Jan 9 2016 12:38pm
The escalation of violence can be violently abrupt.
One minute, conversation. The next, confrontation. Human emotion can enable poor logical decisions to be made; adrenaline can lead to overreactions.
Then, there are situations where the violence was a long time coming.
Zark Ekan wouldn’t consider himself a violent man; at least, not anymore. But he had a history of violence, as most Jedi did. A history of defending himself and others around him. He had endured violence. He had survived it. But, as was the way of a peacemaker, he rarely initiated it.
Not these days.
At least not until today.
Because today, Ahnk was asking for it.
So when Zark drove him backwards into the door of his cabin with a strong cross to the ribs, he felt no hesitation; he wasn’t wandering down a dark path, giving in to his anger, or any of the tired clichés that others would hoist upon him.
He was taking care of business.
Somebody had to save this galaxy and, like it or not, Ahnk was going to be that somebody.
“President on the bridge,” the command was barked out and Zark had to use the force to dampen the noise of so many boots spinning all at once.
“I thought we had agreed to stop doing that,” Zark said, as he took the first few steps onto the bridge.
“No sir, you had asked me to stop doing that and I said I would consider it,” the ships’ ranking officer replied. “But this is still a Galactic Alliance military vessel and as such, we follow military protocol. Stand at ease.”
There were those boots again. “How long until we enter The Hydian Way?”
“Helmsman,” the admiral asked.
“Within the hour, sir,” the helmsman replied.
“Everything ready for your departure?” the admiral asked of the president.
Zark looked around, as if unsure himself. “I’ve known Ahnk Rashanagok for a long time; known of him, known him as an enemy. But I’ve never actually faced him in battle.”
“You expect he will refuse your offer?” the admiral asked.
Zark pulled his robe back slightly, showing that the clip that would normally fasten his lightsaber to his belt was empty. “If he wants a fight, I’ll fight him. But I’m going down there unarmed. He won’t kill me if I don’t have a weapon and I have no intention of killing him.”
“You’re assuming a lot,” the admiral said. “Ahnk Rashanagok was a Sith assassin for the better part of his life. He’s killed hundreds of unarmed men.”
Zark shook his head. “Not this Ahnk.”
There was a short flurry of alarms and the admiral stepped forward. “Status report,” she asked, sternly.
“We are now entering the Hydian Way and the Damuen Demilitarized Zone,” one of the officers said.
“Admiral Arianna Reznor, as the officer of the watch I am required to inform you that by entering the Damuen Demilitarized Zone you are in violation of Galactic Alliance Treaties 4 and 7 and that by proceeding you may be in violation of intergalactic law,” a tall, stern man informed her from the back of the bridge.
“So noted,” the admiral said. “I hereby denote for the record that I have been requested and required to enter the Damuen Demilitarized Zone by the President of the Galactic Alliance, and that any crew member who wishes to file a formal complaint may do so without reprimand or reprieve,” the admiral said.
“Military protocols,” Zark said, amazed at the routine.
“All power to the shields,” the admiral commanded.
“All power to the shields,” the order was repeated back.
“From this point out it may be best if you returned to quarters,” the admiral said. “No offense, Mr. President, but in a combat situation there isn’t a place set aside for you on the bridge.”
“I’d like to help, if I can, if we are entering a combat situation,” Zark said. “I’m pretty good at the helm of a Starfighter.”
Reznor pushed a button on her chair’s comm terminal. “Hanger bay, please prep one fresh E-Wing Starfighter for President Ekan; he’ll be joining the fight.”
Ekan nodded his respect. “I’ll see you on the other side,” he said, and headed to the hanger bay, prepared to do his bit for the Galactic Alliance.
Zark Ekan climbed out of the cockpit of his borrowed E-Wing and spat a mouthful of blood onto the hanger deck.
Before he could wipe his chin, he was surrounded by people. Medics, crewmen, engineers. “Are you alright, Mr. President?” one of the medics asked him.
His head was still reeling, but as he felt solid ground under his feet, he felt himself start to stabalize. “I’m fine,” he said, wiping the blood coming out of his nose on the side of his hand. “How is my R7? Mac?”
