Saga A Glimmer of Hope (AU, ANH, Luke, Leia, Han, Mara, Obi-wan, Anakin, many more)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by JABrown, Nov 4, 2012.

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  1. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Chapter 6

    Prince Han Solo watched the Jedi pilot walk away across the circular landing pad with the Alliance captain. He appreciated the view for a moment, a smile on his face. The sight of her tight-fitting flight-suit as she sauntered towards the waiting X-wings…

    A polite cough brought his attention back to the job at hand. He turned to find Triad Amidala looking at him with a small smile on her face. The other Alliance diplomat, the Alderaani prince, scowled.

    "Are you with us, Prince Solo?"

    "Yes. Yes of course." He gave her his most winning smile. To his surprise, she winked back.

    "Good. I would hate Lance here to have to shoot you for oggling his fiancé."

    Han started. He looked at the Alderaani prince again. That explained the frown. He bowed his head. "Of course. No offence, my lord."

    "None taken," Lance said. Han didn't need to be a Jedi to know the man was lying.

    “And all my congratulations, of course. When is the happy day?”

    “We have not chosen a date yet.” The Alderaani prince seemed uncomfortable. “It is… recent.”

    It must be if my father’s spies haven’t gotten wind of it yet. He would enjoy telling his father this little piece of information himself. It wasn’t often he could surprise Jonash Solo.

    “Still, I hope it will be a spring wedding. Naboo is so beautiful in the spring.”

    Han turned back to Amidala, detecting a hint of sadness in her voice. Even in the wan sunlight that filtered through the thick clouds overhead, she was as beautiful if not more so than her daughter. Her white hair and lined face gave her beauty a striking note, like a rose blooming amongst the first fall of snow. Her warm brown eyes seemed to hide a galaxy of sorrow, yet she smiled.

    A smile that turned suddenly to a frown. "They’re here."

    Solo looked back to find the Imperial delegation, led by Grand Moff Tarkin, almost upon them. They were framed by the ominous bulk of the Imperial Palace, whose spires pierced the storm clouds with claw-like ease. Behind the Moff strode three senators in formal suits, two governors with their military dress uniforms and a couple of members of the Sith Council in their long white robes. The priests sent a shiver down Han's spine every time he encountered them. Still, years of diplomatic service for his father had taught him to hide those kind of feelings. He did so now, turning smartly and inclining his head to the leading Moff.

    “Grand Moff Tarkin.”

    The Imperial delegation stopped as one a few steps away. Tarkin towered over them all, his skeletal frame seeming to creak as he nodded to them. "Prince Solo. I trust you are well since our last meeting?"

    Han forced a smile. Like every other meeting for the past three months, their last had been a neverending battle of wits as both men had tried to get one up on the other. Table seating arrangements, location of living chambers, even the colour of the Alliance delegation’s robes – it had all been discussed, rehashed, discussed some more and finally argued over. The ultimate decision had made no one happy. Politics. Han couldn’t lie to himself – he loved it.

    "Very well, thank you. If would allow me to introduce..."

    "Queen Amidala. Of course. No introduction is necessary. How lovely to see you again."

    Solo clenched his teeth. As usual, Tarkin was trying to push him to one side. Not this time, Wilhulf. If you do that again, I swear I'll shove a blaster barrell up your...

    "It's Triad Amidala, actually.” The former queen smiled and allowed him to take her hand in his.

    "Of course."

    Solo tried to introduce Tarkin to the other members of the Alliance delegation, but Tarkin only seemed interested in Amidala. He moved closer, neatly cutting Solo out of the circle.

    “Or should I call you Triad Kenobi?” He smiled. Snake, Han thought. “The Emperor was most pleased to hear that you had remarried. To a Jedi no less. I trust he is well? We hear such reports of Jedi risking their lives in foolhardy missions into the Unclaimed Territories. I would hate to think that he was one of them.” An edge had crept into Tarkin’s words, one that Han didn’t understand.

    Amidala, though, seemed to understand perfectly. "My husband can take care of himself. I’m sure he is well, the Force willing."

    "Indeed." Tarkin leaned in conspiratorially. "I have to admit I've never understood this continuous obsession with ancient religions. We live in an enlightened age, after all."

    "I'm not sure your companions would agree," Padme responded. Nicely played, my lady.

    Tarkin looked at the two Sith with obvious distaste. "No, probably not."

    “What about you, Prince Solo?” Amidala asked, forcing Tarkin to take a step back so as to include him in the conversation. “Obi-wan tells me there has not been a single Corellian Jedi since the War.”

    Solo thanked Amidala silently. “No. We don’t have much time for esoterism and religion. We prefer complicated politics, fast ships and the reassuring sounds of a gambling table.”

    Tarkin sniffed. “And Kessel spices.”

    “When possible.”

    “It has been too long since I’ve played a good game of sabaac,” Amidala said. She smiled at Han. “Perhaps you would indulge me while we are here?”

    He nodded. “It would be my pleasure, milady.”

    Tarkin interrupted. "I must tell you, my lady, that the Emperor has been looking forward to seeing you again. He speaks of you with only the highest praise, despite your ideological differences. He often tells stories of you when you were Queen – it seems you were quite headstrong. Why, just this morning he was telling me how the two of you fought side by side on Naboo.”

    “Actually, I fought on Naboo. Senator Palpatine remained behind on Coruscant.” Well said.

    “Fighting on the floor of the Senate, my lady.”

    “Unfortunately, the Senate was rather powerless in that situation.”

    “A fact that the Emperor moved to amend when he founded the Empire.”

    Lance spoke up, his eyes flashing. “At the expense of the freedoms and liberties we had enjoyed for centuries, if not millenia.”

    Tarkin turned his icy stare on Lance. “Freedoms and liberties your forefathers fought for in the Clone Wars, Prince Organa, but which you…”

    “Have fought to protect against Imperial encroachments into Alliance space.”

    “Encroachments? A few ships, no more.”

    “I’ll remember to tell that to the thousands who died on Galatia.”

    This was getting out of hand. Han stepped between the two men. “Gentlemen, please. This is neither the time, nor the place.” Both men took a step back. “Now, I’m sure that the delegates and their escort are all tired.” He turned to Tarkin. “I believe you have arranged quarters in the Commerce District, so perhaps it would be possible to…”

    “Actually no.”

    Han frowned. “I’m sorry?”

    “I sent a communique to your office an hour ago, Prince Solo. I assumed you had received it. The Emperor insisted that the delegates receive accomodation in the Palace.”

    Han stepped forward. “That was not what was discussed.”

    Tarkin waved his hand. “A detail. The rest of the conference will occur as planned.”

    Fighting his instincts, Han forced his body to relax. He smiled. “Of course. Please. Lead on.”

    Tarkin clapped his hands and three servants dressed in white robes scurried forward. They bowed low, their eyes downcast. "They will show you the way."

    Han stepped forward, in front of Tarkin, bowing low over Amidala’s hand. “A pleasure, as always, Triad.”

    She laughed, the sound almost a giggle. “How galant.”

    He grinned at her, wondering whether to risk a wink. He thought better of it, bowing his head again before standing. “I will see you tomorrow.”

    She smiled again, then turned to follow the servants’ lead. Before she had taken a few steps, though, a shout rang out across the landing pad.

    “Mother!”

    Amidala spun round, a look of shock on her face. Han followed her gaze to see a young boy – ten or eleven at the most – racing across the landing pad. He seemed to have come from the Tantive IV, whose loading bay was still open. A young woman scurried behind him, her arms flailing. As the boy got closer, Han saw that he had unruly brown hair and the most piercing blue eyes.

    The boy threw himself into Amidala’s arms, squeezing her tight. “Mother, you said you’d come and get me.”

    Amidala put her arms around her son’s shoulders. Han saw her glance at Tarkin and he would have sworn that he saw fear in her eyes. “Kie-wan, I told you to stay on the ship.”

    “But I saw you leaving.”

    “Only for a little while. I would have come for you.”

    The young woman finally reached the group of delegates, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. “I’m sorry, my lady. I just turned my back for a minute and…”

    “That’s alright, Elissa.” Amidala took a deep breath, then forced a smile on her face. “Gentlemen, I would like you to meet my son, Kie-wan Amidala Kenobi.”

    As if seeing all of the people around him for the first time, Kie-wan shrank back against his mother, clutching at her diplomatic robes. He looked from one to the other. When his eyes met Han’s, Han winked at him and smiled. Kie-wan smiled back, then buried his face in his mother’s robes. Seems like a nice kid. A bit shy, but nice.

