Raban was a quiet planet.
Luke Skywalker could tell that much just from the cockpit of his ship, slowly orbiting the golden planet beneath him. It was not a place he had ever heard of until recently — it had no well-known exports, no famous cities, no successful inhabitants. It had never even had its own Senator in any form of galactic government, Republic or Imperial; instead, its few interests had always been cared for by a sector representative. His X-wing’s cursory scans of the planet picked up large amounts of flora and fauna, but only a few small, scattered settlements. Raban was, in short, one of the most unremarkable planets Luke had ever heard of.
Which made his reasons for being there all the more curious.
He eased his ship down towards the planet, gently slipping from orbit and into the atmosphere. He set his course for one of the larger settlements, near the coast of the northern continent. Most of Raban was grassland, stretching across two landmasses bisected by a strip of blue ocean that wound its way around the planet’s middle. The fields of yellowed grass rolled like waves beneath him as he shot towards the distant town, and he could see the ocean far off to his right, pale and calm.
The settlement didn’t appear on the horizon until he had almost arrived. Even from a distance he could tell that it was small, with only a handful of buildings that were taller than one storey. He could see a number of speeders parked along the outskirts, and two small ships that didn’t look as if they were even capable of leaving the atmosphere. He set down near them, cutting the engines and pulling off his helmet. A few people milled about outside, and they cast him curious glances, obviously unaccustomed to visits from strangers.
R2-D2, positioned in the droid socket behind the cockpit, let out a string of concerned beeps, swivelling his domed head as he took in their surroundings.
“Someone around here has to know something, Artoo,” Luke assured him. “The Empire seemed convinced that something was out here, and so did that old man on Chalacta. I want to find out what it is.”
R2 didn’t seem entirely convinced, but he didn’t say anything else.
Luke retracted the canopy and climbed out of the cockpit, hopping down onto the ground. The buildings that made up the town were small and rough, most of them made out of dark stone. A very generous estimate would place the population at around two hundred, though Luke guessed it was actually somewhat less. From what he had seen, most of the inhabitants appeared to be human, wearing simple, roughspun clothes that reminded him of his youth on Tatooine. That corroborated what little information he was able to find about Raban — with no native sentient species of its own, the planet’s population was made up almost entirely of immigrated humans, most of whom made their living by ranching on the expansive plains.
“Wait here, alright?” Luke said to R2, and the astromech beeped his agreement.
Luke approached the town cautiously. His lightsaber was tucked into his flight suit, hidden from view but still easily accessible. He knew how people thought on these isolated backwater planets — he had grown up on one, raised by an aunt and uncle who had always been suspicious of strangers. Though Raban seemed to not be as coarse or crime-ridden as Tatooine, it was still best to make it clear that he wasn’t a threat, while also protecting himself from anyone who might see him as one.
His plan was to seek out a cantina or some other place where people gathered, and ask around until he found a local willing to speak with him. They would likely be wary of him, and some probably wouldn’t even know what he was talking about, but Luke knew that there was something on Raban — something to do with the Jedi. He could sense its presence, humming through the Force, calling out to him. It wanted to be found, and so he would find it.
People stopped and stared at him as he passed, whispering to each other as they watched him go. Luke could see caution in their eyes, but no hostility; most seemed to be more curious than suspicious, wondering who this stranger was and why he had come to their village. As far as he could see, there were no signs to differentiate the shops and businesses from homes; in a place this small, everyone knew everyone else, and it was assumed that you would know which building was which.
A pair of boys stood nearby, whispering to each other and watching Luke. They were probably in their late teens, if not younger, and they seemed more curious than anything, so Luke decided to try his chances and wandered over towards them, a warm smile on his face. Their eyes widened as they realized that he was walking towards them, but they stayed where they were, either too scared or too curious to move.
“Hello,” Luke greeted. “I’m looking for a cantina, or some other place where I can talk to some locals who might be willing to answer a couple questions. Do you think you could point me in the right direction?”
The two boys were silent for a moment.
“Are you a pilot?” the taller one blurted out, and his friend smacked him on the arm, rolling his eyes as if to say, “Of course he’s a pilot!”
Luke just continued to smile. “Yes, I am.”
“And you’re with the Rebellion?” The boy’s eyes glanced to the Alliance starbird stamped on the left breast of Luke’s vest.
Luke nodded, and both boys’ mouths fell open a bit in awe. From what Luke could tell, the Empire’s curiosity in Raban had been relatively recent, and they had never actually made it out to the planet before their forces were scattered at Endor. With nothing besides herds of grazing animals to offer the Empire, Raban had lived out the decades after the Clone Wars in relative peace, leaving its people isolated from the horrors of the Civil War. These boys had no doubt heard stories of the war, but Luke would be surprised if they’d ever even seen a stormtrooper before. He hadn’t at their age, before a pair of crashed droids had brought Imperial interest to Tatooine.
“Have you been in many battles?” the tall boy’s friend asked, unable to contain his curiosity anymore.
Luke nearly laughed; he remembered asking that same question nearly five years ago, in his uncle’s dusty garage. It felt like it had been so much longer than that. “I’ve been in a few, yes,” he said.
“What are doing out here?” the tall boy asked. “Are you on a mission?”
“I’ve heard some stories about your planet,” Luke explained. “I’ve come to see if they were true.”
The gleeful curiosity in the boys’ eyes vanished, and their faces both took on serious expressions. They glanced at each other, shifting nervously. “The one you want to talk to is Mayzee Lanith,” the short one said. He lifted a hand, pointing to a nearby street. “She runs the mechanics shop down that way. She’ll tell you what you need to know.”
And then the boys were gone, hurrying off in the opposite direction. Luke stared after them, brows furrowed in confusion. Whatever he had said had spooked them — which just confirmed what he already knew. There was something strange on Raban.
The shop wasn’t difficult to find. Though there was no sign, the piles of scrap and junk metal flowing out of the wide door were sign enough. A narrow walkway through the trash had been cleared, and Luke followed it inside. The interior of the shop was dim, and the air was filled with the smell of grease and oil. More scrap was strewn along counters and worktops, piled in the corners and balanced precariously on rickety shelves. Larger pieces of machinery were scattered throughout, most with their guts exposed and half taken apart. It was impossible to tell which was a work-in-progress and which was being used for parts.
An old woman sat on a work bench at the back of the shop, magnifying goggles riding low on her nose. Her skin was wrinkled and tanned, and her long white hair was pulled back from her face in a messy braid. She had to be at least seventy, if not older, but her hands were steady as they picked through the miniscule parts of a servomotor. She didn’t look up as Luke approached, though unless old age had made her hard of hearing, there was no way she wouldn’t have heard his footsteps.
“Are you Mayzee Lanith?” Luke asked.
“I am,” the woman said and she glanced up at him, only briefly, before turning her eyes back to her work. “And you’re Luke Skywalker.”
Luke blinked in surprise. “How did you know?”
“You’re famous, boy,” Mayzee Lanith said, motioning with one of her tools to the old holoprojector flickering in a corner of the room. It was broadcasting the HoloNet News — the recently-established channel set up by the fledgling New Republic to replace the Empire’s old propaganda machine. “Your face is all over the HoloNet.”
“Ah. Right.” Luke had been famous before the Battle of Endor, but the fact that he was no longer an enemy of the state brought with it an entirely new form of fame. Namely, his face being plastered across every holoprojector in the galaxy as the poster boy of the New Republic and a better, brighter future. It was a fame he hadn’t quite grown accustomed to yet.
“So, to what do I owe this great honour?” Mayzee asked.
“I have been told that you can help me,” Luke explained. “I’m looking for something that I believe is somewhere on Raban. I recently came across reports from an old Imperial outpost that mentioned rumours of a Jedi temple in the Mid Rim. A man I spoke to on Chalacta told me of folk tales from Raban, about a strange temple on the northern coast.” He paused, trying to gauge Mayzee’s response to his words. Her expression remained neutral, her gaze focused on the servomotor in her hands. She felt steady even through the Force, entirely unsurprised by what she was hearing. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” he asked.
Mayzee nodded her head. “Oh, yes, I certainly do. There have been stories about that temple for as long as there have been humans on Raban. It was here before we were, and I’ve no doubt it’ll be here after.”
Excitement soared in Luke’s heart. “Was it built by the Jedi?” he asked. Though he had been kept busy by the continuation of the war, he had already begun collecting whatever information he could find on the Jedi religion, preparing for the day when peace in the galaxy was finally achieved and he could begin rebuilding the Order. Unfortunately, the Empire had not left much for him to find. If this temple truly turned out to be Jedi in origin, it would be one of the strongest remnants of the old Order he had ever discovered.
Mayzee made a noise low in her throat. “Now that, I don’t know. You’re the Jedi here, not me. But I do know that there’s something strange about that place. It doesn’t like visitors.”
“What do you mean?”
“People go in and then they wake up back outside, with no memory of what happened in the temple. Sometimes only seconds will have passed since they went in, but other times it will have been hours, days, or even weeks since they entered. I’ve heard tales of people gone for months, only to return exactly as they left, with no memory of the time that passed.”
“And people still go in the temple?”
Mayzee looked at him, her thin brows raised. “Is that not what you’re planning to do?”
Luke ceded that she had a point. “Have you ever been to the temple?” he asked.
Her wrinkled lips turned down in a frown, and she nodded. “Once, when I was younger and more reckless than you are now.”
“How long were you gone?”
There was a long pause, where Mayzee’s focus seemed to shift even more to the servomotor. Her mouth drew into a thin line, and Luke could see her bony fingers shaking slightly. “Longer than most,” she answered finally.
“Will you bring me to it?” Luke asked. He had no idea if the Force was capable of such things — of messing with time and altering people’s memories — but there was definitely something going on at the temple on Raban, and he wanted to know what.
Mayzee shook her head. “No, I’ll not be going back to that place,” she said. “Not ever. If I were you, boy, I’d turn right back around, get back in my fancy ship, and fly far away.”
His questions had shaken her. She may not remember her time in the temple, but from what she’d said, it sounded as if she had been in there for months; it couldn’t have been easy to lose so much of her life.
“I want to help,” he said. “I’m a Jedi. If this is somehow the work of the Force, I might be able to stop it.”
Mayzee finally stopped her tinkering, setting down her tools and placing her shaking hands flat on the countertop. “I’ll not go with you,” she said, looking straight at him for the first time since he had entered her shop. “I’ll tell you the way, but I’ll not go with you.”
Luke nodded. “I understand,” he said. “Thank you.”
Mayzee’s directions were remarkably simple — fly south from the village until he hit the coast, and then continue west until he reached the temple. It was apparently built right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, and impossible to miss. Luke left the old mechanic with many thanks, and she gave him a rather sombre goodbye, which he supposed was meant to serve as one final warning.
“Come see me when you return,” she told him, “if I’m not dead by the time the temple sees fit to spit you back out.”
He made his way quickly back to where he had left his X-wing. R2 was still there, snuggled in the droid socket. He let out a loud beep as Luke approached, annoyed at having been left alone for more than half an hour.
“I told you I would find what I needed,” Luke said, jogging through the tall grass towards his ship. “I know where the temple is.”
R2 whistled a question, retracting the canopy as Luke began to climb the side of the X-wing.
“It’s to the southwest,” Luke answered, sliding into the cockpit and grabbing his helmet. “It won’t take us long to reach it.”
And it didn’t. They got to the coast after only ten minutes of flying, and then it was just a short cruise to the west before the shape of a tall stone building materialized on the horizon. It was perhaps three storeys high, and made of the same dark stone as the buildings in the village. From what Luke could see, its architecture was simple and roughhewn, with very little regard for any sort of design. As he grew closer, he could see that it actually continued down along the cliff face, built into the hard rock.
He landed his ship not far from the temple entrance. There was no door, just an open archway that led into the darkness. He could see only a handful of small windows, high up on the temple walls. Retracting the canopy, he climbed out of the cockpit and jumped down. Here, the golden grass reached past his knees, undisturbed by animals and the comings and goings of humans. A cool ocean wind whipped past, bringing with it a fine mist and the smell of salt.
Luke took off his flight suit, retrieving his lightsaber from one of its pockets before tossing it up into the cockpit. He had no idea what could be waiting for him inside the temple, and he didn’t want to be encumbered by a baggy, bright orange flight suit. As he clipped his lightsaber onto his belt, R2 lowered himself from the droid socket, letting out a nervous tone.
“Don’t worry, Artoo,” Luke told him, giving the astromech a gentle pat as he rolled up beside Luke. “We’ve faced worse than this before.”
But even he felt uneasy. The Force rippled and pulsed around the temple, its presence strong and forceful. It did not feel evil, and Luke could sense no signs of the dark side, but the light did not flow easily here, either. If anything, the Force felt… unsure. Wary. Caught somewhere between the light and the dark. The temple did not belong to the Sith, but it did not belong to the Jedi, either. It belonged to the Force, and to itself.
Luke started towards it, wading through the tall grass. R2 whimpered, but followed obediently, his domed head rotating anxiously. The Force seemed to grow louder and louder the closer Luke grew to the temple, but he did not know what it was trying to tell him — whether it was trying to warn him away or beckoning him forward. He hesitated at the doorway for only a moment, before stepping through.
The Force quieted as soon as he passed the threshold, diminishing from a shout to a soft murmur. Strangely, despite the stone walls and the damp ocean wind, the interior was warm. The section that rested aboveground was simply one big entrance hall, with a towering ceiling that stretched high up. Several small windows were carved into the stone, near the top of the walls, and they let in thin shafts of light, illuminating the room with warm sunshine.
There wasn’t much to illuminate. The walls were bare — no murals, no inscriptions, no tapestries. No statues were carved into the stone, and no pieces of furniture lingered. If anyone had ever lived here, it seemed as if they had cleared out long ago, before even the Empire had risen.
There was only one doorway in the room, at the opposite end of the hall from the entrance. Luke crossed the floor slowly, his footsteps echoing loudly around the vast, empty chamber. He was unsurprised to find that the doorway led to a staircase winding down into the cliff face, where the rest of the temple waited.
He looked to R2. “You should stay here,” Luke advised him. He had no idea how far down the stairwell went, and R2’s treads wouldn’t make it easy for him to maneuver. The astromech seemed more than happy to comply. “Wait outside. If I’m not back by sunset, get on the X-wing’s comms and contact Leia.”
R2 beeped an affirmative, and Luke stepped onto the first stair. Thin slits in the wall let in streams of light, but after only a few steps, the stairs curved to the left, and the doorway and R2 disappeared from sight. The stairs continued straight down for a while, until they reached a landing. The landing was bare, with no doors and only a few small windows near the top of the wall.
He descended further, down to a second landing. This one had a door, which opened into a windowless hallway. With no source of light, the hallway was dark, and Luke could only see a few feet in, to where the light from the landing ended. He had a small glowrod with him, and he illuminated it, shining the beam of light through the door into the hallway. It stretched deep into the side of the cliff, lined with numerous dark doorways. Just as in the entrance hall, there were no adornments on the walls, and no signs that anyone else had ever even been there.
Though the stairwell continued down behind him, Luke stepped into the hallway. He kept his free hand near his lightsaber, shining his glowrod into the doors as he passed. They were all empty, nothing more than four plain stone walls and a ceiling. The silence was eerie — all he could hear was his breathing and the sound of his footsteps. The temple was, as far as he could tell, entirely empty. Mayzee had told him that it didn’t like visitors, but it had yet to do anything to him besides instill a small sense of unease.
One of the doors led to another staircase, slightly narrower than the other. It went in only one direction, down, and so Luke began to descend. It was short, twisting into a sort of U shape before ending in another hallway. It was nearly identical to the one above, with plain stone walls and small empty rooms. Luke could see no stairwell at the end of the hallway, as there had been with the other, but after a quick investigation he discovered that one of the doors led to another corridor, with a set of stairs at the end.
He continued this way for a short while, searching through empty hallways and climbing down, deeper into the temple. All was silent at first, but as he climbed lower, he began to hear things — voices, whispering past his ear. They were unfamiliar and incomprehensible, speaking words he didn’t understand. As the voices grew, so did the Force; it had weakened when he had stepped through the temple door, but it gained strength now, pushing against him. There was something deeper in the temple — he could feel it, reaching out for him.
He pushed on, and the whispers grew harsher. He had thought at first that he was imagining things, but it quickly became obvious that they were real. He had no doubts that they were coming from whatever thing waited for him at the bottom. The temple was a maze of stairwells and corridors; there was no obvious pattern to it all. It was as if it was designed to confuse.
Luke tried to listen to what the whispering voices were saying, but there were so many of them that they melded together. At one point he thought he heard his name, and after that, the voices began to grow more familiar. He still could not understand the words, but for a moment he would think he had heard Leia’s voice, or Obi-Wan’s, or Han’s, even his father’s, but the second he tried to focus on the voice, to single it out from all the others, it vanished, melting back into the crowd.
They only grew louder the deeper he went, which he supposed meant he must be getting closer. He tried to reach through the Force, to sense whatever this thing that was calling out to him was, but it was like trying to swim through sand. The Force was thick and murky, a storm through which he couldn’t see. There was no way for him to know if this thing was good or evil — a product of the light side, or of the dark. He would just have to find out.
Eventually, stepping into his sixth or seventh hallway, he noticed light up ahead — sunlight, shining through an open doorway. He hurried towards it, finding yet another set of stairs. This one was short, and went straight down. The hallway at the bottom was larger than any of the others, and windows lined its northern wall, looking out to the sea. This floor rested nearly at the water line, and as Luke descended towards the hallway, he could see waves crashing against the side of the temple, always coming just shy of dumping water in through the open windows.
There was only one doorway in this hallway, located at the very end. It was larger than even the temple entrance, and unlike all the others, it actually had a door. Not a mechanical door, but an ancient one, with a handle that had to be turned and pushed.
The whispers grew to an almost deafening roar as he stepped off the stairs and into the hallway. He could feel tendrils of the Force reaching out to him from behind the door. Whatever was in that room, he knew it didn’t want to hurt him, but its intentions were still unclear. Nothing that could cause so much terror for the people of Raban could be wholly good.
Still, Luke approached the door without hesitation. It was made of wood, somehow still sturdy after what must have been eons. He reached out to the handle, and the door opened at his touch, swinging inward.
Inside was a metal disc.
It was the only thing in the room, resting in the middle of the stone floor. It was flat and ovular, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand, and it looked to be about two inches thick, with smooth, rounded edges. There were no markings of any kind on it, and no way for Luke to know its purpose. As far as he could see, it was nothing but a hunk of metal. But the Force whipped around it as if unsettled, and Luke could feel its presence, powerful and arcane.
He stepped into the room, as plain and simple as all the others, and the disc began to rise, lifting itself up into the air. Markings and glyphs began to appear on its surface, glowing pale blue, and the light pulsed as if it was alive. The whispering voices continued, as if beckoning Luke towards it. Now he was certain that he could recognize some of the voices, though many remained unidentified, and snippets of what they were saying became audible. Some phrases were unfamiliar to him, but others he had already heard, months or years ago.
I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father.
I know. Somehow, I’ve always known.
The Force will be with you, always.
From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.
Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish, like his father, so I destroyed him.
The glowing marks grew brighter, and Luke stepped closer, lifting his hand and stretching it out towards the disc. The whispers reached a crescendo, and the disc urged him on — to take that final step, to stretch his arm that bit closer.
And he did. The tips of his fingers pressed gently against the cool metal of the disc, and the whispers immediately quieted. For a second, there was complete silence. Not even the waves crashing outside could be heard.
Then there was a flash of brilliant white light. Something slammed into Luke’s chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him careening backwards. He struck the ground hard, and the white gave way to darkness.
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Chapter 2: Gone
Leia goes off in search of her missing brother.
It was early morning on Chandrila, but Leia Organa already had a to-do list as long as her arm.
It had been three months since the Emperor’s death over Endor, but the Galactic Empire lived on. Ending a war was no easy task, and it was made all the more difficult when you were trying to create a brand new state at the same time. This was what many of the Senators in the recently-created Senate of the New Republic had spent the past weeks discovering, and Leia was no exception.
She hustled through her apartment, a stack of datapads balanced in her arms. She had just finished a correspondence with Senator Seena Dronos of Commenor regarding the liberation of Tirahnn, which had taken place just a week prior. More and more planets across the galaxy were being liberated, but for every planet freed, there were two more still struggling under Imperial control. The New Republic’s forces were spread too thin to aid them all, far too occupied by the Imperial remnants still fighting across the galaxy.
After Endor, most people had expected the hostilities to end and the war to be over. They had thought that, with both the Emperor and his enforcer Darth Vader dead, what remained of the Empire would surrender without a fight. But three months on, the war continued to rage, with no end in sight.
Leia settled her datapads on the dining room table and took a swig of caf. The call from Senator Dronos had interrupted her before she had been able to finish her morning drink, and she grimaced as the lukewarm liquid filled her mouth. It hadn’t been very good caf to begin with — she’d had to make it herself, and she’d never been very good at cooking or brewing. Unfortunately, the procurement of a new cooking droid rested rather low on her to-do list.
Putting the mug down, she pushed it away, not planning on picking it back up again. The tall windows lining the dining room showcased the Hanna City scenery, bathed in the warm light of morning; the sun was just beginning to rise above the distant mountains, dispersing the nighttime mist that had settled over Chandrila’s capital city. The Core World planet had been selected as the capital of the New Republic and seat of the Senate shortly after the Battle of Endor, and so it was where Leia and Han had come to make their home.
Their apartment was located only steps away from Eleutherian Plaza, where an old Chandrilan government building was in the process of being renovated into the home of the Galactic Senate. Until it was complete, Senate meetings were taking place in the nearby Old Gather-House. Though it had been over a month since Han and Leia had moved in, there had only been a handful of nights where both of them had slept there together; most of the time, at least one, if not both, of them was away on one mission or another for the New Republic. Leia had hardly seen her husband for more than a week at a time since they were married on Endor three months ago.
A door down the hallway swished open, followed by the sound of bare feet tapping softly along the hallway. Leia turned to see Han entering the kitchen, wearing nothing but his briefs with his hair mussed and eyes still squinty from sleep.
“Good morning,” she greeted with a smile.
He grumbled something that sounded vaguely like “Mornin’” and began shuffling about the kitchen, preparing himself a cup of caf.
“Did I hear you talking to someone earlier?” he asked, filling the brewer with several spoonfuls of pre-ground beans.
Leia nodded. “Seena Dronos. She called to update me on the situation on Tirahnn.”
“Fortunately, yes. They’ve resolved the supply lines issue, so they’re able to get the necessary supplies out to the refugees. Apparently, they’ve already started some of the rebuilding efforts. Most of the New Republic troops were pulled out yesterday.”
“And what about the Imps that were captured?”
“They’ve all been transferred to holding facilities to await trial,” Leia said. “Unfortunately, most of them were just stormtroopers, so they’ll likely be released once a peace is brokered.”
Han’s brows raised. The brewer hummed on the counter behind him as it ran hot water through the grinds. “You really think the Empire’s gonna sign a peace treaty?”
“Eventually,” Leia said. “They’re losing more and more ground every day. I don’t think it will be tomorrow, or next week, but they’re losing this war. They can’t hold out like this forever. Either they’ll agree to a peace treaty, or they’ll surrender entirely.”
“Yeah, well, they could hurry up on that bit,” Han said, pouring his freshly-brewed caf into a mug.
“I’ll be sure to pass the message on to Admiral Rax.”
Han snorted, shaking his head, and took a sip of his piping hot caf. “Would you like a cup?” he asked her, but she shook her head.
“I don’t have the time,” she said. “The Senate session begins in less than two hours, and I told Tai-Lin Garr I’d meet with him beforehand.” She gathered her datapads and crossed over to the kitchen island, leaning across to place a kiss on Han’s lips. “I probably won’t be back before you leave for Dorin, so I’ll see you next week.”
Han nodded. “If everything goes smoothly, it’ll be sooner than that,” he said. “But I doubt everything will go smoothly.”
“Knowing your luck, flyboy, it won’t,” Leia said with a grin. “Stay safe, alright?”
“I always do.”
She started towards the door, and had made it halfway across the living room when a sudden icy feeling gripped her heart like a vice. She stopped, dead in her tracks, as an echo rippled through the Force towards her.
Her knees went weak, and she had to throw out a hand, bracing herself against the wall to keep from falling to the ground.
He was gone. Her brother’s presence in the Force was gone, vanishing in an instant like a snuffed-out candledroid. She could usually sense him anywhere in the galaxy, and she had always been able to, even when she hadn’t known to look for him.
But he was no longer there to look for.
It felt like her body was going numb. She could hardly see, and all she could focus on was the glaring hole in her mind where her brother had once been. He had taught her, not long ago, the basics of reaching out through the Force, of sensing for people and reading their emotions. She had never done it before outside of practice, but she did it now, stretching her feelings as far as they could go, reaching for Luke.
She found nothing.
A choked gasp worked its way up her throat, and tears stung her eyes. There was only one reason she could think of that would blind her to Luke in such a way.
Han’s hands settled on her shoulders, turning her to look at him. She hadn’t even heard him walking towards her. His expression was concerned, his eyebrows drawn together as he studied her face. “Leia,” he said, taking the datapads from her loose grasp and placing them on the nearby couch. “Leia, sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
She opened her mouth, but the words took a moment to make it out.
“It’s Luke,” she said. “He’s gone.”
It had been two weeks since Leia had last seen her brother, and several days since they had last spoken. He had recently gone off on some mission, and all she knew was that he was searching for a rumoured Jedi temple somewhere in the Mid Rim. It had been nearly a week since he had left, jetting off in his X-wing with R2; he had told her in their last conversation that he had a lead on the temple’s location, but she hadn’t heard anything since.
It only took Leia a few minutes to recover from the shock of losing her connection to Luke. The only explanation for the severance was that Luke was dead, but she refused to believe that — whether it was the Force or gut instinct or pure denial, she didn’t know. But she wouldn’t believe her brother was dead until she saw his cold body for herself.
Han tried to get her to sit down, to relax for a minute and actually explain to him what was going on, but she refused. Luke might not be dead, but he was more than likely in some sort of danger. She needed to find him, as soon as possible.
It was action that had kept her sane after the destruction of Alderaan and the loss of her parents; she had thrown herself into the Rebellion, dedicating every ounce of her being first into the destruction of the Death Star and then into the Rebel Alliance’s continued survival. It was action that would keep her sane now.
She hurried down the hallway towards her office, a confused Han trailing after her. Her desk had a comms unit that would be capable of contacting R2, no matter where he was in the galaxy — so long as the little droid hadn’t gotten sucked into trouble alongside Luke.
“Leia, just hold on a minute,” Han said, following her into her office. It was still very spartan, furnished only with a desk, a chair, and some empty shelves. Like acquiring a cooking droid, she had yet to make any time for decorating her home office. “What’s happened to Luke?”
“I don’t know,” Leia said, settling into the chair and pulling up the desk’s comms interface. She would need to contact C-3PO first; he had gone ahead of her to her Senate office, and she needed to let him know that she wouldn’t be making her meeting with Tai-Lin Garr or the Senate session. “It’s like he’s just… gone.”
“What do you mean ‘just gone’?”
“Like he’s dead, Han,” Leia snapped. “I can’t… I can’t sense him anymore. I don’t know where he is or what he’s feeling or even if he’s alright. He’s just gone.”
Anything related to the Force would usually have Han saying some snarky quip about magic and old wizards, but he seemed to realize that just then wasn’t the best time for such a comment.
“Do you think he’s really dead?” he asked, his voice quiet.
Leia shook her head. “No. I don’t think so. I feel like I would know for certain if he was truly dead, and I don’t, so maybe…” She trailed off with a sigh, running a hand along her brow. “Maybe I’m just being too hopeful.”
Han reached over, wrapping his hands around one of hers. Her fingers felt cold, but his palms were warm against them. “We’ll find out what’s happened to him,” he said. “We’ll find him.” Leia could hear his unspoken words — whether he’s dead or alive.
She let the weight of her husband’s hands comfort her for a moment longer before pulling her arm away. To find Luke, they needed to find R2.
3PO was quick to answer, his wide-eyed metal face materializing as a blue hologram on the surface of Leia’s desk.
“Ah, Princess Leia,” he greeted. “I was beginning to wonder where you were. Is everything al—”
“No, Threepio, something’s come up,” Leia said, interrupting the droid. “I need you to contact Senator Garr and let him know that I need to reschedule our meeting. Then you need to let the vice chair know that I will not be attending today’s session.”
“Oh, dear. Is it really that urgent?”
“Unfortunately. I’ll explain once I know more.”
“Of course, Princess,” 3PO said with a short bow of his head. “I will contact Senator Garr and Vice Chair Vand immediately. Let me know if there is more I can do.”
“Thanks, Threepio,” Leia said, and ended the communication. The hologram of C-3PO disappeared with a flicker.
She tried contacting Luke’s X-wing first. It took a few moments, but a connection was eventually made, meaning that, wherever the X-wing was, it was still functional. But no hologram of either R2 or Luke appeared on the desk. She glanced up at Han, and their nervous eyes met for a brief moment.
“Hello?” she said, looking back to the empty holoprojector. With a connection open, anyone near the X-wing would be able to hear her; with any luck, that would include R2. “Luke, Artoo, are you there? Come in. Artoo, come in.”
Seconds passed in silence, and Leia could feel her hope deflating. With the X-wing still online, she would be able to track it and find its location, but it would take time and technology she didn’t readily have access to. She began forming a plan in her mind — she could go to the New Republic military, and ask them for help. The Alliance and Republic navies were, at the moment, practically one in the same, and Luke was still technically a commander, even if more of his current focus rested on the Jedi. He hadn’t been on a mission for the military, but Leia was sure they wouldn’t hesitate to help, particularly when three war heroes were involved.
But then she heard a quiet beeping, and a hologram of R2-D2 rolled onto her desk. Leia practically sagged with relief at the sight of him.
“Artoo!” she cried. “You’re alright! Where’s Luke?”
A translation of R2’s binary beeps and trills appeared on a small screen near the hologram projector. < Luke is in the temple. >
“The temple? You found it? Where?”
R2 beeped an affirmative. < It is located on the planet Raban in the Kastolar sector of the Mid Rim. >
Leia had never heard of Raban, and the information she knew about Kastolar was limited. It was close to Hutt Space, and most of the planets within it were little more than agricultural backwaters. She vaguely recalled meeting the sector representative for Kastolar as a teenager in the Apprentice Legislature, a Sneevel whose name escaped her recollection now.
“Did Luke go in alone?” Leia asked.
< Yes. There were stairs, so he foolishly told me to stay up here. >
“Artoo, can you get into contact with him?” Han asked, flattening his palms against the desktop. “We think something might have happened to him.”
R2 let out a worried tone, and set about trying to hail Luke’s personal comms unit. Several moments passed in which nothing happened, and then the astromech let out a series of confused beeps and trills. < I cannot reach him. His comms unit is out of range. I do not understand. >
Leia’s brows furrowed. For Luke’s comms to be out of range, he would have had to leave the planet entirely.
“It could just be busted or something,” Han pointed out.
A small radar dish appeared on the top of R2’s head, and it swiveled slowly for several seconds before retracting. < I sense no signs of life anywhere within the temple or nearby. >
Leia’s eyes slipped closed and she bowed her head. If there were no life signs in the temple, then Luke was either dead or, somehow, he was no longer there. She knew which outcome was more likely: no life signs meant there was nothing alive within the temple, meaning no one could have killed him, but plenty of inorganic things could have done away with him, from droids to traps to a simple accident.
But she still couldn’t believe he was dead.
She lifted her head. “Artoo, stay where you are and transmit your coordinates to me. If anything happens, contact the Falcon. Han and I are coming to you. We’ll be there as soon as possible.”
< You got it. >
With a nod, Leia ended the communication, and the holographic R2 winked out of existence. She looked up at Han.
“You don’t mind delaying your mission to Dorin?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m sure the New Republic military and your Senate will mind a bit,” Han said, but he shrugged, a reassuring smile on his face. “But I don’t.”
The Millennium Falcon came out of hyperspace above Raban some hours later. The trip had been long but straightforward enough, and no messages had come through from R2, which was both good and bad. Good, because it meant the situation had not gotten any worse, and bad, because it meant there were no updates on Luke or his whereabouts.
Leia had spent most of the journey either reading up on what little information on Raban she could find, or staring through the cockpit viewport, watching the fuzzy blue tunnel of hyperspace twist around them. She felt… strange. Not empty, not incomplete, just… not herself. Like manka stew without sikoroot; still delicious, but just not quite right. She could feel the hole in her mind where Luke’s presence used to rest more keenly than if she had lost her hand. She had realized, as she had stared at the swirl of stars outside, that his was a presence she had always been able to feel, even before she had even known he existed, when they were children on planets in opposite corners of the galaxy. In all of her years of existence, she had never truly been without her twin brother.
That made the thought of him being truly gone even more frightening.
She watched the golden planet in front of them grow closer as they approached. Chewbacca, usually one to accompany his best friend Han on such expeditions, had been sent ahead to Dorin alone in an attempt to placate the aggravated New Republic; while Han had done his best to explain the situation and the military brass had expressed concern for Luke, they were, at the moment, slightly more concerned with the supposed Imperial presence on Dorin. Leia supposed they would just have to make do for the moment.
The coordinates R2 had sent her placed the temple on Raban’s northern continent, near the coast. As they approached the planet’s surface, entering the atmosphere above a wide expanse of grassland, Leia confirmed what she had read during the journey — there was not much of anything at all on Raban. A few scattered settlements, a couple thousand residents, and miles and miles of uninterrupted prairie. It made her wonder why, of all places, the Jedi had decided to build a temple here.
With the flat terrain, the building was not difficult to spot. They approached it from the north, flying low to the treeless ground. Its design was simple, and it stretched only a few storeys into the early morning sky, but even from a distance Leia could tell that it was ancient. Luke’s X-wing was docked nearby, and Han set the Falcon down beside it.
R2 was waiting for them at the bottom of the gangplank when they emerged from the ship. He beeped a greeting, and then reported that nothing had changed since his call with Leia several hours earlier. There had been no signs of Luke, or anyone else.
“How long ago did he go in?” Han asked, surveying the tall stone edifice in front of them with a distrustful eye. Leia didn’t much blame him; just the sight of the temple left her with an uneasy feeling.
She could hear R2’s worry in his mechanical tones as he answered. He didn’t know the exact time, but they had arrived at the temple in the late afternoon, local time; it was dawn now, the sun casting a brilliant orange reflection on the calm ocean beyond the temple. Luke had been gone for approximately twelve hours.
Leia checked that her blaster was attached to the holster on her thigh. There was no knowing what could be waiting for them in that temple, and she wanted to be prepared.
“Artoo, you stay here,” she ordered. “Han and I are going to go into the temple and see if we can find Luke, or at least some clues as to what happened to him. If we aren’t back by nightfall, comm Threepio and tell him what’s happened. He’ll contact the New Republic and let them know we’re missing.”
R2 trilled his understanding. He followed them as far as the temple door, and watched them enter with a nervous whimper.
Inside, the temple was dim. Not much light made it in through the small, scattered windows carved near the tops of the walls, though Leia suspected that would change once the sun was fully risen. She felt the same unease inside the temple that she had felt outside; it was like there was something pressing against her mind, some sort of presence, but it was wholly unfamiliar. She didn’t know if it was harmful or benevolent, but though she was nervous, she wasn’t scared. It didn’t feel as if there was anything in there that wanted to hurt her.
Han produced a glowrod from his pocket and shone it around the dark room. It was entirely empty. The bare stone walls stretched up and up until they met at a point at the very top of the structure. It seemed to be a sort of entrance hall, but it was entirely void of any adornments or signifiers of the temple’s use — whether it had been built by the Jedi or some ancient people, its purpose was entirely a mystery.
The only other door in the hall was on the other side of the room. Leia and Han crossed towards it, and Han shone his light through the doorway to reveal a staircase, twisting down into the hard rock of the cliff.
“I guess there’s only one way to go,” he said, and stepped onto the stairs.
Leia followed him down. Orange sunlight seeped in through the narrow windows lining the stairwell, painting golden slits on the wall. The first landing they reached was bare, but the second had a doorway, leading into a long, dark corridor. They ignored it, and kept climbing down.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Han muttered, shining his glowrod down another empty hallway shooting off from the staircase. Leia wasn’t sure how she felt about the temple; nothing about it frightened her, but she certainly wasn’t at ease, slowly creeping down the empty stairwell. The building around them was entirely silent. She couldn’t even hear the sound of waves from the ocean outside.
They made it a few more levels before the stairs ended abruptly. The final landing opened into a hallway, and they turned into it. With no windows, the hallway was much darker than the entrance hall and the staircase, so Leia pulled out her own glowrod, adding a second source of light to cut through the darkness. Doorways lined the walls, but when they flashed their glowrods into them, they found nothing but small, empty rooms. Perhaps they had once been intended as living quarters, but Leia could see no signs that anyone at all had ever lived there. If the temple had once been inhabited, its former occupiers had left behind no trace of their presence.
One of the doors lead to another descending staircase, much shorter than the first, and they followed it down into a second hallway, identical to the one up above. They inspected each room carefully, looking for anything that might tell them where Luke was. Leia discovered a third stairwell at the end of the corridor, and as she peered down it, trying to gauge how far it might go, she heard a voice whisper past her ear.
It was an unfamiliar voice, too quiet for her to understand what it was saying. She turned to look at Han, inspecting rooms near the other end of the hallway.
“Did you hear that?” she asked.
He shone his light towards her. “Hear what?”
She glanced quickly into the rooms around her and, finding nothing, shook her head. “Nothing,” she said. He wouldn’t believe her if she told him she was hearing voices. “There’s another staircase here. Let’s keep going.”
But as they descended the stairs, Leia heard it again; this time it was louder, and there were more of them, undeniably voices whispering in her ear. She still couldn’t understand what they were saying, but she could tell they were trying to tell her something. She just didn’t know what.
They went through another empty hallway full of empty rooms, and the voices became more persistent. Someone, or something, was trying to reach out to her, and Leia had the feeling that, whatever or whoever it was, they were somewhere within this temple. All she had to do was find them.
She continued downwards, climbing another short staircase. The voices were becoming more familiar; every few seconds, she thought she heard one that she recognized, but a moment later it had dissolved back into the crowd, undistinguishable. As she stepped into the new hallway, she thought, for just a split second, that she heard Han. She turned back to look at him, to see if he had actually spoken, but he wasn’t there.
“Han!” she called, and she hurried back up the staircase. He wasn’t in the hallway, or any of the rooms she quickly searched. “Han! Han!” She went back down to the lower corridor, thinking that maybe he had somehow passed by her while she had been too busy listening to the whispering voices. But he was still nowhere in sight. She didn’t know if she would sense it if anything happened to him, but she figured she must; he was her husband, after all. She would know if anything bad had happened.
The voices continued around her, undeterred. She was certain now that she could recognize some of them, though they were still unintelligible. They were urging her on — she could feel them pulling her deeper and deeper into the temple, like insistent hands pulling on her arms and legs. She needed to find Han, and she needed to find Luke, but she also needed to know what rested within this temple. It was all connected somehow. She could sense it — they were all strings tugging her along to the same destination.
So she went deeper. She kept her eyes open for any signs of Han or Luke as she passed through hallway after hallway, but she found nothing. Eventually, she reached a staircase where sunlight shone once again, and she put away her glowrod, tucking it back into her pocket. The voices were louder now, and she followed their urgings, descending what she knew was the final set of stairs.
Like all the others, it opened up into a hallway. But unlike the others, this one was lined with windows that looked out to sea, and there was only one door, at the very end.
Leia walked towards it and the voices swelled, as if excited. The door was wooden, built in the ancient style, but it swung open readily at the press of her fingers against the handle.
Inside, she found nothing but a small metal disc.
Though it looked entirely unremarkable, Leia knew that this was what had been calling out to her. This was where the voices were coming from. She stepped into the room, and its presence immediately enveloped her; not warm, but not cold, either. As she watched, the disc began to rise, and a glowing blue light traced out strange designs and symbols on its surface.
She took another step, moving closer to the disc, and the whispers clarified, as if before her ears had been blocked. Some, though not all, were easily recognizable, and they spoke to her, many saying things she had already heard, but others uttering words not yet spoken.
The Force is strong in my family.
My daughter is hereby invested as crown princess, heir to the throne of Alderaan.
Your father has become Darth Vader.
I saw him. Leia, I saw our son.
No one’s ever really gone.
Hope is a light brighter than the deepest darkness — but only we can keep it lit.
Leia lifted a hand, stretching it out towards the disc. The markings glowed brighter, a blue the colour of hyperspace, and the voices continued to whirl around her. They pushed her forward, guiding her fingers those last few centimetres it took to press them against the disc.
For a moment, there was nothing.
Then Leia was blinded as a white light filled the room, and she was sent flying backwards to the ground.
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Chapter 3: Delusions of the Past
Luke finds himself face-to-face with a squad of old Clone Wars-era droids. Leia discovers signs of her brother's whereabouts.
Luke woke to the sound of battle. He opened his eyes, and found himself staring not at the stone ceiling of the temple, but rather at a dark canopy of branches weaving together overhead. It was nighttime, and he could see the bright pinpricks of stars shining through the leaves above. The ground beneath him was damp and hard, littered with rotting vegetation and small, sharp rocks. He could hear shouts and blasters in the distance, highlighted by the occasional boom of heavy artillery. His chest ached slightly where he had been struck, and his vision spun, disoriented.
Slowly, he sat up. The covered stars provided little light, but explosions and blasterfire flashed distantly among the trees. He wasn’t directly in the middle of the battle — no blasts rocketed past his ears, and no trees splintered in his vicinity — but he was close enough for it to be dangerous.
He didn’t think he was on Raban anymore; as far as he knew, the prairie planet wasn’t home to any forests, and it certainly wasn’t the sort of place a battle would occur. With the Civil War still raging across the galaxy, however, there were any number of planets he could be on. Battles were happening every day in every corner of the galaxy, and it seemed the artifact in the Rabani temple had dropped him right in the middle of one.
Staggering to his feet, Luke fished around in his pockets for his comlink. Pressing the transmit button, he held the device to his mouth. “Artoo,” he said. “Come in, Artoo. Are you there?”
Nothing came through, not even static. The comm wasn’t transmitting, not to Artoo, not to anything. Frowning, Luke held it close to his face, looking for any signs of damage in the dim lighting. The red light still shone, meaning the device was functional. Maybe the Empire, or even the New Republic, had blocked all transmissions on the planet; it was a common enough occurrence in war zones. In any case, he wasn’t going to be able to use his comlink to get into contact with R2.
He shoved it back into his pocket and looked to the distant flashes of battle. His best course of action would be to find the New Republic and figure out where exactly he was. He had never heard of the Force transporting people to different planets, but everything was far too stable and real for it be a vision. The sound of the fighting, the cool earth beneath his hands, the chilly nighttime wind — none of it had the cloudy, shifting presence of a Force vision. Which meant that, somehow or another, the strange artifact in the temple had sent him barreling across the galaxy in the blink of an eye.
There was the loud boom of an explosion, and Luke watched as a tree, trunk blazing, fell to the ground with a groaning creak. Beyond the flames, he could see soldiers running — helmeted, wearing the white armour of stormtroopers. His hand went to his belt, where his lightsaber hung—
But it wasn’t there.
He spun, eyes going to the ground. It must have fallen off when he landed, but he couldn’t see it. It was too dark, and there were too many shrubs and leaves covering the ground. Flashing a glowrod around would only draw attention to himself, and with a group of stormtroopers so close, he didn’t want to risk it. He kicked around plants with his foot, hoping to catch a glint of metal reflecting the stars or the blasterfire.
The voice was mechanical, and Luke looked up to see a squad of droids standing only a metre away, all of them with blaster rifles pointed directly at him. They were spindly, with long snout-like faces, and though his knowledge of military history was somewhat lacking, Luke recognized them as B1 battle droids. At least, that’s what they looked like; B1s hadn’t been used since the Clone Wars.
“Hands in the air!” the lead droid demanded, taking a step towards Luke. He obeyed, slowly raising his arms above his head. “Don’t move, Republic scum!”
These droids were Imperial, then. That was rather unexpected; no battle droids had been used for over two decades, not since the Separatist Droid Army was shut down. It didn’t make sense for the Empire to use them — as far as Luke knew, there was no shortage of stormtroopers, even months after the Emperor’s death. Maybe they had found a hold-out somewhere, manned by still-functioning droids; there were stories of such things happening before, though they were of course very uncommon.
Luke looked to the ground again, searching for his lightsaber. If he found it, he could take care of them no problem. Hoping to buy some time, he asked, “When did the Empire begin using droids to do its dirty work?”
“Empire? What Empire?” The droid moved closer, the rest of its squad fanning out to surround Luke. “This planet is under the control of the Separatist Alliance.”
