He has enough time to clutch Breha close, and thank the Force that Leia is off planet, once that terrible shadow falls across Alderaan.
There is a flash of light; he doesn't have time to even feel guilty for his relief.
The afterlife smells like burnt toast.
It's somewhat of a surprise; he'd rather assumed that, should it exist, it would smell...well, pleasant. Homely and welcoming, maybe, the scent of Breha's favoured perfume, perhaps, or like something indefinable, ethereal.
Not...a mundane, mildly unpleasant scent. If he didn't know better, he'd think himself back in his apartment, before he'd officially moved in with Breha; he'd burnt toast, studying for a law exam in his first year, and had never quite been able to get the scent out of the walls. Breha had teased him about it, and his first present from her parents had been a fire blanket alongside a joking warning that the palace had stood for hundreds of generations, and he now had no excuse if he burnt it down.
The afterlife, when he finally opens his eyes…looks like his old apartment. Exactly like his old apartment. That is, if he's not mistaken, the spectacularly ugly ceramic tooka shaped jug his great aunt had given him when he'd first moved out. The real one had been practically bombproof; multiple 'accidental' falls off higher and higher ledges hadn't made so much as a crack, and even when Leia had dropped it from the third floor windows of the palace, all that the thing had suffered was a mildly chipped ear.
It wouldn't surprise him to find out that the majority of whatever debris was left after the blast destroyed Alderaan was, in fact, composed of that jug, possibly even in as much as two pieces.
He's panicking, he can recognize, focusing on the jug rather than…whatever this is. The afterlife. The afterlife , without even his wife , and his planet is gone and—
"Who in the blazes are you, and what are you doing in my apartment ?" a strangely familiar sounding voice asks, and Bail turns, not sure what to expect from…whatever this is.
Whatever expectations he may have had, however, would never in a million years have included the person staring at him from across the room, who is, unless he's very mistaken, his younger self.
"If this is a force vision or some sort of delayed reaction to Zigoola I will be hunting down Obi-wan and wringing his neck with my own two hands for failing to mention this as a possible outcome." Bail says, blankly, and across the room his younger self — good gods , he can't even begin to start to think seriously about any of this — stares.
"Look, I have no idea which of us is hallucinating or experiencing some force nonsense —" Bail starts, and his younger self raises his eyebrows disbelievingly.
"I wasn't aware that Jedi regularly broke into private citizen's homes." His younger self drawls, and Bail flinches. It's been a long, long time since anyone said that word openly, let alone like there were more than a handful left in the galaxy. It's clearly ridiculous, but for a second he half expects to have an inquisitorial squad crash through the wall, if not Vader himself.
And then he registers the assumption, and laughs. It's…mildly hysterical, perhaps, which makes his younger self frown in concern, but Bail waves it off and then makes himself pull it together. "Not a Jedi. Thank the gods, I think. A dear friend informed me I was less force sensitive than a rock."
A specific rock, Obi-wan had gone on to explain, but they'd been well into their cups at that point and Bail had never quite managed to find out if the force sensitive rock was a) real at all and not metaphorical and b) a common Jedi tradition or just another Weird Kenobi Thing. There was, he'd come to find, quite a lot of those.
"If you're not a Jedi, who are you, and what are you doing in my apartment , then?" His younger self asks, suspicious, and Bail is just opening his mouth to try and explain — somehow, though force knows how — when there's a pounding on the door. His younger self narrows his eyes, then hisses "Don't move ", before he hustles over to the door and cracks it open.
"Yes? what— Mrs Halfnej, I didn't realise you had a…sister?" Bail can hear, and that… rather answers one question, namely ' is this time travel, a vision, option three otherwise unspecified' , but does raise several more, chief of which is ' what in the sith hells' .
Though possibly that is, in fact, an answer. Of a sort. He's not an expert on the force, obviously, nor on planet killing super weapons, but it does rather seem…plausible, for a standard of plausible developed after too long exposure to force nonsense, that the use of the Death Star had, rather than killing them all , sent them back in time somehow.
Ridiculous, of course, but then, the force was rather like that, as far as he'd seen. Absolute nonsense, and every Jedi just shrugged it off like it was another taungsday.
"Mrs Halfnej, I rather assume that you, much like myself, woke up not exactly where you expected to do so." Bail calls, and his younger self glances at him with narrowed eyes.
"Senator Organa! sir, oh, I'm so glad to hear your voice. I don't understand what happened! Last I knew there was that awful shadow, and then I was here !" Mrs Halfnej responds, and then there's a bit of a scuffle out in the hallway, followed by…a number of voices.
