When they had set up the rendezvous on Carida, Bobby and the Winchesters had primarily looked for a place where Bobby could dock his ship long-term if need be that would be reasonably close to Myrkr. As it turned out, the place they’d picked was also reasonably close to Alderaan and made a good staging location for a run on Manaan.
Bobby had counted on lots of complications and things going wrong (after all, they were hunting a five-thousand-year-old Sith and he was working with the Winchesters). He worried about the boys not finding all the Runes in time, Sam getting taken by Azazel, problems with planetary authorities, more damage to the Dream, Jedi interference, injuries to himself or the boys or Chevy. He thought if he could take care of himself, the three lizards and the Rune now in his possession, he’d have the bases covered. Of course, he’d thought wrong.
He got the message from the Dream that she was incoming from Alderaan two days after he arrived. Bobby carefully gathered up his medical supplies, a selection of tools and spare parts he’d had on the Womp Rat, and made sure the Rune and ysalimiri were ready for transport by the time the Dream was scheduled to arrive. Everything seemed ok when Chevy contacted him on a secure channel from orbit.
It was a little worrisome that Chevy, and not Sam or Dean had placed the call, but there was no emergency message attached, so he figured maybe Sam and Dean were just busy.
He really should know better.
The real clue was the Dream’s landing. She was coming in hot and reckless. Dean would never treat his beloved ship that way if there was any way he could avoid it. When her boarding ramp lowered before she was even on the ground, Bobby snapped to attention. He had the three lizards on their frames and his bags of supplies on a repulsor sled he had picked up shortly after arriving on-planet. Things were damn useful. The rune was still tucked safely in his pocket. He activated the sled’s controls and began moving it and himself toward the ship.
Dean came careening into view at the top of ramp looking frantic. “Those the ysalimiri? You got the Rune?” Dean asked rapid fire running down to meet Bobby and help him maneuver the sled onto the ramp. At least the boy looked physically more healthy than when Bobby had seen him last.
If Dean was already at the top of the ramp, that meant… “You let Sam fly?” Bobby asked, surprised. Normally Dean didn’t let anyone fly her unless he was, well, unconscious. Dean fiddled with the sled and didn’t answer.
“Wait, that is Sam, up there right, not just Chevy?” Bobby prodded, worried that maybe something had happened to Sam.
Dean just looked at Bobby questioningly, jaw set.
“What? Yes, these are the lizards, and I have the Rune!” Bobby snapped. “Now, you gonna tell me what’s going on?” he called after Dean, who was now pushing the sled up the ram. By the time Bobby reached the top the ramp was closing behind him.
“Need anything else?” Dean asked, gruffly.
“Huh, no?” Bobby shook his head, still waiting for Dean’s reply.
“We’re good, loaded,” Dean called into his comlink, which was clipped to his collar. The Dream immediately ascended and fast. By the time Bobby had collected his thoughts to press the issue again they were already out of atmo.
“Dean, what the hell is going on? Who’s flying?” he tried again, voice firm, as he trailed after Dean, who was pushing the sled towards the cargo hold, the aft-most compartment on the Dream.
“This ok for them?” Dean asked, turning to Bobby acting like he hadn’t heard Bobby’s question. “Do they need special light? Food? Water?”
“That’s fine. The frames give them everything they need,” Bobby answered somewhat testily. “Here,” he said holding out the Rune to Dean. “The old ysalimir is its guardian, get’s cranky when it’s not close by.”
“Oh,” Dean said, surprised. “Let me go get the others, maybe the ysalimiri should guard them all,” he added, turning distractedly and hurrying out of the cargo hold towards the passenger cabins.
Bobby looked after him, pensive. He could just go up to the bridge and look, see who was flying the ship. But he was also afraid of what he’d find there. And something was clearly wrong with Dean! He felt determined to drag it out of him, almost certain Dean needed that, to have to see, to face, to say, whatever it was that had him so spooked. “Dean,” Bobby called after him when he felt the faint shudder and tug of the engines that signaled entering hyperspace.
