Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars.
Note: Well, I'm back at long last, with my biggest project to date! I'm estimating that this story will be roughly 20 chapters long, give or take and I'll be trying to do weekly updates for you if things go according to plan. This story has been an absolute joy for me to plan, research and write and I honestly can't remember the last time I felt so inspired. I just hope you enjoy reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
This story, since it takes place after the second game, will of course contain spoilers.
M-Rating is for explicit violence.
And lastly, a HUGE, HUGE thanks to Liisiko for agreeing to be my beta and chatting with me about all my ideas for the story so far.
The Force Unleashed 3 - Severance
CHAPTER 1 - Haunted
Location: The Rogue Shadow
A great, churning whirlpool was all that was left of the cloning facility on Kamino; the water tearing the last of the broken towers down into the depths of that angry ocean. Eventually, even the most stubborn hunks of debris were sucked into the center of the swirling mass, pulled down and out of sight.
Above the violent sea, storm clouds brewed, chasing away the stray streams of sunlight and throwing the ocean below into impenetrable shadow. The break in the rain had been both short and symbolic.
A beginning and an end.
Above the small water planet, a number of Rebel-owned freighters began their steady ascent. All of them had their own routes, their own purposes. But, whether great or small, all were working towards one greater cause: The successful transportation of the infamous Dark Lord.
Almost simultaneously, the ships accelerated into hyperspace. And, in their absence, the sky seemed strangely empty and still. Even the thrashing sea was left in eerie quiet; the whirlpool turning with steadily ebbing greed.
The first of the heavy rain hissed against the crests of the waves and the shapes of three huge birds blemished the sky; winging with growing urgency to keep ahead of the storm.
It would be a wasted attempt.
The domed shape of the ship, Slave I, expertly tailed the sleek stealth ship through hyperspace.
Its pilot frowned behind the visor of his concealing helm, replaying over in his mind the orders he had been given by the Dark Lord earlier that very same day. Now, here he was, on yet another – seemingly impossible – task for the Empire: track Vader across the expanse of space and ensure his safe escape.
The frown curled into a cunning smile. He almost wished he could be there to see the look on the Rebels' faces when they realized they had never been in a position of power. Rather, led down that path of belief to their own destruction.
And he, Boba Fett, would profit greatly from their delusions and their misplaced hope.
He took the next moment to remove his helm, setting it into the empty co-pilot chair beside him, joining the discarded gauntlets. His face was beaded heavily with perspiration; the thick, dark hair plastered down across his scalp. He ran his fingers through the flattened locks and wiped his sweaty forehead with the back of a hand.
His relief was short-lived.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled with warning and motion behind him became reflected in the transparisteel viewport. He turned to see that the 'thing' had moved to join him and, with a growl, he donned his helm once more.
The thing looked like a normal man in every respect. Except that he was not. He was a Force-using clone, perhaps the only successful clone in Vader's now destroyed project. As far as Boba Fett was aware, this clone was simply along for the ride; using him as a means to escape unscathed from Kamino. That was the story, anyway. Boba suspected there was more to it than that. Perhaps to ensure that his contract with Vader was carried out successfully. Either way, the clone had said exactly nothing since they had 'teamed up' and he remained silent even now. His narrowed eyes were a sickly yellow, fringed with crimson and shadowed beneath heavy brows. He was dressed in black; a stiffened tunic extended at the shoulder to give the impression of an even broader chest. Around his waist looped a number of belts and from one hung the cylinders of his duel lightsabers. His arms – bound with bandages from wrist to elbow – were crossed in front of him.
To Boba he seemed more monster than human. Yes, they were both clones, both created by the Kaminoans, but there were differences. Big differences. Boba had lived a childhood, had grown at a normal rate, learned at a normal rate and had had a father who loved him. This clone, this thing was an unfeeling creature born into adulthood with nothing but hate implanted in its head.
With a frown, the bounty hunter lifted his gauntlets from the co-pilot chair, a chair he had once sat in as a young boy, and ordered the Sith clone to sit.