    “I am sure we can find accomodation for your son at the Palace as well, Lady Amidala,” Tarkin said. “If we had known he was coming, we would have…”

    Amidala shook her head. “It was a last moment decision. He was supposed to remain behind with his father but…”

    She trailed off, a hint of disbelief in her eyes, as if she had said something she shouldn’t have. Tarkin smiled. “Off on important Jedi business. Say no more.”

    Amidala nodded her head stiffly. “Shall we?” she asked.

    Tarkin bowed, indicating with his arm that she should follow the servants who were still waiting. Clutching her son, the Triad allowed the servants to lead her away towards the Palace. Han watched her leave, then nodded to Lance, who smiled stiffly and followed the Nabooan diplomat. Holding back, Han reached out and grabbed Tarkin by the arm. The Grand Moff stared down at his hand as if it were some strange beast from the depths of the Western Sea.

    "I don't want to have to remind you that Corellia has worked very hard to organise these talks, Wilhelm."

    "And we are most grateful for your assistance, Han. Now if..."

    Han tightened his grip. "It would be unfortunate if the Unallied Worlds were forced to take sides in these talks." He knew he was taking a risk using such a hard line now, but he needed to reassert his position before Tarkin tried to cut him out entirely.

    Tarkin's eyes hardened. "Are you threatening me, Prince Solo?"

    Han let him go, but kept his hand on his sleeve. "Just making an observation. If it hadn’t been for the Solo Line, who knows where the Alliance and the Empire would be today."

    "Quite. We owe a lot. To your father.” Both men glared at one another for a moment, then Tarkin smiled. “Still, the Unallied Worlds have maintained their independence by remaining unallied. It would be a shame if you were to lose that independence because you decided to back the wrong side. Just an observation, of course."

    Tarkin shrugged Han's hand from his arm and turned smartly. Han watched him go, unease settling like a lead weight in his belly. Tarkin seemed... too arrogant, if that were possible. As if he knew something Han didn't. Something that had convinced him he no longer needed the Unallied Worlds support in these talks. I have a bad feeling about this.

    He needed to talk to his father. Jonash Solo, the architect of the Corellia Accords, the man who forged the Unallied Worlds into a force to be reckoned with and gained himself a throne in the bargain. He would know what to do.

    He turned to walk over to the landing pad where he had left his speeder. It was a short flight to the Embassy and Han could have used the public transport system, but he took every opportunity he could to get behind the wheel. As he turned, though, he caught sight of the young Jedi pilot – Leia – talking to Captain Antilles, and he stopped. He studied her more closely, admiring her full figure once again. Her brown hair was cut short, framing her drawn, sombre features. Han allowed his eyes to trace the strong line of her jaw, down her neck to the slightest hint of her shoulder blades under the Alliance jumpsuit. If he had had to choose between her and her mother, he would have been hard pressed to say who was the more beautiful.

    The conversation seemed to be coming to an end. Antilles said something in parting, then turned and headed after Amidala and the rest of the Alliance delegation. Leia took a few steps towards her waiting flight mates, paused and swung round. Just for a moment, their eyes met. Han felt a jolt of electricity travel down his spine and into his gut. He grinned at her and for a moment he would have sworn she was about to smile back. Then she seemed to realise what she was doing and she stopped herself. Spinning away, she began to fumble with her cloak.

    Han headed for his speeder, shaking his head. This was not the time and she certainly wasn't the woman. A Jedi! He had no time for their hokey religion. Give him a bargaining table and a treaty negotiation any day.

    And a blaster when things don't go my way, he added to himself.

    Arriving at his speeder – a brand new Qatari 359 – he stopped and took a deep breath to clear his head of the tantalising ghost of her face. The familiar smells of the city-planet washed over him. The heady tang of speeder exhaust fumes and power collection overflow mingled with the foul stench of refuse gathering in the lower levels and the more pleasant aroma of spices rising from a nearby processing plant. Coruscant had almost become home over the past five years. Not in the same way that Corellia was home, it would never be that. But it was close.

    Han shook his head again. He needed to stay focused. These negotiations might turn out to be even more important than those that led to the Corellia Accords. He had his father’s reputation to live up to. He couldn’t afford complications. Any complications. First, he would talk to his father. Then… Then he would try and find out what Tarkin was planning.

    Still, he allowed as he walked away, she seems to have a lot of spirit.
  2. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    :cool: =D= Nice! I like Han being a royal bigshot [face_laugh] - nice twist and Leia already engaged although it is not a love match, which leaves room for ;) ... So you did the Obidala pairing? Definitely explains the hostility on Anakin's part :p

    Kie-wan -- looking forward to meeting him :D And Han with Tarkin -- Han has that classic Correllian snark still - yay! [face_laugh]

    **

    Your brief descriptions of personal/political backstory are very well written. I like the different tensions and allegiances. :)
    Last edited by Jade_eyes, Nov 7, 2012
  3. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    A lot of interesting things.

    I believe that i read what you had posted on the old boards hence the comment that I remember.
  4. krtmd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Nice twist on Han. :D
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  5. Hazel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 9, 2010
    star 4
    Loved the political twists and Prince Han, even with the diferent backstory ye is still our Han.
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  6. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    @Jade_eyes - Thanks, glad you like what I have done with Han, I thought it was the best way of playing switch and bait for this character. Still, as quite a few people have noted and as you did ie his snark, Han even as a royal remains Han!

    Yes, I did the Obidala pairing. This is one that I struggled with for a while, but for this story it made sense. If anyone is worried about it, though, this story will not be a major Obidala shipper story, it is a small part of the background whose major role is to develop the antagonism between Anakin and Obiwan. It threw up some other surprises, though, Kiewan being the main one.

    I'm glad that the backstory comes across well, I have tried to think about the way this universe might develop taking Anakin's none turning into account. Thanks again for your comment!

    @Lady_Misty - Okay, that comment makes sense now! :) Glad you've found it again and hope you will enjoy it.

    @krtmd - Thanks for the comment! Welcome aboard!

    @Hazel - As you said and as I mentioned to Jade_Eyes above, yes this Han is still our Han, just with a little extra refinement and political acumen. :) I'm glad that the various twists worked for you, more to come ;)
  7. Kevin_Solo Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2007
    star 2
    You've started a good story here, JABrown! =D=


    So Palpatine survived, and there is open war between the Empire and the Alliance, at least more open than in ANH. [face_plain] [face_thinking]


    I'll be very interested to read more details of what went on between Ani and Padme. So she left him, took Leia with her, remarried Obi-Wan, and they have a son, Kie-wan Amidala Kenobi. :eek: No wonder things are in such a mess when we see Anakin and Kenobi. :oops:


    Nice to see that Lando still has the Falcon in this AU. Of course, I wondered what happened to Han, having read about Chewie, and was not disappointed.[face_peace]


    So his father is King of Corellia, heading an alliance of neutral planets, with Han heir to the throne! :D Good to read that there's still a lot of the OTL Han there:


    Han forced a smile. Like every other meeting for the past three months, their last had been a neverending battle of wits as both men had tried to get one up on the other. Table seating arrangements, location of living chambers, even the colour of the Alliance delegation’s robes – it had all been discussed, rehashed, discussed some more and finally argued over. The ultimate decision had made no one happy. Politics. Han couldn’t lie to himself – he loved it.

    [face_laugh]


    Leia's on the road to becoming a Jedi, and engaged to the heir of Alderaan... ;) Nice.


    Luke appears to be having the worst day of all. [:D] First the revelations about his family, and being kidnapped by Mara Jade, without being aware of what happens between the two in the original time line. :( Will she fall passionately in love with him, and abandon her Imperial calling, I wonder?[face_mischief] You and me, Skywalker? Never! Not even if we were in another universe!


    Could you please put me on your mailing list?
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  8. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Hi Kevin_Solo! Isn't it great to be here again, reading great ff? [face_dancing] @};- As for Mara/Luke, LOL when is their romance not fraught with imminent peril? :) =D=
    Last edited by Jade_eyes, Nov 8, 2012
  9. Kevin_Solo Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2007
    star 2
    It is good to be back and to talk with you again, Jade_eyes! [face_dancing] I was interested to see that the Skywalkers are still a dysfunctional family. But considering what happened to them in the original time line, they don't know how lucky they are! [face_laugh]
    Last edited by Kevin_Solo, Nov 8, 2012
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  10. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    @Kevin_Solo - Thanks so much for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the story. Is the taglist sufficient or would you like me to send you a pm when I update? As you wish, I don't mind.

    Now for a couple more chapters...
    krtmd likes this.
  11. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Taglist - @Lady_Misty @Kevin_Solo

    Chapter 7

    Darkness found the city of Mos Espa hunkering down amongst the dunes for another night, like a great twisting snake. Tenement buildings gradually vanished into the shadows, lit only by bonfires and flickering make-shift lamps. Swoopbikes raced down the thoroughfare of Mos Espa Way, which had been full of people during the day. Labyrinthine alleys were scoured with blaster bolts or drenched in multi-hued blood. Walls crumbled as the wind blew sand through abandoned courtyards, each decaying, neither with any hope of ever being restored.