One of the engineers was already examining the damage the B-Wing had sustained. “Looks like mostly surface damage,” the technician said. “I think once we work out this blast mark here he’ll be good as new.”
“I really hope so,” Zark said, “Mac And Me have been through a lot together.” One of the deck crew handed him a rag, and not being a pretentious man, Zark used that to wipe his hands clean of blood. “Is that always what it’s like? Fighting the Damuens?”
One of the other wounded pilots nodded. “They don’t behave like other pilots,” the pilot said.
“That’s because there are no pilots,” one of the engineers said. “We analyzed footage from past battles. Everything is mechanical.”
Zark nodded silently. He turned and began slowly, quietly walking away from the group towards one of the lifts. His experience had been frustrating; normally, the force was his ally, allowing him to read the emotions of the other pilots, giving him an edge. Droid pilots, meanwhile, operated on predictable logic. But the Damuen craft seemed to be… driven differently, by an intelligence, but not one which he could read. It had unsettled him as he began flying, and the longer the battle went, the more perturbed he felt. It had clouded his own senses, to the point where he felt his confidence waning. Taking hits only reinforced that he belonged back on the bridge, for as much good as he had done.
Suddenly, the lift stopped. “President Ekan, you don’t mind if I share your lift do you?”
“Master Dolash,” Zark answered back, and nodded. Dolash entered the lift. “I wasn’t aware you were aboard ship.”
“You’ve been distracted,” Dolash said. “I couldn’t let you face Ahnk alone. He’s too unpredictable.”
“This entire situation is unpredictable,” Ekan admitted. "Nevertheless, I appreciate your support. Just stand back when we get to the surface. Things might get violent."
Dolash shook his head. "I can't have you killing each other," he said. "Despite your disagreements, I do not believe Ahnk has embraced the dark side. He is still a fellow Jedi, and we need as many Jedi as we can get."
Zark reached out and put his hand on Dolash's shoulder. "Ahnk may... need convincing. If it comes to that, you need to stay out of the way. It won't end in death, but it might get ugly."
Dolash sighed, and closed his eyes. "I put my trust in you, Master Zark. I trust you to do what you feel is right."
Zark nodded. "I appreciate that," he said. Silently, to himself, he wished that he had Dolash's confidence.
Now, it was Ahnk spitting a mouthful of blood onto the ground. "You hit like a man on fire," Ahnk said. "I can feel your anger."
"You're damn right I'm angry," Zark said. "You can't just hide here in some log cabin in the woods. People are dying... I watched good men burn to death in fireballs out there in space. The Damuens want you to finish what you started on Mon Calamari. So they come here, destroy our defenses, fight their way to the surface, and then you rebuke them and send them home. Then they reorganize, take several sectors away, then they stop, and try again. We jostle with them back and forth, we take what we can, we lose what we have to. But you're the key, aren't you? You can stop it all... and you're choosing not to."
"This is not our place," Ahnk shouted, so Zark hit him again.
"Gash Damnit Ahnk," Zark said. "These are real people. Flesh and blood. They have hearts. They have souls. And they're dying because you are concerned about quantum mechanics."
"It's not that simple," a voice interrupted. Zark turned to the doorway, where Dolash was waiting... with a woman he'd never seen before. "There is a reason Ahnk is staying out of this fight."
Zark looked to Ahnk, his hand curled up in his robes, his other hand tensing, then back at the woman. He relaxed slightly. "Talk fast," he said. "Start with who you are."
"My name is Emily Montague," she said. "I was a geneticist with The Holy Desmothesian Empire, before Ahnk hired me away. He's... I've been working for him on various projects. Mostly related to theoretical astrophysics. Not exactly my field of expertise, but then not many people can claim that."
"Alright," Zark said, accepting that. "What have you learned?"
"That there is an inherent danger to what The Damuens have planned," Montague said. "The Damuens informed Ahnk of two devices that are what they call 'quantum neutral'. They allow them to plot the flow of atoms and, with enough information, predict the future. That in and of itself is dangerous but it's even more dangerous when you consider what they want Ahnk to do."
Zark had let Ahnk go now. "What do they want him to do?"