“Here they are,” Dean said quickly, rushing back towards the cargo hold, three near-identical squares of stone with blue and green patterns at their center clutched tightly, too tightly, in his hands, like the cost to get them had been too steep or the need for them to work and be real was paramount. Dean almost flinched as he placed the three Runes next to the fourth, but calmed again when he looked down at the four together. His eyes seemed to be dancing over each one in turn counting, counting, making sure the number came up the same each time.
The lizards seemed calmer too, relaxing more onto their frames if that was possible, soothed by the reunion of the Runes.
Four. So they had gotten the Rune from Alderaan. But what had happened?
“Dean?” Bobby asked again when Dean was still staring at the runes thirty seconds later. “You wanna tell me what’s wrong?”
“Let me get your bags stowed,” Dean said, bending down and scooping all three of Bobby’s bags—repair, medical, and personal—off the sled. Before Bobby could protest, Dean had darted out of the room, taking the bags with him. So, not doing this the easy way, then, Bobby thought with a sigh, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. He’d known the Winchesters long enough to have seen Dean like this before. Maybe not quite this bad, but close. The boy got spooked, really, really spooked, or got stuck with some call he thought he’d made wrong, some responsibility he thought he’d screwed up and he’d do this. Just clam up, not be able to talk about what was happening, do absolutely anything and everything to make himself useful, all the while just running, fleeing, trying to get way from having to confront the truth. Sometimes, he could be pulled out of it with a little gentle prodding. This was not one of those times. Which left option B.
Bobby followed Dean, not able to stop the boy before he ran into the engine room and carefully deposited Bobby’s bag on the work bench. Next, Dean twisted around and ran into the clinic. Catching up with him at last, Bobby did something he’d done only once before n all the time he’d known the Winchesters, once when the boys were little and John was hurt real bad and Bobby hadn’t wanted them to see. He slapped the wall control and closed the door to the clinic. It shuddered shut with a click of finality, effectively shutting them off from the main corridor and the rest of the ship.
Dean looked up, eyes wide with surprise and fright. He tensed and twitched and looked for all the world like a deer caught in the headlights. “Bobby?” he asked, dumbfounded, almost pleading for release.
Bobby strode forward and took his bags from Dean, quickly popping the med bag on the counter between the rows of supply cabinets and tossing his personal bag—just clothes in it after all—by the door before taking Dean by the shoulders and steering him into one of the fixed swivel seats that surrounded the table. Dean looked scared, timid, his eyes darting around the room, searching for escape. Bobby was tempted to slap him to get his attention, but opted for stern words instead.
“Dean. I am here. We are in hyperspace. You have all four Runes. Now, tell me, who is flying this ship?” he demanded.
Dean’s eyes fixed on Bobby’s finally, the green shiny and glistening with tears. “Sam’s flying,” he stuttered.
“Oh,” Bobby said, momentarily relived. He was tempted to think that everything was all right, but this was the Dream, and well… “Dean, why is Sam flying?”
Dean was silent for a moment and then the floodgates broke, weeks, maybe a lifetime, of tears and stress and regret finally pouring out, rolling down Dean’s cheeks as his shoulders shuddered and his body shook. He looked about six, not twenty six. “It’s Dad,” he began. “We ran into him on Alderaan. He was trying to get the Rune too, he’d gotten our message and was after it, and everything was good.” He smiled weakly.
“We were hunting together, staying together, and we got the Rune and then Azazel showed up—he’s, he’s been gathering people, hostages, he’s going to use them as hosts for his followers, and I think he’s gonna use Sam to make a thought bomb to bring them back. And we tried to stop him, but we couldn’t. And dad was losing it, because he’s so scared of losing Sammy. Especially ‘cause Azazel turned to Sam and said ‘see you soon.’ So Dad—went after him. He took the Folly and left and ordered me to keep Sam away, to get the four Runes together so we could stop Azazel—and I let him. I let him go Bobby…” Dean trailed off, breaking into shuddering gasps.
Stunned, Bobby pulled Dean to his chest, crouching in front of him so Dean could stay seated. Unsure of what he could do to really help, he started patting Dean’s back, trying to soothe him like he was still a small child. “You couldn’t have stopped him, Dean,” he said. “John gets it in his mind he’s gonna do something, he does it. You know that.”
Dean froze, pulled back, rigid.
