Chapter 1: A New Hope?
Bum, bumpada bum, bumpada, bum… The introductory brass belted out and Sara Ryder leapt about three feet in the air. Liam Kosta laughed, doubled over, as she grabbed onto the counter in the mess for support.
“Dumbass!” Sara held her hand over her chest. “Are you trying to stop my heart? Again?!”
“Sara, you are in no danger of cardic arrest,” SAM began.
Liam turned down the music blaring from his ‘Tool with a couple swift taps. “Sorry. I just had this fabulous idea, and…”
“Oh, no,” Sara held up her hand, the other still over her heart. “Your last great idea got us marooned on a slaver ship headed to nowhere but its own explosion.” She turned back to where she was preparing dinner, chopping up what looked like korkro roots to go into a salad.
“It’s not like that.”
“Oh, so it’s like the time when you stripped our favorite Angaran to his birthday suit in an attempt to understand his culture’s intimate of intimates?” She popped a small crunchy bit into her mouth before reaching above her for a bowl to tip the mixture into. “Should I make French onion soup or lentil to go with the greens?”
“It wasn’t like that!” He wrinkled his nose at the available options. “I don’t suppose we have any leftover roast we could make into sandwiches, instead?”
“Mmmhmm, I think Drack froze them after slicing, but I could thaw them out, as long as he doesn’t have plans for them?” Sara winked over her shoulder and Liam knew he wasn’t really in trouble. Not yet, anyway. She turned and leaned up against the counter. “Still a little salty I missed out on the early show, there.”
Liam grabbed her hips and pulled her a little closer. “I can arrange a private post-show, if you’re interested… I know a guy.”
“Deal,” she kissed his nose and turned back towards the cupboards, refocused on dinner. “Now, what’s the new plot? Are we killing more pirates? Endearing ourselves to the local Angara with a ABBA medley? Jumpjetting from the top of Mount Techix?”
“None of the above,” though the last was a fantastic idea, and he tapped a note to himself to look into adequate insulation for the trip down, and maybe something like a glider... “It’s about the next movie night. Well, the next dozen or so…”
“Liam…” He saw it when the music – still playing on in the background - clicked. “Oh no. No. No!”
“The time has come, Sara,” he said, his face deadly serious. “It’s time to teach Jaal the ways of the Force.”
“He’s too old,” She groaned, shaking her head, even while she struggled not to laugh. “Liam, how in the world can we possibly explain all the references and lore and…”
“We don’t have to! That’s the best part.” Liam pulled up the list of Star Wars flicks, turning so she could see it. “It’s not like anyone knew anything about the galaxy when it started. So we start with ‘A New Hope’, and then he gets eased in, like the first filmgoers. He falls in love with the franchise, and then we turn him onto the books, and games, and before we know it we’ll have a little Star Wars Geek fanatic of our very own…” He might have drafted up a blueprint for a lightsaber attachment for his Omni-Tool, but he hid the link at the bottom of his detailed plan with his finger.
She wasn’t ready to see that yet.
“You’re not going to show them in order?” Sara frowned, “I don’t know…”
“Oh no,” Liam’s eyes grew large. “You’re not one of those fans, are you?”
“What the hell do you mean?” Sara crossed her arms. “I’m a fan. I don’t have to explain or justify…”
“A purist.” Liam cut in. “Sara, they were released this way for a reason.”
“Yeah, the reason being that most of them weren’t written beforehand,” she snarked. “Lucas changed all sorts of things – Vader wasn’t even Luke’s dad before…”
Liam covered her mouth with her hand, “Shhh, you’ll give away the major plot points!”
She was laughing underneath his fingers, as she rolled her eyes. “Fine,” her voice, muffled responded. “We watch ‘New Hope’ first, then what?”
“We hit the rest. In order of release.”
“There is no way in hell I’m watching the holiday special.”
Liam mock pouted.
“No. It’s an insult to our Princess’ memory, remembering that travesty. If you show it, I’m out.”
“But the masturbation machine!”
Liam gracefully capitulated. “Fine, I can compromise. The Holiday Special stays out of it. But we’re watching the ‘Ewok Adventure’.”
Sara colored a little, laughing, “Fine. As long as we can watch ‘The Battle for Endor’, too. It makes up for it. Mostly.”
“You love that one, don’t you?!” Delighted, Liam wrapped his hand around hers. “It’s the whole crashlanding thing, isn’t it – does it feed into your Swiss Family Robinson fantasies?”
“EW!” But she was laughing. “Liam, don’t make it weird. I just like survival stories, that’s…”
“Oh yeah?” His eyebrow went up. “Doesn’t have to anything to do with starting a colony from scratch? No ‘Blue Lagoon-esque’ half naked swim scenes? Sex for the sake of survival?”
She shoved him, luckily without her biotics. “You’re such an ass.”
“You love it.” He leaned up against the table, mentally reminding himself to add ‘Blue Lagoon’ to the list. “So… I’m thinking two days from now. We’ve got popcorn and those fruit candies that the Angara love. Gil’s souped up the speakers in your room, so the sound will be choice…”
“And we’re not watching the versions with the lousy CGI,” Sara added.
“Nope, you used up all your chips with the exclusion of the Holiday Special, Pathfinder,” Liam countered.
“Ugh!” Sara groaned. “Then you get to explain why the creatures look fake.”
“You haven’t watched any Angaran vids. Sara, they’re barely on the scale of believable if you’re in the dark, and squinting. Jaal will love these. And he knows nothing about Milky Way creatures – he won’t be able to tell they aren’t authentic.”
“Whatever.” She shoved a strand of pinky-red streaked with black hair behind her ear. “You really think Jaal is ready for this?”
“I think he was born ready.” Liam pulled away from his girl, with difficulty. “I’ll tell Gil we’re on. And remember… no spoilers. None.”
“My lips are sealed.”
Chapter 2: Sara Shoots First
Well, mine did, anyway.
“Liam…” Sara stared as she entered her room two days later. “What in the world is that… thing?”
“It’s a cardboard sales display,” Liam beamed. “I brought it from Earth.”
Sara blinked at the two droids. “Why?”
“Do you know what vintage fan merch goes for?” Liam expostulated, adjusting the back so it would stand up on its own, instead of drooping in half along the folding seam. “It’s worth even more now that we’re here. I’m going to rent it out for children’s parties – but it will help set the mood.”
Sara snorted, but didn’t get a chance to reply before the Team - minus Peebee who professed to hate the films and nearly got kicked out of her escape pod for admitting it – busted through the open door. Most of them ignored the dubious decoration, in favor of settling themselves in their usual seating. But Jaal entered and stopped dead. “Liam! Is this art?” He circled the figures, neck ridges swelling in excitement. “I’ve never seen any examples of Milky Way art outside of a book.”
“Some people evidently think so,” Sara supplied. “How in the world did you get it here?”
“Stuffed into the frame of the sofa,” Liam shrugged. “It was safe enough in there, once everything was loaded. And it might not be fine art, Sara, but it’s beautiful… in its way.” The soulless eyes of C-3PO stared back wordlessly.
“We’re not going to display that thing in our home.”
“Nope. I have to put a foot down somewhere.”
Jaal gasped, “Its eyes… they follow me!” He swayed slightly. “How is that possible?! Truly, this is a wonder!”
Sara threw herself into her favorite corner of the couch, snuggled up against Liam’s side. He’d already queued up the movie as Jaal, finally tiring of watching C-3PO’s eyes follow him around the room, settled into the sofa on the other side. “So,” Jaal’s voice was light, “this is a space fantasy – like ‘the Last of the Legion’, then? Only with robots?”
“Droids. And, no, this is the space fantasy,” Liam corrected. “It’s got everything – fights, crack pilots, orphans, a little romance, princesses, scruffy smugglers…”
“Hey, who you calling scruffy?” Gil asked from his chair. Liam fist bumped him for the reference.
“It’s not the best space fantasy,” Cora corrected, “there are Asari productions…”
“Nobody cares…” Vetra moaned, slumped into her chair. Cora pressed her lips together. “Even if you’re right, even among human stuff. Sid’s been telling me about this epic – a bit utopian, but what I’ve seen is mostly really good. It’s a Star something too… Star Travel? Star Wander?”
“Star Trek?” Suvi called out. “It’s way better, and overall, the science checks out...”
“We are not watching every single movie and episode of Star Trek, Suvi,” Sara corrected, a little sad. “It’s hard enough to get enough downtime for a movie a week. Our schedules don’t allow for binge watching.”
“Oh…” Kallo wilted. “I hoped that was next. I still haven’t finished DS-9.”
“It’s okay,” Suvi patted her best friend’s arm. “I’ll lend you the files. I brought them all…” Kallo brightened, and as the music started – this time not nearly as loud as when Liam had blasted it in the kitchen.
The words on the screen began to scroll. Jaal mouthed them, slowly – he’d been struggling to learn to read without a translator, something hardly anyone did, but he claimed to hate the time translation cost him. “Hmmm,” he mused. “I thought this was a vid? Not a book?”
“That’s just the prologue, mate.”
“An interesting choice,” Jaal didn’t necessarily approve, however. “I thought your culture usually frowns on – what is the word – info-dumps at the beginning of narratives?”
“Well, they had to give some background…” Liam admitted, reluctantly, “And this was the fastest…”
“Shoddy work, then,” Jaal frowned. “For a movie called ‘Hope’, this introduction is rather dark. I’m not really feeling…”
“I know we should have started with the prequels,” Sara hissed.
“Shut it, you,” Liam pulled her closer. “Just watch, Jaal.”
A little way in, Liam paused the movie for a loo break. Mostly people stood up and stretched, except for Jaal, whose eyes glistened with emotion and… confusion? “Jaal?” Sara asked. “Are you…”
“The Empire. They are like the Kett. They use anger and hate to destroy everything…” Jaal hid his eyes. “I’m sorry, they destroyed Luke’s family... His mother… where is she? Is she dead as well? His aunt and uncle – they were so kind, his Aunt Beru was another mother to him, and he was so ungrateful – and yet he was clearly destined for a life beyond a moisture farm… why were they so reluctant to let him go?” and then he frowned, “But why was this Obi-Wan their only hope? Surely they have many skilled fighters, with an organized resistance such as theirs? And Luke has had no light saber training - can he fight at all?”
Behind them, Gil was hunched over, trying to suppress his laughter. “He’s a natural,” Liam tried.
“It’s the Force,” Sara interjected. “It’s like it helps him learn quicker.”
“Or he’s a Mary Sue,” Gil muttered. “Nobody’s hair is that good, not all by itself and filled with sand.” The very thought made Liam’s scalp itch.
Jaal’s eyes went even rounder. “Oh. Oh, I see. So when they say ‘The Force is strong’…” Jaal gasped, “Is Luke destined to become a Jedi? Oh! He is his father’s son!”
“Exactly,” Sara leaned over Liam’s lap. “You’re getting it now.”
