A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
“This is it…”
Jacen’s voice. Revan’s voice. Concealed dread. Anticipation. The scene skips forward – Jacen stands over the dying Mandalore, on the bridge of a warship above Malachor V.
“We were never meant to win this war,” Mandalore wheezes. “They simply used us to test the Republic’s strength.”
“Who used you?”
Jacen and Alek stand together in the aftermath of victory against the Mandalorians. “We have our proof,” Jacen says. “The Sith aren’t extinct. They must be stopped.”
The scene shifts once more. The newly-christened Dark Lords Revan and Malak kneel before a shadowy figure with a deep, gravelly voice. “Go, my disciples,” the voice orders. “Seek the ancient Star Maps. Discover the location of the Star Forge…”
Revan catches bits of conversation among the other Sith: “Once Revan and Malak find the Star Forge, we’ll unleash our armada against the galaxy. At long last the Jedi will be destroyed and we shall have our revenge. Nothing will stand in our way. Nothing can stop us.”
That’s the moment when he realizes what he needs to do. He needs to destroy the Republic, build it up stronger, prepare it to withstand the inevitable True Sith invasion. He needs to find the Star Forge – utilize it himself – or else the galaxy will fall.
Destroy the Republic to strengthen it. Conquer the galaxy to save it. Kill to save lives. Obey to betray. Everything’s twisted around, yet it makes perfect sense. He knows what he has to do.
Enter the darkness to save the light.
Enter the darkness—
For the fourth night in a row, Bastila Shan jerked awake with a gasp. Another dream, a nightmare. A memory… one of Jacen’s. It had been so vivid, convoluted and broken as it was, mere bits and pieces that he couldn’t keep from slipping through their Force bond. For the past few nights, it had been the same, more coming back each time. She sat up and glanced over at her husband.
Jacen sat on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. Typically she’d be able to calm him down, convince him that everything was okay. But this time, she felt the emotional storm roiling beneath his completely still exterior.
Not that she blamed him.
He had been the Jedi Order’s unsung hero during the Mandalorian Wars, then ventured into the Unknown Regions and turned to the dark side, unleashing an armada against an unsuspecting Republic. She and the other Jedi had captured Jacen – then known as Darth Revan – erased his memories and gave him a new identity as a soldier loyal to the Republic. He’d eventually learned the truth about who he was, yet maintained the path of a Jedi. Even when Bastila herself had been captured and tortured into temporarily becoming Darth Malak’s apprentice.
It had been months since they destroyed the source of Malak’s limitless armada – the ancient construct known as the Star Forge which had consistently churned out the droids and ships that powered the Sith conquest. She, Jacen, and the Ebon Hawk crew defeated Malak and brought peace to the galaxy once more. Jacen’s love pulled her back from the dark side, and Master Vandar allowed them to be secretly married.
For a while it had been perfect. But over the past few weeks, dreams of the things he’d done as Revan continually haunted Jacen. Things he couldn’t fully remember.
She spoke quietly, but it sounded unusually loud in the utter silence of the night. He didn’t look up. When he finally spoke, it was with a deathly still voice. “Did you see it?”
“Bits and pieces. It still didn’t make much sense.”
This was different. This time, he’d remembered something far worse. “What was it?”
“I know who’s behind everything,” he said finally. “I know where they are.”
“The True Sith. The Emperor.”
There was a Sith Emperor? Jacen had never mentioned him before. No one had ever heard such a thing.
He turned to face her, blue eyes filled with desperation. “Don’t you see? We were pawns. Me, Malak, the Mandalorians, the Jedi. Everything we did was orchestrated for his purpose. Anything we did to stop it merely delayed him.”
“Jacen, what are you talk—?”
He stood quickly, no longer speaking to her as much as muttering to himself. “I have to go. I have to stop it.”
Already this was far beyond his typical reaction to nightmares. It was as if his return trip to Malachor had brought on a sudden rush of memories. The need to remember the past had driven him back to that desolate world, and the visions he experienced had confused and distressed him. Now it was as if they’d suddenly unraveled from the jumble of his mind, giving him complete clarity.
