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Beyond - Legends The Path of Dreams (LotF AU--ZekkXJainaXJag, BenXJysella, ValinXSyal) Part 2 Chps 3 and 4 are up

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Flowerlady, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 10

    Council Chambers Jedi Temple, Coruscant

    The Council meeting ended, but not without great disagreement. Luke glanced at his nephew speaking with Corran Horn, Kenth Hanmer, Tresina Lobi and Kyle Katran, all of whom supported many of Jacen’s ideas and his placement on the Council. Even Luke had to admit a lot of Jacen proposals for the Jedi seemed in the Order’s and the GA’s best interests. However in the back of his mind, he couldn’t ever shake the nagging feeling that Jacen had an ulterior motive. He couldn’t understand why Jacen would want anything but the best for the Jedi Order and felt great sadness in the way his relationship with Jacen had gone. Although it wasn’t just with Jacen, my entire family is torn apart.

    As he took a deep breath, he met Mara’s gaze. She gave a microscopic nod and her love, support and concern for their son washed over him. Letting that bolster his resolve, Luke headed for Jacen and the other masters.

    “Excuse me, Masters,” Luke interjected when Kenth paused in his speech. “I’m sorry, but I need to speak with Jacen regarding a personal matter.”

    “Of course, Master Skywalker.” Kenth bowed his head. “Master Solo, we will continue this later.”

    Jacen smiled and nodded. “Most definitely. Your input is greatly appreciated.”

    As the group shifted away, Luke called, “Corran.” Luke waited for the younger man to turn. “I just wanted to say despite the decision today, I will personally stand behind Valin through this just as I have Jaina, my sister and Knight Chivel.”

    Corran nodded and folded his arms inside the sleeves of his robes. “Thanks Luke. I appreciate your support and I know Valin will, too. But as I said in the meeting, I don’t think it will do the Order any favors to openly support someone the GA will surly see as a traitor and as a rogue Jedi. We can’t afford anymore bad press.” As Mara stepped up beside Luke, he smiled at her. “Jysella told Mirax she wants to wait to take her trials. What do you think? Is she not ready?”

    Mara shrugged and slipped her arm through Luke’s. “I think she’s ready and don’t know what is bothering her. She’s usually open with me, but recently she hasn’t been. But I know she and Ben are close. Maybe he knows.”

    Corran looked from Mara to Luke. “This isn’t the time or the place to discuss this, but I think we should talk about the…ah…complications of how close they have become. Mirax related something to me that has me concerned.”

    Luke nodded and sensed Mara’s irritation spike. She didn’t understand his concern over a potential relationship between Jysella and Ben. “I agree. I will admit I’m not completely comfortable with their closeness. Ben is so young and Jys is…”

    Corran nodded. “Too old for him. I agree.” Corran looked back at where Kyle and Kenth waited for him at the door. “But we can finish this some other time. Good day.” With a bow of his head he walked toward door.

    As the group left the chamber, he turned to Jacen. He smiled, glancing from Luke to Mara. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I know what you want to talk about.”

    “Jacen, we need to discuss Ben’s apprenticeship and where he’s going,” Luke said before Mara had a chance to.

    She glared at Jacen, and her frustration shifted from Luke’s concern over Ben’s feelings for Jysella to focus on their nephew. “We’re concerned about his use of his anger and emotions to tap into the Force.”

    Jacen sighed and folded his arms inside his black robes. “I understand your concern and I am, too. However, you also know my philosophy.”

    “Which you know we don’t buy into.” Mara unhooked her arm from Luke’s and took a step toward Jacen with her hands fisted at her sides. “If there wasn’t a Dark Side, there wouldn’t have been a Palpatine or countless other Sith Lords who have ripped this galaxy apart. Maybe if Ben wasn’t placed in situations where there were as many dangers, he wouldn’t feel touching the Dark Side is the only option.”

    “Aunt Mara.” Jacen’s tone was almost condescending, but through the Force, Luke only sensed resignation. “We have discussed Ben’s involvement in the GAG more times than I care to remember. Ben is doing what he wants to do. He is contributing to the unit and he feels like he is accomplishing something important. And almost as importantly, he is doing well at it. I do not force him to go on missions. I make the assignments, but he knows he can back out at any time he doesn’t feel comfortable.”

    “Like he would do that?” Mara shook her head. “Come on, Jacen, he’s only fifteen. He doesn’t want to look weak in front of the other GAG officers. He wants acceptance and to be viewed as an adult.”

    “Mara, he’s been doing this since he was thirteen.” Jacen turned his gaze to Luke. “He has been going on missions with me since he was ten. I never expect Ben to do anything that he is not

    capable of doing, but it is important to his development as a Jedi to participate where he can. I don’t expect any more from Ben than you did out of Jaina, Anakin and me at his age.” He looked back at Mara. “In fact, Anakin was only fifteen when he saved you from the Yuuzhan Vong on Dantooine.”

    Mara masked the pain shooting through her at the memory of Anakin defending her from Vong warriors with calm coldness.

    Luke sent her his peace and rested his hand on the small of her back. “Anakin was extremely brave during the war, but we aren’t talking about your brother, we’re talking about our son. What concerns us is to see Ben in situations where, he thinks the only way out is to touch the Dark Side in the belief that it is all right because it is part of the Unifying Force.”

    “Uncle Luke, we’ve discussed my belief in the Unifying Force nearly as much as we discussed Ben’s apprenticeship. There was a time when you also believed in the Unifying Force. But I will reiterate I’ve taken your concerns into consideration in my teachings and I haven’t taught Ben anything that isn’t traditional Jedi teachings.” Jacen glanced at his wrist chrono, then smiled graciously. “Unfortunately, we will have to continue this some other time. I have a meeting with my command staff regarding my recommendation that Major Shevu be promoted and given control of the GAG. But let me reassure you that I have Ben’s best interests at heart and would never do anything to unnecessarily endanger him or to jeopardize his training.” Jacen bowed. “Aunt Mara, Uncle Luke, have a good day.”

    He turned sharply on his heal and headed out the door.

    As the door slid closed, leaving them alone in the massive chamber, Mara folded her arms over her chest. “Luke, I don’t like he has so much control over Ben.”

    Luke glanced at her profile. “Me either, Mara, me either.” Corran’s comments regarding his daughter and Ben came to mind. “Do you think Jysella is ready for her trials?”

    Mara narrowed her green eyes and pierced him with a sharp look. “Skywalker, what do you have up your sleeve?”

    He sighed and looked back at the door. “I’m really not comfortable with Jysella’s feelings towards Ben.”

    “Luke, they’re kids. Don’t you remember Jacen and Tenel Ka’s romance and Jaina and Zekk’s? Anakin and Tahiri were even younger than Ben.”

    He turned to face her. “Yes. That’s what worries me. I feared for Tahiri after Anakin’s death. I think she was closer to the Dark Side than we’d like to think.” He sighed. “If Ben was older I would more than support this relationship. What I fear almost as much as Jacen’s influence is Jysella’s.”

    “Luke, what are you talking about?”

    “I’ve seen how those two look at each other especially since we came back from Mullin. I know they are bonded through the Force.” Luke looked away. “I think they are becoming more serious then we’d like to admit.”

    Mara looked as if he had just slapped her. “You don’t mean…a physical relationship?”

    Luke swallowed and nodded his head. The thought bothered him as much as it did her. “I’m concerned something like that will happen. Ben thinks he’s an adult, Jys looks at him as he is one. I remember what it’s like to be a hormonal fifteen year old boy.”

    “You think if Jysella passed her trials, she could be sent on a mission and away from Ben for a while to let things cool off between them a little.” She took a deep breath and pushed a lock of red-gold hair behind her ear. “I love Jysella as a daughter, Luke, and would love if she and Ben have a future together, but I think you’re right. They need time to make sure this is really love and not a crush.”

    Luke nodded, took her hand and squeezed. “That is exactly how I feel. Then we can concentrate on Jacen.”

    ****

    Training Room Jedi Temple, Coruscant

    Jysella backflipped away as she parried his strike with her lightsaber. When she landed on her feet, she lunged as he advanced. Ben caught her blade and easily deflected it, but before he had a chance to bring in his saber for a kill, she ducked and swiped at his legs, forcing him to leap over the hissing arc of golden light.

    Ben’s lightsaber skill was a flawless dance of smooth strikes and perfectly placed parries. Jysella’s style was more Dathomirian than anything—a choreographed mix of athletic spins and leaps with well placed lunges and feints. Not surprising, considering the master who shaped her into a Jedi had been Dathomiri Kirana Ti. What did surprise them was that they were well matched, and each time they sparred, Ben had a harder time keeping up with her.

    Jys allowed herself a small smile as she leaped over a low strike, and as she landed on her feet, she caught Ben’s lightsaber near the hilt, knocking it out of his one handed grip.

    “Ahhh!” He growled as the hilt hit the mat several yards way.

    “Well, that wasn’t too difficult.” Grinning so wide her cheeks hurt, she deactivated her golden blade and clipped it to her belt. She stood straight with her hands on her hips and caught her breath.

    Ben called his saber to him. As it landed in his hand, he shrugged. “Like I said, I’m as weak as a whisperkit.”

    She walked over to the side of the training room and picked up her outer light green robe from their things. As she pulled it on over her tan pants and white tunic, she laughed. “Oh, no, you don’t!” Turning to him, she pointed her finger at him. “I won that fair and square.”

    “If you say so.” He stepped close to her and grinned as he raised a brow. As he picked up his uniform shirt and pulled it over the sleeveless undershirt, the toned muscles in his shoulders moved under the newly healed skin of his shoulders and upper arms.

    Blushing, she swallowed and glanced away, but he’d caught her watching him. As he buttoned the shirt, she looked back at him. They stared at each other for a long moment, and the way her heart raced had nothing to do with the exertion of sparring. She wanted to kiss him, but she knew they shouldn’t. Her mother was right, Ben was still young and if they truly loved each other they could wait for each other.

    As he reached out to touch her face, she quickly turned away. She instantly felt his disappointment. “Jys? What’s wrong?”

    Slowly, she took a deep breath. “Ben, I told my mom about us.”

    Ben stiffened his spine and furrowed his russet brows. “And what did she tell you? No, let me guess. She told you that I’m too young for you and that you shouldn’t love me. Am I close?”

    Jysella glanced away and slowly nodded. “Yeah. That about sums it up.”

    As he spun away, his frustration blazed through their bond like a torch.

    “Ben.” She touched his arm, turning him toward her. He narrowed his eyes and lifted his chin, and she dropped her hand to wrap her arms around her fluttery middle. She didn’t want to hurt him, but she had to try to make him understand her perspective. “Maybe we shouldn’t rush this. I mean we’re both young. I’m only eighteen and I’m not ready for where this is heading.”

    He took her by the shoulders and shook his head. “I know you don’t mean that, Jys. I can feel it.” The fire in his eyes burned through her resolve. “Maybe I do feel more for you than I should. But I can’t help it. It’s like I’m drawn to you and I can’t imagine my life without you. Mom and Dad are always saying that I’m growing up too fast. Well, maybe I have.”

    She couldn’t move, he completely mesmerized her with his bottomless blue eyes, and for several long moments, he seemed as enthralled by her. He broke the spell by moving away again. Disappointment cooled the heat bubbling through her veins.

    She rubbed her forearms to warm her sudden chill. The day couldn’t end like this. She wanted to spend it with him. “You promised to take me out to lunch after we were done.”

    He picked up his blaster and shoved it into the holster on his right hip. Boys don’t carry military weapons. Or look that good wearing them.

    She shook the thoughts from her mind as he shrugged into his uniform jacket and buttoned it.

    His eyes twinkled as he grinned and touched her face. “I like your thoughts”

    Her mouth went dry and she gaped at him. He hadn’t picked up her admiring him, had he? “What—what thoughts?”

    He kissed her nose and laughed. “I do look good in uniform, don’t I?”

    Her face flamed as she blushed. “Stay out of my mind!”

    “Nope. I like thoughts like that.”

    Spinning away, she grabbed her bag. “We were discussing lunch and you doing the buying.”

    He shrugged and folded his arms over his chest. “Since it was you who brought up the idea of lunch and not me, you should do the buying.”

    She raised her brow and tapped her foot. “Okay, I’ll buy, but you have to at least try salm soup.”

    He made a disgusted face as they headed toward the door. “On second thought, it is very ungentlemanly of me not to buy you lunch since you did beat me and all.”

    She laughed and took his hand. “Smooth, Skywalker. Real smooth.”

    ****

    The Market Cross was a fifteen-minute slidewalk ride away from the Temple. The new restaurant bordered the small Naboo neighborhood of New Theed and specialized in Naboo and Gungan ethnic food. Ben and Jys entered the bright and cheerful establishment that boasted an open-air dining area. A bronze colored protocol droid greeted them and led them to a table near the stone-like low wall surrounding the balcony several.

    Jys smiled as she sat down and looked around. “I love this place.”

    Ben nodded and took a deep breath to calm his racing heart. A planter of a native Naboo flower filled air with a sweet scent. “I do too. It reminds me of going to Naboo with Dad, Mom, Aunt Leia and Uncle Han after the Swarm War.”

    She folded her arms and leaned over them. The afternoon sun glinted in her black hair, making her ethereal. “Is it really as beautiful there as they claim?”

    Ben remembered the trip to the home of Aunt Leia’s and his father’s mother. “Yeah, it’s beautiful there. Maybe someday we can visit.”

    Jys smiled, brightening her eyes. “I would love that.”

    A service droid interrupted them. They placed their orders, and after their no-ales arrived, Ben asked, “So, have you heard anything more about Valin?”

    She took a sip of the soft drink and shook her head as she sat the bottle down. “No. Except that the trial is to take place within a few weeks and will occur here. I overheard your dad tell your mom that he thinks Naithal is trying to play politics with my brother’s charges.”

    Ben averted his gaze and picked up his bottle. “I wouldn’t doubt that. I know Jacen supports her, but sometimes I don’t think she will make a good Chief of State.” He took a sip of his drink. “What do you think the Council will do?”

    She shrugged and folded her hands on the table. “I don’t know. I think the Council shouldn’t get involved. Ben, don’t get me wrong, I love my brother. I always will. That he may have saved Syal is great. But as terrible as it is, Syal chose to become an enemy. And now my brother has become a traitor.”

    He couldn’t talk to anyone about this. Only Jys wouldn’t look at him as unsupportive of the cause. “I wish this whole war would just stop. Jacen keeps telling me the war is necessary to bring about a lasting peace and the Corellians are terrible for starting it in the first place. But I sometimes have a hard time believing people like Uncle Han and Aunt Leia or Wedge and Iella Antilles are bad or wrong.”

    She sighed and picked up her fork to study the tines. “I want the war to stop, too. I’m afraid of what this is doing to my family.” Laying the fork on the pale blue cloth, she leaned back in her chair. “Val is likely to be sent to prison for treason, at the very least. Mom and Dad fight all the time about his position in supporting Master Solo and the Senate, and her belief the Insurgents should be allowed to leave the Alliance if they want to.”

    Ben narrowed his eyes. “But you still support the GA, don’t you?”

    Her green eyes widened with obvious surprise. “Of course I do.”

    “I’m sorry, Jys.” Ben wished he’d never doubted her and held out his hand. She took it into hers and treaded her fingers with his. He loved how small her hand felt in his. “I just mean I’d understand if you didn’t. That’s all.”

    “Ben.” She squeezed his hand and he met her gaze again. “I don’t agree with Corellia. The only way the galaxy can rebuild and be strong after the Vong War is by uniting. What Corellia and its supporters are doing is damaging whatever has been done since the end of that war. I don’t like that we had to go to war over Corellia’s petty disagreements with the GA, but I know there was no other way. The galaxy has to be reunited.”

    Their food arrived and they ate in relative quiet, except for Ben’s occasional derogatory comments about Jysella’s soup and her defensive replies of her choice.

    Once they were finished, the droid took away their plates and brought them the traditional dessert of peca fruit torte. As they ate the flaky sweet delicacy, their conversation turned serious again when Ben asked, “So, has Mom recommended you take your trials yet?”

    Jys slowly swallowed her bite and laid her fork on her plate. “Yes.”

    Something was wrong. He put his fork on the plate and reached across the table to lift her chin with his thumb. “Jys?”

    Fear brightened her green eyes and she trembled. “Ben, I’m afraid if I’m granted Knighthood, I’ll be sent away.”

    His full stomach tumbled with dread. Nothing like that had ever crossed his mind. “What do you mean?”

    She took his hand from her chin and kissed his fingers, then held it between her trembling hands. “It’s simple. If I become a knight, I’ll have to go on missions. I’ll have to leave Coruscant, and if the Council assigns me to an outpost like Lorrd or some other Force-forsaken planet, I’ll have to go.”

    His heart thumped against his ribs at the terrible thought of Jys going away. He shifted her hands to enclose them in his and squeezed. “I won’t let that happen to you—to us. I need you too much. Jysella, I can’t lose you.”

    She squeezed his hands back and whispered, “Ben, you’ll never lose me. But I don’t want to be sent away.”

    Icy fear seeped into him and froze his blood. He shivered at the possible truth. His mother loved Jysella, but Mara was also over-protective of him. What if their parents weren’t happy with their closeness? He didn’t understand what everyone’s problem with them was. Why do they feel that our love so wrong?

    The only one who didn’t seem totally against them was Jacen. “Jys, if you are ready for your trials then you should take them, but we can talk to Jacen. He can help make sure that you aren’t sent away.”



    Thanks for reading, everyone.... Love the comments so far! [face_cowboy]
     
  2. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 11

    ~One Month Later~

    GA Defense Force Headquarters, Coruscant

    “Lieutenant Horn, please stand.”

    Dressed in a black jumpsuit, Valin looked like a common criminal, not an upstanding Jedi Knight who’s only of wrongdoing was disobeying an order and following his heart. Jaina couldn’t believe the charade the government, the military and the media made out of his court-martial. Even her trial, which also had been played up to the media, hadn’t gained this much attention.

    Zekk had done his best to get the charges dropped, but the government had accused him of playing what was becoming known as the Jedi card and reminded him that he could be replaced. What upset Jaina was the lack of official support from the Jedi Council. She understood why they hadn’t, but the Council’s stand still didn’t sit right with her.

    Corran had attended the trial and her uncle and aunt had come on a few occasions of the two-week long ordeal. The only other Council member in regular attendance was Jacen, but he wasn’t attending as a Jedi. He sat with the military officers in attendance, which included Darklighter, Cheb, Mazzi and several others. Every day she and Zekk arrived at the courtroom, she’d sit as far away from her brother as possible. She glanced at him. His face was impassive and he held his emotions as tightly sealed as an airlock. He met her gaze, and the flash of hatred in his once warm brown eyes sent a shiver down her spine. What had she done to make him despise her so much?

    Where had her philosophical twin brother gone? Had they once been so bonded she’d practically known his thoughts? She sighed and averted her gaze to her folded hands in her lap. The boy who collected bugs and fought with Anakin about the Jedi’s roles in the galaxy had completely disappeared.

    She turned her attention back to the front where Valin Horn stood beside the JAG officer appointed to represent him. All throughout the trial, he’d answered questions with so little emotion the media dubbed him the Jedi droid. His blank face betrayed not a bit of emotion, but in the Force, he was a torrent of frustration, disbelief and anger. She glanced at Zekk and read the concern for their friend.

    The judge turned toward the twelve junior officers, ranking from ensign to major. Jaina scanned the faces of the beings sitting in the jury box. They all seemed determined to deal with the traitor. This wasn’t going to bode well for Valin.

    “Members of the Jury have you reached a decision?” the tan Twi’lek judge asked.

    A tall Chev major stood at attention. “Yes, Your Honor, we have.” He handed the datachip over to the staff sergeant who turned it over to the retired general acting as the judge.

    Jaina glanced to the back of the courtroom where Valin’s family stood. How where they taking all this? She knew from Valin that Mirax was pro-Corellian, although she tried to remain as neutral as possible. But Corran and Jysella were as pro-GA as they came. She shook her head as Mirax and Corran exchanged concerned looks. Were the Horns the next family to be ripped asunder by this damnable war?

    “All rise.”

    Jaina stood at attention and sent her support to Valin through the Force.

    The judge inserted the chip into a reader and took a moment to scan the findings. She held her breath when he looked at Valin. “Jedi Knight and Lieutenant Valin Horn, this Court finds you guilty of insubordination, the reckless endangerment of the life of a fellow officer and of treason against the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances.”

    The media in the court went wild, and the judge beat his gavel on the amplification stone. Soon the courtroom became quiet again.

    “Mr. Horn, upon this verdict, this Court hereby sentences you to be frozen in carbonite for a time period of twenty years. You will be fitted with a Force desensitizing device until transportation to the maximum security center of the military penal complex on Centax-3 where your sentence will be carried out.”

    As the echo of the gavel hitting the stone vibrated through the clamor in the courtroom, the surge in Valin’s pain it her, but nothing registered on his face.

    Zekk met her gaze. In her head she heard, We have to do something.

    Yeah, I know. She sent back and looked to the back of the courtroom. The only member of Valin’s family still there was his mother. She’d know Mirax Horn for most of her life. Pain and fear blanched the ex-smuggler’s face, and her eyes shimmered with pure defiance.

    ****

    Jysella closed her eyes and hugged her middle as the judge read the verdict. She groaned as her mother’s rage and her father’s resignation hit her. Looking up, she saw him give her mother an apologetic glance and walked out of the courtroom. Valin and her father never had a close relationship, and over the past ten years, their relationship nearly became non-existent. They loved each other, but they never were good at showing it. He’d always been too stubborn for their father. Her mother called his independent streak the Terrik in him. Maybe that was what drove her father crazy, the thought Valin took after Booster Terrik.

    She gave her mother a concerned glance, but she didn’t acknowledge Jys. Mirax bubbled with embittered anger. Jys swallowed as she turned to follow her father out the door. She had to do something. The war couldn’t rip her family apart like it had Ben’s had been. She caught up with Corran as a horde of reporters ambushed him outside the courtroom.

    “I have no comment on the situation.” Corran shoved past a middle aged human reporter, only to be headed off by a beautiful Twi’lek female from the popular one of the most watched holonews programs on the net.

    She smiled and shoved a microphone in front of him. “What will the Jedi Council do now that another Knight has gone rogue, Master Horn? Should we be concerned that Knight Horn will cause any problems before he is shut off from his connection to the Force?”

    Jys flinched at the connotation. Up until now Valin had been trusted to remain free, but the thought he would be forced to wear a device to take away his connection to the Force disturbed her almost as much as him spending the next twenty years frozen in carbinite on the desolate third moon of Coruscant.

