Title: Seeds of Resistance Author: anakinfan Timeframe: AU, ANH era Characters: Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Luke and Leia Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bail Organa, OCs Summary: Twenty years after the defeat of Palpatine, the Skywalkers and their allies battle a continued threat to the galaxy. (reposted from the IGN boards) Disclaimer: Alys Organa and a few minor characters belong to me, all other characters and some dialogue belong to Lucas Prelude The Clone War ended almost twenty years ago, but the Republic remains in a state of unrest, particularly on the Outer Rim territories, where resistance cells commandeered by former members of the Confederacy of Independent Systems have reappeared in growing numbers. The Republic Navy, with the assistance of the slowly-rebuilding Jedi Order, has managed to contain the cells in the Outer Rim. However, concerns are growing about the spread of the resistance, especially after a transport carrying Princess Alys Organa, heir to the throne of Alderaan, falls under attack in the Mid-Rim. In response to the attack, the Supreme Chancellor sends a squadron from the Republic Navy to rescue the Princess and return her home. Chapter 1 “Captain Solo. We’re caught in their tractor beam, sir.” “Good,” Han Solo replied. “Good, sir?” “Yes, good. I want a straight-up fight. I don’t like sneaking around.” The young lieutenant looked confused. “If you say so, sir.” “I say so,” Han replied. “Once we’re brought on board, two commands: one, shoot them down before they can stun you. Or shoot you. Two, disperse immediately and search for the Princess. Commander Calrissian and I will go in first and we will go in shooting, giving you time to spread out in different directions. Several R3 droids will accompany you and hack into the system computers. They should be able to quickly give you a location on the Princess. Once you have her location, get to her and free her from her cell using whatever means necessary.” “Sir, yes sir!” The lieutenants and midshipmen replied. “Good. Let’s do this.” The CR90 corvette was drawn into the tractor beam of the Inferno, a Recusant-class light destroyer, and the troops readied themselves, their hands on their loaded blasters. “Chewie,” Han said, nodding to his co-pilot. “Stay with the ship.” The Wookiee barked in protest. “Sorry pal, that’s an order. I need you to make sure they don’t destroy it or disable it.” He waved his second-in-command over. “Lando,” he said, his voice low enough that the other men couldn’t hear. “No flirting. Just get her out of there.” Lando Calrissian smiled, without removing his hand from his blaster. “Han, old buddy, what are you talking about?” Han scowled. “You know exactly what I’m talking about, you old pirate. We’re probably outnumbered 10 to 1 by battle droids in there, not to mention D-90 assault droids and droidekas. There is no time for your antics.” Lando, the smile gone, nodded. “Alright, alright, no problem.” The ramp lowered but there was no sound. They descended, slowly, warily, their blasters ready. The attack came at once, an entire legion of battle droids. Han and Lando fired several rounds from their blasters, taking out the first division of them, but more followed. Behind Han and Lando, the lieutenants and midshipmen dispersed as instructed, scattering about the ship, accompanied by two astromechs. Han and Lando took out the second division of droids but the division that followed was much more numerous. This isn’t going to work, Han thought. “Lando,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth as they both fired several rounds from their blasters. The lines of battle droids were growing more numerous. “Go. To your left. Find the lieutenants. Find the R3s. Find out where the Princess is.” “But what about you?” Lando replied fiercely. “I’m creating a diversion.” “No you’re not! You’re sacrificing yourself! I can’t let you do that!” “You can and you will. Now shut up and go. Don’t worry about me. You have to get the Princess off this ship. Do you understand?” Lando didn’t speak for a second, then he nodded. “Alright. Good luck to you, old friend.” “I’ll get out of here. This is just a bump in the road.” “It’s a mighty big bump.” Lando fired one more round from his blaster then turned and ran as Han instructed. Han dropped his blaster and raised his hands in surrender. The battle droids surrounded him. “You are under arrest.” One of them turned to its companion. “Inform Pestage that we have a prisoner.” The corridor along which Lando Calrissian ran appeared to be deserted, but he ran with his blaster raised just in case. He quickly found an astromech plugged into a wall socket. “Any word?” He whispered. The droid beeped in reply. “Second level? Got it.” He kept running. He found a lift and punched the buttons, looking warily around him as he did. Several