And a new mission.
“Go where?” she asked, hardly breathing.
He was past listening. “It’s the only way to protect you, to protect everyone. This was my fault. I need to fix this.”
“Jacen, you’re not thinking clearly…”
“No, for once I am,” he said firmly. “And I can’t let it happen.”
Let it happen?“You saw the future?”
His eyes darkened. “It’s not going to happen. I won’t let it.”
“What was it?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Her eyes narrowed in anger. “It does to me! Tell me!”
“I have to do this.”
“Haven’t you done enough?” she demanded. “You stopped the Mandalorians. You stopped Malak and destroyed the Star Forge! You’ve sacrificed enough!”
“Bastila, if I don’t stop it, no one will. No one else can.”
“So what?” she protested. It was a terribly un-Jedi-like thought but she was beyond caring. “Whatever evil you saw might not reveal itself for decades! Perhaps longer! Right now we have the chance to live our lives in perfect happiness and you’re going to throw it away?”
He looked her in the eye. “Bastila, I wouldn’t leave if I didn’t think I could get us fifty more years of happiness. I’m doing this for us. So that you stay safe!”
“Has it ever occurred to you that I want you safe as well? Not gallivanting across the galaxy on some suicide mission?!”
He ignored her, pulling out his comlink as he left the bedroom. Frustrated, she followed.
This was ridiculous, insane. What could be so bad that he didn’t even want her to know? Something he’d done in the past? Or something coming in the future?
She listened as he contacted their old friends Carth Onasi and Canderous Ordo. Jacen practically ordered Carth to keep the Republic strong, then instructed Canderous to reclaim Mandalore’s lost helmet and unite the scattered Mandalorian clans. Both sounded confused by the urgency but swore to do as he requested.
Jacen clicked off the comlink and grabbed Bastila firmly by the shoulders. “Listen to me. Whatever happens, the Republic has to stay strong. The Mandalorians have to stay strong. We’re going to need every army in the galaxy to stop this.”
He hurried past her into the bedroom again. She blew out a frustrated breath. “To stop what?” she demanded, following. “Jacen, talk to me! Where are you going?”
He turned around, face twisting into an expression of remorse. “I can’t tell you. I don’t want you to follow me.”
She felt a pang of hurt. “I’m coming with you.”
“You can’t come.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“I’m coming,” she insisted.
“I don’t want you to come!”
She flinched back at the vehemence in his tone. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, then gently took her hand. “I want you safe.”
She ripped free from his grip. “You promised you’d never leave again.” She sounded so insecure, but it wasn’t a fear unfounded. When he left her the first time, he’d returned as a Sith. When they were separated after being captured by Malak, it had nearly sent them both to the dark side. After the Star Forge’s destruction, he’d promised to keep them together, whatever it took.
“You promised,” she whispered.
He brushed a strand of chestnut hair out of her face. “I promised to do whatever it takes to protect you. And I promise that whatever happens with the Emperor, he won’t keep me from coming back to you.”
He kissed her and she responded furiously, hot tears spilling down her cheeks as she crushed her lips against his. It wasn’t the gentle, tender kiss they usually shared. It was harsh, angry, fearful. How could he do this? What was so important that he had to leave? Why couldn’t he tell her?
With a groan, she broke away and rushed out of the bedroom, leaving him pleading after her, “Bastila, please understand!”
But she didn’t, couldn’t.
After everything they’d been through, hadn’t they proven how dangerous it was for them to be apart? What if he disappeared again? What if he was tempted by the darkness, and she wasn’t there to keep him from succumbing?
And even more terrifying - what if he went to fight this evil… and lost?
She almost punched the wall in anger, stopping abruptly when she saw T3-M4, Jacen’s ever-loyal utility droid, watching. He let out a low string of beeps and boops that translated loosely to ‘what’s wrong?’
