Saga Seeds of Resistance (sequel to Under Fire)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by anakinfansince1983, Oct 9, 2012.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    Quite enjoyed catching up on this. I love seeing thee whole family work together, and the twins in totally different situations. Great story with just the right amount of Star Wars adventure. Please add me to the list of batcalls!
  2. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @ccp: Thanks!

    @Valairy Scot : Can't escape it in any universe. :p

    @Lady_Misty : I'm predicting that he will, as I can't see him marching either with Vader in the 501st or against Anakin. That's just me though.

    And yeah, the warning might do them some good. Some.

    @Luna_Nightshade: Good to see you again. :) Glad you're enjoying it; I like imagining what everyone's lives might have been like had Anakin not made that fateful choice in ROTS.

    Here's more:

    **********


    “Chancellor Amidala,” Pors Tonith said. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

    “You are welcome,” Padme said. “How can I help you?” She sat at her desk, with Tonith sitting across from her. Anakin and Yoda stood to one side of her, Bail to the other.

    “As I am certain you are aware, Senator Devin Vuusen of Scipio is preparing to introduce a bill to the Senate to lift any remaining regulations on the banks affiliated with the Banking Clan. I hope that you will lend your support to Senator Vuusen in his efforts. With financial deregulation, we can offer the Republic’s customers lower rates on both their investments and their loans, which would in turn pour more money into a struggling economy. We know that your administration continues to work on rebuilding an economy that is still devastated from the Clone War. We believe this bill will be of assistance.”

    “You brought a copy of the bill?” Padme asked.

    “Of course,” Tonith replied. He pushed a datapad across Padme’s desk. She picked it up and scanned it, saying nothing for several minutes.

    Anakin gazed at the man, trying to get a feel for any sinister motives, and received a sneer in return. Tonith’s enmity with Anakin went back to the beginning of the war, when Anakin and Nejaa Halcyon defeated Tonith’s Separatist forces on Praesitlyn and captured Tonith.

    “I am curious, Your Excellency,” Tonith said as Padme continued to read the bill. “Is it protocol now to have a Jedi present when you conference over an upcoming bill?”

    She looked up from the datapad. “Protocol? No. Master Skywalker and I have just returned from the Galactic Senate Medical Center, where our daughter is recovering from injuries inflicted by Asajj Ventress. Master Yoda is here at my invitation. You can be assured of their discretion.”

    Tonith nodded, glared at Anakin again and sat back.

    “Now I am curious, Mr. Tonith. How would further deregulation encourage your organization to offer customers lower rates? When the first deregulation bill passed the Senate nineteen years ago, it had the opposite effect. The Banking Clan took advantage of customers desperate for a loan—in this case, the Separatists, as they were losing the war and needed to build more droids quickly—by lending them money at the exorbitant rate of 25 percent. Rates had been capped at 10 percent prior to deregulation. The Banking Clan then insisted that the Republic accept the same offer of 25 percent if we wanted to order more clones from Kamino. The only beneficiaries of the last deregulation bill were the leaders of the Banking Clan and its affiliates. The average Republic citizen, if affected at all, sunk into further poverty. I am not following how a similar bill would produce different results.”

    Tonith’s expression changed to a patronizing smile which was a barely disguised sneer. “Your Excellency,” he said. “Deregulation allows individual financial institutions to compete with each other to offer customers the best products for the best rates. If a customer does not like the rate or product offered at one institution, he or she is free to shop at another one. And the respecting financial institutions will be forced to offer the best products at the lowest prices if they want to keep customers.”

    “That works in theory,” Padme said. “But your institution controls 85 percent of the financial agencies in the Republic as well as some beyond the reaches of Wild Space. Where exactly are customers going to go if they cannot pay your rates or do not like your service?”

    Tonith did not even bother to disguise his sneer this time. “The higher interest rates are for those who do not have the credit to receive lower ones,” he said. “We cannot risk offering the lowest rate to those with poor credit, and with current regulation, those citizens cannot receive loans at all.”

    “I understand the argument that allowing these citizens to borrow money would then allow them to spend it, pouring further money into the economy,” Padme said. “However, if these same citizens cannot repay their loans, they will sink further into poverty when the loans come due. And your institution will not profit either, if they cannot repay you.”

    The sneer deepened. “I can assure you, Chancellor Amidala, we have ways of ensuring that we receive our payment.”

    Padme’s eyebrows went up. “Do you?” She asked. “Mr. Tonith, did your organization lend money to finance the extensive droid foundry on Hypori? Or the abandoned foundry on Geonosis?”

    Tonith glared. “I was not aware that the Chancellor’s office made it its business to interfere in transactions made between private organizations,” he said.

    “Matters of Republic security are my business and my responsibility,” Padme replied. “And my suspicions are that the battle droids produced on Hypori were intended as an act of war against the Republic, although I welcome any proof that I am wrong. The Republic Security Committee has already subpoenaed the records of the Baktori Droid Workshop, but the committee’s investigation will be quicker if you tell me if your organization made the loan.”

    His glare intensified. “Yes. We did.”

    “Thank you,” Padme said. “I am afraid I cannot support Senator Vuusen’s bill without further evidence that the average citizen of the Republic would be its greatest beneficiary.”

    Tonith nodded and stood. “Good day, Chancellor,” he spat, and without waiting for a reply, he turned and left the office.

    Anakin sighed. “Rex said the Banking Clan wants control of the Republic,” he said. “It looks like they already have it, if they can put Senators in their pockets to bend any financial laws to suit themselves.”

    “Exactly,” Bail said. “I have long advocated that the Banking Clan needs to be broken up. It is dangerous for any organization to have that kind of power. Can you imagine if they went bankrupt? The financial system of the entire galaxy would crumble.”

    “Let’s not look at extreme scenarios right now, Bail,” Padme said. “They are a long way from going bankrupt. They do, however, have more control than any one group should have in a democracy.” She sighed. “What we need is a bill to break up the Banking Clan and allow its members to operate independently. I would be more likely to support a deregulation bill if Tonith’s theory about an increase in competition were remotely true. As it is, the Banking Clan has no competition.”

    “Tonith was full of poodoo anyway,” Anakin muttered. “The only reason he cares about deregulation is because he thinks he can make more of a profit on it. And he essentially admitted that he wants to increase his profits on the backs of poor people.”

    “Everyone in this room knows that,” Padme replied. “But for the moment we look for a way to make his argument work, although not exactly the way he had in mind. There are two possible outcomes: either everyone wins, or his argument falls apart on its own.” She stood and started pacing. “Now we know the Banking Clan is financing the resistance. Tonith all but admitted it. If we can tie the Banking Clan and the Commerce Guild and the Baktori Droid Workshop to Ventress…”

    “They can join Pestage in his palace and we’ll finally have peace,” Bail finished.

    Yoda made a sound that resembled “Harrumph.”

    “What is it?” Anakin asked.

    His eyes were closed. “That simple, it will not be,” he said. Then he opened his eyes again. “The Dark Side. It has a presence in the Senate.”

    “Who?” Padme asked, then turned to her husband. “Anakin, did you say that Rex mentioned some Senators’ names?”

    “Yes,” he replied. “He said he only had rumors, gossip from the tapcafs and the other clones. He mentioned Orn Free Taa and Qualkin.”

    Padme blanched, and sank into her desk chair. “Qualkin? Free Taa?”

    “Padme, are you really surprised about Free Taa?” Bail asked. “He was a Palpatine supporter. He and Aak petitioned to put Anakin and Master Windu on trial for murder; now he wants Anakin and Obi-Wan charged with burglary and destruction of property. He ran against you, Mon Mothma and me for Chancellor and lost by pretty good margins. Ryloth has always allowed slavery in spite of its illegality. Among all the Senators who could possibly be supporting the resistance, he seems the most obvious choice. Qualkin, on the other hand…”

    “I know. If he’s working with the resistance and he wants security loosened on the weapons facilities on Ord Mantell…that’s a very frightening prospect.”

    “All the more reason to ensure that bill is defeated,” Bail said. “You knew that it had to be about more than cost-cutting, particularly given that he’s talking about job losses in his own system.”

    Padme nodded. “Yes. And as far as Free Taa…I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” she said. “But I didn’t expect him to blatantly ally himself with a Sith or a group whose mission is to overthrow the Republic, he’s worked with us for years…”

    “When he wasn’t working against us you mean?” Bail said.

    She sighed. “Yes.” Her shocked expression had turned to one of sadness. “Of course we can’t do anything with mere suspicions and rumors, other than pay attention. Meanwhile, the Banking Clan…”

    “You could ask Pooja to introduce a bill to break it up,” Bail said. “Using exactly the arguments that Tonith presented. He wants deregulation so that the banks can compete? Give him his competition.”

    Padme looked towards the door from which Tonith had left angrily. “After the meeting we just had, I am not sure my niece should be the one to introduce such a bill,” she said. “Although getting her vote for it will not be a problem. We need another Senator to do the actual presentation.”

    “I could ask Golrin Karrim to do it,” Bail said, referring to the Senator from Alderaan.

    “He has a good mind,” Padme said.

    “And he’s a strong enough speaker to make the case,” Bail added. “He might even be able to persuade some of the supporters of Vuusen’s bill, if he can argue forcefully enough that this bill would allow deregulation to work well.”

    “Play to their greed,” Anakin said.

    Padme looked at him. “Darling, you frighten me sometimes. Especially when you say something like that and you are absolutely right. Oh to live in a galaxy where we did not have to play to people’s most barbaric qualities…” She muttered. Then she turned to Bail. “See if Senator Karrim would be willing to introduce this bill, and send him to me if he has any questions.” She returned her gaze to Yoda and Anakin. “Meanwhile, if this bill to loosen security around the weapons storage facilities on Ord Mantell passes, the Jedi should probably be on high alert. In fact, I’m going to contact Admiral Madine and see how many of the weapons can be relocated and where.”

    “Good idea,” Anakin said.

    “Wait for your orders, the Jedi Council will,” Yoda said.

    “Thank you, Master Yoda,” Padme replied. “If the weapons can remain secured, we should not have to involve the Jedi, but just in case…”

    Anakin nodded. “Understood,” he said. He kissed the top of Padme’s head and squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll see you at home.”



    “Easy, sweetheart,” Han said. “It’s your first time sitting up in two weeks. You don’t want to go too fast.”

    “If I have to lie down for two more seconds, I’m going to end up with bedsores. And I’m going to lose my mind,” Leia snapped. The medical droid was slowly moving her mattress into a sitting position, but Leia kept trying to sit up on her own.

    Han sat on the edge of the bed. “Here,” he said. “Put your left arm around my waist.”

    She obeyed, managing to swing herself around so that her legs hung over the edge of the bed. Then she winced.

    “OK?” Han asked.

    Leia bit her lip. “Yes,” she said.

    “Are you sure?”

    Yes,” she snapped.

    “OK,” he said. “Want to try to stand?”

    “Yes,” she said.

    “Alright, take it slow and lean on me.” She did, and Han kept his arm around her waist, being careful of her broken ribs. They slowly rose from the bed, Leia wincing again as her bare feet hit the cold floor. She stood slowly, her knees trembling like those of a newborn bantha, Han supporting her weight. She was thinner than she had been. And she was tiny before, Han thought.

    “If you don’t heal soon, you’re going to have to start buying your jumpsuits from an Ewok outfitter,” he said, realizing a few seconds too late that it was another bad attempt at a joke.

    “Not funny,” Leia said.

    He kissed her forehead underneath the bandages. “Relax,” he said. “Do you want to try to walk across the room?”

    “I want to see a mirror,” she said.

    “You’re beautiful.”

    “I want to see anyway.”

    “OK. There’s one on that wall.” They moved slowly towards it, Leia leaning on Han as she took small steps. When they reached the mirror, she glanced at her reflection, a slight figure in a white hospital gown, sunken eyes rimmed with circles, hollow cheeks, bandaged head. She tried to reach up to touch her head but the broken collarbone didn’t allow for it. She bit her lip, surprised at the sudden tears that welled in her eyes.

    “Did they take any of my hair?” She asked.

    “No,” Han said. “As far as I know, it’s all there.” He reached behind her, found one of her long braids, and brought the end around to the front where she could see it. “Look. If they had taken any off the top, this wouldn’t be here.”

    One tear spilled over. She tried to wipe it away but again, couldn’t reach up. Han wiped it with his thumb.

    She sniffed. “I’ve never been vain and have no intention of starting now. I don’t know why it matters.”

    “Not too many women want to be bald, vain or not,” Han said. “Do you want to walk into the hall?”

    She sniffed again. “OK.” And leaning on him, she moved slowly out the door to her room and into the hallway. She looked around like she had never seen it before.

    “Last time you came through here, it was on a stretcher,” Han said. “Are you OK?”

    “Fine.”

    “Do you want to walk towards the lobby?”

    “Yes,” she said.

    “Tell me when you’re ready to stop. I can carry you back to your room if I need to.”

    “I will,” she said.

    “And look,” Han continued. “I think we’ve just made your Dad’s day.”

    Leia looked up to see Anakin standing at the end of the hallway, smiling. He walked quickly towards them, said hello to Han, then put an arm around Leia’s waist on the other side. “You’re up! How do you feel?” he asked.

    “Like I’ll go insane if I have to stay in that bed another second,” she said.

    “Well, if you can do some walking, you’ll get your strength back. Are you in pain?”

    “No more than usual,” she said.

    “Good,” Anakin replied.

    “How is Luke?” Leia asked.

    “He’s fine. The burns might not even leave scars. He’s worried about you though. He says he’ll come by later.”

    “I’ll be recovered and ready to spar with him again in no time,” Leia said. But both Anakin and Han noticed that she was slowing down as they approached the lobby. “Is he spending a lot of time with Alys?”

    Anakin laughed. “She spends more time at our place than at hers,” he said.

    “I guess that means they worked things out,” Leia said.

    Anakin raised his eyebrows. “I’d say so. And look,” he said, gesturing ahead of them. “You made it all the way to the lobby.”

    They stopped, and Leia looked around at the med droids and handful of people milling about. A couple of people nodded their recognition of Anakin and Leia, one man in uniform saluted Han. Then it happened suddenly. The lobby spun before Leia’s eyes, her stomach churned and she was sure she was going to throw up, although she hadn’t eaten much that day. She felt beads of sweat break out on her forehead, and black spots appeared before her eyes.

    “Leia?” Anakin said.

    “Sweetheart, maybe you should sit…” Han began.

    Then the room went black, her knees buckled, and Leia felt four strong arms under her, catching her before she hit the floor.



    A cool cloth sponged her forehead. Her arm felt heavy; she tried to lift it and felt the familiar weight of an IV line and a full bag of fluid. Her eyelids felt heavy too, and when she opened her mouth, her tongue felt dry and furry. “Who’s there?” she managed.

    The sponging stopped and she felt a kiss on her forehead, then Han’s voice. “Someone who loves you.”

    “Han.” She reached for his hand, which he took and squeezed.

    Then she felt the familiar weight of her father’s hand on her cheek. “I’m here too. And you’re going to be OK.”

    She opened her eyes to slits. “What happened?”

    “You tried to do too much too fast, and you fainted,” Anakin said.

    She sighed, and looked at her IV bag. “What’s in this?”

    “Electrolytes,” Han said.

    “You’re dehydrated,” Anakin added.

    “Can you sit me up?” she asked.

    “Alright, but I’m doing it slow,” Han said, moving to crank up the head of the bed.

    “I’m ready to be done with all this. I wish one healing trance would take care of it,” Leia muttered.

    Anakin looked at her sympathetically. “Even in the days when the Jedi Temple had its own healing ward with Force-trained master healers, it would not have happened that fast,” he said. “But Han or Luke or I will help you walk around some tomorrow. A little every day and soon you’ll be strong enough to pull the ears off a gundaark.”

    “Only if I get to Force-push Ventress into the nest first.”

    Anakin smiled and brushed a tendril of hair away from her face. “I’ll sell tickets. Proceeds to your mother’s re-election campaign.”

    Leia laughed, then winced. And scowled. “Stang. Whoever said that laughter heals, didn’t have broken ribs.”

    Han took her hand and squeezed it. “It gets better, sweetheart, I promise. I broke my ribs once. When I was, oh, about your age.”

    Leia smiled. “Are you calling me a youngling?”

    Han shook his head. “And face the consequences? No.” He kissed her. “I’ve got to get back. Lando has probably developed a bald spot by now. New recruits. There are always a few who don’t know the mess hall from the latrine until they’ve been here a couple of weeks.”

    Anakin made a face. “If that’s true, I hope they are assigned to thoroughly clean both areas.”

    Leia laughed and winced again. “You two. Talk about hyperdrive motivators or something else completely not funny.”

    Han smiled and gave her hand another squeeze. “I do have to run, so you’ll have to convince your Dad to not make you laugh. But I’ll be by tomorrow, as soon as I can.”

    “OK,” she said.

    Han shook Anakin’s hand, said goodbye, and left.



