Chapter 1: Starlight
“Five hundred for the lot.”
“Don’t insult me. Twenty thousand, no less, and an extra five hundred for delivery.”
The other man stared at Methos, his complexion actually turning red and splotchy at the rebuttal.
“Twenty thousand?! I could buy a ship for that! That’s bald-faced thievery, you…” he sputtered, half-choking in disbelief.
“These are starlights, my friend, not those pretty little blue things that grow on the palace lawn,” Methos explained with exaggerated patience. “Your employer has good taste, but you obviously don’t know your flowers very well. It’s either that, or you think I’m a complete idiot. Starlights are hard to grow, difficult to transport, and insane to export. Good luck finding another source.”
Methos would have felt a little bit of sympathy for the man, but the fellow behaved as if he actually were a member of the noble house he merely worked for, as if that somehow gave him permission to treat vendors like dirt in any event. It wasn’t as if Methos were lying about the starlights, anyway -- and the florid expression on the other man’s face definitely outweighed the loss of a potentially valuable sale. He’d survive.
“See! See!” a child’s voice called, her energy and excitement cutting right through the gentle clamor of the market. Glancing away from his irate would-be customer, Methos saw a little girl, absolutely tiny, pointing wildly towards his display and dashing around the legs of the milling crowd to get to it. Starlights, in all their bioluminescent glory -- just the sort of thing to catch the eyes of both the nobility and small children. Hopefully, her parents had enough money to afford at least one bloom, because this little girl stared enraptured. “See!”
Then Methos felt something brush against his mind and realized that she wasn’t entranced by flowers at all.
“We’re all objects. Bright and shiny, dull and battered. But we’re all here, inside, outside,” said the woman -- barely more than a girl, really -- as she spun gracefully away from him. “You’re good at hiding, but sometimes you forget. Or lie.”
“Is that so?” he grinned fiercely. She was good, this one, her footwork absolutely enchanting.
“I see so much. I don’t always comprehend.” Her dark, childlike eyes grabbed him in their hypnotic spell momentarily until he wrenched himself free. “You’re the sea, full of currents and secrets. Life and death and depth and eternity. The calm and the storm.”
“Very poetic.” He resisted any urge to glare as she pirouetted away from him again. Her footwork really was a thing of beauty. Had she been trained as a dancer before she came to this life they shared? As he raised his weapon once more, he was almost disappointed he would have to kill her. “So, if I’m the sea, what does that make you?”
Unlike that mysterious, remarkable woman all those years ago, shattered but still shining, this little toddler twinkled like the stars in the night sky, faint but clear through the Force. Utterly untrained and unskilled, reaching out instinctively to the first person she met with any Force sensitivity to respond to hers. Glimmering starlight she may be -- were she to be trained, however, she would be brilliant as the sun shining above them now.
Methos knew innumerable curses in countless languages living and dead, but none of them adequately expressed his feelings at this particular moment. He slammed his shields down, locking them tight.
The girl’s rapt expression changed to childish befuddlement as he vanished from her nascent senses.
“Dear heart, what have you found? Starlights?” The owner of a new voice scooped the child up into his arms, and Methos found himself wishing even more curses on his luck this day, for the person in question was none other than Bail Organa, Viceroy and Senator of Alderaan. Organa’s eyes passed over Methos without apparent recognition, fortunately. There was no reason for the senator to connect a random floral merchant with a Jedi Master he’d met a few times years before, especially with the Jedi being far more dead than not these days. But the Organas, and Bail particularly, were both perceptive and possessed long memories.
“Could I interest you in purchasing some of these rare and beautiful specimens, sir?” Methos asked diffidently. Distract the man with the pretty flowers, and hopefully he ignores the unremarkable man who sells them. Though the senator seemed far more interested in his little girl than the flower vendor in front of him, anyhow. That the Princess of Alderaan was adopted was no secret, but how had Bail and Breha come to raise a child with such potential in the Force? Coincidence ? Did they even know that she was Force-sensitive? The girl, oblivious to his rapidfire mental assessment, made an adorable, squinty-eyed face at Methos.
Methos doubled down on his shields. Any more and he’d cut himself off from the Force completely, which would be… very unfortunate for him. Organa’s daughter had placed them all in terrible danger, and neither of them apparently possessed any inkling.
“Could you deliver them?” Organa asked, his dark eyes sparkling with all the joy of a father looking to please his young daughter.
“Of course, sir. It would be my pleasure. And please, take one for the charming young lady here.” Methos held out one of the bioluminescent blossoms.
“Gently now, Leia,” the senator coaxed.
The little girl’s face bloomed into a smile as she apparently noticed the starlights for the first time. She reached out and grabbed the very expensive flower with what delicacy a young child could manage. At least she was no longer staring at Methos.
In the corner of his eye, Methos could see his former would-be customer gaping. Methos ignored him.
“My assistant here will work out payment and delivery details.” Organa smiled with all the pride and joy of any father Methos had known over his very long life. “Tiro?”
Methos’s eyes slid from Organa to the man a few feet behind him. This time, Methos could not help but wince internally. ‘Tiro.’ Short for Ami-Seupai Tirohia. The man formerly known as Sergeant Slick of the Grand Army of the Republic, traitor and murderer of his brothers. Whom Methos had stolen out of a cell and planted to serve as spy and bodyguard to the Organas after Christophsis. And with whom he hadn’t communicated since Order 66 brought the death of the Jedi Order and the end of the Republic.
“Of course, sir. I’ll take care of everything,” Slick said in that smooth, cultured Coruscanti accent Methos had drummed into him. And there was no mistaking that glint in the clone’s eye: he knew exactly who Methos was.
This was going to be a fun conversation.
Slick might not look or sound like any of his cloned brothers anymore (Methos would deny the sudden pang he felt in his heart for Sever and the others from the Century), but the Immortal didn’t need the Force to sense the same disapproval and annoyance as when they thought he was doing something stupid.
“If you’re looking for an apology, you’re probably going to die of old age first,” Methos said archly.
“The last I heard from you was the order to lay low until further notice. Next thing I know, the War’s over, the Republic’s become the Empire, and all the Jedi are dead. Traitors and dead, I might add.”
At no point in their “relationship” had Methos ever identified himself as a Jedi to Slick, though he was hardly surprised that the ex-sergeant made the connection. Discretion being the better part of valour, Methos also declined to point out the irony in Slick’s “traitor” remark.
“Your information saved lives. Your last transmission, particularly.”
“How many lives?” Slick asked bitterly. The information hadn’t come soon enough to save the Republic, or even the Jedi that he despised, and now so many more of his brothers knew the acrid taste of what it meant to betray everything.
“Enough.” The Century, at least. Methos refused to dwell on the past, however. And there was something else of more immediate worry to him. “I need to know about Organa’s daughter. Leia.”
Slick’s eyes widened, then narrowed suspiciously. Protectively.
“I don’t owe you anything anymore, so don’t beat around the bush. Why do you need to know about her? She’s just a little girl.”
“That little girl is Force-sensitive and I don’t want to see her end up dead or twisted into some tool of that creature who calls himself the Emperor.”
The former soldier stared blankly at Methos for a moment, clearly not expecting him to give such a straightforward answer so easily. Then his expression hardened.
“You are not taking her away,” Slick said flatly.
