Chapter 1: I
Ben sat alone on the workbench in Rey’s ‘quarters’ on Ajan Kloss. It hardly provided any privacy––unlike his personal quarters within the ships of the First Order––as it was only a rocky bit of ground slightly suspended over the rest of the camp, but he needed some time to gather himself. Away from prying eyes and faint, displeased whispers about his presence inside the rebel base.
A task very hard to accomplish in such a buzzing environment. His attention was captured by a conversation in the proximity of Rey’s room––they were talking about him.
“What’s wrong with him?”
He distinguished Rey’s attempt at a whisper, but the noise around them didn’t allow a low enough register. In truth, he had isolated himself in there for the past few hours; she probably assumed he was asleep.
“Oh, he’s pissed,” Poe claimed, very certain of his opinion. “He thinks he failed.”
Ben detected resentment towards his persona. He assumed his arrival on Resistance territory wouldn’t be most welcomed, but he had still hoped his change of allegiance would make a difference.
“Which, of course, he did! That’s why he’s here now! He has no other place to go back to,” Poe continued. “His Master is gone, and the First Order is in shambles!”
A swift slap over the rustling material of the flight suit accompanied his last statement. Ben reckoned it came from Rey.
The girl argued back, “He isn’t Kylo Ren anymore, he has changed. I wouldn’t be standing here without hi-”
Ben closed his eyes and tuned them out.
In a way, he did fail. Not by turning to the light, but by sacrificing himself, he brought about Maeve’s death. He failed her . Her last image haunted him. He couldn’t stop picturing her grotesque eyes. And the pain. Stars, that pain was horrendous.
He had seen the decaying corpse of the Emperor and it did not affect him, but to see the person closest to him in such a condition left a mark on his soul.
The woman had given up her existence for him to live on, to build a future with the Resistance, regardless of how he had treated her the last time they spoke. He regretted Kylo Ren’s burst of anger, he never should have lashed out at her.
The man reached through the Force, yearning for contact, a glimmer of hope, something. For a fraction of a second, he thought he felt her presence. It passed like a fleeting shadow, and he was left searching.
Ben’s fall had been caught on a jagged outcropping. His ankle was twisted, and he was pretty sure he’d broken at least two ribs. But he had to get back to the throne room.
Because he couldn’t sense Rey at all.
The climb up was agonizing. Each time he reached for a handhold, a hot knife of pain stabbed his left side. Dizziness threatened to send him tumbling back into the abyss, but he kept on, one hand over the other until finally, his fingers grasped the top.
He hauled himself over the side. Paused a moment to catch his breath. Dragged himself to his feet.
Ben made it only a few steps before he crumpled, forced himself to his feet yet again, limped forward.
He could see her now, collapsed on the floor, and the pain in his chest was suddenly so much worse than that of a couple of broken ribs.
She seemed at ease, almost as though she were sleeping, except her eyes were wide and staring, lifeless and dull.
He hardly knew what he was doing as he crouched beside her, wrapped his arms around her limp form, yanked her onto his lap. Rey’s skin was growing cold. Her barren eyes stared up at him, and he imagined them accusing him. You did this. This is your fault.
No, Rey would never be that way. Those thoughts were the vestiges of Snoke’s conditioning. Rey was good. Kind. No matter what had happened between them, what he’d done, she’d always showed him compassion.
He cast his gaze around the ruined cathedral as if answers might lie in the shadows. But there was nothing. Just aching emptiness and a sense of loss so sharp and terrible it was like a vise around his gut.
Ben pulled her against his chest and hugged her to himself for a moment. He’d just found her, really found her. He’d wasted his life, he knew that now. But anyone who could have shown him the way forward, helped him be Ben again, was gone. Luke. His parents. And now Rey.
He couldn’t make himself believe it. Rey was the strongest person he’d ever known. She’d fought off the darkness in a way he never could. She’d saved everyone. She deserved better.
As he held her, he sensed something. The tiniest spark. And he realized: The Force hadn’t taken her yet.
He knew exactly what Rey would do, in his place. It was the easiest decision he’d ever made.
He cradled her gently and placed his hand on her abdomen. He closed his eyes. Called on the Force. Ben didn’t have much strength left, and he was about to do something he’d never done before. Fortunately, Rey had shown him how to give.
Ben poured everything into her. He found reservoirs he didn’t know he had. He gave her his whole self.
Her diaphragm rose with a breath, and her warm hand covered his. Her eyes lit up.
Rey seemed surprised to see him. She sat up, but she didn’t draw away.
They stared at each other for a moment. He waited for her to understand what had just happened. It would be okay if she left him behind now. Got on with her life without a backward glance at him. It’s what she should do.
Instead, she smiled, and she whispered, “Ben!”
She was glad to see him. Glad to be with him in this moment. It was the greatest gift she could have given him.
His heart was full as Rey reached for his face, letting her fingers linger against his cheek. And then, wonder of wonders, she leaned forward and kissed him. A kiss of gratitude, acknowledgment of their connection, celebration that they’d found each other at last.
But then she drew back, concern on her face. She could feel him growing cold.
Ben smiled at her.
He had given Rey back to the galaxy. It wouldn’t atone for the darkness he’d wrought, but it was what he could do.
Ben Solo had no regrets as he collapsed to the ground. The Force reached for him in welcome. His final awareness was of Rey, clasping his hand with her own.
Rey stood over the place Ben had fallen, staring down at his empty tunic. Tears streamed down her face.
He had sacrificed everything for her.
She did not mourn Kylo Ren. She would never mourn Kylo Ren. But she dearly would have loved the chance to get to know Ben Solo. It felt like half of her was missing, and she supposed it was. The girl who had felt alone for all those years on Jakku had been part of a dyad the whole time. And just when she’d discovered that precious connection, that incredible oneness, it was ripped away.
She retrieved her lightsabers and sprinted from the ruined cathedral.
Just as Rey sprinted out, Maeve darted out of the dark, narrow corridor at the opposite end of the throne room and ran up to where Ben’s empty clothes lay. She collapsed to her knees, scratching them against the coarse ground. Her nails clawed at the tunic frantically, as if Kylo––no, it was Ben now––would still be inside them somewhere. As if she only needed to search harder.
Emotions chased themselves across her features as she picked up the piece of material and held it tightly against her chest.
There were many things she had anticipated, but not his death. For the love of the Force, not his death. Frustration, ache, wrath—they all simmered inside of her.
He was gone. Not only Kylo Ren but Ben Solo too. There was no coming back, no trick or truth she could twist to have him by her side ever again. Her mind raged.
He is gone.
He is gone.
HE IS GONE!
The woman let out a pained scream, a relinquish of anger and grief. The intensity of her emotions reverberated through the Force, sending waves of energy crashing against the walls of the cathedral with the impact of repeated seismic charges. The rock crumbled and fell all around her, adding to the destruction caused by Rey.
The adjacent entrance from which she came was blocked by newly collapsed boulders. With a swift gesture of the hand, she sent them flying across the room, loud thuds accompanying them. The Sith cultists were gathered at that exact opening, all peeking inside at their Master.
“Bring me the artifact,” she growled at them, her chest heaving like that of a berserk animal.
They scuttled off like a hive of loyal bees.
Instinctively, her eyes closed and reached out into the Force, unsure of what she was searching for. Perhaps it was for clarity or a sense of serenity. Perhaps it was by habit, a place where she could find refuge, away from the hectic galaxy. In any case, she needed to gather herself. She hadn’t had an outburst of such magnitude in a long time––longer than she could remember––and it took a toll on her mind.
A presence made itself known to her, a haunting wind brushed against her cheek, sending a chill through her whole being––something familiar. When her eyes opened, a pit formed inside her stomach as her gaze met the one of the man she once loved, smiling down at her.
“Vad–” she began in a husky whisper, her vocal cords strained from her earlier outburst, but she stopped herself mid-word. It wasn’t Vader in front of her, she realized, partly saddened. “Anakin…” she resumed, in a softer tone.
He looked so young––younger than she physically was at the time––dressed in a robe similar to her own, limned in ghostly light, almost transparent.
The man looked at her with a mix of sadness and compassion as he sat next to her, and reached out with his pale, translucid hand, and rested it on top of hers. It was a strange feeling, a touch that was part both of the Cosmic Force and the Living Force alike.
“Maeve,” he addressed her softly, maintaining his smile.
Him being there brought back memories from when she would follow his life during her exile. He had the same young, smooth skin, the unburned golden locks like the sands of Tatooine, and those blue piercing eyes, untainted by the darkness––she found herself just as fascinated with him now as she was back then. The only difference was, her feelings were devoted to his other-self. The illusion he was trying to create wouldn’t work for him in this form. She knew full well why he had appeared to her at that moment.
Her hand didn’t pull away, but her face maintained itself as a blank canvas.
“You’re here to stop me, aren’t you?” Her tone was deliberately icy and incriminating. “You must know you have no power to influence my decisions.”
“You once loved me,” he argued.
The woman scoffed, amused. “And that is supposed to change my mind, how?”
‘You did though…perhaps still do,’ a voice inside her head felt the annoying need to remind her.
“I only meant that you valued my opinions.” He sighed when her gaze didn’t soften. “What you’re about to do is going to break every law of life. Of the Force. You have to realize the implications of this action.”
She glimpsed at his hand, then back at him. He withdrew it reluctantly.
“No one can stop me,” she declared coldly. “Especially not a Jedi.” Maeve stood up, taking Ben’s sweater along with her. “My decision is made.”
