For a moment I simply stood facing the window unmoving, wondering what terrible wrong I had done to deserve such a day as this and then after taking a slow, deep breath I turned around to face a man I had hoped never to see again.
I had known Jyrki Andando for a long time. He had been my friend, my teacher and the first man I had ever fallen in love with but somewhere along the line things between us had gone terribly wrong. For reasons I was still trying to sort through he had decided that my working for Lord Vader and the Emperor was terrible and that I had to be rescued. His idea of rescue and my idea of rescue were very different and the results of his attempts to bring me back to what he considered the right side of things had been pretty disastrous. The last time I had seen him had been long before Endor. To that this had not been a very pleasant meeting was a huge understatement. Since then, a long time had passed and I had not reckoned on seeing him ever again especially not here and now. He had aged. His once beautiful face was now etched with the battles he had been fighting and I guessed that being a rebel had its difficulties.
“I’m sorry about yer friend.” He said after a lengthy pause.
I regarded him for a moment trying to decide what to do. My experiences with him the last few times we had met had not really been very happy and despite my calm demeanour my heart was racing. I knew that if he tried something here it would be pretty stupid and that my uncle would be coming back at any moment but Jyrki was dangerous and unpredictable. When I didn’t say anything he sighed and moved towards me. I stepped back involuntarily, not even realising what I had done. I was scared of him and I had just shown him this. He regarded me for a second and then nodded,
“It is good to see yer alive. I thought that yer had died at Endor when the Executor was destroyed.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.” I said.
“Mouse….” He began.
“Don’t!” I held up my hand. “You’ve done too much to pretend to be my friend now.”
A puzzled look crossed his face, “I never stopped being yer friend.” He said.
“So, why did you want to hurt me then?”
“I didn’t want to hurt yer, I wanted to save yer.” He explained.
“Save me from what?”
“From being turned into a tool for the dark side, being turned into another one of Palpatine’s toys.” He replied. “But none of this matters any more, they are no longer alive and yer no longer work for them.”
I nodded. What could I say? Every thing he had just told me, at least as far as he was concerned, was true. “So why are you here?” I asked.
“Y’are not the only one who has lost a friend today.” He replied coldly. I felt rather than saw him swallow his own grief down. It had been someone he had cared deeply for and for a single moment a flash of jealousy sliced through me, surprising me more than I could have ever expressed in words. I looked into his eyes for a moment and acknowledged his hurt hiding my own unexpected and unwanted feelings.
“I’m sorry.” I replied and I meant it. Having just seen what this horrible virus did to its victims I did not know what else to say and silence fell between us again until I broke it. “What do you want with me, Jyrki?”
He seemed to weigh his words carefully. “I had thought yer were dead, Mouse. When I saw what happened at Endor I mourned for yer. I could not believe it when I caught sight of yer in the hallway just now and I don’t want to lose you again so I came in here to warn yer.”
“Yer should get off Coruscant, go home to Tatooine.”
“Why? Are you going to hound me to death for living here now?” I sounded tired, even to my ears.
He shook his head. “The Empire’s days are numbered, Mouse. The government here will fall much sooner than anyone thinks.” He said. “Isard won’t fight for this planet. She can’t because she doesn’t have the numbers to keep out both the rebellion and the others who want to carve Coruscant up for their own. We have people in place already and it won’t be long now before we prevail. Once the New republic reclaims its place here things will not be pleasant for people still loyal to the late emperor and his corrupt regime.”
“People like me you mean.” I said with an edge, wondering where the hell my uncle was.
“Yer worked closely with Vader and I have been told yer were also a tool of Palpatine’s. Yer will be brought in for questioning and I am trying to help yer.”
“Well, I don’t work for either of the many more, you and your people saw to that.” I said nastily. “Thanks to your rebellion I am out of work!” While this was not exactly true it was close enough to use.
He shook his head making his long black hair ripple about his face. “Mouse, I know y’are hurting right now so I know yer don’t mean what yer say but yer should know that y’are not unknown to us.” He told me. “Yer should get off Coruscant and go back to being a mechanic; it was something yer were good at.”
“Just when is this so called change of regime going to happen?” I asked with a sigh.
But Jyrki simply shrugged. “Soon.” He replied cryptically. “The sooner the better. If we were already in charge then maybe yer friend would not have died.”
I glanced directly into his eyes and frowned. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Did yer think that this virus magically appeared all on its own?” He asked.
“No, I think that it was engineered by your people.”