The tiny cockpit, tilted at a slightly odd angle (typical of the Firespray-class) did not offer much room for walking around, but the clone managed to maneuver himself into the chair with little difficulty.
Glowering, Boba Fett turned his attention back to the flickering dials at his fingertips. If the clone was here to make sure that he got the job done, then he needn't be concerned. There were too many credits riding on this to fail.
Despite the fact he had barely said a word to her since making the jump into hyperspace, Juno found Galen's presence a great comfort. The lengthening silence between them was companionable rather than awkward and it was almost as if they had never been apart. It was almost too good to be true; like a dream she was preparing to wake up from.
Her eyes flicked idly over the console before being drawn back to him.
He was staring sightlessly out through the transparisteel viewport; darkened to shade the intense light of hyperspace.
Elongated stars streamed across the surface of his eyes and she leaned a little closer to see them better.
What was he thinking? Was it too soon to ask?
He startled, eyes snapping across to her.
"Is it…still okay for me to call you that?"
He gave a small shrug. "It's not like I have a better alternative."
It wasn't really an answer, but it definitely wasn't an outright 'no'. She supposed an identity crisis – given the unusual situation – was only to be expected. She couldn't imagine what it must feel like to come face to face with not just one, but hundreds, of copies of yourself.
Even so, he was right. Galen certainly sounded better than his old codename: Starkiller.
She must have looked concerned, because he followed up with an apology. "We're alive. Right now, that's all that matters." He managed to give her a weak smile and she returned it.
"It's going to take some getting used to." She replied. "You being…here, I mean."
"How much…how much do you know?"
"Enough." She replied firmly, reaching out to touch his hand. "It doesn't matter to me. All that matters is that you're here. I could never wish for anything more."
"You saw them?"
She knew what he meant and her stomach twisted. "I did." Her memory rekindled the image of the clones floating in their vats - waiting for birth.
"I…I killed them."
"Listen, Galen. Listen to me. You did what you had to. You were forced into fighting them. If anyone is to blame, it's Vader. Not you."
"Will everyone see it that way?"
She fell silent.
"Kota wants me involved with the Rebellion, but what about the Senators? I've deceived them once before, remember? What if they think that my return was planned? A way to lure them into another trap?"
"Why not? I would."
She opened her mouth to argue the point, but could not find the words to do so. "Kota has made the suggestion that you keep a low profile for the time being. Until he comes up with a way to explain the situation, I suppose. Or to ensure that they won't…"
"Overreact?" Galen filled in.
She turned her gaze back on him. "Are you okay with that?"
He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. "I'm fine with it, but when has anything I have ever done been 'low profile'?" He wasn't being conceited. It was simply a statement of fact. After all, with enemies like his and with a past as complicated as his, it was hardly surprising that he tended to attract a lot of trouble. Not to mention the strength of the Force at his beck and call. "Besides, I've already been seen. It won't be long before word gets out."
"Kota's men will hold their tongues. He's assured me of that. Some of the others might not. Hopefully rumors won't spread rapidly enough to reach the Rebel Leaders. Or not for a while, at least." She paused and gave him a worried look. "Galen…if you don't want to be involved in this, I'd understand."
"I didn't risk everything to save you only to walk away now, Juno. So long as you are involved in this, I will be, too. I'm not leaving you again." He probably didn't mean for that to sound romantic, but it most certainly was. Her heart fluttered.
"I was sceptical at first, too." She admitted. "When you were gone, I joined the Rebels because…I didn't know where else to go and I didn't want your sacrifice to…be forgotten. It's been hard and infuriating at times, but I don't regret it. Sometimes I felt like all we did was talk. Talk and no action. A thousand times I must have wished that you were there to give them the push they needed to get going." She smiled, reaching up to tie back her hair with some difficulty, due to her wounded shoulder. Strands - too short to be held back - fell back across her forehead and into her eyes. "Kota…he was so impatient with them and their 'softly, softly' approach and I can understand why. I helped him on missions without..." She lowered her voice, though needlessly. "Without the knowledge of the Senators. When he realized you were alive he must have…" She laughed. "Well, let's just say that you two are more alike than you think."