Montague looked to Ahnk, and he nodded. "The Damuens believe that Ahnk is an artifact; that he has no quantom resonance, in this timeline or any timeline. Because of that, they feel that if they place him in a quantum dampening field, Ahnk would be able to... well..."
Zark looked at Ahnk's worried expression. "What is she saying?"
Ahnk frowned. "I would be every Ahnk. Every Ahnk they had summoned. Would summon in the future. Every Ahnk, in every universe. I would know what they know. Would ever know. And the inverse would be true. With every Ahnk they add, they have more information to accurately predict the flow of time."
Zark shook his head. "I don't understand."
"I don't know that I do either," Ahnk said. "What I do know, is that the Damuens have the ability to read neural electrical signals, brain waves, thoughts, dreams... and project them as images, like you or I would project a holovid. Imagine then, not only being able to predict this time... but being able to predict every time. Every outcome, every variable, being able to combine all the information from across multiple parallel universes, and mapping that information to extract the flow of reality itself. Imagine, for a second, what they could do with that information."
Zark took a seat inside the house. "I can see, now, why you've been hiding away." He stood up, and reached for Ahnk's hand. "I am sorry for hitting you. Obviously, I can't force you to do something that has that kind of a consequence."
Ahnk sighed, lowering his eyes. He turned to Montague. "Do you want to tell him, or should I?"
Montague smiled softly. "I think this one falls on you."
Ahnk nodded. "I suppose it does," he said, sighing again.
"Ahnk..." Zark said. "Tell me what's on your mind."
Ahnk turned to Zark. "I can't hide from The Damuens anymore," he said. "We have to give them what we want. It's the only way we can save this galaxy. The only way we can save all the galaxies."
Jan 23 2021 6:01am
“The universe began with a bang; that was the theory,” Ahnk said.
Zark nodded. “That’s basic knowledge. Every child learns that growing up.”
“But what we didn’t understand is that that isn’t entirely true,” Ahnk countered. “There’s a fundamental idea that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can be converted, to matter or from matter, but never created. There is a finite amount in the universe.”
“Again, not news to me,” Zark said.
“Right; but how do you think parallel universes are created?” Ahnk said.
Zark raised his hands. “You got me,” he said. “How?”
“The specifics escape me; the Damuens can maybe explain,” Ahnk said. “The point is, each time a parallel universe is created, energy is required. And there are two constants of a universe; it explodes and expands, and it is created in parallel with other universes. Both of these things cannot be indefinitely true. The universes either need to stop fracturing, or stop expanding. Either that…”
“Or we run out of energy,” Zark concluded.
“Infinite entropy; the heat death of the universe,” Ahnk went on, “in an isolated system, entropy can only increase; energy will decrease on the way to thermal equilibrium, and a state of maximum entropy.”
Zark nodded. “I can see how this is a problem,” Zark said.
“The Damuens have offered a solution,” he said. “The Damuens identified three items with quantum neutrality. The first was known as The Lighthouse. It was an observatory which allowed them to view other universes and temporal states. The second was The Tear. The Tear used to be part of something they called The Buoy. Supposedly, I destroyed The Buoy, and that created The Tear. And the third was me. I am The Anchor. And I am one half of the solution. The other being the fourth artifact.”
Zark had gotten lost. “Wait, what is the fourth artifact? I thought you said the Damuens had identified three.”
Ahnk nodded. He raised a comlink to his mouth. “Bridge, how close are we?”
“Two minutes,” the response came and Ahnk nodded. He pushed a button on the desk and the viewports began to open in the room, exposing the starfield in flux as the vessel flew through hyperspace.
Then, the stars stopped moving, and Zark’s jaw dropped. “By all the ghosts in the force…”
“It is both incredible and horrible,” Ahnk said. “A technological marvel and a terrible moment of destruction, never to end.”
Their ship was passing through two giant spheres; the spheres were each about the size of a planet, and artificial in origin, their surface marked with craters and lines suited to their function. What that function was Zark did not know but given their size, it must be important. Beyond that was a small fleet; it was deployed in a containment pattern, evenly spaced over a huge area of space. The fleet did not seem to be firing any weapons but nor did they appear to be inert. They were orbiting…
Zark could barely describe it. “Is that…?” he asked, softly.
