A galaxy in shambles. Who you gonna call? Timothy Zahn of course.
"How Zahn Could Fix This Mess II"
This story is in no way endorsed or written by Timothy Zahn. Ditto George Lucas. I'm playing with their characters, but I'm not getting any money. But who knows, maybe I can change the fate of the galaxy. =]
Nothing against R A Salvatore, Greg Keyes, Troy Denning, etc. but isn't the New Jedi Order series a little depressing? I am a firm believer in a happy ending, and it's hard to have one when the universe as you know it is being destroyed piece by piece. How many planets does it take before people get the message and start working together? Well I was willing to sit by and watch for a while, but Star by Star just pushed me over the edge. Now I'm fighting mad and I just have one question: How is Zahn going to fix this mess?
I hope you are familiar with the original "How Zahn Could Fix This Mess," which is a fanfic (with several versions actually) written before the Hand of Thrawn Duology came on the scene in which the author bemoaned the fate of our heroes (mostly Luke) since the Thrawn Trilogy and told... well, how Zahn could fix this mess. The most popular theory was the "it was all a dream" strategy which I have used in part here. Then, Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future came out and all of us Zahn fan boys and girls could rest easy. But now we must call on our hero again...
I do not presume to be as good an author as Timothy Zahn, but here's one way to fix the mess. Enjoy. =]
"How Zahn Could Fix This Mess II"
"ANAKIN!!" Mara screamed. She sat bolt upright, suddenly pulled from her tortuous dream, and clutched at the blankets that tangled around her. Luke put his arms around her and comforted her.
"It was just a dream Mara," he said softly. "Just a dream."
"Where's Anakin?" she demanded.
"He and Jaina are helping Chewie fix the Falcon. They've been at it for days, remember? I think they were talking about recalibrating the drive system to cut to a backup generator automatically when the main one shorts out." He yawned in spite of himself. "Some kind of surprise for Han, so they're working on it at night."
"You think even Anakin would touch the Falcon without permission from either Chewie or Han?" Luke chuckled, but realized there was something else wrong. "What is it?"
"Chewie," she repeated dazedly. "It must have been a dream... oh, Luke, it was horrible!" He held her close, but she got up to pace around the room. "But it was so real."
"Do you think it was a vision?" He turned on a glow panel near the bed. He could feel a darkness from the dream permeating the room and they could both use some light. And he didn't want her to trip over anything in her agitated state.
"I hope not. It's not a future I'd really look forward to, anyway." She paused, kicked at a shirt that lay in her way, and sat down on the bed.
"Can you tell me about it?"
She shivered. "These aliens from... another galaxy... invaded the New Republic and took over everything. I mean, everything. They took Coruscant. And Fey'lya was President..."
"Now hold on a minute..."
"And Chewie died. And Anakin. A moon fell on Chewie, and Anakin went on some suicide mission to destroy a Jedi-hunting creature. The weird thing was not only did you let him go, and the twins too, but Han and Leia actually wanted them to go."
"What? I let a team of hormone-laden teenagers, who can't even make decisions for themselves much less ones that will impact the entire galaxy, talk me into sending them to their deaths in order to kill out a species specifically engineered to hunt them when New Republic Intelligence- not to mention Cilghal- could easily construct a virus with which we could infect and destroy them? And you, Leia, and Han just... stood there?"
"No, we all supported you."
"That sounds almost as impossible as a moon that falls on Chewie but leave Han still alive."
"But we did have a child."
"Really? I think I like that part."
She smiled at him. "It's the only part I'm sorry isn't real."
"Well, I think we can rule out the vision theory. In addition to all that other stuff, the New Republic isn't so far gone that it's going to put Borsk Fey'lya in charge of the galaxy."
After looking over Chewie and the kids work on the Falcon, convincing herself they were all right and it really had been just a dream, she forbid them to go near the Shadow. Luke had given her the ship just last year, and as much as it was a miracle that the Falcon still ran at all she didn't want the miracle workers playing with her baby. Hmmm, baby... she mused as she walked back inside to join Luke and Han inside. Her arm curled against her side, holding the imaginary weight of her son. She still remembered all the sensations of having a child from her dream; it really had been a wonderful thing amid all the tragedy. Even her strange illness couldn't dampen the memory... She hadn't told Luke about that. He would worry and, like he had said himself, there was little chance that it would actually happen. She felt a twinge of apprehension from him and snapped back to reality, wondering guiltily if he had picked up on any of that. Thankfully, she found him and Han both absorbed in the holovid. Her thankfulness vanished when she looked up and saw what they were watching.
