Star Wars Fan Fiction

Episode 8: Dark Force Ascension

by Paully Adams AKA abbaspice1


e-mail: padamsart12@gmail.com

FYI: I do not own any of the characters EXCEPT for the original characters I have made for this fan fiction. This is an alt-verse fan fiction. Some things remain the same (such as the events form episodes 4-6 of the movie franchise), but other things (such as specific things that happened in the expanded universe) do not.

TIMELINE—This story takes place 5 months after Episode 7—Forces From the Past.


Chapter 1

Darth Tyranus stood on the steps of the dark grey crystal building. He watched, as the building seemed teemed with life, light and sound as numerous beings from various systems rushed into and out of the Palace of the Republic building. The Sith Lord walked down the steps and on the sidewalk of the large city. He was not worried about being recognized, most of those who passed by him, whether by feet or in the hovercrafts, did not take the time to even look his way. Besides, the last time anyone saw him, he was a much older man, with a pure white mane and beard. Even his unique curved lightsaber no longer existed; however, he did create a new one with a straight hilt for himself and hid it under his brown leather jacket. He wondered how much of the Republic had truly changed since his death. However, his musings ceased when he entered an eatery and saw his pupil sitting at a table.

Chaya stood and slightly bowed as his teacher came to the table. Muscular and tall, with almond-shaped green eyes, shoulder length ebony hair, and chiseled tanned features, he was an imposing and handsome figure. Dressed in the traditional green and brown sleeveless shirt and long pants of his people, he waited until his Master sat down before retaking his own seat. “Master,” his tenor voice barely a whisper, “is it nearly time?” He looked forward to the day he would seek revenge on the ones who betrayed the only person who cared about him.

Chaya had spent his whole life feeling isolated. His parents died while he was very young, he only had images and feelings about them. Without any family, he was sent to an orphanage. Usually, a child such as him would have been adopted. On his planet, physical beauty was only second to mental perfection. If one was greatly marred in one way or the other, one had no chance at being adopted.

However he became toxunulmax – an untouchable- when several of the women who ran the orphanage saw him moving a small toy towards him—without touching it. Because of that label, he was never adopted. Several other children also had that label, but all of them were severely handicapped, either mentally or physically.

However, he was not alone. At the age of five, an older man, who wore a hood so that no one could look upon him, started to visit Chaya twice a year. He taught Chaya how to guide his pain and loneliness into making him stronger. He would give Chaya tons of lessons on holograms and expect them to be finished by his next visit. He did not know the man's name, but all the adults treated the man with great reverence.

Chaya always looked forward to those visits. Even though the women were never mean, they kept their distance. He didn't have friends his own age, the normal kids would tease him because he was a toxunulmax, and yet he had the same prejudice towards the other toxunulmax children. After all, they were truly untouchable. He was toxunulmax because of a gift. At least that is what the hooded man with dark robes told him.

For years, his skills grew. He would use the holograms daily, and used his negative feelings to make him stronger. In his mind, Chaya believed that the old man was the closest thing he had to family. He worked hard, and was the best student in the orphanage school. He was mentally and physically strong. During his 20 th year, the old man finally revealed who he truly was. That conversation changed Chaya's life:

The old man sat watching as the young man performed a complicated set of kicks, flips and balance exercises. He then showed off his swordsmanship using a silver sword. “Good, good!” he exclaimed as his scarred hands clapped together. He stood up, reached into his robes and pulled out a silver and black cylinder. He tossed it to the young man.

Chaya caught the item with his free left hand. His eyes narrowed in confusion. “What is this?”

“It is a weapon. It is called a lightsaber. It is a sword of laser light that is extremely deadly. One can cut off limbs and cauterize the wound at the same time. It is the preferred weapon of the Sith.”

“What is a Sith?”

“A Sith is what I am…and what you will become. Remember what I taught you, the Force makes us strong. Passion, strength, power and victory is ours to gain, hold and manipulate. We are rare. There are only three of us left. One day soon, I hope that you will stand by my side. But you are still not ready.” He pointed to the weapon. “You need to know how to use this, to make it an extension of you. Until you are ready to make one of your own, you will use mine.”

Chaya looked at the weapon once more. Pride filled his heart, for the old man gave him a personal gift. He saw a small circular button and press it. The lightsaber's red blade roared to life. As he slowly moved his left hand, the saber made noise, as though it was alive. Chaya quickly dropped the silver sword from his right hand and grabbed the lightsaber, his eyes danced with power as the red reflected in his orbs. “Thank you” he whispered, emotion filling his voice.

The old man smiled. “Now, I can tell you who I am. The galaxy knows me as Emperor Palpatine.” He watched as Chaya quickly dropped to one knee in respect. “Fewer still know me as Darth Sidious.” He walked towards the young man until he could place a scarred hand on the young man's shoulder. “But you shall call me Master.”

The memory was bittersweet. With the gift and the expectation of being by the Emperor's side, Chaya practiced even harder so he could rush the day when the Emperor would call for him.

But Emperor Palpatine never returned to the orphanage. Instead he sent two messages. The first message told the women to watch over his charge, and if anything happened to Chaya, they would pay the consequences. The second message he instructed Chaya to stay at the orphanage and to continue his studies, since toxunulmax were allowed to stay until their 25 th year or when they proved they could live on their own, whichever came first.

Chaya followed the Emperor's commands and kept track of any big news involving the Empire as best as he could. He even was allowed to study as a junior ambassador. However, a little more than a year ago, before his 23 th birthday, Chaya felt great disturbances in the Force. A few hours later, he received word that the Emperor was dead and that the Rebels had won the war.

His hopes and dreams died that day. However, revenge replaced those empty spaces in his heart and he wanted nothing more than to destroy those who were to blame.

Now he was close to his goal. The Emperor sent Darth Tyranus to continue his instruction. With his help and guidance, Chaya was sure that the moment was at hand.

“Not yet Chaya. Your thirst for revenge will not be satisfied for a while longer. Remember--the bigger the goal, the longer the plan. Be patient and you will receive more than you could have possibly imagined.” Darth Tyranus looked at his charge. From the numerous conversations he had with the young Sith, he knew that Chaya had nothing but respect and admiration for the Emperor. He smirked to himself; too back the lad did not know the true man that was Darth Sidious. Then perhaps he wouldn't so blindly follow him. “It has been arranged. All you need to do is to settle into your new role. I want you to keep your eyes and ears open so we can keep track of potential threats and possible allies.”

Chaya nodded his head with determination. He would do his part to make sure that the Sith was victorious.

*****

CHAPTER 2

Standing on top of a sand dune, the solitary figure scanned the desert landscape. The hot dry air was still; as the two suns beat down on the sand that then reflected the suturing rays back into the air.

Luke pulled the hood down form around his head. Having grown up on Tatoonie, he was use to the desert life. But he wasn't here on Yulato because he missed the desert. He had been here for months on his own. Luke took a deep breath as his mind drifted back to moment that he left behind his family:

Leia squeezed Luke's hand. “Promise me you will listen and hear me out.” She waited for him to nod. She took a deep breath before she began. “We know that the Force has both a Light and a Dark side. Both sides exist, yet we seem to choose the side that we want to serve.”

Luke agreed. “We decide which side of the Force will flow through us.”

“We always assume that we have a choice, but what if it is the Force that chooses us, not the other way around?”

“What do you mean?”

“Just about all the Jedi knights were killed, all the younglings killed, by 2 Sith. How is that possible? The prophecy stated that the Chosen one would bring balance to the Force. Which he did, first by destroying the Jedi, shifting the balance to the Sith, then by killing the Emperor, which brought the Force in total balance.”

“No it didn't. I was a Jedi by that time, remember?”

“And you have a twin sister who is strong in the Force as well.”

“What are you getting at?”

“You can see Jedi, while I see Sith.”

Luke shook his head. “That was in the cave.”

“And on Yulato. And speaking of the cave, you said the power that came from the cave felt cold and foreboding. But to me, it felt seductive, warm and safe. I willingly entered it without any means of defending myself.”

“Because I told you to do so.”

“Because I felt safe. You are a strong Jedi.”

“And you will be one as well.”

Leia gave Luke a sad smile. “Yulato is a focus point for the Light Side of the Force, and I was on edge the whole time I was there. I felt like I was walking on a tightrope and I was about to fall. In fact I did.”

Luke swallowed hard. He reached out and grabbed her hand. “The next time, I'll catch you.”

A sad smile pulled at her lips. “What happens if I pull you over?”

“You won't do that.”

“I may not have a choice Luke. But today I do, and I choose to stop my training. I will practice what I've learned so far, but I will not acquire any new skills. I'm going to focus building the Republic by helping Mon Mothma.”

“So, you are basically going to make me fight them alone?”

“You won't be alone. I stood up against the Sith even before I knew who you were. I was fighting against them while you were still a moisture farmer.”

Luke snickered. “You know what I think? I think you are running scared. I think that what happened on Yulato has scared you into this decision. I think in a few weeks, you will see that you are panicking, and you will continue your training.”

Leia sighed. “Let me ask you a question: Could you kill me?” She watched Luke's stun expression for a moment. “If I became a Sith Lord, could you kill me? Or would you seek my redemption no matter how many lives are lost?”

“That's not a fair question.”

“But it is an honest one.” Determination filled her voice. “Since you cannot answer it, I will do what is necessary to make sure that if the time comes, you can do it quickly and swiftly.”

“Kill you or redeem you?”

“It doesn't matter. Either way I will be weaker than you.”

Luke shook his head. “This is ridiculous. After a few weeks of rest, you will change your mind.”

“Don't hold your breath. I love you Luke, I don't want to hurt you….”

“Too late.”

Luke sighed. He never did like being alone. He wanted to join his friends while his Uncle Owen wanted him to stay on the farm for one more season. He quickly joined with the Rebels and became one of its top pilots. When he thought that his friends would die, he quickly ended his Jedi training and ran to be at their side. And when he discovered that he had a father and a sister that were alive, he never stopped hoping that one day they would be a family.

And it did happen, just not in a conventional way. Due to their lineage, both he and Leia were strong in the Force. The Force that flowed through them had enabled them to be trained, and in time Leia understood and had forgiven their father. Yet that same Force now drove a wedge between him and Leia.

No, the Force is not to blame. Luke knew that both he and Leia were to blame. Somehow, Leia believed that she would eventually succumb to the Dark Side and decided to stop training, in an effort to guarantee that Luke would be able to stop her if needed. And he, for his part, decided to leave, thinking that she would realize how foolish she was being, would soon follow and continue her training.

Yet, she never came. As the days passed, he continue training under the watchful eye of his dead Masters Yoda and Obi-Won. And even though his teachers pushed him to accept Leia's decision, Luke could not. It was here that his greatest hope seemed to be fulfilled as their Father Anakin started a relationship with Leia. It was on this planet that Leia's greatest fear almost came true when she thought she had killed Luke and it was here that she died until Han resuscitated her.

Even though the young Jedi knew that life was unpredictable, he knew that his twin would train once more. Until then, he would throw himself into his own training, trying to become the best Jedi possible.

“Still trying to change the past.”

Luke didn't even look to his left from which the voice came. He knew that voice from anywhere. And he could tell exactly what he looked like without even seeing him-- wavy sandy blond hair that touched his shoulders, blue eyes that looked exactly like his, and the traditional two-toned brown Jedi robes would be his attire. A small smile pulled at Luke's lips. “That would be impossible.”

Anakin Skywalker stared out over the desert. He loved both of his children, but he had a special spot in his heart for Luke. After all, Luke believed in him when he himself had stop believing. And that stubbornness enabled Luke to lead him to the path of Redemption. But that same trait was causing pain to both of his children. “Then why won't you accept her decision?”

“She is letting her fear control her. She almost killed me. She died here while training. She is just shaken up. Hopefully Anishpada is talking some sense into her.”

Anakin turned towards his son, his own blue eyes filled with disappointment. “You have no idea what you are talking about.” He pointed at his son. “When Leia thought she had killed you, it nearly destroyed her. It would have been so easy for her to embrace the Dark Side of the Force.” Sadness filled his voice as he continued, “Very few of us who give in to the Dark Side do so because we are evil. Most of us start down the path because of thinly veiled revenge that we call justice, or we do it out of love or some other noble intention. Poison is so much easier to swallow when it taste like sugar. But then we lose whatever it was that we were holding on to and the only thing that could stop the pain was giving in to the Dark Side of the Force, and we stop being the people that we were, and start becoming its slaves. Leia was on the same path. She did everything she could to protect all of you from that vision, and yet it happened, at least to you. But instead of embracing the Dark Side, she accepted the temptation, then…” he stopped as the memory played in his mind. He took a deep breath to calm down, “Instead of giving in, she was willing to sacrifice herself with her own blaster.”

Pain washed over Luke's face. “I didn't know. She didn't tell me.”

“Was she suppose to yell it down the hall as you took off?”

Luke knew that his father was right. He shook his head and knew that he had to make amends. “No. I should have truly listened to her instead of dismissing what she was saying. I gave into my own anger and disappointment and held on to it like a shield.”

“And you cannot afford to do so any longer. You two need to work together to flush out Darth Tyranus and Darth Maul. It won't be long until each of them has a new apprentice. They will strike quickly, if they haven't done so already. And don't forget the Emperor.”

“But he is dead.”

“And when has he let that stop him? Even though he is no longer on the physical realm, he is still a threat. He always has another move to make.”

*****

CHAPTER 3

As he stood on a cliff, Darth Maul took a moment to glance out at the stormy ocean and the dark grey clouds bellowing in, filling up the sky. Even with a threat of a storm would not stop his practice session. He returned his gaze to his apprentice who was practicing aerial roundhouse kicks on a rocky outcrop below him.

At first glance, she did not appear different for most humanoids. She was of average height, curvy and athletic, with green eyes and wavy red hair. Yet, she was sensitive to the Force. The Sith Lord wondered why the gift of sensitivity was found in such weak hosts. He watched as his charge attempt another spinning round kick. After she landed on the rocky outcrop, she looked up at him. “Again,” he growled, his yellow teeth standing out from his black and red skin.

The young woman did as she was told. Over a month ago, her former master came to her in a dream. He told her to do exactly what her new master told her to do…for now.

She did not respect Darth Maul, for he did not respect her. He made that clear insisting that he didn't need to know or speak her name until she earned his respect.

However, she did fear him. She learned quite early on, that she would practice until she could do it perfectly, and not stop until Darth Maul said so or she would face his wrath.

