The small, two-man skiter slid through space silently, trailing blue fire behind it as it approached the heavily-agricultural planet of Presoth. It bore no identifying marks, the telesponder disconnected. The ship was designed to avoid attention, and did so well. Her passengers, however, were closer to the limelight end of that spectrum.
Inside, young Paige Skywalker sat int he cockpit, struggling to keep the fear in her heart from consuming her. Her father had gone to meditate in the cargo bay, requesting he be left alone and suggesting that Paige do something in preparation for the task ahead. The only thing she would have seen, were she meditating, would ahve been her mother's frightened, contorted face as something stole the life from her. Right in front of a ten-year-old Paige's wide eyes.
Four years. It had taken four years of tips, clues, and Force-guidings to find her murderer. To lead them to Presoth, deep in Imperial territory. Her father had told Paige stories of when the Empire and Republic were at war, when it was not safe for a Republic citizen to be seen in Imperial space. It was all very funny to listen to, of course, but not plausible. Not for young Paige, anyway. They had been at peace before she was even born.
Paige suddenly felt her mother's death again, closer than the four years had separated her from the now. Frighteningly closer.She waited for Presoth to grow in the viewport, concentrating on the colorful orb of the planet. Her father entered silently, taking the pilot's seat and flipping the ship's control, giving him control.
"Are you ready?" he asked Paige, glancing at her.
"I think so," she answered, her voice wavering and unsteady. Luke nodded grimly.
"I want you to stay here, Paige. You're not ready to handle somethign like this. Do you understand me?"
"I said, stay here!" he exclaimed, turning to her again. "If anything happens to me, if you think you are in danger, just think you are, take off. You got me?" Paige nodded, frightened by the tone of her father's voice. He was only so strict with her when it came to teaching her how to use her Force abilities. Was there something down there that was putting her Force skills in jeopardy? A Dark Jedi, perhaps? But, hadn't they all been eliminated?
"Dad, what's going to happen?" she asked. "You're going to be okay, right?"
Luke's cheek twitched. "I can't promise that, Paige," he said softly. "I can't even promise you justice for your mother's murder. All I can tell you for certain is, something important is going to happen down there. Mind what I've taught you, Paige. Listen to the Force." Shaken, Paige could only manage a nod. Luke broke the gaze, bringing the tiny ship down into Presoth's atmosphere.
The skitter began to buck wildly as it hit atmosphere. Paige's hands flew to the consoles to brace herself, as sirens began wailing in the cockpit. Luke struggled to keep the ship from crashing.
"Dad!" Paige cried, her eyes glued to the rushing ground. There was a single building in sight, one that looked decidedly abandoned. An ion cannon protruded upwards to the south of the building, obviously the cause of their troubles. Perhaps Paige was too surprised to have noticed the blue light that would have enveloped the little ship.
"Don't worry, I'll get us down," Luke gritted, flipping switches as he kept a tight grip on the joystick.The repulsors came on-line, keeping the ship from slamming into the tilled soil. Paige frowned, confused. If an ion beam had hit them, her father wouldn't have been able to bring any instruments on-line, not that quickly. What else could have caused the problem?
"That building," Paige whispered, a chill rising up her spine. "It's all centered there."
"Very good," her father told her, setting the ship down on the other side fo a small rise a half kilometer from the building. he left the ship in stand-by mode, stood. "If anything happens, hit that switch above the joystick. It will get a message off to Artoo and your Aunt Leia, and jump you to a safe rendezvous point. DO NOT leave the ship, understand me?"
"But, Dad..." Paige argued again.
"No. You are not to leave the ship. Got it?" Paige nodded glumly, her initial fear returning.
"When should I expect to leave, then?" she asked.
"If I'm not back in four hours, hit the switch." he paused, kissed his daughter on the forehead. "You're brave, Paige. If anything happens to me today, I need you to carry on our name. You are probably the strongest Jedi, Paige. Don't waste that."
"I won't," she whispered, too upset to speak any louder. She hugged him tightly, then watched as he left. Paige looked out the viewport, saw the small figure of her father head out across the field. Her eyes misted as she watched him go, her heart wrenching. He disappeared over the rise that hid the ship from the building, when Paige decided it would not do just to sit and wait.
She stood by the hatch, waiitng for the Force to tell her it was time to move. She would not let her father go into danger all alone. She couldn't.
The walk to the abandoned building was not as long as Luke had expected. His mind had been preoccupied with memories of his wife's funeral, of consoling their only daughter during it. Of Paige's terror of the hall since that day.Of the fear in her face as he told her the painful truth that he may not be returning that day.
As he arrived at the building, he buried all thoughts of them deep in the back of his mind, preparing for his confrontation with his wife's murderer.
