It was the beginning of a new era. An era of peace through absolute order.
Such peace was unobtainable with crime syndicates, war lords, or corruption still roaming free throughout the galaxy. The extermination of individuals such as the Kanjiklub, the Guavian Death Gang, the crowds that gathered to play the highest stakes on Canto Bight, pirates, and many others, was essential towards bringing peace. It was a meticulous task, since such communities were used to concealing themselves in plain sight or slither down into hiding holes.
“Tell me where the rest of your Zygerrian associates are,” Maeve asked calmly as she took carefully calculated slow laps around the tied up prisoner.
“I won’t tell you anything!” he spat out, struggling against the troopers' hands that held him down on his knees.
She snickered. “How charming that you actually believe that statement to be true.”
A swift motion of her hand had the stormtroopers release their grip and head out of the holding cell, but not before each of them took another swing at the prisoner.
The slave trader grunted, but was still unbroken. “You are a healthy looking humanoid. I will make a nice profit once I sell your pretty face at an auction,” he defied her.
Her lap was timed perfectly. As soon as he finished the sentence, she was right in front of him, staring down at the disgusting creature.
“Do you know why I’m here?”
There were signs of confusion all over the slaver's face.
“I meant in this room. With you,” Maeve clarified. “Why do you think someone like me—who is in a position so high, your pitiful, mongrel ass couldn’t even dream existed—would play the role of a simple interrogator?”
No reply came. Of course, what did I expect from such a limited mind?
“There are so many methods of torture available. During the reign of the Galactic Empire, some were perfected until they reached a marvellous ninety nine point nine percent success rate in extracting information from even the strongest willed individuals.”
A gulp. Good, good.
“I don’t have the slightest doubt that you would crack even under the simplest form of interrogation within minutes. But—”
All it took was one blink. Her facade faded away and exposed the blackened veins and haunting eyes as an invisible tool began crushing his ribs one by one.
“I have this darkness inside, you see. A darkness I need to make sacrifices to. Sacrifices like you. I need to feed it, to keep it content and satisfied.” Her eyes spewed fire as she glared down at the writhing piece of meat at her feet. “Those interrogation methods I mentioned? It somewhat excites me to say they amount to nothing compared to the agony you’re gonna feel. Not immediately, of course,” she purred darkly. “Oh no, I am going to have my fun with you in this cell for the next five minutes but I am gonna feed off of your pain for days, weeks, even months to come. And guess what?”
Her hand reached and grasped the sleaze ball’s ear so hard, her nails penetrated the skin, ripping it apart until she held onto it like it was a mug’s handle. The warm sensation of blood trickling down her fingers combined with the screams of the prisoner sent a small wave of pleasure through her entire arm.
“I will leave your presence physically, but I am going to be in every single thought of yours till your last meaningless breath.”
She let go of him, and his figure crumpled back down at her feet.
“What kind-- of monster-- are you?” he managed between howls of pain.
Maeve found it unnecessary to entertain him with a reply. Instead, her mind drilled holes into his, mercilessly ravaging through memories for any helpful information.
Once finished, his brain was reduced to a pile of mush. Functional enough to keep him alive until his body would give in to dehydration and hunger.
Over the course of a standard year, not only did crime almost disappear from the galaxy–thanks to the highly trained and numerous resources of the Final Order–but almost all who found themselves in positions of power were eradicated with them.
Of course, all incidents were blamed on gang wars, assassinations, or purely a result of the chaos unleashed into the universe.
The Resistance, however numerous during the battle of Exegol, was reduced to a handful of people struggling to extinguish fires as they appeared throughout the many systems on their radars. It was an exhausting year, and the First Order thrived in the shadows of all the attacks.
“Give them something new to do every day,” Maeve would remind her Allegiant. “Keep them occupied while we do our bit. The people will see their incapability to establish a new form of government. When the time comes, they will welcome us with open arms.”
Poe slammed his fists on the Dejarik console of the Falcon, causing the holograms to glitch momentarily.
“We can’t seem to be getting a hang of it!” he said, exasperated.
The Wookie roared and gestured with his hands, partly annoyed that the man took his anger out on his favorite game.
“Chewie is right. These things take time,” Lando attempted to calm him down.
He knew how unnerving it was to carry such a responsibility. The Empire’s collapse, however, was much easier to manage. Lando and his friends didn’t have to start from scratch, just turn back to the old regime.
“I don’t know what else to do. I can’t find a way to piece everything together.”
“You can’t blame yourself for everything. The galaxy is torn apart, the Republic has been obliterated. The Resistance is barely scraping by. We have no resources, no people. It’s us in this ship, D’Acy and a handful of others.”
