So, HBO's been playing the Star Wars movies ad nauseam for the last few weeks, and while watching 'Phantom Menace' I noticed a group of aliens in one of the Senate scenes that looked a lot like E.T. Sure enough, a quick check on the internet verified that Lucas had included E.T.-like aliens as a sort of payback for Spielberg including SW figures and a kid in a Yoda costume in E.T. Cool, but just a neat little discovery, nothing more, so I dismissed it. But then I thought about doing a SWTF story, realized that this inclusion of E.T. now offered a connection for the SW and TF mythos (Earth), and went with it. Which left a lot of F'n research, as aside from the movies, and a couple of Zahn books back in high school which I barely remember, I didn't know much about the SW universe. Thank God for wookiepedia. Anyway, enjoy: It had taken sixty-two Galactic Standard days to get him to the target planet, and one of the first things he had noted was that prefacing the number of days with 'Galactic Standard' was no longer necessary. It seemed that despite their many differences, both Coruscant and this Earth required twenty-four hours to perform a complete rotation on its axis, yet another item to add to the list of peculiar similarities possessed by this world to the Galactic Capital. The trip here had provided him enough time to get a very, very basic grasp on the language known as English, and even that rudimentary grasp was only achieved through countless mnemonic aids and hours of emersion in pre-recorded English conversation while entranced in meditation. Being an oral language developed by humans, he had no difficulty mimicking any sound, but the general tenets and rules were very different from Galactic Basic. Such concerns were no longer of value as since he was walking down the street in what Earthlings considered to be a moderately populous town, the town housing his intended target individual, Nikana's skill with the English language would definitely be put to the test soon; it technically wasn't too late to turn back, but he wasn't going to. Fortunately, according to the accounts of this world provided by the Brodo Asodians, there were hundreds of different languages spoken on this planet, despite there only being one sentient species, and speakers of virtually all of them were represented in this one nation, the United States of America. Even this particular state, California, was renowned as a one of the nation's largest melting pots of foreign visitors. His thick alien accent and the fumbling of English words should not be seen as anything too unusual here. While it had taken him only sixty-two days to cover the three million, sixty thousand light year distance, it had taken him another four to find the information he needed on the potential contact. It seemed that the government of this United States had set up certain electronic 'trips' to alert them to queries into this individual's whereabouts. Fortunately these trips were easy to avoid. Even the most advanced of Earth technology was millennia behind what Nikana had access to. Though upon entry into Earth's atmosphere, the young man did get some technology readings from certain isolated pockets that seemed far advanced to what was the norm for Earth. Something he would probably look into later. Right now, it was time to meet Elliot Thomas. Nikana strode confidently up to the front door. Though the number of life forms throughout this galaxy was but a tiny fraction of the dense biodiversity of his, this particular planet was rich enough in life, and therefore the living Force, so that he had no problem noting the mild apprehension caused by his hooded robe. The garb of the Jedi was not something typically worn by the humans of this planet, provided they truly were humans, but as this particular Earthling had befriended a Brodo Asogian, the odd dress should not cause an issue. And while he trusted the word of the kind and honorable Force-sensitive who had claimed this species to be one in the same as his own, Nikana Skywalker needed more than just an untrained diagnosis based on observations while performing non-Jedi Force healing techniques. He stepped onto the front porch, scanned the door and the area around it, and determined that given the location of the button to the right of the door, it must be the method of alerting the occupants that they had a visitor. Nikana pressed the button and heard the muffled chime inside the house, as well as footsteps following it a short while later. The door opened, and a medium sized man with dark hair in his mid thirties opened the door and smiled. "Hello." Underneath the smile the man seemed suspicious, a suspicion justified due to his prior contact with a resident of Nikana's galaxy, but despite this suspicion the smile was genuine, emanating from a man that was truly open and welcoming. The Jedi was immediately put at ease and smiled back. "Hello, are you Elliot Thomas?" Though the accent was thick, the words came out clear and understandable. "Yes I am. What is it that I can do for you?" "As a child you made contact with an acquaintance of mine." Nikana immediately noted the man tense, something he didn't need his connection to the Force to notice. Despite this he continued. "Its name was Zreck, though Zreck asked you to refer to it as E.T." "Get the hell out of here." Elliot started to close the door. "No, wait." Nikana used the force to alleviate the tension in Elliot, though the Earthling seemed to possess a will strong enough to keep all but the subtlest influences from affecting him. "I assure you I am speaking truthfully to you, and will prove it." Elliot looked him up and down. "Well, you're definitely not government. So I'd have to guess that you're another devotee that's grown bored with Roswell whose caught wind of the rumors and decided to see if I could make first contact for you, is that it?" "I...I do not understand this Roswell..." "Well whatever you've heard, it never happened." Elliot said convincingly, though Nikana could sense this to be a lie. "It's all an urban legend." "Please, Mister Thomas, turn and look at the objects in your living room." Nikana requested as he levitated the furniture behind Elliot and began twirling them around gracefully in the air. He watched as Elliot turned skeptically and caught sight of his dancing furniture. "As you can see, I am not a devotee of this Roswell." The stunned Earthling watched his children's toys spinning around his hovering couch as if caught in its orbit for several seconds before finally turning back to the stranger. "O.K., you've got my attention. Come in." Elliot stepped aside and allowed Nikana in, who in turn lowered the contents of the living room back to their original positions. "But make it quick, my wife and kids should be back shortly." Elliot watched in amazement as everything settled back into place, but revealed that his skepticism wasn't completely gone. "And let's get one thing straight, your little trick earned you a chance to state your case, but I'm still not admitting to anything, and I'm certainly not buying your claims." "Of course." Nikana answered as he sat in the seat offered by Elliot and watching him sit as well, knowing that while the Earthling's words accurately depicted his rational thoughts, his emotional desires for Nikana's claims to be true were strong and growing stronger. "My name is Nikana, a Jedi Master born on Coruscant. I believe a good place for me to begin is by telling you of the being you know as E.T. As I mentioned, its true name is Zreck,” “Why do you refer to him as it?” Elliot immediately realized he had inadvertently eliminated any doubt there may have been regarding the validity of the stories of his involvement with an alien. “I mean no disrespect to your friend, I use the term ‘it’ because his species does not consist of separate genders. But I will refer to Zreck as ‘him’ going forward. To continue, Zreck is from the planet Brodo Asogi. His species are very humble, to the point where they have not even chosen a designation for their species, they simply refer to themselves as children of Brodo Asogi, so we refer to them as such, or as Brodo Asogians. Unlike most species that have evolved physical advantages to avoid predators and other threats, the Brodo Asogians seemed to evolve Force-sensitivity in significantly greater abundance per capita than any other sentient species, though that level of sensitivity rarely got to the level of Jedi potential. Enough to sense danger from a great enough distance for their limited physical abilities to make necessary preparations, but not much more than that. Brodo Asogians with Zreck's ability were as rare as Force-sensitives of most other sentient species." Elliot stared intently at the strange newcomer. "What...are you talking about?" "Jedi is the title used to describe a Force-sensitive trained in the light aspects of the Force." The Jedi noted that this seemed to offer no clarity for the Earthling. "Force-sensitivity. Surely you have those that are in tune with the energy that's emanated from all living things." "I have no idea of what you're talking about." Elliot shook his head. "I mean, we've got people who