“The Ntchwaidumela,” Ahnk confirmed. “Frozen, mid self destruct. It’s reactor has breached and is violently exploding outward. It seems to be still but this vessel has been slowly exploding now for decades, just at a pace that is imperceptible to human eyes. The Damuens cannot stop time, only slow it down exponentially. In time, even their advanced technology will be unable to prevent this vessel from being entirely consumed. The Reaver vessels you see around it will then also be consumed, as well as what is left of that large station. The Astral Astoria, it was called. The Buoy was contained within; inaccessible now. Could never use it, as it would disrupt the temporal stasis field and the explosion would complete.”
“This is… a lot to take in,” Zark said. “Are those Cree’Ar vessels?” Zark said, pointing.
Ahnk nodded. “In this universe and many others, there are no Damuen or Cree’Ar anymore; they exist as one society,” Ahnk said. “Both of their technologies combined could barely accomplish what you see here. And it took Heir Raktus, an insane technodiety, to calculate whether it was even possible. And to build The Well.”
“The Well?” Zark asked.
Ahnk nodded. “They wanted to be able to use The Buoy but it wasn’t safe to have anyone enter it or try and use it’s native technology,” Ahnk said. “So Raktus designed an interface and a sealed container. About the size of an escape pod. Enter it, and you can push the pod into the core of The Buoy. The pod can then navigate into The Tear and out, sealing it. That will prevent the creation of parallel universes at the pace at which they had been being created. That will allow them to space out properly and in such a way as to delay the inevitable, maybe buying the multiple universes millions or billions of years.”
Zark nodded. “What happens to us?”
Ahnk shook his head. “This is all theoretical,” he said. “You might be stranded here. You might return to your own reality. I have no idea of what will happen.”
Zark stepped forward and put a hand on Ahnk’s shoulder. “Why are you saying you, and not we?”
Ahnk looked at him. “Most probable outcome of coming out the other side of that well is death. If not from being caught by the explosion, no person, not even one of quantum neutrality, should be exposed to that kind of temporal radiation. This is a one way trip, Zark.”
Zark turned, and then nodded. “Always finding new and creative ways to kill yourself, Ahnk Rashanagok,” Zark mused.
“Don’t think I will ever top this one,” Ahnk said, and then the door chime sounded. “Enter,” Ahnk said, and then the door slid open and Montague walked inside. “You have the list?”
She nodded and Zark turned back to Ahnk. “The list?”
Ahnk nodded as well. “The Damuens have given me a list of observed alternate realities and given me the chance to choose one that most closely resembles the one I came from,” Ahnk said, “and if this is successful and works the way we think it does, and I survive the journey, I emerge in our own universe.”
Zark was quiet for a few moments. “Say goodbye before you leave?”
Ahnk smirked. “Let’s have a drink before I leave,” he said, then added, “or maybe several drinks.”
Zark nodded, solemnly, then left the two to their list.
“Okay, in this universe, Leia Organa remains married to Han Solo and they have three children,” Montague read.
“Hmmm,” Ahnk said, laying down on a couch. “That sounds kind of nice. Big, happy family.”
Montague kept scrolling. “Oldest son Jacen falls to the darkside of the force and becomes Darth Caedeus, Dark Lord Of The Sith.”
Ahnk frowned. “No, that doesn’t sound very pleasant,” he said. “Scratch that one.”
She scrolled a little more. “Leia and Han separate but have one son, Ben Solo, who trains with Luke Skywalker,” Montague offered.
Ahnk pondered again. “Well, Han was a hard one to keep pinned down, as long as that son gave her happiness,” Ahnk remarked.
Montague scrolled a little more and then sighed. “Ben Solo turned on Luke Skywalker, became Kylo Ren, Dark Lord Of The Sith, and killed his own father.”
Ahnk frowned even deeper. “Okay, that sounds awful,” he replied. “Never mention that universe again.”
Montague kept scrolling. “It’s sort of depressing how many times Leia has given birth to the destroyer of worlds,” Montague said. “Ah, here we go; Leia Organa marries Tyschio Korriban, they have two children. Neither becomes the Dark Lord Of The Sith.”