A flash of lightning caught both sets of eyes. Darth Maul sneered as his apprentice stared up at the sky too long for his taste. “Again,” he yelled loudly, and then demonstrated his perfect jumping roundhouse kick, expecting her to continue to practice until hers matched his.

The apprentice bit her tongue, and tried not to show any signs of weariness or disgust. As the rain began to pelt her, she continued to practice. Already drenched with sweat, she found the rain cooling to her senses and her temper. She finally performed the kick perfectly three times in a row. She looked up at her new master, a smirk upon her face.

Darth Maul simply walked away.

*****

CHAPTER 4

Leia stood in the small mossy clearing surrounded by giant trees, the gentle sunlight rays danced in the air. Dressed in her fatigues, Leia watched as her former childhood teacher made her way towards her, the Jedi's blue lightsaber raised in front of her. Leia activated her own blue lightsaber. With a BSSSSSSH, the princess raised her lightsaber to block Anishpada's blow. The Wookiee pulled back on her blows, but it still took all of Leia's strength to defend herself.

Anishpada continued to use strokes that were familiar to Leia. Each one, the princess managed to defend, but she refused to take the offense, no matter how much of an opening Anishpada gave her. The Jedi decided to use a new offensive move even though she knew exactly what Leia would do. Anishpada took a step back with her right foot, and twisted her lightsaber, disarming the young woman. Then she brought the lightsaber up until it was parallel with her shoulders. She performed a perfect roundhouse swing with her lightsaber, the blue blade forming a blue circle.

Leia somersaulted back, and using the Force, bounced off the truck of the tree behind her and landed perfectly on a giant limb that was above her teacher's head.

Anishpada sighed in frustration as she turned off her lightsaber. “When are you going to stop running away?”

“When you stop using new moves on me.”

“You need to learn the countermoves. If you would only let me teach you…”

“We've been through this,” Leia interrupted. I will work on what I've already been taught until I am perfect with those skills. But I refuse to learn any new WHOA”, Leia screamed as Anishpada used the Force to lift her off the tree, and lower her until she was 2 feet off the ground.

Anishpada shook her head, and then unceremoniously dumped Leia, causing the young woman to hit the ground hard. “If I was Tyranus or Maul, you would be dead.”

Leia got up to her feet and dusted off her clothing. “I would be dead anyway. I am no match for the two of them.”

“If you would let me teach you properly, you would have a fighting chance.”

Leia narrowed her eyes at her teacher. “You know exactly why I'm doing this.”

Anishpada became angry. She did not come out of hiding just to watch her student bury her gifts without cause. “Darth Maul and Tyranus will strike hard. And they may have an apprentice. Luke and I will take care of the Sith Lords. You need to take on the apprentice. Trust me, they are not holding back any instruction from him or her.” Her voice became softer as she placed a furry paw on Leia's shoulder. “Everyone is tempted to the Dark Side. Not one Jedi, in all our history can claim that the Dark Side did not tempt them. If they do, they are lying.”

Leia listened to her teacher. Unlike the other Jedi, Anishpada believed in a more balanced approach when it came to training, being a Jedi, and living life in general. She was different than Master Obi-Won, Yoda and Mace Windu. She thought that perhaps it was because they were dead, and didn't have to deal with this side of the veil. However, she realized that Anishpada was just an original, and saw why she butted heads with the Jedi hierarchy. “Anishapda, I know everyone is tempted. But what happened on Yulato, what I did cannot be considered a temptation.” She paused, trying to find the right words to make her teacher understand. “Both Luke and I would be dead if it wasn't for our father. And in both cases, I was the catalyst. I gave in to the Dark Side. And once I started on that path, forever it will dominate my destiny.”

Anishpada remember those exact words as they were said to her when she was a padawan almost 300 years ago. “Leia, did you consciously become a servant of the Dark Side?”

“Does one have to consciously say yes in order to be a servant?”

“A servant, not exactly.” She watched as Leia released a breath, sadness in her eyes. “But to become a Sith, a Darth Lord, one must consciously say yes to the Dark Side. You did not do that. Even when you lost all hope, you still refuse to say yes.”

“That time I did. But what about next time?” Leia turned and look Anishpada in the eye. “I want the truth Anishpada. How much like him am I?”

Anishpada motioned Leia to follow her. Silently they walked, the forest becoming dense once more. After walking for 20 clicks, they arrived to a special tree. On the sturdy limbs of the ancient tree sat Anishpada's home. A small smile graced Leia's lips as she climbed the rope ladder. She had many fond childhood memories of this place that she called home for one year of her life.

Anishpada climbed the tree in the Wookiee way. The Jedi remained quiet as she opened the door. She walked through the large open area and to the sink where she filled a large metal bowl with water, then placed it over the fireplace.

Leia watched as Anishpada rumbled through numerous jars, coming up with an herbal concoction, tied the herbs into a piece of cloth and threw it into the hot water. She waited, knowing that Anishpada would not answer her question until the healer finished making the tea. Leia remembered drinking lots of tea while she was here as a child.

Anishpada continued to watch the tea. “You must have a reason for asking that question.”

“I feel like I am in limbo. For all of my life, I was Leia Organa. At one point, my path was so clear to me. Now, I just don't know. Everyone expects me to be Organa and yet be a Skywalker as well. I no longer hate Anakin, and even though I don't love him, I do understand him. I said that I was going to focus on rebuilding the Republic, but yet I am splitting my time between here and Coruscant. I have this power that I don't think I am prepared to have. Obi-Won did say that my powers needed to be blocked because of my anger and hatred. Perhaps it would have been better for me have been kept in the dark. And most of all, I am afraid that no matter what I do, one day, I will fall to the Dark Side.”

Anishpada poured both of them a small bowl of tea. “Leia, your destiny is not made by your past. Your destiny lies in the decisions you make in the present and in the future. Please keep that in mind.” A small grin showed her fangs. “It is impossible to say what traits, other than your sensitivity to the Force, came from Anakin. And I never met Anakin or Vader, and everything I know about him I heard from Obi-Won.

I can tell you that all the adults in your life had a strong stubborn streak, especially Bail. He was also very cunning and smooth. I think the Emperor met his match in that area whenever he dealt with your father. So I do believe you get that skill from Bail.

Your sense of duty comes from all of them. However, the Organas honed that trait in you. In fact, you are so much like Bail Organa. I like to think that if Anakin had not fallen that he and Bail would probably have been friends. I know Bail was a dear friend of both your birth mother and Mon Mothma.

And remember, you inherited many good qualities from Anakin. From what Obi-Won told me, you father was great at bantering,” she leaned in, her eyes sparkling, “I know I would have loved seeing him put Obi-Won in his place.” She sat back and took a sip of tea. “He questioned things and did not follow blindly. Now, Obi-Won says you have Anakin's temper and emotional state. But that is not a bad thing Leia. There is nothing wrong with living life with passion and love. Your birth parents and your adoptive parents did so.

So the question is not ‘how much of Anakin is found in you'. The question is how are you going to use the gifts you inherited from all you family?”

*****

CHAPTER 5

Leia stood on the balcony and looked north across the forest to the small settlement. Hundreds of solar lights lit the numerous homes that blended into the hills of the countryside. New Alderaan was on pace—the people had adjusted well. Some had decided to settle on the hills to the North, while others chose to settle along the mountain peaks of the coast and still others decided to spread themselves among the various forests and woods, rivers and streams of the new planet that they now called home.

Han came outside with a blanket. He opened it, draped it on Leia's shoulders and wrapped his arms around her, placing a small kiss on top of her head. “It is looking good. Most of the people have settled in and some have even started some commerce. And I volunteered C3PO and R2D2 to help all the different computer systems to talk to one another. ” A smile graced his features. “So when are we going to start on our palace?”

Leia also smiled. “Our palace…that sounds nice.” The smile dropped as she continued, “The public buildings will start once every family has their own home and we have built defenses. We were sitting ducks the last time. I won't let it happen again.”

“Hey, there was nothing you or anyone else could have done. There was no defense against the Death Star. The only hope lied in the plans that you stole. Until those plans were interpreted and a weakness was found, there was nothing any planet could have done.”

“Perhaps not, but we will not go without a fight.” She turned to face him. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that my people remain safe. No one will know where we are, at least not anytime soon.”

“What about shipments?”

“They will make due with what the planet can offer. Right now, some of our scientists are already making alloys of the metals found on this planet. Dr. Tork was already bragging about some of his discoveries.”

“Well remember, I use to be a smuggler. Anything you need, just ask. I can get it.”

She gave him a small kiss. “You are too good to me, you know that?”

“It's no problem. Besides, soon they will be my people too. Speaking of which, I was thinking.”

“Oh, oh.”

“Hey, hear me out. When you and the rest of the politicians set things up, you are going to need some good generals. I've been thinking about resigning my commission from the Republic.”

“Han, you worked hard for that.”

“Leia, the Republic is growing and we both know I am not a ‘Yes Man' or a career military man. It felt right to help when we were Rebels. Now, there are others who are better suited for this role. It doesn't mean I won't help the Republic from time to time, but my first allegiance is to you and our family and to the settlers. I can do more if I was general here than I can as a general to the Republic.”

She looked at him incredulously. “I love you.”

“I know.” He bent his head and captured her lips. “I had a selfish reason also. It means we have more time to be together.”

She moaned. She knew that Han was not going to like this. “Speaking of which, I have to go to Coruscant tomorrow.”

“Why? I just got here today, and I only have 3 days before my next mission.”

“I'm sorry. But the Council wants it official as soon as possible.”

He waited for Leia to continue, but when she paused too long, he burst, “Well, make what official?”

She looked at him pleadingly. “Don't laugh okay? They want to officially name me Queen.”

Han bit back his laugh. “Well, I've been calling you ‘your Highness' for a while now.”

Leia swiped him with her hand. “I hate it. But the vote was 8-1, so I have no choice in the matter. I told them I would accept only if the title was in name only.”

“8-1? Who voted against it?”

“Me. Han, the Queen and King were my parents. I want them to be the last of the Alderaan royalty. I don't want anyone to forget them.”

“There is no way anyone is going to forget your parents. They help start the Rebellion. They raised their only child to love life and freedom, and to fight for it. Did you ever occur to you that part of the reason they are giving you this title is out of respect for what they did and their sacrifice? Besides, it is already done, might as well get use to it…your highness.” Han laughed.

“Real funny. So now, five of the Council members and I have to go to Coruscant. Then I have a couple of days to get ready for a delegation from two of the Emperor's loyal planets. It seems that they want to come into the fold.”

“Probably just wants to make sure that they don't get any retaliation from the other systems for being loyal to the Emperor.”

“Perhaps, but Mon Mothma thinks it is a good idea for us to welcome them. Both Jaelza and I are co-chairs of the Republic delegation.”

Han let out a whistle. “Do you think you two can get along long enough to accomplish this?”

“The election is months away. Both Jaelza and I can act like adults until this important matter is through. However, before the ink dries she will take off the gloves and start the mud slinging again.” She turned and took a couple of steps backwards towards the door. “Why don't you come with me?”

“There are a lot of things that still need to be done here Leia. Besides, most of the Council will be gone, Chewie is visiting his family and Anishpada has her hands full helping with the settlements, tending her herbs, and being a know-it-all. Someone has to stay and be responsible.”

Leia pouted. “Too bad. I was going to pack Jabba's gift to me and take it along.”

“Jabba's gift?” he mouthed as he watched her leave through the door. Then he remembered. He had never seen her in it, much to Lando's enjoyment. His friend never ceased to remind him how good she looked in it. “Leia, wait,” he stated as he chased after her.

*****

Chapter 6

“Good evening Anishpada.”

The Jedi Wookiee toothy grin filled her face. “Hello pupil of mine. How is Yulato and Ben?”

“He sends his love.”

Anishpada laughed. “I sincerely doubt that Luke.”

Luke shook his head. Even though Anishpada and Obi-Won are both Jedi, their distain for each other was hilarious. It reminded Luke of an old married couple that had nothing better to do that to pick on each other. Even though the two never missed an opportunity to tease each other, they also respected one another, even though they never agreed. “Is Leia busy? I need to talk to her.”

“She and Han are in Coruscant. Mon Mothma needed her expertise for a new treaty.”

“Well I guess I will head over there then. And how is the training coming along?”

Anishpada shrugged. “She is as stubborn as ever. That particular trait has not gotten better with age. She still refuses to learn any new skills.”

“We need to respect her wishes.”

Anishpada eyed Luke. “So you know.”

Luke nodded. “Father told me. She told you?”

The older Jedi shook her head. “When Leia thought you died, there was only two choices for Leia. When both choices appeared to me, I informed Han and we rushed to Yulato. That is why he was prepared. I did not see Anakin, nor did I have any foreknowledge of what he would do. I am very glad that he was there though.”

“So that is why you were there.”

“Yes.” Anishpada grew quiet for a few moments. “For now, I will respect your wish.”

“What do you see Anishpada?”

“Nothing. I cannot see anything because Leia has not chosen anything. She doesn't know what her path should be. Until she makes a firm commitment, my gift is useless. And since her choices will affect you and the others, I cannot see your options either. I am walking into this blind, in a matter of speaking.”

“Welcome to our world. I am on my way to Coruscant.”

“I will meet you and the others there tomorrow.”

***

Luke landed his ship onto the Senate's large landing bay. He climbed out of his X-Fighter, and made his way down the dark grey corridors of the Senate building to the lift that would take him to the floor that housed the Alderaan residence. He stood at the door and waited for the security system to recognize him. The door slid open.

Inside the suite, the pure white walls were accented by paintings full of greens, blues and beiges—hinting at the natural world and harmony with nature that Alderaan was known for. The room's furnishings were also white, but the chairs had curved edges that soften their look. The throw pillows and throw blanket were the same accent colors of the paintings. And standing by the bar, with it various colors of liquors and glasses was Han. And right beside him, chattering away was C3PO. R2D2 stood quietly, charging his battery.

C3PO rushed over “Master Luke, it is good to see you!”

Luke gave the protocol droid a small smile, then turn his attention to the General. “Hello Han.”

Han glanced at Luke, and then continued to pour himself a drink. “Luke.” He lifted the bottle and silently offered the Jedi a drink.

“No thanks Han.”

“If you are looking for Leia, she is at a meeting. She should be back in a few minutes though.”

Luke took a deep breath. “Actually, I need to talk to you alone.”

C3PO turned his head back and forth between the two men as the two men looked at him. “Oh, you mean for me to leave?” Even though he had been around humans his whole existence, he still did not understand them. Surely Master Luke knew that whatever he said, he would never repeat. After all, if it was that important, his memory could be easily erased. “I will wait on the balcony. “ He took 3 steps towards the exit. “You will let me know when it is safe for me to return, won't you?”

