A lone figure walked amongst the hollow graves and tombstones that told a thousand tales of horror, happiness or grief. The figure cared not for the others, but was in search of one particular marker. That marker was one he visited every year, on the same day, at the same time.
It wasn't monotony or redundancy; it was because he cherished whom he sought. The one he looked for had been a special person in his life. That person had taught him to how to live and how to care. That person had told him he was something special destined for greater things than what he had going at the time. That person that figure of leadership was his twin sister.
Mike "Wolf" Kern had seen her die. The Imps had slaughtered her in a show of force... because of him. Mike had been a slicer with CorSec when he privately hacked the Imperial Intelligence Corp. on Corellia. He had pulled several detailed schematics of the new Imperial TIE "Avenger" fighter. When the Imperials had found its precious plans stolen, they traced it back to his home. When they found only his sister, Cerah Kern, they killed her rather than wait for reprisal...
Distant blaster fire was common on Corellia's more darkened streets. The place had turned into a smuggler's dream house when the Old Republic fell. The lowlifes snuck in and out of Corellia almost without a hitch; killing and taking whomever, or whatever, they wanted.
However, now was an even darker time than that had been. Now it was the Empire that threatened Corellia. Stormtroopers marched through the streets and patrolled the alleyways. They were ruthless, and merciless, killers of the night. Shots in the dark were constantly heard and tonight was no different.
Ozone deposits shot through the night air five times as Mike returned home. Almost as an afterthought, Mike wondered if the home in which he lived had been robbed again. No, he thought. Cerah's there. She'd blast them to Drall and back. The image of his sister using lethal force almost made him shudder because Cerah was a more peaceful girl. She hardly even yelled at anyone for that matter.
Suddenly, as he neared his dwelling, he smelled burned duracrete and plasteel. Not usual for this part of the town, he thought again. Upping his walk to a brisk one, Mike hurried into an alley that would lead toward the back of his house. No sense in taking chances right?
Then he saw them. Five of them. Stormtroopers. They were just leaving... his house!
Instinctively reaching for his smaller Deringer Hold-Out blaster that he kept hidden in a pocket in his pants, Mike kept to the shadows and worked his way up to the one story plasteel building that had been his home for years.
Blaster holes, lots of them, were adorning every orifice that opened to the outside. Windows, doors, skylights and even parts of walls, were kicked in by white-booted feet; accompanied by blackened remains of hinges and wooden stoppers.
Then, the troopers were gone. Mike hurriedly climbed through a window and landed almost immediately on broken glass. His dark eyes flicked from one side of the house to the other, searching for any movement whatsoever. Movement of a trooper or... oh god Cerah!
Determined that all the troopers were gone he called out her name. No answer followed as he called again. Then he saw the blaster they kept for protection and it had not even been taken out of its casing. She had not used it... or couldn't use it.
"Cerah!" he called again with quickly growing panic in his wavering voice. Tears stung his eyes as he called out again unsuccessfully. He threw open the door that led to his basement and vaulted as many steps as he could before landing up on the cold, hard duracrete floor below.
"Cerah, answer me!" he yelled again. Then, almost inaudible, came a slow moan from behind some crates used for storage. Then something else... burned flesh was in the air. "Cerah!"
Running to where the crates were, he quickly set to work throwing them out of the way. He had almost made it to the wall when he found her. She was lying, half-naked, on the floor. Blood was at her mouth and blaster burns adorned her young body. She had been raped and beaten, almost to death.
Reaching his sister, Mike took of his dark trench coat and threw it around her bare shoulders. Wrapping his arms around her, Mike held her close as the light of life drained from her eyes. "Cerah... don't die..."
She reached up and stroked his cheek with her hand. Then, impossibly, she smiled. "I have to Mikey, there's nothing left for me to do... you have been destined for much greater things than I..."
"How could they do this to you!" Mike yelled. Then, his leg banged into the case that adorned his right side. His laptop computer. His slicing tool. Suddenly his face grew pale as he remembered what he'd done. "Oh Cerah... I'm sorry!" She smiled again and laid her head against his shoulder as he held her.
Mike couldn't help it anymore, he began to cry as she squeezed his arm. "Don't... you'll only make me sadder to leave Mike." Mike shook his head, not wanting to let the truth burrow its way into his heart. "No..."
"Listen to me," she wheezed, pulling his face close to hers. "I've helped guide you during life... here," she coughed up a spell of blood but still reached in her pocket to withdraw a pendent. On it was a silver/gold diamond-shaped locket. "Now I can after death..."
Mike opened the clasp and Cerah's shining image glowed inside the diamond. "How can I make sure I'm doing what's right... you always helped me know?" Again, she smiled.
"You'll know. You always have."