    Luke and Alys were stretched out on top of Luke’s bed, fully clothed, their arms around each other. “A credit for your thoughts,” she said.

    He looked at her, dropped a kiss on her hair. “What are you talking about?”

    She rubbed his chest on top of the thin undershirt. “You haven’t said a word in about ten minutes. This isn’t still about how I won’t sleep with you yet, is it?”

    He sighed. “No, as frustrating as that is and as much as I don’t want to have that conversation again until you change your mind…” He took her long braid in his hands, running his fingers down the intricate weave.

    She stroked the back of his hand with her finger. “You know, I was born on Naboo, and I don’t know who my birth parents were. We could be related. Pretty good reason to hold off for awhile.”

    Luke looked at her. She had a half-smile on her lips. He laughed. “Not everyone on Naboo is related to the Naberries, in spite of what the Holonet tries to make everyone believe.” He gave her a teasing smile. “It’s just as likely that you’re related to Palpatine.”

    She raised a hand as if to slap him, and he moved his head out of the way. She lowered her hand back to the top of his, her expression turning serious again. “I need time, Luke. I’m still getting used to…us.”

    “I know. I wasn’t thinking about that anyway, until you brought it up. Which gives me hope.” He gave her a smile, which she returned, then the smile disappeared.

    “What is it then?”

    Luke didn’t answer, continued to stroke the braid.

    “Worrying about Leia?”

    He looked away. “When she was thrown, her right side hit the hangar wall. That’s how her shoulder and collarbone got broken on that side. She is going to have to completely relearn how to use her lightsaber. She’ll probably pick it up pretty quickly but still, we’re talking several weeks. And it’s going to be very hard on her.”

    Alys cupped his cheek. “She’ll be fine. She’s in the best medical center in the galaxy.”

    Luke still didn’t meet her eyes. “I don’t know what the resistance is building or where Ventress went after I cut her hand off, but the droid foundry they had was huge. If that’s any indication…we may be doing a lot more fighting.”

    “You don’t think the resistance can be squashed without a war?”

    “I hope so, but really, Alys…if you could have seen the size of that foundry…”

    “Which your father and Master Kenobi destroyed,” she said. “And if perceptions that I’ve heard are correct, your mother is one of the best Chancellors in the history of the Republic. If any leader can prevent a war, she can.”

    “Our parents tried to prevent the Clone War and weren’t successful,” Luke said.

    “Ventress isn’t Palpatine,” Alys said. “As much as I am sure she would like to think she is. Our parents were outsmarted by him, due to the fact that he had over half the Senate in his pocket. Not the case with Ventress and the resistance. They weren’t successful in legalizing slavery or lowering taxes on the Rimma Trade Route.”

    He sighed again. “I hope your optimism isn’t misplaced.”

    “I’m surprised, Luke. A few weeks ago you were complaining that Leia was seeing all the action and you were stuck inspecting facilities.”

    He closed his eyes. “I learned that I need to be more careful what I wish for.”

    “Oh,” she said softly, running her hand along his chest again. “Well there’s another reason to hope peace prevails.”

    “What?” he asked.

    “You’ll rush headlong into the action whether you want to or not. And you’ll come out battle scarred. Not the same Luke. If you come back at all.”

    He kissed her. “Oh I’ll come back. I promise. I’ll always come back.”

    That is what you can’t promise, Luke.”

    “I’m a Jedi.”

    “You and I both know that doesn’t make you immortal.”

    “Hey, what happened to optimism? Besides, there’s no such thing as luck.”

    “OK. This is getting way too depressing, and not what I came by for.”

    He smiled. “Well, what did you come by for?”

    “You have to ask?” She said, and kissed him.
  3. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Love is in the air - here, there and everywhere.
  4. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Sneaky Padme is an entertaining Padme. :)
  5. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @Valairy Scot : I was worried about making Luke and Alys too mushy. :p With Han and Leia there wasn't as much of an issue, as they are the anti-mushy.

    @Lady_Misty: I have thoroughly enjoyed writing Padme in this position. The Republic needed an intelligent woman ruling it.


    Thanks for reading. :)


    **********


    Chapter 7


    Asajj Ventress liked Ryloth. The planet’s government preferred to keep a low profile and stay out of the eye of Coruscant as much as possible, partly due to the culture of its inhabitants, who did not like to become too involved in political matters, and partly because its government wished no interference in its slave and spice trades. Therefore it was a perfect place for Ventress to hide in the open. And if the Republic ever came looking for her here, the caves in the desert mountains made even better hiding spots than the underground bunkers on Geonosis and Hypori. The stupid Jedi and naval officers would get eaten by predators before they could reach her.

    She smirked at the thought as she practiced with two lightsabers, one in her new mechanical hand. She sparred with eight remotes, all trained to make sudden unpredictable movements, which kept her adept at her favorite fighting style. She had practiced all day, and while she was still getting zapped, the stings were becoming less frequent.

    Orn Free Taa’s sudden arrival caught Ventress by enough surprised that she took another sting to the shoulder. She glared at him. “Senator Free Taa,” she said.

    “Ventress,” he replied. “I have done as you requested. The Jedi Oversight Committee will question Skywalker and Kenobi.”

    She stared at him. “I see,” she said. “Is there a problem, Senator?”

    “There may be several problems. One, the committee members were appointed by Chancellor Amidala. How likely are they to bring criminal charges against her husband? Two, if we cannot make the case that the droids were not a threat to the Republic, Skywalker’s and Kenobi’s actions were legal.”

    Ventress glared and threw one of the remotes at the wall, where it shattered. “How is it legal for Jedi to destroy private property?”

    “Security outweighs privacy. Can I ask exactly what were your plans for the droids?”

    “Defense,” she spat. “For now. While we use…what does the Chancellor call them…diplomatic solutions?” Her face twisted into a smirk. “…to bend a few laws to our advantage and convince the governments of a few more systems to join our cause. The droids will then be used for those who take a bit more…persuasion.”

    Free Taa’s eyes widened and his lekku twitched. “You want a new Separatist movement?”

    “Of course not!” she snapped, then smirked again. “That was the difference between Dooku and myself. He and his Confederacy were content to let the Republic alone as long as they could be allowed to separate from it. I’m not that stupid nor am I satisfied that easily. Dooku proved that the Republic will never let potential confederates alone. Separating from the Republic is not an option. We must take control of it.” The smirk grew. “The burglary charges will slow Skywalker and Kenobi down, and Skywalker will not want to leave Coruscant while his baby girl is still injured. How convenient to have such a distraction for both him and the Chancellor.” She cackled, then the laughter stopped as quickly as it started. “So it doesn’t matter that much if they win. The foundry on Hypori was convenient but it was also a mistake. We built droids in a place where the Jedi would know to look. That’s not a mistake we can make again.” She fixed Free Taa with an icy stare. “Find a place on this planet. It’s a favorite of mine, Free Taa, you know that.”

    He nodded. “Of course, and the people of Ryloth appreciate the praise.”

    “No need for the pleasantries. Just find a good place for a foundry. A large one.”

    “At what price?” Free Taa asked cautiously.

    She smirked again. “Name your price. The Banking Clan will cover it. Meanwhile,” she added, the smirk disappearing. “Tell Qualkin to get his bill passed. Bribe or threaten any dissenters. And once it passes, he should contact any bounty hunters he can find in Worlport. I want that naval facility emptied.”

    “It will be done,” Free Taa said. “What of Cad Bane?”

    “Tell Qualkin to continue looking for him. We need him.”

    “The Banking Clan has had a greater presence on Ord Mantell lately as well as Rodia. They are hiring bounty hunters, tempting them with large advance payments. Apparently they believe their deregulation bill will pass; they will then be able to make more loans to poor risks at high interest rates, and the bounty hunters are for…”

    “Security.” Ventress cackled again. “Security outweighs privacy. The Banking Clan is on our side, and if this bill passes…”

    “They will gain further control of the Republic.”

    “No,” she said. “They will be well on their way to complete control. As will we. Our cause will be advanced by years.” She glared at Free Taa. “See that the bill passes,” she spat.



    “This meeting of the Committee for the Oversight of Jedi Activities is called to order. Senator Free Taa, you may present your charges.”

    Orn Free Taa stood. “Fellow senators, three weeks ago, Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker made an unauthorized entry into a private foundry owned by the Baktori Droid Workshop and the Techno Union. While there, they ordered their astromech to shut down all operations in the foundry and then proceeded to destroy the droids as well as the machinery that produces them. We contend that the Jedi had no authorization to enter the facility and destroy private property and that they should be disciplined for doing so. We also contend that the Baktori Droid Workshop and the Techno Union should be compensated for the loss of millions of credits’ worth of property.”

    Senator Zenon Koor, head of the committee, responded. “Senator Free Taa, why do you contend that the Jedi made an unauthorized entry into the facility? The Chancellor authorized the Jedi to investigate any battle droid foundries in the Outer Rim.”

    “How can the Chancellor authorize the Jedi to break into a private facility for an investigation?” Senator Corana Dulovic asked.

    “If there is reasonable perception of a threat to the Republic, such an authorization is appropriate. It always has been. That did not change with the formation of this committee 18 years ago,” Senator Garen Marr replied.

    Koor turned to Anakin and Obi-Wan. “Masters Skywalker and Kenobi, can you give this committee an estimate on the size of the foundry which you destroyed?”

    “It was a well-established foundry that produced thousands of droids,” Obi-Wan replied. “I would estimate that it has been in operation for several years.”

    “The foundry was larger than the Separatist foundries that I saw during the Clone War,” Anakin said. “And it produced B1 and B2 battle droids, which have in the past only been used for war.”

    “That is an unfair assessment!” Welck Seyley, head of the Baktori Droid Workshop protested.

    Koor turned to Seyley. “Really? Can you tell this committee why the droids were being produced, if not for battle?”

    Seyley sneered. “I don’t know. I don’t ask questions. I take the money and produce the droids. But I assure you that the droids can be used for other purposes. Guard duty. Police work.”

    “Mr. Seyley, who ordered the droids?” Marr asked.

    “The droids were for the Banking Clan and the Techno Union.”

    “They did not give you a purpose for which the droids were being produced?”

    “No. I told you, I don’t ask questions.”

    “If the Banking Clan’s deregulation bill passes, they will be able to make many more loans, and therefore, they may need many more collection agents,” Dulovic said. “Is it possible that the Banking Clan needed the droids for this purpose?”

    “The Banking Clan has used bounty hunters for collection in the past,” Koor said. “Do we have any indication that they are changing this practice?”

    “And given Skywalker’s description of the size of the foundry, it seems a bit excessive for collection agents, even given the enormous number of Banking Clan affiliates,” Marr said.

    “We can question Pors Tonith about the purpose of the battle droids, but meanwhile, as far as I can tell, we have no reason to assume that Skywalker and Kenobi should be charged,” Koor said. “An investigation ordered by the Chancellor for security purposes is legal and within the scope of Jedi duties.”

    “Agreed,” Marr said.

    “I think we should withhold our judgment on their innocence until we question Tonith,” Dulovic said.

    “If the Jedi are guilty of burglary and destruction of property, then the Chancellor has also overstepped her bounds by authorizing the entrance into the facility. Do you wish to interrogate her as well?” Marr asked.

    Anakin’s hand started to move towards his lightsaber, then he quickly caught himself.

    Dulovic glared, then sat back. “Not without further evidence, no,” she said.

    “Then we reserve the right to call the Jedi back for further questioning if Tonith gives evidence that the droids were for Banking Clan use only and not a threat to the Republic’s government or its citizens. But for now, they are free of any charges. All in favor?” Koor said.

    Five hands went up immediately, and a moment later, Dulovic’s hand reluctantly went up as well.

    “This meeting is adjourned then,” Koor said.



    “The Supreme Chancellor recognizes the Senator from the sovereign system of Ord Mantell.”

    Qualkin’s pod lowered. “Chancellor Amidala, fellow Senators, two decades ago, the Republic was engaged in a lengthy and devastating conflict with the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Although the Republic won the war, victory came with a very heavy price. The Galactic Treasury was depleted by costly orders of clone soldiers from Kamino; ordinary citizens saw their taxes increase and their personal financial situations deteriorate. In spite of efforts by the current administration as well as the Organa and Mothma administrations, the Republic remains in debt and its economy has never fully recovered. As further increases in taxation would further hurt the citizens of the Republic, it is time to review possible areas to cut costs in our own budget. Today I propose a simple measure that will save millions of credits and will not take from your home worlds at all. On my home world of Ord Mantell, in the capital city of Worlport, the Republic Navy maintains an extensive facility for storage of weapons. This facility has existed since the Clone War and has not decreased in size or scope since that time, in spite of the fact that the Navy does not need a facility of nearly this size in peace time. As the Confederacy of Independent Systems no longer exists and the Republic is not currently facing threats from outside sources, I propose today that we substantially decrease the ongoing costs of this facility by reducing its security and maintenance staff. The building is paid for and the Navy would still be free to use it as a storage facility, but if this bill passes, its operating costs would decrease to 25 percent of its current rates. The credits saved by this bill could then be used to reduce debt as well as fund other programs that have suffered from a lack of substantial funding in the past two decades. Social programs. Health care. Or, it could be given directly back to the people through a substantial tax cut.”

    “The Supreme Chancellor recognizes the Senator from the sovereign system of Chandrila.”

    A pod lowered and Senator Adiara Midosea spoke. “Chancellor Amidala, fellow Senators, of course we should look for cost-cutting measures in the Republic’s budget—as long as those measures do not endanger the lives of ordinary citizens or the safety and security of the Republic itself. Senator Qualkin’s bill will leave a Republic Navy facility storing hundreds of weapons virtually unprotected. No, we are not at war, but the consequences of those weapons falling into the wrong hands would be devastating.”

    “The facility would still be protected!” Qualkin shouted.

    Midosea continued as if she had not heard him. “Twenty years ago we were not at war either—until we were. We were caught off our guard and without adequate defenses when the Separatists attacked, and that is the reason the Treasury was depleted so quickly—we had to order clone soldiers from Kamino in order to counteract the Separatist threat. Ladies and gentlemen, as I am certain you are aware, resistance cells comprised of former Separatists have been growing in the Outer Rim. Would we want to be without adequate defense if the members of this resistance to launch an attack on the Republic ?”

    “Ord Mantell is in the Core, not the Outer Rim! And the facility has barely been opened in the past ten years! It is only for storage, the Navy itself has no presence on the planet other than a shipyard!”

    Tarin banged her gavel. “Order! Order!”

    “Do you have more to say, Senator Midosea?” Padme asked.

    “No, Your Excellency.”

    “And do you have anything to add, Senator Qualkin?”

    He hesitated, glared at Midosea, then looked at Padme and shook his head. “No, Your Excellency, I am finished here as well.”

    “Very well. If there is no further discussion, you may cast your votes.”

    Padme looked around the chamber as the Senators cast their votes and chatted while the votes were counted. The Dark Side clouds the Senate… Qualkin had moved into Free Taa’s box and they appeared engaged in a heated discussion, but no other Senators joined them. If the Dark Side has a presence in the Senate, and Master Yoda can sense it, I doubt that presence is limited to only two members… Padme wished she could have brought Yoda, or Anakin or Obi-Wan, into the session with her, but she tried to avoid bringing the Jedi into sessions with the full Senate. In the opinions of many, the Jedi were already far too politically involved.

    “Your Excellency,” Tarin said. “The votes have been counted.”

    “And?” Padme asked, inclining her head to look at the results.

    “The bill passed. 1128 in favor, 872 against.”

    Padme’s heart pounded in her chest. She looked around the chambers again. Qualkin was smirking, almost sneering. Free Taa smirked as well. She scanned the faces of the other Senators but found none who looked so pleased. Most expressions were neutral, many were sad.

    “Madam?” Tarin said.

    Padme swallowed and addressed the crowd with the news that the bill had passed.

    She had barely gotten back to her office, had not even bothered to sit down at her desk, before opening a secure channel to Admiral Madine. “The operation we discussed should now move forward.”



    “There it is,” Han said. “Worlport.”

    “You’ve been here before?” Lando asked.

    “Yeah, I have. And so have you.”

    Lando shook his head. “No way.”

    Chewie barked, and Han looked at him. “Yeah, I know. It has been awhile.”

    “What’s here besides the storage facility?” Lando asked.

    “Sabacc tables and bounty hunters,” Han replied.

    “Sabacc?” Lando replied, a grin slowly appearing on his face.

    Han gave him a pointed look. “Don’t even think about it,” he said. “We’ve got to get in and out of the area fast, and hopefully without being seen.”

    “We’re sneaking in? That’s not like you.”

    “Just trust me on this one, pal. We don’t want to attract a lot of attention.” The ship glided slowly and stealthily towards the roof of a large duracrete building.

    “Attention?” Lando said.

    “Bounty hunters,” Han replied. “Worlport is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. We make a scene here and we’ll never get the job done, and we’ll be lucky to get out alive, much less quickly.”

    “Why am I suspecting an ulterior motive in your wanting a quick operation?” Lando asked.