“Yes C3PO.” After the droid left, Luke sat down on the white couch and turned his attention to Han. “I know that there has been tension between us. We use to be the closest of friends.”

“We were the trio, weren't we?” Han sat down in the chair near the couch. Memories flowed through his mind of various adventures they had together. “The farmer, the princess and the pirate.” He took a drink. “After you all rescued me from Jabba, I remember how close you and Leia were, and I felt like the third wheel at times. It drove me nuts. She would turn to you, you would turn to her and it seemed that you two were connected. At one point, I thought our relationship was over before it really even began.”

“Han, you have to understand. I found out that Leia was my sister right before we went to Endor and I couldn't even tell her in order to protect her. And then once I told her about our family; I had to confront our Father and I didn't even know if I was going to come back.” A small grin pulled at the right corner of his mouth. “She wanted me to run away in order to protect me. And I buried my feelings to protect her. We lost so many years, and I've been trying to figure out what my place is in her life. I know I've stepped on your toes.” He looked imploring at his friend. “And I know our friendship has suffered because of it. She is not only my twin Han. She is my little sister, and I love her. Even though I know you are a good guy and you make her happy…”

“You don't think I'm good enough for her,” Han stated dryly. He knew that some of the men and some members of the Council felt that way, but he never thought that Luke would echo those sentiments.

“It is not your fault. No one will be good enough for her as far as I am concern. And that is not your problem, it is mine.” He got up and walked to the former smuggler. “But out of all the people that I have gotten to known, there is no one I trust more. I know you would do anything for her, and protect her. I know you love her. I apologize for the way I've been acting.” Luke stuck out his hand.

Han stood up. “Listen Luke, I would do anything to make her happy. I'm sorry too. I don't understand this link that you two share, and I hate it when you seem to know what is going on with Leia before I do. When we nearly lost her on Yulato, I blamed you because you were an easy target. But you are her brother, and I know that someday I am going to be very happy about that bond.”

Han reached out and grabbed Luke's hand, and quickly pulled him into a hug. After the hug he looked at his friend. “Hey, why don't you stay here and wait for Leia? She should be back soon.” A smirk graced Han's lips as he remembered. “By the way, you may want to address her by her new ranking when she gets back.”

Luke frowned. “I thought the election was months away.”

“It is.” The smirk became a big smile. “She is now Queen.” Han told Luke about the Alderaan Council's decision and how Leia hated the idea.

Luke laughed. He quickly calmed himself as the door to the suite slid open.

Leia walked in. When she saw Luke she ran to him and threw her arms around him. “Luke, what are you doing here?”

Luke returned her hug but did not answer.

Leia pulled back, and saw that Luke was staring at her. “What is it?” She looked at Han who was also staring.

Luke stepped back and bowed greatly. “My sister the Queen.” Then he and Han busted out in laughter.

Leia rolled her eyes at the pair even as a small smile graced her lips. “Did you come all the way here to tease me?”

Luke became serious. “No. But I did come so that we will have more eyes on the lookout. The Sith have not made their move yet. When they do, I believe that Coruscant will be their target. This is where Darth Sidious came to power, this was his stronghold.”

“Perhaps we should warn the Senate or at least Mon Mothma,” Leia suggested.

Luke shook his head. “I don't want to alarm anyone just yet. We don't have any evidence nor we don't know how or when they are going to attack.”

“There is a big universe out there Luke. They could be anywhere,” Han stated. But his gut told him that Luke was right. The Emperor was obsessed with power. And Coruscant was the center of power of the young Republic as it had been before it became the Imperial City. The former rebels had defeated the Emperor, and he would do anything to crush the fledging government. “Just the same, maybe I should cancel…”

“No,” Leia interrupted. “You are going near the Outer Rim, where many of the Emperor's loyalists have fled. Perhaps you will hear something there.”

“Who knows? One or two of the warlords may owe me a favor and needs a favor done,” Han stated with a smirk. He still held on to his pirate ways and was more than willing to use them.

“Anishpada is going to join us tomorrow as well,” Luke added.

“Well then it is all settled. Luke, Leia and I were going to have dinner tonight. Would you like to join us?” Han sincerely asked.

Leia smiled. She didn't know what happened, nor was she going to ask. She was just grateful that the two had put their differences aside. “Yes, please do.”

“Alright. But I need to get a room.”

“Let me take care of that.” Leia went to her communicator. “Hollowell?” An older middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair and brown eyes appeared on the screen. He smiled at the young woman, which caused his laugh lines to deepen. Jacob Hollowell was one of her father's personal assistants and oldest friends. He and his wife became the unofficial ‘guardians' of Leia after the destruction of Alderaan. He was a jovial man, who always seemed to have Leia's best interest at heart. “Good evening. Luke and Han are with me.”

Hollowell acknowledged the two men. “Hi boys.” He then turned his attention back to Leia. “What do you need, your majesty?”

Two distinct snickers were heard. Leia gave an evil eye to both Luke and Han, and then she turned back to the monitor. “Don't call me that,” Leia sighed. “I've been Leia to you all my life.”

“Only in private. In public, I've always addressed you as Princess Leia. Now that you are queen, I will address you properly as I always have.”

Leia knew when to back down. “Fine. “I was wondering if you would see to it that two more suites are ready on our floor for Han and Luke?”

Hollowell paused. He knew he would have to address his concerns later this evening—in private. “Suitable arrangements will be made. I will give you the details when they are done. Is there anything else?”

“No. Thank you Hollowell. I'll talk to you later.” She turned off her communicator, and then turned to face the two men who looked like they were about to bust. She wondered if it was too late to back out of dinner. She had a feeling that she was going to be the butt of the jokes tonight.

The three left the suite. C3PO knocked on the window. “Is it safe for me to return?” he asked to an empty room.

***

After dinner, the trio returned to Leia's suite. Leia turned her attention to the balcony when something gold caught her eyes. “Why is C3PO on the balcony?”

“Opps. I forgot to tell him to come back inside.” Luke ran and opened the balcony door. “I'm sorry C3PO.”

The droid shuffled his way into the living room. “It is alright Master Luke. The sky was clear and the air is dry. It was a very good night to be out there.” C3PO turned his attention to Leia. “While outside, I tapped into the computer system. Since you requested that Master Hollowell get some suites ready, I thought it would be helpful if I found out which suites were being prepared. Master Luke's suite is three doors down from yours and is ready. However, Master Solo's suite is not ready.”

“Thanks C3PO. “ Luke faced and turned to Han and Leia. “If you two don't mind, I am going to call it a night.”

The trio bid each other goodnight. Luke made his way to R2D2, turned him on and then left the suite taking the small droid with him.

“He couldn't take the golden bucket of bolts with him?” Han whispered.

Leia gave Han a small elbow. “Be nice.”

C3PO, oblivious to the insult, walked up to the pair. “Mistress, is it alright to charge myself?”

“Of course. Good night C3PO.”

“Good night.” With that the droid powered down.

“Alone at last.” Han was about to wrap his arms around Leia when the communicator went off.

Leia sighed. “I hate interruptions.” She walked to her desk and turned on the communicator. “Hello Hollowell.”

“Good evening. Is Han there with you?”

Leia called Han over to the communicator. Han nodded at the older gentleman. “Hollowell.” Han remembered that Hollowell was one of the Alderaan men who visited him that day to remind him of his responsibility towards Leia.

Hollowell cleared his throat. “I need to talk to the both of you about the suite. You both know that how important it is to maintain the right image especially since Leia is running for vice-chair. The ‘news' is always looking for some gossip.”

“I don't care about the gossipers. They will always be around, looking for the next piece of news.”

“But you should care about Jaelza's camp. The rule states that Ambassadors, their families, staff or those granted asylum by said Ambassador, must use the Ambassadors' suites. Since Han is not yet family, she will use this to say you cannot be trusted in even the small matters, you like to bend the rules to your will, and who knows for what else she would use this.”

“He's right.” Han stated. He placed a hand on Leia's shoulder. “But it still sucks.”

“I'm sorry Han. But I am only looking out for Leia's best interest.”

“I know you are Hollowell,” Leia stated giving him a small smile, “Thank you. Have you already prepared another place for Han?”

“Yes my liege. I have arranged for him to have one of the better suites for the Republic Generals. It is just 5 floors below us. I took the opportunity to make sure that you didn't have to share the room, that way you can get plenty of rest before your mission tomorrow. Well, goodnight you two.”

Han thanked Hollowell and the pair bid the advisor goodnight. Han then turned to Leia with an incredulous look on his face. “Was that his way of telling me to leave?”

Leia smirked to herself. “Hollowell has done that for years to every suitor who he felt was staying too late.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and drew Han in for a kiss.

“Wait a minute…you said suitors. Just how many suitors has it been?”

Her voice dropped an octave. “Do you really want to waste time talking about the past? Knowing Hollowell, he will find some other excuse to call in less than 10 clicks from now.”

“In that case…I always said to live in the moment.” With that, the little bit of distance between them ceased to be.

******

CHAPTER 7

Leia stood in the back left corner of the large conference room. With its bright white walls and furnishings, the room was all business. Leia glanced at the large gold emblem that was engraved on the table. The Alliance Starbird glistened brightly. The Rebellion adopted the symbol from the family crest of Galen Marek, a man who protected the Rebellion in its infancy and sacrificed his own life in the process. The former-Rebellion-now-Republic had taken all of the Emperor's crests off every wall, table and door and replaced it with its own. Now any group who came into this room knew who was in charge.

She snapped out of her musings when three of her friends came into the room. Gabriel, who was a human, stood just under 6 feet tall, was thin, brown-haired, brown eyes and ebony skin. Triamia was a Mon Calamari with large black eyes that were just the right size for her large domed head, grey skin with thin lips, and Qai, a Cathar who was tall, blond, with yellow feline eyes, pale skin and cat-like reflexes. The three made their way to Leia.

“Too bad Soluna and Tabitha couldn't be here. With the Young Studs in full force, this negotiation would be over before it even begun,” Triamia stated with all confidence.

Leia shook her head. ‘The Young Studs' was the unofficial name of the group of friends. Every member of the ambitious group of six was all under 30, with Gabriel being 4 years older than Leia. He and Leia were Senators, while the others were either Junior Senators or work with the lead Senators and Ambassadors of their worlds. Leia hated the name, but after Mon Mothma had teasingly called the group that when she saw them out late one night after a particularly hard negotiation, the name stuck. “Remember, they want to be part of the Republic.”

“So they should be willing to jump through any hoops we find necessary,” Qai stated with a smile that showed his two sharp canines.

“You would know about jumping through hoops, wouldn't you?” Gabriel asked with a wink.

A small hiss escaped from Qai's lips. “Funny.”

“Behave boys,” Triamia warned. “We're being watched.”

Leia glanced. At the table stood Jaelza and her assistant Kola who looked at them; along with other members of the negotiating team. Leia stared back, not willing to give an inch to her opponent. “I guess its show time.” With that, Leia walked to the table and stood side by side with Jaelza, while the others stood in their place. All eyes were on the foreign delegation as they walked in.

Unlike the Republic, whose delegation was made up of various races and worlds, the two worlds chose a delegation made up of humans. Leia made a mental note of that fact. The Emperor believed that human race was the superior species, and just about all of his officers and leaders were human.

The twin worlds of Akizlar and Kaksikud continued to hold that belief. Both worlds had a loosely bound caste system. People could move up or down a caste level…all except for the toxunulmax: even if they could become rich, successful, or wise, they would always be toxunulmax. They were not allowed to marry people from the other caste levels, and they were strongly encouraged not to have children. In some districts, they were sterilized. The only groups lower than the toxunulmax were other humanoid species that made up the slave population.

Leia eyed every member of the incoming delegation. The young Senator was always good at reading people. The two leaders were an older couple named Mandrose and Jeza Bellina. It was obvious as introductions were made that the gentleman was going to play the role of the tough negotiator, while the woman would play the softer one. Jaelza and Leia glanced at each other. Both of them were seasoned negotiators, and knew that it was the woman who they should watch carefully.

As the last person filed into the room, a feeling of power washed over Leia. She looked at the young man from whom the feeling emitted. Trying to ignore his presence, she turned her attention back to the leaders of the group.

Chaya felt like he had been hit in the gut. Only two others caused such a sensation: the Emperor and Darth Tyranus. He stared at the young woman. He wondered if she felt the same.

One glance from her, and he knew the answer to his question. She too felt it.

***

During the negotiations, Chaya kept eyeing Leia, trying to figure out if she was friend or foe. He couldn't read her emotions; it was like a wall was there. And she no longer seemed affected by his presence; her full attention was on the negotiations.

Leia focused all her attention onto the matter at hand. As with most treaties, both parties seemed far apart. They started with the small matters: taxes, trade, number of Senators each world would have. Around lunchtime, the delegations separated for a two-hour break. Jaelza and Leia led their team to a different room. “It seems to be going well,” Jaelza stated as she eyed the junior members of the delegation, “just make sure all your notes match, and you get all the quotes right. Make sure you spell out everything word-for-word.”

“The items covered in the first session are always the easiest. This afternoon, lets hit them with something hard,” Leia stated.

“Deconstruction of their caste system, invalidation of their slavery system…” Qai suggested.

Leia gave him a sad smile. Too many of Qai's people have been kidnapped and sold into slavery. He made it no small secret that any planet that comes into the Republic should have to end slavery immediately. “We will get to that. But I was thinking about making a demand that they turn over any war criminals.”

“I agree,” Jaelza nodded. “It will show if they truly mean to be a part of the Republic.”

“But the slave trade is still on the table, right?”

Leia touched her friend on the shoulder. “Of course Qai. The Republic is about freedom. They need to accept that the Emperor isn't coming back, and the Imperial forces are done.” She smiled at her friends. “Now if you will excuse me, I need to check on something before we reconvene.” With that, Leia left the group and exited the room.

The rest of the delegation broke for lunch. Jaelza pulled her assistant to her side and whispered, “The young man from the other side was too fascinated with Leia. Follow her, and see if you can find out anything of interest.”

*****

Chaya watched as the members of the Republic's delegation left the room. Mandrose Bellini cleared his throat. “She is out of your league.”

“What?” The young man turned his attention back to the group.

“She could never be interested in you. Remember your place. Just because we are trying to become a member of the Republic, that doesn't mean anything to your kind.”