Galen snorted; amused.
The silence returned and Juno wallowed in it for a time. She wanted to tell him how much she loved him. How incredibly happy she was to have him back at her side. But, as silly as it sounded, the words muddled into a confused mess in her head.
She felt his fingers tighten around hers – as if sensing her distress – and she threw him a shaky smile.
"I'm not going anywhere." Whether he was simply following up from their last conversation or was making a guess at what she had been thinking, it was the perfect thing to say.
"Once I've met with Princess Leia, I'm sure we'll have time to catch up properly." She hoped so, at least. After all, she was still suffering from an injury and Galen had done more than his fair share for the Rebels. They deserved a little time off to recuperate. A little time alone with no one interrupting.
"I wouldn't hold your breath." Galen replied. "I'm sure they'll come up with another crisis for us to fix for them. Or you, since I'll be keeping out of sight for now."
He sounded almost bitter and Juno could not help but wonder whether he had any care for the Rebellion at all. She had heard him tell Kota that he would stay to help, but perhaps it was because he knew she would want him to. Did he feel trapped? Did he feel used?
That was just another thing to add to the steadily growing list of things they needed to talk about.
PROXY took that moment to step into the cockpit, greeting his fellows in his normal, cheerful mannerism. The glare of his photoreceptors seemed unusually bright, perhaps because the rest of him seemed so dull and battered despite recent repair work. The servomotors in his legs creaked unhappily as he moved over to his usual post. The poor holodroid had certainly been through a lot in his lifetime. In fact, it was amazing he was here at all.
"Looks like you're doing well with those repairs, PROXY." Juno observed; strangely glad for the droid's appearance.
PROXY tapped the armor plating across his chest. "I am, Captain. The parts I found on Kamino have been very useful. I'm certain I will be back in full working order in no time at all."
Galen's features tightened. "At least some good came of that place." He stood. "How long is it until we exit hyperspace?"
Juno's eyes flickered with unspoken concern. "Approximately three hours. Why?"
"I'm going to get some rest."
"That's probably a good idea."
"And stop worrying. I'm fine."
"I'm not worrying." Juno replied, perhaps a little too quickly.
"Yes you are." He threw her a tired smile and stepped out through the door.
A moment later and Juno sighed deeply. "I am worried about him, PROXY."
"I know, Captain." The holodroid replied, but without much sympathy. "Master does not appear to be the same."
"None of us are the same." Juno pointed out.
"That is true. Although I think Master is secretly happy that I'm not trying to kill him anymore."
"You're probably right." She replied, rolling her eyes.
The droid set a cold, metallic hand on her shoulder; mimicking a gesture of comfort he had seen a number of times since serving with the Alliance.
"The sleep will do him good." She murmured. However, she wasn't certain that he would find much rest knowing this his old master waited in the room only a few steps away.
He paused and waited for his eyes to adjust to the thick darkness that consumed much of the chamber. The distant echo of his footsteps had given him a rough idea of the vast expanse of the room he had entered and little by little, it was revealed to him. Up above, through gaps in the stone, fingers of indigo light reached down, imprinting the ground with a dozen irregular shapes.
He took another step and small lights set into the stone floor flickered into being, revealing a huge stone staircase that loomed up into shadow. The stairs were covered with dust; cracked and crumbled and scattered with the bones of tiny creatures. They had probably once been grand and awe-inspiring.
Now, they were just eerie.
Drawing in a breath, the one who had once been known as Starkiller, began to ascend.
His soft-soled boots made barely a sound on the rock; avoiding stepping on bones and loose slabs to keep his presence unknown. He had not had to practice the stealth skills from his 'childhood' for a while, but found them surprisingly easy to slip back into. Even he could not hear the sound of his feet, nor the breath in his lungs.
Which was why he almost cried out loud when a pale face loomed out of the darkness at him. The old, withered visage with bulging, whitened eyes looked ghoulish; the mouth twisting as if in pain.
"Go back, boy."
It was Kota.