    Mos Espa was dying.

    As the wind swept in from the sands, Obi-wan led Anakin into the heart of darkness. Out on the fringe of the city, on the northern edge of Mos Espa Way, violence spilled out of every doorway. Yet Luke’s trail led here.

    Waves of fury, fear and despair washed over Obi-wan, emanating from Anakin. How has he not fallen to the Dark Side? he wondered. Still, he said nothing. Anakin had only reluctantly accepted Obi-wan’s help, the Force’s help, in finding his son. The look he had given his old master as they left the junk shop, though, had made it clear that Obi-wan should stay quiet.

    So they wandered the sinuous Mos Espa Way, Obi-wan following the will of the Force, his sense of Luke’s force potential strong. Their path seemed erratic, as erratic as the wanderings of a scared young man looking for answers. Inexorably, though, the path led here, into the dying streets out near the sands.

    As they passed what had once been Jabba the Hutt’s city house, a gang appeared out of the shadows of an alleyway up ahead. Obi-wan drew the hood of his cloak close, hoping to get past without any trouble. Two of them stepped out into the street, though, human faces tattooed to ressemble a Zabrak. Obi-wan felt a surge of anger at the sight – even after so many years, after losing so many friends, he still felt Qui-Gonn’s death keenly. He smothered the emotion, allowing the Force to guide his words.

    “Hey Grek, look at the old timers.”

    “What are you doing out? Isn’t it past your bed time?” They laughed at the feeble joke.

    “We don’t want any trouble,” Obi-wan said in a level tone, allowing a hint of the Force to seep into his words.

    “This is our street, old man. You want to walk our street, you pay your way.”

    Obi-wan sighed. These men were going to take more persuasion than he had thought. And he needed to be fast – he could feel the mounting frustration bubbling up in Anakin behind him. He didn’t want his old padawan to do something rash.

    Using an old trick Master Yoda had taught him as a concentration exercice, Obi-wan waved his hand at the same time as he spoke.

    “We’re not worth your time.”

    The two gang-members’ eyes went blank. Both of them repeated: “You’re not worth our time.”

    “You want to let us go, now.”

    “We want to let you go, now.”

    “Go away.”

    They turned to leave. Obi-wan heaved a sigh of relief when a high-pitched rumble echoed in the street.

    “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Why you turning away?”

    A figure slid away from the shadows. Obi-wan suppressed a groan. A Hutt. It had to be a Hutt.

    The newcomer’s words seemed to cut through the suggestions that Obi-wan had placed in the other two men’s minds. They turned back and Obi-wan could feel their anger blaze up, hot like a newborn star. This might get ugly.

    Before he could attempt a more diplomatic route, though, Anakin darted forward. He moved much faster than even Obi-wan could have expected, grabbing a hold of the nearest gang member’s shoulder and spinning him around. One arm wrapped around the man’s neck, he ignited his lightsabre in the other, holding it a mere inch from the gang member’s face.

    “Jedi!” One or two of the gang-members scampered straight away, but a few more – including the Hutt – stayed where they were, hands reaching for blasters, pipes and vibroblades.

    “Don’t move or I’ll cut him a new breathing hole,” Anakin snarled. The gang-members allowed their hands to fall back to their sides.

    This is not the Jedi way. Master Windu’s voice echoed in Obi-wan’s head. He grimaced. He had to do something before this got out of hand.

    “Anakin, I…”

    “Shut up! Now, we don’t want to hurt anyone. We’re looking for someone. A boy, about your age, light hair, dressed in a mechanic’s clothes.”

    “We ain’t seen no stinking Jedi boy.”

    “You think you can try your old Jedi mind tricks on us?” the Hutt whined. “No Jedi mind tricks work on a Hutt.”

    “Anakin, we should go,” Obi-wan said. “This isn’t the way.”

    Obi-wan had never known Anakin’s feelings to be straightforward. They had always been complex, as confused as the warren of Mos Espa streets where he had grown up. It had been one of the main problems when Anakin had been his padawan. Now, though, with the loss of his son, that problem seemed to have been increased a hundred-fold. To Obi-wan’s dismay, though, dark emotions seemed to be paramount. What if Anakin has already slipped too far? If only he could sense Anakin’s presence in the Force… How could he hide himself so completely?

    “I seen your boy,” one of the gang-members, a three eyed Gran, said out of the blue, returning Obi-wan to the here and now. “He came through here.”

    Anakin looked to Obi-wan. Grimacing, the Jedi Master reached out with his senses. The Gran seemed to be telling the truth. He sensed fear and anger, but no deceit. He looked back at Anakin, nodding.

    “Where did he go?”

    The Gran pointed down a side street. “That way. I saw him head into an alley a little way down. Then he left with a streetwalker.”

    A streetwalker? He looked at Anakin whose eyes blazed. “What are you talking about?”

    “She was all dressed in leather,” the Gran leered. “With bright red hair.”

    Obi-wan felt a lance of hot ice down his spine. No. No, it can’t be. What if they were already too late? He stifled the sudden surge of fear, but he could not keep the urgency from his voice.

    “Anakin, we need to go.”

    Anakin sensed the urgency in his friend’s voice. He nodded. “Alright, we’re going to leave now. Any of you want to follow us, just remember who you’re facing. We can sense you coming before you even think about it. You got me?”

    Those who remained nodded. Obi-wan doubted the threat would stop them for long. They’d fall back, regroup, then come after them. Pride demanded it. If only Anakin had let me handle things… Still, if Obi-wan was right, they wouldn’t need much time. Force, let me be wrong.

    Anakin let the gang-member go and he scurried off to join his friends. As Obi-wan had expected, they pulled back into the shadows. He could feel their eyes on them as they passed on down the street. A few minutes, maybe a little more.

    “We’d better hurry,” Obi-wan said.

    Anakin just nodded.

    Quickening their pace, they reached the alleyway that the Gran had indicated. Obi-wan reached out with his senses. As he had feared, he felt the presence of the Dark Side. A Sith had been here. Recently. He reached out and grabbed Anakin’s shoulder.

    “The Dark Side.”

    Anakin’s eyes widened. He tore himself away from his former master and ran into the alleyway. Pulling back his cloak, Obi-wan followed him, hand hovering near his lightsabre in case he needed it.

    When he saw his old friend crouched on the floor, a figure cradled in his arms, Obi-wan feared the worst. Taking a step forward, though, he saw a furry paw in the light from the streetlamps behind him. A Wookie?

    “Chewbacca? What happened?” Anakin was asking.

    Obi-wan took a few more steps forward. As he drew closer, he saw that there was little blood. The sight of the two cleanly severed stumps at the end of both arms and the cauterised lightsabre wounds that punctured the heart and lungs confirmed his fears. He reached out with his senses nevertheless, allowing the Force to guide him. Years of tracking Sith-trained operatives throughout worlds along the Solo Line had honed his ability to sense the Dark Side into a fine art. Whoever had been here was gone now. So was Luke.

    Anakin seemed oblivious to the signs, though. Can’t he sense the presence of the Dark Side? Could he be so far gone? “Anakin,” he whispered.

    Anakin looked up at him, then followed his gaze to the Wookie’s chest. When he saw the wounds, his eyes widened.

    “Chewbacca. Who did this to you?”

    The Wookie groaned. At least so it seemed to Obi-wan until Anakin spoke.

    “What did she look like?”

    She? Of course, the streetwalker. Red hair. It had to be her. The Red Lady. The Emperor’s favored Hand. He was about to tell Anakin what he suspected when the Wookie spoke again. Anakin stiffened.

    “What did she do to Luke?”

    Obi-wan felt a surge of anger rise from his friend as the Wookie grunted and growled, struggling to tell Anakin what he had seen. The poor creature’s words trailed off into a wracking cough before he could finish, though. The cough faded into a dull choking sound as the Wookie’s lungs filled with blood. Before either man could do anything, the Wookie took a final, rattling breath and went still.

    The two men remained still for a moment, the silence growing between them. Obi-wan couldn’t believe this had happened. This wasn’t what he had planned. He had been sure that he would be able to convince Anakin to come back, to help. Instead, he had allowed his friend’s son to be taken by a Sith. A Sith and the son of Skywalker. The Son of…

    Like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky, he had it. Obi-wan’s blood ran cold. Master Yoda. The Prophecy. A Sith and the Son of Skywalker. By the Force, Master Yoda’s prophecy. The prophecy is coming true. Oh Anakin!