Anakin followed her. “You’re going down a path darker than any other before it. I know evil, I have been an evil person who has done evil to things. It leaves a mark on you..."
“Oh, Anakin,” she breathed out his name. “The difference between you and me is very clear. Despite your evil actions, you were redeemable. I, just like my brother, am not. I surrender myself freely to the will of the dark side.” She turned her back on him, not interested in a reply. Her flaming yellow eyes were pinned to the entrance in the throne room, waiting for the cultists to return.
“I know you, you’re not evil,” he lingered behind her, hoping that she would listen.
“You know nothing about me,” she spat at him, noticeably vexed. “Nor what I’m capable of.”
Anakin appeared in front of her, inches away from her face, once again trying to reason with her. "This could have ripple effects through the entire universe. Please..."
“I don’t care.”
“He is finally at peace, Maeve. Bringing him back could be the beginning of a new tormented existence for him.”
As his hands reached for hers again, she dropped the piece of clothing at his feet as a warning to keep his distance, then bluntly enunciated: "I. Don't. Care."
Anakin was confused, perhaps even a little shocked. He had saved that argument for last, thinking it would be the catalyst to a change of heart. “Then you are truly lost to the darkness.”
She leaned even closer to him, barely a finger’s distance between them. “Yes, I am.”
With a billow of cold wind, Anakin’s spirit was gone.
Maeve clutched the necklace containing the vanta kyber in her hand, then ripped the string from her neck. The crystal was released from its metal cage and brought to her lips––thus began an intimate ritual.
The cultists stared at her, captivated by her chanting over the crystal.
As she reached for the door of the artifact, one of the creatures stopped her.
“Master, is this wise? You could end up trapped there, just like before.”
Her gaze didn’t shift away from the artifact, its familiarity still sending her into an entranced state. “The great characteristic of Sith artifacts is their intelligence. This was meant to be a prison only for someone outside the order, a torture chamber for our enemies. When a Sith is trapped inside, with the right tools or skills, it can provide a gateway to dimensions you cannot imagine.” Her hand brushed almost nostalgically against the frame. “I have seen it. It’s marvelous.”
A murmur of approval and delight came from the hive.
Maeve stepped inside, holding a tight grip on the crystal. “In case I don’t return for more than a day, pull me out of there.”
They all nodded.
She fell through the fabric of space and time. Unlike the last time, the transition was forced, not offered. Her body hit the ground with a loud thud that echoed through the separate dimension like an alarm, blaring about the presence of a possible intruder.
Maeve pushed off the ground, and the cloak clapped at her ankles as the softest of breezes ruffled her grey locks. The Vergence Scatter, or more commonly known as the World Between Worlds, was one of the most beautiful and serene places she had ever experienced, despite it acting as an eternal prison for her soul.
She was surrounded by sheer darkness that stretched on forever. Soft speckled stars dotted the visible horizons of the space. The sacred plane of existence, a legend amongst Force users, spread out in front of her, welcoming her back. This was the place she could call home since she had spent more than half her life within its rims.
Hundreds of curving pathways filled the dark areas around her––almost transparent, translucid, and outside the reach of the physical realm and all that it represented. The only markings to guide her were the dimly glowing white lines––lines which, as well as the pathways they delimited, defied gravity. They curved and arched and flipped upside-down. Dozens of portals, just like the one Maeve had fallen out of, were positioned along the ethereal roads. Circles, triangles, all sorts of shapes, each outlined in white auras with markings so old, not even she recognized them or could make out what they symbolized.
This time she was physically in this world, not only in essence. Hesitantly, she took a step forward, unsure of what her presence might unleash once she walked on the translucent surface. She bit her lower lip as her heavy boot connected with the pathway. White ripples, as though she stepped on liquid, pooled around her foot.
“So far so good,” she told herself, then let out a relieved exhale.
A voice started murmuring inaudible phrases in her proximity. The voice then turned into multiple all at once. Some of them overlapped, some cut off one another. The buzzing sound she had grown so familiar with. Same as the last time, she could not identify them all, but some were painstakingly familiar.
‘Sheev, don’t you dare!’ Cosinga ordered, although fear had clearly overtaken him upon seeing the bloodthirst in his child’s eyes.
A distant excited voice, a small boy’s, came from somewhere behind her, ‘I want to be the first one to see them all!’
‘The Republic will be reorganized,’ the soon-to-be Emperor paused for dramatic effect, ‘into the first Galactic Empire!’
Followed by a mechanized plea, ‘Show me again. The power of the darkness.’
‘The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.’
Maeve froze where she stood when she heard her own voice and Vader’s overlapping over the same words.
“Vader…” she whispered faintly.
Realization hit her like a boulder. As soon as she would finish what she came there to do, she would never be able to see him again. Only in her memories. And it just wasn’t enough.
He was the only one she wanted to hear in the sea of whispers and yet, she couldn’t identify him.
“One last time and I’m out of here,
one last time and I’m out of here,
one last time and I’m out of here…” she kept repeating to herself like a chant to keep herself from losing sight of her purpose.
While frantically searching for her long-lost love, another image caught her attention. It was Rey, in the cave from Ahch-To. The woman made the connection with the image she saw when she first got there. It did explain the familiarity––after all, they were related.
Maeve dismissed it quickly, she couldn’t care less about the scavenger at that particular moment.
She roamed the pathways for what seemed like hours. Just as she was ready to give up her search, she heard it: his breathing. His unmistakable, mechanized, ominous breathing.
The portal showed the eve of a battle above Scarif. Just like she did for almost a century, she sat down, cross-legged, with her eyes glued to the events.
The Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator cut through an ocean of ships and trailed a wake of burning gases and crackling particles. The light of Scarif reflected dully on the vessel’s hull as it swung into the planet’s gravity well, coursing toward the damaged Mon Calamari cruiser positioned above the Citadel.
Darth Vader observed the chaos surrounding the Devastator and reordered it behind the red glow of his mask. He recognized the maneuvers of fighter squadrons on both sides, identified pilots who broke from their formations to better or worse effect. He saw the battle in microcosm and macrocosm and was instinctively aware of how each shot could contribute to ultimate victory or defeat.
Yet only the cruiser concerned him. He made a single stroke of his hand as the enemy came into firing range.
The ensuing echoes of turbolasers were garbled static in his helmet. Streams of energy poured from the Devastator toward its foe, illuminating the darkness like lightning. Starfighters—friend and foe— caught between the two massive ships suffered instant obliteration. The cruiser’s shields shimmered with iridescence then vanished in a flash. Fires flared along its port side as hull plating shattered or melted and venting oxygen combusted.
“The rebel flagship is disabled, my lord,” the Devastator’s captain reported crisply at Vader’s side. Darth Vader did not turn to him as he spoke. “But it has received transmissions from the surface.”
Vader stared at the burning ship. There was death at play, suffering, and fear, yes—and something entirely different. Something that repelled his withered, agonized flesh.
“Prepare a boarding party,” he said.
“Yes, my lord.”
The destruction of the Citadel—the lancing of Scarif with the Death Star’s superlaser, the evaporation of a sea, and the disintegration of archipelagos—sent a tremor through the shuttle as Vader and his squad rode to the flagship. He felt fear then, too, vast and powerful and purer than that which emanated from the cruiser. When his vessel reached the flagship and his stormtroopers burned their way through the hull, he started toward the rebel bridge and then pivoted.
Perhaps instinct guided him. Perhaps something more. It did not occur to him to wonder. He sent his troops to continue on his prior path and moved on alone.
The corridor lights flickered while alarms blared. Trapped in the blood-red chamber of his helmet, Vader was troubled by neither. He attuned himself to emanations of panic and desperation and followed their trail. When he encountered rebels reaching for their blasters or dashing to seal blast doors, he drew his weapon and cut them down with unhurried strokes of his crimson blade.
The voice of a stormtrooper spoke to him through his comlink. “A data tape was recorded on the bridge just before we boarded. No sign of it here.”
Vader did not answer, but he bolstered his pace.
He wound through the cruiser leaving corpses behind him. He found his prey at last in a corridor thick with rebels backed against a security door. As particle bolts shot toward him, he watched a data tape pass between desperate soldiers. He knocked the bolts aside with his blade, tore a blaster from one foe with a might that defied nature and gravity, and marched on. He delivered killing stroke after killing stroke, awakened and relentless.
The security door opened a mere crack and rebel hands shoved the tape through. Vader reached through life and matter and air and by will alone he pulled. He fueled his will with rage and fear and need. It was enough to tear the rebel from the door and drop him at Vader’s feet.
But it was not enough to claim the tape.
He grasped the rebel sprawled before him by the throat, lifted him, and stared at him through bloody lenses. “Where,” Vader demanded, “are they taking it?”
The reply was a strangled whisper. “Away from here,” the rebel said. “Away from you.”
Vader clenched his gloved hand until the man’s neck snapped. Then he tossed the body aside. He
activated his comlink and barked to his stormtroopers, “Find their escape vessel.”
The prospect of failure crept over his skin like fire. The supremacy of the Death Star could not be jeopardized. The total obliteration of the Rebellion remained possible; that it was in question at all was unthinkable.
Darth Vader chased his quarry, seeking solace in the final triumph of the Emperor.
Maeve had seen that scene so many times. Whenever she missed Vader, that was the scene she enjoyed watching the most. A monster unleashed––her monster.
With the end of the scene, the faint whisper of a past Kylo Ren rang in her ears. "I will finish what you started."
