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The Spectre in the Sandstorm

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Rey stopped at the cliff edge. If Luke had not told her what the crater stretching horizon-to-horizon was, she would have thought it an entirely natural formation. Yet, in fact, it was only a fraction of the Death Star's destructive power.

She had stood on Takodana, watching horrified and powerless to help, as Starkiller Base had destroyed the Hosnian system. And later, she had stood on its surface as it tore itself apart, the primal energies of a star too much for any created object to hold. Yet, although it had been capable of nothing like that level of devastation, the Death Star was horrifying enough, and loomed large in her imagination, as it did all those who had grown up hearing the stories of the Empire and the Rebellion. Here was where it had first been test fired. According to Luke, the records indicated that the purpose in doing so had not been merely as a demonstration, but to eradicate the source of its own power: the kyber crystals.

The same kyber crystals that Luke seemed to believe she might still be able to find, if not here, then somewhere else in the galaxy. But there would be clues here, echoes in the Force. And then she could begin the construction of her own lightsaber. When she had first met Luke, he had insisted that the one at her belt was no longer his, but hers. It was only some time later that he admitted that it had never truly been his, but his father's. Quite what had happened to the lightsaber Luke had constructed for himself, she hadn't been able to get him to explain. But it was clear that the weapon of a Jedi was a very personal thing.

She unslung her canteen and took a small, careful sip -- as though she could not be certain of being able to refill it any time soon. The habits of a lifetime were hard to break. Sealing it again, she sat down cross-legged, closed her eyes, and began to meditate.

Rey was still hesitant in reaching out with the Force. Sometimes, it was difficult to shut everything out, and it felt as though the entire galaxy would overwhelm her, and she would lose herself forever. At other times, sensing even the beat of her own heart was next to impossible.

Here, it was different. Was it some after-effect of the decades-ago massacre? Or something related to the Temple of the Whills that had once stood here? Or the vanished crystals themselves? Even with her eyes closed, it felt to Rey as though she was looking across at a bustling city scene, ghostly figures walking around on thin air. The minutiae of lives carrying on, all unaware of the fate that awaited them--

There was a touch on her shoulder. Rey broke her trance instantly, standing up and wheeling round in one fluid movement, hand on her lightsaber.

"Sorry," the young woman who had interrupted her said, putting her hands up and backing away. "Didn't mean to startle you."

Rey relaxed slightly. "I'm sorry. I didn't know there was anyone else here." She became suspicious again. "How did you get past R2?"

The woman looked confused for a moment, then said, "Oh, you have a droid nearby." She made it sound as though it was an answer, but if it was, it wasn't to Rey's question. "I'm Jyn," she went on. "Jyn Erso."

"Rey," Rey said. To Jyn's questioning look, she said, "Just Rey."

"You're not just anything," Jyn said, reaching out to stroke Rey's cheek. Rey put her hand up to pull Jyn's away, but instead found herself just resting it on top. They looked into each other's eyes for a moment. Rey had the strangest sensation: it felt similar to when she feared she was on the verge of dissolving into the Force, except that it was more like falling into her eyes. It seemed as though each of them contained a whole galaxy of stars.

They broke contact, and Jyn asked, "So why are you here on Jedha?"

"I'm looking for something," Rey said. "Or I was."

"Do you think you've found it?" Jyn asked.

"I don't know. Have I?"

Jyn stood on tiptoes to kiss her, and her lips were like her eyes: exploding with stars. The kiss was another answer that wasn't really an answer.

It was as they broke apart that Rey noticed the pendant at Jyn's neck. The crystal hanging from it glittered with rainbow patterns, even in the dry air of the desert. "Is that...?"

Jyn nodded. "I want you to have it," she said. She reached behind herself to undo the necklace. Rey tried to pick it up, but her hands passed through it as though it was a waterfall. Luke had said something like that about the crystals: that the Force flowed through them.

"Why can't I touch it?" Rey said. "What's going on?" Jyn seemed to be becoming insubstantial as well.

"Scarif," Jyn said, her voice sounding distant even though they were still only centimetres apart. "Go to Scarif. That's the place. Where one journey ended, and another began." She leaned upwards to kiss Rey again, but now her lips were as insubstantial as the crystal. Jyn looked stricken. "Goodbye."

The wind began to whip up, and Rey wrapped her scarf around her head against the coming sandstorm.

Jyn spoke, and her voice was the roaring wind, and the stillness at the centre of it all at once. "The Force is with you."

Rey pulled on her goggles and blinked a few times into the sandstorm, but there was no one there.