That made Luke look up, his brows drawing together. That couldn’t be right — the Confederacy of Independent Systems had been fragmented at the end of the Clone Wars, when the Republic was transformed into the Galactic Empire. These droids couldn’t really think that they were fighting for a government destroyed nearly twenty-four years ago. They could be from a Separatist hold-out, but that didn’t explain why they were fighting here.
His thoughts were interrupted by the grip of a metal hand on his shoulder. “You are being apprehended to be taken in for ques—” the droid began, but Luke cut it off with a fierce kick to the gut, using the Force to send it flying into the trees. The rest of its comrades were momentarily taken aback, and he used that to his advantage, sending a blast of the Force rocketing towards those closest to him. Three of them were down in an instant, landing roughly several feet away.
“Jedi!” the lead droid cried. “Blast him!”
The remaining droids opened fire. Luke dodged as best as he could, but without his lightsaber, he couldn’t deflect any of the bolts that flew too close. One grazed his left shoulder, slicing through the fabric of his sleeve, and he hissed as it burned along his flesh.
“Stun him! Stun him!” the leader ordered. “We want him alive!”
Luke ducked low, avoiding another shot, and he straightened just in time to see a stun ray bubbling through the air towards him. He attempted to dive out of the way, but it struck him in the leg. For a split second, he could feel every nerve in his body singing in pain, before he hit the ground and darkness took over again.
Jedi Master Luminara Unduli pressed close to the trunk of a nearby tree, her lightsaber humming in her hands. Blasterfire burst all around her, scorching the ground and the trees of the forest that surrounded the capital city. It had been six hours since the battle to retake the planet of Ucarro had begun, and Luminara could tell that the end was drawing near. The Separatists were losing ground, retreating further and further from the city, towards the open farmland that rested beyond the forest. Once they reached it, it would be all too easy to force a surrender.
She could see the shapes of her troopers moving through the dark trees, their blasters spitting laserfire. Her Padawan, Barriss Offee, was slowly making her way through the brush towards Luminara, visible by the blue glow of her lightsaber, whirling through the air as it deflected bolts. The Force was as turbulent as it always was during battle, as it seemed to have been since the start of the Clone Wars, nearly two years ago now.
But she could feel something shifting within it, like the swell of an ocean before a wave crashed against the shores. The Force was uneasy, unsure. Luminara frowned, probing it gently with her senses. She could feel all the clone troopers under her command, their emotions roiling in the heat of battle. Barriss was as calm and determined as ever, a bright spot in all the darkness. But it was as if the Force was fraying — it recoiled from the touch of her mind, skittering like a frightened animal.
And then it burst. The shockwave that was sent rocketing through the Force collided with Luminara at full strength, and she pressed a palm to the tree behind her to steady herself. Not far away, Barriss paused, no doubt feeling the same disturbance. It only took a second or two for the Force to resettle, but it felt… off. It continued to shift uneasily, as if it could be set off again at any moment.
There was something else there. Another presence now burned in the Force, one that Luminara was certain hadn’t been there before; it was far too strong for her not to have noticed it. Whoever it was, they were powerful in the ways of the Force. They seemed to be the source of the disturbance — the Force rippled around them in strange ways, ways that Luminara had never felt before. It was as if they had been created by the Force.
A blaster bolt exploded into the trunk near her head, and Luminara flinched away. The strange event had distracted her from the battle raging around her, and she was quick to refocus her attention to the fight at hand. She could investigate more deeply later, when the planet had been won.
Luke came to in a cell, some indeterminable amount of time later. His body ached even more than it already had, and the wound on his shoulder stung. He was lying on his side on the hard metal floor, and he sat up carefully, testing himself for any other injuries. Thankfully, there appeared to be none.
The cell was small and dark, with only dim overhead lighting and no windows or viewports. He could tell that he was on a ship, could feel the humming of the hyperdrive resonating through the floor, but it was quiet and distant. It was a large ship, then. The cell looked the same as those on every warship and cruiser that Luke had ever seen.
He stood a bit stiffly, stretching out his locked joints. There was a metal bench along one wall and a small button on another, stamped with the universal symbol for a refresher. The cell was otherwise entirely bare. The door looked to be made of tough, solid metal, and though he was sure his lightsaber would have made quick work of it, it had been left behind on whatever planet he had been whisked away from — a situation that was not ideal. His comlink was gone, as well, likely confiscated after he was stunned.
He sat down on the bench with a heavy sigh. Unarmed, captured by the Empire or some delusional Separatist hold-out or some other organization he didn’t know, and being transported to some unknown region of the galaxy; he wasn’t sure how his situation could get much worse. At least by this point, R2 would know that something was up and would have alerted Leia. She would know he was in some sort of trouble and, hopefully, would come looking for him. The trouble now was that she would have to find him.
Closing his eyes, Luke leaned back, resting against the hard wall of the cell. If he could reach Leia, he could warn her about the temple and the strange artifact that rested within it, as well as give her some clue about the predicament he currently found himself in. The Force pulsed around him, unsettled, like the sky before a storm. He had taught Leia how to reach for others through the Force, so it should not be difficult for him to get the message through to her; he had done it on Bespin, injured after his duel with their father, before they had even known of their connection.
But when he searched for her in the Force, seeking out the presence that was most familiar to him, he found nothing. It was as if Leia was simply gone, her presence erased, leaving behind not even an echo. He hadn’t felt it happen, though he was sure that he should have. Her presence had always been with him, before they had even met, but now it was gone, and he hadn’t even noticed, too distracted by the Rabani temple and his capture.
He didn’t know what could have happened to her to cut them off from each other like this. She couldn’t be dead; he was certain he would have felt it had she died, would have noticed earlier, no matter what. Perhaps it had something to do with the artifact. When it had thrown him across the galaxy, it could have somehow done something to their connection, severing their bond. Why, though, he had no idea.
Breathing deeply, he reached further into the Force. Leia wasn’t there — he knew that he wouldn’t find her — but he hoped, desperately, that someone else would be.
Ben. He sent the message rippling through the Force, as far as he could manage. Ben’s presence had always been elusive, which Luke supposed was due to his not actually being alive. He hadn’t seen or heard from his old mentor since the celebration after the Battle of Endor, when he had appeared alongside Master Yoda and Luke’s father. Despite Luke’s best efforts to contact all three of them, especially his father, none had appeared, not even as voices whispering cryptic advice in his mind.
Ben, help me, please.
Of all of them, Ben was the most likely one he would be able to reach. Luke knew him the best, and he had appeared to him before, on Hoth and many times on Dagobah. All Luke needed now was guidance, to help him figure out what had happened to Leia and what the artifact on Raban had done.
It took a few moments, but he was able to find Ben, picking him out amongst the swirling energy of the Force. His presence was distant, familiar enough for Luke to recognize, but… different, somehow. It felt more solid than it had ever felt since Ben’s death, and he seemed lighter, less burdened by darkness.
Ben, I need your help.
The presence grew stronger as Luke focused on it, and as Ben became aware of him. The connection felt tenuous, as if it could snap at any moment; Ben’s presence was guarded, and instead of the comforting familiarity of an old teacher that Luke had expected, he instead felt confusion and wariness. He probed deeper, hoping to reassure Ben, to figure out what was troubling him. Ben pushed back, keeping Luke to very edges of his mind.
Who are you? Ben’s question echoed in Luke’s mind, and though his voice was recognizable, it was not wholly familiar. Like the rest of him, it was changed somehow.
Luke finally opened his eyes, a frown tugging on his face. He was about to reply, to ask Ben what he meant, when the sound of footsteps came echoing down the hallway towards his cell. His attention diverted, the connection to Ben disappeared, vanishing in an instant and retreating into the murk of the Force.
His cell door opened.
A Fillithar slithered into the room, flanked by two droid guards.
Luke tried to hold back his surprise. He had expected an Imperial officer, dressed immaculately in a crisp white uniform, their face contorted into a triumphant sneer. The Empire’s sentiments towards non-humans were no secret, and he had heard of very few serving within their ranks, even among the stormtroopers. A Fillithar was even more unheard of; their unique anatomy made it difficult for them to live in environments made primarily for humanoids. Only a handful of them had served in the Rebel Alliance.
So whoever it was who had captured him, they likely weren’t with the Empire.
“So, this is the Jedi,” the Fillithar said, drawing fully into the room. Luke remained seated on the bench.
“And you are?” he asked.
“I am more interested in knowing who you are,” the Fillithar said.
This was definitely not an Imperial ship, then. The name Luke Skywalker was well-known throughout the Empire as the name of the last Jedi. Somehow, this Fillithar seemed to be living the same delusion as his droids.
“Skywalker,” he said. “My name is Skywalker.” It was a name the Fillithar was bound to recognize, no matter what era he believed himself to be in.
The Fillithar’s eyes lit up, as Luke had expected. “Ah, yes, I have heard of you,” he said. He observed Luke for a moment, his lipless mouth curling up into a smile. “You’re not quite how I expected, I must admit.”
“Are you a Separatist?” Luke asked.
The Fillithar nodded, bowing the top half of his long body. “General Mosssk of the Separatist Droid Army,” he introduced.
Somehow, this Fillithar had survived for over two decades believing himself to still be a member of the Separatist Alliance. Droids were one thing, but for an organic sentient being to live for so long in isolation, believing the galaxy to still be embroiled in a war long ago ended? Luke wasn’t sure if it was even possible. But he had no other explanation for the beliefs of the creature in front of him.
“What do you want with me?” he asked.
“I know many people who would be pleased to have the great Skywalker in their possession,” Mosssk said. “It will help to make up for the loss of Ucarro.”
There couldn’t be somebody else still believing themselves to be fighting in the Clone Wars; one was improbable enough as it was. A disconcerting thought flitted through Luke’s mind, but he dismissed it quickly. It was already crazy enough that the Rabani artifact had somehow transported him across the galaxy.
“Who are you taking me to?” he asked.
Mosssk’s long, skinny tongue flicked from his mouth as he let out a high-pitched, hissing laugh. “You will find out soon enough.”
He turned his massive body and crawled from the cell back out into the hallway. His two droid guards, their metal faces betraying no thoughts or emotions, followed quickly. The door slid back into place behind them.
Luke was left alone.
Sunlight fell on Leia’s eyes, and she opened them slowly, awareness coming back to her in bits and pieces. The first thing she noticed were the trees; their long limbs, clothed in bright red leaves, clustered together to form a ceiling above her. Warm sunshine filtered down to where she was laying on the forest floor, the cool earth damp against her skin.
The second thing she noticed was Luke. He had slipped back into her mind sometime between the temple and here, and she could sense him as she always had. She wasn’t as good as Luke at reading these signals in the Force, but she could tell, at least, that he wasn’t injured. She didn’t know where he was or what had happened, but he was alright. The relief would have been enough to make her smile, had she not been lying on the ground in an unknown forest.
She sat up slowly. Her surroundings were strange and unfamiliar; thin white-barked trees fanned out around her, their trunks blackened in spots as if scorched. The ground was blanketed in decomposing red leaves, which covered the sandy-coloured dirt that made up the rest of the forest floor. Bushes with green and blue leaves filled the spaces between the trees, but no creatures darted through them and no birds sang in the branches. In the distance, something was burning. She could smell the smoke, and could see plumes of it rising above the canopy.
Her eye caught sight of something metal glinting from beneath a nearby fern. Leia stood on wobbly legs. Her chest ached slightly and she felt a bit disoriented, but she wasn’t too bad off, all things considered. Bending down, she pulled the metal object from its hiding place — and found her hand wrapped around Luke’s lightsaber. He had been here, which meant that whatever that strange artifact had done to her, it had also done to him. That explained why R2 hadn’t been able to sense any life forms within the temple, and why Luke’s comlink had apparently been out of range. He wasn’t on Raban anymore. And neither was she.
But she had no idea where she actually was. The trees of the forest, though widely spaced apart, stretched on for as far as she could see. There were no woods on Raban, at least not any this large, which meant that, somehow, she had been transported to another planet in what seemed to be a manner of seconds.
Tucking her brother’s weapon into the inside pocket of her vest, Leia quickly took stock of her situation. Her blaster was still strapped securely to her thigh holster, and she still had her glowrod, but no comms unit; she hadn’t brought one into the temple with her, knowing that Han had one and not thinking that they would be separated. Which meant that she had to get out of this forest and find a town or village or somewhere she could get in contact with Han, R2, or even Luke.
Which meant she had some walking to do.
She decided to head for the source of the smoke. With any luck, it would lead her to some friendly locals happy to lend a hand. Just in case, though, she undid the clip on her holster, giving her quick access to her weapon.
It took her only a few steps to realize why the forest was so unusually quiet, and what the likely source of the fire was. A foot, hidden before by brush, revealed itself as she walked past. It wore a boot of white plastoid, and though much of the rest of the body was obscured by foliage, she could see plates of white armour — a stormtrooper. She realized then that the blackened spots on the trees were not some quirk of nature, but actual scorch marks from blasters. A few more dead stormtroopers could be seen not too far away, slumped pitifully in the dirt. Strangely, a pair of what looked to be droids were lying in pieces beside them.
Leia moved forward with caution. The battle was over, but it was obviously recent. There were struggles happening all across the galaxy between the Empire and the New Republic, and it seemed as if she had somehow found herself in the aftermath of one.
She just hoped that the Republic had come out on top.
There were no signs of life anywhere. As she continued deeper into the forest, the carnage and destruction only increased. Holes had been blasted into the earth by heavy artillery, and several trees had been toppled, splintered like sticks. The source of the smoke turned out to be the smouldering wreckage of some sort of speeder; twisted as it was, Leia couldn’t recognize the model. She only looked quickly at the bodies she passed, but they all either seemed to be stormtroopers or droids; none wore the uniforms of the New Republic.
Curious, Leia stopped near a fallen droid. It seemed to be mostly intact, felled by a blaster bolt to the chest. She nudged it with the toe of her boot, readjusting the twisted neck so that the face was looking at her. She frowned, observing its small, slitted eyes and long, mouthless face. She had thought the droids had looked familiar — they were B1 battle droids, employed by the Confederacy of Independent Systems during the Clone Wars. Their production had been discontinued decades ago, at the end of the wars. But it seemed as if enough of them had survived long enough to do battle with the Empire.
Voices up ahead pulled her from her musings, and she ducked quickly behind a nearby tree. It wasn’t quite wide enough to hide her completely, so she crouched down, shielding herself behind one of the blue bushes. Glancing through the leaves, she could see a group of stormtroopers, travelling perpendicular to her location. There were five of them, and they all carried blaster rifles at the ready.
Leia pulled her own blaster from its holster. The troopers seemed to be searching the battlefield, most likely looking for any survivors, both of their own troops and their enemies. That meant there were probably more squads out there and that, in all likelihood, it was the Empire who had come out victorious here.
That made things slightly more complicated for her.
One of the troopers looked in her direction, and she ducked quickly back behind the cover of the bush. She hadn’t quite been fast enough, however, because a few moments later, one of them called out to her.
“Who’s there?” he demanded. “Show yourself!”
Leia muttered a curse under her breath. The voice was followed by the sound of footsteps tromping through the foliage towards her. As outnumbered as she was, she didn’t have many options. The only thing she could do was try and make a run for it.
Peeking through the leaves, she fired two shots in the direction of the stormtroopers. They cried out in surprise, and Leia bolted from her hiding spot, running off back the way she had come. She didn’t think she had hit any of the troopers; she could hear numerous pairs of feet chasing after her and, glancing back, she saw all five of them running behind her. They had their blasters in hand, but they weren’t firing on her.
She looked forward again just in time to see a hand reach out from behind a tree and grab her by the arm, yanking her to a stop. She nearly fell to the ground from the suddenly lost momentum, but the grip on her arm kept her upright. They were a stormtrooper, their hand gloved in white plastoid and their face covered by a helmet—
But it wasn’t a stormtrooper’s helmet.
Leia had spent a lot of time studying the Clone Wars as a teenager. Her history tutor had been a bit of a military buff, and had made her study all the major battles and confrontations of the war. He had droned on and on about the weapons and the tech used by both sides, and as such, Leia was intimately familiar with all models of droid used by the Separatists, as well as the clones used by the Republic who had given the conflict its name.
Which is how she knew that the helmet staring back at her was that of a clone trooper.
It was sleeker than a stormtrooper’s, with narrow eyes and an angled slit for a mouth. She knew that the clones had often painted their helmets as a way to individualize themselves, as well as to signify rank, but this trooper’s helmet was just a plain white. He reached over, wresting her blaster from her hand, and she struggled against his grip, trying to shake herself free.
“Calm down, there, missy,” the trooper said. Leia had only met one clone in her life, but from what she could recall, he had had the same accented baritone as this one.
The rest of the troopers caught up to them quickly. They, too, were all wearing clone trooper masks. One had a stripe of dark green paint along the centre of his, as well as markings on each arm and four small circles along his left breast which, if Leia remembered correctly, meant he was a sergeant.
“Who are you?” the sergeant asked, in the same voice as the other trooper. “What are you doing here? This is a restricted area.”
“You’re clones,” Leia said, looking from one to the other. She hadn’t thought there were any clones left, at least not many; like droids, their production had stopped at the end of the Clone Wars. They had all been transferred to stormtrooper units, before eventually being phased out and replaced by natural-born recruits. If they hadn’t been killed in action, their advanced growth had killed off most of them by the time the Battle of Endor happened.
“You’re very observant,” one of the troopers joked.
“Are you real clones?” she asked. They could just be reenactors, though the level of detail and realism of the battlefield was a bit extreme for most re-enactment groups that she had heard of. The mangled battle droids she had come across had certainly been real.
But the clones couldn’t be real — it wasn’t possible.
“What sort of question is that?” the sergeant snapped.
She couldn’t run; that one trooper still had her arm gripped in a vice, and even if she could, she would only make it a few feet before she was riddled with blaster bolts. The troopers seemed to be real clones, as far as she could tell, which meant… she wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. The only explanation she could think of was one so absurd she wasn’t even willing to entertain it.
“You’re with the Republic.” She said it as more of a statement than a question.
“Of course we are,” one of the clones replied.
They could mean the New Republic; maybe an old squad of surviving clones had been found and recruited into the Republic army, and Leia just hadn’t heard about it yet.
But she doubted it.
“I’m not trying to cause any trouble,” she said. “I’m just looking for my brother. I think he was here at some point, but I don’t know where he is now.” She paused, looking to each trooper; even with their helmets, she could tell that they were apprehensive, untrusting of her. “I’m not a Separatist, I promise you.”
They didn’t immediately laugh, or call her crazy, which meant that they must have been seriously concerned that she was a Separatist. Which meant something just a bit too mind-boggling and terrifying for Leia to confront at this very moment.
The sergeant produced a pair of binders from one of the pouches attached to his belt. Her arms were twisted behind her back, the binders clamped around her wrists.
“We’ll see about that,” he said.
Chapter 4: Captured
The twins both come to an unsettling conclusion.
this chapter is a bit shorter than the others, mainly because I wanted to get it out quickly as I'm leaving tomorrow for a month long study abroad program. I don't how much time I'll have to write, so it might be a while until the next chapter, but I'll try my best! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The clone troopers brought Leia to a camp not far from where they had found her. It was little more than a gathering of a dozen tents, filling up a large clearing in the middle of the forest. There were two LAAT/i gunships docked nearby, and groups of clones loitered around them, lounging on the seats inside and against the hulls. More of them moved between the tents, chatting amicably with each other. Nearly all had their helmets off, revealing dozens of copies of the same tanned, chiseled face.
Leia’s heart stuttered at the sight. She had almost expected to get to the camp only for it to be revealed that these men weren’t actually clones — that beneath their helmets they would all have different faces. But as they stepped into the camp, several of the troopers that had captured her reached up to remove their own helmets, and beneath the identical white armour were more identical faces.
And they were all young; these were men in their prime, most of their faces free of wrinkles or other signs of age. Their advanced growth meant that most were likely between the ages of ten and fifteen chronologically, but physically they appeared to be in their twenties. The oldest among them didn’t look older than thirty. Rex, a veteran clone whom Leia had met briefly before the Battle of Endor, had had the appearance of a sixty-year-old man, his face covered by a thick white beard. Even the clones made at the end of the war would look older than these men by now, if any had survived so long.
The implications of this were unsettling, to say the least, but Leia refused to jump to any conclusions before she had more solid proof.
She was brought to the largest tent, in the centre of all the others. It was dark inside, and a holotable in the middle of the room cast a blue tinge over everything. A holo of a planet spun slowly above the table, which Leia guessed was the planet they were currently on. Two women stood in front of the table, their backs to Leia, speaking with a clone.
The sergeant who had apprehended Leia stepped forward. “General,” he said. The taller of the two women turned to look at them. She was a Mirialan, with yellow-green skin and black diamond-shaped tattoos arranged in a thick line beneath her chin. She wore a dark brown head covering that fanned out on either side of her face, and long, flowing black robes. Her deep blue eyes focused on Leia with a curious intensity that made Leia shift uncomfortably, her bound hands wringing together.
“We apprehended this woman on the battlefield,” the sergeant continued. “She claims to have been looking for her brother.”
The other woman turned towards them now; she was also a Mirialan, younger than the other with more yellowish skin. Her tattoos created a strip along the bridge of her nose and onto her cheeks, and she wore a dark blue cloak with the hood pulled high over her head.
“What is your name?” the older Mirialan asked. Her voice was gentle and calm, even as her gaze continued to pierce through Leia.
“Nellith.” The name was out of Leia’s mouth without even a second of thought. She was standing, hands bound, in a strange camp surrounded by clones; she didn’t know if they would recognize her name, but she didn’t want to find out what would happen if they did. “My name is Nellith Lars.” It was an alias she had used before, during a reconnaissance mission prior to Han’s rescue from Jabba’s Palace. Luke had come up with it.
“I am Jedi Master Luminara Unduli,” the woman said. She bowed slightly at the waist, and the folds of her robe shifted to reveal a lightsaber hanging from her belt. She motioned to the younger woman beside her. “This is my Padawan, Barriss Offee.”
Leia struggled to keep her face from revealing the shock she felt. She had heard of Master Unduli, in the quiet stories her father would tell her as a child before bed. She knew the Empire’s official story about the Jedi — that they were traitors who had turned on the Republic, criminals who were justly destroyed. In the hushed hours of the evening, however, Leia’s father would tell her the truth, reciting tales of heroes who had served the Republic for millennia. To Leia, they had been more like fairy tales than history lessons, and so part of her marvelled at the warriors in front of her.
The rest of her recoiled from the impossibility of it all.
The Jedi had been wiped out at the end of the Clone Wars, when the Empire had succeeded the Galactic Republic. Only a handful of them had survived, and now, as far as anyone in the galaxy knew, Luke was the last of that ancient religion.
Leia was a rational person. She knew what was possible and likely, and what wasn’t. But even she could not deny the truth in front of her — the battlefield, the droids, the clones, and now the two Jedi. All of them impossibilities, that when added together presented only one explanation.
The artifact on Raban had sent her back to the Clone Wars.
She felt a sickening lurch in her stomach, and swallowed hard. She didn’t want to believe it — almost couldn’t — but she didn’t know how else to explain everything that had happened. She could try to rationalize it, to make sense of it all, but there was a certain point where those rationalizations would become delusions. And trying to rationalize the presence of hundreds of clones, two Jedi, and dozens of destroyed battle droids stretched far beyond that point.
“Why were you looking for your brother on a battlefield?” Luminara asked, pulling Leia from her silent conflict.
She forced herself to be calm. She knew that Jedi could sense emotions; there was no doubt that Luminara knew how nervous she was. But Leia had been interrogated before. She knew how to lie, and how to spin believable stories out of unbelievable situations. There was no way she could tell Luminara that some unknown artifact in a decrepit temple on a Mid Rim backwater had hurled her into the past; no one in their right mind would believe her. She needed a more realistic explanation.
Unfortunately, she had few details to work with; she didn’t even know the name of the planet she currently found herself on. For once, she was thankful she had learned politicking in the shadowy Imperial Senate.
“He carries out relief missions to planets affected by the war,” she said, meeting Luminara’s hard gaze with one of her own. She clasped her hands together, forcing them to be still. “He was on one such mission when he contacted me, nearly a day ago now. Something had gone wrong with his ship, and this was the nearest planet. He informed me he was landing here to carry out repairs. I haven’t heard from him since, and have been unable to make contact, so I decided to come after him.”
It was a weak lie, one which likely wouldn’t hold up well to scrutiny, but it was the best Leia could come up with so quickly.
“A day ago, Ucarro was still under the control of the Separatists,” Barriss said. “The entire planet was surrounded by a blockade. No one associated with the Republic would have been allowed to land.”
“I think he would have been desperate enough to try,” Leia said. “I promise you, we are not Separatists.”
Luminara observed her for a moment, her face impassive. “If you really think he attempted to land here, I doubt he would have been able to. The Separatist fleet would have shot him down or captured him before he could even enter the atmosphere.”
“The Separatists would capture a civilian?”
“If they believed him to be a threat,” Luminara said.
Leia realized that was why her hands remained bound — the Jedi believed her to be a threat.
She didn’t know what had really happened to Luke. It was likely that he had ended up at or near the spot where she had awoken, and then… something had happened to him, something which had caused him to leave his lightsaber behind. She doubted he would have done it purposefully, which meant he had been forcibly taken away. If the Republic had him, they would have said something about it by now; that left only the Separatist Alliance.
The fact that the battle was over and the Republic was still here told Leia that the Separatists had lost. They would have left the system by now, taking their fleet with them — and likely Luke as well.
“Please, I just want to help my brother,” Leia said. If he had been captured by the Separatists, she wouldn’t be able to rescue him alone. She would need help, and at the moment, the Republic was her best bet. “We’re citizens of the Republic. You can’t just abandon him to the Separatists.”
Luminara observed her for a moment, her face unreadable. “We will take you back to Coruscant with us for further investigation,” she said eventually. “If we find you are telling the truth, we will do what we can to find your brother. But until that moment, you will remain in our custody.”
Leia nodded. “I understand.” She didn’t blame them for not trusting her; she doubted that she would, were she in their position. She just hoped that it didn’t take them long to develop that trust — the sooner she found Luke, the sooner they could figure out what had happened and how to get back home. The sooner she could get back to a war whose fate was still undecided.
The sergeant’s hand clamped down on her shoulder, and he pulled her from the tent.
Leia slipped back into Luke’s mind as quietly as she had left.
Sometime after General Mosssk’s visit, the ship had exited hyperspace, and Luke had felt it shudder as it had entered a planetary atmosphere and docked. He hadn’t known how long it had been since his capture; with no chronometer in the cell, it had been impossible for him to keep track of time. But he didn’t think it had been more than a day.
A pair of droids had come to collect him almost immediately after docking. They had brought him through the corridors of the ship, entirely unfamiliar to Luke, and out into a bustling hangar. It hadn’t taken him long to realize he was in some sort of prison — squads of droids patrolled the hallways they passed through, separated into blocks by thick metal doors. Innumerable cells lined each corridor, and Luke heard angered shouts from within as they passed.
After a confusing walk, full of turns and stairwells, the droids had stopped in front of one such cell, opening it up and tossing him roughly inside. This new cell was almost completely identical to the one on the ship, with dim lighting and windowless walls. He had paced for a bit, trying again to strike a connection with Ben, but failing every time. Eventually, pure exhaustion had caused him to fall asleep, slumped over on the hard metal bench.
When he woke up, Leia was there again, the same shining presence in the back of his mind that had always been there. His heart jumped with relief at the sensation; it had been strange, to be without his twin’s presence for so long, and he was glad to know she was alright.
He sat up, stretching his sore limbs with a wince. He didn’t know what had severed their connection, or what had brought it back, but he supposed that now it didn’t really matter. He could get a message through to her, telling her what had happened and where he was. It might take her a while to figure out who exactly had captured him and what prison he had been taken to, but with the resources of the New Republic, she could see it done.
He began to reach for her in the Force, stretching his mind towards hers—
His cell door opened, snapping his concentration. Four security droids stood in the hallway. Two stepped through into the cell, one holding a pair of magnetic cuffs, the other a blaster rifle aimed at Luke’s chest.
“On your feet,” the droid ordered.
Luke stood slowly, and the two droids stepped forward. “Hands out.” He lifted his arms, and one of the droids snapped the magnetic cuffs onto his wrists. They activated with a gentle whine and snapped together, binding his hands. The droid with the blaster grabbed his shoulder, pushing him forward.
He stumbled into the hallway, and the droids quickly fell into formation around him, with one in the front, one on either side, and one in the back. All were armed with rifles. The lead droid began to walk, and the droid behind him got him moving with a sharp nudge of its blaster muzzle.
“Where are you taking me?” Luke asked.
“Silence,” chirped the droid to his left.
They lead him through the prison’s winding hallways. The cavernous metal building was silent save for the sound of their feet against the floor and the distant angry shouts. Whoever these people were, they were certainly powerful; not even the Hutts had prisons on this scale. They stopped at a turbolift, which took them several floors down, deep into the prison. Luke had yet to see any windows, so he couldn’t even begin to guess what time of day it was or what the planet he was on looked like. Though he supposed it didn’t matter much what the planet looked like; he likely wouldn’t recognize it either way.
The turbolift stopped, opening up to reveal a long, narrow hallway, much smaller than the ones above. There were only a handful of doors lining the walls, and the droids took him to one at the very end. The front droid pressed the activation panel, and the door slid open.
The room beyond was simple. A short, round pedestal rested in the very centre, with what looked to be a control panel on the far wall. The droids ushered him in, and he was directed to stand on the pedestal. One of the droids went over to the control panel, while another clamped another set of magnetic cuffs onto his ankles. Straightening, it looked over to its comrade by the controls.
“Ready,” it said.
“What is th—” Luke began, but his words were cut off as the droid pressed a button on the control panel. A beam of faint blue light shot up from the pedestal beneath him, and his body went forcibly rigid as he was lifted several feet into the air. It was like a bag was placed over his head — he could still see and hear, but his sense of the Force had gone blind. Panic began to roil up inside of him. Even before he had begun training as a Jedi, he had never felt so cut-off from the rest of the galaxy.
The droids spread out across the room, each going to a different wall. They stood there in silence, metal claws gripped around their blasters. Luke closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself. In these situations, he would usually reach into the Force, tracing the connections between everything in the galaxy and sensing how the Force brought them all together. But whatever this contraption was, it blocked him completely, leaving him untethered and senseless.
It was only a minute or two before the door was opening again. Luke opened his eyes, watching as an elderly man strode into the room. His face was covered by a well-groomed grey beard, and his white hair was slicked back from his face. He wore a deep red cloak, clasped across his chest by a silver chain. Luke would have placed his age in the seventies or even eighties, but the man walked with the purpose and strength of someone decades younger. He looked vaguely familiar, but Luke could not place a name to his face.
He stopped in the centre of the room, before the platform over which Luke hovered, and regarded him with a sneer. “You are not Skywalker,” he said.
Luke blinked, slightly taken aback. “I promise you that I am,” he said.
“Do you think I am a fool, boy?” the man snapped. “I am well-acquainted with Anakin Skywalker, and you are not him.”
Luke’s eyes widened. Anakin Skywalker — his father. This man thought Luke had claimed to be his father. But as far as anyone in the galaxy knew, Anakin Skywalker had died decades ago, massacred alongside the rest of the Jedi at the end of the Clone Wars. Only he, Leia, and Han knew the truth: that Anakin Skywalker had died only three months ago, in the skies above Endor, after renouncing his former identity as the Sith Darth Vader.
“What do you know about Anakin Skywalker?” Luke asked.
The man’s eyes narrowed, suspicious, but he still answered. “I know what most people know, and what I am sure you know. He is the Hero With No Fear; one of the greatest warriors of the Republic. The Jedi believe him to be the Chosen One.” He took a step closer, scrutinizing Luke with cold brown eyes. “You speak as if you know something that most don’t.”
The man spoke of Anakin and the Jedi in the present tense; to him, they were not yet a thing of the past. Ice filled Luke’s veins, and he tried once again to place where he had seen this man’s face before. “Who are you?” he asked.
“I think I am the one who should be asking that question,” the man said. He clasped his hands together behind his back, brushing aside his cloak and revealing a lightsaber hanging from his belt. Luke frowned. This man couldn’t be a Jedi; if he was, he wouldn’t be interested in capturing Anakin Skywalker. He continued, “If you are not Skywalker, then who are you?”
“I didn’t lie when I said my name is Skywalker,” Luke said. “But I never said my first name was Anakin.”
Confusion sparked in the man’s eyes, and he stepped closer to the platform. “A relation?” He looked Luke up and down, scrutinizing him. “You do not look much like him. And you are not a Jedi. I am sure I would have heard of you if you were.”
Almost unprompted, an image popped into Luke’s mind: this man’s face, expression hard and determined, set against a backdrop of deep red. It was some sort of official photograph, surrounded by text, like an article or a passage from some sort of educational document. Luke remembered reading it, back when he had first joined the Rebellion. The Alliance had had a good-sized archive, some of which included recovered articles from the Old Republic, and, in the wake of Ben’s death aboard the Death Star, Luke had gone searching it for any information he could find on the Jedi. He’d stumbled upon an article about Count Dooku, the leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems — and a former Jedi, who had left the Order after decades of service. The article had been accompanied by a picture of the man currently standing in front of him — or at least, it had looked remarkably like him.
But that couldn’t be possible. Count Dooku had died in the Battle of Coruscant, in the closing months of the Clone Wars. If this man were Dooku, he would be looking rather well for having been dead over two decades. But Luke had seen other images of Dooku; old holos and vids of an elderly man with the same long face and trimmed beard as the one standing before him. He didn’t want to believe that they were one and the same, but he needed to know.
“You were a Jedi once,” he said, “weren’t you, Dooku?”
Amusement flickered across the man’s wrinkled face. “Ah, so you’ve finally figured it out,” he said. “You are not totally incompetent, then. Yes, I was once a Jedi. Which is how I know you are not one. But if the reports from the droids on Ucarro are to be believed, you can use the Force, and with some amount of skill.” He grinned, and it was a grin that reminded Luke uneasily of Emperor Palpatine; not in appearance, but in intent. “Perhaps, then, I will be able to find some use for you, even if you are not the Skywalker I had hoped to find.”
Luke barely registered the man’s words. He had admitted that he was Count Dooku without even a moment of hesitation. All at once, every piece of the puzzle clicked into place — the battle droids, their claim that the planet (Ucarro, Dooku had called it) was under the control of the Separatists, the unfamiliar ship he had been taken aboard. This man standing here in front of him, claiming to be the Separatist leader Count Dooku. It was too many coincidences to be able to explain in any other way.
Dooku looked to the security droid standing nearest to him. “Return him to his cell,” he ordered, “and see to it that he doesn’t get any ideas.” He looked back to Luke, giving him a quick nod. “It was a pleasure to meet you… Skywalker.” Turning his back to Luke, he strode to the door and out into the hallway.
The droid near the control panel pressed a button, and the field around Luke dissipated, dropping him to his knees on the platform. His sense of the Force came rushing back to him, but he couldn’t even find it in himself to be relieved. All he could think of, even as the droids roughly pulled him to his feet, was what the artifact on Raban had impossibly done.
He was trapped in a prison, on some unknown planet in some unknown region of space, while the galaxy around him was ravaged by the Clone Wars. The artifact had not just sent him across the galaxy.
It had sent him through time, decades into the past.
Leia's alias of Nellith is a reference to some pretty obscure Star Wars trivia, so props to you if you know what it's from!
Chapter 5: The Lightsaber
Leia is interrogated even further, and Luke tries to make contact with his sister.
and we're finally back! thank you guys for being so patient with this incredibly long update. I thought I would have more time to write while I was abroad, but I was incredibly busy every day and wasn't really able to start writing this chapter until I got back home at the end of August. then, of course, I was distracted by university starting back up again, which set this chapter back even more. but I finally managed to get it out! now that I'm home and settling back into a routine with school, work, and other commitments, I'm hoping I'll be able to get a chapter out every two weeks at least (and hopefully there will be no more six-week-long intervals between chapters).
Leia was brought to another tent near the outskirts of the camp. Clones milled about nearby, some sitting on upturned storage crates, most with their helmets resting in their arms or on the trampled grass. They all watched Leia with evident curiosity, no doubt wondering what this petite young woman had done to get herself in binders. She resisted the urge to scowl at them, reminding herself that these men weren’t her enemies; they weren’t stormtroopers, no matter how familiar their white armour might seem.
The clone sergeant ushered her into the tent. It was significantly smaller than most of the others, and there were no furnishings besides a simple metal table and chair. Two more troopers followed them in, dressed in their full gear, but they remained near the entrance as the sergeant brought her to the centre of the room and undid her binders.
“Don’t try anything,” he warned, before taking a step back. “Feet apart, arms out.”
She obeyed, jaw clenching. Her only blaster had been taken during her initial capture, but Luke’s lightsaber remained tucked into the inside pocket of her vest. Her mind scrambled for a way to explain her possession of a Jedi’s weapon as the sergeant began patting her down, his hands running up and down her arms and legs, but her mind was drawing a blank.
Leia tried to keep her face neutral as he stood and pulled open her vest. The lightsaber was immediately noticeable, its top peeking out from the interior pocket. The sergeant paused a moment before carefully extracting it; there was no mistaking what it was. He held it for a moment, silent, before turning to the two troopers guarding the door.
“Go and notify General Unduli,” he ordered. “Tell her to come here right away.”
One of the troopers nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said, and quickly disappeared through the tent flap.
The sergeant looked to the remaining guard and handed him the lightsaber. The trooper took it without a word; Leia couldn’t see his face, but he seemed uncomfortable with the weapon, unsure of how to hold it. The sergeant returned to his task of searching Leia in complete silence. She knew that he would be leaving any questions regarding the lightsaber up to Master Unduli, and so she did not even try to explain herself.
Finding nothing else of note on her, the sergeant replaced her binders, seeming to clamp them a bit tighter than before. Grabbing her elbow, he pulled her over to the chair and instructed her to sit. She did as she was told, and he grabbed her hands, placing her wrists on the table. He walked over to the other side and flipped open a compartment, revealing a small control panel. His hands, shrouded from Leia by the panel covering, moved quickly over the buttons and controls. After a moment, it suddenly felt as if gravity had increased on her hands, pulling her wrists into the table. When she tried to lift them, she realized that the binders had become attached to the table’s surface, most likely magnetically, preventing her from getting up or moving away from the table.
Satisfied, the sergeant closed the panel with a soft click and took a few steps back. He said nothing, his hands clasped behind his back, gaze focused on the opposite wall as he waited for Luminara to arrive. The other trooper kept a nervous grip on Luke’s lightsaber, obviously conscious of where he placed his thumb in relation to the weapon’s activation button. He looked as if he was holding a live animal, one that would strike him at any moment.
It was only a few more minutes before the flap of the tent was being pulled back again and Master Unduli stepped through into the room, followed by the trooper who had been sent to retrieve her. The sergeant immediately stepped forward, giving her a hasty salute.
“Sir, we found this hidden in the prisoner’s vest,” he said, motioning to the other clone, who held the lightsaber out to the Jedi.
She took it carefully, her eyes narrowing slightly. She stared at it for a moment, turning it over in her hands, before walking over to the table where Leia remained sitting and placing it in front of her, as if to lay the proof of her wrongdoing before her.
“Whose lightsaber is this?” Luminara asked. Her voice betrayed no emotions, not even anger. It was as calm and collected as her exterior.
“It isn’t mine,” Leia answered.
“I didn’t think it was. I am asking who you took it from.”
“I didn’t steal it,” she said. “It’s my brother’s.”
Luminara’s eyebrows raised, skeptical. “So your brother stole this?”
Leia shook her head. “He didn’t steal it. No one stole it. He made it himself.”
“Only a Jedi can craft a lightsaber,” Luminara said. “Are you claiming that your brother is a Jedi?”
Leia tried not to wince. It was a slight wrench in her story for the moment, revealing that Luke was a Jedi, but perhaps it would help her out in the long-run, if the Republic did decide to help her find him. At least, that’s what she hoped. “Yes,” she said. “But he isn’t a member of your Order.”
“How, then, is he a Jedi?”
“It’s a… complicated story.” One that she didn’t entirely have figured out yet — not unless she wanted to reveal to Luminara that she came from a future where the Jedi Order had been wiped from existence. Which Leia suspected was a story that wouldn’t go over very well.
Luminara picked up Luke’s lightsaber once more, inspecting it closely, as if the truth of the story could be found within its metal workings. Keeping it tight in her grasp, she held her hands together behind her back. “Fortunately,” she said, “you will have plenty of time to explain it to me on our journey to Coruscant.” She looked to the sergeant. “See to it that she is taken up to the Tranquility. And keep her under a close watch.”
The sergeant threw his hand up in a salute. “Yes, sir.”
Luminara gave him a nod of acknowledgement and turned to leave the tent. Before ducking out of the flap, she looked back at Leia, her expression hard but unreadable. It was obvious that she trusted her even less now, which made things slightly more difficult when it came to getting help from the Republic.
She disappeared with a rustle of fabric.
The sergeant reopened the control panel on the table, pressing a few buttons and releasing Leia’s binders. “On your feet,” he ordered. “Let’s go.”
The Tranquility was a Venator-class Star Destroyer, hovering in low orbit above the war-torn planet. Barriss Offee had called it Ucarro, and though Leia wracked her brain, she couldn’t remember ever hearing of it before, not even in the context of the battle that had so recently ravaged its surface. So many such battles had taken place during the three-year-long Clone Wars, with planets changing hands so often that it was impossible to keep track of them all.
Leia was brought up to the Tranquility in a small shuttle. She had parted ways with the sergeant on the planet’s surface, and was now guarded by two clone troopers; they kept their helmets on and said nothing to her on their short journey up to the Star Destroyer, surrounded by cargo being transported from the camp.
The sight of the imposing wedge-shaped ship sent a shiver of fear through Leia’s veins, and she had to remind herself that it was a Republic ship, not Imperial — that the white-armoured soldiers positioned on either side of her were clones, not stormtroopers. But after so many years of fighting, these fears remained ingrained in her, and the binders did little to help the situation.
The ship’s main hangar was a mess of activity when they landed. Troopers were arriving in droves from the planet below, while others worked to unload the shuttles of cargo being sent from the camp. Leia was pulled to her feet, one guard on each elbow, and escorted down the gangplank into the chaotic hangar. They led her through the bustle, weaving a path between the shuttles and troopers.
It became quieter as she was led away from the hangar, down a small corridor off to the side. They passed only a handful of clones there, none of them wearing combat armour. To Leia’s surprise, there were even a few non-clone officers, dressed in the uniforms of the Republic military. Like the rest of the ship, their high-collared green-grey uniforms reminded her starkly of the Empire. It was a grim reminder that, though they were very different, the Galactic Empire had found its beginnings in the Republic.
She was shuffled onto a turbolift, and it brought them down, to the very bowels of the ship. Leia was almost certain that she was being brought to the detention level, and those suspicions were confirmed when the lift’s doors slid open to reveal a corridor lined with cells, very much like those she had seen aboard the Empire’s Imperial-class Star Destroyers. She was led down the hallway, to a cell near the very end. All the doors they passed were unlocked, their control panel’s glowing green; the ship’s detention level was almost entirely unoccupied. It was a fact that was both comforting and disquieting.
The troopers shuffled her into the cell, where her binders were finally removed. Two red rings now circled her wrists from where the binder cuffs had rubbed against her skin. The guards stepped out of the room, and Leia remained where was.
“General Unduli will arrive shortly to interrogate you further,” one of the clones said, and then the door to the cell was sliding shut. She heard the lock mechanisms activate, and then the sound of footsteps retreating.
She was, once more, all alone.
Luke sat in his cell, his legs crossed and his eyes closed. He could sense his sister as strongly as he always could, somewhere out there in the galaxy. She felt... not distressed, but uneasy. Unsure. They were feelings that he shared, tumbling around in his restless mind, no matter how much he tried to calm them.
Time travel wasn’t possible; science had long ago deemed it a relic of fiction, never to be realized, and he had never heard of the Force accomplishing such a thing, not from any of his teachers or from his (admittedly limited) research. It was supposed to be impossible.
But it seemed as if the small artifact in the temple on Raban had done the impossible. It had been connected to the Force, in some way that Luke couldn’t explain but that was undeniable. The Force had surrounded it, had seemed to emanate from it. And in some way or another, for one reason or another, it had sent Luke back to the time of the Clone Wars.
It seemed to have somehow done the same to Leia. Luke had no other way to explain why he could still sense her, in a time when neither of them were even supposed to exist yet. The lapse in their connection had likely been a result of the interval between his arrival in the past and her own. He wasn’t sure how she came into contact with the artifact, unless she had followed him to Raban, or there were other artifacts like it scattered around the galaxy…
Luke took a deep breath and attempted to push all thoughts of the how and the why from his mind — those didn’t matter yet. What mattered was getting into contact with his sister and finding out where she was.
