“So I’ve been doing some research through public history records since you brought up the topic.” Donnie’s voice was partially drowned out by the howling wind as they crossed the rickety rope bridge that connected the enormous stone islands, kind of shaped like ice cream cones or Triceraton warships, the only chunks of land in a planet seemingly all ocean. The Professor’s contact was on the tiniest of this sequence, forcing them to land several islands away and walk.
Normally Mikey would go to his happy place when D started talking…mmm Ice Cream Kitty and pizza…but Don’s voice also had a soothing effect and occasionally looking down at the several hundred-foot drop into the rock jutted ocean below had instilled in him a need to be soothed.
It was strange. If Leo had been here, he would probably be sprinting along the rope supports. With Leo nearby, he always felt safe, like nothing could go wrong. There wasn’t anything that his big brother couldn’t fix. Without him, that certainty felt missing.
“As far as history is concerned, Anakin Skywalker was a famous Jedi and Darth Vader was an infamous Sith. Two different people. Although Ahsoka’s insight does cast some well-documented events in a different light. It actually makes more sense knowing that.”
The bridge wobbled and Mikey gripped the rope railing more tightly, reaching out to steady Donnie’s shell as his brother was too lost in what he was saying to mind his balance.
“The big one is the death of the Emperor.”
Mikey could sense Ahsoka perk up behind him at Donnie’s words.
“You see Darth Vader was the Emperor’s right hand at the time, completely ruthless…”
“Donnie.” His brother paused at the uncharacteristic warning in Mikey’s voice before taking the hint and moving along.
“Anyway, the last known Jedi at the time, Luke…”
“Last?” Ahsoka’s voice sounded strained as she spoke. Now that they were finally off their current bridge, Mikey dropped back to take her hand and give it an encouraging squeeze.
Eyes cast down, she whispered. “Ezra…Kanan…”
Donnie cleared his throat, making an effort to hide his annoyance at the interruption. “Yes, he challenged the Emperor in some battle station, Death Star II, just off the moon of Endor…”
“Do you come with fast forward D?”
Donnie scowled at Casey who was grinning as he hover-skated past Donnie towards the next, and mercifully last, decrepit bridge. “That’s about as creative as Donnipedia.”
“Which makes it awesome.” Casey zoomed across the bridge, reckless as ever, causing both Donnie and April to cringe. Mikey fought back a smile. He liked Casey, but sometimes he wondered about his sanity, which considering that he could usually roll with anything, was saying something.
He noticed Ahsoka shift to position herself as far away from April as possible and couldn’t really blame her. April hadn’t meant to get in her head and she was trying to control her mind voodoo. She really was. But she still did some crazy stuff, generally by accident, and Ahsoka’s caution was completely justified. April would probably try and get away from herself sometimes too, if she could. It kind of made Mikey sad. He wished that he could help, but Don and the Professor were probably her best bet on that front.
Mikey turned back front to see that Casey had made it all the way across without plummeting to his doom. Good deal.
Donnie sighed. “Anyway, so this Jedi challenged the Emperor and naturally had to fight Darth Vader as a result. It might be a case of history written by the victor, but records of the time say that he won.”
“This Jedi killed Darth Vader?” Ahsoka looked up, her blue eyes holding an almost unreadable mix of emotion, but Mikey could detect hints of hope and sorrow.
Donnie shook his head, starting across the next and final bridge. “Well no, he spared him. It’s said that, at that point, the Emperor struck and for reasons, generally considered unclear, Darth Vader sacrificed his own life to kill the Emperor and save the Jedi who defeated him. A Jedi who later gave Darth Vader a funeral with full Jedi honors.”
“What?” Ahsoka’s disbelief bleed into her voice. “None of that makes any sense. It has to be wrong.”
Donnie looked back, grinning. “Normally I would agree, but you held the piece of information that ties it all together.”
Her brows knit in confusion.
“The Jedi’s name was Luke Skywalker.”
Ahsoka gasped at Don’s revelation.
“If Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker, then they’re probably relatives. Although how they’d be related, I have no idea.”
Ahsoka pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Anakin was originally from Tatooine. He started his training older than most. He didn’t really talk about it, but I think he might have left some family there. It’s possible.”