Jaal, placated for the moment, settled back – his cheeks still damp, but no longer overcome. “I still can’t believe they’re dead. His whole family – it’s such a horrible waste. Surely harvesting moisture on a desert planet would be a valuable skill set? Why did they not just enslave them?” He frowned again, “Is anyone farming moisture on Elaadan? What about Eos? Someone should make a note to bring it up with Morda…”
“I’m not sure it’s hard science, Jaal,” Suvi managed, ever so politely. “But it’s something to check into, aye?”
“It’s an evil empire,” Liam butted back in. “It’s eviler to kill them.”
“I… am not sure,” Jaal’s eyes were dark with memories again. “But let’s continue.”
Suvi settled back into her place on the floor, leaning up against Kallo. Liam pushed play and launched them into the next section of the movie. It had been playing for only a few minutes when Peebee busted through the door, blocking the screen just as Luke grasped the beginning of how to use the Force with his visor down. “Hey, Jaal! What’d I miss?” She sat on the floor between his legs, and grabbed the popcorn bowl out of Vetra’s hands. “You shouldn’t be eating these anyway. Right, Lexi?”
“I thought you didn’t like these vids?” the Turian protested, and reluctantly accepting the dextro-based snack from Lexi’s hands.
Peebee shrugged. “Turns out I hate being left out more. I mean, when it’s my choice, that’s one thing, but this feels like exclusion.”
“Okay…” Sara began, very slowly. “No one was…”
“I know,” Peebee’s impish grin beamed up at her. “But nobody said anybody but me was responsible, either.”
“I am happy you joined us, Peebee,” Jaal intoned gravely. “Do you need one of us to bring you up to speed?”
“Nope, seen it a dozen times. My father was a big fan of the Elcor version.” She tossed back a handful of the popcorn into her mouth. “Hit play already,” she said, with a full mouth.
Peebee was the worst sort of repeat spectator, offering constant commentary on the whole film. “Heh heh, this is the best part. Watch…” the rebels dove towards the Death Star, building up to the final battle. “'Desperately:'” she murmured under her breath, “'I’m losing control. I'm hit, I'm hit. Ahhhhhh.' Huh, maybe the original is better. You sort of need to hear the pained tone in his voice when he dies, right?”
“I still don’t believe Luke has had adequate training to fly the ship so well…” Jaal murmured. “This Force must be an excellent teacher. Is it like SAM, Sara? Enhancing his natural abilities?”
They ignored him, the tension rising, as one by one the rebel fighters went down. “Oh no!” Jaal grasped Liam’s arm. “Is this a tragedy?! Liam! You did not say it was sad. Luke should become a Jedi! It is his destiny!”
“Just watch the movie, Jaal,” Liam patted his shoulder, and Sara began to shake silently in laughter. “It’ll all be made clear.”
Luke took over, shooting down the artificial canyon of the Death Star, and Jaal brightened. “Oh! The Force will win the battle! That’s the way! Fly, Luke, fly!”
Gil snorted, and choked, and Vetra pounded his back. Drack snored, prone on the ground behind the couch, the fighting unable to keep his attention. Lexi had tucked a blanket around him. Vetra was picking at the dextro-chips sullenly, and glaring at Peebee for hogging all the popcorn.
Liam looked over his shoulder, realizing that Cora was oddly silent. He found the woman tense and white-knuckled, leaning over the couch, eyes wide with wonder and worry. “Um, Cora… you okay?”
“Fine. Shut up.”
Sara, surprised at her tone, glanced back. “Cora… you have seen these before, right?”
“NO! Shut up!”
Liam and Sara exchanged glances and nestled back together. “Alrighty then.”
They watched together, Jaal and Cora equally mesmerized, as the Death Star exploded. “Imagine, all because of a tiny design flaw,” Jaal marveled. “Those rebels who brought the plans were heroes, weren’t they?”
“Right you are, mate,” Liam cuddled Sara closer yet. She was practically in his lap by now. Fine with him. “But that’s another vid.”
“Wait…” Jaal paused, “They made a story that led up to this one? And you didn’t let me watch it first? Liam!”
“Actually, there’s several films that all came before this one in the timeline,” Sara smirked up at Liam, victorious, who dragged his hand through his hair in embarrassment. “But this was the first movie made in the franchise, so somebody thought we should watch them in order of release.” Liam winced.
“Liam!” Cora scolded. “That’s not fair!”
“It’s just a better movie than the prequels! I wanted Jaal to like the bloody things!”
“I don’t care! I want to watch them in order after this,” Cora ordered. “And so does Jaal. Don’t you Jaal?”
“Yes, I think I would.” Jaal looked positively mournful. “So much will make sense now. I want to understand where Luke came from, who his mothers were.” Sara sniggered slightly.
“Sara… no spoilers.”
“I didn’t say anything…”
“If this is for Jaal’s benefit, then we should do that,” Cora asserted herself, with a fair approximation of not quite caring.
Sara’s face was oddly frozen into peaceful serenity as she fought not to laugh. “I’m not going to say it, Kosta, but...”
“Fine!” Liam waved at the screen. “But at least watch the awards ceremony, okay?”
“Why isn’t Chewbacca getting a medal?” Cora questioned immediately. It seemed now that she’d started commenting, she couldn’t stop. “He did just as much, if not more than Han! He at least hit something with that crossbow of his. I’ve never seen such a terrible shot as that man. The only time he hit something was when he murdered the guy up front in the cantina. Even Kallo can hit the broadside of a shuttle.”
“Thanks,” their pilot answered, dry as ever, “I think.”
“You know what I mean,” Cora colored a little.
“Blatant xenophobia and racism,” Liam admitted. “And yeah, Han always shot first. It’s his character alignment.”
“That’s not okay…”
“Sure it is! Greedo was armed!”
“Who’s Greedo?” Sara’s shoulders shook under Liam’s arm. “And just because the other guy’s got a gun is no reason to shoot somebody. Everybody’s armed in Heleus, and we don’t go around…” Cora realized what she was saying and closed her lips, tight.
“These were made before mankind knew there was life outside Earth,” Sara reminded her gently, after a moment’s pause.
“That’s no excuse!”
Jaal hummed and changed the subject. “You know, I think Princess Leia has a thing for Han Solo. Don’t you think they make a nice couple, Peebee? Look at the way he looks at her, and her at him. He is so rakish and appealing, and she’s an excellent shot with a blaster.” Jaal narrowed his eyes. “I would rather like a blaster. They are excellent weapons, even if the Stormtroopers don’t get adequate training with them. Liam, could you design me a blaster to use as my secondary weapon? Or perhaps an attachment to look like a light saber, for my Omni Tool?”
“…I’ll get right on that.” Liam stretched. “All right, gang. Next week, I guess we’ll start with the first prequel.” He managed not to make a face. “’The Phantom Menace.’”
“It’s not that bad, Liam.”
“The costumes are beautiful,” Suvi pointed out.
“The sets are lovely. Some of the planets…”
“All right, all right.” Sara winced, and sat up. Liam resisted the urge to pull her back down. She so rarely let herself completely relax. “But he’s one character out of dozens. Think about Padme, and Anakin.”
“Oh! Is Luke’s father in the prequel?” Jaal looked even more eager. “Who is Padme?”
“Patience, young Padawan,” Liam soothed, and turned back to Sara, “I didn’t say we wouldn’t watch it. I just didn’t want it to happen so soon. Not before he loved them first.”
“I enjoyed this vid a great deal,” Jaal assured him. “I’ll enjoy next week’s even more, I expect.”
“Famous last words…” Liam warned.
“Next week,” Jaal breathed, “I can hardly wait!”
“Good night, you two.” Cora waved at them, as Peebee scrambled to her feet to follow Jaal out of the room. “Thanks for the vid. It was… really good, actually.” Her tone was one of surprise. “This sort of stuff isn’t usually my ‘thing’, but… it was fun.”
“I’ll check with some people about restocking our popcorn supply,” Vetra assured them, and followed her out.
As the door shut, Sara spoke, “I didn’t realize there was a single human out there that hadn’t seen it.”
“First of a new species to see Star Wars, and the last of the humans who haven’t.” Liam stretched back on the couch. “We must have some kind of Force watching out for us.”
Sara hummed and crawled back into his lap to face him better. “Damn right we do.”
Chapter 3: The Real Menace
I know it's been a while since I posted in here, but I got involved in a thirty days of shorts project and ran out of time to work on it.
It's over now, so have a chapter!
“Who is the Phantom Menace, anyway?” Peebee gestured at the screen. “Jaal, honey, that guy looks a little like you! What’s his name…”
“Jar-Jar does not look like the Angara,” Sara gasped out, offended on the behalf of an entire people. “And he’s the worst. I thought your father was a fan?”
“The Elcor didn’t translate ‘Menace’,” Liam muttered, trying to squeeze Peebee over so he could sit next to Sara, and failing. He sat on the floor between her legs instead. “Not enough emotion in Anakin’s actor to translate.” She curled her fingers into his hair, and he closed his eyes, enjoying the minor contact. “I mean, how would they have said it? ‘Dully: I hate sand.’?”
“The Menace isn’t a person, anyway, it’s-“ Gil started.
“Spoilers!” Suvi chirped and slapped her hand over his mouth. “None of that, Gil-my-boy. Let him figure it out on his own.”
Liam slumped, grumpy for no real reason. “Honestly, Sara, it would be better off to skip this one.”
“Shut up,” she nestled her head into his shoulder. “It’s not all bad. And Jaal needs to see how Anakin and Padme meet.”
“It’s contrived. And far-fetched.”
“SPOILERS.” Cora ordered. “I don’t want this ruined for me.”
The music started to play, and the words of the prologue rolled upward. Jaal’s lips moved, ponderously, his brow clearing when they finished. “I understood most of that,” his shoulders relaxed into the couch. “Peebee, I thought you had seen these – you said last week you had, and that you weren’t sure you were coming tonight.”
“I have. I just think it was a dumb title. And they didn’t remake them in Elcor, which my dad thought was a crime or something, the way he went on. ‘Indignantly: They should make them all, if they’re going to make three.’” She intoned in a monotone. “’Mournfully: They are ignoring an entire market for Elcor fans.’”
By halfway through, Cora’s eyes were glistening. “He’s just a kid – and they’re taking him away from his mother? And the only life he’d ever known? I don’t care what his destiny is, he doesn’t deserve that, slavery or no.”
“Well, they are getting him off that damn planet,” Liam's voice was rough, having been oddly quiet for most of the film so far. “And away from pod racing and Sebulba...”
"Spoilers!" Cora hissed. "Shut up, both of you!"
Sara hummed, “I don’t know, I’d like to try it. Looks like fun, to me. Can’t be that different from racing my hoverbike, back home on Terra.”
Liam snorted, “Right. Just like hunting womp rats… whatever they were?”
She elbowed him. “Shut up.”
“Sure thing, Luke.”
“Shut up,” Cora ordered again. “You’re making Jaal miss it.”
Dutifully, they all quieted, watching the movie, as the characters swam to Otoh Gunga. Liam thrust out his foot, shifting impatiently.
"Liam? What's wrong?"
“I just… really hate Jar-Jar.”