Chaya's anger was ignited, but he bit his tongue. Soon, they will pay for the way they treated him. He lowered his eyes in mock submission.

Mandrose smiled. “Now, the best thing for you to do is to look happy. Did you even notice how ‘diverse' their little group was? Did any of you notice?” He looked at each member of the delegation. “Disgusting! If they think we are going to become like that, they better change their mind.”

“Mandrose, may I remind you that we don't make the final decisions.” Jeza spoke up. “Our leaders expect us to come back with a treaty. The people are tired of being attacked by various pirates and warlords. “ She walked up to her husband. “We have done very well under the present regime. We will do what is necessary to ensure we bring this treaty to its fulfillment and this regime stands strong. Let the Republic use their resources to fight those who attack us. And we will focus our resources on guaranteeing the survival of our culture and ways.”

*****

CHAPTER 8

Leia walked the tiny-pebbled walkway in the memorial park located at the top of the Senate building. Along side each of the walkways were flat marbled stones, streaked blue and white. On each stone were engraved names of those who sacrificed their lives in the war against the Empire.

The park also contained significant numbers of trees and plants from each planet that were part of the Rebellion. Leia loved being here. Alderaan was a lush and green planet. The people took great pride in the fact that they learned to live with nature. Being in the park reminded her of home. She spent a few minutes admiring the great care and beauty of the Alderaan section of the garden before proceeding to her goal.

The three trees stood proudly in the center of the park. The trees were dedicated to the three founders of the Rebellion. Leia looked at the bronze plaque on the second tree. Engraved on the plaque was the name of her father: Bail Organa. A sad smile tugged at her lips as she lovingly caressed the plaque. “I miss you and mom so much. I even miss the three redoubtable dowagers. I wish I could go back to the good ole days.” She giggled. “Great now I sound like them,” she told herself as a memory flashed through her mind:

Leia crossed her arms over her two-toned pink-ruffled covered chest as she stood before her father's desk, wearing the dress that her aunts had picked out for her. “They are making me wear this…this…monstrosity!” The 8 year old then pointed to her intricately braided hair. “And why can't I wear a ponytail?”

Bail tried to swallow back his laughter. He knew his sisters Tia, Celly and Rouge meant well. “You look beautiful in that dress.”

But there was no appeasing the young girl. “Poking me, straightening my posture, telling me stories about the ‘good ole days' when princesses knew how to be PROPER princesses. I tell you what! I am going to get the best scientists to work on a time machine and then drop them in the ‘good ole days', that's what I'm going to do!”

Bail held out his arms. “Come here.” He pulled her up into his lap. “You know they only want what is best for you.”

“So you think that they are right?”

“I didn't say that. You know I have lots of advisors,” he waited as she nodded her head, “well, I listen to them, but it doesn't mean that they are always right. I learn to separate the good from the bad. That is what you need to do. Being a proper princess is hard, and people are going to give you all sorts of advice.” He eyed his young daughter. “And at times that means you are going to have to do things that you don't want to do, but are expected to do.”

“Like wearing frilly dresses and being nice to snotty people?”

He nodded. “The next time they start talking about the ‘good ole days', I want you to find something good, something you can learn from their stories. It is okay to remember the past, to learn from it, but don't ever live in it.” Bail kissed her forehead. “Okay?”

“Okay.” Leia turned as she felt their presence. She smiled at her two visitors.

Luke and Anishpada approached her. “What was so important?” Luke asked his twin.

“I had a surprise at the meeting. A member of the Akizlar and Kaksikud's delegation is strong in the Force.” She told them of Chaya.

“It can't be a coincidence. He must be with the Sith.“

“I don't know Luke. He seemed just as surprise to see me. And I sensed no danger or ill will from him. In fact, he seemed confused.”

“I still don't like this. I'll go with you back and see what I can sense.”

Anishapada shook head, causing her fur to swish back and fro. “That isn't necessary. Even if he was a Sith, he wouldn't do anything at the meeting.”

“Besides, you can't be there. You don't have clearance.” Leai thought for a moment. “Listen, a bunch of us usually go for drinks after negotiations. Why don't I invite him also? Then you can meet us there.”

Even though he didn't like it, Luke nodded. “Just be careful.”

“Aren't I always?” Leia pointed her finger at the pair, “Don't answer that. Now that is settle, I need to check with the others before the afternoon session starts.”

Anishpada and Luke said their goodbyes and watched as Leia walked away. Luke then turned and looked at the trees. On the very first tree, the bronze plaque shined. He read the name on the plaque: Padmé Amidala – the mother he never met.

Anishpada, for her part, was surprised to feel an old presence--a disturbance in the Force that was so familiar…someone she once considered a friend. Not wanting to scare Luke, she shook it off. “Well, my student, if you are not to busy, let us have lunch.” With that, she tucked her arm into his, and the pair left the park.

***

Darth Tyranus looked down at his right hand as he sat in the back corner of a small but busy tavern. He opened and closed his hand twice, each time pain shot from his joints. He sighed.

Chaya slipped into the seat across from his Master. Thinking that the sigh was one of disappointment, he quickly explained. “I'm sorry I'm late. Mandrose went off on one of his tangents.”

“Nothing to worry about.” The former Jedi looked away. When he turned back, he had a small smile on his face. “So, learn anything new?”

“There is another. She is strong, like us. But she works for the Alliance.”

“Oh,” Tyranus faked a look of surprise. “Well, don't keep me in suspense. Tell me, is she friend or foe?”

“I don't know. But since she is one of them, she cannot be a friend.”

“Don't be so quick to judge. Darth Sidious was a Senator, then elected by the rest of the Senate to lead. As time past, they gave him more and more power. Before they knew it, he became the Emperor.”

“You know him well don't you?”

Too well. “I knew him before he became the Emperor. He was very good at hiding his true motives and intentions. He could make one eat glass and drink poison, and one would still thank him for it before drawing one last breath.”

Chaya narrowed his eyes. Those words were not the ones he expected. “That is not the man that I know.”

“And how often did you meet him? Your Emperor caused lots of bloodshed, and I helped him do so while I was his apprentice. And he watched as each new apprentice killed the previous one.” He eyed the young man in front of him. “Are you sure you want the job?”

“It is different with me.”

A dry laugh came from Dooku. “I thought the same thing. Actually, I thought we were partners. Then the one who would become Darth Vader came along. Then the next one that the Emperor desired came.”

“But Vader was his apprentice while I was in the orphanage. I was supposed to be the Emperor's next Apprentice.”

A wiry grin graced Darth Tyranus' thin lips. “Don't worry. The young man rejected the Emperor's offer. He refused to kill his Father like the Emperor wanted.”

Chaya frowned. “The Emperor wanted him to kill his Father?”

“Yes. The Emperor wanted the young Jedi to kill Vader. Instead, Darth Vader killed the Emperor and sacrificed himself in order to save his son.”

“I don't believe you.” He took a swallow of water. “I was not replaced and the Emperor never asked me to kill anyone.”

“Really? For most of your life, the Emperor visited you. And yet, lost interest.”

“He didn't lose interest. He told me….”

Darth Tyranus interrupted, “He told you to stay put, keep your nose clean, and he would contact you. It was the same thing he told me before Vader came along.”

Chaya swallowed hard. Those were the sentiments that the Emperor had expressed. “You are wrong.”

“Really? The young Skywalker destroyed the original Death Star. Find out the date of that event, and compare it to the date of the Emperor's last message to you.”

“I will.” He looked at Dooku, fiery rage filling his eyes. “Why are you telling me this? You are training me to be his Apprentice.”

“In order to be a Sith, one has to accept certain truths. We will backstab each other. We want power and revenge. We feed on hate and fear. We are NOT a family. If you can accept the truth, then you will make a powerful Sith.”

Chaya grew quiet, as Darth Tyranus' words whirled around in his mind. For years, he dreamed of being a part of something. He knew his destiny was to stand by the Emperor's side and rule the Empire. But the Empire was no more. And even though he wanted to rebuild it, a tiny voice wondered just for whom he would be rebuilding it…. himself or the Emperor? Or perhaps, this was a test, and Darth Tyranus would report to the Emperor to see if he was worthy to be his apprentice? Yes, that must be it! Feeling more secure, he gave a small smile to his teacher. “I will be the greatest Sith.” And yet as the words escaped his lips, the tiny seed of doubt took root in his heart.

*****

CHAPTER 9

The afternoon session was not going well. Mandrose took a swallow of water from his glass. He looked at Jaelza and Leia. The tall Zahofotan seem to smirk at him with her eyes while the second seemed emotionless. “So, you are offering only a fraction of the help we need to get rid of the warlords.”

Leia's eyebrow rose. “I wouldn't call 25 x-wing fighters just a fraction. It more than doubles your fire power.”

“Yes, but at what price? You are gutting our government of true leadership and influential members of our society!” Jeza countered.

Jaelza shook her head. “No, we want your government to hand over suspected war criminals. We will make sure they get a fair trial. If found innocent, they can return, no questions asked.”

“Surely you can agree that atrocities were committed on both sides. Yet we are not demanding you hand over your war criminals,” suggested Chaya.

Leia eyed the young man. “Both sides? The Empire was based tyranny, hatred, brutality and fear. The Empire nearly destroyed the Jedi Order, committed countless acts of Genocide and caused trillions of civilian casualties.”

Qai also spoke up. “Not to mention destruction of the natural environments of numerous worlds, total destruction of planets and the enslavement of non-humans.”

“Non-humans? What about human lives lost?” Mandrose asked.

“Like the ones on Alderaan?” Everyone grew quiet at Leia's question. She paused as she reigned in her emotions. All she really wanted to do was send the delegation back to the Outer Rim with the message that they can fight their own battles. But Mon Mothma wanted as many worlds to be brought into the Alliance. So what if they couldn't be trusted? Some members of the x-wing squadron would keep an eye on things. Besides, since they were on the Outer Rim, they would be the first ones attacked by an outside force. She spoke again, her voice controlled. “I don't care about your personal prejudices. But let me remind you that non-humans kicked the Empire's butt. Ask the Stormtroopers who were on Endor what happened.” She stood up, and the rest of the Alliance entourage followed suite. “We don't need you, but you need us.”

Jaelza smiled. Leia may be her opponent for now, but they made one powerful team. Perhaps there will be a place for Leia in my cabinet . “Let us know when you have had enough of the various warlords and other human undesirables destroying your world.”

“And when that time comes, make sure you are ready to discuss ALL possible changes needed.” With that, Leia and all the other delegates walked out.

Mandrose pushed back his chair and stood up angrily. He blamed one person for such a disgrace. His blue eyes focused on his target. “You,” he snarled. “You couldn't do one simple thing. Sit there and look happy. Let them see that the caste system works. But no, you had to open your big mouth, and gave them the opening they were looking for.” The older man placed both hands on the table and looked at the symbol of the Alliance. “We have no treaty to take back. “ He sighed. “We have to return home with our tails between our legs like some common animal. But at least we have somewhere we call home.” Mandrose stood tall and stared at Chaya. “You are not welcomed on our ship. Find your own transportation back.”

Chaya narrowed his green eyes and walked up the Mandrose. “You may look down upon me now. But I guarantee you, one day, you will be on your knees before me.”

“You are nothing but a toxunulmax. You live as a toxunulmax, you will die as a toxunulmax.” Mandrose sharply turned and headed out the door, along with the rest of the group.

*****

CHAPTER 10

Chaya stared at the symbol at the table. It represented his life—as a Phoenix, he would rise out of the flame and the ashes of his old life, refreshed and more powerful than ever. He turned, exited the room, and walked down the hall to the lift. He wanted to hurry and make accommodations for the night. He entered the lift and press the button for the lobby. The lift stopped on the next floor to pick up another passenger. Chaya swallowed hard as the same sensation overwhelmed his senses.

Leia stepped onto the lift. She nodded once at him and stared at the door. She tried to will the sensation away, so she took a deep breath.

I want you to keep your eyes and ears open so we can keep track of potential threats and possible allies. Those words rang in his ears. Chaya didn't know into which category Leia fell. He turned to face her. “I'm sorry about the negotiations this afternoon. I didn't mean to belittle what happened to your world.”

“I know you didn't. War is hell for anyone and everyone involved.”

“Did you fight in it?”

Leia laughed. “You didn't read the file before showing up for negotiations?”

“They didn't give me a file.”

“But you are a junior ambassador.”

A bitter laugh escaped from his lips. “I guess being toxunulmax outranks being a junior ambassador.”

“You are a toxunulmax?” Leia asked incredulously. Chaya didn't fit the image of a toxunulmax— he was handsome and strong. She didn't sense any mental weaknesses in him either, at least none that would cause him to be a toxunulmax.

“Yes. Does that surprise you?” He did not give her time to answer as they stepped out of the lift. “I was to sit pretty, and tell you how wonderful our caste system works if you asked me. I wasn't supposed to say anything else.”

“Oh, let me guess—they blame you for the mess that they made.”

“Yes. And they refuse to give me a life back home. No matter--I wasn't planning on going back home—at least not yet.” The pair walked out of the building and into the early evening. The sun had just begun touching the horizon, and the pale colors of sunset had just begun to gain richness in their shading.

“Good for you.” Leia smiled at him. “Listen, a few of us are going out later at the Blue Star Club. You are more than welcome to join us. Warning though—there will be non-humans in our group.”

Chaya shook his head. “No thank you. I have another engagement. However, perhaps sometime soon we can get together.”

Leia nodded. “Hope to see you soon then.” With that she walked to the parking garage and disappeared from sight.

Chaya smiled to himself. He wasn't sure yet, but it seemed that the young woman wanted to be a friend. She didn't care that he was a toxunulmax, nor did she seem to care about his status as a former junior ambassador. He turned and made his way to a public information center. Perhaps Darth Tyranus was right, Leia Organa may turn out to be a friend after all.

Leia waited until she entered her hovercraft to pull out her communicator. “Hollowell?”

“Yes my queen?”

“I need for you to do me a favor. Check on the status of a delegation member from the twin planets. His name is Chaya…”

***

“Computer, what date was the original Death Star destroyed?” Chaya asked.

The small data computer shot a holographic image in front of the young man. Chaya swallowed hard as he realized that the date coincided with the time period that the Emperor's visits ended. “Who destroyed the Death Star?”

Again, the computer flashed up a summary article. Chaya scanned the article until he saw another name. “Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were given medals for not only rescuing Senator Princess Leia, but helping to destroy the Death Star.”

“So she knows him.” His eyes narrowed. “Computer, who is Luke Skywalker's father?”