    Corran had the serene expression of a practiced Jedi Master, but his frustration and grief bleed into the Force. “I will not comment on this or any other questions concerning Jedi Knight Valin Horn. Now if you will excuse me.”

    He looked at Jys and held out his arm to wrap around her shoulders to protect her as much as guide her through the crowd.

    Once they were outside on the platform, he removed his arm and turned to her. “You should have stayed with your mother.”

    She folded her arms in front of her and narrowed her eyes. “I could say the same for you, Dad. What’s going on?”

    Turning away from her, Corran leaned over the durosteel railing and signed. Across the hundreds of traffic lanes of one of the busiest freeways, construction droids worked on the destroyed Senate building. She watched a mag-lev train speed by overhead and waited for his answer.

    He squared his shoulders and shook his head. “Your mother wants me to get Valin out of this and she doesn’t understand why I can’t.” He turned and looked at her. The tired lines around his eyes surprised her. He’d aged since the beginning of the war. “Jysella, if I could do something, Force knows I would. But Valin chose this path. I understand why he did, and I would have done the same thing if faced with the same choice, but I can’t get him out of this.”

    She wrapped her arms around his waist, and he tightly hugged her. “Daddy, we’ll be okay, won’t we?” She turned her face up to his and met his green eyes which were so much like her own. “Do you think Mom will try something? She’s really upset right now.”

    Corran stroked her braided hair and smiled, but it didn’t chase the haunted shadows from his eyes. “We’ll be fine, Jyssie. Your mother and I got through bad times before and we will get through this.” He kissed her forehead and filled her with his reassurance, but she sensed he wasn’t convinced of his own words. He winked and took her hand. “And as for your mother trying something. I would be surprised if she didn’t. I just hope I can foil her plans before she ends up in prison beside your brother.”

    Jysella’s forced smile was as flat as her father’s failed attempt at humor. “I wonder what Grandpa would say about that.”

    He winced as they headed to the docking area and the family’s speeder. “Ugh… Please, the situation is already bad enough. Let’s keep Booster as far away as possible. I can’t deal with two Terriks at once. Your mother will keep me busy enough as it is.”

    As they waited for Mirax next to the speeder, Jys shivered at the severity of the situation.

    ****

    Zekk/Solo Temporary Quarters, Fifth Fleet Base, Coruscant

    “Ahhh... Get that, Zekk,” Jaina mumbled, pulling her pillow over her head as another buzz came from the door chime. “Who the kriff could that be?”

    Zekk flipped the bedside lamp on and sat up. He ran his hand through his long black hair and groaned as he stood up. “0200. This had better be important.”

    “Whoever it is should be vaped on the spot.” Jaina lay on her stomach with the pillow over her head.

    Zekk chuckled and leaned over and smacked her backside—hard. “Zekk!” She threw the pillow at him as he stood. With a flick of his finger, he touched the Force to send it back at her. She caught the pillow as she sat up and glared at him. “You know, that was a trivial use of your power.”

    The buzzer sounded again. “I’m coming.” He snickered as he pulled on his robe over his bare torso. “That’s what you get for being bossy, Goddess.

    “Zekk, I’m going to get you for that.” Pulling on her own robe, she narrowed her eyes at her future husband. She absolutely hated when he referred to her by the old name she was forced to use while pretending to be the Trickster Goddess of the Yuuzhan Vong during the war.

    He turned at the door and winked. “I’ll be looking forward to it.”

    She grinned and she heard in her head, I love you, too.

    You better, nerfherder.

    He opened the door and the good humor evaporated from him as Allia Judday said, “I’m sorry, Colonel Zekk. Major Solo. But may I come in?”

    Zekk stepped away from the door and waved in the young woman. As the door slid shut, he glanced at Jaina. “What’s up?”

    She bit her bottom lip and glanced around the room. “I…ah…”

    Jaina gestured to the only chair in the small quarters. “Please, Lieutenant, have a seat.”

    Allia looked at the chair as if would eat her alive. What was going on? Jaina didn’t know the lieutenant well, but she’d proved she was worthy of respect during the past month. Jaina and Zekk sat on the side of their bed, and Allia perched on the edge of the chair. “First, I want you to understand I didn’t want this to happen to Lieutenant Horn. Secondly, I wanted to tell you I’m leaving the service.”

    Jaina glanced at Zekk. “Why? We both know the prosecution was tough on you. Trust me, Allia, I’ve been forced to participate in more than one trial. I know how lawyers can twist your words.”

    Allia rubbed her hands on her thighs. “Thanks. But the reason I’m leaving is because I’m from Eriadu.”

    Zekk narrowed his eyes. “Wait. Your records stated you were from Corulag.”

    She smiled slyly and nodded. “Yes. But that is not exactly true. My name isn’t really Judday either.”

    “What?” both Jaina and Zekk said at the same time.

    She grinned and shrugged. “I think one reason Syal Antilles and I got along so well when we flew together is that we both tried to hide our real identities. She became Lysa Dunter to hide the fact the Wedge Antilles was her father. And I became Allia Judday to hide the fact that I come from a famous family as well.”

    Jaina folded her arms in front of her. “Okay, we’re more than a little intrigued, which considering we’re Jedi isn’t an easy task.”

    Allia stood and paced the length of the small room. “My mother’s family is an old one and had been instrumental in the history of Eriadu and of the Empire.” She glanced back at Jaina and gave her a crocked grin. “And ironically my father has written a lot of the history of the New Republic and the GA.”

    Jaina stared at her. “You aren’t a Tarkin, are you?”

    Allia held out her hands to the side bowed her head. “My mother is Rivoche Tarkin, niece of Wilhuff Tarkin and the Rebel Alliance spy. My father is historian Voren Na’al. My real name is Allia Tarkin Na’al and I’m their youngest daughter. Judday was the name of a childhood friend who taught me how to fly. When I joined the military academy, I took her name to prevent the complications that being from famous parents can cause.” Jaina raised a dark brow, and Allia gave a short laugh. “Oh, I suppose you know all about that.”

    “Yeah, you could say I have some experience in the complications from being born in an over exposed family.” Jaina frowned.

    Zekk shook his head. “Okay. So you aren’t who you really say you are. Now can you please enlighten us as to why telling us this at two in the morning was so important?”

    Allia returned to her seat. As she tucked her auburn hair behind her ears, she leaned forward and folded her hands in her lap. “I’m coming to you because I get the feeling you don’t like what’s happened to Val Horn any more than I do.”

    “And what would give you that impression?” Jaina narrowed her eyes on the younger woman and brushed her within the Force. Nervousness filled Allia with doubt, but she was determined to help Valin. “Even if we did, why would we tell you? You just admitted to lying about who you really are.”

    “Okay,” Allia took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I suppose I’d have a hard time believing me, too. But trust me on this. I know you aren’t happy with the way the war is going and I know how you Jedi stick together.”

    “Not necessarily. The Council didn’t support Valin,” Jaina countered, ignoring the first part of Allia’s assessment. She reached out to probe the woman again to determine her motive for coming to them and relating such a fantastic story. All she got was sincerity and a genuine caring for Valin.

    Zekk must have come to the same conclusion. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his legs and tented his fingers. “Okay, Allia, as your commanding officer, I’m not sure you should be telling me this.”

    Allia looked from Zekk to Jaina, then took a deep breath as if she was plunging into a bog filled with Dagobah swamp slugs. “I realize I’m taking a big risk on coming to you. But I’m following my gut on this. I don’t think you will turn me in.”

    Jaina glanced at Zekk. What do you think?

    He pushed his long hair from his face to obliquely met her gaze. She’s sincere and trustworthy.

    Jaina let out a long breath. “Okay, we’ll admit we aren’t completely thrilled with how things are going concerning Valin or the war.”

    A small smile teased her lips and she flicked her gray eyes between them as excitement filled the Force where before only uncertainty flowed from her. “I have an idea of how we can get Valin out.”

    Both Jaina and Zekk were shocked for the second time. Jaina grinned lopsidedly and relaxed. “You know, you have to stop doing that because Zekk and I have a reputation to uphold. Surprising Jedi twice in one night. Not bad.”

    Allia grinned back. “As I said I’m Eriaduan, and since we are now at war with the GA, I want to go home. But before I do, I want to help Valin because he saved me from being court-martialed.” She spread her hands on her thighs and looked down at them as she curled her fingers into fists. Quiet sadness painted her words. “And because he deserves the chance I will never have.”

    ****

    Antilles Quarters, Corellian Dreadnaught Revenger, Corellian Orbit

    Syal lay on the narrow bed and hugged a pillow close in her darkened room. She pressed the replay button on the holoviewer remote and watched the scene again. Her heart ached each time she viewed it, but she couldn’t stop. She wiped another tear from her cheek.

    “Mr. Horn, upon this verdict, this Court hereby sentences you to be frozen in carbonite for a time period of twenty years. You will be fitted with a Force desensitizing device until transportation to the maximum security center of the military penal complex on Centax-3 where your sentence will be carried out.”

    As the scene flashed from the Twi’lek judge to pan in on Valin, she paused the scene. “Oh… Valin. Why did this have to happen to us?”

    The still holo of the man she loved disappeared, and she blinked at her father. Concern etched his face in tired lines around his eyes and down-turned mouth. She hadn’t realized he’d entered the room. He turned on the lights and sat on the edge of her bed. “Syal, you have to stop this. It’s been a week since the trial and all you’ve done is sit here and replay this farce.”

    “Dad, he’s being frozen in carbinite because of me.” Turning to him, she sobbed and buried face into his shoulder. She’d always been strong and hated crying, but she couldn’t believe what was happening to her and to the people she loved.

    She had recovered well from some minor injuries she’d suffered when she’d gone EV and she’d soon be flying again. When Syal had learned about the charges against Valin and he’d shot her, her father had removed her from active flight status and insisted she be quartered with him on his flagship, Revenger.

    The media coverage from the trial of Valin Horn had been pirated and played repeatedly throughout Corellia and the Corellian forces. While the Coruscanti media made him out to be one of worst Jedi villains in history, the Corellian media was proclaiming him a hero. The Corellian HoloNet used their romantic involvement to play up the sensationalism of an already dramatic event.

    Her father hugged her close and rubbed her back like he’d done when she was little. “Syal,” he murmured in her hair. “I wish I knew what to do. Trust me, sweetheart, if there was something I could do, I would.”

    She turned her face up to him and sniffed. “I know, Daddy. But why isn’t the Jedi doing anything? His own family deserted him.”

    Narrowing his eyes, he looked away and frowned. “Mirax wouldn’t have deserted , and although Corran has changed over the years, I know he wouldn’t have either. Things would be worse for Luke Skywalker and the Jedi if they got involved in this and Luke knows it.”

    “I don’t care about the Jedi, Dad.” She pulled out of his embrace and swiped at the tears on her cheeks. “I care about Valin. I love him, and I know that despite what may have happened at Bothawui, he loves me. I—I want to…” She sobbed and fell into her father’s arms again, never feeling so helpless before in her entire life. “All I want is for this war to be over and things to go back to the way they were.”

    He held her close and whispered into her hair, “Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”



    Thank you all for reading! [face_cowboy]
     
  3. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 12

    Mara Jade Skywalker’s Office, Jedi Temple, Coruscant

    Jysella entered her master’s office and folded her hands within the sleeves of her robe. “You wanted to see me, Master.”

    Sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, Jys nodded and took the seat before the metal desk.

    Mara folded her arms over the top and leaned over them. “I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you, Jysella. You have been a pleasure to teach this past year.”

    Jys averted her eyes as her cheeks heated. “Thank you, Master. But you’ve been a great teacher.” She looked up. “It’s been a real privilege to study with you.”

    Mara smiled and nodded her acknowledgement of the compliment. “I believe you are more than ready for your trials, Jysella. I have talked to the rest of the Council about your skill and your talents and we are all in agreement.”

    She couldn’t hedge the fact Mara wanted her to move on. She and Mara had a great relationship ever since she was little. Her mother and Mara were close friends and had been since before Mara had become a Jedi. But recently, Jysella sensed a tension between her master and her that had never been there before. Part of the strain came from the issue of Jysella’s readiness for the trials, but the greatest part came from her relationship with Ben.

    “Thanks, Master. I will not disappoint you.” She could do no more to delay the inevitable. If she wanted this path for herself, she had to move on. Becoming a Jedi like her father had been her dream ever since she was little. She wanted to go on missions and help people.

    What would become of Ben if she was sent away? What about her? They both wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. She wished their families wanted them to.

    Mara came around the desk to lean against the front. “I know this may seem sudden especially with what’s going on with Valin, but I’ve went ahead and made the arrangements. We will leave for Ossus next week after your lifeday. When we come back, I’m sure the Council will have a mission for you.”

    Jysella’s stomach flopped and her heart pounded as she forced a smile. “I’ll be ready.”

    ****

    Skywalker Apartment, Temple District, Coruscant

    “You know, I really don’t care that you don’t want me to do this.” Ben glared at his father. “You don’t want me to do anything! If it was up to you, I’d spend my entire life locked away on Ossus.”

    “Ben.” Luke was desperately trying to remain calm. “You are only fifteen years old. You are too young to be an officer in the military.”

    Ben paced in front of holo cube projecting different holos of his family. Most of them were of Leia’s kids when they were younger and Ben. He stopped as one of Mara and Ben when he was a baby popped up. The pure joy on her face and the protective spark in her eyes spoke volumes of how much she would do to keep her son from harm. Ben shook his head. Turning back to Luke, Ben pulled himself to his full height, making him more than a few centimeters taller than Luke. “Don’t give me that. Besides I’ll be sixteen in six months.” The calmness of Ben’s words belied the anger boiling beneath the surface. “Admiral Darklighter was only sixteen when he joined Rogue Squadron and so was Jaina. As officers.”

    Luke was beyond frustrated. It took all his training as a Jedi Master not to bellow at his son. “Ben, I forbid you from doing this!”

    Ben glared at Luke with his hands balled into fists, and the defiance in his hard blue eyes startled Luke. “You forbid me? Father, I may be your son, but I signed up to be part of the GAG and now the Fifty-first. Jacen sees my work as important and so do I. I didn’t come here to ask for your permission. I came here to tell you that this was going to happen.”

    Ben strode to the door, leaving Luke with a heart as heavy as durocrete. Nothing he could do would stop this. Ben was determined to remain in the GAG and no amount of talking on Luke’s part was going to convince him otherwise.

    At the door, Ben stopped. “I wanted to tell you and Mom. I thought that you’d want to be there at the promotion ceremony. That’s all.” He looked over his shoulder at Luke. The disappointment in Ben’s eyes and in his tone of voice nearly caused Luke to change his mind. “I just want you to be proud of me.”

    Before Luke could say anything, Ben walked out the door. Luke words died on his lips. “But I am, Son.”

    ****

    GAG Headquarters, Coruscant

    As he saluted Lon Shevu and Lon reciprocated, Jacen smiled, then turned and faced the beings gathered in the command hall. “I present to you your new commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lon Shevu.”

    The nine hundred or so members the Galactic Alliance Guard broke from their strict stances to applaud their new leader. Lon cleared his throat and glanced at Jacen. “Thank you, General, for this chance to follow in your footsteps as leader of this great unit. I know with your continued guidance as leader of the Fifty-first Infantry, we will remain the last people those out there who want to do harm to our city or to our government want to see on their doorsteps.”

    Lon’s words earned him a round of whopping and more applause, which when Jacen moved forward again, quickly died down.

    Ben fought the urge to fidget as he stood at ridged attention to the side of the platform. Next to be promoted was a lieutenant to captain. He would become the second in command.

    The newly promoted Captain Doloma gave his short speech, echoing Lon’s robust sentiment. He moved to stand beside Lon on the other side of the unit banner and holographic symbol of the GA.

    Jacen moved forward again. “Our last member to be recognized for his great contributions to the success of this unit is Sergeant Ben Skywalker.” Ben stepped forward and remained standing at attention. Sweat trickled down his spine under the new gray dress uniform that became part of the GAG’s wardrobe since integrated into the Fifty-first. His tongue felt too big for his dry mouth and his heart thumped as if it wanted to escape his chest.

    Jacen stepped in front of him and removed the old rank insignia from his lapel. His cousin’s pride and support poured over him through the Force and helped to put Ben’s nerves somewhat at ease. Jacen picked the new insignia off the tray the unit’s military protocol droid held.

    “Mr. Skywalker, I hereby promote you to rank of lieutenant in the Military Services of the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances.” Jacen applied the new rank bars and stepped back to salute Ben. He returned the salute just as smartly. “Congratulations, Lieutenant Skywalker.” Despite the formality, Ben heard the pride behind the words.

    As Jacen moved to the side, another round of applause broke out for the youngest officer of the GAG and the entire Fifty-first. Once the clapping stopped, Ben swallowed and looked around the room. He wished his parents would have been there, but as he remembered the argument he had with his father three days ago, he swallowed the hurt.

    When the applause died down, Ben’s gaze found the one person he could count on as she stood off to the side with Lon Shevu’s wife and two eldest children. Jysella’s pride and love washed over him and joy twinkled in her eyes. He smiled at her, then turned to look out over the unit. Clearing his throat, he tried hard not to blush and considered what he was going to say. He glanced at Jacen, who gave him a microscopic nod of encouragement.

    Ben called on the Force to bolster him and hoped his voice didn’t crack in his nervousness. “First, I’d like to thank General Solo and Colonel Shevu for this chance.” Lon winked at him, and Ben smiled as he turned back to face his comrades, his nerves fading away. “I would also like to say I am honored to serve the GA with such a great group of beings. And as Colonel Shevu and Captain Doloma already said, we will continue to make sure Coruscant and the GA remain free of terrorism and that the traitors who would harm our people answer for their deeds.”

    Ben took a deep breath as the audience broke into applause again. He looked at Jysella and was surprised to see her wipe away a tear.

    ****

    Jys waited for Ben near the back of the large assembly room where the promotions had taken place. She didn’t get why Ben’s parents hadn’t attended. Didn’t they understand Ben wanted them here? He did his best to hide his disappointment and had refused to tell her about the fight he’d with his father, but she knew things hand not gone well.

    Ben accepted congratulations from his fellow GAG members. The handshakes, good-natured jesting about “Junior” growing up and slaps on the back came out of a genuine belief Ben was an important contributor to the unit and out of general acceptance of him. He made his way back to her and took her hand. “Hi.”

    “Congratulations, Lieutenant.” She leaned up and placed a very chaste kiss on his cheek.

    A soft blush touched his cheeks which became brighter when an older sergeant slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Well, well, well, Lieutenant Skywalker, charming the ladies already?” The ruggedly handsome human held out his hand to Jys and grinned. “Hello, there, I’m Ron Farland. Who might you be?”

    Heat flared in her cheeks as she took the hand of the man. “I’m Jysella Horn.”

    “So, you’re a Jedi, too?” Her last name gave her away. Her family and particularly her brother had been the latest to be run through the media meat grinder.

    “Yes, I am.”

    Grinning lopsidedly, Ron glanced sideways at Ben. “I suppose you can take care of yourself when it comes to Skywalker’s charm.”

    Ben snickered and put his hand on the small of her back. “That includes yours, too, Farland.”

    “Yeah, well.” He winked at Jys and patted Ben on the shoulder again. “Can’t win them all.” He ambled away, but not before flashing Jys another debonair smile.

    She raised a brow. “You’re jealous!”

    He shrugged and pulled her to him. “So what if I am? He can charm a Hutt if he set his mind to it.”

    Despite his bravado, she sensed his insecurity. She kissed his cheek again, this time with a lingering kind of touch and whispered, “I’m in love with you. No one could charm me enough to change that.”

    He met her gaze. “Let’s get out of here.”

    They made their way out of the Headquarters and headed in the direction of The Market Cross. Ben had promised to take Jysella out to dinner after the ceremony to celebrate his promotion, her trials and her lifeday and they’d decided to go to their favorite place. Holding hands, they walked along the sky walks forgoing the faster slide or other public transportation to allow them as much time as possible together.

    They stopped in the middle of the last transparasteel bridge before the restaurant to look out over the vastness of endless buildings and colorful light of buzzing early evening traffic.

    She caught Ben staring at her. “What’s the matter?”

    He turned to her and took her other hand. “I’m so glad you came this afternoon.”

    She interlaced her fingers with his. “I’m very happy for you. I don’t always agree with the tactics the GAG uses to get information, but I know how important this is to you. You’ve done very well.” She let go of one of his hands and brushed her fingers over the breast of his jacket. “Besides, you’re quite handsome all decked out in this fancy new uniform, Lieutenant Skywalker.”

    Ben pulled her to him. She hadn’t moved her hand from his chest and felt his breath quicken. “You look beautiful, Jys.”

    “Thank you.” She’d let her hair down and worn a simple long sleeved dress of royal blue, hoping he’d notice.

    He gently stroked her hair. As he locked gazes with her, his desire blazed through their bond. She stopped denying she didn’t want him. Swallowing her feelings, she whispered, “We’d better go before we’re late for our reservation.”

    Ben nodded, took her hand again and they walked the rest of the way in comfortable silence.

    A bronze protocol droid led them to their requested table—the one in the corner by the low wall on the balcony. They sat down as the Coruscant sun was setting, turning the high clouds purple and pink. They ordered roasted Naboo duck with crandleberry sauce and spiced vegetables.

    After their drinks arrived, Jys noticed Ben was staring at her again. “You know, you really need to stop doing that.”

    Ben grinned as he sat his drink down. “Doing what?”

    “Staring at me.”

    He shrugged and shook his head. “I can’t.”

    “And why not?” She leaned over the table on her elbows.

    “Because you are so pretty. I really like when you leave your hair down. I have something to give to give you.” He reached into his uniform jacket pocket and pulled out a necklace. “I made this for you.”

    A rare blue and green world stone hung from a gold chain. Ben had found it years ago when he was on a mission with Jacen. “Ben, it’s beautiful.”

    He shyly grinned and shrugged. “I know it’s your favorite stone in my collection. I wanted to give you something special for your lifeday and for your coming Knighthood.”

    She trembled as she gently caressed the gem. Her mother had found one a few years ago and got a small fortune for it. “Ben, thank you. I will always treasure it.” She handed it back to him and grinned. “Help put it on me.”

    He took the chain and stood behind her chair. He put the chain around her neck and she touched the stone, its weight perfect resting on her chest. After clasping the chain, he gathered her hair and pulled the mass over the necklace. She shuddered as he ran his fingers through the long black strands. She turned and the intensity of his blue eyes startled her as he gently kissed her lips. The tough was quick and shy, but Jys felt the love behind it.

