General Soola drummed his fingers on his thigh in anticipation as he sat on the bridge of the Independence. The fleet would be coming out of hyperspace soon, and they would be facing their enemy at last.
Even after all his years of command in the Rebel army, leading fighters in one battle after another against the juggernaut of the Empire, the thought of facing the enemy never failed to humble him. Having seen death and destruction in the Galactic Civil War, he was more than aware of the reality of battle, and he never approached fighting with anything but a heavy heart.
He had been reluctant when he proposed his plan to Ambassador Solo. He knew that she of all people wanted to avoid confrontations at all costs. But they both knew that Falor and its allies needed to be stopped now, before any more worlds could be drawn into treason. The Republic had worked too hard, sacrificed too much over the last eighteen years to see the fruits of their labor go up in smoke. They could be on the verge of another civil war if Falor was not dealt with. He was sure of it.
"Sir, we are ready to come out of hyperspace."
Soola nodded in acknowledgement. "Thank you, Captain," he told Captain Ord. He pressed the comlink button on his seat to address the fleet with one last order. "This is General Soola. Everybody get ready to come out of hyperspace. You all know what to do now. May the Force be with us all."
* * *
"Sir, our scanners have detected enemy craft in our vicinity. They'll be coming out of lightspeed at any moment now."
"Good, Captain," Sorbin answered. "Alert all fighters. Stand by, get ready to deploy the fleet as soon as the Republic ships come out of hyperspace."
He turned to Milton, who had been unusually silent in the last few hours. He had been too absorbed in other matters to notice until now, but now it was obvious to him that the Governor's attention was not fully on the matter at hand. "Governor, is the Hodeen fleet ready?"
"Yes, sir," Milton replied blankly, careful to avoid Sorbin's penetrating gaze. "We're all in position."
Sorbin smiled in satisfaction. This was it. He walked to the observation area to watch the action unfold. He held his breath as he saw the Republic ships emerging one by one, like specks of light dotting the black sky. In an instant, the Falorian ships swerved in from the planet, their laserfire raining down on the Republic fleet.
And then he froze in horror. More Republic ships emerged from hyperspace, so many, so quickly that he lost count. They kept coming, even as they had dispatched all of their fleet.
"What's happening?" he roared. "Where are all these ships coming from? There must be hundreds of fighters out there! Dozens of command ships!"
"Sir, I'm trying to find out," Darvis answered him, frantically pressing buttons, intermittently looking up at the observation window to witness the unbelievable events that were unfolding in front of them. "I... I don't understand..." he stammered. "The Republic must have sent their entire fleet!"
"There are more coming!" Sorbin shouted, watching helplessly as the Republic fighters dodged the laserfire from the Falorian allies, retaliating with their own deadly firepower. There were at least three or four Republic fighters for every Falorian one, and their cruisers outnumbered Sorbin's by at least a dozen.
"Where are our men? We need to deploy more fighters! Keep the cruisers aiming at the enemy craft!" But it was useless, and he knew it. It had turned into a fight for survival now. The Falorian allied fleet was no longer even attacking, only trying to stay alive. Ships disintegrated in front of his eyes, one by one lost to the enemy.
"Sir, we've already sent out the entire fleet!" Darvis answered. "Our shields are up at full power. We won't be able to sustain much more of their firepower. We must begin to retreat!"
"We will not retreat!" Sorbin answered steadfastly. "If we are going to go down in defeat, then we will go fighting!"
"It's over, Minister..."
Sorbin quickly spun around to see Milton standing in front of him. His eyes were full of remorse, and suddenly it all became clear to Sorbin. "They knew, didn't they?" he whispered. It would not have surprised Milton if Sorbin had struck him then and there, but Sorbin made no such move. Instead, he stood motionless, the fire in him slowly dying. "That's how they knew to send their entire fleet... They knew it was a trap... They meant to ambush us before we could even head for Coruscant..."