    “Because you need to quit speculating and shut up,” Han replied.

    “Ahhh…” Lando said, grinning.

    “I want this done quickly because we need to move these weapons before the resistance can either move them for us or figure out where we’re taking them. Admiral Madine already had one squadron here, so it’s possible that they are onto us. Our job is to get the rest of the weapons moved and stay alive in the process. The best way to do that is fast.”

    “Uh-huh,” Lando said. Han glared and pointed a finger at him, a gesture that clearly indicated that Lando should stop talking. Then he glided the ship smoothly to the surface of the roof.

    “We should be able to be conspicuous here. We can slide in through one of the vents. Go brief the other men on the plan. Tell them to have their blasters ready and keep quiet.” Lando nodded and exited the cockpit, returning a couple of minutes later.

    “Done,” he said.

    “Good,” Han replied. “Let’s go.” He and Lando and Chewie exited the cockpit and headed towards the ramp, indicating to their men that they should follow. On the roof they found a grate indicating an air vent, and Han stopped in front of it. “This should do nicely,” he said. “The heat isn’t running this time of year. We take the grate off and drop in.” He grinned. A few of his men raised their blasters; Han held a hand up quickly. “No blasting,” he whispered fiercely. “We’re going to have to take this off the old fashioned way.”

    They looked confused and surprised but lowered their blasters. Chewie, using one tool, took the grate off quickly, and Han and Lando slid in, landing in what appeared to be a closet. Han slid the door open slowly and they walked out.

    The room appeared to be deserted and was stocked with blasters, detonators, grenade launchers, laser canons, and ammunition. Han turned to Lieutenant Voron Solusar. “Get these ready to move,” he whispered. “Commander Calrissian and I are going to make sure the main entrance is clear and bring the ship down.”

    The lieutenant nodded and saluted, then he, Chewie and the remaining men began getting the weapons ready for transport. Han and Lando walked towards the main entrance to the facility.

    “It’s a little too quiet,” Han said.

    “I know,” Lando replied. They both looked around warily, their blasters raised. “Hey, Han…”

    “What is it?” He asked.

    “How is she? You haven’t said.”

    “Getting better. Walking around on her own. She’s been released from the medical center. Starting outpatient therapy to regain use of her arm, but that’s going slower than she would like. And she’s definitely got her spirit back.”

    “Did she ever lose it?”

    “Well, nah, not really.” Han smirked, then the smirk disappeared as they approached the door to the building and his wariness increased.

    “Still nothing here,” Lando said cautiously, opening the door, revealing a nondescript deserted street in Worlport.

    “Weird. But let’s get the ship and bring it down. Solusar will have those men getting those weapons ready pretty quickly.”

    Lando nodded, and finding a metal flight of stairs on the side of the building, they climbed to the roof. They quickly got into the ship and lowered it into the main hangar, where Lieutenant Solusar and his men began loading it. Han and Lando pitched in to help, they worked silently and efficiently, and within a short period of time, the large Navy freighter was loaded with weapons.

    That’s when they heard it. Blaster fire and then, “Stop where you are, you Republic scum.”

    “Captain Solo…” Solusar began.

    “Lieutenant, get these men and these weapons off this planet right away.” Han struggled to make himself heard above the Navy officers' return blaster fire.

    “What about you?”

    “Commander Calrissian and I will handle this and we’ll get transport from the Navy shipyard on the other side of Worlport. Go, Lieutenant.”

    He saluted. “Yes, sir.” Then he ran.

    Han fired one last round, pointed in the opposite direction and indicated that Lando should follow him. “Let’s see if we can sneak out of here,” he said.

    They walked along the deserted corridor; they knew they were being hunted, they could hear footsteps, but they managed to stay hidden and silent and move away from their would-be captors. After a few minutes Han heard voices coming from a room on the floor below him.

    “Has Boba Fett been dispatched?”

    “He is on his way, Senator Qualkin. But do you not think I can handle this myself? I do expect the same fee, you know.”

    “The Banking Clan will pay your fee, Bane,” Qualkin said. “And if you can help…persuade a few dissenting Senators to vote in favor of deregulation, you will receive a substantial bonus.”

    Bane’s laugh was sinister. “I see.”

    “Navy barves will be cleaning out this place and moving the weapons and ammunition. I expect you to track it. That is where Fett comes in. He is more proficient at tracking than you are.”

    “Not much more,” Bane snapped.

    Han looked at Lando, mouthed Bane? Boba Fett? Lando nodded slowly.

    Qualkin’s comlink buzzed and he answered it impatiently. “Yeah. What? They’re here! Well smoke them out then!” He turned his comlink off, and Han and Lando heard another barrage of blaster fire, a barrage that was returned in kind. With their own blasters they fired a round in that direction, then ran towards the main entrance.

    The corridor was stained with fresh blood and ahead of them, Han and Lando saw what was unmistakably several bodies. Bounty hunters, Rodian and human. And bodies clad in Navy uniforms.

    “Who…?” Lando began.

    “No time to look right now,” Han said. “We’ll have to find out later.”

    “Yeah,” Lando said, suddenly looking straight in front of him. “I suppose so.”

    Two bounty hunters stood in front of the entrance, blasters raised.

    “Going somewhere, Solo?” The Rodian said.

    “You’re damn right I am,” Han replied. He raised his own blaster and fired, hitting the bounty hunter in the chest. The other bounty hunter had barely enough time to mutter “Greedo!” before getting hit by Lando’s blaster.

    “Boring conversation anyway,” Han said, and looked at Greedo’s body. “I’ll tell Madine later that I’m sorry about the mess.” They exited the building and looked around. “Now where the hell did Solusar take that ship? Hopefully he’s off planet by now but we need to go hotwire a speeder and get to the shipyard…”

    Han was interrupted by the roar of a large freighter descending to the landing platform. It stopped, the ramp lowered, and as if on cue, Solusar appeared. “Captain Solo!”

    Han and Lando ran up the ramp. “Raise it and get out of here before more bounty hunters appear.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Han and Lando sat down and strapped themselves in just as the ship rose into the air. As soon as they were in hyperspace, Han unstrapped himself, stood, and found Solusar. “What happened back there?” he asked.

    Solusar turned, and the look he gave his captain was both sad and afraid. “It was an ambush, sir. The bounty hunters were waiting for us.”

    “Commander Calrissian and I saw several men but could not stop to identify them.”

    “We lost about half the squadron. Several fell in the south corridor.”

    Han sighed, frowned, and looked away for a minute. Then he asked, “Well how many of the bounty hunter scum did you take down in the process?”

    Solusar gave a half smile. “All but three of them.”

    “So their losses were higher than ours. Good work, Lieutenant.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    “I need the names of the men we lost, so that I can contact their families.” Han looked down again, but only for a second before meeting Solusar’s eyes. “And I need a secure network for a classified transmission directly to Chancellor Amidala.”

    “Right away, sir.”

    “Let’s get these weapons to Dantooine.”

    “Yes, sir.”
  6. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Wars may end, the battles never do.
  7. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Looks like Han shot first. :p

    Things are going to explode in the faces of the bad guys when it comes out that they threatened people to cast their votes certain ways.
  8. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @Valairy Scot: Nope.

    @Lady_Misty: [face_laugh] And yeah, at some point.

    **********

    “Thank you, Han. I will see you when you get back to Coruscant,” Padme said.

    “You’re welcome. I am sorry that I had to be the messenger.”

    “Obviously a messenger was sorely needed. Have a safe trip home.” She ended the call, leaned back in her desk chair and closed her eyes.

    “Padme…” Bail began.

    She held up her hand. “Give me a minute, Bail.” She opened her eyes and sat up again, but she looked slightly green, as if she were going to be sick. She punched in a code in her comlink. “Master Windu, do you copy?”

    “I copy, Chancellor Amidala. How can I help you?”

    “Are there any Jedi on Ord Mantell right now?”

    “No. Shaak Ti is on Concord Dawn and she is the closest. Why?”

    “I am issuing a warrant for Senator Qualkin’s arrest. Extortion as well as treason. Possible accessory to murder. He was on Ord Mantell a standard hour ago. I want to ensure that he does not escape.”

    “Extortion and treason? Accessory to murder?

    “He was overheard hiring a bounty hunter to bribe and threaten Senators regarding the deregulation bill. He was also ordering bounty hunters to track and threaten Navy officers as they moved weapons from the storage facility there. Several bounty hunters engaged Captain Solo’s squadron on Qualkin’s orders, and several midshipmen were killed.”

    Mace muttered a couple of curses under his breath, then said, “I would like to handle this personally, Chancellor. I will contact Shaak Ti and have her meet me on Ord Mantell. We will detain Qualkin and bring him to Coruscant immediately.”

    “I appreciate your speed, Master Windu.”

    “Does Qualkin know that he was overheard?”

    “I don’t think so. He knows the Navy moved the weapons from the facility, but he did not seem to notice that two officers were listening to his conversation with Cad Bane.”

    “He probably is not even hiding then. We will most likely be able to find him in his office in Worlport. I will leave within five minutes. Tell Anakin to wait for my call in case we need reinforcements.”

    “Thank you, Master Windu. And may the Force be with you.” She turned off her comlink and looked at Bail. He had blanched, his eyes wide with shock. For a moment neither of them spoke. Padme rubbed her temples.

    Then she found her voice. “We need to stall the vote on the deregulation bill. What is standard procedure for stalling a vote?”

    “I never had to do it,” Bail said. “But I imagine it will be easy once Qualkin is arrested. Give Ord Mantell time to elect a new Senator.”

    Padme nodded. “We need to find out which Senators he has already bribed. I’m prepared to offer them immunity for accepting the bribes if they come forward within three days of Qualkin’s arrest.”

    “Assuming they can find Qualkin…”

    “Master Windu and Shaak Ti will find him. Of that I have no doubt.” She stacked some datapads on her desk.

    “Padme…how is Leia?”

    She sighed. “We’ve brought her home from the medical center but… she’s having a hard time. She’s trying to learn to use her lightsaber again; she’s weak and her shoulder is still really sore. The med droids are offering physical therapy but…I’m hoping the rehabilitation that the Jedi can offer her, will make a bigger difference.” Padme looked tired and sad. “Anyway…hopefully Master Windu can do this without needing reinforcements, but that’s not guaranteed.” She sighed again. “I should update Anakin on this.” She turned on her comlink again. “Anakin, do you copy?”

    “Loud and clear, love. What is it?”

    “Master Windu asked that you be on standby for him in case he needs reinforcements. I’ve sent him to Ord Mantell.”

    “Why?”

    “I’ll explain when I see you. Where are you?”

    “In the training room at headquarters, trying to keep Leia from overexerting herself.”

    “I’m fine,” Padme heard her daughter snap in the background.

    “Alright, I’ll be there soon,” Padme said.



    Leia was in a towering temper. “Daddy, would you quit hovering! I can do this!”

    “I am asking you to pace yourself because I would like to avoid carrying you back to the medical center,” Anakin replied.

    “If I have to go back there, I’ll walk back,” Leia snapped.

    Anakin started to say something else; Obi-Wan caught his arm. “Let her push herself,” he said. “She needs it. It’s part of her healing.”

    “How is putting more pressure on broken bones going to help her heal?” Anakin snapped.

    Obi-Wan gave him a sharp look. “As you know all too well, Anakin, not all healing is physical,” he said. “Leia’s saber skills are well renowned. She needs the opportunity to try to regain them, and she needs to choose the pace.”

    Anakin frowned.

    “Trust her,” Obi-Wan said. “Trust her body to tell her when it’s had enough.”

    “Like she would listen,” Anakin said.

    “If she doesn’t, trust that she needs to learn that lesson without our help.”

    Anakin’s frown deepened, but he sat in a chair to watch the twins prepare to spar.

    “Don’t treat me like I’m injured,” Leia told her brother. “I need to be challenged. Treat me like you always have. Don’t go soft on me now.”

    “Fine,” Luke said. “But before we start, it’s not my fault that Han left for Ord Mantell without coming by to see you first, so don’t take it out on me.”

    Leia scowled and ignited her saber, powering it down to training mode. “I’m not mad at Han,” she said. “He’s a Navy captain and it was an urgent mission.”

    “Well, you’re mad at someone,” Luke said, powering on his saber. He struck, and her green blade met his blue one in a perfect parry.

    “At myself,” Leia said. “For letting that woman get the best of me. It will not happen again.” She slashed her blade against Luke’s. He feinted and made a surprise counterstrike in the opposite direction, but she was there, blocking that one easily. He ran across the room, suddenly turning to strike; she followed and met the blow with a perfect counterblow.

    The duel continued for several minutes, strike and counterstrike, block, slash, parry, lightsabers moving with the perfect precision of two Jedi Padawans who had been competing since birth and had the added advantage of genetic connection. Leia did not seem to be slowed down much by her injuries; she kept her right shoulder close to her body, doing most of the lightsaber maneuvering with her elbow and wrist, but her speed and agility seemed to have returned. She tried a Force push with her left arm, and discovered that she was as adept at channeling the Force through that arm as through her lightsaber arm. Luke counteracted with a Force pull, which she fought by leaping over his head and doing a double flip in the air, landing easily on her feet.

    Then, as suddenly as if they had melted into hot wax, her knees buckled. Against her will she found herself sliding to the ground, landing on her backside. Her face felt hot and wet; she lifted her left hand and discovered tears mixing in with the perspiration. She tried to draw a deep breath; the sharp pain on her right side nearly doubled her over.

    Luke knelt in front of her, his saber now disengaged; he took hers and disengaged it for her. Through the blur of her tears she could see the concern in his blue eyes.

    “Well…done…Luke,” she managed.

    “Are you…?” He began.

    “I’m OK. I promise. I’m OK.”

    She heard footsteps behind her, and Obi-Wan’s bearded face swam into view. “I think that’s enough for today, young one,” he said softly.

    Something in his tone shamed her, and the tears came faster. She felt Obi-Wan’s and her father’s hands gently lifting her to a standing position, and Anakin’s arm around her shoulders as he led her to a nearby chair. He sat next to her and enfolded her in a gentle hug; her head rested against his chest, her tears soaked his tunic. Every hitched breath was painful but she could not stop crying; she felt as if a dam inside her had broken. She heard Luke and Obi-Wan talking in low voices but couldn’t understand what they said. Several minutes later the sobbing finally slowed.

    “Are you alright?” Anakin asked.

    Leia sat up, dried her eyes and face, and nodded slowly. “I think so,” she said. Her head, shoulder and side hurt. “I really thought I could…”

    “Of course you did. That’s understandable,” Anakin said. “But let’s get you home. You did well today. But I want you to eat dinner and shower then go straight to bed.”

    She sniffled and scowled. “Daddy, it’s 1700.”

    “You want to be able to do this again, don’t you? Without ending up back in the hospital with a collapsed lung? Or worse?”

    The scowl turned to a sigh and she nodded again, resigned. She stood slowly, felt dizzy, and leaned on Anakin.

    “Want me to carry you?” he asked.

    “I can make it. I’m just…tired.”

    “OK, if you change your mind…”

    Padme appeared at the doorway, alone, having dismissed her guards at the entrance to the Jedi headquarters. “What happened?” she asked, looking at Leia.

    “Sparring happened,” Anakin said.

    “Leia,” Padme said, exasperated, then gave Anakin and Obi-Wan looks that clearly asked How could you let her do this?

    “I’m fine, Mom,” Leia said. “I overdid it. But I’m fine.”

    “She did well, Padme, just got a little overzealous,” Obi-Wan said.

    “For awhile I felt like I had my old sparring partner back,” Luke said. “I almost forgot she was injured, and I pushed her…”

    “Because I asked you to,” Leia said.

    Padme sighed, looking at Leia. “Alright, but maybe you should let your father carry you.”

    “I will if I can’t make it back to the speeder,” she said. She was leaning heavily on Anakin and walking slowly.

    Padme pressed her lips together but did not address Leia’s injuries any further. She fell into step on the opposite side of her husband. “I sent Master Windu and Master Ti to Ord Mantell to arrest Qualkin.”

    Anakin’s eyes widened. “So he is with the resistance. Did he out himself?”

    “Not intentionally. Han overheard a conversation with Cad Bane. Apparently Qualkin is using bounty hunters to bribe Senators. And he wanted security loosened around the weapons facility in order to allow the resistance to break into it.”

    Anakin’s response was a string of Huttese curses ending with “karking skocha-kloonkee.”

    Padme continued. “Thankfully Han’s squadron was able to finish transporting the weapons. Admiral Madine had sent another squadron earlier to start the job. Unfortunately, however, it seems that Qualkin was made aware of the first squadron, and he had a team of bounty hunters waiting for Han.”

    Leia suddenly stopped. “Is Han OK?” she asked quietly.

    Padme gave her a sympathetic look. “He’s fine, and so is Lando. He lost several of his men though.”

    Leia nodded and blinked. Her knees were trembling.

    “Here,” Anakin said, picking her up. “No more ridiculous Skywalker pride. I am going to carry you now.”