    Anakin’s voice cut through his reverie. His old friend had stood up, laying Chewbacca’s body on the ground at his feet.

    “Where will she take him?” he asked.

    “Anakin, I…”

    “Where?" Anakin cut him off.

    "Coruscant, I would imagine." Obi-wan resigned himself.

    "Palpatine."

    Obi-wan could only nod.

    Anakin thought about what Obi-wan had said for a few moments, then came to a decision.

    "You're coming with me."

    He started to push past his old friend. Obi-wan reached out a hand to grab him, to reason with him.

    "Anakin, no I..."

    Anakin swung round so fast that Obi-wan didn't even have time to react to the oncoming fist. He found himself on the ground all of a sudden, his chin throbbing, blood on his lips.

    "You owe me, old man. This is all your fault. Now my boy is gone and..."

    Grief flooded Obi-wan's senses, wave after wave. Anakin saw it reflected in his eyes and turned away, as if he could hide his feelings. Obi-wan sensed Anakin’s struggle – guilt and despair warring for control with anger and his need to save his son. Slowly, his love for his son won out, even over his anger at Obi-wan. His shoulders slumped.

    "Please help me, Obi-wan. I can't do this without you. You're my only hope of getting to Palpatine before he turns my boy."

    Again grief flooded through Obi-wan's mind, but this time it was all his own. I don't have a choice. May the Force forgive me Padme. I don't have a choice.
  12. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Chapter 8

    Anakin led Obi-wan through the back ways and side alleys with the confidence of a man who has lived most of his life in the same city. Mos Espa was his home. When he had left Naboo, this had been the only place he could imagine living. It was a hard planet, even more so since the Rise. Yet the people here thrived. They took care of one another and they scrounged a life out of the dregs of the galaxy.

    Or at least they used to.

    Every step seemed to be taking him further and further away from that life. Anakin felt like he was leaving his mother all over again. Almost as if he could twist his head round and see her stood in the doorway of their slave quarters, watching him leave as she held back the tears. Anakin forced himself to keep his eyes forward, taking each step one at a time, concentrating on the sound of the dust and the sand crunching beneath his feet.

    The first light of dawn was crowning when they reached the docking bay on the far north-east outskirts of the city. With that gang out for blood, it had seemed safer to take the long way around, through decaying alleyways and abandoned tenements. Anakin could hear Obi-wan’s laboured breathing behind him and he tried hard not to feel a hint of satisfaction that his old master was so out of shape. You’re getting old, Obi-wan.

    The docking bay was quiet, bedarkened but for a single series of lights that shone from the remains of an ancient freighter ship. The ship had its nose buried in the sand and its engines exposed to the cool early morning air. Anakin had known that even if the whole city slept, the Tap Caff would be awake. They should be able to find a ship here to get them to Smuggler’s Run.

    And how did I let myself get talked into that? Anakin wondered. Obi-wan had insisted. An Alliance ship would be the easiest and fastest way to get to Coruscant, and he just happened to have one waiting for him in the Run. What had he called her? The Falcon? Damn fool name for a ship. And besides, she was still an Alliance ship. It seemed like suicide to try and get into the Empire’s capital aboard one of her enemies’ ships.

    Obi-wan hadn’t left him much choice though. The Run it was. And Anakin had a pretty good idea of how to get there. He just hoped she had forgiven him.

    As they walked across the tarmac to the Caff, Anakin felt a surge of nostalgia. Second time tonight. Must be Obi-wan. But whether it was the presence of his former master or not, Anakin had a clear vision of himself as a little boy, hiding in the shadows of the cargo containers, staring at the ships as they took off or landed, and dreaming of adventure out in the stars.

    Then the memory was overtaken by another, more immediate one. One of him and Luke, walking off the transport ship that brought them here. Luke had been even younger than Anakin had been when he left. Anakin could still feel the warmth of his boy's hand in his, could still see the look on his face as he gazed at all of the aliens walking through the port around them.

    Grief surged, tempered only by the anger that followed on its heels. Anakin welcomed the feelings, embraced them. He caught Obi-wan glancing at him, knew that his old master could feel his turmoil. Anakin didn't care. Emotions can't hurt me anymore, Obi-wan.

    Before they entered the Caff, Anakin held up a hand to stop his former master.

    "This isn't a garden party on Naboo, Obi-wan. You follow my lead and you keep that," - jabbing at the lightsabre hidden beneath his cloak - "out of sight. You got me?"

    Obi-wan just smiled. Anakin felt his cheeks burn, reminded of what he had done with those gang-members not even an hour before. He had vowed never to take up a lightsabre again. Yet now, with Luke taken by Palpatine’s Hand, none of that seemed important anymore. Even keeping his secret – that the Force had abandoned him – did not seem as vital as it had only a day before.

    "A hive of scum and villainy, hey?” Obi-wan was saying. “Just like the old days."

    "Actually, they're just normal people trying to make their way in a galaxy other people tore apart."

    Anakin couldn't help feeling a little spiteful kick at the look on Obi-wan's face. He turned away, leading the Jedi master into the Caff.

    The air inside was laden with pure clouds of Ylesian and Kessel spices. Anakin couldn’t see more than a few steps in front of him. Without the Force to help direct him, he made do like normal beings, trailing his hand down the wall to guide himself down the few steps, down into a central area where the bar lay surrounded by tables.

    The place stank of too many bodies in too small a space. Spicy human odours mingled with the feral stink of furry aliens or the dry smell of reptilians or insectoids. A few of the pilots looked up to see who the newcomers were, but most knew Anakin from the shop. One or two waved, others nodded. The vast majority ignored him. Just the way I like it.

    Anakin and Obi-wan shared a glance, then he led the older Jedi over to the bar. The bar tender, a re-conditioned protocol droid, spun round to face them.

    "Master Skywalker! How many times do I have to tell you we don't -"

    "Serve my kind in here. Yeah C2, I know."

    Laughing merrily at his - old - joke, the droid trundled forward. "So what can I get you?"

    "Nothing tonight. I'm looking for Ana."

    The droid bobbed his head and made a whistling sound. A mechanical approximation of a wink. "You're in luck. She just got here. Look in the back."

    Anakin let out a breath. He had been worried she wouldn't be back from the Far Outer Rim yet. He nodded thanks to C2 and began to walk round the bar towards the rear tables. He was almost out of sight when the silver droid called out to him.

    "You say hi to Luke for me, ok? It's been an age since I’ve seen him in here oggling the pilots."

    Anakin paused, his fists clenching as he imagined Luke in Palpatine's hands. He forced himself to relax.

    "I will," he said, so soft he might as well have whispered. I swear I will, he promised himself.

    The tables at the back were set aside for the crews of the smuggling ships. Unofficially called Smuggler's Circle , it was almost empty tonight except for one table. The flight crew that sat around it were one of the most eclectic Anakin had ever met, because so many of them were from species he had never seen anywhere else.

    The Misbegotten Venture liked to fly under the radar and these days that meant charting courses along the Far Outer Rim. She had picked up quite a few strays on her travels. Though there were a few familiar races represented – a Gran, a Rodian and a Twi’lek – there were also some very strange creatures. Three old and wizened men, looking almost like human-sized versions of Master Yoda, sat together in a tight circle. All three of them were blind, their eyes empty sockets, while one of them grasped a mechanical eye in one claw-like hand. He held it tight to his forehead as Anakin appeared and whistled under his breath.

    The sound caught the attention of a bear-like alien who called himself Pathfinder. A member of a species known as Chaol, he had been watching the two men. Now he looked up. When he saw Anakin approaching, he growled deep under his breath like a Wookie. Next to him sat a tiny slip of a girl, who looked almost human except for the droid implants she wore on her face, slashing across her forehead, left eye and cheek, and down under her coarse white shirt.

    And at the top of the table, a human woman about Anakin’s age sat with her legs hanging over one of the chair’s arms, her hand playing with a single visible strand of her blond hair. The rest of it was hidden beneath a green leather cap. She wore no jewelry and her jumpsuit was of some kind of nerf leather, beaten and stitched together so many times it looked as if it were about to fall apart. Three knives jutted from scabards on her belt and an old blaster hung from her finger. She looked up when she heard the footsteps and her face lit up in a smile as she got to her feet.

    Anakin breathed a sigh of relief as she sauntered over to him. She had forgiven him it seemed.

    Ana Detani, Capain of the Misbegotten Venture, wrapped her arms around Anakin and kissed him. For an instant, Anakin felt his worries evaporate as he allowed himself to sink into the kiss, wrapping his own arms around her, letting them drift down her back...

