Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Under the Shadow of the Builders
Epilogue

The sun smiled down on Coruscant as a dazzling parade wove its way through the city's streets. Two squads of fighters flew above in parade formations. They whizzed back and forth overhead, flying tightly together. From somewhere along the route, a live band played triumphantly, but their music was projected over loudspeakers for all of the city to hear. Trumpets blared and drums rattled their congratulations.

Streamers, confetti, and handkerchiefs rained down from balconies above where cheering citizens watched. It seemed as if all of Coruscant had come to the celebration. There was a smile on every face. They all had reason to celebrate, after all. Not three weeks after the destruction of the Star Forge, the Sith were on the run, fragmented, and defeated. The Sith Empire was no more.

The Republic was victorious at last. It was time for peace.

Everyone knew that countless people had fought and died to see this day come to pass. Thanks to the holonet news over the past few weeks, they also knew of a certain crew who were most to thank for the decisive victory at the Star Forge.

At the end of a long train of hover cars and barges full of soldiers, Jedi, and other heroes, was one particularly grand barge. Raised above the others and decked out with colorful banners and streamers, it was this barge that everyone craned their necks to see.

“Are they really the ones who found out the secret of the Sith Empire?” people would ask one another as the odd crew came into view. A teenage Twi'lek, a Wookiee, four Jedi, a soldier, two droids, a tall blond girl, and a burly, graying man.

Aboard the barge, they grinned and waved, together again. The entire crew was looking their best. Ev had even submitted her short hair to a combing. She dawned the white Revan-esque robes that she had found aboard the Star Forge. The Jedi had made it clear that they wanted the galaxy at large to know that Revan had been redeemed. The other three Jedi wore the more traditional wrap-tunics of their order. It had taken some persuasion for Jolee to agree to that uniform. Juhani's was a brilliant rust red color while Bastila, usually a flashier dresser, found the most generic robe Jedi Knight could wear.

At the behest of his superiors, Carth dawned an official green and red Republic Navy uniform. After a shopping trip with the Supreme Chancellor's secretary, which Canderous reluctantly attended, the Mandalorian, Kionee, and Mission all had stylish new clothes fitting for returned adventurers. All the secretary's efforts to get the two girls into dresses for the parade and ceremony had failed, however. Zaalbar was dressed as he always was, with nothing more than his red weapon straps and the Blade of Bacca to adorn him. With two vigorously polished droids standing along with them, they made an impressive, if curious, sight.

The months ago when they started out, thrown together by the accident of fate—or the will of the Force, as some would have it—they had no idea that their journey would end like this: a hero's welcome.

“I never thought I'd be a hero,” Mission beamed while she waved, “Me, Mission Vao, a hero!”

“Most people who think they're going to be heroes get themselves killed,” Jolee retorted jollily, “It's crazy people like us who set out to do the impossible and actually live it through that get called heroes.”

“I know they said there were going to be speeches and stuff, but I never imagined a parade like this,” Mission gushed, “I mean, look at all the people! What do you think they're going to say when we get to the Jedi Temple?”

“Probably the usual blather that they pull out every time they give thanks and awards,” Jolee speculated, though he seemed even a bit eager himself.

“Awards?” Mission squeaked. The thought hadn't crossed her mind.

“I'm still amazed that you, sir,” Ev shot a sly look at Jolee, “Agreed to rejoin the Jedi Order after all these years.”

“Their job offer was a good one,” Jolee chuckled, “And I was bored. I've had enough of following you restless kids around anyway.”

“And instead the Jedi will send you off to do their bidding, to regain stability in the galaxy,” Juhani said ironically.

“I think you'll enjoy that a lot,” Ev laughed.

“You all are going to get that too, now that you're knighted. Though, isn't that what we were doing anyway, chasing after some mysterious Star Forge?” Jolee shot back good-naturedly, “And what is this I hear about an Admiral Onasi?”

“The promotion isn't official yet, and I can hardly believe that they'd promote me straight from Lieutenant to admiral,” Carth explained, “The paperwork takes a while, and they might even run me through captain first, but they'll have me out chasing down Sith with my own fleet in no time.”

“And you'll enjoy that?” Ev asked.