droids arrived at the same time that the door to the lift opened. Lando fired a round, ducked into the lift, and fired another round into the corridor for good measure. The lift ascended to the second level and opened to another deserted corridor. “I have a bad feeling about this,” Lando muttered, gazing around him. “Now which cell is this Princess in?” He walked slowly down the corridor, his blaster raised. He found one cell with a closed door. This must be it. He pushed the button on the wall. The door slid open to reveal a woman lying on the hard bench. She was taller than Lando expected, too tall to fit comfortably on the bench. Her long legs, clad in white boots, were curled under her. One long platinum blonde braid, laced with silver cord, draped over the shoulder of her white gown. Her eyes were closed, but at the sound of the door, she opened them and fixed her hard gaze on Lando. She was scowling but at the sight of Lando’s Republic Navy uniform, her expression changed to one of relief and mild wariness. “Did your squadron get pulled in here as well?” She asked. Lando grinned. “We did. On purpose.” She scowled. “On purpose? Have you lost your kriffing minds?” Lando laughed. “No. It’s all part of my captain’s grand strategy.” He held out his hand. “Commander Lando Calrissian, Your Highness. May I escort you off this ship?” She sat up. “Your captain must have a death wish. And yes, you certainly may.” She took his outstretched hand and stood. She was, as Lando anticipated, very tall, the top of her head almost reaching the ceiling of the cell. “Do you have an extra blaster?” Lando looked confused. “Why?” She met his eyes with her own large, ocean-blue ones. “Look, Commander, I’m grateful that you and your squadron came after me. But this destroyer has several divisions of battle droids, any of which could come around that corner and attack us. You’re too short for me to hide behind you while you do the shooting. So…do you have an extra blaster or not? Or am I going to have to try to kick the tinnies over while you shoot?” Lando, who could not think of anything more coherent than wow, handed her his secondary blaster. “Better,” she said, taking his arm and leading him further down the corridor. “There’s another lift this way, it’s not in the main line of fire. Where is your ship?” “In the main hangar two floors below,” he replied. Her eyes widened. “You flew into the main hangar? You didn’t at least try to sneak in?” Lando smiled. “My captain isn’t one for sneaking.” “So he’s either an idiot, or has more courage than the rest of the galaxy put together.” “I’ve known Han for a long time. Trust me, it’s the latter…” Before Lando could say anything else, Alys turned around and fired a round over her shoulder. “Wha…?” Lando asked, at the same time that a battalion of assault droids rounded the corner and fired at them. Lando ducked, raised his blaster and fired back. Alys went around a corner, stuck her blaster arm out and fired a round, and with the other arm, pushed a button to call the lift. Lando managed to cross the aisle, taking out a few droids, and reach the Princess, who was now ducking into the lift. She grabbed his arm, pulled him in with her, and pushed the button. Lando powered his wrist com. “This is Commander Calrissian. I have the Princess, and we are headed back to the ship. Meet me there in five minutes. Did you get the tractor beam out of commission?” Lieutenant Nindo Keler’s voice crackled over the com. “We did, sir. Only encountered a few tinnies, which we were quickly able to destruct.” “Good. Well done, Lieutenant.” Lando powered off the com and turned to Alys. “Where’d you learn to shoot like that?” He asked. She scowled at him. “What do you think I spend my free time doing, getting my hair coiffed?” He shrugged. “I just hadn’t imagined royals spending much time at the firing range, that’s all.” Alys sighed. “My parents survived the Clone War. After that experience, they made sure that I could defend myself. Just in case. I’m not always surrounded by Republic Navy officers.” The doors to the lift opened. The corridor was deserted but they could hear the drone of droidekas nearby. “The ship is this way,” he said, waving his arm and beginning to run. She ran beside him, easily keeping the same pace while looking warily around her. They reached the ship just as several droidekas rounded the corner. They fired quickly and lifted the ramp. “I hope my men are on board,” Lando muttered. His question was answered quickly. “Commander Calrissian, sir, we have set the coordinates for Alderaan.” “Well done, Lieutenant,” Lando replied. “We have not seen Captain Solo,” the Lieutenant answered. Lando frowned, sinking into a seat. “Captain Solo has been captured, Lieutenant,” he said. The lieutenant appeared in the doorway, his eyes wide. “Sir?” From the cockpit, Chewbacca emitted a