Mikey scrunched his toes into the rock as he stepped back on solid ground again. The massive stone house loomed in front of them, looking more like a fortress than someone’s home.
Fugitoid pushed past all them to get to the intercom at the door. After pressing the button, sending a resounding echo through the interior of the structure, a voice crackled back. “Whaddya want?”
“Daedalus? It’s Professor Honeycutt. We spoke…”
“Ah Zayton. Come in. Come in.”
The massive wooden door unlocked with a series of heavy clicks. Since he was kind of expecting a dungeon, Mikey was pleasantly surprised by the well-lit, open interior, full of colorful, heavy drapes and giant pillow-chairs, reminding him of the story of Aladdin from one of his old picture books.
They all shuffled into the center of the room, Raph brooding and trailing along the back. There was no one else there and Mikey quickly grew bored until he noticed Donnie was completely tense and unmoving, his eyes wide and unseeing. Mikey placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder, waiting with unusual patience for the tension to release into trembling.
Donnie’s head jerked back towards him, his face a mask of shock. “How?”
Mikey grinned. “He got me too. Remember back when I choked while eating and you all thought I’d stuffed too much pizza in at once? Pretty trippy huh?”
Don shook his head. “You did choke on too much pizza and I’m fine. Just a side effect of being tired and stressed.”
Mikey shrugged. “If that’s how you wanna play it?”
Donnie frowned. “Besides why would Leo need your help?”
Mikey waggled his eye ridges. “Who said anything about Leo asking for help?”
Donnie clamped his jaw shut and looked away.
Mikey answered anyway. “He needed to believe.” His answer was soft and Donnie didn’t acknowledge it overtly, though his expression had become thoughtful.
There still wasn’t anyone here. Mikey started to wonder if the place was deserted until a round hairball, about the girth of Slash, entered the room on long, spindly, hairless legs. With matching arms, it pushed a something that reminded Mikey of the AV carts at April and Casey’s school that he’d seen on the rare occasion he couldn’t contain his curiosity and went topside to inspect.
Fugitoid greeted the hairball with what looked like an elaborate, secret handshake, that Mikey was sure he could replicate if he wanted to. Maybe Donnie would be willing to practice it with him. He could usually secure Don’s cooperation in exchange for not messing with stuff in his lab.
“Zayton.” Where was it speaking from? There must’ve been a mouth somewhere, hidden in all that hair.
“Daedalus, this is my current crew.” Fugitoid gestured towards them as they all gaped openly.
The hair ball was the Professor’s historical researcher? No way. Although he wasn’t that much weirder than Bellybomb. Then again, that hadn’t really turned out so great.
Daedalus rubbed his hands together greedily. “So I’m signed on for thirty percent of the rights to your molecular converter?”
Fugitoid sighed. “Yes.”
Daedalus clapped. “Excellent. Research doesn’t come cheap and I’m fed up with hunting for patrons.”
Mikey looked at Donnie questioningly.
“He partly owns the think-a-food machine now.”
Mikey gasped. “But that’s my favorite…” He noticed Raph and Ahsoka staring at him. “…but totally worth it for the information, right?”
Fugitoid ignored them, still focused on Daedalus. “And you’re certain your sources are accurate?”
Daedalus tapped his fingertips together in excitement. “Rock solid. This find is going to make my career. So no blabbing until I publish.”
Fugitoid raised his hand in promise. “I swear we need the information for strictly personal reasons.”
Daedalus crossed his arms, as though considering what possible personal use the Professor could have for a few millennia old facts. Ultimately, his excitement was stronger than his caution and he started to fiddle with the mess of computer parts on the cart that looked like something Donnie might have built from recycled junk back home on Earth.
“You’re not going to believe this. I know it sounds wild. Insane even. But Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were the same person. And I have proof.”
If Daedalus heard the sarcasm in Raph’s voice, he didn’t acknowledge it. “I have contemporary records, detailing a treasure trove of events from the life of Anakin Skywalker and his heirs.”
Mikey glanced over to take in Ahsoka’s incredulous expression.
“He didn’t have any heirs. He was a Jedi and never married.”