"Recently elected Chief of State Borsk Fey'lya mingles with senators before departing after today's session..."
"Oh no." She thought Luke had spoken, but she realized after a moment that it had been her.
Luke turned to his brother-in-law. "Han did you..."
"Don't know a thing, kid. Since Leia turned her leave of absence into a permanent thing and let Gavrisom take over for her, she's out of the loop and we don't get any tidbits anymore."
"Fey'lya..." Mara murmured.
"Tell me about it." Han continued. "You'd think there'd be somebody else they'd pick, especially after that whole Caamas deal, but whatever. The only thing is there's no way Leia and I can get a vacation after all this." He started to head down to the bay to be able to greet his wife as soon as she arrived.
Mara had to ask. "Why is that Han?"
"Cause every time we try to go on vacation, the galaxy falls apart. I don't even want to see what Fey'lya does in a crisis."
Time seemed to pass slowly for Mara. Every morning she awoke with the memory of the dream fresh in her mind. She never had it again as far as knew, but it seemed to wait just on the edge of her consciousness for her to recognize and deal with it. Its presence wasn't malevolent, merely annoying. Months passed. Maybe even a year, she thought. After awhile, she couldn't quite remember when she had first had the dream- it became almost a part of her.
And then, it happened.
At the edge of the galaxy, strange things began to appear. Strange things that echoed in her mind like the laughter of dried blood.
Mara knew what she had to do. She wanted to wait for Luke; she wanted him to be there, to support her. She cocked her head back and laughed at herself. Whatever had happened to that fiery young woman whose penchant for going it solo had prompted the Emperor to make her his Hand? Pulling on her robe, she pulled the Force around her as well. Pulling it into her, filling herself with its power and peace, she prepared herself for the mission ahead.
The Senate had unraveled overnight. Not Borsk's fault really; panic had sunk it's teeth into the people and now ran rampant like a disease of the blood even among these who claimed to hold themselves above such base responses. Eliare Barrataii, Senator for Naboo, looked down over the other senators, watching as they bickered and whispered. Even now, Arek of Bakura was leaning over to whisper something at her. Too bad he's too far away, she thought without remorse as her datapad chirped at her that it had just received a message. It was probably from Calrarra, and she wished the session would start and something interesting would happen as a distraction; she didn't feel like talking to the Wookie any more that she did to Arek.
Looking down again, she noticed a dark-shrouded figure standing with the Chief of State at his console. Well, that did look promising...
"Your attention Councilors." Fey'lya did not sound happy. "Before we begin today, Jedi Master Mara Jade Skywalker has asked to be able to address you on a matter she claims is most urgent." He glared down several objectors. "And despite our press for time, and the many important affairs of state we have to discuss, it is the nature of this body to hear appeals from it's citizens." The Bothan was practically spitting blaster bolts as he stepped aside and relinquished the platform to the cloaked figure. She must have some sort of blackmail on Fey'lya, Eli thought, in order to get into a Senate meeting.
Master Jade Skywalker stepped forward and removed her hood. Eli glanced at her datapad where she had, almost as a reflex, brought up information about Mara Jade Skywalker. She didn't need to read it- keeping up with the Jedi was one of her favorite pastimes. Jade Skywalker was recently married to long-time legend Luke Skywalker; she had a history with the Empire and also as a smuggler. The Jedi Master took a deep breath, eyes closed, her hands folded before her. She opened her eyes and reached her hands out to take hold of the console; Eli could feel her peace even from up in the balcony tiers. She began to speak.
"Chief of State and respected Councilors, it is my honor to be able to address you this day. I have seen the future. Many months ago I had a vision that our galaxy would be invaded by creatures from beyond it, with no claim to it, and with no respect for the beings already inhabiting it. I know that little is yet known of our new foes but they have been revealed to me. They are called the Yuuzhan Vong. They abhor technology and anything mechanical. They feel that any being that does not worship their gods of pain and destruction is an infidel worthy only of a short life and a long and painful death. When I first had this vision I dismissed it as a wild fantasy my brain had concocted after a late night and too much stimcaff. I didn't want to believe it, even when I saw it coming true before my eyes. Because there was something even more horrible about it than these gristly invaders."
She paused, and Eliare leaned forward, with every other head in the room, hanging on the next word.
Mara took another deep breath. "The New Republic, this mighty body you see before you, ceased to function." This drew guffaws of denial from areas of the chamber, but most remained silent. "I could not believe it myself. For twenty years the New Republic has broken any evil thrown at it. Through the most unbelievable tragedies, somehow, we came out on top, because in the end we refused to let evil divide us. We have our differences- any group of beings this large would- but we continue to believe in our creed, that freedom is something worth keeping and that only together can we ensure generations of freedom for our children."