The computer flashed and buzzed before lighting up a picture. Chaya took a deep breath. “Anakin Skywalker also known as Darth Vader.” Chaya continued his search. “Computer who is Darth Tyranus?”

“Apprentice of the Emperor. Former Jedi.” Confusion filled Chaya's mind. “A Jedi? Who killed Darth Tyranus?”

“Anakin Skywalker also known as Darth Vader.”

“How did Darth Vader die?”

“Darth Vader died on the second Death Star. According to eyewitness, he rebelled against the Emperor to protect Luke Skywalker.”

“Who was the eyewitness?”

“Luke Skywalker.”

Chaya rubbed his temples. He didn't know what to believe. It seemed that Darth Tyranus was correct…the Sith main goal was power, and if you wanted power, you had to take it from someone else.

But his memories of the Emperor contradicted what he was reading. He knew he needed to know more.

“Computer: Give me biographical information on the Emperor.” A long list of information flashed in front of him. Chaya knew he had a long night ahead.

Three hours later and Chaya was exhausted. He managed to do an extensive investigation into the Emperor and the Sith, and the more he learned, the less he liked. Sith lived lives of loneliness and sought power at any cost. His first Master was an expert—he made sure he was always on top, and always was looking for a potential apprentice—the newer one had to be more powerful than the previous. He finally left the library. The research confirmed in greater detail what his master had warned him about. All these years, I thought I was becoming a part of something great. I thought he cared about me.

 

The former junior ambassador made his way back to the lobby of the building that housed the Ambassador Suites. When he tried to check in, he had a surprise waiting for him.

The courtesy droid nervously addressed Chaya. “Sir, there was a problem with your room…”

“A problem?”

“Well sir, your name was no longer on the list as a junior ambassador.”

“So I lost my room, great. A perfect ending for a perfect day.”

“Sir, you still have a room. It seems that Senator Organa found out, and has gained permission to list you as seeking asylum. Your new room is just 2 floors below your old room and we have already moved your items to it.” The droid handed him a new key.

“Thank you. Has she checked in? I would like to thank her myself.”

“She left earlier in the evening. Would you like to leave her a recording?”

Chaya smiled. “No thanks, I think I know how to find her. I need directions to the Blue Star Club.” After receiving directions, he turned and left the building.

*****

CHAPTER 11

Anishpada walked along the hilly dirt trail. She studied the trees, the vines, the life and sounds of the isolated large park. She smiled to herself: the park would make a fine training ground for her students. It was one of the few green areas on the city planet of Coruscant. She could feel her spirit soar, even as the Sun faded into the shadows. Once again she felt an old presence. “Show yourself,” she growled.

Darth Tyranus stepped out into the open. The last time she saw him, he had been a young padawan, 12 seasons old. When she spoke, he took in what she said. Now, he was a middle aged man with wrinkles starting to show. He watched as she ignited her lightsaber. “Now Anishpada, is that the way to greet a friend?”

“Friend?! How dare you call yourself a friend! Because of what you started, the Jedi are no more!”

He pointed at her. “You were the one who predicted the fall of the Jedi. You knew what was going to happen. You tried to warn us. But instead of staying and making them listen, you ran.”

“And you betrayed them.”

He did not deny it. “I became disillusion. I did try to walk away. But the power…”

“Spare me the details. You are a traitor and a servant of the Dark Side.”

“I need for you to listen…”

Anishpada didn't want to hear it. “To your lies? There is nothing that you can tell me that I would believe.”

“Even if I told you that I was wrong?” He never took his eyes off the Wookie. “I know what it looks like. But hear me out.”

“Why should I?”

“I haven't pulled my weapon.” He slowly opened his jacket and showed the hilt of his lightsaber. He pulled it out and tossed it to her feet. “Pick it up and keep it if you must. But I expect you to listen. I became disillusioned with the Jedi and the corruption of the Republic. We were protecting the very ones responsible for the decline. I tried to walk away. I even claimed the lands and title that belonged to my ancestors. But it wasn't enough. Unlike you, I didn't have a purpose or direction. And I miss having the power that I once welded. I knew that the Jedi was on the wrong path. When Darth Sidious came to me, I was more than ready. After all if the Jedi were wrong, the Sith must be right. For years, he trained me. And then, he betrayed me.”

“So why are you working for him now?”

Count Dooku quirked his eyebrow. “Who says I am working for him?”

“So you were acting as a free agent when you beat Leia?”

“That was NOT me! The only thing I did was backhand her once. It was Leia who escalated the fight. Even then, I could have killed her. But I didn't. It was Darth Maul who beat her like a dog. I only came back for one reason.”

“Let me guess, you want redemption.”

He shook his head. “I would like it, but I don't expect it. The blood of hundreds, if not thousands, is on my hands.” He took a step towards Anispada, hoping that she would look into his eyes and see he was telling the truth. “My time on this plane grows short. But I need to know that you are willing to finish what I started.” His voice softened. “When I first met Chaya, he reminded me of myself. He wants a purpose, he wants to belong, and in his confusion and anger, he is making the same mistake I did. I wish someone had helped me. I am not doing this to save my soul. It is too late for me. I am trying to save his soul.”

Anishpada narrowed her eyes. “Why? Why is he so important to you?”

Count Dooku swallowed hard. “He's my grandson.”

*****

CHAPTER 12

The Young Studs were in full force. Just as hard as they worked, the group played just as hard and the Blue Star Club was their playground tonight. With dimmed multi-colored lights flashing to the beat of the music, the six friends had occupied the largest booth in the back left corner of the club, with the ladies sitting on the left and the guys on right.

Leia sat at the end of the booth. She shook her head at the two youngest members of the group: Soluna and Tabitha who were busy gossiping.

Soluna with her deep soulful eyes, powder-blue skin, and five tentacles that ran down from the top of her head down her back looked as innocent as could be, but she had a wicked tongue.

Tabitha was the youngest in the group. At the age of 19, the young furred Bimm had seen her fair share of injustice—first how Storm Troopers attacked and bullied her peaceful people, and on the warfront where war twisted good people into machines of death and destruction. After 1 year on the front, she realized that her gifts were far more suited to the diplomatic arena. With her melodious voice, she continued with the conversation, “Well I heard that we missed out on some fun…and some eye candy.”

“Really, who told you that?” Leia inquired.

“From Kola.”

Soluna interjected, “And guess what else we heard?” She smiled wickedly. This was the only time that the six of them were able to just let their hair down. “I heard he was quite smitten with you Leia.”

“You heard wrong. You know how we diplomats operate. We are polite and charming when needed. That is all Chaya was doing.”

“Oh, you two on a first name basis now?” Soluna shook her head. She loved picking on her friend. “I told you about getting engaged at such a young age. Of course, if I had someone as ruggedly handsome as your Han, I probably would have said yes. I really don't see how you can let him out of your sight. Some tramp could be hitting on him right now.”

“Han doesn't like that type. And I trust him.” Leia looked up and saw Chaya come through the door. “Well he made it. If you will excuse me,” the princess stood up and walked towards the young man, making her way through the crowd.

“Correction,” Soluna said with a Cheshire cat smile on her face, “if I was Han I wouldn't let Leia out of my sight. Not with him around. Chaya-ya-ya, he is fine. Slide down Triamia, we need to make room for our guest.”

“Tell us what you really think Soluna,” Triamia stated while rolling her large black eyes and sliding over next to Gabriel.

“He is very kind to the eyes,” Tabitha agreed while she too slid down, “but how do we know he doesn't want to sit next to Qai and Gabriel?”

Soluna looked incredulously at the young Bimm. “Really? You need to get out of the office more.”

Qai agreed. “Bola was right. He seemed very interested in Leia during negotiations.”

Gabriel took a sip from his drink. “I imagine that as a Toxunulmax, one doesn't get to learn about negations and how to have a poker face. You just struggle to survive.”

Tabitha tilted her large ears in astonishment. “I can't believe that they chose a Toxunulmax to be part of their delegation.”

“Probably a poor attempt to fool us into thinking that their societies were changing,” Qai offered. “Well, I give them a week before they come back with another offer.”

Gabriel smirked. “That much time? I heard that pirates are constantly hounding them. Crime has climbed through the roof since the fall of the Empire. I give them 3 days.”

Triamia tilted her head towards the guys. “Are we really talking about work now? The night is young, and it is time for fun!” The friends agreed... no more talk of work.

***

Chaya smiled as he watched Leia make her way towards him.

“I thought you had other plans?” she inquired.

“I finished my research early. Besides I wanted to thank you for providing a room for me. I had no idea that they would leave me stranded and no place to lay my head. How did you know?”

Leia shrugged. “When you told me that they blamed you and that you were considered a Toxunulmax, I had a friend looked into your room situation.”

“I will not always be considered as such.”

“You are not one now. No one is a Toxunulmax.” Leia waved her hand towards the booth. “Let me introduce you to everyone.” They finally made their way back to the booth. Leia noticed that all conversation had stopped.

They finally made their way to the booth. Soluna tapped the empty seat to her left. “Come sit by me Chaya.” She looked at the young man. “So glad to see some new blood in our small group.”

“Soluna- behave,” Gabriel warned.

“Never have, why should I start now?” She turned her attention back to Chaya. “So tell me Chaya all about yourself.”

Chaya's eyebrow furrowed. No one, other than the Sith, ever wanted to know anything about him. And now, he wondered if it was all about gaining power for them. He wondered what did this group want from him. “There is nothing to tell. I was born on Kaksikud. My parents died when I was very young, and I was raised at an orphanage.”

“So how did you become an delegate?” Tabitha asked.

“To tell you the truth, they wanted a Toxunulmax to tell how wonderful the caste system really is, and since most of us have mental, emotional or physical weakness, I guess I won out. If you can call it that.” A server droid came over and took their orders.

The group chit chatted for a bit, and then Tabitha, Soluna and Triamia coaxed Gabriel and Qai to the dance floor. Soluna looked at Chaya. “Are you coming with us?”

“I don't dance,” Chaya explained.

Leia shrugged her shoulders. “I'll stay with Chaya.”

Soluna nodded, then made her way to the group.

Chaya turned his full attention to the Senator. He still didn't know what to make of her. Friend? Foe? Something else? She is an enigma that is for sure. “So Senator Organa…”

“Call me Leia.”

“Of course. Leia,” he paused, wanting to use the right words, “I went to do some research. I had no idea that you are a princess too. Your parents…they would be so proud of you.” He paused for a moment. “I never knew my parents. I always wondered what my life would have been like if someone would have adopted me, if I had a home.”

“I don't understand something Chaya, and if I am being rude please forgive me, but how did someone like you become a Toxunulmax? You don't have any mental or physical shortcomings, from what I can see. Were your parents Toxunulmax?”

He shook his head. “I was labeled by the staff as a Toxunulmax after they caught me moving a toy…without my hands.” He glanced at her. “I could tell that as soon as I walked into the room, you knew.” He looked into her eyes, almost as a fellow conspirator. “You too are strong in the Force.”

“Yes.”

“And that didn't make you a Toxunulmax in your society?”

“No. In fact, my parents tried to get me help so I could learn to use the Force. But I had lots of anger issues.”

Chaya chuckled. “Anger can make you strong.”

“It can also destroy everything you love.”

“Oh.” He grew quiet. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to turn the conversation into such serious matters.”

Leia shook her head. “I'm the one who should be sorry.” She tried to explain. “Anger is a temporary strength that demands a high cost. When it becomes a constant companion, it slowly destroys you. When I was younger, I justified my hatred and anger. I wanted the Emperor to fall, and even if it cost me my life, I wanted him and Vader destroyed. But instead of my life, it was my home that was destroyed.”

“You knew the Emperor? And his apprentice?”

“Since I was a child.”

“But they were strong in the Force. Surely they sensed your Force potential.”

“There are many ways to use the Force, including a way to hide from others. They never suspected. Plus, it helped that in their eyes I was nothing but a weak little girl.”

“You still hate them?”

“Yes and no. It's complicated.”

“I'm sorry. It is just that I never ran into someone who was Force sensitive, and one who knew so many others. Your master must be proud of you.”

Leia smirked. “I don't have a master.”

“Really? But how?”

“Not everyone who is strong in the Force has a master. I had a teacher, but I've chosen to focus on my political career.”

“But why?”

“I have my reasons.” She took a sip of her drink. “And you? Do you have a master?”

He decided to keep the identity of Emperor a secret. “I actually had one as a child. I thought of him as a father figure. He told me that I was going to be his apprentice. But he was killed. I swore vengeance against his enemies.” He looked at his hands as he toyed with a napkin. “But now I have a new master. He is very different. He told me quite a bit about my former master—things I didn't want to believe. But tonight I found out he was telling me the truth. My first Master was just using me. Now, I am more confused than ever. All I wanted was to be part of something greater than myself, to be a part of a family. But my master warned me that the path I am on would not give me that. I'm not sure I can do what I am required to do.”

“It seems that everyone sooner or later has to make a choice when it comes to the Force—to serve it or not, and in what way.” She smiled at him. “Chaya, there is someone I would like you to meet. She might be able to give you some guidance. She is very strong in the Force.”

“Another one?”

Leia laughed. “Now that the Emperor is dead, and the Empire has fallen, those who are strong in the Force are revealing themselves.”

Chaya nodded. He had read about the slaughter of Jedi and children who were strong in the Force—all on the order of the Emperor. “I guess they feel it is safe. So, when can I meet her?”

“Tomorrow. I will arrange it. I will give you fair warning—she is non-human. And you definitely don't want to make her mad.”

Chaya tilted his head. “You are going to be there, right?”

“I have a very busy schedule tomorrow. But I'll try.”

“Please do.” He leaned towards her. “By the way, I've made up my mind about you. I never had a friend before.”

She smiled at him. “Okay friend. Now, as a friend, I must tell you…if you are going to hang with this group, you need to dance.” Leia stood up and grabbed Chaya by his hand, then led him to the dance floor and to the rest of the Young Studs.

*****

CHAPTER 13

Leia entered the suite and smiled. Like everyplace she went, Anishpada bought a piece of nature with her. Small potted trees decorated the corners of the suite, along with hanging air plants. A slate gray wall fountain brought the soothing sounds of a babbling brook to the area. With the plush sea green furnishings, one would be hard pressed to believe one was traveling in the cold depths of space. “Good evening you two.”

“Don't you mean good morning?” The Wookie Jedi smirked.

“Nice for you to finally join us.” Luke crossed his arms over his chest.

Leia became apologetic. “Sorry, I lost track of time. It has been a while seen we have gone out together.”

“So what did you discover?”

