invocation. A curse. Someone is calling for her, someone with power enough to reach beyond his own time even if only in spirit. And from this call she hears a name she has hated for all time.
She answers the call; with a thought she moves from the End of All Things to Imperial Center five billion years before, and stands in human form before the Emperor of the Coruscant Galaxy. She does not care that her human form is nude, nor that her human form reflects the damage her true form received from the war.
The Emperor is an evil little man, dripping with dark power impressive for a mortal, but still just a mortal. He smiles at her with metallic teeth and orange eyes. "Welcome, Great Q," he cackles. "I thank you for answering my call."
"You called for the enemy of Harry Potter," she says. She sees a book in his hands and recognizes it as Potter's grimoire—the book of his life as recorded by all the Lady Ravenclaws through history. It is from this book that the dark little man has gained knowledge of her existence.
"I summoned Potter back to life, and in my arrogance thought to control him," the Emperor tells her. "And now he threatens the peace and stability of this whole galaxy. I do not have the power to destroy him."
"No, you do not," she said. "Not any more. He has become more than he was supposed to be. But I will destroy him."
She stares at Harry Potter now, whole and untouched and young as when the world was new. The fire still burns within her from when he, as an old man, struck the Continuum with Mage magic and burned the walls of creation about her people's ears. He is beautiful and terrible, glowing with the sum total power of his entire race throughout history. The runes on his body flare against the presence of her power, making him glow almost as much as she does in her true form.
He does not even realize his own power, for despite eons of life and power to challenge the gods, his mind is still finite and human. That is the ultimate insult—that this being had evolved through time to rival the Q in all but their intelligence. Without his more advanced wives, he would never have known how to even reach the Continuum, but with their knowledge and his power, he not only reached it, he obliterated it.
Her hate spreads to encompass his wives as well. Always they are there, giving him power and guidance. She reaches out to where she senses them, but is harshly rebuffed. She looks back in rage to find Harry setting his chin defiantly.
"It is not their fault," he says. "No more innocents die because of our fight!"
Amanda screams in rage. Below them, the Death Star implodes. It collapses as if crushed by a giant hand, falling into its own hypermatter reactor. The glowing ball of hypermatter, though, remains. Amanda feeds her rage into the elemental bit of power the puny humans have harnessed, and expands it until it is as large again as the Death Star was originally.
Around them, the Rebel and Imperial fleets realize something has gone terribly wrong. Ships huge to human kind but dwarfed by the ball of primordial energy break formation and attempt to leave, but it is too late.
She releases her hold on the hypermatter while at the same time striking out once more against Harry's wives. She forces him to chose, and because his power is housed within a human mind and a human soul, she knows which choice he will make.
He saves his wives while a moon-sized ball of hypermatter reacts with the normal matter of the universe in an explosion that could tear apart stars. The planet of Endor is blasted into dust. Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kyle Katarn—all are vaporized in an instant by the reaction.
Protected by the mage shields of the Rogue Shadow, Juno, Mara, Leia, Maris and Celeste watch in horror as millions die in a single flash of light. When the light fades, they see only the platform that once sat atop a tower that once rose from the surface of a battlestation that was now gone.
Amanda looks at Harry with one narrowed eye, while the other flickers with the fire of her rage. "There are no innocents," she snarls at him. "I will burn it all. I will kill everyone. And then I will kill you."
She strikes again, and again Harry somehow blocks her attack. In the distance, the Endor star flashes as its core suddenly, inexplicably collapses. The shockwave of the star's death throes obliterates the entire star system. Harry, and in the Rogue Shadow, his wives, watch as the shockwave travels much faster than should have been possible.
She strikes at him again—infuriated by her weakened state and his empowered one. He blocks her blow again, and in the distant night another star goes nova. He does not strike back, for even in her weakened state he knows he cannot kill her. And so he grinds his teeth, ready to do what he must to defend the women he loves, even if it means the lives of a galaxy.
Amanda knows this, and it infuriates hers. She raises both hands, summoning the fabric of the Universe itself. She will destroy him, even if it means destroying creation itself. Before she can strike, though, the Rogue Shadow appears behind Harry. The hatch opens into the pocket of air the two combatants have created.
From the darkness a single figure steps out. Amanda regards the figure and sees the physical perfection of the human female form. Tall, lithe and yet still heavily endowed to entice human men. She moves with the grace of a lifetime of Force training. She has power, though miniscule compared to the two titans.