Jacen may not be willing to put her in danger, but he wouldn’t go into the unknown alone. He’d take T3, if only to maintain the ship. She knelt beside the droid who scooted closer as if waiting to hear a secret.
She took a deep, shaky breath to compose herself. “Record,” she told the droid. He automatically activated his internal record keeper. “T3. You have been with us since Taris. Without you, we would never have escaped that place, and for that, I thank you. I’m leaving this message inside you because I’ve seen glimpses of the future… and the bond he and I share does not allow him to hide everything from me. More of his memories have returned and they trouble him. He’s remembered something, something on the edge of the galaxy, and he believes he must go there to end it.”
The words caught in her throat, and she swallowed hard. “But I’m afraid for him… afraid he may not return. I need you to be the beacon, T3. If he finds whatever terrible thing he’s seen, he may not survive. If he doesn’t make it back, I need you to return to the Republic. If you cannot find me, seek out other Jedi…” her voice broke. “I can’t lose him, even if he believes he’s protecting me.”
T3 shut down the recorder. “DWOOOO.”
Even the droid seemed to sense dread in the atmosphere. She left T3 in the hall and walked quietly back into the bedroom where Jacen was packing his things into a small bag. A pang of fear struck her.
“You can’t go.”
He looked up, sighing. “The longer I wait, the harder it’ll be to leave.”
“Then don’t leave.”
She stepped forward and stopped him with a desperate kiss. Fear of losing him suddenly made her need him all the more. Tears ran down her cheeks as she kissed him. Sobs racked her body, and she could feel his heart breaking with sorrow. He sighed and pulled away, brushing her tears away with his thumb.
“Bastila, you’re hysterical.”
She didn’t care. He wasn’t getting off that easily.
She eased his cloak from his shoulders, letting it fall to the ground. He shook his head, but his protests died before he could voice them.
“Stay with me, Jacen… don’t leave…” she whispered. It was unfair, she knew. Trying to seduce him into abandoning his self-ordained mission. But she was out of options.
She gently pushed him down onto the bed. His hands moved to rest on her hips and she kissed his earlobe. “Stay with me,” she breathed.
He groaned, partly with grief because he couldn’t do what she wanted. And she knew it. If he felt there was a danger to her – to the galaxy – he was goingto do whatever it took to protect them. Even if she didn’t understand what he’d seen in his vision, it had to be serious. She couldn’t be selfish.
She had to let him go.
“Bastila, it’s okay,” he murmured, kissing the tears from her cheeks. “Everything will be fine. I’ll come home. I promise.”
His whispered words held such conviction and assurance that she believed him. He’d be gone for a short while, take care of whatever needed to be done, and then he’d come back to her. He always did.
Whatever it takes.
She fell asleep in his arms, so exhausted that she didn’t stir awake when he slipped out quietly, didn’t know he was gone until morning when she reached for him and found nothing.
T3 was missing as well, along with the bag Jacen had packed last night. The realization hit her. And then the tears fell.
Bastila sat motionlessly, ignoring the hustle and bustle of Citadel Station’s work staff as they moved about. Even now, she could remember that night as if it was yesterday. And it hurt just as deeply every time she re-lived it.
I’ll come home. I promise. Those last words, reassuring her that this was only temporary.
That was seventeen years ago.
She rested her head on her hands, staring at the floor. Another search. Another fruitless attempt to find where he’d gone. Venturing into the Unknown Regions was a suicide mission for one who didn’t know where they were going.
Jacen had known where he was going. She didn’t.
That was the only thing that kept her from going in after him, why she’d spent years retracing every step he’d taken during the wars. Something he’d seen or heard had led him and Malak to enter the Unknown Regions and find the Sith Emperor. She’d hoped to find what it was – coordinates, a map, anything. She even revisited the Star Maps hoping they held some other clue besides the location of the now non-existent Star Forge.
It was all pointless.
She felt a familiar presence in the Force and looked up to see Carth Onasi walking toward her. The man had been a brother to Jacen and had become her closest friend over these past years. He was the only one of their original crew that she still spoke to on a regular basis. Everyone else had gone their separate ways.
