A/N: Thanks for the reviews - I had to move things along quick to knock people off. Had to set it up for this chapter...and, yes, pointy eared guy was Tomalak.
The Borg base was situated at the top of a small hill. On the north side was a thick grove of evergreens so overgrown and intertwined it would be impossible to sneak through it without being heard immediately, especially in the issued outfits. East of the hill was a semi-frozen swamp covered in snow, and to the west and south was a clearing extending half a kilometre that had been forested by the Borg. The hill itself looked smaller than it was a week earlier since the Borg had been mining the metals in the ground.
Their position would be highly defensible with snipers or hidden traps, but the Borg do not believe in such things. Their goal is to assimilate and collect new beings into their collective in their quest for creating a perfect society. However, a perfect society does need to be defended.
At the bottom of the hill the trees had been turned into a three-metre high fence with a single guarded gate. The fence extended to cover all sides, and on the deforested side long spears stuck out to provide protection from a charging enemy. If someone had speared themselves on that defensive perimeter, they could be injected with nanites, healed, and become one with the Borg.
Ganondorf himself sat at the top of the hill, a giant foreboding presence daring anyone to attack. At any given time, at least a couple Borg remained at his side with their wrist sockets plugged into his leg tapping him for power. The Queen almost never left his side, and at least one Borg guarded the gate.
When Jacen arrived at the edge of the clearing, Bellatrix engaged in a staring contest with him for several long moments. Ganondorf sat at the top of his hill with his eyes closed in silent meditation, but no other Borg were in sight.
It's a trap, Jacen thought to himself and pulled the Master Sword and Hylian shield from his back. From what Mara said, after their fight with the Borg she learned that they had energy shields that could automatically block a lightsaber. Her guess was that the colour of the blade gave away the frequency, and the Borg adjusted their shields accordingly. His hope was that a sword or bullet might pass through their energy shields.
Time to test the theory.
Jacen took several steps toward Bellatrix and something changed. Katniss shouted something and Jack's P-90 started to sing. Jacen tightened his grip on the Master Sword and looked Bellatrix in the eye. He would have to trust his friends to play their parts.
At the north end of the Borg's deforested zone I sit and watch Jacen emerge from the woods. Jack is at the far side of the field at the other corner near the swamp. I don't know where Gale, Picard, the Queen or the other guy are, but the crazy witch and GanonBorg are where they're supposed to be.
I'll admit; I'm a little freaked out. Okay, that's a lie. I'm a lot freaked out. The Borg look like zombies from the stories we used to hear from some of the adults at night in the Hub back in District 12, but bizarre mechanical versions. I don't know why anyone would put that much metal and electronic stuff in their bodies.
Our plan was to send Jacen in with the sword after locating everyone, but I can only see two Borg. Where are the others? Should we abort?
A branch cracks behind me. It could be Mara, but I don't want to take the chance. I ease my hand down to the knife on my belt.
I watch Jacen as he draws his sword and shield, but my ears are . He takes a step forward and another branch cracks very close to me.
I spin around and drop to the ground, knife leading the spin. I feel it stick into something and the squish tells me it's a human, but that's the least of my worries.
The Master Sword cleaved Bellatrix's head off with such ease that Jacen figured something was wrong. Bellatrix's body collapsed to the ground in a twitching death spasm, but Jack and Katniss were in trouble. With a cannon blast, Bellatrix's body disappeared in a flash of now-familiar white light leaving Jacen standing in the middle of a clearing with a sword, shield, and no idea what to do next. Katniss was scrambling around the woods, and Jack was firing round after round at the two Borg plodding toward him with little effect.
"Jacen Solo," an oily voice said from up near Ganondorf. It was both soft enough to sound pleasant, but loud enough to be heard over Jack's P-90 fire. The hairs on the back of Jacen's neck stood on end and he tightened his grip on the sword. "We meet at last. It will be a pleasure adding your biological distinctiveness to our own."