Shouts of approval turned into a wild rush of applause. Eli found herself joining in. Well why not? she thought. Jade Skywalker gestured for silence.
"In my vision, the people of the New Republic were overcome with fear and the unity of this body was shattered, destroying it's ability to see clearly. I come to you now, to tell you this, because I do not want to see it happen."
She bowed and stepped away from the console. Before applause could break out again, the smooth oily tones Eli recognized as the voice of Viqi Shesh of Kuat echoed through the chamber.
"Very moving. However, what precisely is your point in addressing this assembly? I cannot believe it is only to remind us to play nice with each other."
This brought a chuckle from some, and provoked thoughtful looks in others. Mara stared at the senator a long time; only when Shesh began to squirm did she seem to remember where she was. She stepped up again. "Are you implying, Senator Shesh, that Jedi always have hidden motives?"
Shesh's eyes narrowed. "All beings have hidden motives, Master Jade Skywalker."
Mara smiled a secret smile, and Eli had to wonder what role Shesh played in her vision.
"From my vision, I can tell you that hesitation is loss. If you strike this enemy hard and now you can defeat them. But only if you strike now."
Chaos. Eliare sat, in a forced sense of calm, as senators all around her jumped up shouting objections or support. Shesh had a self-satisfied little smirk on her face that put Eli in mind of a well-fed vrrelt. She turned her eyes back to Jade Skywalker. The woman stood firm amid the swirling tide, waiting patiently for it to die down. Eli wondered absent-mindedly if the Senate had ever decided anything without hesitation. Technically, Fey'lya could command the military without the direct approval of the Senate, but he would never commit to an action that might affect his political standing. Also, if the Jedi Master spoke truly, it was not only military action she desired but a whole-hearted effort on the part of the government to stand together.
Fey'lya called the chamber to order with difficulty but a certain stubborn persistence that made Eli smile. Once he had everyone's attention, he paused- an uncharacteristic move for him- and looked at Master Jade Skywalker. Eli didn't know whether to call the look admiring or challenging. "We thank Jedi Master Jade Skywalker for her impassioned words. Shall we vote to appoint a committee to investigate the effectiveness of an attack at this time?"
Definitely a challenge then. Jade Skywalker's mouth twisted in a cruel smirk before settling back into the imperturbable Jedi mask; she nodded in concession to Fey'lya's power in this arena, but her eyes swept up across the balconies as if in search of an ally. Something, she could not have said what, made Eli rise from her seat. For some reason this small movement in the vast hall caught the Jedi Master's eye and she looked straight at Eli. Their eyes met and a smile spread across both women's features; Eli's contemplative and slightly sardonic, and Mara's satisfied and knowing.
"I believe that is not the subject that needs to be voted upon at this time." A silence spread throughout the hall, and Eliare was amazed to realize that it was her voice that had spoken those words and that she had other words ready to follow them. "It seems the only question here is whether we are to ignore this warning or to heed it. Delaying tactics, such as the one presented by our esteemed Chief of State, are tantamount to ignorance. You heard the Jedi Master as well as I did-we act now or we do not act. I call for a vote of action!"
Objections rose, calls for investigation and cries against the reliability of the Jedi, but none so well heard as the smooth speaker of Kuat. "Trust our entire military force to an operation that not even the esteemed Jedi Master can prove will succeed? An act that will leave us totally defenseless deserves much careful thought, don't you agree?"
"No." Eli locked eyes with Shesh. "In fact," she smiled, "the way you put it makes me wonder why we have not tried it sooner. If the Vong can defeat our entire fleet, then what hope do we have anyway? Why don't we crush them now? Why do we allow them to eat away at the edges of our galaxy, knowing they will eventually reach the middle at strike at our very heart? It makes me wonder, Senator Shesh, whether you don't want this strike to occur because you think it will fail... or because you think it will succeed."
Murmurs rippled though the chamber. Jade Skywalker allowed a small smile to slide across her impassive face and glanced sideways at Shesh. Viqi Shesh was about to respond to the retort when she was cut off by Arek of Bakura. "I second the motion of a vote for action."
"As do I!" A bellow from Calrarra, translated by his droid, echoed past the now silent whispers. All eyes turned to Fey'lya who, once again, did not look happy.
"Fine," he snarled. "We will vote on Senator Barrataii's proposal."
Eli sank back into her seat and met Mara's eyes. Thank-you, they said.
