Anakin leaned against the back of Obi-Wan’s chair, looking down at him.
“That was kind of unexpected from Dodonna,” he said quietly.
“Hmm, maybe, he’s never much liked me, we had a few run ins over strategy, but MonMothma should be able to keep him leashed in order to try to make this work.”
“So, we’re back to waiting then?”
“Yes, but hopefully not for too long, I need to get back to Coruscant, and get moving on the new Senate.”
“Do we need a Senate? Look at all the trouble they caused the last time.”
“Well, they, and we, are just going to have to learn from past mistakes, or we’ll just be making them over and over again.”
Anakin grumbled softly at that, but didn’t push the issue, and Obi-Wan rose from his chair, pulling him down to kiss him softly.
“Don’t worry Anakin, I won’t be trying to make a politician out of you, you can keep the military under control.”
“You don’t like politics any more than I do,” Anakin pointed out, wrapping his arms around the smaller man, basking in the closeness.
“True, but one of us is going to have to deal with it, and I’m marginally less likely to shoot the stupid ones.”
“So how are you going to stop it turning out to be the same corrupt, lumbering mess it was before?”
“By keeping a firm grip on it,” Obi-Wan shrugged, he would allow them to manage their own affairs to a point, but he would step in at the first hint of underhand dealings, or foot dragging.
“Do you think they will accept that?”
“They’re going to have to, that point will not be negotiable,” Obi-Wan said firmly.
MonMothma sighed, leaning back in her chair, Leia was still arguing against having anything to do with the idea of talking with Kenobi, insisting it was a trap.
“Enough,” she finally snapped, leaning forward again and giving Leia a hard look.
“I know you went through a bad time on the death star, and I know that the loss of Alderaan is a gaping wound to all of us here, Bail was a good friend, a good man, and a well-respected member of this council, but we cannot allow personal animosity to destroy what may well be our one chance to end this war peaceably.”
“They’ve killed millions of people,” Leia snarled.
“And our hands are not precisely clean, are they? How many people were on the death star, did we give them a chance to evacuate? How many on the star destroyers we’ve destroyed? How many in the garrisons we destroyed? Yes, they have shot down our ships, destroyed our bases, but they were always small convoys, small cells, a few hundred at a time, maximum, while we have killed thousands at a time. There has been more than enough blood spilled on both sides of this conflict, pushed on, fed and encouraged by Palpatine and now there is a chance to make it end. We need to take it.”
“The Empire…” Leia started, was overridden.
“Is in new hands Princess, hands that are offering an end to the bloodshed. MonMothma is correct, we must take a chance,” Akbar said, speaking for the first time since the debate had begun.
“Fine, have it your way, and when we are all in Imperial cells on Coruscant, awaiting public execution as an example to everyone else, I’ll ask them to kill me last, so that I can say I told you so to every one of you,” Leia hissed, stomping out of the room.
“Well, that went well,” Han snarked, earning himself a glare from MonMothma.
“We need to all take a break, calm down and gather our thoughts, we will meet back here in two hours and try to contact Kenobi. Maybe that will give Leia a chance to calm down and think it through too.”
“She’s very stubborn,” Rieekan pointed out.
“She is, but she was also trained in politics and diplomacy by Bail, he will have taught her that what you think is right isn’t always the best option for the people you serve. That’s how he kept Alderaan under Imperial radar for as long as he did.”
They all left the room, heading off in separate directions, except for Luke, who stood looking down at Yoda.
“She’s so angry, I can feel her from here.”
“Yes, dealt with the pain of her capture she has not, with the pain of the loss of her world. Until grieve she does, angry she will remain,” Yoda sighed, he could foresee at least one confrontation between the princess and the two Sith Lords before she started to deal, he just hoped it wouldn’t be enough to derail the peace Obi-Wan was hoping to form.
“Come, meditate we will, work on forms we will, settle our minds we will.”
Luke sighed, he really wanted to go and talk to Leia, but he didn’t think she would listen to him right now. Han would go after her, and either send her mind elsewhere for now, or goad her into a row that would take the edge off her temper, he followed Yoda with a nod.
Leia was already in the meeting room when they came back in, a flush on her cheeks and glowering at Han, who was smirking at her, but she did seem marginally calmer than she had stormed out of the room.
“I apologize for my outburst before, it was unnecessary,” she said stiffly before anyone else could speak.
“Accepted Leia, this isn’t easy for any of us, we do understand your feelings,” MonMothma said.
“I know, but you’re right, as distasteful as it might be, if there’s a chance to stop the killing, we have to at least try. Just don’t expect me to be overly civil to them if we come face to face,” she warned.
“Then let’s do this, “MonMothma said, declining to comment on Leia’s warning, she wasn’t a hundred percent certain she would manage face to face civility herself.
“Make the call,” she instructed the tech.
Obi-Wan was once again working through the ever-growing pile of data pads, wondering if the bloody things were breeding while his back was turned, when a flashing light on the desk’s control panel drew his attention.
“Yes?” he growled after hitting the switch.
“This is Captain Levon your Majesty, the rebels are requesting communication with you.”