“Why would I take her away? To teach her the ways of the Force? Train her to be a Jedi?” Methos shook his head in annoyance. “Of course not. I just said that I don’t want to see her dead. She does, however, need protection. She reached out to me instinctively, with the Force. What happens if Bail takes her to the Senate one day and she tries that near, say, Palpatine’s right-hand monster or pet Jedi-hunters? The Inquisitors?”
Slick looked away. He knew the answer to that question.
“All I can tell you is that Leia was born on Empire Day, and that her birth mother is dead,” Slick said in a low voice, despite the fact that they were alone in a back room. That was clearly not all Slick knew , but Methos would have to force him to give up anything more on the subject. Amazing what a few years in service to a good man could do. The Jedi and the Republic may not have earned Slick’s loyalty, but the Organas had. “The Senator and the Queen had been looking to adopt a little girl, and she needed a home, a family. I know nothing of her biological father.”
Methos studied Slick for a long moment; the clone’s expression remained firmly mulish. Yes, the man had changed a lot since Methos had plucked him out of a cell. Or maybe not. Maybe he had simply found the thing worth fighting for, worth protecting, more important than his own life.
“I need to speak to Senator Organa.”
“That…” Slick raised a sardonic eyebrow. “...is gonna cost you.”
Chapter 2: For the Love of Family
In which Methos meets with Bail Organa, and they hammer out a plan.
Methos waited on the bench in the palace arboretum, trying not to wince at the painstakingly-potted bioluminescent plant sitting next to him. He hadn’t lied one bit about the expense and difficulty of starlights, and the loss of even a small, young one like this definitely hurt the bottom line of his current persona. A lot.
But he would sacrifice every starlight he owned if it meant protecting that little girl. Too many children had been lost already because of one man’s lust for power. For one moment, the sight of tiny corpses hewn by a lightsaber flashed through his mind before he forced himself back into the present. There were things more important than his safety and comfort. How many times had he learned and re-learned that lesson?
Those who knew him of old would never believe it of him. Well, most of them. He worked hard over the centuries to cultivate the appearance of cynicism and total self-preservation. Sometimes he managed to fool even himself.
“My daughter is utterly enraptured by your starlights.” The voice of Bail Organa cut sharply through his thoughts. “Tiro said you wished to see me.”
Methos stood, gesturing towards the delicate plant on the bench.
“A gift in honor of the young princess. I rather think she has a greater appreciation for its beauty than most, though I’m afraid that it requires special and particular care and tending.”
“That is a rare and valuable gift, indeed, especially for one of your means and position.”
“The way I see it, it’s a long-term investment. When the Royal Family of Alderaan is seen with my starlights, demand will skyrocket and I’ll be set for life.” Methos held up a hand and slowly reached into his pocket, pulling out a small device. Small, but insanely useful, as he held it up for Organa to see.
“You don’t trust my own anti-eavesdropping countermeasures?” the senator asked mildly as he sat down next to Methos on the bench.
“No,” Methos bluntly replied. “Especially with what I’m about to tell you.”
“It must be serious indeed for you to actually approach me,” Organa frowned. “Yes, Master Methos, I remember you. Particularly that time when you and Master Yoda informed the then-Chancellor about the existence your Century. I'm glad to see you still alive, though not surprised, I confess.”
“...Ah.” Methos had been wondering. That had been a fairly memorable incident, and he would treasure Palpatine’s expression for centuries. But there were more urgent matters at hand. “Your daughter is Force-sensitive.”
The senator’s face went pale, and he swallowed, closing his eyes briefly. But he did not appear shocked by the revelation. Curious.
“You sensed her in the market, didn’t you?” he asked softly, even though he clearly knew the answer to the question already.
“She reached out to me with the Force. Quite precociously, I might add. You can’t hide her here on Alderaan forever. This isn't exactly Jakku.”
“I know!” snapped Organa. Methos could feel the fear rolling off him. Not just fear, but terror. Yet also iron-willed determination holding it in check. “But I have no intention of either the Emperor or Vader turning my daughter into one of their acolytes. I thank you for risking your safety to give me this information, but I'm afraid I must as more of you. I know how much you cared for your men, and how much they cared for you. How much you were willing to sacrifice on their behalf, even in the face of an ungrateful Republic. And as much as you loved them, I love my daughter. Can you help her?”
Methos heaved a sigh. Damn him.
“I could hide her from the senses of others, if that’s what you mean, but you’re a prominent public figure, Senator, and people will notice if a flower vendor suddenly starts hanging around your young daughter. I don’t intend to give Palpatine any opportunity to find me out if it can be avoided, either. However... I do know of an alternative.”
“You sound hesitant. This is my daughter, Master Jedi. If you can help her--”
“I can train her own Force powers into forming shields on an unconscious level. This should hide her presence in the Force from even the most determined searcher. Think of it like layers of mist, mirrors, and masks. It’s extremely... uncomfortable at first.” Like chopping off a limb. Plucking out one’s eyeballs. The first time Methos had tried it, he ended up weak and nauseated and gasping for days. And forcing this on a child without her knowledge or understanding…
“Senator Organa… Bail… I could lie to you and tell you everything’s going to be alright. But I don’t know the future. I only get occasional glimpses of what might be, and even that’s subject to interpretation. But I don’t need the Force to tell me that if you do nothing, you are putting your daughter and most likely yourself and your wife and everyone around you in grave danger.”
“This thing you propose… it won’t harm her, will it?” Organa could not hide the pain he already felt at even asking the question.
“Not in the long term. And in the short term, it’ll channel her instinctive Force abilities in a manner that can’t be detected. And with her latent power… what is a very real danger can be turned into tangible protection.”
“And this will keep her safe from the Emperor and Vader and the Inquisitors?”
“Well, it won’t make her a killer sabacc player. That’ll be on you,” Methos warned him. “And if she ever tries to consciously use the Force, they will sense it if they’re near. My advice? Don’t tell her she’s Force-sensitive. That way, she won’t ever be tempted to experiment. She’s young enough to not remember any differently after a while.”
Senator Organa stared down at his hands for a long moment, doubtless contemplating his options. What there were of them.
“I must confer with Breha. This should not be, is not, a decision I make on my own,” he said finally. “I don’t know you very well, Master Methos, and my admiration for those in your former order does not mean I agree with everything they said or believed.”
That elicited a smile from Methos.
“Very sensible of you, Senator,” he agreed, his heart warming a bit. “Good intentions aside, the Order was full of foolishness on many levels. That said, don’t take too long to decide. I have to look out for myself, after all.”
In point of fact, Methos was already seriously considering abandoning his current identity altogether, liquidating his assets, and moving on. The Outer Rim was sounding more and more pleasant this time of year. Bail, for his part, stared off into the middle distance, his expression schooled into the time-honored unreadability of a professional politician.
“The starlight is a gift, by the way,” Methos said, gesturing to the forgotten flowering plant on the bench. “I can’t guarantee it will last in your garden, but I’m sure you will manage somehow.”
An insistent chime at his door woke Methos out of a sleep troubled by dreams that slipped away as soon as his eyes opened. A quick glance confirmed that it was far too early in the morning for visitors, so who--?
A familiar feeling of irritation tinged with the metallic taste of fear and urgency filled his senses as he reached out. Slick, and in the middle of the night. This was not good.