“Bobby, I think he’s gonna sacrifice himself, try to take Sammy’s place. I mean, he’d have to be Force-sensitive for that to work, but I think he might be… enough anyway… and either way, he’s gonna get himself killed. And we won’t get there in time.” He shuddered again. “I can feel it in my gut, Bobby, like doom baring down on me, I’m gonna lose one of them—” his voice cracked, tears returning anew, “maybe both… and,” he was barely audible over his own gasps at this point, “and Sammy didn’t want to let him go, tried to stop him, said we were stronger together, and Dad said he had to save us, and, and I agreed. Said he could go… Sam was so mad. He’s furious and anxious and wants to get to Manaan so fast, he’s pushing the Dream, Bobby, and doing stuff with the Force, and I think I fucked up, and they’re my family, and I don’t want to lose them. I don’t want to fail!” he sobbed and pleaded, allowing himself to fall forward onto Bobby.
“Shh, shh,” Bobby tried, hating himself for being so trite.
“I c’n feel something bad is gonna happen; I just know it,” Dean protested, around heaving sobs. “Miss’Ouri said there’s a Healer in the prophecy who has the power to stop things, who can help the Chosen One resist, who will come when the Chosen One needs ‘em, but I think that’s just made up. Not gonna happen. It’s there to make us think this isn’t futile, but it is, and I’m gonna lose Sam, and Dad, and the whole universe is gonna die…” Dean carried on.
“I don’t put much stock in prophecies, boy,” Bobby growled into Dean’s ear. “And I thought neither did you,” he let that sink in, feeling Dean calm a little. “You just gonna give up without a fight?”
“N-no,” Dean admitted, pulling back to wipe at his eyes.
“Here,” Bobby said, rising and returning with a cloth. You get yourself cleaned up here, and I’ll go see if I can pry Sam off the controls before he huts her.”
Dean nodded, “ok.” Then, sheepishly, “Thanks, Bobby.”
“Welcome,” Bobby said. He stopped at the door, turning over his shoulder as it opened, “You want this open or closed?”
“Open,” Dean affirmed.
Bobby nodded and headed to the bridge. Sure enough, there was Sam in the pilot’s chair, looking wide-eyed and angry, levers moving and displays changing on the console without him even touching them.
Chevy was over in her usual spot just to the right of the co-pilot’s chair looking afraid for her life.
“Sam,” Bobby said gently, flinching himself when Sam didn’t flinch at his sudden appearance.
“You got the Rune and the lizards?” Sam asked, voice somewhere between cold and fearful.
“Yes,” he confirmed. “Now, how ‘bout you turn over the controls and go sort your head out,” he added sternly. “You’ve got your brother terrified and upset, and I know you’re pissed off and scared, and afraid for your daddy, but you gotta let it go. You can’t blame this on your brother. They’re both just scared and trying to protect you.”
“I don’t need protecting,” Sam said tightly.
“Sam, we all need protecting,” Bobby said as he eased himself into the co-pilot’s chair, sliding his hands over the console. “Everyone does. And the people who care about us need to protect us. I know you feel like you should handle this yourself, but the people who care about you feel the same way, they’re trying to handle things themselves too, and it’s not easy to let someone you love walk into danger. That’s all your daddy was feeling. And your brother, well, you two damn fools have gone and put him in the middle again, so he feels like he’s gotta protect everyone and nothing he does works.”
Sam finally gave out a deflated sigh. “I just want to get there in time! If he’d just waited…”
“We have no idea what would have happened. Did ya ever think maybe the Sith lord wants you pissed off and chasing after him like this?”
“No,” Sam admitted with a defeated sigh.
“Well, don’t beat yourself up over it. Why don’t you and your idjit brother go get some rest so you’ll be worth something when we do get there?” Bobby suggested.
“Ok,” Sam agreed, starting to rise from his chair. “I’m gonna go see if the lizards work, first,” he insisted before storming off toward the rear of the ship. “Cargo hold, right?” he asked.
“Yep,” Bobby nodded, sharing an exasperated look with Chevy. He could have said he knew they worked, ‘cause of the Rune, or just suggest it might not be wise for Sam to try popping into a Force-free bubble when he was so worked up, but Bobby knew there was no reasoning with Sam right now.