The gate opened and the Borg Queen came into view. She was uglier than Jacen expected, but possessed qualities that would have made her attractive if it were not for the bundle of wires protruding from the back of her head where hair ought to be.
"I can't say it would be much of a pleasure for me," Jacen responded.
"It's all you, kid!" Jack shouted.
Jacen looked toward the older man and saw two Borg – Picard and another – with their arms around Jack. A second later an explosion from one of Harry's grenades encompassed the three of them and there was nothing more than body parts and stray chunks of metal flying in all directions. Three cannon blasts signalled the final sacrifice of Jack O'Neill.
Jacen looked back at the Borg Queen with renewed resolve and the Borg Queen regarded Jacen with a mix of hatred and annoyance.
"Humans," she sneered. "Troublesome to the end."
She ran back into her small compound and up the hill to Ganondorf's side. She placed a hand on his leg and his eyes opened to reveal glowing red orbs. They found Jacen and fixed on the sword and shield.
Ganondorf slowly raised himself to his full height and extended one arm into the air. A massive sword, the one that Jacen had seen in Darth Vader's hands at the beginning of the game, appeared. Lightning shot from the sword into the skies in tune with Ganondorf's deep booming laugh.
"You are not the Hero of Hyrule," Ganondorf said. "Your assimilation is assured. Resistance is futile."
Gale looks like hell. His right eye is replaced by some mechanical junk and his skin is pasty white. There are tubes running from his chest into his head and metal armour all over his body. The worst part is his left eye. It stares at me with no hint of the recognition and caring that has comforted me for years. If there was one thing worse than Peeta being brainwashed and used as a weapon against me, it is this.
My knife is stuck in his arm just as I am stuck on the ground in shock. Gale looks from me to the knife in his arm and reaches over to remove my hand.
Don't let them touch you! Jacen's voice rang in my head. I don't know if he did something to remind me or if my subconscious told me what I needed to hear, but I finally snapped out of my daze. I let go of the knife and pull my knees up to do a back roll onto my feet, but I forgot the quiver and bow was across my back. I end up lying on my side at Gale's feet and force myself to roll painfully twice away from him over the quiver and bow hoping they don't get damaged.
I end up about a metre and a half away from Gale but he is already lumbering toward me with my knife in hand. I scramble to my feet and run. An explosion catches my attention and I glance back long enough to see the residual explosion from the corner Jack was supposed to be covering Jacen from. The three cannon blasts told me more than I needed to know – three more eliminated, and Jacen's on his own against Ganondorf. But worse than that...I can't depend on anyone else to kill my oldest friend.
Jacen's first reaction was that there was no way he could get close to Ganondorf. The giant Borg was twice his height and wielded a sword nearly three metres long. Even with the incredible energy humming through the Master Sword, Jacen still felt like an insect waiting to be swatted.
Ganondorf lumbered towards Jacen and brought his sword above his head in a double-handed grip. It was very clear what his attack would be, and Jacen easily jumped away from the almost comically slow downward slash. What caught him unexpected was the energy shockwave that shattered the ground on the sword's impact and sent him flying.
Jacen pulled himself back to his feet, but Ganondorf was still readying himself for his next attack.
Slow, but powerful. Jacen thought. What would Yoda do?
Yoda favoured the form of Ataru. A highly acrobatic form meant to overwhelm an opponent with high speed and varying attacks to use one's relative lack of height to one's advantage in quick hit-and-fade attacks. The only problem was that lightsabers are immune to the sheer forces of Ataru that would bend the Master Sword into a pretzel, and the Borg were immune to energy weapons.
Ganon's second slash, a strong horizontal swipe, clanged off the Hylian shield with enough force to make Jacen's teeth ache. Jacen jumped back and put some distance between him and the giant to give him the chance to think. The menacing smile of his opponent momentarily confused the young Jedi. Ganon raised his electrified sword with both hands and plunged the tip into the ground. Jacen felt the energy travel through the ground.
Jacen knew he was, at some point, airborne, but he really did not remember it. The fact that he woke up with his face planted in the ground and his butt in the air told him that he had landed from a decent height.