A number of very similar voices, and Bail is made abruptly aware that the population of Alderaan might well have just doubled.
"I'm sorry, the what ?"
"Empire. Not important, right now, we need— oh, yes, thank you, Agent Dowe, and would you let informatics know we need to keep this on total blackout, someone will have to set up the old protocols — excellent, thank you." His older self says, handing off a pad to one grey capped agent and gesturing in what is clearly some form of sign, though it's not one that Bail recognises.
Not one that he recognises yet , which is an alarming thought. At least Breha is in the same boat, and there's something about knowing that their marriage lasts not only though galactic war but also apparently nineteen years of empire , and it's two months out to the wedding now but he faintly supposes they're going to have to reorganise the invitations and seating charts to accommodate for…extra guests.
Does one invite one's future self to one's own wedding, he wonders, faintly. Ask pru'jinjce likely doesn't have advice for this situation.
"I will say, having twice as many agents will be a boon." Breha — older Breha, still as beautiful as ever, though he doesn't like the wear on her face and what it says about the future — comments, and then glances over at Bail himself, who is awkwardly standing out of the way and watching the dizzyingly efficient transformation of the Palace ballroom into a…command center, he supposes. He's not even started to think about what it says that his older self seems right at home, reaching for datapads and navigating his way through the snakelike bundles of power cords trailing across the floor without a moment's hesitation.
"Bail, would you reach out to the— hmm." The older Breha pauses for a moment, frowns, and then shakes her head. "Apologies, I think the department I want won't exist for a few years yet. Husband dear, do you remember what was before the R-corps?"
His older self thinks for a moment, and then offers "Emergency Response Organisation? No, that was the transition." he mumbles to himself a bit, then snaps his fingers and finally says "Disaster Recovery Services. We're far back enough that I think we're before the Stark-Hyperspace incident." The time travelers in the room all nod knowingly, and those of them who are not time displaced share intent, somewhat overwhelmed looks. He's at least not the only one struggling with the rapid deluge of information.
Or with the abrupt shift to war footing , as it has become increasingly clear is the case. He's barely managed to wrap his head around the idea of time travel, let alone the idea that twenty years in the future there will be a galactic wide war, followed by an empire . Obviously, that is rather important to prevent — along with whatever other awful things the time travelers have yet to mention — but it is still…somewhat overwhelming.
"Right. Bail, would you reach out to the DRS, get them to set up…registers, I suppose, all of that. Displaced population, though I hope that most people might be able to room with their past selves where practical." The older Breha says, and it takes a few moments for Bail to realise she's talking to him , not her husband. Which…he sort of is, but also very much isn't , and that is…going to become a pain unless they work out some way to differentiate.
His older self is clearly thinking along the same lines, because he lifts his head from the datapad he's reading with intense focus and says "We need to work out if we're being open about this. I assume not, given…" he trails off, and all the future selves in the room nod grimly, "...but having a suddenly doubled population will need explanation. At least there's no identical faces — older relatives, perhaps, and a series of unfortunate cascading failures in the records offices. New census required, etcetera, strange malfunction. We will likely have to assume that there was some sign in the force, but then, how would we tell, not being force sensitive."
The lie is easy, polished, and clearly thought up on the fly, and Bail is...chilled by that, more than anything. He's not a bad liar, but he's also not quite that practised at coming up with cover stories for something quite so massive with barely a second's warning. Even Breha — his Breha, his fiancee, who is mostly directing the locking down of Alderaan's airspace and communications while the situation is sorted — looks surprised, and more than a little impressed.
Which is nice, if also very strange, and he pushes away the thoughts and focuses on making contact with the DRS and explaining, as simply as possible, that they need support for all of the extra people who have just popped into existence.
By the time he's wrapped that up — at least as much as it can be, the call having quickly spun out to include the records department and the Bureau of Identification, because none of the time travelers have valid identification — his future self is surrounded by a pile of datapads, Breha's future self is making what looks like the most complicated string map in history, and Breha herself is directing grey capped service corps members like she's the most beautiful docking attendant in history. All she needs are a couple of flashing batons, really.
"Kashyyyk. Lothal. Mon Cala, and Chandrila, of course. Corellia, if— who's in power on Corellia at the moment?" Breha's older self mutters to herself, moving the strings about in some sort of pattern, though Bail can't make heads nor tails of it.
Bail's older counterpart responds without even glancing up, after a moment of shuffling datapads, "Corellia not for six more years, I think. There's that corruption and impure materials scandal coming up. Won't resolve till after the next cycle election."
Breha's older self hums, and then moves a couple of strings, then asks "I don't suppose we know how that got exposed in the first place?"