claim to be psychic, telekinetic and so on, but nobody has demonstrated these abilities to a convincing degree. I've certainly never seen anyone come near what I've seen with E.T., or what I saw you doing a few moments ago." "How is that possible?" Nikana asked. "I recognize that on a galactic level the living Force is sparse here. The galaxy from which I come possesses roughly twenty billion life-bearing, and therefore Force producing worlds, while yours appears to only have a few hundred thousand life-bearing worlds. But this planet alone has adequate life forms to produce a strong presence of the living Force. My powers are only slightly less than they would be on my home world." Elliot shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you. Aside from the occasional Kreskin or Bruce Lee's one-inch punch, there's not much out there to suggest anything like this. I just figured E.T.'s abilities were due to his alien anatomy, not him being one of these...Jedis." Nikana shook his head gently and absently as he pondered this seemingly impossible revelation. "Zreck is not a Jedi. He is a very powerful Force-sensitive who has been trained in a discipline of Force manipulation that originated with his species, a discipline that's even more light-side oriented than that of the Jedi. Though he was extended an invitation to enter the order." "He didn't like your club?" Elliot asked. "The Jedi embrace peace, but we prepare for war. Zreck, along with virtually all other highly Force-sensitive Brodo Asogians, respect many aspects of our training and philosophies, but renounce our utilization of the force to aid us in conducting warfare, or even in defensive measures that cause harm to the assailant." Nikana explained. "So, you're some sort of warrior monk, is that it?" Elliot queried. "That is a fair description of the Jedi in general." Nikana paused for a moment before continuing. "Though I would be likened more to a weapon than warrior. It is the primary reason I have come here." "You mind explaining that?" Elliot twisted uneasily in his sofa. "I have a problem with weapons in my house." "Of course. You are in no danger, I meant merely that I am the genetic replication of the ultimate conduit of the Force." Nikana smiled, knowing a more detailed explanation would be required. Nikana continued with a weak smile on his face. "The living Force can be manifested in many different ways, but most practitioners either study the darker, more selfish and violent aspects, or the lighter, more benevolent and selfless aspects. We Jedi are devoted to the light side of the Force, as are several other disciplines, including the one practiced by Zreck. The most influential group practicing the dark side are known as the Sith. For millennia the Jedi and Sith have been at odds, leading to numerous wars that have claimed countless casualties. We are currently engaged in one such war, one started by the Sith roughly fifty years ago, one which they quickly claimed and maintained the offensive. The Jedi were pushed back, the Sith lords proving to have superior resources and more often than not, more potent masters of the Force. Realizing that they would be brought to the point of defeat within a few decades, if not years, the Jedi Masters determined upon a course of action that was considered an abomination." Nikana paused again before continuing. "They decided to bring about the return of the Chosen One." "I'm sorry, what?" "Roughly five hundred years ago a child was born, one with a potential for Force manipulation that had never been dreamed possible. Unfortunately his birth and early childhood went unnoticed by the Jedi Order, an early childhood spent in slavery, where he was forced to prove his worth on a regular basis. Upon his discovery, the Jedi began training him, but the loss of his most formative years, as well as an affinity for the Force which allowed for the acquisition of skills prior to the wisdom needed to use those skills, made him unstable, and very susceptible to dark influences. He turned to the dark side, pledged his devotion to the Sith, took the name Darth Vader, and betrayed the Jedi, ushering in one of our darkest eras. In time he redeemed himself, but at the cost of unthinkable loss of life and destruction." "Uh, OK, just so you know...” Elliot broke in. "Here on Earth we typically regard legendary 'chosen ones' as people who improve the world, not leave it in tatters." Nikana nodded and smiled. "Yes, though with his act of redemption he ridded my galaxy of the most powerful Sith Lord of all time, and he spawned a lineage that rebuilt the Jedi Order from its ashes and has been the backbone of it since. The problem was that after seven or eight generations, the unequaled level of Force-sensitivity demonstrated by his offspring got diluted. His current descendants are still typically Force-sensitive, but rarely achieve a midi-chlorian count greater than eight thousand per cell." "A what?" "Symbiotic life forms within each of us that act as a sensory organ connecting us with the Force. I can go into the details at another time if you would like." Nikana smiled. "Given the desperate times the Jedi order was facing, the decision was made two and a half decades ago to clone the Chosen One and raise him under ideal circumstances; under Jedi supervision from the moment of birth. Unlike my genetic template, I would be ideal in both body and upbringing. Like with Anakin Skywalker, my template, my skills greatly outpaced my knowledge and wisdom, but they were careful to ensure my restlessness had constructive outlets, and that I was kept busy enough so as to not contemplate my existence or personal desires." A look of sadness came over the young man. "The decision paid off for them, though they were forced to accelerate their timetable with me. At ten years of age I saw battle, at fifteen I led armies, and by my twentieth birthday I had personally led to the withdrawal of the Sith from the galactic core. I have slaughtered their masters with ease, I can disrupt the flight of entire squadrons, I can see how battles unfold hours, sometimes days before they commence, and more often than not I can both read and influence the minds of those that oppose me. When I was ten we were on the verge of defeat. Fourteen years later we control the galaxy, and the remnants of our enemies are forced to hide in the shadows of the outer rim." "Soooo, why so melancholy, Nik? You're a hero, right?" Nikana shook his head. "No. Warriors are celebrated. Weapons are...decommissioned." Elliot looked stunned. "Wait, they can't do that. You say these Jedi strive to be benevolent, and now you're telling me they plan to kill you?" "I can not say that is their intention." Nikana said. "But they have always feared me, and as their need for my abilities has waned due to my...I mean, our weakening of the Sith, this fear has increased significantly. When they look at me, they see the potential for the return of Vader. And though they hide it well, they are clearly keeping secrets from me." Elliot slapped his thighs as he stood up. "OK, I've got to tell you, that was a fascinating yarn. And while your little juggling act was impressive, it doesn't go anywhere near convincing me that this intergalactic super clone story of yours is plausible." Nikana smiled and reached into his cloak. "Alright, but before I leave I must give you something." He pulled out a small holo-projector and placed it on the coffee table. Reaching out with his mind, Nikana activated it. The image of E.T., or Zreck appeared and addressed the stunned Elliot, who lowered back to a sitting position. "Greeeetings Elliot. I have missed you my friennnnd. I wish to seeee you again. The war between the Jedi and Sith has kept me from returning, but it might end, so I hope to return to Earth. Peeeeace to you my friend." The image faded, and a tear rolled down Elliot's cheek. "Uh, wow. That was really him. And he might be coming back." The Earthling then looked to the alien in his living room and smiled. "Thank you, thank you so much. And I'm sorry for doubting you, Nik. Oh, I'm sorry, Nikana." "Do not apologize, it is perfectly understandable. And you may call me Nik, most sentients do." "So, I guess you're here to escape the gratitude of your creators, is that it?" "Yes, for the most part." Nik smiled. "Well, whatever you need from me, you've got it." Elliot assured him. "Though I'd keep a lid on your true point of origin if I were you." Nik nodded as he smiled at the Earthling. "There is one thing I would ask of you." "Name it." "Your blood." Nikana answered matter of factly, but noted that the answer seemed to put the Earthling ill at ease. "Or perhaps something less invasive, like hair. I desire to conduct a genetic evaluation to test Zreck's claim that you and I are of the same species, despite our being from different galaxies." Elliot nodded his understanding and pointed down the hall. "My comb is on the counter in the bathroom. You shouldn't have any problem finding a hair or two in there." Nikana nodded and headed down the hall. "Thank you." He traversed the hallway and entered the bathroom, finding the small plastic hair-straightening implement