Her head tilted back as though to address the memory. "If only you could," she muttered.
Just as she was about to stand, the image inside the portal shifted. It was still him, but… she was in the picture as well.
Vader held Maeve’s unconscious body in his arms, carrying her down the corridors of the main Imperial base on Corellia. Her upper body was leaned against his broad chest, her head fallen on the scorched plate on his shoulder.
It was an endearing picture. She remembered the day. They had caught wind of a passing Jedi trying to get away from the Empire’s reach and buy passage to one of the Outer Rim planets that weren’t yet under occupation.
It was pure chance that both of them were sent to Corellia that day. Vader had been summoned to witness the launch of a newly finished addition to the Empire’s fleet. Maeve was already there to oversee preparations for her brother’s arrival, to make sure all the safety measures were in top shape and order. The intel that a rogue Jedi might be around alerted them both, making them wonder if there was more afoot. A plan to stop the launch. Or worse, assassinate the Emperor.
They split up that day, trying to cover both exits of the reported location. Little did they know it was a trap, an act of terrorism against the Emperor and his enforcers. Before she could flee to safety, a bomb went off, and her mind blanked.
What astounded her the most about the image inside the portal was that Vader carried her body himself, although they were almost at the medical bay and other means of transportation were available.
Not stormtroopers, not droids, not stretchers. Him.
Vader’s determined steps caused loud thuds against the sleek floors of the base, officers and troopers sliding out of his way, murmuring behind his back.
His suit had seen better days. His cape was half gone, its remaining hem burned. The helmet was scratched and dented in places. One crack was close enough to the right red tinted lense that it caused it to fall, exposing the damaged flesh and a golden iris, glowing like molten lava. More pain he had to endure. In the absence of the protective layer over his eyes, the light burned, especially the bright, ever present one in the Imperial bases. To make up for the missing lense, Vader used the Force to make the lights flicker before him, then turn them back on once he was past their harsh glare. For the bystanders, it looked like a scene out of a nightmare—the dark lord closely resembling the embodiment of death itself.
One of his robotic forearms was completely exposed; the silver pieces of durasteel glimmered in the flickering light of the hallway. He had been mostly protected from the explosion, by his suit and the distance between himself and the bomb’s location.
The girl he carried wasn’t as lucky as she was in the closer proximity of the explosion. He had found her half-buried under chunks of cement and metal, unconscious. Maeve’s head was split, blood pouring down her face and seeping into her light gray hair, her clothes were torn in places––there was a noticeable contrast between the black attire and the particles of dusted cement that had settled upon them, and her arms had burn marks all over them, worst on her forearms. The lack of burns on her face suggested she had tried to use her arms as shields in the moments before the blackout.
The man set her down gently on a stretcher in the medical bay and brushed the messed-up hair from her face, but he didn’t leave just yet. He made a small gesture, almost undetectable.
Maeve’s face almost went through the portal as she tried to see better. She could have sworn that he made an attempt to caress her cheek. The gesture was definitely cut off, but there was intent. A gesture that implied he cared about her more than he cared about the rest of his inquisitors. Cared enough to carry her around, cared enough to be gentle around her.
She shook her head, trying to snap herself out of a fantasy that could be nothing more than pure misinterpretation––her own mind playing tricks on her.
Another thought struck her in the moment. Perhaps her mind wasn’t to blame, after all. Perhaps it was something––or someone ––else. She narrowed her eyes at the possibility and looked around her as though she tried to identify the culprit.
Clever, but not clever enough , she thought as she resumed watching the scene.
Droids rushed from behind him as he pulled away.
“Run every test necessary,” he ordered.
One of the droids, a CT unit, turned its head around to look at the man. “Upon first scan, she appears to have no major injuries, apart from the burns on her arms, some broken ribs, and shattered bones in the right leg. Nothing we can’t treat within a few days.”
“I want her to make a full recovery as soon as possible.”
“Yes, Lord Vader,” they all said in a chorus.
Her hand extended towards the man and almost reached inside. For a moment, she considered aborting her entire plan to jump in there. Stars, how she missed him…
A tear ran down her cheek, a mournful gesture on her behalf. An acknowledgment of the pain and sorrow that simmered in her soul.
She quickly wiped the tear away, knowing full well that Vader was gone and the girl who loved him died alongside him on the Death Star.
A feral growl came from the depths of her throat––a release of grief rather than anger.
The woman twirled on her heels, ignoring all thoughts screaming at her body to return. Bigger plans were in motion, she couldn’t allow herself to forget that.
A sharp exhale left her lips as she felt Ben’s presence nearby.
That was it. The point of no return.
Once done, it could never be undone. Her connection to the World Between Worlds would be shattered. Banned for eternity, never to return, in any form, back to it.
Maeve looked over Ben’s shoulder as he held Rey into his arms.
It was the ultimate dark action, using a place meant for knowledge to change events in one’s favor instead of gaining wisdom from its teachings.
She steadied herself, waited for the perfect moment. The moment in which the man’s energy would be at a minimum.
Once he had transferred his life Force to Rey, Maeve reached in, pulled his head back through the portal’s frame, and put him to sleep with a swift flick of her wrist. Her hands pressed against his sweaty temples and gave enough of her energy to him to keep him alive and well.
“Qåzoi Kyantuska,” she muttered in Sith as her hand brushed over his face. Then pushed his body back, just before the scavenger girl woke up.
Maeve’s body was sore and ached, never before deprived of its own life energy. Now all she had to do was lurk, to wait for the hardest part––dealing with herself.
As Rey sprinted out of the citadel, the past Maeve ran up to Ben’s corpse. The other Maeve saw right through the trick, unlike the inexperienced scavenger.
She couldn’t afford to hesitate, not now. She took one last look back at the ethereal place, and let the sound of Vader’s mask fill her ears one last time, to sink in her mind.
With a swift gesture, she grabbed the other Maeve by the uniform and pivoted herself out of the portal at the same time she brought her past self in, all the while catching glimpses of her turn to ash as they took each other’s places.
The entire place screeched and rumbled.
The act of betrayal cosmically hurt the netherworld.
And consequence followed.
There couldn’t be two of them in the world at the same time, and she wasn’t allowed back inside the Vergence Scatter. The only option was annihilation.
The remaining Maeve collapsed on the ground, writhing in agony, as the Dark Side claimed her body and soul. Her insides felt like they were melting, her skin was burning, the blood in her veins thickened, and it felt as though there were pieces of ash in her eyes.
As a crippling scream echoed throughout the entire cathedral, the cultists rushed in to help their Master. They all gasped in unison, then started chanting pain aiding incantations.
Maeve’s eyes flew open, revealing the intense yellow orbs, encircled by a sea of blood. “Stop it!” she growled at them.
What true Sith would she be if she let them take the pain away? Pain, anger, hatred… they were her fuel now; the balance she once held inside was no longer sustainable.
Her blackened hand grabbed Untusha’s collar, “I need some privacy for the next part. Hide so he can’t see you. Prepare everything else in silence.”
A round of nods came from them, then they all disappeared in the shadows, doing their Master’s bidding.
Maeve moved an arm. Then a shoulder. She turned over, placed a palm to the ground, pushed up. She got a knee beneath her, leveraged herself up onto her toes. Maeve paused, crouched, gasping for air. Her muscles didn’t want to obey. Every movement turned her very bones to knives of pain.
Reality momentarily glitched around her, and it made her see herself take the same steps as Rey did when she was about to face her brother. Darkness clouded her vision. Rey had a thousand generations of Jedi helping her go on––she only had herself. Her passion, her pain, her anger. Her hatred.
The woman dragged herself across the rocky ground; whether she was making new injuries or not, she couldn’t tell. Her entire body was in unimaginable pain.
She waved her hand over Ben’s face to lift the sleeping spell, then pulled his body on her lap.
A haze slowly lifted from Ben's body and the initial whiff of air inside his lungs felt like he had just drawn his first breath. He smelt smoke and burning flesh, combined with combustible and dust. It wasn't the best first breath, but it made all the difference.
His senses were so dulled, it made him wonder if he was conscious. It felt as though his mind was a stranger in the body he inhabited. He tried to assert control over his limbs but found it to be futile. Even his eyes refused to open.
He tried to remember where he was, and what happened.
He and Rey were on Exegol, she used all the life Force she had to save the world from the rule of her grandfather. He gave her all he had left, in hope that she would live on and bring balance to an unstable galaxy. Then he remembered seeing a starry sky, followed by darkness.
Am I dead? Is this what death feels like?
His answer came moments later when he heard a series of restrained grunts nearby; moments later, arms pulled up his limp body. Gentle hands pushed aside the hair that was stuck to his sweaty face. He recognized those hands.
The thought acted as a shot of adrenaline that went straight to his numb mind and his eyes flew open. The image before him awakened the rest of his slumbering body and jolted him into sitting up instantly.
Corpse grey arms covered in swollen dark veins, as if the blood running through them turned into black plasma, reached for his hand. Charred fingers like the tips of black leather gloves gently held him.
"Maeve, I–" he paused, lost for words.
The woman's whole appearance was ghastly, an object of nightmares. Her once light gray hair was now pitch black, with only a few stray, white strands. The veins on her neck and face looked just like the ones on her arms, and the white of her eyes almost disappeared, leaving two glowing, red-rimmed yellow irises on a bleeding sclera. The rest of the skin was so sickly looking, it reminded him of the Emperor’s, the only difference was she didn’t seem to be rotting away. Not yet anyway.