“Good, inform Lord Skywalker and have him join me here, then route the communication through to me.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
Obi-Wan kept working until Anakin came in, taking the seat to his left at the table, and then put the data pad aside and called for the communication to be put through.
“Emperor Kenobi,” MonMothma greeted, her holographic form offering a shallow bow of the head, and Obi-Wan winced.
“Not over communications please, Madame, not until the official announcement is made. Lord Kenobi and Lord Skywalker if you please.”
“As you wish, Lord Kenobi,” she acknowledged.
“May I take it a decision has been reached?”
“We’re willing to talk, yes. Terms for a cease fire?” she asked.
“Our fleet has already been pulled back, in return, your ships, your convoys will restrict themselves to non-military actions, the delivery of food, medical supplies, shelters. We will offer assistance with these items if required. Once the crews of our fleet have been thoroughly vetted, a small number of ships will be sent back out to patrol to ensure that scavengers, or people wishing to prolong the conflict do not become a problem, they will be ordered to assist your own vessels in the event you come up against any of these same people. Our ground forces will cease searching for your people on the ground, garrisons will concern themselves only with peacekeeping, unless they come under fire, and they need to defend themselves. If you have people trapped on Imperial loyal worlds, you may arrange their retrieval, on unarmed ships, no one will interfere with your ships, or the people they come to collect, provided they are flying openly under your banner. Stealth missions will be considered a hostile action.”
“Peacekeeping, we’ve seen some of your garrison commander’s ideas of peacekeeping,” Leia snorted acidly.
Obi-Wan studied her face in the hologram for a moment, and then turned to Anakin, eyebrow raising.
“There are a handful I could list right now that I suspect will need to be removed from their positions sooner rather than later, and I can guarantee there are more I don’t know about,” Anakin told him, not bothering to lower his voice.
“Find out, I don’t want anyone trigger happy in charge of a garrison,” he ordered.
“Yes Master,” Anakin acknowledged automatically, making a note on his own data pad.
“This is starting to sound an awful lot like us surrendering,” Dodonna pointed out.
“No; I am not asking that you disarm, or that your people on the ground turn themselves in to the garrisons. I am just asking that we stop shooting at each other so that we can make a start on healing this galaxy.”
“And what next, if we agree to the terms you have laid out?” MonMothma asked.
“I go back to Coruscant and start working openly to build a functioning Senate, Lord Skywalker will bring the military under control, you will do whatever you need to do to make the ceasefire work on your side, and we will give it time to see if it can hold. If it proves that can hold, then we will move on to formal peace talks.”
“There is already a Senate in place,” Leia pointed out.
“A puppet Senate, more concerned with currying favour with Palpatine than representing their worlds. I said functioning Senate and I meant it, I am not interested in puppetry.”
“We would like time to discuss it,” MonMothma said softly.
“Of course, take all the time you need. I will be returning to Coruscant shortly, feel free to contact me there when you are ready to speak again.”
“Thank you, Lord Kenobi.”
The hologram cut out, and she sank back in her chair, looking at the others gathered around the table.
“The terms are actually more reasonable than I expected,” Madine sighed, rubbing his temples in the hopes of soothing the headache he could feel coming on.
“If we agree we can take his word, possibly. It will take several days for him to get back to Coruscant from where they are now, so we have time to watch, to see if they really do clean house on the more extreme base commanders, to watch for signs that it was empty words,” MonMothma pointed out.
“I’ll start sending messages to our people in deep cover, tell them to report in as often as they can. That will give us a better idea of what they’re doing than what they let us see out here on the fringes,” Dodonna frowned.
“You risk blowing their covers, if they report in more frequently,” Ackbar protested.
“If Kenobi was legitimate in his claims, they will be safe, and if not, well, then we will know that he was attempting to trick us,” Rieekan shrugged.
MonMothma scowled at his casual dismissal of the risk to their deep cover spies, but couldn’t really argue against the need for the information they could provide.
“Did we hear anything back from the contacts on the list we retrieved from R2D2?” she asked.
“Not yet, we’re not even sure any of them got through, but we have a dedicated board monitored constantly to make sure nothing slips through the cracks if we do hear from them,” Rieekan told them.
“Keep us informed. We have a lot to do now, everyone contact the cells in their sectors, tell them not to engage with any Imps until further notice, but to report everything that they see and hear back to us, we will meet at eighth hour each morning to compare reports. We have time to think about this, we need to make it count. Dismissed,” MonMothma said.
They all rose and headed for the exit, but Leia stopped her in the doorway.
“I really am sorry, what I said….”
“I do understand Leia, it burns my blood too, the thought of capitulating in any way to the Empire, but you know as well as I do that neither Alliance nor Empire is ever going to surrender. Shifting the battlefield may well be the only way to save us all.”
Leia nodded and slipped away silently, leaving MonMothma alone, or not so alone she realized as she heard the tap of a stick against the floor in the corridor.
“Do you really think we can trust him, Master Yoda?”
“Trust him we can, trust him we must,” he told her before tapping away.
She watched the direction he had gone long after he had vanished around the corner, then chided herself firmly for wool-gathering, she had work to do.