bark of sadness. “I’m afraid so,” Lando answered. “But his orders were to get the Princess off this ship. Our priority is to get her home safely, then we will come back for him.” “But Commander…” Lando gave the man a hard glance. “Lieutenant, how do you think Captain Solo would react if we were to risk the Princess’ safety—her life—in order to rescue him right now?” The lieutenant sighed. “He would probably have us court-martialed, sir.” “Exactly. Now strap yourself in and take off before more droids arrive.” The lieutenant returned to the front of the ship, engaged the engines, and the ship rose into the air. Lando and Alys strapped themselves in, preparing for the jump to hyperspace. “I did not realize your captain had been taken into custody,” Alys said quietly. Lando nodded, not looking at her. “He allowed the battle droids to take him in order to, as he said, create a diversion so that we could disperse and find you.” She looked down for a moment, then met Lando's eyes with sad ones of her own. “I think I can help you. My parents have contacts in both the Jedi Order and the Chancellor’s office.” “Who is in charge of the ship where you were held?” Alys rolled her eyes. “A man named Sate Pestage. He has a long-standing enmity with my father, which is probably why I was taken. I think he wanted to use me as some sort of bargaining chip with my father, hoping he could use his influence on the Senate or the Chancellor’s office to get Pestage and his friends what they want.” “What do they want?” “They have a fairly long laundry list. Free trade along all the major trade routes, and I do mean free trade, no taxes or restrictions at all. Lower taxes, again. My father’s administration and Mon Mothma’s administration lowered their taxes but it was not enough for some of them. The Techno Union and Banking Clan seem to think they are above being taxed at all. They also want a repeal of the Republic’s anti-slavery laws.” She rolled her eyes again. Lando’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?” “Absolutely. They claim the businesses of some of the groups they represent, would fall apart without slavery. The illegality of slavery is enshrined in the Rights of Sentience clause, which is as old as the Constitution itself, but in some parts of the Outer Rim and Hutt Space, slavery exists anyway, and there are a few large and well-known slaving guilds whose leaders manage to elude Republic capture. The resistance wants slavery as a legal if not condoned means of doing business, probably so that they can make more money from it.“ “No respectable business person would claim to ‘need’ slavery,” Lando said, disgusted. “That’s what I thought,” Alys replied. “The debate and vote will happen next week, let’s just hope it’s over quickly.” “We can hope so, that common sense and basic decency will prevail.” Lando changed the subject. “Have you seen this Pestage?” Alys laughed. “Oh yes, he came to see me. He thought he would try to interrogate me.” “Thought he would try?” “Well, he did try. I kicked him in the…” Lando held up his hand. “OK, I get the picture.” “He didn’t come back. He sent interrogation droids into my cell, tried to get them to do a mind probe.” “Mind probe for what?” “Information on my father, and inside information on the Chancellor’s office. He and former Chancellor Mothma are the current Chancellor’s closest advisors.” She sighed. “I did not have the information Pestage wanted, nor would I have given it to him even if I did, so the droids gave up.” “So holding you was pointless.” She nodded and looked up. “Yes.” “Maybe that means they aren’t likely to try again.” Lando stood. “Can I get you anything?” “Yes,” she said. “There’s no point in my asking for a place to bathe since those kriffing barves destroyed my ship with my clothes in it, but I would like to wash my face. And here,” she added, handing him his blaster. “I suppose you should have this back now.” Lando smiled at her, took the blaster and replaced it in his holster. Then he put a hand on her shoulder and gestured towards a small ‘fresher. “It’s all yours.” Han Solo didn’t know he could feel this kind of pain. He didn’t know he had so many nerve endings in his body. The droid turned the dial and sent stronger bolts of electricity into Han’s pressure points. His head pounded, his joints cried out, and he gritted his teeth to keep from screaming. He would not give the sneering man in the corner such satisfaction. “Are you ready to talk, Captain?” “When hell freezes,” Han said, gasping. “We’ll see about that,” Pestage said, turning to the droid. “Give him another jolt.” The droid obeyed, but this jolt seemed briefer than the last. Or Han was still in so much pain from the last jolts that this one did not add much. “Did you think you could just walk onto my ship without permission? This is private property, whether the Republic respects