Daedalus chuckled. “That’s where your wrong. The Jedi of prophecy…” Daedalus used air quotes when titling Anakin. “…had a secret marriage which produced two children, twins.”
Ahsoka scowled. “And how do you know this?”
Daedalus waved a hand to his contraption. “My greatest find. The data chips of the infamous astromech droid from the troubled time, R2D2. Well over a century worth of data, pure and untouched. Although I can only allow limited access to it at any given time. If I open too much at once, the blasted thing almost seems to take on a personality of its own and can be terribly uncooperative.”
Mikey frowned at the cart. Treating anything with a personality that way just seemed…wrong. He looked back at Ahsoka who was eyeing the cart in undisguised, horrified grief.
Daedalus didn’t even notice, typing furiously into his machine. “You have got to see this.”
A holographic image filled the center of the room of a young man with a robotic hand, grasping the hands of his bride on a sunlit, stone veranda. Listening to their vows, he spared a glance at Ahsoka and was surprised to find her in a state of absolute shock, her jaw hanging open as she watched the couple lean in to kiss.
“Padme…” She barely squeaked the name out in a strained voice. He watched as her disbelief transitioned into comprehension, tinged with a bit of hurt and anger.
If this was Anakin and his wife, she clearly knew them and hadn’t been let in on the secret. He kind of knew what that was like. He’d been pretty down to when he’d found that Leo was keeping his secret crush on Karai from the rest of them. Leo could’ve trusted him. Sure, she was a major player in the Foot clan at the time, but if Leo said that he saw the good in her, Mikey would have believed him.
And they would have been right. Mikey still remembered the expression on her and his dad’s face when they’d brought her home from the Shredder’s dungeon and she’d hugged him. It was good. Leo could’ve told him. So he got how Ahsoka was feeling.
Ahsoka swallowed hard. “So Padme’s child…”
“Children…” Daedalus corrected. “…was fathered by Anakin Skywalker. Yes.”
He fiddled with more dials, bringing up an image of the woman from the wedding, Padme, lying on a table in a science-fictiony type medical looking room. Mikey frowned. She appeared to be in pain.
They were watching her through a glass wall, while a weird looking robot ducked under a strange metal hoop skirt across her lap. He couldn’t decide whether it looked retro or futuristic. A man stood at the bed beside her, his back to them, in the grainy hologram. But Ahsoka knew him. Mikey could hear her whisper softly “Obi Wan…”
Padme cried out and the robot withdrew a squirming, human baby from under the skirt. Mikey couldn’t help the audible ‘whoa’ that escaped his lips. He’d never seen such a young human before. It was so tiny and cute.
The robot said something that he didn’t understand, but Padme seemed to. “Luke” she responded as the robot handed the child off to the man. He held the child to her face to admire for a moment before pain once more marred her serene features and the robot returned to the metal skirt. It brought forth a second infant and repeated the same question as before. “Leia” Padme responded weakly.
She was breathing heavily now and Mikey had a sinking feeling that he wasn’t going to like how this memory would end. Breathing heavily, each word an effort to get out, Padme called out. “Obi Wan…There’s good in him. I know…I know there’s still…”
Her head dropped aside and the heavy breathing slowly halted. Was she? He turned to look at Ahsoka who had turned her glassy eyes away from the sight, struggling to keep her breathing even.
“Turn it off.” Everyone but Ahsoka and April startled at the serious tone of Mikey’s voice. They didn’t often hear it. “Turn it off.”
Daedalus pressed a button and the hologram vanished. The room was silent for a moment, before Donnie broke it. “So Luke Skywalker was Anakin Skywalker’s son? Wow.”
Raph pushed his way forward. “So how did Anakin become Vader? Why’d he jump sides?”
Mikey wanted to yell at Raph to stop, to say that it was enough already. But with Mona’s life and Raph’s soul at stake, he knew that he couldn’t. He just had to brace himself for what was to come next.
Daedalus shrugged. “Well, there are still some missing pieces, but I think I’ve got one of the most important ones in the droid’s memory. Enough to produce some solid theories anyway.”
As Daedalus tapped another combination of buttons, Ahsoka sucked in a deep breath, steeling herself as she stared determinedly into the empty space in the center of the room, where the next sequence of images was sure to play.