resting next to the sink. Sure enough, a few of Elliot's dark hairs were tangled in the comb's teeth, one which Nikana removed and placed in an electronic device that he removed from a pocket of his cloak. He stared down at the small display for several moments, awaiting the results of the test. "Impossible." The whisper came out involuntarily as the confirmation that Elliot Thomas, and likely all other sentients on this planet, were the same mainline human species that are dominant in Nikana's galaxy. What made Nikana all the more disbelieving was that the humans of Earth appeared to have been able to trace their point of origin, and even find remains of some of the proto-human species that gave rise to them, something that despite millennia of searching, the humans of Nikana's galaxy had been unable to do, leading to the extreme likelihood that this Earth had given rise to them all. Like many answers, this confirmation had led to a myriad of new questions. The young Jedi looked up at his reflection in the mirror, and was a little taken aback by what he saw. The face was his, but over his right eye was a scar that he did not have, and his hair was far longer than he normally kept it. Even the facial expression was far more emotive than what he typically displayed. He instantly recognized this alternate version of his face, which was even more unsettling than it would have been had a complete stranger been looking back at him. Despite unparalleled affinity for the Force, this was the first time a Force ghost had chosen to reveal itself to him. Though surprised, Nik felt no fear. "Greetings Anakin." "Hello Nikana, I'm sure that you were expecting me to make contact with you at some point." Anakin replied, the reflection altering as the ghost stepped out of the mirror and into the center of the bathroom, taking a more holographic-looking form. "Actually, no. I always half-expected Luke, or Kenobi, or Yoda, or Kol, or even Cade; but not you." Nik replied smugly. Anakin's ghost smiled. "Of course, for what wisdom have I that you have not already gained through your superior upbringing, right?" Nik didn't bother trying to hide the fact that his genetic template was correct. "You were the most powerful vessel the force could occupy, one who could bring true justice to the galaxy, and you chose evil. Even before your turning it seemed as though you couldn't destroy your potential fast enough, ignoring some of the greatest masters ever to be assembled at any one point in history, chipping away body parts and the midi-chlorians that resided in them until you were nothing more than a stump encased in a machine, and taking up with a teacher who clearly had no intention of allowing you to surpass him. At your best you were the best warrior on the battlefield. Me, I'm the army! Under the right circumstances, you could turn the tide of a battle. Me, I won the war." "Single-handedly?" Anakin asked, and smiled as Nikana was tempted to answer in the affirmative. "That's why I'm here. You've avoided many of the pitfalls that led to my being consumed by the dark side, but despite our divergent upbringings, we do have similarities; dangerous similarities like pride, fear, suspicion, anger, and admittedly to a lesser amount, ambition." Nik turned away from the ghost in disgust. "We have nothing in common. You're a failure of a Jedi, a father, and a man. Leave me and be appreciative of the absolution apparently given you for the most meager of paternal acts." Anakin ignored the insult and continued. "Your Force-sensitivity may surpass all other creatures in existence, but your intelligence does not. Nor, apparently, does your sense of duty." "Sense of duty?" Nikana snapped back, realizing that he needed to muffle his voice so that Elliot wouldn't hear his conversation with this ghost. "As in my duty to return for my own execution? An execution that the Jedi feel is necessary because of your actions!" "You are not fleeing any execution." Anakin retorted. "The Jedi would never consider killing you unless you gave them legitimate reason to, and you know that. You fear the looks you get from all you encounter, you fear being equated with one of history's greatest mass murderers for the remainder of you life." "Do you blame me?" Nikana growled angrily, almost hatefully. "No." Anakin replied sorrowfully. "My legacy is a burden you will carry forever, and for that I can not apologize enough. But that does not excuse you from creating your own legacy. Nor does it justify you slipping into the grasp of the dark side." "What are you talking about?" Nik asked in seeming annoyance. "No Sith would so much as reveal themselves to me, much less court me in an attempt to convert me." "Palpatine's courtship did not involve any revelations, at least not until I had already surrendered myself to my possessive nature, which was just a short step from the dark side." "Again, I'm not you!" The angered Jedi snarled. "In many ways you are, and you need to accept that!" The ghost snarled back. "Right now I can feel the anger, the frustration, the fear boiling within you." Anakin's shape started shifting, growing larger, turning black, into a form far more infamous; the form of Darth Vader. "Added to your arrogance these things could ensure that our fates, like our genetic make up, turn out the same." The dark form shrank and molded into the middle aged and redeemed Anakin. "Despite your opinion of me, my experiences make me better able to help you avoid this path than Obiwan, Yoda or my progeny." "I'm not you." Nikana whispered. "Then prove it. Face your fear. Overcome it. Don't let it consume you, as it did me. As it stands, this attempt of yours to flee your responsibility has already begun a chain of events that will expand the power of the Sith, and extend the dark times you so nearly brought to an end. Your absence will cripple the Jedi Order. You must return, and set aside your pride enough to know you need help." Anakin sternly stared into the eyes of his younger doppelganger before vanishing. "And know that I was chosen to bring balance to the force, but I neglected that destiny. Your existence isn't the Jedi Order adding onto their arsenal, it's the fulfillment of a prophecy I turned my back on." Nikana was once again alone in the small bathroom. "Hey, are you OK in there?" The Jedi snapped out of his thoughts and answered Elliot as he opened the door and started down the hall toward him. "Yes, I am fine." Nikana found that the Ea...fellow human had figured out how to replay the holo message from Zreck. "So, are we relatives, or just similar looking aliens?" Elliot smiled as he briefly looked up at Nik. "As impossible as it seems, Zreck was correct. We are of the same species." Nikana's deep thoughts weren't about this scientific improbability however. "I kindly thank you for your hospitality, Elliot Thomas, but I believe I must return to my galaxy." "Huh? But I thought they were going to kill you." Elliot protested. "After some...introspection, I determined that they would never do that. My flight from them had to do with my emotional insecurities, not physical well being." Nik answered. "And I mustn't allow these insecurities to determine my fate. I have responsibilities that I must return to." Elliot stood up, started to protest, but after a second thought merely nodded. "I understand. Ten years ago I would have insisted you take me with you so that I could see E.T. again, but responsibilities are as unavoidable on this planet as they are on yours. Just know that you are always welcome here." "Thank...” Nik paused as he sensed the approach of others, but remained relaxed as he sensed the nature of those approaching. A moment later the door burst open and two children, an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, burst into the house and charged into the living room. They both froze as they saw Nikana. "Mike, Gert, this is Nik. He's a friend of Uncle Keys." "Oh, hi." Mike replied quickly as he delivered a sloppy wave at the guest before turning excitedly to his father. "Dad, it's all over the radio, they're at it again! This time I think they're going to bring in Max!" With that the boy ran and turned on the television in the front of the room. Nikana peered at the screen and watched as a battle came to life. The image was initially a little bumpy as the cameraperson maneuvered to get to a safer position, but the details soon became clear, leaving Nikana dumbfounded. In general this Earth was extremely primitive compared to virtually any sentient-bearing planet from his home galaxy, but the conflict that the television was illustrating was displaying constructs, be they droid or mech, that were far and away more efficient and destructive than any mechanical soldier he had ever seen or read about. They were savage, they were graceful, they were instinctive and intuitive, and they moved and reacted like living beings. "What manner of construct are these?" Elliot looked at Nik puzzled. "What, you don't know about these guys?" "Are they droid or mech?" The Jedi whispered. "They're apparently living creatures." Elliot whispered as well as he picked up the holo-projector that Nik had given him. Him having