    She didn’t protest, just put her good arm around her father’s neck as he walked out the door to the Jedi headquarters and towards the waiting speeder. “Han is on his way home?” She asked.

    “Yes,” Padme said. “He had to transport the weapons to the base on Dantooine but he should be on his way back. I’ll send him to you in the morning after he briefs me, but I want you to stay home.”

    “Mom…” Leia began.

    Padme’s tone was as sharp as they had heard in awhile. “Leia Amidala Skywalker, you will not argue with me about this. You are staying home for two days. That is an order.” And she turned and walked quickly to the speeder, her robes swishing behind her.

    Anakin settled Leia into the speeder and then he, Obi-Wan and Luke climbed in beside Padme. No one spoke on the way back to the Skywalker residence. Inside, Anakin settled Leia on the couch. Padme indicated that he and Obi-Wan should follow her into the next room, which they did.

    The door closed behind them, and Padme glared at both men, her face contorted with fury. “What. Were. You. Thinking???” she snapped.

    “Padme…” Anakin said.

    “You do not know when to quit. You still think you are invincible, Ani, and it appears that you have passed along this asinine line of thinking to our children.”

    “Padme, Leia does not do very well feeling helpless. You know that,” Anakin said.

    “So the answer is for her to re-injure herself so that she’s confined to a hospital bed again? That will make her feel less helpless? I thought you were going to stop her from overexerting herself.”

    “Do you think I didn’t try?” he snapped. “What would you have me do, pin her down?”

    “If necessary, yes,” she said.

    “Padme,” Obi-Wan said. “Anakin did try to stop her. Your anger should be directed at me. I am the one who said that Leia needed to be allowed to push herself, and learn her own limits.”

    She turned to him, her eyes snapping. “And why, Obi-Wan Kenobi, would you say a stupid thing like that, knowing that she is a Skywalker and they do not understand the concept of limits?”

    “Lessons learned on one’s own have a greater impact than those forced by a mentor. Especially for the more…stubborn apprentices.” He eyed Anakin.

    Padme continued to glare at Obi-Wan. “I expected you to know when to dispense with the Jedi platitudes and use a little more common sense.”

    On the other side of the door, Leia rose slowly from the couch and staggered to the doorway.

    “Leia,” Luke began, walking beside her. She glared at him, then opened the door.

    “Would you three just Shut. Up.,” she said. Her parents and Obi-Wan stared at her, their eyes wide.

    “You are not helping me by arguing over who is responsible for my getting hurt. And your fight is not even the least bit entertaining.” She looked at her mother. “This was my call. Entirely mine. If Daddy and Uncle Obi-Wan and Luke had pinned me down, I would have pushed them off and kept going. I had to try, Mom. I don’t expect you to understand but…”

    The room spun and Leia grabbed the doorframe. This time it was Luke who caught her before she fell, and carried her back to the couch. She heard her mother’s comlink switch on and then, “This is Chancellor Amidala. I need a medical droid in my residence right away.”

    Then her father’s voice. “3PO, bring water.” Then the room stopped spinning and four faces appeared above her.

    At least this time she didn’t pass out.



    The following afternoon, C3PO opened the front door to find Han waiting outside. “Come in, Captain Solo. Mistress Leia will be most excited to see you. She is resting, if you will follow me, I will show you where.”

    “Resting?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Did she get hurt again?”

    “She had a…what do they call it…minor setback, sir. I did not really understand, I am merely an interpreter and have no knowledge of medical matters.”

    “What kind of minor setback?” Han asked impatiently.

    “I assure you, sir, it is not that bad. Mistress Leia has been behaving most normally and is most talkative. But she is staying in the bed. Master Anakin and Mistress Padme were most insistent about that.”

    “That they were,” Leia muttered as Han and 3PO entered her bedroom. She was propped up on pillows, her work station and several datapads scattered near her on the bed. She was scowling, but the scowl disappeared when she saw Han. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” she said.

    He sat next to her on the bed, cupped her cheek and kissed her. “I could certainly say the same for you,” he said.

    She turned to the droid. “Thank you, 3PO. You can leave us now.”

    “Of course, Mistress Leia. Call me if you need any…”

    “I will,” she said quickly. The droid muttered “Oh, I see,” and left the room.

    “Now, where were we?” Leia said, smiling.

    “Right about here,” Han replied, kissing her again. This kiss was deeper and lingering, and when it finally ended, he said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t stop by before Ord Mantell.”

    She looked down and away from him. “It’s fine.”

    He cupped her cheek again. “Really?”

    She looked up and smiled. “Really,” she said.

    “So what is this ‘minor setback’ that has you chained to the bed?”

    “Sparring,” she said.

    Han’s eyes widened. “What?” he said.

    She sighed. “Not you too,” she said. “I sparred with Luke for a bit. I felt like I had my old form back, at least for awhile. It felt good, until it didn’t. And when it was over, I felt like I had been stomped by an AT-AT walker.”

    Han fingered one of her braids, then put his hand on her good shoulder. “Sweetheart, you know that even you can’t run on nothing but adrenaline, right?”

    She sighed again. “Yes, I know. And that was Uncle Obi-Wan’s lecture.”

    “What was?”

    “Something about adrenaline making poor body fuel, especially for a Jedi, and he hoped that I had learned by now.”

    “Yeah, good point.”

    “I suppose,” Leia said. “And look,” she added, moving the material on her gown away from her broken shoulder, revealing the clear flexible plastisteel around her torso. “New air brace.”

    “Nice one,” Han said.

    “Two medical droids were here last night,” she said, leaning back on the pillows and closing her eyes. “I thought they were going to take me back to the medical center but they brought a few gadgets over instead.”

    “And your parents put you to bed and left Goldenrod to babysit.”

    She opened her eyes and smiled. “Yes,” she said. “Daddy threatened to dismantle him if I’m out of bed when he gets home…not that I think he would really do it…he built 3PO, loves him a bit too much…”

    Han’s jaw dropped. “Anakin built him?”

    Leia looked amused. “You’re surprised?”

    “That he built a droid? No. That he built the prissiest droid I’ve ever seen? Yes.”

    “I think 3PO’s personality took on a life of its own. He doesn’t even like to fly.”

    “Yeah, there’s no way that could have been intentional.” Han laughed. “Listen, I know he’s probably been good about waiting on you all day but is there anything you want me to do?”

    Leia smiled at him. “Yes.” She patted the spot next to her on her large bed. “Sit with me and keep me company.”

    Han grinned. “OK,” he said, and took the place that Leia indicated. “This isn’t exactly how I planned my first visit to your bedroom, but…”

    Leia kissed him. “There are always future visits, when I’m fully healed…”
  9. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    [face_laugh] I think both Padme and Obi-Wan are right on this one! But then Obi-Wan HAS raised one Skywalker and presumably more the expert, although Mom thinks she knows best.




    :eek: Daddy would not like to hear this conversation, I can bet you. Uncle Obi-Wan would probably be amused.
  10. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    Something tells me Senator Qualkin will get out of this or if he doesn't get out of this mess, it won't be that detrimental for Ventress and co. Leia's just as stubborn in this AU as she is in cannon. I did find it funny everyone but Leia was worried about Leia over-exerting herself. Good scene between Han and Leia
  11. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Things look like they re about too go south for the Resistance.
  12. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @Valairy Scot: I think you nailed it. Plus Obi-Wan is the only one in this scene who is calm and thinking rationally.

    And if Anakin heard that comment, he might go to the Dark Side after all. :p

    @Force Smuggler : Glad you liked Han and Leia. And Leia's personality hasn't changed much, although she may be a little more, um, uncensored since she has been raised by Anakin as opposed to the more dignified and diplomatic Bail.

    @Lady_Misty : Well...yes and no.

    Thanks for reading. :) Here's the last part of that chapter:

    **********

    Anakin found them a couple of hours later in the same spot. Leia’s work station was on her lap and they were both looking at it.

    “Fascinating research?” He asked, his eyebrows raised.

    “I was just showing Han the geography of Naboo,” Leia said.

    Han didn’t say anything. You’d probably dismantle me if I weren’t fully clothed right now, he thought, but didn’t say it aloud.

    “Hope you showed him the pictures of the Lake Country,” Anakin said.

    “Of course,” Leia said. “Those were first.”

    “I’m ready to get back to the real place again. Holonet pictures don’t do justice to how fresh the air is.” He turned to Han. “Han, the Republic owes you a debt of gratitude.”

    Surprised, Han stammered. “Um, thank you. How so?”

    “Master Windu and Master Ti arrested Qualkin about an hour ago,” he replied. “Without the information you gave Padme, he might have continued extorting Senators to vote for bills that favor the resistance.”

    Han smiled. “Glad I could help,” he said.

    “Padme is going to recommend to Admiral Madine that you be promoted,” Anakin continued. “And she usually gets her way.”

    “On these matters I would think so,” Han said. He found himself in the unique position of feeling his cheeks burn and not knowing what to say. “Thanks again. Really.”

    “What’s next?” Leia asked.

    “A lot of hunting,” Anakin replied. “Cad Bane and Boba Fett need to be taken into custody. Bane has had a price on his head for a couple of decades now, he was a thorn in our sides during the war. So if we can catch him, so much the better. And Fett is at least rumored to be working for the resistance.” Anakin sighed. “And Qualkin was not the only Senator involved. We need something to pin on Free Taa, right now all we have is talk, and we can’t arrest him on that. This is far from over.” He looked at Leia. “You have stayed in bed all day I hope?”

    Leia frowned. “3PO took you very seriously. He’s barely allowed me to move.”

    “I’m sure he’s more lenient than the medical droids would be. Keep that in mind,” Anakin said.

    “Don’t be so sure,” Leia muttered.

    Anakin changed the subject. “You have my password to get into the electronic archives?”

    “Unless you’ve changed it in the past month or so,” Leia said. “Why?”

    “I need you to get all the information you can on Bane and Boba Fett. We need to be able to make an educated guess on where we can find them. I have a few ideas but I’d rather not dispatch Jedi without more substantial evidence. The archives should have all our encounters with Bane during the war, including locations and associates. Fett was a child during the war but we’ve had a few run-ins with him since.”

    “So I’m on research duty?”

    “Just until you get better,” he said. “It was always one of your stronger suits anyway, whereas Luke never had a taste for it.”

    “He can’t sit still long enough to do research,” Leia replied.

    Anakin laughed. “Very true,” he said. “I’m going to get something to eat. Do either of you want anything?”

    “Thanks, but I’ve got to get back anyway,” Han said.

    “I’ll have something,” Leia said.

    “Either 3PO or I will bring you a tray in a minute,” Anakin said, and left the room.

    Han kissed Leia and stroked her cheek. “Are you alright? Do you need another pill or anything?”

    She smiled. “I’ll take one with my food. I’m fine. It’s not bad. Really.”

    He nodded. “OK, I’ll come by tomorrow.”

    “OK,” she said. And Han left the room.

    Anakin caught him on the way out the door. “Thanks for stopping by. I know Leia appreciated it.”

    “No thanks needed.”

    “How are you doing, Han?”

    Han looked at him quizzically. “Fine. Why?”

    Anakin looked concerned. “Padme said you lost about half of your men.”

    “A little more than half actually.”

    Anakin looked at him, waiting for him to continue, and Han suddenly understood. This former Clone War general had taken a walk in his boots. A long and painful one.

    “A few of the guys just finished basic training a couple of weeks ago. Young kids. I’m pretty sure a couple of them didn’t need to shave more than once a week.”

    Anakin still didn’t say anything, just gazed at him sympathetically.

    “It’s the only time I ever use flimsiplast anymore. Sending letters to mothers letting them know that their boys won’t be coming home again. Somehow a Holonet message isn’t sufficient. It would be better if I could make a visit and tell them in person, and I do when there are only one or two casualties, but this time…” Han looked away.

    “It’s hard,” Anakin said. “It’s very hard. I did as much of the front-line fighting as I could; I couldn’t put my men in any more danger than I was willing to undergo myself. I suspect you are the same.”

    “Absolutely,” Han said. “Drives Lando nuts and Admiral Madine doesn’t like it much either.”

    “I lost count of the number of times I got yelled at by middle-aged admirals for refusing to sit with them in their comfortable offices,” Anakin said.

    “Daddy.” Leia’s voice came from the doorway. Anakin turned, ready to order her back to bed, when he saw that she was holding a datapad in her right hand, the hand below her injured shoulder, and holding the door frame with her good arm.

    He rushed to her and took the datapad. “What did you find?” he asked, gazing at it.

    “Bane and Boba Fett have one location and one contact in common. Tatooine and Jabba the Hutt.”

    “Ugh,” Anakin muttered. “That’s all we need.” He looked at Leia. “I need to take this to your mother. You should get back in bed.” He turned towards the kitchen. “3PO?”

    “Mistress Leia’s food is almost ready, Master Anakin, and so is yours.”

    “Leave mine in the warmer for me. I have to go out again.” He looked at Leia again. “Go. Lie down. I know your pain is coming back, I can feel it.”

    “Alright, alright,” Leia said, turning to head back to her bedroom.



    Padme studied the datapad intently. “Jabba the Hutt,” she muttered, disgust in her voice. “I was hoping we could avoid dealing with the Hutts. Negotiating with them over hyperspace lanes was one of the most distasteful acts of my career.”

    “I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s the common thread,” Anakin said. “He’s always hired smugglers and bounty hunters. Bane and Fett are the most reputable…if you could call it that.” His expression matched his wife’s tone.

    “Could Jabba be persuaded to give us the whereabouts of either Bane or Fett?”

    Anakin gave a sarcastic laugh. “I don’t know. How deep are our pocketbooks right now?”

    “I don’t want to go that route, even if I thought I could. If I were to put the Galactic Treasury at the mercy of a Hutt, I might as well resign from office immediately. I was hoping for another means of convincing Jabba that it is in his best interests to cooperate with us.” She studied the datapads again. “Maybe there is some way to link this to the bill to lower taxes along the Corellian Run…”

    “I thought you didn’t want to support that,” Anakin said.

    “I don’t,” Padme replied. “But the Corellian Run is near Tatooine; lowered taxes would benefit Jabba in the miniscule amount of legal trading that he does.” She paused. “I could offer my support for the bill in exchange for the whereabouts of Bane and Fett. My support is no guarantee that the bill will pass, and we don’t know how much value Jabba puts on the lives of two bounty hunters out of the many that he probably hires…”

    Anakin stroked his goatee. “It might work though,” he said.

    “It’s a long shot but could be worth a try. It’s one trade route, the lowered taxation would hurt us less than allowing Bane and Fett to escape.” She sighed. “I wish I could bring Tatooine into the Republic. It’s a goal I’ve had since I took office, along with abolishing slavery there.”

    “You’ve had too much else on your plate lately,” Anakin said.

    She looked at her husband. “Ani, when is the last time you saw Owen?”

    He frowned. “Seven years ago. Why?” He sounded edgy, a bit defensive.

    “He’s your brother.”

    “There’s no chance of us ever being as close as you and Sola are, not by any means. I send him money every few months so that he can survive trying to farm moisture from that horrible dust ball. I’m sure that’s all he needs from me. You know it’s hard for me to go back.” Anakin looked away.

    “I was hoping to send you to conduct the negotiations with Jabba.”

    “Padme, no,” he said, fixing his gaze out the window.

    “Anakin…”

    “Leia is still injured.”

    “I know. But this operation will be conducted more quickly if you do it. You know the land better than any other Jedi. That’s why the Council sent you and Ahsoka when Jabba’s son was kidnapped.”

    “Don’t remind me,” Anakin said bitterly. “Ahsoka couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thrilled to be going home.”

    “She was only fourteen. Even most adults have no comprehension of what you went through.”

    “You do. And you want to drop me into that gundaark’s nest again.” He continued to stare out the window.

    Padme stood and walked towards him. “No, Anakin, I don’t want to send you there. Do you think this is the most fun part of my job? Sending my husband to attempt negotiations with the worst gangster in the galaxy? I am sending you because the fate of the Republic depends upon capturing those who are working for the resistance—all of them. Unfortunately right now that means we need Jabba’s cooperation, although I would prefer to pretend he doesn’t exist as much as you would. And you are the best person for this job.” She put her arms around his waist. “As the Chancellor I could order you to go. I don’t want to do that. As your wife, I am asking you to do this.”

    He turned to face her, returning the embrace, and for a few minutes he was silent.

    “I know,” he finally said. “And of course I’ll do it. I was hoping there was a way out, but you’re right. There isn’t.”

    “Take Obi-Wan and Luke with you.”

    He looked away again. “I’ll take Obi-Wan. Luke doesn’t need to go.”

    “Anakin…”

    “That’s one reason I haven’t been back in seven years, Padme, and even seven years ago, it was a stopover because I had been on Rodia and I felt guilty. Beru always enjoys seeing the twins, I couldn’t deny her that when we were so close.”

    “I think you still do feel guilty.”