The projector activated once more and they now had a view of an alien planet. Despite the washed-out, blue coloring of the holographic memories, Mikey was pretty sure it was super volcanic. It looked really eruptiony in the background.
They appeared to be looking out of a window. Probably some kind of a spaceship, since he could see the side of the vehicle and an exit ramp, in the left periphery of the recording. On the plateau that centered their view was Padme, facing away from them, wide and pregnant. She appeared to be speaking earnestly with Anakin.
Granted Mikey’d only ever seen the guy in the wedding video a few minutes ago, but he looked really different now. It wasn’t just that his hair was longer and he was older. It was like his face belonged to someone else entirely, his expression dark, manic, hollow and desperate under the veneer of patronizing affection as he held Padme. It made Mikey want to edge away.
Daedulus carefully cranked up the volume, zooming in the image as close as he could without degrading the video quality.
“…Obi Wan told me terrible things.” Padme sounded breathy and distressed.
“What things?” The mask of affection slipped slightly.
“He said you’d turned to the Dark Side…that you’d killed younglings.”
Mikey didn’t know exactly what younglings were, but they sounded very much like something that should not be hurt or killed under any circumstances.
Anakin tightened his grip on Padme. “Obi Wan is trying to turn you against me.”
Padme shook her head. “He cares about us.”
Anakin paused for a second and Mikey could sense the conversation take a dangerous turn. “Us?”
Padme nodded. “He knows.” She ran her hand up and down his shoulder. “He wants to help you.”
The bizarre not-smile that spread across Anakin’s features unnerved Mikey. This was going badly. Very badly. Padme must have sensed it too. Her next words held a hint of desperation. “Anakin, all I want is your love.”
Anakin shook his head, his voice still eerily calm. “Love won’t save you Padme. Only my new powers can do that.”
Her desperation was stronger now. “At what cost? You’re a good person. Don’t do this.”
Mikey didn’t like the look in Anakin’s eyes as he answered her plea. They shined with a hint of madness.
“I won’t lose you the way I lost my mother. I am becoming more powerful than any Jedi ever had ever dreamed of. And I’m doing it for you. To protect you.”
Mikey didn’t want to see any more. He really didn’t. The last time he’d seen love twisted so wrong was when the Shredder had railed against his father for the loss of Tang Shen and Karai. Even with something as precious as love at its base, he knew where such obsessive devotion led and he didn’t want to see it.
Padme reached to cup the back of Anakin’s head as though she could somehow keep him from slipping away. She was begging now and it hurt to watch. “Come away with me. Help me raise our child. Leave everything else behind while we still can.”
Her supplication fell on deaf ears. “Don’t you see. We don’t have to run away anymore. I have brought peace to the Republic.” Padme stilled as Anakin’s madness shined brighter. “I am more powerful than the chancellor. I can overthrow him.” Padme took a cautious step back away from Anakin. “And together you and I can rule the galaxy. Make things the way we want them to be.”
Anakin’s expectant smile was downright disturbing. Padme kept backing up, shaking her head, her voice laden with grief. “I don’t believe what I’m hearing. Obi Wan was right. You’ve changed.”
Anakin’s smile vanished into barely restrained irritation. “I don’t want to hear any more about Obi Wan.”
The atmosphere was charged with danger. Mikey wanted to scream at Padme to run. Get away. But knew it would do no good. This had all happened a long time ago.
Anakin’s eyes hardened in anger. “The Jedi turned against me. Don’t you turn against me.”
Padme sounded on the brink of tears as she continued to back towards them. “I don’t know you anymore. Anakin you’re breaking my heart. You’re going to down a path I can’t follow.”
Anakin ignored her pain, looking up past her, almost as though he were looking towards them. Even though Mikey knew Anakin wasn’t seeing them, it still sent shivers up his shell.
Anakin’s empty eyes drifted back down to Padme. “Because of Obi Wan?”
Padme’s voice held barely suppressed tears. “Because of what you’ve done. What you plan to do. Stop. Stop now. Come back.”
Anakin looked back up at them again, his face a terrifying mask of cold anger.
Padme didn’t give up. “I love you.”