to explain the existence of Transformers, which had had a huge impact on Earth for the last twenty-three years, would raise more questions from his kids about this stranger than he wanted to deal with, as would this small alien device. "They're warriors from another planet that crash landed here millions of years ago and woke up twenty three years ago when the volcano they were in erupted. I've got a contact in the government who swears that either they're alive, or their AI is so good that they may as well be." "Amazing. They do react like living creatures. In all our long history, we've never had any battle droid or war suit that comes close to these beings." Nikana said. "Hey honey." Elliot's beautiful blond wife walked in. "Who's this?" "Erika, this is Nik. Nik, this is my wife Erika. Nik's a friend of Keys." Elliot made the introduction. "Yeah, he must be." Erika looked Nik's robe up and down. "So, do you work for the government too?" "Uhh." "Actually, he's a former foreign contact of Keys' who has recently emigrated here." Elliot answered his wife's question as he walked Nik to the door. "And unfortunately he needs to be going." "Yes, it was a pleasure to meet all of you." Nik replied in his thickly accented English. The two men walked out of the house and down the steps of the front porch. "You have a beautiful family." "Thanks. I kind of owe it all to E.T. in a way." Elliot chuckled as they walked toward the sidewalk. "I guess he used some of that Jedi mind power stuff to transfer his beer and television fueled rampage onto me, and when all was said and done, Erika was smitten." "Yes, he informed me of the psychic link with you, though it's interesting to see the long term result was so positive." Nik smiled. "Now, please tell me of these mechs." "Uh, sure. Basically, they rescued my childhood. From the age of ten to the age of twelve I had G-men in vans parked eternally outside my house, listening in on me in hopes that E.T. would return and try to contact me. Then in 1984 Mount St. Hillary erupted and revealed these Transformers, and I kind of fell of the government's radar." Elliot grinned. "Aside from that, they're pretty straight forward. Those called Autobots are noble defenders; those called Decepticons are out to conquer the universe. The entire black and white of it all just seems odd to me, I'm a little more used to shades of gray." "Hmm, that may be a trait isolated to Earth." Nik replied. "Where I come from, these shades of gray aren't that common, a sentient is typically either good or bad - they can switch from one to the other, but are rarely in between. Anyway, I must be going. Thank you for your assistance Elliot." "Uh, yeah, giving you that hair was a big imposition." The Earthling chuckled. "Believe me, I'm the one who should be thankful. Take care Nikana, watch your back but don't let yourself give into these insecurities of yours." Nikana walked briskly down the street until Elliot returned into his house. Anakin's message about Nik's flight starting a chain of events leading to the Sith regaining some of their power left him deeply concerned, as well as a little confused. He had defeated their armies, killed their masters. He had left victory on a plate and served it to his Jedi Masters. What had happened? He checked to verify that nobody was watching him and then sprinted, using the force to allow him to move faster than a human eye could follow. The Jedi arrived at a desolate bit of coast several minutes later and felt for his craft in an underwater cave below him, where he had left it. As he expanded his senses he felt something else, something that didn't belong here. "Greetings Jedi." *** "Will you put that thing away?" Jedi Master Aegis Quinto snapped with uncharacteristic impatience at his fellow Master seated several feet away in the passenger section of the freighter. The other Jedi Master, Mil Torgas, paid minimal heed to his colleague and continued gazing upon the image of the holo message left by their wayward champion, Nikana. He had since muted the recording of the young man's voice; he was merely peering at the image, pondering the potential impact of his decision to leave. "You do realize we drove him away, don't you?" "Nonsense!" Quinto snapped. "Treachery is in his blood. It was a mistake to ever reanimate that cursed genotype! All that effort to unravel his unique genetic code, all our diminishing resources to provide him with the highest level of training and education," "All our scrutiny, all our suspicion, our baseless mistrust." Torgas added. "Baseless?" Quinto interjected. "He is a genetic duplicate of one of the most vile mass murderers in Galactic history." "Vader was made, not born." Torgas countered. "The fall of Anakin Skywalker was based on external forces acting on him and his lack of training and experience to deal with those forces, it was not based on his DNA." "I've heard you say this many times before, Master Torgas." Master Quinto grumbled. "Your theories on nature versus nurture are what led us down this path in the first place. We should have left that padawan braid buried in the old Jedi Order archives, or better yet, burn it so that the last physical trace of this genetic nightmare would be rid from existence." "They we would have been burned from existence shortly afterward." Torgas smiled. "I appreciate your concerns, I've had many of them myself, but even you must acknowledge that without him, all would have been lost. Because of his skills and abilities, we are now on the brink of total victory. The last of the Sith Lords are mere hours from being at our mercy. And any denial that Nikana Skywalker was the primary impetus for this is wholly untrue." "Yes, his contributions to the war have been nothing short of staggering." Quinto conceded. "Which makes his flight all the more serious. While here we could keep an eye on him, continue to mold him, monitor his moods, his focus, and his influences. Now he is out of our grasp, away from our vigilant watch. He is susceptible to dark forces, whether internal or external, and there is nothing we can do about it. We may have inadvertently set the stage for the re-emergence of Darth Vader, and unlike the original, this one would be whole physically, emotionally and in terms of training. A half dozen of his first generation offspring could oppose him with little chance of stopping him." "Then I guess we must hope that the training and upbringing we provided will be adequate to ward off these dark impulses, both internal and external." Torgas smiled. "I hate to interrupt you, Masters." The Jedi Knight in his late twenties entered the passenger section from the cockpit. "But we have arrived in the Ziost system. The other Jedi Generals and Commanders, as well as their troops are preparing to disembark." "Then we shall prepare as well." Quinto replied. "Thank you for the notice General Skywalker. I have no doubt that you will honor your ancestors in battle today." "I will fight to the extent of my ability." The young man replied before heading back into the cockpit. "He was your sister's padawan, was he not?" Torgas asked. "Yes." Quinto, a Muun, replied. "An excellent student, that Malko Skywalker, though a clear example of the line being watered down." "Yes, three generations without a descendant of Anakin Skywalker to achieve a midi chlorian count higher than ten thousand. Very depressing." Torgas mildly lamented as both Masters stood and prepared to land on the previously believed vacant planet. "But they still make up the backbone of our order, and have consistently proven to be our guiding light." On the surface of frigid, thickly forested planet, hundreds of landing craft parted the clouds and lowered to the ground, crushing thousands of trees in the process. Tens of thousands of Republic soldiers stormed out of the ships, led by their respective Jedi leaders, toward the base of a large mountain. Intelligence gathered from spies and captured Sith had led them here, Mount Adas of the planet Ziost. According to reports, a hidden entrance revealed a series of tunnels which led to a vast subterranean city, the apparently power core of this latest incarnation of the Sith, as well as its final refuge. "Army of the Republic!" The High Jedi General, Sarbis Skywalker, called out from the forefront of the vast army while mounted on his tauntaun. "Our efforts, our courage, our sacrifices have brought us here. Within this mountain lies the last remnant of those that threaten the lives, security and freedom of all of us. History has told us all too clearly of what we could expect under the dominion of the Sith, I need not recount the tales of suffering and brutality that has occurred every time the galaxy has been ruled by the dark side. Today we can put an end to their threat! Today we can claim victory and security for freedom! Today, we end this war!" An enormous cheer went up and echoed throughout the forest and against the side of the mountain, but it slowly subsided as the sounds of groaning metal washed over the throngs. Several of the transport ships were rising into the air, and the confused and growingly worried troops quieted in anticipation for whatever was to