Bail's older counterpart laughs. "Guess who."
The older Breha laughs, and shakes her head, then replies "Should have known. Is there anything he wasn't tangled up in?"
Bail's older self raises his eyebrows sardonically, then says, "we are talking about the same man, aren't we? Insufferably smug bastard, drink a Hutt under the table and go back for seconds, etcetera?" Bail can feel his own eyebrows raising, and isn't sure if he's worried about whoever his future self is describing — clearly a smuggler or some such, which does make sense when he thinks about the rebellion but is still somewhat strange to consider that he and Breha might be consorting with someone like that.
Breha's older self laughs, then replies "fair point. Poor man could stumble into a conspiracy even if you left him alone in a padded room." She pauses, then adds, sly, "handsome fellow, though. Good dancer."
Bail's older self snorts and nods his head, not even glancing up from the datapad he's once again working though, and then says, shockingly fondly, "That face got him out of nearly as much trouble as it got him into. And I know he was an excellent dancer; you forget, we spent two weeks on Hyssothian Prime, second year of the war. He did the whole set of dances in six inch heels. Apparently he wasn't cheating, just 'excellent balance, dear' . Still not sure how much I believe that." Excellent balance is clearly a quote, his older self slipping into a surprisingly crisp Corsucanti accent, which…rather clashes, somewhat, with the mental image of a rough smuggler/rebellion operative.
"Is there any chance we might— reach out to this fellow? surely he'd be useful, if he was a member of the rebellion…" Breha asks, and Bail nods, turning expectantly to the holocom in anticipation of being directed to call some new contact address. There's only silence, though, and then Breha's older self sighs, low and disappointed.
"Not possible. The man we're talking about would be…thirteen, right now, I believe. Maybe a few months shy of it." She says, and then she pauses, squinting a little in thought. "Bail — my Bail, dear. Would his teacher…?"
She trails off, and Bail's older self shakes his head, then hesitates. "From what I understand, our friend learnt all his worst habits from his teacher, who learnt his worst habits from the Count. So. No, I wouldn't exactly recommend it." He hesitates again, and then adds, finally, "I would rather keep them all out of it. We know what — what happened. I'm loathe to drag them into it again."
Every single time traveler in the room nods, like that makes sense to them, and Bail tries very hard to bite back the frustration. They're clearly keeping something back, and he knows it's likely at least in part due to habit , it's still irritating to be so deliberately left out of the discussion.
"What happened?" Breha asks, every bit the Queen Bail has always known she was, and he thinks, for a long moment, that no one will answer her. There's certainly a lot of intent, speaking looks traded about the room, before Bail's older self sets the datapad he's reading on the table with a sharp thud.
"Operation Knightfall. The Emperor ordered the execution of traitors to the empire, who he claimed had attempted to enact a coup. It was a lie, of course; not that it mattered. Not that anyone cared . A genocide, and the galaxy cheered ." It's almost bitten out, bitter, and Bail swallows, not sure he wants to ask but knowing he should.
"Which planet? Planets? Can we warn them, somehow?"
His older self looks— old , then, tired and weary, and it's the first point that Bail can really see the impact of all that had happened. Would have happened.
"Not a planet. A people . Six thousand, nine hundred and seventy eight died within two hours. A hundred infants and toddlers shot in their cribs; defenseless children cut down and left to rot. Elders; teachers; friends. Beings who spent their whole lives working to better the Republic, and it turned on them without a moment's hesitation." His older self blinks, slowly, expression haunted, and then finishes, "The temple burned for days. Half of Coruscant smelt like burning meat and hair for a month afterwards. They had to replace the air scrubbers on the former Senate dome twice a day, to cover it."
"The temple ?" Breha asks, sharply, and it takes a moment before Bail makes the connection. Even then, he's sure he's misunderstood — the only Temple he can think of on Coruscant that he wouldn't think to add a qualifier of some kind to is the Jedi Temple, and surely…
He looks around, looks at the expressions on all of the time traveler's faces, and realises that he wasn't wrong. That the Jedi Order had been — attacked, somehow, and he still doesn't quite understand the progression of events but he can't bring himself to ask , either. Not right at that moment.
Can't bring himself to wonder, even to himself, if the Jedi's numbers had dropped so far — there's got to be thousands and thousands of them at the moment, surely — through natural attrition, the waxing and waning of circumstance, or if the genocide was the last push in a slow war of attrition. A war waged by whom, he's not sure of yet, but likely the Emperor or his faction, whoever they might be.
A war they won't get to wage this time. Not on Alderaan's watch.