Anakin turned away for a second before rounding back towards her in fury, all trace of affection completely absent. “Liar!”
Padme, looked over her shoulder and saw something by the ship’s exit ramp that had her terrified. “No!”
She staggered back away. Anakin advanced on her threateningly, but she didn’t run, whether held by fear or determination, Mikey couldn’t tell. All knew was that the boy from the wedding was completely gone.
“You’re with him. You brought him here to kill me!”
Anakin raised a hand towards her and Padme clutched her throat. “No…”
A figure strode down from within the ship. The man from the childbirth. Obi Wan. “Let her go Anakin.” Padme shook her head, but seemed unable to force anymore words free. Obi Wan drew closer to the pair. “Let. Her. Go.”
Anakin opened his hand and Padme dropped with a gasp, seemingly unconscious on the ground. Both men stared at her for a moment.
When Anakin turned back towards Obi Wan his expression was a complete mirror of the Shredder’s every time his father had futilely tried to reason with the man. There was no reasoning with madness. “You turned her against me!”
Obi Wan stood his ground. “You have done that yourself.”
Anakin circled Obi Wan, tossing his cloak aside. “You will not take her from me!”
He was pacing like a caged animal now. Mikey wanted to escape from the scene but found himself unable to move.
Obi Wan answered as he tossed his aside his own robe. “Your anger and your lust for power have already done that.” They continued circling each other. “You have allowed this dark lord to twist your mind. Until you’ve become the very thing you swore to destroy.”
Anakin glared. “Don’t lecture me. I see through the lies of the Jedi. I do not fear the Dark Side as you do.”
Obi Wan knelt to check on Padme as Anakin turned his back, facing their group once again, his expression hard and unforgiving. “I have brought peace, freedom, justice, security to my new empire.”
Obi Wan stared at him disbelief. “Your new empire?”
Anakin’s expression darkened further. “Don’t make me kill you.”
Obi Wan’s voice took on a pleading tone, not unlike Padme’s and Mikey’s heart ached. “Anakin my allegiance is to the republic. To Democracy!”
Whatever hint of soft emotion might have existed when he asked Obi Wan not to make him kill him vanished. “If you are not with me, then you’re my enemy.”
Obi Wan’s expression grew haunted as he stared at Anakin’s back. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” He reached for his weapon. “I will do what I must.” He took a fighting stance.
A dark smile spread across Anakin’s features. “You will try.”
He reached for his sword and Ahsoka released a cry, like a wounded animal.
“Stop! Stop it now!” Mikey screamed as he darted forward, prompting Daedalus to cut of the video feed, just as the battle was about to begin.
Ahsoka was trembling, her eyes wide and unseeing at the moment. He knew that look. He’d probably been wearing it when he’d seen the Shredder stab his father in the back, watching his Sensei’s expression of shock fade as his eyes drooped closed and he dropped.
Without giving it any conscious thought, he rushed forward to embrace her and she sagged against him, looking more broken than he’d ever seen. Knowing no words would suffice, he just held her and waited.
In the middle of the room stood Raph, fists clenched and shaking. Donnie stepped towards him, reaching out a hand, but Raph spun and fled the room without a word. Donnie stared after him, at a loss for what to do. With a growl, Casey followed Raph. April turned her gaze from Raph and Casey’s exit to watch him and Ahsoka while trying not to. Daedalus just stood there, arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently, obviously wondering what was wrong with them.
Thankfully, Fugitoid pulled Daedalus aside to speak with him in hushed tones. Mikey didn’t know how long her held her, but Ahsoka’s shaking finally ceased and her breathing resumed an almost normal pattern. She still looked haunted, but at least present now, her eyes fixed on the cart. Pulling free from Mikey’s arms, she staggered towards it.
Alerted by the motion, Daedalus rushed protectively to the cart.
Ahsoka stopped in front of him. “I assume you have backups of all the information.”
“Several.” Daedalus answered distrustfully as he shielded the cart with his body.
“I want the original data chips.”
Daedalus scoffed. “You have got to be joking.”
“I can offer you a first person perspective of the Clone Wars and the Rebellion that followed. A perspective you don’t have.”