    ****

    Their meals were served, and after their desserts, they left the restaurant and headed back toward the Temple District and the Skywalker apartment where Ben would leave Jys.

    They reached the entrance of the building when she turned to face Ben. “I had a great time tonight.”

    Ben led her off the walk into a small garden alcove, let go of her hands and encircled her waist, pulling her close. “I wish tonight didn’t have to end.”

    “I wish it didn’t either,” she whispered as she brought her hands up to wrap them around his neck.

    He bent down as she leaned into him and their lips touched in a tender kiss, but soon their passion took over leaving them both breathless. Her desire mixed with his. He’d never wanted anything as much as he wanted her. He captured her lips again, and after breaking the fiery kiss, he slid his mouth over her flushed check to her ear. Her rapid breathing and the press of her body against his the most erotic thing he’d ever exprienced. “Jys,” he hoarsely whispered and the shudder that ran through her only served to excite him more. “Jysella, I want...emm... I wish we could be together—” He didn’t even know how to ask her for what he wanted.

    Although her desire spiked, sudden alarm tempered the passion, and she pulled away enough to meet his gaze. “Oh, Ben.” Her voice was husky, her eyes luminous in the bright city lights. “You know we can’t do that.”

    “I’m not a child, Jysella. What I feel for you is real.” He turned away from her, hating the burst of heat climbing his neck and turning his face red. He was a fool to suggest they take the next step. She may love me, but she still thinks I’m a kid.

    She reached out and grasped his upper arm. “What I feel for you is real. Ben, it’s not you, it’s me. I’m not ready for...for that yet.” He turned to face her, and she laid her hands on either side of his face. “I love you, Ben Skywalker. And I want... I want you, too.” She glanced away and he relished the deep blush painting her cheeks and making her even more beautiful. “But we have a lifetime ahead of us. Let’s not rush this. When it does happen I want it to be perfect.”

    Ben pulled her to him again and nodded against her temple. “I want it to be perfect, too.” She kissed him, and when he broke the kiss, he whispered against her lips, “I love you, Jysella Horn, and someday we’ll be together.”

    “I can’t wait.” She kissed him once more before running into the building where she lived with his parents.

    ****

    Solo Apartment, Coruscant

    Jysella kissed Ben and a thrill zinged through him as she ran her fingers over his bare chest. She stepped back, her beautiful black hair falling over her shoulders. The smile on her stunning face turned mischievous as she reached up to push the white loose garment off her shoulders. He watched enthralled as it fell to pool around her feet. He reached out to touch her, but she seemed to be moving away from him.

    Alarm flashed in her bright green eyes as she reached out to him with both hands. She screamed, “Ben! No, don’t. Don’t leave me!”

    “Jysella!” He cried and ran toward her.

    The dreaded call—the high-pitched shriek of the krayt dragon shattered the scene. Jysella was gone and the wastelands of Tatooine stretched out before him.

    The dragon shrieked again, and Ben took off running…

    “No, Jysella!” he screamed as he sat up. His chest heaved and sweat dripped off his face as he looked around his darkened room.

    The door slid open, and Jacen sat next to him on the edge of the bed. His cousin waved the lights on.“The dream again.”

    Ben nodded as he took a gulping breath and told his friend about the dream.



    Happy Halloween!!! [face_pumpkin]
     
  4. windu4

    windu4 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 15, 2008
    Hey, I'm a big fan of this fanfic. I remember reading it over the course of one weekend back when I was in high school. Would you mind tagging me?
     
  5. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    Great story. Looking forward to more. Despise the era since LOTF turned everyone against each other but can give this fic a follow. Continue.
     
  6. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    Sorry…I'm just catching up.

    Chapter 10: I would argue (as does Jacen in a round-about way) that he is only teaching Ben in the same manner he was taught--trial by fire. Jacen, Jaina, Anakin, et al, were all thrown to the wolves at 15 or 16, and I find Luke and Mara's argument a bit…flat. They are saying, essentially, 'It's okay for us to throw our niece and nephews into the fire at that age, but we don't want Ben to be raised as such.' Oh pot…. And why not just reassign Ben to a different Master? On another note, is it the Force that has a Dark Side, or is it the person using it?

    Chapter 11: Holy smokes…I never really thought that carbonite would still be used as punishment. What would Syal have Corran do? Break him out of jail? Aid and abed a traitor? Wow that's a whole can of worms that I don't think Corran wants…but it's coming anyway. I like the way you've captured the mess of what such a war would be.

    Yikes, Ben's dreams are about as disturbing as Jacen's.
     
  7. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Windu4: Wow! :) Thanks for giving this story another go... Sure, I'll PM you... I'm assuming that's what you mean by tagging.:confused:

    Force Smuggler: Thank you for giving this story a chance. Hopefully you like what I do with it.:)

    SiouxFan: About Chp 10: Oh, I'm not disagreeing with Jacen...or you. Luke and Mara do seem a little hypocritical... Actually, they are a lot hypocritical which is part of the problem. As for reassigning Ben... (*hint* it's coming, just maybe not soon enough) But he still is in the military and Jacen is his commander. Chp 11: LOL! Told you his punishment wouldn't be easy. (though I'll admit that was a rewrite-- the original version didn't have the carbinate angle-- I wrote it in after reading Fate of the Jedi). Oh, his family won't be taking this laying down.... Ben's dreams are demented that's for sure...;)
     
  8. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 13

    Admiral’s Quarters, Intrepid, Dubrillion System

    Jag Fel hit the receiver of the holocomm and stood at attention while the image of his immediate superior came to life. He saluted Grand Admiral Gilad Pellaeon and the old Imperial Remnant leader returned the gesture. “Grand Admiral, I am pleased to announce that Dubrillion System has been secured.”

    Dubrillion, which had been one of the first industrialized planets to fall to the Yuuzhan Vong, had been among the first to be resettled after being reclaimed by the Reconstruction Authority. Seeing an opportunity, Imperial industry invested trillions of credits to revitalize the planet and its asteroid mining and weapon building industries. Although the planet became heavily Imperial in its society and industry, it still was a full member in the GFFA. However since the Remnant dissolved its affiliation with the GA and became allies with the Corellia, the GA had been desperately trying to prevent Dubrillion from joining the Insurgents.

    Jag’s fleet had been called in after the success at Bothawui to ensure the GA force stationed at Dubrillion was defeated. As suspected Dubrillion not only sided with the Insurgents, it wanted to become part of the Empire. Jag had proven to the GA command that the youngest and newest Imperial admiral was truly a force to fear.

    Pellaeon smiled, and not for the first time, Jag noticed the gauntness of his face. Were the rumors true? Was Gilad sick?

    “Yes, Admiral, I’ve called to congratulate you on your success,” the Grand Admiral said. “You’ve made the Moffs very pleased. Which has also confirmed my faith in you, Jagged.”

    Pride had Jag’s heart racing. “Thank you, sir. I’m glad that I’ve been able to live up to the expectations set for me.”

    Pellaeon continued to grin, giving Jag the impression he was up to something. “Admiral Fel, I’ve decided to resign my commission and my position as the head of the government. As I told you before sending you on this grand adventure, I’m too damned old for the hunt. War is the game for the young.”

    “Admiral?”

    Pellaeon turned away from the cam at his comm unit before facing Jag again. He stroked his mustache and sighed. All humor drained from his face, leaving behind the frailty of a sick old man. “I’m dying, Jagged. In fact, the doctors give me only six months to live, if that.”

    The confirmation of the rumor staggered Jag. He sat down on the chair beside the comm unit. “Surely, something can be done.”

    Gilad shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Which brings me to why I called. You have more than exceeded my expectations, Jag, and as such, I’ve recommended you as my replacement. You are to meet with the Moffs within a week here at Bastion.”

    Jag wasn’t sure that he had heard him right. He was still reeling from the news the great Gilad Pellaeon was dying. “Sir?”

    The old Imperial laughed. “Don’t look so shocked, Supreme Fleet Commander Fel. The Moffs are anxious to hear what you have in store for the Empire as well as for the war effort.”

    ****

    Fifth Fleet Detention Center, Valin Horn’s Cell, Coruscant

    Valin had never been cut off from the Force for long periods of time. The longest had been for two days when he was nineteen. His master and he had gotten themselves in a situation while chasing a group of renegade Peace Brigadiers. The thugs cornered and captured him using ysalamiri. Master Cheklev had escaped and gotten Valin out, but those two days of being blind had been horrid.

    Valin had been fitted with the device that took away his connection to the Force five days ago. Each day that passed, he felt more and more trapped. As the case with most Jedi of his generation, he’d always known the Force since he had been a toddler. He almost wished they’d soon freeze him. At least, that would end the torture of thinking about it and being without the Force.

    Meditation was impossible. Every time he tried, the memory of the vision of the little girl, baby and Syal haunted him. How could any of it be his future if he were to be frozen in carbinite? Twenty years seemed like a lifetime.

    He rubbed at the collar around his neck and paced the small cell like a caged animal.

    The collar held a chamber housing a small worm-like device made possible by an integration of Vong biotechnology and conventional technology. The Yuuzhan Vong creature component was created from the DNA of the nearly extinct ysalamiri to repel the Force. A battery supplied the yuumiri’s food supply of electricity. Although the Vong never got the chance to use their creation, conventional science took the concept, seeing a much more economical and convenient way to control a powerful Force-sensitive than traditional hard-to-find ysalamiri.

    He would be transferred to the prison where the GA incarcerated most of its military criminals. The population, many frozen in carbinite, included everything from hardened criminals like murders and rapists to military criminals. The Jedi had requested Valin be taken at night on an undisclosed date to decrease the amount of press coverage. The request hadn’t come out of consideration for him, but rather to prevent the Jedi Order from being subjected to any more bad press.

    His pacing brought him to the durocrete wall. As he stared at the gray paint, he fisted his hand and pounded the surface. The Jedi Council refused to even comment on his case. He’d caught the attempted interview of Kenth Hamner and his outright refusal to answer any questions. The clip showing his father and sister leaving the courtroom after his verdict angered him the most. He shouldn’t have expected better. Corran Horn lived for the Jedi.

    Thinking about his family brought back the memory of his sister’s stiff visit earlier. Until today, Valin hadn’t been allowed to have visitors. Jysella arrived holding Ben Skywalker’s hand.

    Ben had barely said two words to him and stood at attention near the door, as if he was guarding Jysella. He’d worn the uniform of a GAG lieutenant. To Ben, Valin was nothing but a traitor. His sister’s coolness had hurt him. He’d hoped politics wouldn’t get in the way of their close relationship. They’d spoken only pleasantries, and after a few moments, Jysella was ready to leave. As she’d embraced him, all he’d thought had been that would be the last time he’d ever see his little sister. He’d kissed her forehead and had told her no matter what he’d always love her. Jys had nodded, smiled tightly and reciprocated the sentiment, then she’d moved away and had taken Ben’s waiting hand.

    As they’d left the cell, Valin had called, “Ben, take care of her, okay?”

    Ben had looked back at him. “I will.”

    Valin was so lost in the memory he didn’t hear the cell door slide open. When he heard a gasp, he spun and faced the door in a defensive crouch. His mother stared at him with her bottom lip between her teeth and her hand on her heart. He didn’t need the Force to see her pain in her brown eyes. Taking a deep breath, he straightened. “Mom, I’m sorry. I couldn’t sense you and you surprised—”

    She rushed to him and enveloped him in a tight hug. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face into her graying black hair.

    “Valin,” she hoarsely whispered as she pulled away and stroked the hair at his temple. “Oh, baby, I hate that this is happening to you.”

    “I know, Mom. I know.”

    “Why didn’t you just defect? Why did you go back to the Fleet after disobeying the order to leave the battle area?”

    He’d been asking himself the same questions for over a month now. “I don’t know, Mom. I guess I just didn’t know what I felt. I didn’t care about Corellia or anything when I was out there. I just wanted to save Syal.”

    She pulled him in again for another embrace and he kissed her hair. His father stood by the closed door. Corran’s face was unreadable. He and Jysella had long ago dubbed the lack of expression his Jedi Master’s face. But the Jedi Master couldn’t hide the disappointment in his green eyes. “You doing okay?”

    Valin let his mother go and glared at his father. “As well as to be expected. I’m in a cage and as blind as a moon moth. I’m surprised you’d risk your upstanding Jedi reputation to visit the condemned traitor.”

    Corran pursed his lips and took a step toward him. “Valin, you are my son. I supported you as well as I could through this ordeal, although I have to do so privately. I understand why you did what you did, but you have to understand why the Council couldn’t back you. We’re still getting flack from our position concerning the GAG’s restrictions and the attacks on Eastport and the Senate Building. If we openly stood by you—”

    “Yeah, well, I don’t give a bantha’s kriff about that, Dad.” Valin fisted his hands and narrowed his eyes at his father. “But understanding someone isn’t the same as actually being there for them.” His father ran his hand through his hair and shook his head. He couldn’t remember when their relationship began to sour, but it happened sometime after Corran’s involvement in the destruction of Ithor during the Yuuzhan Vong war. Up until then, Corran had been Valin’s hero, but he could never understand why his father had run from what had happened, why the Rebellion hero and great Jedi Knight hadn’t stood up and fought the mud thrown at him.

    “What would you have me do, Valin?” Corran held out his hands to his sides. “I’m a Jedi Master. Right now we are all under careful scrutiny by the media, by the Senate and by Niathal. I can’t defy the Council.”

    “Of course you can’t, unless it serves your purposes.” Valin scoffed. “I wouldn’t want you to look like you had a backbone in front of Jacen Solo. Kriff, I think the only ones on that pathetic excuse of a Council that do are Kyp Durron and Saba Sebatyne.”

    Mirax stepped between father and son as they openly glared at each other. She laid a hand on their chests and looked from him to his father. “Valin, Corran. Stop this.”

    Corran looked like Valin had punched him. What did he feel for the man who gave him life? Had Corran ever been proud of him? His father turned toward the door and hit the buzzer to alert the guard droid outside.

    “Corran?” Mirax looked stricken and her voice was as dry as ashes.

    “Let him go, Mom.” Valin’s tone was as cold as a winter day on Hoth. “Dad’s doing what Dad has always done well when things get too hot.” The door opened and Corran began to move though, but his words stopped him. “He’s running.”

    Corran turned with regret clouding his green eyes as he looked at Mirax. “I’ll wait outside.”

    “Corran?” Mirax moved toward the door but stopped when it slid closed again. When she turned to Valin, the tears she’d held in filled her eyes. “Valin, I know you and your father have never gotten along, but damn it to the nine Corellian hells, he loves you. This is has hard on him as it is on me.”

    Valin turned away from her and looked at the small bench serving as his bed and chair. “Yeah, well, he has always had an odd way of showing it.”

    She moved to stand behind him and laid her hand on his back. “Val, you really don’t know the risk your father is taking with this.” He looked over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes. Something in her tone of voice made him wonder what was going on. She scanned the room for the security cam.

    “Mom? What’s going on.”

    She hugged him, and near his ear, whispered, “You aren’t going to your new home.”

    “What?”

    “A friend will come by later,” she whispered. “Play along with her. Make them think you’re lovers.”

    Before Valin could question her, she kissed his cheek and headed for the door. As the droid opened the door, she wiped the tears from her face, but mischievousness flashed in Mirax’s brown eyes.

    Oh, Mom, what have you done?

    ****

    Fifth Fleet Detention Center, Valin Horn’s Cell, Coruscant

    Unable to sleep, Valin stood as the door slid open. Although he had no chrono, the time had to be after midnight. He widened his eyes when he recognized the woman walking through the opening. She wore a short black skirt, matching jacket and knee-length black boots. Groaning, his mother’s parting words came back to him.

    The guard droid said something that Valin didn’t catch and Allia Judday replied, “I know it’s late, but I just got on planet tonight.” When the door closed, she gave Valin a big smile and sauntered over to him. As she put her arms around his neck and winked, Valin swallowed hard realizing what she intended to do. “Hello, Lover.”

    She captured his lips in a kiss. Although no passion blazed as she pressed herself against him and nibbled on his lips, she surprised him. Somehow in the fog, he remembered to put his arms around her and returned the kiss.

    She moaned loudly and slid her lips to his ear, “Play along. My cover name is Judy.”

    Valin grinned when their eyes met. “Judy, what are you doing here?”

    No one would have recognized Allia Judday. Her hair was dyed dark brown and styled differently than she normally wore it. Her gray eyes were sharp as she glanced around the cell, but he had the impression she was looking for security cams and the like. As far as Valin could tell, there were only two cams in the cell.

    She put her hand on his cheek. “Oh, sweetheart, I can’t believe they’re gonna freeze you in carbinite! I came as soon as I heard. But, Val, I heard the rumors. I need to know if they’re true.”

    He still had a hard time believing this was his wingmate. “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve missed you, sweetheart. But what rumors? There are so many.”

    She narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips, thrusting out her chest in the skimpy top. “The one about you and that Antilles girl being an item. You wouldn’t be cheatin’ on me would ya, Val.”

    Valin forced a chuckle and sat down on the bed and patted the space beside him. If this gets me out of this hell, I play along. Allia straddled his legs and sat in his lap, then put her arms around him. He snaked his arms around her slender waist, fighting the awkwardness of their closeness. “Oh, that. I can’t believe the spin the media can put on things. We’re friends that’s all. She and her sister Myri are practically cousins to me. Judy, you know that you’re the only girl for me.”

    She twisted enough so her back was to the cams. From inside her jacket, she palmed a tiny device and ran her hand up his chest to rest momentarily on the yuumiri chamber of the collar. When the Force flooded through him, he gasped.

    “That’s what I thought.” She raised an eyebrow and kissed him. He hugged her closer and returned the kiss, not with passion or desire, but out of gratitude. Maybe he had a chance.

    She broke the kiss and moved off his lap. Holding her hands, he stood. She hugged him and whispered, “Open up your meld with the others, and they’ll let you know what to do.”

    Others? Despite the million questions flooding him, he smiled against her neck and embraced her. “Thank you, Allia.”

    “Take care of yourself, Val.” She winked at him and sashayed to the door. As it opened, she turned and smiled. “Love is the only thing worth fighting for. Remember that.”

    She walked through the door and he breathed, “I will.”

    ****

    Moffs’ Council Room, Imperial Center, Bastion

    Jag could remember only a handful of times he’d been nervous about an event, but as he walked though the governmental building to the Moff’s Council room, he decided today trumped them all.

    The new rank insignia of blue and red pinned to rest above his pounding heart on the impeccable white dress uniform of the Grand Admiral felt heavy. The actual weight of the bars was nothing, but the responsibility that came with them staggered him.

    Had Pellaeon trusted him enough to give him this opportunity? Or was he having one of his elaborate dreams again? Of course he wasn’t, because Jaina wasn’t involved. He shook the memory of the kind of dreams he’d had while trapped onTenupe from his mind. Now wasn’t the time to dredge up his hatred for the only woman he’d ever loved.

    He stopped outside the elaborate door of the council room and took a deep breath, hoping to calm his nerves. As he tugged on first on sleeve then the other, the guard with him opened the door to a spacious room decorated in dark exotic woods. Light coming in from the large windows making up the rounded outside wall silhouetted the eight Moffs as they stood. They each governed one of the eight sectors left of the Empire after the Galactic Civil War.

    Each one governed as they saw fit. The Head of State stepped in when a Moff was blatantly cruel or unfair, but for the most, part they were left alone. Some of them were harsher and governed their peoples with strict authority, while others were more lenient and even two of them allowed for very democratic forms of government to flourish on their worlds. However, all of them answered to the Supreme Fleet Commander who acted not only as the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Military, but also was Head of State of the Remnant’s government.

    As Jag’s eyes adjusted to the lighting of the room, he looked around at the eight humans saluting him and returned the gesture.

    Retired Admiral Pellaeon held out his hand and smiled. “Welcome, Grand Admiral Fel.”

    Jag shook Gilad’s hand, hoping his grip was as dry and firm as his mentor’s hold. “I’m honored to be here.”

    He’d never wanted to be in power of anything and hated politics, but his ideas for the Empire were important ones.

    Pellaeon stood along the side of the room with the other bystanders, including upper ranking military, droids, and staffers. Jag took his place at the head of the table and pulled out a datachip from his breast pocket. As he placed chip in the slot of a datapad, he noticed no one had moved except for Pellaeon since they saluted him. He smiled stiffly and nodded. “Please. At ease.”
    Once everyone was seated, Jag keyed to his program on the datapad. “If you would all please sync to my pad, I’d like to brief you on what I hope to accomplish, not only in the war, but also for the Empire.”


    Thanks for sticking with this...
     
  9. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 14

    Fifth Fleet Detention Center, Coruscant

    Jaina and Zekk shifted from their hiding place and into position beside the two fast marching noncoms with one on either side. They were dressed in the same uniforms as the transfer guards in black and red armored uniform with full shielded helmet, but the Jedi didn’t have their shields down. For their trick to work their voices couldn’t be changed in any way. The sergeant on the left looked over at Zekk, and through his vocalizer, he said, “Hey! Who are you?”

    Zekk made a small gesture with his hand and touched the Force. “That is not important. We will take over from here.”

    The sergeant nodded and repeated in a slight monotone, “No, it is not important. You will take over from here.”

    “Serge, what are you doing?” Alarm raised the corporal’s voice a whole octave. He turned to Jaina walking beside him. “Who are you?”

    She made a similar gesture with her hand as Zekk had and laced her voice with the suggestive power of the Force. “You do not need to know. We are here to take over. You will leave your ship and then walk to the Jagged Edge and neither of you will return until tomorrow.”

    Zekk looked over at Jaina and raised his eyebrow at her. The Jagged Edge was a Lower Level dive known for its free flowing drink, unlimited spice and prostitution of several species and of both sexes. Oh, come on, at least they’ll have a good time. Jaina sent to Zekk through their bond.

    She heard in her head. Sure, if they aren’t killed first.

    As Jaina rolled her eyes, she sighed and said to the guards, “You will change out of your uniforms before entering the Jagged Edge.”

    The guards were both under Jaina’s persuasion, and together they intoned, “We do not need to know who you are. We will go to the Jagged Edge after removing our uniforms.”

    “Good.” Zekk waved his hand. “You will not remember any of this. Now you may leave.”

    The guards turned and headed down the long corridor.

    After they made the turn at the corner to head for the turbolift, Zekk turned to Jaina. “That was too easy.”