Sure enough, about thirty seconds later, Sam came tearing around the corner from the cargo hold and darted into the ‘fresher next to the clinic, Bobby observed. The sounds of retching immediately followed.
Dean popped out of the clinic door, looking a little less puffy-eyed, but now completely alarmed, and rushed to Sam’s side in concern.
Sam emerged a minute later, Dean in tow, and turned to Bobby where he was still watching from the bridge. “They work,” Sam said, blood still drained from his face. “And I don’t think I’m gonna be trying that any more than necessary… felt like they took part of me away,” Sam said, greenly.
Dean was looking him over with concern.
“Why don’t you two go rest?” Bobby suggested again.
The brothers nodded in agreement, and headed forward to their cabin.
Bobby watched after them wistfully. “Let’s just hope we can get there in time,” he said softly to Chevy, and she gave a low whistle in agreement.
As the Folly emerged from hyperspace in the Pyrshak system, John couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he’d made a mistake. Maybe he should have listened to Sam and stayed with him and Dean on Alderaan, met up with Bobby on Carida, and then come here together with the lizards and the four runes and played their best hand.
But that was just it, if he’d stayed with his sons, that was their only hand. And it felt way, way too risky. Like betting everything because you had Pure Sabacc and finding out house rules say the Idiot’s Array trumps all, and the slimy Hutt bastard lounging across from you’s got one. At least this way, if he failed, Sam and Dean would still have another shot. And maybe, just maybe, he could save all those people Azazel had taken.
He wasn’t particularly surprised to see empty space around him. The Queen’s Yacht was simply a faster ship, had access to top-of-the line parts and newer modifications with which even John’s skill and connections couldn’t compete. For all John knew, Darth Azazel was using the Force to make the thing fly even faster. But sure enough, the Folly picked up the hyperspace distortion within moments. Azazel was already here.
Figuring out where wasn’t particularly difficult, either. Manaan was a water planet, and its amphibious sentient inhabitants, the Selkath, lived in cities on the ocean floor. The only structure or land on its surface was the long-abandoned Ahto city, a relic of an earlier age when Manaan had been one of the most important trade hubs in the galaxy, fought over in wars, coveted like a prized trophy. But times had changed and when Manaan’s precious kolto fell out of favor for Bacta, the Selkath had abandoned the city, which had been maintained solely for the benefit of their visitors. Now, it stood like an isolated beacon on a stormy sea, blinding white and pure both literal and figurative—that had taken up residence within it’s borders.
Circling the city, John could see the yacht had been set down on one of a number of landing pads. Figuring the Sith Lord knew he was coming, and not wanting to waste any more time than was absolutely necessary, John set the Folly down one landing pad away.
“Keep her prepped and ready to leave,” he called over his shoulder to the computer as he paused at the top of the boarding ramp waiting for it to finish lowering, suddenly hit by a pang of nostalgia that made him want to run around the ship and take her all in—every strut, every bolt, every wire and spring, every chip, all maintained and improved and put together by him and his sons. He didn’t know why it happened, but as he heard the chime of acknowledgement from the bridge, he ran his hand lovingly over the bulkhead before stepping out into the unknown.
The landing pad felt strange. It was quiet, and the air felt stale with disuse even though the pad itself was open to the atmosphere and looked out over the sprawling ocean. There were no clerks, no customs agents, no working computers visible anywhere. Just curving, arching white walls, and the dead echo of emptiness. It was everything a landing pad or spaceport should never be.
John was relieved when he found the door leading from his landing pad opened without too much protest admitting him into a long, white, curved corridor with an arched roof and smooth walls. He followed it in the direction of the Queen’s Yacht, and paused before pressing the control to open the door. Taking a deep breath he pressed the control… and the door opened to reveal an all-but-deserted landing pad. The yacht was there all right, but she was empty. It was just too quiet for anyone to be there. John could have entered and checked it out, after all, the boarding ramp was still extended, but he knew there was nothing for him to find there, so it wasn’t worth the waste of time or energy.
Feeling the let-down of a small adrenaline crash, he hit the control to close the door and continued down the corridor. They had to be here somewhere, didn’t they? He’d test every door in the entire abandoned city if he had to (he really hoped he wouldn’t have to). There was nothing in the next two doors either, and John recalled not having seen anything on the landing pads that corresponded to those doors on his descent.