    She broke off the kiss and stepped out of his embrace. He was about to ask her what was wrong, when she reared back and slapped him across the cheek. His head snapped back and he caught a glimpse of Obi-wan smiling smugly.

    "You've got some nerve."

    "Ana, listen..." he said as he turned back to face her.

    "Do you know how stupid I looked when that hyperdrive you installed..."

    "Ana." He raised his voice, cutting her off.

    She stopped, still glaring at him. Once he was sure she wasn't going to slap him again, he went on.

    "We need to talk. I need your help."

    "Well you can just kiss a Wookie, you s-"

    "Ana, it's Luke."

    Her angry lover act vanished. She stepped towards him again, worry painted all over her face. She reached a hand up to his cheek. "Oh Ani. What is it?"

    He shook his head. "Not here."

    "Of course."

    All business, she turned and swept past her crew. One of them, the Rodian, went to stand up, but she waved him back down. "Stay here Greedo."

    The Rodian did as he was told, but he glared at Anakin and Obi-wan as they passed. That kid never liked me, Anakin thought.

    Ana led them to a storage room at the back that C2 allowed her to use for ‘sensitive’ negotiations. She flipped on a light, revealing a bare room with a table and a few chairs. Anakin felt his cheeks burn at the sight, remembering the last ‘negotiation’ he and Ana had carried out in this room, and hoping that Obi-wan wouldn’t be able to sense the reason for his unease.

    “So what’s happened?” Ana asked as soon as the door closed behind them. “And who’s your friend?”

    “Ana, this is Old Ben, a friend from my spice freighter days.”

    Anakin didn’t dare glance at Obi-wan, hoping that his old friend would play along. To his relief, Obi-wan stepped forward, hand outstretched.

    “Nice to meet you, Ms?”

    “Detani. Ana Detani. And it’s Captain.”

    “Of course.”

    “So you knew Ani when he was a navigator?”

    “We served together on the same ship.” Ana glanced at Anakin and he smiled tightly. Don’t improvise too much, old man.

    “And what are you doing here?

    “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, Ana.”

    “You said something about Luke.”

    “He’s been kidnapped.”

    “Kidnapped?” she gasped. “By who?”

    “An old enemy of mine.”

    “An enemy?” Ana frowned, the drawn lines on her face creasing even more. “I thought you were just a navigator.”

    “I was. But…” He struggled to come up with a convincing lie. “I did a little smuggling on the side. I made some enemies here and there. One of them has come back for payback. He’s asking to meet me, to sort out some old differences.”

    “Why didn’t he just sort things out here?”

    “I don’t know.” Anakin’s anger and frustration boiled over and he slapped the table. “Dammit Ana, I need your help. Luke needs your help.”

    She sat back, crossed her legs and raised an eyebrow. “And what does Old Ben have to do with this?”

    “I-“

    “I’d like to hear it from him, actually.”

    Anakin winced. Ana looked at Obi-wan, waiting.

    “I… I used to work for Sidi – that’s the man who has Luke – until Anakin and I decided to start running a little side business on our own. We got caught, Sidi found out and put a bounty on our heads. Anakin came here and I moved to a little swamp world I heard about from an old space pirate. But I kept some contacts in Sidi’s organisation. When I heard what he was planning, I decided to come and warn Anakin. I got here too late. I couldn’t just let an old friend down, you know?”

    Obi-wan managed to inject his words with just the right amount of sincerity and wide-eyed innocence to be convincing. And the story sounded plausible, with just enough detail. Where did Obi-wan learn to lie so well? Anakin turned to look at Ana, daring to hope she might buy it. Instead, she snorted.

    “I’ve never heard a bigger pile of bantha podoo in my life. You two are good I’ll give you that.” Her face hardened. “But I will not risk my ship, my crew, unless I know the truth. So start talking.”

    Anakin opened his mouth to try and talk her round when Obi-wan spoke up again.

    “Anakin, I think we need to tell her the truth.”

    He swung round, eyes flashing. “No.”

    Obi-wan spoke over him. “If you really want to know the truth, Captain Detani, my real name is Obi-wan Kenobi. I am a Jedi Master and a General of the Alliance, here on official business. Anakin used to be my padawan. A Sith-trained operative working on behalf of Emperor Palpatine has kidnapped Luke and is planning on returning him to Coruscant. I will not let that happen. I have reason to believe that Luke may be the focus of a very important prophecy of the Force, a fulcrum on which the hopes of the entire galaxy may rest.”

    Anakin stared at Obi-wan. He couldn’t believe that his former master had revealed the whole truth to Ana. And what was all that about a prophecy? He glared at Obi-wan, then turned to face Ana, fearing the worse. She did the last thing he had expected.

    She laughed.

    “I’ll say this for your friend, Ani, he has one hell of an imagination. I don’t know which part I preferred – Ani as a Jedi or Luke as some kind of a Force prodigee. Hope for the whole galaxy.” She snorted. “One hell of an imagination.”

    Her laughter trailed off and her face grew serious. “You’re both a pair of jokers. I guess I’m not going to get a straight answer out of either one of you. Still, I know you wouldn’t lie about Luke being in trouble. So I’ll tell you what we’re going to do.”

    She speared Obi-wan with her eagle gaze. “You’re going to be official story-teller on our little trip. Make up more stories like that and I may keep you on board.”

    Obi-wan bowed, a sardonic smile playing on his lips. “At your service. Captain.”

    “As for you,” Ana went on, turning her eyes on Anakin, “you’re going to repair that blasted hyperdrive you sold me. If you have it working by tomorrow afternoon, I’ll let you ship out with us for the Run. If you don’t…” She shrugged. “Then I guess your boy doesn’t mean that much to you.”

    Relief flooded Anakin’s mind. “Ana, I… I don’t know what to say.”

    “Then don’t say anything. And don’t get any ideas either. This is business, nothing more.”

    He smiled. “I understand.”

    “Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and cancel the shore leave I just gave my crew. They’re not going to be happy with either of you, I can tell you that.”

    She walked past them, but paused in the doorway. She glanced at both of them, then she snorted, shaking her head. “Jedi.”

    With another shake of her head, she left.

    Anakin let out a breath he didn’t even know he had been holding. He turned to face Obi-wan.

    “That was a very dangerous game you just played.”

    His former master shrugged. “I knew that she would either believe me or she wouldn’t. Either way, it seemed more likely that she would help us if she knew the truth than if we had continued to lie to her.”

    “Still… That was one hell of a lie to slip in there. About Luke and some prophecy. Really pushed her over the edge.”

    To Anakin’s surprise, his old friend looked uncomfortable. He seemed to struggle with what to say, then he sighed. “Anakin… I think we need to talk.”
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  13. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Obi-Wan better be careful or he could die a painful death.

    Are Ana and Anakin involved with each other or in the past? They seem to have a history.
  14. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    [face_dancing] :cool: =D=

    Like ana - a lot! Tough as nails LOL and a former ... love interest of Anakin's o_O ;) Glad she's gonna help out though. :relief:
  15. Hazel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 9, 2010
    star 4
    I'm very intrigued about the prophesy, I hope Obi-Wan will fill Anakin in so that I can learn more about it [face_batting].

    Ana sounds like a very cool gal. I also am very partial to her because we share the name. ;) :D
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  16. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    @Lady_Misty - I'm assuming you mean that Anakin might go Darth Vader on Obi-wan if he doesn't start sharing what he knows? :) As for Anakin and Ana, yes they have a relationship, one that has been quite rocky as can be seen in this little scene between them. Ana is someone that Anakin has been able to turn to for companionship while on Tatooine, knowing that because of her lifestyle she wouldn't be looking for anything more than he was willing or able to give. That works for her, as well, for the most part. Thanks for the comment!

    @Jade_eyes - Glad you like Ana, she's a great character and a good foil for Anakin. They have quite a history together and a very stormy relationship. Still, she is one of the few people Anakin (to a certain extent) trusts, and can turn to.

    @Hazel - Yes, Obi-wan will be filling Anakin in on the prophecy, though we won't be getting back to this storyline for a few more chapters so you may have to be patient while you wait! :) Evil, moi? [face_devil]

    I'm glad Ana has received such a positive reception. I like her character as well, probably one of my favourite OCs. Her entire crew are quite cool, actually. One of these days I'd like to write some more about them but for now I'm trying to concentrate on this.

    Speaking of this story, I will be posting chapters 9 and 10 tonight and then taking a day off from posting. When I start posting again on Sunday, I'll be dropping down to one chapter a day until I catch up with my backlog, so around chapter 22 or 23. After we reach those two chapters, I'm not sure how often I will be posting, though I hope at least a chapter a week. Thanks again for everyone's comments!
    Hazel likes this.
  17. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Taglist: @Lady_Misty

    Chapter 9

    By the time she left the briefing room, Leia was exhausted. She let the doors close behind her and then allowed herself a moment of self indulgence, resting her head against the matte white wall of the Tantive IV’s corridor. All she wanted was to get back to her room and take a nice, long shower. Even the thought of exploring Coruscant didn’t seem so appealing anymore. By the Force, mother, what have you gotten us into?