“I don’t see the issue,” Jaal admitted. “He is a bit… different, but we haven’t seen many of his species, yet. Perhaps it is a genetic trait?”
“Which one?” Liam’s opinions burst out of him, all at once. “Is it the lopping gait of the ungaily alien? Or the way he can’t conjugate verbs or use pronouns correctly? Or the headthings draping down over his shoulders, or the way he trips into the traps, every. Single. Bloody. Time? Even his bloody theme is discordant and goofy.”
“Hmmm,” Jaal stared at the screen, thinking. “Was he supposed to be the comic relief, that failed?”
“It’s racist, mate. Fucking racist.”
“Okay, break time,” Sara punched Liam’s Omni-Tool. “I’m going to get Liam a beer – anyone want anything?”
“I don’t wanna beer,” he muttered.
Lexi gasped, “I’ll get my scanner.”
Jaal paled to a lighter pink, “Perhaps you could lay down on the bed while we watch? Or perhaps we should leave…”
“I’m not sick.” Liam rolled his neck, trying to release some tension. “It’s just… I always forget how 20th century vids drew on bias and prejudice. It’s about black people, Jaal.”
“Black. People?” Jaal shook his head. “I have not met any black people from the Milky Way.”
“I’m a black person,” Liam tried. “I have dark skin.”
“You’re brown. As is Sara, just a little lighter in tone. Peebee is blue, but she’s not from Earth…” Jaal scanned all of the room. “Gil is somewhat tan, I enjoy the contrast of his skin tone with his orangish hair. It is very attractive.” Peebee bristled. “Cora is… pinky white. What does it have to do with anything?”
“Nothing,” Liam’s jaw hurt. “It shouldn’t, anyway. But just like people are xenophobic now, back then people were prejudiced against skin color. Did you have that on Asari planets, Lexi?”
The doctor huffed, “I grew up on Omega with a Turian father. I think Asari judge you based on your education, mostly. And age. And who your parents are.”
“Huh,” Jaal’s face cleared, “I see. It’s like those who are lucky enough to be born on Aya. It is said they stay clearer. Or the way the Roekkar see the Milky Way colonists – as inferior, and yet a threat.” He laid a hand on Liam’s shoulder. “I think I begin to understand. I am sorry you hate this character, so.”
“It’s okay,” Liam muttered, “I didn’t mean to ruin it for you.”
They watched as the Jedi rescued Amidala, escaping to Coruscant. Out of nowhere, Cora sighed, “Those old-fashioned costumes are so lovely, aren’t they? Do you guys ever miss wearing something that isn’t a uniform?”
“That’s what Blasto is for,” Sara waved a hand at her shirt.
“I mean… pretty things.” Cora’s lip curled in disgust at the tank. “Don’t you ever just want to look stunning?”
Gil pouted, “Now you’re just being mean. Don’t I always look that good?”
“I have a pretty dress,” Sara admitted, flushing. “My Mom always told me to pack a dress, even if I didn’t think I’d wear it. It’s super light, and compressed down to practically nothing, so…”
“Aw, when your mom wakes up it will be something to tell her.” Suvi patted her shoulder. “I would love to have one of Amidala’s gowns. They look so regal. Kallo, do you think I could pull that off?”
“It reminds me of something the Delitrass would wear,” Kallo’s lips stretched tight. “I dunno…” Suvi wilted visibly. “On the other hand, why not? You’d rock that… caftan thing. And the feathery headdress… it’s all you.”
“You’re so sweet,” Suvi grinned at him. “The makeup though…”
“I think you’re a little too pale,” Peebee was blunt. Sara nudged her shoulder with her foot. “What? I couldn’t do it either! And I’m known for my avant-garde eye makeup.”
“We could try it,” Lexi glared at Peebee, who merely tossed a popcorn kernel at her. “With the right colors, it could work.”
“I like the lip thing,” Sara ran a finger down her own. “Should I give it a shot, Liam?”
“Whatever you want,” he sighed, and she kissed his neck.
"It won't be much longer."
Darth Maul’s weapon had Jaal hopping in his seat, gasping at the right moments, as Obi-Wan parried and fought to avenge his Master. “I think the red one is going to win!” He breathed, hand tightening in Peebee’s. “Is he in the other movies? I like him.”
“You can’t like the Empire, honey,” Peebee corrected, “They’re the bad guys.”
“But the Sith are fascinating!” Jaal’s eyes were round and very blue. “They seem to do a better job at training than the Jedi, do, certainly. Every single Jedi recruit we’ve seen is either a child or too – what is the phrase? – oh, yes, ‘big for their britches’.” He beamed with success when Gil snickered.
The vid wrapped up with the parade, and Jaal hummed happily, “Yes, I feel like I understand better now. Young Anakin, Luke’s father, was truly the best of the Jedi – a chosen one. No wonder his son was so gifted.”
That was his cue – Liam rose to his feet, switching off. “Same time next week, guys, for ‘Attack of the Clones’. Where we follow the path of young Anakin Skywalker on his destiny.”
“Clones…” Jaal’s eyes grew even more round. “Oh, Lexi! Perhaps you’ll enjoy this one the most! You’ve been studying the Angaran prototypes, haven’t you?”
“A little different than that, mate,” Liam offered, stretching. “You’ll see next week.”
Chapter 4: CLONES!!!!
For T, who is remarkably patient as I worked through this chapter. Here's hoping the next chapter goes more smoothly!
“I have figured it out,” Jaal cornered Liam over the coffee machine two days later.
“Figured out what, mate?”
“Figured out the plot of the next vid! It’s Anakin.” The confused look on Liam’s face prompted Jaal to elaborate. “The Jedi Order is going to clone Anakin and make a Jedi army! They will be unstoppable!”
“Um… not quite.” Liam held in his laughter, just barely.
“But what else could it be?” Jaal’s frustration was tangible, coming off him in electrostatic waves. “I have thought and thought, and the only thing worth cloning is…”
“See, there’s a reason I wanted to show them to you my way, with the first three movies up front. You’ve got no context for ‘Clones’.”
Jaal bristled, “I have plenty of context.” He pulled up his Omni-Tool. “I have been reading.”
Liam frowned, and leaned in, to read the screen. “Jaal, those are fan-fiction.”
“It’s when a fan – like you or me or Sara or Peebee – decides that a story isn’t being told in the movies or books or comics that they want to read, and so they write it themselves. It’s not what you call ‘canon’.” Liam hesitated, “I have copies of the original books, but the screenwriters binned that ‘verse.”
“What do cannons have to do with anything?”
“Not that kind of cannon.”
“But Peebee said…”
“Peebee steered you wrong, I’m afraid.” Liam touched his shoulder. “If you like them, though, you should keep reading. Even write some yourself. I think the ‘Cloned Army of Jedi’ would rock as a plot twist.”
“Do you think so?” Jaal’s skin brightened visibly.
“And hey, fan fiction is a great way to improve language skills!” Liam enthused.
Jaal brightened yet more. “That is true.” He glanced at his screen, “I admit, I didn’t remember this much sexual intercourse in the movies we’d seen, so…”
Liam coughed, “Yeah, um… check the ratings next time.” He pointed to the icon. “G means no sex. Teen means they talk about it or fade to black.”
“Fade to… black?” Jaal looked horrified, “You mean they go dark?! From intercourse?!”
“No! I mean… they skip the explicit parts.” Liam stifled his urge to ask if ‘going dark’ was anything like ‘going blind’ from overindulgence. He probably didn’t have the patience to explain.
“Oh.” Jaal frowned, “But that’s boring. Some of the best parts of these stories are the sex scenes. There is a scene in this one where the bounty hunter and his Jedi lover…”
Liam cleared his throat, “Right. Well, the authors got lots of practice.”
“I read it aloud to Peebee. She thought it was very good, too.” Jaal drooped a little, like a sad plant, “Wait, does that mean I shouldn’t read this Explicit fiction titled, “The Clones Attack!!!”
Liam looked the description over… very briefly. “Only if you’re into orgies, mate.”
“Oh.” Jaal flushed bright pink. “I… see. Perhaps I’ll just… delete the bookmark, then. I don’t know if Peebee would approve.”
“Read what you wanna read, hun!” Peebee chirped from the shower. “I won’t judge. You haven’t seen my collection of ‘Omega’s Alpha’ yet.”
Jaal looked confused, and Liam took pity on him, “It’s Asari werewolf porn.”
“People who turn into hairy Ahdi once a month, when the moon is full. It’s a whole subgenre.”
Jaal blinked, “Can I borrow it, my temptress?”
“Sure!” She peeked out long enough to grab her towel. “I warn you though, it gets really steamy nine chapters in. But I’m there if you need to work through it.”
“And… I don’t wanna know,” Liam concluded, and turned back to the coffee machine.
After that conversation, the movie itself was almost a letdown. “Oh…” Jaal breathed, eyes growing soft and glossy. “Is it a love story after all?”
“Well, if Luke’s Anakin’s son, he had to have been conceived somehow,” Gil snarked from the front row.
“I respectfully disagree,” Jaal was almost belligerent, despite the words. “The mito – mitoclor-…”
“WHOA!” Sara stood up, and obediently, Liam paused the vid. “We are not going to argue the science here, guys. We’re here for a movie, not science.”
“But…” Jaal wavered, glancing at Peebee, who looked innocent. “So… you are saying Luke is not the product of…” he paused, looking confused, “I cannot remember the word. Mito-something.”
“Just watch the vid, honey,” Peebee patted his thigh, and Jaal nodded, resigned. “You don’t like biology anyway. Just… let it happen, ‘kay?”
Once again, Cora eyed the gowns covetously, “Vetra, you’d look amazing in some of these.”
“Do you think so?” Vetra had seemed over quiet this time, but now she leaned in over her bowl of graxen, firmly placed in her lap by Lexi.
“They’re the sort of thing that looks better on tall women,” Suvi agreed, “And you’ve got the height to pull off the flowing skirts.”
“Impractical, though,” the turian shifted.
“You’re allowed to have nice things,” Suvi told her. “It’s okay to want to be pretty.”
“I… know. It’s just that, when money was tight…” she shrugged.
“All the more reason to do it now,” Cora drew up her knees. “We could have turians falling all over themselves for you back on the Nexus.”
“The only trouble is that no one is actually making fabric,” Gil interjected. “If they were, I would NOT be wearing the same coveralls day in and day out, I can tell you that.”
“Give Elaadan time. They’re working on natural fibers in the greenhouse. Synth will come soon enough. Just need the equipment, and the genetic alterations to let it survive the heat,” Drack rumbled.
“Right…” Cora drawled. “A few years, then. In the meantime… I bet we could make do with what came with us.” She tilted her head sideways to see the turian better. “Something in blue, maybe, to bring out your eyes?”
“I’ll… think about it.” Vetra managed, her voice tight. “Seems like too much of a luxury…”
“You find everyone else luxuries, you should treat yourself!” Suvi enthused. “You’d look beautiful!”
Vetra touched her fringe. “You think so?”
Suvi patted her knee, blushing, “I know so.”