He reached out to her through the Force, encroaching on the edges of her mind as he had done numerous times before. She almost immediately let him in, and her feelings of relief mingled with his own. In the strange galaxy he found himself in, she was a familiar embrace.
Leia. The name unconsciously slipped past his lips, whispered into the empty cell as he sent it across the galaxy towards his sister.
Luke. Her response was loud but gentle, filling his mind with her voice. Luke, where are you?
I’m in a cell. I’ve been captured. I don’t know — Leia, do you realize—
She interjected, her voice overpowering his thoughts. We’re in the Clone Wars. I don’t know how, but Luke, I’ve seen hundreds of clones today, I’ve seen battle droids, I’ve met Jedi…
You met Jedi? Real Jedi?
Leia sighed; not audibly, not in any way Luke could hear, but he could feel her weariness. Luke, how are we going to get out of this?
First things first, I need to get out of this damn cell, and we need to find a way to get to each other. Then we can figure out how to get home.
I’ll take care of it. I’m on my way to Coruscant; I’m going to try and get help from the Jedi.
Leia, you can’t tell them who we really are or where we’re from. We have no idea how they’ll react — I’ve never heard of anything like this happening.
I know. Don’t worry.
Leia paused, her awareness momentarily retreating from him. She returned after a few seconds. I’m sorry, I have to go. Please don’t worry — I’ll get you out.
And then she was gone, their connection quieting, retreating to the background. With a sigh, Luke opened his eyes.
The door to Leia’s cell opened and Luminara Unduli stepped through. She was unaccompanied, Luke’s lightsaber held in her hand. Her expression was calm and confident, though her eyes narrowed slightly in suspicion as the door hissed shut behind her, as if she had heard part Leia and Luke’s conversation. It was, Leia supposed, not entirely outside the realm of possibilities; she wasn’t entirely sure how her connection to Luke worked, or if anyone else could sense it.
But Luminara said nothing about it. Instead she held up Luke’s lightsaber, displaying it for Leia. “You say this is your brother’s,” she said, “and that he made it himself, but he is not a member of the Jedi Order. I’ve inspected it further, and… I’ve decided to believe you. Its design is like ones I have seen before, but… simpler. It is well-crafted, but there are some components that were obviously improvised, ones that would be near-impossible for anyone who is not a Jedi to acquire. How he found a kyber crystal, I don’t know, but I sensed no dishonesty in you. I believe you told me the truth.” She paused, lowering the weapon. “But I still do not know your true intentions. You were deceptive when you didn’t immediately tell me that your brother was a Jedi. Why?”
“I didn’t know how you would react,” Leia explained, which was the truth. “He’s a Jedi, but not a member of the Order. From what I understand, such things aren’t… well-accepted. And as I said earlier, it’s a complicated situation.”
Luminara hummed, thinking. “Would you care to elaborate on that? How could your brother be a Jedi if he was never a member of the Order?”
Leia had had some time to come up with some semblance of a story, though Luminara was almost certain to ask a question to which Leia hadn’t thought of an answer. If that happened, she would simply have to improvise. “My brother was never part of the Jedi Order, but my… my father was. He left the Order shortly before we were born. He trained my brother to be a Jedi.”
“But not you?”
Leia shook her head. “It… wasn’t something I was interested in pursuing.”
“What’s your father’s name?”
“Josiah Lars.” At the thoughtful look on Luminara’s face, she was quick to add, “I’m almost certain it was a fabricated name. I never learned his real name. He died a few years ago.”
Luminara frowned. “Why would he hide his true identity, even from his own children? Plenty of Jedi have left the Order. He had nothing to fear from us.”
“I don’t think it was you he was afraid of.” It was a vague improvisation to fill a hole torn through her flimsy story, but she hoped it was one that would satisfy Luminara.
“Do you know what he was afraid of?”
“No. He never spoke of his life in the Order, aside from what he taught Ben.”
Leia nodded. Now that she knew when she was, it was impossible for anyone to recognize her or Luke’s names, but she figured it was best to keep playing it safe with aliases. She had no idea what pieces of information could affect the past and cause irreparable damage — all the more reason for her to find Luke and get back to their own time, as soon as possible.
“So what was Ben really doing on Ucarro?” Luminara asked, one dark eyebrow arched.
“I didn’t lie when I said he was on a mission,” Leia said. “But it wasn’t necessarily a relief mission. Since the start of the war he’s been going to Separatist-occupied planets and doing what he can to help the people there sympathetic to the Republic. He was supposed to return from his mission to Ucarro three days ago, and when he didn’t show up I went after him. I found his lightsaber on the battlefield, and then your troopers found me.”
Luminara said nothing, simply observing Leia with her sharp blue eyes. Then she looked once more at Luke’s lightsaber, her fingers still curled around its hilt. Leia struggled to read her expression, to figure out whether she believed her story.
“Will you still help me?” Leia asked. “My brother’s been captured by Separatists, and I can’t rescue him on my own. I need the Republic’s help.”
Luminara looked back to Leia, tucking Luke’s lightsaber into an interior pocket of her robes. “That is for the Council to decide,” she said, and then she turned and left the cell.
The Tranquility jumped out of hyperspace several hours later; Leia felt it only as a gentle shudder, emanating from some distant corner of the ship. She didn’t know how long they had been travelling. There was no chronometer in her cell, and she had fallen asleep sometime after Luminara’s interrogation, too tired to stay awake any longer. She had not slept for over a day, and waking up the previous morning in her comfortable bed on Chandrila, Han snoozing soundly beside her, seemed like it was a lifetime away. In a way, she supposed it was.
She hoped Han was alright. The thought of her husband all alone in that temple on Raban, wondering what had happened to her, left a wrenching feeling in her gut, and so she pushed it away. It wouldn’t do to dwell on such things — she needed to focus on convincing the Jedi to help her find Luke. Without her brother, it would be nearly impossible for her to make her way back to Han, and she couldn’t get Luke out of whatever hole the Separatists had put him in without the Republic’s help.
Leia barely felt it as the Tranquility entered Coruscant’s atmosphere. There were no viewports in her cell, so all she could do was sit silently in anticipation, waiting for someone to come retrieve her and bring her wherever it was they were going to take her. She assumed it would be the Jedi Temple; the thought sent a small jolt shivering through her veins.
For all of her life, the Temple had been known as the Imperial Palace, where Emperor Palpatine had made his home. She had only ever gone there once, very briefly as a child for a short appearance at a gala celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Empire’s formation. The building had frightened her, and from the moment she had entered it she had been overwhelmed by a sense of darkness and unease. It was as if evil had lived in its very walls.
She wondered how different it would feel, when it was being occupied by its original inhabitants.
She wondered how different all of Coruscant would be. It had been several years since she had visited the planet which for so many years had been like a second home to her. After she was outed publicly as a Rebel shortly before the Battle of Yavin, it had of course become impossible for her to go back, and since the Emperor’s death over Endor, the entire planet had been embroiled in a viciously escalating civil war. Though she had long wanted to, Leia had yet to be able to make it out to assess the situation for herself. But she had always dreamed of seeing Coruscant as it had once been — the Coruscant from her father’s stories about the years before the Clone Wars, when it was still a shining beacon for democracy, unspoiled by Palpatine’s tyranny.
It was perhaps another half an hour before the clone troopers arrived at her cell, binders in their hands. They clamped them around her wrists and escorted her out into the corridor, back the way they had come several hours earlier to the turbolift. They said nothing to her as she walked, and she asked no questions. She was taken to a different hangar, smaller than the one she had arrived in, and loaded onto a shuttle.
Barriss Offee sat in the small passenger area behind the cockpit. She regarded Leia with obvious suspicion, standing as Leia and her clone guards ascended the ramp into the shuttle.
“Thank you, troopers,” she said, nodding to the two guards. “You can leave her with me.”
The clones stepped back, each giving Barriss a quick salute. “Commander,” they said, and then they turned and walked back down the gangplank into the hangar.
Barriss returned to her seat, motioning to the bench across from her. “Please, sit,” she said.
Leia did so, resting her bound hands in her lap. “I assume you’re taking me to the Jedi Temple,” she said, and Barriss nodded.
“You’re to be interviewed by the High Council,” she explained. “They’ll decide what to do with you.” She observed Leia a moment longer, her expression more guarded, before looking away, down into the hangar.
Figuring she wouldn’t be able to pull any more information from the young woman, Leia leaned back. For a minute or two she simply watched Barriss, who seemed to be pointedly avoiding looking at her. The name Barriss Offee was familiar to her, but she couldn’t place where exactly she had heard it from, or in what context. Perhaps Barriss had merely been mentioned in the retellings of some of the battles of the war, though Leia felt that it was more significant than that. She couldn’t remember how, though.
It was only a few minutes before they were joined by Luminara, who gave Leia a small nod by way of greeting. “Miss Lars,” she said. “I assume Barriss has informed you of where we are going?”
Leia nodded. “Yes.”
“Very good.” Without another word, Luminara continued into the cockpit, where a clone pilot sat waiting. She settled herself into the co-pilot’s seat, while Barriss remained in the back with Leia, her gaze once more trained on her.
The shuttle’s engines whined to life, and the gangplank slowly retracted itself, sealing them inside the ship. Leia could hear the pilot’s chatter as he requested permission for take-off; it was granted after only a few seconds, and then they were rising into the air. There were no viewports in the back of the shuttle, but Leia could just barely see through the front viewport of the cockpit. She shifted closer, straining to see more as the shuttle escaped the confines of the Star Destroyer’s hangar and shot out into the world beyond.
They were in a shipyard; Leia could tell that much. She caught glimpses of other Star Destroyers docked nearby, and numerous gunships and shuttles like their own zipped through the air. Beyond that, she could see the tips of Coruscant’s skyscrapers, surrounded by zooming black flecks that she knew to be speeders. They moved in organized lines that criss-crossed the bright blue afternoon sky in nearly every direction.
The shuttle merged into one of those lines, heading no doubt towards the Jedi Temple. Leia had no idea what part of the planet the shipyard was on, but she assumed that if it was being used by the Grand Army of the Republic, it had to be relatively close to the Temple.
She turned out to be right. After only about ten minutes in the fast-moving lane of traffic, the shuttle exited, descending quickly to a landing pad below. It was only as the shuttle was settling onto the pad that Leia caught sight of the Temple.
Its exterior looked much like it had in her time, its base a squat ziggurat of light stone, with five spindly towers that jutted up from its centre into the sky. But unlike the building she knew, no Imperial banners hung from its face, no walkers patrolled the perimeter, and no TIE fighters screeched through the air. It exuded a much more peaceful aura, despite being the headquarters of an order currently embroiled in a galaxy-wide war.
The ramp descended and Luminara stood; Barriss did the same, and so did Leia. One hand on Leia’s shoulder, Luminara guided her down the gangplank onto the landing platform, where three Jedi stood waiting for them.
The man in the centre was a Zabrak, dressed in light brown robes with long dark hair that hung far past his shoulders. He regarded Leia with interest, his hands folded behind his back. It was impossible to tell what species or gender his two companions were, as they both wore identical long white robes, the hoods pulled high over their masked faces. They approached Leia immediately, each grabbing one of her elbows.
Luminara walked over to the Zabrak Jedi, and they bowed to each other in greeting. “Master Kolar,” she said.
“Master Unduli.” He looked past her, eyeing Leia. “This is her?”
“Yes. This is Nellith Lars. Her situation is quite… interesting.”
Master Kolar nodded, and motioned towards the Temple. “The Council is waiting.”
He and Luminara led the way, Leia and her two guards following close behind with Barriss bringing up the rear. The landing pad was connected to the rest of the Temple by a short walkway, which brought them to one of the building’s side entrances. Another white-masked guard stood sentry at the doorway, but he stepped aside as the party approached, opening the door for them.
It led to a tall hallway, the floor tiled in colourful stone. The ceiling arched high above them, and one side was covered by a bank of towering windows, while the other looked down into what Leia assumed was the main entrance hall, several storeys below. She had seen the room once before, during her visit to the Imperial Palace, but back then, all it had done was make her afraid; now, she stared in awe at the cavernous room and its impressive architecture. She had grown up in palaces and great stately buildings, but almost none of them compared to the sheer size and design of the Jedi Temple.
She wished she could stop to admire it longer, but the guards kept her moving, their grips tight on her arms. They passed several Jedi as they walked, most of them alone or in pairs. They were nearly all either very young or elderly, but all paused a moment to acknowledge Master Kolar and Luminara, simply nodding their heads or uttering a short greeting. The young ones, most of them not even teenagers yet, stared at Leia as she passed, not even bothering to hide their immense curiosity regarding the prisoner being brought into their home. Leia wondered how many prisoners were brought to the Jedi Temple, if any; she didn’t even know if it was equipped with the cells, or if the Jedi even had the authority to detain someone.
At the end of the hallway was a circular bank of turbolifts. One, in the very centre, was guarded by two more of the masked white-robed Jedi, but they didn’t protest as Luminara approached and pressed the button to call the lift, and they allowed the entire group to board when it arrived.
There was only one floor option for the turbolift. It shot up, climbing higher and higher, and Leia realized that they were in one of the five towers that stuck out from the top of the Temple. When the turbolift finally came to a stop, the doors opened into a small atrium. Windows on either side looked down upon the Temple grounds and the rest of the city, and cushy benches were placed beneath them. A large wooden door took up most of the wall opposite the lift, made in the ancient style so that it had to be opened manually.
The three Jedi headed for the door, but Leia’s guards pulled her off to the side, near one of the tall windows.
“We must report to the Council first,” Luminara explained, pausing in front of the door. “Barriss will come retrieve you when they are ready.” Then she turned the handle, and the three Jedi filed inside. Leia caught only a glimpse of the room inside, seeing numerous seated figures arranged in a circle, before the door was closing again.
She sat down on the bench, and waited.
Chapter 6: The Jedi Council
Luke receives an unexpected visitor, and Leia pleads her case to the Jedi High Council.
The Force was quiet.
Luke had seldom heard it so silent before. It still swirled with all emotions of the people around him, moving with the ebb and flow of the galaxy; it still contained the restless chaos of a galaxy at war. But for the first time, Luke could sense no direction from it. It did not point out to him the right way to go, did not illuminate any paths before him. No matter how deep he delved, how far he reached, the Force remained still around him.
He listened, but it did not speak.
He closed his eyes, crossing his legs underneath him as Yoda had taught him, and tried again. Beyond his cell, he could sense the rest of the prison; it was vast, with innumerable corridors stretching above and below. Many, but not all, of the cells were occupied. The feelings of the other prisoners were a vicious mix of anger, distress, and hopelessness. Some still held a spark of defiance, but most seemed resigned to their fate.
Besides the prisoners, the only Force signature that Luke could sense was Dooku’s. Though he had been unable to sense it during their meeting, his connection to the Force dulled by the containment field, it was impossible to mistake. It was dark and empty, similar to the signature of many other dark side users that Luke had encountered. Though it was not the endless pit of cold that had characterized the Emperor, the maliciousness it held within it was still palpable.
Luke was careful to stay far away from Dooku’s senses, not even brushing the edges of them before pulling away. Beyond him and beyond the prisoners, the vast building appeared empty, though Luke knew it wasn’t. The guard droids who patrolled its corridors simply gave off no Force signature, something which could complicate any attempts at escape.
He expanded his senses past the prison itself, reaching into the core of the planet. It was small, with a miniscule population huddled as far away from the prison as possible. He could sense limited flora and fauna, giving the impression of a rather barren world. In other words, not a bad place for a prison.
But there was still nothing. It was simply a prison full of hopeless inmates on a dusty rock of a planet.
He pulled back, retreating into his cell, and opened his eyes.
A figure, blue and translucent, stood in the corner.
At first Luke thought it was Ben, or perhaps even his father, though he wasn’t sure if that was even possible, seeing as both men were currently alive. But it took only a second or two for him to realize that he did not, in fact, recognize the man standing in front of him.
He wore robes similar to Ben’s, though even in this ghostly form Luke could tell that they were in better condition, not as ragged or worn. He had long hair pulled back into a half-ponytail, and a short beard covered his chin, with a mustache that rested beneath an aquiline nose. His hands were clasped behind his back, and he regarded Luke with some curiosity.
“Who are you?” Luke asked.
The man’s eyebrows raised slightly, as if surprised that Luke could see him, before his expression settled into a pleased smile. “My name is Qui-Gon Jinn,” he introduced, his deep voice marked by a Coruscanti accent. “And you are Luke Skywalker.”
Luke blinked, stunned. “How could you know that?”
“Time moves differently in the Netherworld of the Force,” Qui-Gon explained. “I know many things that have yet to happen. I know of your father’s fall to the dark side and of the rise of the Empire, and I know that you will save Anakin and help him bring balance to the Force. I also know many things that even you have not yet seen.”
“You’re a Jedi.” Luke had never heard of this “Netherworld of the Force” before, but it sounded very Jedi-like.
Qui-Gon nodded. “Yes. I was Master to Obi-Wan for many years, and I was supposed to be Anakin’s Master when he was brought to the Order as a child… but my death saw that task fall instead to Obi-Wan.”
“But Ben told me his Master was Yoda,” Luke said. “He never mentioned you.”
“Most Jedi train under Yoda at one point or another,” Qui-Gon explained. “And Obi-Wan, I know, has a habit of avoiding things that are too painful for him to talk about. I believe my death was very hard on him, even many years later.”
“When did you die?”
“Oh, it was long ago now,” Qui-Gon said. “Your father was still only a child when it happened. But it is no matter. And besides, I did not come to you to speak of my life, or of my death. I came because this is not your time, and yet the Force remains at peace around you. Such a disturbance should have had repercussions felt the galaxy over, and yet… there is nothing.”
“Is that so bad?” Luke asked.
“It is… unexpected. Of course, nothing like this has happened before, but even the smallest upset can create large ripples in the Force. And I would characterize this as more than a small upset.”
“It was the Force that sent me here,” Luke pointed out. “There was some sort of… artifact, in a temple that I discovered. I could feel the Force there, and it seemed to be concentrated on the artifact. When I touched it, it sent me here.”
Qui-Gon was silent for a long moment, his pale features twisted into a thoughtful expression. “If it was truly the Force that sent you here,” he said eventually, “then I believe it sent you here for a reason. You have a purpose here in the past. But what that purpose is, I cannot say.”
Luke frowned. He didn’t know what that purpose could possibly be either; the past was the past, and he wasn’t sure what he could do to change it. Especially since he was stuck in this cell. If the Force truly had some grand purpose for him, he figured it would have at least kept him from being captured.
Footsteps sounded outside, echoing down the long corridor, and Luke’s eyes snapped to the cell door. Moments passed, but the door never opened, and the footsteps quickly receded, moving forward to some other destination.
When he looked back, Qui-Gon Jinn was gone.
Luminara stood before the council, her hands clasped together in front of her. Master Kolar had taken up his seat between Master Kenobi and the holographic form of Master Kcaj, while Barriss remained at Luminara’s side. The Grandmaster of the Jedi High Council, Master Yoda, sat in the centre of the nearly-complete ring of chairs, his clawed hands curled around the top of his gimer stick.
“An incident on Ucarro, you have to report,” Master Yoda said.
“Yes,” Luminara said with a nod. “The retaking of the planet went very smoothly. We were able to quite easily oust the Separatists from their stronghold, and after that from the planet itself. However, during the initial battle in the outskirts of Ucarro’s capital city, I sensed a… disturbance, in the Force. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before, like the aftershock of a violent explosion. Afterwards, I could sense a new presence in the Force, somewhere on the planet — one that was incredibly powerful.”
“Do you suspect that this… presence was the source of the disturbance?” Master Windu asked, his shimmering blue hologram leaning forward in his seat.
Luminara nodded. “I believe so,” she said, “but I was unable to investigate further. The battle at hand required my full attention, and by the time it was over, the presence had dimmed. But it was while we were negotiating the terms of the Separatists’ surrender that I felt the second disturbance.”
Master Mundi’s long white eyebrows rose in surprise. “A second?”
“Just the same as the first, and the presence that appeared after was just as strong. I did not know if it was the same presence as before, or a completely new one. Once the negotiations were completed, I began to prepare a team to go and discover the source of the presence, but a group of my men returned from a patrol with a prisoner in tow. They had found her wandering the battlefield, and I knew immediately that she was the source. Her Force signature is quite obvious, and though it was quickly apparent that she is untrained, her shields are rather impressive.”
“This is the woman you brought back with you?” Master Windu asked, and Luminara nodded once more.
“Her name is Nellith Lars,” she said. “I do not believe we have anything to fear from her. Though she seems to be aware of her Force sensitivity, I do not believe she has great control over it. I was unable to sense any maliciousness in her, so I doubt she is associated with the dark side. That said, I am entirely unsure what she has to do with the Force disturbance I sensed, though the two are doubtless connected.”
Master Yoda hummed, his thin lips pressing together in thought. “So sure are we, that she is not of the dark side? Concealed, her true intentions could be.”
“That is why I have brought her here to you,” Luminara said. “She told me that she was looking for her brother. She said initially that he was a civilian who carried out relief missions, and that he ended up near Ucarro after encountering trouble with his ship. When she didn’t hear from him for several days, she came after him. It seemed as if her brother might have been captured by the Separatists, and I was inclined to offer her our help, but then one of my men discovered this on her.” Reaching into her robes, Luminara produced the lightsaber that Sergeant Keen had found on Nellith. A ripple of shock circled the room, and the council members exchanged quick glances with one another.
Master Yoda reached out his hand for the weapon, and Luminara stepped forward, placing it into his palm. He studied it for a moment, his wrinkled features drawn into a frown, before he looked back up at Luminara. “Bring the girl in,” he said. “Many questions for her we have.”
It was not long before the doors to the council room opened once more and Barriss reappeared. She motioned Leia forward, and Leia stood, following the Padawan into the room. The guards remained outside in the atrium, and Barriss closed the door behind them with a soft click.
The room was circular, with wide windows placed at regular intervals that provided a stunning view of Coruscant. The sky outside was clear, and the sun was only just beginning to lower towards the horizon, filling the chamber with warm natural light. Twelve chairs sat in a circle around the room, all of them in varying shapes and sizes, but all upholstered in the same rich red fabric. Each seat was occupied; these, Leia assumed, were the members of the Jedi High Council. They were a variety of species, from human to Cerean to Ongree, and a handful were presented as holograms.
There was a small gap between the chairs near the door, allowing someone to enter the ring, where Luminara Unduli stood in the middle of the room. This is where Barriss led Leia, in the centre of a simple circular design painted on the floor in deep shades of red, yellow, and blue.
A small creature sat in the chair directly in front of her, of some unknown species. He was shorter even than R2-D2, and his wrinkled green skin gave him the appearance of something ancient. He held Luke’s lightsaber in his gnarled, three-fingered hands, and observed her with wide, curious eyes, and though Leia had never seen him before, she knew immediately who he was, from Luke’s stories of the wizened old master who had taught him on Dagobah and the tales her father had told her when she was young.
“Master Yoda,” she greeted, bowing her head in his direction. “It’s an honour to meet you. I’ve heard many stories about you.”
Yoda hummed, his eyes narrowing slightly. “A Jedi, you are not,” he said, and he lifted Luke’s lightsaber, “but a lightsaber, you had. Why?”
Leia glanced over her shoulder at Luminara, wondering what the Jedi had told the rest of her comrades about Leia. “It isn’t mine,” she said, looking back to Yoda and the other council members. “As I told Master Unduli, the lightsaber is my brother’s. And neither of us stole it. He made it himself.”
The human male sitting beside Yoda raised his eyebrows. He was one of those attending the meeting remotely, but despite the blue translucency of his face Leia could still easily sense his skepticism. “Are you suggesting that your brother is a Jedi?”
“Yes,” Leia answered, “in a way.” And she told them the same story she had told Luminara aboard the Tranquility — that her father had been a Jedi who left the Order and trained her brother in the ways of the Force, that her brother went from planet to planet helping however he could. That when he had failed to return from Ucarro, Leia had gone after him, and that was when Luminara’s men found her.
“And you believe your brother to have been captured by the Separatists?” the man beside Yoda asked, and Leia nodded.
“I’m certain of it,” she said. “There’s no other reason why he would leave his lightsaber behind.” And he told me so himself, she thought, though she decided it was best to leave that piece of information out, at least for now.
“If it was your father that taught your brother to be a Jedi, why did he not teach you?” the Cerean Jedi asked. “You have no lightsaber of your own.”
“I didn’t want to be taught,” Leia replied. “It’s as simple as that.”
“Do you know when your father left the Order?” the Cerean asked. “Or what rank he was?”
Leia shook her head. “He never talked much about his time as a Jedi. All I know is that he left the Order sometime before I was born.”
“And how old are you?” a Togruta woman asked.
“And your brother?”
“The same. We’re twins.”
Leia knew she was being interrogated. Each of the Jedi seemed to have a question of their own, each trying to figure out a part of the story. She knew there would be investigations into her tale, but she just hoped that they wouldn’t find enough to prove it entirely false.
“Is your father still living?” asked a human man, sitting a few seats down from Yoda.
Leia turned to look at him. His auburn hair was cut short and he wore a neatly cropped beard, and though Leia had only ever seen him once before, in the briefest moments before his death as a much older man, she recognized him instantly. General Obi-Wan Kenobi, the man her father had sent her to Tatooine to retrieve.
“No,” she answered. “He died a few years ago, before the war even started.”
“And you said you never knew his real name?” Obi-Wan asked.
“I only ever knew him as Josiah Lars.”
Obi-Wan settled back in his chair, a thoughtful expression on his face.
“I know you don’t trust me,” Leia said, before any Jedi could interject with more questions, “and I know my story seems difficult to believe. But it’s the truth, and my brother is in trouble. I won’t leave him to the Separatists, but I can’t help him on my own.”
“Our help, you ask?” Yoda said.
“Yes. All I want is to find my brother, and nothing more.”
There was a beat of silence; all twelve Jedi masters seemed enveloped in their own thoughts, trying to figure out their own opinions of her. The silence lasted no longer than a second or two, but to Leia it felt like an eternity.
Finally, Yoda spoke again. “Padawan Offee,” he said, looking past Leia to the young Mirialan Jedi. “Return young Nellith to her guards. To the cells, she is to be taken.”
So that answered Leia’s earlier question as to whether the Jedi had prison cells.
“Yes, Master Yoda,” Barriss said. She stepped forward, gently touching Leia’s shoulder, signalling for her to come with her. Leia cast one last glance around the room, before turning and following Barriss from the chamber.
She had no idea what the Jedi would decide. She hoped that she had convinced them to help her, but they had all seemed distrustful and suspicious. If they didn’t help her… she didn’t know what would happen, to her or to Luke.
And she did not want to spend the rest of her life twenty-five years in the past.
Obi-Wan was unsure.
He didn’t know what to make of the girl that Master Unduli had brought to them. Her story had been strange, and while it was certainly plausible, he didn’t know if she was telling the truth. She had been incredibly difficult to read; her shields were quite impressive, and while he had sensed no dishonesty from her, he had also sensed little honesty. The only thing he was absolutely certain of was that she wanted to help her brother — it was the only thing she had been certain of as well.
“I don’t trust her,” Mace Windu said, and his hologram scowled. It was an expression Obi-Wan was used to seeing on him, especially in recent months as the war continued to drag on. “I sense that she is not telling us the truth.”
“But I do not believe she was lying, either,” Obi-Wan said. “At least, not entirely.”
Yoda grunted, nodding. “The truth, she says. But not all of it.”
“I agree with Master Unduli,” Kit Fisto said, nodding to the Mirialan woman, who remained standing in the centre of the chamber. “I could not sense any trace of the dark side on her. I do not think her intent is malicious.”
“But her Force presence was remarkably strong,” Plo Koon pointed out. “One of the strongest I have felt in a long time. I have no doubts that someone that strong in the Force could easily hide their true intentions.”
A murmur of agreement circled the room. Obi-Wan leaned back, his hand stroking absently at his beard. What Master Koon said was certainly true — the girl, Nellith, had a Force presence to rival Anakin’s. But whether she was trained enough to hide her intentions was another question; she had said herself that she had never been interested in learning the ways of the Jedi.
“I am personally most concerned about this brother of hers,” Master Unduli said. “If Nellith was the cause of one of the disturbances I felt on Ucarro, then I believe her brother was the cause of the other. And his whereabouts are as of yet unknown. I believe we should focus on finding him; if these two really are a risk, it would be best to have them both under our watch as soon as possible.”
“Do you really believe he was captured by Separatists?” Saesee Tiin asked.
“It is certainly likely,” Master Unduli replied. “Until we arrived, Ucarro was surrounded by a blockade and the area around the capital was heavily patrolled. Nellith claims she found her brother’s lightsaber in the forest that surrounds the capital. If he somehow ended up there, it is not unlikely that he would have run into a patrol of some kind and ended up captured. Nellith seems convinced of it, in any case.”
“It could be a lie,” Master Mundi pointed out, “part of some larger ruse — a Separatist trap.”
“A trap?” Obi-Wan asked. “For whom?”
“For any Jedi she can get,” Master Windu said.
Obi-Wan shook his head. “I do not believe so. I sensed uncertainty in everything she said, except for when she spoke of her brother. Every other part of her story might be a lie, but I do not believe that this is. She is truly worried for him, and she asks in honesty for our help.”
“I agree,” Master Yoda said. “Help her, we will. And then investigate further, we shall.”
“Then I believe one of us should be put in charge of her,” Master Windu said. “I do not believe this is a task we can assign to anyone less experienced.”
Obi-Wan didn’t even spare a second of thought before he spoke next. “If I may, Master Yoda, I would like to volunteer for the position.” There was something about the girl that intrigued him — something familiar, yet entirely strange.
Plus, there were few other council members available for the job.
Master Yoda nodded. “If you wish, Master Kenobi.”
“We will likely need her help,” Master Koon said. “I have no doubt that her brother is as strong in the Force as she is, and if they are twins, then they will have a strong bond that could help in our search for him. But I do not think she will cooperate unless we have gained her trust, and we cannot do that if we continue to treat her as a prisoner.”
“So we will use her?” Master Unduli asked. “Gain her trust to get to her brother, and then betray her?”
It was an uncomfortable situation; Obi-Wan could sense his fellow councillors’ unease, which matched his own. But it was the quickest, and easiest, way to find Nellith’s brother. She might be able to sense where he was, or even communicate with him, which could cut down their search time by days. And the sooner the Jedi had both twins under their watch, the better. Obi-Wan knew the Order well, and a pair of extremely powerful Force-sensitives on the loose throughout the galaxy was not something most Jedi would be comfortable with.
“If we must,” Master Windu said.
“I suggest, then, that we remove her from the cells as soon as possible,” Master Mundi said. “She should still be kept under careful watch, and should not be allowed to wander unaccompanied, but we cannot allow her to feel like a prisoner.”
“We should also look into this matter with her father,” Shaak Ti interjected. “If we can find records of a human male Jedi who left the order approximately twenty-four years ago, then we can begin to corroborate her story, and discover whether she is telling the truth.”
Master Windu nodded. “I agree with both points.”
“Then I will see that it’s done,” Obi-Wan said.
I promise that Anakin will make an appearance soon!!
Chapter 7: Lost Jedi
Luke and Leia both receive visits, with different results.
Leia had had more than enough of prison cells.
She sat on the bench in her cell in the Jedi Temple, her hands curling and uncurling into fists at her side. Compared to every other cell that Leia had ever been in, this one was by far the most comfortable; the bench was actually padded, and she had even been provided a blanket, as rough and scratchy as it was. There was small slit of a window at the very top of the wall, letting in the last dregs of light as the sun set below the Coruscant horizon. If Leia stood on the bench and stretched onto the very tips of her toes, she could just barely see out the window into the city beyond.
But none of this disguised the fact that she was in a prison cell, and none of it made her any less uncomfortable.
This discomfort was compounded by the fact that there was something in the cell, in its walls or in the ceiling or somewhere, that dulled her connection to the Force. It was not a connection that she relied heavily upon, or that she even took notice of most days, but it was something that had always been a part of her, even when she hadn’t known it. When she was younger she had thought that she just had good instincts and intuition, that she was skilled at reading people, but now she knew that a lot of that stemmed from the Force. And its absence was… disquieting.
Though she was exhausted, running on only a few hours of sleep, she refused to even lie down, not wanting to fall asleep just yet. She hoped that the Jedi would let her know their decision as soon as it was made, and she did not want to be woken, half-groggy from sleep, when that happened.
Thankfully, she did not have long to wait.
Not even an hour after she had been put in the cell, the door opened. She expected to see more of the Temple guards, with their expressionless white masks, but instead it was Obi-Wan Kenobi who stood on her doorstep, his hands folded behind his back.
He smiled at her, and bowed his head by way of greeting. “Miss Lars.”
“Nellith,” he corrected. “I am Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’ve been assigned to handle your case. Would you come with me?” He stepped aside, motioning out into the corridor.
Leia stared at him for a moment, surprised. She couldn’t see any guards out in the hallway, and Obi-Wan continued to smile pleasantly, waiting. She stood and, slowly, walked out of the cell. Her connection to the Force came rushing back, and she breathed a nearly-audible sigh of relief.
“This way, please,” Obi-Wan said, and he began to walk away down the hallway, back the way Leia had been brought less an hour before.
“No binders?” she asked, and Obi-Wan shook his head.
“You are no longer our prisoner,” he said. “We have decided to trust you, and we’re going to help you find your brother.”
Even more relief coursed through Leia. They were going to help her. With the Jedi, and by extension the Grand Army of the Republic, on her side, they should have no issues rescuing Luke. And then they could figure out how to get themselves home. With any luck, they could be back in their own time before anything catastrophic happened, either in the past or the present.
“I’m very grateful to you,” Leia said, hurrying so that she matched Obi-Wan’s long strides. “I am sure that it wasn’t an easy decision to trust me so implicitly, but I’m thankful that you did.”
Obi-Wan simply nodded. “I’ll be taking you to your new accommodations,” he said. “I’m sure that you would like to rest and bathe, and I’ll have food brought to you.”
A pair of guards stood watch at the entrance to the detention area, but they allowed Leia and Obi-Wan to pass without even a question. Obi-Wan pressed a button to call the nearby turbolift to bring them back up to the Temple’s higher levels.
“What about my brother?” Leia asked. “What’s being done to find him?”
“At the moment, not much,” Obi-Wan admitted. The turbolift arrived, and he stepped inside; Leia followed. “We have a list of Separatists prisons where he might be held, but it is impossible to know which one. That is where you will come in.”
The turbolift started to ascend, climbing up from the underground detention level.
“If you can’t figure out where my brother is, how can I?”
“Because he’s your brother,” Obi-Wan explained. “You said you were twins, correct?” Leia nodded. “And you are both Force-sensitive, even if you, Nellith, remain mostly untrained. The bond between Force-sensitive siblings is powerful, even more so amongst twins. Would I be incorrect in assuming that you have been able to contact your brother before, without the use of a comlink or other technology, despite being separated, even by a great distance?”
Leia nodded. “We’ve done it before, a number of times.”
Obi-Wan smiled again, and the turbolift slowed to a stop. “And that is how we will find your brother,” he said. “Even if he cannot tell you where he is, you can you use your Force bond to pinpoint his location.”
Leia nodded, and stepped out of the lift after Obi-Wan. She had, after all, been able to find Luke after his duel with Vader on Cloud City, though the search area then had been much smaller. Still, she was confident that she could to do it. And Obi-Wan seemed confident as well.
“I’m not entirely sure I know how to do that,” she admitted, “but I can certainly do my best.”
“Don’t worry,” Obi-Wan said, leading her down a long hallway. “We’ll help you as best we can.”
It was a quiet corridor, the ceiling much lower than in the rest of the Temple. Both walls were lined by doors, each one numbered; these were the living quarters, Leia realized. A long skylight spanned the length of the hallway, filling it with the warm glow of sunset.
“When do we begin?” Leia asked, eager to find Luke, as soon as possible. She was desperate to get back home, back to Han, to the Senate, to the war they were still fighting.
“Tomorrow morning,” Obi-Wan said. “You need time to rest.”
Leia wanted to protest. It was not just her desperation to get home that made her anxious to find Luke; she was worried for him, and though her senses told her that he was, at the current moment, fine, she didn’t know how long he would remain so.
But she was bone-tired, and starving. Her last food had been a pre-frozen meal partially heated up in the Falcon’s newly-added but still incomplete galley, eaten on the journey to Raban. She wanted to find her brother, but she didn’t know how much help she would be, as tired and hungry as she was.
So, she simply nodded, and let Obi-Wan lead her the rest of the way to her new room. It was small and sparsely furnished, but infinitely more comfortable than any of her cells that day had been. The bed was small but plush. A desk and chair sat against one of the walls, a window above it that looked out onto a walkway through a green garden. A datapad sat on the desk, and on the opposite wall was a door that Leia assumed led to a refresher. There were no decorations on the walls, but it was the type of room that Leia would expect from the Jedi. She assumed that, with more long-term occupation, the room would gather more individuality.
She, of course, would not be here long enough for that to happen. But it would do well in the meantime.
Obi-Wan remained just outside the door as she inspected her room. When she turned back to look at him, he gave her a reassuring smile. “I’ll leave you to get cleaned up, then,” he said. “I’ll have some food brought to you shortly, and will come to collect you in the morning. We’ll be starting first thing.”
Leia nodded again. “Thank you, Master Kenobi. I must tell you again how grateful I am.”
“Think nothing of it. Have a good evening, Nellith.” And then he was gone, walking off back down the hallway.
Leia closed the door, and sank into the desk chair. Obi-Wan Kenobi was not quite the man she had imagined; he was not the wizened hermit of whom Luke spoke so fondly, but he was also not entirely the great general of her father’s stories. But he was kind, and she was glad of the opportunity to get to know the man behind the legends. Even if it was not under the most ideal of circumstances.
She picked up the datapad that rested on the desk; it was an old model, one that she hadn’t seen used since she was a young child. But the design was relatively the same as many modern models, and so she had no trouble starting it up. The screen illuminated, displaying a list of downloaded books, articles, and other materials. The date hovered in the top right corner.
According to the datapad, it was the very beginning of the year 15 — over halfway through the Clone Wars, and approximately a year and a half before Luke and Leia would be born. Almost twenty-five years in the past.
She set the datapad back down, and looked away.
The Jedi Archives were silent, as they always were. Some Jedi perused the shelves or pored over information, seated at the tables scattered throughout the library, but at this time of day, it was mostly empty.
Obi-Wan found Master Jocasta Nu at her desk in the centre of the library’s rotunda. The Chief Librarian looked up from her work as he approached, smiling warmly.
“Master Kenobi,” she greeted, her voice soft in the hushed atmosphere of the Archives. “Is there something I can assist you with?”
“In fact, there is,” Obi-Wan said. “I require access to the records of all members of the Order. Particularly those who are no longer members.”
Master Nu nodded, and stood. As a member of the Jedi High Council, Obi-Wan had access to all areas of the Archives, even the highly-restricted Holocron Vault. As such, Master Nu asked no questions about what he needed with the personal records of former Jedi.
“Follow me,” she said, and Obi-Wan did as he was told, following the elderly librarian as she led him to one of the Archives’ back rooms, located off to the side of the north wing.
The walls glowed like the shelves out in the library, alight with information stored in shining sheets. A computer terminal sat in the centre of the room, and this is where Master Nu went, pressing a button to wake the machine. A hologram appeared above it, showing a field where one could enter various search parameters.
“Who exactly are you looking for?” Master Nu asked, her fingers hovering above the input keys.
“I don’t have a name,” Obi-Wan said, “but I’m searching for a human male who left the Order approximately twenty-eight to twenty-four years ago. He was likely a Knight, but he could have also been an older Padawan.”
Master Nu’s fingers danced over the buttons. Dozens of Jedi had left the Order over its millennia-long history; most had been Knights, Padawans, or even Initiates. Only a handful had been Masters — the Lost Twenty, whose busts lined the main walkway of the Archives, serving as a reminder that the Order was not faultless. Dooku, the master of Obi-Wan’s master, stood among them. But while it was uncommon for a Master to leave the Order, it was not so for a Knight or Padawan; in fact, it was becoming ever more common as the war continued and more and more Jedi became disenchanted with the Order’s role in the conflict.
After a moment of calculation, a list of results appeared — two men in total, both of them Knights. A tally of information appeared below their names: one had been just barely twenty years old when he left the Order; the other had been in his late twenties. The younger had left twenty-seven years ago, the older twenty-six years ago, which meant that, in the two years leading up to Nellith’s birth, no human male Jedi had left the Order. Though that, of course, did not eliminate the possibility of one of these two being Nellith’s father, it made it less likely.
“Do we know what happened to them, after they left?” Obi-Wan asked.
Master Nu shook her head. “We see no need in keeping tabs on those who are no longer part of our Order,” she said. “When they left, they became regular citizens of the Republic.”
He would have to go to the government, then, to find out about the lives these men had led after they stopped being Jedi. There was no saying how long that could take; forms would have to be filled out, and he would have to jump through an endless barrage of bureaucratic hoops just to get the most basic information. Or he could take their photos and show Nellith, asking her which one was her father — but she might lie, telling him one was her father when, in fact, neither was. Such a simple lie would be easy to mask, even for someone untrained in the Force.
“Do we still have their blood samples on record?” Obi-Wan asked. A blood sample was taken from every Jedi when they were brought to the Order, and afterward it remained stored in the Archives. Obi-Wan wasn’t sure what the protocol was for Jedi who had left the Order.
“I believe so,” Master Nu said. “Speak with the analysis droids in the information centre at the end of the east wing. They’ll be able to assist you.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Would I be able to get a copy of this information?” he asked, motioning to the hologram above the computer terminal.
“Of course.” Master Nu pressed a few buttons on the console, and a moment later a thin datapad slid out, the kind that could only hold a very limited amount of information. She passed it to him.
The information from the hologram appeared on the datapad screen — two files, on two different Jedi who each had a small possibility of being Nellith Lars’ father. Their names were Kel Varik and Dralin Sett. He didn’t recognize the names, or the photos that accompanied their files — he had been quite young when both left the Order. But hopefully their samples would still be in the Archives, and they would be able to tell Obi-Wan what he needed to know.
He thanked Master Nu, and took his leave of her.
It was not long after Qui-Gon vanished that Luke received another visitor, this time of a much more corporeal form.
Count Dooku arrived alone. He wore another luxurious cape, this time of a deep purple hue, fastened by golden clasps. He smirked at the sight of Luke, taking one step into the cell. The door remained open behind him.
“Good evening, young Skywalker,” he greeted. “I trust that you have been finding your stay with us comfortable?”
“Unbelievably so,” Luke replied. He remained where he was, seated on the bench.
“I’m afraid that I never caught your first name during our initial meeting,” Dooku said.
“Luke.” He realized too late that perhaps he shouldn’t so casually share his name with his captor, but then he decided that it likely didn’t make any difference — Dooku already knew his last name, and in any case, there would be no records of any Luke Skywalker in this time. There was very little that Dooku could do with that information.
“Luke Skywalker,” Dooku repeated. “What relation, specifically, are you to Anakin Skywalker?”
“I don’t know,” Luke lied. “I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him. But you should know, Skywalker is a very common name in the Outer Rim.” Another lie, but Luke hoped that Dooku wouldn’t know any better.
Dooku quirked an eyebrow, as if he didn’t quite believe Luke. “In any case,” he continued, “you are as strong in the Force as Anakin Skywalker. Which makes me wonder why you are not a member of the Jedi Order. They doubtless would have found you long ago.”
“Perhaps I’m not a Jedi now,” Luke said, “but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t one once. You left the Order. Who’s to say I didn’t do the same?”
Dooku was silent for a moment. “I doubt that is the case,” he said eventually. “But it’s of no matter now. You are powerful in the Force, and you lack the training of a Jedi. You will serve your purpose well enough.”
“And what purpose is that?” Luke asked, though he had a relatively good idea. Dooku’s void of a Force signature marked him easily as a Sith. Luke knew little of the Sith, but he knew that Palpatine was one, and that Anakin had been his apprentice. In this time, Palpatine was still alive, but Luke’s father was still a Jedi — he had yet to fall to the dark side. Which meant that Palpatine must have another apprentice.
And Dooku was the likeliest candidate.
“You are a powerful Force user,” Dooku said, “but your limited training means that you have only had a taste of your true potential. I can show you how to access that potential — how to become one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy.”
“And how would your master feel about you taking on an apprentice of your own?” Luke asked.
Surprise sparked in Dooku’s eyes, but he quickly extinguished it. “My master does not need to know,” he said. “You have an anger in you, Luke Skywalker. A darkness that longs to be freed. I can sense it. I can help you set it free.”
Luke nearly laughed. “Stronger men than you have tried to turn me,” he said, “and none so far have succeeded. You’re a fool if you believe that power can only come from anger and darkness.”