property rights or not.” He spat the word “Republic.” Han glared at him. “Did you think you could kidnap a member of the Alderaanian royalty with no one noticing or coming to her rescue? You’re stupider than you look.” Pestage’s sneer grew more prominent. “I expected her filthy father to come for her. But I suppose he is now hiring the Navy to do his dirty work. Now, Captain, let’s try this again. I’ll need the identities of the members of your squadron. If you don’t want to talk, I will use an alternative source to find their names—at which point I will ensure that bounty hunters track down each of them and kill them immediately.” Lando. Chewie. The brave midshipmen under his command, three of whom were new recruits, just finished basic training last week. No. Han scrambled for a way to buy them some time. “Commanders Cooper Dray and Fargus Deel. Lieutenants Feyyaz Ferdusi, Boon Soniita, and Grubber Vapps. Midshipmen Grelk Micabra, Birdigan Nasalle, Jonra Far, Dretti Grond, Blizz Pinnix and Wryk Jobones.” Pestage gave a nasty grin. “I thought you could be reasonable.” He turned to the droid. “Release him.” Han’s binders came off, and he fell to the floor in a painful heap. Pestage left the cell. Han was not a praying man, but he sent a brief plea, to any gods that might be listening, that someone would rescue him before Pestage discovered that he had been given a list of famous swoop bike racers. The Corellian corvette landed easily in the main hangar at the Palace of Aldera. On the platform stood Bail Organa, Prince Consort of Alderaan and former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic; his hands were clasped behind him. When the ship’s ramp lowered and his daughter descended, Bail’s face softened. Alys walked quickly to the platform to hug him. “Daddy.” Her voice trembled slightly although she shed no tears. Bail returned the hug. “Alys. Thank goodness you are safe.” Lando stood at the top of the ramp, with Chewbacca beside him, and Bail waved them both down, his other arm still around his daughter’s shoulders. “Alderaan owes you a great debt of gratitude, Commander…” “Calrissian,” Lando said, extending his hand to shake that of the Prince. “Lando Calrissian, Your Highness.” “Commander Calrissian. Welcome, and please accept my heartfelt personal thank you.” He turned to the Wookiee. “Chewbacca. It’s been many years.” The Wookiee barked a greeting. “You two know each other?” Lando asked. Bail nodded. “Chewbacca was of great assistance to Master Yoda and myself at the end of the Clone War. He helped us escape Kashyyk.” “Chewie has been with our squadron since Han—our captain--rescued him from Trandoshan slave traders.” Bail scowled. “We had several issues with the slave traders invading Outer Rim and Mid Rim planets during my administration.” He looked at Chewie again. “I’m glad you’re alright. I hope you and your men will come inside for a meal and some rest.” Chewie barked an affirmative, and Lando replied, “We would like that, sir. Thank you.” “Daddy, Pestage is holding this squadron’s captain. His name is Han Solo,” Alys said. Bail turned from Alys back to Lando, his eyes wide. “Your captain was taken hostage?” Chewie barked again, a low, mournful bark this time. “Yes, sir,” Lando said. “He surrendered himself in order to distract the droids so that we could disperse throughout the ship and find your daughter.” Bail frowned. “I will contact the Chancellor. She is a personal friend. Do you have the coordinates on the Inferno?” “It is probably in hyperspace again by now, returning to the Outer Rim.” “We will find it for you. We owe you that.” Bail turned on his comlink and contacted the Palace’s head of guest services. “Galatea. Please have some refreshment ready for the Navy Commander who rescued Alys as well as his squadron. They will join us for dinner as well.” “Yes, sir,” the voice crackled over the com. Bail powered it off and turned to Lando. “I will join you as soon as I speak with the Chancellor.” Bail went into his private office in the Palace and submitted the code for the Supreme Chancellor’s office. “Your Highness,” the assistant said. “I will put you through to Her Excellency right away.” A minute later, Padme Naberrie Skywalker, more widely known as Supreme Chancellor Amidala, appeared, her gray-streaked dark hair swept back into a chignon, her dark eyes filled with worry. “Bail,” she said. “Is Alys…?” “She’s home and she’s safe, Padme,” he replied. “The Navy squadron you sent for her was successful. They boarded Pestage’s ship and rescued her fairly quickly, with minimal losses.” “That is good news,” she said. “But what’s wrong?” “The captain of the squadron apparently surrendered himself in order to save Alys. He’s trapped on board the Inferno.” She frowned. “Any idea of its next destination?” “Commander Calrissian didn’t say, but has Alys’ capture been the only