    “Maybe, but…I never wanted to expose the children to Tatooine, and if Owen and Beru did not stubbornly insist on staying there, I never would have. The desert…it takes everything out of you. I wanted to spare them…”

    She reached up to put a hand on his cheek. “The only way to spare them some of the horrors that you’ve seen is to prevent another war, Ani. By going to Tatooine, you’re doing that. And Luke can help you.”

    “Of course he can. That isn’t the point.”

    “It’s entirely the point, darling.”

    He stroked her cheek and smiled at her. “I’m not going to win this one, am I?”

    Padme smiled back. “No.”

    “OK,” he said, and kissed her. “When do you want us to leave?”

    “Day after tomorrow. I’m requesting any intelligence I can get from the surrounding planets along with the last known locations of both bounty hunters. If we don’t rush, you might be able to capture one of them on Tatooine.”

    “That might be easier than trying to negotiate information from Jabba,” Anakin said.

    “Yes,” she said. “That’s the idea.” She sighed again, walking back to her desk. “There’s nothing more I can do here today. Let’s go home.”



    Alys’ driver waited in the luxury speeder parked near the spot where the Ornate was docked, its loading ramp down. Anakin and Obi-Wan stood at the foot of the ramp; several feet away, Luke and Alys faced each other, their hands entwined.

    “You come back safe to me,” she said.

    “I will, you know that,” he replied.

    “No, I don’t, not after last time. And the Hutts are gangsters. There are some many ways this mission could go wrong…”

    He put a finger to her lips. “Stop,” he said. “Have more faith in us than that.”

    “It’s not you that I don’t have faith in,” she said, then caught the look in his eyes and sighed. “OK, I get it. I’m still allowed to worry though, right?”

    Luke smiled. “No,” he said. “I need you to distract Leia. Which means your job is going to be harder than mine.”

    Alys laughed. “I’m not so sure,” she said. “Especially if Han is able to escape from headquarters often enough…”

    “Luke,” Anakin called. “We need to get going.”

    “I’m coming,” he replied.


    The Ornate landed on the outskirts of Mos Eisley. “Best we keep her out of sight,” Anakin said. “I’m not crazy about leaving her here but we can’t risk bringing her into town to be plundered. We’re taking chances even here.” He unstrapped himself and stood, turning to his astromech. “R2, you’re going to have to stay with the ship.”

    The droid beeped a protest. “Sorry, buddy, but someone has to be here on alert. And trust me, you don’t want to go out in this climate.” R2 beeped again. “Yes, I know you’ve been here before, with Padme. But did you really enjoy getting sand in your innards?” The droid’s reply was a concessionary negative.

    “Let’s move,” Obi-Wan said, moving towards the loading ramp. Anakin followed, then Luke. The expression on Anakin’s face was a dark scowl; his eyes were clouded.

    “Daddy?” Luke said cautiously.

    Anakin turned. “Keep your hood up. Remember how nasty the wind is when it blows sand in your eyes?”

    Luke nodded, seemed to want to say something else, but thought better of it. He brought his hood over his head and followed his father.

    “We should go ahead and rent a speeder,” Obi-Wan said. “You did remember to bring currency other than Republic credits, right?”

    Anakin patted the pocket of his cloak. “I change money regularly anyway so I can send it to Owen and Beru,” he said.

    “Speaking of whom…”

    “We’ll talk about it later,” Anakin said. The three men walked quickly, and silently, into town.



    “That was pure robbery,” Anakin muttered an hour later as they climbed into a nondescript speeder and left Mos Eisley .

    “Did you expect anything different?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “No,” Anakin said. “Just seems that it’s gotten worse out here rather than better. That Gamorrean seemed to think he owned the place.”

    “He probably did,” Luke said.

    Anakin fiddled with the controls and zoomed ahead; Obi-Wan and Luke both gripped the sides of the speeder.

    “Anakin…” Obi-Wan said.

    “We need to get this done quickly,” Anakin replied.

    “Try not to throw Luke and me into the sand in the process,” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin appeared not to hear him. “Oh, stang,” he said. “E chu ta.”

    “What is it?” Obi-Wan asked.

    Anakin pointed ahead at a rising cloud of pale yellow ahead of them. “Sandstorm coming.”

    “I assume flying through it is not an option,” Obi-Wan said.

    “Not if you enjoy having your full vision. Pretty sure sand has a way of burrowing behind the eye sockets.” Anakin made a sharp turn to the left. “There is one solution. Owen and Beru’s place is near here, we could possibly beat the storm there.”

    They rode in silence for several minutes before the Lars’ farm, with its dome-shaped homestead, came into view. Owen was outside, shutting down the vaporators and covering them. “This one looks really bad,” he was muttering to himself. “Worse than the one we had two months ago when…” He sensed the approaching visitors and looked up. “Can I help…” A flicker of recognition appeared on his face as his stepbrother lowered his hood slightly. Then a scowl. “So,” he said. “The Republic’s Prince Consort has decided to come down from the almighty Coruscant to mingle with the rest of us.”

    “Owen, you can yell at me for being a terrible brother all you want, but can you do it inside? As you were saying, there is a large storm approaching from the southeast.”

    Owen glared at Anakin again, then turned to the other men. His face softened a little when he saw his nephew. “Luke,” he said.

    Luke nodded. “Uncle Owen.”

    “You’ve sprouted. What are they feeding you up there?”

    Luke smiled. “A little of this, a little of that.”

    Owen gave Obi-Wan a cursory nod. “Kenobi.”

    Obi-Wan returned the nod. “Good to see you again.”

    Owen looked as though he did not feel the same way, but he waved his hand, indicating that they should follow him inside. Beru emerged from the kitchen. “Anakin,” she said, giving him a quick hug. “It’s been a long time.”

    “I know,” he said, “And I’m sorry.” He looked at Owen, indicating that the apology was as much for him as for his wife.

    “I suppose I’ll eventually find out why you’re on Tatooine. Somehow I don’t think you’ve gotten the sudden urge to learn to farm moisture,” Owen said. He turned to Luke. “And where’s your sister?”

    “On Coruscant. She was injured on our last mission and isn’t healed enough to travel,” he replied.

    Owen looked at Anakin again. “Eventually your damn fool idealistic crusades are going to get all of you killed,” he said. “I’m going to the garage. I’ll be back later.”

    Luke stood. “I’ll go help him,” he said.

    Beru waved Anakin and Obi-Wan into the kitchen. “Something to eat?” She asked.

    “Yes,” they both said. She brought them blue milk and zucca fruit pastries, then asked, “So what does bring you to Tatooine?”

    “Hutt negotiations,” Obi-Wan said.

    She frowned. “I’m sorry.”

    “So are we,” Anakin said. “But we need access to a couple of Jabba’s bounty hunters and this appears to be the only way.”

    “Anakin…” Beru said cautiously, and he met her eyes. “I know Owen is angry…” she said.

    He held up his artificial hand. “It’s fine. He has his reasons.”

    She looked down. “It’s been really difficult around here lately. The best we’ve been able to do is survive. Without the money you’ve sent, I’m not sure we could have done that.” She looked at him again. “So…thank you.”

    He gave her a slight smile. “You’re welcome,” he said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. I’d like to teleport you both off this rock.”

    She frowned. “It’s always the same with you, Anakin. Life may be hard here but this is home. We can’t leave.”

    “And that is, of course, the crux of my disagreements with Owen.” Anakin looked away, out the window at the sand gusting outside. “That and the fact that he thinks I’m being snobbish by not coming back more often, when snobbery has nothing to do with it. Not that I don’t feel guilty. Luke didn’t even seem to remember that Tatooine has two suns. I’m not proud of that.”

    Beru started to say something but stopped when they heard Luke in the garage. “Uncle Owen! This R2 unit has a bad motivator!”

    Anakin stood. “I should see if I can help. I can at least get Owen’s machinery online for him, even if I can’t do much else for the farm.”
  13. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Ber
    :D
  14. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Hutts are parasites and will suck the life of whatever they plese.

    Owen and Anakin might always have issues.
  15. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @Valairy Scot : :D This isn't going to be pretty for Anakin, Obi-Wan and Luke, that's for sure.

    @Lady_Misty : Hutts are parasites...and gangsters. :p

    Thanks for reading. :)

    **********


    Chapter 8


    That night the storm had not dissipated. Anakin, Luke and Obi-Wan arranged to stay until the morning. Anakin was alone in the room where they would sleep when Beru came in, carrying linens and what appeared to be a small videoprojector. She set the linens on the bed and handed Anakin the projector.

    “What’s this?” He asked.

    “It’s yours,” she replied. “We’ve had it for awhile. Owen found it under one of the vaporators several years ago. We meant to give it to you last time you were here, but you came and left so quickly…”

    Anakin sighed. “Beru, I haven’t stayed away because of you and Owen. I didn’t keep my last visit short because of you either. I hope you understand that.”

    She frowned. “I never thought it was about us. And neither did Owen.”

    “That’s not what Owen said.”

    “I know what he said. But as you know, Cliegg died shortly after…and keeping the connection would have been nice. You have all but rejected that.”

    Anakin bit his lip. “Every time I set foot on this planet, I am reminded of my failure.”

    “The failure wasn’t yours.”

    “Yes, it was.”

    Beru sighed and gave up the argument. She was an unassuming woman, and she knew that even a more persuasive person than herself, would not be able to convince her brother-in-law to stop blaming himself for a kidnapping and brutal murder 21 years earlier.

    “Anyway, I think the contents of the projector will interest you. I only watched the first entry, because as I said, it’s yours.”

    He looked at it, confused. “OK. Thank you.”

    Beru turned to leave, but stopped in the doorway for a moment. “And Anakin…”

    He looked up.

    “We loved her too, you know.”

    Anakin swallowed to keep down the lump rising in his throat, and nodded. “Yes. Of course I know.”

    Beru gave him a look that asked, Do you?, then left.


    “Are we ready?” Obi-Wan asked the next morning after breakfast.

    “Almost,” Anakin said. “There is one other thing.” He looked at Owen. “I’d like to visit my mother’s grave. And I’d like you to come.”

    Luke and Obi-Wan looked at each other. Owen looked suspiciously at Anakin, but nodded. “Alright. After my father died, we moved her to the top of the hill, so they could be buried side by side. It’s the spot that he chose for himself, years ago, before your mother came into our lives. It’s a short walk, but we should definitely go before the suns get any higher.”

    They set out, Owen taking the lead with Anakin beside him, Luke and Obi-Wan falling in step a few feet behind them.

    “Any chance your wife could do something about this ‘rock’ as you call it? Try the Hutts for the criminals that they are and get us some real government?” Owen asked.

    Anakin sighed. “Tatooine is on her list of priorities, has been since she got elected. But if we can’t put a stop to this resistance movement, the Hutts may be the least of your worries. And all the other planets in the galaxy may be just as lawless and oppressive as Tatooine.”

    “Oh,” Owen muttered. “I assumed that the inaction had to do with you preferring to forget that this planet exists.”

    “No,” Anakin said, more sharply than he intended.

    “I seem to remember on your first visit that Padme told Beru that she was horrified that the Republic didn’t exist out here. I was very hopeful when she got elected Chancellor.”

    Anakin looked out at a point on the horizon overlooking the Dune Sea. “Padme was an idealist when she was younger. Assumed that everything could be fixed by diplomacy. This was before the dark times. Before the war.” He turned to his brother. “She is bound by what the Constitution allows; she can make it known what type of legislation she wants to pass through the Senate, but the bill proposals and passage are up to the Senators themselves.”

    “Oh,” Owen said, and looked away.

    “But don’t give up on us just yet. Please. We do want to help,” Anakin said.

    “It’s easy to tell people to be patient when you’ve disengaged yourself from the problem—or managed to escape it,” Owen muttered bitterly.

    They had reached the top of the hill. “There it is,” Owen said, pointing at the spot where four graves lay, three large, one small.

    Anakin approached the furthest grave on the right, knowing that it was his mother’s before he could even read the letters of her name. He slowly knelt before the stone, then lowered his head and squeezed handfuls of sand tightly in his fists.

    The others backed away, giving him some space, and for a moment they stood in silence. Then Luke turned to Owen and Obi-Wan. “How did my grandmother die?” he asked.

    Owen’s eyes widened. “You mean your father never told you?” He said, disapproval in his voice.

    “It’s not exactly a subject that Anakin finds easy to discuss,” Obi-Wan said.

    Luke glanced at his father. “No,” he said to Owen. “I know that he saw her dying in a vision and couldn’t reach her in time. That’s all he has said.”

    Owen looked away. “The Sandpeople. They walk like men, but they are vicious, mindless monsters. They had been lingering in the area for awhile. We thought we were prepared; my father and I started carrying blasters all the time, even in the house. But your grandmother went outside early one morning to pick mushrooms off the vaporators. They took her and carried her off to their camp, where they tied her to a rack and slowly beat her to death.”

    Luke looked down, willing his breakfast not to come back up his throat. Owen continued. “Your father arrived on planet a month after she was taken, and he went after her. Apparently he found her only a few minutes before she died.”

    For another moment no one spoke, then Obi-Wan said, “You understand, Luke, that your father has never forgiven himself. Then when Ahsoka was killed because she challenged General Grievous while Anakin was on another floor of the ship…”

    Luke nodded. “That explains a lot,” he said. “Including his reaction when Leia got hurt.”

    At that moment Anakin stood, brushed sand off himself, and walked towards the others. “We need to get going,” he said. He was sniffling and his eyes were red-rimmed but his voice was even.

    “At least come tell Beru goodbye before you rush off,” Owen said.

    Anakin nodded. “Of course,” he said. He put the hood of his cloak over his head and walked ahead of them.

    A few minutes later the speeder was loaded. Anakin hugged Beru.

    “Don’t be a stranger,” she told him, then met his eyes. “Your mother wouldn’t want that.”

    Anakin’s lips tightened. Beru continued. “Have you looked at that videoprojector yet?”

    “Not yet. I was going to do it on the ride home.”

    She put a hand on his cheek. “Do that. It will be good for you.” She hugged him again. “Be safe, Anakin.” She turned to Luke and hugged him.

    “Goodbye, Aunt Beru,” he said.

    She kissed his cheek and seemed to want to say something more, but didn’t.

    Anakin put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Thanks, Owen.”

    “I suppose we’ll see you again in another seven years,” he muttered bitterly.

    Anakin ignored the comment. “I’ll talk to Padme. There are several Senators who would be happy to introduce legislation to help Tatooine and the rest of the Outer Rim. If you’ll send me some more information, anything specific from people in Anchorhead or Mos Eisley on Hutt abuses, I can use it. As it is, I’m only going on what I see now and what I know from living here before.”

    Owen gave Anakin a hard look, then slowly nodded. He turned to Luke and put an arm around his shoulder. “You and your father try not to get yourselves killed in Jabba’s palace,” he said, then glanced at Obi-Wan. “You either, Kenobi.”

    Obi-Wan nodded. “I’ll do my best. Thank you for your hospitality.”

    Owen nodded and went back inside. Anakin, Luke and Obi-Wan climbed into the speeder and left, waving goodbye to Beru as they took off.


    A few hours later they stopped outside the entrance to Jabba’s palace, disembarked the speeder, and raised their hoods.

    “I’ll warn you,” Anakin said, looking at his son. “The stench is horrific. Try not to throw up.”

    Luke started to laugh but he could see that his father was perfectly serious. “What kind of stench?” he asked.

    “Hutts are disgusting, slimy creatures,” Anakin said, scowling. “I should also warn you that they have no regard for human life. Your grandmother and I were lucky that Gardulla is such a lousy gambler. Otherwise…”
    The scowl deepened, and Anakin’s eyes took the dark, haunted look that bothered Luke, although Leia always seemed to be able to handle it.

    “Anakin…” Obi-Wan said, and his former padawan turned. “Maybe you should let Luke and I handle this.”

    “No,” Anakin said. “You are not going in there without me.”

    “Are you sure?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “I’m fine, Obi-Wan,” Anakin snapped, pulling his hood down further over his head, turning and walking towards the door. Obi-Wan and Luke followed a few feet behind him.

    “We need to get this over with quickly,” Obi-Wan said.

    Luke sighed. “I think if Tatooine could be freed from the Hutts and admitted into the Republic, it would make all the difference to Daddy. I hadn’t realized how much of a difference it would make until this trip.”

    “I think you’re right,” Obi-Wan said. “Unfortunately if it were simple, it would have already happened.”

    “Is anything simple?” Luke asked.

    “Very little,” Obi-Wan said. They entered the long, open corridor that led into Jabba’s chambers, only to find Anakin cursing at a Twi’lek guard. They joined him as the guard was replying a negative, a denial of entrance; even with his limited Huttese, Obi-Wan recognized the refusal and the word “Jedi.”

    Luke raised his right hand and waved it in front of the guard’s face. “You will take us to Jabba now.”

    The guard’s eyes glazed over. “I will take you to Jabba now,” he repeated. He turned and bid the Jedi to follow him.