Daedalus stilled. “Who’s?”
Daedalus’s arms tightened around the cart. “How did you come by such records?”
“I am Ahsoka Tano.”
Daedalus laughed until he realized she was dead serious and that no one else was laughing. He turned to Fugitoid.
The Professor shrugged. “It’s true. We found her in stasis and woke her up.”
Daedalus glanced rapidly back and forth between Ahsoka and Fugitoid, before fiddling with some dials on his machine. A beam of blue light scanned Ahsoka and the machine dinged.
“It’s true.” Daedalus’s voice held a hint of awe before her turned back to Ahsoka, rubbing his hands together greedily. “And you’ll tell me everything?”
She nodded. “As much as I can remember.”
Fugitoid intervened. “As you know, such a lengthy stasis hibernation has memory degeneration as a natural side effect.”
Daedalus nodded. “Yeah, in theory, but the damage would work its way back from the most recent memories.” He turned back to Ahsoka. “What’s the last thing you can remember?”
She was silent for a moment. “A battle at a temple, I think year 30 after the Great ReSynchronization.”
Daedalus nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, that will do nicely. I will of course need to take samples for secondary verification.”
Her jaw clenched but she nodded.
“Done.” Daedalus practically bounded from the room.
Ahsoka turned to Donnie and Fugitoid, gently placing her hand on the cart. “Could you please rebuild his body? He was…he was a friend.”
Donnie nodded gravely.
“But of course my dear.” Fugitoid chirped.
Then Daedalus returned with a slew of recording equipment, setting it up with almost surreal rapidity. He gestured for Ahsoka to take a seat on one of the giant pillows. “Now tell me everything.”
Casey stepped out of the fortress and saw Raph sitting on the edge of the plateau, feet dangling over the side. He approached cautiously, knowing that Raph could lash out when in turmoil, but willing to risk it.
Without a word, he sat beside Raph, hit with a momentary pang of homesickness. It wasn’t really that much different than when they chilled on a building ledge back home after busting some heads.
Although he did his best not to think about it, fixing himself as firmly as he could in the here and now, there were moments when the past, the world and family he’d lost, a life left behind and possibly gone forever, hit him like a physical blow. Squeezing his eyes shut and clenching his fists, he fought the wave of memories back down. Drowning in them wouldn’t help anyone.
Once his breathing evened out again, he looked back towards Raph, who was just staring out into the endless sea. “You ok?”
Raph’s jaw clenched and he didn’t answer immediately. “That guy went Dark Side cuz he was trying to protect the people he loved.”
Casey’s eyes narrowed and he huffed. “Looked more to me like he was trying to kill the people he loved.”
Raph’s frown deepened. “But that’s not how it started, was it? He thought he was gonna lose ’em. Like his mom.”
Casey sighed, knowing Raph was thinking about Master Splinter. The image of the Shredder’s blades protruding from the ninja master’s chest, still haunted him. He couldn’t even imagine how much worse it was for Raph. Or maybe he could, he if swapped, the old rat dude for his own dad or his little sister. How the guys had managed to hang onto their sanity was amazing to him. Although it might be because they were clinging to the hope of stopping it from ever happening. Their second chance was the only thing that made any of it bearable.
“Well, maybe that’s cuz he didn’t trust ’em.”
Raph looked over at him as he spoke. “What?”
“He was taking it all on himself to stop anything bad from ever happening to them, right?”
Raph’s face scrunched thoughtfully. “Maybe. I guess, but…”
“And that’s why it’s not gonna happen to you. To us.”
Raph frowned. “How do you figure?”
“Because we’re past that whole babying phase you went through and if you go back to acting like you need to babysit me, I’ll kick your shell. No one’s weak in this family. We all pull our own weight and can count on everyone else to do the same. It ain’t up to anyone. It’s up to everyone. You can count on us, the way we can count on you, so there’s no worries. I bet Mona’s waiting for her opportunity to break free, pound the snot out of that loser and shove his light saber straight up his…”
“Okay, I get it.” Raph chuckled as he cut him off.
“Point is, as long as you keep faith in us, you won’t go down that path. So cut the loner crap.”