come. They did not have to wait long as the giant transports flung toward them and ground hundreds of them into the frozen tundra. The Jedi collectively wielded their powers to counter the attack, and managed to set a couple of them back down, but the several that they were not able to stop had set their army into a state of disarray. The situation was worsened by the emergence of thousands of Snowtroopers storming down from the forests covering and surrounding the mountain. Their weapons' fire cut into the already confused Republic soldiers. In the midst of the chaos, Sarbis Skywalker called out to the Jedi Generals and Commanders. "Fellow Jedi, our battlefield commanders are capable of handling these troopers! It falls on us to weed out and destroy their masters! To the mountain!" Though not as Force-sensitive as some of the other Jedi Masters, and nowhere near as powerful with the Force as most of his ancestors, Sarbis had spent the entirety of his sixty-three years of life honing the still-vast potential that he did possess, and detecting the entrance to the Sith domain was done with ease. He ignited his light saber as he charged toward the hidden entrance, one now barred by dozens of Snowtroopers. His tauntaun was mowed down in seconds, but he sprang from the dying beast and hurled himself through the air toward those defending the mountain. Shot were deflected with ease, and enemy soldiers cut down without a conscious thought devoted to the effort. But the Jedi Master still wondered how it was that so many well armed and seemingly well trained soldiers sprung up when the Sith forces had previously been considered all but eliminated. Most worrisome was the lack of diversity these soldiers possessed, all being one hundred eighty-three centimeters tall and bearing the same athletic frame. The implications of this were frightening, but something to be dealt with after the elimination of the remaining Sith Lords. The clone Nikana Skywalker had already slain all but a couple of the dark lords that they were aware of, including the perceived Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Venomous. All that should be left were Darth Necromas and a likely a few others, including disciples. Yet someone far more powerful than Necromas was believed to be was needed to manipulate landing ships like toys and mask the presence of thousands of troops. As Sarbis tore through the holographic image of rock face, and the metal door it was hiding, he realized that whatever lay waiting for them within was far more powerful than what they had been anticipating upon their arrival. "Jedi, be wary. The dark side is thick here, and will likely grow thicker with each step we take toward the bowels of this mountain." The light side warriors charged into the dark tunnel, and after several turns the only illumination given off was from their light sabers. But after roughly a half-mile of traveling down toward the depths of the massive Mount Adas they noted a dim light up ahead. The thirty-seven Jedi entered a mid-sized chamber, one filled with currently unused cloning equipment and a lone Kaminoan slumped over in a chair, apparently conscious, but seemingly indifferent to the emergence of more than three dozen weapon-wielding Jedi. "Identify yourself!" Sarbis demanded. The Kaminoan slowly looked up to reveal large despondent eyes. "I am Orun Wa, I was the chief geneticist on Kamino. I was the one primarily responsible for the Army of the Republic, and their ARC upgrades." The long-necked alien looked back toward the ground. "That was a long time ago." "Too long ago." Aegis Quinto stepped forward. "Kaminoans may be long lived, but the creation of the Army of the Republic was nearly five centuries ago, far too long for you to be that Orun Wa." "I was captured by the Separatists and spent over four centuries in stasis at the command of Darth Tyrannus." Orun Wa recounted. "A man I counted as friend, a man I betrayed my people and the Republic to, a man who rewarded this friendship and betrayal by removing me to my life and sentencing me to temporally displaced slavery." "I sense no deception from this one." Master Torgas commented. "Nor do I, though I will await the results of a genetic scan prior to believing his claims. It is clear though that the Force is not with this one, and should he be telling the truth, he would be an invaluable asset to us." Sarbis declared. "Master Quinto, please escort him to the surface, and when an opportunity presents itself, get him to one of our orbiting starships." "As you wish, Master Skywalker." Quinto complied, walking over the Kaminoan to assist him should he need it. The Kaminoan brushed the Jedi's hands away and rose on his own. "We all must leave, I must inform you of what awaits you beyond. You are not prepared! In addition to replicating and altering the genetic material of the Mandalorian Jango Fett, I was charged with perfecting the process of morphing a clone brain using a cerebral scanner that Tyrannus had in his possession, a device that would imprint the memories and personality scanned from a genetic match onto the clone, effectively making it that individual in body, mind and soul. The Sith Lord that currently awaits you beyond this chamber had knowledge of and access to several of these devices, and using them, formatted the brains of age-advanced clones that I had been producing over the last several months." "That's not possible." Sarbis muttered as Quinto led the Kaminoan toward them. "To 'imprint' knowledge, memories, wisdom and a personality on a cloned mind can not be done." "Then you have nothing to fear, Jedi." Orun Wa offered with despondent sarcasm. "Just pretend you did not see the legions of Fett clones with completed Imperial military training outside, and pay no mind to the death awaiting you in the next room." "Who?" Torgas demanded. "What Sith has been cloned?" "They...they tell me nothing. The only Sith I know by name is the alchemist, Necromas, who aided me in unraveling the genotype and altering the cerebral scanner for one of the clones - who, despite his complex genetic make up, was merely a human." The Kiminoan looked down and shook his head despondently, and thus missing the looks of horror displayed by the Jedi that surrounded him. They too had spent a great deal of time and resources in understanding the genetic make up of what by all other measures was a human. "This was the one that their Master showed the most interest in, the only one whose face I've actually seen clearly." "Get him to safety, Master Quinto." Sarbis ordered and marched intently toward the opposite end of the cavern. Suddenly the cavern started to shake and rocks began falling upon them. "They'll never allow us to leave alive!" The Kiminoan lamented. "How right you are." A raspy voice echoed throughout their heads, followed a moment later by an invisible force tearing Orun Wa away from the Jedi and through the doorway on the other end of the room. Sarbis Skywalker charged after him through the door, the thirty-six other Jedi valiantly followed him, sabers at the ready. They calmly yet assertively barreled into the large chamber beyond, watching as the Kiminoan whipped over the floor toward a figure covered in a dark robe, finally coming to a stop behind him and resting on the floor, dazed but otherwise unharmed. "Welcome, brave Jedi." The same raspy voice that the Jedi had heard in their heads was now audible. "I believe you have come here to claim victory." The head of the dark figure rose, revealing only glowing yellow-red eyes deep within the dark hood. "So come claim it!" Sarbis stepped forward undaunted. "Identify yourself and prepare to be taken into custody!" "He is the Dark Lord of the Sith, so watch your tone." The tall, thin Rattataki in Sith garb casually strode from the side of the room to take his place next to the far smaller, yet apparently far more powerful Sith Lord. "And here I'd thought we'd gotten rid of all your friends, Necromas." Master Torgas remarked sarcastically. "From what I've been told, the one that dispatched the colleagues of Darth Necromas is no longer counted in your 'we'; or have I been misinformed?" The dark lord snickered. "Excluding the accomplishments of Nikana Skywalker, the Jedi Order has done nothing but sweep up the crumbs left in his wake." Sarbis smiled as he continued walking across the room. "Your attempts to intimidate us are futile. Nikana may be our strongest member, but he is not required to handle this final threat. Now identify yourself and prepare to be taken into custody." The figure pulled back his hood, revealing the face of a forty year old Palpatine surrounding the yellow-red eyes of a Sith. "I am Darth Sidious, and believe me, I have been preparing for you for quite some time, Master Jedi." "Palpatine." Sarbis whispered, momentarily losing his fearless countenance, but quickly regaining composure. "So be it. We are more than a match, even for the two of you!" Several bolts of blue Force Lightening sent Sarbis and the Jedi on either side of him hurtling back, and causing the others to stop and adopt defensive postures. "You face more than merely Necromas and myself. I have abandoned the rule of