    Anakin’s eyes were wide as he looked from his son to his former master. “And where did he learn to do that?” He asked Obi-Wan in a fierce whisper.

    Obi-Wan gave a half-smile. “Where do you think?”

    Anakin returned the half-smile. “I should have known you were teaching my children to perform mind tricks.”

    “It can be a valuable skill. Much more effective than the technique you were using, I might add.”

    Anakin scowled again. They followed the Twi’lek into the chambers, instantly covering their noses with their sleeves to avoid the smell. Anakin retched, glad that breakfast had been hours earlier.

    “For what it’s worth, Anakin, I never taught Leia that trick,” Obi-Wan said. “She prefers a more…direct approach, she said. She has too much of you in her.”

    “Thanks,” Anakin muttered. “I think.”

    “Jedi poodoo,” Jabba said from atop his dias. “How dare you disturb me?”

    Luke stepped forward. “Greetings, Exalted One,” he said.

    Exalted One??? Anakin thought.

    Luke continued. “I am Luke Skywalker, Jedi Padawan and son of Chancellor Amidala. I bring you a proposal from my mother which will be of benefit to both yourself and to the Republic.”

    “The Republic?” Jabba spat.

    Luke continued as if there had been no interruption. “I know, Mighty Jabba, that the taxation along the Corellian Run has greatly impacted your business ventures. I also know how much greater your profits will be if such taxation is eliminated. At this time the Galactic Congress is set to vote on a bill eliminating taxation along the Corellian Run. My mother is prepared to pledge her support for this bill in exchange for two of your bounty hunters, Cad Bane and Boba Fett.”

    Jabba stared at him for a moment, then said, “Chancellor Amidala. She revealed the treachery of my uncle Ziro when he kidnapped my son. But Cad Bane is my prisoner. And I don’t want to give up my favorite wall decoration.” He indicated the wall of the palace, where Bane was secured, frozen in carbonite. “Bane has failed me for the last time. He used to be a good bounty hunter. Now he’s bantha fodder.”

    Anakin and Obi-Wan stared at Jabba’s “wall decoration,” their eyes wide.

    “Did you know that Jabba had kidnapped Bane?” Obi-Wan whispered.

    “No,” Anakin whispered back. “This must have happened recently.”

    “This deal will mean a greater fortune for you, Jabba,” Luke continued. “Do not be a fool by throwing it away.”

    Jabba continued to regard Luke from the dias. “You Jedi,” he said, glancing behind Luke at Anakin and Obi-Wan. “One of you may take Bane, but only if the other two stay.”

    “Stay?” Luke said, suddenly frightened.

    “Surely you have heard of a prisoner exchange,” Jabba said with a sinister laugh.

    “Luke,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “Do it.”

    Luke turned. “What?”

    “Do it,” Anakin repeated.

    “No,” Luke whispered fiercely.

    “Yes,” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin looked at Obi-Wan. “You take Bane. Luke and I will stay.”

    “And do what?” Luke asked.

    The corner of Anakin’s mouth curved up. “Trust me. I have far too much experience dealing with Hutts. We can handle this.”

    Luke hesitated, then nodded. Obi-Wan stepped forward. “I will take Bane. The Skywalkers will stay. As your prisoners.”

    Jabba nodded and gave a sinister laugh. “Deal,” he said. He nodded at his guards, and indicated Anakin and Luke. “Take them away!” he said.


    Alys was brushing Leia’s hair, being careful not to let the heavy bristles tug too hard on her scalp above her newly-healed skull. “How many braids do you want? Two or three?”

    “Two,” Leia said.

    “Consider it done,” Alys said.

    “Do you want me to do your hair next?”

    Alys smiled. “Sure, why not? And then I’ll get beauty masks for us, if you think you can keep your face still for an hour.”

    Leia returned the smile. “Considering that it still hurts to laugh, that shouldn’t be hard. We’ll just talk about something depressing.”

    “Every time we’ve tried to do that, we’ve both ended up laughing hysterically and you’ve ended up in pain. Maybe we should try a reverse approach. Tell really really bad stupid jokes that have no chance of making us laugh.” Alys separated the right section of Leia’s hair into three long cords and began braiding them.

    “I’m afraid really really bad stupid jokes are Han’s department,” Leia said.

    Alys stopped braiding for a minute and raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?” She said. “But you’re crazy about him.” She started braiding again.

    “If I weren’t, I would have shoved my lightsaber down his throat by now,” Leia replied. But a smile formed on her lips.

    “Um-hmmm,” Alys said knowingly.

    Leia sighed. “Unfortunately the tendency to tell awful jokes appears to be the man’s only flaw.”

    Alys laughed. “Really? The only one?” She fastened the end of one of the braids and started on the other side.

    Leia smiled. “He’s sweet. And funny, when he isn’t trying to be funny. And…”

    “Sexy,” Alys finished.

    Leia blushed. “You said it, not me.”

    “But you were thinking it.”

    “Maybe.” Suddenly Leia felt it. A racing pulse that did not seem to be hers. A horrific stench. A sense of being trapped. She gasped, grabbing the end of the braid that Alys just finished.

    “Leia?” Alys said. Leia didn’t answer her.

    Alys dropped the hair she had been braiding, moved to the front of Leia’s chair, knelt in front of her and took her hand. Leia could see the intense fear in her friend’s large blue eyes.

    “It’s Luke, isn’t it?” Alys asked. “Luke is in trouble.”

    Leia forced herself to take a breath, as deep as she could muster. She could fear perspiration forming on her forehead. “He’s afraid, and he might be trapped. I think my father is with him, I can’t tell if Uncle Obi-Wan is there or not.”

    Alys squeezed Leia’s hand so hard that Leia was afraid her friend was going to leave a bruise. “Can I do something? Anything?

    “Yes. You can not panic. And you can hand me my comlink.”

    Alys took the comlink off the nightstand and handed it to Leia, her hand visibly shaking. Leia punched in a code and spoke into it. “I need a secure line directly to Chancellor Amidala. This is her daughter.”


    Luke and Anakin were hauled off roughly by Jabba’s guards, not to a holding cell in the back as they anticipated, but to the side, to an open grate in the floor, from which a newer, nastier stench rose. Luke tried not to gag.

    “Now, Jedi,” Jabba said. “I shall enjoy watching you die. But if you wish to beg for mercy, I will now hear your pitiful pleas.”

    Anakin glared at him. “You slimy piece of worm-ridden filth,” he replied in Huttese. “You will get no such pleasure from us.” Luke reached for his lightsaber. Anakin, out of the corner of his mouth, said, “Not yet.” Luke let his hand drop.

    Anakin and Luke saw Obi-Wan releasing the carbon-frozen Bane from the wall and carrying him out, giving them a wink as he left, a wink that Anakin returned. Then the grate opened and the Skywalkers dropped onto the floor below. The grate closed over the top of them, they heard a door open in front of them, then a low growl.

    The creature that emerged was large and reptilian, with prominent eyes and teeth that looked like dirty boulders. Drool poured from its lips as it snarled at the Jedi. Anakin and Luke both covered their noses and mouths with their cloaks as it approached.

    “Blech,” Anakin muttered. “And I thought flatulent eopies smelled bad.”

    “Alys has no idea how much more I’m going to appreciate the smell of her perfume after this,” Luke said.

    “I may ask your mother to send a sample of hers over the comlink,” Anakin said. He jumped in the air, gripping the grate above them. Luke followed. The angry rancor snapped, trying to reach the Jedi, but to no avail. Anakin jumped on its back, igniting his lightsaber and plunging it in the beast’s left eye. The animal shrieked in pain, rearing up and throwing Anakin off. Anakin landed on his feet. The crowd above boo’ed. Two of the Gamorreans in the crowd walked over the grate, stepping on Luke’s fingers. He winced but did not move. The Rancor lunged at him, running in circles, nearly trampling Anakin, who jumped quickly out of the way, lightsaber still ignited. Luke jumped down, landing beside his father, but before he could ignite his own saber, the beast picked him up and held him threateningly several feet in the air.

    Anakin shouted, “Put him down, you smelly piece of kung!” He jumped, landing on the beast’s head, and shoved his lightsaber up its nostril. The rancor howled, dropping Luke, who landed on his feet, picked up a large bone—human? Animal? He wasn’t sure—and wedged it in the animal’s mouth. It snarled, snapping the bone in half, and ran into a wall, dislodging a shower of boulders that covered Luke. Anakin jumped down and using the Force, lifted a large rock and threw it at the beast’s head. It hit, and the rancor swayed and fell to the ground, unconscious.

    Anakin ran to Luke, who was throwing the boulders off himself, and reached out his hand. “Are you alright, son?”

    “I might be a little bruised but I’m fine,” Luke said, standing.

    “Good. Let’s get out of here.” And the men opened the grate using the Force, jumped through it and ran, slicing through guards that charged them, Jabba’s howls of fury following them.

    When they got outside, they pulled their hoods up to shield themselves from the bright sunlight but did not stop running until Jabba’s palace was out of sight. Anakin turned on his wrist com. “Obi-Wan, do you copy?”

    “I copy, Anakin. Where are you?”

    “Just escaped. Where are you?”

    “Coming around for a pass. I’ll see you in a minute. Keep your comlink on.”

    “Will do.”

    A couple of minutes later Obi-Wan pulled alongside Anakin and Luke, who quickly climbed in the front of the speeder. Bane’s carbon-frozen body lay in the rear. “Nice of you to stop by,” Anakin said, grinning.

    Obi-Wan grinned as well. “No problem. I was in Mos Eisley anyway, enjoying Jawa beer and the company of a few exotic ladies.”

    Anakin laughed. “Just get us back to the Ornate at the speed that I would fly, and let’s get out of here.”

    “Done,” Obi-Wan said, and seeming to take Anakin literally, he accelerated.


    As they boarded the Ornate, they were met by the anxious, staccato beeps of R2. “What is it?” Anakin asked. The droid beeped again. “Urgent transmission? From Padme? Play it!” The droid obeyed, and a hologram appeared of Padme in her office. “Anakin, it’s 1300 Galactic City time. Leia just called and said that she saw you and Luke trapped in Jabba’s palace. Call me as soon as you get this. I love you.” The hologram disappeared.

    “Ugh, I wish Leia hadn’t done that,” Anakin muttered.

    “Done what?” Obi-Wan asked. “I don’t think she can help her visions, Anakin.”

    “No, but next time she needs to contact someone on the Council. Not worry Padme unnecessarily.”

    “Mom would want to know,” Luke said.

    Wanting to know isn’t the same as needing to know, Anakin thought, but bit the retort back. He checked his chrono. “1300 Galactic City time was two hours ago. R2, see if you can access a secure line to Padme’s office.”

    The droid plugged itself into the ship’s com station and gave a series of beeps with its dome swirling. A few seconds later, Padme appeared again. “Anakin!”

    “Padme! Love, we’re fine. We did get stuck for awhile but we got out of there.”

    “Where’s Luke? He was the one that Leia sensed in the vision.”

    “He’s OK. We all are.” Anakin waved his son over. “Luke, come let your mother see you.” Luke obeyed, moving close enough to his father to appear in the hologram’s line of vision. “Hi, Mom.” He said.

    Padme gave a visible sigh of relief. “I’m glad you’re safe. You might want to contact Alys. She was with Leia when Leia had the vision.”

    Anakin thought he heard Luke mumble “not good” under his breath. “I’ll call her,” Luke said.

    “We’re on our way home,” Anakin said. “And I’m bringing you a gift. It’s carbon-frozen and not very romantic, but I think you’ll like it anyway.”

    “Carbon frozen?” Padme said.

    “Apparently someone beat us to capturing Bane. Jabba had him. But we managed to bargain for him, using…negotiations.”

    She gave him a teasing smile. “Diplomatic or aggressive?”

    Anakin returned the smile. “A little of both,” he said. “You’ll be proud of Luke. He handled the diplomatic part well.”

    Luke’s cheeks turned pink.

    “I look forward to the details,” Padme said.

    “You’ll have them,” Anakin said. “Let me get the Ornate off this ball of dirt, and we’ll see you very soon.”

    “Stay safe on the way home,” Padme said.

    Anakin nodded. “I love you,” he said, and shut the transmission off.



    Bail Organa opened the door to his apartment to find his daughter pacing back and forth across the living area. Her fists clenched and unclenched, her braid was partially undone, and she kept glancing at her comlink, which sat on the end table.

    “What’s the matter?” He asked. “I thought you were with Leia.”

    She stopped pacing long enough to glance at him, then resumed. “I was,” she said. “Han came over. I thought I’d give them their space.”

    “Oh,” Bail said. “And why am I thinking that the reason you are wearing a hole in the carpet has nothing to do with being the third wheel?”

    “Because it doesn’t.” She did not even slow her stride this time.

    “Are you going to tell me?”

    She stopped and met his eyes. “What do you know about Force visions?”

    “That Jedi have them and we don’t.”

    She rolled her eyes, exasperated. “Daddy. I’m serious.”

    “So am I.”

    “Is that all you know?”

    He sighed. “What are you asking, Alys?”

    “If they always come true. And if they show the future or what is happening at the moment.”

    “No, and it depends.”

    “On what?”

    “That I can’t answer. I don’t know.”

    Alys started pacing again.

    “Did Leia have a vision of some sort? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

    She nodded.

    “About Luke?”

    Another nod, and she sat down and put her head in her hands. “He was trapped and afraid. That’s as much as she knew. She called her mother, who tried to reach Master Skywalker and couldn’t. Leia said she would call me as soon as she hears something but…”

    Bail sat beside her and put an arm around her shoulders. “Honey, I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to think hard about it.”

    “What?”

    “Where is this relationship with Luke going?”

    She lifted her head and stared at him, her brow furrowed. “I don’t know. A very long way I hope. Why?”

    “Because right now it’s undoing you.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “The Skywalkers are your oldest and closest friends. You know they are Jedi. And you know what Jedi do. You know it isn’t an easy, comfortable or safe job. Yet ever since you became romantically involved with Luke, you’ve behaved like that’s some sort of surprise.”

    “I’m worried for him. For both of them. You know how badly Leia was hurt.”

    “Worrying isn’t wrong. But you have to find a way to handle it. The danger isn’t going to stop. My goodness, Alys, you handled being kidnapped by Sate Pestage better than you’re handling a Force vision that may or may not be real.”

    Her scowl deepened. “I was in control there. At least of my own reactions. And if you think I was going to let that kriffing pile of nerf dung see me sweat…”

    Bail smiled. “Now that’s more like it.”

    “What are you suggesting? I don’t think Jabba the Hutt has a crotch I can kick.”

    Bail laughed. “I don’t think so either, even if it were remotely a good idea for you to consider going after Luke and his father. But you are still in control of your own reactions.”

    She sighed. “It doesn’t feel that way anymore.”

    “Now you’re seeing where I’m going with this.”

    She said nothing, and the blue eyes that met his brown ones were sad.

    “Alys, I’ve seen this before. And at a time when the Jedi weren’t even supposed to have romantic relationships.”

    “Chancellor Amidala is stronger than I am.”

    “No, she isn’t. That’s my point. It’s easy to be strong when you don’t have a choice. She didn’t. And neither do you.”

    Alys’ comlink buzzed, and she jumped, nearly bumping heads with her father as she reached for it. “It’s Luke,” she said, seeing the ID marker.

    Her father stood, smiled and squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll leave you alone then.” He left the room.

    She switched the comlink on. “Luke, where are you?”

    “In orbit over Tatooine, about to go into hyperspace. I just wanted to tell you that I’m alright.”

    “Hold on a minute,” she said. “I want to see you.” She left the living area into her father’s study, where she plugged the comlink into a viewing port, allowing a hologram of Luke to appear. Luke, all in one piece, looking tired and dirty but otherwise healthy. Relief overwhelmed her. She swallowed hard.

    “Were you trapped?” she asked.

    “We were, but not for long. Jabba tried to use my father and me as rancor food after Uncle Obi-Wan took Bane. Pretty sure Jabba has a clodhopper- sized brain. Or hasn’t dealt with Jedi as often as he likes to pretend.”

    “So you got out OK. What happened to the rancor? To Jabba?”

    “Jabba was as mad as a starving sando aqua monster. Daddy knocked the rancor unconscious. We had to kill a few Gamorrean and jawa guards on the way out. But we made it. And the mission was a success. We have Bane.” Luke was grinning. Alys gazed at him, saying nothing.

    “Will I see you when I get back?” Luke asked.

    Alys nodded slowly, still staring at him, wide eyed.

    “Are you alright?”

    Another slow nod.

    “OK, then,” he said, and reached for a switch to turn the transmission off.

    “Luke!” She said suddenly.

    He looked at her again.

    “I love you.”

    For a moment he just stared, and Alys was afraid she had made a terrible mistake, but then the corner of his mouth turned up in a lopsided grin. “And here I thought I was going to have to say it first.”