“If I get enough holidays to visit you, love,” Carth smiled at her, “I do like being in charge of my own destiny and my own strategies at the head of a fleet.”

“Now, now,” Ev scolded, “You don't want someone to pick that kind of comment up. It would get me in loads of trouble with the Jedi Council. Not that I'm not already.”

“You make it sound worse than it is,” Bastila commented. “All things considered, they are very pleased with you.”

“All things considered?” Ev laughed. “There are a lot of things to consider. In the mean time, I am their poster child of redemption.”

“You guys sure love redemption, don't you?” Canderous observed.

“It's everything good in a happy ending to a story,” Kionee said enthusiastically.

“And everyone loves a happy ending,” Ev grinned, “And what's your happy ending, Canderous?”

Canderous chuckled. “There's a lot on my mind that should be done,” he replied, “But I think I've spent enough time fraternizing with the Republic.”

Ev nodded, “And what of you, Mission, Zaalbar?”

Zaalbar howled back something respectfully.

“Now don't you give me any of that,” Ev argued, “Though, fine, if you won't let me release you from your life debt, let me say that you would be better serving out your debt to me by making sure Kashyyyk and your village are re-stabilized, and maybe even trying to get a delegation as a part of the Galactic Senate. I'm concerned about the stability of Kashyyyk. How's that?”

The Wookiee rumbled his reply, looking happier than usual.

“You're not leaving me, are you, Big Z?” Mission asked, suddenly distraught.

He replied reassuringly.

“Well then, I'm going with you, until I get a better offer,” Mission decided at that moment.

“What about you Kionee?” Ev asked, “Going back to hauling fruit, or are you going to officially join the navy now?”

Kionee blushed, embarrassed. “No, fighting isn't much for me,” she replied, “I couldn't be a soldier and shoot at people all the time. I've got my responsibility to the family business anyway.” She paused, then added eagerly, “Though it really has been an honor flying with you guys. Thanks for everything you did for me. It was great to really feel like I was doing something important, for once, like I did back during the Mandalorian Wars.”

“Only this time, people know what you did was important,” Mission pointed out.

“The people I helped back then knew it was important, and that's what counts. I don't need,” she swept her waving hand around at the cheering crowds around them, “all this.”

“And yet they feel the need to do it anyway,” Jolee chuckled. “People will always like their poster children.”

“And their parties,” Juhani added.

Ev shot a grin at Carth. It said so many things to him all at once, not the least of which was, 'I love you.'

They turned out of the narrower street ways. The huge domed Galactic Senate building as well as the five towers of the Jedi Temple came into view. Their parade coasted along the route, to the unending cheers and amplified marching music.

As each barge arrived at the huge terrace atop the Jedi temple, the passengers unloaded and strode proudly up towards the stage at the far end. Gradually, two long columns of people formed with a grand aisle in between them.

When at last the final barge arrived, the terrace was full of soldiers, politicians, and other leaders. Their whole party stepped off and all of the soldiers sharply pivoted towards the center aisle, saluting. At the head of the columns, there came a great hissing noise. Hundreds of yellow, green, blue, and even a few scattered other colors of lightsabers blazed up into the air: the salute of the Jedi.

Between this honor guard they strode. Ev and Carth took the lead while Kionee, Canderous, and Zaalbar pulled up the rear. All around Coruscant, and even all over the galaxy, huge holos showed their smiling faces as they walked.

Finally, they reached the raised dais at far end of the terrace where Supreme Chancellor Cressa, several other politicians, Jedi Masters, and military leaders stood waiting to receive them. Among them were Admiral Dodonna, Master Vandar, and Master Nomi Sunrider.

Their party spread out in a wide arc in front of the stage just as they had been told to do and waited for the speeches.

As small floating cameras buzzed around them, Mission whispered excitedly, “I wonder if Griff is watching.”

The Supreme Chancellor of the senate stepped up to the podium to speak. The band played its final fanfare and a hush fell over the still exuberant crowd. “For the last four years, our Republic has been at war with the Sith Empire. For the five years even before that, our galaxy was ravaged by the Mandalorian Wars. We have not known peace in nearly ten years,” Chancellor Cressa began, “Many have bravely fought and died to protect us and our Republic. Their loyalty and commitment to protecting all that we hold dear makes heroes of all of them. Let us have a moment of silence for all of our fallen brethren.” Although Coruscant could never be completely silent, the depth of the hush that fell would not be repeated for hundreds of years to come.