two that dominated the Sith for a millennia." From the shadows behind and to either side of Sidious and Necromas emerged the two forms. "Allow me to introduce you to two of my apprentices; Darth Maul and General Grievous." The red skinned Maul clone, complete with replicated black Sith tattoos, ignited both sides of his double-bladed light saber and grinned at those he had been reborn to fight. The large cyborg on the opposite side of the room glared heatedly at the Jedi, igniting the three lightsabers that Sidious had given him. "If it makes you feel better, you can take solace in knowing that those of you who fall by my hand will not be killed by a Sith, merely one who detests Jedi to the very core of his being." "Do not be unnerved, Jedi." Sarbis announced as he stood back up. "These are merely clones with replicated memories, they are not the real things." "I beg to differ, Master Skywalker." Palpatine countered. "First, while this body is the product of genetic replication, the soul that inhabits it is that of the original Darth Sidious. Death could not keep me down, nor could the attempts of your Jedi forebears dispose of my restless spirit. The others that have been cloned have new souls, but souls formed by the thoughts, experiences and emotions to become exact replicas of those they are cloned from." "You are as great a monster as history depicts you being!" Quinto growled. "A clone of Grievous would come out whole, so you would have had to dice him up afterward to create this mechanical beast!" "A process I embraced!" Grievous answered. "Lacking Force-sensitivity, it would be extremely difficult for me to kill Jedi in my wholly organic form. But in this mechanical body, I will exterminate you like the giant insects you are!" "You have selected powerful allies to resurrect, Sidious, but even you four can not stand against thirty seven Jedi!" Sarbis announced, almost smugly. Palpatine merely glared back with a look of calm disdain. "There is another I chose to bring back, and unlike with Grievous, he was far...FAR more powerful being left whole as opposed to recreating his injuries. You have your clone, but I possess the true sire to your line. Allow me to present, Darth Vader!" From the shadows behind Sidious emerged another figure in a black robe, the hood covering his head. The form walked forward and took his place next to his master, finally removing his hood to reveal a face identical to that of Nikana, the only deviation being the eyes, the yellow-red eyes of the dark side. "No." Nearly every Jedi present elicited the word, accompanied by a gasp. "The scan used to mold his mind was taken prior to his being sent to the second Death Star, and certain alterations had been made ensuring that the betrayal of the original Vader will not be repeated." Darth Necromas boasted as he reveled in the fear given off by the many Jedi present. "You will certainly kill many Jedi on this day." Sarbis confidently strode forward once again. "But there are still to many of us for you five to defeat. It will be a victory wrought with sacrifice, but it will be a victory for the Jedi nonetheless." "We shall see about that!" Sidious once again unleashed a series of blue Force Lightening on the advancing Jedi, but this time those in the front were ready for it and positioned their lightsabers to absorb and parry the bolts. Despite the thwarting of his attempts, Sidious laughed, finally turning toward his most prized student. "Show them what you are capable of now that you are whole and unfettered by the emotional weaknesses of your former self!" Vader smiled and initiated a series of Force Lightening himself, but the sheer power given off by Vader was such that it blasted through the Jedi as if they were nothing, tossing them all several feet and to the ground. Upon his letting up, only the sound of Palpatine's uproarious laughter could be heard over the sounds of sizzling coming from the battered Jedi. "Excellent, excellent. This is how it should have been from the beginning!" Sarbis once again got to his feet, calling out to Vader. "If you are Vader, then you can also be considered Anakin Skywalker. I am your descendant, I know of your fall. I know also of your redemption. There is good within you, the histories confirm it! Search deep within yoursel...urgh!" A Force Choke silenced the Jedi Master, and a moment later he was being propelled toward the clone of his ancestor. A moment before reaching Vader, a lightsaber flew out from within Vader's robes, ignited as it hovered in the air, was snatched from the air by Vader and used to decapitate Jedi Master Sarbis Skywalker. "Master, may we finish this now?" Vader calmly asked the laughing Sidious. "Of course, of course." Sidious replied, raising his hands. Both Maul and Grievous attacked the Jedi on their flanks as Palpatine began hurling stalactites from the roof of the cave down upon them. Vader manipulated the rocks of the environment as projectile weapons as well as calmly entering the fray with his lightsaber, using his powers to maintain both attacks simultaneously with seemingly little effort, an occurrence that Sidious noted with a slight degree of apprehension. *** Nikana looked at the eight sentients that surrounded him on three sides, his back being to the Pacific Ocean. There were at least three different species represented, though all wore versions of Mandalorian battle armor adapted for their respective anatomical features. "I wasn't aware that Mandalorians had extra-galactic travel capabilities." The apparent leader, a humanoid, stepped forward and addressed the Jedi. "We didn't until receiving this contract." He chuckled. "Our client would seem to have limitless resources, and a willingness to devote all of them toward eliminating you." Nikana removed his robe and loosely held his unlit lightsaber. "Well, I doubt anyone willing to foot such a bill would hire uninformed idiots, so I assume you know who you face." "Oh, we know. And we realize that you may get through the eight of us. But there are three fighters skimming the waters a couple miles out, scanning our progress and ready to get here in seconds should we need assistance. Beyond that, our leader is in this planet's orbit with three warships." The squad leader announced. "We don't expect this to be easy, but alive or dead, we will be taking possession of you." Nikana rolled his eyes. "Fine, let's just get this over with." *** "Sir, I'm getting a reading of a construct leaving this planet's atmosphere." The human in Mandalorian armor announced to their leader sitting at the command chair. "It's not one of ours, but the technology doesn't appear consistent with most of what we've scanned of this world. And it appears to be damaged." The human leader, whose species was revealed due to his having taken his mask off several minutes prior, got up from his chair and approached the sensor screen. "Intercept." * "Galvatron's a slaggin' loon!" The armored pilot of the ship barked at the control array in front of him. "We've got to get Zarak in charge." "Don't you mean Scorponok?" The craft replied. "Fine, whatever Snapdragon. Just get us back to Cybertron before Cyclonus notices we're still close enough to haul back some of the injured." The pilot answered back. "We've got something inbound." The ship, Snapdragon, alerted the pilot. "And in our condition, I doubt we'd be much good in a scrape." "Who is it, Autobot?" "Don't think so, but whatever it is, it's definitely not Decepticon." Snapdragon replied. "What do you think, Krunk, fight or flee?" "Well, if it's not Decepticon, and not Autobot, then that narrows the list to human." Krunk, the pilot, sarcastically snapped back at the control panel. "So I say we score some dead melanin-soaked meat. Seriously, how much trouble can a space shuttle be?" "Works for me." The ship veered toward the three approaching warships, each a good deal larger than Snapdragon. "Uh, I'm getting readings that aren't consistent with human tech. In fact, some of this seems almost scary. Oh slag, they're firing on us!" The Madalorian vessel fired repeatedly on the Decepticon, their barrage not fully destroying it, but leaving it crippled and at their mercy. "Nice flying, Snapdragon!" Krunk barked at the control panel. "Get us out of here!" "No can do, fleshsack, propulsion systems are off line." The Decepticon jerked. "Great, tractor-beam." "Don't fight it." Krunk suggested. "We'll get inside, transform, kick their tails, and I'll pilot the ship to wherever we want to go." A few minutes later Snapdragon was brought into the landing bay of the lead attack ship. "Alright buddy, let 'em have it!" Krunk ejected from the cockpit and Snapdragon transformed to robot mode, reaching out to Krunk as he shifted shape as well and placing the armored Nebulon onto his torso to form his head. The Decepticon began destroying the other ships in the hangar as the Mandalorian soldiers rained firepower down upon him. The initial shots were ignored, but the Mandalorian bounty hunters quickly shifted to more potent weaponry, and with the introduction of magnetized explosives, soon had the already damaged robotic giant reeling. Though on the defensive, Snapdragon was