“Sounds about right; you know what to check. Gash dead, Zark alive, New Order fractured, Cree’Ar, Reavers, all that good stuff,” Ahnk said, leaning back a bit.
“A son…” Montague began, and then faded away.
Ahnk sat up and turned to her. “What did you see?”
Montague lowered the datapad, as if hiding it from Ahnk’s view would make him forget that it existed. “Nothing; let me check on Gash Jiren…”
“Emily,” Ahnk began. “When I recruited you, I was honest about what this was; please respect me enough to be honest with me in return.”
She set the datapad down. “It’s easy for you, if you go home you go to a home where your biggest failure is me, and I’m just gone; a monster that was slain as monsters should be,” Montague replied. “Why can’t you find a universe where I am safely locked away in a stasis chamber?”
“Because I want to go to my home, not a home,” Ahnk said. “If you saw something…”
She sighed. “Andrew Michael Rashanagok. You have a son.”
Ahnk shook his head. “Must be a different universe; I don’t have a son,” he said, leaning backwards.
She picked up the datapad and scrolled. “Gash Jiren dead. Zark Ekan alive. Emily Montague dead. Leia Organa, two children with a Caprician. Simon Kaine missing in action. The core in the control of The Cree’Ar. And on Ziost, under the care of a woman named Auriga, is your son, Andrew Michael.”
Ahnk walked to the window. “Auriga…” he said, softly. “But that was…”
“Fifteen years ago, give or take?” Montague said. “Congratulations, dad.”
Ahnk said nothing for several minutes, and then went to the cooler in the room’s kitchen. “Let’s have a drink,” he said, and came back with a bottle.
Zark had a lot of patience; it was a skill of his that set him apart from many. He wasn’t impulsive; he had amazing reflexes if he needed them, but he preferred to wait until the ideal moment to make his moves. So he was used to waiting. But this was ridiculous.
He hit the door chime again. And finally, it opened.
What Zark saw confused him. The room looked like it had been home to a brawl; the walls were dented, glass was broken, the furniture appeared to have ripped and lost some of the contents inside it. Furthermore, it wasn’t Ahnk who greeted him, but Montague instead. Though Zark hadn’t realized at first, as she was wearing Ahnk’s robes, and until the swell of her breasts and then her unfamiliar face, Zark thought she was Ahnk.
“Zark; I am so sorry, we must have lost track of time,” she apologized meekly. Her breath stank of alcohol and Zark noticed she had blood coming out of her mouth.
That last detail caused him to raise his eyebrows. “Is everything alright?”
“Zark!” Ahnk shouted. Zark could not see him, for he was somewhere amongst the chaos of what had once been a guest suite on the Mon Calamari cruiser. “I am a terrible father.”
Montague smiled politely. “Just… saying goodbye, to each other and this universe,” Montague told him. “I’ll let him get a few hours sleep and then put him in a shower. He’ll be ready to go in the morning.”
Zark nodded with some apprehension. “Then I shall return in the morning,” he said, and bowed. “Goodnight, my lady,” he offered, and then louder, “goodnight, Andrew.”
“Stop shouting!” Ahnk shouted back.
Then Montague let the door close and Zark was alone with his thoughts. It took much of his experience as a Jedi to remain patient and understanding.
Temporal mechanics made his head hurt.
Ahnk Rashanagok made everything hurt.
Mar 1 2022 1:20pm
The air was thick and warm.
Immediately, Ahnk missed the comfort of his suite on the Mon Calamari cruiser. With abundant access to alcohol and a woman’s breasts. It was a far cry from this fresh hell.
Fresh, actually, was the wrong word. There wasn’t anything fresh here. The air was stale, dusty and unpleasant. It smelled of rotten food, or something worse. Death had been here. Even that didn’t seem fresh. Death had died here, and then decomposed.
His first instinct was to touch one of the interface panels on the wall. Of course, it did nothing. The power had long ago stopped flowing to these circuits. Ahnk waved a hand over the wall, close enough that he could feel the bends behind. When he found a crack, he reached behind himself and removed the lightsaber from his belt.