However, come to think of it, next to these landing pads had been a covered pad, really more of a hangar, open at the mouth so small ships could fly in and out, but with a roof overhead for most of the structure. He hadn’t noticed anything there while he’d been landing, but then again, he really couldn’t see very far into it. Somehow, he knew this is where he would find Azazel and his hostages. Steadying himself, John hit the control—and was greeted with one of the most disturbing sights he had ever witnessed.
Darth Azazel stood near the open mouth of the hangar-style docking bay, back to the water, arrayed around him in six arcing rows of eleven each, the sixty-six hostages knelt faces upturned towards Azazel, expressions ranging from blank terror to hateful grimace. It was a pretty safe bet they weren’t kneeling of their own accord; some were clearly trying to strain against the Sith Lord’s presence, but weren’t doing more than tensing some tendons and causing themselves a lot of pain.
“John, how nice of you to join us!” Azazel’s voice broke out over the crowd. He was still possessing the same Minister he’d been in since he’d escaped Onderon with the diplomatic task force from Naboo, but he’d swapped out the pompous ministerial garb for military cut pants and jacket augmented by a long, sweeping cape. “We were waiting for you to get started, couldn’t have you missing the preparations for the main act.” Azazel leered, his yellow eyes piercing John, unsettling him.
“Let them go, Azazel. They didn’t do anything to you. You want to enact your sick prophecy, do it without them. They’re just civilians,” John pleaded, taking a few hesitant steps into the hangar.
The rows of hostages were arranged so the path between him and Azazel was clear. He was flanked on both sides by uncomfortably kneeling faux-devotees, but nothing blocked his path. He was so close, maybe he could stab Azazel, or strangle him, or try to get off another shot… John pulled himself back together, recognizing an uncomfortable tickle at the edge of his awareness that he’d felt a few times before. The Sith was trying to manipulate him, lure him into doing something stupid. Well, John wasn’t going to play that game. He stopped in his path and held up his hand in supplication. “Stop. Let them go.”
“Ahh, you’ve started to learn, John, only not fast enough. Your older son figured it out a long time ago. He told you. What they’re for, why they’re important. You didn’t listen to him, did you?” Azazel taunted, turning a nauseating smile on John. It was too big, lips spread so wide it looked more like a sick caricature than an expression of pleasure.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me?” John guessed, standing his ground.
“Well, as you know, about five thousand years ago, sixty-six of my followers were killed and their souls were trapped in at Thought Bomb that was subsequently hidden in the Dark Side, and there were three Jedi who broke their vows and used the Dark Side, became aggressors and perpetrated this heinous and unspeakable act. At their superior’s bidding, of course,” Azazel began.
“Well, as it turns out, in order to get my faithful, my comrades, out of their eternal tomb of torment, I have to make another thought bomb, but since there’s just one of me, instead of the three or more it usually takes, I have to take some extra steps to make it work. Nothing much, just a little mass human sacrifice, a little chanting, some rituals. These sixty-six guests are going to give up their life force to kick it all off, and,” he said holding up his finger in triumph, “as an added bonus their bodies will make lovely hosts for my faithful. Not to mention, there are twenty-two taken from each of the three planets those traitorous Jedi hailed from, but then again, if you paid any attention to your son instead of always thinking about yourself, you’d know that, John.”
John felt sick. Dean had told him. He’d just used that as justification to rescue the hostages, he hadn’t really thought about what it meant in the big picture. Like how was he planning on getting the hostages to safety? How was he planning on convincing a Sith Lord to abandon his five-thousand year old grudge and not exacting revenge, when half or more of John’s motivation for being here was revenge? How did he think he was going to convince the Sith to just skip some important parts of his plan and let these people go, not do the rituals he needed? Honestly, John hadn’t. He’d only been thinking of what he could do to save and free Sam. And if he’d been thinking a little more clearly, he would have realized that even if he offered himself in Sam’s place, that wasn’t gonna do squat for these civilians.