    Jaina shrugged. “Just shows how simpleminded prison guards are.”

    “Yeah, well.” Zekk looked behind him as if he expected the two to come to their senses and run back toward them with their blasters blazing. “That may be true but I still think it was way too easy.”

    Jaina shook her head as she walked toward the cell block. “It’s like that time when we were chasing those pirates before the Swarm War. Remember?”

    Falling into step beside her, Zekk snickered. “Yeah, now those three were really simpleminded.”

    “Yep, makes you wonder how Three-Eye got so powerful. Her subordinates were about as stupid as they come.”

    They shared a low chuckle, closed their visors and opened the battle meld they shared with Valin.

    ****

    Fifth Fleet Detention Center, Coruscant

    Valin laid down after Allia left and immersed in the Force. He had to appear to lack sensitivity to the Force, but he closed his eyes and reached out to feel the life around him. When Zekk and Jaina nudged his awareness, his heart sped up as he opened the battle meld with his friends.

    He thought about Allia and her role in his rescue. His mother must have been involved because of her warning earlier that afternoon. Though he hadn’t expected any of the others to come and help him, except maybe Jaina. She’d as much as told him after the battle she wasn’t convinced she fought on the right side. If Jaina was involved, Zekk wouldn’t be far behind. Nevertheless, Allia’s involvement did shock him a lot.

    He’d forever be in her debt for getting rid of his barrier to the Force. The killing of the yuumiri had been a simple enough accomplishment. She’d used a small electronic transmitter to emit a high voltage shock into the yuumiri chamber. Although the creature fed on electricity, a single high voltage shock would kill the worm and end its ability to repel the Force. Lucky for him, the thing was easy to kill and was one of the very few flaws the Vongformed animal had.

    How had Allia smuggled in the transmitter without detection? He got the impression there was more to her than met the eye.

    The door to his cell slid open bringing him out of his thoughts. Valin sat up on the edge of the bed as the Centax 3 prison transfer guard walked in. The taller one waited on the guard droid to eject the datachip he had inserted into a slot on the droid’s chest. Zekk’s concern bled into the meld when the droid seemed to be taking a long time to analyze the documentation on the chip.

    Jaina stood in front of Valin and said through the vocalizer, “Turn around and put your hands behind your back, Mr. Horn.”

    Valin complied with the order, and Jaina applied a pair of stun cuffs. Jaina turned him to face Zekk waiting on the chip to be returned. Valin reached out into the Force to sense danger, but he couldn’t get anything. He felt Jaina’s spike of concern and wondered if she and Zekk were communicating through their personal bond, which was deeper and more complex than the trio’s battle meld.

    The droid spit out the chip into Zekk’s waithing hand and lowered its built in blaster. “The orders have been verified. Mr. Valin Horn is hereby turned over into your custody, Sergeant Mimmer and Corporal Kosen.”

    “Thank you,” Zekk said and moved to the other side of Valin. He gripped his upper arm and jerked it, none to gently. “Okay, Jedi scum, let’s get moving. It’s a long way to where we’re going.”

    “Anything has to be better than that cage.” Valin fell into step with the Jedi on either side of him. He was happy to be out of the cell, but they had a long way to go before they were out of the rancor’s den.

    ****

    General Solo’s Private Office, Fifty-first Infantry Headquarters, Coruscant

    Caedus read the report again and cursed his luck. Jag Fel had been named successor to Pellaeon. He guessed as much when Fel showed up on the scene two years ago as head of the Imperial Fleet allied with Corellia. His sister’s old boyfriend proved to be quite the pain in his backside. What would the former Chiss do now that he was Grand Admiral?

    He couldn’t underestimate Fel’s cunning and skill as a leader as he had Dur Gejjen. He could easily eliminate the imbecile in charge of the Corellian government, but Fel was another matter. The demise of Gejjen would create power vacuum among the Insurgent’s week alliance. The strongest leader and most likely to succeed in that vacuum was now Jagged Fel.

    Tossing the datapad onto his desk, he fisted his hands and turned his chair around to stare out at the Corscant traffic. He had to find away to prevent the Empire to become a major power again, but he needed it to appear to the GA that Gejjen and Fel were the ones tipping the scales of the war.

    He spun his chair around and picked up his comlink and keyed in frequency Ben. He waited for the call to connect and smiled as his plan played out in his mind. When Ben’s voicebox clicked on, he left a message, then contacted Darklighter’s office. He informed the military protocol droid answering the comm he had an urgent issue demanding his attention. Before the droid at had a chance to question him, he disconnected the call.

    Less than an hour later, he was in his X-wing and headed for the asteroid near Bimmiel where he’d first met the woman who brought him to his destiny. He’d known for some time Lumiya had been playing both sides of the war. Now, he’d use her double-dealing to his advantage. Time had come to give the Corellians exactly what they wanted—Centerpoint Station back in operation.

    ****

    Public Hangar 22WP, Westport, Coruscant

    Jaina and Zekk led Valin through the detention center to the hangar. At the final guard station, Zekk supplied the datachip to the exit guard.

    “Nice to see justice being served for those high and mighty Jedi.” The middle-aged man put the datachip into a pad and read the orders. He glanced at Zekk, then at Jaina.

    As Zekk nodded, his nervousness seeped into their battle meld. While Jaina cool determination countered the dread, Valin feared they would be caught. Sweat ran down his back. The last thing he wanted was Zekk and Jaina joining him frozen for prosperity in carbonite.

    After an agonizing amount of time to confirm and sign off on the transfer orders, the sergeant handed the chip back to Zekk and gave him sloppy salute.

    A group of YHV guard droids held them back a group of reporters near the landing strip entrance. He ignored the questions they shouted and rushed with Jaina and Zekk to the boxy transport ship sitting in the center of the hanger. Zekk opened the hatch, and Jaina pushed Valin up the ramp. “Get in there, Jedi.”

    Valin stepped into the transport. After the reassuring thud of the hatch seal, Zekk and Jaina pulled off their helmets.

    “Val, you really didn’t think we’d let you go to prison for doing what was right, did you?” Jaina grinned as she turned him around to remove the stun cuffs.

    He rubbed his wrists and faced her again. “I have to admit the thought had crossed my mind more than once.”

    Jaina hugged him and snickered. “Trust me, if we didn’t get you out, someone else would have, but that could have gotten a little more messy.”

    “I can only imagine.” He sat on the acceleration couch and strapped in.

    Zekk sat beside him and held a transceiver over the connection on the collar behind Valin’s neck. “Even with that thing dead in there, I don’t think you want it around your neck.”

    “Nope, the sooner I get rid of this thing the better.” The collar fell open into Valin’s waiting hand and he tossed it into a corner of the hold, as far away as he could get the thing.

    “Will we be taking this crate to where we’re going?” Valin stretched his legs out and leaned back in the seat.

    Zekk sat on the opposite side of the cabin and strapped in. “No, we’re heading for Westport.”

    The repulsorlift engines screamed as Jaina piloted the ship off the hangar floor and headed up the well.

    “What are we going to do in Westport?” The longer they remained on Coruscant the better the chance of detection.

    Zekk put his arms behind his head and leaned back. “For one thing, our ride is in Westport. Secondly, Allia is waiting there for us, and she needs to get out of the rancor den as well.”

    Valin folded his hands together. “About Allia, why’d she help me? I mean she and I were wingmates, but that was only for a short time. And what she did went beyond being wingmates.”

    Zekk laughed and scratched his chin. “Oh, where do I begin concerning Allia?”

    “How about the highlights? I get the feeling this is a long story.”

    Zekk snickered and shifted in his seat. “Yep, you could say that. It seems Allia isn’t who she says she is.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Do the names Tarkin and Na’al mean anything to you?”

    Valin narrowed his eyes as the names came to him. “As in the Rebellion spy and the historian?”

    “Yep, that is exactly who I mean,” Zekk related the story Allia had told him and Jaina the week before.

    They arrived at the small public hangar occupied primarily by business beings, but at this late hour, the place was virtually empty. After Jaina shut the ship down, Zekk open the hatch and Valin gasped. Before them sat a ship probably as familiar to him as the Millennium Falcon was to Jaina. He looked at Jaina and she patted him on the arm. “Your mom insisted on this, Valin.”

    He shook his head. “But if she’s gone the same time they discover my escape, she’ll be under suspicion. I won’t endanger my mother.”

    “Actually, they have an alibi.” Zekk stopped on the other side of Jaina.

    They?”

    Jaina grabbed his arm and led him down the short, steep ramp. “Come on, you’ll see.”

    Jaina guided him to the Pulsar Skate and up the short ramp into the comforting main hold. Allia ambled forward and wrapped Valin in a tight hug. He raised an eyebrow. She was dressed in a nondescript flight suit and her hair was back to its natural auburn. “What happened to Judy?”

    She widened her eyes in mock surprise and shrugged. “Judy? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you sure that thing they had on you didn’t addled your brain?”

    “Who knows? It may have. Wearing that worm was worse than being in the cage. But, if you ever run into her, let her know she has my gratitude.”

    “I’ll do that.” She winked and sat on the acceleration couch beside Zekk and Jaina.

    Valin looked around the hold one more time as the repulsors whine to life. His mother’s absence worried him. “I’m going up to the cockpit with Mom. She’ll need a co-pilot.”

    The door slid open on the cockpit, and as Valin stepped through, he came up short and stared at his father at the controls in the co-pilot’s chair. “Dad?”

    His father stood and met Valin’s gaze. “Son, I know we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. But I want you to know that I really do think you did the right thing. I...ah...” He glanced down at Mirax, and she gave him a small smile. When he turned to Valin, he lifted his chin and spoke in a stronger voice. “I’m sorry for not publicly backing you.”

    Valin let out a breath. “I was too hard on you, Dad. If I’d been in your place, I may have done the same thing.”

    “No, you wouldn’t have.” Corran shook his head and put his hands on either side of Valin’s arms. His green eyes flashed with an emotion Valin couldn’t name. “I forgot what really comes first in a man’s life. My father had always been there for me, up until the day he died in my arms. I haven’t always been here for you or your sister.” He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “I put duty before my love for my family too many times.”

    His father’s serenity and regret flooded the Force, but something else stood out. Love. His father’s love enveloped him. Valin’s breath hitched and he had to look away and blink. As Mirax lifted the old Baudo-class yacht out of the hangar, his father pulled him into a tight embrace.

    Mirax looked up at them and grinned through the tears sparkling in her eyes. “You two had should sit down and strap in. When I punch this baby, you’ll end up splattered on the bulkhead if you don’t.”

    Valin and Corran both chuckled at Mirax’s attempt at levity and heeded her words. Corran reclaimed the co-pilot’s seat and Valin sat behind his mother in the navigator’s chair. As he finished strapping in, he looked through the view port as Mirax skillfully weaved her way through the never ending streams of traffic to head into Coruscant’s orbit. “So, where we going? I’m assuming we aren’t going to Corellia.”

    Mirax glanced over her shoulder. “You, Jaina, Zekk and Allia will be. We’ll be going to Ossus for your sister’s knighting. But first we need to drop you off at your ride.”

    Valin sensed as much as saw the pained expression on Corran’s face. The thought of Jysella’s Knighthood hadn’t caused it. Valin wasn’t at all surprised. “Granddad?”

    Corran turned to Valin, shrugged and dryly said, “Desperate times call for desperate means.”

    Valin slapped his knee and laughed as he leaned back into his chair. “If Errant Venture and Booster Terrik are involved, desperate isn’t the word I’d use. Times are downright insane.”

    ****

    Jacen Solo’s Apartment, Coruscant

    Ben felt Jysella’s brush against his senses and glanced at the chrono. The time was well past midnight. Something had to be wrong for her to be headed his way this late. Tossing the blanket off, he got out of bed.

    The message indicator flashed on his comlink. Thinking the caller might have been Jys, he listened to it. Jacen informed him he left the planet to follow a lead for GAG.

    Whe hadn’t Jacen taken him with him? Taken aback by his master’s message, he tossed the comlink on the bedstand. He glanced at his robe, but when Jysella’s fear hit him, he headed out the dark room to the entry. As the bell rang, he opened the door, and Jysella fell into his waiting arms.

    Her sadness flooded his senses. “Jys, what’s wrong?” She buried her face into his bare chest. The door closed behind her, and he held her until she met his gaze. Tears misted her beautiful jade eyes. He caught one of the drops of water on her flushed cheek with his thumb. “Jys?”

    “Oh, Ben. They’re doing it.” She sniffed and wiped at her eyes.

    “Doing what?” Icy dread froze the blood in his stomach.

    She traced the scars on his forehead and cheek. “They’re sending me away.”

    “What?”

    She stepped away from him and moved farther into the room. “Your parents informed me tonight I won’t be coming back here after my knighting. I’m being sent to Krylon with Tahiri Veila to relieve Jaden Korr. I’m to be there until recalled. Tahiri is just to mentor me long enough until I know what I’m supposed to do.”

    “No, Jys.” He pulled her to him again and relished the feel of her against his bare chest. “Jacen promised me he’d prevent anything like this from happening.”

    She looked around the apartment. “Is he here? Maybe he can still get the Council to change the assignment before I have to leave Ossus. If enough members vote against our parents, then I will be able to stay here or only go on a short term—”

    Ben sadly shook his head, quieting her flow of words. “Jacen isn’t here. He went to check out some lead earlier tonight and may not be back for several days.”

    She laid her head on his chest and whispered, “Ben, I don’t want to leave you.”

    “I know, Jys. I don’t want you to leave either.” He stroked her hair and sent her comfort through their bond. But his anger toward their parents bubbled in his gut. Why are they doing this to us? What’s so wrong about our love?

    He led her over to the couch and pulled her into his lap.

    She cuddled against him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Ben, just hold me.”

    He swallowed and nuzzled her rich black hair. She always smelled like fresh rain and Corellian lilies. “I’ll never let you go. I’ll talk to Jacen after he returns. Maybe he can do something. I know you’ll have to go on missions, and now that I command a company, I’m not always on Coruscant either. Jys, what are they so afraid of?”

    “I wish I knew, Ben. I wish I knew.” Her breath tickled his chest.

    They clung to each other for a long time, finding comfort in the physical contact and through their deep bond. When her breaths evened out, he thought she’d gone to sleep. He should lay her down on the couch and let her rest, but he didn’t want to let her go. She felt too good in his arms. He stroked her hair and down her back and became aware her lightweight clothes and his loose-fitting sleep pants were the only thing between them. What would holding her naked body against his be like?

    As the fantasy played out in his mind, his desire flared to life. He had to let her go. As he moved, she met his gaze and he froze. Her eyes glowed with a light that had his heart racing. He kissed her, and she responded by shifting to straddle his legs and threading her fingers into his hair. When she pressed against him, he groaned and held her tighter.

    With a willpower he didn’t know existed, he backed her way from him. “Jys, I…I think…” He couldn’t catch his breath.

    With her cheeks flushed rosy and her hair tussled from his fingers, she was more erotic than the most beautiful holostar. She caressed both sides of his face. “Ben, I want to be with you too.”

    He swallowed hard and filled his lungs with air scented with her wonderful fragrance. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea even if it’s what we both want.”

    As she tentatively slid her finger tips over his chest, his breath caught and she shuddered. “Ben…” Her husky voice had his head spinning more than it already was. “I know what I said the other night, but I don’t really want to wait. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life.”

    He cupped her face and gazed deeply into the green pools of her eyes. How could he resist her? He wanted her so badly she tortured his dreams. He captured her lips in a kiss tender and passionate kiss. She moaned and opened her mouth under his and he deepened the kiss. He loved the taste of her—sweet as the sweetest fruit.

    “Jys…” he breathed against her lips as the kiss broke for air. How did they get to the next step? He suddenly felt awkward.

    She must have sensed his unease while he sensed hers. Sliding her hand up his chest to rest on his cheek, she licked her lips and whispered, “Ben, I’ve never been with anyone either. But it can’t be that hard to figure out. I mean beings have been doing it since the dawn of time.”

    He smiled and glanced away for a moment before turning back to her. Her attempt at levity was exactly what he needed to break the frustration building because he felt like bumbling idiot. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right, but I want it to be perfect for you.” He blushed and looked away again. “I know it’ll hurt for you.”

    “You could never hurt me, Ben. It will be perfect.”

    Ben shifted her to her feet as he stood and led her into his bedroom where they shared what no one else could ever take from them and what neither of them would have given to any other—their innocence.






    Only one more chapter to go in this part...
     
  10. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 15

    Errant Venture, Coruscant System

    At the fringes of the Coruscant System, the Pulsar Skate rested softly on the deck of the familiar hangar of the Errant Venture, which immediately turned and at maximum speed high-tailed it to the closest jump point. Valin let out a sigh and the relief of those around him flooded his senses. Once Mirax cut the repulsors, he undid his crashwebbing, excitement hitting him as he felt a presence he very much wanted to see. Closely followed by his parents, they made their way into the main hold of the yacht where the others waited. Zekk had already taken the liberty of opening the hatch.

    They made their way down the ramp with Valin in the lead. He came to a stop a few meters from the Skate when the mountain of a man who was his grandfather appeared from around another transport in the hangar.

    “I’m glad to see you made it, Valin. Of, course, going to prison for something you really shouldn’t is the Terrik way.” Booster Terrik embraced his only grandson. Valin didn’t miss the pointed look his grandfather gave to his father.

    “Thanks, Granddad.” Valin stepped away from the man he had inherited his height and broad shoulders from and looked round the flight deck again. The presence was stronger. “But I would be on Centax 3 right now as a wall ornament for the next twenty years if it hadn’t been for them. All of them.” He gazed at Corran.

    If Booster realized what Valin implied, his grandfather ignored him and smiled at Mirax, who had moved to stand beside Valin. She went into Booster’s open arms and hugged him. “Hi, Dad.”

    Booster grinned and in his typical no-nonsense way. “I suppose I can’t convince you to come home where you belong with me, too. Corellia could use a good supply procurer.”

    Mirax tilted her head and gave him a you-know-I-can’t-do-that look. “We’ve been through this. I may support Corellia, but my place is with Corran. That’s why I risked my neck to leave when I was under house arrest.”

    Booster flashed his son-in-law a look of disdain. “Yeah, so you keep telling me. I don’t understand it, Horn,” Booster said to Corran as Mirax moved away from him. “You’re supposed to be a Corellian! How in blazes can you follow that Vader-wannabe? But then I don’t understand how Han Solo could have raised a kid like him to begin with. How can he do what he does to his own people is beyond me or how you can support him?”

    Booster didn’t call Corran CorSec as he’d always done, which sadly meant Booster didn’t consider his father worthy of the old title.

    Corran’s face retained an expression of complete composure. “I serve a higher purpose than just a single planetary government or Jacen Solo. I serve the Force, Booster.”

    Booster scoffed and gestured to the others standing in the back of the family. Valin felt the other Jedis’ discomfort, but Allia’s, not knowing of the family history, was the most profound. “And these other Jedi, plus Princess Leia, don’t?”

    “Booster, I refuse to argue over this with you.” Valin’s eyes widened at the emotion in his father’s voice. “I have to follow what the Force is telling me.”

    A chill skittered through Valin at his father’s words.

    Booster gritted his teeth. “And what is the Force telling you that’s different from these Jedi?”

    Corran seemed to deflate, but he was still determined. “It’s telling me this is my path, Booster. It’s telling me that my family will be ripped apart if I choose not to follow its will.” He gazed at Mirax and Valin with green eyes full of sadness. “And it’s telling me, if I leave, all hope will be gone as well.”

    Valin!”

    He spun him around so fast he nearly lost his balance.

    Syal ran down the aisle between the ships. All worry left him and he took off as fast as he could in her direction. She took a running leap and landed in his open arms. Breathing in her floral scent, he shamelessly let his tears go and hugged her as tightly as she did him. Nothing else in the galaxy existed.

    He buried his face in her short blond hair, and his voice cracked when he spoke. “Syal, I’m so sorry.” She pulled back far enough to meet his eyes, and he wiped tears from her cheeks. “I’m so sorry.”

    She shook her head. “No. Valin, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and you have nothing to be sorry for.” She brought her hands up to cup his face. “I love you.”

    He rubbed his thumb gently over her cheek. His vision of the brown-haired, blue-eyed little girl and the baby in Syal’s arms came to his mind, and he made a decision. He stepped back a pace and smiled when she furrowed his brow. Taking her hands, he kissed her fingertips. “Syal, you’ve always been here for me, and over the years you’ve become my best friend. I love you and can’t imagine my life with anyone else.” He vaguely heard his mother gasp as if she knew what he was about to do and he felt his father’s love and encouragement. It slightly bothered him they had such a large audience, which also included most of the flight deck crew. But he also didn’t care. Nothing mattered but he was with the one person he’d risk everything for.

    “Oh, Valin, you are my best friend, too,” she hoarsely said when he paused to gather his thoughts.

    He dropped to one knee. Her blue eyes filled with excitement and love. Still holding her hands as tightly as he dared to, he cleared his throat. “Syal, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

    Syal gasped and tears flowed anew. She pulled him up as she cried, “Yes! Oh, by the gods, Valin. Yes!”

    She kissed him with loving passion, joy and hope for a happy future.

    “Capt’n, we’re reverting in two minutes.” A gruff voice sounded over the ship’s intercom.

    “If you plan to get off. Now’s the time to get ready. We’re only coming out of hyperspace long enough to pick up a message packet.” Booster’s voice, which was unnaturally brittle, blasted through Valin’s love fogged mind and brought reality crashing down on him.

    He and Syal turned and moved back toward the others who were still by the Skate,

    “So, Karade is still in the business.” Mirax raised a brow.

    Booster glanced at Corran, then nodded. “He’s a real Corellian.”

    Corran ignored the slight and turned toward Valin and Syal, who held each other around the waist. “Congratulations. I’m so happy for you.”

    Syal left his side long enough to hug his father. “Thank you, Uncle Corran.” She stepped out fo the hug and grinned. “Emmm…Something about that just doesn’t sound right now.”

    Mirax took her hold-daughter into her arms then and snickered. “I would hope so. But then you never did think of each other as cousins. You seem to forget about that first kiss.”

    Valin felt blood heat his face, something he didn’t do easily. “Mom—”

    “Oh, I’m not talking about the one when she was recovering the other year. “His mother had a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she cut him off. “I’m talking about the kiss when you were eight. I’ll never forget Wedge’s expression when he saw you lay one on his three year old daughter.”

    “Mom!”

    The whole group, including Syal, laughed.

    The gruff voice came over the speaker again. “Revision in forty-five seconds.”