She began to shudder and he held her tighter, quieting her. He didn't want to see her die like this. Not lying in a pool of blood made by the blasted Empire! She deserved more than that, and it was all his fault. All his!
Her eyes began to waver and he knew she was dying. For the last time he hugged her and kissed her on the forehead whispering "I love you sis," as she did said the same about him. Then she was gone forever...
Mike had never, and will never, forgive himself for allowing his actions to fall upon his loved ones. Mike and his sister had been only sixteen, but she had already shown him wisdom much beyond her years. She had given him a locket with her hologram in it as a reminder that she would always watch out for him. She still does, lying against his chest under his somewhat dirty jumpsuit.
Mike raised the locket from its resting-place and held it up to his eyes. He saw the vision of sister emerge from the opened locket and stare at him with her cool blue eyes. Those eyes were forever watching him; guiding him and telling him what was wrong or right. He never questioned her then, nor would he now.
Rubbing his hands along several other headstones he followed the path to her un-unique grave sight. It wasn't stand out or special looking, but to him, it was everything. Mike reached the grayish-blue slab and bent to one knee to read the engraving once again:
"Cerah Kern Beloved Sister and Daughter Cherish all forever, for that is all we have"
Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, Mike sat down next to the mound of gently swaying grass that marked her final resting-place. He rested his arms on his knees and looked up at the night sky. Above he could make out the outlines of several Imperial-Class Star Destroyers.
Corellia was held prisoner by an evil that refused to be vanquished. Mike had run from Corellia with his friend, Jana Ruisi, to the Alliance. Now even she, she who he had intended to marry, was gone. Mike had lost so much, but he found within himself the urge to return to his sister this day and serve her memory as he had for years on end.
"Aye Cerah... You were right. You always were." Mike looked down at his locket again. The golden, diamond-shaped treasure glittered with the slight rain drizzle that had started to fall. The shimmering ornament glowed with a beauty that was as pure as Cerah's heart had been, as it still was.
"You always did look out for me. Now that you're gone I... I sometimes don't know exactly which route to take. I know you had told me to take the path that I felt was right... but... it was always right because you helped guide me there. Things have changed so much over the past two years that I wonder if you are smiling at me or frowning at me..."
Mike stifled a slight chuckle. He knew he must look awfully strange, standing alone and talking to ghosts, but not that strange. Corellia's dreary atmosphere only seemed to serve as an instigator to his mood. The ruins of his past life seemed so distant now that Mike had to do this just to get a renewed sense of reality. She was dead and he realized that. That was something that would never change. Something that could change was his sense of mortality. This visit was one that would put that on the strait and narrow once again.
Mike patted at the reinforced thigh pocket that held his personal laptop computer. That was his ticket in and out, but it also was one of the reasons that had gotten Cerah killed. Leaning his back against the hard marble tombstone, Mike sighed deeply. "This damned existence seems so unfair at times. I hope you're at peace... I couldn't bear the thought of you suffering any more. You did that enough because of me. Never again will I involve my friends in one of my stupid ventures. If it brings death, I want it only on me... no one else."
The Corellian pilot looked back up at the stars again as a single tear streaked down his cheek. The water speckle caught on the scar at the corner of his mouth, a reminder of Hoth's bloody massacre. A reminder of the last time he saw Jana. A reminder of how another loved one was lost perhaps because of him. "I-I'm so sorry Cerah..."
Mike wiped the tears from his eyes and, turning around to face her grave, placed the blue and red flowers he had brought with him against the grave's marble marker. "These were always your favorite... Remember Cerah?" Mike smiled and sniffed back another jolt of sorrow. "You used to chide me about my color-blindness and how I had mixed these up with Poison Chirioke. I'll never forget that, never."
The happy times he thought of broke down the last of the defenses he had against the sadness welling up in him. He threw himself upon her grave and pressed his face into his sleeve... and cried. The tears of life that sprung from the memory of his sister's violent death fell into great lakes in his forearms. The rain had increased so he made little difference to the grass being soaked.
He sat up, mud spraying up his sleeve and shoulders, suppressing his mood further. Wiping his face clear of tears again, muddying his face in the process, Mike stood up. "I do know that you would have liked Jana though... but now she's gone too. I-I loved her Cerah. I know I did. The Empire took her from me like they did you. And now... now I carry her with you."
Mike opened his locket again and turned it to see the image of Jana Ruisi standing, looking at him. Her dark eyes and quiet passion made Mike close his eyes again, closing the diamond-shaped ornament. "I vow to you both this: I'll make them pay for every sister taken from every brother and every love taken from every heart. This much I promise, and I'll do it without risking another's life. Only my own. Shall I join you both soon; odds are that I will. But what use have I for odds?"