She steps beside Harry and regards the burning hatred of Amanda Rogers. "The others old me the tale of the Raging Gods," she says in a serene, contralto voice. Even her voice is perfect. "This is she?"
"The last Q," Potter says, as if Amanda is not there. "Weakened by pain and injury, but still the most powerful, wondrous creature in the galaxy."
"And the stars we see dying around us?"
"I have to defend you," Harry says to his fifth and final wife.
Her response shocks Amanda.
"No, Harry, you don't."
Amanda can see that even Harry is shocked by this calm statement. Celeste Morne looks from Mage to Q and back. "I willingly gave my life to save the planet Taris. Now I see you on the verge of obliterating the whole galaxy to defend me. I love you, Harry. Even in only these few days, I have come to love you more than anything. But I would rather see us all dead than trade us for all the life in the stars. You cannot let this fight continue. To save us is selfish, Harry. It is evil. If you save us, you will be doing the one thing that can break the bonds we share. And I will hate you for it."
Harry stares at his wife in shock while she continues to look back at him with a calm, accepting expression. Finally he bows his head, sobbing softly. "You're right," he says. "That's why it had to be you."
He looks back at Amanda. "The Q manipulate time like water. Change it so my horcrux is never found. Let these women lead the lives they should have led, and I will surrender to you. You can kill me or tear me apart molecule by molecule. But without finding me, they will never revert to mage form. Go back and undo this, and I will be yours."
Amanda cannot believe it. At last her vengeance is complete, and the request is so simple. She snaps her fingers, and time is as it should have been.
She and Harry watch as Professor Yanosh Hastlebrandt pleads his case with a beautiful young Mara Jade in a COMPNOR uniform. "I'm sorry, professor," the red-head says. "The Empire does not provide funds to dig in trash. We cannot help you at this time."
They watch as Darth Vader survives his duel with Galen Marek, though he is weakened by it. They watch as the Dark Lord hunts the Rebels across the galaxy, until at last the Death Star is complete.
"Use the Force, Luke."
"Great shot, kid! That was one in a million!"
"I love you."
"I am your father!"
"Your overconfidence is your weakness."
"Your faith in your friends is yours."
"I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
Darkness. Cold. Emptiness. Harry's runic skin shimmers in the void, but the light does nothing, for there is nothing for it to reflect off of. Save for the burned, terrible visage of Amanda Rogers.
"This is the End of all Things," she says as she drifts closer to him. He can smell her breath; it smells of fire and brimstone and terrible vengeance. She holds up a hand, and there before them both, floats the ancient heartstone of Hogwarts.
"Are you ready to die, Harry Potter? A true and final death?' she asks.
"Yes," Harry said, surprised to find it is the truth. So long, so many lives. He had died so many times he no longer feared it. He was so very tired; the idea of final rest was oddly appealing. "I really am. But before you kill me, Amanda, there is something I must do."
The fire flickers in the socket of her missing eye. "What?" she hisses.
"I have to right one last wrong. Celeste was right. I cannot allow evil to abide. To do so violates my very core. And so I must make whole this last harm."
Before Amanda can respond, Harry leans forward and locks his lips to her. He closes his eyes and pours all of his love and power into her. The same power he would have used to destroy the Death Star he uses now to heal. The bonds that are now broken by the change of time he opens again, latching onto the painfully brilliant power that is the last Q. With the bonds come his love and passion. A hundred thousand and more lifetimes of love and tenderness he pours through the bond into the burning agony of Amanda.
She tries to break away from it, but his power and the bonds hold her in place. And for the first time in a million years, the fires on her body go out. Skin starts to cover the burned and charred limbs. Her left eye suddenly reforms, though it remains closed as the two kiss.
Suddenly he is aware of her body pressing against his, as she is aware of his. She clutches him and wraps her legs around him, even as he enters her. Her skin glows from within and then burns away entirely as her human form collapses, and for the first time in eons a pure Q shines in the universe, only to illuminate nothing.
The runes on Harry's skin flare painfully, and yet he continues to move with the white, amorphous light that is Amanda Rogers. Somehow they continue to make love, sharing energies and lifeforce in a way never conceived. He feels his magic continue to pour into her, even as her own power beings to pour into him. The two form a complete circuit, feeding each other as they reach toward ecstasy.