How the hell did Link beat this guy?
Jacen felt someone grab him by the back of his shirt and, before he knew it, he was tumbling through the air again. This time he used the Force to right his tumble and land gracefully on a severed tree stump. He hopped down to give himself steady footing and swung the sword in anticipation.
Ganondorf's laughs echoed through the clearing.
"You are not worthy of the TriForce of Courage," Ganondorf's voice boomed. "Even now I feel it leaving you."
Jacen finally noticed the outline of a golden TriForce glowing on the back of his sword hand and realized Link's secret weapon – the very thing he sensed in Link from the start of this game.
Ganondorf raised his sword again in the same two-handed strike Jacen had witnessed a few moments ago and the sword sparkled with electricity. He plunged the sword into the ground, and, again, Jacen felt the energy travelling towards him.
"How's this for courage?" Jacen shouted. He took his left fist and plunged it into the ground where he sensed the energy coming for him. The energy hit his hand and, rather than letting it hurt him, he turned himself into a capacitor for it. He drew the entire electrical charge from his enemy into his body and looked at the befuddled giant with eyes glowing with green energy.
Jacen stood up and raised the Master Sword to the sky. He barely noticed the TriForce logo glow brilliantly on his hand as he pushed the energy into the ancient blade. Jacen slashed the sword through the air and a shimmering ring of energy launched itself toward Ganondorf. Not even waiting to see the result of the attack, Jacen sprinted toward Ganondorf, up the three metre sword that was pointed at the ground, raised the Master Sword above his head with both arms and plunged the ancient blade deep into the giant's chest just below the collar bone with a battle cry worthy of a Hylean warrior.
Jacen's momentum sent Ganondorf crashing onto his back with the Jedi clinging onto the sword embedded in his chest. Jacen got to his feet, yanked the sword out and brought it down in a two-handed slash aimed at Ganondorf's head. A backhanded strike from the giant sent Jacen through the air once again before the blow could bisect his enemy's head. Using the Force he landed on his feet and skidded to a fighting stance.
Ganondorf pulled himself to his feet slowly and looked at Jacen with new eyes.
"Maybe there is some of the Hero of Hyrule in you, after all," Ganondorf mused. He raised his hand and called forth a ball of vile green energy and threw it at Jacen.
The Master Sword sang with intuition and Jacen swung it into the path of the green ball to reflect the energy back at Ganondorf. Ganondorf used his hand to reflect the ball of energy back at Jacen.
This is nothing, Jacen thought. Instead of using the Master Sword again, he reached out and grabbed the ball of energy with his hand. He spun himself around and launched four balls of energy back at Ganondorf. Completely unprepared, the giant deflected two of the balls back at Jacen while the other two staggered him. With two perfectly-timed slashes, the balls of energy returned and hit the still stunned Ganondorf, dropping him to his knees.
Jacen jumped high and brought the Master Sword over his head. Using the Force to add momentum, he brought the sword hard down on Ganondorf's right shoulder, severing the arm and extorting a scream of rage. With the shield, Jacen bashed Ganondorf across the right side of his face and knocked him onto his back.
A deep rumble emanated from around Jacen as he stood there catching his breath for a moment and it took him a moment to realize that Ganondorf was laughing. The laugh chilled Jacen as it became more hysterical and menacing. Dark mist began to pour out of Ganondorf's injuries as his body withered into a gaseous state. The persistent laughing forced Jacen to take several steps backward to give him room to think. The mist left the Borg devices behind and coalesced into a massive two-legged porcine figure with a giant tail. Its eyes glowed the same colour of the massive golden blades held in each hand and with a primal roar, Ganon was ready for battle.
Jacen finally realized that this fight had only just begun.
Running helps clear my head. I quickly realize that the Borg are not much of athletes. They can move at a good pace, but they are weighed down by the armour and machines that protect and enhance them. I have one absolute advantage over the Borg – agility. Gale may be able to beat me at a race and out hunt me, but as a Borg he's a drone. I'm glad that I'm the only one with a bow and arrows, but I haven't had a chance to ... What was that?