breach so far? The resistance is being contained on the Outer Rim?” Bail hesitated in calling the group the “separatists.” Most were former members of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, but they no longer seemed interested in seceding from the Republic. Instead they tried to promote their destructive agenda within the Republic itself. Padme’s frown deepened. “It is, but we are using all of our resources. The majority of Republic Navy squadrons and most of the Jedi are being used for this effort. If there is another major crisis, we might not have the resources to contain it.” He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “The majority of the Senate is on our side, Padme. We must have faith in democracy.” She sighed. “I know,” she said. “About this captain—What is his name?” “Han Solo,” Bail replied. “Captain Solo. We should probably send Jedi after him. Sending his squadron or another squadron after him would probably result in more captures. Pestage will not expect a…” “Stealth operation,” Bail said, the same time that Padme said it, and they both laughed. “You know what they say about great minds,” Bail said. Padme smiled, and just as quickly, the smile disappeared. “Anakin and Leia are on Coruscant. I can send them as early as tonight if we can get possible coordinates on the location of the Inferno. Obi-Wan and Luke are on Corellia, the majority of the rest of the Jedi are on the Outer Rim.” Bail nodded. “Mace Windu shows up here occasionally, but it does seem that there are few Jedi on Mid Rim and Core Worlds anymore.” “I know,” she said. “I hope that changes soon. Tell Commander Calrissian that I will do my best to ensure his captain’s rescue, and as quickly as possible.” “Master Skywalker.” Padme’s personal assistant, Sovi, gave him a nod. Anakin glanced at the closed door to his wife’s office. “Is there a squall going on in there? Should I wait?” She smiled but the expression didn’t reach her eyes. There had been far too many “squalls” lately. “No, you can go in.” Anakin nodded, smiled at her, and palmed open the door. Padme stood behind her desk; Pooja Naberrie, her niece and successor as Senator from Naboo, stood on the other side. Anakin approached the young woman and put an arm around her shoulders. “Pooja,” he said. She returned the embrace. “Uncle Anakin.” He looked at Padme. “Am I interrupting anything?” She gave him a weary smile. “No. Pooja and I were just going over her speech. She’s leading the debate against the legalization of slavery.” Anakin smiled. “Good.” “Do I have permission to use… anecdotal evidence?” She asked warily. Anakin laughed, squeezing her shoulder. “Pooja, I’ll be disappointed if you don’t use it. Something good has to come out of what happened to me on Tatooine.” She looked relieved. “OK, then. There may be other anecdotal evidence but I’m afraid much of it will be about how cheap goods are when produced with slave labor.” She scowled. “It’s a good speech, Pooja,” Padme said. “Add as much anecdotal evidence as you would like.” She glanced at her husband. “Otherwise it’s perfect.” Pooja let out a nervous sigh. “Thank you, Aunt Padme. I’ll see myself out then?” She nodded. “I’ll see you in the morning.” As soon as Pooja left, Padme sighed, sank into her desk chair and rubbed her temples. Anakin stood behind her, kissed the top of her head and put his hands on her shoulders. “What is it?” He asked. He slid his hands under the heavy Chancellor’s robes to massage the tense muscles in her neck. “This sickening bill.” She sighed again. “Ani, if this goes badly, it is likely that millions of Republic citizens will be sold into slavery under my watch. We should be working to capture and prosecute the large slaving guilds, not legitimize their crimes.” “Do you really think the majority of the Senate would vote to legalize slavery? I don’t.” “I would like to say no. But then again, I never thought such a ridiculous notion would come to a vote in the first place.” She looked up. “And I am very afraid of another war.” He turned her chair around, knelt in front of her and stroked her cheek. “Don’t be. We will do this. We will hold them off. It will not come to a full-scale war, I promise you.” “It’s not up to you unfortunately.” She looked away. “Actually it is, at least to a point. We overpower the resistance in the Outer Rim, we don’t let them enter the Mid Rim and Core Worlds, and there will be no war. They would not be dumb enough to start a war that they have no chance of winning.” “I have Senators from the Outer Rim who are afraid that the members of the resistance are going to take complete control of their planets. I have Senators from the Mid Rim who are afraid the resistance cells are going to infiltrate their planets, especially after Alys was captured between Ansion and Keitum. And then there are the business groups who can only complain