Die, Jacen Solo, Die!: Size Matters Not
Rating: PG
Iella

How do you kill a Sith Lord? Here's another twisted and very tongue in cheek death for Jacen, aka Darth Caedus.
Vornskyr Forest. What an odd name, Caedus, the Jedi formerly know as Jacen Solo, mused. He'd been hearing the name a lot lately — every time he tuned in to the holonet, in fact, which was something he did at least once a day. Apart from the fact it allowed him to ensure that the various news services were presenting him in an appropriately positive light, it was also his chance to catch up on what the galaxy had been up to while he'd been busy protecting it. It was a means of keeping in touch with the mood of the people whose lives he controlled, even when their apparent fascination for the most shallow trends and pointless pursuits made him cringe. And when it came to pointlessness, sport, in his opinion, took top billing.

He wondered idly if perhaps this was a reaction to his now estranged father's own obsession with smashball, not to mention the efforts he'd made to try and interest his son in the ghastly banalities of the game. He remembered sensing a certain anxiety in his father's manner sometimes, as if Han had felt that there'd been a glitch in the gene pool that had had dubious consequences in terms of his oldest son's development. In hindsight, the thought was quite amusing. Look who's captain of the team now, Dad. He grinned, briefly catching sight of his reflection in the polished bulkhead opposite the datapad station, and he was about to trip the off switch when a name caught his attention: Santandruse.

His finger stopped in mid-extension and hovered a whisker away from the plasteel dimple. He blinked, a sudden spasm of pain and loss overwhelming his senses. Santandruse was one of the sixty-six worlds ruled by his former comrade and lover, Tenel Ka. Tenel Ka, mother of his daughter Allana. Tenel Ka who had betrayed him cruelly, leaving him to what would have been certain death at the hands of the Confederation ... for a lesser mortal. Fortunately for the galaxy, he had engineered a miraculous escape. But the wound in his heart was still raw; and every reminder of their love was salt rubbed into the broken flesh by callous fingers.

He stretched forward the slightest fraction required to enable his fingertip to eradicate the reminder of his loss ... when again something stayed his hand, and the babble emanating from the datapad distilled into something vaguely comprehensible. He found that he was stroking the volume dial so that he could better make out the somewhat pretentious spiel of the presenter.

"... and of course Vornskyr Forest will be defending his title on Santandruse at the sixth Pan-galactic Golf Classic — the prime event in the annual golf circuit. HoloNews Aureg has negotiated prime holorecording rights, meaning that we'll be bringing you live coverage and real-time interviews with the players. Tune in after our sports roundup for a tour of the Classic Course with Vornskyr, who arrived on Santandruse this morning after a short hiatus on his home planet of Myrkr, where he recently established his own production company making cheat resistant golf balls."

Although the mention of Myrkr brought the familiar chill to the pit of his stomach, Caedus felt strangely excited even though at that point he wasn't sure exactly why. It was just a feeling he had that there was something potentially useful in what he'd just heard. The news presenter had moved on to some other item, so Caedus activated the upright function on his conform-chair and switched to a search channel on his datapad.

Quite a while later, he leaned back and stretched lugubriously, and smiled again at his reflection in the metallic pane of the bulkhead. As well as now being an expert on the history of golf from its beginnings in the distant Tarsus Sector, through its gradual spread after the fledgling New Republic forged an entente with a number of planets within the sector, to its current popularity — he had an answer to his mystery. The Golf Classic had grown into a huge event over which worlds fought tooth and claw for the privilege of hosting. And the reason was quite simple — greed. The Classic brought in zillions not only from the huge influx of players with their attendant entourages of managers, caddies, physios and motivational coaches, but also from their sycophantic fans. Golf was a sport that by the nature of its expensive equipment appealed mainly to people with more money than sense, and the fans were no different. Hosting such an event as the Classic was a license to print credits — big bright gold ones.

Greed — pure and simple. But how opportune, how perfect! Hapan Security would be so focused on coordinating and troubleshooting on Santandruse, and the other planets in the Consortium would be so busy vying for whatever economic or political advantages that arose from the situation, that everyone would be distracted. And unless one looked like the gangly, perpetually smashball-capped Vornskyr Forest — which Caedus was happy to say he didn't — or carried one of the spindly, puck-ended sticks used for whacking the hopelessly small balls, one would no doubt be totally ignored. It would be the easiest thing in the galaxy to sneak into Hapes and grab his precious Allana, the only being in the galaxy who still loved him.