Considering that, Poe reached up to scratch his chin. “We should send another signal. Try to rally up more people to join the cause.”
“What cause?” he argued. “We’re not fighting against one army anymore. It’s all about managing a situation that happens to be unmanageable by only a dozen people.”
“But this is all we’ve been trying to accomplish. Reinstate the Republic--”
“The Republic was flawed, son!” said Lando, and Chewie whimpered in agreement. “They were corrupt and short-sighted. That’s why they failed so miserably. We need a new system. A system designed to keep the peace.”
Poe’s face fell, and Lando felt sorry for him. He wanted to do just that— wanted to so badly that it was killing him.
If only he had his friends with him. Finn would have cracked a joke, Rey would have smothered him with some motherly love and a pat on the back. Even Ben’s sarcastic comments would have been welcomed.
Entire worlds had been purged of threats while a slow and ghostly presence had been built up in all liveable systems, waiting to be awakened.
"Tell the Bounty Hunter Guild they shall be integrated in the new world as a special service, in case there are rogues trying to disturb the peace I created."
"And if they refuse?" Hux inquired.
"Show them what happened to the rest. My request is non-negotiable. They come willingly or we exterminate them."
Aboard the Chantrix there was endless murmuring and buzzing. Everyone was at their posts in the main control room, supervising attacks and sending off encrypted transmissions.
Allegiant General Armitage Hux strutted down the sleek black floor, all the way up to the observation sweep.
“Supreme Leader,” he saluted. “All targets have been destroyed.”
“Good,” Maeve said, her gaze not shifting away from the view.
They both grinned, as they watched the fleet of Star Destroyers drop out of hyperspace at the rendez-vous point.
“Begin the droid distribution from all facilities and set course for Coruscant.” The woman took in a deep breath, “It’s time for a speech.”
“Are you done with that power converter already?” Finn asked from one end of the hallway.
“If you rush me, it won’t get done faster, just poorer,” Ben snarkily replied.
Rey couldn’t understand how two men hardly ever got anything done, whereas her alone would have finished the task in no time. “Stop bickering like an old married couple and get it done!”
She shook her head, “Just like children.”
Rey sat on the ground on a cliff, feet hanging over the edge. She was staring at the sunset, reflecting upon her options, her decisions.
Luke Skywalker had tried to rebuild the Jedi Order with much more experience than she had now, and they all knew how that ended. But as one of the two remaining Force users with Jedi training, she felt it was her responsibility to carry on the legacy. The Jedi were not meant to be forgotten by history.
“You’re thinking about it again, aren’t you?” Ben asked as he joined her.
“You aren’t? It’s an important decision.”
“I recall me saying ‘it’s time to let old things die’.” He also recalled borrowing the line, applicable to his situation nonetheless. “I meant that. The Sith, the Jedi, all of it. Perhaps without them the galaxy would have been a much different place. No more Sith plots to take over the galaxy, stopped or mingled with by Jedi who think they know better. Just beings, fighting their fights, without the help of the Force. A natural order.”
“I feel bad about just living here. I want to do something.”
Even so, one thing was clear to her: she wouldn’t be fit for politics. Rey knew the reinstallation of the Republic was better left to people like Poe, Rose or D’Acy. How she wished Leia was still with them.
“Well, join me. Together, you and I, we can rule the galaxy!” He gestured artistically through the air with his hand as the girl punched him in the shoulder. “Ow! What? The offer is still on the table.”
It always brightened up Rey’s day whenever the corners of his mouth twitched up into a smile or whenever he was on the verge of a laugh. However rough the beginning of their connection had been, it made it all worth it in the end. Now they could laugh about their older conversations, use them to make fun of each other.
His first few weeks with the Resistance weren’t the best, as he was mostly feverish––his body made a harder recovery from what happened on Exegol than Rey’s did. For a while, she had wondered whether or not he would make it. His spirit seemed broken too, perhaps by the tormenting past, perhaps by the uncertainty of the future.
Now he was an active member of the small community they had created on Ajan Kloss once the Resistance had moved their bases to planets closer to the major trade routes. He, Finn, R2-D2 and C-3PO were all she had left from her time with the Resistance. She missed everyone, especially BB-8.
Rey leaned her head on his shoulder, “I love you, Solo.”
“I know,” he replied cheekily as he kissed the top of her head.
Maeve completed her meditation and opened her eyes. Her pale face stared back at her from the reflective black walls of her personal chambers. Even with the physical wounds hidden by masking rituals, she was conscious of the ruin of her body, and the perpetual pain in her veins. She welcomed it. Pain fed her strength. Once, she meditated to find balance. Now she meditated to sharpen the edges of her mind. To turn them into the power that fueled her.