“You are the fool,” Dooku spat, his face twisting into a sneer. “You are the fool, like those misguided Jedi. In time, I will make you see this.”
“You can try.”
Dooku gave a snarling scoff, and then turned on his heel and marched from the cell. The door slid shut behind him.
Luke leaned back, resting his head on the wall. He wasn’t particularly worried about Dooku — if Palpatine and Luke’s own father had been unable to turn him, he didn’t think he had anything to fear from the Count’s weak threats. But he would not like to stay around to see if he carried through with them.
Qui-Gon had said that Luke had some sort of purpose in the past, and though Luke doubted that it was the purpose Dooku had in mind, the Force wanted him here, for one reason or another. Perhaps it hadn’t intended for him to be captured by Separatists, but it had intended for him to end up in the Clone Wars.
But why? Why had it torn him from a galaxy still embroiled in chaos, in desperate need of help?
Realization hit him suddenly, and he lifted his head. The chaos of his galaxy was caused by the civil war, which was caused by the tyranny of the Empire. But here, now, the Empire was still at least a year off. Without Palpatine, the Empire would never be formed. Anakin Skywalker would never fall and become Darth Vader. Luke could stop the civil war from happening, stop the seeds of it from ever being planted and save the galaxy from even more destruction and devastation. He could end the chaos before it ever even began. He could save his father.
He just needed to kill Palpatine.
Obi-Wan arrived at Leia’s door shortly after she woke up. She had fallen asleep early the night before, just shortly after the sun had fully set, and had woken just as it began to peek back over the horizon. Exhaustion had overridden her anxiety over Luke, and she’d descended into a deep sleep. When she woke, she felt surprisingly well-rested.
The clothes she had arrived in were filthy, streaked with dirt and reeking of sweat, but the Jedi had kindly provided her with a new set of outfits. They were not the clothes she would have chosen for herself, but she was glad to see that they were not the neutral-toned robes that most Jedi wore. A simple green tunic with matching pants, and a long brown vest with swirling embroidery along the hems. She wore her own boots.
She had just finished getting dressed when Obi-Wan’s knock sounded on her door. She pressed the button to open the door, and was unsurprised to see him standing there in the hallway, just as he had promised.
“Good morning, Master Kenobi,” she greeted.
“Good morning, Miss Lars,” he returned.
She repeated what she had told him the evening before. “Nellith, please.”
He smiled, and nodded. “Of course. I’m glad to see that I didn’t wake you. Are you ready to start the day?”
“Master Kenobi, I’ve been ready since last night.” Emotionally, at least, if not physically.
“Alright, then.” He stepped aside, allowing her to step into the hallway, and followed her out.
Guards, like those who had escorted her through the Temple the day before, stood at either end of the hallway. Leia didn’t remember seeing them last night, but she had been so tired that it was possible she had missed them. In any case, they were both far enough from her door that she didn’t believe they were guarding her — or at least, that’s what she hoped.
“We’ll be going to the Halls of Healing first,” Obi-Wan said, falling into step beside her. At her confused look, he added, “It’s the Temple’s medical wing.”
“A medical wing?” Leia asked. “Why? Is something wrong?”
“No, everything’s perfectly fine,” Obi-Wan assured her. “You needn’t worry. The Council has simply requested an analysis of your midi-chlorian count, which requires a blood sample be taken. The med droids in the Halls of Healing will carry this out.”
Her confusion deepened. “What the hell is a midi-chlorian count?”
“A midi-chlorian is a microscopic, intelligent lifeform that resides within all living beings,” Obi-Wan explained. He said it as if it was a definition that had been pounded into his brain for years. “They act as a sort of… conduit, which allows their hosts to connect with the Force. Typically, the more midi-chlorians an individual has, the more Force-sensitive they are. The Council is curious to see what your count is.”
Leia’s eyebrows furrowed together. She’d never heard of these midi-chlorians before, and if she was being honest, it sounded like a bunch of pseudo-science nonsense, the sort of thing her old Apprentice Legislator friend Amilyn Holdo would believe. But the General Kenobi of her father’s stories was a rational, level-headed person, not prone to Amilyn’s eccentricities, and so Leia decided to roll with it.
“Alright,” she said. “Let’s see how my midi-chlorians size up.”
Obi-Wan gave a quiet laugh.
The Halls of Healing were not far from the residential quarters. They took up much of the southwest wing of the Temple, with a large infirmary, at least a hundred bacta tanks, and dozens of beds in both private rooms and larger wards. Obi-Wan took her to the infirmary, where the less serious wounds and illnesses were treated. A number of med droids rolled about, carrying supplies or speaking to the few patients present at this early hour. They were the same models used by the Rebel Alliance, top-of-the-line in this era but depressingly outdated in hers.
One of the droids greeted them as they entered the infirmary. “Hello, General Kenobi,” it said. “Is this the patient Nellith Lars?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Yes,” he said. “We’re just here for a simple blood test.”
“Understood.” It looked to Leia. “Please follow me.”
She did as it said, following the droid to a small curtained-off area. A number of chairs sat arranged around the room, and the droid directed her to sit in one. It hobbled over to a small cart in the corner, picking up a small, opaque needle.
“Please roll up your sleeve and extend your right arm.” She did so, and the droid approached her, needle grasped carefully in its metal hand. “This will only take a moment.”
The droid inserted the needle in her forearm; it pinched, but Leia didn’t wince. A moment later, the droid pulled the needle out. It removed the needle tip, so that only a metal vial of her blood remained. A bead of crimson pooled on Leia’s forearm, but the droid quickly covered it with a small bacta patch.
“I will send this sample off for analysis as requested,” the droid said, inserting the vial into a small machine near the cart. It disappeared with a soft whirr. The droid walked back over to Leia and removed the bacta patch; it had done its work, and the small insertion wound was already gone. “You are free to go,” the droid told her.
She stood, and followed Obi-Wan out back through the infirmary. “What next?” she asked. “Would you like a urine sample, as well?”
Obi-Wan chuckled and looked back at her, smiling. “Now, we try and find your brother.”
The year 15 comes from the Great ReSynchronization, established in 36 BBY, which tentatively puts this story in early 20 BBY, after the Battle of Sullust but before the mission to Mortis, just for some context!
Chapter 8: The Hero With No Fear
Leia has an encounter she would have preferred to avoid.
It was good to be back on Coruscant. Anakin had missed it, in a way he never thought he could have. When he had first arrived on the planet, all those years ago, he had found it cold and oppressing; there were too many buildings, too many people, too much happening. The Jedi Temple had seemed too vast, a maze of hallways and rooms that he didn’t think he would ever be able to find his way around. And he had missed his mother fiercely.
But over the last twelve years, the Temple, and Coruscant, had become his home. And weeks away at a time, sleeping in tents on muddy battlegrounds or in cramped ships quarters, always made the return so much sweeter.
As did the prospect of Padmé, waiting for him in her apartment. He could not wait to go to her, to sweep her up in his arms and not let go for as long as possible. The thought of being with her again after so many weeks apart nearly brought a smile to his face, but he pushed it back down. He may be back on Coruscant, but there was still business for him to attend to.
This particular mission had only taken him away for less than a week, but it had been much longer than that since Anakin had last visited his wife. Nowadays, it seemed he was only back on the planet for a day or two before they were shipping him back out again on another assignment. There was rarely time for him to sneak away, and so they had had to survive on quick, secret calls once every few days. It would be good to see her again, to be able to hold her again.
But first, the damn Council report. The skirmish over Yaga Minor had been resolved quickly enough, with limited casualties — a cut-and-dry success that unfortunately meant very little in the rapidly-escalating situation of the war. But Anakin had been promised at least three days of leave after his return, which he looked forward to greatly — so long as the war cooperated.
Walking beside him, Ahsoka let out a deep groan and stretched her arms high above her head. “It’ll be so nice to sleep in a real bed again,” she said. “Let’s hurry up and get this over with so I can go take a nap.”
Anakin smiled. “Agreed.”
They continued down the hallway, turning off in the direction of the Council chambers. The corridors were not very busy — it was early in the morning, so Anakin assumed that most Jedi were either just waking up or busy eating breakfast. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when he spotted the familiar figure walking ahead of them.
“Hey, it’s Master Kenobi!” Ahsoka said, catching sight of him at the same time as Anakin. She took off into a quick jog, hurrying to catch up with him.
A young woman walked beside Obi-Wan, and both turned to look back when Ahsoka called out to them. Anakin had never seen her before, and she didn’t wear the robes of a Jedi or carry a lightsaber. She was short, even more so than Ahsoka, and her long brown hair was pulled up into a braided bun. Her eyes were dark, the same shade as her hair, and they carried in them a spark of familiarity that Anakin couldn’t quite place.
Despite her lack of a lightsaber, the woman’s Force presence was incredibly powerful — more so than almost any Anakin had sensed before. She had some mental shields in place, but they were quite weak, a sign that she wasn’t formally trained in the ways of the Force. Still, she carried herself with incredible confidence, her back straight and her head high. It was a stance that reminded Anakin of Padmé.
“I’m glad to see you’ve made it back safely,” Obi-Wan said, smiling at them. “You had little trouble at Yaga Minor?”
“Nothing we couldn’t handle, eh Snips?” Anakin said, pulling his gaze away from the woman and placing a hand on Ahsoka’s shoulder.
She grinned up at him. “All in a day’s work.”
“Well, that’s good to hear.”
“And you’ve been keeping busy, as well?” Anakin asked, his gaze going back to the woman at Obi-Wan’s side. She looked right back at him, the smallest crease appearing between her eyebrows. It was an expression that almost made her look even more familiar, though Anakin still couldn’t place it.
“As busy as always,” Obi-Wan said. He glanced over at the woman, then back to Anakin and Ahsoka. “This is Nellith Lars,” he introduced. “Her brother was captured by Separatists, and she requested our help in finding him. I’ve been assigned to assist her.”
Anakin’s eyebrows rose as Obi-Wan said her name. Lars was the surname of the man who had married his mother, back on Tatooine; perhaps, then, this young woman was related to them. That could also explain why she hadn’t been found by the Order as a child, despite her strong connection to the Force. The only reason Anakin had been discovered on Tatooine was because of his encounter with Qui-Gon Jinn.
“Anakin Skywalker,” he said, bowing his head in her direction. “This is my Padawan, Ahsoka Tano.” Ahsoka smiled, tilting her head in greeting.
At the mention of his name, Nellith’s eyes widened. A torrent of emotions came spilling out past her shields, unchecked; Anakin could sense shock, anger, distress… but most of all fear, and hatred. Directed specifically at him.
But a moment later it was gone. She had thrown up another barrage of shields, bottling her emotions back up inside her mind. Her face betrayed none of what she must be feeling, but there was no mistaking what Anakin had sensed — for a split second, she had been overcome with absolute hatred towards him. A woman whom he had never met before in his life.
There was a moment of silence, as if everyone was trying to puzzle through what had just happened. There was no doubt that Ahsoka and Obi-Wan had been able to sense Nellith’s emotions as clearly as he had; they had been so overwhelming, so powerful that it would have been impossible to miss them.
Nellith smiled, as if nothing at all was wrong. “It’s wonderful to meet you both,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.” Her gaze settled on Anakin, and her eyes were like a mask, unreadable.
“I… thank you,” Anakin said, not sure of what else he could say. He looked to Obi-Wan, one eyebrow quirked, and Obi-Wan gave him a look that said he was just as confused.
“We should be getting on,” Obi-Wan said after another moment of strained silence. “We have lots to do, and I’m sure you do as well.”
“Yes, of course, Master,” Ahsoka said.
Nellith gave them one last pleasant smile, and then promptly turned on her heel and marched away from them. Obi-Wan gave a quick nod to both Anakin and Ahsoka, before hurrying off to catch up with her.
Ahsoka looked up at him, folding her arms together. “What do you think’s up with her?” she asked.
Anakin simply shrugged.
Leia felt like she was going to be ill.
Her stomach was twisting into knots, as if it was preparing to upend itself, and her hands shook violently at her sides. She curled them into fists, pressing her nails into the skin of her palm, hard enough that she worried she might have drawn blood.
She hadn’t expected to see him. She had known it was a possibility, but the Temple was so big and the Jedi were so busy with the war, she had thought the chances were too slim to worry about. She hadn’t even recognized him at first — of course she hadn’t; she had never seen him as he truly was, outside of that damned black suit. But a part of her had thought that, if she ever did come close to him, she would sense him approaching, as she had with Vader — she would sense that same cold, that same void of a soul that had haunted her for so long.
But she had felt nothing, not a single thing out of the ordinary. He had felt the same as all the other Jedi who had filled the hallway around them — just an ordinary man, no eviller than any others.
He and the Togruta girl had approached Obi-Wan in the corridor, exchanging warm pleasantries with him, and Leia had simply wondered who the young man with the lovely blue eyes was.
Then he had introduced himself to her, and she had felt her heart drop to the soles of her feet.
Anakin Skywalker, her biological father, the man who had served as the right hand to Emperor Palpatine, who had tortured her for hours, whose evil had haunted her for the past four years.
And here he was standing in front of her, smiling kindly, with shining blue eyes that reminded her so much of Luke’s that it almost hurt.
She had never wanted to see him again. Luke had told her how he had changed, in his final moments before death — that he had become Anakin Skywalker again. But she didn’t think she could ever see him as anything but the monster Darth Vader. Luke had tried, in the weeks following Endor, to change her mind, before she had finally begged him to stop. Even the mere thought of being related to that man had sent her reeling. It had hurt Luke, she knew, but it wasn’t something she had been able to face; not then, perhaps not ever.
She certainly didn’t want to face it now.
She had tried her best to conceal her emotions regarding him, not wanting Anakin or Obi-Wan to sense what she was feeling. Evidently, however, she hadn’t done well enough.
“Nellith, are you alright?” Obi-Wan asked, falling into step beside her. “You seem… distressed.”
“I’m fine,” she lied.
“Are you sure? I want you to feel that you can trust me. You can tell me if something isn’t alright.”
Leia wanted to laugh, but was certain it would come out sounding nearly hysterical. Things were quite far from alright, but she couldn’t tell Obi-Wan any of it — she couldn’t tell him that she was from the future, that Anakin Skywalker was her biological father, that he had fallen to the dark side and tortured her for hours inside the belly of a moon-sized battle station that had destroyed her home planet, that she hated him with every piece of her being.
So instead she just gave him a tired smile, and lied some more.
“It’s just my brother. I can’t shake the feeling that he’s in danger, that something bad is going to happen to him.” It was not entirely a lie — just an exaggeration of the truth.
“Did you sense something?” Obi-Wan asked.
“I…” Leia paused, and tried to collect herself. “I’m not sure. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m not very well-versed in these things.”
“No need to worry,” Obi-Wan assured her. “We’ll help you figure it out. And we’ll help you find your brother, as soon as possible. I won’t let anything happen to him, if I can help it.”
Leia nodded. “Alright. Thank you.”
She tried to still her mind, pushing away all thoughts of Anakin Skywalker. She told herself that she likely wouldn’t have to see him again — that this was just a one-off thing, a fluke. Soon she would be too busy dealing with Luke to worry about him.
But deep down, even as she thought it, she didn’t believe that was true.
Obi-Wan brought her to a room on the ground floor of the Temple. It was some sort of meditation chamber; there were several large, squat ottomans scattered about the room, and the entire far wall was made up of horizontal wooden slats. It seemed that they could be opened or closed at the occupants’ desire; at the current moment, they were half-open, and Leia was able to catch glimpses of a peaceful courtyard garden. The sound of wind rustling through the leaves drifted in, brought by a cool breeze.
They were the only ones in the room. Obi-Wan took a seat on one of the ottomans near the slatted wall, crossing his legs. He gestured for her to do the same and, slightly uncomfortable, she sat down on the ottoman opposite him.
“You seem apprehensive,” Obi-Wan asked.
Suddenly self-aware, Leia tried to roll the tension from her shoulders. “I’m not entirely sure what you’re expecting of me,” she admitted. “I told you, I’m no Jedi. I’ve never meditated before, and honestly, I don’t think it’s something I’m cut out for.”
Obi-Wan gave her a reassuring smile. “Anyone can meditate, given enough practice,” he said. “But don’t worry — that’s not what we came here to do. I’m not expecting you to do anything you haven’t done already. At least, not yet.”
Leia nodded, though she remained somewhat unsure.
“Just relax,” Obi-Wan said. “I want you to try and reach out to your brother, to communicate with him. You said that you’ve done that before, yes?”
She nodded again. “He’s usually the one to initiate it, but I’ve done it a handful of times before.”
“I have the utmost confidence in you. Just close your eyes, and think of him. Stretch out to him through the Force.” He paused, and Leia let her eyes fall close, her hands settling into her lap. “What’s your brother’s name?” Obi-Wan asked.
It took Leia a second to remember the false name she had given Luke. “Ben.” After you.
She felt a small ripple of surprise from Obi-Wan, and she opened her eyes. He had a thoughtful look on his face.
“What?” she asked.
He shook his head. “It’s nothing. Close your eyes.” She frowned, certain this it wasn’t nothing, but did as he said. Obi-Wan continued, “Now reach out to Ben. Find his presence, and focus on it.”
“I know what to do, thanks.” As he himself had said, this was something she had done before.
Obi-Wan laughed quietly. “Then I’ll leave you to it.”
Leia took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly through her nose. She could sense Luke, as she always could, in the back of her mind. Zeroing in on him, she stretched her mind out across the parsecs of space that separated them, brushing her consciousness against the edges of his.
Luke. The voice she sent to him was gentle, as if she was rousing him from sleep.
He responded quickly, opening his mind to let her in. She could sense immediately that he was doing alright; he was calm, almost surprisingly so, but she could sense his worry, as plainly as if it was written on his face.
Leia! He replied. Where are you? Are you alright? I could sense your distress.
I’m fine. I’m on Coruscant right now; the Jedi have agreed to help me find you.
There was a moment before Luke replied, and Leia could feel him probing around in her mind. She didn’t expect he would have to dig too deeply to tell that she was lying about being alright; there was very little she could hide from her brother.
You’re not alright, Leia. What happened?
Her hands clenched in her lap, and she fought to keep herself from grimacing.
I saw him, Luke.
She didn’t have to specify who he was for Luke to understand. She felt his thrill of excitement, quickly stifled and replaced by concern. He knew intimately what her feelings towards their father were like. Where? Where are you?
At the Jedi Temple. I’m with General Kenobi. We were in the hallways, and we just ran into him. I didn’t even realize who he was at first, not until he said his name.
He isn’t Darth Vader, Leia. Not here, not yet.
I know that, Luke. But to me, Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are one in the same. I can’t separate them the way you can.
There was another moment of silence. I’m sorry.
Don’t worry. I’ll be alright. I promise.
She could sense Luke trying to comfort her, and she let him, his mind nudging against hers in a strange sort of emotional hug. But while she loved her brother dearly, she found herself wishing that Han were there. She didn’t think she and Luke would ever agree when it came to their father, and so it was a difficult topic for them to discuss. But Han was far enough removed from it that she could say anything about Anakin Skywalker that she wanted, without worrying about offending or upsetting him. She didn’t feel that way with Luke.
More silence, like neither of them quite knew what to say now.
Leia was the first to break it. Where are you, Luke? She asked. General Kenobi is going to help me get you out, but we need to know where you are.
I don’t know. I’m in a Separatist prison on some barren rock of a planet. Count Dooku is here; he seems to have some idea that he’s going to take me on as an apprentice.
Leia’s forehead creased, her brows drawing together. Count Dooku? Does he know who you are?
He knows my name, and he thinks I’m related to Anakin Skywalker, but he doesn’t know how. All he knows is that I can use the Force and I’m pretty damn good at it — hence the whole apprentice thing.
And you have no idea where you are? Not even a hint?
Nothing. I didn’t even get a glimpse of the planet as were arriving. But… He paused, as if thinking. Let me try something.
A moment passed. Leia could feel Luke withdrawing from her slightly, and wondered what he had in mind. But then she could feel a tug, as if someone was pulling at her through the Force. She let it drag her along, and was overcame by the sudden sensation of falling forward. She opened her eyes in shock, and found herself standing in a prison cell.
Luke was sitting on a bench, his legs crossed and his eyes closed. She was about to ask him what he had done, taking a step towards him, but as she put her foot down it landed not on the metal floor of the cell, but rather on stone ground. She was outside, in a field of grey rock. Standing before her was a large, bleak building, almost entirely windowless. The landscape around her was like that of a barren moon — no plants, no animals, nothing but stones and dust. Confused, she looked around, wondering if Luke had come with her, and then suddenly she was floating high above a planet, gazing down on its bleak surface. She blinked, overcome by this odd vision of hovering in space, and when her eyes reopened, she was back in the meditation room. It had all happened in the span of perhaps five seconds, and her mind whirled from the sensation of it. Luke had told her of these visions, sent by the Force, but she had never experienced one herself.
Obi-Wan still sat across from her, watching her curiously.
“You were successful, I assume?” he asked.
“I… yes.” It took Leia a moment to clear her mind, to bring herself back from that strange experience. “I spoke with Ben, and then he showed me… something. A vision, of wherever he is.”
Obi-Wan’s face brightened. “Do you think you could locate it?”
She frowned, considering. She could still feel that pull on her mind, like the hands of a child tugging at her clothes. After a moment, she nodded. “Yes, I think so.”
Obi-Wan stood and walked over to the far wall. He pressed a button on the control panel near the door, and a short, skinny pole rose from the floor in the centre of the room, with a small bowl at the very top. He dug through one of his robe’s pockets, and produced a miniscule glass ball, no bigger than a convor’s egg. Flipping the switch to close the blinds, darkening the room, he walked to the pedestal and placed the ball in the bowl at the top. The meditation room was immediately filled with hundreds of thousands of tiny pinpricks of light, spinning slowly around them.
“A map reader,” Leia said, pushing herself to her feet. “Of the whole galaxy?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Most of it.” He weaved through the tiny, glowing planets, prodding gently at one near the centre of the map. “This is us — Coruscant.” As he touched it, the planet’s name appeared above the shining sphere.
Leia’s eyes darted from one planet to the next. The Force pushed as her, urging her on, much as it had in the temple on Raban. She let it carry her across the room, through the field of softly shining planets. She could feel Obi-Wan’s gaze on her, following her carefully as the Force guided her.
It did not take her long to find what she was searching for. At the edge of the room, in what she assumed was the Outer Rim, was a planet that looked the same as all the others, a small light blue dot shining in the air. But there was no doubt that this was the planet she was looking for; the Force practically sang as she reached out and touched a finger to the glowing dot. This was where Luke was.
The planet’s name appeared above it. Janus VII.
“This is it,” she said. “This is where they have Ben.”
Obi-Wan walked over to her, looking down at the small, unassuming speck of a planet. He didn’t ask her if she was certain; he seemed confident enough in her abilities to believe her. “Good work,” he said. “We’ll begin planning right away. With any luck, we’ll be on our way to Janus VII in the next few days.”
Leia felt relief course through her. Soon, she would be reunited with Luke, and they would find a way back out of this forsaken time.
But from what Luke had told her, that might not be as simple as she had hoped.
“There’s… one more thing,” she said, looking to Obi-Wan. “When I spoke to my brother, he mentioned Count Dooku. It sounded like he might be there, at the prison.”
Obi-Wan’s eyebrows drew together. “Interesting… That might make things slightly more complicated.”
“Do you think he will be an issue?”
“Perhaps. But I have faced him before, as has Anakin. My former Padawan could be quite useful in this situation.”
Leia stiffened. She didn’t know if she could even stomach the thought of seeing her biological father again. “Do you think we need him?” she asked.
“I think we are going to need all the help we can get,” Obi-Wan said. “It won’t be easy breaking into a Separatist prison, especially if Count Dooku is there. I suggest we bring along Anakin’s Padawan, as well. They’re both very capable, I assure you. I’ll see if I can get permission from the Council to bring them aboard.”
Leia didn’t argue any further. Obi-Wan was right that they would likely need help if they wanted to break Luke out of prison, and she could find no logical reason to argue against bringing Anakin, at least not one that wouldn’t lead to uncomfortable questions to which she had no answers — no matter how much the thought of having to work with Anakin Skywalker twisted her stomach into knots.
For Luke, though, she would bear it.
Obi-Wan walked quickly down the corridors of the Jedi Temple. It was nearing midday; he and Nellith had spent the rest of the morning researching what little information they could find on Janus VII, joined a short while ago by Ahsoka. A quick message to the Council had been all that was acquired to get Anakin and his Padawan assigned to this mission; the other Council members had acquiesced quickly when they learned that Dooku might be involved.
Though Ahsoka had only just returned from the field, she had seemed eager to help, most likely excited by the prospect of breaking into a Separatist prison. Obi-Wan had yet to be able to get into contact with Anakin to ask for his assistance, but at the current moment he had more pressing concerns than his wayward former Padawan.
The results of Nellith’s DNA analysis were in.
He had sent her blood sample off to the analysis droids in the Archives, asking them to compare her DNA to that of Kel Varik and Dralin Sett. He had also, more out of curiosity than anything, asked for them to complete a full midi-chlorian count. He felt guilty about deceiving Nellith and lying about why he needed a sample of her blood, but if she was lying about who she was, it was likely she wouldn’t have consented to a DNA test. As it was, he preferred not to think about the dubious ethicality of what he’d done.
The Archives were busier in the middle of the day than they had been the night before, but no other Jedi occupied the Analysis Rooms. Obi-Wan went and sat down in one of the rooms. A JN-66 analysis droid hovered behind the glass, where all the sensitive analysis equipment was stored, safe from the infecting hands of organics.
“Greetings, Master Kenobi,” the JN-66 said. “I assume you are here for the results of the blood analysis you requested?”
“Yes, thank you.”
The screen set into the desk before Obi-Wan lit up, displaying a multitude of data. It was separated into two sections — midi-chlorian and DNA. His eyes went first to DNA, also divided into two, one side for Kel Varik and the other for Dralin Sett. Both included a long list of scientific facts and figures that Obi-Wan couldn’t decipher, but at the end of both sections, in blaring red letters, was written NO MATCH.
Nellith Lars’ DNA did not match that of either Varik or Sett; neither was her father.
“As you can see,” the JN-66 said, “the subject’s DNA did not match that of either sample you provided. All three were human, but there was no close familial connection between any of them.”
Obi-Wan nodded, his lips drawing down in a frown. “I see.” That was a setback, and a bit of a disappointment, but he hadn’t really expected either man to be Nellith’s father. That, it seemed, would have been far too easy.
His eyes landed next on the midi-chlorian section. It seemed as if his curiosity in this sector had been warranted.
“Her midi-chlorian count is over fifteen thousand?” he asked, looking up at the analysis droid in shock.
“Yes. It is an uncommonly high number, but accurate.”
“Uncommonly high” was something of an understatement. Anakin had the highest midi-chlorian count on record, just five thousand higher at twenty thousand. Most Jedi barely surpassed ten thousand; a powerful one, such as Master Yoda, might come close to challenging Nellith’s levels, but for an untrained Force-sensitive who had seemingly dropped right out of the sky, the numbers were astounding. Anakin was the Chosen One, prophesized to bring balance to the Force; his high midi-chlorians had a meaning. But for a random woman to have such a high count… it was unheard of.
“I’d like a copy of this information,” Obi-Wan said. This was certainly something he would have to bring to the Council’s attention; it could change their plans for Nellith, and for her brother, once they recovered him.
“And I’d like you to perform another round of testing, using the same blood sample.”
The JN-66 bobbed its head. “Certainly. Which tests would you like done?”
“Another DNA test. But this time, I’d like you to compare the sample with those belonging to every human male member of the Jedi Order currently aged thirty-six or older, including both present members and those who have left the Order.”
It was an incredibly broad range to test. Obi-Wan knew that it was bordering on impossible that someone who was only twelve-years-old when Nellith was born would turn out to be her father, but he wanted to cast as wide a net as possible. Finding out her father’s identity was no longer just an issue of determining whether she was telling the truth; if they found her father, they might find the cause of her unusually high midi-chlorian count.
“Testing such a large pool of samples will take a considerable amount of time,” the analysis droid pointed out.
“I understand,” Obi-Wan said. “Just send me the results as you get them.”
He stood, and a thin datapad, like the one Master Nu had given him, popped out from an ejection port on the desk. He took it, tucking it carefully into the folds of his robes.
The droid bobbed its head. “Of course, sir. Is there anything else I can assist you with?”
“No, that will be all. Thank you.” Obi-Wan ducked out of the room, a small frown pulling at his lips.
He had come here hoping to find answers, but now all he had were more questions.
Chapter 9: Best-Laid Plans
Luke has another conversation with Dooku, and Leia works with Ahsoka on a plan for her brother's rescue.
sorry that this chapter took such a ridiculously long time to finish, but I've had a very busy few weeks with school and other commitments, and unfortunately it's probably only going to get busier, so it's likely the next chapter won't be out until some time in the beginning of December. thank you all so much for your patience!
Luke was roused from sleep by the sound of his cell door hissing open. It had been hours since his last communication with Leia, and even longer since his visit from Dooku. He wasn’t sure whether it was night or day; with no window or chronometer in his cell, time had ceased to exist. He could not even begin to guess how long he had been in this prison.
The group of droid guards who now stood before his cell, then, were almost a welcome distraction. There was little for him to do besides meditate and sleep, and there was only so much of either that someone could do before they grew bored.
“On your feet,” one of the droids commanded, motioning Luke forward.
He stood, his back aching from the hours spent curled up on a hard metal bench. The droid produced a pair of binders, and Luke stretched out his arms. The binders were clamped securely around his wrists.
“Where are you taking me this time?” he asked, as the droid pulled him out into the hallway.
“Silence,” it ordered, and shoved him roughly towards its compatriots.
They formed a blockade around him, with two in the front and two behind, their blasters pointed squarely on his back. Dooku seemed to still considered him to be more of a prisoner than a potential apprentice.
He followed the droids in silence, but as they walked, his eyes carefully scanned his surroundings. The corridor in which his cell was located was long; he glanced back, quickly, and saw that it stretched on much further beyond his own door. In the other direction, it continued until a circular intersection, with a turbolift in the very centre. Several other hallways lined with cells branched off in every direction. The turbolift was guarded by a pair of B2 battle droids, much sturdier than the B1s currently escorting Luke.
They guided him into the lift. Like the first time he had been taken to see Dooku, it descended several levels, halting deep within the prison. They stepped out, and Luke quickly looked around; he wasn’t sure if he recognized this part of the prison, or if it all just looked the same. It appeared to be the same narrow hallway that led to the room with the containment field, where Luke had first met Dooku, only a day or two before.
He saw no ways of escape. This level was, he assumed, deep below ground level, and he had no idea what level his own cell was located on. The other hallways near his own could lead to an exit, but he had no way of knowing if that was the case or not. To get out, he would likely have to make it to a turbolift, and past the B2s guarding it.
The droids stopped him in front of a door, which opened to reveal the same room with the containment field from earlier, or one very similar. They nudged him inside, but instead of bringing him directly to the pedestal that rested in the centre of the chamber, they stopped. Dooku was already there, waiting with his hands clasped together behind his back.
“Leave us,” he commanded. The droids snapped to attention, bowing their heads in obedience, before quickly filing from the room. The door closed behind them.
“Dooku,” Luke greeted. “To what do I owe this particular pleasure?”
“I have a few… questions for you,” Dooku said. He remained where he was, his eyes narrowed slightly, his gaze piercing through Luke like a laser. “You see, I tried to do a bit of research on you, to figure out who, exactly, you are. And I must say, you are quite an elusive man. No records of you turned up in any database. There was nothing — not even a mention. So, either you have somehow managed to keep your identity from being recorded, or you are lying to me. I would like to figure out which one.”
“Would you not be able to sense if I was lying?” Luke asked, eyebrows raised.
“I would like to think so,” Dooku said, “but you are strong with the Force, and it is not outside the realm of possibilities for you to be able to mask your lies. So, I will ask again — who are you?”
“I assure you, Count Dooku, that I told you the truth. My name is Luke Skywalker. What reason could I have for using the name of one of the Jedi Order’s most famed Generals, if it was not also my own?”
Dooku watched him carefully, and Luke could feel him probing through his mind. He tightened his shields, keeping the tendrils of Dooku’s senses from finding anything that could betray him. All he projected was the truth — his name was Luke Skywalker.
Dooku’s lips turned down in the smallest hint of a frown. “Oh, I am sure there are many reasons that you could have to fabricate such a lie,” he said. “To convince me of your importance, perhaps, so I don’t have you killed? That the Hero with No Fear will come to rescue you?”
“Well, if I wanted you to believe that, I would have told you I was certain we were related,” Luke said. “But I didn’t. I’ve never met the man, and I honestly doubt that we’re of any close relation.” That, of course, was a blatant lie, but Luke did his best to mask it and project nothing but truth through the Force.
“If Luke Skywalker truly is your name, then, why could I find no record of you?”
“I prefer to keep a low profile. I’m sure I’m not the only one in this galaxy who’s difficult to trace.”
Dooku gave a quiet chuckle. “And why would that be?”
“Do you have such a thorough interview process for all your potential apprentices?”
Dooku sneered. “Only the ones who are found in the middle of an active battlefield.”
“That was not by my own choice.”
“No?” He raised a brow, his jaw clenching. “Then whose choice was it?”
“The Force, it would seem,” Luke said. “As I’m sure you know, it tends to work in mysterious ways.”
A sudden flare of anger sparked through the Force, visible in Dooku’s face. “Enough of this,” he snapped. “I did not bring you here to play games with you, and I have no patience for your petulance and arrogance. Duty calls me away from this place, and I will be bringing you with me. Soon enough you will learn to hold your tongue.”
Luke’s amusement at Dooku’s temper was dulled by a spark of worry. “Where are you taking me?” he asked. Leia knew he was here; she could already have a plan to get him out, could already be on her way. He could let her know that he was leaving, that he was being taken somewhere else, but he had the horrible feeling that wherever Dooku planned to take him, it would be a lot more difficult to get into or out of than this place.
Curiosity flickered across Dooku’s face as he sensed Luke’s panic. “Reluctant to leave?” he asked. He took a step closer to Luke, his dark eyes searching as he probed into Luke’s mind. Luke redoubled his shields, sealing up all his thoughts and emotions, but he realized quickly that he had underestimated Dooku. The man was cunning and intelligent, even without the aid of the Force.
“Wherever I take you, it can scarcely be worse than this,” Dooku said, “and you don’t seem the type to be frightened by these types of things. And you aren’t frightened — you’re concerned, not just for yourself, but for someone else.” He paused for a moment, seeming to think. “Is someone on their way to fetch you? Are you concerned that this will disrupt their plans?”
Luke said nothing, his teeth pressed together and his jaw tight. He needed to warn Leia, to tell her what was happening, but if he opened himself up to her in the Force, Dooku would be able to sense it almost immediately.
“Well, you don’t need to worry,” Dooku said. He raised his hand, and then a force like a strong shove sent Luke tumbling backwards. He stumbled onto the pedestal, and Dooku curled the fingers of his raised hand, constricting Luke’s airway. An image of Vader, of his father, flashed through his mind, one gloved hand raised just the same as Dooku’s was now. Luke’s nails scratched at the skin of his neck, clawing at fingers that weren’t there as he struggled to suck in air.
Dooku held him there, his feet dangling just a few centimetres off the ground. He gave a lazy flick of his free hand, flipping a switch on the nearby control panel, and the containment field snapped to life around Luke.
The fingers vanished from his throat, and he breathed in great gulps of air, coughing violently. His connection to the Force had disappeared alongside the grasp on his neck, leaving him stranded once more; he could no longer contact Leia even if he wanted to risk trying. His hands, still trapped by the binders, were locked in place at his side. Dooku stood before him, a triumphant smile on his wrinkled face.
“You are not so arrogant now, are you, young Skywalker?”
“You don’t even know that anyone is coming,” Luke rasped, still heaving to fill his lungs.
“Oh, I am quite confident — confident enough to put my other plans on hold, for the time being. Don’t worry; I will give your friends a very warm welcome.”
And then he strolled from the room, leaving Luke alone, with no way to warn Leia.
The plan was coming along quickly.
Once they had the name of the planet where Luke was being held, it had not been difficult for them to track down reports of a Separatist prison there. It was practically the only notable thing about Janus VII; the population was small, and the only real industry was a low-level duralium mining operation. The prison was located on the opposite side of the planet from its only major settlement, and housed mainly political prisoners. There was nothing to suggest it was any different from the multitude of Separatist prisons throughout the galaxy.
Except, of course, that Count Dooku was likely there. But Obi-Wan had seemed confident that, along with Anakin and his Padawan, they would be able to take him on; Leia hoped that he was right.
She looked up from her datapad, where she had been analyzing the schematics of a different, but hopefully similar, Separatist-run prison in the Outer Rim. Ahsoka Tano sat across from her, staring intently at a holograph of Janus VII. Leia had overlooked the young Togruta during their first meeting, too overwhelmed by the presence of her biological father. She had caught her name, but it wasn’t until Obi-Wan had brought Ahsoka to help them plan their rescue that Leia realized who, exactly, she was.
Without Anakin there to distract her, Leia had recognized her instantly — the first Fulcrum, one of her (real) father’s most important spies in the Alliance before the start of the Civil War. Ahsoka was the one to create the role of Fulcrum within the Rebellion, and the symbol used by Fulcrum agents had been derived from her white forehead markings; markings that Leia could see clearly now, the two diamonds more distinctive on Ahsoka’s face in her youth than they would become as she grew older.
Leia had met Ahsoka several times throughout her life and her time in the Rebellion. She had, of course, never known her as anything besides Fulcrum; she didn’t know if anyone besides Bail had known her true identity. Certainly, Leia hadn’t known that she was Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan, or that she had even been a Jedi. It had been something of a shock, then, when the realization had finally clicked and she had recognized the much younger Fulcrum in front of her.
Ahsoka looked away from the map, her eyes meeting Leia’s across the table.
“Have you found anything?” Leia asked, leaning forward, as if her interest had been on the map all along.
“I think so.” Ahsoka reached forward and, with one quick gesture, expanded the size of the map, making the planet’s few topographical details easier to see. “The coordinates I found for Janus VII’s only town place it here.” She pointed to a region in the planet’s eastern hemisphere, near the equator. “If the information we have about the prison is correct, then, it should be located around here.” She spun the holograph, pointing out an area in the western hemisphere. “Unfortunately I can’t pinpoint where, exactly, it is. It could be anywhere in the northern or southern hemispheres. But that’s where you come in.” She gave Leia a smile.
Leia nodded. They would need to use her connection to Luke to find the prison’s exact location, but if she had been able to locate him half a galaxy away, she was sure she could do it when they were on the same planet. “Easy enough,” she said.
“The whole thing should be pretty simple,” Ahsoka said. “The only complicated factor might be Dooku, but that’s why I’m here.”
Leia smiled. “I’m very grateful for your help. And I’m sure that my brother will be, as well.”
“Don’t mention it. I’d never pass up a chance to go head-to-head with Dooku, and Anakin wouldn’t either.”
Leia’s smile grew tight-lipped at the mention of Anakin, and she looked back down at the schematics on her datapad, fiddling with them for a moment. “So how do you suggest we should go about this?” she asked. She’d infiltrated her own fair share of tightly-secured places, but those had always been guarded by stormtroopers; she had no experience with droids.
Ahsoka launched into the rough outline of the plan, based on what little information they’d been able to gather about the prison on Janus VII and her own previous experiences. It seemed solid enough to Leia, and she nodded approvingly as Ahsoka began to describe the details. Of course, there was only so much they could plan ahead when breaking into a prison whose layout was almost completely unknown to them; it was a strategy that was going to have to rely on brute force slightly more than Leia was comfortable with. But there wasn’t much time for them to sit around trying to gather information; certainly not when Dooku was involved.
“Master Kenobi didn’t tell me much about you,” Ahsoka said, when the main bones of the plan had been laid out. “Or your brother. I know that Master Unduli brought you in. Her Padawan, Barriss, told me that they found you in the middle of a battlefield out on a planet in the far Mid Rim, but they didn’t say what you were doing there.”
“I was looking for my brother,” Leia said. “Ben. He’s… not a Jedi, but he has some training in the ways of the Force. He was on Ucarro helping the people there being oppressed by the Separatists. I hadn’t heard from him in a few days, so I became worried and went after him. Master Unduli’s men found me near their camp, and she brought me here to Coruscant, where your Council agreed to help me.”
Ahsoka nodded. “I see. And you have no training in the Force yourself?”
“Nothing beyond the few rudimentary skills my brother has taught me.”
There was a moment of silence, and Ahsoka’s eyes focused again on the holographic map in front of them. Leia could sense that she still had some questions, but she didn’t force her, instead allowing her to work up the courage to ask them.
“Earlier today,” she began slowly, “when we first met in the hallway, you had a very… emotional response towards my Master. Why?”
Leia was a bit surprised by the directness of her question, but then she supposed that she should have expected nothing different from a future top Rebel agent. “I… have some bad memories associated with someone named Anakin,” she explained. The lie came easily enough; it was, after all, partly the truth. “I wasn’t expecting to hear that name again. It caught me off guard.”
Ahsoka observed her for a long moment, her blue eyes searching. Leia couldn’t tell if Ahsoka fully believed her or not, though she suspected that she didn’t. But she seemed satisfied enough, at least for the moment. “I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, “but you should know, my Master is a good man. Once you get to know him, you’ll see.”
“I’m sure he is.” Leia’s smile was strained, and she looked away, back to her datapad of schematics.
They worked for the next few minutes in silence, the only sound the gentle hum of the holoprojector. Leia was trying to think of something to say, to break the tense quiet, when the door to the room opened and Obi-Wan walked in.
He had left over an hour ago, saying that he had a quick errand to attend to and leaving the planning to Leia and Ahsoka. Leia had been beginning to wonder why this “quick errand” was taking him so long, but when she turned to greet him, she saw that he was not alone. Anakin followed him through the door, his hands folded into the sleeves of his dark robe.
Obi-Wan had been unable to contact Anakin earlier in the day to request his help with Luke’s rescue, but he’d obviously been successful since leaving to complete his errand. Anakin looked slightly disgruntled, as if there was somewhere else he would much rather be, but he gave both Leia and Ahsoka a kind smile as he entered.
Leia kept her gaze focused on Obi-Wan. He came to sit down next to her, and Anakin took the seat beside Ahsoka. “My apologies for taking so long,” Obi-Wan said.
“Where have you been?” Ahsoka asked, looking to Anakin. “You wouldn’t answer your comms, and we couldn’t find you anywhere in the temple.”
“I had other matters to attend to,” Anakin said.
“As we do now,” Obi-Wan pointed out, interrupting their little spat.
Ahsoka raised her eyebrow markings, telling her master that she would certainly be asking more questions later.
“We’ve pretty much got a plan figured out,” Leia said. “There are still a few details to iron out, but we can do that on the way. I suggest we leave as soon as possible. Janus VII is located out between Yavin and Ord Radama, so it will take us a while to get there. Do we have a ship?”
“We’ll be using one of the Order’s Eta-class shuttles,” Obi-Wan said. “We’ll also be bringing along a few of the 501st for backup. I don’t want to take any chances — not with Dooku involved.”
Leia’s heart stuttered for a moment at the mention of the 501st. In her time, they were a stormtrooper legion, made up of the best of the best and serving directly under Darth Vader — granting them the moniker “Vader’s Fist”. Until the death of their commander, they had been the most feared stormtrooper legion in the entire Imperial Military. She hadn’t known that the 501st had also served under Vader’s command during the Clone Wars, when he was still known as General Skywalker.
She masked her surprise under a genial smile. “Likely a good idea,” she said.
“So this is where we’re going?” Anakin asked, eyeing the hologram of Janus VII still rotating slowly in the centre of the table.
“Yes,” Leia said.
She’d had to deal with people she disliked in the past; that was half of being a politician. She’d interacted with loathsome Imperial officers and Senators, all under the guise of being a loyal Imperial herself. She’d become a spy and Rebel agent at age sixteen; she could handle speaking to her biological father, especially when it was about saving Luke.
So she put on her best politician face, and explained to him what they knew about Janus VII and what their plan for Luke’s rescue was. She kept her gaze focused solely on the hologram, scared that if she looked at Anakin and saw Luke’s eyes looking back at her, she would lose her composure. Ahsoka interjected every now and then with points of her own, and Anakin occasionally stopped her to ask a question, but she was able to get through it as quickly as possible.
“It seems like a solid enough plan,” Obi-Wan said when she was through.
Anakin nodded in agreement. “There are a few elements we should discuss— “
“Like I said, we can do that on the ship,” Leia interrupted. She looked to Obi-Wan. “When can we leave?”
“Tonight, probably,” Obi-Wan said. “We just need to gather all the supplies needed.”
“I’m going to need a blaster,” Leia said. “Mine was confiscated before I was brought here.”