“Ahh, good, John. Now you begin to understand. You never had a clue how you were going to save these people. Oh, but you gave some of them such false hope! You just thought you could offer yourself up and I’d jump. You never thought about where you fit in all this, so you just stormed in, and now I get to reap the rewards.” Azazel concluded his rant and raised his hand higher.
The air around John began to buzz and seemed to take on a purple-ish hue. In front of him the Sith Lord began chanting quietly, then gaining in volume, in some language John did not recognize. Around him, the people began to wail and moan, their bodies stretched and distorted in agony as the life seemed to drain out of them. That was exactly what Darth Azazel was doing, John realized. Draining the life out of the hostages. Not zapping them with bolts of lightning or crushing their bodies by slamming them into the walls with the Force. Just taking away their essence, sucking them dry, forcing their souls to leave, and taking in all of their energy, making himself more powerful in the process.
John rushed a young woman he recognized from Naboo and dropped to one knee beside her. He tried to open her mouth wider, see if he could help her breathe. Breathing wasn’t the problem, apparently. She was panting, but all the oxygen in the world wouldn’t save her. He tried tugging on her, pulling her from the room, but she seemed rooted to the spot, stuck at the knees to the floor of the hangar, unable to move or be moved.
“I am so sorry. Sorry I failed you,” John said to her, as she collapsed to the floor. Never had he felt like a bigger failure. All around him, the sound of sixty-five more flops echoed, adding perverse, sickening sound to the otherwise silent city.
Still on one knee, John turned to face Azazel. He seemed brighter, bigger, somehow, full and puffed out like a fly after a particularly satisfying meal. The air around him seemed to shimmer with power, with the Dark Side.
“Ahh, that’s better,” Azazel quipped. “So much more efficient than lightning bolts or some of the other foolish tricks we try. Just take their life. It gives you a boost and doesn’t leave any nasty marks or injuries on their bodies.” He stopped speaking again and instead closed his eyes.
John couldn’t tell what was happening at first, an seeing the semi-opportunity (temptation) of the Sith with his eyes closed, he began to rush him, drawing his knife from it’s hilt on his thigh—it was engraved with sigils that offered protection against the Dark Side—and running forward. For a moment, he tasted victory, he was only a step from Azazel, when a gust of wind slammed into him like a duracrete wall, sending John flying across the room and slamming into the far wall.
He struck high, almost hitting the curved junction between wall and ceiling before sliding to the ground with a sickening thud. He struggled to his feet, relieved that nothing felt broken—bruised and bloodied, he’d even cut his leg with his knife as he’d been tossed, but not broken—but discovered he couldn’t get far.
Gale-force winds were swirling around the room now, funneling through the open mouth of the hangar, whipping up salt water from the ocean, and pulling in stale air and debris from inside the abandoned city and sending it spinning, slamming into everything, swirling like a cyclone, around and around and faster and faster and up and up crating a maelstrom of the Force around John.
He managed to stagger a few steps at a time, but even dropping to his knees and trying to pull himself along the floor towards Azazel hand over hand, didn’t work well. Every few seconds, something—a datapad, an old rusted cleaning droid, a body, a shoe, a brick, anything and everything not bolted down was being hurled at him at top speed. Impact after impact leaving bruises and knocking him to the deck. Still he struggled on. He was going to stop Azazel. Somehow. Maybe if he could interrupt the ritual or get Azazel to decide to kill him before he was done, maybe that way John could win, even if it would be a pyrrhic victory.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The projectiles dropped, the bodies settled, the winds stilled, and the howling stopped. The landing bay was left littered and strewn with bodies, chunks of wall paneling torn away curled up and discarded like waste paper exposing cavernous scars and twisted wires underneath. Azazel’s chanting stopped, and he looked even more powerful than before.
John had to do something now, or he’d never have another chance.
“Take me,” John gasped, panting through the pain. “Let Sam go. Let my SON go. Take me instead.” He staggered to his feet feeling every blow Darth Azazel’s force storm had hurled at him. John tried not to look at the crumpled bodies of Azazel’s innocent captives that were strewn around him… sixty-six innocent people killed to fulfill this monster’s sick plan. John felt for their families, he wanted to give them all proper funeral rights, make sure their souls were at peace, but he had a feeling there was no real hope of that given Azazel’s intentions.