And how wonderful to be able to use Tenel Ka's subjects' weaknesses against her! What irony and what balance! Caedus couldn't believe his luck. Of course, he realized that it still might come to a showdown between him and her, but that could only have one possible result — Tenel Ka's demise. Even after her betrayal, he would find that regrettable, so finding a solution that allowed her to live, albeit without her daughter, was serendipitous.

He leaned back so his chair could adjust its support pads until he was semi-reclining. Sleep — proper sleep — still evaded him, but he was learning to make the most of the occasional short period of quietude when he could allow his mind to drift free from the clamour of responsibility. This time he floated for a while filled with the sublime knowledge that he would soon have his dear little daughter by his side ... permanently.
* * * * *

Vornskr Forest's real name was Boradin Forest, a fact that surprised Tenel Ka quite considerably. She had assumed that a person would only assume a nickname if their original name was either very boring or very silly, and yet Boradin was in her book a very laudable name, especially compared to its replacement. She was therefore very curious and, in fact, the matter of Vornskr's choice of name was one of the first things she asked him about when she met him at the opening of the Pan-galactic Classic.

It further surprised her to learn that Vornskyr Forest was quite an intelligent man, and surprisingly humble despite his astronomical popularity. He was genuinely interested in his chosen sport and in doing his best to promote it, not for selfish reasons, but because he believed that sport was a good thing. It was a means of keeping fit, of keeping people young at heart, and it was also a way to bring the inhabitants of the galaxy together. It allowed them to compete, but without the need to bomb or blast each other into oblivion.

There was, in fact, little Vornskyr Forest said that she didn't agree with, and she had ended up enjoying a very pleasant evening with him after the grand opening. She was fascinated with the story he told her about his name, which as it turned out was bestowed on him by popular choice — a result of his uncanny success on the golf course. When Forest burst on the scene there were many who began to suspect his skills were Force-assisted, and he had to go to considerable lengths, including enlisting the help of none other than Jedi Grand Master Skywalker, to prove that this was untrue. However the holomedia, never being one to let a newsworthy opportunity slip past, latched on to a comparison, made by one of the more popular sports commentators, between Boradin's Force-like ability to land a golf ball right on target and a vornskyr's ability to use the Force to hunt. The comparison developed into a kind of legend, and Boradin's nickname was born — and being a good-natured, easy going type of chap, he decided to go along with it. As he told Tenel Ka, he regarded it as a trade-off for the amazing lifestyle that his supporters continued to provide him with.

He really was, she decided, an extremely nice man; and a man who endorsed fair play and honesty, a conclusion she came to after he told her about the project that had consumed much of his free time over the past few years: balls. To be precise, golf balls, and to be even more precise — golf balls that were cheat-proof. Of course, as with most groundbreaking inventions, Vornskyr's amazing balls were motivated by a certain amount of self-interest. Having been accused of possessing unacknowledged Force abilities, and therefore of effectively being a cheat, it was obviously in Vornskyr's best interest to place himself in a situation where any kind of cheating would be impossible. But nevertheless the technology, or biotechnology as it was in this case, was transferable to other sports where balls were involved — so overall Vornskyr's invention was one that was going to make things better and fairer for everyone.

Fact.

It was also a fact that Tenel Ka had developed a hankering to try her own hand on the golf course, and so before she returned to Hapes the next day she procured, with Vornskyr's help and advice, a set of clubs. And so she could play the game properly, and not, even unwittingly, use her Jedi powers to advantage, he presented her with a set of his special balls.

She was touched, and impressed with his ... generosity. It was a virtue she saw little of amongst her plotting, self-serving subjects.

* * * * *

Darth Caedus arrived on Hapes unimpeded, as he had predicted. To his surprise, his entry into Fountain Palace was also uncontested — well, it would have been had he shown himself. He almost considered slipping out of the black shadow with which he'd shrouded his presence as a test, because the lack of obvious security worried him. What if one of Tenel Ka's enemies was to take advantage of the situation and sneak Allana away, like he was going to do? What if they already had!

To calm himself he risked reaching out to his beloved daughter, and was very relieved to find that she was fine. She felt happy, and he had the impression she was busy playing with her dolls. He exhaled the breath he realized he'd been holding, and retreated beyond the Force again, becoming one with his surroundings — in this case the shrubs at the edge of the palatial gardens. Somewhere beyond the gardens he could hear voices rising and falling irregularly interspersed with the occasional shout. Curious, and still concerned at the uncustomary absence of people, he followed the voices, and then he stopped short.