“Are you sure that’s necessary?” Anakin asked. “We might not even need you to come in with us.”
Leia shot him a strong look. “I’m going in with you. He’s my brother — you’re going to need my help to find him.”
“Can you handle a blaster?”
“You don’t need to worry about me,” she snapped, glaring at him. “I’m going in with you, and that’s that.” She looked back to Obi-Wan. “I’d also like my brother’s lightsaber. If we have to fight our way out, he’s going to need it.”
Obi-Wan’s mouth tightened. “I don’t think that’s going to be possible,” he said. “Your brother is not a Jedi and therefore, per our rules, he is not allowed to carry a lightsaber. There is nothing I can do about it — the Council is currently in possession of his lightsaber, and they would be unwilling to release it. I can, however, procure a blaster for him.”
Leia frowned. They’d have to find a way to get Luke’s lightsaber before they left to return to their own time, if the Jedi were still unwilling to give it back. But for now, her focus was on rescuing Luke. “I understand,” she said.
Obi-Wan nodded, and stood. “Then let’s get started.”
Chapter 10: Mistrust
Leia travels with the Jedi to Janus VII.
one very busy month later...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Anakin and Ahsoka were already waiting for them in the hangar when Leia and Obi-Wan arrived. Leia carried on her shoulder a small satchel, filled with the few possessions she had. The clothes she had been wearing when she had arrived in this time had been cleaned and returned to her, and she had been glad to put them back on. She had also been given back her blaster, now strapped snugly to the holster at her hip. She had tucked the pants and tunic from the Jedi into the satchel, along with a datapad and an extra power pack for her blaster.
The temple hangar was small and quiet, with only a few docked ships, most of them shuttles, and a crew of droids performing maintenance. Their shuttle was docked near the hangar doors, and Leia could see Anakin and Ahsoka standing around it, speaking with a group of clones. They all wore their helmets, and the white armour sent a momentary jolt of fear coursing through her, more out of reflex than any actual alarm.
They paused their conversation as Leia and Obi-Wan approached. “General Kenobi,” one of the clones greeted, saluting Obi-Wan. His white armour was painted with blue designs, and the rest of the clones followed his lead, lifting their hands in salute to the Jedi general.
Obi-Wan nodded at them in acknowledgement. “Rex,” he said, looking to the trooper who had spoken. Leia straightened in surprise; she had met Rex before the Battle of Endor, what to her was only a few short months ago. He was a good solider, and had been a friend of Fulcrum’s. She cast a quick glance to Ahsoka, who stood leaning against the hull of the shuttle.
“This is Nellith Lars,” Obi-Wan continued, gesturing to Leia. She looked back to Rex and smiled, nodding her head in greeting. “It’s her brother we’re going to rescue.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Leia said. “I’ve heard many stories.”
“All of them good, I hope,” Rex said, and she could hear the smile beneath his helmet. “These are some of my men — Tup, Fives, Jesse, and Fox.”
As he said their names, each clone nodded. Various markings and designs on their armour distinguished them from one another, and Fives and Jesse both wore a different kind of armour from the others, with dark grey pauldrons and plating around the arms and legs. Rex continued, “We’ll be coming along on this rescue mission.”
“I’m grateful for the help,” Leia said. She had been nervous about the clones accompanying them, largely because they were under Anakin’s command, but knowing now that Rex was among them made her much more amenable.
“Is everything ready?” Obi-Wan asked.
“Yes, sir.” Rex gave a quick nod, shifting back into the soldier. “Everything is loaded, and we’re ready to depart.”
“Then let’s not delay any longer,” Obi-Wan said, and climbed up into the shuttle. Rex and the other clones followed.
A string of familiar beeps sounded suddenly behind Leia, and she turned to see, much to her surprise, R2-D2 rolling across the hangar floor towards her. She blinked, taken aback. The first thought in her mind was that it wasn’t possible — she and Han had left R2 outside of the temple on Raban, with strict instructions to stay put. The second thought was that perhaps it wasn’t actually R2. But as the little droid rolled closer, she realized that it most certainly was; she would recognize him anywhere.
She nearly called out to him, wanting to ask him how he had gotten here, when she realized that he was headed for Anakin, not her. She watched, shocked and confused, as Anakin greeted the droid with all the same affection as Luke would have.
“Hey, buddy,” Anakin said, giving the astromech a gentle pat on his domed head. “You ready to go?”
R2 beeped an affirmative, and headed with Anakin and Ahsoka towards the shuttle ramp, where Leia still stood, trying to wipe the astonishment from her face.
“Ah, Nellith,” Ahsoka said, smiling as they approached. “This is Artoo! He’s Anakin’s astromech. Artooie, this is Nellith.”
“It’s, uh, nice to meet you, Artoo,” Leia said, the words Anakin’s astromech echoing in her ears. Before the Civil War, both R2 and C-3PO had been in the care of Captain Antilles aboard her father’s ship the Tantive IV. She had assumed that they had always served her father; it had never occurred to her that either of them had had a history beyond that — certainly not working with her biological father during the Clone Wars.
R2 beeped back, and Leia frowned. “That’s rather rude, don’t you think?” she asked. This droid was definitely her R2.
Anakin’s eyebrows lifted with surprise. “You can understand him?”
“For the most part,” Leia said. “My brother has an R2-series astromech. Very similar to yours, actually.”
Anakin shook his head, his hand resting on top of R2. “There’s no astromech quite like Artoo.”
“Yes, I’d have to agree with that.” She cast the little droid a curious look, one brow raised, before climbing up into the shuttle.
The cockpit was silent. Anakin and Ahsoka were in the passenger hold, with the clones and Obi-Wan, and Leia could just barely hear their quiet murmurings from where she sat, watching the swirl of hyperspace through the cockpit’s viewports. They had been travelling for approximately three hours now. A holoprojector on the dashboard was displaying a map of their position in hyperspace as they moved closer and closer to Janus VII; they had just passed into the Inner Rim only a few minutes ago, journeying along the Hydian Way.
Reaching towards the map, Leia zoomed it out, retreating until the Mid Rim came into view. She found Raban easily, focusing in on it. It was such an unassuming planet — she was certain that if she asked any of the people on this ship, none of them would have ever heard of it. And yet it was home to an artifact that had done the impossible, sending her, and Luke, into the past. How and why, she didn’t know, and she didn’t think she ever really would.
But she was beginning to feel as if it wasn’t just some fluke of fate.
Glancing over her shoulder, she looked into the passenger hold, her gaze quickly finding Anakin. It couldn’t be coincidence that they had ended up here, together. Though she would be the first to admit her lack of knowledge in these things, even she could see the Force at work here. No matter how much she disliked it.
She looked away with a frown, and shut off the map projector.
A moment later a voice sounded from the cockpit entrance.
“You look deep in thought.”
She was relieved to recognize it as Obi-Wan. He came to stand beside her, a kind smile on his face.
“I’m just worried,” she said, with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“That’s to be expected.” He glanced to the empty co-pilot’s chair beside her. “Mind if I join you?”
“Go ahead.” Leia gestured to the chair.
Obi-Wan sighed as he sat down, his hands resting on his knees. He was silent for a moment, and Leia watched him carefully from the corner of her eye. She knew this move — he wanted to ask her something, but wasn’t quite sure how to phrase it, or thought that it might upset her. Or perhaps both.
She cut to the chase. “What is it?”
Obi-Wan seemed slightly taken aback by her forwardness, but he didn’t try to make it seem like she was wrong. “I want you to tell me more about your family,” he said.
“What about them?”
“What was it like for you and your brother, growing up? What were your parents like?”
She looked at him, a slight frown pulling at her mouth. “Why do you want to know all this?”
“I’m curious,” he admitted with a shrug. “It isn’t often that I meet someone who was raised by a former Jedi.”
“My childhood wasn’t that interesting,” Leia said. “We lived in a small town on a quiet planet you’ve probably never heard of. My father trained Ben in the ways of the Force, and I stayed out of it. We never got along very well, my father and I. I left when I was old enough and moved to Alderaan. Ben came with me, but he left when the war started. He felt like he had to do something to help.”
She spoke with confidence, as if it was a story she knew well, though she had only come up with it the day before.
“And your mother?” Obi-Wan asked.
“She died when Ben and I were young. We never knew her.”
“Do you know why your father left the Jedi Order?”
She shook her head. “Like I said, he never spoke much about his time with the Jedi.”
“Did Ben ever think about trying to join the Order?”
She sighed. “Master Kenobi, is there a point to all these questions, besides plain curiosity?”
Obi-Wan was silent for a moment, his lips tight. “I want to find out who your father really was,” he admitted.
“And what would that achieve? My father’s dead.”
“Nellith,” Obi-Wan started, and then stopped with a sigh. He seemed to think for a moment about how exactly to word his next phrase. “The Council doesn’t trust you. We want to know if you’re telling the truth. Finding out who, exactly, your father was would help us do that.”
“Master Kenobi, I assure you, I’m here to get my brother, and that’s it. As soon as I have him, we’ll be gone from your lives forever. I know precious little about my father and the man he was, and I don’t particularly care to delve deeper into it.” She stood quickly, giving him a rushed, polite nod. “Now please, excuse me.”
She hurried away, towards the shuttle’s small refresher. But even as she closed the door behind her, she could feel Obi-Wan’s eyes on her back.
They arrived in the Kalamith sector several hours later. Janus VII was located at the very edge, near the spot where Kalamith met the bordering sectors of Esstran and the Gordian Reach — the latter of which was home to Yavin and its many moons.
Leia had not been to this region of the galaxy since the Battle of Yavin had forced the Rebel Alliance from their base, five years ago. Or rather, she supposed, twenty years in the future. If they were to drop from hyperspace now and land on Yavin IV, they would find no trace at all of the Rebellion that would one day call the small moon home. The Great Temple that they had used as their main headquarters would still be there, but there would be none of the equipment that the Rebels had left behind in their hurry to escape the system. Of course, there might not be any of it left in her own time; the Empire could have taken it all away, when they had no doubt scoured the moon for any information they could find after the Rebellion’s escape.
Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan all squeezed themselves into the cockpit with her as they entered the sector, staring at the small hyperlane map on the dashboard.
“The Janus system is located here, just past Tandun,” Obi-Wan said, pointing to the map. “The only way to reach it is along the Toprawa Route, but I think it’s safe to say that the Separatists will be watching that hyperlane very closely. Especially since we’re so close to Serenno.” He pointed to a planet, on the opposite side of the Hydian Way from Janus VII. The two planets couldn’t have been more than a thousand parsecs apart.
“What’s so special about Serenno?” Leia asked.
“It’s Count Dooku’s homeworld,” Obi-Wan said. “And if what you said is right, and Dooku does have some sort of interest in Ben, it could explain why he was brought to Janus VII. It’s likely the Separatist prison closest to Serenno.”
“There’s gotta be another way to get there,” Ahsoka said.
“I doubt it. The Janus system is not heavily travelled, so there’s no need for more than one access point. Particularly since it houses a prison world.”
Leia leaned in closer, frowning. The Toprawa Route branched off from the Hydian Way, passing the planet Tandun before terminating with the Janus system, less than a parsec from the Gordian Reach. She recognized the various hyperlanes that criss-crossed the sector, connecting all the planets within — but there were some that were missing, some that she knew wouldn’t appear on any official maps, that the Rebels had discovered during their time in the region.
“There is another way,” she said. “Here.” She traced a path on the map with her finger, connecting the planets Pho Ph’eah, on the Hydian Way, with Kushibah, in the corner of the Gordian Reach closest to Kalamith. The path passed right by Janus.
“There’s no hyperlane there,” Anakin said.
Leia had to suppress a smirk. “Yes, there is — just not an official one.”
When the Rebel Alliance had first took up Yavin as their base, the Hydian Way had been closely watched. If they had used the official Korphir Trace to travel from the Hydian Way to Yavin, there was a chance they could have been followed. The first Rebels to go to Yavin had thus paved their own way, forcibly connecting a portion of the Hydian Way with the Pinooran Spur in the Gordian Reach, which they had then ridden all the way down to Yavin. This new hyperlane had only been used briefly, until scouts had confirmed that the Korphir Trace wasn’t being watched, but Leia had travelled it herself, on her first visit to Yavin with her father.
“Then how do you know it’s there?” Anakin asked, his expression skeptical.
“I’ve spent some time in this region of the galaxy.”
“Travelling along unofficial hyperlanes?”
Leia shrugged, attempting to appear nonchalant. “It’s solved our problem, hasn’t it? We use this lane to get as close to the Janus system as possible, we jump out, and then it’s only a short ride the rest of the way. We enter the system undetected, and keep surprise on our side.”
The three Jedi cast each other questioning looks. Leia could see them trying to work it out, to decide if they should trust her or not.
“Listen,” she said, “if I wasn’t absolutely certain that there was a safe hyperlane here, I wouldn’t suggest it. Because if there wasn’t, chances are high that we would run into some interstellar object and all burst into a million sparkly little pieces. That’s not really a risk I’d be willing to take.”
There was another moment of silence. Leia sighed.
“This isn’t something I would lie about,” she insisted. “I promise you, there is a hyperlane here.”
“I trust you,” Ahsoka said, with a nod of her head. “I say we do it.” She looked to Anakin and Obi-Wan.
A short pause, and then Obi-Wan spoke. “I agree.”
Anakin frowned, but he nodded. “You better hope you’re right,” he told Leia, “or we’re all dead.”
She gave him a hard look. “Don’t worry. I know what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t trust her.”
Obi-Wan looked up from his datapad to find Anakin standing in front of him, his arms crossed over his chest. He had a discontented look on his face, and Obi-Wan could see the muscles of his jaw working as he clenched his teeth. He didn’t have to ask who his former Padawan was talking about; he glanced quickly towards the cockpit, where Nellith still sat, staring out at the blue tunnel of hyperspace.
“About the hyperlane?” he asked.
“Partially.” Anakin took the empty seat beside Obi-Wan, sitting close so that they could talk quietly and not be overheard. “I believe her when she says that it’s there; she doesn’t seem the type for a suicide mission. But the fact that she knew where it was — that’s what I find suspicious. What kind of person knows the location of an uncharted hyperlane, especially all the way out here?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “I must agree with you there,” he said. “And there’s this.” He held the datapad out to Anakin.
His eyes quickly scanned the screen, his forehead creasing. “What is this?” he asked.
“Results from a great many DNA tests,” Obi-Wan explained. “When the Council first questioned Nellith, she told us that her father was a Jedi who left the Order before she was born. I took a sample of her blood and had it tested against that of every male member of the Order physically old enough to be her father. I was just sent the results.”
Anakin observed the datapad for a moment, scrolling from one result to the next. “There’s not a single match,” he said.
“Not one. Whoever he was, her father was never a member of the Jedi Order. Which means she lied to us.”
“Apparently, she had a lightsaber with her when she was captured. She said that it was her brother’s, and that he had made it himself, but he wasn’t a Jedi. She told us that their father taught him the ways of the Force.”
“That’s a pretty elaborate lie to explain why she had a lightsaber.”
“I think she wanted us to trust her. Whatever the truth is about her father and the lightsaber, she truly does seem concerned about her brother. It seems getting our help was her only option for rescuing him.”
“So why are we still helping her?” Anakin asked. “It seems pretty obvious to me that she stole that lightsaber. She’s probably just using us to help her break her brother out of prison, and then the two of them are going to make a break for it. Combined with the fact that she just happened to know about an undocumented hyperlane out in the middle of the Outer Rim leads me to believe that her and her brother are involved in some less-than-honest work. We should turn around and bring her right back to Coruscant to stand trial.”
“On what grounds, Anakin? We have no proof she stole the lightsaber; we have no idea who it originally belonged to. For all we know, her brother did make it. Trust me — the Council has its reasons for this mission.”
Anakin raised his eyebrows. “And what are these reasons?”
Obi-Wan looked once more to the cockpit; Nellith hadn’t moved. “Nellith was found by Master Unduli’s men on Ucarro,” he explained. “Shortly before she was captured, Master Unduli and Padawan Offee both felt two strange, unexplained disturbances in the Force. Considering Nellith’s unusually strong presence in the Force, the Council believes her to be the cause of one of the disturbances, and suspects her brother to have been the cause of the other. It’s likely that Ben is just as strong in the Force as Nellith, and the Council is unwilling to leave such a strong Force-sensitive in the hands of the Separatists. We’re to help Nellith free her brother, and then bring them both back to Coruscant.”
“And do what with them?”
“That has yet to be decided,” he said. “I was wary at first of the Council’s decision to use Nellith in such a way, but now I believe that the choice we made was right. Before requesting the DNA tests, I ran a scan of the midi-chlorians in Nellith’s blood. Her count measured at over fifteen thousand.”
Anakin’s eyes widened. “Fifteen thousand? Does Master Yoda even have a count that high?”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “She has him beat, though just barely. It’s the highest count I’ve seen since your own. I don’t doubt that if we tested her brother, he’d produce similar numbers. Perhaps even more, because unlike Nellith, he is apparently trained. You can understand why the Council doesn’t want two such powerful Force users running free in the galaxy unchecked.”
Anakin was silent for a moment. “What do you think it means?” he asked.
“I have no idea.”
The hyperlane was right where Leia said it would be. The route was thankfully rather straight, and so the shuttle navicomputer had no difficulty plotting a course. Its various fail safes made it reluctant to jump into hyperspace along an unauthorized route, but R2 made quick work of it, overriding the navicomputer and sending the shuttle into hyperspace himself. Leia had to resist the urge to turn to Anakin and grin smugly as the stars outside dropped away and were replaced by the blue vortex of hyperspace.
Instead, she looked to the map on the dashboard. They would travel as close to the Janus system as possible before dropping out of hyperspace. Janus VII rested on the outskirts of the system, so it would take them only a few hours to reach it once they had re-entered real space. Then the real fun would begin.
“Is everyone clear on the plan?” she asked. “Have your men been briefed, General Skywalker?”
He nodded. “They have.”
“Good.” Leia stood. “Then I suggest we all get some rest. We should all be on our game for this mission.”
Obi-Wan and Anakin exchanged glances, obviously surprised to see her take charge. She ignored the looks and brushed past them out into the passenger hold. The Jedi thought of this as their mission; she wanted them to know it was really hers.
Janus VII looked even bleaker in person. Leia watched their approach from the passenger hold, peering through a small, angular viewport. The clones, who had kept up their light-hearted chatter for most of the journey, grew quiet as they drew closer to the planet. Everyone waited for a ship to appear to shoot them down, or for a planetary defense system to kick in and stop them from even entering the atmosphere.
But nothing happened. Janus VII grew closer and closer, and the space around them remained quiet. Slowly, they entered the planet’s orbit and began their descent, its grey, barren features revealing themselves. They had come in over the western hemisphere, where they hoped to find the prison.
“Great spot for a vacation,” Leia mumbled.
Obi-Wan emerged from the cockpit. “Now’s your time to shine, Nellith,” he said. “Let’s see if you can’t find this prison, and your brother.”
Leia nodded and, with one last look to the wasteland outside, closed her eyes.
She could sense Luke, far closer to her now than he had been since her arrival in this time. It was as if she could simply reach out her hand and touch him. She stretched her senses out towards him, calling to him… but found herself blocked. He was there, his presence so close she could almost see him, but it was as if a wall had gone up between them. She knew he was on the other side, but she couldn’t call out to him, and he couldn’t hear her. When she tried to pinpoint his location, her mind drew a blank, like a file wiped clean. She had become blind to him.
She opened her eyes, her forehead creasing. “Something’s blocking me,” she said, looking to Obi-Wan. “I can sense Ben — he’s nearby. But I don’t know where, and I can’t reach out to him.”
Obi-Wan frowned, his hand going to his beard. “It sounds as if his connection to the Force has been severed.”
“How is that possible?”
“Any number of ways,” Obi-Wan said. “There are many contraptions that can block someone’s connection to the Force. My bet is that Dooku has him in one — dampening binders, perhaps, or a containment field. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t do this earlier. Your connection to your brother is what allowed us to locate him in the first place.”
Leia frowned, looking back out the viewport to the bleak landscape outside. They would still be able to find the prison; the shuttle was equipped with scanners that could look for any signs of lifeforms or technology and zero in on them. It would take longer, but it would work.
What worried her was why Dooku had decided to cut Luke off from the Force. Something must have happened to change his plans.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” she said.
happy holidays everyone!! I hope you all have a wonderful December (even though there's no new Star Wars movie this year)
Chapter 11: Janus VII
Leia, the Jedi, and the clones infiltrate a Separatist prison, but things don't go quite as planned.
The prison loomed in the valley below, its dark stone walls contrasting with the light grey regolith that seemed to coat every inch of Janus VII. It had been easy enough to find; the shuttle’s scanners had a wide enough range that it had only taken half an hour. A large ridge on one of the surrounding mountains had provided an excellent landing spot, far enough away from the prison that it would likely go unnoticed. They would have to go in on foot.
Leia stood near the edge of the ridge, a filter mask placed over her mouth and nose. Though the atmosphere of Janus VII was breathable to most lifeforms, the planet’s regolith was so fine that it was easily inhaled, and could cause extensive damage to the lungs. Even the short walk from the shuttle to the cliff’s edge had kicked up a mushrooming cloud of dust, and Leia’s pants were already grey from the knees down.
She held up a pair of macrobinoculars pilfered from the bags of supplies in the shuttle’s cargo hold. Focusing on the prison, she zoomed in, examining its fortifications and defences. They were facing its western side; she could see the main entrance on the southern wall. There was no fence, but the front door looked tough and well-defended. There were blaster cannons mounted on the roof, facing all directions. A large hole in the ground on the northern side likely led to a hangar, sealed off by a magnetic field to protect the vehicles inside from the planet’s fine regolith.
Just from looking at the exterior, she could already tell that this prison differed a significant amount from the blueprints they had found of other Separatist prisons. That could make things more difficult, but they had accounted for such an event in their plans. They would simply have to improvise.
“What a wonderful planet.”
Leia turned at the sound of a voice to see Anakin walking down the shuttle ramp, pulling a mask over his face. Even with the mask in place, she could see the disgust on his face as he looked around at their dusty surroundings.
“Cheer up, Master!” Ahsoka said, sidling up alongside him. “It could be sand.”
Anakin kicked at the ground, sending up a plume of dust. “I don’t know if this is any better.”
Leia hooked the macrobinoculars onto her belt. “We’re gonna need to figure out a way in there,” she said, pointing with her thumb back towards the prison. “The main entrance is heavily guarded. I suggest going in through the hangar. We’re going to need—“
“Or,” Anakin said, cutting her off, “we can make our own entrance.” He held up his lightsaber, waving it in the air.
Leia raised her eyebrows. “We have no idea how thick those walls are. It could take forever to cut a large enough hole.”
“It’s a good thing we have more than one, then.” He started off towards the rest of the group, already gathered on the far side of the ridge. “Come on, let’s get going.”
Leia glared after him, but grudgingly followed. They left Fox in charge of the shuttle, and Tup remained at the top of the ridge, surveying the prison with his own pair of macrobinoculars, while the rest of them began the uneasy descent down the mountain face. The ridge was only a couple hundred metres up, and the descent was gently sloped, but the face was bare, leaving few handholds. The slippery coating of regolith only complicated things.
The Jedi travelled with ease, practically bounding down the mountainside as if springs were attached to the bottoms of their feet. Even R2 was able to make it down relatively easy, extending two rocket boosters from his short legs and using them to guide his descent. Leia watched him soaring down the side of the mountain, eyebrows lifted in surprise.
“Since when can he do that?” she muttered.
She resorted to bending down into a crouch, one leg extended in front of her and a hand held out to steady herself, and sliding most of the way down. She was glad for the filter mask when a huge burst of dust surrounded her, following her all the way down the mountain. Both she and the clones, who had used a similar technique, were absolutely covered head-to-toe in the stuff by the time they made it to the bottom.
They jogged quickly across the wide rock field that separated them from the prison. Leia watched the cannons positioned atop the prison walls carefully, waiting for them to open fire. They could take the cannons out now, before they had the chance to fire, but doing so would likely alert everyone inside of their presence. They would have to let the prison make the first move.
As they grew closer to the imposing building, Leia couldn’t shake the uneasy sensation that began creeping up on her. There were no doubt dozens of cameras watching the area around the prison. Even if they hadn’t seen the shuttle landing, there was no way they would be able to miss seven people and a droid running across a barren field towards them. The cannons should have been fired the moment they came within range — but they hadn’t. They remained silent even as they reached the prison wall.
Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan immediately set to work cutting them an entrance with their lightsabers. The blades pressed deep into the wall, the stone melting around the plasma, and for a moment Leia worried the wall was too thick — but slowly, a hole was cut. The troopers took up a defensive position around the Jedi, watching for enemies, but no one came to stop them.
“Am I the only one worried that we’ve met no resistance at all so far?” Leia asked.
“It is… unusual,” Obi-Wan agreed, his voice straining from the struggle of pushing his lightsaber through what had to be at least two feet of solid stone. Pulling it upward, his cut met the one started by Anakin, and he extinguished his blade, stepping away from the wall with a sigh. “I suggest that we exercise extra caution. I sense a trap.”
Leia frowned. Was that the uneasy feeling that continued to loom behind her, growing more powerful with each second that ticked by? “What sort of trap?” she asked.
“I don’t know. But my guess is that Dooku is involved somehow.”
Anakin and Ahsoka finished slicing the rest of the way through the wall, leaving a large oval shape seared into the stone. Anakin reached out and, gently, used the Force to pull the oval from the wall, setting it down at his feet. “There,” he said. “Our own little door.”
The clones went through first, their rifles in the ready position as they scanned the hallway beyond. Leia pulled her blaster from its holster and stepped carefully through the hole, avoiding the edges that still burned red-hot. The Jedi followed her, and R2 used his rocket boosters to lift himself up and over the hole’s bottom lip.
Pulling the mask from her face, Leia looked around. They had cut into a hallway, near a small intersection. The inside walls were grey, with a floor made of hard tiling. Several doors lined the interior wall, but they were too large and spaced apart to be cells.
Leia reached into her mind, searching once more for Luke. He was still there, and growing closer, but when she tried to reach out to him, she found herself once again blocked. She wouldn’t be able to use their connection to guide them to him.
“We need to find a computer terminal,” she said. “With my connection to Ben blocked, I won’t be able to locate him, but his cell number should be logged somewhere.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Then let’s get moving.”
They started off towards the intersection, the Jedi in the rear and the clones in the back, with Leia and R2 in the middle. They had taken no more than a few steps, however, when the sound of metal rolling against tile echoed down the hall towards them. A moment later, two rolled-up metal shapes rounded a corner in the intersection and came to a halt a few metres away from them. Within seconds, the balls had unfurled into two three-legged, hunched-over droids, a pair of twin blasters attached to each arm.
“Rollies!” Rex cried.
A blue, shimmering shield appeared around the droids, and then they both opened fire, a barrage of red laserfire screaming through the air towards them. Leia dove for the nearest doorway, tucking herself up within it. R2 followed her, whistling anxiously. She recognized the droids as droidekas; the Rebel Alliance had used a few Sentinel-models for security purposes, and Leia was well-aware of the droids’ capability for destruction. Though the firepower of the Clone Wars-era droidekas was slightly diminished from their more modern counterparts, they were still deadly and exceptionally difficult to disable.
The clones pressed themselves up against the walls and dropped to a crouch, quickly returning fire on the droidekas. The Jedi all ignited their lightsabers, using their blades to deflect shots as they held their position in the middle of the hallway. Peeking out from her hiding spot, Leia took aim at one of the droids and fired; unsurprisingly, her shot was simply absorbed by its shield.
The three Jedi moved with the practiced efficiency of trained warriors who had fought together many times before. They didn’t even need to speak to one another as they took on the droidekas. Leia watched, quickly realizing what their plan was — Anakin and Obi-Wan acted as the targets, drawing the droids’ fire, while Ahsoka, two shimmering green lightsabers grasped in her hands, jumped up and over the fighting, propelled by the Force. She landed lightly on the other side of the droids and destroyed them with ease, slicing them apart from the back. The shields disappeared, and the two droidekas fell over in a ruined slump.
“So much for no resistance,” Anakin said, extinguishing his lightsaber.
Leia stepped out from the doorway. “Let’s keep moving.” She pushed past the Jedi, stepping over the destroyed husks of the droidekas, and continued down the hallway. She kept a close eye out for other droids, but none appeared.
Up ahead, the hallway widened into a large rotunda. She held her blaster at the ready, approaching slowly. The uneasy feeling that had been haunting her since the rock field increased, and she glanced quickly behind her. The three Jedi all had a similar look of concern on their faces. Obi-Wan came to stand beside her, pulling his lightsaber from his belt. Behind them, Anakin and Ahsoka did the same.
A second later, a door on the other side of the rotunda hissed open. A squad of B1s filed out, rifles grasped in their metallic claws. Standing behind the squadron was a man; he had slick white hair and a neatly-trimmed beard, and wore a dark brown cloak that billowed out behind him. Leia recognized him immediately as Count Dooku.
“Well,” he said, a sleazy smile stretching across his wrinkled face, “this is a pleasant surprise.”
“Dooku.” Anakin practically snarled out the name, stepping forward.
“Ah, Skywalker. I was rather hoping you would be a part of this little rescue mission.”
Anger flared in Leia, and she raised her blaster, aiming it at the man’s chest. “Where the hell is my brother?” she demanded.
Dooku raised an eyebrow. “Brother? Now, this is unexpected.” His gaze flickered between her and Anakin, the smile on his face widening, and Leia felt dread tighten her stomach. Luke said that he had told Dooku his real name; Dooku must have suspected that he was related to the great Anakin Skywalker, and now he was drawing the same conclusion with her.
“Oh, I do see the family resemblance,” he said. “Don’t worry, your brother is quite safe with me.” He brushed aside his cloak, retrieving an intricately curved lightsaber from his belt. “You and your friends, however…”
Anakin immediately ignited his lightsaber, as did Obi-Wan and Ahsoka. Leia’s finger hovered over the trigger of her blaster.
“Nellith, go,” Obi-Wan said. “Go find Ben. Take Ahsoka, Rex, and Artoo. Anakin and I can handle Dooku.”
Leia hesitated only a moment before nodding. As she began to retreat, her blaster still tight in her hand, Dooku ignited his own lightsaber. Its blade was crimson red, the same as Vader’s had been. The sight sent nausea twisting through her stomach, but she quickly swallowed the memory and turned to run. Ahsoka, Rex, and R2 all followed. Behind them, the sound of blasterfire and clashing lightsabers erupted. She looked back, briefly, to see Jesse and Fives trading fire with the squad of droids, and Anakin’s lightsaber locked against Dooku’s.
They ran back the way they had come, metal footsteps following after them. Leia looked over her shoulder, haphazardly firing her blaster at the small group of battle droids behind them. The droids immediately returned fire, and she pressed herself into a doorway, R2 and Rex ducking into the one across the hallway. Peeking out, Leia let off several more shots, taking out one of the droids. Ahsoka’s lightsabers became a blur of green light around her as she blocked the droids’ blasts, sending several back towards them. Lasers roared through the air, many coming from Leia’s own blaster, until, in a few minutes, the group of droids lay in a crumpled, smoking heap. The hallway around them was scorched from the blasterfire.
They paused for only a few seconds to catch their breath before continuing on, their feet pounding against the tiled floor. In moments, they were back at the intersection where they had faced off against the droidekas. Turning right, they raced down the corridor, taking more twists and turns at random, putting space between them and Dooku.
“There has to be a computer terminal here somewhere,” Leia said, scanning the doors lining the hallway. Stopping in front of one, she pressed the button to open it. Inside was a sort of surveillance centre, with rows of consoles filling the room. A few RA-7 protocol droids manned the stations, and they all looked up sharply as Leia entered.
“Halt! Intruder!” one of the droids cried, beginning to hobble towards her.
She lifted her blaster and shot it. One of the other droids began to reach for something, likely a blaster, but it didn’t get the chance before Leia had left a smoking hole in its chest. The third one was dispatched in a similar fashion.
Ahsoka and Rex appeared with R2 in the doorway. “Nice work,” Ahsoka said, looking at the three protocol droids sprawled out on the floor.
Leia smirked and headed for one of the consoles. “Artoo!” she called, motioning the astromech over. “There’s a computer terminal here you can hook into.”
R2 rolled towards her, extending his scomp link and inserting it into the terminal. He turned it slowly as he searched through the computer’s database. Leia watched the console’s screen, her expression tight as R2 searched for any prisoners listed under the name Ben Lars. She cursed silently when none appeared, though she had known that would be the outcome.
“Is he being held under a different name?” Ahsoka asked, coming up beside her and frowning at the blank screen.
“Possibly,” Leia said. “Artoo, search all prisoner arrivals within the past two days.”
The sound of blasterfire sounded suddenly from the hallway. “We’ve got another rolly!” Rex called, and Ahsoka ducked out to go assist him. Leia kept one eye on the screen and the other on the door, blaster tight in her hand, as R2 completed the search.
After a moment, a list of a half dozen names appeared on the screen — and Luke Skywalker was among them. He was listed as being held in cell 3277 in Block C.
“That’s him,” she said, pointing to his name.
R2 beeped a question.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
He gave a skeptical whistle, and she shot him an annoyed glare.
“Twin telepathy,” she responded. “Do you think you could download a map of this place?”
R2 chirped an affirmative and, a few turns of his scomp link later, announced that he had acquired a full map of the prison, with directions to Block C from their current location.
“Let’s get going, then,” Leia said.
Outside in the hallway, the blasterfire had died down. She stepped out to see the droideka in a smoking heap on the floor, and Ahsoka re-hooking her lightsabers to her belt.
“We know where he is,” she said. “Artoo has a map to lead us there.”
Ahsoka nodded, and looked to the droid. “Lead the way.”
Five minutes and several destroyed battle droids later, they reached cell 3277 C. It rested in the middle of a long corridor, lined on both sides by cell doors. Standing in front of the door, Leia tried again to reach out to Luke. The block remained, and he felt no closer than he had when she had first arrived at the prison.
Unhooking one of her lightsabers, Ahsoka ignited it and drove the green blade into the control mechanism by the cell door. It exploded in a flurry of sparks and smoke, and a second later the door slid open.
The cell beyond it was empty. Leia stood in the doorway, her eyes raking over the room — a single metal bench against the far wall, and no sign that her brother had ever been there. “Shit.”
“Are you sure this is where he was being held?” Ahsoka asked.
“Positive,” Leia said. “They must have moved him without registering it.”
“How are we gonna find him now? We can’t check every cell in this prison.”
Leia stepped back, glancing around the hallway. Every single door looked exactly the same, save for the sequence of numbers above it, and her connection to Luke was useless in trying to pinpoint his location. They would have to try and do things in a more technical way.
A steady red blinking near the top of the nearby wall caught her eye — a security camera. Looking further, she saw more identical cameras positioned all along the hallway at regular intervals.
“The security cameras,” she said, looking to Rex and Ahsoka. “There was a security station back by the turbolift. We can use it to access the cameras, and maybe see when Ben was taken from his cell, and where they brought him.”
After a moment of thought, Rex nodded. “That could work.”
They hurried back towards the turbolift that had brought them to this level of the prison, in the centre of a three-way intersection. The crumpled forms of the two B2 battle droids who had been guarding the lift still lay in a pile in the middle of the intersection, sliced in half by Ahsoka’s lightsabers. A third droid, a B1, was still slumped over the security station positioned off to the side of the lift, its head blown from its body.
Leia pushed it aside, revealing the station’s computer terminal. R2 quickly connected his scomp link, accessing the files for the security camera directly outside cell 3277. Rex stood guard while Leia and Ahsoka watched the small screen inlaid on the station console, flashing brightly as R2 scrubbed through hours of security footage. He slowed as he reached the footage from the past twenty-four hours, and Leia watched intently, searching for her brother’s face.
And there he was. A group of four B1s stopped in front of the cell, opening the door. Two went in and, a moment later, they emerged with Luke in tow, his hands bound together in front of him. Though she couldn’t see his features clearly, he looked unharmed, if only a bit tired.
“That’s him,” she said.
As they led him away, R2 switched from camera to camera, following him down the hallway and into the turbolift.
“Can you access the cameras from other parts of the prison?” Leia asked.
R2 beeped and twisted his scomp link, and then a few moments later the screen switched to a view from inside the turbolift, showing Luke with his four guards. They watched as the turbolift descended several levels, and then stopped. The door opened, and Luke was herded out.
“What floor was that?” Ahsoka asked, leaning over the security station console to peer at the screen.
A few more turns of his scomp link, and R2 beeped out an answer.
“It’s the bottom floor,” Leia said. “Access the security footage from that floor.”
A moment later, and they had a view of another hallway, much narrower than the first. It continued on for a long way; the droids led Luke to a room at the very end, escorting him inside. They re-emerged only a second or two later, but Luke was gone. R2 sped through all the rest of the footage, up until the most recent recordings, but Luke never came back out.
“That’s where they have him,” Leia said, stepping away from the security station. “He’s on the bottom floor.”
Rex reached out, and pressed the button to call the turbolift.
The containment field hummed softly, shimmering pale blue all around him. Though he was suspended and weightless within it, Luke had grown tired of being held upright, and he slumped within his binders, his head resting awkwardly on his shoulder.
He didn’t even know how long he had been there — he had quickly lost track of time, enclosed in the windowless room. He had slept very little, and had had no food or water since his last meal in his cell, some hours before being brought here. Worry for Leia pressed constantly on his mind; he hadn’t been able to warn her that Dooku knew she was coming, and it was likely that she was on her way. She might even be there already. Dooku could have her in his clutches at that very moment. Separated from the Force as he was, there was no way for him to know what was happening to her.
He had tried to push his senses beyond the containment field, if only for a moment, just to get a feeling if Leia was alright and potentially warn her away. The effort had exhausted him, straining him both mentally and physically to the point where he had passed out for a second. Still, he had tried again, and again, numerous times until he became convinced that it was impossible, or required training well beyond what he had achieved.
It was after that that he had finally slept, though it was restless and he was sure it had not been for long. He woke feeling as exhausted as he had when he had fallen asleep, and now, his head pressed into his shoulder, he felt as if he might just drift off again. But he needed to find some way to escape — he couldn’t just stay here, helpless, while Leia walked into danger. He lifted his head, trying to rouse himself—
Until the screech of shredding metal just outside the room did it for him. He whipped his head towards the door in time to see it slide open, revealing a young Togruta girl standing in the hallway, a green lightsaber grasped in both hands.
She hurried into the room, stopping in front of the containment field. “Are you Ben Lars?” she asked.
Luke stared at her in confusion, wondering who the hell she was and who she was talking about, until he saw Leia step into the doorway and rush forward into the room, and he realized that Ben Lars must have been the name she had given for him.
“Yes.” He nodded, not taking his eyes from his sister. “Yes, that’s me.”
“Right, then,” the Togruta said. “Let’s get you out of here.” She walked over to the control panel on the far wall and, not even bothering with any of the buttons or toggles, sliced it apart with her lightsabers, until it sparked viciously and the containment field surrounding him dissolved.
With the field no longer suspending him, Luke dropped to the ground, his feet slipping from the pedestal below him. Leia reached out to catch him, and he fell to his knees, feeling the Force rush back to him all at once.
And there, in the middle of it all, was Leia, his sister, shining more brightly than anyone else in the galaxy.
She knelt beside him, her arms wrapped around his shoulders, holding him tightly. “Luke,” she whispered, and he could feel the relief in her voice. It was the same relief he felt — relief that she was alright, that she hadn’t fallen into Dooku’s trap and been captured herself. She lifted her head slightly, leaning towards his ear, and said softly, “I’ve told them my name is Nellith. Artoo is with us, but he’s not the Artoo we know. I’ll explain more later.”
Leia stood, pulling him up with her, while he tried to process the information she had given him. His legs were weak, but he was able to stand on his own. The Togruta walked over to them, hooking her now-extinguished lightsabers to her belt.
“My name is Ahsoka Tano,” she introduced herself. “I’m a Jedi Padawan. That’s Rex,” – she motioned to the door, where, for the first time, Luke noticed a clone trooper standing, rifle in hand, while beside him lingered a very familiar astromech — “and Artoo.” Rex gave a nod in greeting, and R2 chirped rather unappreciatively. Luke gave Leia a quick look, his eyebrows raised; he remembered meeting a clone named Rex shortly before Endor, and though he wasn’t sure if they were the same man, R2’s presence told him that it was a possibility he shouldn’t rule out. Leia gave a small shrug in return, as if to say, Tell me about it.
“Thanks for the rescue,” Luke said, looking back to Ahsoka. “Think you could, uh—?” He held up his hands, still bound together.
“No problem.” Unhooking the smaller of her two lightsabers, Ahsoka ignited it and, carefully, held the blade to the metal of the binders. The mechanism holding them together short-circuited, and the binders fell away from his wrists.
Rubbing the angry red rings left behind, Luke gave her a grateful nod. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Ahsoka said. “Are you alright to run?”
Luke nodded. Though he was exhausted and weak, he had been through much worse. “I’ll be fine.”
“Then let’s get out of here.”
They headed for the door, where Rex handed Luke a blaster. It was an old model of hand blaster, one Luke had never seen before. It had been some time since he had wielded any weapon besides a lightsaber, but he could still shoot just fine. He stuck it in the back of pants, and followed everyone else out into the hallway.
Ahsoka pulled out a comms unit and turned it on, holding it to her mouth as they jogged down the corridor, heading in the direction of the turbolift. “Come in, Master,” she said. “Master, are you there?”
A moment later, a reply came through. “Hey, Snips.” The voice on the other side sounded strained and distracted, and Luke could hear a commotion of background noise, though he couldn’t discern what exactly it was.
“We have him,” Ahsoka said. “Coming back to you.”
“No, no, you get out of here,” the man said. “We’ll catch up with you. Comm Fox for a pickup just outside the prison.”
“Are you sure you’ll be alright?”
“Nothing we can’t handle.”
The line went quiet, and Ahsoka put her commlink away. They had reached the turbolift, and they all filed in once it arrived.
“Who was that?” Luke asked. “What’s going on?”
The turbolift rushed upwards. “That was my Master, Anakin Skywalker,” Ahsoka explained.
Luke’s gaze snapped to Leia, standing beside him, and she reached over, grabbing his arm. Their father was here, now?
“He’s with Master Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Ahsoka continued. “They’re dealing with Dooku.”
“We need to go help them,” Luke said, and Leia tightened her grip, as if in warning. “They can’t do it on their own.”
“Don’t worry about the Generals,” Rex said. “It’s nothing they haven’t done before.” The lift slowed to a stop and they all stepped out into the hallway. Rex pulled out a commlink and turned it on. “Come in, Fox,” he said. “Do you read me?”
“I hear you loud and clear, Captain,” came the reply. The voice on the other end sounded almost exactly like Rex, and Luke realized it was likely another clone.
“We’re gonna need a pickup,” Rex said. “Fly low towards the prison’s western side. Keep the engines hot and stay alert. We’ll be there ASAP.”
“Copy that, Captain.”
Rex returned the commlink to a pouch on his belt. He looked to R2. “Think you can lead us back to where we came in?”
R2 whistled an affirmative and trundled off down the hallway. They all followed after him.
“What about your Master?” Luke asked. “And Master Kenobi?”
“They’ll be alright,” Ahsoka said. “They always are.”
Luke could tell that she had faith in her Jedi compatriots, but he couldn’t help but look back as they walked away, though he had no way of knowing where in the prison the two Generals were. But one of them was his former Master, and the other was his father — not the twisted man that he would one day become, but his actual father. A man that Luke had never truly known. Luke was closer to him now than he had ever been, and though he knew he couldn’t, he wanted nothing more than to run off and find him.
Leia, as if sensing his conflict, looked to him, her lips pressed together in a tight frown.
Chapter 12: Skywalker
Dooku reveals some information that plants a seed of distrust in Obi-Wan, and Luke and Leia discuss their next course of action.
a gift from me to you all on my birthday! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sound of crashing lightsabers echoed in Obi-Wan’s ears. He kept a tight grip on the hilt of his weapon, sweat dripping from his face and his arms straining from the repeated blows and parries. The duel with Dooku had been dragging on, and Obi-Wan was beginning to tire; he could sense the same in Anakin, whose movements had started to slow. The fight may have been two against one, but Dooku’s masterful dueling skills ensured that they were evenly matched.
Fives and Jesse had dispatched all the droids who had accompanied Dooku, though more seemed to continually appear. Obi-Wan could see the two ARC troopers now, out of the corner of his eye, facing off against a droideka and a pair of B1s. He knew that they could handle themselves, but not forever. Even ARC troopers tired eventually.
He refocused his attention just in time to block a blow from Dooku. Despite his old age, the Sith master seemed to not even be out of breath. Though both Obi-Wan and Anakin were skilled duelists, even together they would not be able to take out Dooku — not here, and not like this, with a dozen battle droids behind them and a prison break happening elsewhere in the building. They needed to end this duel and get out.