“My people?” He asked in surprise, “Yer actually think that we would create something this terrible?” he shook his head. “Yer should take a closer look at yer xenophobic government!”
“Why should I not believe you would do something like this? You’re terrorists; you are capable of anything I know I’ve experienced first hand what you do when you don’t get your way!” A not so subtle jab at when he had done to me, “You created this virus and your people are blocking the supply lines of bacta!”
His eyebrows beetled together as he tried to make sense of my words. “Yer blame the death of your friend on us?” He sighed, “Oh Mouse, we are not the ones halting the bacta.”
“Oh really, and I suppose you destroyed the base at Borleias just for the fun of it?”
“Do yer know what was being produced there?” He asked and when I didn’t answer he continued, “Alderaan goods that where being sold on the black market for a premium to fill the pockets of Evir Derricote and his minions.” He shook his head. “The Empire’s finest and greediest are profiting off the worst case of mass murder even known to fill its own pockets!”
“You have no right to talk about murder!” I snapped back. “Millions of innocent people lost their lives at Yavin and at Endor, people who were civilians working on the space stations and had nothing to do with your little terrorist actions!”
He was getting angry but he calmed himself down. Like me he had learned some measure of self control over his temper. “It is a war mouse, people die.” He said softly.
I nodded. “Yeah, people die.” I said bitterly, tears suddenly springing to my eyes as I thought about Cati, Lord Vader, Jorae and all the other people I had known and lost. “This is a war you started, you and your rebellion. People die because you murder them. Hell your people even murdered the Galactic Emperor and you all got away with it!”
For a moment I thought he would be angry but he looked at me as though he were seeing me for the first time. “Don’t yer know what happened at Endor?” He asked quietly.
“I know enough.” I snapped as Jyrki shook his head. “You blew up the space station and you murdered them both!”
To my surprise Jyrki didn’t get angry instead he smiled just a little. “We didn’t kill the Emperor, Mouse. Darth Vader did that himself to save his son.”
I searched for lies in what he had just told me but found none, none at all, but I shook my head against his words anyway. “No, I don’t believe that.” I told him but part of me did.
Lord Vader had hated the Emperor as much as he had feared him and I knew that, no matter what anyone said, blood was thicker than water. His son was a part of him and a part of the woman he had loved so fiercely he had sold his soul to save her. I was sure that in the end if it had come down to a choice between the Emperor or Luke, Lord Vader would have chosen his son every time.
Jyrki shrugged. “Believe what yer want, in the long run it makes little difference, that evil old bastard is dead and it were Vader who killed him.”
For a moment I just closed my eyes. The last few moments of my last meeting with the Emperor flashed through my memory making me shiver. “How?”
“According to Master Skywalker, Vader picked Palpatine up and threw him down a shaft.”
“I told you, to save his son’s life.”
“Then how did Lord Vader die?” I whispered.
“The force lightening the Emperor was using to kill Master Skywalker damaged his suit’s ability to maintain his life support. I was told he died in his son’s arms and was cremated on the Endor moon. I suppose the irony is that in the end he and the Emperor killed each other.” He said. “Master Skywalker wanted people to know that at the very end, when it mattered most, Anakin Skywalker chose the right side.”
I could only gasp for air. I felt as though I had been sucker punched. When I could breathe again I simply nodded. Somehow it was a fitting end and it explained why the last few moments of the connection between Lord Vader and I had felt so strange. He had felt at peace when he had released me from the tie that had bound us together. Now I understood why.
My reaction was not what he had expected and he watched me puzzled for a moment. “Yer were glad when the Emperor died. I see the relief all over yer face.” He whispered softly, as though he had just uncovered the galaxy’s biggest secret.
“Palpatine was sometimes…unkind.” I said choosing my words very carefully.
“Did he hurt yer?” Jyrki asked in surprise. The pity in his voice was the last thing I expected or wanted to hear so instead of nodding I lashed back.
“No more than you did.” I said cruelly and watched as my words hit home.
Being compared to the most evil being in the galaxy did not suit Jyrki well. He must have seen the satisfaction in my expression but he saw something else as well, he saw the hurt and the bewilderment that I had tried to hide and obviously failed at doing so. More out of habit than perhaps anything else he moved towards me his hand outstretched to comfort me in a gesture that was as familiar to me as it was frightening but I jumped away like a terrified durni before he could touch me.
Hurt flashed through his eyes followed by anger. “Yer fear of me is unwarranted.” He said, crossness lacing his calm voice.
“Oh, is that so?” I shot. “May I remind you that you kidnapped me, held me against my will, brainwashed me, physically hurt me and damned near killed me not once but twice!”