Milton looked away. He almost couldn't stand to see the look on Sorbin's face as he realized Milton's betrayal. "I leaked the information to them," he confessed, and he flinched, feeling the bitter rage in Sorbin, though he kept it bottled up inside. The Prime Minister did not move to lash out at him, nor did he even make a sound.
What else was there to say. He had done it now. He had done what he had vowed he would never do, and he would soon pay with his life. It would soon be over. The Republic had already wiped out all but a few remaining cruisers, and it was only a matter of time before their command ship would also meet its end.
He walked over to Sorbin, who stood silently before the observation window, his mind unable to absorb what his eyes were witnessing.
"Sir, they've hit our main power generator! Our shields are down to 20%, we can not hold out much longer... We must retreat or surrender!"
But Sorbin did not stir from his fixed position. Without turning from the window, he made the final defiant decision. "Set the ship to self-destruct," he ordered them.
"You heard me!" he repeated. "Set the ship to self-destruct! We will never surrender to the Republic! If this is the end, then so be it!"
A few moments later, the last of the remaining Falorian cruisers exploded into a brilliant ball of light, brightening the black sky like a comet.
And the Republic rejoiced.
* * *
Luke let out a heavy sigh as he wrapped his arms around Callista. He pressed his body close to hers, savoring the feel of her in his arms. This is home. In her arms, all is in its place.
He shuddered as he realized how close he came to seeing his world shattered. It will never be quite over, he thought to himself. They had witnessed the end of the Empire, and the creation of a free galaxy, but still they would never be able to let their guards down completely. They would never have the luxury of feeling at ease forever. Somehow, someway, there would always be the distant threat of future danger just beyond the horizon. The Nightsisters had been destroyed now, and Falor had been defeated, but could there be another Falor in the future? Another revolt, another threat to the Jedi, the Republic?
He squeezed his eyes shut to clear the doubts and questions swirling in his mind.
For now his family was safe, and that's all that mattered. That's all that would ever matter to him.
The rhythm of Callista's soft breathing eased him, as he gave way to the Force to steady him, guide him.
And then he felt it.
Gingerly, he pulled away to look at Callista, tears forming in his eyes. She smiled at back at him, as she read his thoughts.
She nodded, and the clouds in Luke's weary eyes began to clear to once again reveal a bright shade of blue. "Yes," she said softly, laughing through her happy tears, her hands gently caressing his face. "I'm pregnant again, Luke... We're going to have another daughter. I... I found out just before you arrived on Tegris... "
Luke closed his eyes at the sound of Callista's words, feeling his heart scream out in joy.
Out of all bad ultimately comes good...
And then he kissed her, and his universe was right once again...
* * *
"Oh boy, you mean I'm really old enough to be trained?"
Luke couldn't help but smile at his daughter's ecstatic reaction. He watched as she struggled to sit still to wait for him to confirm her hope. "That's right, princess, you're a big girl now, and Mommy and I decided that you're ready to start your Jedi training."
Her gray eyes reflected a deep understanding, as she looked back at her parents, with wonder and awe at all that was to come. It was as if she had been aware of her destiny from the moment she was born.
Her enthusiasm was infectious, as Luke and Callista found themselves sharing in her thrill at the new journey on which she was now about to embark.
"Does Owen get to be trained soon too?"
"Not quite yet, sweetheart," Callista told her. "We're training him little by little now, but we won't start his formal training until he turns five like you. And when baby Ryla is born, she'll be trained eventually too."
Cailin tilted her head again to look up at her parents, her forehead scrunching while she thought of her next question. "Mommy," she began, "will I ever get to be as good a Jedi as you and Daddy?"
Callista bent down to cup her daughter's face in her hands. "You know how Jedi can see the future?" she asked her, giving her a knowing smile.
"Uh huh..." Cailin replied with a nod.
"Well, I've seen the future, and you and Owen and Ryla will be very powerful Jedi. And you'll make Daddy and me very, very proud."
"We're already proud of you, princess," Luke added.
Cailin smiled, her questions now answered. She reached for her parents' hands and held them in her own.
"I'm going to be a Jedi."
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