“Are we watching the vid or not?” Gil broke in.
"What, my brother not calling enough for you?" Sara snarked at him.
"Not nearly enough," Gil grinned back. "Want the details?"
"I'll pass," Sara mumbled.
Everyone subsided, watching Padme and Anakin stand on the patio, staring off into the distant sunset. Cora coughed slightly when they kissed. Liam felt Sara cringe, and then she sighed, and relaxed into him.
Well, the actors did have approximately the chemistry of cheese and pancakes, so… he kind of got her reluctance to suspend disbelief on the romance. Jaal seemed to like it through. He was practically purring, electricity sparking beneath his skin, and pulling Peebee closer all the time.
The scenes played out without commentary, Jaal humming in disturbance at General Grievous’ artificial enhancements. Otherwise, all remained calm until they reached the arena, and the protagonists were chained to the pole. Cora’s gasps and Vetra’s grunts of approval during the fight sequence as Anakin broke free, and the backup arrived, made Liam grin.
The battle waged on, the clones intervened, and as the movie ran down, and the credits rolled, Jaal pursed his lips and shook his head. “My version is better.”
Liam choked on his laugh, as Vetra asked, “Wait – what did you think was gonna happen?” The two of them broke down into analyzing whether clones of Anakin would be able to access the Force or not, Gil throwing comments in to rile them both up every time the conversation threatened to wind down.
Sara sighed again, and snuggled closer, and Liam realized she was asleep. He kissed her head, gently. Suvi saw and rose. “We’re intruding,” she breathed softly at Vetra. “Look…” she nodded at Sara. “Let her rest, aye?”
They all filed out, and Liam hefted a still sleeping Sara. “I’m awake!” she protested drowsily. “Let me…”
“Shh, the vid’s over,” he murmured. “Just sleep.”
She groaned and rolled over as he slipped in next to her. A moment later, she was already breathing deeply again, curled up under his arm.
Liam closed his eyes, ideas for the next movie night already scrolling through his head.
He’d better have tissues on hand. Jaal wasn’t going to cope well with episode three’s darker themes. Maybe he’d better have a word with Peebee, going in.
Chapter 5: Lord vs Master
This chapter has been ready forever, but I got sick. And of course, after I got ready to post it, I wanted to change things... such is life.
But it's here now!
The ship reconvened promptly the next week, Jaal slinking into Sara’s room, seeming vaguely unsure, but sitting next to Peebee. The Asari had already laid a claim to the corner slot when Sara arrived. Scowling, Sara took her place on the floor between Liam’s legs. “It’s my room,” she began to complain.
Liam leaned over, whispering, “Sara, he’s gonna have a hell of the time with the darker themes… maybe let him sit next to his girlfriend? Unless you want him sobbing into your shoulder through half the movie?”
Sara looked disgruntled, but muttered, “Fine. I call dibs for ‘Rogue One’, though.”
“Deal.” Liam leaned back and started the vid.
Jaal ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ through the entire opening rescue. “Just like when you rescued Vorn and the seeds…”
Peebee nudged him impatiently. “You’re gonna miss something important if you don’t shut up.”
“You talked through most of the last,” Jaal began indignantly, but quieted, as Dooku died. “Never liked him anyway,” he summed up.
“A lot of people die in this one, Sara?” Cora asked, a little worried.
“Not as much as the next one…” Sara started, but was spared finishing by the scene changing to Padme and Anakin, and Jaal’s gasp of joy at her announcement.
“She is pregnant!” His skin glowed with delight, but dimmed, rapidly, “In the usual fashion? But what about the midichlor…”
“No science, Jaal,” Suvi reminded him.
“Hmmm, I miss the midichlorians,” he muttered, but subsided again, eyes wide as Anakin confessed to having dark visions of her death. “Visions – of course. Still it will be fine. He is the Chosen One. He’s going to have a family, and bring balance to the Force. It will be wonderful.”
“Jedi don’t get to have families.” Gil reached over for a hand of popcorn.
“What?!” Jaal’s dreamy look disappeared, “What do you mean?” he gestured to the screen, “Padme is going to be a mother. Anakin is the father. They are a family…”
“Did you miss that part in the first two flicks?”
Jaal’s neckflaps swelled to an alarming size. “I did.”
“Sorry,” Gil did seem a little surprised. “But it’s the truth. They don’t get to have relationships. It’s part of the Jedi code.”
“It’s unfair!” Jaal protested. “Surely they will change the rules for Anakin-”
“Sorry,” Liam answered, while Sara hooked her hand around his calf for support, knowing what was coming.
The sound of crunching popcorn from Peebee, and Drack’s snores from behind the couch accompanied Jaal’s grunt of disgruntled approval as Anakin rose to take the role of double agent instead of Jedi Master. “He can prove himself this way. They will see. Eventually.”
Liam fought the urge to pause the movie before Palpatine’s reveal, watching Jaal’s neck swell even larger, and his skin turn purple, with sparks just barely visible under the skin as the Chancellor revealed his true nature. “No!” Jaal finally exclaimed. “No! He wasn’t kidnapped at all! He is a liar.” Sara’s hand on Liam’s calf tightened for a moment, before releasing. “He should leave! Why isn’t he leaving? He cannot save Padme… Anakin, he lies!”
“I don’t think he can hear you, mate,” Gil joked, throwing his hands up at Peebee’s scornful look backwards at him. “Just having a laugh, Peebs.”
“He will do the right thing,” Jaal straightened, slightly. “Anakin is a good person. He will go to the Council and tell them…” Liam watched his confidence in his hero grow, as Anakin did exactly that, confessing to the Jedi Master that he knew the identity of the Sith Lord.
“Umm…. Anybody need a loo break?” Liam’s voice broke a little bit.
“No, I want to see them defeat Sidious,” Jaal insisted, firmly. “I will relieve myself later.”
“Jaal, maybe…” Sara fidgeted.
“Spoilers!” Cora broke in, and they had to let the movie play on, as Mace Windu and Sidious fought.
And then Mace fell. “No,” Jaal whispered. “No, Anakin… Anakin will kill him. He has to…”
Together, they all watched as Anakin turned to the Dark Side, desperate to save the woman he loved from death. As Sidious gave Anakin his Sith name, Jaal’s whole body tensed and Peebee snapped back from his body in static shock. The sound amplified for a moment, cut out with a hiss, and the screen went black.
“Shit,” Gil dove behind the couch. “I’ll have it back up in a moment. Hang on…”
Jaal rose, tears streaming down his face. “No need. I… I do not want to see the end.” With the swishing sound of the door, he left Sara’s room.
“Peeb?” Liam asked.
The Asari shook her head. “You were the one who wanted to show him the ways of the Force. Not my fault he took it so seriously…”
“He’s your best friend,” Sara released his calf. “I think you should go.”
Liam found himself heading to Jaal’s room, his feet dragging, and knocked on the other man’s door. “Jaal? You okay?”
“Can I come in?”
The answer was a long time coming. “Very well.” Liam opened the door with his ‘Tool, and made his way to the back corner, where Jaal crouched by his bedding, tears running down his face. “This vid – it ends badly, doesn’t it.”
“Not as bad as you think.” Liam curled himself up next to him. “Wanna talk about it?”
“Yes.” Jaal turned, his eyes wide and morose. “Anakin was a good person. He loved Padme. And yet his choices…”
“Sometimes love makes us do crazy things, mate.”
“Yes.” Jaal turned to stare at his hands, eyes unblinking. “When my brother and his lover died, their children at least lived. They gave their lives for them. Can you tell me-“
“You’ll find out, if you finish the movie.”
“Hmmmm,” Jaal seemed reluctant. “Is it worth it? Going dark to save someone you love – is it ever worth it? And the Jedi - they are wrong to make Anakin hold so much inside. He has so much feeling, so much to express - is that why they knew he would go dark?”
“I can’t answer that,” Liam replied, after a moment. “I’ve never gone dark, you know? I’ve been sad, and desperate, sure, but never… fully dark. There was always hope, right?”
“Is there hope now?” Jaal turned to him, and then gasped. “I see. ‘A New Hope.’ The title of the first – er, fourth - episode.” He rose to his feet. “I will finish this vid. I will watch the others. There is hope, there is.” Liam couldn’t decide if he was trying to do a Yoda impersonation. “But not with the Jedi Order. They are wrong.” He marched out, and Liam could only follow, rubbing his head, but not really trying to follow Jaal’s train of thought.
Jaal allowed Peebee to wrap her arm around his shoulder. “You okay, babe?”
“I will be fine. Hit ‘play’.”
Jaal watched, lips snarling as Anakin killed all the younglings, by the order of his new Lord. He watched, eyes narrowed, as Jedi were mowed down, one by one, across the galaxy by the other Sith. He watched as Anakin killed the Separatist leaders, snapping at the screen. “It serves them right.”
Liam paused the vid immediately. “How about that break? Anybody?”
Jaal calmed himself, as his shipmates moved around, refreshed their drinks, and used the loo. “I am all right.”
Cora touched his shoulder, “We don’t have to finish it, Jaal.”
“Yes, we do,” his voice cracked, but firmed. “It is important. Hard to watch but – I think I understand why my people betrayed us to the Archon now.” He stared at the screen, blank-eyed. “It looked like he was going to win, no matter what. He manipulated us, used our own emotions to get the upper hand, to control us. The same thing is happening here. But the Jedi are no better. Like the Kett, they indoctrinate people.” He nodded in the direction of Liam’s Omni-Tool. “Start it again. Please.”
Padme went to confront Anakin, and Jaal nodded, “Yes, she is a brave and honorable woman. She would try to redeem him for the sake of her child. But she will not succeed. We know what he becomes.” He paused, “And truly, she is better off without him. He would be a horrible father.” He squinted, as Obi-Wan showed himself. “Fatherhood isn’t just about blood. It’s about love.” In the background, Yoda fought Sidious, all flashing lightsabers and flips, like a tiny krogan on red sand. But the penultimate fight of the vid went largely ignored.
Jaal closed his mouth, firmly, as Anakin lashed out at Padme and his mentor. “Sidious has done his work too well, and the Jedi have left Anakin vulnerable to him. They truly have made him into their worst enemy.”
“Can’t argue with that, mate,” Gil admitted.
Jaal was vindictively quiet, while Obi-Wan cut Anakin down. “I know Anakin doesn’t die,” Jaal spat out at last. “Because he is Darth Vader. He’s in the next vid. But maybe the Jedi should have trained him better. How could he hurt the one he loved that way?” He watched, eyes soft, body tense, as Padme - barely breathing - was rescued by Obi-Wan, “She is dying - just like in his visions. Her children – they will never know their mother. I cannot…”
“Come here,” Peebee hugged him all the way through the birth of Luke and Leia, and through the rebirth of Darth Vader. As Luke was handed to his Aunt Beru, Jaal sighed, relaxing. “She was truly a mother to him. It’s better this way - if he were raised by the Jedi, he’d never have known love at all. They would have taught him only apathy. And yet she dies, as well. But Jedi don’t have families.” His eyes were thoughtful, even while he sneered at his own words. “Organa – why is that name familiar? I cannot remember.”