Methos threw on a dressing gown and opened the door to his small abode to reveal his former agent, dressed in nondescript civilian clothes.
“Your ride is waiting for you, sir,” the clone said in a flat Alderaanian accent.
No, definitely not good.
Chapter 3: A Midnight Visit
In which things go from bad to worse for Methos.
“Sorry that I’m not ready. I’ll be just a moment. You can come in and wait if you’d like,” he replied easily.
“That’s alright, sir, I’m fine out here.” The tension in Slick’s body was well-hidden, but Methos was too experienced to be deceived. And yet, Slick was loyal to Bail, more loyal than he’d ever been to Methos or anyone else, let alone the Empire. As for Organa himself… suffice to say, there was no trap here for Methos. Something else was driving him with such urgency.
Sensing time was of the essence, Methos didn’t bother to argue or question but threw on a set of clean clothes as quickly as he could before silently following his former asset out to the waiting speeder.
Awaiting for him on the rear seat was a package containing the identity documents of one Ran Batta of Chandrila, a doctor with a specialization in human pediatric medicine.
“An Inquisitor is on his way here to Alderaan as we speak,” Slick stated bluntly as he pulled the speeder away. “The Senator and the Queen both agree that your earlier recommendation regarding the Princess is the best course of action.”
“This Inquisitor’s timing is either very lucky or very unlucky,” noted Methos, slipping the ID into his pocket and allowing his voice to fall into Chandrilan accents.
“What’s lucky is that the Senator found out about it before the Inquisitor arrived.”
“No, what’s lucky is that he and his daughter ran into me yesterday. Of all the markets on all of Alderaan, they just happen to visit that one where I work? The day before an Inquisitor decides to pay a visit to the Planet of the Pacifists?”
“You’re a Jedi,” grunted Slick as he easily guided the speeder into a dangerously sharp turn. “Shouldn’t you think that’s just the ‘will of the Force’ or something?”
“Honestly, I have no idea one way or the other.” Methos chuckled to himself in black humor, shaking his head wryly. “I’ve been around for a long time now, and I’m still not convinced if there’s an actual guiding consciousness to the Force. If there is, either it’s a right bastard or the Jedi were completely clueless, because they’re pretty well dead now, despite all their preaching about following the will of the Force.”
Slick made no obvious reply, for which Methos was grateful. Because in spite of his cynical words, he didn’t trust such a coincidence bringing him together with the Organas. Again, his mind whispered traitorously.
The palace had changed since the last time Methos had been inside. Not surprising in such a span. How long had it been? Decades? A century or two? But he could still easily recognize the bones of the building he’d known so well once upon a time. Bail and Breha had brought their own personal touches, of course, but clung deeply to the traditions of their predecessors. Luxury without ostentation. History without decadence. Such was the Alderaanian way. Why break something if it worked? Just build on what you already had. If ever the galaxy hoped to restore a semblance of a peaceful representative rule, it would start here, on Alderaan.
But that was not Methos’s concern. Governments, both benevolent and tyrannical, came and went. Right now, he was here not for the sake of a dead Republic or the ideals of the equally-dead Jedi Order. He was here for the sake of the Organas themselves, and the little girl they brought into their family. He knew all too well the love he’d seen in Bail’s eyes as he held that child in his arms.
Was it too much to ask for a nice, quiet life where nothing ever happened, people left him alone, and no one needed his help? Apparently so, because here he was at the Organas’ palace in the middle of the night pretending to be a pediatrician from Chandrila.
Slick led him down unfamiliar familiar corridors. Methos did not need the Force to sense the man’s worry. So much was evident from the barely-concealed haste and tension in every step he took. Not that Slick had ever been very relaxed in the time Methos had known him, but he was usually better at channeling it into the appearance of dedication to his position as Bail Organa’s personal aide.
“Thank you for coming on such short notice, and at such a time,” Bail said softly as Methos entered the outer room of the royal family’s private suites. The Senator wore simple attire, doubtless thrown on quickly after rising in the middle of the night. “My wife and I believe it to be the will of the Force that we met when we did.”
Slick shot Methos a meaningful sidelong glance.
“Sir, by your leave,” he said to Bail.
“Yes, thank you, Tiro,” the senator replied. “Notify me if anything important arises.”
“Of course, sir.” Slick left, giving Methos one last look (this one of warning), before turning on his heel and leaving, shutting the door behind him.
Bail gestured for Methos to precede him into an inner room. When Leia grew older, she would get her own suite to better serve her needs and duties, but that was still some time in the future. If they all survived the following day, at any rate.
The little girl in question lay asleep in a rumpled pile of her bed clothes, untroubled by the dangers that closed in around her and her family. Methos smiled ever so slightly to see that the starlight blossom he’d gifted her earlier had found a home in a vase on the nightstand, casting a faint glow on Queen Breha who sat on the edge of the bed, gently stroking her daughter’s forehead. Like her husband, her state of dress reflected their sudden awakening, though she carried it as well as anything she would wear to a formal ball.
“Doctor Batta,” she acknowledged his alias with a slight twitch of her lips.
“Your Majesty.” Methos bowed his head shallowly.
“Does she need to be awake for your ministrations?” the queen asked softly, her fingers still caressing her daughter with infinite tenderness.
“No,” he replied, gingerly taking a seat facing her on the bed. The little girl next to them didn’t stir in her sleep. “You may both stay here if you wish, though there won’t be much for you to see. She will definitely need you close when she awakens. She’ll be scared and confused until she adjusts, and personal contact will help.”
“We understand. Do what you must to protect our daughter. Please. She’s more important to us than anything in this galaxy, including our own lives.” The queen fixed Methos with a profoundly meaningful look.
Well, then. Message received.
“Of course, Your Majesty. If you feel it necessary, summon a trusted Force-sensitive of your own to check my work. After the Inquisitor is gone, naturally. But I will not betray your trust. Just as you will not betray mine.”
He shared his own meaningful glance with Senator Organa. The larger man squared his shoulders proudly but did not respond other a slight crook of an eyebrow to acknowledge his understanding.
Methos took a deep, centering breath and gently lay one hand on the sleeping girl’s forehead and began his work. Even asleep, her mind brushed across his. This would not do. Firmly, yet with infinite gentleness, he wrapped himself around her thoughts. For a moment, something flashed through his mind.
A woman’s face. A sense of beauty, of great love and kindness, but so much sadness.
Whose face was that? Leia’s biological mother? Methos had thought the girl had been adopted within days of her birth. The vision was indistinct and unclear, more impression than actual image. Maybe she had unconsciously lifted it from someone else’s mind, perhaps Bail Organa’s. Methos doubted it to be a full-on Force-induced prophetic vision. Unless this beautiful, kind, but sad woman were some portent of doom. Giving himself a mental shake, he dismissed the woman and moved on.
He continued his work, molding the girl’s otherwise unformed and unhoned Force senses into the shape he desired, crafting unseen shields and invisible masks.
He hated doing this to a child, forcing her behind walls she couldn’t possibly understand. (He’d done far worse to children in the past, and he hated himself for that, too.) But he knew with perfect clarity and grim certainty that a far worse fate waited for her if he did nothing.
All innocence in this galaxy was drowned in blood. He could feel its red-black corrosive stickiness through the Force.