“So, you think that sacrificing yourself, giving yourself to me, is going to save your son?” Darth Azazel said with a growling leer. His host’s face contorting into a grimace that sent shudders down John’s spine.
“That’s what you need, right, you need someone to power your damn thought bomb so that you can bring your friends back into the mortal realm? Well, take me. I’ll suffer for eternity. Just let my son go. Let both of them go,” he spat, his voice wavering with the mention of his sons. John recognized he was pleading, begging a Dark Lord of the Sith, but the pain he felt, the fear of losing his sons, of seeing them die while he still lived, the thought of failing Mary— It was too much. He would do anything. Anything at all if he thought it would save his sons. Consequences be damned! He wasn’t going to let the Sith take everything in his life from him. He spat, blood and phlegm that had dripped into his throat spraying against the pristine, grey-white wall.
“You realize you have to be force-sensitive for a thought bomb to work on you,” Azazel said coldly.
For a moment, John froze, all this time he’d wondered, he was pretty sure, no he was absolutely sure. He knew what fueled those “hunches” and “feelings” he got that had made him such a good hunter over the years. He knew that it was him that had rattled all that silverware at Miss’Ouri’s, not her. He’d hid it; kept it secret. He didn’t trust Jedi—ironic yes, since he’d spent time in the Support Corps—but taking kids away from their families, raising people without family ties, teaching them to eschew attachment, John just couldn’t accept that as being right or good, no matter how much they were supposedly champions of the light. But still, if his being Force-sensitive could save his sons, no matter the torment and torture that would follow thereafter, he would acknowledge it, accept it, use it as a defense. Drawing himself up to his full height, right arm releasing his battered, screaming, broken ribs, he said, “I know.”
“So be it, Jedi,” the Sith Lord spat. John got the sense that he wasn’t the first man to hear those words while about to suffer at the hands of a Dark Lord of the Sith and he certainly wouldn’t be the last. “I should let you know,” Darth Azazel continued, “that this is exactly what I was hoping for, you sacrificing yourself, it’s the key to me opening the door, and I’ve wanted to open that door for so, so long. You, John are the Key. Always have been, you just didn’t know it. You’ve been playing into my hands the whole time. You should have listened to your boys.” Azazel let slip a maniacal chuckle. “And this way, I get to use Sammy for other things.”
John’s eyes went wide. He could sense the truth in Azazel’s words, but at the same time, Mary’s voice and image flashed into his mind, calming him, soothing him. The words from his dream drifting through his mind, Keep the boys alive and together John and the universe will work itself out as it should. She had such faith, such confidence and surety. He had never doubted his wife, and he wasn’t about to doubt her now. Whatever Azazel thought he was going to do by taking John’s life, maybe it would work, but maybe the universe had other plans. He did not show fear. He met the Sith Lord’s unnatural, glowing, yellow eyes and held his gaze, daring the Sith to do it already.
“Well, too late for you to change your mind now,” Azazel sneered, raising his hand.
John felt a momentary flash, and then searing pain as his body (and probably half the wall around him was vaporized. He prayed his boys were well outside the radius of the blast, and then his soul was trapped, drifting, twisting, drenched in the terrors of the Dark Side.
The Dream was just entering the Pyrshak system coming out of hyperspace when Sam nearly passed out.
“NOOOO!” Sam cried, falling to his knees, eyes wide as if watching some unspeakable scene unfold before him.
Dean was about to ask what was wrong, Bobby was already dashing to Sam’s side, and Chevy was trundling over to investigate, but at the same moment a huge distortion wave burst outward from the surface of Manaan, the force of it tossing the Dream around like a leaf. Dean was almost thrown from his seat, his death grip on the console the only thing keeping him upright. Chevy was tossed to the side slamming against the bulkhead with an undignified squeal. Bobby almost fell onto Sam, who seemed to have momentarily completely lost control of himself, but managed to fall in such a way that they were both protected from the worst of the jostling.
“What the hell was that?” Bobby croaked from the floor, where he was still cradling a shaking Sam.
“Dad, he killed Dad.”
Dean’s blood froze. He turned from the Dream’s viewport to face Sam despite the danger the Dream faced by being tossed off course.