“The group conscience is that,” she started to count off the items on her fingers, “Chaya is cute, handsome, easy on the eyes, shy, focused…in other words nothing useful. Did you sense anything Luke?”

“I sensed that he is powerful in the Force; and as you stated before, he is highly confused. In fact he was very agitated when he first entered the club. By the time I left, he was much more calmer.”

“He told me a lot about himself.” Leia related all the information that Chaya had shared. “He is looking for direction and a sense of purpose. Even though he hinted at the fact that he is leaning more towards the Dark Side, I think he is looking for something more balanced. I suggested that tomorrow he meets with you Anishpada.”

“You mean later today,” Anishpada dryly stated. She truly enjoyed teasing the ones she loved. “That sounds fine. Let's make it late in the afternoon in quadrant 3 in the park. I noticed that the area is a bit more isolated. Now, I suggest we all get some rest. We have to training in the morning Luke.”

Each of them bid the other goodnight. The twins left Anishpada's suite and headed towards their own. The stopped when they reached Leia's.

“Are you going to be joining us?” Luke asked.

Leia shook her head. “If things work out with Chaya, you won't need me.” She braced herself for an argument.

Luke simply nodded. “Well then, goodnight.” He kissed her cheek, and then walked three doors down to his own suite.

Dumbfounded, she watched as he entered. “Well, that was easy.”

*****

CHAPTER 14

Running, jumping, climbing, lightsaber drills… Anishpada put Luke through his paces. Like a good teacher, she found that Luke needed to be exhausted physically before he could deal with a strenuous mental workout. After 2 hours, she led him to a small clearing in the large park. She sat down cross-legged and motioned him to do the same.

“Luke, close your eyes.” Anishpada watched as he did so, and then continued to speak slowly, using her voice to ease him into mediation. “Feel the Force move through the trees, the flowers, in each blade of grass and every small pebble. If you are balanced, they will add to your strength. Feel the Force flow from them and through you. Nature can be our ally. It can teach us how to be full of life, and yet passive at the same time.” She nodded as she sensed him opening himself up. “Yes, let it flow. Very good.” After a few more moments, she touched his arm. “That is enough for today.”

“Anishpada, since the Force flows through all things, and there are places like Dagobah and Yulato, does that mean that things in nature get to chose?”

The Jedi Master shook her head. “It is doesn't work that way. Dagobah was aligned to the Dark Side from years of Sith and Dark Jedi living there. Especially where the cave was located. It is the same for Yulato- it is strong with the Light side because of the various groups of Jedi who worked and lived there. Sentential beings get to chose, even though it may not seem that way.” She paused as she tried to put her thoughts in order. “Destiny is a fickle thing. Some are born into the universe without love, abused for years in all sorts of ways, and yet, they may chose to serve the Light Side of the Force. Others are born with every opportunity, and yet they chose the Dark Side. I have studied ions of Jedi history, but I cannot make heads or tails of why the Force works the way it does and or why it chooses whom it chooses.”

“Do you think everyone gets a choice? None of us asked to be born with this power.”

“That is true. And because of circumstances, some feel one side of the Force stronger than the other. But we all, at some point or another, have a choice. We can change our alliance for good or bad reasons. The Jedi and the Sith both had rules…rules to protect their kind, but ultimately those rules greatly destroyed both sides, mostly because the groups became extreme.” She shook her head. “I tried to warn the Jedi. But they wouldn't listen. So many left the Jedi Order. By the time Darth Sidious rose to power, the Jedi Order was a thin shadow of its former greatness.” She placed a paw on Luke's shoulder. “I am determined that we will not make the same mistake.”

Both Luke and Anishpada faced the same direction as they both felt 2 other presences. After a few moments, Leia and Chaya entered into the clearing.

Chaya's knees started to buckle. He felt her power almost as soon as he entered the park. She was indeed very powerful. But he was not expecting a Wookie. He swallowed hard and looked at Leia. “Wow.”

“Told you,” she whispered to him, not breaking her stride.

He reached out and wind up grabbing her hand. “You won't leave me alone, will you?”

Leia chuckled. “I've known her since I was a child. She won't bite. Unless… well, you remember the warning I gave you, right?”

“Don't make her angry?”

Leia nodded. “Right.” She walked up to her teacher and gave her a hug. She looked behind her, and saw that Chaya had stopped walking. She shook her head. “Come on Chaya.” As he finally got close, Leia made introductions. “Anishpada, this is my friend Chaya. Chaya, this is my teacher Anishpada,” she turned to her brother, “And this is…”

“My name is Luke.” He glanced at Leia and without words, he told her not to say anything else.

“Hi.” Chaya turned his focus back on Anishpada. “You are strong in the Force. I've never felt such power. I can learn a lot from you.”

Anishpada smirked. “Only if I decide to make you a student. I know who your previous Masters have been. If we are going to work together, we all need to place our cards on the table.” She looked behind her towards a very large tree. “Come on out.”

A middle-aged man with brown hair that was greying around the temples came from behind the tree.

Each of the young adults had a different reaction. Surprise filled Chaya's eyes. Luke's face expressed puzzlement about the stranger. Leia narrowed her eyes in anger and disgust.

*****

CHAPTER 15

“So let me get this straight?” Chaya pointed at Luke. “This is the one that the Emperor chose over me?” He then pointed at Leia. “And she is a leader of the Rebellion and strong inthe Force.” He then looked at his Master. “And you knew about this all along, and didn't say a word to me? Even when I told you about her?”

Count Dooku held up his hands. “Calm down Chaya. I didn't tell everything because you weren't ready to listen. You were not ready to know the truth about your precious Emperor. I wanted you to meet them, to get to know them.”

“Why? They are my sworn enemies.”

“Really? It wasn't them that betrayed you, it was the Emperor.”

“And you.”

“I told you that Sith stab each other in the back. Besides, I didn't betray you. I don't know all the details, but I know enough. For some reason, he wanted 3 apprentices. He is abandoning the Rule of One, which means he is planning something big.”

Chaya glanced at Luke and Leia. “I guess he wants to make us one big happy family,” he said with disgust.

“No. Only you and Leia.”

“So who is the third?”

“I don't know,” Dooku replied, “I know that Darth Maul is training that one.”

“You expect us to believe you?” Leia asked bitterly.

“I know we did not meet in the most pleasant of ways Leia, but I truly want to stop him. I don't expect you to forgive me…”

“Good.”

“But I had to make sure to earn his confidence.”

“Well I am so glad that beating me to a pulp and dragging me before him earned you that confidence.”

Anishpada interceded. “Leia there are some things you don't know.”

She snarled at the Wookie. “But I bet you know. How many more secrets are you keeping Anishpada?”

The Wookie Jedi squared her shoulders. “Let's go for a walk.” When the young woman didn't budged, she growled, “Now!”

Leia glared at her. Knowing the Jedi could easily lift her up and carry her off, she started to walk, her arms crossed over her chest, making sure there was more than one arm length between them.

Anishpada used the walk to calm herself down. After a few moments of silence, she glanced at the Princess. Anger still crossed the young human's features. “I didn't know that he was here until yesterday.”

“Yesterday? And you didn't bother to tell me last night?”

You mean this morning.”

“Whatever! So I am supposed to go along with this just because you said so?”

“Leia, have I ever betrayed you?”

The words were out of her mouth before she had a chance to think about the question. “There is a first time for everything.”

Anishpada stopped dead in her tracks. Those seven words felt like a giant rock hitting her in the gut. Even though she knew Leia was speaking out of anger, it still cut her to the core.

Just as quickly, Leia apologized. “I'm sorry Anishpada. You have never betrayed me. Please forgive me.” She shook her head. “I just don't understand, how could you trust him? Why would you believe anything that he says?”

At that moment they heard a loud cry.

“You're my WHAT?!?”

****

CHAPTER 16

Shock filled Chaya's eyes as his mouth refused to close. All his life, he wanted to have a family. But now, at this moment, confusion was taking over. “You're my what?” he asked again.

Dooku sighed as the painful memories filled his mind. “I met Elise, your grandmother, while I was a Jedi. For years, I had doubts about the some of the teachings of the Jedi, but I was honor-bound to fulfill my duty. However, Elise….I just couldn't resist her. Soon after meeting her, I was in love. But duty called, and I had to leave her. I didn't even know that Elsie was pregnant when I went off to fight. I should have died in that battle, I almost did. It took a very long time for me to heal, and by the end of my convalesce; I decided that I could no longer be a Jedi. I went back home. It took me years to track Elise down. By the time I found her, she was on Akizlar and married to someone else. She told me that she was very happy and I didn't want to disrupt her new life.” He shook his head. “She didn't tell me that I had a child. I would have never walked away if I had known. Many years later, Elise died, and I attended her funeral. That is when I saw her…and I knew I had a daughter. By that time, I was a Sith Lord and working with the Emperor. I never introduced myself to her but I kept tabs on her, even after I died.” He looked at Chaya. “She loved you so much Chaya. Your name means ‘life' and she and your father were full of it. They were part of a small cell of Rebellion Spies on Akizlar. They were discovered and put to death.”

He had wondered all his life what his roots were. No one at the orphanage knew anything, or if they did, they never told him. Chaya's voice was soft, but full of emotion. “What were their names?”

“Rebecca and Radesh Duarte.”

“Chaya Duarte.” A small smile pulled at the corners of his lips as he realized that he finally had a last name. “I like the sound of that.”

“They did too.”

“Does the Emperor know?” Luke asked. “It would explain why the Emperor is interested in Chaya.”

Dooku shook his head. “He never suspected. As far as their deaths go, he saw killing of spies as beneath him. Such trivial matters wouldn't have bothered him. He expected the Storm-Troopers to do their jobs, eliminate any possible threats without him having to get his hands dirty.” He looked at his grandson who had his mother's eyes. “This is why I have pushed you so hard emotionally. You are not a Sith. And I was not going to let you fall for the same trap that I had. There is another way.” He bowed his head. “Thank you Leia. I knew that if he befriended you, you would lead him to Anishpada. Now he can be taught properly.”

“If he wants to be a student.”

Chaya looked at the Wookie like she grew a second head. “Of course! I need to learn as much as you can teach me.”

“Well, let's begin.” Anishpada placed an arm around his shoulder. “Let's start with some drills.”

*****

CHAPTER 17

Leia walked into Mon Mothma's office. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes. I know that the election is next week, but I really need to send you to Kaksikud.” She grabbed a file and handed to the Senator. “It seems that the King was most displeased with the outcome of the previous negotiations. He wants to discuss things directly. I know you are the perfect one to send.”

“Why me?”

“You are human, royalty, and one of our best diplomats. You may pick out your own team. I am also sending some guards with you.” She eyed the young woman. “There are two other reasons. Have you seen the gossip rags?”

“I never read them.”

“You may want to look at them.” She pressed a button and the holographic images sprung to life. The pictures were of her and Chaya walking together towards the park, at the club with Luke sitting at the bar, and even one of them during the failed negotiations. Headlines of “Cheating?”, “Double Agent” and “Power Play” were attached to the images. “I suspect that someone from Jaelza's camp leaked these pictures.”

Leia shook her head. Confronting Jaelza will only play into her hands. “So how will sending me away help?”

“If you manage to get a treaty, it will silence her.”

And another feather in my cap right before the election.”

“It won't hurt.” Mon Mothma folded her hands in front of her. “The final reason is personal. Leia, you promised me you were going to focus your energies on the political realm.”

“I know I have been distracted…”

“You cancelled all your meetings yesterday.”

“I had to meet with Anishpada.”

“I was afraid of this.”

“Listen, I promise yesterday was the last time. If everything goes as I have planned, they won't need me. I will be 100% focused here… ”

Mon Mothma smiled as she finished the sentence. “...As the new Vice-Chair of the Republic. You leave tonight.”

*****

CHAPTER 18

Han signed off on the duty roster. He couldn't wait to get back to Coruscant. The citizens were not exactly rude towards him, but they sure weren't friendly either. Many folks stayed out of his way, and only answer questions directly, never volunteering any information. After being here for a while, he realized that most of the people were divided into 2 factions: the Natives who resented the strangers and the New-Worlders who fled the inner planets when the Empire fell. The New-Worlders were not trusted here, due to the fact that many of the Natives leaned towards the Rebels. Many of the youth had joined the Academy, learned just enough to become pilots, and then joined the Rebellion.

He also had a chance to visit a couple of the old haunts, and ran into old acquaintances, many who were more than willing to share information with him, hoping that the new Republic would ignore some of their activities. He decided that he would visit them one more time and see if any new details emerged.

He entered the wood and metal dome building and walked up to the bar, not paying attention to the few people who were sitting there. “One more Charlie.”

The bartender smiled at him. “Leaving today?”

“Yep. Completed the mission. So I decided to visit my favorite watering hole before heading out.” He looked around the room, and saw a card game in the back corner. He tilted his head towards the table. “High stakes?”

Charlie shrugged. “The usual. They started out small, but by the end of it they will be betting land, ships, weapons…you know the deal. Want to get a new ship?”

Han shook his head. He loved the Millennium Falcon. “They are going to pry my cold dead hands off the controls before I ever risk her in a card game.”

“I can't believe you still can fly her. You know there are faster and newer ships.”

“But none better.” His curiosity was getting the better of him, so he took his drink and joined in watching the game.

“Keeper,” the young redhead lifted her 3 credits and placed them on the bar. “Thanks.” She turned and left the bar, but not before glancing at Han. A small, twisted smile dressed her lips. As she walked towards the empty YT light freighter, she pulled out a jar and held it up to the sun. Inside the jar were 5 tiny black and red cyborg spiders with sharp metallic fangs. When she came close to the back of the ship, she turned the jar over, emptying the jar into the exhaust hulls, and then casually walked away.

*****

CHAPTER 19

Leia lowered her fork and looked at her friends, family and Count Dooku. “I have some news. I am being sent to restart negotiations with Akizlar and Kaksikud.” She looked at Chaya. “It seems your King was not happy with the negotiation party. He wants to lead the talks himself with a brand new team. So I'm leaving tonight.”

“Wow, he didn't waste any time.”

Mon Mothma received the communication yesterday.”

“So who is going with you?” Luke asked.

“Everyone who was part of the first group except Jaelza and her cronies.”

“I thought that Jaelza and you worked well together during the negotiations,” Chaya stated.

“She can't be trusted. If I blink at the wrong time, she would have it in the news.” Leia then told them about the pictures. “So Chaya, if Kola or Jaelza tries to befriend you, run the opposite way.”