“Twice?” He asked puzzled.
“That Anzat blade you used to try and sedate me had residual snake venom in it. I very nearly died because of it and if you had managed to drag me off with you I would have because you wouldn’t have had a clue what to do!”
He stared at me for a long terrible moment then nodded contritely. “That was never my intention, Mouse. I’m sorry.”
“No I don’t suppose it was, Jyrki.” I said quietly. “What did you hope to accomplish?”
“I wanted to talk some sense into yer but yer weren’t listening, and yer weren’t going to listen.” He explained. “But I don’t need to now, yer are free from the grips of the Sith.”
I shuddered. “You know nothing about the Sith except what the brain washing Jedi told you at the old Temple!”
His eyes narrowed to icy slits of blue. “And just how would yer know what I learned there?”
“Did you think the Emperor’s interest in me was simply for my looks?” I asked angrily. When he said nothing I continued, “Not at all, he taught me about your jedi training and he also told me about the Sith teachings. I learned more about the force from Lord Vader and from Palpatine than you could ever hope to know!”
“So yer turned to the dark side then.” The statement was flat, cold and full of fear.
I shook my head in disgust. “No! I didn’t turn to any side!” I said. “I just learned how to control and make the best out of the gifts I have. There is no dark side or light side. There are only the choices that we make.”
“That is a lie!”
I shook my head. “Anakin chose his destiny and so did you. Do you think your jedi teachers would have been proud of what you did to me? Your means do not justify the ends!”
“I do no not use my power in anger!” He said and the taste of his lie was so strong I almost gagged on it.
“Yes, you do.” I told him softly, “But that isn’t the problem, the problem is you feel guilty about it which eats you up from the inside out and that isn’t your fault.”
“Shut up!” he hissed between clenched teeth.
“I know you did not have choice that you were brought to the temple as a baby and you never knew your real parents. You cannot help that you were brainwashed into the believing only one thing! I know how lonely you were and what that did to you! Jedi rules and Jedi ways…!You were a small, frightened little boy when the clone soldiers came; you saw the only family you had ever known slaughtered in front of you. No wonder it twisted you so much! No wonder you couldn’t love me, you never learned to love at all.”
He regarded me with a look that bordered on hatred. “How do yer know this?”
I swallowed realising I had maybe said too much. “I found records,” I spun the half truth and hoped it would be enough.
He took a step towards me. “Where?”
“In the Jedi Temple.”
“How is that possible? Everything was destroyed.” He shook his head against my words.
“Not everything. The place was sealed off, but there were ways in and out. Palpatine saved most of it, the books, the records, the holocrons and the archives.”
Jyrki opened his mouth and then shut it again. His expression of anger was swiftly replaced by one of relief, almost joy. “Master Luke will be so pleased to hear of this. He has been searching for Jedi archives and records, anything that will help him in his teachings!”
“Well good luck then.” I snorted.
“What do yer mean?”
I shrugged nonchalantly. “It is all gone now.”
“I have no idea. The Emperor removed everything before he left the planet to go to Endor. When he died he took all his secrets with him.”
Jyrki frowned. “Yer must have some idea, yer worked for him.” He said. “I must know where those archives are.”
I shook my head. “No. Everything is gone, even the mainframe was wiped clean.”
I looked directly into his eyes. “No, I am not. The Emperor removed everything of value from the Jedi temple. The last time I was there it was completely empty. Even the ghosts have vanished.”
“How were yer there? No one can get in there, the security is far too tight.” He said, implying that he had tried and failed.
“I know. It is sealed off and a good thing too!” I said not actually answering his question. I did not want to tell him about the secret passage, the small library or anything else.
“But you have some of these archives? You have Jedi artefacts?”
I backed away from him, shaking my head and didn’t answer. What I had I knew I never wanted him to touch. For a moment he wavered and then seemed to come back to himself. “If yer get caught after we take over this planet I cannot help yer.” He said coldly. He stepped closer to me and I could see traces of the madness in his eyes that had scared me so much on Mattri.
“I never asked for your help and I never will.” I hissed. “I know why you ran from the Empire and I understand it, I know why my father agreed to have you work at the docking bay, why you were too scared to love me back but things have changed. I am not that infatuated little girl any more and you are not that little boy fleeing from the Clone troopers through underground passages to be farmed out all over the galaxy to strangers. That war ended Jyrki, it ended when Anakin slaughtered the children in the council room and turned to the dark side. It ended when Palpatine became the Emperor of the Galactic Empire and it ended with the destruction of the Jedi which I don’t think that was such a bad thing considering the lies they told.”