still creating enormous damage, destroying every craft in the hangar, killing dozens of Mandalorians, fighting his way through the large expanse, pummeling his way through a wall, and battering the entire ship as he destroyed three stories of the craft making his way toward the front. But the progress was slow, and the barrage was intensifying. "I'm taking some pretty substantial hits here, Krunk!" "So you're telling me you want to surrender? To humans?" Krunk replied. "That's it, when we get out of here I'm requesting a different partner, one with a bigger set of bearings!" "Up yours, meatsicle!" Snapdragon snarled out of and at his head. "You've got access to my internals, check yourself! I'm a few shots from stasis lock! And not many past that from spark compromise! Argh!" A huge chunk of armor shredded off the back of his torso as a rocket impacted and exploded. The Decepticon fell to his knees, but the fire did not let up. "Yeah, you're right." Krunk finally realized the trouble they were in. "But this is one captain that's not going down with the ship!" The Headmaster ejected and transformed to his humanoid mode, only to get mowed down by heavy arms fire like his friend. A few moments later both sentients lay dead in the ruins they'd made of the ship's central section. "I said I wanted the pilot taken alive!" The Mandalorian commander demanded as he arrived to survey the damage. "I apologize sir, but we were left with no other option than to take it down with extreme force." One of the squad leaders that had polished off the giant robot and armored humanoid explained. "That is something I intend to verify!" The commander declared. "Just bring me the pilot's remains!" His order was obeyed, and a moment later the armored form was dragged to the floor before him, and the shredded casing was removed enough to reveal Krunk's blue corpse. "Looks kind of like a Chiss, though not really." "Sir." The message came through the commander's communicator. "We're getting readings of dozens of other constructs similar to this one departing Earth's atmosphere." "Do we stay to verify the capture or termination of the target and engage these constructs, or do we flee?" The squad leader asked. The commander thought for a moment before responding into his communicator. "Inform the ground party that they are to not bother with a capture, just terminate, and wait undercover until we can return for them. It shouldn't take us more than one hundred thirty days to get back to them, they can hang tight for that time. Then set a course for Ziost." The commander peered intently at the mechanical construct and continued talking to those physically present. "If one heavily damaged transformable craft could do this much damage to a warship, imagine what several could do, much less dozens. We have no choice but to retreat. But the good news is that we will be paid better than we've ever been paid before for a weapon of this caliber." *** He had intended to allow them to live. But these Mandalorians simply would not accept defeat, and now lay dead. They had honestly believed they knew what they were up against, but that belief was tragically wrong. In their defense, had Nikana been a typical Jedi, or even one of the powerful Masters, they'd have likely overcome him, her or it. These bounty hunters were exceptionally skilled, extremely well armed, and unquestionably dedicated to their craft. They were all cut down in a matter of two minutes; Nikana brought power to an unprecedented level. He was currently dealing with their first wave of back up, the two fighters that had been hovering over the water waiting for the call they didn't think they'd get. Nikana had been satisfied with merely forcing the weapons fire of the two fighters zipping through the air above him toward the water, but he realized that he needed to get back to Coruscant as quickly as possible, so this needed to be wrapped up now. Reaching out with his senses, Nikana created a vacuum between the two craft, forcing them to collide with one another, explode and crash into the water. He turned toward the bodies on the ground around him, and hurled them into the same area of water that the fighters had disappeared beneath. Nikana then continued with the retrieval of his ship, and several moments later the small passenger freighter heavily modified for extra-galactic travel emerged from the water and came to a rest on the sand. The Jedi Master started toward the ship, but once again paused as he sensed another presence, something the likes of which he had never felt before. "Reveal yourself!" Two skull-like wraiths shimmered into view, each possessing tendrils hanging from their base and rear. "His mitochondrial DNA indicates his maternal source of descent is derived from the original humanity. The one we destroyed in one of the final acts of our dark era, and subsequently recreated and relocated geographically and chronologically shortly after our enlightening." One said to the other. "What are you talking about?" Nikana asked. "Yes, but his Y-DNA haplotype is unlike anything we've come across." The other stated, ignoring Nikana's question. "It is as if midi-chlorians have been altered to replicate the functions of the paternally inherited genetic material. I hypothesize that this creature was engineered specifically for extreme force-sensitivity, a primitive and biological near-equivalent to our emissary." "That would explain his ability to block my mind probes." The first entity to speak continued. "Such midi-chlorian concentration in a moderately-evolved species can be very dangerous." "You know, asking me questions directly might get them answered faster than your round about musings and observations." Nikana offered, having relaxed at sensing no mal-intent from these beings. True, one had attempted to probe his mind, but the Jedi had sensed the intent to be innocuous, not an overt invasion. And Nikana had sensed that should this entity have truly wanted to, it could have bypassed even Nikana's formidable powers with ease. "This planet is not yet ready to be united with the those we relocated." The first entity to speak announced to Nikana. "Despite numerous setbacks, it seems that the experiments to right our transgression that your population and those on this world represent have been successful. But it will be many centuries before your two populations can be permitted to mix." "Maybe," Nikana smiled and took a seat on a large rock. "But rumors of the Grebleips Passage have been around for over a century, and interest in the rumors have grown in recent decades. And I doubt the colleagues of the Mandalorians I just face would be willing to keep such a route to themselves." "He speaks the truth." One of the creatures muttered to the other before turning back to Nikana. "You will need to atone for inadvertently showing them how to get to this world. You must ensure that they are unable to share this Grebleips Passage with others of your galaxy." "How is it that life still persists in your galaxy?" The other creature queried, changing the subject. "We anticipated an extra-galactic invasion to have eradicated all sentient life in your galaxy by four hundred twenty-five years ago." "I hypothesize our seeding that galaxy with humans may have disrupted its original destiny." The other wraith-like creature suggested. "Four hundred tw...The Yuuzhan Vong!" Nikana muttered. "Wait! You're saying that the humans of my galaxy originated from clones of humans from Earth that you sent back in time and put on Coruscant or some other core world?" "We seeded several worlds with your species." One creature replied. "We even relocated and reformed planetary bodies to support your species, though we had to go even further back in time in relocating these planets ensure they had adequate time to prepare for your occupation." The other added. "The Corellian System!" Nikana was stunned. "You created Centerpoint Station! You're the Architects!" Nikana stood up, loosing his Jedi reserve as he paced back and forth in a stunned manner. "I'm having a conversation with Architects." The Jedi laughed to himself in a refreshing display of humility. "Normally we would consider eradicating you, but your unique make-up leads us to believe that there may be a higher purpose to your existence." One of the creatures sternly addressed the human. "So while we will permit your continued existence, you are required to undo the great damage you caused by coming here." The other added. "Those that tracked you here have captured killed a Decepticon and are returning to your galaxy with the corpse." "No." Nikana gasped, then sprung toward his ship. "I've got to get back." The two wraith-like creatures, the Vok, watched as the craft rose into the sky. "If he fails, we may need to set about the destruction of the secondary experiment." One addressed the other. "It matters not." The other Vok replied. "That galaxy was originally selected for its bleak destiny. That the transplanted humans saved it from its intended doom only justifies whatever fate we decide for it." *** "I was beginning to wonder what had happened to you." Palpatine muttered to the travel-weary Mandalorians walking