    Everyone embraced or shook hands with Mirax and Corran, then they moved up the ramp. Booster stopped them by saying, “Mirax, take care of yourself.”

    She turned and smiled at her father. “You too, Dad. May the Force be with you. All of you.”

    Booster grinned and put his big hands on his hips. “Oh, I think it will be. The Imperial Remnant has a new leader these days and he’s very dedicated to Corellia.”

    “It does? I haven’t heard anything.” Corran furrowed his brows.

    Booster’s grin widened as if he had something over his Jedi know-it-all son-in-law. Valin’s heart leapt into his throat.

    Before Booster had his chance to spring his surprise, Syal announced nonchalantly, “Yeah, my cousin was named Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet.”

    “Do you mean—Jagged Fel?” asked Jaina in a higher than normal voice.

    Syal squeezed Valin’s waist in her excitement and nodded. “Of course, I mean Jagged and since the Remnant is our biggest ally, he will no doubt want to meet with the Jedi. I know Princess Leia and Knight Jesi Chivel have been very helpful to him and Dad.”

    Jaina’s face turned from one of suspicion to one of total and utter shock and possibly even a little fear. Zekk’s scowl as he stared at his fiancée had Valin wondering just what Jaina let slip through their bond. This should be interesting.

    ****

    Skywalker’s Apartment, Temple District, Coruscant

    Luke lifted the mug of hot chocolate to his lips and looked out the window of the living room. The dawning of a new day over Galactic City promised to be a nice one. He felt Mara approach from the kitchen, but he didn’t turn to look at her.

    “Where’s Jys? I don’t sense her and I’d have expected her to be up by now.” Mara took a cursory look out the window. “Luke?”

    Out of his robe pocket, he pulled the crumpled note and handed to her. “I found it this morning.” She took it and read it. When she glared at Luke more puzzled than before, he said, “Read it through the Force.”

    She complied and gasped as she met Luke’s gaze. “She lied? So, where is she?”

    He knew the truth would hurt her. “Where do you think she is? Where would she go that would cause her to lie to us?”

    Horror flashed though her expression and through their bond as she whispered, “Ben.”

    Luke turned away as he nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

    “I can’t believe she’d lie. I’ve never been opposed to her friendship with Ben.” She fell into her chair and narrowed her eyes. “She spent the night with him, didn’t she? That’s why she lied.”

    He sipped his chocolate and nodded. “We should have known this was going to happen.”

    She balled her fists on the top of the table. “He’s only fifteen! Surely, Jysella Horn has more sense than to sleep with our fifteen year old son?” With a pointed look, she more calmly asked, “But how can you be so sure something happened?”

    Luke took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know and let’s leave it at that.” He set his mug on the table. “There’s nothing we can do about it now except make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’ll knight her and she will be assigned to Krylon. The only thing we can hope is that she isn’t pregnant.”

    Mara stared at him and hoarsely repeated, “Pregnant? Oh, Luke, none of us are remotely ready for the complications of that.”

    Luke took Mara into his arms and buried his face into her still vibrant red hair. “I know, Mara. I know. If they are meant to be together, I’ll welcome her into the family with open arms, but until then, I don’t want Jys Horn anywhere near our son.”

    ****

    Jacen Solo’s Apartment, Coruscant

    Ben smiled as he drifted out of his dreams into wakefulness. Jys lay on his chest. As he caressed her bare back, she felt warm and soft. He sensed her awaken and she took a deep breath as she turned her head to look up at him. What in the nine hells was he supposed to say? “Hi.”

    Well, that was lame.

    She flushed a high pink. “Hello yourself.” She leaned down and kissed him. “Ben, last night was like a—”

    The insistent beep of Ben’s comlink interrupted her. He scowled and said, “I have to get this. It might be Jacen.” He reached out and called the devise to his hand and flipped it on. “Skywalker.”

    “Ben. It’s Lon. Do you know where General Solo is? I need to get in contact with him, but he isn’t answering his comlink.”

    Ben shook his head and frowned. Jys shifted to the edge of the bed, taking her soft heat with her and wrapping the coverlet around her. He sat up and glanced at the chrono. She would have to leave soon.

    “No. He’d left me a message that he was going somewhere to check out a lead. Doesn’t HQ know how to reach him?”

    “No, but I need you down here ASAP.” The new commander of GAG sounded frustrated.

    “What’s going on?” Ben said as he moved to get out of bed, but realized he was still naked under the sheet, stopped and glanced at Jys.

    Since she was in the same predicament, she flashed him mischievous grin and ruffled the edge of the blanket wrapped around her. “I’ll go into the ’fresher,” she whispered and gathered her clothes from the floor.

    As the door closed, his heart fell into the pit of his stomach. This wasn’t how he’d wanted the morning to end.

    “…reports from the two transfer guards don’t make sense.” Lon’s irritated voice shook him out of his thoughts. “Captain Webbs seems to think they may have been under some kind of Jedi mind control.”

    Ben swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Lon, could you repeat that?” The water shut off in the refresher. If Jys came out at this moment... After setting the comlink in the holo dock, he touched a button to allow him to hear Lon and speak to his commander as Ben dressed. He got a pair of underwear out of the drawer and pulled them. “Sorry, you caught me at a bad moment.”

    A huff sounded loudly in the room. Lon was more than just a little annoyed. “Someone helped Valin Horn escape last night, and we think at least two Jedi helped him.”

    The refresher door slid open and Jys stepped through. As their gazes met, he couldn’t keep his surprise from his expression or out of their bond. The look on her face as she stood in the middle of the door, clutching the gray blanket to her chest, was enough to let Ben know she had heard the colonel’s comments. Ben swallowed, and without breaking eye contact with Jys, he blandly said, “Thanks, Colonel. I’ll be there within thirty minutes.” He turned off the comlink. “I’m sorry, Jys.”

    She lowered her head and tears trickled down her cheek. He took her into his arms as she sobbed. “I’m glad he didn’t go to prison, Ben. But now, he is even more in trouble and so are those who helped him. You know who the Jedi were, don’t you?”

    Ben nodded, looked over her head, and gritted his teeth. “Yes, I think I do. Jaina and Zekk are now terrorists as well.”

    She pulled away and stared at him with wide, tear-reddened eyes. “Is that what my brother is too? Just because he wanted to save the woman he loves?”

    “Jysella.” He opened the closet door, took a black utility uniform from it “I thought you said Valin would have to live with his decisions.” He pulled the pants on with impatient tugs. “I thought you realized that something like this can be dangerous to the order of the GA.”

    “Do you only see things in black and white?” Glaring at him, she wiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand. “Ben, this is my brother and your cousin we’re talking about. They are hardly terrorists. Misguided, maybe, but they are not terrorists.”

    Ben shrugged into his shirt on and buttoned it. “So, are you saying that just because Valin felt he was doing what he thought was right. It’s okay to do it? Even if it is against the law?”

    “I’m saying not everything is so clear cut.” She turned around and Ben sensed the conflict churning in her. Turning, she took a deep breath. “The law is to protect the innocent, and it is to provide guidance. Not to cause fear and discord.”

    He shoved his shirttails into his pants. “And that is exactly why the GAG was created to help enforce the law. We protect the innocent and provide guidance for those who need it. The only ones who should fear us are the ones breaking the law and they are the ones causing the discord.”

    “Is that you talking or Master Solo?” She shook her head and tossed the blanket onto the bed. “Ben, I just want everything to be like it was.” The pain in her eyes stabbed at his heart. “I’ll never see my big brother again.”

    Realizing what was truly bothering her, he went to her and feathered his fingers over her cheek. “I’m sorry, Jys. I’m sure he’s gone by now and far out of the GAG’s reach.” He forced a smile and threaded his fingers into her mussed black mane. “He’s probably with Syal Antilles safe and sound.”

    Nodding, she took a deep breath and cupped his cheek. He relaxed under her gentle touch. “I don’t what to fight about this. I’ll be leaving in a couple of hours, and I have no idea when I’ll see you again. I know I didn’t fool your parents with my note. They would have sensed my guilt at the lie I was telling.”

    He snaked his arms around her waist and pulled her close, the tension completely gone. “I don’t want to fight either. I’ll miss you.”

    She put her arms around his neck. “I love you, Ben,” she whispered and kissed him.

    Breathless, he broke the kiss and tried to damper the anger raging through him. “I’ll visit you. I promise, I’ll come even if I have to steal an X-wing from Niathal’s personal hangar to do it. They won’t be able to keep us apart forever.” He held her close, and in a cracking voice, choked, “I have to go.” He stepped away and turned for the door. He looked at her intently, wondering how he was going to fight the dragon without her here to help him. “I love you, Jysella.”

    He ran from the apartment before the first tears slid down his cheeks, never hating his parents more than he did in that moment. Someday you’ll pay for this. You’ll pay dearly.

    ****

    Lumiya’s Asteroid, near Bimmiel

    Caedus brought the X-wing down and scanned the area with his sensors and with the Force for danger. The containment field closed. The artificial gravity and atmosphere compared to Coruscant’s. The asteroid’s darkness flowed through him and gave him strength.

    He leapt off the edge of the X-wing and landed on the stone and durocrete hangar floor. Taking an extensive look around, he sensed nothing of Lumiya. “Lumiya. I know you’re here.” When he heard soft footsteps, he turned toward the sound and casually laid his hand on his lightsaber hilt. “Lumiya, I don’t have time for games.”

    “That is truly a shame, Master Caedus.” The voice wasn’t Lumiya’s raspy tone. This high-pitched speech grated on his nerves every time he heard it and today wasn’t any different. “We are sorry you don’t like our games.”

    “Alema,” he seethed between gritted teeth. Truly, if the lame, demented Twi’lek Dark Nest Joiner hadn’t proven so useful, he would have killed her a year ago when she’d attempted to assassinate him. He’d nearly succeeded, but Lumiya had prevented him the final satisfaction. She’d reasoned Alema Rar was perfect for them to use. Despite her darkness, Caedus refused to train her or allow Lumiya to teach her the ways of a true Sith. He now kept her alive because she proved to be one of his most loyal minions and was one of the best assassins he could employ. “What are you doing here? You are supposed to be waiting orders at the Temple on Korriban.”

    She bowed, but Caedus felt the insincerity of it. As much as he distrusted and despised Alema, he knew she needed the Sith more than they need her. Though the thought disgusted him, Lumiya, Caedus and the other Sith Lumiya thought she was hiding from Caedus, had become her nest.

    “We are sorry again, Master Caedus.” She always managed to sneer his name. “But Mistress summed us.”

    “She did, huh?” Tired of Alema’s insanity, he pushed past her and walked into the corridor to the inner sanctum of the compound.

    In the main living area, Lumiya reclined on an elegant bantha-hide couch. “Darth Caedus, what a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?” She slowly stood and glided toa beverage dispenser. “Would you like a drink? It’s a long flight from Coruscant.”

    He scowled and got to the point. “I want you to plant a suggestion in Gejjen’s measly mind.”

    She stopped and turned to look at him with a raised brow. “Gejjen’s?”

    Alema had followed him into the study. She tried to hide as she shifted along the walls of shelving. No doubt, she was to act as a distraction for him.

    “Stop the games, Lumiya. I know you provide him information.”

    “And I provide you with information,” she said in an even voice. Turning away from the dispenser, her hand dropped beside her whip.

    He grinned, she didn’t trust him either. Good. “Then, you should have no problem fulfilling this request.”

    “What’s the suggestion?” She continued to watch him closely.

    “I want you to suggest that it would be a good idea to start up Centerpoint again.”

    “Are you serious?” Her eyes widened.

    “I think it’s time to have a super weapon, don’t you, Alema?” His words caught the advancing Twi’lek off guard and she stopped cold in her tracks.

    “Ah… We suppose so, Master.”

    “Lord Caedus, what are you planning?” Lumiya relaxed and sat on the couch.

    He remained standing, coiled and ready to fight.

    “I want Corellia and the Remnant to repair Centerpoint. I want you to provide them with information that will get it near operational. They can’t know where the information came from nor can they be allowed to repair it too swiftly. GAG cannot find out about this, even if there is no way that I will be implicated. I want the Insurgents to think they are capable of winning.” He loved this plan more and more every time he thought about it. “Then we will take it over. Destroy the Jedi that do not join us. Finally, the Sith will bring an end to this conflict. I can start rebuilding of the galaxy and bringing about a new order.”

    The corners of Lumiya’s eyes turned upward as she purred, “Perfect.”



    Thank you all for sticking with The Path of Dreams: Part 1---Loss of Innocence. I'll start posting Part 2---Into the Shadows in a few days.... Have a great weekend everyone!!! [face_cowboy]
     
  11. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    Great story. Very engaging. Can't wait to see what happens next.
     
  12. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    It seems that some of the Jedi seem to think that it's okay to break the law as long as they did it for a good reason…a position that is pretty arrogant and raises the question: Who DO the Jedi answer to?

    I'm not sure I follow Jacen's logic…he tried to destroy Centerpoint and now wants to make it operational? And a strong Empire would bring order to their section of the galaxy…something that Jacen was trying to achieve.

    Ah, young love…and all the angst that goes along with it!
     
  13. TheChosenSolo

    TheChosenSolo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2011
    I'm glad I found this! I typically don't care much for anything that happened from the Dark Nest Tragedy beyond, but this is a take on LotF that I quite enjoy. Nice work!
     
    Force Smuggler likes this.
  14. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Sorry for the late replies....

    Force Smuggler and Ravan_AnakinSolo: Thanks! I hope you both enjoy the rest of the story...:D

    SouxFan: Well, I can't say that I totally disagree with you about Jacen--but then Sith Jacen didn't really make sense even in Pro Fic. But remember, Jacen's (Caedus to be more exact) isn't just after order, he wants to rule. Isn't that the Sith way? As for Centerpoint, I have big plans for it...[face_devil] Oh, yes the Jedi...again, I won't argue, they can be an arrogant bunch at times. Emmm... As I read the first book of Fate of the Jedi again... I think that's what the first part of that book was about--Jedi arrogance and thinking they were above the law. Thanks for reading!!!
     
  15. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Book II: Into the Shadows

    The hooded man ignited the crimson blade with an ominous snap-hiss. Luke couldn’t see the shadowy face and pulled his lightsaber from his belt.

    “Who are you?” Luke asked as the tall, black-robed figure circled him.

    The man didn’t answer and undid the clasp of his cape.

    Luke stared at the vonduun crab armor as the cape slid from the man’s body. The mask completely obscured his face.

    “Who are you?”

    “Search your feelings and you will know…”



    Chapter 1

    Coronet Convention Center, Coronet, Corellia

    Jaina felt as if she had a flock of mynocks in her belly and no amount of Jedi tricks would solve the problem. She shielded her emotions from both her fiancé and her mother, but she doubted she fooled them. The line of guests entering the convention center kept drawing her attention, no matter how hard she fought the pull. Zekk had barely spoken to her that morning and she knew the reason why—he sensed her uneasiness even through her shields.

    He was jumping to the wrong conclusions. Ever since they’d defected to Corellia six months ago, things hadn’t been the same with them. Zekk had confronted her concerning her shock at hearing about Jagged Fel’s promotion and hadn’t believed her that he’d sensed only surprise and happiness for Jagged. She’d pointed out that now they were also part of the rebellion, Jagged Fel was a boon to their cause as Grand Admiral of the Imperial Remnant. Nevertheless, Zekk hadn’t been convinced, and over the past months, he’d become moody every time someone brought up the subject of Admiral Jagged Fel.

    They’d avoided meeting the de facto commander of the Insurgent Forces because he’d been on Bastian for the past months getting his government underway. They’d met with his second in command, but hadn’t met the Admiral himself.

    Why was she so nervous at the very real possibility of meeting him here today? She knew he’d be here. After all, he was the bride’s cousin. She looked around again as the hundred or so wedding guests found their seats. Her heart weighed heavy with disappointment and fluttered with gladness at the same time at not seeing him.

    What would she say to the man she nearly married over a decade ago?

    Her father, sitting on her left, looked at her and grinned lopsidedly. “So, you getting any ideas?”

    “About what, Dad?”

    “Oh, you know, wedding ideas.” Han scowled at Zekk, who talked with the Corellian colonel sitting beside him. Her father didn’t dislike Zekk, but he didn’t actually like him either. He tolerated Zekk. When Han found out that they had taken to living together, he hit the roof. “Call me old fashioned, but I don’t particularly care for or understand your waiting.”

    Jaina rolled her eyes. She was glad Zekk was oblivious of their conversation. “Now isn’t the time or the place to discuss this.”

    “I see no reason not to.” The Corellian general made a show of looking around the room, then he turned back to Jaina. She dreaded the twinkle in her father’s eyes. “In fact, I think now is the perfect time to discuss it. Let’s face it, these are the exact same people we’d invite to your wedding under the circumstances. And if you really had your hearts set on a Jedi union ceremony, I’m sure your mom would be more than happy to perform it.” When she narrowed her eyes at him, he raised a brow. “Unless you really don’t want it to happen.”

    “Dad, what are you getting at?” But Jaina didn’t need an answer, then she felt Zekk’s interest in the conversation. Oh, great!

    Han looked past Jaina to the man sitting on her other side. “I think you both know what I’m aiming at.”

    Before either Zekk or she had a chance to respond, the clamor of the guests ceased, and Jaina brought her attention to the front of the hall. Dressed in the spotless white dress uniform of an Imperial Grand Admiral, Jagged Fel stepped up on the low dais. The blue and red insignia shone bright against the stark brilliance of his jacket. The gold trimming glowed in the light. He was tall, poised, and handsome. The formable leader who’d once held her heart, and suddenly Jaina couldn’t breathe.

    As Valin stepped up on the dais, Jaina realized Jag was performing the ceremony. That ghost of a smile, which plagued her heart with its good-nature and wry sense of humor, touched Jag’s lips as he spoke quietly to the groom. When his green eyes found hers, he lost the smile and his gaze turned to stone.

    You’re still attracted to him, she heard in her head and felt the sharp edge of Zekk’s jealousy. She hadn’t even realized she let her shielding slip.

    ****

    Valin glanced at the Grand Admiral and couldn’t believe the absurdity of him performing his marriage ceremony. He’d met the man three days and rather liked him. Syal had asked Jag to perform the service, and to everyone in the Antilles family’s surprise, he’d agreed.

    Valin got feeling the Grand Admiral was doing it for political reasons as much as for feelings of family togetherness. The reunion of Jedi Knight Valin Horn and Commander Syal Antilles had taken the Corellian media by storm. Even now outside the Coronet Convention Center, hundreds HoloNet reporters gathered, hoping to get a chance to record the bride and groom.

    They had a hard time accepting the fact their romance had become fodder for the media, and they’d known by asking Jag to officiate the ceremony would, not only show Jag’s acceptance of the GA’s renegade Jedi, but also his willingness to accept one of them into his own family. Even with this as a secret goal, Jag and Wedge had forbidden any reporters to be allowed in the hall, of which Valin was glad. He hated being under the media’s merciless microscope, but he had the feeling he should get use to it.

    Syal’s nervousness brushed his awareness, as he caught sight of Wedge pacing by the outer door. He smiled at the memory of him and Syal announcing their engagement to the Antilles. They had been more than happy, and Wedge had immediately taken Valin under his wing. He now held the rank of lieutenant and severed on Wedge’s staff of advisors. A position he wasn’t exactly comfortable with, but Wedge held every confidence in him as a Jedi he could trust.

    He looked out over the collection of wedding guests and sighed. Aside from the few family and friends gathered, Valin didn’t know many of the beings in attendance, and neither did Syal. They were political guests and nothing more. Corellian Head of State, Dur Gejjen and several other government officials and many high-ranking military officers were seated behind the family. Gejjen spoke in quite tones to the newly elected Bothan First Secretary Traest Kre’fey.

    He took another calming breath as he thought about the people who weren’t there—his parents, his sister, and numerous personal and family friends such as the Skywalkers and the Celchus. Iella Antilles arranged for a private holographer to record the ceremony, telling him, if the Horns couldn’t be present in body, she would make sure they got the chance to see the ceremony. He didn’t want to know how she would smuggle the vidchip to Coruscant, but was certain the Corellian Intel Director had her ways.

    Yanking on the tunic of his blue dress uniform, he wished he’d worn his Jedi robes, but he was as much a part of the military of Corellia as he was a Jedi now. When first notes of the Corellian Wedding March played, he snapped his attention to the front of the long aisle. With a bright smile, Myri Antilles walked forward. The only attendant to the couple was dressed in the same uniform as Valin.

    He smiled at his younger friend as Myri stood across from him on the dais. Looking back at the front, he lost his breath and his heart sped up. Syal stepped through the door with her hand on her father’s arm. A pale green traditional Corellian wedding gown flowed over her curves and trailed behind her. Her medium length blond hair was done in a sweeping up-do of curls.

    Sweet Force, she was beautiful. After what seemed like an eternity, they would finally be together.

    ****

    Vincent, Krylon

    Jysella felt very much like a Wookie at a Ewok convention. Why had she agreed to come to the spaceport with Tahiri?

    As she paced in a wide circle, she looked around the vast spaceport and the diversity of the place never failed to stun her. But unlike Corscant where hundreds of different beings lived and worked in a tense harmony, no such vibe existed on Krylon. The Outer Rim planet was in the same sector as Yavin and had proven to be as much a desolate rock as she had figured it would be. Despite boasting more than three million beings, capital city Vincent wasn’t much better.

    The planet had been reclaimed after the Yuuzhan Vong had left the once lush fertile grasslands and low purple hills covered with their strange and sometimes malevolent creatures. Instead of the population returning to the peaceful pre-war farming economy, the reclaimed world became home to nearly three billion displaced beings of several species and the economy was going through some tough growing pains. This diverse and occasionally volatile mix had prompted the government to ask Luke to station at least one Jedi on the planet at all times.

    No wonder Jaden Korr couldn’t wait to get back to Coruscant. Within the first week after arriving, she and Tahiri Veila had settled fifteen disputes. Six months later, Jys had lost count.

    Becoming a full knight hadn’t been all that it should have been either. She still felt like and apprentice, only this time to Tahiri. The older Jedi was much better at handling the problems than she was. Tahiri chalked it up to her years helping the Yuuzhan Vong to settle on their home planet. Why had Luke sent her here? Maybe he felt she really wasn’t ready to be a full knight, but this was his way of getting her away from Ben?