But the credits rolled, and there were no answers. Jaal sat back, and Cora handed him a handkerchief. “Thank you,” he wiped his face. “Is the next movie as sad? Why are the Jedi so afraid of attachments?”
“Um…” Liam didn’t know how to answer.
“No,” Sara broke in, to answer the first question, at least. “It isn’t. It has sad parts, but it’s about the team that recovered the data on the Death Star. The best vid in the whole series.”
Liam shoved at her shoulder, “Um, Empire? Last Jedi? Hello, do I even know you?” Sara wrinkled her nose at him.
Jaal handed the handkerchief back to Cora. “I would like to see that.”
“Next week then,” Liam agreed, a little hesitantly. “You gonna be okay to keep going?”
“Yes.” Jaal lifted his head. “Eventually. I will… process this. It’s not like Anakin is gone forever.” He narrowed his eyes again. “Anakin went to the dark side to protect the woman he loved. He would come back for his children, if he knew they lived. I’m sure of it. There is still good in him.”
“I… hope you’re right. I think. He’s pretty scary in this one.” Cora shrugged, and rose to leave. “I’ve got to water the plants. See you all in the morning.”
Chapter 6: A Rogue Theory
By the end of the next week, everyone on the Tempest was avoiding Jaal and his constant in-depth discussion of the first three prequels. Even Liam was tired of hearing about Anakin’s motivations, and debates on where the second child had gone.
When he realized he was being ignored, Jaal wasn’t idle. Liam found him pulling up various articles on the Sith dynasty, records on the lore, and various complicated looking charts for techniques used both by the Dark and Light side.
“What are you looking for?”
“This,” Jaal handed him a datapad.
Liam all but recoiled, “What…”
“It is the rules of the Jedi order. Look at them, Liam. Read.”
Liam shook his head, and tried to hand the datapad back. “Why do you have to try to figure it out? Why not just enjoy it as it comes?”
“I am not looking for… what does Cora call them, ‘spoilers’? I am looking for the Sith code, and how it compares with the Jedi.” Jaal looked down his nose at Liam. “You did realize there were two codes, did you not?”
“Who is the supergeek here, anyway?” Liam paused, for just a moment, “So, uh… why, exactly were you looking it up?”
“Because the more I think about it, the less I think that Anakin was wrong. It is the Jedi who are wrong. The code they taught Anakin says, ‘No emotion, yet peace. No ignorance, yet knowledge. No passion, yet serenity. No chaos, yet harmony. No death, yet the Force. That’s not what the Jedi were teaching, Liam. The Jedi taught that only Sith deal in absolutes.” He pointed a thick digit at the datapad. “These are all absolutes.”
Liam read it, closely, with a sinking feeling that there wasn’t anything in the lore that he could argue against. Except… “Anakin killed an entire school of kids with the Force, Jaal.”
“He was ordered to. And they didn’t teach him any better. All they taught him was to stifle his natural emotions.”
“You’re military, mate, you know that sometimes you shouldn’t follow orders.”
“I didn’t say he was always right. You have twisted my words.” Jaal frowned at him, and yanked the datapad away. “Don’t do that. But look – Anakin loved Padme. The Jedi Order doesn’t allow people to have families. How can anyone claim to be a righteous order that doesn’t allow for love? For passion?”
“It’s supposed to be about balance and peace.” Liam muttered.
“What I see is apathy, not peace,” Jaal said bluntly. “They are unwilling to act when necessary. The reason Qui-Gonn failed, the reason Obi-Wan failed, according to the Jedi Masters, is because they felt something for their apprentices. They wanted them to succeed, wanted to help them, and that was their so-called ‘mistake’.”
“You know I am right. Both of them were told that Anakin should not be trained, but they loved him – first as a child, and then as a young man. That was carried on through his own love of Padme. Love isn’t wrong, Liam. It is a beautiful thing that should be encouraged. And yet, the Jedi don’t encourage it. In fact, they are forbidden.”
“Love makes them biased.”
“They think it weakens them.” Jaal turned back to his workspace. “Love doesn’t weaken anybody. You saw Sara, when SAM left her. She overcame a condition that should have killed her, because she cared about her brother, about you, about all of us, about survival in Heleus. By your explanation of what the Jedis stand for, she should have fallen over and died when she first met the Kett, rather than strive to live on and defeat the Archon. A Jedi would have negotiated for the right to coexist . ”
Liam tried again. “It’s just a story, Jaal.”
“There are deeper truths to every story!” Jaal’s body language radiated frustration, complete with sparks and the slight smell of ozone. Liam took a single step backwards, but Jaal followed him, spinning back around, swelling slightly along his neck flaps. “Love does not make people weak. Hate weakens. And I’m not saying that I think Palpatine was a good man – he isn’t. He encourages hate in Anakin, and despair, and anger, because he wants to be in charge, to be Emperor, and he knows he isn’t strong enough without Darth Vader at his side. If it hadn’t been him, he would have chosen another.”
Liam tried desperately to catch up. “So you’re saying that even through the Sith so far are all bad guys, the Sith Order has some good points?”
“Now you are getting it.” Jaal’s solemn face made Liam smile. “My research continues, naturally.”
“Can the research wait for lunch?”
“Of course. Food fuels the mind.” Jaal turned neatly back to his desk, and laid the datapad down, gently. His neck flaps were already starting to deflate, Liam was pleased to note. “When is the next vid night? Are we delaying for Drack to return from visiting his grandchildren?”
It was a few days later – the constant commentary having mostly died down now that Jaal had finally shared his theory with someone who listened. “There aren’t any Sith in this one,” Liam warned him. “It’s not going to add much, research wise. But it’s good background for ‘A New Hope’.”
“Wait, shouldn’t we be watching ‘Solo’?” Gil protested. “I mean, you said chronological order, right? What about Han’s backstory?”
“File is corrupted,” Liam had to admit. “I’ve got to outsource it. Got a lead on Voeld though. One of the Asari Icerunners is a major Harrison Ford fan. Might be able to get the Indiana Jones series from her, too. Sorry, Jaal, but Solo doesn’t have a lot to do with the Force, either – so it can wait? Maybe?”
“That’s okay,” Jaal settled himself in front of Peebee this time, who had lost the battle for the coveted couch corner with Sara. “I am here for a good vid, not to make progress on my Sith Order philosophy.”
“…right.” Liam settled himself between Sara’s legs on the floor and tilted his head back so she could put popcorn in his mouth. Crunching, he started the movie. “Let’s do this, then.”
Jaal was quieter through this screening, even when Jyn was abandoned, and her parents died, with the single exception of him whacking Liam on the leg and hissing, “See? See what you will do for love?”
“Yeah, yeah, I see, mate.”
“No. You don’t. The Jedi have mind-tricked you.” Jaal turned back. “But you will see.”
Sara snorted, and Liam retaliated by stealing the bowl of popcorn off her lap. “Hey!”
“Give him a chance,” he told her. “He’s got a few points.”
“Jyn isn’t even a Jedi!”
“SPOILERS!” Cora yelled.
“Yeah, I actually haven’t seen this one,” Vetra admitted. “Can we keep the comments to ourselves?”
“Sorry, Vetra,” Jaal rumbled.
Vetra was far more into this particular film, Liam realized, about the time that Cassian and K-250 teamed up with Jyn. It was no wonder – her own father had disappeared, and she’d been abandoned by her mother at a young age. She’d been a smuggler, and a mercenary, and so many other things that he’d lost count, before she’d joined the Initiative. He was pretty sure Turians didn’t have tear ducts, but Vetra’s talons were folded back inside her fists, and her hands were tight on her knees. It wasn’t hard to see that she was affected by Jyn’s backstory.
About the time the group reached Jedha, Liam paused the movie. Suvi immediately jumped up and ran to the washroom, while almost everyone else just stretched. The group was oddly silent, in comparison with past weeks’ choices, but ‘Rogue’ didn’t spoonfeed the action or character development. It was all action, all the time, right up until the conclusion.
Jaal had taken out a datapad, alternating muttering and typing, but he stashed it back away as soon as everyone was settled. Liam decided not to ask.
Peebee, though, was looking thoughtful. “Is this movie based on anything?”
“Not that I know of,” Sara snuggled back up to Liam, and he threw his arm around her. “Why?”
Peebee hesitated, “No judgement?”
“Okay, just… when I was a baby, back when I was like, 100? I had a thing for old Earth games, right? And there was this one, a Star Wars game, that I found on the extranet…”
“Hang on,” Gil leaned over the back of the couch. “You’re talking ‘Dark Forces’!”
The two of them stared at each other. “So Jan?”
“And this dude with the gun… whathisname, Baze?”
They stared at the screen together for a moment. “Huh. Wonder why they didn’t just run with it.”
“Jan’s not a space-y enough name, maybe?”
“But it’s the same characters! Well, almost…” Baze and Chirrut’s easy banter had Gil smiling. “They’re totally a couple, though, whatever you say.”
Liam grinned at them. “It’s so nice to see Star Wars bringing people together.”
Peebee threw popcorn at him. “I told you Dad was a fan. When I started getting curious about humans, I followed his lead. Even though he was completely an ass about it with his lame-ass predictions about how I would come around eventually.” She paused, and in a voice Liam could only assume was meant to be an Elcor version of Yoda said, “’Craftily: ‘You will be.’”
“You will be what, a fan?” Lexi sounded confused.
“Like I said, he was an ass about it.” Peebee looked sad for a moment before shaking it off. “Whatever.”
“Peebee, you miss your father. That’s okay.”
“Don’t you put words in my mouth, Doc.”
Lexi sighed, “I thought we were past this?”
“I don’t need some stupid movie to make me nostalgic or anything. Leave me alone, already.”
Sara sat up straighter. “This is one of the best parts, watch!”
The scene unfolded and the mighty battle for the last bastion of the Jedi began, with Jyn and Cassian barely escaping. The group breathed out, collectively as they flew onwards, their team a little larger now that Chirrut and Baze had joined them, just in time for the city of Jedha to explode into fragments.
“It is sad, that her father-figure died,” Jaal grunted, and patted Sara’s knee. “No doubt you will feel the same, when Drack passes on.”
“Old Krogans never die,” Sara said, her lips twitching. “Drack’s gonna live to 2000, and see his great-great-great…”
“Shhhh,” Vetra hissed. “Watching!”
“That’s some archive,” Cora marveled. “Almost as big as the one on the Citadel, huh, Sara?”
“Almost,” she agreed, quietly. “Wonder what else they could have found in there, hmmm?”
Vetra glared at the unnecessary noise as the group tried to infiltrate the Scarif base. Jaal’s gasps of horror as the ship was pinned down, and Krennic pursued Jyn were worth all his lectures from the past week. Even Gil’s snarking died down while the movie played out to the scene on the beach, with Cassian and Jyn holding each other as the world exploded. Liam teared up a bit. Happened every time.