No, wait. That was the Inquisitor. Already on Alderaan.
And now that oozing, seething darkness surged in a moment of sadistic glee, because even as Methos sensed the Inquisitor, the Inquisitor sensed him.
Too soon, he snarled internally. He wasn’t finished! Rather than curse the universe, however, Methos made a snap decision. So many past versions of himself would gape in disbelief as he all but dropped his outer mental shields, his presence shining forth in the Force and completely obscuring the last hints of twinkling starlight.
“The Inquisitor landed early,” Methos grunted as he opened his eyes. He felt the sudden surge of fear from both Organas.
“You are certain of this?” Bail asked, though his tone clearly indicated that he already knew the answer.
“I can sense him. He’s already on his way to the palace,” replied Methos heavily, rolling his now-stiff shoulders. Leia shifted restlessly in her sleep even as Breha stroked her hair with a gentle hand.
“Go, then. Escape while you still can. You have already done more than we could ever ask of you,” the senator said. His dark eyes shone with gratitude.
“We will stall the Inquisitor as long as we can,” his wife agreed, quietly but with the determination and steel that would make proud any of the royal forebears.
Methos stood and stepped away from the bed, a careless smirk crossing his face.
“It’s a little bit late for that, I’m afraid. He already knows I’m here. And while I appreciate the offer, I think I’m better equipped to handle one of the Emperor’s pets than you are. And, as it so happens, I have a plan.”
Chapter 4: Once More Unto the Breach
In which Methos executes an admittedly terrible plan.
This is the stupidest plan I’ve ever come up with, bar none, Methos berated himself as he sat alone in the small sitting room. He had faith in the Organas to pull off their part if they followed his instructions carefully. But one thing was certain: this part would not be fun for Methos.
He could sense the Inquisitor clearly; the malevolence twisted and churned, mixing with a wild cacophony of surprise, confusion, curiosity, but above all a cruel ecstacy.
The door opened abruptly, admitting the dark-clad Inquisitor, holding Methos’s fake Chandrilan identification and followed by Bail and an utterly cold and expressionless Slick, now impeccably dressed in a manner befitting the right hand of Alderaan’s senator.
“This is him? This is the Jedi?” the Inquisitor demanded, his lips twisting upwards.
Methos stood and stared him right in the eyes.
“Thank the Force you’ve come, Padawan! Surely they’ll believe me if you back me up! I keep telling them that their daughter is Force-sensitive. Surely she must be taught the ways of the Jedi!” Methos declared fervently.
The Inquisitor didn’t quite gape in disbelief at the impassioned statement, but it was obviously a close call. Instead, he satisfied himself with a slight baring of his teeth.
“Is that so?” He turned his gaze upon Bail, who frowned mightily.
“I met this man in the market yesterday. He claimed then that my daughter was Force-sensitive. He then appeared here, at the palace, as you see him now, and again made the same claim. I was there on Coruscant when the Emperor declared the Jedi traitors. And I cannot abide traitors,” Organa stated with cool precision.
“Indeed,” the Inquisitor responded blandly. Methos could feel his probing touches. But every word Bail Organa said was true. And it would take more than that to get past Methos’s true inner shields.
“Just imagine,” Slick added in a fussy, horrified tone, “the idea that a Force-wielding lunatic could infiltrate the palace disguised as a pediatrician and attempt to kidnap an innocent little girl! The heir to the throne of Alderaan, no less!”
“Thank you, Tiro.” Bail didn’t exactly look reproving towards Slick, who in turn appeared entirely unrepentant and shot a hostile expression towards Methos.
“But she will save us all from the Sith! She must be trained as a Jedi!” Methos all but cried, his eyes wide with passion -- the perfect picture of a Jedi in the midst of a total mental breakdown. “We must take her to the others and keep her safe!”
And there it was. The sudden pause, the surge of triumph, so poorly concealed behind that all-too-transparent expression on the Inquisitor’s face.
“Others? You know where other Jedi are hiding?” the Inquisitor asked, oh-so-mildly.
“You didn’t think Order 66 got us all, did you, Padawan?” Methos added a slightly chiding tone to his voice. “We are the Jedi! We kept the peace for a thousand generations! The Sith cannot possibly destroy us all.”
“Indeed, the remaining Jedi have proven remarkably hard to track down, once most were… eliminated.” Now the Inquisitor was beginning to enjoy himself. “But I have been unable to locate any more lately. Perhaps you can lead me to them? And then we can convince the Senator and Queen together that their daughter must be trained.”
Methos blinked, wide-eyed, at the Inquisitor.
“You would do that for me? Do you have a ship?”
A wide gleam of sharp teeth, like a loth-cat playing with its prey.
“Of course. Come with me and I will show you where it is, Master. This way.”
The Inquisitor gestured for Methos to precede him out the door. Methos calmly reassessed his position. This might actually be fun after all. For all the cruelty and malice pouring forth from this Inquisitor, he just wasn’t nearly as smart as he thought he was. Or he was merely inexperienced. As long as Methos could keep up the pretense, he could lead him around by the nose, and probably come out of this mess with a free ship as a bonus.
Leia was now safely hidden behind the barriers he’d foisted on her mind, so long as she did not break them herself. As far as the Inquisitor could tell, she was just a normal, Force-less child, and Methos a Jedi broken by despair after so long on the run.
Still, it wouldn’t do to be caught with his britches down. Though even without a lightsaber (he didn’t even have on him at the moment, anyway), Methos doubted he would need the vibroblade concealed beneath his sleeve, or the ceramic knife in his boot, or the garrote in his belt to deal with this amateur in the application of evil. Hubris and overconfidence were follies of the weak. Methos survived by skill and preparation. There was no such thing as luck. He just needed to ensure that the Organas were completely in the clear.
He couldn’t kill the Inquisitor here on Alderaan. Once they were clear of this system, however...
Methos closed his eyes for a moment and shoved away that cold, calculating side of himself in the deepest crannies of his being, lest even the slightest hint peek through some unseen crack in his inner shields.
Just a mentally-shattered Jedi here, cheerfully leading a fellow Jedi to more of their fellow survivors.
“Your face is familiar to me,” the Inquisitor remarked. Methos sensed a measure of uncertainty about the statement, however. “Alas that so few of us remained at the Temple during those darkening days of the Clone Wars.”
“We were spread all across the galaxy,” Methos lamented. That one wasn’t even a lie. “But I couldn’t do any good out there. I was a mere librarian after all. Not a wise and charismatic leader like Master Kenobi or a powerful warrior like Knight Skywalker.”
Was the Inquisitor disappointed or intrigued? Or perhaps a mixture of both?
“Researcher, more specifically. I spent my days in the bowels of the Archives trying to discover why the future was so clouded from our sight. Rarely has darkness obscured the future from us so completely, so… cruelly.” Methos let out a sigh. He could practically feel the Inquisitor’s smirk behind him.
“Yes, the Dark Side has power the Jedi could never understand,” the Inquisitor agreed. “How did you escape the slaughter at the Temple?”
“There are hidden ways not marked on any blueprint or schematic. I don’t think anyone has ever fully mapped it, even in a thousand generations. Some of us made it out together with a number of artifacts, holocrons, and portions of the library database.”