    As she spied a woman not much older than her carrying an infant through the crowd gathering at the shops lining the plaza, the chilly trip to Ossus with Mara and Luke exploded in her mind. She would never regret the night she and Ben spent together, but his parents tried their best to make her do so. She’d known she hadn’t fooled the Jedi Masters for long with her note. They had spent over half the trip to her knighting in complete silence until Mara couldn’t hold her tongue any longer.

    With her arms crossed over her chest, Mara paced the length of common area of the Jade Shadow.“He’s only fifteen!”

    Sitting on one of the acceleration couches, Jys tossed aside the holonovel she’d pretended to read. She stood and faced her master. She’d decided long before the confrontation she wasn’t going cheapen the experience she had with Ben by lying again. “We love each other. Someday we will be together and neither you nor my parents will be able to stop us.”

    Mara’s green eyes speared her with disapproval and disappointment. “Someday, Jysella, someday, your parents and Luke and I would welcome the union of you and Ben, but right now he is too young and far too impressionable. And you are old enough to understand this. Did you even consider the consequences?” Mara seethed. “What if you become pregnant?”

    The thought of a baby caused her heart to speed up and her face to heat up. “I—I can’t. I’ve been taking birth control for the past few months.”

    Mara’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “You planned this?”

    She shook her head and fought the urge to glance away. “Not for when it happened, but yes, I knew it would someday.”

    Luke, who up until now sat by the table with his hands folded together and looking rather thoughtful, turned and she swallowed at the intensity of his blue eyes. “Jysella, Mara is correct. You may think of Ben as an adult and he may even treat you as one would, but it still doesn’t change the fact that he is not old enough to make such decisions.”

    Jys wanted to scream at the Jedi Masters that the only people who thought of Ben as a child was them, but she held her tongue. Luke didn’t say anything else, maybe he sensed her disagreement or maybe he just wanted her to think about what he said.

    The rest of the trip had been spent in the same strained silence the first half. Would Luke and Mara ever truly accept her for their son? That thought had hurt as much as the shattering of her and Mara’s relationship.

    “Jys?” Tahiri’s voice brought her out of the painful memory, and she looked toward the old modified Headhunter as it landed on the landing pad. “C’mon. He’s here.” The words were evenly spoken, but Jys heard the excitement behind them.

    The landing ramp descended, and Jys sensed the utter joy Tahiri projected. She was happy for her friend. Tahiri had always had a special place in her father’s heart and after Tahiri had found her way again after the Swarm War, he had secretly wished the pretty blond could have stolen Valin’s heart. Even though, the Horns were more than pleased with Valin’s eventual choice for a life partner, they wished Tahiri found happiness as well. Little did anyone know that Tahiri’s broken heart, which had been shattered after the death of Anakin Solo, had been slowly healed by the most unusual source. For Jys, even the thought of having to live life without Ben took her breath and made her chest ache. How had Tahiri, with all that had happened to her, not only survived, but learned to love again?

    Tahiri and the Jedi trotting down the ramp had first been partnered on a mission to Nar Shaddaa about a year before the current mess. They had worked well together and had been paired on several missions after Nar Shaddaa. After the failed attempt by Tahiri’s team on Corellia to kidnap Thrackan Sal-Solo, their relationship changed from one of professional friendship, to lovers.

    “Doran,” Tahiri screeched and ran into his arms. Jys couldn’t help but smile. Tahiri barely came to his mid-chest. He had to bend to place a tender kiss on her lips.

    “Force, I’ve missed you” DoranTainer said into blond Tahiri’s curls.

    She turned her face up to his. “I was beginning to think I’m financing a third Death Star with my personal comlink bill.”

    He gave her a sheepish look. “I was beginning to think I was, too. Six flippin’ months is a long time.”

    He said something else, and Tahiri whispered back a reply, both of which Jysella couldn’t catch. She turned away as they joined in a passionate kiss. Why was she here!

    After a few moments that felt like an eternity, Tahiri stepped out of her lover’s arms, and Doran held out his hand to Jys in greeting. “Well, if it isn’t Val Horn’s little sister.” He flashed her one of his wide grins. “And I must say you’ve defiantly turned out lovelier than him.” Before Jys could withdraw her fingers from his, he dramatically bent and kissed the back of her hand as if they were royalty on some backward world somewhere.

    Tahiri rolled her eyes and lightly punched him on his upper arm. “Will you please stop that?”

    Doran turned a mocking hurt expression on Tahiri. “But my daddy always told me to be chivalrous around the ladies.”

    “Chivalrous, yes. A pain in the backside, no.” The twinkle in Tahiri’s eyes was one Jys had never seen before. “Besides, the only chivalrous thing I remember your father doing is asking Danni Quee what he could blow up next.”

    Doran laughed and wrapped his arm around Tahiri’s shoulders. “I’m surprised he even asked.”

    Doran secured his ship and they made their way back to the three story building serving as the Jedi’s home and work space after. They entered the sitting room of the apartment she and Tahiri shared.

    “This is nice.” Doran looked around, then pulled a package out of his bag. “This is for you, fair lady.”

    Tahiri looked at the plain packaging of the low square box and narrowed her eyes at him. “What is it? I’m afraid to open it.”

    He laughed and shrugged. “I may look dumb, but after the last time, I’ve learned my lesson.”

    Jys grinned, caught up in the amazing change in Tahiri. “What happened?”

    Tahiri sat down on the couch with the box on her lap. “Mr. Tainer learned the hard way not to give me booby trapped gifts.”

    Doran shook his head and sat beside Tahiri, leaving Jys to sit on the chair opposite. He draped his arm around her shoulders. “I gave her an exploding present. She opened the outer wrapping and it exploded, showering her with thousands of pieces of flimsy confetti.” He laughed and met Tahiri’s glowing gaze. “It was worth the beating I got for my trouble just to see your expression.”

    “Tahiri beat you?” Jys sat forward, resting her elbows on her legs. That was a fight she’d have loved to see. Tahiri was half Doran’s height and width. “How?”

    “Hand to hand,” Tahiri piped in. “Seems the big lug forgot I’ve been fighting since I was a toddler. I used some of my Tusken training mixed with some Yuuzhan Vong moves on him, and before he could say ‘no fair,’ I had him on his back in thirty seconds flat.”

    They all laughed, then Tahiri opened the package, albeit cautiously. She lifted the square pastry from the box and bent to smell it. She gasped and looked up at Doran. “Is this what I think it is?”

    He nodded and pure joy radiated from his wide grin. “I was on Tatooine and picked it up. I remembered you telling me about how much you missed hubba gourd. I found this at a market in Mos Epsa.”

    Tahiri leaned over and placed a quick kiss on his cheek. “Thank you. This was really thoughtful of you. I haven’t had hubba gourd pie in years.” She stood and held out the pie. “Let’s eat it. Come along, Jys. Grab some plates and that jug of blue milk I brought home yesterday.”

    They moved to the table in the kitchen area. Jys did as Tahiri asked, and she dished out the traditional Tatooine desert. After taking a bite of the flaky crust and course grainy filling, Jys swallowed and nodded. “Not too bad.”

    Doran dipped into the pie and put another slice onto his plate. “I guess out here you don’t get much news.”

    “We have the HoloNet like everyone else.” Jys finished her pie and pushed her plate away.

    “He’s not talking about that kind of news.” Thiri sipped her milk. “So, what’s the latest gossip that we’re missing out here on this rock?”

    “I hear that Kyp Durron is getting serious with his latest Jedi partner.” Doran said between bites of pie.

    “Seriously?” Tahiri snickered, pushing her plate away.

    “Yeah.” Doran wiped his month on his napkin. “I was surprised too. Seems that he may have been seeing her for a while.”

    “I’m not that surprised.” The older Jedi both looked at Jys, and she shrugged. “I’ve known Kyp for a long time. In fact, I wanted him to be my master.”

    Doran chuckled and leaned back in his chair. “I bet that went over well with your dad.”

    She grinned and folded her arms on the table. “Like a durocrete balloon. But seriously, Kyp is a good man and deserves to be happy. So, who is it? Anyone we know?”

    “Alex Winger,” Doran said.

    Tahiri laughed. “You’re kidding.”

    At the same time, Jys said, “Who’s that?”

    Doran raised his brow and said to Tahiri first, “Why would I kid about that. And to answer you, Jys, Alex is a Jedi much like my mom who never went to the Academy and basically trained herself with help from Master Luke. Just over a half a year ago Mom ran into her somewhere in the Corporate Sector, and Alex told Mom the Council asked if she’d come to Coruscant.” His grin widened with mischief. “Apparently, she and Durron hit it off from the start. I heard she slapped him after some snide comment he said following a meeting with the Council.”

    Tahiri couldn’t fight the giggles that shook her. “It seems Kyp has that problem with the women who are attracted to him. Jaina Solo slapped him, too.”

    “Kyp really loved Jaina.” Jys averted her eyes to the table, happy the master finally found someone to love. “I’m glad he finally let her go.” Both of the older Jedi turned and stared at her with their eyes wide. Stang, she’d said that aloud! She gulped down a drink of milk, then changed the subject. “Doran, have you heard anything about Valin?”

    Thank the Force, Doran let the subject drop. “Nothing that you probably haven’t heard. He and Syal are set to get married. Today I think. Well, if you go by standard date. I don’t know what time it is on Corellia right now.”

    Jys nodded and looked down at her empty plate. The reports about the wedding of renegade Jedi Valin Horn and the traitor Syal Antilles have been all over the HoloNet for weeks now. She hated that the romance of her brother and older friend dragged through the media as if they had done something wrong by falling in love.

    As if sensing Jysella’s thoughts, Tahiri reached over and squeezed Jysella’s hand. “I’m happy for Valin. I may not agree with him, but I’m happy for my old friend.”

    Jys swallowed and looked up at Tahiri. “I am happy for Valin, too. I just wish we could…”

    Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with emotion. The hot sting of tears burned her eyes. Blinking to fight the flood, she stood. “I’m sorry, but I have to—have to—go.”

    Once inside her small room, she lay down on the narrow bed. Talking about Kyp and Valin and seeing how happy Tahiri and Doran were made her realize how much she missed Ben. She hadn’t got a message from him in over a week which concerned her. Despite the distance between them, she’d often she’d feel his touch, and he’d envelope her with his love. She’d feel his desperation and his greedy need to feel her presence.

    She closed her eyes and wiped her tears and reached out with her awareness. She was overwhelmed at first by the hum of the Force around her, but soon she expanded her awareness over the vast distance of time and space to find Ben.

    When she touched his presence, Jysella recoiled and withdraw. Instead of feeling Ben’s warmth, she found nothing but a cold void. Ben was hiding, but barely, and he boiled with raw rage.

    “Ben, no!” she whispered and tears started anew. He’d broken his promise to her not to touch the Dark Side.




    Thanks, everyone, for sticking with this! Hope you enjoy.... [face_cowboy]
     
  16. windu4

    windu4 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 15, 2008
    So the plot thickens! I'm finding this really enjoyable and I love your references to other obscure Jedi characters from the EU.
     
  17. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Thank you, windu4! I love writing little known characters. I read everything I can find on them and develope their characterizations from that. In fact the thrill of my writing life at the time was when the author Charlene Newcome, who developed Alexandra Winger for the Adventure Journal, PMed me on the old boards back in '07 to tell me "great job" on using her and on my characterization of her.
     
  18. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    Ahh…Jaina/Zekk angst…no wonder I was never a fan of them as a pairing.

    Come to Corellia…where defectors are treated like heroes and weddings are propaganda ;).

    I second the kudos for making use of less 'famous' Jedi, and I like that Tahiri is normal--profic ruined her. I'm not sure getting exiled to Dagobah could really be considered '…finding her way…' though.

    Good stuff…and congrats for getting a 'great job'! That's pretty cool!
     
  19. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Hi SiouxFan! Yes, J/Z.... the angst of it all.... I'm not a fan of that pairing either, but I've been known to use it when I need to. BUT I never fail to throw in hints of my first love of a Jaina paring--Jaina/Kyp. When I started writing fan fiction back in '05, J/K was one of my favorite parings and still is, though not possible at all now in profic.

    LOL!!!! on the weddings and propaganda....

    Thanks for the kudos.... And I totally agree, pro fic destroyed Tahiri. Sure she loved Anakin, but let's face it, her pining over him and how it ruined her life is just not realistic. I like healthy and sane Tahiri.... But then I hate what Fate of the Jedi did to Corran's kids too.
     
  20. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 2

    Mon Calamari Shipyards, Mon Calamari Orbit

    Ben stared out the starboard viewport as the shuttle from the GAG Star Destroyer Anakin Solo passed by the damaged shipyard. The terrorist group Freedom’s Avengers claimed responsibility for the act that destroyed Mon Calamari’s most important ship producers and repair yards. The group, made up of mostly Rodians and other species, was hired by the Hutts in their guerilla war with the GA. The Hutts were no longer part of the GA, but they hadn’t allied with the Insurgents and remained isolationistic, stating they’d left the Empire and didn’t want to join it again.

    Within the past five months, the guerilla group Freedom’s Avengers had attacked GA shipyards all over the galaxy, but this was the worst attack so far. The infiltrators had planted several bombs, and as a result, over 4000 Mon Calamiri, Quarren, human and Verpine technicians were killed and injured, not to mention the total destruction of the shipyard and tens of thousands of droids.

    Ben felt cold inside as the shuttle flew by the wreckage to assess the damage. He’d been angry that Jacen had canceled his leave, but now his anger was directed at the traitors. He’d planned to use the week he had saved up to surprise Jys. He hadn’t seen her since the night they’d spent together. He was glad he hadn’t told her about his surprise visit to celebrate his sixteenth lifeday, which had recently passed.

    His parents hadn’t confronted him about the night they’d spent together, but he knew they were less than happy about it. Jys refused to tell him about what they had said to her other than that they knew about it. He’d felt terrible she had been subjected to an uncomfortable situation. He’d had to admit he wouldn’t have relished spending a ten hour hyperspace trip with the Horns if their circumstances had been reversed. At least, as far as he could tell, her parents were unaware of the night, and considering Corran didn’t like him to begin with, Ben figured Jysella’s father would have come after him if he’d known what had happened.

    He’d refused to discuss his relationship with Jysella with anyone, except Lon Shevu. He could be honest with him about his feelings for Jys. He’d even told him about what happened between them. To Ben’s surprise, Lon hadn’t been judgmental or condescending regarding it. In fact, Lon had talked to Ben more like a father then a commander.

    Jacen’s inflamed voice brought him out of his thoughts. “As you all can see, these swine are determined to continue in the cowards’ way by targeting defenseless citizens rather than face an army of trained soldiers. We’re here to investigate how they were able to infiltrate the excellent Mon Calamari security procedures and to find ways to prevent this from happening again. The GA can’t afford to lose anymore shipyards.”

    Jacen gave out assignments of the teams, concluding with, “Lieutenant Skywalker.” Ben stiffened slightly at his name. “Your team will investigate Shipyard Three. Since it is the next largest yard, it is possible that it would be targeted next.”

    Ben took a deep breath. “Yes, Sir.”

    Beta Team was dropped off at the main landing pad of the orbiting shipyard, and Ben dispensed orders. He’d been in charge of the team since his promotion. For the most part, the members respected him enough to not question his authority. He’d proven he was a born leader, despite his age. After all, he came from a long line of leaders. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were legendary leaders, as were Leia, Jacen and Jaina Solo; so, why would he be any different. His company’s faith in him reassured him that his decisions were sound ones, but he never discredited input from the more senior members of his team either. He’d long ago realized admitting he didn’t have all the answers only heightened his subordinates willingness to follow him to their deaths, if need be. A devotion that totally humbled him and made him more determined that death wasn’t an option.

    Ben, along with two other GAG soldiers, made their way through the darkened recesses of an access tunnel. Jacen believed the terrorists may have brought in their explosives and the supplies to produce the bombs into the facility a little at a time to avoid detection by security, then hid the contraband in the dark tunnels used by construction droids.

    He moved through the narrow space with his eyes closed and his senses open to the Force. The yard felt dead, the only presences that he sensed were of his team as they moved through different quadrants of the orbiter. The workers had all been evacuated after the attack for fear the other massive facilities could be next.

    His two companions watched him with great interest. They were both new to GAG, transfers from the Fifty-first to be cross-trained, and they hadn’t ever worked with him, or any Jedi, before. As they turned down another passage, the youngest one, a Duros by the name of Zol Vens, quietly asked his companion, “How’s he do that? I’m having trouble seeing with my eyes open.”

    “He’s a Jedi.” The older Twi’lek, Marti Naren chuckled. “I’ve been told they can do a lot more than see with their eyes closed. So you better watch out, Private.”

    Ben smiled at the easy banter between them.

    As he sensed a disturbance in the Force, Ben stopped and held up his hand. The two enlisted men fell into a defensive posture and pulled their blasters as Ben pulled his lightsaber. He motioned them to stay behind him, and he moved forward, holding his lightsaber at the ready. At first, he hadn’t sensed the presence, but was surprised to discover the human male was Force-sensitive.

    “Come out,” Ben commanded in a calm, but authoritative voice. “I feel your presence and I know you sense mine.”

    “Oh, very good, Jedi boy,” scoffed a disembodied accented voice. “I’m glad that Skywalker isn’t raising a simpleton after all.”

    “Who are you?” Ben demanded and brought his lightsaber up to a mid guard. His companions concern bubbled in the Force, but they were well trained enough not to show their fear.

    At least they hadn’t until they heard the distinctive snaphiss and saw the column of red light down the corridor. Ben ignited his lightsaber and took a deep breath, falling deeper into the flow of the Force.

    The man stepped closer, his lightsaber producing an eerie red glow over his black bearded face and gray jumpsuit of a shipyard worker. He wasn’t a Jedi but he was well trained. Ben didn’t sense a true darkness in him, but there wasn’t much light either. The man tossed Ben out of the his mind.

    Black Beard’s amused laugh was harsh in the enclosed area of the access tunnel. “Well, I see Skywalker hadn’t taught his Jedi any manners.”

    Ben steadied himself as the older man stepped closer. “You’re Jensaarai.”

    “Very good.” He gave a mock salute with his saber. “But not completely correct.”

    “Then please enlighten me because I’d like to have my facts straight before I end your miserable life.” Ben waved behind him and hoped the two noncoms got the message to move out of the way.

    His harsh laugh echoed in the tunnel again. “I was Jensaarai, but I’ve left the order. Now I work for the highest bidder and leave the mysticism to old women and you Jedi.”

    Ben’s restraint on his anger slipped. He hated this kind of Hutt’s slime and he wanted nothing more than to kill him. “So, the Hutts pay well?”

    A smirk and a shrug was his smug answer.

    He stepped forward, and Ben sensed his impatience. Good, the sooner you’ll die.

    “I have to wonder, I thought it wasn’t the Jedi way to feel anger and hate.” He moved his saber in an aggressive pattern in front of his body. “But then I forgot it’s only not okay for everyone else, but for you Skywalkers it’s okay.”

    His anger at what this animal had done to the people of Mon Calamari, to the capability of the GA’s to build new ships and even his personal anger at this man for preventing him from visiting Jysella surged through him. He used that anger as Jacen had taught him and the cold strength gripped him. Feeling invincible, he snarled and struck.

    The red saber slammed against Ben’s blue beam high and to the left. But the thug untangled his blade and spun away from Ben to give himself some fighting room. Ben had no intentions of letting him figure out a strategy. He came across with a slash, again the older man parried. This time, Ben disengaged his saber first and came at him with a backhanded thrust catching the Jensaarai by surprise. But he quickly recovered and back flipped out of range before Ben’s blade found a home in the other’s chest.

    “So, the boy has some skill.” The Jensaarai sneered and pulled another saber from behind him, igniting it. “Let’s see how you handle Jar’Kai.”

    Ben took a deep breath. From what he’d seen, he was the better dualist, but he didn’t have time to consider a strategy before Black Beard attacked. Ben parried the strike of the first blade and immediately counter attacked to prevent being beheaded. He had to disengage before the other blade came up to do the job the other didn’t. Leaping up, he kicked out as hard as he could with the Force behind it. His feet connected with the other’s gut and landed hard several meters down the tunnel.

    Anger filled him and he used it to give him strength. The Jensaarai regained his feet and headed toward Ben again. Using a fast attacking motion, Ben sliced through Black Beard’s right-handed hilt, and ended the left-handed slash with a reverse parry, the motion of the attack carrying him in a controlled spin. He kicked out behind him and forced the thug back several meters, but he hadn’t dislodged him from the fight. Ben barely had time to regain his stance when the Jensaarai attacked again.

    Sweat trickled into his eye and he blinked it away. He had to end this soon.

    Ben back-flipped twice. As Black Beard approached, Ben reached out and grabbed one of the pipes lining the ceiling in a Force grip. Pulling, he dislodged the heavy metal pipe. Green coolant trickled from the end, but fortunately, Jacen had ordered all pumps to be shut off for fear of the various liquids and fuels could be used by the terrorists. Ben brought the pipe about to slam into the older man’s head. But he had too much warning and before it could have made contact, Black Beard was on to Ben again his lightsaber. Ben ducked to avoid the first slash and caught a reverse on his blade.

    He couldn’t let his thug beat him. When a blaster bolt rang out, Ben realized one of the soldiers was shooting.

    Before the green bolt hit him, the thug used his blade to deflect the green bolt. Ben shouted a warning, but the energy hit Vens in the chest, killing him. Ben’s anger instantly magnified and with it his strength. He felt the dark energy crackle along his body and held out a hand. He’d never done this, but he concentrated on the energy, and within seconds a stream of blue lightning shot from his fingers.

    The Jensaarai lost his hold on his lightsaber, and he flew back against the corridor wall in a convulsing lump. Ben let go of another barrage of energy until he couldn’t hold it any more, as he walked to the withering figure looking up at him with a pained look of awe.

    When Ben stopped hitting him with dark lightning, Black Beard choked a chuckle and said in a weak voice, “You’re more Sith than Jedi, Skywalker.”

    Ben called the Jensaarai’s lightsaber to his hand. The gray metal tube was a simplistically elegant as he considered its weight before igniting it. “Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But at least, I fight for peace and justice and for the GA, not for its total destruction.”

    The other laughed. “You know, they say Vader thought that way, too, except it was for the Empire.”

    Ben snarled. “He was my grandfather, you know.” And with that, he ended the discussion by using the two sabers in a quick scissor action beheading the defeated man.

    As the dark haired head rolled away from the body, the only emotions Ben felt were cold hatred and anger. When the gentle loving brush of Jysella brushed him, he reached out to her, but before he touched her, she was gone. He shook off the disappointment of her leaving him so quickly and clipped the two lightsabers to his belt. Turning away from the corpse, the shrill call from his dreams echoed around him.