He couldn't help a gulp, but she smiled.
"It can't be a pretty sight," she admitted, too casually for his own taste, "but everything comes with a price."
"I was gone, wasn't I? How did you–"
A hand pressed against his lips and put an end to the interrogation. It smelled like embers and smoke.
"I know you must have a lot of questions, but I'm not sure if I have time to explain. I also don't know how this is going to come to pass," she said, then drew a deeper breath of air.
A low wheeze came as the air went down her throat as if her airways were scorched and strained. Waves of pain rolled out into the Force––he felt the ripples of her agony, but she was doing her best to restrain herself.
"I want you to do something for me. Go join the Resistance, their base is on Ajan Kloss. Go be with them, it's where you belong now. You deserve it." Another surge of pain coursed through her body––this time she squeezed his hand, unable to hold it within herself. "Give it a shot with Rey," she continued, more faintly this time, "I have sensed your bond and your feelings for her. I don't want you to miss out. I..." Her face grimaced, contorted with pain. “I want you to be happy,” she breathlessly rasped eventually.
Ben felt conflicted. This was the same woman he had seen almost every day for the past six years. The woman whom he had trusted more than anyone else. A Sith, he reminded himself, but one who saved him, a Sith who had given him a new chance. And now, she was dying...
"You did all this... for me," he said, heartbroken with realization.
He wrapped his arms around her, thankful for her sacrifice, and hoped that the embrace would have the power to somehow trap her life force inside her body, that perhaps it would keep her alive for longer.
"One last thing," she whispered in the crook of his neck. "Leave my body here. With my own kind."
He agreed silently with a nod.
She was thankful he had hugged her, it would have been harder to try and meditate with him staring at her. Looking at a redeemed Ben Solo was even harder now than it was originally—knowing she had condemned him once more.
In the absence of someone competent to wake her up from a sleeping command, the only way she could think of to slow down her heart to the lowest possible was through deep meditation.
As her body went limp in his grasp, tears spilled down his cheeks and he let out a ragged breath. When he made the choice to go back to the light, he didn't realize the extent of what it would cause. He didn’t think it would mean losing Maeve. His turn killed her... it didn’t matter that he had helped Rey, it didn’t matter that Palpatine was gone. All he could think about was that his existence is the reason why another someone dear to him was gone.
He couldn't face her death just yet, he didn't want to let go of her. He imagined her as she looked the first time he laid eyes on her when she fell into his arms.
Peaceful, asleep for decades.
He cradled her body as if trying to lull her back to that sleep. It was easier to picture her consciousness safe in a Force Netherworld rather than wasted into nothing.
He let out a pained, ragged sigh as he looked up at the sky covered in the smoke of burning Star Destroyers.
He lost track of time. It could have been minutes or hours.
In the end, he let go of Maeve's body and made peace with the idea that she wasn't coming back.
He set her down gently on the rocky ground and left.
Once Ben’s presence was no longer in proximity, Maeve let her consciousness return to her body and struggled to get up on her feet.
The cultists were already waiting for new instructions, all gathered up a few feet away from her.
“Bring me my brother,” she commanded.
Chapter 2: II
Ben was in the medical bay on Ajan Kloss. Fluid filled bags dripped nutrients and vitamins into his veins. Medscans were continuously fluctuating and his stay in a hospital bed had been extended for far too long.
He felt like he had no way to escape anymore, nowhere to hide and gather his thoughts. People would come check up on him every half an hour, some of them nice, some annoying, some draining.
He could easily deal with Rey’s insistence to eat proper meals and drink plenty of fluids. It wasn’t too bad to get check-ups from the doctor, even though he found it very odd to have a human taking care of his well-being instead of the droids he had been used to his entire life. In his feverish state he even managed to partake in banter with Finn and Poe. However, his meetings with Chewbacca and the droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, had been the worst of them all. Not only did he cause pain to an entire galaxy, but he hurt the ones closest to him––his childhood friends and companions––and he felt terrible about it.
The worst part was that he couldn’t sleep, his chronic insomnia had been accentuated by the haunting last image of Maeve. Whenever he closed his eyes, he would see her flaming eyes, and it sent chills down his spine.
“You can’t possibly believe they have accepted you.”
The ghoulish Maeve walked in circles around him, both intimidating him and making him dizzy. Her fiery eyes fixed him, her voice echoed from all directions. She was mocking him. Relentlessly.
“They all whisper behind your back, they know what you’re capable of. They will never consider you one of their own.”
Even her laughter was hauntingly evil. Unlike her, unlike the woman he knew to be his ally, his confidant.
“You’re not real,” he defended himself, trying to cover his ears.
“You can’t tune me out,” her voice boomed. “I’m in your head.”
“You’re not real. You’re not real. You’re not real.”
“Oh, but I am. I am as real as everything you did. Let’s see, what were the highlights? The annihilation of an entire system--”
Ben snapped his head away from her, repressing the memories she was pushing into his mind.
“The murder of your father--”
She spun around him now, making the circles smaller and smaller with each lap.
“The death of your mother--”
He dropped to his knees, covering his face with his hands as hot tears streamed down his cheeks.
He cried for a while, his sobs the only sound around.
No more Maeve, no more maniacal laughter, no more echoes.
He lifted his gaze to see the woman knelt down in front of him, still fixating him with the glowing orbs. Her silence was somehow more unsettling than her torture.
“Why are you here? Why are you haunting me?”
She blinked and tilted her head, as if she had no answer for him. Or didn’t understand the question.
Her body collapsed into his arms, like a lifeless doll. Not moving, not breathing. He tried to shake her awake, but it wasn’t working.
“This is all your fault,” a whisper echoed around him. “All of it. The pain, the suffering. Oh, Ben…”
He gulped, holding in a whimper as he looked down at his hands, only to see them covered in blood. Her blood.
“I died in so much pain…”
Rey walked in the room just as a tear rolled down his cheek. Exhaustion was taking its toll on his body.
“Hey, are you alright?” she inquired as she placed a gentle hand on his forehead. “You’re burning up again, I’ll call the doctor.”
A firm hand on her arm stopped her.
“Please, don’t. I don’t have the energy to deal with her right now.”
“Did you get any sleep?”
He shook his head, then leaned back on the angled bed. “I can’t, I tried.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
Kill me, perhaps. Something he thought about every day, but never voiced.
“I doubt it,” he tried to crack a smile at her. “Thank you, anyway.”
“Want to talk about it?”
He considered it. He was hardly ever offered the option to talk about his feelings, about what went on inside his head. Only Mae––
“I can’t stop thinking about all the things I have done,” he interrupted his own thoughts from lingering over her. “And everything I have caused.”
Rey stroked his hair, “You were given another chance, to make all things better. The Force brought you back… to the galaxy, to me. ”
“It wasn’t the Force that brought me back,” he mumbled, irritated by the idea–angered even, that Maeve’s sacrifice would be so irrelevant to everyone else.
Her eyebrow arched, confused. “What do you mean?”
He let out a long exhale, readying himself to explain everything.
“I had this–”
Good start, he thought to himself. You’re so messed up, you can’t even define it.
“I don’t know what to call her––I had a friend in the Order, the Grand Admiral to be more precise.” He trailed off, trying to think about and determine who would be in charge of the First Order now that most of their High Command was gone.
“What was her name?” she asked, once she found the pause too long.
“Uh, it was Maeve. She had a very interesting story that I will probably tell you about another time. Actually, she is the one who told me we might be a dyad.”
“How would she have known?”
His fever was making him queasy. “Oh, uh, I forgot to mention she was a Force user.”
“Oh!” Rey exclaimed, “how is it I have never heard of her? Since she had been a Grand Admiral? I haven’t seen her name in any of our records.”
“She liked to keep a low profile, I suppose.” For a brief moment, his brain felt a drop of serotonin, and a cheeky grin flashed on his face, “plus, your intel was always crap when it came to the Order.”
“Hey, you do what you can with limited resources!” she snickered and gently nudged him in the arm. “What happened to her?”
His eyes stung with tears, “she saved me.”
“Oh, Ren. No amount of influence on my part can help you with this one,” Maeve said to herself amused as she watched Armitage help the rebels escape on her datapad, through the cameras of her spy drone. It ended just in time for her meeting with the Allegiant General.
"Ah, General!" Maeve exclaimed as Pryde entered the conference room, now empty and all to themselves. "Glad you could join me!"
He bowed his head to her, "Master, how may I serve you?"
"Armitage Hux is the traitor we've been looking for," she announced.
The man was enraged, "I shall see to his execution immedia-"
"Not so fast," the woman stopped him. "I need him alive, but not quite."
Pryde's contorted face suggested he needed more information.
"I need you to shoot him. I need everyone on the Steadfast to be able to say General Hux is dead in case the Supreme Leader asks about it. You will make it look real, but I want it to be a superficial wound. No organ damage."
The man looked at her somewhat confused, but he knew better than to question a Palpatine's plans.
"Can I count on your discretion on this, General?" she purred.
He nodded, "Of course, Master. Anything for you and the Emperor."
“Armitage, wake up.”
Hux winced. There was tuned out beeping and buzzing all around him. The world around him was in a haze.
“Come on, dearie,” the feminine voice urged him. “It couldn’t have been that bad.”
He opened his eyes to see a blurry Maeve sitting next to him on a bed. He was in the medical bay, just not on the Steadfast. As he glanced down, he saw his upper uniform was cut from his body. Bandages and bacta patches covered his chest.