A surge of greed, verging on lust. Methos knew exactly why, too: a huge amount of the Jedi archives had been purged, corrupted, or just plain lost in the aftermath of Order 66. He and the Century had made sure of that. As did Jocasta Nu, defiant to the last.
Millennia of knowledge and information, the largest database in the galaxy, and the Inquisitor just realized that it was practically within his grasp. Or so he thought.
“So, Master,” the Inquisitor asked with sadistic glee as they boarded his ship, an ostentatiously ominous-looking personal cruiser, “what course shall I set? Where can we find the other Jedi?”
“In the last place the Empire would look for Jedi. Mandalore, of course.”
The Inquisitor gaped for a moment before recovering.
“That’s…” He clearly wanted to say ‘insane,’ but figured that it probably wouldn’t be the most apropos thing to say to a person who clearly was insane.
“Brilliant, of course,” Methos filled in for him helpfully. “Who would look for Jedi on a planet filled by people who like to kill them just as much as the Sith? The closer we are to danger, you see, the farther we are from any harm!”
The ship hummed to life beneath them and the white buildings and snow-capped peaks of Aldera fell away and quickly shrank to nothing. Methos would miss this world, he mused. His latest stint on Alderaan had been a peaceful respite, all things considered. The stars stretched and blurred as the personal cruiser jumped away, leaving the blue-green planet behind.
“Who is waiting for us on Mandalore?” The Inquisitor just couldn’t help himself, it seemed. “Master Yoda? Master Kenobi?”
“If only it were so. I have not heard from either of them or any other members of the Council since that day. I fear they perished with the others. I’m just glad to have finally found someone else, after all this time. So few of us remain! They told me I was mad to think that the Alderaanian princess was special. You saw her, the same as I did! Why else would you be there?”
“Why else, indeed?” Methos sensed a twinge of frustration; the Inquisitor clearly wished to steer the conversation back to more useful information. “I am eager to meet the remaining Jedi. Surely the two of us together would make a powerful argument to sway them.”
“No doubt, my friend, no doubt!”
The Inquisitor checked his instruments, frowning slightly over the readout.
“We need to stop to refuel on the way to Mandalore,” he said finally. “We have sufficient fuel for the journey, but I do not trust the Mandalorians not to cause trouble when we land.”
“A wise precaution. Gar Saxon pledged himself to the Empire and plans to open an Imperial Academy there, or so I hear.”
“As with all Mandalorians, Gar Saxon’s only loyalty is to himself,” dismissively sneered the Inquisitor. “He only serves the Empire so he can rule over that wretched world. Without strong leadership, all of Mandalore would fall into chaos, but Saxon is a fool who thinks he can use the Empire for his own ends.”
Methos resisted the temptation to react to the Inquisitor’s slip in character and instead kept his mind on the unexpected detour. The Inquisitor’s chosen refueling destination turned out to be a facility operated by the Mining Guild, helpfully enough almost directly on their course from Alderaan to Mandalore, and fairly close to their destination, which was convenient as far as the Inquisitor was concerned. Methos could easily imagine his plan to intimidate the fuel out of the miners.
“Allow me to handle the Mining Guild,” the Inquisitor said smoothly as they made their approach. “I will… negotiate a fair price with them.”
“They’re greedy fools at the best of times, but I’m sure that you’ll get all the fuel we need,” Methos agreed sagely.
“Remain on the ship and rest while you can. There is a bed in the sleeping cabin.” Yes, remain on the ship so the Inquisitor could threaten the miners with the wrath of the Empire (or maybe simply the Force) if they didn’t cough up the fuel immediately.
Methos simply nodded his agreement. Were he as he pretended to be, he’d almost certainly be drawing on the Force to stave off physical exhaustion at this point. He wasn’t overly concerned about the safety of the miners; the Inquisitor was unlikely to kill any of them at the moment, after all. Nor was the Inquisitor about to kill him, either, not when he still needed Methos to lead him to any other Jedi and the holocrons.
And, truth be told, the work with Leia had made its presence felt. He really was tired, and the effort of maintaining the facade before the Inquisitor (both in the physical world and in the Force) drained him further.
In any event, the more rested he was and the less rested the Inquisitor by the end of their journey, the easier this would be.
Of course, he didn’t actually trust a person who ran on anger, hate, and torturing small animals when he couldn’t get his hands on sentient beings. As Methos entered the mostly-unfurnished sleeping cabin, he locked the door behind him. It wouldn’t stop the Inquisitor by any means, but even a simple lock would slow him down momentarily.
Methos sat down cross-legged on the bed and settled into meditation. His breathing slowed and his mind quieted as he let himself drift along on the vast ocean that was both inside him and surrounding him.
The sky turned to night, a sea of stars above him mirrored on the sea of water around him. Whispers of distant voices came to him, as if they were the wind itself.
At last we will have revenge.
If one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic narrow view of the Jedi.
Always two there are.
You can not imagine the depths I would go to to STAY ALIVE...
And… we shall have… peace.
I HATE YOU!
Methos jolted suddenly out of his meditation, disoriented and confused and all but retching. The past, those whispers were the past. He steadied his breathing. There was something wrong now.
Gathering himself, he swiftly exited the cabin and returned to the cockpit. There was no sign of the Inquisitor. He must still be in the mining facility. So what was the Force--
A sudden blast shattered the cliff face to the right, sending countless shards of rock off in all directions.
Unpowered, the ship relied on the deflectors of the facility to protect it from space debris. And the ship’s own high-quality armor could protect it even unshielded. But the debris was already inside the station’s deflector field, which was not designed to block blasts from ship-mounted cannons.
The moment crawled by in Methos’s mind as the scattered rock struck and scraped past the cockpit window. The transparisteel held, as it should.
Unfortunately, in order to cut costs, the ship’s manufacturer secretly skimped on the materials securing the transparisteel to the rest of the ship. The multiple changes of temperature and pressure from entering and leaving atmospheres had taken their toll, and the whole window tore free from the hull. All the atmosphere in the cockpit rushed to vainly attempt to fill the vast vacuum of space.
Methos was tossed like a rag doll right along with it. Which turned out to be a good thing, because the very next blast destroyed the unpowered, unprotected ship he’d been sitting in moments before.
Poets and holo-drama writers loved to think of space as cold. But it wasn’t. Even as Methos watched in dazed amazement at the countless silent stars around him, he wasn’t cold. Cold required substance, matter. Temperature was the vibration of molecules. Space, by definition, was nothing. Suffocation and radiation exposure would kill him long before the supposed cold would.
Reaching out with the Force, he arrested his momentum and expelled as much oxygen as he could out of his lungs in order to temporarily stave off the inevitable internal ruptures from embolisms. He stumbled but forced himself upright against the station’s artificial gravity field. He was on a ledge. There was another airlock nearby, one where cargo vessels would dock to load up. But it was so far… away…
All thoughts of Leia, of the Inquisitor, of whoever destroyed the ship, of anything else fled his mind. One foot in front of the other. Run. Don’t stop, even as he struggled against sudden vertigo as his brain screamed for oxygen.
Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.
Time meant nothing now.
Step. Step. Step. Step.
There was the airlock.
Step. Step. Step.
A couple more steps.
Now completely blind, he reached out with the Force to locate the panel, and pressed the button.
He fell more than stumbled into the airlock. The door closed behind him. What was he doing again?