    He looked around, but the dragon was nowhere around and Naren made no indication of hearing the call. When his gaze landed on the slain man again, he crumbled. What have I done?

    Shaking uncontrollably, he fell to his knees.

    Corporal Naren lay his hand on Ben’s shoulder. “Hey, Lieutenant, you okay?”

    Ben shook his head and hot tears burned his eyes. “I—I killed him.”

    The older Twi’lek adjusted his lukku around his shoulders and knelt beside him. “Yes, but he could have killed you. Or me. Vens is already dead. Surely, this isn’t the first being you’ve killed.”

    Ben met the corporal’s red eyes. “You don’t understand. He was defenseless. I killed him in cold blood. I was out of control. I let the—” Ben didn’t finish his thought. He shook his head and swallowed hard. “I should have detained him for questioning.”

    “Sure, that would have been nice.” Marti stood. “But we don’t live in a perfect galaxy. Come, let’s call this in.”

    Ben nodded and came to his feet. He glanced one last time at the corpse. He’d crossed the line and wondered if he’d ever be the same. As fell into step with Marti, he heard the call of the krayt dragon and shuddered.

    ****

    Coronet Convention Center, Coronet, Corellia

    Jaina smiled up at the groom as the Corellian waltz ended and they stopped moving. She hugged her Valin close. “It was a beautiful wedding, Valin. I wish you could have seen your face when Syal stepped through the door.” He cocked his head questioningly, but before he could ask, she snickered. “She’d told me about the dress. But she also told me you’d figure she’d wear her uniform, so—”

    “You wanted to see my reaction.” Valin grinned. “I can only imagine. Of course, there’s going to be another wedding soon. What will you wear?”

    Jaina smiled, but she had to force her lips to hold the curve. “Yeah, I suppose there will be. And I don’t know. Oh. Hi, Syal.” As Syal stopped beside her to claim Valin for the next dance, relief fluttered through Jaina. “He’s all yours. You better watch out though. He’ll step on your feet.”

    Syal laughed and slid into his embrace. “Yeah, tell me about it.”

    “Hey!” Valin’s indignant plea was lost as Syal claimed his lips in a kiss.

    Jaina moved to the side of the dance floor. Relieved she hadn’t seen Zekk for a while nor had she spotted Jag among the crowd which made her as happy. She had no idea what she’d say to him if he’d—

    “The Alderaanian waltz. It has always been one of my favorites.”

    Her breath whooshed out of her. She didn’t look at the speaker. The clipped, precise voice haunted her dreams. “It’s one of mine, too,” she whispered as she turned and met the hard green eyes of Jagged Fel.

    “Hello, Jaina. It’s been a long time.”

    She took a deep breath to still her rapid heart, but all she managed was to breathe in his subtle scent of Chandrila sage sending her senses spiraling further out of control. “Ye—yes. It has.” She couldn’t tear her gaze from his for what seemed an eternity. “People are staring at us.”

    “I’m sure they are. A lot of people here know our history.” Jag held out his hand. “Would you like to dance? For old time’s sake.”

    Jaina looked at his hand and swallowed. With a nod, she put her trembling hand to his and gasped at the contact. For a moment they were lost in each other’s gaze again, then Jag suddenly moved, taking Jaina in the same stylized hold Valin had held her in earlier—one hand on her waist the other holding her hand. She placed her free hand on his shoulder, and Jag swung her into the waltz.

    They didn’t talk while dancing. Their precise steps and spins held no emotion. Jaina felt as if she was conducting a starfighter battle rather than a graceful intricate waltz.

    When the music stopped, he dropped her hand and let go of her waist as if she burned him. He stepped back and gave a stiff bow, then turned on his heel and marched off the dance floor. Jaina didn’t know what to think, much less do. She sensed Zekk coming toward her, and before he could enter the dance floor to claim her for the next dance, she strode through the dancers. She had to talk to Jag.

    She followed him out of the convention center to a wide balcony overlooking Coronet. She stopped behind him as he looked out over the darkened cityscape.

    “I suppose, congratulations should be in order,” he said.

    “I don’t know what you mean.”

    He turned, lifted one side of his lips in a slight crooked grin and raised his scared eyebrow. “I’m sorry. I was under the impression from your mother and father you were engaged to Jedi Zekk.”

    Flinching at his caustic tone, she nodded, then moved over to the edge of the balcony and looked over her shoulder at him. “Jag, I’m sorry for what happened at Tenupe.”

    Jag stared at her for a long time, and she squirmed under his scrutiny, but to look away would discredit what she had said. When a true and honest smile curved his lips, she startled.

    “You know, I almost believe you.” He turned away and leaned against the balcony railing. “I spent two years on that miserable planet.”

    “Jag?”

    He glared at her. “Two years. I had ample time to rethink my life.”

    “I’m so—”

    He held up his hand. “Don’t say you’re sorry again, Jaina. No amount of words will correct what you have done to me.” She was taken aback by the hatred in his artic eyes. “I come to many conclusions while defending myself against becoming either a Killik Joiner or a spidersloth’s dinner. The worst thing I’ve ever done was fall in love with you. The second, was to believe you ever loved me.”

    She recoiled at the venom in his word and whispered, “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

    “You can’t say anything, Jaina. Nothing will ever correct what has happened to me.” He narrowed his eyes and fisted his hands, then spun away. “I was rescued by a private search party my parents hired. I went back to the Ascendancy. The Chiss had been the only people I’ve ever related to. Howeverupon my return, I discovered I had been stripped of my rank, my honor and my family had been disgraced. The only friend I had left was Shawnkyr, but even she couldn’t show support for me. My father, disgraced by actions I did out of love for you, had been in contact with the Empire and Admiral Pellaeon. My sister and brother.”

    “Brother?” She shook her head as if to clear it. His brothers were dead. As much as she hated the berating, she couldn’t walk away.

    He smiled, but it never melted the frost from his gaze. “Yes, I have another brother. Cem. He was our shadow child. Not even he was safe from the Chiss’ displeasure in me. We defected to the Empire. My father became an advisor on the Chiss, and my siblings and I were all given commissions.”

    “But you’re the Grand Admiral. How?” Jaina’s voice shook. How could his family be punished for something they had no hand in?

    Jag ran his hand through his short hair and laughed. The sound so abrupt and unexpected she jumped. “It seems Pellaeon remembered me from the Yuuzhan Vong War. He made me a fleet captain. Within six months, I was an admiral. A year later, I was in command of the fleet here. I guess I impressed him.”

    Jaina didn’t know what to say as an uneasy silence stretched between them.

    He turned to her and hoarsely said, “So, I guess as much as I blame you for everything that has gone wrong in my life, I can thank you for this opportunity to do something great for the galaxy—for the Empire.”

    “What did you mean?” Jaina whispered. She shuddered as he reached up and used his thumb to wipe the silent tear from her cheek. She hadn’t felt it trickle from her eye.

    “I intend to cure some of the wrongs from the past wars and this one, Jaina. The Moffs like my ideas. Over the past six months, I’ve oversaw much of my plans put into place.”

    When she narrowed her eyes in question, he smiled. This time the warmth melted the ice. “Much of Dubrillion’s success the past year had been due to my ideas. I’ve also helped revitalize three other planets within the Empire. Not to mention, my success as a commander. Even Wedge seeks my counsel regarding strategy. Some say I have a destiny I would never have fulfilled as a low ranking officer in the Chiss Ascendancy.”

    Jaina furrowed her brow, then she gasped. “You want to be Emperor.”

    He shrugged. “Remember, those are your words, not mine.” When he leaned closer and his warm breath feathered over her lips, her breath caught. His gaze seemed to peer into her soul as he whispered, “This is why I should thank you for ruining my life.”

    He turned away and entered the hall, leaving Jaina to stare after him with her heart racing and her breath coming in rapid spurts. She’d never wanted to kiss anyone as much as she had him. Would he ever forgive her? Would she ever forgive herself for what she’d done to him?

    “Jag, I still love you,” she whispered to the air.

    ****

    Zekk hid in the shadows of the dark corner, his hands curved into fists as Jaina stared after Jagged Fel. He buried his pain and sorrow as he had for years.

    He’d been a fool to believe she’d ever gotten over Fel.




    You all are the best, thanks for reading!!! [face_cowboy]
     
  21. TheChosenSolo

    TheChosenSolo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2011
    Ooooh, loving the Jaina angst! I have to say, my favorite Jaina pairing is Jaina/Jag, and I'm kinda hoping you take it this way. But altogether it was a great chapter. Keep up the good work!
     
  22. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    Am I alone in thinking that Jaina totally deserved her beat down? Or that killing an admitted terrorist isn't that big a deal? I wouldn't have talked to Jaina Solo ever again if I'd have gotten shot down by her parents; Black Beard was trying his best to kill Ben, and had already killed hundreds, so I don't think anyone will lose any sleep over him.
     
  23. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Sorry for the lateness of my reply and posting new chapters... December is a crazy month for me...

    Raven_AnakinSolo: Yeah, I love Jaina angst too... Sorry to say. Stay tuned because I have a feeling you'll get your wish...;) Thanks for reading!

    SiouxFan: Oh, she more than deserves it. And no killing a terrorist is not a "bad" thing as seen in the eyes of the soldier with him.... BUT Ben is a Jedi and he touched the dark side when he killed him.... That's the bad thing. And he knows it.
     
  24. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Chapter 3

    Skywalker Apartment, Temple District, Coruscant

    Luke startled awake and slowly sat up. He glanced at the chrono on the bedside table and took a deep breath. 0300. Mara rolled over and yawned. He swung his legs over the edge and leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees. Taking another deep breath as he tried to quiet the turmoil of the thoughts and emotions swirling around in his head, he rubbed his face with his hands.

    “You had the vision again,” Mara said in a raspy voice as she sat up and put her hand on his shoulder.

    Nodding, he looked over his shoulder at her and rested his hand on top of hers. “But it was different this time.”

    “How so?”

    “The figure disrobed and challenged me to fight him.”

    Her green eyes widened and she stiffened her shoulders. “You saw—”

    He glanced away and closed his eyes as he shook his head, stopping her flow of words. He stood and walked across the small room to the window. After tapping the control to remove the shading, he stared at the colorful lines of speeder traffic. “No, but I didn’t like what I saw.” He’d been having the same or similar visions for the past three years now, but lately they had become different, darker and they confused him. After the death of Tenel Ka, he began to associate Jacen’s voice with the black-hooded figure, and yet he’d never sounded exactly like Jacen. Over the past year, the figure changed and so had the cadence. Now the sound was deeper and darker.

    “Luke?” Her voice shook. “Was it Jacen?”

    He turned and met his wife’s worried gaze. “No, it wasn’t Jacen. At least, I don’t think it is.”

    Mara shifted off the bed to stand beside him. Grabbing his arm, she turned him to look at her. “Luke, what did you see?”

    “A masked and armored—thing.”

    “Like Vader?” Mara tried to remain serene, but her impatience slipped through their bond.

    “Not really. I think…” Luke furrowed his brow in concentration. “It was vonduun crab. A complete set of Yuuzhan Vong warrior’s battle armor.”

    “Do you think it’s a Vong? There are those rumors of a Force-sensitive trained by Lumiya.” The hopefulness in her voice made him wish it were so.

    The thought the figure in his nightmares could possibly be someone close to them made him willing to hope for any alternative other than the obvious one, but he couldn’t turn away from what his instincts and the Force were telling him any longer. He shook his head again. “No. It’s not a Yuuzhan Vong. I only hope the figure isn’t who I think it is.”

    “Luke, you’re really scaring me.”

    He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. Not wanting to voice his worst fears, or more importantly hers.

    Suddenly, a ruthless coldness rushed though him from the place belonging to his son. He gasped at the brutality associated with Ben and reached for him through the bond he shared with him by virtue of being his father. Mara’s sharp intake of air told him that she sensed the same things.

    She pulled away and peered into his face. “It’s Ben. He just did something terrible.”

    Pulling her close, he whispered in her mussed hair. “We need to get him away from Jacen, and we need to find out what Jacen is up to. I’m not buying his Unifying Force excuse any longer. Somehow, someway I think he’s learning the ways of the Sith.”

    “Luke?” Mara stared at him. “What are you thinking? Jacen may not be my favorite person when it comes to what he’s doing with our son, but a Sith?” She forced a chuckle that came out choked. “Jacen knows better.”

    “Does he?” He moved away from her and faced the window. “Mara, I have more questions than answers. Jacen hasn’t really done anything completely dark since the early days of the war, but even then they could have been more unfortunate outcomes then real acts of the Dark Side.” He turned to her and pointed out at the vast pre-dawn cityscape. “But there is an evil presence out there, and Ben is learning to let his emotions rule him from somewhere. Jacen is supposed to be a Jedi Master. Even the Unifying Force has limitations on what one does. I know, I’ve studied it and used it. But I’ve never let ruthlessness, anger and the Dark Side of the Force rule me. Something isn’t adding up, Ben is being taught from someone how to use the Dark Side. I want answers. Jacen may not have done anything in the open, but neither had Palpatine when he tore the galaxy to shreds in his war.

    Mara’s look of astonishment didn’t surprise him as much as her words. “It’s Lumiya, Luke. She’s gotten her claws into Ben, and Jacen may not even realize it. We thought that before, and I’d believe that before believing our nephew, who used to worry about using the Force as a tool and talked to glass snakes, is a Sith.”

    Luke swallowed and hoarsely said, “I only hope you’re right, Mara. But either way, Ben has to be taken away from Jacen and out of the GAG.” He saw the armored figure of his dreams and shuddered. “Before it’s too late.”

    ****

    Coronet Convention Center, Coronet, Corellia

    Dur Gejjen made his way down the corridor of the convention center to the room where he instructed the aide to have the uninvited guest wait for him. He couldn’t believe Brisha Syo would show up at such a public event as the wedding of the galaxy’s star-crossed lovers. She was playing with him, testing him and his resolve. Although he had learned her name was not a real one, she remained his best source of information on the GA and most recently something very important to him—Centerpoint.

    Stopping at the door, he scanned the hallway in both directions to make sure no one saw him enter it before palming the door open. Once inside, he activated the lock. She stood in the center of the room and was dressed in a dark green pants suit that was covered completely with a shear gold robe. Her lower face was wrapped in a matching green scarf and she wore a large stylish black hat that possessed a veil of the same gold shear material as the robe. Brisha Syo’s style easily out-classed most women he’d known in his life.

    He trusted her, but showing up at the wedding of a Jedi wasn’t the smartest thing she’d done. He never knew what Jedi could and couldn’t sense. “What are you doing here?”

    She sat on one of the couches by the dark paneled wall. Her green eyes twinkled as she crossed her legs. “I think you will forgive me my indiscretion.”

    As he moved further into the room, he glanced back at the door. “Okay, I’m listening.”

    The corners of her eyes tilted upward as she smiled. “I have the next set of data for your little secret surprise.” She reached into her small black handbag and pulled out a datachip.

    Dur took the chip and sat in an overstuffed chair by Brisha’s couch. “Are you certain no one is aware of this? Because quite frankly, I don’t understand how you can get this information.”

    “Ah… I assure I have my sources.”

    “I’m sure you do.” Narrowing his gaze on her, he assessed her for a long moment. She lifted one of her slender shoulders in a half-shrug. With a frown, he picked up a datareader from the end table and removed the magazine chip to replace it with the one Brisha had given to him. After a moment of quickly scrolling though the data, he his heart raced and his breathing came in quick bursts. Wide-eyed, he looked at her. “Is this authentic?”

    “Yes,” was her simple answer.

    He looked at the data scrolling by and shook his head. This data would win the war for Corellia. Five months ago, Brisha Syo showed up at his office after months of not seeing her. He’d thought she’d been captured by Solo and his thugs, but he hadn’t asked why she’d disappeared and she’d offered no excuse for her absence either.

    She’d suggested he’d put a team of experts back on Centerpoint Station. He’d balked at that idea at first. Wedge Antilles wanted to fight an honest war and had never liked the use of the station to begin with. While concerning the Jagged Fel, Dur wanted to keep the station a secret. He assumed Jagged Fel would feel similarly as his uncle, but that wasn’t the only reason. Fel was positioning himself to become as good a military genus as Thrawn ever had been. But unlike the Chiss Admiral, Jagged Fel had a good chance of becoming Emperor.

    The thought frightened Dur. By allying Corellia and her sister planets with the Remnant, the Empire could take control of the allies in the end. The last thing Dur wanted was for the Remnant and Jag Fel to know he had the means to restart Centerpoint Station to end the war with the GA, but to protect Corellia from the Empire.

    He removed the chip from the reader and deleting the device’s memory. “This is the missing piece to restarting the station.”

    “Is the cloning scientist in place?”

    “Yes.” Standing, he pocketed the datachip and headed toward the door. “Until the next time, Miss Syo.”

    She bowed and gestured to the door. “Yes, Prime Minister, until next time.”

    ****

    Zekk had suspected ever since they had agreed to help Allia Judday and Mirax Horn with Valin’s escape Jaina’s heart focused on Jagged Fel again. He’d known she’d never gotten over him. When they’d been Joiners, he’d known Jaina’s love for Jag as strongly as he’d felt his own love for her. In the years since the Swarm War, his and Jaina’s professional partnership and deep friendship turned into love.

    Or at least, he’d convinced himself it had.

    She couldn’t lie through their bond and he had to stop fooling himself.

    Taking a deep breath, he stepped out of the shadows. “So, nothing has changed?”

    She spun around and gaped at him. “Zekk?”

    “I was the last time I checked.” He forced a smile, but it slid off his lips. The ache in his chest hurt too much, and he laid his hand over his heart. He stood beside her at the railing. “You haven’t answered my question.”

    She looked away, and Zekk couldn’t sense anything from her. “Zekk, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to. I’m so confused.” She met his gaze. Her pain shimmered in the brown depths of her eyes. “Zekk, I can’t lie to you anymore. I remember what Jag and I had together and what we could have had if I’d followed my heart.”

    Zekk turned away and blinked to ease the burn in his eyes. “So, what was I? The same thing Kyp Durron? A passing fancy to warm your bed?”

    “No!” She grabbed his arm and spun him to look at her. “Zekk, you’re my best friend and my partner. I trust you with my life and I would give mine to save yours. Don’t you understand? I do love you. It’s just—” She furrowed her brow and swallowed. Her voice dropping so low he barely heard her. “It’s just that I still love him.”

    Turning, he stepped away from her. “Why did you agree to marry me, Jaina?”

    “I told you. I loved you. I still do.” Her voice shook and her emotional turmoil hit him in the gut through their bond. “I’m happy with you. Please, Zekk, try to understand. I didn’t what this to happen. I didn’t want him to come back into my life and ruin what we have.”

    When he’d faced her, he wasn’t surprised at the fresh tears on her cheeks. He’d spent years sharing her with the other two men who’d claimed Jaina’s heart. Jag hadn’t been the only one. Kyp Durron picked up the pieces after Jaina and Fel had called it quits two years after the Vong War, but after a passionate few months, her relationship with Durron fizzled out. Even Kyp, who’d loved her as much as Zekk, realized she’d never truly love him. They’d gone back to being friends, and Jaina had gone off in search of the criminals trying to profit in the post-war galaxy.

    When the inclination to become Joiners had become too great to resist any longer, they had joined their minds together to help them from totally losing themselves in the hive consciousness. Zekk hadn’t been prepared for that sort of intimacy with her. He’d thought he could hide his feelings from her, and she’d thought the same thing about her emotions. Instead, she’d realized Zekk loved her, while he’d discovered she was still in love with Jag. The memories he’d shared with her nearly drove him mad at first. He’d seen them all—those with both of her former lovers—but Jag’s had been always paramount. But he’d also shared her memories of them as teenagers, and he’d been able to use those memories in a way make her see him in that teenage light again. However, he hadn’t been successful at dispelling Jag Fel from her system.

    The first time they’d been intimate had been during a mission before the Corellians declared themselves no longer part of the GA. Zekk would never forget the utter joy he’d felt when she’d told him she loved him and she’d opened up to him in their bond. But now as he remembered it, he finally admitted to himself what he couldn’t then. He might have felt her love, but a shadow had been over the emotion. The shadow of Jagged Fel.

    He took a deep breath as his heart shattered. “I can’t, Jaina. I love you with every fiber of my being, but I can’t share you anymore. You have to choose. But when you do, you have to let the other go. There is no room in a marriage for the three of us. Remember that.”

    Before she had a chance to say anything, he walked across the balcony and entered the main glass door to rejoin the party. Jagged Fel danced with his cousin Myri. He laughed at something she said, then spun her in the steps of the waltz. Jag looked over and for a brief heartbeat his gaze met Zekk’s. Jaina had broken his heart as well simply because she wouldn’t trust her feelings. In that moment, Zekk didn’t feel overwhelmed with grief. He only hoped Jaina would find the happiness she deserved and realized he could give it to her.

    ****

    Aboard Anakin Solo, Mon Calamari Orbit

    Ben sat on his sleepcouch and stared at his hands.

    He had taken a life in cold blood today.

    He hadn’t felt this frightened and upset since the first time he’d deflected a blaster shot back into a man, killing him. He’d been thirteen at the time and had occurred during a GAG raid on Coruscant. Eventually, he’d spoken to his parents about it and they’d reassured him. They hadn’t liked the situation Ben had been in, but they’d understood and they’d helped him cope with the guilt of ending a living being’s life.

    Jacen had helped him put all the messed up emotions into perspective—the welfare of the galaxy would always outweigh the life of one worthless criminal. No matter if that being was armed or not.

    As Ben remembered that lesson, he couldn’t help but feel that today he’d crossed a line.

    The door slid open, and Ben turned to his mentor.

    “Master, I’ve failed today.”

    Jacen pursed his lips into a tight line and pulled the chair from the small desk to sit in front of Ben. “Why do you feel this way, Ben?”

    Ben shifted uneasily under the Jacen’s intense golden-brown gaze, but he didn’t look away. “He wasn’t armed, Jace. I took his life because I was too out of control to realize he was defeated. I wanted him dead. I hated him for what the terrorists are doing to the galaxy. I hated him for the people his group killed for no good reason expect that they went to work. And I hated him for keeping me from Jysella.” Ben let out a sob and dropped his gaze to his fidgeting hands.

    “Ben, you should hate that type of scum.” Ben looked back up at Jacen, who rested a hand on his shoulder. “What really bothers you is that you think you touched the Dark Side?”

    Ben nodded and averted his eyes again.

    “Ben, look at me.”