“The disturbance in the Force… it was a Thought Bomb! It was meant for me, and now Dad’s dead, we’re too late. It’s all too late,” Sam babbled, his voice hoarse and lost, tears flowing from his unseeing eyes.
Dean’s stomach turned and he nearly fell from his seat. His mind was screaming, No, no, it can’t be, it’s not real, just a dream; Sammy’s just having a dream, but he knew, knew with a bone-chilling certainty, that Sammy was sure. Sam hadn’t just felt the disturbance in the Force—which had apparently been strong enough to physically toss their ship around—but Dean knew that Sam had actually seen their father die in a vision before his eyes. Thought bombs vaporize people, rip their skin from the bones and turn them to dust before trapping their soul in a ball of dark energy for all eternity, Miss’Ouri’s words returned to him.
Dean leaned forward over the side of his chair and vomited, the meager contents of his stomach forming a pool of sickly yellow on the Dream’s bridge. Under other circumstances he would be cringing for defiling his baby, his dear ship, but right now, all that he could think about was that his father was dead. Not just dead, but vaporized and being tormented by the Dark Side. And his brother had seen it.
He ignored the gentle voice calling his name. His eyes were swimming with tears and his hands were shaking.
“Dean,” Bobby’s voice said again, this time more insistent.
Dean raised his head to look at Bobby, who had now pulled himself up to his knees. He looked shaken, was shaking, and was holding Sam more or less in a sitting position. Sam still seemed to be lost in his vision.
“We need to get down there. Can you still fly? Is the Dream OK?” Bobby inquired gently.
“What?” Dean was going to ask, how can you even think about that? My father just died!
“We have a job to finish, your father would want you to finish it,” Bobby said, obviously choked up.
Dean looked at Sam, desperate to go to his brother, to hold onto the last surviving member of his family. But Bobby just shook his head.
“I’ve got him, Dean,” Bobby said. “Land this ship. Take us in safe. We’ve got a big fight ahead of us.”
“OK,” Dean said, shakily, nodding. “Chevy, wanna give me a hand,” he said to the little droid who was hovering on the sidelines, turning her dome from Dean to Sam and back again.
She trilled a mournful whistle, and rolled to Dean’s side.
His hands were shaking so badly he could barely punch in the necessary corrections to get the Iriaz Dream back on course and headed for the docking port of Ahto City. But soon they were lined up for the approach. He could see smoke rising from one of the causeways on the abandoned floating city, That’s where Dad just died, he realized with a shudder. He could do this, he had to do this. The universe was depending on them.
As the Dream was touching down on the landing pad, Sam began to stir from the near-catatonic state he had been in since they entered the system.
“Dad, he’s gone,” Sam choked out, sitting up under his own steam at last. He turned his big, mournful eyes to Dean. “He was trying to protect us. To save me,” Sam sniffed. “And I didn’t deserve it! If he’d just listened, waited…” “But Azazel, he’s using the thought bomb to tear open the Force. It’s just like you said Dean, he’s using this thought bomb to pull the other one out. He’s trying to let out all of the old Sith… it’s an army! And Dad’s soul is going to take their place!” Sam shouted, scrambling to his feet.
“I’m sorry Sammy,” Dean said, feeling like he’d failed his brother, failed his father, for not getting them there soon enough to derail Darth Azazel’s plan.
“We have to go now Dean, there’s still time. We might not be able to save Dad, but we can still stop him. Stop him from opening the rift. If we don’t…”
The Sith will cut across the galaxy with the full power of the Dark Side at their backs, the universe will be shifted out of balance, and we’ll all die, Dean’s mind supplied. “Ok, we’ll go, but Sammy, are you sure you’re OK? I mean, he’s a Sith Lord, and you’ve never been trained…” And you’re all I have left, Sammy, I can’t lose you too!
“We have to go Dean, it’s like Dad taught us. We have the knowledge, we’ve got to use it to save people,” Sam said with a sad half-smile. “I’ll be OK, we’ve got to at least try.”
The determination in his little brother’s voice, stilled Dean’s fears. He could do this. They could do this. Deal with the fallout, the pain of losing Dad later. Now he had to be strong for his brother.
Master Post | Part 17 | Part 19