And Methos died.
Chapter 5: From a Certain Point of View
In which the Inquisitor is mightily inconvenienced.
Not far away, in the bowels of the Mining Guild facility, the Inquisitor suppressed a howl of fury as he felt the presence of his prize vanish from the Force. The Jedi was dead.
“Who is attacking?!” he demanded of the facility coordinator, a sniveling Twi’lek who had only moments earlier been attempting to slither out of handing over the fuel for the ship - a moot point now, given the sudden destruction of said ship.
“Pirates!” the Twi’lek squealed. “It has to be those pirates that have been raiding our shipping convoys! They’ve been growing bolder, and but we never thought they’d bother with an operation as small and insignificant as ours! But they won’t attack the facility itself and risk destroying the fuel they’ve come for!”
Suddenly, the everything shook violently, the harsh artificial lights flickering.
“Apparently, these pirates are less intelligent than you thought,” the Inquisitor sneered acidically.
“I don’t understand! It makes no sense!” protested the pathetic creature as he cowered in a corner and all but clutching at his lekku in fear. The facility rocked again with another strike. “The shield, raise the shield!”
One of the underlings stumbled to a control panel and hastily pressed a few buttons. Immediately, the rocking of weapons fire ceased as a powerful shield sprang into being.
“A shield does little good if there are no weapons to fight them off, you fool,” pointed out the Inquisitor. Why couldn’t they have raised the shield before the pirate scum destroyed his ship?! “Why does this facility have a shield but no weapons?!”
“We- we bartered for the shield from a passing merchant! The weapons contractor is supposed to make their way here eventually! Other Mining Guild operations took precedence. We’re a small and in-”
“Yes, a small and insignificant operation. You said that already.” Trapped, like a rat in a cage. All the rage and the power of the Dark Side at his disposal, and the pirate ship sat far out of reach. How dare they threaten an Imperial Inquisitor?! If he could get on board their ship, he would vivisect every last one of them and rip any secrets from their minds as they died.
Maybe he could get on board their ship. Anything was better than sitting around doing nothing waiting for the shield to fail.
“I did manage to get off at least a partial distress call before they started jamming us,” growled the underling, a heavily-built female Iridonian Zabrak. “With luck, someone out there heard us.”
“Only fools rely on luck,” the Inquisitor retorted harshly. “This is a mining facility, is it not? I assume even this one has suits and rocket packs for exploratory operations.”
“You want to fly yourself to their ship? That’s insane! They’ll see you and kill you in moments!” wailed the Twi’lek. If time were of no concern, the Inquisitor would spend a few choice hours carving out his vocal chords, just to enjoy the screams followed by blissful silence.
“He may not have to do anything,” countered the Zabrak, baring her teeth in fierce glee. “Look who just showed up!”
She stepped aside from her holo to allow the Inquisitor to see a second, larger ship looming very close to the pirates - through either great skill or sheer chance, they had emerged from hyperspace nearly close enough to reach out and touch the smaller vessel.
He discarded the latter in favor of the former when he saw a half dozen humanoid forms almost instantly shoot off from the new ship to bridge the gap, making their way to the pirate ship’s airlock with incredible precision. Even with the less-than-impressive quality of the holo, it was obvious that these new players were Mandalorians.
“Serves them right for pirating so close to Mando space!” the Zabrak crowed.
Predictably, the ship ceased fire on the facility almost instantly. It made an abortive move to flee from the larger Mandalorian vessel but that ended almost as quickly as it began, whether from a tractor beam or from the boarding party seizing control.
“Mining Guild operation, the vessel attacking you has been taken by warriors of the Mandalorian ship Par’jila!” came a transmission over the coms. “The Mining Guild has an open bounty on pirates attacking their facilities and convoys. We will claim the bounty on this ship in the form of fuel. We will dock our prize vessel to collect. Or we can let these individuals be on their way and we can take it up with your superiors at the Mining Guild, who would be happy to know which of their subordinates attempted to ruin their reputation among all bounty hunters in the Outer Rim.”
Oh, how convenient. These Mandalorians were providing him with a new ship. They just didn’t know it yet.
Let them take the fuel. He didn’t need it anymore.
Leaving behind the pathetic worm of a facility coordinator in the control room to await his payment-expecting saviors, the Inquisitor took a rather circuitous route to the other, undamaged docking port, giving the Mandalorians plenty of time to disembark. It wasn’t that he would feel guilty about killing them all, but he still held out some hope of tracking down the hiding Jedi on Mandalore. Slaughtering his way through entire Mandalorian crew, however enjoyable, would hardly engender any sort of cooperation from their government in his hunt, despite the fractious nature of the people as a whole.
After all, Mandalorians couldn’t get along with each other, but they would almost always set aside their differences when it came to an outside foe.
Two Mandalorian warriors stood guard at the airlock when he arrived. How unfortunate... for them. It was not ideal, but he was an Inquisitor for a reason.
“You will stand aside and allow me to board. I am an Imperial Inquisitor and I’m taking command of this ship in the name of the Empire,” he ordered the pair, putting the weight of the Force behind his order.
Neither one budged. If anything, the Inquisitor felt a sudden surge of overwhelming anger from the taller one of the pair.
“Like kriffing hells,” the man growled with unexpected fury, beginning to raise his gun.
That made the Inquisitor's choices simple and easy from here as he abruptly impaled the Madalorian through the abdomen with one blade of his crimson lightsaber. The man’s compatriot, he simply threw aside, slamming him into a bulkhead with considerable force.
“I am taking this ship, and there is nothing you can do to stop me,” the Inquisitor stated smoothly to the first Mandalorian, who somehow remained standing despite the lightsaber through his torso. The Inquisitor almost sniffed in disdain as he deactivated the saber. The warrior stood for several more seconds and then simply crumpled to the floor. The Inquisitor paid him no more heed and stepped through the airlock to the captured pirate ship. One dead Mandalorian was a minor inconvenience at worst.
Tracking his way to the bridge of the vessel (less of a bridge, more of a cockpit), he passed a number of corpses. An assortment of races typical of any group of grubby interstellar pirates. Not a single body was Mandalorian. In the cockpit, he discovered another corpse, the first and only human of the bunch and missing a fair chunk of the side of its head, likely from a blaster shot at very close range. Either a deliberate execution or else suicide. Hardly likely that a pirate would commit suicide when faced with capture, he mused absently. Most pirate scum would do anything to stay alive, including selling out their closest friends and kin.
Unfortunately, it would have to remain a mystery; he could not compel information from a corpse, and the bounty hunters had removed all the pirates' weapons. But if he ever found any accomplices to someone had dared to attack an Inquisitor, he would extract slow, sweet revenge. The death of that mad Jedi meant an immeasurable inconvenience for him (despite the man having helpfully walked right into his grasp), though the temptation of finding other hiding Jedi and their precious archives on Mandalore came as a powerful motivation to focus on his original goal and continue onward.
The pirates’ ship was large enough that operating it without a co-pilot would be a small challenge, but he was an Imperial Inquisitor.
Within moments, the vessel was free from the docking port and shot into hyperspace towards Mandalore.
The bounty hunters’ ship, either due to indecision, confusion, or stupidity, did not attempt to stop him.