I'm on my stomach slammed into the ground again. Something had exploded near me that took away a few moments of memory. I assess my body and everything seems to still be attached. A tree explodes above me and I get showered with splinters of wood. I hazard a glance back at Gale and he's pointing what looks like the business end of the rifle he was carrying when he went missing mounted on his arm at me.
Fear inspires me to run as yellow balls of instant death slam into the trees and ground around me as I weave through the trees. I pull the bow off my shoulder and reach for an arrow. I feel one that is attracted to my hand, but I leave that one alone and find another. I grab the right arrow, pull it out, and slip the nock onto the string. Another tree explodes beside me and the shock sends me tumbling to the ground again. I land on my back with the bow and arrow at the ready, but the wind is knocked out of me.
Gale is there before I can get to my feet and is pointing the rifle arm at me. All I can see is a look of pure indifference in his face. I don't know if he doesn't care that I'm pointing an arrow at his head or if he doesn't care that he's pointing a gun at mine, but why doesn't he care? Is there anything of the Gale I know and loved in there?
"Gale, don't," I say. I can feel the tears rolling from my eyes to my ears. "Please, it's me!"
His eye changes a bit. Softens. It looks at me. Not with the cold look like I'm a target, but with recognition. And sadness.
"Please," Gale says. His voice is deeper and mechanical. "Katniss, please."
I don't know if it is through exhaustion or conscious thought, but the string slips from my finger and the arrow finds his throat. His head snaps back and he falls backward, twitching to the ground. The cannon sounds and before I can get up, his body already gone in the flash of white light.
I'm bawling like crazy and I can't stop it. I just killed Gale. Gale! And his body is gone. I don't know what's worse, losing his body so quickly or that I fired the arrow that did it. I don't know how I can live with myself after this. I know I've killed before and I had to defend myself...but never anything like this.
Jacen slammed the Master Sword into the ground, tip first, and hung the Hylean shield on the hilt. Another primal roar from Ganon caught him off guard, but his danger sense kept him focused. He slowly turned to his enemy and smiled.
"Big tough pig ready to fight now?" Jacen mocked. "Let's see what you've got."
Jacen ran toward Ganon, dodged the two sword strikes easily, did a front roll between his legs, and came up on the other side with his lightsabers at the ready. He noticed that Ganon leaned heavily on the tail, but could not do anything about it. The massive pig spun around and nearly took his head off with a wild strike, but both lightsabers took the blow. Whatever golden energy the swords were glowing with made them resistant to Jacen's yellow and green lightsabers, so he jumped out of the range of the swords again and considered his next move.
Ganon jumped into the air and slammed his feet against the ground sending a burst of energy outward that knocked Jacen off balance. The large pig stomped toward him with a hungry look in his eyes.
Jacen clipped Eriana's lightsaber onto his belt and held his left hand out. A blast of lightning struck Ganon in the face, momentarily stunning him. Jacen leapt high over Ganon, retook Eriana's lightsaber in hand, and landed beside Ganon's tail. A quick scissoring cut snipped the tail clean off in two places and caused Ganon to roar with a mixture of pain and anger. Jacen jumped clear from Ganon as the pig slashed wildly and only succeeded in embedding his right sword half way into the ground. Jacen threw his lightsaber at Ganon and cut the larger man's right hand off at the wrist.
Ganon stared at the stump of his arm stupidly as if he could not believe that he could possibly be defeated. He raised the stump into the air and roared, and the hand, amazingly, grew back. Even the tail reappeared.
"Nothing beats Power," Ganon said in a deep porcine voice. He slowly reached over and yanked the sword from the ground with his newly formed fist. "Not even Courage."
Ganon threw a sword at Jacen with enough force to knock the Jedi flat onto his back. The sword bounced off both lightsabers and returned to Ganon's hand. The giant beast jumped into the air, brought both swords up, and aimed to drop them on the young Jedi.