    The briefing had been handled by Commander Madine, Captain Antilles’ XO. The short, moustached officer’s manner had been curt, and Leia could tell through the Force that he was no more happy to be here than she was. He had briefly explained what the Alliance Council and the leading Triad of Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and her mother hoped to get out of the negotiations – a strengthening of the defences along the Solo Line, the return of a handful of systems seized by the Empire in the regular border skirmishes of the last few decades, and an official Imperial apology for the massacre on Galatia. They would settle for the strengthening of the Line.

    The problem, as Madine had laid it out, was that Alliance Intelligence had been unable to ascertain exactly what the Emperor was looking to gain. That put the whole negotiation on an uneven keel.

    Madine had then spent the rest of the briefing informing the various commando leaders and pilots of their role – to stay alert, to be ready for anything, to keep a close eye on the Imperials and stay as near as possible to the Alliance delegation. Leia had been surprised when Madine named her as leader of the diplomatic protection detail. That reminds me, she thought, I need to finish a rotation for the other pilots and commandos before I go to bed.

    Forcing back a deep sigh, she turned to go back to her quarters when a familiar voice called her name.

    She turned and saw Lance hurrying towards her down the corridor. He had changed into more comfortable clothes, though he still wore an expensive coat and a clasp sporting the Alderaani crest. A couple of NCO’s turned their head to follow him, then quickly turned away when they saw Leia.

    “Thank goodness!” he said. “I thought I’d never find you. I tried your quarters, then the flight deck, but no one could tell me where you were. If I hadn’t bumped into that wingman of yours…”

    “Biggs told you where I was?”

    “Yes! Come on, we need to talk.”

    She turned away and started down the corridor. “We have nothing to talk about.”

    Her fiancé pursued her down the corridor. When he reached her, he grabbed her arm and pulled her back around. “Please, Leia, you have to…”

    Shaking off his arm angrily, Leia swung to face him. She took a step closer, her face inches away from his own, so close she could see his pupils dilate. Her master’s voice echoed in her ears. Mind your feelings, padawan. Seek out the calm centre of the Force. She banished the voice, embracing her anger.

    “Don’t tell me what I have to do, Lance. Besides, what exactly do you think we have to talk about? The fact that you didn’t tell me you were coming on this mission? The fact that you hid such an important diplomatic negotiation from me, knowing full well I had been assigned to the mission? Or the fact that you announced our engagement without even telling me?”

    She had been jabbing him in the chest in perfect synchronisation with every question. He batted her hand away now, his face darkening. “What the hell was I supposed to do? You’ve been putting it off for months. I have responsabilities as well, Leia. Or have you forgotten?”

    Refusing to back down, she glared at him. “You know why I have been putting it off. We agreed that we should wait until after the first three years of my Knighthood.”

    “Is that all you care about?” They were both shouting now. Out of the corner of her eye, Leia saw a number of the Tantive’s crew stood at the end of the corridor, staring at them. She realised that she didn’t care. “Your blasted Jedi and their stupid rules? You know that it was their rules that pushed your father into…”

    He stopped short, realising from the look on her face that he had crossed a line. Leia’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Don’t talk about my father. You don’t know anything.”

    He sneered. “I know more than you think.”

    She turned away before she hit him. “This conversation is over.”

    “You can’t keep on running away, Leia. You can’t keep running.”

    Fuming, she did exactly that, breaking into a run as she reached the end of the corridor, pushing through the crowd of crewmen and NCOs, not caring about her position as a flight commander or as a Jedi. Hurrying through the corridors of the Corvette, his words pursued her. What did he know? He didn’t know anything about her, about her family, and especially about her father. The truth was, no one knew much about Anakin Skywalker nor what had happened to him. Her mother refused to talk to Leia about it and she had never dared ask her master. Leia’s own search through the Jedi Archives had been just as fruitless. It was as if Anakin Skywalker had never existed. He might as well be dead.

    So Lance could not possibly know anything. He just couldn’t.

    Her angry thoughts carried her all the way to her quarters. Slamming her hand against the palm-reader to open the door, she almost broke it. Once she was inside, she threw her jacket across the room, just wishing it was heavier. She was about to throw herself into the nearest chair when the door buzzer sounded.

    “What?!” she yelled.

    Silence. Then a small voice. “Commander Skywalker?”

    She had thought it was Lance, pursuing her to finish their fight. Realising how her voice must sound, she took a few deep breaths, closing her eyes and using a technique her master had taught her to calm her beating heart. Reaching deep inside, she felt for the calm waters of the Force, allowing her whole mind to embrace the field of energy that surrounded her. Once her mind was free of emotion, she allowed herself to answer.

    “Yes?”

    “There is a communication coming in for you on a secure line. From the Little Temple.”

    The Little Temple? After the Jedi fled Coruscant during the Rise, they had taken refuge on a new world, its location known only to the Triad and the Jedi themselves. Even padawans were not given the coordinates, their passage to and from the new Jedi headquarters accomplished under the strict supervision of a Jedi Knight. Leia herself had only recently discovered the location. For everyone else, it was known only as the Little Temple.

    She blinked. “Alright, put it through here.”

    She heard the man scurry away, probably glad to get away from the mad Jedi Commander. Leia dismissed him from her mind. Hurrying over to the comm system on the desk, she sat down in the chair, steeling her thoughts. Moments later, a flashing light appeared on the monitor. She pressed the connect button and the revolving Alliance logo vanished, replaced by the dark-skinned face of Jedi Master Mace Windu.

    Her former master.

    “Good evening, Leia.”

    She smiled warmly. “Master.”

    He shook his head at her. “Leia, how many times do I have to tell you, you can call me Mace now.”

    “Old habits.”

    “Die hard. Yes, I know. Still, it has been four months since you succeeded in your Trials, I think it is about time you started acting like a Jedi Knight and not my padawan anymore.”

    “Of course, Ma- Mace.”

    He waited for a moment, then he smiled. “It is good to see you.”

    “It is good to see you too.” Mace had left the Little Temple a week after she succeeded in the Trials. A border dispute had broken out on a planet on the Rim side of the Solo Line. Though he had requested Leia’s presence, the Council had decided it would be best that she remain behind to wait for an assignment on her own. The dispute had taken a few weeks to resolve and Mace had been on route back when she left with the Tantive.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to talk to you before you left, to explain why we were sending you and what we expect of you now that you are there.”

    She straightened. “What you expect of me? You mean you knew?”

    “Mind your feelings, Jedi Skywalker.” His stern tone made her blink. She realised suddenly that her own voice had taken on an angry note, one that she was having trouble controlling.

    “Yes, Master.” He didn’t correct her this time.

    “Yes, I knew that you had been assigned to the Coruscant mission. It was deemed necessary that a Jedi be sent, but we could not afford to risk anyone else at this time. No Master can set foot on Coruscant since the Fall. And none of the Council members felt we could trust anyone else on that Force-forsaken planet.”

    “But… But why are we even here?” she burst out. “What is the point? Surely the Alliance doesn’t actually believe that Palpatine will give anything up?”

    “I’m afraid you would have to ask your mother what the Alliance does or doesn’t believe, Leia,” Mace said with a wry half-smile. “However, that is not why the Council decided to send you on this mission.”

    “It isn’t?”

    “The time when Jedi were used as diplomats and peace-keepers is over. We can not – we will not – attempt to broker a peace with an avowed Sith Lord. Their kind should have been extinct millenia ago. Our aim, our sole mission now, is to make sure that they do not spread their filthy ways out of their Empire and, eventually, to see all Sith back where they belong. In their graves.”

    “Then what…”

    “We have received word in the past few months of a top secret project, spear-headed by the Emperor himself. All we have been able to glean is a key word, the name of the project. Tantiss.”

    Leia wracked her brains to try and dredge up any mention of the word from her studies. After a few moments, she shook her head. “I’ve never heard that name.”

    “Neither have any of the Council. We cannot find anything in the Archives. However from what we have been hearing it is a very important project for the Empire. Something involving the Sith. We believe that it may even relate to the Emperor’s apprentice.”

    Leia shook her head again. “But the Emperor has hundreds, if not thousands, of Sith apprentices.”