Once he had gained access to the access conduits, his situation only improved slightly. Whereas before the air was warm and pungently offensive, here it was cold, almost but not quite like a vacuum. It was much too thin for a normal person to breathe, but Ahnk could survive for short times in a vacuum, so this was barely tolerable for him. Even so, he realized this would be more complicated than he thought, when he saw that the panels inside the access corridor were dead as well.
Ahnk had no idea how long it had been since there had been anyone alive in here. The Damuens had told him this set up had taken them six years but that the process of time dilation made it uncertain to tell how long inside the field it would have been. It was likely that different parts of the field were happening at different points in time, and at different paces.
Ahnk would need to keep his wits about him. Step in the wrong place, and he might find himself instantly ageing by decades. It sounded like the plot of a bad horror movie, but for Ahnk Rashanagok, this was now his reality.
And if he was going to hell, he was going to need to go deeper.
He pulled the lightsaber from his belt and cut his way through the floor panels. It started to get colder. The vessel he was in was opened to space, afterall; many decks had vented into space, and it was cold out there, with no kind of atmosphere. What was left inside didn’t stay inside.
And he needed to go deeper.
Ahnk kept cutting, and kept dropping. Floor by floor, he went in search of… what? He wasn’t entirely sure. Ahnk knew that he felt like he would know it when he saw it. When he was there, he wouldn’t need to be told; he would just know. But as he kept going, he realised he didn’t even know what he was looking for.
How do you stop an entropic cascade? Is there an off switch? A red wire you cut, a black one you don’t?
Ahnk was in uncharted territory here. What he was trying to do, had never been done before.
He needed to go deeper.
Breathing was becoming more of an issue the deeper he went; with large portions of the hull of the station having lost compression, and that loss of compression leading to, well, explosive decompression, and that explosive decompression feeding a practical, kinetic energy explosion, which served to consume the oxygen… all of which to say was, there layers upon layers here, and Ahnk was running out of time.
Running out of time to save time.
The whole thing could be very confusing when you stopped to think about it. Best just to keep moving.
Keep cutting, and keep dropping.
Finally, Ahnk found resistance. It wasn’t much, but for someone whose senses were attuned, it might as well be cannon blast reverberating through his fingers. Atmosphere. Pressure. And atmospheric pressure.
He had found a level with both. And maybe even more. As he cut the light from his saber didn’t fade when he turned it off. He realized that wasn’t the light from the sparks of his weapon cutting the bulkhead, but the light from the deck itself he was cutting down, streaming through the negative space he had created.
A deck, with air, and light. Just like that, he realized he had found it.
Ahnk kicked out the panel and then dropped down atop it, and almost did a double take.
“Hello sir, and welcome to the Astral Astoria,” a greeter hologram bade him welcome.
Ahnk wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it wasn’t this. “Hello,” he said, somewhat taken aback. Given every other label had been dead, and had seemed like it had been dead a while, for one level to be stuck, almost like it was the day the station was destroyed, was the last thing he had been expecting. “I’m looking… for answers, I suppose.”
The greeter nodded at him. “Well, I would be more than happy to answer any questions about the geography of this station and the various services we provide,” the greeter explained in it’s prerecorded fashion.
“I’m not really interested in that,” Ahnk said, not really having time to see the sights.
“If you require any assistance, don’t hesitate to ask either uniformed Astral Astoria personnel, or one of my fellow greeters,” the hologram continued. Ahnk didn’t have the heart to tell him that all the personnel he was referring to were dead.
“Thank you,” Ahnk said, and then brushed himself off. He’d picked up a lot of dust between space and here. He looked around. He’d been here only a few times, back when it was a place you just went, dropped a few coins. Back before The Reavers, before The Dominion, before this artefact business all began. “You know what, hologram…”
The hologram smiled, being useful for the first time in years. “How can I assist you?”
“I want a drink,” Ahnk told him.
And so the hardlight holo led the way, with Ahnk walking along the promenade level of the Astral Astoria. The advertising holos, neon signage for various shops and brands, flashed at him as he walked. It was almost like no one had told the station that the show was over. Everyone had gone home, but the lights were still on.