He remembered being shot, dying. The command deck disappeared from his sight as he slipped into nothingness.
“I’m not dead?” he croaked out.
The woman snickered. “No, but I can see why you would be confused about that.”
His eyebrow arched. “Are you going to tell me?”
A long exhale left her lips. “I don’t have enough time to walk you through the long version of the story. Perhaps another time. When things aren’t so hectic.”
Her hand reached for a pile sitting on the chair next to his bed and threw a neatly folded new uniform on his lap.
“Now get dressed. We have a lot of things to do.”
Hux stared down at the uniform: as opposed to his old one, it had extra shoulder pleats and a double rank band on its left forearm. His eyes widened, certain that someone like Maeve wouldn’t hand him the wrong uniform.
“You’re promoting me?”
She was already on her feet, hands behind her back, with a delighted look on her face at his sudden change of spirit.
“It’s not to be taken lightly. Consider it an opportunity to remind me every day why I went through the trouble of saving your life.”
He shook his head incredulously. “But you don’t have the authority to give me this promotion. Only the Supreme Leader does. Ren would never–”
The woman eyed him intently, waiting for him to figure it out on his own.
“Oh…” he let out upon realization.
Maeve’s own promotion to the highest rank of the organization made him realize how much he had to have missed. Was Ren demoted or killed? Who appointed her? Determined by rank, Allegiant General Pryde would have succeeded Kylo Ren’s demise.
“I feel you have many questions,” she intervened as his train of thought was cut short. “All will be answered sooner or later. In the meantime, I need to know if I can count on you as my Allegiant General.”
There was no doubt in his mind. He ignored all the soreness in his chest as he got up and formally saluted her. “Yes, Supreme Leader!”
“Good.” She reached inside her pocket and pulled out a round device which she set on the bed next to him. “This is a comlink with an encrypted transmission between you and me only. I can’t stay and oversee everything, but I will communicate every detail to you on it. There can’t be any trail of what I’m going to disclose.”
Before she turned to leave, Hux’s hand stopped her.
“I know you said you’re in a hurry but can you tell me … why?”
The woman glanced down at her datapad, then back at him.
“You betrayed the Order to spite Ren. I know you are better than that, I know your intention wasn’t to help the Resistance win. You have been an asset to the organization so far, coming up with many innovative processes that have improved our performance tenfold.” She spared another glimpse at the pad as she caught her breath. “I told Pryde to shoot you. I provided him with a different kind of weapon, one that has enough power to make everyone think you’re dead, when in fact you were only stunned. Everyone needed to see the matter of the spy resolved. Everyone on the Steadfast is doomed as it is, them knowing won’t be an issue for your promotion.”
“But the rifle wasn’t his,” he argued, more to himself. He didn’t expect an answer for it. He was alive, it was clear it worked.
“I know, it was the unit leader’s. He had been informed about the situation, it was all for the sake of the plot.”
A bunch of alerts blared from Maeve’s pad.
“I have to go. Wait for my transmission with our next moves.”
Once the battle’s odds had turned in Rey’s favor, the Emperor appealed once again to one of the contingency plans he had in store, one he had worked on alongside his sister–his trusted new acolyte.
He had deployed her to a mission of retrieval throughout the galaxy, to gather the cultists that had been spread across the stars–either in search of new materials or kept on the side as reserves–while taking along with her a spare cloned body of his for safekeeping. Maeve boarded one of the Xyston-class Star Destroyers with the spare and a large group of cultists and insisted on taking with her more than half of the Sith fleet. The Emperor gladly entertained her request, satisfied to see the newly appointed Supreme Leader of the First Order thought ahead. It couldn’t have hurt their chances of taking over the galaxy.
His newly inhabited cloned body already showed signs of rupture and damage as the transfer of his consciousness occured in a much inferior ex-design.
“Look at you,” Sheev intoned, his voice no longer as wheezy as it was in the last body. “Look at how you finally surrendered yourself to the darkness. How does it feel to reach your true potential at last?”
Maeve stood before him, deepened in thought as the cultists worked on her brother’s tubes.
“I haven’t reached it just yet,” she said as a swift movement of her head urged the workers to leave the room.
They scurried off, and she looked up through the open ceiling at the burning fleet.
“If you hadn’t taken the rest of the fleet, this could have been avo–”
“I should have taken the entire fleet. It was wasted here,” she snapped back at him.
A low growl came from the man, “Perhaps I wouldn’t have had to lose the other body if y–”
“You lost because you underestimate your opponent,” Maeve interrupted him again. She was in no mood to entertain delusions. “Every time a Sith comes close to absolute power, they forget how important it is to snuff out the light completely.”
“You had your chance to kill both of them,” she barked, her vocal cords still strained from her earlier outburst. “Solo and Rey. You finally had the chance to harvest the power of a dyad. A dyad, Sheev! For centuries, Masters and acolytes have tried to form that kind of bond. For centuries, such power was unseen. And you wasted it! By leaving them alive!”
“You forget your place, apprentice ,” he snarled.
She huffed, amused as her glowing orbs fixated him, “Don’t worry, Master. My plan is still in motion.”
For a brief second, the Emperor’s face betrayed the lack of information he had about the supposed plan, but regressed into neutrality.
“I have always sought ways to avoid this,” she breathed as her gaze shifted to the shadows of the chamber.
“I had hoped the scavenger would do it. I truly had hoped. It would have been much easier to destroy her,” the woman continued as she paced across the room, kicking dust into the clammy air.
Many conflicting emotions chased themselves over his features, “You’re n–”
“I have spent so many years trapped inside an unbreakable prison, only to avoid having to see you die at my hands,” one of the two pieces of her lightsaber unclicked from her belt and the crimson light of the blade engulfed Maeve’s damaged figure into a grotesque picture. “Now, I cannot delay the inevitable anymore.”
If the Ommin harness didn’t restrain his body, Sheev would have taken a step back. “This clone is still functional. You and the cultists can keep it working for many years to come,” his tonality shifted as realization hit. He was too weak to fight, and his new clone didn’t allow a great channelling of the Force, unlike his latest one. “With your help and knowledge, we will perfect another body.”
The woman played with the hilt in her hand, partly to inspire fear, but mostly to prolong the moment. “I’m afraid there’s no time for that.”
He felt her reluctance and he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to exploit it. “You never wanted the legacy of the Sith. You said it yourself so many times!”
She smiled bitterly. “I did say that. What I meant was I didn’t want it from you .”
As she took a step closer, the man recoiled, and her stomach hollowed out. It was her destiny. It had always been her destiny. Her Master, Darth Plagueis, knew of it. One way or another, Sheev Palpatine was to be executed by Maeve Palpatine. Her training would finally be completed, and the Rule of Two would claim another victim. Memories flashed before her eyes, and feelings churned inside her. To begin her rule, to reach her potential and to take the first step towards fulfilling her destiny, she had to be strong, to use all the anger and hatred she had inside of her––to murder her brother.
“I have waited long enough for you to die at another’s hand,” she uttered resignedly and the fiery red beam lanced outward to pierce Sheev’s chest from front to back. A tear made its way down the valleys created by the popped up veins in her cheek–a last acknowledgement of sentiment towards her brother–as she leaned over to his ear, “but no more.”
As the body went limp and the crimson blade swished back into the hilt, a wave of energy filled her entire body. The earlier weakness was replaced by a sensation of invincibility. The power of so many beings that came before her now ran through her veins, and it was intoxicating. Each insidious breath brought with it her hit, sating her craving while slowly building tolerance, a bridge towards wanting more and more. A new addiction, a new challenge to overcome, a curse presented as a blessing.
Maeve stared down at her arms as with the mere capacity of a fleeting thought, her appearance returned to normal, hiding away the damage under a veil of darkness.
“No wonder you didn’t want to give this up, brother,” she breathed out, marvelling at the sheer power.
From the shadows, hundreds of cloaked figures came to gawk at their new ruler.
“Our legacy is reborn!” She announced triumphantly, her own voice accompanied by the darker undertones of her predecessors. “The rule of the Sith begins!”
The lightning in the cavernous cathedral intensified, reflecting itself upon the gathering, as the mass of followers surrounding her responded with a ceremonial chant, loud and deep enough to cause small shakes in the ground.
“Allegiant General, do you copy?”
Hux barely managed to get to the Command Center of the Chantrix before Maeve’s hologram reflected out of the comlink she had given him hardly a rotation before.
“Yes, Supreme Leader,” he said as he pulled the device out of the inside pocket of his uniform. “Standing by for your orders.”
“Good to see you up and about,” she teased him.
The redhead considered it wouldn’t be appropriate to roll his eyes at her again as he used to do it before. “Thank you, Supreme Leader.”
“What I am about to ask of you will seem––unsettling. However, I will need your full cooperation and trust in my plan.”
He nodded, silently agreeing to do as he must.
“Take the oldest, rustiest, out-dated, and most unnecessary Star Destroyers in the First Order fleet and scatter them across the primary systems from the Core to the Outer Rim. Corellia, Ryloth, Chandrilla, Onderon, Kuat, Ord Mantell and so on. The death of the Alderaanian princess will cause mass riots against the First Order, and will rally people behind the Resistance. They will feel the primal need to join in our demise.”
“If you want me to destroy those systems, I cannot do it with the oldest and rust––”
“I wasn’t done,” she cut him off.
He anxiously bit the inside of his cheek. “Pardon me, Supreme Leader.”