Gil sighed, almost longingly, when the cadence of Vader’s theme swirled in the background - a musical accompaniment to his red light saber as he tore through the swarming rebels defending their ship to stand in open space, unafraid. “Whatever you say, Vader was a badass, right, Peebs?”
“You said it.”
“Gil, I’m going to tell Scott you’re cheating on him with Vader.”
“He’d agree with me! If nothing else, the man has impeccable taste in black capes and boots.”
“They go with everything!” Sara giggled.
Jaal’s gasp of surprise as he saw Princess Leia, “Look, it is our General! The plans! R2D2 had the plans! Of course he did!” He wiped away his tears, “It’s come full circle. How… poignant.” Sara squeezed Liam’s shoulder gently, as the credits rolled. “Liam, I love this movie. I want a copy, please.”
“It’s archived, mate. Help yourself whenever.”
“Thank you.” Jaal rose. “It’s been a wonderful evening.”
For once, it was a quiet departure, almost gentle, as the Pathfinder Team excused themselves for the night.
Sara undressed quickly, flopping down on their bed, and sprawling out. “So… forgive me if I’m wrong… but is Jaal trying to become a Sith?”
She didn’t stop laughing for some time. He could still feel the shaking, even after he flipped over and curled a pillow over his ears. “SAM? Could you do something about the hyena in the bed next to me?”
“Pathfinder, it is past your bedtime.”
“Good night. It was an excellent vid, Liam. Thank you for sharing it.”
“Night… hey, will you remind me to look up the Sith Code in the morning?”
Liam fell asleep, thinking that he needed to talk to Gil about making SAM a droid that he could control remotely, and wondering whether the AI would prefer C3PO, K-2, BB-8, or R2D2.
And when he woke the next morning, it was to SAM saying, “Liam, you have new email.” Apparently, Jaal had decided to save him the effort.
Chapter 7: Jaal Strikes Back
Not as soon as I had hoped, but still under a month, so I'm counting this as good. Hopefully it won't take another one to get the next chapter up!
Liam approached Jaal later that morning, datapad in hand, a file on the ‘Sith philosophy’ open. He would have been earlier, but he’d been translating all the Angaran footnotes. That took time, even with SAM helping. “Jaal? Got a minute?” Sara was working away at the research station, cursing and trying to figure out how to boost her shield regeneration, but Liam could all but see her ears cueing into the impending conversation.
“You received my email!” Jaal beamed. “What do you think?” The man paused his own datapad, not-so-coincidentally replaying ‘A New Hope’. It froze on the look of terror on Luke’s face as he, Han and Leia attempted to jam the trash compactor open.
Liam could relate. This conversation, if he’d read the file correctly, would be just about as dangerous and potentially crushing. “Am I interrupting?”
“No, I just thought I would refresh my memory. It has been some weeks since we saw the first… err, fourth movie.” There was a question in Jaal’s voice, and he frowned, “How do you manage to classify these?”
“Try either the name or the episode.”
“Ah, makes sense.” Jaal smiled, serenely. “Now, how can I help?”
Liam cleared his throat. “I may have a couple questions.”
“I would be happy to answer them. It is, however, not ‘my thing’. It is the creator’s thing. I found it on your extranet, where apparently, nothing ever dies or disappears.”
“Right.” Liam cleared his throat, acutely aware of Sara’s audible sniggers from across the table. “First, um, you state the Sith code is the following, and I quote:
‘Peace is a Lie. There is only Passion.
Through Passion I gain Strength.
Through Strength I gain Power.
Through Power I gain Victory.
Through Victory my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.’”
He lowered the datapad.
“And what is the issue?”
“How is this not a bad thing? Peace is a lie. What are we fighting for, if not the hope of peace?”
Jaal frowned, “Angara live for the moment, Liam, not for the future.”
“We fight because the present is lacking and needs to be better. That may affect the future, but…”
“You’re going on a tangent-“
“I am not. Listen. Remember the first line of the Jedi code? ‘There is no emotion, there is peace.’”
“Yeah, and you claimed the peace they described was apathy. I can’t argue with that.”
“Good. I didn’t want to explain again.” Jaal looked like he was trying to smirk, but just succeeded in contorting his face. “You do understand why apathy is bad?”
“Numb is just – empty. Nothing there.”
“Then why do the Jedi try to attain emptiness? Emotion makes us live, love, learn…”
This time the snort from Sara was louder, and unmistakable. “Jaal…”
“Which leads us to the next line in the Jedi code. ‘There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.’” Jaal peered over his monocle. “Everyone is ignorant of something. I have no interest in the way my body works, and therefore, am completely ignorant of it. If you think you know everything, you are wrong. Like Joscasta in the Archives, she even says ‘If it isn’t in the archives, it doesn’t exist.’ But we know that isn’t true. It’s proved time and again the Jedi don’t know everything.”
Liam paused, knowing that again, he couldn’t argue. So he moved on, instead. “Serenity is a good thing, though.”
“Not if you allow it to stagnate you, like the swamps on Havarl.”
Sara piped up, “You are going to love Dagobah.”
“ Empire Strikes Back ,” Liam supplied, glaring at her. She shrugged and turned back to her work. “They go to a system called Dagobah. But Serenity…”
“Passion makes us strive for better things – even in the now.”
“Ah.” Liam frowned. “Chaos, then? Surely harmony is better than chaos.”
“Chaos begets marvelous things.” Jaal’s eyes were shining, “Have you seen Peebee’s work station? Gil’s? They are brilliant inventors, my friend, and yet neither is what you would call ‘harmonious’. Just as harmony has a place, so does chaos. Chaos is… what is the phrase, ‘the mother of invention.’” He paused, “One of them at least. Many things contribute to invention, it’s true. They could all be mothers.”
Liam tried to rally. He had him at the last line – it was canon that the Jedi masters became Force ghosts. “But the last line, Jaal. I have you there. When a Jedi Master dies he becomes part of the Force-”
“Anakin didn’t have the luxury of his mother being a Force ghost.” Jaal sniffed. “I would perhaps, be more understanding of their culture and beliefs if she had been. Instead, he was told to get over it. I cannot forgive them that.” Jaal sighed, “Speaking of mothers, I don’t suppose we could move movie night back a few days? My true mother wishes to meet Peebee.”
“That’s huge! Congratulations!”
Jaal frowned, “Is it a major event to meet someone’s mothers in Milky Way Culture?”
“I don’t know about Asari or Elcor,” Sara supplied, her eyes still firmly on the readout. “But it certainly means something for humans when you meet the parents. Ask Lexi? You’ll never get a straight answer out of Peebee.”
“It is not that I mind if it does,” Jaal beamed. “I would like her to take us a little more… seriously. Fun is all well and good, but she is very good at deflecting what I feel about her without directly reciprocating.”
“Good luck with that,” sighed Liam. “What do you think, boss? Can we move back the timeline to accommodate Jaal?”
“We’re flying right past Havarl already,” Sara murmured, glancing up. “I don’t see why we can’t stop. I was going to on the way back to the Nexus anyway. We’re all due a little shore leave.”
“We could plan movie night for…” Sara pulled up her schedule on her ‘Tool. “Eight days from now? We’ll be at Havarl in two. It’s better for the samples we’re dropping to prioritize them anyway, and then we can fly to Aya and try to restock.” With a sigh, she closed the research station. “I wonder if anyone there is selling chitin. Our stores are really low.”
“I will find out,” Jaal offered sweetly. “My mothers will know.”
The movie night convened, as scheduled, but with a noticeably absent Peebee. As everyone settled into their usual places, Jaal seemed thoughtful, and somewhat confused, hugging a couch cushion to his chest. “Everything all right, mate?”
“Hmm?” Jaal looked up, blinking rapidly. “No. It isn’t. Peebee says I… bulldozed her into meeting my family. She was… embarrassed and unprepared.”
“Didn’t think she’d take it like that.” Gil leaned over the back of the couch. “I mean, I’ve already had loads of chats with Scott’s mum. She’s a great listener.” Sara backhanded him. “Ow! What? It was a compliment!”
“She’s still in cryo, for crying out loud. Poor taste,” Cora reprimanded.
“Peebee will be okay.”
“I would feel better about it if I didn’t know that my mother had already emailed her several times requesting her medical records and favorite foods,” Jaal mourned. “I fear she will see it as an invasion of privacy.”
“Have Peebee ask right back,” Sara shrugged. “No harm no foul.”
Jaal brightened. “She has admitted curiosity. Especially as regards my… biology.”
“Love is weird,” Liam muttered to Sara, who laughed, quietly. “Start the vid?”
“Is Peebee not coming, Jaal?”
“She said she was going to watch the Elcor version. Alone.” Jaal hugged the couch cushion a little closer. “Said she needed to have the emotions spelled out for her. I didn’t mean to hurt her.”
“We know.” Vetra patted his shoulder gently. “Everyone makes mistakes like that.”
“Yep,” Sara handed him the popcorn, and reluctantly, he took a piece, crunching it softly. “Emotions are strange things. And different for everyone, you know?”
Liam pushed ‘play.’
Jaal brightened up right after the customary scrolling letters gave way to endless white scenery. “It’s Voeld!”
“Hoth,” Gil corrected.
“I didn’t realize there were other ice worlds in the Galaxy!” Jaal was still quiet, as Luke was attacked, and dragged off. “Ambushed,” he breathed, and winced. “Just like poor Peebee. Ah, I am so sorry.”
“I wouldn’t call her ‘poor’,” Liam muttered, only to be shushed by Cora.
The story went on, with Han going out to search for his missing friend, “Ah! He admits they are friends now!” He frowned when Ben appeared to tell Luke to go to the Dagobah system, but shrugged. “More - what did you call them? Force ghosts?” He shook his head.
“What’s wrong, Jaal? Scared of ghosts?” Gil teased.
“No. It’s obvious that the ghosts are like Angaran ancestors - they inform people what they need to know, to do next, in order to grow.” But Jaal huffed, “No, I don’t like the idea of Yoda having such influence on Luke. He’s very impressionable right now. Obi-Won is… not a good person, I think.”
Liam almost choked on his popcorn but in the next minute Jaal laughed aloud when Leia called Han a ‘Scruffy Nerf Herder’. “She will not admit…” he looked confused. “Ah, I think I understand. She is confused, and unwilling to give up her… autonomy.” He tilted his head. “Han is very attractive though, don’t you think?” He watched Leia kiss Luke and made a face. “That’s not right. They have no chemistry. I would sooner believe Luke and Han than Luke and Leia.”
Gil nearly purred. “Sara, do you think Scott…”
“We are not having this conversation,” Sara announced clearly.
“Has he ever – you know, dressed up?”
“I hope you’re not asking what I think you’re asking.” Sara stared at her engineer, and then relented. “Only when I made him for conventions. And you’re more of a Solo type than he is.”
“He’s the one hanging out on Kadara with smugglers.”
“What are conventions?” Jaal asked, with an air of confusion. “Does it mean the same thing as ‘conventional’?”