He entered the building through a window, wary of a trap by the door. A quick glance to his right confirmed his suspicion. Silhouetted in the wan light coming from the window, was an E-web pointing at the door. No doubt a booby trap.
Easing the rest of his body into the window, finally back on his feet, he switched on his lightsaber. The green blade illuminated the room, showing empty plasteel crates and broken furniture. There was a door on the other side of the room, to his right. Luke bisected the E-web before continuing, sure to clear the way if he had a chance to escape and return to Paige.
The second door had not been booby trapped, but led him into a long hall. Trying each door, Luke went into the first open one, acutely aware he was being herded into a dangerous position.
As it was, there was a second door on the other side of the room, which still contained functional equipment. Luke knew he was on the right trail.
Entering the next room, he was surprised to find it empty. But Kells' presence was definitely there. The door shut, making Luke look back.
"Took you long enough," the other man mocked, dropping from the ceiling in front of Luke. Luke gazed into his hard eyes, pausing a moment before speaking.
"I'm not here to fight you," he said finally. "I'm here to bring you to justice."
"Well, that'll be kind of hard, considering...you'll be dead!" Kells struck at Luke's left side, making the Jedi scramble to pull and activate his lightsaber. The red beam was a little too quick, nicking Luke's side before his blade intercepted it. Blood stained his clothing and skin, but no more seeped from the cauterized wound.
Luke forced the sensation of pain from his body, kept fighting. Kells struck at every weak point he had, drawing blood and weakening him. Luke had known he would finally meet his match. Paige, unfortunately, would be an orphan by the end.
Kells struck at Luke's feet, causing him to put pressure on his already stressed bad ankle. He lost his balance and fell, landing on his wife's hidden lightsaber. He looked up, throwing his blade up to give him time. Even the Force had forsaken him in this battle.
Kells batted the saber out of his grip, stood over Luke like a predator going for the kill on a wounded prey. Luke closed his eyes, gave Paige the order to take off.
He felt the saber slice through his flesh, cutting tissue, leaving him to die as Kells withdrew it from his gut. Immediately after, a small, outraged voice made Luke's deepest fears a reality.
Paige stood there a long moment, her blood boiling in outrage. He had killed first her mother, and now her father, in front of her very eyes.
"No!" she screamed again, running to her father's side. In mid-motion, her eye caught a metallic object- her father's lightsaber. Angrily, Paige grabbed the weapon, thumbed it on. Kells, caught by surprise, started laughing.
"You think you can actually defeat me, little Skywalker?" he asked. "I just killed your father. You'd barely be a challenge."
"Challenge this!" Paige screamed, swinging the saber more like a baseball bat than a sword. Kells deflected three swipes, then knocked her to the ground. Undaunted, Paige threw her saber up to defend herself while she got up-
-when a sudden blazing agony erupted right above her elbow. She screamed, fell back. Paige pulled her arm close to herself, hoping to grab her left side with her right hand. It was no longer there. Or anything below the wound. Panicked, she looked up. Kells' red lightsaberwas bare centimeters from her, at the junction of neck a shoulder.
"You see, little Skywalker? I'd enjoy playing with you, but I must run. Call in the authorities, have them find the New Republic's most illustrious family slain and open up the Civil War again."
Paige watched in terror as Kells brought his blade back. A sudden sound pierced her ears, causing Kells to arch his back, eyes going wide. There was a burst of blue energy, one that caused Paige to shy away a moment.
Luke stood doubled over on the other side of the dissipating energy, blade falling to the ground a moment before he did.
"Daddy!" Paige cried, crawling to him. His breathing was shallow and ragged, clothes torn and blood-stained.
"I told you.....to stay...." He coughed up blood. Paige wiped it away, tears filling her eyes.
"Dad! Just, just hang on. I'll....I'll...."
"Too late," he said, his voice soft, but firm. Paige felt hot, angry tears streak her cheeks. "Go, Paige. Go!"
"No!" she exclaimed. "I'm not going without you!"
"Paige, I'm dying."
"I don't care!" She was desperate. "You can't die on me!"
"Please, Pagill," he begged, using her baby name. "Go, now. There's......There's nothing you can do."
"Daddy, no!" He did not reply to her desperate pleads. He gazed calmly up at Paige, summoned all his strength to reach up, brush a tear from her face. She held his hand there, feeling his warmth for as long as she could. He blurred in her vision. Luke smiled at her, his mouth moving, forming the words, 'I love you, baby.'
He gasped a handful of times, closing his eyes. One last sigh, and he died in his child's arms.
"Daddy, no!" Paige hissed, burying her face in his cooling shoulder, sobbing. "Daddy...."
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