Chapter 6: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
In which Methos awakens after his unplanned hiatus.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Methos inhaled deeply, his lungs filling with recycled air that smelled sweeter than the lycandis in the Walking Gardens, or the orchid vines of D’ian. His eyes snapped open and took in a small, nondescript medical bay cluttered by less-than-modern equipment between grim, unadorned bulkheads.
He could not feel the oozing, red-black sinister presence of the Inquisitor.
Unfortunately, he was not alone in the room. Fortunately, all the other occupants were completely distracted and did not notice that the former corpse had miraculously revived behind them. No small favor, that one.
“Haar’chak, cyar’ika!” A female voice, made tinny by a helmet com, cursing in Mando’a. At her significant other, apparently. “Forget the karking ship! Get back here now! Your brother’s not dead yet!”
“He’ll be dead in about about a minute if you don’t stand back and let me work, Mando!” A second voice, this one male and irritated. “I told you that humans aren’t my specialty!”
Staring through half-lidded eyes, Methos saw a cluster of people gathered around an active (and very much occupied) medical bed. Five fully-armed and armored Mandalorians, their faces unreadable and completely hidden behind their distinctive helmets; one aggravated Pantoran (presumably a doctor); and his patient, a sixth, unmoving Mando still wearing most of his armor aside from the chest piece.
“Keep him alive,” the female Mando snarled. “Our own physician is coming.”
The Pantoran snorted, but kept working.
“I’ve seen damage from mining accidents of all kinds, Captain, but not this before. It’s a miracle your man isn’t dead already. He’s got minutes at best before I estimate all brain function ceases.”
Methos’s mind raced. Had they been the ones to destroy the Inquisitor’s ship? Regardless, even he couldn’t expect to sneak past five antsy Mandalorians and hope they just didn’t notice him, and past them was the only way out. He could simply wait things out pretending to still be dead, and sneak off the station with the next ship.
On the other hand, perhaps helping the Mandos’ man would engender some goodwill. While not all Mandalorians abided by their traditional codes of honor, something prompted him to take the risk.
“Let me help. I’ve been a doctor for many years. I saw wounds of all kinds during the war,” he said abruptly. Unsurprisingly, he found five sets of weapons pointed in his direction. He held up his hands to show they were empty.
“What the ever-loving kriff?!” demanded the female Mando, clearly their leader.
Methos straightened proudly, swinging his legs off the bed, and said in clear Mando’a, “I am Atin Bralor of Clan Bralor, citizen of House Skirata. I swear on my honor and that of my clan that I will do my best to save your blood-brother.”
He couldn’t quite hear the sudden intake of breath, but he could sense it. After the barest moment of hesitation, the Mandalorian leader put her twin blasters back in their holsters, swiftly followed by the other four, who stepped aside to allow him access to his new patient.
Methos took that as permission, so he quickly moved over to make his assessment.
It was obvious to his eyes what had caused the brutal injury to the man’s abdomen: a single, precise strike with a lightsaber. The Inquisitor’s handiwork, no doubt. While the weapon had cauterized the wound even as it struck, some on the receiving end of a ‘saber injury died anyway, especially if struck in the chest or abdomen.
Unfortunately, the Pantoran doctor’s original opinion was accurate. The situation was dire, at best. Methos grabbed a surgical mask out of a nearby sterilizer and got to work.
The Pantoran, for his part, seemed more than willing to let Methos take the lead, much to the relief of Methos.
The moments ticked by. Even as Methos and the nameless Pantoran doctor worked to keep the Mando alive, Methos could feel him slipping away.
Oh, no you don’t, Methos thought ruthlessly. As his hands moved around the wound delicately, Methos reached out with the Force. To his eternal frustration, he had little to no natural talent with Force-healing, and all the study in the universe could only take a person so far. Not to mention the fact that he couldn’t spare the attention from what his hands were doing, and his patient would surely die if he split his focus any further. He could still feel the quiet thrum of the man’s essence, even unconscious and close to death as he was.
Minutes that felt like hours passed. The Pantoran’s hands disappeared, replaced by those of another, presumably the Mando’s own doctor. Methos barely noticed as they fell into a simple, comfortable rhythm, as if their synchronicity weren’t the only thing holding a man’s life.
Sweat beaded on his forehead, threatening to drip into his eyes and cloud his vision. But someone, it might have been the Mando captain herself, dabbed it away with a cloth.
Finally, it was done. Or rather, there was nothing left for them to do.
“You have a bacta tank on your ship?” he asked, all business.
The Mandalorian doctor opened his mouth behind his surgical mask, but the Mando captain beat him to the response.
“Of course,” she replied in almost a haughty tone behind the tinniness of her helm-com. “Never leave Concord Dawn without one. Thank you for saving the brother of my cyar’ika, but I’m fairly certain that the Empire or the Hutts will pay well for you. Or maybe Clan Bralor will reward us for gifting them with someone impersonating one of their own. The kriffing Inquisitor may have stolen our prize, but I’m sure you will more than make up for it.”
Well, that was gratitude for you. Curiously, the Mandalorians in the room felt completely relaxed through the Force, even as they raised their weapon towards him once more. A faint air of confusion swirled around the Mando physician momentarily before dissipating into comfortable amusement.
“Um… I had nothing to do with him…” The Pantoran half-gestured towards Methos nervously. Methos suppressed a sigh of annoyance.
“Thank you for keeping our man alive as long as you did. We have no love for the Mining Guild, especially for your facility coordinator trying to weasel out of paying us our bounty, but we are grateful to you,” the captain said briefly, her helmet shifting only slightly. “Let’s go.”
At least Methos’s day was now on the upswing.
Even as they made their way towards the airlock, the Mandalorian captain was giving orders to her crew to depart as soon as they boarded. It was almost surreal: they surrounded Methos and their man on the gurney with their weapons held menacingly, but Methos could tell easily without using the Force that they did not see him as a genuine threat. The Mando doctor had not even discarded his surgical mask, either, and his own helmet now rested at the feet of the injured man on the gurney.
Almost the moment the airlock sealed behind them on the Mando ship, Methos could feel the shift in vibration on the deck plates beneath him. Surprisingly - or perhaps not - no one seemed anxious to lock him up, and they all processed rapidly towards the ship’s medical facility. Though almost as small as that on the mining facility they just left, its amenities were clearly modern and definitely expensive, not to mention the nearly top-of-the-line bacta tank he spotted instantly.
“Let’s get him stripped and into the tank,” the Mandalorian doctor ordered crisply. In a very familiar voice. A pair of equally familiar dark brown-gold eyes, framed on the right by a crescent-shaped tattoo, locked onto Methos. “Don’t just stand there, di’kut, help out!”
Every weapon went back into holsters as their owners’ hands went to remove the rest of the injured man’s armor as gently as possible. With every patch of bronze skin exposed, Methos’s suspicion grew. Until, of course, off came the man’s concealing helmet. Strong features, arched eyebrows, and a faded but all-too-recognizable scar that stretched along the right cheek to disappear under slightly curling dark brown-black hair. A moment later, Gaffer was in the bacta tank, and the rest of the Mandos revealed their faces.
“Never thought to see you again, Boss,” Gimbal said, an ever-so-slight crack in his voice. “Thanks for saving my idiot brother. Again.”