    I’ve always loved you. I just didn’t know it, Alys thought. But they had lost the transmission and she was staring at a blank screen.
  16. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Awww, cute. Very cute.
  17. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Jabba should know that killing Jedi is like trying to kill something that is known to survive impossible situations.
  18. ccp Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2005
    star 4
  19. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @Valairy Scot : Thanks. I go back and forth on how I feel about mush.

    @Lady_Misty : Yeah, he should, but...pallie-fruit-sized brain.

    @ccp : Thanks. :)

    @Luna_Nightshade : I apologize, you said you wanted to be tagged and I haven't been tagging you. This is much easier than the old PMing system but I'm still getting the hang of it. [face_blush]

    A note on this next post: All dialogue from the holorecording belongs to Troy Denning from the book Tatooine Ghost. In that book, Leia gets the same recording I have given to Anakin in this story; she gets it from Beru's sister.


    **********

    The Ornate had gone into hyperspace an hour earlier. Anakin had showered and eaten and was alone in his cabin. He took out the videoprojector that Beru gave him, set it on the table, and stared at it for a moment. What could possibly be on Tatooine that she would so quickly label as his? The thought made his stomach clench. Only a few bits of sporadic good on that planet had ever been his—moments with his mother, her stories, her comforting arms around him, her kiss on his forehead when she told him goodnight. His friends—Kitster, Amee, Wald. Friends he had, like the rest of the planet, discarded like dust on the bottom of his boots. The guilt clenched at his heart but he quickly pushed it down. Nothing I can do about that now. It’s done. It was done years ago.

    He sighed, and fiddled with the projector. “Well, let’s see what you are, my little friend, and where you came from.”

    The word “Entry?” appeared on the display screen, and Anakin, unsure of what it meant, said, “Play Entry One.” A time and date stamp appeared but said “Calendar file corrupted.” Then came the image, an image which made Anakin nearly tumble from his chair.

    It was his mother, looking just as she had the day he left her over 30 years ago. Her graying dark brown hair in a chignon, her face lined from Tatooine’s suns and a little tired. Her brow was wrinkled in concentration, and for a few minutes, she didn’t speak.

    “Mom?” Anakin said, his voice a choked whisper that came out as more of a squeak.

    “This thing is still not recording,” she said.

    Then another voice came from behind her, loud and gravelly. “What are you doing, woman? I told you to clean my shop. Memory chips, you clean at home.”

    The voice was far too familiar to Anakin, as was the image that appeared next—that of his old Master, the Toydarian, Watto, with his bald blue head, his large eyes and prominent nose, his rapidly beating wings. He was in better shape than he had been when Anakin last saw him: he had shaved, he could still fly, he had no need to swat insects buzzing around him. “Where did you get this?” He demanded. “Is it yours?”

    “I bought it with my memory chip earnings,” Shmi said tentatively. “I thought…”

    “Maybe I should sell it for disobeying me, eh?” Watto said. “But it’s not worth much, I think. Back to work, or I will.”

    Anakin’s eyes flashed in anger, and his hand went to his lightsaber, although he knew that slicing through an image would give him no satisfaction. “Leave her alone, you karking ball of blue slime,” he snapped.

    The screen went blank, then flashed “Entry two?”

    “Play entry two,” Anakin said. His mother’s face appeared again, and this time she was smiling.

    “You might enjoy something to remember Watto by, so I left that as entry one,” she said.

    Anakin rubbed his temples. Oh, Mom, what made you think I’d need a memory of him?

    “He’s not so bad, as masters go,” Shmi continued. “And I do believe there are times when he truly misses your mischief.”

    At this Anakin had to smirk. Yeah. I’m sure.

    “Ani, this diary is for you. I know you’ll be gone a long time, and that you’ll be very lonely at times. So will I. This diary is so that when you come home someday, you’ll know you were always in my heart. But your destiny lies in the stars. You will achieve great things in the galaxy, Anakin. I have known that from the moment you were born. So you must never believe you were mistaken to leave Tatooine. Wherever you go, you carry my love with you. Always remember that.”

    End of entry two. Anakin shut the journal off and put his head in his hands, his fingers wound through his short graying hair.

    “Tea, Anakin?”

    At the sound of Obi-Wan’s voice, Anakin jumped, nearly toppling over the chair in which he sat. Obi-Wan reared back in surprise.

    “I didn’t think I was capable of startling you that much,” he said. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

    “I have.” Anakin’s voice sounded high-pitched, unnatural. “Sort of.”

    Obi-Wan set down the teapot and cups he was carrying, pulled up a chair and sat down, and put his arm around Anakin’s shoulders. “You’re shaking. Take a deep breath.”

    Anakin obeyed, willing the tremor in his hands to stop.

    “What happened?” Obi-Wan asked. “A vision?”

    Anakin shook his head and indicated the projector. “Beru gave this to me. Said she and Owen have had it for years. It’s my mother. Apparently she recorded a journal for me starting right after I left Tatooine. I never knew.”

    “Until now.”

    “Until now.” Anakin sighed. “Beru said she thought it would be good for me. I have no idea what she meant by that.”

    Obi-Wan stroked his beard. “Connection. Memories. Making peace with your past.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “You avoid your relatives because visiting dredges up too many painful memories. Maybe it’s time to work through those. I’m not sure you ever really grieved, Anakin. I’m not sure you had a chance. The war started so quickly after she died. Then when it was over, you had a wife, newborn twins, and an Order to rebuild. And the trial.”

    “I grieved, Obi-Wan. Of course nightmares of her being beaten were mixed in with nightmares of the war, but I did grieve.”

    “There is more than one stage of grief. Only by going through all the stages can you have peace. And I’m not sure you did. If you had, you might be on better terms with Owen.”

    Anakin opened his mouth to say, What is that supposed to mean? but was interrupted by Luke appearing in the doorway.

    “So there you are,” he said.

    Anakin quickly put on a smile for his son. “Luke,” he said, reaching out an arm. “Come. Meet your grandmother.”



    Anakin waved at Padme’s guards, entered her office, and closed the door behind him. She stood and walked around her desk to meet him, and he swept her in his arms. The kiss he gave her was long, deep, and passionate enough to make her knees weaken. When it finally ended, she said, “My goodness, Anakin, you act like you haven’t seen me in a month.”

    He smiled, stroking her cheek. “It feels like I haven’t.”

    She held up a finger, indicating that he should wait a moment, then opened her comlink and spoke into it. “Sovi, you may go home. I will see you in the morning.”

    “Yes, milady,” came the response, and the comlink switched off.

    She walked over to her desk and leaned against it, facing him. “So, do you want me to tell you that Leia is on her feet again and most anxious for you and Luke to be home? Or about the five Senators have come forward for immunity after Qualkin bribed them? Or do you want to tell me about Bane’s capture?”

    Anakin smiled. “Obi-Wan and Luke have taken Bane to the Republic Judiciary Central Detention Center for defrosting and rehoming. You may find it easier to question him while he still has hibernation sickness, which gives you about three days. Leia is up and about?”

    Padme nodded. “Han has taken her out, just for short rides to get her out of the apartment. He took her to dinner a couple of times, took her by headquarters once.” Padme smirked. “I think he wanted to show her off there.”

    Anakin laughed. “Can we blame him for that?”

    Padme laughed as well. “Of course not. And Alys has kept her company when Han wasn’t around. The medical droids said that the air brace should be able to come off next week. Assuming she doesn’t try anything foolish.”

    “Good.” Anakin looked relieved. “So five Senators have come forward?”

    “Yes, and I suspect that isn’t all of them. The deregulation bill will not come to a vote until we have all the information we can gather on the blackmail and extortion, and until Ord Mantell has time to elect a new Senator. So it will be awhile.”

    “What about the bill to break up the Banking Clan?”

    Padme scowled. “Stalled in committee. But I’m waiting until this deregulation business is over before trying to convince anyone to bring it to the floor.” She sighed. “So how did you entice Jabba to give up Bane?”

    Anakin frowned. “Unfortunately, love, we may have fueled Jabba’s anger towards the Republic.”

    Padme’s brow furrowed. “How?”

    “By refusing to be fed to his rancor.”

    That was your choice?”

    “He wanted…what did he tell Luke…a prisoner exchange. Luke and me for Bane. And without Luke’s outstanding efforts at diplomacy, we might not have gotten Bane at all.”

    Her scowl deepened. “How typical of the Hutts. How did you get out of there?”

    “Luke and I fought the rancor, knocked him unconscious, had ‘aggressive negotiations’ with Jabba’s guards and ran like hell.”

    “I’m just glad you’re safe. Obi-Wan had Bane? How did he get frozen in carbonite?”

    “I don’t know. I thought it might be interesting to ask him once he’s thawed.”

    She sighed. “I hope he talks.”

    “So do I.”

    “Anakin…” Padme gazed at her husband. She was accustomed to a certain look on his face after a mission, especially a difficult one—the look of desperate need for a hot meal and a long sleep in their bed—but this time there was something more to his expression, the haunted look in his blue eyes. “What else happened?”

    Anakin didn’t answer her right away.

    “You saw Owen and Beru?”

    He looked up. “Yes.”

    “And…?”

    “Owen is still pissed at me for not being the good brother and coming back more often. He asked if you could do something about Tatooine; I told him you were working on it. He moved my mother to the top of a hill, to a spot that Cliegg had picked out.”

    Padme nodded. “And…”

    Without looking directly at his wife, Anakin took the holoprojector from his cloak and set it on her desk. “Beru gave me this.”

    Padme picked it up and examined it. “What is it?”

    “My mother’s journal. The one she starting keeping shortly after I left. She said it was for me, that she planned to give it to me one day.” Anakin sank into one of the chairs in front of her desk.

    Padme looked up, her eyes wide. “Have you watched all of it?”

    He nodded. “I showed some of it to Luke. He said Leia has Mom’s face.” Anakin smiled slightly. “He’s right.”

    “Yes, he is. Leia has my coloring but everything else about her comes from you. And Shmi.” She took one of Anakin’s hands. “So what did she say? In the journal?”

    “That she loved me, missed me but I shouldn’t regret leaving Tatooine. That she spent a lot of nights looking at stars wondering where I was. But she was happy. Especially after she met Cliegg. It’s a long story and you’ll have to watch it, but apparently Qui-Gon sent her a Tobal lens, which she, Cliegg and Owen used to bargain for her freedom. They got married in Anchorhead. Kitster, Wald and Amee went to the wedding. She said she thought Owen and I would be great friends. I feel bad for disappointing her there. But she loved the farm, loved Cliegg and Owen, and had a few good years.” Anakin looked away.

    “It spanned over several years then. And Owen and Beru have had it all this time?”

    “I’m not sure how long they’ve had it. Owen found it under one of the vaporators.” Anakin’s breath caught as the realization washed over him. “Moisture vaporators. Mom was picking mushrooms off them when…she must have taken it with her…the last entries were about the Tuskens coming closer…” Anakin let go of Padme’s hand, stood, walked over to one of the windows of her office, and pressed his forehead against the cool glass.

    Padme followed him and put her hands on his shoulders, forcing him to turn around and face her. His eyes were squeezed shut, a failed attempt against the sudden onslaught of tears. She took his face in her hands, wiping away the wet tracks. “Ani,” she said quietly. “It’s just me. You don’t have to pretend it doesn’t hurt.”

    “I know,” he mumbled. Then he hugged her tightly and wept silently for several minutes.

    “It’s been so long…but after that trip it feels like it just happened…” He finally said, sniffling and wiping his eyes.

    “You have to face the pain instead of burying it, or it will never get any easier,” she replied.

    “Beru thought seeing the journal would be good for me.”

    “Beru is a wise woman,” Padme said. “You’ve punished her and Owen because of your pain, which they didn’t cause, which, in fact, they have shared. Is that what your mother would want?”

    Anakin didn’t answer.

    “She would be proud of you if she saw you now, Anakin. Except for that. You’re allowing your shame to keep you from your family—her family. Shame which you don’t deserve.” She sighed. “If there is shame to be had anywhere, it is with me.”

    Anakin’s bloodshot eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”

    “It’s been far too easy to ignore the plight of the citizens on the Outer Rim Worlds. Tatooine and several other worlds, including Ryloth, have ignored basic Republic statutes because they could, because they are far enough away from Coruscant that neither the Chancellor’s office nor the Senate has paid attention. Tatooine is controlled by the Hutts because I, and Chancellors prior to myself, have allowed it. If the majority of citizens on Tatooine vote to join the Republic, the Hutts cannot stop them.”

    “They could stop the vote, or intimidate voters. And they would use any means necessary too. I don’t know that it’s as easy as you are making it sound.”

    Padme’s jaw was set in a determined line and her eyes blazed. “I will declare martial law on Tatooine if I have to. I’d like to see the Hutts fight several squadrons of naval officers.”

    “What of the other worlds? Do we have the resources for this?”

    Padme nodded. “I think so. The Republic Navy has expanded in the past several years. And as you know, most of the Jedi are already stationed on the Outer Rim.” She sighed. “Think about it, Anakin. If Palpatine or Valorum had taken a single initiative to help Tatooine and the surrounding worlds, we might have not only avoided the Separatist crisis and the war, but your mother might not have died. Law enforcement—real law enforcement—would have been available to the Larses to help fight off the Sand People. They would have never been able to continue their vicious blood rites. They would have had their last victim long before having a chance to take your mother.” She closed her eyes and put a hand to her forehead. “The Hutts have their space, outside the Republic’s borders. Let them keep it. The Outer Rim worlds belong to the Republic, assuming their citizens chose to be part of it. It’s time my office fought for people who can’t fight for themselves.”

    “Padme, you have always done that,” Anakin said.

    She opened her eyes and looked at him. “I don’t know if a bill needs to pass through the Senate or if I can simply issue an invitation to Tatooine’s citizens and then an executive order to allow them to vote to be part of the Republic. But I’m going to try. I owe your mother that much. I owe you that much.” She squeezed his hands. “Let’s go home. I want to watch the journal myself. I’m sure Leia will want to see it as well.”



    The journal had finished playing but the twins continued to stare at it for a few minutes, shocked and saddened expressions on their faces.

    Finally, Leia spoke. “I wish I had known her.”

    “I do too,” Luke said. The twins had a good relationship with Jobal Naberrie, but they had often found themselves wondering what it would have been like to meet their other grandmother, whom they only knew from scattered holos.

    “She would have loved you,” Anakin said. “And you would have loved her.”

    “She was a kind, wonderful, strong woman,” Padme added. “Seeing her on the journal does not do her justice. Only being in the room with her can do that.” She sighed. “It is cruel that she was taken from all of us so early.”

    Silence filled the apartment again, and the living area darkened with the oncoming dusk. Anakin stood and walked to the window.

    “Daddy?” Leia asked, almost tentatively. Anakin turned.

    “How did she die?” Leia continued.

    Anakin gulped and said nothing.

    “You never told us,” Leia said.

    “I…not now, Leia,” he said, leaving the room and walking down the hall toward his and Padme’s bedroom.

    “I know,” Luke said, gazing at his father’s retreating back. “I asked Uncle Owen.”

    Padme shifted. Luke continued. “She was kidnapped by a band of Tusken Raiders. They held her and tortured her to death. Daddy got there too late. She died in his arms.”

    Leia's eyes filled with tears. “Mom?” she said, almost as if she were begging someone to deny Luke’s story.

    Padme nodded, her own eyes moist. “Your father was protecting me when he had the vision. I went with him to Tatooine. He sensed that she was still alive, although Cliegg and Owen said it was impossible. He went after her, rode through the day and into the night. I waited. I couldn’t sleep, I was so worried, so I gave 3PO an oil bath.”

    Some laughter came through the tears. “Then he came back, with her body.” Padme’s laughter quickly stopped.

    “What happened to the people who killed her?” Leia asked.

    Padme stared, and seemed unprepared to answer the question. “There is no real justice on Tatooine, Leia.”

    “Daddy killed them, didn’t he?” Leia asked.

    Padme swallowed. “He was in pain, and he was angry. And he felt horrible remorse afterwards. The shame has followed him. Which is why he has never discussed this with you.”

    “And on Tatooine…if he hadn’t, they would have terrorized other settlers. Kidnapped other innocent women,” Luke said.

    Padme nodded. “And that is what I hope to change with the new legislation I’m working on. No one should have to live in a world where they are forced to live in terror, where the only recourse for horrible crimes is vigilante justice.”

    Anakin appeared in the doorway, silhouetted by the shadows of the evening, his eyes dry but sunken, tired and resigned.

    Luke and Leia walked to him and each put an arm around his waist. As Anakin returned the embrace, putting an arm around each of their shoulders, Luke said, “You should have told us.”

    “I didn’t want you to know,” Anakin said sadly.

    “What did you think we’d do? Run from our own father?” Luke asked.

    Anakin shook his head. “I don’t know. I thought I would never look the same…in your eyes.”

    “Because you made a mistake? One that we could learn from?” Luke asked.

    Anakin was speechless.

    “So it was wrong, and not what Jedi do,” Leia said. “The unfairness is that you felt you had no other choices.”