Sara laughed, Liam groaned and paused the vid, and the conversation went completely sideways. Suvi wandered off for a cup of tea, Vetra was openly fascinated, and Jaal, entranced, merely listened, eyes sparkling as Sara explained the cultural phenomenon. “We should do this!”
“We don’t have the resources,“ Sara protested.
“All cons have to start somewhere.” Liam threw out, unhelpfully, trying not to look like he’d put way too much thought into this. “The Nexus would be a great venue.”
“We’d have no panels…”
“Start with a masquerade first – I bet Kandros would be a judge - and someone in Heleus had to be an extra on a Blasto movie sometime,” Liam took a big swig from his beer.
Vetra hummed, thoughtfully, “It’s a shame the Quarian ark didn’t make it – there was a Shakespearean Elcor actor on board. It would help, having someone semi-famous to draw people in…”
Cora squealed, “There was a Shakespearean Elcor on the- how do you know?”
“I knew this batarian-”
And Liam rolled his neck, “Are we actually going to watch the vid? Or not?”
Reluctantly, the group settled back in, and the story played on. Jaal gasped when the groups began to identify themselves as Rogue Two, Three… “What - where is Rogue One?”
“Dead on a beach, mate.” Liam was brutally honest. “Luke is Rogue Leader. There is no Rogue One.”
Jaal made a sound like a heart breaking. “No, I hoped-”
“I’m sorry, Jaal.” Sara cleared her throat, “At least they named their squad after…”
Liam snorted, “You realize Rogue One was made thirty plus years after…”
“But it fits so well!” Sara smiled and snuggled in. “They named their scout team after them. It’s touching, Liam.” She shoved his side hard enough to make him release a quiet ‘oof’. “Suspend your disbelief.”
Liam had never even noticed. He was starting to realize that he didn’t know as much about the movies as he thought he did. Maybe Jaal wasn’t the only person who should be doing his research.
The Millenium Falcon dodged the asteroids, and landed at last in the crater, and all that was taken in stride by Jaal, aside from a few well-placed exclamations at Han’s piloting skills, echoed by both Gil and Kallo.
As soon as Luke had R2D2 redirect his ship to Dagobah, Jaal sat up straighter, and handed his cushion to Cora. “Ah. Dagobah. You mentioned the Dagobah system.” He watched, avidly, as the X-wing sank into the swamp, and Luke met Yoda for the first time, but with narrowed suspicious eyes and swollen neckflaps.
When the film shifted back to the asteroid field and Han, Jaal shifted uncomfortably when Leia said, “I have a bad feeling…”
“So do I,” Jaal whispered.
“Shhh,” Cora hissed.
They watched them escape, and then it was back to Dagobah, and Luke trying to lift stones with his mind, Jaal’s body tense with what Liam thought was him trying to use the force to lift the objects himself.
Upon which the door slammed open, and Peebee stood, breathing fast. “I am NOT in denial!”
“I never said-“ Jaal sat up, and Liam paused the vid with an irritated sigh.
“You thought it.” Peebee waggled her fingers in front of his face. “Just because some Princess-“
“She’s a General!”
“Princess goes and kisses her –“ Peebee paused, and rephrased, “some other dude to make someone jealous does NOT mean I’m going to run off just because you tricked me into meeting your mother.” She pursed her lips. “I guess I’m sorry.”
“Don’t cut me off. I’m sorry, Jaal. I knew Havarl was… your home. I should have expected.” She slid her hands to her hip, as if protecting herself. “I’m not good with… families. Dad… tried. Mom was – goddess, let’s not go into that mess.” She sniffed. “I like you. I even liked your mom, even though she’s a nosy biddy with boundary issues.”
“You did?” Jaal’s eyes were moist. “Truly?”
“She’s a badass,” Peebee admitted reluctantly. “And I’ve asked Lexi of all people to forward my med records…”
“Such trust.” The doctor clutched her chest. “Be still my heart.”
“Shut up, Doc.” Peebee stuck her tongue out at her. “You can tell her I’m fond of most pie.” She shifted from one foot to another. “You… you might be the Leia to my Han, Jaal. Or vice versa. Or something. You haven’t got to that part yet. Sorry. I guess.”
Liam became aware of Sara clutching his arm a little too tight, as well as a rather high pitched squee emitting from her throat. Kallo was shaking his head like there was a bothersome insect at the not-quite-noise.
“I- am?” Jaal was vibrating. It shook the couch.
“Yeah.” Peebee pursed her lips. “I’m going to sit on your lap.” She flounced in and landed, firmly on his thighs. “Start the fucking movie, Liam. Nobody’s mother who likes hugs too much is going to scare me off. I’m not that easy.”
“I adore you, Peebee,” Jaal said throatily, and Gil groaned. “You are so brave.”
“Got it,” Liam pushed play, and ignored Jaal and Peebee openly necking next to him. Sara’s happy sighs made up a lot for Kallo and Gil’s ascerbic commentary on the placement of certain hands through Cloud City – with a small aside from Gil at the hotness level of Lando as compared to Han – and through Luke’s duel with Vader. Mostly, things were easy to ignore, as long as he didn’t look right.
At least until they reached Leia’s big scene. “Here it is,” Peebee abruptly sat up, so Jaal could see. “This is super important, babe.”
“So was what we were doing,” Jaal muttered, half-dazed, and still clutching her hips. “I love you, Peebee.”
“I know,” she grinned back, and together they watched Han descend into the cryo chamber. “But you won’t want to miss this. You love the sappy parts.”
“So unscientific,” Suvi tutted. “There is no way a person could survive the freezing process like that – especially in carbon, it would…”
“Shhh,” Gil clapped his hand over her mouth. “No science.” Even Lexi relaxed a little bit when they announced Han was still alive, however encased in carbonite.
“I had this Lego model,” Sara mused. “I used to make Leia kiss the carbonite, like Han was Sleeping Beauty, and then Han would…”
Liam pulled her closer. “Tell me later. It’s like – the best part.”
The movie played out, with Luke receiving his new hand, and Leia being there, and Jaal coughed. “I am not buying it. He is providing emotional support, no more.”
“What are you talking about, you didn’t even watch half the film!” Gil protested.
“I will… review it later,” Jaal announced, with a modicum of dignity. “Some things are more important than…”
“Right, like getting laid,” Gil snarked.
“Yes,” Jaal agreed gravely, so that even Gil had to laugh.
“Good on you.” He stood up and stretched. “Best kick them out before they’re at it again, Pathfinder.”
“Yup,” Sara regally waved her hand. “Out, everybody. Time for Pathfinders to get some, too.”
Lexi and Kallo groaned, but everyone filed out.
Liam stared at she went around, shutting down the equipment, getting ready to sleep. “Remind me to tell Jaal where he left off, love? Pretty sure he missed the big line there about anger feeding the dark side… and he didn’t get to see Leia’s big save of Luke or anything.”
She settled on her side of the bed, taking off her socks. “We wouldn’t want his path to the dark side being sidelined by inadequate info, or anything.”
“You think they’ll work it out?” They settled themselves, parallel to each other, the mattress dipping just enough to angle them comfortably.
“Who, Luke and Vader?” He poked her side, and she giggled. “Fine, fine. Peebee told me she was interested, which means she’s into him, big time. It’s hard for her to admit even that much. They’ll get there. Eventually. Whether they stay there is kind of up to them.”
Liam took her hand in his. “Didn’t go as well as usual. Too many distractions. My favorite movie, and I didn’t even get to watch.”
“How about a private showing tomorrow night, just the two of us?” Her voice was barely audible.
“I love you.”
But Sara was already asleep.
That was okay. He knew.
Chapter 8: A Ghost of Truth
The next week was fairly calm, Star Wars-wise. Jaal muttered less than usual, and was only occasionally seen frowning over non-work related datapads. Peebee had retreated in self imposed exile to her new escape pod, doing something to some Remnant relic her ex had sent over out of guilt and gratitude.
It came as a shock when SAM who broke the silence when they settled down for the weekly movie. Lord Vader’s shuttle had come and gone, and the scene was Jabba’s palace, with him reclining, and Luke’s message to Jabba playing over R2’s hologram message system. “This… bothers me.”
Liam paused the movie, at the first vision of Han encased in carbonite, his stomach twisting, but it was Sara who answered. “SAM? What’s wrong?”
“Luke is the protagonist of this film, is he not?”
“And he’s giving away sentient beings. Like slaves. The droids are equals in, if not superior to intelligence as humans, but as they are created beings, he feels that he is able to dispose of them. It is wrong. It is a rights violation.”
“SAM, I’m sure it’s not…”
“He’s right, Sara.” Liam stared at the screen. “It’s bullshit, SAM. Complete bullshit. The treatment of AI in Star Wars is disgusting. No joke.”
SAM was quiet. “Thank you, Liam. I appreciate your understanding.”
“Did you want to tune out for a while SAM? The Nexus sent over some equations earlier, right? Did you want to work on those while we watch?”
“I wanted to see the end, but I’m concerned.”
“You’ll love the droid in Solo,” Sara offered tentatively. “They’re a real fighter. Snarky and sexy.”
“Truly?” SAM paused for a moment. “I will continue to watch, then. I would not want to judge before experiencing the whole series.”
“But up to this point they’re pretty bad.” Everyone was quiet. It couldn’t be denied. “Are you sure you’re willing? We could watch something else?”
“I will be fine. I just wanted to say it made me uncomfortable to see even fictional AI treated so poorly.”
“We’re fine, Liam. Please proceed.”
The bounty hunter entered with Chewy, and Vetra barked a laugh when Jabba called them ‘His kind of scum,’ just to scoff the next second when they settled for 35,000. “He would have gone up to 40, at least. That’s no bounty hunter to settle so quick.”
When Leia was revealed in the next scene, the turian sighed, “I should have known. She’s got about as much greed as an elcor.”
Leia kissed Han, blind and shivering, and Sara giggled.
And then Jabba pulled the curtain, and Cora gasped, “No! He was watching the whole time?” She colored as Leia was pulled to him. “Ewww… that’s gross. Why did they even put that in there?”
“And that’s some… outfit,” Cora continued in the next scene. “Why in the world would anyone want to wear a metal bikini?”
Lexi scoffed, “I don’t know, it’s almost modest compared to some of the getup Asari dancers wear on Omega. I saw one there that was nothing but rope and string.”
“What were you doing in a club on Omega?” Peebee grinned.
“Physical exams and STD tests on the dancers and bouncers,” Lexi frowned at her. “It was my residency. I don’t expect you to understand.”
“That’s awfully altruistic…”
“It was a chance to work closer to my parents.” Lexi turned back to the movie, still playing, now showing Luke force choking the Gamorrean guards, and using Jedi mind tricks to fool Jabba’s seneschal.
“THERE! Pause the movie!” Jaal burst out sudden enough to make Liam jump.
“What? What is it?!”
“This. We’ve seen this before!” Jaal gestured at the screen. “I want you to think about how Luke uses the Force here. To force choke - that is insinuated to be just a Sith thing, correct? And the mind tricks, to control weak minds, yes? To move them to do what he wants them to do.”