about labor and taxation and trade, and how much the cost of doing business is increasing. There has to be a diplomatic solution to this mess somewhere, but it’s hard to find when everyone is only looking to further their own interests and will not give an inch.” “Qui-Gon once said that greed can be a powerful ally…” Anakin said, stroking his short, newly grown goatee. Padme looked at him. “What are you thinking?” “That you’re right. There has to be a diplomatic solution to this. There has to be a way to make that greed work to everyone’s advantage. I just don’t know what it is.” He stood, put his hands on her shoulders again. “Meanwhile, you want Leia and me to get this Navy captain off the Inferno. And arrest Pestage.” Padme nodded. “With or without Pestage, bring Captain Solo to Coruscant. I want to find out what Pestage did to him in captivity. We need specific charges to bring against him, as many as possible. We need evidence.” She met Anakin’s eyes. “Meanwhile…Pestage does not get his hands dirty unless he is being well paid, so any information that you and Leia can extract on who might be paying him, would be helpful.” “I’m sure it’s Ventress. The question is, are the two of them operating alone?” “I doubt it,” Padme said. “And that’s what we need to find out. We need to know who else is involved. Ventress alone could not meet Pestage’s demands.” She rubbed her temples again. “I don’t want Captain Solo to be put in any more danger. Rescuing him needs to be your first priority. And if you can arrest Pestage and bring him here for questioning as well…” “We can, and we will.” Anakin took her hands, encouraging her to stand, kissed her and brushed a tendril of hair away from her face. “Meanwhile, why don’t you come home. Eat a real dinner. Take a blocker for that headache. Leia and I will leave as soon as we get the last known coordinates of the Inferno. You can see us off.” Padme looked as though she wanted to protest, but then thought better of it. She commed Sovi and told her to go home for the evening, then left with Anakin. In the Chancellor’s quarters on 500 Republica, Anakin and Padme found Leia gazing intently at her work station. “Daddy,” she said, waving Anakin over without taking her eyes off the screen. “Where is it recorded which Separatists did not sign Master Yoda’s treaty at the end of the Clone War?” “It was really Bail’s treaty, Senate business as opposed to Jedi business, so ask your mother.” Anakin nodded towards Padme, then crossed the room and rested his hands on his daughter’s shoulders, glancing at the screen she had pulled up. “What are you working on?” Before Leia could answer, Padme said, “Wat Tambor, Poggle the Lesser, and Shu Mai.” She unzipped the thick Chancellor’s robes and removed them, revealing her slender frame clad in black slacks and a white blouse. “Master Anakin, Mistress Padme, may I offer you something?” C3PO appeared from the kitchen. “Hot tea and a blocker, 3PO, I’d appreciate it.” Padme sank into a chair, leaned against its back and closed her eyes, putting her hand on her forehead. “Shouldn’t you eat first, milady?” The droid asked. “Yes, she should,” Anakin said. “So, food as well.” “Yes, Master Anakin,” 3PO replied. “Right away.” He disappeared into the kitchen again. “Anyway, Leia,” Padme said. “All three of them gave some horrific excuse for not signing, and we were so glad to get the rest of the Separatist Council on board at the time that we disregarded their refusal.” Leia nodded. “I should have just called you first. For some reason I thought the treaty was done primarily through the Jedi.” “Master Yoda oversaw the negotiations,” Anakin said. “They were touch and go for a few hours. This was right after we discovered that Chancellor Palpatine was a Sith, and Master Windu and I were forced to kill him.” “Can we not talk about Palpatine right now?” Padme said. “My head is pounding.” She sat up, opened her eyes again, and looked at her daughter. “What are you trying to find, Leia?” “Who Pestage is working for,” she said. “And what he wanted from Alys.” “He wanted to blackmail or threaten Bail somehow,” Anakin said. “Have you talked to Alys?” “She called to let me know that she was alright, but from what she said, she didn’t learn much.” “Did Pestage question her?” Padme asked. “He tried. And met the brunt end of her roundhouse kick.” “Roundhouse kick?” Anakin asked, then the realization dawned on him. He held up his prosthetic hand, now covered with synthflesh. “Oh. Say no more.” Padme realized what happened at about the same time as her husband, and let out a hearty laugh. “Alys deserves a medal of honor just for that one,” she said. 3PO set a tray in front of her with tea, food and a blocker. Padme downed the pill with a sip of the tea, then munched on a roll. “Now, Chancellor Amidala,” Anakin teased. “You are not suggesting that roundhouse