“But now, the Sith's greatest weapon, the Star Forge, has been discovered and destroyed,” Cressa continued, “The spirit of the Sith is broken. They are leaderless and fragmented, now fleeing from from our glorious Republic.” Cheers erupted. He waited a moment for them to subdue before continuing, “If not for the efforts of one small team of individuals, unknown both to the Sith and the Republic at large, we would never have discovered the heart of the Sith's power or have been able to destroy it. For their courage and dedication in the face of the impossible, it is they who deserve to be honored above all others.” Cheers broke out again as the chancellor swept his arms out in a wide gesture to the crew that stood before him.

On cue, a mix of Jedi and soldiers stepped forward, each holding in their hands a small gilded box.

“Mission Vao of Taris, Kionee Rinnh of Nubia, Zaalbar of Rwookrrorroo and Kashyyyk, Canderous of Ordo, Lieutenant Carth Onasi of Telos, Jedi Knight Jolee Bindo, Jedi Knight Juhani, Jedi Knight Bastila Shan, and Jedi Knight Revan Roan'evrue Pell,” Cressa announced.

“They took that name they gave me and made it even worse,” Ev hissed at Carth out of the corner of her smile.

“I present to you all the Cross of Glory, the highest honor the Republic can bestow,” the Supreme Chancellor continued. All of the attendants stepped forward together and pinned the medal to each of their chests while the citizens of Coruscant cheered. “From Coruscant to the far reaches of the outer rim, everyone will know that you are the saviors of the Republic,” he concluded. The cheers roared even louder.

Mission was thinking back to Taris, wishing the Beks could see her now. She wished that Taris was still alive and breathing, celebrating just like Coruscant.

Kionee was awestruck. She never once believed that she could be counted among them enough to be honored as a hero. She still didn't believe it. An award like this didn't belong on the shirt of a freighter pilot.

Canderous was thinking of the Clans, and how ceremonies such as these should be held.

Jolee was inwardly laughing at the circumstances that led him back to the Jedi Temple and to the Jedi Order.

Zaalbar was thinking about the Blade of Bacca that still hung slung across his back, about what he owed to his people, to Mission, and to Ev. He was proud to be the first Wookiee in history to receive such an award.

Bastila meditated, even still, on how things could have been so differently, had the Dark Side taken hold of another. She marveled at Ev's inner strength and vowed to become more like her.

Juhani was thinking of what an ephemeral honor it was, but was glad in it even still. She was glad that Belaya, it seemed, had volunteered to be the one to present her medal. Belaya had been a friend that got her through her time as Padawan. Ev, on the other hand, led her through the trials that followed. She too promised herself to reform herself after Ev.

Ev's thoughts were full of Dark Lords: Malak, Revan, and even Darth Bastila. She wondered at her own mysterious past and at her uncertain future. What place was there in the Republic for someone like her?

Carth wasn't thinking of his upcoming promotion, the harrowing battles of their journeys, or even the gold and ribbon award pinned on his jacket. He was thinking of Ev.

The venerated Grand Master of the Jedi Order replaced Chancellor Cressa at the podium. Nomi Sunrider spoke, “I too would like to honor these brave individuals for their actions, on behalf of the Jedi Order, the defenders of peace and keepers of harmony in the galaxy.” Her hazel eyes swept over the noisy crowds before her then settled pointedly on Ev. She continued, “We Jedi have another tale to weave into the rich tapestry of the history of our order: the tale of Revan, the prodigal knight.” At that moment, millions of screens and holos across the galaxy projected Ev's confident face.

“Wherever you all go, you will be known as the heroes of the Republic,” she continued, though remained focused on Ev, “But you must be ever vigilant, for you may be once again called upon to defend the glory of the Republic from evil and tyranny. For that, after all, is the way of the Jedi.”

From the depths of the lower city to the highest towers, Coruscant rang with jubilant cheers.

 

Fin

 

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