“I appreciate your enthusiasm, General. Unfortunately, we are running out of time. I want the Resistance to feel as if they are winning. I want them to hear reports from all across the galaxy that the First Order’s ships are destroyed and people are liberated. It will make them,” she paused, allowing the dramatic effect to sip in, “weak.”
“I’m not entirely sure I understand. You want me to let them destroy a decently functioning part of our fleet?”
Maeve’s hand waved dismissively, “Use the remaining Imperial fleet if that’s what it takes. Spare two dozen or so Star Destroyers for the success of our endeavour.”
“As the Allegiant General, it’s my responsibility to advise against that. Though the Imperial models are out-dated, our fleet would suffer, even if the numbers aren’t as large or the ships as relevant. The missions on Crait and Exegol have taken their toll on our resources.”
The look on her face, a grin so malevolent, sent a chill down his spine.
“Take a look outside, Armitage.”
Reluctantly at first, as if expecting to be sucked out into space or forcefully dragged across the sleek floors of the Chantrix by invisible hands, the general approached the observation portal and looked through the mass of stars, waiting for something to happen.
As soon as he wanted to ask for more information as to what he was supposed to see, a massive fleet of Xyston-class Star Destroyers dropped out of hyperspace, spreading out farther than Hux could see.
Maeve enjoyed seeing his jaw drop. “Now you think you can spare twenty old Imperial Destroyers without feeling the need to advise me against it?”
“You– how– I mean–” The man cleared his throat and shook his head, pulling himself together. “Is this the entire fleet from Exegol?”
She hardly concealed her disappointment. “No, but it is most of it. I had to leave some of the ships behind.”
Hux got closer to the comlink’s speaker and, with excitement coming out of his ears, he whispered, “This is outstanding, Maeve.”
“I am aware. Now, if you please, proceed with the task I have given you. There is much more to be done.”
As the automatic doors swished open, General Hux was greeted by a wave of cold that mixed in with the higher temperature of the hallway.
“You called for me, Supreme Leader.”
“I did,” Maeve said as she theatrically turned around in her desk chair. “As I previously stated to you, I have many more tasks for you and the First Order, but first, there’s something else I would like to discuss.”
The woman stood up from the chair and strode towards him.
“I want us ro be allies, Armitage. I am aware of your desires, perhaps more than anyone else. I know you wish to rule. You are power hungry, determined, enterprising––all qualities I admire.”
He remained silent, but couldn’t help a smile at the praise.
“With me as the new ruler, you will bask in more power and glory than you have ever imagined. In title, you will be my Allegiant General, but in truth, you will be much more. An ally. My right hand, my most trusted advisor, and hopefully, my friend . All possible as long as you can guarantee I won’t have to worry about you betraying me for your own–– ambitions .”
He considered her words, aware that she might be inside his head as they spoke. “I am willing to do as you ask, Supreme Leader.”
“No, dear,” she shook her head and put on a believable smile. “In private, outside the reach of prying eyes and ears, I am Maeve. To you and only you, for now. As my ally, I want you to feel as comfortable around me as possible. It’s my friendship I offer in this deal, not only access to my power and influence.”
Her words were music to his ears, and she knew it.
“What is your plan then?” He asked eagerly.
“For now,” her eyes glimmered viciously, “mass extermination.”
Chapter 3: III
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… ”
Chapter 4: IV
“Citizens of the galaxy!” Maeve spoke into a voice amplifier from the top of the stairs leading to the old Imperial Palace on Coruscant.
There was nothing officially arranged for the speech. It was just her, Hux, some guards, a transport ship parked behind them and the crowd that had gathered after their arrival. Activity in a restricted area such as the old palace must have been intriguing. One probe droid was suspended in the air, a few feet away from the woman’s face, live broadcasting the speech throughout the entire galaxy.
“You don't know me, but I know you. I have seen this galaxy fall prey to corruption and greed time and time again. The Republic, the Empire, and every form of government that came before them. I’m certain the location from which I transmit this message to you may seem like a walk down memory lane. The old Imperial Palace on Coruscant has been the home of many injustices and grievances brought to you.”
From the crowd gathered in front of the structure came whispers of agreement to her words.
“Many of you may remember the broadcast of Emperor Palpatine’s voice across all worlds less than two standard galactic years ago. The destruction of the Hosnian System, as well as the many terrible feats of the First Order, had been orchestrated by none other than the late Emperor. For all that, I profusely and deeply apologize.” Maeve paused to allow a short moment of recollection.
“Since the Emperor’s permanent death, I have worked alongside many people sharing my beliefs to restore peace in the galaxy. With the help of the First Order--”
The crowd had gotten larger in numbers since she began, making their gasps loud enough to be heard over the broadcast. Just as planned. To justify the resources she was going to use for her stand and to offer transparency, Maeve wanted them to react, to help her statements, give them color.
"I understand your concerns. The First Order was never without flaw. Like many of its predecessors, including the New Republic, the organization had fallen into corrupt hands and was influenced by forces from the outside which altered its mission to bring peace and order to an unstable galaxy. A handful of people, including myself, have come up with a new system, a way to redeem for all the atrocities that have been committed under immoral leadership. People in the shadows have ruled over us for far too long. I have seen the errors of the past and I plan to never repeat any of them in the future."
Waves of murmurs came from the crowd, neither of them addressed her. A lively debate between the citizens of Coruscant.
“You have seen a lot of military on the streets during the past few days, not only here on Coruscant, but in every system. The First Order has worked hard to repent for its crimes, to rid the galaxy of any unlawful activity.”
Her gaze was not fixed on the probe droid, but on the crowd––analyzing gestures, looking for signs of agreement, of understanding. She had their attention, that was certain, but she had to win their hearts.
"The task to end criminality is a lengthy one. It cannot be accomplished overnight but we have made great advances. All the known and obscure criminal groups have been brought to justice. They can no longer cause you any harm. All has been achieved with the help and resources offered to me by the First Order.”
People began nodding, warming up to the idea of a redeemed First Order. Some, however, appeared opposed.
“Fear not, dearest citizens. From this day forth, the First Order is no more. It has been dissolved and reorganized into a new institution, one dedicated to you and your safety. Your trust has been broken too many times in the past. I will do my best to never break it again. For many years, you have been left without guidance. Without a structure to rely on. Without an intergalactic presence to look after you and your interests. I will create a new structure for our society. I stand here before you, ready to build a new regime, unseen before. It will require your cooperation and your patience, but I can guarantee it will improve everyone’s lives.”
As her words boomed through the crowd, people had started actively nodding and agreeing.
“We shall live by simpler rules. Rules that will apply to everyone in the galaxy. I will take the necessary steps and use all available resources to get everyone a fresh start. A good start. An equal start. There will be no more favoritism, no more classes, no more rich and poor. This is a massive project that I propose. Most of you will enjoy it, some of you will oppose it. But to finally live in peace and prosperity, this is what needs to be done. As I speak, droids and resources are being distributed throughout all the systems. This message is broadcasted across the entire galaxy. In this new world, you will be free to do whatever sparks passion in you. You will all have time to dedicate yourselves to what brings you joy. We shall build a world where anyone, and everyone , can thrive! No more Republic, no more Empire. A society of peace. The first Galactic Union ."
As the crowd cheered, loudly and clearly, the woman respectfully bowed her head, a silent ‘thank you’ to all those who supported her.
Not everyone was going to be on board with her ideals, and that was fine. But everyone would learn to love them. Maeve knew it, Hux–who was now smiling and waving at the sea of people in front of him–knew it, even the guards knew it.
“What do you make of it?”
“I’m not sure, Finn.” Rey analyzed the transmission on the holoscreen in the old Command Center, unable to recognize the woman. “Don’t you find it suspicious that she’s with the First Order?”
“The woman did say it has been dissolved. She made a good point about Palpatine pulling the strings but how can we know if it’s legit? It could all be just a political speech.”
Rey truly wanted to believe the galaxy was in good hands, but something told her it couldn’t all be good.
“What are you watching?” Ben asked as he entered the room. His eyes landed on the holoscreen and stared at the image projected by it, frozen.
He couldn’t believe it at first. Not only did he know the woman was dead, but she looked so different than when he had last seen her. Her skin and eyes returned to normal, her previous pale complexion now had a pinkish hue. Her hair was a dark blonde, put together into a braid. He had never seen her wear her hair like that before, nor had he seen it in that color. She seemed younger too, yet he couldn’t tell if it was the light make-up, the hair or if she had actually grown younger. Her usual dark clothes were now replaced by a white suit with an abnormally large collar. The look in itself was simple, but the design was noble.
“It can’t be…” he whispered, the words coming out almost strained.
“Who is she?” Finn asked impatiently.
He stumbled back. “I--”
Memories flooded his mind. Missions, meetings, that one fight. Exegol and the visions—those horrible nightmares. His vision blurred momentarily, drowned by the haunting images in his mind.
Rey looked at him worriedly, “Ben, what’s wrong?”
As Maeve bowed her head in the hologram and the image widened to capture the crew surrounding her, Ben strode forward to see better.
“No, no, no. No!” he growled as he smashed his fist into the console. “He was dead! He can’t be there. He is vile!”
Finn pulled him back, trying to get him to calm down.
Rey placed a hand on his torso, feeling his chest rise and fall with resentment, “Easy, Ben.”
Finn took a closer look at the hologram as well, and recognized the ginger. “That’s General Hux,” he announced, mostly to inform Rey.