“Don't worry about me. Anishpada, Luke and grandfather are keeping me so busy, I don't have time to do anything else other than sleep and eat.”

“That is a good thing.” She smiled at the young man. “I need to get going; I still have a lot of packing to do.”

Anishpada stood up. “If everyone will excuse us, Leia, I'll escort you back to your suite.”

Count Dooku stood up, and the rest of the men followed suite, then sat back down once the ladies were out of ear shot. “So young Skywalker, what is the plan for tomorrow?”

Luke smiled at the former Sith. “Are you up for Lightsaber drills?”

“Of course.”

“Maybe we should take it easy,” Chaya spoke up. He didn't want to hurt his grandfather's pride, but Chaya noticed how much the Count seemed to age in a short span of time.

“Nonsense Chaya. Darth Maul is not taking it easy. He is deadly, and I can assure you he is teaching his charge all his lethal skills.”

Chaya sighed. “Grandfather, I am just concerned. You look…tired.”

“You mean old.” He balled his left hand into a fist, and then released it. “When the Emperor brought us back, he broke the rules of nature. Our bodies are aging at an accelerated rate, especially when we use the Force. Neither Darth Maul nor myself will be here for much longer.”

“Don't talk like that,” Chaya admonished.

Dooku gave the two a smile. “I was a miserable person in my previous life. But now, you will be taught correctly, and in a small way, I have helped to destroy the Emperor's plans. I can die a happy man.”

Luke silently watched the exchange. He knew, in his heart, that the next Spirit he may see could be the Great Count Dooku, dressed in his Jedi robes.

****

“So you finally chose a path?” Anishpada asked, even though she already knew the answer.

“I told you before of my decision.”

“But your heart was not in it. Now, it is.” The Wookie smiled as she placed her arm on Leia's shoulders. “You are going to be a fantastic Vice-Chair. Now, be nice to the King.”

Leia threw her arms around the Jedi. “Thank you for everything.”

They hugged for a while before Anishpada pulled back. “Get going. We don't want you to be late.”

“Goodbye Anishpada.”

“Goodbye. Safe journey.”

Anishpada watched as the suite's door slid shut. She then turned and walked back to the others.

*****

CHAPTER 20

BSSSSSSH, BSSSSSSH, BSSSSHTBSSHTKSSSHT, BSSSSHTBSSHTKSSSHT

The two lightsabers roar to life and clashed as Dooku and Chaya sparred in the isolated area of the park. Sweat glistened off of the Count's strong features as he pushed his grandson's abilities. “Very good! Let the Force flow through you. Fight with the Force, and not your eyes.” The old man flipped backwards and then blocked Chaya's attempt at an overhead swing. Then he jumped as the young man tried a low sweeping kick.

All of a sudden, Dooku raised his right hand, halting the session. He tilted his head, as he felt two presences. He looked at his grandson, concern filling his face. “Listen Chaya. I want you to leave. Run to Anishpada and Luke- stay will them. Do not look back, no matter what you hear.”

It was then that Chaya also picked up on the sensation. “I am not leaving you.”

“This is not a time to be stubborn. You are not ready for this.” His eyes pleaded with the young man. “Go, or everything I have done will be for nothing.”

Chaya fought with himself, but finally obeyed. He took off running, letting the trees and bushes become his shield.

Dooku took a deep breath, preparing himself. He watched as the two finally made their way out of the treeline.

Darth Maul pulled down the dark hood. “Dooku, it is time.” He looked around. “Where is your charge?”

“I sent him on an errand.”

The Sith Lord narrowed his demon-like eyes. He sensed the fear and panic of the young man. “Why is he so afraid?” He looked at his own student. “Find him and bring him back. Make sure no harm comes to him.”

Dooku raised his weapon. “That is not a good idea. He is no longer a servant of the dark side; he has rejected the Emperor.”

“And you let him go? Darth Sidious will be most displeased.”

“Well, he is going to be displeased anyway. Especially since, you won't be returning to him either.” He looked at the young red-head. “This is not your fight. Leave or perish.”

The young woman did not say a word. She instead activated her red lightsaber.

Dooku sadly shook his head. “Such a waste.” With those words, he attacked both of them.

The three lightsabers danced a deadly tango, with Dooku holding both of his opponents off. He was determined to give Chaya enough time to escape.

Darth Maul realized that his student was not following his directive. He pushed her. “Go! Find him!”

The young woman narrowed her eyes. She hated him. Fine. I hope he slices you in half. With that thought, she took off towards the trees.

Darth Maul looked at his enemy. He didn't understand what was going on, not that he cared. But information was power, besides he needed to catch his breath. “Darth Tyranus, why are you betraying us?”

“That is what we Sith do, isn't it? Besides, he has already betrayed us. Haven't you noticed your joints hurting, your body tiring more quickly? The bodies that he gave us are rotting. I don't want the same rot to infect my soul.”

“Too late.” Maul attacked again. After parrying for a few more moments, he delivered a side kick to Dooku's knee, causing the older man to drop to one knee. He then quickly sliced down with his lightsaber, decapitating the former Sith Lord.

Darth Maul looked to the woods and narrowed his eyes. He needed to catch his prey.

*****

CHAPTER 21

Chaya continued to run, but mentally he kicked himself, he should have stayed and fight. He turned around, and started to go back, when he saw the young woman.

“Where are you going, big boy? Our master wants to see you.”

He activated his lightsaber. “I don't have a master.”

“Really? I beg to differ. We have a master. You need to accept that and come with me peacefully. Or you can fight and die.” When he didn't lower his weapon, a twisted smile came upon her lips. For so long, she held in her anger. Now, she had a target. Without another word, she activated her lightsaber and charged him.

Chaya remained calm as he engaged in the battle. He parried with her, before using his size and strength to his advantage.

The young woman was not expecting such skill. As he went for an overhand swing, she managed to block it, but the force of the blow drove the red-head to her knees.

Chaya delivered a foot to her chest, causing her to hit the ground hard and drop her lightsaber. He was going for the kill when it hit him…. a deep sense of loss quickly followed by emptiness filled his being. “No,” he whispered.

The pause was the opening that she needed. After grabbing her weapon, she rose to her feet and delivered a roundhouse kick to Chaya's head. A chop to the throat and a punch to the gut were next. Without giving him time to recover, she continued to pummel him with kicks and punches, all with the aim to punish him severely. She was enjoying letting her rage flow… until someone delivered a wicked hit to the back of her head.

She was about to return the action, when she saw the form of Darth Maul standing over her.

Anger filled his already frightening face. “How dare you!” He took two steps towards her and watched as she scampered away from him. “What part of no harm don't you understand?” he spitted out through his clenched yellow teeth. Without waiting for an answer, he turned to Chaya. He saw that the young man was alive, but badly beaten. “Go and get our hoverbike.” He grabbed her arm and squeezed it until she whimpered. “For every bruise, cut and broken bone you delivered, expect to be punished.”

*****

CHAPTER 22

The King spared no expense to host the visiting delegates. The Dining Hall was nothing but opulent as large green plants with various colored flowers filled the corners of the marbled walls, and plush comfortable chairs surrounded the four onyx tables; while a small band played light music and servants carried gold trays filled with various drinks. The King himself was dressed in a military-designed Black uniform that reminded Leia too much of a general in the Emperor's army.

Qai leaned over and whispered to Leia as they stood in front of the large buffet. “So much for the idea that they are poor and can't afford to protect themselves.”

Leia shrugged. “Probably pulled out all the stops. I do believe King Zeruis wants to show us the best of his culture, hoping to impress us.”

“Well, he failed.” He watched at she raised an eyebrow. “Come on Leia, don't tell me this impresses you.”

“It doesn't. However, we should appreciate the gesture. And since he is watching us very closely,” she turned and gave a small smile to the king.

King Zeruis immediately ended his conversation, and made his way to the couple. He slightly bowed towards the young woman. “Ambassador Organa, I hope you are finding everything to your liking.”

Leia wa not about to let the King get away with ignoring Qai. She turned to her friend and co-chair. “Ambassador Qai, are you finding everything to your liking?”

Qai smiled, allowing his canines to show. “Yes, thank you.”

The King cleared his throat. “I am glad. This Castle has been here for over 1000 years. An ancestor of mine helped to conquer these lands. When the original king died without an heir, my family rose to continue the line. Within these walls are paintings and artifacts that date back almost to that time. Princess Leia, if you and your delegates would like to see them, I can arrange a showing, perhaps after dinner? That way you can then see why we want to preserve our way of life and need your help against the pirates.” A scowl filled his face. “These vile creatures have no respect for history or culture. They just want to take and they are the biggest threat to our history.”

A loud explosion caused everyone to jump. The shouting could be heard outside of the dining area. Before anyone could react, a well-armed group stormed the dining area, pointing their laser guns at the guests.

A large man with shocking red hair boldly walked into the area. He sneered in a loud and rough voice, “Where is the King? I demand to see the King!”

“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” The King eyed the man and the rest of the invaders. “Pirates! How dare you! You shall hang for this!”

The large man stalked towards the King and looked him in the eye. Then backhanded him. “I will kill everyone here while you watch little man.”

“Please, don't hurt my guests. If it is money, I will give you want you want as long as you let them go.”

The large man cackled. “I am not here for you. I am here for an interested third party.” He leaned in towards him and whispered, “Where is Leia Organa?” When he didn't get an answer, the pirate pulled out a dagger, and stabbed the King in his side. He began to twist the dagger. “Where is Leia Organa?” He yelled out. “If you don't step forward,” he nodded to his men and they lifted their weapons, “a person will die until we find her.”

Leia stepped forward. “Let him go.”

“Who are you?”

“The one you seek.”

“Leia, no!” Qai shouted.

“Everyone shut up!” He demanded. He then returned his gaze to the young woman. “You are in no position to make demands, Leia Organa, if that is who you truly are.” He let go of the dagger and walked to her, not even turning around as the King fell to the ground. “The person who hired me said you would be able to prove it.” He saw the confusion in her eyes. “Fine, let's play it your way.” He snapped his finger. “Rogerson, shoot…” he made a show of slowly moving his pointer until it landed on Qai, “him.”

As soon as Leia saw the smaller pirate move towards her friend, she pushed Rogerson down to the ground without using her hands. She looked at the leader and saw a twisted smile on his face. She then knew just who sent them and just how ruthless these pirates must be. “Let them all go, and I will come with you peacefully. You have my word.”

He snapped his finger twice, and four pirates quickly surrounded then aimed their guns at the young woman. “Hand over your communicator device.” He watched as she handed the small white object to one of the pirates, “Now take her back to the ship.” He turned his attention to the guests. “I want everyone face down on the ground now!” He smiled as his orders were followed. “Stay in this position for 5 clicks. We have tapped into the security systems. If anyone gets up before then, we will kill her. If anyone tries to stop us leaving this planet, she will die.” He and the other pirates walked backwards, aiming their weapons at the guests, before they too quickly made their way back to the ship.

They led Leia to the cargo area and after binding her hands and feet, they placed her in a small cubical room with a seat and shut the door. Leia looked around. She heard the engines starting and thought about counting the ticks, just in case she could get to a communicator and give a rough estimate of time. But there were no windows or any way for her to see if they were leaving the planet or using lightspeed. She was trying to come up with a plan when she felt his presence. She stared at the door.

The door slid open. His black robes stood out against his pale skin and grey hair. However, he no longer wore the hood, his face scar-less. “Welcome daughter of Vader.” The door slid shut.

*****

CHAPTER 23

Han smiled as the YT Light Freighter roared to life. The first sabacc game lasted for a couple of hours. Then he was invited to participate in a game-- the amount of credits he won would fuel the Falcon for months to come. Since the game ended so late, he decided to sleep in the YT light freighter and pull out in the morning. Now Han was looking forward to meeting Chewbacca on Kashyyk, it has been a while since Han saw Chewie's clan. He pulled back on the yoke, causing the ship to lift off. After he left the atmosphere, he placed the ship into lightspeed, never noticing the two spiders that slowly crept towards him...

*

Anishpada and Luke arrived at Mon Mothma's office. As they entered through the sliding doors, Mon Mothma stood up. Anishpada spoke first. “We came as soon as we got your message. What happened?”

“According to Qai, Leia was taken hostage by some pirates. He said a third party hired the pirates. The King was also stabbed, but he will survive. We have not received a ransom request.”

“And you won't. A friend of ours was taken as well. He and his grandfather were practicing together. Dooku is dead, and there is no sign of Chaya anywhere.” Luke shook his head. I can't sense if they are in trouble or pain.”

“Which means they are okay…for now.” Anishpada looked at Mon Mothma. “Have you been able to reach General Solo?”

The leader of the young Republic shook her head. “We will keep trying.”

Anishpada nodded. “Well, it looks like we are heading for Akizlar. Hopeful we can pick up her trail there.”

“We can have a ship ready in 10 clicks. I must insist that you take several guards with you as well.”

Luke was going to object, but Anispada grabbed his arm. “That is fine.” She looked at Luke, “We need to get ready.” She motioned him to follow her out of the office.

“They are just going to slow us down.”

“There is no time to argue the point. We will take them. Let's gather our things and meet at the docking bay.”

*****

CHAPTER 24

Chaya punched at the unbreakable polymer wall one more time. He finally sat on the small, uncomfortable metallic framed bed as he stared out of his cell. The clear material allowed him to hear and see everything around his cell. He remained quiet, trying to figure out a way to escape. All he know what that he was one a very large ship. It would be tough with storm-troopers everywhere and without a weapon.

His thoughts were interrupted as he saw 3 Storm-Troopers make their way to his cell. Two of the three pointed their laser rifles at him. “You are to come with us,” the third one stated. They led him down the dark metallic hall and into a large room that held various machines and droids in it. Also in the room, in the far corner was a young woman who was bound.

“Leia?” Chaya tried to get to the young woman, but was roughly grabbed by the Storm-Troopers. He tried to get away from them, but they managed to drag him to the wall where they cuffed him by his wrist, ankles and neck. He continued to look at her.

She too was bound but to a large vertical bench. In front of her was a machine with dozens of probes. Once the guard left, she finally opened her eyes and looked up. “Chaya. You okay?”

“I'm fine. But they won't be when we get free.”

“Listen to me. You have to control your anger.”

“Not until I avenge my grandfather.” His voice soften. “They killed him.” Guilt racked his soul. If only I stayed with him, maybe we could have defeated them. “If it is the last thing I do, I will kill the Emperor.”

“You can't. It would be out of revenge, and that will be exactly what he wants. He hasn't given up, he wants you to be a Sith. You cannot give in, no matter what he does. You need to prepare yourself. He is capable of anything.”