out of their warship. General Grievous watched intently from several dozen yards behind him. "It has been over one hundred thirty days since I last received word from you." "That Jedi you hired us to retrieve led us all over existence." The Mandalorian commander replied. "And unfortunately, he left us with no alternative but to disintegrate him. You can rest assured he's dead, but unfortunately I have no remains for you." The mercenary turned and noted the legions of Storm troopers and the smaller number of Snow troopers filling the huge, newly built Ziost spaceport. "It looks like you guys have put those one hundred thirty days to good use. When we left I wasn't sure if you'd be around long enough to appreciate Nikana Skywalker's death; now you're back on the offensive, strongly ensconced on several core worlds." "Thank you for the summary. You have been paid, your commitment has been met. We have no further business." Palpatine turned and started to walk away. "Actually sir, I do have a proposal for you. Something I'm certain that you would be interested in." The Mandalorian called after him. The risen Emperor paused and then turned. "My time is valuable, so you had better be right." The Mandalorian commander turned and called back to his crew. "Wheel it out!" A few moments later the headless frame of Snapdragon was pulled out using several hover-pallets latched together. The Mandalorian smiled beneath his mask as he noted Palpatine's instant interest. "It's more than just a giant battle droid. It converts to an attack craft. The pilot occupied armor that formed the giant's head, but I'm thinking a more centralized and protected location would be better. I figured with your resources you'd be able to reversed engineer this thing and use it, well, I'll leave you to ponder its uses." Palpatine marvelled at the structure. "What's your price?" The commander nodded to another of his lieutenants, who proceeded to push another hover-pallet out with four cerebral scanners identical to those used to bring about the return of Grievous and the Sith Lords. "During an investigation into my roots, I uncovered these items. I found them in a former hideaway of the legendary Boba Fett, and always wondered what they were. Then I saw some of these being tinkered with by a Kiminoan, and at seeing General Grievous standing over there while we were landing it finally dawned on me what they were. It also explained why each device had a compartment with genetic material in it." "I see." Palpatine muttered. "Lord Tyrannus informed me that Jango Fett required several forms of payment beyond Republic credits to pose as the genetic template for our army. I cannot say I would have approved of his using these scanners as currency, but what's done is done. So who is it that you wish me to bring back from the dead?" "Not sure, but given the date of the first, it's likely Jango." The Mandalorian answered. "The scan was conducted twenty-two years prior to the Battle of Yavin. This second one is dated thirty-eight point five years after the Battle of Yavin, and these two, which are labeled simply 'Bespin', are dated three years after the Battle of Yavin. So I'm hoping we'll end up with one Jango and three Bobas at various points in his career." "So be it, bounty hunter." Palpatine muttered. *** "Awaken Nikana." The soft voice roused the meditating Jedi, who opened his eyes to see the Force ghosts of five Jedi legends hovering before him in the ship's passenger section. The ghosts, Luke Skywalker, Obiwan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Saesee Tiin and his genetic template, Anakin Skywalker all peered back at him. "You are approaching Republic space. You must be made aware of the changes that have occured since you were last here." Luke, the one to awaken him, continued. Nikana rose to his feet and bowed to them. "I await your teaching, Master Jedi." "Surely now that you are here you must sense a change in the Force." Saesee Tiin commented. Nikana paused and extended his feelings. Sure enough, the dark side was stronger than he had ever felt it, while the light had diminished to barely being perceptible. "What has happened?" "Palpatine is risen." Mace Windu answered. "And with him some of his most powerful servants, including Vader." The stunned Nikana peered at his middle-aged dopelganger, who nodded a confirmation. "How is that possible? Even clones would not be those they are cloned from." "Early in the war the Sith alchemist Darth Necromas freed the soul of Palpatine from the grasp of the force, and created a clone for that soul to commandeer." Kenobi answered. "It's something he got a lot of practice doing in the years following his original death." Luke added. "He oversaw the war, masking his presence from all save Necromas, believing that the Sith would win on their own and that he would reveal himself at that point to renew his command of the galaxy." Obiwan continued. "Though he sensed a great disturbance in the force twenty-four years ago, it wasn't until a decade later, when a mere child turned the tide of a critical battle, that his attention was drawn." Mace Windu offered. "Realizing what the Jedi Order had done, he set about implementing a contingency plan that he had created early on in his initial quest for power." "He had the genetic material of several of his most potent warriors, as well as an invention created with the aid of ancient Sith alchemy that was capable of recording the mind of a sentient and imprinting it upon a genetically identical brain." Luke explained. "Unbeknownst to these warriors, he would periodically scan their brains in case he ever needed their services after their deaths." "He also had scans made of highly trained clone troopers of differing functions." Obiwan furthered. "Using this, he's brought back Darth Maul, General Grievous, Darth Vader and a continually growing army of thousands." "The Masters of the Jedi Order, as well as many of their knights, were exterminated when they faced these resurrected threats on Ziost." Windu said. "The remaining Jedi are few, and fighting a losing battle." "Then I will force them back to the grave!" Nikana snarled. "You lack the power, young one." Mace stated. "With utmost respect Master Windu, I have thoroughly studied the abilities, skills and contributions of the greatest known Jedi and Sith." Nikana bowed again. "I do not mean to belittle the damaged caused by these warriors, but I am confident I can overpower them." "Nikana," Anakin stepped forward. "As Vader, I was incomplete, physically, emotionally and educationally. This Vader is whole, and rivals you on every level of power, and exceeds you in experience. And like all Jedi facing Sith, there are limits to what you will do, while he had none. As powerful as you are, he will defeat you, especially if he is aided by Palpatine." "Then what do you suggest?" Nikana asked. "There is an archival repository in the bowels of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. It is where the Padawan Braid used to clone you was found. Retrieve the braids of Masters Kenobi and Windu." Luke instructed. "Then travel to the world Iktoch, find the compound of the Tiin clan, and retrieve the last remaining relic of their most honored ancestor, a piece of Saesee's horn that broke off during combat. Then travel to Yavin Four, on the grounds of the Jedi training facility you will find my grave. Exhume my remains and get a sample." "From there you are to report to Tipoca City on Kimino." Kenobi continued. "They will claim that their cloning facilities and expertise are things of the past, but there are those that can help you. Use the Force to seek them out. Once you have acquired their skills, have them clone the four of us and age the clones to adulthood, making sure that there is minimal brain activity. From there, it will be up to us to find a way to inhabit these bodies." Nikana nodded, and then looked to Anakin. "I'm assuming I'm to provide a blood sample to make you a vessel." "No, there is already a suitable host for me." Anakin replied, staring intently at Nikana. Nikana was stunned for a moment, but quickly displayed a snarl. "Try it!" Anakin shook his head and waved his hand in an attempt to dismiss the assumed threat. "I assure you, my intention is not to take over your body. Truly, if such a thing were capable I would possess the 'Vader' clone. No, for me to inhabit a body, at least one as strong in the Force as yours or his, I must be welcomed." Nikana looked from Anakin to the other Jedi ghosts. "You can not be serious! You all are advocating that I allow my identity to be overwritten by the soul of he that was Vader?" "No, young one, we are not advocating any sort of overwriting." Windu answered. "The force is strong in you; strong enough to embrace and blend the two of you." Kenobi explained. "The light, the dark, the dream and the nightmare; and achieve a balance." "No." Nikana muttered, though he knew it to be his destiny. The prophecies had never made sense, until now. He had spent his entire life differentiating himself from Anakin Skywalker, proving to the best of his ability that they were not the same. But fate seemed intent on proving him wrong.