His face paled visibly. “How do yer know all these things?”
“I have gifts you never understood. My mother, my birth mother was a Jedi and she was killed in the Clone wars! She left me a diary describing her life at the temple, she even knew you! You are not the only one who lost everything because of Order sixty-six. You don’t have the corner on the market of bad luck stories!”
The myriad of emotions and expressions which flickered across his face were as revealing to me as though I had managed to pull the living memories from him by touching his skin. “Who was she?” He asked quietly. I could hear both disbelief and sudden understanding in his voice, as though one of the little mysteries about me that had bothered him all these years had finally been cleared up.
I turned away from him then.
“Mouse…I…” he began but I held up my hand for silence and turned back to face him. The full force of my anger hit him like a wave and he took a small, involuntary step back.
My voice sounded cold and cruel even to my ears. I spoke slowly and carefully so that he would not misunderstand anything I had to say. “You hurt me in more ways than I care to count. You do not get to ask me these questions and you sure as hell don’t deserve any answers from me. You made your choice when you sided with the Rebellion and engaged in acts of brutal terrorism, slaughtering innocent people for the sake of a cause most of the galaxy doesn’t even care about or understand. You chose your side and I owe you nothing. I do not love you any more, but I pity you too much to hate you. You’re pathetic.”
For a single moment I thought he would let his temper get the better of him, I could feel it writhe around him like I had been able to sense Lord Vader’s but then he backed away and gave me a curt nod. “Yer should know, it is the Empire that has a monopoly on bacta, keeping the supply limited and restricted. Go look that up, it is public knowledge. The Empire’s ties with Thyferra are deep.” He said coldly. “And perhaps yer should ask Isard where this Krytos virus came from because our investigation points in the direction of the Empire. Do some digging on a man named Derricote and find out what he has been doing here on Coruscant. Go ask yer precious Imperial leader why yer friend had to die so horribly. I don’t think yer will like what she has to say.”
I didn’t answer him and we stared at each other at an impasse. The anger flaring up between us caused the force to crackle. The air felt electric, oppressive and then quite suddenly I was exhausted beyond all reason.
“Go away, Jyrki.” I finally whispered backing down, backing away, tears glittering in my eyes. “Go away before I call security. This world is still imperial and you are still a wanted criminal.” I should have alerted security the moment he had walked through the door but I hadn’t and we both knew I wouldn’t now, although I would have been hard pressed to explain these actions if I been asked to.
He nodded. “Get off this planet and go home.” He repeated. “Go find some nice mechanic to marry and settle down with. Yer were a sweet kid once, Mouse, maybe yer can get some of that back again. Get out of this place before all hell breaks loose.” He said and then almost as an afterthought he added, “And tell the Tze’yusha’Jin if I catch him following me again I will kill him. I know who he is and what he has done and I do not forget.”
I could only stand and stare numbly at him, digesting the news of what had really happened on the second Death Star along with everything else he had told me. He had not lied about these things, not once and I wasn’t sure what scared me more that fact that he had told me the truth or that I considered believing him.
For a moment our eyes met again and then with out another word he left as quietly as he had entered. The door closed with a soft snick and I crumpled to the floor, sitting like a broken doll trying to digest the events of the last twenty six hours. I was beyond tired, beyond tears and beyond feeling anything at all. And this was how my Uncle found me when he finally came back holding two cups of tea.
He set the cups down on the table and then, bending heel to haunch, sat at my side. He said something so I looked at him uncomprehendingly. I could hear him speak but the words didn’t register. The sun had managed to crawl high enough into the sky that its rays streamed into the room making the dust in the air sparkle as it danced about. It played off my uncle’s long, straight white hair making his head appear to glow.
Concern flickered across his features but I just sat there staring at him, wordlessly. He cupped his hands around my face and made me look up at him. I saw sorrow, sympathy and concern in his expression but in his eyes I saw only love, deep and ever lasting. This was what broke the spell. Tears welled up in my eyes and I couldn’t stop them from rolling down my cheeks onto his hands.
“What is it,Lei'lei? Are you ill?” He asked.
When I didn’t answer he stood up pulling me to my feet, sliding his arm around my waist. “Let’s go home and I will make tea there. What I found here is probably disgusting and cold as I had to track through half the facility to find the cafeteria.” With that we left the medical facility and in the glorious morning sun with Coruscant rushing all around us on just another ordinary day, we went home.