The Emperor walked in, along with Darth Maul and a young woman. He glided his way to Chaya. “You could be standing by my side.”

Anger flashed through his eyes. “If it was up to me, you wouldn't be standing.”

“A wicked tongue you have developed. I see you have been spending too much time around her.” He glanced at Leia. “You remember Darth Maul, don't you Leia?”

“Your lap dog has finally come home I see.”

He ignored her insult. “They were about to give me a detailed report about their movements. I thought that you two would love to hear just how we captured you.” He looked at the young woman. “You first Mara.”

The young redhead smiled brightly. Hearing her name from her Master sounding like music to her ears. “I was sent by Master Maul to make sure that General Solo was too occupied to help. I dropped 5 droid spiders into his ship. Three were programmed to go after the navigational system, the other 2 were programmed to seek him out, and deliver a nasty bio-toxin to his system. If the poison doesn't kill him, the crash will.”

Darth Maul then continued with his tenor voice. “We then proceeded to Coruscant where I was prepared to escort Darth Tyranus and the boy to you.” He looked at Chaya. “It seems that Tyranus had other plans. We had to dispose of him.” A tiny wry smile pulled at the corners of his mouth as he saw the anger in Chaya's eyes.

“Then I was able to capture Leia.” The Emperor walked until he stood in front of Leia. “Always willing to sacrifice yourself. It was so easy to get you.”

“Lord Sidious, those who are still loyal to the Empire on Coruscant deserve a reward as well. As we speak, Luke Skywalker and his teacher are about to die.”

The Emperor quickly turned towards Darth Maul. “Really? How?”

“I took it upon myself to see to it. As I predicted, the two will board a ship in hopes of finding Leia. Our servants have placed several bombs on board of the ship. They will be dead before they can lift off. We will be contacted as soon as the ship is destroyed.”

The Emperor nodded, no expression shone from his eyes. “I see. So it looks like you two will have no one to depend on…except for me.” He then turned his attention to Darth Maul. “Darth Maul, please step forward.” He waited until the stood before him. “I had wanted you to continue the training of these three. But it seems you have your own ideas. By the way, they are not OUR servants…”

Darth Maul screamed as he felt the dagger cut through his flesh in-between his shoulder blades. Mara drove the blade deeper into him. As he fell to his knees, he looked at her. With his final breath, he said, “Mara Jade…”

“Now you want to say my name. Too little, too late.” She pulled the dagger from him, and wiped it off on his robe. She then cut her eyes to Darth Sidious. “You are and will always be my only Master.”

“Very good Mara. Go and get some rest. I have business to attend to here.”

She bowed then left the room.

The Emperor stepped over the body and blood of the Sith Lord. He looked at Chaya. “You have no one to save you. Join me, and you won't have to experience the torture.”

“No matter what you do me, I won't join you.”

A twisted smile graced Palpatine's features. “Who said I was going to do anything to you?” With a wave of a hand, the probe device turned on and Leia was lower towards it.

“NO!” Chaya screamed as he lunged. The metal bands cut into his skin causing cuts into his wrists and neck. He looked at Leia, then at Palpatine.

“Chaya!” Leia made sure she had his attention. “Remember.” Then she shook her head slowly.

Chaya closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. He then turned his focus upon his former mentor. “I won't join you.” His voice sounded much more confidant than he felt.

“So be it.” Palpatine never removed his eyes from Chaya. Chaya and Leia locked eyes. Then the mechanical bench brought Leia into contact with the probes. She gritted her teeth as the electrical charge ran through her body. She refused to scream her pain.

Chaya saw as well as heard the crackling sound of the electricity. He gritted his teeth as his anger rose.

The machine pulled her away from the probes. Even though it was only a few seconds, the Emperor could see that Leia was in pain. Without touching the machine, he raised the charge. “Leia, you have a strong will. I always wonder what it would take to break it.” A round droid came to life and levitated towards Chaya. A small door slid open on the front of the droid and a syringe came into view. “Unlike you, he was never trained to withstand the effects of the mind alternating drugs. He will be an open book to any questions I ask him.” He watched as the syringe injected its chemicals in his former charge. “While we are waiting…” He lowered the bench once again and smiled.

*****

CHAPTER 25

“What is your name?” Palpatine asked the test question, trying to make sure that the young man was under the influence of the powerful drug. He watched as Chaya's eyes gave him a blank stare.

“Chaya Duarte.”

“Duarte?” The Emperor narrowed his eyes. “You never had a last name.” He thought perhaps Chaya was lying. “How did you find out your last name?”

“My grandfather told me.”

Palatine stepped closer to the drugged young man. “Who is your grandfather?”

“Count Dooku.”

The Sith Lord processed the new information. “Lord Tyranus was your grandfather?”

“Yes.”

“I see.” He turned and looked at Leia. “Is he telling me the truth?” When she didn't answer, indignation filled his voice. “Tell me or I will give him more. A second dose will either kill him or damage his mind permanently.”

She watched as the droid moved closer to Chaya. “It is true.” She let out a breath of relief as the droid stopped. “Count Dooku told us how you gave him and Darth Maul another chance to serve you. And all he wanted was to save his grandson from your clutches.”

“He failed.” He returned his attention to Chaya. It explained why the lad was strong in the Force. It also explained why Tyranus betrayed him. “Tell me Chaya, why did he tell you?”

“He knew, all I wanted was a family. I finally have one.”

The Emperor chuckled. “Family makes one weak. Tyranus died to protect you. Vader died to protect his son.”

“You are the one who is weak.” Leia watched as the Emperor turned his head towards her. “You fight for power. And just like them, you died. But you died alone. Twice.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you talk too much?” The machine lowered Leia once again. After a few moments, it raised her off of the probes. Without giving her any time to recover, the machine lowered her again. It repeated the process over and over again.

“Stop it! Stop hurting her.” Chaya tried to shake the cobwebs from his head, fighting against the serum.

A small smile pulled at the thin lips of the Emperor. “You care about Leia Organa?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting.” As the wheels of his mind circled around this new piece of information and how to best use it to suit his ultimate goal, he continued his torture, enjoying the hatred, anger and fear that flowed from his victims.

*****

CHAPTER 26

A lone middle-aged man carrying a clipboard, watched all the comings and goings of the flight deck. As the Controller, not one ship flew in or out of this deck without his knowledge. From his position in the flight bay, he could see just about everything. He smiled as he watched Luke race to the ship carrying a small pack. But before he could climb aboard, the Wookiee grabbed his arm and led him away. He watched the two as they stop, brought some drinks and then headed back to the ship. Once they finished, they entered the ship. Too bad, they should have made a toast.

“Excuse me sir, but these navigation charts need your approval,” the young Sergeant interrupted his thoughts. He quickly signed the paperwork, then headed downstairs to the deck. As he entered the deck, he made sure he stood in the far corner. As the engines started, he stood in anticipation.

Then it happened. An explosion followed by another, then flames engulfed the ship. Various people run in with extinguishers, trying to fight the blaze. Realizing that if the flames didn't kill them, the smoke would, he smiled.

*****

CHAPTER 26

“Ouch,” Han hit the back of his leg, without looking down. I hate space fleas. He pulled the ship out of light speed and the green and blue planet of Kashyyk came into view. He reached over and turned on his communicator. “Chewie, my ETA is 7 clicks. See you soon my friend.” He smiled at Chewie's response. “Just make sure you have your lovely wife and kid with you. It has been years since…” he became lightheaded, losing his train of thought. He swallowed hard and tried to get his bearings. “Well, can't wait to see them. Han out.” He placed the freighter on autopilot, stood up, and took a couple of steps.

He then heard sensors going off all across the helm. “What the hell,” he turned around and made his way back to his seat, never noticing that he stepped on a spider. He sat back down, and tried to take back control. The ship did not respond. He sent out a distress call. “Mayday, mayday. This is General Han Solo aboard the YT light frieghter 1087 requesting assistance. I have lost control of my ship.” His body became flush as a wave of dizziness and nausea threatened to overtake him. He buckled himself in and resent the mayday signal. As the out of controlled ship raced towards Kashyyk, he reached out towards the controls, trying to regain command of it. As the muscle cramps began and sweat poured from his body, he realized that he was in deep trouble. He was able to try one last set of controls before he blacked out...

*

As soon as the flames were beaten back, the onlookers started to pull bodies from the wreckage. Only two crewmembers survived, but they suffered from burns and smoke inhalation. All the passengers and crew men's bodies were laid side by side on the ground. Mon Mothma rushed to the scene. She closed her eyes as she saw the bodies of Anishpada and Luke on the ground. She turned to the Controller. “I want a full report of this incident by tomorrow.” She watched as he slightly bowed his head and when back to the flight bay. She then gave instructions to others to remove the bodies. “Do not speak of this to anyone. And no one is to touch the bodies. I will inform the families myself.”

*

She had lost count of how many times the Emperor and raised and lowered her to the probes. And she no longer could keep track of the questions he had asked Chaya. Her hatred of the Emperor kept her from screaming her pain, not allowing him any satisfaction in that venue. That same hate caused a crack in her subconscious, and she could feel the Dark Side as it tickled her mind.

Yet, there was something else. Something so strong that the darkness shrunk back whenever it came into contact with it.

Leia thought of her family and friends. The love that they shared, the way they protected and fought for each other…it flowed and held back the darkness and gave her the strength to endure. Then she felt it…not the pain of the machine, but the pain of loss cutting its way through her soul. This time, a scream ripped from her throat.

*****

CHAPTER 27

The door to the room slid opened. The Emperor and Mara glided inside, looking like two cats who found a fish market. Palatine waved toward his barely conscious captives. “See Mara, this is what happens to those who fight against their destiny. In the end, they will realize that their fight is a futile one.”

Mara looked at them. She couldn't understand why her true Master wanted these two so bad. “My Lord, why are you wasting time with them? I have proven myself to you, have I not? General Solo, Luke Skywalker and Count Dooku are all dead.”

The Emperor agreed. “Yes, you have Mara. And you do deserve a reward. Name it.”

She paused as he checked their vitals. She wanted his undivided attention. “I want to be your apprentice.”

“Silly girl. You are my apprentice. My favored one.”

“Then as your favored one, I request the right to kill one of them.” She watched as he finally turned towards her. “You don't need 3 apprentices. At the most you may need two. And one day, you will only need one. And I will prove to you that I should be that one.”

“Did Maul teach you the rule of one?” He pointed a finger a finger at her. “Do you really want to kill them because of the Rule or because you see them as a threat?” He walked close to the red-head. “Careful Mara, your thoughts betray you.” He gave her a twisted smile. “Which one?”

She pulled out her lightsaber and took a step. But before she could activate it, her body grew stiff. She couldn't move. Then a sick sound of bone crunching filled the room and her head lopped over to one side. Her body then flew across the room, crushed against the wall with such impact that it left an imprint and a bloody trail on the wall, and finally dropped to the floor lifeless.

He went to the wall and activated a communications link. “It is time. You have your orders.” Within moments, several Storm-Troopers and members of the Red Guard entered the room.

“Make sure every detail is followed exactly as I have commanded. No evidence of our activities need to remain.” He looked at the Chyna and Leia. “Take all the bodies to the ground base as well as any other necessary items. Then blast them.” He went up to Leia and grabbed her left hand. “Make sure to leave the ring. That way, they will know what happened to her.” He dropped her hand, and walked towards the doors. “When you are done, load my cargo carefully into the appropriate place.” He looked around the room one last time. “I want this area totally scrubbed and all left-over evidence destroyed.” With that, he exited the room.

*****

CHAPTER 28

Mon Mothma raced to the Coroner's workroom. “Everyone get out!” she ordered. She watched as confusion filled the workers' faces as they followed her direct order.

She lifted her left hand. In it was a small vial. She quickly went over to the Wookie's body. “Anishpada this better work, or I will kill you.” She pried open her mouth, and dropped 5 drops into the Wookie's mouth.

Within seconds, the Jedi sleepily rolled her head around. She opened her eyes and grunted. “How long?”

“Six hours.”

Anishapada sat up and watched as the woman went to Luke to administer the remedy. “What took you so long?”

Mon Mothma sighed. “I couldn't get here sooner. All Hell has broken loose. Han crashed landed onto Kashyyk . I don't know how he managed it, but somehow he survived, but his ship...It seems that Chewbacca and his clan heard the destress signal, and managed to get to Han before any of the local creatures could.” She raced to the other crew members.” Once she saw that Luke and the crewmen were awake, she continued. “However, there is grave news. It is Leia and Chaya.”

“What about them?” Luke asked. He tried to reach out to his twin using the Force, but felt nothing. “Anishpada?”

“I felt nothing as well Luke. But it may be due to the potion we took. It may take a while for us to fully recover. So don't panic.”

“There's more.” Mon Mothma swallowed hard as memories of Leia flooded her mind. “We found the base where they were kept. We found 2 bodies, both humanoid. And numerous torture devices.” She grew silent. “Both Chewbacca and Han are on their way.”

“And so are we.”

Mon Mothma nodded. “A ship is waiting for you.”

Anishpada and Luke raced to the the ship, hoping that what Mon Mothma was trying to tell them was not true.

*****

CHAPTER 29

Anishpada and Luke entered the darkened room. They tried over and over again to reach Leia and Chya, but there was no response….just emptiness.

They saw Han standing in front on the monitor, his hands gripping the edge of the table as as his head hang low. Chewie was standing beside him, his fur-covered paw on his friend's shoulders.

As the door opened, Chewbacca softly growled. Han did not turn around.

“Han,” Anishpada began.

“They found her ringstone by her charred remains. The band melted and all that was left was the stone.” He took a breath. “I had to know.” He reached over and grabbed the stone out of a case. “It is hers. It stored all her memories, from the moment I placed the ring on her finger until…” He broke down and wept as he remembered her last torturous moments. He turned to the pair. “It was the Emperor. He is alive and well. He must have clones stored all over the galaxy.”

Luke went over to his friend and embraced him. The only sounds heard were sounds of grief that filled the room.

*****

CHAPTER 30

The Emperor looked at barely conscious Chaya and Leia as they remained chained to the walls. He smiled. “Mara was right, I only need 2. The question is…which one held and threw her, and which one broke her neck?” His smile grew bigger. “Not that it matters. Welcome home my apprentices.” With that he raised both hands, and sent Force Lightning towards them, sending into full unconsciousness. “Your training begins.”

He began to cackle as the ship raced to parts unknown.

*****

THE END of Episode 8


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