    “Not apprentices, Leia. Hands. Operatives trained in certain ways of the Force. Powerful in their own rights but nowhere near as powerful as a true Sith Lord would be. Palpatine is too afraid to ever share that power with anyone but his true apprentice. As far as we can tell, even the Zabrak devil who killed Master Qui-Gonn, and the rebel Count Dooku, were never more than operatives, despite what they may have been led to believe by Palpatine. Palpatine had his eye on someone else to be his apprentice. It seems he has finally found him. Or her.”

    Leia thought back to the white-robed men who had accompanied the Imperial delegation. “What about the Sith priests?”

    Mace waved a hand dismissively. “Nothing more than mouth-pieces for Sith propaganda. A few may have limited Force sensitivity, but nothing compared to even the weakest of our padawans. They are not the problem, Leia. Palpatine and his Hands are. Palpatine’s apprentice is.”

    “A true Sith apprentice?”

    “A new Sith Lord.”

    Leia shivered. “What do you want me to do?”

    “I – we – want you to do some digging while you are Coruscant. We want you to try and track down exactly what Project Tantiss is and what it means. We also want you to find out what link there is – if any – with Palpatine’s apprentice. And if you find him…”

    “Kill him?”

    Mace raised an eyebrow. “I will leave that decision up to you. But Leia…”

    “Yes?”

    “Whatever you do, do not go after Palpatine. Master Yoda could not defeat him. Neither could I. Neither could…”

    “My father.” Lance’s words came back to haunt her.

    Mace seemed to sense her feelings. “Leia… Whatever you may have heard about your father, know this. He saved my life that night. If he hadn’t intervened when he did, I am sure that Palpatine would have killed me. Anakin… He had many faults. I was the first to criticise him for them. But in the end, when it counted, he did what the Force bid him to do. He stayed true to the Jedi code. And he saved my life.”

    Leia didn’t know what to say to that. The silence dragged out between them until Mace broke through her thoughts. “Well, I’m sending you everything I have on the Tantiss Project. It isn’t much but it may give you a few ideas. I trust you’ll be… discreet?”

    “Just like on Genabis.”

    Mace sighed. “I was afraid you would say that. Be careful.”

    “I will.”

    “May the Force be with you, Jedi Skywalker.”

    “And with you Master Windu.”

    The screen went blank, then the Alliance logo appeared again and began to revolve. Leia sat there for a moment, thinking. A Sith apprentice? That could be disastrous for the war effort. Long term strategists within the Alliance had already begun projections as to what would happen when the Emperor died and all projections pointed to the fact that the Empire would fall apart, allowing the Alliance to reestablish the Republic within half a generation. With an heir, recognised by the Sith priests, and chosen by the Emperor himself… The war might last for another century. Or more.

    She couldn’t let that happen. If it was the last thing she did, she would track down this apprentice and kill him. First, though, she needed information.

    She called up the Tantive’s internal communications protocol. Selecting a name from the list, she waited for Biggs to pick up. He did so only after a couple of minutes, his hair a mess, his eyes bloodshot. He ran a hand over his cheek.

    “Yes, Commander?”

    “Did I wake you?”

    “Kind of.”

    “Sorry about that. I just wondered whether you felt like taking a trip?”

    He grinned, any trace of fatigue evaporating. “I thought you’d never ask.”

    She smiled back. She had known Biggs would be up for it. “Meet me in a couple of hours, okay? And wear civvies, I don’t want anyone to know we’re Alliance.”

    “You got it.” He signed off.

    Two hours. That would just about give her time to read through the documents her master had sent her, have a quick shower and get changed. First of all, though, she needed to get something to eat. Closing down the communication’s screen, she headed for the door.
    Last edited by JABrown, Nov 9, 2012
  18. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    Chapter 10

    With the lights of Coruscant scintillating below him like a second starfield, Han piloted his speeder up through the criss-crossing levels of traffic. Taking every opportunity, no matter how dangerous, he ziz-zagged past other, safer drivers – always on the cusp of a collision, but never quite touching any of the other speeders. His hands seemed to be glued to the controls, his eyes never wavering from the reinforced viewscreen in front of him.

    Acclerating up into the midlevel traffic lanes, much more congested than both the lower and higher ones, Han’s deft movements kept him accelerating at a frenetic pace. At each vertical exchange, he sent his speeder into a dizzying vertical spin, adding just enough power to his repulsorlifts to jump to the next level in front of everyone else. He couldn’t help the grin that creased his face as a Gungan in a taxi honked at him.

    He only relaxed when he reached the upper-tier. It was much rarer to encounter other speeders up here – this was an area reserved for private skycars and limousines, vehicles verified as having diplomatic credentials. Winding round the vast pinnacles of the diplomatic sector, he eventually piloted the speeder down to the docking platform on the 53rd level of the Corellian Embassy building.

    Reaching back, he retrieved his briefcase and a recording unit he had kept hidden in his jacket during the meet-and-greet. Climbing out, he walked across the platform, past the handful of other diplomatic vehicles that were parked there, to the elevator pod that jutted from the roof. Once inside, he pressed his palm to the identification plate and waited for the pod’s security systems to scan him from head to toe. Recognising him, the pod immediately began to descend down to his office.

    It was a short trip, only five floors down. When the doors opened, he found his secretary, Ly’ana, waiting for him. A shapely Twi’lek, she had been his personal assistant back on Corellia and had followed him to Coruscant when his father assigned him to the diplomatic corps. Though she now ran a staff of five other embassy assistants, she had insisted on retaining her place as his personal secretary.

    She sighed as he stepped out of the elevator. “Today of all days, you’d think you’d have made an effort. Look at you!”

    He looked down at his clothes. "What? What’s wrong with the way I look?"

    "Where do I start? Your jacket isn't pressed, your shirt looks like you rolled around in it and don't even get me started on your hair."

    He ran a hand through his hair, grinning. "Relax Ly’. It's all part of the game."

    She rolled her eyes, muttering something under her breath. Turning back to her desk, she grabbed a handful of pads and brandished them at him.

    "On top of the thirteen message from yesterday, I have three messages marked urgent from Grand Moff Tarkin's office, which arrived a moment after you stepped out the door, a diplomatic invitation from the Hutt embassy, a message from..."

    "No time," he said, waving the messages away.

    She stopped and glared at him. He held up his hands.

    "I’m not just trying to get out of dealing with them Ly’. I need to talk to my father, now."

    Favouring him with another glare, Ly'ana threw the pads down on the desk. "Fine. I'll just have that many more messages for you tomorrow."

    He sidled up behind her, letting his hands rest on her shoulders. "Come on Ly. Don't be mad. I swear, I'll deal with all of these pads before tomorrow."

    She groaned as he began to massage her shoulders. "Don’t try that with me, Han Solo.” He could tell it was working though and he carried on. She closed her eyes. “I swear, one of these days I'm going to... Alright, alright. I'll get you your father."

    He gave her shoulders one last squeeze, then let his hands drop away. "Thanks, Ly, you're the best."

    "Yeah, yeah, tell me something I don't know," she muttered as he walked into his office.

    He had decorated the room himself, the furniture and artwork on the walls testaments to his fine taste and his large bank account. His father always said that it never hurt to show the other guy you had more to lose than he did. And a large blaster to defend it with. A huge wall to wall window afforded him a view over the cityscape canyons of the diplomatic sector. His large desk sat in front of the window on a plush red and purple carpet. While sat behind his desk, he could turn and see out towards the Hutt embassy or into the Corporate Sector representative’s penthouse on the top floor of a nearby tower.

    Han wandered over to a door on the other side of the room, into a small living area he had set up for those rare nights when he decided to actually work late. He took off his shirt and jacket, throwing them in the chute that would take them down to the lower level cleaning centre, then ran some water over his face and hair. When he walked back out, wearing a clean, well-pressed shirt and with his hair slicked back, he looked like a new man. A prince, he thought with a smile.

    Jonash Solo had taught his boy a lot about diplomacy and handling expectations. One of his most important lessons had been how to confound those expectations. Make them expect the least from you, boy, and you’ll be able to surprise them at every turn. Though a lot of his father’s lessons had gone over Han’s head, that one he had taken to heart. So when he had been sent to Coruscant, he had begun to cultivate his image. As far as Tarkin and most of the other embassies were concerned, Han Solo was a scruffy, carefree diletante, a spoiled prince playing at diplomat, so frightened of his father’s shadow that he could never hope to step out of it. Tarkin’ll be in for quite a shock tomorrow at the negotiation table. I hope.

    Walking over to his desk, he sat down and called up the embedded comm screen. Typing in his personal code and submitting to a second scan, he waited for his father's face to appear. And waited.

    When after a few minutes nothing had happened, he stood up with a sigh and walked back to the outer office. Ly was pressing buttons on her own screen, a frown on her face.

    "What's taking so long?"