What the —

If he hadn't known better, he could have sworn he was staring at a golf course. But that was impossible. The chances of Tenel Ka agreeing to —

He realized, after he had spat out a small, sticky dewbug, that his mouth must have dropped open, and the reason for this was that he could see Tenel Ka strolling along with a group of fawning courtiers, one of who was guiding a bucket-shaped gurney brimming with golf clubs. What was going on? Had the galaxy, or Hapes at least, gone completely mad?

Simmering with rage, but undecided as to his next action, Caedus watched as the courtier prepared to strike at the ball. Despite his wrath, he almost laughed out loud at the ridiculous hip-wriggling and bottom-jiggling dance the man performed as an overture. It was obvious Caedus had arrived just in time. The thought of his precious Allana being subjected to this insanity was almost too much to bear.

"Fore!" the courtier bellowed. But Caedus was too busy gliding from shadow to shadow to take any interest. Saddened, and now even more determined to claim his daughter and remove her to safety, he set off back to the palace. But after a few paces he turned to look at Tenel Ka one last time. She was poised, graceful as ever, ready to swing her club. He heard her throaty call:

"Fore!"

He decided to allow himself a few more seconds to gaze upon her, to ponder yet again how beauty and betrayal can co-ex—

* * * * *

"Killed! By a golf ball! How can this be?" gaped the quivering courtier, who was obviously both sickened and fascinated by the golf ball-sized lump in the middle of the very dead Colonel Jacen Solo's temple.

"Yes." The large security guard scratched his chin, and turned his gaze on the Queen Mother. "Surely the Colonel with his Jedi powers would have sensed the ball coming and dodged."

"Or swiped it away with his lightsaber," added the courtier, nodding.

"If he had been able to sense it coming I'm sure he would have," Tenel Ka agreed sadly. "But unfortunately for the Colonel, these balls are specially designed to have no presence in the Force." And then she added by way of explanation as the guard stooped to pick up the unsuspecting tool of death. "They were a gift from Vornskyr Forest."

The guard made a noise at the back of his throat that could have been either morbid fascination or admiration. "Ah. There was something about him and his company on the holosport channel a few days ago. They use some animal to make them."

Tenel Ka nodded. She wasn't sure if she was in shock or not. She'd had a vague sense Jacen had arrived on Hapes, but she'd been just as surprised as everyone else when he'd toppled out from under the shade of a flame bush to land flat on his back, and stone dead, on the lush turf.

"Ysalamiri," she clarified, still distracted by the calamitous turn of events and by the fact she felt strangely relieved. She knew she felt grief as well, but things had become so horribly complicated with Jacen lately that it was hard to focus on any single emotion. Afraid she might crack, she took a deep breath and willed her self-control to remain firm.

"Ysalamiri tissue to be precise," she continued, finding a degree of comfort in the cold logic of science. "Segments of intestine that have been cloned and then extruded into fine string which they then wrap around a core of nutrients, and cover with casing."

"Living string! What do you know!" The guard shook his head. The courtier was busy vomiting behind the flame bush.

Tenel Ka thought about the last word Jacen would have heard her utter and had a sudden moment of epiphany that she would explain later as a cross between mild hysteria and a desire to make some sense of a nonsensical situation.

She kneeled beside her former lover and stroked the hair back from the solid bump on his forehead. "Well, Jacen," she murmured to him, "you were always saying the foreplay would kill you. It looks as if the one time you did actually say something funny, the Force took you seriously."

She paused studying his brown irises now largely consumed by the darkness of pupils widened by death, and caught herself searching for the tell-tale signs of Sithly red-yellow. Then she brushed his eyelids down gently covering his sightless eyes for good.

* * * * *

Vornskyr took the gratitude and gifts showered on him as a result of his Sith killing balls with typically humble aplomb, even though he was as surprised as everyone else at the strange turn of events. Sales of the golf balls rocketed and he was forced to expand his business to accommodate the demand. He opened new factories producing balls for other sports and he quickly became one of the wealthiest men in the galaxy.

But he remained a simple man at heart — a very nice, unassuming man who put his family ahead of everything else and never developed any leanings toward galactic domination or other forms of irritating Sithly behaviour. In fact he was quite happy to take second place to his wife — Queen Mother Tenel Ka of the sixty-six worlds of the Hapes Cluster.

The tiny ball that had effectively rid the galaxy of one of the most unpleasant tyrants it had ever been forced to endure took pride of place in the Fountain Palace's great hall, where it was displayed in a plush-lined auridium case. The irony that something so small and innocuous-looking could play such a pivotal role in history was not lost on Tenel Ka. She had a plaque forged and attached to the base of the display case on which were the words Size Matters Not ... and when visitors came and read the sign with great solemnity she would smile and share a secret look with Vornskyr; and then she would say regally:

"And that is a fact."


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