Galen felt irritation swell in him and, without a word, stepped around the old man and continued. He was certain that the old Jedi would follow, but when he turned to check, there was no one there.
His imagination, then?
Shaking his head, he turned back and almost walked straight into the Jedi. With a strangled yelp, he staggered back; hand touching the saber at his hip.
"Go back before it's too late!"
"Why? What's up there?" Galen hissed.
"Something that can be used against you. Something that could bring about your destruction."
"What? Vader? The Emperor?" He was unconvinced.
"Go back." Kota stressed.
Again Galen stepped around him and this time the Jedi did not reappear. Satisfied, he continued onwards, ascending the steps with careful precision.
And, after a few moments - without warning - the darkness leeched away, revealing the rest of the huge stone chamber to him. He turned to look down the stone steps and saw how far he had come. Looking back, he could now see the outline of two fierce statues that guarded the staircase's end. The curve of their arched spines and the furrows across their feline maws was distinctly feral. Now, all that lay between Galen and the top of the climb were eight more steps. Gritting his teeth, he bounded up the rest of the way, coming to a sudden but grinding halt.
No more than ten paces away stood a woman. Her head was bowed, a sweep of blonde hair concealing her face from view. She sagged forwards weakly, wrists bound with heavy manacles that seemed to be pulling her off balance. He knew instantly who it was.
He called her name and she looked up, strangely dazed. Her eyes wavered for just a moment and then focused in on him. Oddly, despite her situation, she smiled and made to take a step towards him. Automatically, he stretched out an arm to her. She was painfully beautiful; her face porcelain under the cool touch of light. Warmth suffused his chest, filling him with a light that only she could instil in him.
That was when he was hit from behind.
He fell flat on his face, stunned by the blast of pain spearing through the back of his head. His attacker, however, seemed unwilling to stick around and tried to dash around him; perhaps to reach Juno. With quick reflexes he grabbed his adversary by the ankle and dragged him to the ground. The attacker twisted, entangling himself in the heavy cloak he wore and Galen took advantage, trapping him securely in place.
"Attacking me will be the last mistake you'll ever make." He found his feet, grabbed his attacker by the shoulder and dragged him up off of the floor. The man's head rocked back and the hood came away, revealing the face of the one who had seen fit to strike.
Galen's heart clenched in fear and confusion.
The face staring back at him was his. A clone? But hadn't they all been killed?
The clone smiled silently back.
"You should all be dead!"
"So should you." Came the reply. "After all…you are no different from me. From…us. Why should you have Juno's love? Why not me? We're one and the same. It will make no difference to her which one of us is at her side."
"No!" Without thinking, a saber flared in Galen's hand.
The clone erupted into laughter that turned into a gurgle of pain as the blade drove deep into his chest. But, even during his dying breaths, the clone smiled on.
Behind Galen came the hissing sounds of many lightsabers flaring into life. He turned on his heel, lifting his weapon instinctively to defend himself.
Hurtling up the stairs after him came others. Many others. Twenty? Thirty? More still piled in through the entranceway, streaming up towards him. His free hand sought his second lightsaber; the band of blue quick to join its twin.
He fought with all the strength he had; sabers spinning and slashing to keep his 'brothers' at bay. The clash and buzz of the weapons was ear-shattering in its intensity and the heat of the weapons rippled across his arms as he met each clone head on. A couple of times a well-placed blast of Force power sent a dozen or more sprawling down the stairs.
He was aware, distantly, of a searing pain across the back of his leg and along his ribs. The breath in his lungs burned, sweat running down into his eyes. He blinked fiercely, staggering sideways and was almost sent plunging to his death over the edge of the stone platform. Regaining his footing just in time, he dodged an attack from another clone and sent him hurtling over instead.
During that time, another of his clones had already reached Juno and was insistently tugging at the manacles at her wrists, pausing to use the Force to aid in the task.
With a flare of anger, Galen charged towards him, drawing forwards both sabers in an attempt to cut his adversary into pieces.
He would sooner die than see another clone take his place.