It was eerie.
But at least it didn’t smell like death anymore.
Or at least, it hadn’t.
When he got to the door of the bar, he couldn’t help but notice the smell change.
His eyes immediately found a hooded figure sitting at the bar. Beside him, was a large pile of bones. Some of them were animal. Many of them appeared human. Some of them still had meat on them, partially chewed.
He walked up and sat down beside the man. “Greetings,” he said, and then gestured to the bartender. “What do you have?”
“Most anything you can imagine,” the bartender said. “At one time, this was a destination eating establishment.”
The hooded figured didn’t return his greeting. Ahnk looked at him all the same. “What’s he having?”
The bartender looked over, then looked back. “Tionese wine,” he said.
“Don’t give him my good wine,” the hooded figure said.
Ahnk smirked. “Shit wine is just fine,” he said. “I didn’t know you could talk.”
“Don’t have no one to talk to,” the hooded figure answered. “Nor much to say.”
Ahnk nodded. The bartender slid him a wine and Ahnk took a sip. “Ah, seventy seven. Not their best, no,” he concluded. The hooded man shrugged. “So… who are you?”
The hooded man turned, revealing a face creased with age, crossed with scars, and worn down by time, before being soaked in blood and caked in dust. Also, a beard. “Eh,” the man said. “You know.”
It didn’t take Ahnk long to figure it out. “Ah, you’d be the pilot then,” he said, piecing it together. “How long has it been for you?”
“Decades,” the man said, shrugging again. “Maybe centuries. Haven’t counted.”
“How have you survived, all this time?” Ahnk asked.
“Gnawbones,” the man said. “First, the rats. Then the reavers.”
Ahnk’s eyes widened. “You’ve been eating the reavers?”
“They slip through, looking for energy,” the pilot replied. “Come here. Thunk on the head. Break spine. Just don’t eat the brain. Otherwise, taste like bantha.”
Ahnk looked at the pile of bones. He had been here for a long time. “You know why I am here?”
The hooded man nodded. “Because I said no,” the pilot said.
“They asked?” and the hooded man nodded again. “What is keeping you here?”
“I don’t want to be torn apart,” the hooded man said. “Molecule by molecule, spread across the dimensions. The agony of it. I’d rather gnaw bones.”
“You understand I have no choice?” Ahnk asked the hooded man.
“Always have a choice,” he countered. “But I respect that you made yours.”
Ahnk finished off his wine, and pushed the glass towards the bartender. “Listen…”
“Yeah,” the hooded man said, anticipating his question. “Closing time.”
“I’ll shut down the lights when I go,” Ahnk told him.
The hooded man nodded. He sat up, straight, probably for the first time in decades. “I’ll see you in another life.”
Ahnk was quick. He put the emitter of his lightsaber to the base of the man’s spine, and turned it on for one brief second. With his brain severed from his nervous system, his body went into instant shock. He didn’t feel any pain.
“Until that day, my friend,” Ahnk said. He knew where he needed to go. He knew what he needed to do.
Once he left the bar, it was merely a matter of following the light. The Damuens knew it would be easy to find; even with the promenade left on, this device would still emit massive amounts of energy. Ahnk could feel that energy, in the form of radiation. He could tell when it was amping up, and he could tell when he had taken a lethal dose. Of course, he’d known going in that this was a one way trip.
Finally, at long last, he came to the end of the hall. He put his hand on the doorframe; he could see the flesh falling off of it already. He didn’t have much time left. The temporal radiation had already killed him, and soon, he’d lose consciousness.
It was now, or never.
His mind wandered to the very concept of what he was doing. Sealing a doorway between alternate realities. Ones in which Leia stayed married to Han, ones in which Luke fought against Kylo Ren, ones in which Zark Ekan was less of an asshole. And somewhere, out there, was a galaxy, where Ahnk was a father.
He could hardly believe it. Throwing balls to the boy? Backyard BBQs between fights against Reavers? A little boy… or girl… or something…
He felt himself growing weak. All the same, it didn’t matter.
I’m not doing this for me anyway. I’m doing this for you.
Time to blow the dam.
Ahnk reached out, turned the key, and his universe exploded around him.