"I'm sorry I hurt you," Harry says to her as he thrusts into the light that is her true form.
I forgive you, she responds. I give my love you, Harry Potter.
"And I give my love you, Amanda Rogers," he said.
He feels his climax coming, and through the new bonds he shares with her, he knows Amanda is also reaching a climax of its own kind. The climax is agonizing and draining. Both of them scream into the silent void as their energies collide.
It is time, Amanda's mind whispers directly to his. Good bye, my Forever Mage.
"Goodbye, my love."
White light envelopes Harry as Amanda subsumes him, and with a final thrust of power she tears through the walls of the Universe into the Beyond. Harry screams as the walls of existence shatter and two dying universes come together, brought together by the power of the Last Q and the Last Mage fused together as one.
And in that split millisecond, coupled with Amanda and seeing through her mind, Harry realizes that he is not just seeing the death of everything. He is seeing its birth.
"So beautiful," he whispers.
A moment later, all existence collapses down into a two meter wide disk of two million year old stone, before exploding outward in a wave of matter beyond description, and a new Universe is born.
*mortal actions never deceive the gods
A flash of light, and something appears where before there was nothing but an unbroken field of stars. The Orb of light travels smoothly through the vacuum until they come within a few meters of a wall through space.
The wall seems to go on forever to either side, and is carved with massive reliefs of ancient faces. Within the ORB, a lean figure in a full body suit within a intricate and powerful chair says, "Behold the Source Wall. Behind it is the single greatest secret of the Universe. This is as far as I dare to go."
The figure turns and stares at his companion—a tall, broad-chested man with a Romanesque nose and a head shaved so closely it gleamed in the starlight. "I warn you one final time. Only a twelfth-level intellect has the slightest hope of surviving what you are about to experience."
Lex Luthor looks at Metron, his companion, and sneers. "Then I'm over qualified." Without pause, he pushes himself from the chair and beyond the orb of Metron's power. He is not surprised to find air in what should have been vacuum. He calculates his trajectory perfect and floats directly into the eye of the nearest relief.
Within the eye he does not find a tunnel, but rather a matrix of the most astounding energy he has ever seen. He is looking at the Anti-Life Equation itself, and grabs for it, knowing that this is what he needs to stop Darkseid.
The matrix fluctuates and shimmers, and suddenly he is in a white room without definable walls. In what he guesses is the center of the room, Lex sees two figures. He drifts to them and smiles.
A human floats in the air. It is obviously male, given the absence of clothes. He appears to be young, no more than twenty-one if even that. Untamed black hair over a face with a decidedly northern European cast to his cheeks.
"What is this?" he asks.
"This is the Source." He shouldn't be surprised to get an answer. The voice is feminine and soothing.
"This boy is the Source?" Lex scoffs.
"This boy is the First," responds the voice. "He is Forever. He is the Origin. From him came all life, magic and matter. He is the oldest living thing in existence—older even than the Universe itself. But his sleeps has been disturbed. The war of the New Gods troubled his sleeping mind, and now he begins to wake. This is why you are here, Lex Luthor."
"What? Like I'm going to help anyone?"
"In helping yourself, you save many," the voice said. "And in saving many, you will save the Source."
Suddenly Lex finds himself standing on the edge of a crater in the middle of Metropolis. After a moment of disorientation, he sees a sight he's wanted to see his whole life—Superman on the ground, screaming in agony.
Darkseid is giving a soliloquy of how he is going to cut Superman's heart out and put it on a pike. Lex looks down, surprised to see himself dressed in his best suit. He reaches into the lapels and feels his hands touch something warm.
He calls out to Darkseid, one of the most powerful beings in the Universe, and shows him the famed Anti-Life Equation. Darkseid hovers close, enthralled by the light of the most dangerous substance in existence.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Darkseid whispers, much like a father looking upon his first born son.
"Yes," Lex agrees. "It is."
With a flash of light, they are gone. In the aftermath, as Batman helps Superman out of the crater, neither superhero notices the body half-buried under gravel and debris where Lex appeared. A pair of bright green eyes open, and a new epic begins.
But that is another story.
Final Author's Note: I decided to leave the epilogue out of the first one for one very simple reason-I haven't been able to make any progress on the story it implied. Therefore this is apocrypha-a might have been and someday could be but is not at all promised.
Anyway, thanks for reading.