“Took me a moment to recognize you there, Centurion,” the Mando captain remarked. With her helmet off, Methos now remembered her: one of Rao’s pilots, who had taken a shine to…
“Breaker. You’re still with him.” Breaker, Gimbal, and Gaffer. At least three of them had managed to stay together after everything. It was a good thing Methos wasn’t sentimental.
“He’s up flying the ship right now,” she grinned. What was her name again? Oh, yes. Xerno Fos.
“How the kriff did you end up at that mining station?” Methos asked in genuine curiosity. "Your timing was impressive, I have to say."
The three other Mandos - Methos didn’t immediately recognize them even without their helmets - realized that this was their cue to go and filed out of the room with a good deal more levity than they had upon entering.
“Got a message from a contact on Alderaan. ‘Arrest of the Century.’ Figured it was worth following up,” explained Gimbal.
A contact? Only one person (maybe two) on Alderaan could know that headline would be meaningful to this particular Mandalorian crew. Methos hid a smile. Those starlights were paying dividends.
“Didn’t get far before we caught the distress call. Kriffing Crimson Dawn are popping up everywhere and are far too bold for my liking. Far too organized, too,” Xerno remarked with disgust. “This one,” she nudged Gimbal affectionately, “insisted we stop to help, and that idiot I married backed him up. Turned out to be a good idea.”
“More or less, anyway.” Gimbal glanced at his motionless brother in the bacta tank. “I’m just mad we didn’t take out that Inquisitor.”
“You think Breaker and I are happy about it, vod? And what would it have gained us, anyway, besides the Empire up our backsides? At least Gaffer’s alive, and Zos’s thick skull isn’t even dented. Soon we’ll be back on Concord Dawn, and you know how happy Suni will be to see her bavodu’e again.”
Xerno Fos and Breaker had a child together.
“She’s an infant, Xerno! She’s not old enough to tell me or Gaffer from Jabba the Hutt, let alone each other or anyone else!” Gaffer teased his captain, his brother’s wife, his niece’s mother. “But at least you’ll get the chance to introduce her to the boss.”
Methos’s mouth opened slightly, still trying to process the reality that Breaker had a child. He had fully expected to escape as soon as he could, put as much distance between them as possible. It was safer for everyone that way, after all.
“Don’t you dare say no, Atin Bralor of Clan Bralor, citizen of House Skirata,” Xerno said firmly. “Breaker would never forgive either of us. And neither would Gaffer. Without you, Suni wouldn’t exist. Please stay, even if it’s just for a little while.”
Well, a breather would help him plan his next move…
I rewrote this section so many times, I can't even begin to tell you. But at least Methos's day has finally gotten better!
Chapter 7: Epilogue
In which Methos gets a breather.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Miraculously, they arrived at Concord Dawn without any more calamity. Indeed, it almost seemed anticlimactic as the ship set down safely and nothing suddenly exploded. No Inquisitors popped out of nowhere, no Star Destroyers on the horizon, no desperate distress calls demanding immediate attention.
Xerno Fos’s crew didn’t ask Methos how he had seemingly survived being blown up and spaced. Gimbal and Breaker probably assumed it was a Jedi thing, or maybe just a Methos thing. After all, it wasn’t the first time he’d mysteriously recovered from something fatal, so it wasn’t exactly out of character. And the other Mandos trusted their blood-brothers and their captain, so followed their lead.
Then again, Methos caught Gimbal with that familiar I'm a doctor, not an idiot look - the one he used to use on members of the Century who tried to play down their injuries.
But since they didn’t ask, Methos certainly wasn’t going to offer anything; the truth, the whole truth… well. He’d seen what it did to people.
Gaffer, meanwhile, would be spending solid days floating in bacta. Gimbal refused to leave his side. (This was hardly the first time, either; Methos clearly remembered a couple instances during the war where he found Gimbal reading trashy tabloid articles aloud to his injured brother. He suspected that this habit had not changed in only a few short years.)
The important part was that Gaffer's vital signs had stabilized. He would live, despite everything, and boast another scar to add to his collection.
“Of all the ways to get a scar,” Gimbal pointed out with a wry smile, “I’m pretty sure he’ll think this was the most impressive. Not many people get an honest-to-kriff lightsaber scar and live to tell about it! He’ll be insufferable when he wakes up, right up until I beat him back into a coma for trying to go one-on-one with an Inquisitor. Kriffing idiot.”
Methos had no intention of staying with them long enough to witness such entertainment, however tempting. He was pushing things as it was, but it’s hard to argue with a crew of insistent Mandos. So it was that he found himself at Concord Dawn with a squirming infant all but shoved into his arms by her proud parents.
Suni had her father’s eyes. The same dark gold-brown irises that Breaker shared with his brothers. Methos rocked her slightly, back and forth, and the gentle motion settled her fussing after a moment.
He didn’t ask after the Century. They had been told to scatter as much as possible in the aftermath of Order 66; a rogue company of clones together would draw far too much attention. Their lives were in their own hands, now. For the first time in their all-too-brief existences, really.
Breaker, Gimbal, and Gaffer had found themselves a home with Xerno and her crew, disguised in the anonymity of Mandalorian armor. The rest of them… he hoped they were well. (He couldn’t ask for safe , not in this universe.) And he would leave it at that.
He dared not hope for more.
“I’m just happy Suni got to meet her ba’buir,” Breaker said softly.
“I’m no one’s father, let alone grandfather,” protested Methos, but he couldn’t resist smiling slightly at the burbling baby, who laughed in response and waved a hand at his face. “Certainly not yours!”
“Keep telling yourself that, Centurion.” Xerno smirked, her arms across her chest.
“You people are utterly ridiculous.”
“In our line of business, you have to be in order to not go completely insane,” retorted Breaker. He paused momentarily, his expression becoming thoughtful. “Sever--”
“No. The less I know the better.” Methos already knew how much he’d hurt Sever by revealing the truth about his Immortality, coupled with so much unearned guilt Sever felt over Order 66. But Methos was a selfish man, and he had no desire to torture himself further over one of many countless regrets.
“Boss,” Breaker said firmly.
“No one’s boss. Not even my own anymore. Didn’t even get the chance to liquidate my assets, kark it.”
“Methos.” He was a persistent one, wasn’t he? “Thank you. For everything. You try to take responsibility for so much while acting like you don’t care. You don’t need to act here. We know better. The entire Century knows better. Sever knows that you care. He just needs to find himself again. Look, I know we’ll probably never see each other again after this. It was a kriffing miracle that we met this time. Just remember that however much in this universe is karked up, there’s also a lot of good, if you know where to look. Just… please don’t lose sight of that.”
Breaker ran his fingers through the feathery-fine hair (showing just a hint of curl) on his daughter’s head as Methos, almost unconsciously, continued to rock her.
Were Bail and Breha doing the same thing light years away with a confused, terrified Leia as she struggled to come to terms with her painful new enforced isolation? He ruthlessly thrust aside the thought; he’d done what he could to protect them. He couldn’t save all the children of the galaxy after all. Even though sometimes they were pretty much thrust at him with giant flashing signs saying “Save Me, Methos!”, regardless of any of his plans.
As little Suni swiped vaguely at his nose, he was absolutely certain that the Force was somehow having perverse fun at his expense.
Definitely time to head to the Outer Rim.
“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht.”
Man plans, and God laughs.