    “It was my worst mistake,” Anakin said, and held them closer. “Promise me you’ll remember that if you ever find yourself ready to make a similar one. The woman you saw in that video…I’m just thankful she doesn’t know about it. She would not be pleased.”

    “She would want you to forgive yourself,” Padme said.

    Anakin looked down. “I know,” he said.

    “It’s time, Ani,” Padme said.

    “I know,” he repeated, then he walked with the twins over to the window, where they gazed out, wordlessly, at the last remnants of the setting sun, at the bright lights of the Coruscant nightscape.
    Last edited by anakinfansince1983, Oct 22, 2012
  20. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    You know how much I just love their friendship, don't you.

    I also loved Padme and Anakin, but I'm not sure how much I wish to comment because I'd probably write an essay. I'll spare you.
  21. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    There is only the justice of the Hutts on Tatooine.
  22. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    @Valairy Scot : As much as I do. :p Ah what might have been... :_|

    And I did have the thought as I was posting this of "Crap, I'm risking starting a Tusken slaughter debate in my thread." But...glad you liked the scene, and you can always PM me if you want to elaborate.

    @Lady_Misty : Yes, and that would be the problem. More on that...

    Thanks for reading. :) Mush warning for the end of this one.

    **********

    Bail Organa listened to Padme’s proposal and for a couple of minutes, said nothing, just stood at the window, stroking his goatee.

    “Is what I am asking so far-fetched?” Padme finally said. “Inviting Tatooine into the Republic?”

    “No, it isn’t,” Bail said. “But there are reasons that no Chancellor has attempted this before. You are a brave woman, Padme.”

    “My courage aside, what are the reasons?”

    “Hutt influence which extends beyond Hutt Space. The worst case scenario is that you may be risking a war. The best case scenario might be a Hutt alliance with the resistance.”

    Padme whirled on Bail, her eyes snapping angrily. “Bail Prestor Organa, are you saying that the Republic has been bowing to the will of the Hutts all this time because the Chancellor’s office and the Senate are too afraid of upsetting them? Are we a democracy, or a Hutt-controlled dictatorship?”

    He sighed and held up a hand. “Padme, I am not saying that your idea is wrong. Quite the opposite. I wish I had thought of it myself.”

    Her face softened. “You couldn’t have, Bail. You were too busy trying to bring Separatist worlds back into the Republic to consider inviting in worlds that had never been part of us in the first place. And by your second term, the resistance was already growing.”

    “I am saying that you should have the Jedi Order and the Navy on standby to deal with the fallout.” He smiled. “And good luck. You really will be the best Chancellor the Republic has ever had if you can take down the Hutts.”

    Her cheeks reddened. “I plan to leave them their space. But if they are going to run entire planets and hyperspace lanes, it needs to be because the people have voted it so.”

    “How do you plan to counter the argument that someone is bound to present, the argument that you are pushing this bill through for personal reasons?”

    “I’m not,” she replied.

    Bail’s eyes widened. “Padme. I have never, ever known you to let your personal agenda interfere with your job.”

    “And I won’t this time either, but it doesn’t matter. Do you really think that Owen and Beru—or Anakin, or Shmi—are the only reasons for inviting Tatooine to become part of the Republic? We will be freeing hundreds of people from slavery, diverting financial and social resources to Tatooine’s citizens, and freeing all of them from the tyranny of the Hutts and the Tusken Raiders. They will get real law enforcement, medical care, and farming assistance. Of course Anakin’s family’s story helped me realize the true plight of Tatooine’s citizens but I am not doing this only for them.” She sighed. “If I am successful in admitting Tatooine into the Republic, I hope to hear from citizens of other worlds who might be in the same situation. Ryloth comes to mind. That one will be harder. The Senate has overlooked their rampant slave trade because they are part of the Republic, and because Free Taa has been so influential. Influential enough that we all know that the planet has been overtaken by the resistance but we can’t prove it.” She rubbed her temples.

    “I know,” Bail said. “Who will introduce the bill? You will need to get a full Senate vote before inviting any worlds to join the Republic. Unfortunately that can’t be done solely through the Chancellor’s office.”

    “I have a meeting set with Guld Juna,” she said, referring to the Senator from Rodia. “Rodia is close enough to Tatooine that it would benefit from Tatooine joining the Republic. Rodia’s own affiliation has been so precarious over the past 50 years or so, always in danger of being overtaken by Hutts or other criminals. So many Rodians become bounty hunters…”

    “Can Juna get it done?”

    “I think so. He’s not the Senate’s most powerful speaker but he does the job well enough that people will hear him.” She continued to rub her temples.

    “What is it?”

    “Shmi. The journal Anakin brought home.” She looked at him. “Bail, this woman—this slave woman—brought me into her home for shelter without knowing who I was or where I came from. She didn’t even have the resources to feed us; fortunately Qui-Gon had meal capsules. Then…” Padme blinked. “Then she allowed her son, her only child, to risk his life to win me the parts for my ship so that I could get home. I tried to stop her, I told her we would come up with another solution, but she insisted. Said it was the only way, that the Republic didn’t exist on Tatooine, that the planet was ruled by the Hutts and podracing and only by winning there, could we leave the planet. Anakin told me later that he was afraid I would be chained to Jabba as his slave before we were done.” She sighed and swallowed. “I owe her. I have long owed her. I should have sent resources to buy her freedom as repayment for Anakin winning the Battle of Naboo. I didn’t, and today I don’t even know why. It would have made all the difference to Anakin, and she might have lived.”

    “Maybe fate worked the way it was supposed to. The man who bought her freedom was the man she married, correct? Maybe you weren’t supposed to intervene.”

    She sighed again and stood. “You may be right. But at the same time…I can do this for her. At least I can try. One last act of thanks.” She met his eyes. “That’s what I meant when I said I won’t pretend this isn’t personal. It is. And I want people to know Shmi’s story. I want people to know who she was, to have a human image of people who have been affected by years of leaving Tatooine to the Hutts.”

    Bail nodded and changed the subject. “Any word on the location of Ventress?”

    Padme looked out the window and shook her head. “No,” she said. “Nothing definite anyway. The Jedi Council thinks she might be on Ryloth. Apparently in their mountains, construction has started on a facility that suspiciously resembles a droid foundry. Nothing operational though. They are investigating.”

    “If they are right, it won’t be difficult to bring down Free Taa.”

    “If we can prove that he knew about it,” she said. “I’m going home, Bail. I have to question Bane in the morning.”

    He nodded. “Have a good evening, Padme. I’ll come by tomorrow afternoon.”



    “Cad Bane?” Padme stood directly outside his cell, Anakin behind her.

    “Who goes there?” He snarled. “I am blind.”

    “You have hibernation sickness,” Padme replied. “This is Chancellor Amidala. Are you getting the medical treatment that you need?”

    “Yes. A droid has come by, and given me medication for the pain.”

    “Good. How did you end up in carbonite?”

    “Cloud City. Bespin. Boba Fett turned traitor on me.” The snarl had returned.

    “Turned traitor? How so?”

    “Qualkin hired both of us to…help persuade a few Senators to support the Banking Clan’s agenda.”

    “The Banking Clan’s agenda?”

    “Yes.”

    Anakin and Padme looked at each other. He is not talking out of the goodness of his heart. He has an agenda of his own, Anakin tried to wordlessly warn Padme. Her nod indicated that she understood.

    “What agenda might this be?” Padme asked.

    Bane turned in the direction of her voice. “Are you going to have me executed?” He asked. The snarl was still in his voice, but there was something else. Genuine fear.

    “No,” Padme said quietly. “In my two years in office, I have yet to order an execution, and I have no intention of starting now.”

    Bane did not move or speak.

    “Given your extensive Clone War-era crimes, I am afraid I cannot offer you full immunity, however, if you cooperate with the Republic, I can petition for a reduced sentence for you.”

    For a few minutes Bane still said nothing. Then he slowly nodded.

    “Good. Now what type of job did the Banking Clan hire you and Fett for?”

    Bane turned away from her. “They want the deregulation bill passed. And they are willing to pay for votes. If that doesn’t work, they are willing to kill.”

    Padme took Anakin’s hand for a minute and squeezed it. Then she said, “Can you tell me who they were paying off? And who they intended to assassinate?”

    “Harli Jiktar. Lophen Inak. Markus Miicjaa. Yasinda Traln. Adson Leuf. Tavion Pendrahan. Varas Vulen. Galvin Traamer…”

    Padme nodded slowly as Bane listed several senators, many of whom had come forward already and received immunity.

    “How much did Qualkin and Pors Tonith offer you for this job?” She asked.

    “A hundred million credits.”

    “A hundred million?”

    Bane nodded slowly. “They offered Fett the same hundred million. Fett wanted to ensure that he got the job done first. So he sold me to Jabba.”

    “Why did Jabba want to…er…buy you?”

    “I made him angry three years ago. He hired me to go after a smuggler who dropped a shipment of his. The smuggler had been boarded by the Republic Navy. I failed to capture the smuggler.”

    “You did?” Padme was surprised at this confession.

    Bane scowled. “The kriffing coward blew himself up rather than be captured.”

    Padme swallowed and nodded slowly. “Oh. I see.” She paused. “Have you made contact with any Senators, other than the ones that Qualkin and Tonith wanted you to bribe? Has anyone in the Galactic Senate attempted to hire you for a similar job?”

    Bane did not answer for a moment, then he replied, almost too quietly for Padme to hear him. “Yes.”

    “Who?”

    Again his answer was barely audible. “Orn Free Taa.”

    This time Anakin took Padme’s hand and squeezed it. She returned the squeeze.

    “Thank you,” she said to Bane, then turned to the guard at his cell. “Please ensure that this prisoner receives the medical treatment that he needs to be comfortable.”

    Padme left, Anakin on her heels.


    Han knocked on the door of Lando’s quarters. “Come in,” his friend called, and the door slid open to reveal Lando sitting at a table with Chewbacca on the other side and a game board between them. “I was just playing holochess with Chewie, but we can switch to sabacc if you want.”

    “Nah,” Han said. “I’m not up for a game tonight. I’m beat.” Chewie barked. “Yeah, it’s been a long week.” Han looked at Lando. “I need to talk to you. Both of you.”

    Lando gazed at his friend’s tired, anxious face. “What?” He asked. “Something going on?”

    “Yeah. Maybe. I don’t know.” He set a small box on the table next to the game board. “I’ll know soon enough though. I’m practicing. And right now I’m gauging your reaction.”

    “Reaction to what?”

    “Lando, you didn’t get promoted to Commander by being an exhaust for brains. Open the box, you moron.”

    “Ok, Ok.” Lando obeyed, revealing a small ring, a ring with a large emerald-cut diamond in the center and two smaller diamonds on either side.

    Lando’s hand shook as he set the box down. “Damn,” he said. Chewie barked.

    “Is that all you have to say?” Han asked.

    “Sorry, buddy, I’m just surprised. Then again, nothing about this relationship should surprise me anymore. You are smitten. I’ve never seen you like this.”

    “You never will again either,” Han said.

    “I suppose not. And honestly I hope not.” He looked at Han. “Are you sure you want to do this? You, tying the knot, having a family…it means saying goodbye to all the guys’ nights out in CocoTown, you know…”

    Han gave an exasperated sigh. “Lando. When is the last time I went on one of those?”

    “It’s been awhile.”

    “And where do I spend almost all my free time now?”

    “I know, I know, but I assumed that’s because she was hurt. Of course she looked pretty good when you brought her by last week. Looked like she could beat any of us in a fight.”

    Han smirked. “That’s because she could. She could turn somersaults over your heads and slice five of you at once with her lightsaber and keep moving without breaking a sweat. And that’s now, without full range of motion in her arm.”

    Lando shook his head, laughing.

    “What?” Han said defensively.

    Lando looked at Chewie. “What do you think? Am I right? Did you ever think we’d see Han Solo want to marry a woman who can kick his ass?”

    Chewie gave several loud, raucous barks. Han scowled.

    Lando put a hand on his shoulder. “Look, buddy, I’m happy for you. I hope she says yes. It’s a bit…fast, though, isn’t it?”

    “I’m almost 31 years old. I know what I want.”

    “I am too. And I’m still enjoying the CocoTown bars.”

    “You do that, Lando.” Han picked up the ring box, closed it, and put it back in his pocket. “I’m planning to talk to her father tomorrow.”

    “Oh man. Good luck with that.”

    “Thanks. I think.” He turned to leave. “Good night.”

    “Han!” Lando said. Han turned. Lando was smiling. “Let me know what she says.”

    Han returned the smile with a half-smile of his own. “Thanks pal. Will do.”


    It was late afternoon the next day when C3PO opened the door. “Come in, Captain Solo,” he said. “I am afraid Mistress Leia is not here right now. She went with Mistress Padme and Princess Alys on some sort of…”

    “Female bonding ritual,” Anakin finished, coming into the room and shaking Han’s hand.

    “That is what I was going to say, Master Anakin,” 3PO said, almost indignantly.

    “Sorry, 3PO, I sometimes forget that you get offended when people finish your sentences for you.”

    “I am fluent in over six million forms of communication,” he replied.

    So, Anakin not only built a prissy droid. He built a prissy, sensitive droid, Han thought. He wanted to laugh.

    Anakin put a hand on the droid’s golden shoulder. “Why don’t you bring us some drinks?” He looked at Han. “It’s 1700 somewhere. Ale?”

    “Sure,” Han said.

    “Coming right up, sir,” 3PO said.

    “Anyway,” Anakin said as 3PO left the room. “Leia and Alys are in the Vacationers’ District doing some sort of female bonding involving getting salt rubbed on their feet, mud caked on their faces and their toenails shellacked. They managed to talk Padme into going with them. Aside from the holozines making any bad jokes about a Chancellor, a Princess and a Jedi walking into a spa, hopefully they all are able to relax. I don’t think they’ll be much longer, they’ve been gone for a couple of hours.”

    “That’s fine. It’s you I came to see anyway.”

    Anakin raised an eyebrow. “Me? Did you buy a new ship?”

    “No.” Han shifted nervously. 3PO brought the two bottles of ale and withdrew. Anakin took one of the bottles and handed Han the other one.

    “Do you want to sit down?” Anakin asked.

    Han did, with Anakin beside him, then Han said, “I’m going to get right to the point.” He took the black velvet box from his jacket pocket, held it in front of Anakin, and opened it.

    Anakin’s eyes widened so much that Han was afraid they’d pop out of his head, and he dropped his ale, spilling it all over the carpet.

    3PO bustled in. “I’ll clean that up right away, Master Anakin. Do you want another one?”

    “Yes,” Anakin said as he stood and paced back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back, his head down, not looking at Han. Han sat, and waited, afraid to say anything or ask any questions.

    Finally, a couple of minutes that seemed an eternity later, Anakin looked up. He was frowning. “She’s only 18,” he said. “Alright, she’ll be 19 in a few weeks. But a year ago she wasn’t even legal in most systems.”

    For a moment Han didn’t answer. Then he closed the ring box, put it back in his pocket, and stood. “OK,” he said. “How long do you want me to wait?”

    Anakin’s initial thought was, Until you’ve dated her longer than three months, you idiot, but then he saw the expression on Han’s face.

    “Stang,” he said. “You’re serious.”

    “Of course I am,” Han replied. “I’ve found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. Of course I’d like the rest of my life to start soon. But if I have to wait—the rest of my life will just start at whatever point you name. If I have to choose between waiting a few years or losing her forever, I will gladly wait. So—how long? Five years? Ten years?”

    Anakin didn’t answer, just walked slowly to the expansive windows of the apartment. But Han noticed how rapidly the man blinked, saw him biting his lip.

    Stang. I’m making the Hero with No Fear cry.

    Of course Leia had warned him once. Don’t let the Jedi Master war hero guise fool you. My father is a big softie.

    3PO brought another ale and handed it to Anakin, who swallowed half of it in one gulp.

    Finally, after several awkward minutes, he turned to Han, and in an unsteady voice, said, “In the center of the Jedi headquarters building, there’s a garden. It’s mostly used for meditation, it’s probably the only place in Galactic City where any green plants and flowers grow. Leia loves it there. Ask her to show it to you. It’s a…pretty romantic spot. Usually non-Jedi aren’t admitted but if the Padawans guarding the entrance give you any trouble, have them contact me.” He looked away again.

    Han nodded slowly. “So…we’re OK then?”

    Anakin turned. “As much as I would like to argue with you, I can’t. This is Leia’s call. And I’ll be very surprised if you aren’t happy with her answer.”

    Han nodded again. “I’ll take care of her. I promise.”

    “I know you will,” Anakin said, looking away again, out the window.

    “I’m going to go now,” Han said.

    “Come back later,” Anakin replied. His voice broke.

    Han left, giving Anakin the chance to dry his eyes.
  23. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Force, I'm loving this very different and yet not-so-different-at-all Han Solo. You have really got a handle on how to take a character out of canon and keep them in perfect character. Dang, you're good.
  24. krtmd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Anxiously waiting to read the proposal scene...
  25. ccp Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2005
    star 4
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