Anakin, at least, seemed to understand this. His gaze met Obi-Wan’s, his face contorted with the effort of holding off a blow from Dooku, and Obi-Wan could see that he knew they would not win this fight.
Anakin’s comlink began to beep, notifying him of an incoming communication, and Obi-Wan jumped into his place, jabbing his lightsaber in Dooku’s direction as Anakin retreated to the edge of the duel, fishing his comlink out from his pocket. Obi-Wan managed to keep Dooku occupied while Anakin answered the communication; he didn’t hear any of the conversation that took place, but he hoped that it was Ahsoka or Rex, telling them that they had Ben and were on their way out.
A moment later, Anakin was charging back into the duel, his blade held high. Dooku spun away from Obi-Wan, bringing up his own lightsaber to block Anakin’s blow. Obi-Wan struck out with his ‘saber, but Dooku parried him effortlessly, using the Force to push Anakin away and free up his blade. Anakin stumbled and fell onto his back, while Obi-Wan dueled with Dooku, striking and blocking, the blue of his blade crashing again and again against the red of Dooku’s.
It was only a second or two before Anakin was back on his feet, but, without even taking his eyes from Obi-Wan, Dooku reached out with his free hand and used the Force to send Anakin flying into a nearby wall. He struck hard, with a crack of bone against metal so loud that Obi-Wan could hear it. Anakin collapsed to the ground in a heap, unconscious.
Obi-Wan readjusted the grip on his lightsaber and took a deep breath. He would end this on his own.
His blade crashed against Dooku’s, the plasma sparking and squealing as it struck together. Dooku grinned, pushing harder, forcing Obi-Wan to take one, two steps back.
“Now isn’t this better, just the two of us?” Dooku asked. “I must admit, I was expecting the great Hero With No Fear to come along on this little rescue mission, but you, Kenobi… you were a pleasant surprise.”
Obi-Wan gritted his teeth, freeing his blade from the deadlock Dooku had put them in and striking out again. Dooku parried and struck back; Obi-Wan ducked, dodging the blow, and came back up with his blade swinging. Their lightsabers danced together, the crackling sound of their crashes creating a jarring tune.
“You knew we were coming all along.” Obi-Wan said it as a statement, not a question.
“You should have expected as much,” Dooku said. “After all, it could only be expected, for young Skywalker to come for one of his own.”
Obi-Wan frowned, blocking another quick series of strikes. “One of his own? Who are you talking about?”
A curious expression crossed Dooku’s face, one eyebrow lifting. “The man you came here for,” he said. “Remarkably powerful in the Force. As is his sister, I take it. The only prisoner here you could possibly be interested in.” He paused, bringing his lightsaber down hard towards Obi-Wan, who lifted his own blade quickly, blocking the blow. Their blades remained locked together, Dooku bearing down with more and more weight. “Or do you not know who he truly is?”
“We came here for Ben Lars,” Obi-Wan said, teeth gritting.
“Is that what you think his name is? Who told you that? His sister? The man himself told me a different story.” Dooku lifted his blade, and Obi-Wan nearly stumbled from the sudden release of his own lightsaber. Dooku struck out at him again, and he just barely managed to block it in time.
“His name is Skywalker,” Dooku said.
Obi-Wan’s brows drew together, and he glanced quickly to Anakin, still unconscious on the floor. Dooku grinned.
“Yes, just the same as your young protégé,” he said. “Interesting, is it not? Especially considering how powerful they both are in the Force. A relation of some kind, perhaps?” He lifted his blade, and the two lightsabers clashed, again and again, Dooku pressing forward, Obi-Wan quickly retreating.
Obi-Wan slashed his blade towards Dooku. “You expect me to believe you, Count?”
“The question is not whether you believe me.” Dooku parried, and Obi-Wan blocked. The blades struck and held for a moment, until Dooku spun away, swinging his lightsaber towards Obi-Wan’s back in a wide, circular arc. Obi-Wan twisted his blade over his shoulder, blocking the attack, and Dooku stepped close, pressing Obi-Wan’s arm into an awkward angle. “The question is whether you believe the girl.”
Obi-Wan winced at the strain in his arm, and used the Force to propel himself up and away from Dooku. He landed a few feet away, rolling the pain from his shoulder, and looked to Jesse and Fives, positioned nearby. With his free hand, he motioned one of them towards Anakin’s prone form.
“I trust her more than I trust you, Dooku,” Obi-Wan said, and it was the truth — but only just. “And as much as I am enjoying this conversation, I’m afraid it’s time for us to take our leave.”
Dooku strode towards him, crossing the space between them in several longs strides. Obi-Wan lifted his lightsaber, lunging forward and forcing Dooku back one step. Behind him, Jesse hurried towards Anakin. He could hear the ARC trooper grunting as he heaved Anakin up and over his shoulder.
Blue and red crashed once more in a series of quick blows and parries. Obi-Wan held his position, unwavering; he needed to give Jesse and Fives a far enough head start to get Anakin out. Seconds passed, and his breathing began to quicken, tired from blocking Dooku’s continuous blows. He could hear little over the constant hiss of striking lightsabers, but there came a point when he had taken all that he could.
Slowly, he began to give ground. Dooku would strike, and Obi-Wan would take a step back. He turned entirely to the defensive, keeping Dooku on the offensive. Strike after strike, Obi-Wan moved backwards, and Dooku followed.
He had only a short window to make his escape; if he missed it, he wouldn’t make it out. He paid close attention to his surroundings, half of his mind on the fight at hand and the other half on the hallway around him.
And there it was. One more step and he would leave the rotunda where the duel had been taking place. Dooku lunged forward once more, and Obi-Wan propelled himself backwards, creating a space of several feet between them. Reaching out, he used the Force to activate the controls inlaid in the nearby wall. A blast door descended in front of him, separating the rotunda from the hallway where Obi-Wan stood — with Dooku on the other side.
Obi-Wan slashed the controls apart with his lightsaber, effectively locking the door. He looked towards it, giving it a quick nod. “Until next time, Count.”
And then he turned and ran.
“Where are they?”
It was Rex who spoke, crouched near the shuttle’s descended gangplank, his rifle balanced on his knee. Ahsoka stood beside him, her gaze turned to the nearby prison. They were docked a good distance away, in the wide field between the prison and the distant mountains. Fox remained at the controls, while Tup manned the shuttle’s three laser cannons.
Leia sat in the passenger hold, her blaster still gripped in her hand. Luke was beside her, but neither of them spoke. She wanted nothing more than to talk to him, to tell him everything that had happened to her, but there were too many people around. It was too risky, and with a Jedi standing not even five metres away, she didn’t trust that any conversations they had through the Force wouldn’t be overheard.
Suddenly, Rex shifted, hoisting his rifle into his hands. “We’ve got clankers!” he cried.
Leia stood, peering down the gangplank. A small squad of B1s was pouring from the hole they had made in the prison walls. Immediately the droids opened fire, running towards them across the open field. Tup was quick to respond, unleashing a barrage of laserfire from the shuttle’s aft cannon. The ground near the droids exploded in a burst of grey dust, and several of them were sent flying.
Ahsoka ignited her lightsabers, descending further down the gangplank and using her blades to deflect any bolts that came too close to entering the shuttle. Leia hurried over and knelt near the top of the ramp, pressing close to the hull. She lifted her blaster and took aim, letting off several shots in the direction of the B1s. One hit, and the droid crumpled to the ground.
She could feel Luke right behind her, and could hear as he fired off his own volley of shots. Within minutes the squad had been reduced to less than half its original size, and two more shots from the shuttle’s cannons took the rest out. The expanse of field between the shuttle and the prison had been reduced to a mess of craters and scorched droids.
A moment later, another form appeared in the hole in the prison wall. Leia lifted her blaster, pointing it towards them, but then they stepped fully out of the hole, and she realized that it was one of the troopers who had stayed behind with Obi-Wan and Anakin. He had his blaster raised and at the ready, and took a moment to survey the scene in front of him before motioning back through the hole. The second trooper appeared a second later, with someone slung over his shoulder; he was followed by Obi-Wan, meaning the prone form on the trooper’s shoulder was Anakin.
Luke’s hand settled on her shoulder as the group quickly made their way towards the shuttle.
“They’re coming! Get ready, Fox!” Rex called.
Ahsoka hurried back up the ramp into the shuttle, and Luke and Leia followed. Rex remained where he was, motioning wildly for the others to hurry up. They ran up the gangplank into the shuttle, and it began to close as soon as Obi-Wan, bringing up the rear, had placed his foot on it. Outside, Leia could just see another group of droids tearing out from the prison, and they hit the shuttle with a barrage of laserfire as it lifted from the ground and soared into the sky.
The ship’s life support system immediately began to cycle out the dust particles that had filled the shuttle while the ramp was down. The trooper who had been carrying Anakin set him gently down on a bank of seats; though he had no apparent injuries, he was unconscious, and it seemed as if they hadn’t had the chance to fit him with a filter mask before making their escape.
Ahsoka hurried to his side, kneeling beside him and quickly placing a mask over his mouth and nose, just until the ship had finished cleaning the air. “What happened?” she asked, looking to Obi-Wan.
“Dooku threw him against a wall,” Obi-Wan explained. “He’s been unconscious for about ten minutes. We don’t have the facilities to deal with any serious injuries, so I suggest we find the nearest Republic ship and rendezvous with them as soon as possible.”
Luke, still standing beside Leia, looked as if he had been struck. His gaze never moved from Anakin, and Leia could see the open concern on his face. He began to take a step forward, but she reached out and grabbed his hand, stopping him. Now wasn’t the time for this.
Obi-Wan turned to look at them. His gaze settled on Luke, his expression unreadable.
“You must be Ben,” he said, and Luke nodded. Obi-Wan glanced over his shoulder to Rex, motioning the trooper forward. “Captain, I’d like for you to confiscate their weapons and detain these two in the cargo hold.”
Leia’s eyes widened. “What?”
Rex didn’t move. He still wore his helmet, likely as a protection against the dust still lingering in the shuttle’s air, but Leia could sense his hesitation and confusion. “Sir?”
Over near Anakin, Ahsoka stood, looking between Obi-Wan and Leia. “Master, what’s this about?”
“Ben and Nellith are being brought into the custody of the Jedi Order,” Obi-Wan explained.
“On what grounds, Master Kenobi?” Leia demanded.
Rex had finally moved, coming to stand in front of them, and he reached out his hand, silently asking for their blasters. Leia knew he was still confused — she had been his ally, and Luke was the one they had come to rescue. To turn on them now was… unexpected. But he was a good soldier, and Leia was sure that he trusted General Kenobi more than he trusted them. She did not begrudge him this. But still, she did not hand over her blaster, and neither did Luke.
“It is the duty of the Jedi to protect peace in the galaxy,” Obi-Wan said. His voice was stern, his expression hard. “That duty falls especially hard on our shoulders when the threat comes from those sensitive to the ways of the Force. Simply put, Miss Lars, I no longer trust you, or your brother. You are a threat. Perhaps not to me, personally, or to anyone else aboard this shuttle, but I know that you have not been entirely truthful.”
Realizing that they weren’t going to willingly give up their weapons, Rex reached out and grabbed them himself, pulling them from their holsters. Neither Luke nor Leia resisted; there was no point. They were outnumbered and outgunned, and Leia didn’t think either of them would be willing to hurt or kill anyone present. They were allies, and though it was frustrating, Leia could understand Obi-Wan’s distrust.
“I don’t know who you are,” Obi-Wan continued, as binders were slapped on their wrists. “I don’t know if you’re Separatists or common criminals, or something else entirely. But there has been far too much deceit for my tastes, and I would like to put an end to it.”
The binders put on their wrists were Force-dampening. Leia felt the same sensation she had in the cell in the Jedi Temple, cutting her off from her connection to the Force. Luke winced, no doubt feeling the severance more keenly than her, particularly after his long stay in the containment field. She had been alone in her cell at the Temple, but now, surrounded by people, she could more deeply understand the effects of being cut off from the Force. It was more difficult to read other’s intentions and emotions, even Luke’s. She could still analyse their expressions and body language, but she no longer understood them as deeply as before. It was unfamiliar, unsettling territory.
“Obi-Wan, please, this isn’t necessary,” Luke said. Leia could see the betrayal in his eyes — Obi-Wan had been his mentor, a teacher whom he had deeply trusted and respected. To be treated now like a dangerous stranger must have been painful.
“I’m sorry. You will be brought back to Coruscant and subjected to a fair and unbiased investigation by the Jedi Order. I’ve made my decision.” Obi-Wan gave a small nod, and Rex took Luke and Leia each by the shoulder and guided them to the hatch in the floor that led to the below-decks cargo hold. Bending down, he opened the hatch and stepped back.
“I don’t want to have to put you in there by force,” he said.
A moment later, Luke walked over and manoeuvered himself onto the ladder. He climbed down awkwardly, his hands bound together, and he hit the ground below hard. Leia looked back at Obi-Wan, casting him one last hard look, before following her brother down into the cargo hold.
The hatch was closed above them, the clang of metal against metal reverberating throughout the ship.
“Kriffing hell.” Leia kicked the ladder, her hands struggling against their restraints. “What do we do now?”
“Keep your voice down.” Luke walked over to her, putting both hands on her shoulder. The cargo hold was small, the ceilings barely high enough for him to stand up in, and much of the space was being taken up by boxes of supplies. There were no viewports, and the only way in or out was through the hatch above or the loading door on the far wall, which led only to open space.
Luke went to sit on one of the boxes, pulling Leia along with him. They sat beside each other, and he slumped down, letting out a deep sigh. “I just don’t understand why Ben would do this,” he said. “I thought he trusted you.”
“I did too,” Leia said. “I think Dooku must have said something to him during their fight — told him your real name, maybe. You said that Dooku knew it.”
Luke nodded. Though he had denied it, he knew that Dooku had thought he was related to Anakin Skywalker. It was likely Dooku had said something about that to Obi-Wan, or even Anakin. “But why would he believe Dooku?” Luke asked. “He’s a Sith!”
“I don’t know. Even if that’s not what made him change his mind, I think it’s a good bet that Dooku at least mentioned it. Which means that Obi-Wan, and likely Anakin as well, both know that you told Dooku your name was Luke Skywalker. And if they believe that… then we have some issues.”
“Well, Skywalker isn’t a completely unique last name. It doesn’t have to mean we’re related to Anakin.”
“Then what reason would I have to lie about it?”
Luke frowned. “Either way, whether they know my real name or not, I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep up whatever lie it is you’ve concocted for much longer. If they’ve stopped believing one part of your story, they’re not going to keep believing the rest of it. They’re going to ask us for the truth. And I think we should give it to them.”
“Are you crazy?” Leia said, her voice a harsh whisper. Luke could tell she had to work hard to keep from yelling and alerting those above them to their conversation. “You want to tell them who our father is? That we’re from the future?”
“I don’t really see another alternative,” Luke argued. “Whatever you told them obviously didn’t work.”
“It wasn’t working fine until you decided to tell Count Dooku your real name.”
“You don’t think they would have found out eventually? What were you planning to do once we were back together?”
“Work on finding a way home.”
“How? I don’t even know how I got here, let alone you!”
Leia lifted her hands, pointing her finger at him. “I got here by following you,” she said. “I went to that damn temple on Raban and found the same thing I’m assuming you did.”
“That disc? At the bottom of the temple?”
Leia nodded. “I touched it, and the next thing I knew I was in a forest on some random planet twenty-five kriffing years in the past.”
Luke leaned back against the wall. “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before,” he said. “Time travel isn’t supposed to be possible — not even through the Force. But that disc used the Force to send us here. It was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It wasn’t from the light or dark sides. It was just… the Force. Pure, and unbiased.”
Leia was frowning, her eyebrows drawn together. Luke sat up, turning towards her. “That’s why I think we should tell the Jedi the truth,” he said. “Not all of it — just what we have to. But I feel like we’re going to need their help. Maybe they know something about this artifact, something that can help us get home.”
“Do you really think it’s a good idea to tell them we’re from the future?” Leia asked. “Will they even believe us? Will they even want to help us?”
“I think so. It’s the best shot we have, Leia. We could try and figure this out on our own, but without the Jedi’s trust, we might not even have the chance.”
“The Jedi wouldn’t be able to detain us forever. Would they?”
Luke shrugged. “I have no idea.”
Leia sighed, her shoulders slumping, as if in resignation. “Obi-Wan is probably going to bring us in front of the Jedi High Council. They’ll want to know the whole story, but I don’t think we should tell it to them. We should talk to Obi-Wan first, alone — we’ll tell him we’re from the future and, if necessary, who our father is. Then we’ll see what he thinks we should do.” She had a concerned look on her face, the kind of look that told Luke that she was deep in thought. “If he even believes us,” she added.
“I’m sure we’ll find a way to convince him.”
“But we say nothing that could reveal too much. We don’t tell him when exactly we were born, or what year we’re from. We can’t say anything about the end of the Clone Wars or the Empire or Palpatine, and especially nothing about Darth Vader.”
“Not at first—“
Leia’s expression turned serious, though the concern remained. “Not ever, Luke. We have no idea what repercussions that kind of knowledge could have. It’s bad enough that we might have to tell Obi-Wan who our father is, but everything else? It could be disastrous.”
Luke frowned. During his time in the containment field, he had been thinking a lot about Qui-Gon Jinn, in between the worrying and the exhaustion — about the conversation they had had. He could tell that Leia was desperate to return to their own time, and he understood how she felt. But he did not think it would be so easy for them to get home as she might hope.
“Leia, you need to understand,” he said. “Being sent here was no accident. It was the will of the Force, and it was done for a reason. I think that going home will be much more complicated than just finding something to send us back. There’s something here, in the past, that we need to do.”
Leia’s eyebrows drew together, her lips turning down in a deep frown. “What do you mean?”
Luke took in a deep breath. “I think we were sent here to save our father.”
Her face shifted, taking on the same expression it had that night in the Ewok village, when he had revealed to her who his father was. It was an expression he could describe only as one of horror.
“Not just him, Leia.” He reached out, taking her hands. He half-expected her to pull them from his grasp, but she didn’t. “The whole galaxy. We can stop Anakin Skywalker from becoming Darth Vader, we can stop the Empire from rising, we can stop all those horrible things that we know are coming. We can create peace, before the war even starts.”
Leia was silent. Luke could see her thinking, and knew that she was considering it — running through the scenarios in her mind. She was thinking of the Rebellion, of the war, of the years of fighting and struggling and loss — and of Alderaan. Even disconnected from her in the Force as he was, he knew that she was thinking of her home planet; he could see it in the miniscule changes in her expression, in the desperation and sorrow peeking through the cracks in her usually solid exterior. If there was no Empire, there would be no Death Star, and Alderaan would live. He hadn’t mentioned it; he had known that he wouldn’t need to. Though she rarely spoke of it, Luke knew that Leia thought of Alderaan, and of her adoptive parents, every day.
“You want to kill Palpatine,” she said.
The only way they could stop all of it from happening.
Luke nodded. “Without Palpatine, there is no Empire. Without Palpatine, our father never falls to the dark side.”
A moment passed, then two, and Leia’s face remained contemplative. The seconds stretched on, until finally, she looked at him. Her eyes were sadder than he could ever remember seeing them, and he knew that she had made her decision.
“We can’t, Luke,” she said. “Killing Palpatine will change history in such a monumental way that we have no idea what could happen. Maybe we do save the Republic and stop the Empire from ever forming, or maybe we make things even worse. Without Palpatine, the Clone Wars could never end — the galaxy could tear itself apart in a destructive conflict whose resolution is impossible. We could never be born, Luke. We kill Palpatine, and we might cease to exist.”
“So you don’t even think we should try?”
“The risk is too great,” Leia said. “If we knew for certain that it would work, that killing Palpatine would stop the Empire, with no repercussions, then I would do it in a heartbeat. Of course I would.”
“Leia, we have a chance to save the galaxy from two decades of tyranny. If we save our father, then we could be raised together, by our parents.”
“We don’t even know who our mother was, Luke, or how she died.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
Leia pulled her hands away, her face hardening. Luke leaned away, letting out a deep sigh.
“Of course it doesn’t,” he said. “Listen, I know you don’t care about our parents, but I do.”
Leia’s expression twisted into a glare. “I don’t care about our parents because our father was a mass-murdering Sith Lord who tortured me and had a hand in the destruction of my home planet. That doesn’t exactly incite many warm feelings.”
“But we could stop all of that from happening. If we just take a chance—“
“You don’t understand, Luke,” Leia snapped, interrupting him. “I’m not in a position to take chances. I left behind a galaxy still embroiled in a war that is nowhere close to ending. Han is still in that damned temple somewhere; for all I know, he could be ten thousand years in the past.”
Luke’s eyes widened. “Han went in with you?”
“Yes.” Leia was silent for a moment, taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, calming herself. “Luke, I understand why you want to do this. More than anyone. But we can’t. I can’t. I have to think of more than just myself, more than us.”
Luke stared at her, his gaze locked on hers, and he realized that she did understand. She was giving up the chance to save Alderaan, to save her parents — not theirs, hers. He wasn’t sure why she was doing it; he knew her to be the type to risk anything, to take every chance, if it meant she might be able to save even one person. Now they had the chance to save the galaxy, and she wasn’t going to take it. But he recognized that she had her reasons, that for whatever reason, she didn’t think that she could do it.
But he still could.
school's started back up, which means that updates will be a bit slow again. thank you all for being so patient and understanding! I appreciate every kudos and kind word you leave here, more than you can possibly imagine
Chapter 13: The Truth
Luke and Leia request to speak to Obi-Wan.
It was several hours later when the Serenity dropped out of hyperspace above Coruscant. Obi-Wan sat at the desk in his small quarters, watching as the stars outside stabilized and the multitude of ships and satellites in orbit around the planet came into view. The voyage back to Coruscant from Janus VII had seemed longer than the journey there, though Obi-Wan knew that was only a trick of his tired mind. Despite his best attempts, sleep had alluded him; worries had plagued him, about Anakin and about the Lars twins. The former was being treated in the Serenity’s medcentre, watched over by Ahsoka, while the latter two had been confined to the brig, in separate cells, their Force-dampening binders still on.
Obi-Wan knew that Anakin would be alright. He had regained consciousness shortly after their departure from Janus VII, and had no doubt been given a long soak in some bacta. There might be some residual injuries that would require further treatment, but nothing long-lasting. Still, Obi-Wan found it all too easy to worry about his former Padawan, and the recent revelations imparted upon him by Dooku made that no less difficult.
The implications of what it would mean if Dooku was right — if the man Obi-Wan knew as Ben Lars was really named Luke Skywalker — had been lingering in his mind since the duel. He didn’t trust Dooku, but he struggled to come up with reasons as to why the Sith would lie about such a thing. And if he was telling the truth, that would mean that Nellith, and her brother, were lying. And if their name truly was Skywalker, then there were only a few reasons that Obi-Wan could think of as to why they would lie about it — that they were criminals who didn’t wish for their names to be recognized (though Obi-Wan considered this unlikely), or that they were related to Anakin in some way that they didn’t want anyone to find out.
Which just brought up more questions. Why would they wish to keep their relation to Anakin a secret? If anything, it might have helped their case; finding out she was related to one of their own would have given the Jedi Council far more reason to trust Nellith when she was first brought before them. It would also have helped to explain her strong Force presence. Though of course, there were those on the Council who trusted Anakin far, far less than Obi-Wan, and would likely feel the same about any potential relations of his suddenly crawling out of the woodwork. That, however, was not information that an outsider to the Jedi Order would be privy to, which means it would not be a reason for Nellith to lie about her identity.
Then, of course, there was the question of how the twins were related to Anakin, if at all. They were three years his senior, meaning they were most likely to be cousins of some kind, or perhaps even siblings. Cousins was the most likely; from what Anakin had told him, his mother Shmi had been separated from her family as a young girl, taken into slavery. It was possible she had had siblings, who had gone on to have children of their own. Though that wouldn’t explain the twins’ Force sensitivity. Obi-Wan had never met Shmi, but from what he had learned from Anakin and Qui-Gon, she had no greater connection to the Force than any average human. Qui-Gon had believed that Anakin’s Force sensitivity was due to his conception by midi-chlorians, meaning that he had no father. It was something of an outlandish theory, though Obi-Wan had come to accept it, but perhaps it wasn’t the truth — perhaps Anakin’s impressive connection to the Force came from a father equally strong in the Force, who had had two older children.
That raised more questions about why the twins had been raised separately from Anakin, and why he didn’t know about them, but it was a theory that Obi-Wan believed made some modicum of sense. In any case, he had already sent a request to the analysis droids in the Temple Archives that Nellith Lars’ DNA sample be tested against Anakin’s for any possible relationship. The results should be ready in time for him to collect them himself at the Temple.
He stood as the Serenity entered Coruscant’s atmosphere and began its descent towards the surface. Exiting his room, he began to make his way down to the Star Destroyer’s hangar. The ship was part of Plo Koon’s fleet, though the Jedi General was not currently on board, leaving the Serenity in the care of Vice Admiral Brom Titus. It had been returning to Coruscant from a patrol of the recently-regained territory around Ruuria when it received the message for aid that Obi-Wan had sent out on all Republic channels in the area. They had rendezvoused at Celanon, docking their shuttle in the Serenity’s hangar so that Anakin could receive needed medical attention and the Lars twins could be securely detained. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka would be returning to the Jedi Temple in that shuttle, with Ben and Nellith in tow, while Anakin was to be transported in a medical shuttle.
Ahsoka was already in the hangar waiting for him when he arrived. She stood by the shuttle, R2 at her side, speaking with Rex, who straightened and gave a quick salute as Obi-Wan approached.
“General Kenobi,” he greeted. “The shuttle has been refueled and is ready for departure. Jesse and Fives are retrieving Ben and Nellith Lars from their cells, and will bring them directly here. ETA at the GAR dockyards is approximately ten minutes.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Thank you, Captain.” He looked to Ahsoka. “And Anakin?”
“Already on the medical shuttle,” she said. “He’s been out of the bacta for about half an hour now. Still a bit woozy from the sedatives, but getting better. The med droid who assessed him said that he had a pretty major concussion and a couple of broken ribs; the ribs should be mostly healed now, but the concussion is probably going to require another dip in bacta. He inhaled a bit of that dust, too, but the med droid thinks the bacta cleared most of it out.”
“That’s good news. I’m glad to hear it.”
A moment passed in silence, and Ahsoka shifted from one foot to the other, her fingers playing at the hem of her sleeve.
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at her. “What is it, Ahsoka?”
She stopped her fidgeting, clasping her hands tightly together behind her back, and forced her gaze to meet his. “Master,” she began, “I just wanted to know why you decided to arrest Ben and Nellith. You said you didn’t trust them, but I don’t understand why. We were helping them. It doesn’t make sense to me that we would go through all this trouble to rescue Ben, only to arrest him ourselves. How could they possibly be that dangerous?”
Obi-Wan sighed. “Ahsoka, this matter is much more complicated than it appears. Even if they are not fully trained, Ben and Nellith are both very powerful Force-users. The fact that they just seemingly appeared out of nowhere is… concerning. The Council has plans to further interrogate them, to determine who exactly they are and where they came from.”
“Do you really think that they’re a threat?”
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to respond, but across the hangar, a door slid open to reveal Ben and Nellith, hands still bound in the Force-dampening binders, escorted by Jesse and Fives. Nellith wore a sour look on her face, while Ben’s expression was far more neutral; it was easy to see which twin was the more level-headed of the two, or at least the best at masking their emotions.
“I’m not sure,” he said finally, watching as Ben and Nellith were led across the hangar to the shuttle.
Fives and Jesses led them right up the ramp into the passenger hold. Nellith avoided looking at Obi-Wan, but Ben’s gaze lingered on him. His expression changed little, and even with the Force-dampening binders it was difficult for Obi-Wan to read him. Their eyes met as Ben — or Luke, or whatever his name truly was — was escorted up into the shuttle, and Obi-Wan realized that Ben’s eyes were a shade of blue that was most familiar to him. The same blue of Anakin’s eyes.
He looked away quickly, back to Ahsoka, who was watching the twins with an equal measure of curiosity. Fives and Jesse remained in the shuttle with them, guarding them, until, a few minutes later, the ship shook slightly around them as it set down in the GAR dockyards.
Obi-Wan looked to Rex as the ship settled. “Thank you, Captain, we’ll take it from here,” he said. “Your help has been much appreciated.”
Rex nodded, and threw his arm up in a quick salute. “General. Commander.”
He remained standing by the shuttle as Obi-Wan ascended the gangplank, followed closely by Ahsoka and R2. Fox was seated at the shuttle’s controls, and he raised the gangplank as Obi-Wan and Ahsoka entered the passenger hold. They took their seats opposite Ben and Nellith, who sat with an ARC trooper on either side. No one spoke as the shuttle lifted and made its way from the Star Destroyer’s hangar, out into Coruscant. Obi-Wan kept his eyes fixed on Ben and Nellith, but they both avoided his gaze, whether purposefully or not; Nellith’s attention was focused on the floor between her feet, while Ben seemed enthralled by the world outside the viewports, watching the passing buildings with immense interest.
It was late morning on Coruscant, and the city was wide awake. Streams of vehicles moved at a steady pace in every direction, and though it was slightly overcast, weak streams of sunlight still glinted off the reflective sides of the skyscrapers. While war ravaged the rest of the galaxy, life here carried on.
The journey to the Temple didn’t take long; within ten minutes they were setting down in the Temple hangars. Obi-Wan had commed ahead to give forewarning of their arrival. As the shuttle settled, the ramp lowered to reveal Mace Windu standing nearby, accompanied by a complement of four Temple guards. He walked forward, greeting Obi-Wan and Ahsoka as they descended from the shuttle.
“Mater Kenobi,” Windu said. “I see that you were successful in retrieving Ben Lars.” He looked past Obi-Wan into the shuttle, where Jesse and Fives were pulling Ben and Nellith to their feet. “I am glad to hear of it, though Knight Skywalker’s injuries are regrettable.”
“We’ve been assured that he will make a full recovery,” Obi-Wan said, and Windu nodded.
Jesse and Fives led the twins down into the hangar, where they were passed over to the Temple guards. Obi-Wan gave the ARC troopers a quick nod of thanks. “Your help has been much appreciated on this mission,” he said. “You as well, Fox.” He looked to the third clone trooper, descending from the shuttle. “There’s a GAR shuttle waiting to take you to the 501st barracks. You all deserve some rest.”
All three troopers raised their arms in a quick salute. “General,” Jesse said, and then they turned and headed in the direction of the waiting shuttle. Obi-Wan looked back to Windu.
“I know the Council is eager to start, but I’m afraid I have some quick business to attend to first.”
Windu raised one brow, obviously displeased.
“It shouldn’t take more than a few moments,” Obi-Wan added quickly. “In the meantime, Ahsoka can deliver her report of the mission. It will give you most of the necessary background, I’m sure.”
Windu was silent for a moment, before finally nodding. “Very well. We will expect you in the Council chambers shortly.”
“Of course.” Obi-Wan bowed slightly, and Windu did the same. Motioning to the guards, Windu set off in the direction of one of the hangar doors. The guards, closing formation around Ben and Nellith, followed after him. Ahsoka looked back at Obi-Wan, her expression concerned. He gave her a quick smile, and motioned for her to go.
As she turned to follow the others, Obi-Wan looked down at R2, still lingering at the base of the shuttle ramp. “You’ll come with me,” he said, and the droid beeped contentedly, rolling after Obi-Wan as he made for the exit.
“Greetings, Master Kenobi.”
The JN-66 analysis droid bobbed its squat head as Obi-Wan entered the Analysis Room and took a seat. R2 rolled in behind him, letting out a trill of curiosity.
“I’ve come for the results of the last test I requested,” Obi-Wan explained. “I was told that they would be ready by now.”
“Of course.” The JN-66 began fiddling with some of the machinery in front of it, its multiple photoreceptors trolling quickly through the data. “Yes, the results were calculated just a short while ago. I am sending them to the screen in front of you now.”
Obi-Wan looked down as the data was quickly loaded onto the screen. Anakin’s name was displayed in large print at the top of the screen, with Nellith Lars’ printed slightly smaller beneath it. There followed a number of statistics and calculations that Obi-Wan skipped over, going straight to the bottom, where the results were displayed.
MATCH. Obi-Wan’s heart jumped at the sight of the bright green letters; so Dooku had been telling the truth. The Lars twins were, in fact, Skywalkers. His eyes jumped lower, where the exact nature of Anakin and Nellith’s relationship was displayed, and his forehead creased in confusion.
The phrase PARENT—CHILD stared up at him from the screen.
“I… I believe there’s been some kind of mistake,” Obi-Wan said, tearing his eyes from the screen and looking up at the JN-66.
“To what are you referring, Master Kenobi?”
“It says here that these two people are parent and child,” Obi-Wan explained, “but that’s impossible.”
The JN-66 looked down at its own screen, and a moment passed as it double-checked the information displayed. “I assure you, it is correct. Our analysis of the samples provided shows clearly that Anakin Skywalker is the father of Nellith Lars.”
“Father?” Obi-Wan repeated, incredulous. “That’s not possible! Nellith Lars is three years older than Anakin. She can’t be his daughter!”
“Regardless, that is what the DNA shows.”
“Is there some other possibility? Could they not be siblings instead?”
“No. The DNA shows, with one hundred percent certainty, that these two subjects are father and daughter.”
Obi-Wan frowned, his hand going to his beard. Beside him, R2 let out a confused beep. “I want you to run the test again,” he said, standing quickly.
“Master Kenobi,” the JN-66 protested, “I assure you that our results are correct. There is no ne—“
“Run the test again,” Obi-Wan repeated. “Please.”
A moment passed, and the JN-66 bobbed its head once more. “Of course.”
Obi-Wan turned and hurried from the room, R2 rolling quickly along behind him. “You must say nothing about this to anyone,” Obi-Wan said, glancing over his shoulder at the droid. “Most definitely not Anakin; not until more is certain.”
R2 whistled his agreement. Obi-Wan pressed a hand to his temple; he could already feel a headache coming on.
Luke stood in the centre of the High Council Chamber, Leia beside him. He tried hard to keep his awe and excitement contained, but he could feel himself struggling. He was standing in the heart of the Jedi Order, before the most powerful Jedi to exist in this time. They were on Coruscant, in the main Jedi Temple — a place he had only ever dreamed of seeing. In the present, Coruscant was being torn apart by internal strife, and the Temple had long ago been converted into the Emperor’s private residence.
But now Luke was here, seeing it as it was in its prime. He had so many questions he wanted to ask, so many things he wanted to see — he could learn so much here, information that he could take back home and use to truly rebuild the Jedi Order. It could be as it once was, not some cobbled together imitation based on hurried lessons and pieced-together archival records. He wouldn’t have to keep scouring half-depleted databases or search for clues in ruins; he could learn firsthand and in great detail the ways of the Jedi, in a way he never could back home.
Though of course, if his plan worked as he hoped, that might not be necessary.
But the thought was still exhilarating.
Obi-Wan had arrived in the Chamber, taking his seat between the holographic forms of a Cerean and a Zabrak Jedi. He watched Luke and Leia closely, not taking his eyes away from them; his expression was unreadable, but Luke could see hints of confusion lingering beneath it.
A few seats away from Obi-Wan sat the Jedi who had come to collect them in the hangar, whose name Luke had learned was Windu. And beside him was the familiar, wrinkled green form of Master Yoda.
He looked much younger than when Luke had last seen him, curled up on his bed on Dagobah, choking out his last words. It was just over two decades before Luke was to meet the wizened old Master, and though that was a significant amount of time in the lives of such short-lived organics as humans, it was short enough as to be almost meaningless to someone like Yoda. But the years that had lined Yoda’s face in exile were much more apparent now when viewed in contrast with the Jedi seated before him — still old, to be sure, with little more than a few wisps of gray for hair and gnarled claws that appeared almost arthritic, but he seemed centuries younger. Luke realized that he no longer carried the same sadness that he had on Dagobah; it was a sadness that had stooped his shoulders and lined his face, left him bone weary and finally, at the end, feeling every last year that he had lived.
It was the sadness of being the last of your kind — of bearing the weight of every death of nearly all Jedi in the galaxy, of watching the Order you had dedicated your life to crumbling to dust around you. It was the same sadness that had plagued Obi-Wan, that had aged him nearly as much as the harsh desert suns.
Yoda regarded Luke now with eyes free of such sadness, but free also of the warmth and familiarity that he had once seen in them. This Yoda was a stranger to him, the leader of an Order embroiled in a galaxy-wide war, suspicious of the two now placed before him.
“You have been brought before the Jedi Council to undergo an investigation.” It was Windu who spoke, a deep crease forming between his eyes. “We wish to discover who you truly are, and what your intentions are. If we deem you to be a threat, we will take the appropriate course of action.”
“We’re willing to cooperate,” Leia said immediately, with the easy confidence of a seasoned politician, “but we will speak only to Master Kenobi. Alone.”
A quiet murmur passed through the room, as the various Jedi Masters turned to speak to each other all at once. Obi-Wan, for his part, looked surprised. Windu and Yoda conferred for a moment, before looking back to Luke and Leia.
“Why is this, hm?” Yoda asked.
“We trust him,” Luke explained. “Forgive us, but the… nature of our situation leads us to take certain precautions.”
There was a moment of silence, before Obi-Wan spoke. “If the Council agrees, I will be more than willing to speak with them, to hear what they have to say.” His gaze remained sharp and piercing, never moving from them.
More quiet conversations, until Windu finally looked up, his eyes going first to Luke and Leia, and then to Obi-Wan. “We will allow it,” he said.
They were brought to a room near the Temple’s ground floor. A set of shuttered doors led out into a small courtyard, filled with green plants and blossoming flowers. A warm breeze drifted through, carrying with it the scents of nature rather than the odors of the city. Several large ottomans were placed around the room, and Luke realized that this was likely some sort of meditation chamber.
Obi-Wan had followed along behind them, and he thanked the guards as they ushered Luke and Leia into the room. “You can wait out here,” he said. The guards nodded, taking up positions on either side of the door, and Obi-Wan stepped into the room. The door closed behind him.
There was a moment where nobody said anything. Obi-Wan looked at them, his hands clasped together behind his back, his expression neutral. With his wrists still clamped in the Force-dampening binders, it was difficult for Luke to discern any of Obi-Wan’s emotions or thoughts, which served to make the nerve-wracking silence even more so.
It lasted only a few seconds. “If you wish to tell the truth,” Obi-Wan said, walking over and taking a seat on one of the ottomans, “you can begin by telling me your real names. Because I know they are not Ben and Nellith Lars.”
Luke was the first to answer. “My name is Luke,” he said. “Luke Skywalker.”
“Leia.” His sister gave no last name with her answer, which Luke figured was probably wise; he knew she would be uncomfortable saying that her surname was Skywalker, and Obi-Wan would likely just assume that was the case. Telling the truth and saying that her surname was Organa would bring up questions that were far too difficult to answer.
Obi-Wan simply nodded, his lips pressing together into a tight line. “And who is your father?”
Luke blinked in surprise. Obi-Wan asked the question as if he already knew the answer, but he couldn’t possibly know who their father was; as far as he knew, Anakin was three years younger than they were, making it impossible for him to be their father. Perhaps he was just trying to figure out how exactly they were related to Anakin by trying to find common relatives, though in that case it would make more sense to ask them who their mother was. But when Luke looked at Leia, he saw none of the confusion on her face that he felt.
In fact, she looked hardly surprised at all.
“You used the blood sample I gave to run a DNA test,” she said. “You already know who our father is.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Yes, and I apologize for the deception. But I would like for you to say it.”
Leia looked to Luke, and he gave her a quick nod. He didn’t know why she had given a blood sample, though that hardly mattered at this point — what was done was done. He turned to Obi-Wan.
“Our father is Anakin Skywalker,” he said.
Though he already knew this, Obi-Wan still took in a sharp intake of breath, as if in surprise. Perhaps he hadn’t truly believed it until someone else had spoken it aloud.
“How is this possible?” he asked.
“We won’t be born until the end of the Clone Wars,” Luke said. “We were brought here, to the past, by an artifact, in a temple on the planet Raban. I don’t know how or why it did what it did, but I do know that it had something to do with the Force.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes widened. “The past? So… you are from the future?” Luke and Leia both nodded, and his hand went to his mouth, in shock. “This… this isn’t possible.”
Leia gave a quiet laugh. “I certainly wish it wasn’t. But here we are; you saw the proof with your own eyes. How else could we be three years older than our father?”
Obi-Wan was silent for a moment, his furrowed brows creating a deep wrinkle on his forehead. “You said that it was an artifact that you sent you here? In a temple?”
Luke nodded. “The temple was abandoned long ago. I don’t know if it was made by the Jedi or something else; I couldn’t sense clearly the light or the dark sides. The only thing that I found within it was this strange disc. I could hear voices speaking to me from it, and when I approached it, it lifted into the air and began to glow. I touched it, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in a forest somewhere. That’s when I was captured by a group of Separatist droids.”
“That’s the same as what happened to me,” Leia said. “I found the same artifact when I went looking for him, and it brought me to Ucarro, I’m assuming to the same forest it brought Luke. That’s where I found his lightsaber.”
“So you’re saying that this disc used the Force to bring you here?” Obi-Wan asked.
“Yes,” Luke said, nodding. “I’m absolutely certain that it did.” He considered, for a moment, telling Obi-Wan about his visit from Qui-Gon Jinn, but he wasn’t sure how that would go over. It might be best to take things one at a time — time travel first, and then visits from dead masters.
Obi-Wan’s hand stroked slowly at his beard. “The Force is unusually calm around you,” he admitted, “which is not what one would expect given your… situation.” He paused a moment, deep in thought. “And you have no idea what reason the Force could have to send you here?”
Luke could feel Leia’s gaze on him, imploring him to say nothing — nothing about who their father would be come, or Luke’s plan to save him. He shook his head. “No. There’s nothing.”
Obi-Wan frowned. “I am inclined to believe you, that it truly was the Force that sent you here. The ramifications of time travel being proved possible are… unsettling. I must speak with the rest of the Council about this.”
“So you believe that we’re from the future?” Luke asked, almost surprised.
“As your sister pointed out, I have the proof of it.” He was silent for a moment, his gaze on Leia. “And you look very much like him.” He looked to Luke. “Though you have his eyes.”
Leia’s face whitened, her lips pressing into a tight frown. But she said nothing about it, instead attempting to change the subject. “I don’t think it would be wise for you to speak about this with the other Jedi,” she said.
Obi-Wan’s brows rose in surprise. “Unfortunately, I don’t think I have that option. The Council is highly suspicious of both of you, and will want an explanation.”
“They trust you,” Leia pointed out, “and you believe us. If you tell them that you know the truth of who we are, but agree it should be kept secret, they should trust that. It’s dangerous enough for us to reveal who we are to you; we have no idea the ramifications this could have, knowing even this small bit about the future. That would be multiplied tenfold if we told the Council.”
Obi-Wan let out a deep sigh. “I know more than just this bit, though,” he said. “Don’t I? The story you told me about your family, it wasn’t all lies, was it?”
Luke looked to Leia. She had told him some of the tale she had made up for the Jedi, and it had been easy to see the seeds of truth she had planted within it — their father leaving the Jedi Order before they were born, their mother dying when they were young, Luke being trained as a Jedi, Leia moving to Alderaan.
She nodded. “Most of it was true, yes,” she lied. “Except for the names.”
“So when the war is over… Anakin leaves the Order.” Luke could clearly hear the pain in Obi-Wan’s voice, and he had to hold back a wince; Obi-Wan likely thought that Anakin simply leaves the Order to raise a family. The truth was so much worse, however, and Luke could only begin to imagine how that must have torn him apart.
“And might I ask, who your mother is?”
“Like I told you before, she died when we were very young,” Leia explained. “We never really—“
“Her name was Padmé,” Luke interrupted. Leia turned to look at him, but he avoided her gaze. His aunt and uncle had told him her name, when he was young and becoming curious about his parents for the first time. They hadn’t known anything about her beyond her first name, but Aunt Beru recalled how beautiful she was, with exquisite clothes unlike anything that could be found on Tatooine. They had only ever met her the once.
Luke hadn’t shared that with Leia yet; he knew that she was still struggling with the truth of who her biological father was, and she had never asked, so he had thought it would be best to wait until she was more adjusted. But with the Force-dampening binders still dimming their connection, he couldn’t tell what her reaction to learning the news was, and he avoided looking at her face to find out.
Obi-Wan’s face, however, was easy to read. Luke could see on it a strange mix of shock and understanding, as if the news was both unexpected and expected at the same time.
“You know someone by that name?” he asked, and Obi-Wan nodded.
“Padmé Amidala,” he said. “I knew that Anakin was dangerously attached to her, but I never expected…”
“That they would have children together?”