Raph managed a rueful smile, but Casey was relieved to see it reach his eyes. He punched Casey playfully in the shoulder, though it probably would still leave a bruise. That was fine. He wasn’t a delicate flower.
“Whatever. You’re the one with loner issues.”
Casey grinned. “And yet, here I am being a team player, so suck it up.”
Raph smirked, but didn’t argue as he turned back to the ocean. “Yeah, I guess I’ll have to.”
Leo ran through the ruins, fast as wind, making leaps of over fifty feet at a time as he flipped from one crumbling structure to another. His senses were on fire. He could see, hear, feel everything with clarity he’d never known, discovering a six sense that was a real as his five physical ones. His energy fed back in on itself, refilling him with each expenditure, washing away any exhaustion he should have felt. He could go on forever like this.
Although no one was around to see, except Gravid who could probably see through it, he wore his stealth like a cloak, feeling as though he could stand in the center of Time Square at midday, completely unnoticed.
Feeling the brush of Gravid’s mind nearby, he knew he was about to be tested. A flurry of stone and rubble rose up around him and he quickly formed his will into a shield to avoid being pelted with rock. As the barrage bounced harmless off of his barrier, he reached out with his connection to the Force, sensing each stone and shattering them to dust with a thought.
Larger chunks of ruin rose around him, further distant. Dropping his shield, he activated his saber and flung it into the fray as he continued to run along the edge of the crumbling wall. It spun about, like a straight boomerang, slicing the rocks to pieces as he directed it with his mind, launching himself into another forty-foot leap to land atop a nearby tower, catching his returning saber and tucking it away. Pushing outward in all directions, he sent the remaining bits of rubble scattering off away from him into the distance.
“I suppose it will have to do.” Gravid materialized beside him.
“Would you like me to run it again?”
The Force ghost sighed. “That won’t be necessary. It was almost perfect, after all.”
Leo followed Gravid’s gaze down to his calf which had apparently gotten nicked at some point during the training run, a small rivulet of blood running down to his foot wraps.
Kneeling down as his father had taught him, he closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, finding that center of calm at the heart of his being. Instead spreading his consciousness outward to the universe, he turned his attention inward, focusing on the flow of life within himself. Now he understood how and why meditation and similar techniques, such as his father’s healing hands mantra, worked and could leverage them to their full potential.
By the time he opened his eyes the bleeding had slowed to a halt and the cut was no longer an opened wound.
Gravid sniffed. “Don’t get too full of yourself boy. You weren’t starting from scratch with any of this.”
Leo smiled as he climbed back to his feet. “Hai Sensei.”
Gravid huffed. “I’ve mentioned several times that I prefer to be called master.”
But there was a smile in his voice. As quirky as the old grump could be, Leo had kind of taken to him. And honestly, during their months in space, he’d badly missed having a teacher and mentor. If circumstances weren’t so dire, he’d probably be having the time of his life.
“Am I ready?”
Gravid frowned. “You’ll be ready when I say you’re ready. Come along. It is time for the next step.”
Leo hid his disappointment with a smile and followed. “Hai Sensei.”
“I said stop calling me that.”
Leo followed the outline of his teacher through the ruins in companionable silence for a ways, wondering how his family was doing. Despite the intense focus his training regimen had required, his mind drifted back to them at every available opportunity. He missed them, but somehow knew that they were well.
Gravid broke through his ruminations. “You’ll have to kill him you know.”
Leo startled, catching himself in a trip as he sprinted. “What?”
“Maul. You will need to kill him.”
Leo frowned in distaste and Gravid sighed dramatically. “Really. Of all possible ninja from planet Earth, I got the clan that likes playing at being samurai. You do know that ninja are supposed to be a lot more mercenary. As much as you don’t like it, the Foot clan was a much more typical example how your art was used, though they took it to problematic extremes.”
Leo grimaced, not liking the truth of Gravid’s words, but understanding them. “Yes, my father could be unusual, as far as ninja go, but he was…is…a good man and I follow his path. And, not to correct you Sensei, while ninja can be mercenary, most clans act with far more honor than the Foot ever did.”
Gravid shrugged. “I’m sure they’re supposed to in an ideal world. You didn’t address my concern though. If you’re father had successfully destroyed the Shredder when he had the chance, or chances as it were, you wouldn’t need a do over to save your world.”