The snowspeeder flew low over the snow toward where the lumbering AT-ATs were setting up for their attack on station 3-87. Their flight group's designation was simple: buy time for the escaping Rebel Transports.
Mike gripped at the controls as the first came into view. His gunner, Jana Ruisi, fed him the coordinates for attack vectors. "Closest is two klicks out, 3 o'clock." Mike acknowledged her and thumbed on his blaster cannons. I have a really bad feeling about this, he thought.
At 1.5 klicks out, the pilot let loose a barrage of cannon fire from the snowspeeder's blasters. The AT-AT's armor didn't even dent, but the thing's huge head did turn and did fire at them! "Going evasive!" Mike warned his partner. The Corellian kicked the speeder into a quick 90 degree turn and dodged the searing blasts that came from the walker's head-mounted laser cannons. Then, he jerked the craft back around and headed back in. "Jana, ready with those grenades?"
"Yeah. Anytime you're ready, just give the order." Mike nodded and concentrated on the tricky maneuver. He had to fly beneath the huge beat's legs and fire the grenades from below, hitting the soft armor underneath. Coming in from behind, the snowspeeder cruised low over the landscape as it approached its targets. "Steady Jana..." Mike warned.
Then he had to go. The speeder bucked to the right and shot between the thing's four legs. "Let'er go!" With the sound of escaping gas and proton backfiring, the grenades launched from their rear-mounted guns and hit their target dead-on.
The AT-AT's underside glowed red as the explosives caught it. The several explosions that followed blew the gyros for the legs out and the AT-AT fell... toward them!
"Uh-oh! Mike, get us out of here!" Mike looked back in horror as the AT-AT toppled on top of them. Then the speeder took a hit. "Flight control's out! I can't maneuver!"
"6 get out of there, now!" Mike frantically tried to steer clear of the falling walker but it struck the snowspeeder in the back. With a cry from Jana, the back instruments blew up and the speeder spun end-over-end, eventually crashing into the snow banks. Mike shook his vision clear and popped the canopy. Reaching behind him, he shook Jana on the shoulder. No response. "Oh no..." he cried. Unbuckling her crash webbing, Mike hefted her small frame out of the speeder's cockpit. Her face bloody and her eyes lifeless, Jana hung limp in his arms.
He checked her pulse. Feint, but there. Mike reached for his wrist communicator. "Echo 6 to Echo base! I'm down and I have a seriously injured gunner!" Echo base crackled back online. "No time for rescue 6. Get out of there!" No, I can't leave her!
He couldn't bear to leave his friend to the Imps. He had lost his sister to them already, how could he lose her too? Mike pulled off her helmet and brushed the hair off her face. Then, her eyes slowly opened.
"Jana!" She opened and closed her mouth several times before she spoke. "Go... get out of here. Leave me here, you'll only get yourself killed if you stay." Mike shook his head. How could this happen, again?!
"I won't leave you Jana. I watched my sister die like this. I won't let you die too." She smiled and kissed him. "Don't worry about me. Please... go! I couldn't bear the thought of you dying here on this cold, wretched world too..." He hung his head. He knew she was right, he had to go.
"I'll find you, I promise. We'll be together again." She smiled and looked into his eyes. "I know..." Then she passed out from the pain her wounds were causing. The Imperial troopers were in the distance as Mike wrapped her in a self-warming blanket and set her in the speeder. Then, he left her behind...
"Jana!" Mike woke up with a start. Cold sweat beaded from his forehead and stung his eyes. Breathing in deep coughs and sobs, Mike realized where he was: aboard the CRS Liberty, part of Corsair Squadron, months after Hoth. Beneath him, his sleeping cot felt soft and inviting. He wanted to sleep more, but he knew he couldn't. Rinsing his face in the sink that he shared with another pilot, Mike woke himself fully awake.
That had been so long ago. He had left Jana there and now he didn't know where she was. Everyone told him that she was probably dead, killed by the Imperials. Still, Mike held onto the hope that she was alive and that he would find her some day. Some day...
Reaching beneath his shirt, Mike withdrew the locket he had around his neck. He opened it and saw the glowing images of the two women that had cared for the most: Jana, his fiancÚ, and Cerah, his sister.
"Yes... I will find you Jana, and when I do we'll be together forever." Mike sighed and looked out his quarter's viewport, at the stars. Somewhere among them Cerah was watching him, guiding him. "I know you're listening Cerah so let me ask you: Am I right in this fight? Should I even be here?"
Then, a star in the distance twinkled brighter than before. Corellia's
Star. Mike smiled, knowing that she was smiling at him, telling
him that it was alright. Now, with Corsair Squadron, he would find
Jana and fight to see a brighter day when death would no longer
haunt him everywhere he turned. That day, that wonderful day, would
be the day that he had longed for his entire life.