“Well, yes.” Concern joined the mix of emotions swirling visibly on Obi-Wan’s face. “And you said that she dies, when you’re both still very young?”
Luke frowned. It had likely been unwise to reveal that bit of information; he hadn’t even stopped to think that Obi-Wan might know their mother, though now it seemed obvious that it should have been a possibility to consider. He could think of that only for a moment, however — he knew his mother’s name now, and Obi-Wan knew his mother, and he was right there, sitting in front of him. Luke already had a dozen questions to ask about her, but he held back. Asking too much would likely make Obi-Wan question why they didn’t know this already, and they couldn’t explain that without giving too much away.
“She does, yes,” Leia said, “but I think it’s best if we leave it at that. The less you know, the better. And I think it goes without saying, but Anakin can know none of this.”
Obi-Wan was still frowning, his mind no doubt reeling from the slew of information being pressed upon him. “Yes, yes, I agree with you there,” he finally said. “On both counts. But really, I think it would be best if we told the rest of the Council about this. It’s possible that one of them has at least heard something about an occurrence like this, even if it’s only myth and rumours. I assume that you do want to get back home, to your own time?”
“Yes,” Leia said quickly, nodding.
“I believe that the Council’s help would be indispensable,” Obi-Wan said. “And the fact of the matter is, they don’t trust you. My word might quell that distrust, but not forever, and even with my endorsement, they won’t simply let you go off on your own. Simply put, telling them is a necessity.”
Leia frowned, and Luke reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I think he’s right,” he said. “The Jedi could be a great help. And just because we tell them we’re from the future, doesn’t mean we have to tell them anything else.”
Obi-Wan nodded his agreement. “In fact, I think it would be best if we keep most of this information to ourselves. The fewer people who know anything about the future, the better. Particularly when it comes to who your father is.”
Leia was still frowning, but after another moment of thought, she nodded. “Alright.” She wasn’t looking at Obi-Wan as she spoke, but rather at Luke. “If you think we should, then I agree.”
“Okay then.” Obi-Wan gave a somewhat strained smile, standing and motioning to the door. “Shall we?”
Chapter 14: Interrogation
Luke and Leia speak to the Jedi Council.
happy almost valentine's day!! I'm sorry this chapter took so long, I became very busy with school and work and extracurriculars, and didn't really have much time to write. this chapter also gave me a bit of grief, and I'm sure it could still use some editing, but I just wanted to get it over with. still, I hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Obi-Wan stood once more in front of the doors to the Council chamber. He could hear quiet murmurs of the conversation taking place in the room beyond, and though the words were indistinct, he knew what was being discussed — Luke and Leia, the two strange visitors currently standing behind him, waiting for him to open the doors and lead them inside.
He could see the relation quite clearly, now that he knew it was there to look for. Luke had his father’s hair and eyes, though Obi-Wan could see more of Padmé than Anakin in his face. Leia, however, looked very much like her father, though she had her mother’s colouring. She had his scowl, as well, and his temperament. It was almost jarring, to see features so familiar to him on someone else’s face.
Oh, Anakin, he thought, what do you get yourself into?
He should have expected that such a thing would happen; in a way, he supposed, he did. He knew that Anakin struggled with some aspects of life as a Jedi, especially when he was younger, but he had thought he was doing better. He was an excellent teacher to Ahsoka, and was absolutely indispensable to the war effort. Obi-Wan had thought that he was finally settling down into his position, dedicating himself to being the best Jedi he could be.
Of course, Obi-Wan hadn’t taken Padmé into account. He knew they got along well, and had suspected Anakin’s true feelings for her, but had never thought that they would act on those feelings — certainly not enough to produce two children and give Anakin cause to leave the Order. It was a revelation that left Obi-Wan shaken. The headache that had started earlier that day was quickly progressing into a migraine.
He turned away from the door, looking to the twins. The guards who had accompanied them down to the meditation chamber had left them at the turbolift, leaving the three of them alone in the atrium. “Before we go in there, I have one more question,” he said. It had been weighing on his mind since they had asked to speak to him, and him alone. “Why did you trust me enough to tell me this?”
It would have been easy for them to say that it was because he had helped to rescue Luke, but he had also put them in binders and openly declared his distrust of them. Based on that alone, he was as likely to believe them as he was to declare their story to be outright lies.
Luke and Leia cast each other a quick glance, the conversation passing between them occurring in seconds. “Experience,” Luke answered. “We knew we could trust you, even if you didn’t.”
Obi-Wan looked at them a moment, and then nodded. “I’m assuming you are referencing experience that I don’t yet have.”
Luke smirked. “My father wasn’t the only teacher I ever had.” He took a step forward, and motioned to the door, still standing closed before them. “Now, why don’t we get this over with?”
Obi-Wan would have liked to ask more, but he had a feeling that was as much as was going to be revealed to him, at least for now. So, he turned and took a step forward, pushing open the door to the Council chamber.
The Jedi High Council watched as the trio re-entered the room, their conversation falling silent. Obi-Wan led Luke and Leia to the centre of the room, facing Yoda and the hard-faced Master Windu. Leia could feel the eyes of all the Jedi Masters on them, the suspicion of their collective gaze unmistakable. She straightened her back, clasping her hands in front of her with her head held high, the same position she had taken up every time she had ever spoken in front of the Imperial Senate. It was a lesson that had been instilled in her by Mon Mothma, when the current Chancellor was still just a Senator, and Leia’s political tutor — appear confident, and do not falter.
“I have spoken with Nellith and Ben,” Obi-Wan said, “and they have agreed to share with you what they told me.”
They had decided to continue using the false names that Leia had created, in the hopes of mitigating any adverse effects they might have on the future. After all, there was no knowing what could happen if Anakin were to learn the names of his children years before their birth, even if he didn’t know yet that they were his children.
Yoda nodded. “Eager to hear this, we are.”
“I think it’s best if I let them tell it.” Obi-Wan gave a quick bow to the Grandmaster, and then took his seat between the Cerean and Zabrak Jedi, giving the floor to Luke and Leia. She watched him go, and as he sat, he gave her a slight, almost imperceptible nod.
She looked to Yoda, his large eyes filled with a calm curiosity. “I’m going to keep this simple,” she said, “though I will warn you — this is going to be hard to believe. But it is the truth.”
“Well now I am curious,” Master Windu said, lifting one of his eyebrows. “Please, continue.”
“We’re from the future.”
As soon as the words left Leia’s mouth, she could feel the shift of emotions within the room. Shock, disbelief, confusion; the Jedi looked to one another, exchanging their thoughts with merely the creasing of a forehead.
Windu’s skepticism was plain to see on his face. “The future?”
Luke nodded, stepping into the conversation. “We won’t be born until the end of the Clone Wars. My sister told you the truth when she first stood here before you — our father was a Jedi, but as it stands currently, he’s younger right now than we are.”
“And you expect us to believe you with no proof?” It was the Zabrak Jedi who spoke, his position relaxed as he reclined into his seat, very obviously not taking anything they had said seriously.
“There is proof,” Obi-Wan said, looking to his colleague. “I’ve seen it. Surely, Master Kolar, you believe me?”
“You must admit, Master Kenobi, that it is an outlandish claim,” Kolar argued.
Obi-Wan nodded. “That is true, and I don’t deny that had I not seen the proof myself, I would also struggle to believe such a tale. But I have seen the proof, and it is undeniable.” His gaze turned to Luke and Leia as he spoke next. “I believe them.”
“Would you care to elaborate on what this proof is?” The question was posed by a Kel Dor, his expression unreadable beneath his rebreather and eye goggles.
“I don’t think that would be wise,” Obi-Wan said. “Such proof would naturally contain elements of what is to happen in the future, and I’m of the opinion that the fewer people who know about it, the better. And the specific evidence I was provided with is of a particularly…. sensitive nature.” He paused a moment, looking around the room at his fellow Council members. “I am well aware of how implausible it seems. But I am asking you to trust me, and to trust Ben and Nellith.”
“Trust you, I do,” Yoda said. He looked to Luke and Leia. “And you as well.”
Despite the endorsement of the Grandmaster, several of the Jedi still seemed apprehensive. A hard look had settled on Windu’s face, and he scowled openly at Luke and Leia.
“Time travel isn’t possible,” he said.
Leia gave a quiet laugh. “That’s what we thought. Until this happened, of course.”
“How is it, then, that this happened?” the Cerean asked, his bushy eyebrows raised.
“It was the will of the Force,” Luke said. He had the same calm tone, the same easy composure that Leia had seen him use with Jabba the Hutt. His hands were clasped in front of him, and she could see no apprehension, no nervousness in him. Just a cool confidence, in himself, in her, and in the Jedi. “I discovered an artifact, in a temple that I believed to have been built by the Jedi. Though I’m not sure now that was the case, it’s undeniable that the Force was present there. The artifact was the only thing I found, and when I touched it, it sent me to Ucarro, where I was captured by a squad of Separatist droids.”
For all their uncertainty, the Jedi listened carefully as he spoke, all eyes of him. None of them said anything until he had finished.
“Where was this temple?” a Tholothian asked, a small crease forming between her brightly-coloured eyes.
“Raban,” Leia answered. “It’s a rather unremarkable planet in the Kastolar sector. I followed Ben there, looking for him, and discovered the same artifact that he had.”
“I’ve never heard of any Jedi temples in that region,” Windu said.
“As I said, I’m not sure anymore that it was a Jedi temple.” Though Luke’s voice was as calm as ever, Leia could sense a hint of impatience beginning to creep in. “I don’t believe it was Sith, either. There were no markings anywhere in the temple, no signs of who built it or even that anyone had ever lived there. Though I could sense the Force there, it wasn’t light or dark. It was just… the Force.”
“Why were you searching for a Jedi temple?” the Cerean asked.
“Curiosity,” Luke replied. “I had heard stories, old folk tales about a strange temple. I thought it might have something to do with the Jedi, and I decided to investigate.”
“The will of the Force, you said this was,” Yoda pointed out, motioning to Luke with one gnarled finger. “Why is that, hm? Because of this presence in the Force?”
Luke nodded. “And other things, as well. As Master Kenobi observed during our conversation, the Force is peaceful around us. That’s not what would be expected of two people currently stuck in a time not their own. That leads me to believe that we are here for a reason — that the Force brought us here to do something.”
“And what might that be?” Windu asked.
“We’re… not sure yet,” Leia admitted. “As I’m sure you understand, the situation is complicated.”
“If I am being honest,” Kolar said, looking from Luke and Leia to Obi-Wan, “I find all of this vague and unconvincing. Master Kenobi, I mean no offence, but how could you expect us to believe this?”
“I understand your feelings, Master Kolar,” Obi-Wan said, “and I am sure they are shared by many others here. But I must ask — what reasons would there be to concoct such a complicated, implausible lie? If Ben and Nellith wished to hide their identities, I am sure that there is a much more reasonable path they could have taken. I assure you, I would not be sitting here agreeing with all of this if I had not seen undeniable proof that Ben and Nellith are from the future.” He paused, looking around the room at each of his colleagues. “As ridiculous and unreasonable as that sounds.”
“And yet we cannot see this proof ourselves?” a Togruta asked.
“As I said, I don’t believe it would be wise. It is evidence of who their father is. Nellith told us from the beginning that her father was once a Jedi, and he left the Order after having children. This proves her correct, but to reveal this evidence to you all would be to reveal that one of the members of our Order will one day have children and leave. We cannot expect nothing bad to come from so many learning such information.”
The Iktotchi sitting a few seats down from Obi-Wan scowled, the expression adding deep lines to his already-wrinkled face. “So we put our faith in two strangers?”
“You put your faith in me,” Obi-Wan retorted. “This is a situation entirely unheard of before, and I have come to you asking for your help. We wanted the truth about who Ben and Nellith are — this is it.”
There was a moment of silence, and none of the Jedi spoke. Yoda had kept his gaze trained on Luke and Leia throughout the entire conversation, and he finally looked away, to his fellow Jedi. “Believe them, I do,” he said. “Implausible this is, but not impossible. The Force carries with it many surprises. Remember that, we must.”
A wave of surprise passed around the room. Yoda, no doubt sensing this, smirked. “Trust Obi-Wan, we must. And trust Ben and Nellith, as well.”
The room remained silent, and Leia could see the Jedi thinking, considering their Grandmaster’s words. Yoda was considered to be one of, if not the, wisest Jedi in the Order — if he trusted them, what reason did the others have not to?
Luke was the first to break the silence. “Thank you, Master Yoda,” he said, bowing his head. Leia followed suit.
“How do we know we can trust them?” Windu asked. “Though I have faith in Master Kenobi, his word is not enough.”
“All we want is your help,” Leia said, holding her hands open at her sides. Now was the time to bring out the Senator, the side of her that could use words to convince others to join her side. “That’s all we ask. You don’t have to trust us; you can put us in your cells, continue to investigate and question us. But I assure you, you won’t find any answers. You won’t find out who we are, because we don’t exist yet. You won’t find any other answers to where we come from or what we want, because we’ve already told you. We’re from the future, and we want your help in getting back home. My brother knows the Force, but what has happened to us is beyond the expertise of any one person. You can refuse to help us, you can keep us locked away for as long as you want, but our story won’t change.”
Windu didn’t reply, his eyes narrowed slightly.
“What do you suggest we do to help, then?” the Togruta asked, and Leia understood from her voice that it was a genuine question.
“I say we start with the temple,” Leia said, looking to the woman and away from the displeased face of Master Windu. “It’s likely that if we go back and find the artifact, it will send us home again.”
“And if the Force did send you here to complete something?” the Kel Dor asked. “Would it be willing to send you home without it being completed?”
Leia shrugged. “You know more of the Force than I do,” she said. “But the Archives in this Temple are one of the vastest collections in the galaxy. There has to be something about this Temple, or this artifact, somewhere.”
“I’ll speak with Master Nu,” Obi-Wan said. “It’s likely that she’ll at least know where to look for such information.”
Yoda hummed thoughtfully, and then shook his head. “No, not you, Master Kenobi,” he said, and all eyes turned to him. “From the war, we can no longer spare you. Someone else must take charge.”
Obi-Wan blinked in surprise, obviously taken aback. “With all due respect, Master Yoda—”
Yoda cut him off, raising one thin eyebrow. “Your former Padawan, perhaps? Injured, he is, and must remain on Coruscant for a short while. Handle this issue, he can.”
Leia’s heart stuttered in her chest, but she kept her expression neutral. The idea of having to work even more closely with Anakin made her heart pound and her hands curl into fists, but she quickly stamped the feeling down, careful not to let any of it seep out. Still, Luke glanced quickly her way, obviously able to sense her emotions, even with Force-dampening binders still clamped on their wrists. She avoided his gaze; if she had to see the concern in his eyes, she wouldn’t be able to keep her composure.
“So then you have accepted to help us?” Luke asked after a moment, looking from Leia back to the Jedi.
“We will see what can be found,” Windu said, though his tone told them that there were no promises. “And then we will decide what our next step should be.”
“And what do we do until then? Wait around until you find something?”
“We will be able to find accommodations for you here at the Temple, I’m sure,” the Cerean said. “As guests, not prisoners.”
Yoda nodded in agreement, and then gave a quick wave of his hand. The Force-dampening binders on their wrists opened and fell away, clattering to the floor. It was a relief, to have her connection to the Force back.
“Master Kenobi, update young Skywalker, you will,” Yoda said. “Rooms for our guests, we will find.”
The Jedi began to murmur quietly to each other, assuming that the conversation was done. Leia rubbed gently at the marks the binders had left behind on her wrists, and turned to speak to Luke, to tell him how surprised she was that this had worked. But he was still looking ahead at the Jedi, and as she turned to him he took another step forward.
“There’s something else,” he said, and many of the Jedi immediately quieted, though he seemed to speaking largely to Yoda and Windu. “I would like my lightsaber returned to me. It’s very important to me, and would not be easy to replace.”
Windu replied immediately. “Not yet. At the moment, you have no need for a lightsaber. I assume, however, that in your time, you are a member of the Jedi Order?”
“Yes. Though there are… some differences between your Order and mine.” A ripple of surprise passed through the room, accompanied discomfort — these leaders did not like the idea that their organization would ever change.
Windu nodded, his expression thoughtful. “You will get your lightsaber back when it is time for you to leave. But not before.”
Luke frowned, obviously displeased, but he still nodded in compliance.
“Then all is in agreement,” Yoda said. He looked to Luke and Leia, giving them a quick nod of acknowledgment. “We will meet again shortly.”
Obi-Wan stood and motioned to the twins. They both bowed once, quickly, and then turned and followed him from the room.
The Temple’s residential level was located on one of the higher floors. It was a corridor just as ornate as all the others, the ceiling inlaid with a long skylight, and Luke stared in wonder as Obi-Wan led them along. The Temple was such a stark contrast to everything he had ever seen of the Jedi Order — Obi-Wan and Yoda, as he had known them, old men in worn robes living in hiding in hovels on backwater planets; old temples, falling to ruins around him; the remains of archival records, snippets of information here and there that had somehow managed to survive the Empire. But this Temple was far from ruins; it was magnificent, full of a life that glowed brightly. When Luke reached out to the Force, connecting to all those around him, the staggering reply of thousands upon thousands of trained Force-sensitives nearly overwhelmed him.
Obi-Wan stopped them in front of a door. It was numbered, like all the others, and opened gently as he pressed his palm to the activation panel. Stepping aside, he motioned them in.
The room beyond was simple, but comfortable. A tall window climbed the far wall, revealing a stunning view of the Coruscant skyline. An open door off to the side led to a shared refresher, and beyond it another nearly identical room. Luke assumed that it was an arrangement most often used by masters and their students; from what he had gleaned, a master took only one pupil at a time. He wondered who the two beings to share these rooms had been.
“I’m sure you two would like a moment to rest and freshen up,” Obi-Wan said, remaining by the door with his hands clasped behind his back. “It’s been a… trying day. I will go and update Anakin and Ahsoka, and I’ll send Ahsoka down to help you settle in. I’m sure we’ll be able to find a change of clothes for you both, and Ahsoka will be able to take you later to get something to eat.”
“And after that?” Leia asked. “Are we supposed to just wait around until you find something in the Archives?”
“I’m sure there will be something for you to do,” Obi-Wan said, his tone placating. “In the meantime, perhaps you can think about why you might have been sent here, if there was even a reason at all?”
Luke sank slowly into the lush chair pushed against the wall opposite the bed. Of course, he already knew the reason they were here, though Leia disagreed. He was sure they would have another discussion about it as soon as Obi-Wan left. But there was nothing else he could think of — no reason important enough for the Force to send them twenty-five years in the past, except to save their father and end the Emperor’s tyranny before it even began.
Leia looked to him, her gaze piercing, as if she knew what he was thinking about. “We’ll try to think of something,” she said, not taking her eyes off him.
“There’s… one more thing,” Obi-Wan said. “You don’t have to tell me, if you don’t think you should, but I really must ask.” He looked to Luke, and continued, “Before we went into the Council chamber, you told me that your father wasn’t the only one to train you.” He paused a moment, as if unsure of how to keep going. “I am assuming that you meant me.” Though it was said as a statement, Luke could plainly hear the question underneath it.
He looked at Leia. He knew what she was thinking — that he should lie, tell Obi-Wan that he had meant someone else. It was bad enough that Obi-Wan knew who their father was; to reveal any more about the future to him would be downright foolish. But from the way Obi-Wan spoke, it sounded as if he already knew the answer, and sitting there, looking at the man who would one day be his teacher, Luke could feel only sadness, and guilt. They had already lied so much to him, about what was really going to become of their father, and even though he didn’t know the actual details, it was clear to Luke that just knowing that Anakin would one day leave the Order upset Obi-Wan deeply. But perhaps knowing that he might still have some connection with his former Padawan, and with his children — though not in the way he imagined — would provide some solace.
“Yes,” Luke said, and Leia’s expression tightened. He ignored her, looking instead to Obi-Wan. “You would visit sometimes, as we were growing up. You taught me a lot of what I know. Though we knew you as Ben, not Obi-Wan. It was… easier that way.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes widened, as if being struck by a sudden realization. “So it was you. You were to one I heard reaching out to me, asking me for help. You called me Ben.”
Luke blinked. He had forgotten about the plea he had sent to Obi-Wan, when he had first been captured by the Separatist droids. Obi-Wan’s confused response had been one of his first clues that something wasn’t right, but he had failed to remember it in the hectic confusion that had followed. “Yes,” he said with a nod. “That was before I had realized exactly where and when I was. I had been searching for Leia, trying to contact her, but I think she had yet to arrive in the past at that point, so I wasn’t able to find her. I found you instead, and thought that you were the same man who had taught me when I was young. Of course, you were the same man, you just didn’t know it yet.”
“I see.” The conflict was easy to hear in Obi-Wan’s voice, and he looked almost disquieted. “Does that mean…?” He trailed off, as if unable to complete his question. But Luke knew what he was meaning to ask.
“That you left the Order yourself?”
“No,” Luke said. “As long as we’ve known you, you have been a Jedi.”
There was a moment of silence, in which Obi-Wan seemed to work through this new information. Eventually, he spoke again. “I won’t ask anymore, because I’m sure you won’t tell me. But I am grateful for what you have told me.”
Luke nodded. “Of course.” He could still feel Leia’s disgruntled glare focused on him, but he ignored it, at least for the moment.
“I’ll leave you to get settled, then,” Obi-Wan said, obviously unsure of what to say in the light of this revelation. “I’m sure I’ll see you both again before I leave on my next assignment.”
“Thank you, Master Kenobi,” Leia said, bowing her head slightly. “For everything.”
He gave them a small smile, and then turned to leave the room. The door closed behind him.
It was not even a second later that Leia turned to look at Luke, her mouth twisted into a scowl. “You really are reckless,” she said. Striding over to the bed, she sat down and began to work at the laces on her boots. “Why would you tell him that? I thought we agreed that we would try to reveal as little about the future as possible.”
“Well it wasn’t exactly true, was it?” Luke retorted, trying to keep his voice calm. “Neither of us knew him growing up. Until I was nineteen, I thought he was only some crazy old hermit.”
“Then why did you tell him that? Haven’t we lied enough already?”
“And we’re going to have to keep lying. But I told him that to give him some comfort. You saw him when he learned that our father leaves the Order at the end of the war — he was heartbroken. I wanted him to know that he won’t be completely abandoned.”
“Even though he will be. We’ve already lied to him about why Anakin leaves the Jedi. And now we’ve added the lie that they keep in touch afterwards, which is just blatantly untrue — at least, until Vader kills him on the Death Star. Won’t this all just make things worse, when he finally learns the truth?”
Luke shrugged. “Maybe. But it makes things better now, so doesn’t that count for something?”
Leia sighed, pulling her shoes from her feet and throwing them haphazardly on the floor. “I know you’re still planning on trying to kill Palpatine and save Anakin,” she said. “You can’t keep anything from me, especially not something that big. But I’m asking you to please reconsider.”
“I can’t do that,” Luke said, shaking his head. “I have a chance here to change things, to make them right. I can’t let it pass.”
“If you really think that this is why you’re here then what about me? I want no part of this, and yet, here I am.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to do this alone. Leia, please—“
“No.” Leia stood, shaking her head. “I’m not going to help you carry out this impossible plan. All it will do is create more trouble. I’m going to focus on getting home.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off before he could continue.
“And don’t you say anything about how we might not be able to get home until we complete whatever grand purpose the Force has given us. If the Force really wanted us to do something, it could be a bit clearer about what, exactly, it is that it wants. And until that happens, I’m staying out of it.”
Before he could say anything else, she had turned and walked away, into the small refresher joining the two rooms. She closed the door and, a moment later, Luke heard the sound of running water as the shower was turned on.
He leaned back into the chair and, covering his face with his hands, let out a deep sigh.
I know the past few chapters have been a lot of talking and not a lot action, but I promise that will be changing very soon!!
Chapter 15: Inherited
Luke and Leia discuss their mother, and then visit their father in the Halls of Healing.
more apologies for the delay in getting this chapter released. I've had some important assignments due in the past few weeks at school, and I have a few more due in the next month that will require my attention, so it might be another little while before the next chapter. university is hard :^(
Leia stood in front of the refresher mirror, still steamy from the hot water of the shower. Her long hair hung damp against her back, wetting the dusty clothes that she had been forced to put back on; the pack carrying her change of clothes had been misplaced in the confusion after Luke’s rescue, along with her blaster. Reaching out, she used the palm of her hand to wipe away the condensation from part of the mirror, revealing a slightly-smudged reflection of her face.
She stood there for a moment, observing her features, the same ones that had been staring back at her from the mirror for twenty-four years — the long face and rounded cheeks, the wide, dark brown eyes, the soft nose and thin upper lip. As a child, she used to stare at herself in the mirror, searching for any similarities between herself and her parents, though she knew she wouldn’t find any. She would imagine herself as having her mother’s nose and her father’s eyes, and had tried for a while to shape her smile to match her father’s, before accepting it wouldn’t work. As she grew older, she’d stopped looking for similarities in the mirror and had starting looking within herself, at her personality and the way her parents had shaped her values and ideals. That was what really counted, more than whether she had her father’s hair colour or her mother’s height. But she still remembered wondering what it would be like for someone to tell her she looked like her mother, or had her father’s laugh, when she was young enough to see such things as important.
Obi-Wan had told her this morning that she looked like Anakin — very much like him, in fact. It was a statement that had made her heart stutter and sent her into a cold sweat. It was like a confirmation that he was, truly, her biological father, though that was of course something she had known now for several months. But though it was a bit foolish, she had never considered that she might look like him. She had never known what he looked like beneath the mask, or before whatever disfigurement that had caused him to require it. When thinking about the fact that Darth Vader was her father, she had comforted herself with the knowledge that she was nothing like him, that she hadn’t inherited his evil. But the knowledge that she had inherited something else from him left her feeling unnerved and upset.
She felt foolish to be upset over having inherited many of her features from Anakin. After all, if her appearance hadn’t mattered when it came to her true parents, why should it matter now? It was irrational and she knew it, but she still felt upset, and as she stared at her reflection in the mirror, she found herself picturing Anakin in her head, and drawing comparisons between her face and his — the shape of his eyes, his nose, the length of his face. She hadn’t inherited his colouring or his height, but there were enough similarities that she was now unsurprised by Obi-Wan’s comment.
Had Vader noticed the similarities himself, when he had stared her down in that small cell on the Death Star? Had he looked at her and seen shadows of the person he’d once been?
Leia looked down, away from the mirror and her reflection. Those questions had no answers, and dwelling on them would bring her nowhere. Quickly, and without using the mirror, she twisted her hair into a loose braid and strode from the refresher.
Luke was sitting in the same spot he had been in when she left. He had found a datapad, and was staring intently at it, but he looked up as she entered, and his expression was immediately apologetic. Like in her previous room, a small desk stood near the window. Pulling the chair away from it, Leia took a seat near her brother.
“I’m sorry,” he began. “I shouldn’t have pushed you, but—“
She held up a hand, and he stopped, falling silent. “I’m sorry too,” she said, “but I won’t change my mind. I know how much you want to do this, but I can’t. I just can’t.”
He nodded slowly. “I understand. Really, I do. But I won’t change my mind, either.”
They stared at each other for a moment, silent. Leia loved Luke dearly, and considered him to be her closest friend, but often she struggled to see any similarities between the two of them — he was kinder than she was, more willing to see the good in others. But they were both stubborn, and set in their ideals — which, more than often, tended to overlap. Just not in this case.
“How do you think you’re going to do this?” she asked. “I doubt we’ll be allowed to leave the Temple unsupervised, and it’ll be impossible for you to get anywhere near Palpatine. Just trying will be enough for the Jedi to stop trusting us, and then I doubt they’ll keep trying to help us.”
Luke frowned. “I’ll think of something.”
Leia leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms. “If you die, I swear, I’ll bring you back so I can kill you myself.”
“You know that won’t happen.”
She frowned, but said nothing. She knew there was nothing she could do or say to change his mind, not yet. She would just have to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t get himself into trouble.
“There’s something else,” Luke said, his hands fidgeting with the datapad. “I want to apologize for not telling you about our mother.”
Leia took in a deep breath. She had been shocked, to hear Luke so casually tell Obi-Wan that their mother’s name had been Padmé, a piece of information she herself had not known. Even more shocking was that Obi-Wan had then spoken of Padmé Amidala, a name Leia had immediately recognized. She remembered her father speaking of a Senator Amidala, a friend from before the fall of the Republic, well-known amongst those Rebels old enough to remember the Clone Wars.
She chose her next words carefully. “How long have you known who she was?”
“For as long as you have,” Luke said. “All I knew before was that her name was Padmé. I asked my aunt once, when I was very young, who my mother had been. My aunt and uncle had only ever met her once, and had learned very little about her, but my aunt remembered her as being kind. They only ever learned her first name.” He paused a moment, twisting his hands together, a deep frown pulling on his lips. “I really am sorry. I should have told you this months ago, when we first learned we were twins. You had a right to know.”
“I did.” She levelled a hard look at Luke, though she knew it was exaggerated. She wanted to be mad, and she was — he’d had three months to tell her that he knew their mother’s name, and it was something he should have found the time to discuss. But they’d never really had any conversations about their mother, or their father, except for Leia to say that she didn’t care to speak of him. It was no surprise, then, that Luke had assumed she felt the same about their mother. And truth be told, she wasn’t sure how she felt about their mother — particularly knowing now that she was Padmé Amidala.
Leia let out a sigh, finally uncrossing her arms. “But I understand why you didn’t tell me. Knowing how I feel about Anakin… It makes sense. And I trust you would have told me eventually.”
“Of course I would have.”
“But I’m still annoyed you told Obi-Wan before me, though.”
Luke held his hands up in innocence. “He asked; you never did.”
Leia shook her head, letting out a short laugh. It was strange, knowing now that this woman she had heard about so often when she was young was her mother. The identity of her biological mother was never anything she had thought much about, not even after learning the identity of her biological father — perhaps especially after. Being the daughter of Darth Vader had been bad enough; she supposed that she thought her mother would be just as bad. But she wasn’t.
“She was a queen, you know,” she said. “She was from Naboo, and their queens are elected. She was only fourteen or fifteen when she was voted in.”
“Fourteen,” Luke corrected, and when Leia looked at him in surprise, he held up the datapad he had been looking at. “I’ve been doing some research. She’s had quite the impressive career. She joined the Apprentice Legislature at eight years old, became the supervisor of Naboo’s capital city, Theed, when she was twelve, then was elected queen, and afterwards she was asked to be the new Senator for Naboo.” He let out a wry laugh. “Sounds like you take after her.”
Leia tensed, almost reflexively, but found that she didn’t quite mind the comparison. When Obi-Wan told her that she looked like Anakin, it had made her skin crawl, but Luke telling her that she resembled Padmé in any way had none of the same effect. Though she liked to think she had gotten most of her skill for politics from her true parents, the thought that some of it might have come from her biological mother was not entirely unwelcome. She gave a small smile. “Maybe.”
“How do you think she met our father?” Luke asked. “It seems strange, a former queen and a Jedi.”
“The Jedi worked closely with the Senate,” Leia explained. “That’s how my father knew Master Kenobi. It’s likely that Padmé and Anakin met that way, though the way Master Kenobi spoke, it sounded as if they’ve known each other for a while.”
“I wish there was someone we could ask.”
“Technically there is, but it would likely draw quite a bit of suspicion.”
Luke gave a wry laugh. “I think we’ve done enough of that for today.”
Leia nodded in agreement, just as a knock sounded against the door. She paused for a moment, unsure, before remembering that Obi-Wan had promised to send Ahsoka down to see them. Standing, she went over and opened the door. The young Jedi Padawan stood just on the other side, her hands behind her back, a bag slung over her shoulder. She smiled at Leia, but there was an uncertainty behind the smile that told Leia Obi-Wan had given her the update.
“Ahsoka,” Leia said, taking a step back from the door. “Please, come in.”
Ahsoka nodded, stepping from the hallway into the room. She looked first to Leia, and then to Luke, bobbing her head in greeting. “Nellith. Ben.”
Luke smiled at her and stood, setting the datapad aside. “Hello, Ahsoka. I take it that Obi-Wan’s given you the news?”
“If by ‘news’, you mean he’s told me that you’re from the future, then yes,” Ahsoka said. “That’s… something.”
“I’m sure it was unexpected,” Luke said.
She snorted. “That’s one way to describe it, yeah. But… I trust Obi-Wan, and if he believes this, then so do I. And so does Anakin.”
Luke nodded. “That’s good to hear.”
“I never got to tell you earlier, with everything that happened,” Leia said, reaching out and placing her hand on Ahsoka’s shoulder, “but I wanted to thank you for all your help. Ben and I appreciate it, more than you can know.”
Ahsoka smiled again, this time with none of the discomfort. “I’m just glad that everything turned out alright. Except for that unfortunate bit near the end, of course.”
“We understand why Obi-Wan did what he did,” Leia said. “I know I would have done the same, in his position.”
“Well, I hope I’ll be able to help again. Though I have to admit, finding a way to get you back to your own time seems a bit more complicated than breaking someone out of prison.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Luke agreed, “but I’m confident that we’ll figure something out.”
Ahsoka was silent for a moment, and Leia could see her building up the courage to say what she wanted to say. It only took her a moment. “I know I’m not supposed to ask anything about the future,” she said, “and I don’t expect you to answer. But I have to ask — do things get better?”
Luke and Leia looked at each other, and then back to the young girl in front of them. She really was so young — still a child. But Leia remembered being her age and joining the Rebellion. She had been so ready for a fight, so eager to change things, and then when the fight had arrived, a few years later, she had learned how tiring war really was. Ahsoka was much younger now than Leia had been at the start of the Civil War, and she had already experienced so much war. She saw a galaxy tearing itself apart and the Order that was her home being beat down, and she wanted to know if anything changed. Of course she did.
“Yes,” Leia said. “In the end, things do get so much better.”
She didn’t tell her that things would get worse — much worse — before then. That was something Ahsoka needed to learn for herself, and she would, when the time was right. But the assurance that everything would turn out alright eventually was all she could give her — though Leia didn’t know if Ahsoka would be there to see it.
It seemed enough for her now, and Ahsoka nodded. “I understand,” she said, and Leia felt that she did, at least in part. She was silent for another moment, before seeming to remember herself. “Here.” She hefted the bag off her shoulder, handing it over to Leia. “I brought you some fresh clothes. Get changed, and I’ll bring you to see Anakin. He’s eager to talk to you.”
Leia took the bag, forcing a smile onto her face. She wasn’t looking forward to this next part. “Thank you.”
The clothes that Ahsoka brought were quite unlike the robes that most of the Jedi wore. Luke had been given a simple cotton shirt and black pants, and he was grateful to finally get out of the tunic he had been wearing since his journey to Raban.
Leia and Ahsoka were waiting for him when he emerged from the refresher. Leia had changed first, and wore a long, burgundy tunic that reached almost to her knees, and she’d done her hair up into a tighter, neater braid, twisted into a bun at the back of her head.
Ahsoka rose from her seat at the room’s desk when Luke entered. “Are we ready to go?”
Luke nodded, and gestured to the door. “Lead the way.”
Ahsoka made her way out into the hallway, and Luke waited until Leia had stood, going over and placing his hand on her shoulder as they walked out together. He could feel how tense she was, and though her face was worked into a careful expression of neutrality, he could see right through it, to the apprehension and fear on the other side.
“It’ll be alright,” he whispered to her, and felt just a modicum of the tension slip from her shoulders.
Ahsoka led them down the large hallway, towards the turbolifts that rested at the end. “We’ll be going to the Halls of Healing,” she explained. “Anakin is being held there until tomorrow morning, just make sure that everything has healed properly.”
“But he’s doing alright?” Luke asked.
“Yeah, he’ll be fine.” Ahsoka waved her hand, unworried. “He’s already causing arguments, which means he’s pretty much back to normal.”
“Has it been decided what we’re supposed to be doing?” Leia asked, eager to move away from conversation about Anakin. “The Council said they’ll be looking into the artifact, but they didn’t give us anything to do in the meantime. And I’d rather not just sit around.”
“That’s what Master Kenobi and Anakin were talking about when I left to get you,” Ahsoka explained. “So we can ask them when we get there.”
They reached the turbolifts, and Ahsoka pressed the button to call one. Leia remembered the Halls of Healing being very close to the living quarters, and they only had to travel down two levels to reach it. Anakin was staying in one of the private rooms, and Ahsoka led them to it, past the infirmary and the chambers that housed the Temple’s many bacta tanks.
Anakin was sitting upright in bed when they arrived, with Obi-Wan leaning against the window on the far side of the room and R2-D2 perched beside the bed. They seemed to have been deep in conversation, but fell silent as Luke, Leia, and Ahsoka entered the room, the door hissing shut behind them.
“Hey, Snips,” Anakin greeted. “I see you made it back with the time-travelling twins.”
“Very good use of alliteration, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said, his voice tinged with sarcasm.
“Ben Lars.” Luke introduced himself, nodding to Anakin in greeting. Anakin had been unconscious during the escape from Janus VII, and Luke and Leia had been quickly thrown into the cargo hold after that; Luke had never actually gotten a chance yet to speak to his father. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest at just the sight of him. He had never seen a picture of Anakin, before he had become Darth Vader and ended up in a life-support suit; all he had was the quick vision on Endor, which had lasted only moments. When Luke had thought of his father, he had usually pictured an older version of himself, but Anakin looked far different from that image — at the current moment, he was younger than Luke himself, and though they had the same eye and hair colour, his features more closely resembled Leia’s than Luke’s.
“My sister and I are both very grateful for your help,” Luke continued, looking to Leia. She looked back at him, her jaw set, and pointedly kept her gaze away from Anakin.
“Anakin Skywalker.” He looked between Luke and Leia, his expression curious. “Where are you two from?”
“The Outer Rim,” Leia said, still not looking at him. “Somewhere you’ve probably never heard of.”
“I know the Outer Rim pretty well.”
“New Ator.” Luke said the name almost automatically. It was a sparsely populated agricultural planet, close to Tatooine. Revealing that his homeworld was Tatooine would be unwise, and would likely lead to some uncomfortable questions, but the nearby location of New Ator would help to explain away the traces of a regional accent that Luke knew he still had, and which Anakin could potentially recognize.
“I have. It’s in the Arkanis sector, correct?”
“Yes. Our father was originally from Ator, and New Ator had originally been settled by his people. That’s why he decided to live there, after leaving the Jedi.”
Anakin nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. Luke knew that he was likely thinking of Owen Lars, the step-brother he had only met once, and Luke’s uncle from whom he and Leia had taken their cover name. But Lars was a common enough last name, and Anakin, likely knowing this, didn’t press the subject anymore.
Sensing the conversation was over, Obi-Wan straightened and stepped away from the window. “As I’m sure Ahsoka has already told you,” he said. “I’ve given both her and Anakin the full update on your situation. Anakin will be taking over your case, effective immediately. I was hoping to be able to help for a short while, but it seems I’m urgently needed elsewhere. As you already know, the Council has asked for research to be done on both the temple on Raban and the artifact you found within it. I suggest you start there, with the Archives.” He looked to Anakin as he said this last sentence, his look pointed.
Anakin shrugged. “I think the best research could be done on the ground.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think,” Obi-Wan said. “Your injuries mean you won’t be cleared to leave Coruscant for a few days yet. I suggest you take this time to find out what you can — if only to placate the Council.”
“I first heard about the temple through rumours,” Luke explained. “Old folk tales and the like. It might be useful to start there, researching the legends of the area.”
“The Temple Archives have records from all over the galaxy,” Ahsoka said. “They go back to the start of the Republic. There has to something about this temple in there.”
“Ben and I can help with the research,” Leia suggested. “We’re the ones who actually have experience with the temple and the artifact; we know what to look for.”
Obi-Wan nodded, rubbing his hand across his beard. “Yes, I agree. You two can start research with Ahsoka this afternoon. Anakin can join you tomorrow, after he has been released by his attending med droid.”
Anakin scowled, but said nothing; it seemed as if he and Obi-Wan had already had that argument, and Obi-Wan had won.
“I wish I could help, but I’m afraid I have to oversee preparations for my departure tomorrow,” Obi-Wan said. “But if you require any assistance, I’m sure that Master Nu will be more than willing to help. No one knows the Archives better than she does.”
“How long will you be away for?” Luke asked.
“I’m not sure. Chances are it will be a while, and so you’ll likely be gone by the time I return.”
“With any luck, yes,” Leia said.
Luke nodded. He was sad to see Obi-Wan go; he would’ve liked to spend more time with the man who would one day become Old Ben. But just getting to meet him was enough. “It’s been an honour to work with you,” he said, “and I wanted to thank you again for your help in rescuing me from that Separatist prison.”
“Think nothing of it,” Obi-Wan said. “Really, most of the credit for that rescue should go to your sister, and Ahsoka, here. They’re the ones who planned it and got you out. Anakin and I were just distractions.”
“Glad to know this was all for a reason,” Anakin said, gesturing down at himself, though he had no visible injuries.
“I really am sorry that you got hurt on my account,” Luke said, wincing. He was glad that Anakin’s injuries were minor and healing well, but things could have ended up much worse — if Dooku had killed him, where would they be now? And it would have been Luke’s fault.
Anakin dismissed his comments with a wave of his hand. “It’s alright. It wasn’t your fault. Although if you get captured by the Separatists again, I can’t promise my help for a second time.”
His tone was light and joking, but Luke could hear the truth underneath it — after all, why should Anakin risk his life, more than once, for almost a total stranger? But though he could understand it, it still stung, to know that someone he thought of so fondly cared for him so little. “Believe me, I don’t plan on it happening again.”
Leia, who had been standing silently at his side, her arms crossed over her chest, finally seemed to grow impatient. “Are we almost done here?” she asked.
Obi-Wan looked a bit surprised by her brusque tone, but nodded. “Yes, I suppose so. Ahsoka can take you to the dining hall for something to eat, and then on to the Archives to begin your research. If things go well, it’s unlikely that I will see you again before your departure. So before you leave, I was wondering if I might have a word with you both, out in the hallway.”
Leia nodded, and strode quickly to the door, eager to get out of the room. Luke followed, and Obi-Wan came last, ensuring that the door closed behind them. The hallway was empty, but Luke could hear the quiet murmur of activity nearby.
“I know this must be difficult,” Obi-Wan said, his voice low to keep from being overhead. “Leia, you said that your father died a short while ago, and I’m assuming that was, actually, the truth.”
“Yes.” She said it softly, her hands fidgeting in front of her. Luke reached out and grabbed one, squeezing it in reassurance. To Obi-Wan, it would look as if he was comforting his sister over the death of their father, though both Luke and Leia knew he was comforting her for a much different reason. He may not understand it completely, but Luke was well aware of how distressing Leia’s emotions were when it came to their father.
Obi-Wan let out a sigh, his hand rubbing through his beard. “I won’t ask how he died,” he said, though just with that phrase he was showing that he desperately wanted to, “but I do appreciate that it must be very hard to see him again. However, it’s important that you don’t let your feelings be known. As you said yourselves, it’s bad enough that I know who your father is. If anyone else were to find out, especially Anakin… it could have some very dangerous, unintended consequences.”
Leia was silent, and Luke could see that her jaw was clenched. Thankfully, Obi-Wan saw her behaviour towards as Anakin as that of a daughter reacting to seeing her recently-deceased father again, not the hatred and animosity it truly was. But it would still have to change, before Anakin or anyone else began to question why she was having such a strong reaction to a man she barely knew.
“Of course,” Luke said. “We understand how precarious the situation is.”
“I trust that you do,” Obi-Wan said with a nod. He opened the door to Anakin’s room and walked back in; Luke and Leia remained in the hallway. Luke could hear him saying his goodbyes to Anakin and Ahsoka, asking them to keep him updated.
He looked to Leia. “You need to learn to tolerate him,” he said, his voice barely audible, “because if you don’t, we’re all going to have a very difficult time.”
“Luke, you don’t und—“
“I understand perfectly, Leia. I’m not asking you to learn to love him; I’m asking you to be civil with him. We don’t need to draw any more suspicion onto ourselves.”
It was a moment before Leia spoke again. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” But her expression was still tight, as if she might start crying or yelling — or both — at any moment.
He might have been frustrated, but he still hated to see her so upset. Without another word, he pulled her into his arms, holding her tight. She let out a shaky breath, hugging him back, just for a moment, before pulling away.
He would make things right. For her, for their father — for everyone.
Chapter 16: The Temple
Ahsoka gives the twins a tour of the Jedi Temple.
Obi-Wan accompanied them out of the Halls of Healing, leading them back the way they had come in, though Luke was sure that such a large wing would have more than one entrance. They stood in the grand hallway beyond, sunlight streaming in from the high windows, illuminating the area in warm yellow light. A few Jedi milled about nearby, and they nodded to Obi-Wan and Ahsoka in greeting, staring curiously at Luke and Leia, about whom news must have already spread throughout the Temple.