My pleasure, replied Eli. She looked down and realized she was shaking.
The vote was, amazingly, not even close. The majority was so much in favor of Mara's proposal, as outlined by Eliare, that in the end all Fey'lya could do was grumble about it. The military was organized and dispatched with such precision and speed that it left some reeling.
Mara almost couldn't believe it was all actually happening. She was seated in the cockpit of her X-wing, Luke and countless other Jedi spread out beside her, awaiting their moment to join the battle already engaging before them. She watched as, using the tricks she had taught them from her dream, the ships defended themselves against the unfamiliar technology facing them and struck back using the Vong's own creature-crafts against them.
"Our turn." Luke's familiar voice rang in her ears just as his familiar presence filled her with confidence. "Form up squad. Engage on my mark."
Mara threw herself into the battle whole-heartedly, letting the bigger problems of the universe fade to the back of her mind. It was several minutes later when a comrade's shout of alarm and amazement drew her attention back to the battle at large.
She smiled as she looked out over the assortment of strange ships that had just arrived. They were dominated by a large collection of Battle Dragons and lead into battle by a very familiar, unprepossessing Corellian freighter. "I take it Leia's mission to Hapes wasn't a waste of time."
"Very astute of you to suggest she make it." Their attention returned to the fighting at hand, but the enemy had obviously been shaken by this appearance of the New Republic's allies and was in the process of deciding whether or not to flee. "By the way," Luke continued, "remind me to ask you sometime how in the galaxy you got not only the entire Senate, but also Fey'lya, and Isildur, as well as the Imperials and the Corporate Sector to help out with this venture. And attacking from three sides at once. You really are amazing."
"Thank you, dear." She vaped the partner of the skip he'd just taken care of. "But that's not even the whole list."
"Mm hmm. Some 'friends' from... a bit further out of town."
"Who else is there? The Hutts?"
"Well, appealing to their sense of community and well-being for the universe didn't really work. Appealing to their greed didn't either; they've decided to sit it out, wait to see who wins, and then fawn upon them with gifts. No, think further out and even more strangely repulsive."
"Come on farmboy, you've got a better memory than that! All right- remember the Ssi'ruuk?"
"Yeah, it appears that since their deal with Palpatine fell through they're in great need of energy to power their ships. And just think- an eternity of torment slaved to a machine... it'll be the Vong's worst nightmare therefore making it their fondest wish. So I'm really just giving them what they want- all the pain I can think of."
"Wow." Luke was silent for a moment as they took care of another group of skips. "Mara, you really are amazing."
"I know." She smiled, knowing he could feel it. "There's still more."
She could feel his laughter even before his unsteady voice gave him away. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Remember the Chiss? And the added bonus of Baron Soontir Fel's son, Jag Fel flying with them... Hey, farmboy! Keep an eye on that skip!"
Luke was laughing so hard he almost missed the enemy ship he was aiming at. It was Corran who answered her, his own voice barely controlled. "Mara... you are amazing. But if you don't shut up, I won't need to kill you myself because we'll all be dead already."
She was laughing herself by then. "Relax Corran. I think the battle's ours." She looked out over the blackness to where the fleeing Vong ships were pursued by the Ssi'ruuk and where the crippled ships and EV pilots were being collected by their comrades in better shape.
It was not until Mara was climbing out of her fighter back in the hanger bay that it hit her that it was actually over. They had won. The future she had so dreaded would not come to pass. She leaned back against the body of the fighter for support as a feeling of warmth washed over her. Luke came toward her smiling, and they embraced. He knew her thoughts, even better that her joy was written plainly on her face.
"No regrets?" He asked her softly, his face against her hair as they both watched a group of pilots celebrating. "Surely something good came about from this dark future you saw?"
"No. No regrets." She paused a moment as an oddly familiar sound caught her ear. She turned to the back of the bay where the larger ships were parked, most notably the Falcon.
Chewie's distinctive roar made Luke turn with her, but it was something else that had caught her attention; a voice like half a memory and a flash of gray fur.
"Go on you great hairy beast! Put me down!" A dark, furry gray Ryn struggled in the Wookie's grip.
Chewie growled the equivalent of "Who're you calling hairy?" but was already lowering his captive to the ground when Han intervened.
"Chewie! Put him down! Not like he'd make off with the ship or something."
Mara laughed. "No, no regrets at all. Some things happen whether you try to stop them or not. And some things happen right when you need them too the most."
Happiness glowed in her face as she held her husband close and let one arm curl against her side as if holding the weight of a child.