She nodded, deepened in thought.
“Who is she?” Rey inquired as she reached out a hand and let her fingers trail through the ferns and broad-leafed creepers that lined her path. The space inside the Command Center had gotten too small for the conversation. She could tell Ben was doing better outside in nature.
“That was Maeve…” he replied in a faint whisper.
“Maeve?” she repeated incredulously.
They stepped into a clearing. To their right, a large tree with a massive trunk reached for sunlight, spreading a canopy of branches that shaded the clearing, keeping anything else from growing except ground creeping ferns and low, sparse grass.
“I don’t know how I feel about this. You said she was dead,” she continued when she had gotten no response from him.
“Perhaps I was wrong, but that’s what I felt .” His mind was swarming with questions. “Maybe I was too delirious to tell, but--”
He trailed off. Rey was unsettled by his state.
“You told me she is a Force user. I didn’t push the matter further since I thought it wasn’t relevant anymore.” She took a deep breath, preparing herself for the worst answer to her next question. “She is using the dark side, isn’t she?”
“I, uh--” he stopped in his tracks, overwhelmed. Suddenly, talking, thinking, and walking felt like too many things to do at once. “She was different. She never seemed to use anger and hatred like I did. She was balanced.”
He lied. He remembered full well how their last encounter went. The fact that she now looked normal couldn’t have been a sign of redemption. He had read about marks like hers, they were permanent, a sign of serious meddling with the darkness.
“Ben, I need to know. Another dark sider ruling the galaxy would be disastrous, no matter what she promised. If she was, or still is, allied with the Emperor, I don–”
“No!” he cut her off. “She couldn’t have been! She was on my side. She saved me.”
“Who knows how she did that? Or why,” Rey argued. “When you saved me, you were dead. Dead people don’t just come back to life!”
He knew that. He knew something wasn’t right. However, he felt a strong sense of loyalty towards Maeve, and he had hope that her plan wasn’t evil.
Ben sat on the grass and closed his eyes.
“I need some time alone, please.”
Rey wanted to object, but the comlink on her wrist beeped and distracted her. “What is it, Finn?”
“You have to come and see this,” he said, somewhat shaken. “This is beyond what we could have imagined.”
By the decree of the HIGH CHANCELLOR of the GALACTIC UNION, the following alterations will occur:
> All citizens willing to join the GALACTIC UNION will be required to sign themselves up into the new database. Once you have signed up, you will receive a compact device to serve as your Galactic ID and digital wallet. The process implies the completion of an electronic form at the nearest registration station.
> The devices will also provide you with alerts whenever a new decision is debated by the GALACTIC COUNCIL. For complete transparency and a will to truly embrace the concept of democracy, the power will indeed be in the hands of the people.
> The devices also provide you with a long and detailed list of all the institutions covered by the GALACTIC UNION. Once you click on any of their names, a series of options will appear: ‘IMPROVE’, ‘QUESTIONS’, ‘ORDER’, ‘CONTRIBUTE’. Each section shall be detailed as you access the page.
[IMPROVE - feedback section of the institution, where all concerns will be addressed and subjected to an intergalactic vote.]
[QUESTIONS - if there is any unclear or missing information from the institution’s logs, this section is where to address the matter. A dedicated artificial intelligence will answer your question as soon as you ask it.]
[ORDER - each institution can offer its services to the citizens. This is where you register for said services.]
[CONTRIBUTE - each institution is opened to the public. If you are interested in joining one of them, this is where to apply. You will be taught everything there is to know from base level to expert level. More details for applications will be available on each institution’s log.]
> CREDITS are no longer in circulation. The only recognized currency in the GALACTIC UNION is the GU cryptocurrency.
> To allow all citizens to enjoy a life free of the constant pressure of funds to live, the GALACTIC UNION will provide them with a pre-established sum of GUs. To determine the adequate number, a specially designed algorithm will calculate the amount according to your electronic form, completed before registration as a citizen of the GALACTIC UNION.
[The algorithm determines the amount by taking into consideration all life factors such as gender, sex, lifestyle, health, number of family members, and so on. All details are disclosed in your WELCOME MESSAGE received upon registration.]
> The sum will auto-renew itself at the beginning of each STANDARD DAY, deleting the balance from the previous day. Everyone begins and ends their day with equal possibilities.
> The ‘ACTS OF KINDNESS’ initiative: Citizens have been restricted from giving back to the community in the past by time, finances, personal matters, and other outside influences. This initiative is meant to bring kindness and care back into the equation. Generations from now, we hope kindness will find its way back into the nature of citizens.
A citizen who participates in any ACT OF KINDNESS in regards to another fellow citizen or a cause they believe in, will be rewarded with ONE extra GU added to their digital wallets at the beginning of EACH DAY. There is NO LIMIT for the acts of kindness.
[One act of kindness = one extra GU for the rest of their lives]
>> HOUSING and ‘NECESSARY TO LIVE’ ITEMS
> Proper HOUSING will be provided for every registered citizen free of charge and won’t be subjected to maintenance or utility fees.
> Items categorized as ‘NECESSARY TO LIVE’ will also be free of charge and available to everyone according to their needs.
[Such items include but are not limited to: food, fluids, medicine, personal or household hygiene products, means of transportation, and so on. All details are disclosed in your WELCOME MESSAGE received upon registration.]
>All companies will be reviewed. The best of each category will be selected and branched out throughout the galaxy according to the needs of each system/planet.
> All selected companies will be integrated into the GALACTIC UNION system. Each company will be improved to the highest level, with the help of specialized analysis based on needs and the citizens’ feedback.
> Work in any domain will still be available for everyone who wants to do it. Everyone is free to apply for work and will be trained in said domain. Any participant in a training or employee is free to leave their post at any time if it causes them discomfort. Later, they can opt for a break from work, permanent leave, or try out another domain.
> Most tasks will be performed by specialized droids.
> The ‘DROIDS ARE OUR FRIENDS’ policy: ALL droids shall be treated with respect and will never, under any circumstances, be damaged on purpose. The punishment for droid mistreatment is punishable by Galactic law.
[All details are disclosed in your WELCOME MESSAGE received upon registration.]
> EDUCATION will be free of charge for any citizen.
> The system will be organized in a way that citizens of any age, background, race or species can attend and be assigned to the optimal group.
[More details are disclosed in your WELCOME MESSAGE received upon registration.]
> Each registered citizen can VOTE.
> In the interest of a TRUE democracy, VOTING will truly be up to the citizens. Ambassadors of each planet and system will propose changes which will then be subjected to a public VOTE. Each citizen will be alerted on their UNION device that there is a new procedure on the table and everyone will be able to VOTE with “YES” or “NO”. There will be a live poll available until the end of the VOTING period.
> The citizens will truly have the power at their fingertips.
[All details are disclosed in your WELCOME MESSAGE received upon registration.]
For further questions, our consultants are available to you at the nearest registration station.
Welcome to the GALACTIC UNION!
“It’s-- this is--” Rey couldn’t find words to describe it.
“I know,” Finn said as he rubbed his forehead. He had a hard time believing it himself.
“How can she possibly offer all these things? I haven’t seen anything like it before.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “What is brilliant about it is how simple it seems. Why hasn’t anyone thought of something like it before?”
Rey’s eyebrow arched, “You think this is good?”
His mouth dropped, “You don’t ?”
“I mean-- it looks amazing when you see it laid out like that,” she said as she gestured at the holoscreen. “But why would anyone do this? What does she gain from this?”
Finn frowned, unable to understand why she tried to find something wrong with the new regime. “Maybe she is telling the truth. Maybe she really wants peace in the galaxy. Why would a sane person go through the trouble of building who knows how many droids to scatter across every system, come up with a new way of life, broadcast it to the entire galaxy, risking to be rejected, all to do what? To be the next villain?”
Rey acknowledged he made some good points, but Ben’s silence about the woman troubled her. There had to be something he wasn’t telling her.
“I don’t think so. Not this time,” Finn continued. “I have a good feeling about this.”
After seeing the woman so vividly alive, Ben couldn’t help himself from trying to reach out, to get a sense of whether or not it was truly her. Of course it was. Who else would manage to act so well as her?
He searched for her presence through the Force, in hopes that his deep meditative state would bring him some clarity, perhaps a connection.
“Ben…” came a soft whisper.
He found himself in a neutral realm, a sea of darkness with no perceptible limits, like the inside of a black hole, without any sense of direction. His spirit, however, felt at peace.
The voice was unmistakable this time. No longer a call but a greeting. He spun around, and saw his old friend, with the same looks and outfit as she had in the transmission.
"You look different. Is this what you looked like before? Back in your time?" Ben asked.
Maeve looked down at herself and shrugged, "Perhaps. I can't remember it all that well, it is as close as I could get it."
She smiled, "As real as you make me to be."
Her reply only confused him further. "So this is just a figment of my imagination?"
The woman didn't reply, just tilted her head slightly with the smile still lingering over her features.
"Ben, are you busy?" Rey's voice snapped him out of meditation.
His eyes flew open and he came back to reality, but there was a hollowness left inside him. He had no idea if he actually reached Maeve or if it was just a manifestation of his mind.
“I was just taking a moment to clear my head,” he raspily replied, then cleared his throat. “What is it?”
Rey fidgeted slightly, “You should see this too, it’s important.”
He was aware he had been rude to the girl earlier, and he regretted it. Rey always had good intentions and he had a tendency to reject them.