“I’m afraid that this is where we must part ways,” Obi-Wan said, looking to Luke and Leia, his expression remorseful. Luke had no doubts that he would have liked to stay on with them longer, to get to know the two people who were his close friend’s children. And Luke would have liked the same — this was, he knew, his last chance to really get to know Obi-Wan, but it wasn’t a chance that he was being given. The Force was pulling them in opposite directions, and they would both have to let it.
“I’m sorry that we couldn’t have known each other for longer,” Luke said, “but the Force is mysterious. Perhaps one day we’ll see each other again.”
This was a fact that they both knew to be true, but they couldn’t reveal that with Ahsoka present. Instead, Obi-Wan merely smiled, nodding in agreement.
“I will key an eye out, for both of you,” he said. “It’s been a true pleasure. I’ve asked Ahsoka and Anakin to keep me updated, and I hope to shortly receive the news that you’ve successfully returned home.”
“Hopefully you will, if things go well,” Leia said. “Thank you, General Kenobi, for everything.”
Luke nodded. “Thank you.”
“I am glad to have been of help. But now, enough of that. It’s time for me to depart.” Obi-Wan bowed his head, first towards Leia, and then Luke. “May the Force be with you both. Now, and for always.”
It was a phrase that Luke had often heard uttered, but it had been so long since it had been spoken to him by another Jedi. He inclined his head, his hands clasped together in front of him, and repeated the same well-wishes. “May the Force be with you.”
“Goodbye, General Kenobi,” Leia said.
Obi-Wan lifted his head, looking to Ahsoka. “I’m sure that I’ll be seeing you in a short while,” he told her, and she nodded.
“Good luck, Master.”
Obi-Wan looked back to Luke and Leia and, with one final nod at them, turned and walked away down the hall. They watched him go for a moment, silent, until he turned a corner and disappeared.
“Do you know where he’s going?” Luke asked, tearing his gaze from the empty corridor and refocusing on Ahsoka.
She shook her head. “Not specifically. He said something about the Outer Rim, but that whole region is such a mess that it’s impossible to know where exactly he might be going.” She smiled reassuringly. “There’s no need to worry, though. Master Kenobi can handle himself.”
Luke gave a quiet laugh. “I’m well-aware of that.” He was quiet for another moment, thinking of his old mentor and friend, until Ahsoka’s hand on his shoulder pulled him from his mind.
“Come on,” she said, motioning with her head down the hall, in the opposite direction that Obi-Wan had gone. “I’ll give you the grand tour.”
She took off, with Luke and Leia following behind. Through the windows lining the hallway, Luke could see the tall, nearby buildings sparkling like jewels in the sunlight. Speeders and other vehicles zipped through the sky, criss-crossing the blue with lines of black.
“It would take hours to do a tour of the whole Temple,” Ahsoka said, “so I’ll only give you the highlights. You know where the residential quarters are, obviously; they’re just back that way.” She motioned behind them, the way they had come earlier. “That’s not all of them, of course. There’s several more floors of rooms. Most Jedi in the Order make the Temple their main home, so we have to have lots of space.”
“Are there some Jedi who don’t live at the Temple?” Luke asked, looking from the window to her.
“Well, there aren’t a lot Knights or Masters on Coruscant anymore, because of the war,” Ahsoka explained. “Most Jedi are of on missions and assignments a lot of the time. But there are a few other temples spread across the galaxy, much smaller than this one, of course. There are some Jedi who make their homes there.”
“Have you ever been to one?”
She shook her head. “No. Now, come on, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.” She quickened her pace, and Luke and Leia hurried to keep up. Ahsoka’s exuberance and excitement over the tour told Luke that this likely wasn’t an experience she had very often, showing visitors around her home.
“How often do non-Jedi stay at the Temple?” he asked.
Ahsoka looked back at him, not once slowing down. “Not often. The Temple isn’t open to the public, and the only non-Jedi who visit are usually politicians, like ambassadors or something. They only come every now and then, and they never stay for long.”
She brought them to a lift at the end of the hallway. They had to wait a moment before one arrived, and they shuffled inside, Ahsoka pressing the button to send the turbolift trundling upwards. “There’s mostly only dorms and classrooms on the floors above the Halls of Healing,” Ahsoka explained as they ascended. “When you get to the higher levels, though, things start to get interesting.”
The lift slowed to a stop and the doors opened. Beyond was another cavernous hallway, a trend that Luke was beginning to notice around the Temple. However, though it was tall, this one was much shorter than the others. On one side, a bank of windows looked out over the city, while on the other there was a wide staircase, with steps twisting both up to the higher levels and down to the lower ones. The only doors in the hallway stood at the very end, the metal covered in elaborate etchings.
Ahsoka led them there, palming the controls so that the doors slid open. On the other side was a long, tall room, with thin windows set high near the tops of the walls. There were several sunken pits lining either side of a narrow walkway which crossed right through the middle of the room. A complicated apparatus hung over every pit, a few of which were occupied. Luke paused by one, watching the training taking place within it.
A Pantoran girl, perhaps ten or eleven years old, stood in the centre of the pit. A hologram stood opposite her, taking the shape of a robed, masked adversary, projected from the apparatus hovering above the pit. The girl was unarmed, but the hologram carried a lightsaber. As he watched, the hologram lunged for the girl; she ducked, avoiding its strike. It continued attacking, and she danced around it, bobbing and weaving to avoid its blade. After a moment, however, the holographic ‘saber managed to clip her in the shoulder. The hologram paused as a red light shone down from the apparatus, before the masked attacker vanished. The girl slumped down against the sloped wall of the pit, scowling.
“Holographic training,” Ahsoka explained. “It’s a good way for Jedi, especially young ones, to practice their moves, without the risk of getting hurt. Even hits from training lightsabers can be painful.”
She kept going, and Luke hurried to catch up. “Training lightsabers?”
“Yeah. You never used one?” She raised an eyebrow marking in curiosity. He shook his head. “It’s like a regular lightsaber, but the power is a lot lower,” she explained. “So instead of cutting off your hand, it’ll just leave you with a killer bruise. You’re telling me that you learned to fight with a fully-powered lightsaber?”
Luke nodded. “I never really had the option not to. My training was much simpler than what I’m sure most Jedi receive. I certainly didn’t have access to a holographic training centre.”
“I gotta say, that’s pretty impressive,” Ahsoka said. “Most Initiates practice for several years before moving on to a fully-powered lightsaber.”
“Initiates are apprentices?”
“Not quite. They’re Jedi younglings, who aren’t old enough to become a Padawan. That’s an apprentice.” They reached the end of the room, where another door stood. Ahsoka pressed the button to open it, leading them through to another room.
They came out in a narrow observation chamber, one wall made up of a thick pane of transparisteel. It looked into a large, high-ceilinged room, the walls and floor of which were completely blank. Indents in the wall hinted at the possibility of platforms which could be extended at will.
“This is the second part of the holographic training centre,” Ahsoka explained, holding her arms out wide and gesturing to the room before them. “It’s a simulation chamber, where all sorts of environments and challenges can be recreated. It’s often used as part of the training of Initiates, teaching them to be able to find their way in a variety of climates and environments, and to work together in challenging situations. Other Jedi use it, as well, to keep their skills up. Though that’s not really necessary anymore, with the war.”
“This is quite impressive,” Luke said.
Ahsoka grinned. “Oh, there’s much more to come.”
She led them back the way they had come, through the room with simulation pits and out into the hallway. They took the stairway that they had passed on their way through, climbing up one level. This hallway was slightly longer than the other, with multiple doors inlaid in the walls.
“This is the entrance to one of the class rooms,” Ahsoka said, motioning to the first door. “It’s also used as a briefing room sometimes. Down here are the entrances to some of the gyms.” She moved on, pointing out the other two doors in the corridor and pressing the panel to open one.
Beyond was a long room, the floor padded and racks of weapons lining the walls. There were staffs of various sizes, as well dozens of lightsabers, which Luke assumed to be the training lightsabers Ahsoka had mentioned earlier. Quite a few people were currently using the gym, and most of them appeared to be young, perhaps only twelve or thirteen. They were sparring using lightsabers, in pairs or even groups. An older Jedi, most likely a teacher, circled the room, inspecting their form and interjecting with suggestions every now and then.
“There are half a dozen other gyms like this,” Ahsoka said. “They’re used for classes, like this, and for practice by other Jedi.” She looked at Luke and smiled. “Maybe we can stop by one some time, and you can show me how well you learned using a fully-powered lightsaber.”
“I’ll have to take you up on that offer,” he said, excited by the prospect.
“We can swing by later, after we’ve attempted to do enough research to satisfy Master Kenobi and the Council.”
“How old are they?” Leia asked, her gaze transfixed on the students. “They’re quite skilled.”
She was right. The students, though they were young, moved with practiced ease, and fought with skill. As Luke watched, one student swiped the feet out from under her partner, sending him to his back as she levelled her lightsaber at his throat.
“Most of them are probably thirteen,” Ahsoka said. “Some might be twelve. They’ll probably be ready to take the Initiate Trials in a couple of years.”
Except they won’t . The thought came unbidden to Luke’s mind, and his heart sank as he realized that, in less than two years, all of the students in this room would likely be dead. The end of the war was only a year and a half away, and with it would come the Jedi Purge, where almost all of the Jedi in the galaxy would be killed — many by his father’s own hand. None of these children would live long enough to complete their trials.
“How long have they been training for?” Leia asked, the sound of her voice pulling Luke from his morbid thoughts.
“Their entire lives,” Ahsoka said. “Most of us are brought to the Jedi when we’re very young.”
Leia’s shock showed on her face. “How old were you when the Jedi found you?”
“Two or three. That’s how old most Jedi are when they’re brought here. Some are only infants, but that happens rarely. It takes a couple of years for signs of Force-sensitivity to appear.”
“That’s so young. So, you never know your family?”
“The Jedi are our family,” Ahsoka said. “The Temple is the only home a Jedi ever knows. Now, don’t misunderstand — the Jedi aren’t baby stealers. Children are taken only with their parents’ permission. All the Jedi here were willingly given over to the Order by their families.”
Leia was frowning, the expression on her face familiar to Luke. It was the one she wore when she was thinking through an issue she disagreed with. “Is that really the best way to teach them? Do they have to be so young?”
“If you wait too long, they become closed off to the Force. Our minds are most malleable when we’re young; that’s when we’re the most open to the Force. The oldest youngling admitted to the Order that I’ve ever heard of was Master Skywalker. He was over nine years old when he was found and brought here to Coruscant. And from what I’ve heard, many of the Masters opposed it. They thought he was much too old to learn anything, though he certainly proved them wrong.”
Luke blinked in surprise. He remembered Yoda telling him that the was too old to be taught the ways of the Jedi, but he had been twenty-two at the time. For the same to be thought of a nine-year-old seemed almost absurd.
“Why did they agree to admit him, then?” he asked, curious.
“The Council believes him to be the Chosen One,” Ahsoka explained.
Luke stared at her for a moment. He looked to Leia, and saw the same confusion that he felt.
“Have you not heard about the Chosen One?” Ahsoka asked, seeing the expressions on their faces. “Wow, your father really didn’t teach you much about the Jedi, did he? The Chosen One is from an old prophecy that predicts the arrival of the one meant to bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith. You do know about the Sith, right?”
“Yes, that part, we know about,” Luke said. “So the Council believes that Anakin is that person? The one who will bring balance to the Force?”
Ahsoka nodded, and Leia let out a short laugh, her brows raised skeptically. Luke shot her a warning look, and she quieted. “Sorry,” she apologized, “he just… doesn’t seem the type.”
“I don’t think he thinks so either,” Ahsoka said. “It’s a feeling shared by much of the Council. Although Obi-Wan believes it, and so do I.”
“Why, exactly, do they think he’s the Chosen One?”
“His midi-chlorian count is extremely high,” Ahsoka said.
Luke blinked, his mind trying to understand the strange word she had just spoken. “I’m sorry, his what count?”
“Midi-chlorian,” Ahsoka repeated, turning back towards the door they had just come through. “I’ll explain it on the way to our next stop.”
Luke frowned, casting Leia a curious look. She smirked, leaning towards him. “It’s quite weird,” she whispered, as they followed Ahsoka back out into the corridor.
They travelled up another level, as Ahsoka attempted to explain the strange Jedi theory of midi-chlorians. Luke had never heard any mention of them anywhere, and Obi-Wan had never spoken of them, but by the way Ahsoka spoke, the Jedi seemed convinced of their existence.
Luke wanted to ask more, but their conversation was waylaid by their arrival at the lightsaber crafting chamber. The long room was outfitted with more than half a dozen tables, and the walls were lined by shelves covered in storage containers of various sizes. A few Jedi sat here-and-there at the tables, and an ancient droid stood in the far corner, organizing the contents of one of the boxes.
Ahsoka launched into an explanation of lightsaber crafting, a topic in which Luke actually had some knowledge, having made his own lightsaber, based on the instructions that Old Ben had left behind in his hut on Tatooine. They didn’t stay long, however, until they were off to their next destination.
They continued up, past more gyms and classrooms, taking a brief stop at the surface vehicle garage, which featured top-of-the-line speeders and transports (at least for the time). A so-called contemplation garden rested at the very top of the Temple, part of it opening onto the roof. It was full of various plant and animal life, though they didn’t stay for long, so as not to disturb those Jedi meditating there.
They travelled down the long hallway that traversed the entire top floor of the Temple, and as they walked, Ahsoka spoke about the five spires that sat atop the Temple, explaining their various uses. Of course, both Luke and Leia had already seen the High Council chamber, located in the southwestern spire. The other spires were home to the Council of First Knowledge, the Council of Reconciliation, and the Reassignment Council, whose purposes Ahsoka explained to Luke with great patience. The centre spire, she said, was home to the Hall of Knighthood, where Jedi were bestowed with the rank of Knight or Master.
As the tour continued, it became clear to Luke just how little he knew about the old Jedi Order.
Of course, that was a fact he had always been aware of. His training had been too short to encompass everything he needed to know, and the Empire had left behind precious little to guide him. But he had never thought that the gap in his knowledge was so wide; before arriving at the Temple, he had not even been aware that the Order had a High Council, let alone all these other Councils. He thought he knew something of the Jedi, but while he knew the ways of the Force, he was beginning to realize that his knowledge of the Jedi themselves was very rudimentary. Yet it was an Order he claimed to be a part of.
He thus listened intently to every word Ahsoka said, trying to absorb as much information as possible. He studied every hallway they passed through, every door they walked by, trying to commit every room of the Temple to memory. He hoped that, if his plan to stop Palpatine and change the past worked out, then this knowledge wouldn’t be necessary — the Jedi would never fall, the Temple would never be transformed into the Imperial Palace, all that knowledge would never be destroyed. He wouldn’t have to rebuild the Jedi Order from nothing.
But old habits died hard, and he had made it a habit over the past few years to memorize every piece of information about the Jedi Order he came across. And if his plan didn’t work out, or go as planned, it was good to have this knowledge to fall back on. Though he tried to convince himself that he wouldn’t need — that his plan would work.
They visited more gardens, used for both contemplation and for growing food. The Temple was a largely enclosed system, Ahsoka explained, growing many of their own fruits and vegetables, and even raising some of their own animals in the menagerie. They passed by the Temple Archives, though they didn’t go in, as that was where they were to go and begin their research later in the day. There was a Temple museum located a few floors below the Archive, and though they had a quick tour of the various ancient artifacts housed within, Ahsoka promised to bring Luke back for a more thorough visit, when they had more time. Then they were on the ground floor, in the main hall, the entrance to the Jedi Temple.
It was a marvellous structure, stretching half the length of the entire Temple and rising several storeys up. Giant columns marched in even rows up the centre and along the sides, and tall windows let in streams of golden light. The floor was tiled, and the sounds of footsteps walking across it echoed wildly in the vast room. Luke had never seen such an architectural feat; even the Massassi temple on Yavin 4 seemed to pale in comparison.
Ahsoka smiled at his awe-struck expression. “This isn’t even the best part,” she said.
They walked the entire length of the main hall, to the very end, where the wall transformed from shining marble to rough-hewn stone. A round tunnel had been cut through the stone, burrowing out to the other side; Luke could see the dim light shining through.
“This is the mountain on top of which the Temple was built,” Ahsoka said, holding her hands up, as if presenting the mountain to them. “It’s been a holy place for millennia. Before the Temple was here, there were dozens of shrines and smaller temples, which were all amalgamated into one building over time. The mountain is considered to be a nexus of the Force.”
“And you cut a tunnel through it?” Luke asked.
Ahsoka shrugged. “It would take a while to walk around. It’s easier higher up, when the peak is thinner, but down here, this thing is almost as wide as the Temple itself.”
She led the way into the tunnel, and Luke and Leia followed. Almost immediately after stepping beneath the stone, Luke could understand why it was called a Force nexus. It was as if he was being enveloped, with the weight of the Force pressing in one him from all sides. It was not necessarily a bad sensation, but it made it difficult to breathe, at least at first, until he could focus his mind, to allow the Force to flow through him rather than push against him.
He glanced over at Leia, and found her face twisted into a grimace, her jaw clenched. “Breathe,” he told her, grabbing one of her hands. “Just breathe. Don’t resist it. Let it flow through you.”
She took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Her eyes closed in focus, and he guided her along as they continued down the tunnel. Several other Jedi passed by them, regarding them with the same curiosity they had been met with throughout the entire Temple. Ahsoka watched them, curious, but didn’t intervene.
After a moment, Leia opened her eyes. Her face still showed some of her discomfort, but it was greatly lessened. She gave Luke a reassuring, thankful smile, and squeezed his hand gently before letting go.
They emerged on the other side of the tunnel a few moments later, the heavy presence of the Force dropping away as soon as they stepped out from beneath the stone. They were standing now in some sort of atrium, the side of the mountain towering high above them, before disappearing into the ceiling. A large, intricate set of doors stood on the opposite wall, which was covered in tall stained glass windows that filled the atrium with a warm green light.
“This,” Ahsoka said, stepping towards the doors, which were made in the ancient style and had to be opened manually, “is the best part of the Temple.”
She pulled them open, and Luke and Leia followed her through.
Luke thought at first that they had stepped outside. The area before them was full of life, teeming with so many trees and plants that it looked as if they were in the middle of a forest. A waterfall cascaded down from a stone edifice in the centre of the room, tumbling into a wide pool that leaked into a large stream, disappearing amongst the foliage. Several stone footpaths divulged in front of them, winding away into the forest. The air smelled of damp earth and flowers, many of the aromas unknown to him. Many of the plants that he could see were exotic and unfamiliar to him, their foliage presenting in all manner of colours. The sound of trickling fountains mingled with the roar of the waterfall, creating a peaceful white noise that immediately calmed him.
The sky seemed to hang blue above them, with soft, white clouds floating lazily through the air. It was a shock, then, for Luke to look further, beyond the multitude of trees and greenery, to the tall, floor-to-ceiling transparisteel windows that spanned the entire length of the area, covering three of the four walls and revealing the room to be one large greenhouse, rather than an actual outdoor oasis.
He was aware that he was staring in shock, and Leia was, as well, but he could hardly stop himself. The sight itself was incredible, but the fact that it was entirely indoors only lent to its splendour.
“This is… unbelievable,” he said, and Ahsoka smiled.
“It’s beautiful,” Leia agreed. “What is it that makes the ceiling look like that?”
“Honestly, I’m not entirely sure,” Ahsoka admitted. “Some sort of combination of a giant canvas and lights. This room is one of the most famous in the Temple.”
“I can see why,” Leia said.
Ahsoka led them down one of the paths, the uneven stones twisting through the trees. There was no barrier between the path and the forest, and Luke could see a few rough trails that wound through the plant life, but most of it appeared undisturbed. Benches and small clearings were spaced evenly along the path, and a few small wooden bridges traversed swiftly-flowing creeks. Fountains, some elaborate, some simple, could be seen, hidden amongst the shrubbery. In some places the path widened into a rotunda, with a gurgling fountain in the very centre.
“We call this the Room of a Thousand Fountains,” Ahsoka explained as they passed by one such fountain. “It’s used for meditation, contemplation, or just for some peace and quiet. It can also be used for lightsaber practice, and some of the Councils will occasionally hold meetings here.”
“It reminds me of the Isatabith rain forest,” Leia said, her voice almost reverent, in a way that told Luke exactly where the Isatabith rain forest used to be.
“Is that on New Ator?” Ahsoka asked. “That’s where you said you were from, right?”
Leia shook her head. “Alderaan.”
“Oh. I’ve never been there myself, but I’ve heard that it’s beautiful.”
Luke reached out and squeezed her shoulder, just once, before letting go. He could sense her gratitude for the gesture, and she turned to smile at him.
They walked for a while longer, and Ahsoka continued to talk, explaining what she knew about the plants that grew there, as well as various aspects of the Jedi Order. Luke knew that Leia was likely highly disinterested in most of the conversation, but she put up a good face, looking as if she was listening intently — a skill she picked up in the Imperial Senate, no doubt. He was sure, however, that her thoughts lay elsewhere, as she gazed around longingly at the trees.
Eventually, they looped back around to the entrance where they had come in, though Luke didn’t realize this until they were standing once more in front of the door. As they prepared to leave, to go find one of the Temple’s many refectories for something to eat, Luke turned to look once more at the Room of a Thousand Fountains. It was truly a wonder, a testament to the strength and beauty of the Jedi Order, and the peace that they fought for. And in a few years, it might be gone. If he did nothing, it certainly would be.
“Luke, come on.” It was Leia who spoke, grabbing his arm and shaking him from his reverie.
He followed her out, with only one look back.
Chapter 17: Guidance
Luke begins to plan, and Leia seeks some advice.
I have a few weeks off from school before I start summer courses, so I'll probably be able to get a couple chapters out in that time. but thank you guys for your patience with these long updates, and also for all your kind words and kudos! I appreciate it all so so much.
They spent several hours in the Temple Archives that evening, poring over records about temples on various planets and folk tales from numerous regions of the galaxy. They found no mention of a temple matching the description of the one on Raban, and nothing resembling the tales that Luke had heard on Chalacta, though his knowledge of Mid Rim folk stories was now vastly improved. Tired and frustrated, they decided to call it a night long after the sun had set. Ahsoka escorted Luke and Leia back to their rooms, to make sure they didn’t get lost, and said her good nights out in the hall, wandering off to her own room with a wide yawn.
Leia went right to bed, saying good night and disappearing into the other bedroom. Luke kicked off his boots and, though he was tired, he wasn’t ready to sleep yet. Grabbing the datapad he had been looking at earlier that day, he settled into the plush armchair. It faced the room’s tall window, displaying a beautiful view of Coruscant’s skyline at night. It was unlike anything Luke had ever seen before; the air traffic was as busy as it was in the middle of the day, and the lights on the innumerable buildings shined in a multitude of colours. They stretched on, beyond the horizon; it was a sight that he didn’t think he would ever grow accustomed to.
Palpatine was out there, somewhere on Coruscant, sitting in comfort while the galaxy crumbled around him, all according to his plan.
Luke revived the datapad, which was still open to the HoloNet News article that he had been reading while Leia was in the shower. He had originally been searching the news looking for any stories concerning their mother, after reading up on her biography, but while he hadn’t found any, there was one that had caught his eye.
Its headline stared up at him in bold letters, announcing that Chancellor Palpatine was to give a speech at a ceremony commemorating the victims of a forest fire on Galidraan, in just a few days.
The ceremony was to take place at Senate Plaza. Usually, so much attention wouldn’t be paid to a natural disaster on a small Outer Rim planet, but, as the article elaborated, Galidraan had originally been settled by Commenor, one of the galaxy’s most powerful Core planets, and so it was drawing more focus than would be typical — pulling in even the Chancellor. Which presented Luke with a unique opportunity.
The public would be allowed to attend the ceremony, meaning he wouldn’t have to worry about gaining access. It was unrelated to the war, so there would be a minimal military presence, especially from the Jedi. It was outside, so it might be easier to get to the Chancellor, and certainly to make his escape afterwards…
In all honesty, Luke wasn’t sure how well this attempt would work, if at all. But it was an opportunity, one that he didn’t think he could pass up. He still had time to hash out the details, to make it work. He’d just have to do it without Leia, or the Jedi Order, finding out.
Ahsoka stopped by early the next morning to collect Luke and take him up on his offer of sparring practice. Leia was already awake and ready for the day, and she had heard her brother beginning to stir in the next room, but when she went over to greet Ahsoka after her arrival, he looked bleary-eyed and tired, as if he had slept poorly.
“Sleep alright?” she asked him, and he shrugged.
“Decently,” he replied.
She frowned, scrutinizing him. She’d never known him to have any problems sleeping; he’d been a soldier for five years, and soldiers quickly learned to sleep whenever and wherever they had the chance. It was a skill that even Leia had developed during her years in the Rebellion. But she figured if he was being troubled by their situation, she couldn’t really blame him — most soldiers didn’t end up being thrown twenty-five years into the past.
“We’re going to have a little duel,” Ahsoka said. “Do you wanna come along?”
Leia nodded. She would go watch for a little while, and then head to the Archives to get a head-start on researching. The sooner they found any useful information, the sooner they could get home.
“Maybe you can give it a go,” Luke suggested, grinning. Leia laughed.
Ahsoka took them up to one of the gyms they had visited yesterday, making simple small talk along the way. There were a few other people already there, even at that early hour, but they were able to find a mat for themselves near the back of the room. A small bench was pressed against the nearby wall, and Leia sat down on it, watching as Luke and Ahsoka prepared for their duel.
A shelf lined with lightsabers stood against the opposite wall, and Ahsoka directed Luke to it. “They’re organized by blade length,” she explained. “You’ll want one that suits your height, so I’d suggest taking from this shelf.” She pointed to one of the shelves higher up, though not near the very top. “Find one with a grip that’s comfortable for you.”
He shifted through the ‘sabers, trying out various handles. It took a moment before he found one that he was satisfied with. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of me getting my own lightsaber back?” he asked.
“You’d have to ask someone higher up than me,” Ahsoka replied, “but I don’t think it’s too likely. Here, pass it over.” Luke handed her the lightsaber and, with a bit of effort, she managed to pry open the panel built into its side, allowing her access to the mechanics within. She fiddled with it for a moment, before closing the panel. “It was set to training mode, but I’ve turned it to full power. Based on our conversation yesterday, I think you can handle it. Besides, mine don’t have the option to turn them to training mode, and we want this to be a fair fight.”
Luke took the ‘saber back and pressed the activation button. A brilliant blue blade shot out, humming with energy. Ahsoka took a step back, and he gave it a few exploratory swings, spinning it around in his hand, feeling the balance of the blade. When she had first met him, in the months after the Battle of Yavin, she had sometimes watched him practicing, when she’d had the time. Drawn by curiosity over this boy who claimed to be a Jedi, she would watch as he faced off against a training remote. His moves had been awkward and bumbling at first, but over time, she’d watched as he developed a real talent, his skills growing more and more impressive, particularly after his run-in with Vader on Bespin.
He’d seemed so angry then. He had taken his anger out in practice, perfecting his skills. She had thought then that he was simply angry because of his defeat at Vader’s hands; she knew now that he had been grappling with the revelation that Vader was his father. It was a feeling she understood well. But Luke had had to deal with it alone; she didn’t.
Unhooking them from her belt, Ahsoka ignited her own two lightsabers. “Ready to go?” she asked, and though her back was to her, Leia could hear the grin in her voice.
“Of course.” Luke moved into a ready position, his blade held in front of him and his feet braced against the floor.
Ahsoka was the first to strike, lunging across the floor and swiping at him with one of her lightsabers. He blocked it easily, parrying with a powerful blow. She ducked to avoid it, swinging her blades as she moved, and he hurried out of their path. She struck next with both ‘sabers, and he blocked those as well. Seeming to realize that he could take it, she began to put more force into her blows, moving quicker and forcing him to work harder.
Still, he was able to keep up. He managed to block or avoid all her hits, though she was able to do the same with his. They were well matched, though Ahsoka had much more formal training than Luke. She was an active duellist, almost dancing around on the mat, a sharp contrast to the only lightsaber duel that Leia had ever witnessed, on the Death Star between Vader and General Kenobi. Ahsoka’s energetic style and dual lightsabers seemed to throw Luke a bit, as both were aspects that he hadn’t experienced in a duel before, but he managed to keep his head and stay on top of things. To Leia’s untrained eye, it seemed an impressive fight.
And it looked like she wasn’t the only one to think so. Focused on the fight as she was, she hadn’t noticed Anakin enter the gym, and didn’t until he was standing right by the mat, watching the duel. He was out of the medical gown he had been wearing the day before, and now wore a set of black Jedi robes.
She looked away from him, focusing her gaze on the duel which continued in front of her. But Anakin had already seen her, and he came over, taking a seat beside her.
“Your brother’s quite good,” he commented. “Your father must have taught him well.”
“He did,” Leia said, not looking at him. That was, technically, the truth, though not in the way that Anakin was thinking; the lessons Luke had learned from their father rested more in the vein of learning from your mistakes.
“Do you have any lightsaber training?” Anakin asked.
Leia shook her head, wishing that he would stop talking to her.
“Your father wouldn’t teach you?”
“I didn’t want to be taught.” She could feel her heartrate beginning to climb. Just being near him made her uncomfortable, but having him look at her, speak to her, made it worse, knowing what he would become and what he would do. She couldn’t look at him without picturing that awful mask over his face, or hear him without that mechanical breathing sounding in her ears.
“It never interested me.” She stood, giving him a quick, strained smile. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the Archives and get a head start on research.” She didn’t wait for a response, striding away as quickly as she could without looking panicked. She knew that Luke was watching her go, but she didn’t look at him, even though she could feel the concern practically radiating off him. A moment later, she heard him grunt as he hit the floor, Ahsoka likely taking advantage of his distraction to knock him off his feet.
The hallway outside of the gym was blissfully empty, and she paused for just a moment to catch her breath, before hurrying on her way, lest anyone, especially Anakin, try to follow her. She didn’t remember the exact way to the Archives, but she knew they were on the other side of the Temple, somewhere near the top. She would just walk until she found them.
She had no idea if she was allowed to wander about the Temple unaccompanied, but she didn’t much care. She just wanted to be alone. As she practically ran down the nearby staircase, she heard someone exiting the gym. It could be one of the other Jedi who had been practicing there, or it could be Anakin or Ahsoka or even Luke coming to look for her. She didn’t wait to find out. She raced down one staircase and then another, turning into the hallway and walking quickly away, disappearing around a corner.
After several turns, she still didn’t hear anyone pursuing her, and so she assumed that she had either lost them or they had never been after her in the first place. She kept walking, trying to keep her breathing steady and maintain the appearance that she knew where she was going. She got a few curious glances as she walked through the corridors, but nobody stopped her.
The more she walked, the better she felt. By the time she reached the mountain spire jutting up through the centre of the Temple, her heartrate had slowed and she felt much calmer. She paused in front of the rough stone of the mountain, exposed in the middle of the hallway, which curved to go around it. Her reaction had been unwise, she knew. Luke had asked her to be civil with Anakin, and she had promised him she would, but when it had come down to it, it had been nearly impossible. She had lasted only a few moments before she could no longer stand being near him. He looked nothing like the Vader she knew, but knowing what he would become made it impossible for her to see him any other way.
Anakin Skywalker was a war hero and, by the accounts of those who didn’t know the truth, a good man. But to Leia, all he was, and could ever be, was the man who would one turn day turn into Darth Vader. She couldn’t separate the two, not in the way that Luke could. But to keep the truth of their parentage from coming out, she needed to be able to.
Ahsoka had called the mountain a nexus of the Force. Luke spoke often of receiving guidance from the Force. Leia figured she could do with some guidance right about now.
Sighing, she placed her hand on the exposed stone of the mountain. Immediately, she could sense the Force pressing down on her, like she had in the tunnel to the Room of a Thousand Fountains, only several times stronger. It was uncomfortable, almost painful, like a pressure pushing against her head, trying to force its way through. She withdrew her hand, and the sensation retreated.
She remembered what Luke had told her, to allow the Force to flow through her instead of against her. Tentatively, she reached out and touched her hand to the stone. The feeling returned, but instead of removing her hand, she closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath and opening her mind, quieting her thoughts and reaching out to the world around her. The pressure slowly receded, though she could still feel the Force around her, more keenly than she usually could. She could sense the mountain, burning brightly in the Force, and all the beings in the Temple, from the Jedi to the plants in their gardens. Beyond the Temple, she could feel the thrum of life that encompassed all Coruscant, the billions of beings that called it home — crying and laughing and yelling, living their lives.
It was unlike anything she had ever felt before. It was overwhelming. Nothing she sensed called out to her, offering guidance. She let her hand slip off the stone, not knowing how to process everything she was feeling. She couldn’t. Breathing in deeply, she let it out slowly and opened her eyes.
It took her a moment to notice the blue translucent man standing a few feet away from her. He was tall, dressed in the robes of a Jedi with long hair pulled into a half-ponytail. He was watching her closely, and smiled when she looked over at him, her eyes widening.
“Hello,” he greeted.
Luke grunted as Ahsoka helped him to his feet, her lightsabers extinguished and hooked back onto her belt. His own ‘saber rested a few feet away, the blade deactivated. He grabbed it quickly as he stood.
“Sorry about that,” Ahsoka apologized. “I took you down a bit harder than I was planning to.”
“It’s alright,” Luke said. “I was… distracted.”
“That’ll cost you on a battlefield,” Anakin said, standing from where he had been sitting on the bench and walking over to join them. Luke had noticed him enter the gym partway through his sparring session with Ahsoka, but he had managed to keep his focus until Leia had abruptly gotten up and hurried from the room. He had been able to sense her anxiety and discomfort, and he’d been concerned. He’d focused on her for a just a moment too long, and Ahsoka had taken advantage of his distraction.
“That’s a lesson it seems I’m having difficulty learning,” Luke said. “Is my sister alright? Where did she go?”
“She said she was going to the Archives, to start on research,” Anakin explained, “though she did seem a bit anxious.”
“I think she just wants to get home,” Luke said. He was not nearly as good a liar as Leia, but while that might not have been the cause of her discomfort around Anakin, it certainly was true. “I’m sure you can understand how this situation might cause anyone some anxiety.”
Anakin nodded. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. You seem to be holding up alright, though.”
“My sister isn’t as… experienced with controlling her emotions as I am.”
“It would probably be a good idea to go find her, then,” Ahsoka suggested. “She seemed in a bit of a hurry.”
“You’re probably right.” He moved to return the lightsaber to the shelf, half-hoping that either Anakin or Ahsoka would chime in and tell him that he could hold onto it. They didn’t, and he placed it carefully back in its place. But he already had a half-formed plan to get it back into his possession.
He followed Anakin and Ahsoka from the gym out into the hallway. “Does she know the way to the Archives?” Anakin asked.
“Likely not the most direct route,” Ahsoka said, “and you know how easy it is to get lost in here. We can go and look for her at the Archives, and if she’s not there, then we can set up a manhunt.”
“She has a surprisingly good sense of direction,” Luke said, “so she might manage to find her way there.”
Ahsoka smirked. “Well then, hopefully she does.”
They set off, Ahsoka leading the way and Luke falling into step beside Anakin, his heart pounding like a nervous boy meeting his childhood hero. He still wasn’t used to his father being here. All his life, his father had been nothing more than a concept, an idea in his mind. That idea had been destroyed by the revelation of who his father really was, but even after Darth Vader became Anakin Skywalker once more, it never truly recovered. But now he had met the man his father had been before succumbing to the dark side, the man who matched what Luke had imagined for so long. He wanted to ask him so much, to learn every detail he could, but he knew that he couldn’t.
“I hope that I didn’t say anything to upset your sister,” Anakin said, drawing Luke from his thoughts with a start. “She seemed very… unsettled.”
“Why would anything you said upset her?” Luke asked, though he knew that Anakin’s mere existence upset her.
“I mentioned your father,” he explained. “Obi-Wan told me that he passed away recently. I know how difficult it is to lose a parent.”
He was talking about Shmi, his mother. Luke had never met her, but he’d heard many good things about her from Uncle Owen. That had also been the first, and last, time Owen met his step-brother, when Shmi died; Padmé, Luke’s mother, had been with him. Because of that it was an event that had long fascinated Luke as a child, and he’d often asked how his grandmother had died, but Uncle Owen had never told him. It seemed as if it had been hard on Anakin, though.
“Nellith’s relationship with our father was complicated,” Luke said. “They didn’t get along very well. I think she’s still angry with him.”
“Can I ask what about?”
Luke was silent for a moment, trying to think through his next words. “Our father… wasn’t always a very good man. He was better near the end of his life, but while we were growing up, things were difficult. I’ve learned to forgive him, but it’s been hard for Nellith. Honestly, I don’t know if she ever will forgive him.”
“You do sound like a Jedi,” Anakin said with a smirk. “But for a lot of people, forgiveness can be difficult. I think she just needs time to sort it out on her own.”
Luke nodded. “Maybe.” He had, after all, had more time to adjust to the truth about their father than Leia, and it had been difficult for him at the beginning, too. He’d struggled for a long time to accept it, and he hoped that, one day, Leia would come to accept it too. He just hoped it would be sooner rather than later, before her unresolved issues with her parentage caused them any more trouble.
“Who are you?” Leia asked, staring, wide-eyed, at the ghostly figure in front of her.
“My name is Qui-Gon Jinn,” the man said. His accent was Coruscanti, and he spoke gently in a deep, calm voice. “I was a Jedi, and Master to Obi-Wan Kenobi for a very long time.”
“But… you’re dead now.”
Qui-Gon Jinn nodded. “I am indeed.” He smiled again, and turned slightly, gesturing with his arm further down the hallway. “Will you walk with me?”
While Leia’s rationality would tell her to be wary of going for walks with ghosts, something told her that she could trust this man. She felt no ill-will from him, nothing that would tell her to be cautious. So she nodded, and stepped forward to join him as he began to walk away down the corridor.
They walked for a moment in silence, passing by a few Jedi who seemed entirely unbothered by the pale blue spectre floating through their Temple. Either this was a strangely often occurrence for the Jedi, or they couldn’t see him. That second possibility made her somewhat self-conscious of speaking to Qui-Gon, not wanting to appear to be talking to thin air, and so she refrained from saying anything until they were out of earshot of any other beings.
“Can anyone else see you?” she asked, looking up at him. He was quite tall, much taller than she was, and he walked with easy confidence.
“Just you,” he said. “And your brother.”
“My brother?” Leia asked, quieting as a pair of Jedi walked past them, waiting until they were further away before continuing. “How do you know about my brother?”
“I visited him, when he was still a prisoner of Dooku’s,” Qui-Gon explained, and Leia frowned. Luke had never mentioned any visits from dead Jedi. Qui-Gon continued, “I know quite a few things about you, Leia. Your father was Anakin Skywalker, who fell to the dark side and became Darth Vader. You were raised by Bail and Breha Organa on Alderaan, before it was destroyed by the Emperor’s Death Star. You were part of the Rebellion that took Palpatine down. I know many other things, as well, which you yourself don’t yet know.” He paused a moment, looking down at her for a long while before continuing. “I also know why you are so reluctant to forgive Anakin.”
“Because he was a monster.”
“That might be true of Vader,” Qui-Gon said, nodding, “but what about Anakin? Is the Jedi General who fights valiantly for the Republic a monster? What about the man who loves his wife dearly, or the ten-year-old slave boy that I knew on Tatooine? What about the man who saves his son’s life and kills the Emperor? Is he a monster?”
“Vader is responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of beings. He personally tortured me for hours. He had a hand in the destruction of my homeworld. His past and any good deeds he might have done don’t erase that.”
Qui-Gon was silent for a long time, as if deep in thought. They continued walking, meandering through the halls of the Temple. He took her up several flights of stairs, exiting out into one of the rooftop gardens that Ahsoka had showed them the day before. There were a number of Jedi there, meditating in the peace of the garden, and Qui-Gon led her to a quiet corner, shrouded from the rest of the garden by a tall tree with thickly-leaved branches that hung from it like ropes. There was a stone bench nestled beneath the tree, and Qui-Gon sat, gesturing for Leia to join him.
“Do you know why Anakin fell to the dark side?” he asked, as she settled down beside him.
“No, and to be quite honest, I don’t much care,” Leia said, growing frustrated. “It doesn’t matter to me why he turned to the dark side. That won’t change anything he did.”
Qui-Gon nodded. “No, it won’t,” he agreed, “and I don’t expect that it will give you reason to forgive him. But it will allow you to perhaps understand him more, which might make forgiveness easier.”
Leia said nothing. She doubted that there was any information in the galaxy that could cause her to forgive Darth Vader.
“You are the one who sought guidance,” Qui-Gon said. “I am merely providing it.”
After a moment, Leia nodded. “Alright. Tell me why he decided to become a mass murderer.”
“He joined the dark side to save Padmé,” Qui-Gon began, ignoring her quip, “your mother. They met when they were both quite young and, several years later, right after the Clone Wars had begun, they married secretly. The Jedi do not allow members of our Order to marry, you see.”
“The Jedi believe that attachment is dangerous, and that it will lead, ultimately, to the dark side. It is a view that I never fully agreed with, but in the case of your father, it unfortunately proved true.”
“He wasn’t my father.”
Qui-Gon was silent for a moment, assessing her, before continuing, “Anakin’s mother had died shortly before he married Padmé. He had had visions of her death for months, but Yoda and Obi-Wan warned him against trying to save her. He defied their orders and went to Tatooine, where he discovered that she had been kidnapped by Tusken raiders, a vicious people native to Tatooine. He found and rescued her, but she died in his arms. It was an event that affected him deeply. He didn’t have any more visions until several years later, when Padmé revealed to him that she was pregnant.”
With Luke and I, Leia thought, with some shock. When she thought of her birth parents, she always felt disconnected from them, particularly after learning her biological father’s identity. They were the reason she was alive, but they were always unimportant to her. But with that one sentence, she realized just how connected to both of them she really was. A woman who wasn’t her mother had carried her for nine months, bonded with her and loved her. She looked like her biological father.
Their blood ran through her veins.
It was a thought that twisted her stomach into knots, and she placed her hands tight against her abdomen, breathing deeply.
“He saw visions of her dying in childbirth,” Qui-Gon continued, “and became desperate to prevent her from sharing the same fate as his mother. The Jedi did little to assuage his worries, and he turned to Palpatine, who offered him what he wanted — a way to cheat death. Anakin took his offer, and lost himself to the dark side. In the end, Padmé still died, and Anakin, in his grief, fell even deeper into the darkness. It was only your brother who managed to pull him back out.”
Leia was quiet for a long while, her lips turned into a deep frown. “That’s… tragic,” she said finally, and it was. To give everything he had into saving the one he loved, and still not succeed; it was a depressing tale. But she still didn’t understand how it had turned him into a such a hateful, evil man. She had lost her family, her entire planet, and it didn’t cause her to become a murderer.
“That is just a simple version of the story,” Qui-Gon said, after several more seconds had passed. “There were many other factors at play. But the fact is, Anakin was afraid, and Palpatine was the one to offer him help.” He paused a moment before continuing. “Leia, I am not here to tell you how to feel about him. I’m only here to give you more of the story, so that your feelings might be more well-informed. Anakin Skywalker was not evil. He was not perfect, of course; no one is. But I do not think he was a bad man. He simply trusted the wrong people and made some very poor decisions, and it cost him dearly in the end.”
“It cost a great many other people, as well.”
Qui-Gon nodded. “It did, indeed.”
They were both silent for a moment, until Leia looked over at him. “Do you know why we’re here?” she asked. “Luke believes that we have some sort of purpose we need to fulfil, and he’s convinced that purpose is to kill Palpatine and stop the Empire before it rises — stop Anakin from becoming Darth Vader. But I’m not so sure.”
“About having a purpose here, or about killing Palpatine?”
“I will tell you what I told you brother,” Qui-Gon said. “I agree that you do have a purpose here. The Force would not be so peaceful around you otherwise. It was the Force that sent you here, that is certain, but I don’t know why. I don’t know if anything like this has ever happened before.”
“Do you think we were sent here to stop Palpatine?” Leia asked, after a moment had passed.
“I don’t know. My knowledge of the future is not all-encompassing. I know what occurs, as things stand at the moment. But events have been set in motion by your arrival here, and the future is no longer so clear. Things could change drastically, based on what actions you and your brother both decide to take. I do not know if that change would be good or bad.”
“What do you think we should do?” she asked.
“I advise you to be cautious. One wrong move, and the future could change in ways you did not intend.”
Which was exactly why Leia was against Luke’s idea of attempting to fix things. She looked down at her hands, her lips drawn tight together. Too much was at stake to risk with such a foolish plan.
She opened her mouth to ask another question, but when she looked over at Qui-Gon, he was no longer there.