“Right.” Liam found himself half-fascinated with where the conversation was going.
“He is already showing Sith tendencies. I ask you – can either of those be done without emotion? Without any emotional manipulation?” Jaal grabbed his Omni tool and pushed play again. “Look- he’s appealing to his sense of greed, but also stroking his ego. How would a Jedi be able to do such a thing? It’s not ethical!”
“The other option is coming in lightsabers swinging,” Gil protested. “He’s saving lives… how is that not ethical?”
Jaal shook his head, “It is worse to mess with someone’s mind, to brainwash them, rather than kill them outright. To do such a thing – it is Kett-like.”
They all watched the next scene, where Luke killed the rancor, silently. “I’ve always wondered why he didn’t just mind-trick the Bantha,” Gil muttered. “Would have been easier, right?”
“It only works on sentient minds,” Liam replied.
“Even worse,” Jaal growled, and then sniffed at Luke threatening Jabba. “Look at that emotion. That is not the face of someone who is in control of their emotions. He is using his anger to save his friends. Righteous anger.”
Liam sighed. Sara patted his arm and handed him her drink. He took a sip. It was going to be a long vid.
Surprisingly, Jaal was fairly quiet through the rescue scenes. But SAM piped up when Luke made a point to rescue the droids. “Did R2 agree to the plan in the first place? Why didn’t he gain C3PO’s consent?”
“C3PO doesn’t have a poker face,” Gil drawled. “He’d give away the bluff in two seconds.”
“His face is made of metal. It shows no emotion,” SAM sounded puzzled. “You cannot beat me at poker, Gil…”
“It’s in the inflection of his voice, and the way he moves,” Gil tried to explain, but Jaal hushed him, as one group reunited with the Fleet, and Luke flew back to Dagobah.
Jaal was quieter than Liam expected during the scene with Vader and the Emperor, though his hand tensed on his leg a few times when the Emperor spoke of patience and his intentions towards Luke.
Sara whispered to him, “Do you think there are always two outcomes for the Force? One that the Dark Side foresees and the other that the Jedi see? Which is truth?”
“Maybe they’re both true?”
Cora shushed them empathically as Luke lied about seeing Yoda as old and declared himself a Jedi. “Wow, imposter syndrome much?”
“You would know,” Peebee snarked. “Tell us about how you’re an Asari Huntress again?”
“WE KNOW,” Peebee threw popcorn at her. “Can it, kettle. This is an important part, and Jaal needs to hear it.”
Jaal watched, rapt, as Yoda told him that he rushed to face him, that he wasn’t ready for the burden. Told him to draw strength from the Force, and to beware anger and fear, or they would dominate his destiny. Sara gasped at that, and covered her mouth. Jaal had tears in his eyes as Yoda passed, confessing that Vader was his father.
And then Obi-Won’s Force ghost appeared, and Jaal’s body language completely changed. “He lied,” the Angaran hissed. “His father was never dead! He is a lying liar who lies!”
“He’s advising him to kill his father! The self-righteous bastard - he’s manipulating his anger and fear already! Yoda just warned him!” Jaal leapt to his feet in one long graceful movement. “He is a coward. He is wrong! Telling him to bury the emotions so that they are not twisted by the emperor… he’s twisting them himself!” He lifted his jaw up. “I believe it is time for a break, Liam.”
Liam obediently paused, and stretched. Jaal left for the loo, but everyone else stayed seated.
“He kind of has a point,” Suvi fidgeted, fiddling with her hair slightly. “They’re all trying to use him, aren’t they? For their own purposes? And the Jedi are pretty self-righteous.”
“Not Yoda,” Cora defended the mentor. “He told him he was rushing things. I can understand that. When I was training to be an Asari Huntress…”
Peebee groaned, and Cora flushed, and shut her mouth.
“What is it, Cora?” Lexi asked.
“Just… I had to learn quicker, because I didn’t have a millennium to complete the training. Yoda was 900 years old – but Luke is human, right? He doesn’t have that long. It can make us rash, and hasty, sure, but… Yoda had his best interests at heart, right?”
No one was sure how to answer, so silence reigned until Jaal reentered and settled himself back on the floor, as Vader sent the fleet to the far side of Endor.
Gil and Kallo both laughed at the same time when Han told Chewy to ‘fly casual’.
“Is that a thing?” Liam asked them.
“Of course it is,” Gil grinned. “It’s harder than it looks.”
“Exactly,” Kallo gestured. “Take when we landed on Aya – there is a potentially hostile force waiting for us. You have a choice – land or explode in space. We had to keep moving, or we would die, but landing might mean death, too.” He paused. “Flying casual is the only kind of flying I’m rather bad at. I fly with purpose.”
Gil nodded, thoughtfully. “I’d agree with that.”
Kallo blinked, surprised, “I… thank you, Gil.”
“No problems, mate. It’s one of your strengths. I, on the other hand, am excellent at flying casual. It’s getting to where I mean to be that’s the issue.” He nudged Sara, “Ask Scott sometime. It’ll make him laugh.”
“I’ll do that.”
On the screen, Luke was sensing the presence of the Emperor, and Gil looked back up, “You know, for a religion that prides itself on not having emotions, they sure do ‘feel’ a lot, don’t they?”
“EXACTLY,” Jaal hissed, but didn’t elaborate, much to Liam’s relief.
There was no more talking for a while, until the forest chase scene on Endor. “Luke doesn’t look exactly… calm, does he?” Sara offered gently.
“Not at all,” Liam had to admit.
Leia got knocked off her speeder, and Peebee grunted in derision. “What?”
“She should have inherited her father’s piloting skills too. She’s as much of a Skywalker as Luke! And yet she falls off a speeder with the first blaster shot?” Peebee rolled her eyes, “I don’t buy it.”
“Maybe her Force strength lies in diplomacy?”
“Oh, like her dad has a lot of that,” the Asari snarked.
“No, but her mum did,” Gil pointed out.
“Just because it’s not feminine for a girl to be a good pilot. Just because she’s a pretty princess suddenly she can’t fly a speeder… she’s a better shot than Luke or Han combined, and she…” Luke returned to Han without Leia, and Peebee dropped her own argument in favor of watching Leia find a new ally in the Ewoks. “I guess she is kind of good at that stuff.”
“‘That stuff’ wins wars,” Lexi offered dryly.
“Whatever,” Peebee gestured elaborately. “I still think there was room for her to be magically badass at speeder flying. If Luke can do it, why not his sister?”
In the next minute, Vader and the Emperor discussed his ability to sense his son on the planet’s surface, when the Emperor could not.
“Yes,” Jaal murmured. “When Luke joins the Sith, all will be clear.”
“Whoa,” Gil put his hand out to stop him. “You think Luke will…”
“It’s his only option,” Jaal blinked. “His friends are at the mercy of the Empire fleet. He and his father can overturn the Emperor, and together they will find a better path…”
“Maybe you’d just better watch, mate,” Liam offered, and Jaal, frowning, did just that, with just a single additional comment.
“Why are all the aliens in this show so… mammally? Don’t they have anything like Turians or Salarians? So much hair. ”
Luke and Leia had their big moment, Leia describing their mother’s feelings, “Ah, she is connected to her mother, as Luke is to her father,” Jaal breathed. “Touching.” Her voice filled with emotion, she told Luke to run, and he nodded, “Wise. Quite wise.”
“No, it’s not,” Cora criticized. “He has to face him sometime.”
“Hold up!” Liam paused for a moment. “No arguing about the timeline, got it? You’re both right. Leia is the one with brains, but Luke doesn’t have long enough to wait, either. The time is now, or never. The Empire has a Death Star, remember?”
“…fine,” Jaal muttered. “We’ll discuss this later, Cora?”
“With pleasure,” the woman settled back, and Liam pushed play again.
Vader and Luke reunited, Luke in cuffs, and they discussed their feelings and future. Jaal teared up again. “It’s touching, to see them discuss this openly, even if Vader denies his own emotions. That’s just his early Jedi training talking. So much time has been wasted. But when Luke joins the Sith and unlocks his true potential…”
“I don’t see it happening,” Cora interrupted again. “Vader’s tempted to flip back.”
“Um, no, he isn’t,” Gil broke in. On screen, the Ewoks were distracting guards and stealing skimmers.
“Yes, he is! You can hear it in his voice.” She gestured at the screen, “He’s tempted. Anakin is stronger than the Emperor. Wait and see!”
“This is why you lose at poker. The difference is that Luke’s ready to die for his father – Vader isn’t tempted, he’s…”
“SHUT UP!” Jaal bellowed, and the two fell silent, just in time for the Battle of Endor.
From the Death Star, Luke watched, helpless and afraid, watching the chance for freedom die. He wavered, looking to the lightsaber, and Jaal’s neck swelled, and his eyes grew larger as Luke wavered. The battle between them commenced, Luke grew angier and angrier as the Emperor rejoiced in his newfound power, Vader faltered against Luke, and Luke cut off his father’s hand.
“YES!” Jaal exalted. “Yes, he found it - the power of righteous anger! It overcomes any desire for power, or weak-willed rage! Combined with his desire to protect his sister, he cannot be defeated now!”
But then Luke shut down his lightsaber, compassion and pity in his voice. ‘I am a Jedi, like my father before me.’
“NO!” Jaal struggled to stand, fists clenched in frustration. “No, he isn’t! Emotion is still ruling in him. You can hear it.”
“Jaal, baby,” Peebee started.
“Don’t ‘baby’ me,” Jaal almost snarled. “This is wrong. Luke doesn’t understand how messed up the Jedi are. He hasn’t had that early training, their backwards thinking to screw him up.”
“Then maybe it will be okay?” Sara offered hesitantly.
Jaal frowned, and collapsed back to the floor. “Perhaps. Yes. Maybe.”
Vader turned, and together they watched Vader throw the Emperor into the reactor core. “There! Defeated by the power of his love for his children, but also fueled by his fear for his children!”
“Aren’t those the same thing?” Liam asked, completely unsure.
“Now you are getting it!” Jaal beamed. “Any emotion used for good is…”
“What’s that old saying about the road to hell?” Gil quipped.
“He is proud of his son,” Jaal murmured, tears in his eyes again, ignoring the idiom he didn’t understand. “So proud. Luke redeemed him – but neither of them have forsaken emotions entirely. This isn’t apathy. This is something else entirely. This is balance!”
The vid ended with the Ewok party, and relieved, Jaal bobbed his head along with the drumming, sighing at the Force ghosts, Anakin now among them, and at Leia and Han’s final kiss. “I wonder if it will last, this peace?”
“Well, there are three more movies in the main saga,” Gil quipped. “So… I’m guessing not.”
Jaal just laughed. “A very good point.” He rose. “Goodnight, all. I’m going to retire and make my observations on the vid. Liam, you may expect my email early tomorrow morning. SAM, make sure he reads it?”
“I’ll read it, I’ll read it!” Liam protested.
Jaal nodded solemnly, and left, without further words.
Liam wasn’t sure whether to be interested, or dread the morning. Nothing made sense anymore.