The man wrapped his arms around her, holding onto her as tightly as he did back in the citadel from Exegol. With all the affection he could gather. “I’m sorry about earlier. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the past.”
Rey smiled, “Kill it if you have to.”
“Glad to see I’m not the only one who can’t let go of the past,” he said as he rolled his eyes, amused, then placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head. “One of these days you’re going to run out of quotes to throw back at me.”
Hux paced around looking down at the files on his datapad.
"How does the virtual currency replace credits? I have all the data here, but I don't understand how it works."
Maeve stared through the observation portal, regarding the beauty of a distant nebulae.
"Living beings find the concept of currency irreplaceable. They give a piece of metal value and it takes over their lives. I do not blame them for not knowing how to live without it. But anything can hold value if you give it said value."
He considered her words, but knew something didn’t add up. “I can’t seem to find where all the funding for it comes from. Where is all the currency coming from? Who provides it?”
"It doesn't come from anywhere,” she casually stated. “It's a digital number in a digital system. It has no real value and it's inexhaustible. But the citizens need something to trade for goods. It's the only system they know. I only removed the possibility of corruption. There are no more banks, no more loans, no more interests. People are free to live a life in which they can thrive. And no one gets more money than the other."
Before Hux could add anything, she turned abruptly, blue eyes staring into green ones. “This is highly confidential information, Armitage. No one but you, me, and a handful of others can know about it. Not yet anyway.”
“I can understand that,” he said with a nod, “but why ‘not yet’?”
"The galaxy is filled with savages. Slaves to their basic needs, acting on their primal instincts. They are hardly kept together by the rules of society. Very few have evolved enough to let reason guide their lives."
"Doesn't that work in our favor?" he argued.
"Yes and no."
"What do you mean?"
The woman began pacing across the room, her robe fluttering and rustling as she moved. "It's easy to control savages. Give them what they need and they shall bow down to you, but they are still savages nonetheless. One trigger can set them off, disrupt the peace I'm trying to build."
"How are you going to ensure they won't step out of line?"
"Surveillance, of course. Each device we will give out will report back to us, streaming back audio and video. Undetectable by the users. All droids will do the same too."
The ginger clutched the datapad a little harder, wondering if the device he was holding already had such a system implemented. "You are talking about mass espionage."
"How does one create and maintain peace?” Maeve sat down at her desk, and her fingers interlocked as she brought her hands together, “Through absolute order."
The old Senate building still stood after decades of neglect. Poe knew from his debrief that the room he was in had once served as Emperor Palpatine’s office. It was both unsettling and fascinating to step foot in the place from which many critical decisions have influenced the fate of the galaxy. It looked like a museum, a piece of history lost to time. The design was elegant, a product of a more civilized age–the deep red runner that matched the softly curving walls, the long comfortable couches, the huge arc of the window behind Palpatine's desk.
An indefinable gloom shrouded everything, as though the orbital mirrors that focused the light of Coruscant's distant sun into bright daylight had somehow been damaged, or smudged with the brown haze of factory smoke that shrouded the cityscape. The light of the Chancellor's lampdisks seemed brighter than most, almost harsh, but somehow that only deepened the gloom. The Chancellor's single large chair was thrown into silhouette as he looked at the city through the curving view wall.
“Welcome to the headquarters of the Galactic Union,” Maeve announced ceremoniously. “I’m sorry for the setting, we had no time to renovate.”
Poe wasn’t moved by her welcoming, nor was he intimidated by the guards standing in pairs on each side of her and at the door. He knew one thing, and one thing only. “You are with the First Order. There is no way anyone can trust you.”
The High Chancellor of the Union sat at the desk in her private office, staring distractedly at an abstract twist of neuranium that Poe only assumed was supposed to be some kind of sculpture, and merely sighed, as though she had matters of much greater importance on her mind.
“Commander Dameron--” she began but stopped rather teathrically, “or is it General now? I’m afraid there’s no data available on your latest rank, only rumors.”
“It’s General ,” he replied snarkily.
“Alright then,” her head shifted to the left at the protocol droid in standby. “C-2TY, please make the necessary adjustments to General Dameron’s file.”
“Right away, High Chancellor.”
“As I was saying, General, ” Maeve’s gaze returned to the pilot standing in front of her, only to see him slightly taken aback. “I have indeed been a rather important component of the old First Order. That doesn’t make me a villain. Based on that principle, you would not be trustworthy as a leader or General simply because you used to be a spice runner.”
She waved her hand in the air, dismissing the guards, leaving only her, Poe and the protocol droid in the room.
“I called you here to see it all for yourself. As you are a key component to the Resistance, you can imagine why I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression of me. I do not want another rebellion on my hands, not when there are far more important things to be done with my time and resources.”
The woman leaned forward in her seat, and invited Poe to take a seat across from her.
He defiantly raised his chin, not willing to sit down with someone of her beliefs.
“No problem then,” she said calmly as she stood up from her chair, bringing their figures to the same level. “It’s not in my nature to lie, General Dameron. I have not lied in my speech. There is no more Republic. My goal was never to create a new Empire. This is, as stated, the Galactic Union. A new form of government from every viewpoint. You, as well as everyone else, have access to what this entails.”
Poe looked down as the silver protocol droid offered him a datapad. There was one file already opened, a declaration, an agenda.
“It is the same procedure that I have broadcasted across all systems.”
He scanned the document, reluctant at first. He reminded himself that it could all be an elaborate scheme, a trap. However, he found himself in awe of all the changes, in the innovative processes and her resolve for major issues. Before he realized it, she was inches away from him, with a smile plastered on her face.
"This is our chance to build a better future for everyone in the galaxy. A new structure that is sustainable, crime-free, and made this way to keep the peace. I hope forever."
It was what he had dreamed of. What he had been struggling to achieve. He never thought it would be possible.
“How do you plan to provide all these resources? How do you have the funds for it? Where are all the droids coming from? We’re talking about billions upon billions of droids. It’s--” he trailed off, struggling to grasp the numbers involved.
“If there is a will, there is a way,” she casually threw the vague notion at him. “Let me worry about all those details. If I had to break it down, we would be in here for the next few weeks.”
Once he calmed his mind, Poe set down the datapad on the desk in front of him. “Why have you called me here?”
“To make sure we can collaborate. To bring the Resistance into the Union. If you join me, as one of my Galactic Ambassadors, you can be part of this new world. You can have a special place right into the action, with less piloting and shooting evidently,” she joked, an attempt to lighten up the mood. “Help me prevent the Union from falling back into corrupt ways. I am but one. As much as I would like to handle it all alone, I cannot.”
Poe seriously considered accepting the offer. He glanced back at the ‘currency’ section in the file. “Don’t you think your system can be abused?”
She turned her head to the window, gazing into the distance, aware of what he meant. "This new structure isn't meant to encourage laziness. Surely, at first, perhaps most people would stop to enjoy themselves and take a break from the tasks that had been killing them their entire lives. But when you draw the line, this is a way for people to find their true callings and be able to take them on. How many citizens only here on Coruscant are forced every day to take on jobs that abuse them and their rights only to sustain themselves? To afford food, water, shelter, healthcare? How many of them can't complete their education because they cannot afford it—time or funding wise? This is a way to take the pressure off of them, to allow them to pursue their passions without having to worry about their future."
No reply came from Poe––he felt that the woman was organizing and applying every theory he ever had, on a much bigger scale and in a much better way that he could have dreamed of.
"Money has been the most powerful and destructive weapon in the galaxy. Now I have removed it. Since my speech and the presentation of the Union's structure, trillions have already registered themselves as citizens of the Galactic Union. Not just on Coruscant and the main systems. All of them."
"This is--revolutionary," he whispered, overwhelmed.
"It's a new way of life, General. One you can contribute to."
Poe watched her smiling at him, and couldn’t believe she was in any way allied with the First Order, the organization that made his life hell for longer than he could remember. He wondered if he should let his guard down and accept her offer. Since the regime was already in place, it was a viable option. This way he could be keeping an eye on everything from the inside.
“Oh!” Maeve exclaimed as she gently touched his upper arm. "I have tried to reach one of your other--again, the ranks have not been officially updated on my side--let's say one of your fellows from the Resistance. I have him registered only as Finn. No last name. Could you clear that up for me?"
He wasn’t sure how to handle her question. "Uh, it's just Finn. He doesn't have a last name. He is, uh--"
"An ex-stormtrooper. FN-2187. I know,” she casually stated. “I thought in the meantime he had chosen a last name as well hence my inquiry."
The man frowned, continuously befuddled by her.
"I can't seem to get in touch with him. I wanted to ask him to this meeting as well. I wanted to offer him the option to join the Ambassadorial collective too."
"You want two Resistance members as Ambassadors?" he asked incredulously.
"I want the seats of the collective to be filled with morally upstanding people. From all across the galaxy. So far, you two are the only ones I thoroughly researched when it comes to Resistance members. I plan on bringing more aboard.”
The woman made a hand gesture at the protocol droid. C-2TY pulled out some devices from her desk and set them on the table.
“Thank you, dear,” she addressed the droid then looked back at Poe. “I can also take recommendations, General Dameron. I'm sure I can trust your instincts when it comes to being a good judge of character."
He chuckled, visibly more relaxed than when he started the conversation. "Spoken like a true politician, Chancellor."
"Oh, I am no politician. Far from it truly. I do not play games. I am a leader and a peace keeper. I only want what is best for a galaxy that has suffered far too much."