I killed Gale. I killed Gale.
I can't stop thinking about it. I killed Gale.
Me. I did it. I can't believe it. But I know I did it. But was it him anymore? He was half machine, bent on killing me. Gale wouldn't kill me. It couldn't have been him.
He was already dead.
And so am I.
I can't let myself think I'm alive anymore. I have no chance of getting out of here. I don't want to survive. Better to die than survive another of these stupid pointless games.
I hate the violence. I hate having to kill. I hate everything about the Hunger Games. I just want to be back in bed crying myself to sleep every night.
Weird how that is, wanting to be back to the familiar terrors that scare me asleep every night.
I killed Gale.
That's worse than all the others combined. No, everything is worse than what it was before. When I think of Gale I also see the faces of Prim, Cinna, Marvel, Cato, Glimmer, Gloss, Nuts and Volts, and Finnick and Rue and I'm on my knees crying again.
The cold of the ground slowly seeps into my knees which alerts my mind that there is a world around me again. I can hear swords clanking and I remember that Jacen is fighting Ganondorf.
His trouble brings my mind to focus. Jacen's my friend. I need to help him. I pull my bow off my shoulder and run toward the sounds of the battle. When I arrive at the clearing I see Jacen on his back and Ganondorf jumping into the air, both swords poised to kill my Jedi friend.
A streak of light hit Ganon on the head, sending him tumbling back to land on his back beside Jacen. Jacen scrambled to his feet and put some distance between him and the giant. At the edge of the clearing, Katniss stood waiting for Ganon to stand with another golden arrow ready. Jacen retreated to her side. What struck him first was the mixture of emotions radiating off her – rage and determination with a lot of underlying grief.
"Zelda's arrows?" Jacen asked.
"They pack quite the punch against him." Ganon reached his feet, and Katniss let the arrow fly directly at his heart. The giant stumbled backwards several steps and a rift in his chest appeared, light from within shining out.
"Hit that spot again," Jacen said. "Keep hitting it. I think I know what we need to do."
"I only have five more arrows," Katniss warned, firing the next arrow. "Whatever you want to do, do it quick."
Jacen put his lightsabers back onto his belt and reached out with the Force. The shield and Master Sword flew across the clearing to his outstretched hands, and Jacen braced himself for his next attack.
Katniss fired another arrow and Jacen sprinted after it. Three seconds after the arrow hit, Jacen's feet impacted Ganon's chest in a double side kick, knocking the brute over. Jacen landed on Ganon's chest, raised the Master Sword high, and drove it directly into the rift over Ganon's heart.
With a flash of light and an echoing cannon blast, Jacen landed on the ground where Ganon had laid.
"We did it," Katniss said, still holding an arrow at the ready. "We got him."
"Yeah," Jacen said. "I'm as surprised as anyone."
"The Queen is left," Katniss said and pointed to the fort. "She should be up there."
A scream and a cannon blast echoed through the woods.
"That was Mara!" Jacen said. He sprinted toward the fort with Katniss on his heels. He ran through the gate and up the hill to find Mara hunched over with Zelda's rapier on the ground beside her. His danger sense flared up immediately, so he stopped a couple metres short of her and held a hand out to stop Katniss.
"Mara?" Jacen asked. "What happened?"
The head of red hair turned to reveal sickly green skin and a mechanical device spread across her cheek.
"Please." Mara convulsed with pain as the nanites worked on taking over her body. "Queen transferred to me. Remember...who I was."
Jacen raised the Master Sword to his forehead in a salute. Mara smiled and bowed her head, and with a quick slash the white light claimed another failed contender.
"It's just us," Katniss said dully. "Again. The last two standing before the prize."
"What prize?" Jacen asked. "Q never said anything about a prize."
"More money and fame than you could ever want," Katniss said. "At least that's what the prize was in Panem."
"Q!" Jacen shouted. "Show yourself!"
The familiar flash of white light appeared, but this time Q's body appeared instead of someone disappearing.