The clone abandoned his 'rescue attempt' to meet Galen's blades and they engaged in a fierce duel, the flurry of their sabers sending wild shadows whipping across the walls. Galen felt the flow of the Force move through him, crackling into feral lightning that rippled across the stone floor and clawed its way up the other clone's legs. His enemy's back arched in pain, sabers lowered in that moment of weakness.
Galen pounced on the opening and severed the clone from life, spraying blood across the floor to mingle with the dust.
He turned, blinking through the grime, to see only a sparse number remaining. Many had fought among themselves, writhing in agony where they had fallen. The sight of it was truly horrific, but what could he do? He couldn't stop now and risk them taking Juno. He stepped towards them menacingly; the pain in his leg increasing and almost giving way beneath him. If they were the clones of anyone else, Galen expected that they would have seen the silent threat in his eyes and chosen that moment to flee. But they were not just any clones. They were Starkiller's. They settled into defensive postures; expressions grim and resolute.
"You cannot win this." Galen warned, though the attempt was futile.
The last confrontation was inevitable. They moved towards him as one, intending to pool together their strength to defeat their strongest. Once Galen was dealt with, no doubt, they would turn upon one another until only one was left standing.
Blocking out the pain, Galen lifted his blades to parry their attacks; freeing one hand to shoot a bolt of lightning to slow their progress. He killed the first clone almost by accident, severing the head from his body. The unexpectedness of it filled him with horrified disgust, but there was no time to dwell on it. There were still others and one of them had seen fit to unleash a blast of Sith lightning. He felt the heat of it singe the hair on the back of his neck as he rolled to avoid it. A second later and he found his feet, spun his sabers to push back any attacks and felt the slash-burn of a saber wound across his back. With a cry of pain, he attempted to turn, trying to defend himself from a second – and possibly fatal – attack. However, the motion was too quick and he lost his footing, falling heavily to the ground.
Two of the other clones chose that moment to turn on one another and Galen watched them in a dazed stupor as they dueled. The elegant but deadly poise of their motion on the worn stone beneath their feet was strangely hypnotic.
He sensed the other clone lunge for him and twisted at the last moment to avoid an untimely death. The blade drove into his shoulder instead, and the pain almost had him slipping into unconsciousness. Galen battled against it, slashing out wildly with the weapon in his free hand. The frantic attempts at staying alive were met with success. He managed a lucky hit across the front of his adversary's knees and, with a cry of victory, cut the legs out from under him.
Gathering his feet he turned to find one last clone remaining.
Bodies littered the ground around them. Most dead, others fading fast. The stone beneath their feet was slick with blood and Galen almost slipped as he moved forwards to meet with the final clone.
Their blades met with a tremendous crackle of energy but it only took a few attacks for Galen to realize that his opponent had been injured in a previous brawl. Biting back his own pain, he forced his way through it, desperate not to slow down or leave an opening that might be manipulated. Shifting his weight to the right, he span, rotating the blades with devastating accuracy. His opponent's lunges were weakened and growing weaker by the moment. Looking down he saw a trickle of blood pooling at his adversary's feet. A few moments more and the final clone slumped to the ground, eyes glazed with the look of the dead.
Panting, Galen tried to straighten. The pain was unbelievable but he had done it. He had fought and won against all odds. He was deserving of life. He was deserving of love.
A hand came down on his shoulder and the saber in his hand whined through the air as he turned. It made connection with surprising ease, tearing through cloth and flesh and drawing blood that splashed hotly against his hand.
The eyes that met his were not dark and angry. They were blue and hazed with shock and pain. His heart wrenched with revulsion and the saber in his hand extinguished, falling from his trembling fingers at the realization of what he had just done.
The blue eyes rolled up in their sockets and she collapsed into his arms, her blood soaking into his clothes. Her body's shaking subsided, her half-uttered croak fading into nothing.
She was dead. Juno was dead. And by his hand.
A howl of agony tore from him as he held her close, rocking her even as the warmth began to fade from her skin.
What had he done?
What had he DONE?
Hot, searing anger flared within him and in the darkness he heard an echo of distant, unmistakeable laughter.
To be continued...