    "I don't know,” she said through gritted teeth. “I can't complete the connection. It's as if the relay isn’t there anymore."

    "Have you tried routing it through another relay?"

    "No, I’m new here," she snapped. "Of course I have. Five different ones in fact. I just can't get through."

    “What about Selonia?”

    “No. And before you ask, I’ve already tried to get through to Drall, Tralus and Talus as well. I can’t get through to any of them.”

    "What the hell..."

    He stepped round the desk behind her. A complicated lattice scrolled across her screen. Her fingertips darted from one line to another, keying in codes as requests popped up in other sections, then drawing more connections between flashing dots. As he watched, another set of green lines went dark red.

    "Fyr'shu," she cursed, slapping the console.

    "Try reaching Sacorra. Or Froz" he said, mentioning another two systems in the sector.

    "Alright."

    Her fingers danced across the screen, placing connections in an attempt to reach the planet's comm net. As Han had feared, the green lines soon turned red.

    Ly turned to him. "I don't get it. I can't see any reason why this isn't getting through."

    "Hey, it's probably just a downed relay sat somewhere,” he said, laying a hand on her shoulder. “Don't worry about it. Still, just in case, try and get me someone at the Imperial Communication Ministry."

    Ly nodded and turned back to her screen. He could feel how tense her shoulders were beneath his hand. He squeezed and smiled at her, hoping to calm her down. She looked up at him, then smiled back, but it was little more than a twitch of her lips. Han knew that all of her family had fled to the Corellia system during the Rise. It was as much home to her as it was to him.

    He left her to make the call and returned to his office. He stood there for a moment, looking out the window as the setting sun ignited the gas emissions of thousands of speeders into a symphony of reds and oranges, yellows and purples. Lights flickered on in the buildings around. Han wondered whether any of the beings in those offices were having the same problems as he was. A thousand fears and rationalisations ran through his head. A downed relay. An electrical storm. A mechanical fault here on Coruscant or on Corellia. A thousand different things. Then why do I feel like someone is dancing on my grave?

    When Ly finally informed him that she had someone from the ministry on the line, he forced his shoulders back, running a hand through his hair. Ok, time to act the prince.

    He sat down, keyed in his code again, and waited for the screen to clear. When it did, he found himself staring at a long-nosed human male in a close-cut military uniform. The man stared at Han with barely disguised disdain.

    "Prince Solo?"

    "Yes. And you are?"

    "Captain Gar Noral. What can I do for you, sir?"

    "I was hoping to talk to someone from the Ministry actually..."

    "The Ministry has been absorbed, sir. The military now runs all imperial communication centres."

    Han started. "When did this happen?"

    "This morning. Now if you'd like to explain…"

    "I would like to know why I can't reach anyone on my homeworld."

    "Which sector?” Noral added a belated, “Sir."

    "The Corellian Sector!"

    Noral shook his head. "No, sir, I will need the official Imperial designation if you wish me to make a search."

    Damned bucketheads! "Ly!"

    She had obviously been listening in because less than a heartbeat later her face appeared round the door. "You yelped, my Prince?”

    He glared at her. Now is not the time. "Get me the military designation for the home sector."

    "Sector 131.42,” she said without missing a beat.

    Han turned back to the screen. "Did you catch that?"

    The man was already keying something into the screen beside him. A few moments passed and then he nodded. "Here we are. Yes, that sector is undergoing routine maintenance to their comm relays." He looked at Han. "I'm afraid all communications will be down for at least three days."

    "Three days! There must be something you can do."

    "Unfortunately, no. I will, of course, make sure to inform you as soon as the communication net has been restored. However, as I said, we have only just recently absorbed the communications ministry and we have a lot of work to do. So, if you don't mind..."

    Han debated whether to press the point, but quickly decided there was no point. I may need this pompous ass to help me later on. He nodded. "Of course. I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you. I’m sure you must all be very busy."

    "Thank you," Noral said, his expression softening a little. “I’m sure that everything will be back in order very quickly.”

    “Thank you. Have a nice evening.”

    “And to you, Prince Solo.”

    Without another word, the man signed off, leaving Han to wonder what the hell was going on. A communications black out in the Unclaimed Territories, the same day that the Imperial military takes over the Communications Ministry. And the day before some of the most important negotiations in galactic history were about to start… He sat back.

    Ly’ana stepped fully into the room. "What do you think?"

    "I think the timing of this stinks like a Hutt's rear end. I also think there isn't much we can do about it from here."

    "But what if something has happened back on Corellia?"

    "The system is well defended. The Empire doesn't have anything to match Centrepoint Station. Besides, I'm sure the Emperor won't want to do anything to risk these negotiations."

    "You willing to bet on that?"

    All Han wanted to do was make some wisecrack about Corellians and gambling. Never tell a Corellian the odds, he'll always find a way to beat them, as his father often said. He could tell that Ly was expecting him to do exactly the same.

    The problem was, he couldn't bring himself to say it. Instead, he forced a smile.

    "You're just going to have to trust me."

    He could see on her face that that wasn't what she wanted to hear. Her smile was as false and forced as his own.

    "What now?" she asked after a moment.

    "Now, we get on with business. Get me those padds. I guess I have some calls to make. Oh, and get me everything we have on the talks planned for tomorrow. Tarkin won’t know what hit him."

    She nodded and stepped out. The fact that she didn't make any kind of quip about his sudden ‘zeal’ told him more about her state of mind than anything else could have.

    He turned and looked out the window. He could see shadows moving behind the blinds of the Corporate Sector offices. He watched them for a moment, trying to still his thoughts. He tried to make sense of his own frame of mind. By the time Ly’ana got back with the files, he had come to only one conclusion.

    For the first time he could remember, Han was well and truly terrified.
  19. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    I will say the dreaded line: I have a bad feeling about this.

    Corellia that is. Leia's mission could prove deadly as well.

    I look forward ot learning what little Leia knows about her father.
  20. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Good mysteries goiong on - with the Sith apprentice and with what happened in Correllian sector. [face_thinking] I have a feeling what's discovered will have personal implications also. :) =D=
  21. bentheswguy Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2012
    My oh my I love this! Everything that has happened so far is awesome! As a writer who is rebooting the PT in AU (check it out, A New Destiny), I really appreciate this ff. So far I think I enjoy Han the most and I'm not the first to say this but the line, Politics. Han couldn’t lie to himself – he loved it. Is cool, love what you are doing with him. I also enjoy the Obi-Wan/Anakin storyline, with Padme in the mix, for some reason I since something bad for Padme in the future??? Anyway great story so far, and please put me on your tag list :D
  22. Hazel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 9, 2010
    star 4
    Why do I get the feeling I know who the Sith apprentice will be?

    Excellent plot you've got going on here.
  23. ccp Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2005
    star 4
  24. Janakin Skywalker Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Excellent so far. Why do I get the bad feeling that the problems with Corellia might have something to do with a certain Death Star... I may be completely wrong but I get the horrible feeling based on the line "The Empire doesn't have anything to match Centrepoint Station."... and I can see the reaction being, "Well, we do now"..
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  25. JABrown Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2004
    star 1
    @Lady_Misty - Well, someone had to (say the line, I mean) :D Yes, indeed, Corellia does some to be in some trouble. How much we will discover going forward. Same for Leia's mission. I'd be interested to know what you all think is going on and who you think the infamous apprentice will be... Thanks for the comment!

    @Jade_eyes - I did try to put as much as possible up in the air in these early chapters, but don't worry all of these mysteries will be resolved before too long. So who do you think the Sith apprentice is? [face_devil]And what personal implications are those? Great comment, hope you'll enjoy the next chapter!

    @bentheswguy - My oh my, thanks! :D Great to get a new comment, so happy you're enjoying this story. And especially coming from a fellow AU rebooter! I'll definitely check out A New Destiny and let you know. Han is also one of my favourite reboots in this one, such fun walking him along that fine line between the Han we know and the Han that would have come about from such different circumstances.

    As for the Obi-Ani-Padme storyline, I couldn't tell, you'll have to read and find out! I will definitely add you to your tagline, hope you keep the comments coming, make such a great motivation!

    @Hazel - So who do you think the Sith apprentice will be? Please share, it's great seeing whether I have signposted things sufficiently! [face_dancing]Thanks for the kind words, I hope the plot will continue to grip you.

    @ccp - Thanks! Glad to hear from someone else who is enjoying this!

    @Janakin Skywalker - Hmm a Death Star? Now there's an idea... I do like the idea of that little scene between the Emperor and his minions. To paraphrase the great Kenneth Wolstenholme: They think we don't have anything to defeat them. Well, we do now... :cool:

    Wow, so many great comments! Thanks so much and keep em coming! A new chapter should be up soon!
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