"Shouldn't you two be trying to kill each other?" Q's tone spoke to his boredom. "You were both doing so well."
"What's the point to winning?" Jacen asked. "What do we get out of it?"
"Admission to the Q Continuum, of course," Q said. "Everyone else returns to their time and place in the universe without a single memory, and the winner comes with me to spend eternity as one of the most powerful beings in the universe."
Jacen and Katniss locked stares for a moment and tears started to stream down Katniss's cheeks. She rushed forward and hugged him, sobbing against his chest.
"Well, I certainly don't want to spend eternity with that one if all she does is cry," Q said. "Do away with her and come with me, Jedi. A truly amazing existence awaits you."
I look up into Jacen's sad brown eyes and see that he is as distressed as I am. He told me about his quest to learn new things and become a greater Jedi. He spent years travelling across his galaxy learning some of the most amazing things, things I will never be able to learn. For all the knowledge and abilities he has learned, this sounds like his ultimate dream. I cannot take that from him. That's not a life I want. I want to return to Peeta and District 12, even if it means returning to the crappy existence I've known almost my entire life.
"No," Jacen says to Q. "I can't. Not at the cost of someone else's life. No life is worth that."
"You have to," I say. His confused look makes it harder to bear, but I let go of him and take a step back. I feel the tears coming, welling in my eyes and awaiting their journey down my cheeks. "I can't live with this. I watched friends die in two Hunger Games. I can't live through another. Jacen, you have to kill me. He said himself we go back without any memories. I…I'm not strong enough."
I'm crying again. I can't help it. The hot lines of the tears streaming down my face add to my shameful admission. There were times I wanted to die before, but begging someone I care about to kill me in cold blood, knowing full well it is against everything he believes in...
Jacen tears his eyes away from my pitiful face and looks back at Q. "Can I leave the Q continuum?"
Is he really thinking about it?
"A Q can do whatever he wants," Q replies. "Though I guarantee you, you won't want to."
"What I want," Jacen says, taking my hand in his again. "Is for us both to return to our own places without remembering anything that happened here."
"In order to do that, you'll have to kill your friend here," Q says. "Can the good Jedi really do that?"
"He won't have to," I say. I grab my knife and, before Jacen can stop me, I plunge the cold blade into my heart.
So hard to breathe…Falling over…That hurts...Floating feeling…Going black…
"Katniss." Jacen's sad voice bring everything into focus for a second. He's holding the back of my head but everything is going numb. "You didn't have to do that."
I reach for my Mockingjay pin, but my arm feels so heavy. Jacen realizes what I was trying to do. I feel him take the pin off and put it in my hand.
"Keep it," I say. I've never felt so weak before. "Remember…me."
Jacen smiles and a tear drops from his chin onto me. I close my eyes and…
Jacen became aware that he was sitting in his favourite chair staring at a datapad with diagrams on Soresu movements. He jolted out of the chair and tossed the datapad onto it behind him. Within seconds he was in the cockpit of the Solo Quest standing a metre behind Eriana. Using the Force, he probed the back of her neck to search for a Goa'uld symbiote.
"What the hell?" Eriana shouted, practically jumping onto the control panel. "Jacen, what are you doing? You scared the crap out of me."
"Nothing," Jacen said, sitting himself into the co-pilot seat. "I just had a bad dream of sorts. Some alien parasite took over your body and I just wanted to be safe."
"I think the lack of sleep is finally cracking you up," Eriana said, easing herself back into her chair while still eyeing him suspiciously. "You could ask, y'know."
Jacen did not bother to reply. He stared out the window into the mottled blue and black of hyperspace for a few moments until Eriana decided to head to her bunk. Sometime after she left, Jacen reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small pin. He stared at the golden bird clutching an arrow for a full minute before the first tear landed on the bird's wing.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the Hunger Wars...if you did, please tell your friends. I always welcome new reviews, and I'd love to hear any input you might have on the overall story, or any of my others. Thanks, and may the odds be ever in your favour ;)