Leo cringed as he recalled that night, the sight of his father arching back against the Shredder’s blades, driven through his chest, as the fool choose his obsessive vengeance over the life of every being on Earth. Even Karai’s.
“But you knew that didn’t you. Always have. Or you wouldn’t have risked your Karai’s trust, trying to kill him on the docks that night.”
Leo flinched at the memory. The look on Karai’s face when she’d realized what he’d done. When he’d learned the Shredder was her father. Or so she’d thought at the time. It had been a mistake.
“Trying to off the can opener was not a mistake.”
Leo scowled. “I would appreciate it if you’d stay out of my head.”
Gravid scoffed. “I’m sure you would. I’m not here for your appreciation. And we are discussing Maul. You’ll do what you need to when the time comes?”
Leo paused, stomach curling in distaste.
“After everything he’s done, shouldn’t you hate him? I’d think you’d relish putting that monster out of your family’s misery.”
Leo glared at Gravid. “No. We do not kill enemies over personal vendettas. I’ve seen where that path leads and it does not end well.” That was the path the Shredder walked.
“Maul isn’t going to stop though.”
Leo shook his head. “No, he won’t. Not as long as he lives. I know that. When he dies it will be to protect all the innocent life he would crush without remorse, not to avenge my personal grievances. If it were just for the sake of me and mine, I’d stay my hand.”
Gravid smiled enigmatically. “And that is what makes the difference.”
Leo looked at him in puzzlement, uncertain of what to make of Gravid’s cryptic probing.
“Well, let’s get on with it then.”
Leo looked away and realized they were standing outside his ship.
“Move your shell boy.” Gravid started inside and Leo rushed to follow.
“I thought you said I wasn’t ready?”
“You’re not.” Gravid turned, gesturing to the interior. “It’s time you built yourself a weapon. You should have everything you need here.”
Leo’s jaw fell open. “What? I don’t know how to build space age weapons. Believe me, I spent my childhood trying.”
Gravid smiled. “Then you better figure it out.” He vanished in a puff of red mist.
Growling in frustration, Leo hopelessly cast about the interior of this ship. This was a hopeless disaster. He couldn’t even work the toaster without blowing out the lair’s electricity. How was he supposed to do this?
With a sigh, he sank to the floor, wishing Donnie were there.
Closing his eyes, he focused, reaching out as he had before.
Donnie. Help me.
He could sense his brother’s shock and panic as their minds connected, but Don didn’t cast him out.
Linked together, the interior of the ship looked different now. Instead of seeing it as a tool to use, he could see an unlimited wealth of possibilities. Knowing what he needed to do now, various components lit up as though highlighted and he gathered them in a daze, fitting the pieces together with practiced ease. As he slid the final components into a place, a pair of purple crystals, his mind split off from Donnie’s and he looked down to marvel at his creation.
At a glance, it could easily be mistaken for a bit of ship piping. With a handle, rough as a metal file, the pieces screwed into place like plumbing, connected with large nuts. The top even reminded him of a faucet head atop a rugged gear. Not necessarily pretty, but very functional. Just his brother’s style.
Thank you Donnie.
He could sense Don accept the wisp of gratitude even as he shied away from it. Also very Donnie.
Moment of truth. He lifted the saber and activated it, producing a beam of purple light. He almost laughed out loud. It worked. He’d built it, sort of, and it actually worked.
“Now that wasn’t so bad?”
He spun to face Gravid, smirking at him. “Was there a point to this?”
“You are more in tune with a weapon you create yourself. But mostly, I just needed you to have another sword.”
Leo raised an eye ridge. “Why?”
“It will be easier to teach on a foundation of what you already know. Besides dual wielding suits you. A natural extension of your style.”
Leo shook his head. “I already know how to fight.”
Gravid huffed out a laugh. “You already know that wielding light sabers is different. You can’t use what you’re used to. But don’t worry. I’ll fix that. Yes, Jar-Kai fencing will be just your speed.” The ghost turned and exited the ship. “Come along boy. Time’s a wasting.”
With a shake of his head, Leo turned and followed.