She stared at her reflection for a long time. Took notice of the young, smooth skin. A facade in itself, even before the darkness left its imprint on it.
Her injuries had diformed her body, left it broken, but they had perfected her spirit, strengthening her connection to the Force. Suffering had birthed insight. Without the injuries, perhaps she never would have improved a healing process, a healing that kept the pain from surfacing–held it inside, constantly simmering beneath the skin–and made her younger. The process of rejuvenation was still in a raw form, not as long-term sustainable as she would have liked, but between the knowledge of the cultists and her own, they were on the verge of creating something remarkable.
In her dimly lit office, Maeve sat crouched over at the desk, going over entire pages of data, sending out directions and instructions, overlooking the progress of her plan over various charts.
It was an exhausting process, but the results were beyond satisfactory. She wasn’t worried about her speech––the galaxy had cheered for much less in the past. What the new regime would offer could not be disputed.
The temperature of the room seemed to have dropped significantly over the last minute, and steam came out of her nostrils as her warm breath met the cold air. When she checked the temperature of the thermostat on her datapad, nothing seemed wrong, her usual preferences still appeared to be active.
A firm hand on her shoulder made her entire body tense, but the energy the presence emanated stopped her from reaching towards her weapon.
Not possible, she thought to herself.
A deep inhalation came from behind her. Then the breathing became as regular as a pendulum. Loud. Ominous.
“Lady Morana,” the deep baritone acknowledged her, as its presence loomed over her.
She didn’t have to look back. She couldn’t look back. Her body was frozen, unsure what to do next, unsure what to think. One glance back and she could crumble under the weight of her indecision.
“Lord Vader,” she breathed out after what seemed like an eternity. Her insides tickled, churned with emotion.
“I see you have accomplished many things since our last discussion,” he stated.
Maeve didn’t reply. Her eyes scanned the abandoned datapad on her desk, then looked back up at the wall in front of her. Don’t look back. Not yet.
“Your plan is flawed,” Vader continued, completely disregarding her internal churning.
“It is, in fact, not,” she declared without hesitation.
“You want harmony, a peaceful coexistence. That’s a foolish approach. A Jedi’s approach.”
His gauntleted hand squeezed her collarbone and she winced under the metallic grip. A welcomed pain, an indication of reality, it wasn’t all inside her head. Or maybe she was going completely mad. Who could tell?
“Order can only be imposed through conquest, by forcing the disorder to submit to order.” His glove brushed over her skin and reached for her neck, where his grip tightened again. Both of them could now feel the blood pumping through her veins––he felt it through the motion sensors in his robotic arm, she felt it as it reverberated off his touch.
“Your vision is limited, Lord Vader,” she said, not moving a finger to stop him. Instead, she bent her neck backwards to give him more access to it, and to stare back at him. How blissfully young she felt as she gazed back into the red-tinted lenses.
He leaned closer to her ear, not loosening his grip. “I have always wondered how my hand would feel around your neck."
She let out a ragged breath, knowing fully well how vulnerable she was in that position. "Do it.”
Her command was essentially consent. Towards what she directed it at was unclear, even to her.
There was anger and hatred emanating off the looming dark figure. For the first time, it was directed at her personally.
Before she could even swallow, the grip intensified, cutting out all air from her lungs. Vader’s breathing was all she could hear as her vision blurred, centering his helmet as the room disappeared from sight. She didn’t want to stop him, for some reason it felt like it would be useless to fight against it.
The Dark Lord watched his own image–huge and dark– reflected in the almost grey, watery eyes of the woman. There was no remorse, no escape. His hand crushed her trachea and the lifeless body fell from the chair at his feet.
Maeve shot up from bed into a sitting position, gasping for air, patting the area around her neck to feel if there was any evidence of her death. It felt sore and it ached, but Vader’s hand was gone.
The temperature in her sleeping chamber was almost freezing, yet her forehead and chest were covered in glistening beads of sweat.
Stars, she reflected upon the dream, this is new.
After she threw on a robe to keep her warm and went looking for the datapad that controlled the thermostat, she tried to piece together what had happened and what the meaning of her vision must have been.
Confused, shaken up, and a little hazy, she passed in front of the mirrors in the hallway, and caught a glimpse of her reflection. She dreadfully noticed bruising where her skin ached. Not a vision. Perhaps a warning. As to what the warning was for, that was yet to be uncovered.
Her fingers brushed over the dark patches of skin, and she couldn’t help herself from letting his name roll off her tongue, almost longingly, “ Vader… ”