    Jacen gently squeezed his shoulder and Ben met his gaze again. For a beat, Ben thought Jacen’s eyes flashed yellow, but it had to be a trick of the low lighting of the room.

    “There is only one Force, Ben.”

    “Master, I know that. But I still feel that when I took his life, I did something terrible. I touched something that I shouldn’t have. I felt invincible. I felt like I could have beaten anybody when I reached out into the Force with my anger.”

    Jacen moved over to the bunk and sat beside him. “Ben, let me ask you this. Would you have been able to beat him if you hadn’t used your anger?”

    Ben looked up at him again and shook his head. “No. It was the Force lightning that allowed me to turn the battle.”

    “Do you know who you killed?”

    Again Ben shook his head.

    “His name is Filex Marsia and he’s a bounty hunter known for his callousness that makes the hunted wish Baba Fett was after them. He likes dealing with the Hutts because they are the only ones who will. He has turned on more than one employer when they decided that they didn’t like the way he did business. He never brings a bounty in alive.” Jacen paused as if he wanted Ben to absorb that. “Marsia, as head of the terrorist group, has taken nearly twelve thousand lives altogether. Not mentioning the billions of credits he has cost the GA and its member planets.” Jacen shook his head and looked at his fisted hands in his lap. “Where would the justice been if he’d beaten you and gotten away, just because you were afraid of using the entire Force to stop him?”

    Ben stared at Jacen. What he said made so much sense. “It—there wouldn’t have been any justice.”

    Jacen smiled and put his arm around Ben’s shoulders, hugging him close as he had when he’d been a boy. “No. There wouldn’t have been any. You, my apprentice, are far more important to the galaxy than that bounty hunter. Ben, I’m proud of you. You may have saved thousands of people.”

    Ben’s chest filled up with love for his cousin. Why couldn’t his parents feel this way? “Jacen, you know Dad and Mom won’t like this. I know they sensed my feelings.” He looked down as he added softly, “And so did Jys.”

    Jacen removed his arm from Ben’s shoulders. “I think it’s time that I teach you how to sever your bond with your parents and—”

    Ben shook his head. “Not with Jysella. I—I need her.”

    Jacen nodded his understanding and smiled. “You can keep that bond, but I will teach you how to disconnect it, if you will, whenever you want.”

    Ben nodded and smiled. He would love to be rid of his parents’ interference.

    “Good. As soon as we get a chance, I’ll teach you.”

    Jacen glanced at the lightsabers clipped to Ben’s belt. “Did that one belong to Marsia?”

    Ben pulled the foreign hilt off his belt. “Yeah. I don’t know why, but I feel like I should keep it.”

    Jacen nodded his understanding. “But what are you going to do with both lightsabers?”

    Ben looked at Jacen. “Can you teach me how to fight with both blades?”

    Jacen stared at him and Ben got the sense that he’d surprised him. Eventually, he nodded. “Jar’Kai isn’t easy to learn. But yes, I’ll teach you. If that’s really what you want. Jar’Kai isn’t a Jedi lightsaber form, though.”

    Ben looked back at the red-bladed lightsaber. “I know. It’s a Sith style. But it can be used by Jedi. I know Dad can fight with two blades and so can Master Katran. And you.”

    Jacen grinned and ruffled his hair. “Then come on. I have some time. Let’s go and have our first real lesson.” Before Ben could ask about Jacen’s choice of words, Jacen went on to say, “Then I think it’s time for that vacation I promised you.”

    A thrill ran through him. “You mean that I can visit Jys?”

    Jacen laughed and stood. “Yes, you can visit Jys. It might be better to do so before the Anakin heads back to Coruscant.”

    Ben grinned and jumped to his feet. “Oh thanks, Jace. You’re the best.”

    Jacen draped his arm around Ben’s shoulders again even though they were the same height. “Okay, let’s find my spare lightsaber.”
     
  25. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005


    Chapter 4

    Kiris Asteroid Shipyards, Imperial Flag Ship Intrepid, Admiral’s Quarters

    Jag reread the report from last week. Where was the flaw in his plan? There had to be one because things like this were never this easy.

    The report detailed the attacks on the shipyards surrounding Mon Calamari along with the deployment of the Fifty-first and the GAG. The attack on the largest of the yards destroyed the yard and killed four thousand personnel. Three days after their leader, bounty hunter Felix Marcia was killed by the GAG Lieutenant Ben Skywalker, the terrorist group attacked Shipyard Three. Fortunately for the peoples of Mon Calamari, the facility hadn’t been re-staffed; however if he could believe the report, a team of GAG specialists were killed. Confusion ensued in the government of Mon Cal and the GA sent the Fifth Fleet to assist the Fifty-first.

    He set the datapad on the polished surface of his desk. Now was the perfect time. Everyone was in a state of confusion and would ever expect an attack. Jag sat back and rubbed a hand over his face. Was he really planning on attacking the GA at its weakest point? He spun his chair around and stared out the veiwport at one of the most important shipyards of the Insurgent forces, excluding the Empire and Kaut, nestled within the Kiris Asteroid Belt. Corell shone as a distant bright pinpoint below the yards relative to the Intrepid’s position.

    A year and a half ago, the GA tried to destroy this formally secret site, but Jag’s defensive actions turned the battle. The GA had caused some damage to the yards, but not so much to render them useless. He found it amusing one group of terrorist thugs did more damage to Mon Calamari than the entire Third Fleet including the GAG could do to Kiris.

    His plan could either make him a hero, a leader, of the Insurgents, or it could backfire and brand him an Imperial expansionist. Jag rubbed his stubbly jaw. He’d be a fool not take the opportunity before him because opportunity didn’t knock all that often.

    The intercom on the corner of the dark beeped. He turned his chair around and put his back to the technological achievement hidden within the largest of the asteroids, Kiris Six and Seventeen.

    Switching on the device, he said, “Yes, Cera?”

    “Admiral Fel,” came the pleasant voice of his human secretary Cera De’loake, “the diplomat from Bastion has arrived in Shuttle Bay Number Three, Sir.”

    Jag frowned. The Moffs’ insisted on sending an advisor, a mediator, who would work between him and the Moffs. He shouldn’t let things like this bother him, but he did. Pellaeon never had mediators. “Instruct an escort to bring our guest to my quarters, Cera.” As a second thought, he added, “Using the least direct route and least sensitive to informational leaks.”

    “Of course, Admiral.” The woman didn’t hide the smile in the young woman’s voice. Cera had been with Jag since the beginning of his Captaincy of the Intrepid two and a half years ago. He had never liked working with droids, which came from his upbringing among the Chiss. His parents owned only one droid, a housekeeping model. He hadn’t had much experience with them until he came to Known Space during the Yuuzhan Vong War. When he thought of protocol or secretarial droids, he always pictured the Solo’s fussy C-3PO. The Imperials had questioned his desire of having a civilian employee to do the job of a droid, but he had insisted on a live being to be his assistant. Of which, Cera had become quite accomplished at.

    He knew she was infatuated with him. He had once considered seeing how far he was willing to let the flirty smiles of the beautiful violet-eyed blonde lead him, but in the end, he couldn’t go through with seducing her. She was an excellent employee who seemed to know his mind, and to destroy that relationship with a few nights of meaningless sex didn’t set well with him. He’d only hurt her because his heart still belonged to another.

    Over the years since he and his family returned to the Imperial government, Jag’s well-meaning mother had tried repeatedly to find Jag a wife, as she put it. None of the relationships with the well-connected daughters of high-ranking Imperials lasted more than a few weeks at most. He had tried to foget Jaina Solo, but he couldn’t. He still loved her with his entire being.

    His mind shifted to the night of his cousin’s wedding. As the memories had every night since, they battered at his heart. The way she’d looked in the amber dress, the feel of her under his hands as they’d danced. Her hair had fallen over her bare shoulders in loose waves and curls and the scent of Hapan roses had surrounded her. The look in her fathomless brown eyes as he’d leaned in to say his last words to her. He’d had fight the impulse to take her into his arms and kiss her with all the self-control and discipline he could muster.

    Jaina plagued his mind as much as the opportunity he saw at Mon Calamari. He had avoided seeing her again by circumventing her and going through Valin Horn for any dealings he had with the three new Jedi since they’d defected. He had every intention of using them. Jaina, despite all the personal baggage, was an exceptional leader, and surprising so was Zekk. Wedge had long ago used Jedi Jessi Chival as a squadron commander and he’d assigned both Jaina and Zekk command of their own squads. Wedge retained Valin in Leia Solo’s position as advisor. Leia had eased out of actively participating in military activities after the Battle of Bothawui, stating that she needed to devote more time conducting her duties as guardian of the young Princess Allana.

    The buzzer of the door brought him out of his reverie. He hit the control on his desk and the door slid open.

    Smiling as the door closed behind the newcomer, he stood and came around his desk. “Father. I can’t believe the Moffs sent you.”

    Soontir Fel smiled as he enfolded Jag in a brief embrace. “I’m quite surprised myself. How have you been, Son?”

    “I’ve been good.” Jag moved over to the drink dispenser. “How are Mother and Wynessa?”

    “Your mother sends her love while Wynessa is hopelessly in love with Moff Sarreti’s eldest son.” With a scowl, Soontir settled in the chair in front of Jag’s desk.

    As Jag handed his father a tumbler of Corellian whiskey and took his seat behind his desk, he laughed at his father’s less than shining appraisal of the young man from the Braxant Sector. “Come, Father, would anyone ever be good enough for your only daughter?”

    His father raised his glass and shrugged. “When you have a daughter, you will understand.”

    Jag wasn’t about to comment on that one and took a drink of his whiskey.

    “Have you talked to Cem?” His father sipped his glass.

    “Cem’s well. Busy, but glad to be working on something he loves.” His younger brother oversaw the redevelopment plans for the once economic mecca of the Old Republic and then the Empire.

    Soontir watched him for a moment over his glass, then snickered. “You have made quite the splash in the tabloids back home.”

    “What is it now?” Jag set his glass beside the datapad on his desk. What would his father think of his plans?

    “You’ve impressed the female population of the Empire with your dancing ability.”

    Jag looked away from the datapad. “What?”

    The older Fel let out a full resonant laugh. “It seems you’ve broken a lot of hearts, Jagged. The rumor is that you and Jaina Solo seemed quite cozy at the wedding of Syal and the Jedi she married.”

    Jag regained his composure and took a long draw from his glass, emptying it. “You know I’m not getting back together with Jaina. She practically destroyed me and my family.”

    Soontir stood and walked around the office, studying the various, holograms, datachips and old fashioned Chiss leather bound books displayed on the shelves. He stopped by the drink dispenser and refilled his glass. “You know politically she would make a good match.”

    “How in the galaxy could she ever be a good match politically? She’s the daughter of two of the Empire’s most hated foes, and she’s a Jedi.” But even as Jag said the words, he knew those were the reasons she was a good match. She was also the daughter of the last Alderaanain princess, which would show the galaxy once and for all that the government under Jagged Fel was nothing like its predecessors. He couldn’t be crazy enough to even think about this and shook his head. “No, Dad. Jaina Solo will never be more than a very bad memory.”

    Soontir glanced at him with the raised brow above his good eye, then turned to a hologram of an elegant sculpture.

    “I remember this piece. It had belonged to Thrawn and was one of his favorites.” With his glass, Soontir gestured toward the depiction of two mythological winged snarling beasts pulling an ancient wheeled chariot. In the cart, a stylized human god-like being, with hair resembling vicious serpents, carried several ancient weapons of war. The mythical god of war from Denon.

    Relieved his father dropped the subject of Jaina, Jag leaned back in his chair. “Yes, I know. Gilad gave it to me.”

    Soontir looked over at his son, surprise evident in his brown eye. “You know the myth behind this don’t you?”

    Jag grinned and nodded. “It is believed that whoever finds favor in the god will rule the world, or rather, or as Admiral Thrawn interpreted, the galaxy. I’ve never been one for art or mythology, but I like this piece. I commented on my appreciation of it long ago. After I took command, Gilad presented it to me as a gift. I have the actual stone sculpture on display in the palace back on Bastion.”

    Soontir chuckled, and Jag looked away from the hologram to meet his father’s eye. “You know what else the media of Bastion is whispering about?”

    A cold wave of dread slithered through him, but he forced a chuckle. “I’m afraid to ask.”

    Returning to his chair, Soontir grinned. “They are saying you could be the next Emperor.”

    “I’m sure they’re saying this with disdain.”

    Soontir sat forward and seriousness replaced the humor in the older man’s expression. “Son, you have more than impressed the correct people in the government. The plans you’ve implemented have shown results. Even your opposition is having a harder time of pointing out failures in your skill as both commander and governor. You have instilled hope in many people, Jagged.” He spread his hands and sat back in his seat. “You are good at this. You may hate it, but you are a fantastic politician. You have charisma of which I’m glad I never had by half.”

    Jag shook his head and laughed. He didn’t know anyone who matched Soontir Fel’s charm and charisma

    Before he could refute his father’s assessment, Soontir said, “No, you inherited that from the Antilles side. Son, you are not only a damned good politician and one hell of a commander, but you are something I will never be.”

    Jag stared at his father. Soontir had never been a man of a lot of praise.

    “You are a man of vision. You are exactly the leader the Empire needs.

    “An Emperor,” Jag huskily said.

    Soontir drained his glass and raised his eyebrow. “That is your word, not mine.”

    With a laugh that sounded more like a cough, he and stood and turned to the portal behind his desk. “Actually, it belongs to Jaina.”

    “Is that so?”

    Jag turned and met Soontir’s one-eyed gaze. “She mentioned it the night we impressed the galaxy with our dancing ability.” For a long moment, silence engulfed them as he stared out of the portal. “Do you think it’s possible?”

    Soontir stood, rounded Jag’s desk and stood beside him.

    Jag glanced over his shoulder at his father. “Do you think I could be... Emperor?”

    His father studied him for a long moment. “Do you want to be Emperor?”

    Jag swallowed, and as if to admit such a thing was a terrible sin, whispered, “Yes.” Soontir’s slight smile encouraged him. “And I know how to prove to the people I deserve the title.”

    “I’m listening.”

    Jag picked up the datapad from the desk, turned it on to the report of Mon Calamari and handed it to his father. Soontir read from the report, then looked back at Jag. A smile spread across his face and his eye twinkle with pride. “You want to attack Mon Calamari?” Jag nodded and the old Imperial rubbed his chin as he paced around the office. “The loss of the home planet of the GA’s chief of state would definitely cause a blow to the morale of the Galactic Alliance.”

    “Those are my thoughts.” Jag sat in his chair, folded his arms and leaned over his desk as he waited his father out.

    Soontir reread the report, nodding agreement as he picked apart Jag’s analysis of the situation. When his father looked up from the datapad, he grinned, sat back in his chair before Jag’s desk and held the pad in the air. “Attacking Mon Calamari will put us on the offensive in a primarily defensive war. This could be the ticket to winning.”

    Jag refilled their glasses and returned, handing one to his father. “I think it’s time to show the GA that we want a separate ourselves fully from them.” He returned to his seat and leanded back into the supple nerf leather. “But more importantly it will show the Insurgents that the Empire takes care of its allies and what can happen if they decide not to be allies any longer.”

    Soontir stared at Jag and for the first time he realized he surprised his father. He felt the heat on his cheeks, but before he could say anything else, Soontir held his glass in a toast. “Spoken like a true Imperial. To the rise of the New Empire and to its new Emperor, Jagged Fel.”

    Jag clicked his glass against his father’s. “I wouldn’t be too premature with those announcements.”

    Soontir took a draw from his whiskey. “Win this battle and the people of the Empire will be begging you to take the title of what you already are in their hearts. Son, this is your destiny.”

    ****

    Aboard the Anakin Solo, Mon Calamari System

    The battle was a brutal concerto of hissing lightsabers, electronic screech of the four clashing blades and grunts and growls of the two men. For added drama, the lights of the training room of the Star Destroyer were dimmed and several obstacles placed around the traditional dueling circles. Curious observers lining the outer perimeter of the room added their cautious contribution to the violent symphony.

    Caedus focused on his opponent, he had to be. He was exceptionally skilled in Jar’Kai, having learned it during his travels after the Yuuzhan Vong War, but Ben proved to be a challenging sparring partner. For the past three days, Caedus sparred with Ben, and he was taking the lessons like a Mon Cal to water. Caedus leaped onto a platform placed outside Ben’s circle of defense. Ben compensated with a jump, and Caedus let a small smile touch his lips.

    Ben had progressed well for an apprentice whose lightsaber skill had been less than desirable only three years ago. Someday Caedus would have to thank Jysella Horn for her excellent instruction and encouragement. Ben’s and the young woman’s styles were completely different, but his wanting to spar with her increased his eagerness in learning, and eventually he developed his own finesse.

    From his higher position, Caedus came down in a downward slash with his right-handed blade. The green lightsaber, which he had made nearly twenty years ago, was easily parried by Ben’s newly acquired red. Before he could bring his newer Sith blade in, Ben twisted away from him, leapt up to the next box and nearly got a killing point as he brought his right-handed blue blade around in a slash. Caedus got out of the way at the last beat by leaping backward off the platform, Ben followed him, but he easily batted Ben’s red blade away with his green.

    Caedus grinned with satisfaction when Ben’s frustration pushed through his Jedi calm. Over half of what he’d taught his cousin in the past week had been pure Sith technique with only enough Jedi sugar coating to prevent him from getting too suspicious. Ben’s touch of the Dark Side had left him shaken and contemplative. He had to reason though his Jedi teachings, discerning the Jedi falsehoods for himself before Caedus could risk taking the next step.

    But Ben’s shy questioning regarding the inconsistencies with the Code proved he’s seeing through the Jedi lies. He’d been Ben’s primary teacher since the boy was ten, and taught Ben Jedi doctrine concerning the Unifying Force, planting seeds of doubt. Caedus still believed in the Unifying Force, but he’d come to realize there were indeed a Light and Dark Side and he had to fully embrace the Dark Side to reach his true potential as a Sith Master. The Dark Side could be used for accomplishing good, not only for evil purposes, and the Light Side could be evil if the Force-user failed to act when they should have. Ben had been taught the principle, but under the trappings of the Unifying Force.

    Nevertheless, Ben still wasn’t completely ready to be introduced to the Sith Order. Caedus hoped to take Ben to Korriban to the ancient Temple in a few months. Lumiya had taken Caedus there after his final act completing his tutelage with her, and he’d been introduced completely to the Order his grandfather had been ordained to destroy, the Order that she’d told him he would rebuild. Lumiya had given him the title of master, surprising him. Although he didn’t completely trust her, he’d never expected her to step aside and let him take over what she’d spent years building. Lumiya wasn’t strong enough or well-connected enough to accomplish what Jacen Solo could. And there was the underlying desire for revenge toward Luke and Leia.

    Besides the ancient Sith, who were immortalized at the decaying Temple on Korriban, he’d met Lumiya’s other apprentice—Qing Niao a Force-sensitive Yuuzhan Vong female. He’d heard of her from the Jedi Council. Jedi Knight Daye Azur-Jamin had captured her during the Yuuzhan Vong War and dubbed her the name Vongerella. She and her small force of Yuuzhan Vong warriors served as scouts on the Outer Rim.

    His plans were falling into place. Lumiya was doing her duty as spy and counter-spy. Centerpoint Station was nearly operational. He’d ordered Alama Rar to assassinate the pro-Corellian leader of Thyferra to allow the pro-GA vice chancellor to take over. He had no intention of letting the GA’s largest producer of bacta join the Insurgents.

    The only part of his plans that hadn’t gone the way he’d wished involved getting rid of Gavin Darklighter. He’d considered having him assassinated and then convince Niathal to appoint him Supreme Commander in the ensuing power vacuum of the military, but he rejected the idea. He had a feeling if he were patient a less messy opportunity would present itself. Regarding the Jedi, he was working to split the Council.

    A slash of Ben’s red lightsaber brought his mind back to the battle. Caedus parried and kicked out with both legs in hopes of turning the duel. The force to Ben’s abdomen threw him across the dueling area. He landed with a loud thud. Caedus leapt to stand over him.

    Ben glowered at him, and before Caedus could claim victory by pointing his blue blade under Ben’s chin, a blast of Force energy hit him in the chest throwing him backward. As he used the Force to regain his balance, Ben tumbled in a forward roll and came up to his feet. Snarling, he brought his red blade up and under the Caedus’s defenses and pointed the glowing tip at his heaving chest.

    The applause of the crewmen watching seemed to bring Ben out of his battle fevered haze. He looked around, then back at his Master, his blue eyes wide with surprise. “I won?”

    Caedus turned off both of his humming blades and smiled. “You won.”

    Ben whooped and thumbed off his lightsabers. He’d never beaten Caedus sparring, and he was proud of his apprentice, but he hoped he wouldn’t have to face Ben in an actual battle to the death. Ben was a natural for the form Jar’Kai.

    Belatedly remembering common sparring curtsey, Ben quickly cleared his throat and bowed his damp head of coppery curling hair. “Eh…Thank you, Master.”

    Caedus returned the bow. Stepping beside him, he patted him on his shoulder. “I promised you that vacation...”

    “I understand, Jacen. I am needed here.” The pleasure of beating his Master for the first time was gone from his tone. As they walked toward the exit, Ben looked over at him.

    Three days after Ben killed the leader of the Freedom’s Avengers, the terrorists retaliated by destroying Shipyard Three. Several members of the GAG team stationed on the facility had been killed in the blasts. Caedus had recalled Ben’s leave orders, giving him an opportunity to frustrate and embitter his apprentice further. He considered Jysella an irritating distraction, but he used it and Ben’s attachment to her in his training. The cancellation of Ben’s leave had achieved its goal, but now the time had come to reward his apprentice for his hard work.

    Outside the door of the training center, Caedus paused as if in thought. “But I think the worse is over. Now comes the mop up and with the Fifth Fleet here as well, we should be able to handle it a few weeks without you here.”

    Ben faced him, surprise and gratitude mixing on the boy’s handsome face. “You mean?”

    Caedus smiled and nodded. “Yes. Go. Get cleaned up and packed. I want you off the Anakin in a standard hour.”

    Ben whooped again and, completely forgetting he wasn’t just his cousin and Master but also his commanding general, he wrapped the older man in a tight embrace. “Thank you, Jace.”

    Before he could say a word about the inappropriate behavior of the lieutenant toward the general, Ben let go and took off at a full run to the nearest turbolift.

    Caedus smiled as he casually followed his apprentice. His plans were coming together quite nicely.


    Thanks for reading! [face_cowboy]