Mission and Zaalbar – the unlikely team of teenage Twi’lek girl and gruff Wookiee – started up a successful import/export business until the death of Zaalbar’s father drove him to return to Kashyyyk to take his rightful place as Chieftain.
Jolee and Juhani had both been re-accepted into the Jedi Order, but Bastila hadn’t spoken to them much since. It wasn’t that she ignored her former allies, but there were other reasons why she no longer spent time at the Jedi Temple. Or on Coruscant at all.
Canderous Ordo had followed Jacen’s last instructions, rallying the Mandalorians into one united clan. Assassin droid HK-47 had been furious when he realized Jacen was gone and set off to find his master on his own, only to be scrapped along the way until Jacen’s sister managed to piece him back together.
And T3… well, Bastila instructed T3 to stay at the Jedi Temple. He’d returned from the Unknown Regions alone, but his memory of where he’d been had been corrupted – or purposely erased. Another dead end.
That only left Carth, now an Admiral in the Republic fleet and leading figurehead on Telos. He’d always taken his job seriously, but with Jacen’s instruction to keep the Republic strong, Carth had dove headfirst into the work. Bastila had been helping him ever since. In some ways, Telos was more home to her now than Coruscant or Tython.
Both of those places held memories too painful to revisit.
Carth sat down on the bench beside her. “You’re back,” he remarked neutrally. There was no cheerful greeting in his tone. They’d been through this too many times.
He didn’t bother to ask if she’d found anything. Instead he let out a long-suffering sigh. “You can’t keep doing this, Bastila.”
“I won’t stop until I find him.” She’d know if he was dead, would feel it through their bond. And though she couldn’t sense him strongly, she knew at least he was alive. Far away, perhaps hurt and weak… but always alive.
“But…” she continued. “If he was able, he would have returned by now. And now Jaina’s missing as well.”
The infamous Jedi Exile – Jacen’s younger sister – had disappeared twelve years ago after defeating the Sith Triumvirate. Rumor was that she entered the Unknown Regions to find her brother and face the threat she’d been warned about. But like every other traveler who entered the Unknown Regions, she never returned.
Bastila didn’t blame Jaina for not inviting her along. Her former friend hadn’t even known she was still alive. That period was a trying time for all Jedi. Most had been wiped out by the overwhelming Sith forces. Those who remained went into hiding. If Jacen had been there, Bastila would gladly have faced the Triumvirate with him. But he was still missing, and she hadn’t dared to challenge them alone.
And at the time, she had something else to take care of.
Carth remained silent for a long while before shaking his head. “This isn’t healthy, Bastila. Think about all you’ve given up these past years. You could have taken a Padawan. Moved on with your life—”
“Move on? Carth, I can’t bear to lose him. He’s more a part of me than myself. I feel empty.” It was like she was simply going through motions of life without truly living. The first few years had been rough, but the ache subsided, leaving only a hollow feeling – a part he’d carved out and taken with him.
The thought that he was out there somewhere – stranded, hurt, or dying – haunted her to no end. She wouldn’t give up on him. Not ever.
“What more can you do?” Carth asked reasonably. “You can’t march into the Unknown Regions.”
Carth’s eyes widened. “Bastila, it’s suicide!”
She looked back at him and in her expression, he had to see that part of her had already died the day Jacen left. She’d been dying a little more every day.
“It’s suicide,” he repeated quietly.
She shook her head. “I don’t care.”
“It’s uncharted space! Without coordinates to guide you, you could fly around for decades before you found a single planet to land on! Or you’d jump straight into an asteroid field or black hole!”
“Then how did he know where to go?!” she shouted bitterly. Pure luck? The will of the Force? There had to be something she was missing, perhaps something he’d destroyed. “How did he know?”
“I don’t know,” Carth answered. “But he did, and you don’t. And you can’t go after him. You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“Some things are worth dying for.”
She didn’t let Carth say another word, simply stood abruptly and walked out of Citadel Station’s command center without looking back.