kicks to the groin should become an acceptable method of, say, interrogating prisoners?” Padme swallowed her food and returned the teasing smile. “Only Pestage,” she said. “Anyway, Leia, did Alys overhear anything at all?” “The only thing she knows is that they did not go into hyperspace while she was on board. I don’t know if Pestage was awaiting a signal from someone else in the resistance or not.” “They could not have gotten very far then,” Anakin said. “Master Ti is on Felucia and Master Vos is on Dantooine. I have contacted them already.” Padme’s comlink buzzed. “Maybe this means more information,” she said. She switched it on. “This is Chancellor Amidala.” It was Sovi. “Transmission for you from Admiral Madine, milady. High priority.” Padme stood. “Send him through.” She walked into her study and connected the comlink to its port, allowing the Admiral’s hologram to appear. The garbled message only took a couple of minutes, during which time Padme said little other than “Yes” and “Thank you.” When she turned the comlink off and stood, she found Anakin waiting for her at the door. “I have coordinates on the Inferno,” she told him. “Admiral Madine’s fleet found it as it came out of hyperspace near Ord Mantell.” “Ord Mantell?” Anakin stroked his goatee. “Pestage could be meeting with some bounty hunter…” “Bane.” Padme scowled. Anakin laughed. “Bane disappeared years ago, love.” “Disappeared,” Padme said. “He wasn’t killed. Not that we are aware of. It is pretty reasonable to think that he’s been hiding out all this time and waiting for a grand opportunity to re-emerge. He’d only be happy working for the Hutts until something bigger came along. But Pestage might not be after a bounty hunter. There is also a Navy weapons storage facility on Ord Mantell, one of our largest ones. And Madine said he has reason to believe that Pestage has several thousand battle droids on the ship.” “Leia,” Anakin said, turning to his daughter, who still had not moved from her work station. “Did Alys mention battle droids?” “Yes,” she said. “Pestage has divisions upon divisions of them. She and Commander Calrissian shot several of them down.” Leia closed the work station and stood, twisting her long braids and pinning them to her head. “I’m going to pack. I assume we are leaving soon?” “Within the hour, yes,” Anakin said. “Admiral Madine has put a tracker on the Inferno but has not boarded it,” Padme said. “Pestage is probably on high alert for a Navy squadron to come to Solo’s rescue and if we did just that, it would result in a high loss of life.” “He won’t be expecting us. And battle droids are no match for Jedi,” Anakin said. He kissed Padme’s forehead and hugged her. She closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest. Anakin’s frame was as lean and muscular as it was when he was in his 20s, thanks to the rigors of Jedi life. Only his shorter graying hair and goatee gave away his age. “When are you expecting Luke home?” he asked. “Day after tomorrow,” she said. “Assuming they don’t run into any trouble. And I’m not expecting any, not on Corellia.” “He and Obi-Wan will deal with any trouble,” Anakin said. “And when are the slaver barves having their day in the Senate?” She scowled again. “The same. Day after tomorrow.” She sighed. “I’ll be glad when that is over.” He hugged her again. “We’ll rescue Captain Solo, we’ll find a holding cell with that karking sleemo Pestage’s name on it, and we’ll get back as soon as we can. Maybe all four of us can be on Coruscant at the same time for a change. It's been awhile.” “That would be nice.” Leia appeared in the living area carrying her bag. She set the bag down, hugged her mother and kissed her cheek. “I hope we’ll be bringing back some answers for you,” she said. Padme returned the hug and kiss. “I hope so too,” she said. “Are you going to eat before you go?” “We’ll eat on board,” Anakin said. “If we go ahead and leave, we’ll be on Ord Mantell before dawn. And just in case we end up having to chase the Inferno, I’d rather not give Pestage too much of a head start.” He left the room and returned quickly with his bag and two dual-ringed, circular, glowing objects. “Are those Force binders?” Leia asked. Anakin nodded, opened his bag and dropped them in as if they were on fire. He was scowling. “Yes.” Leia’s eyes widened. “Pestage is Force-sensitive?” “I don’t think so but I’m not taking chances either. He worked for Palpatine for years. And nobody thought he was Force-sensitive.” Padme tightened her lips, closed her eyes briefly then opened them again. She hugged her daughter and kissed her husband one more time. “Be safe, darling,” she said. “We will, I promise,” Anakin replied, returning the kiss. “I’ll send you a report as soon as we have something.” She nodded, and he took her hand and squeezed it. “I love you. Get some rest,” he said. Then he and Leia were gone.