CHAPTERS 31 - 47

An original short story by Maureen Kuppe
Featuring characters from the Star Wars Trilogy by George Lucas

Story © Copyright M.Kuppe
August, 2000




      The lookout on duty watched through macrobinoculars as the unidentified ship descended not far from the excavation site, landing lights easily visible in the perpetual night sky. After relaying the discovery to Command via his wrist comm, he jumped aboard his swoop. A black cape billowed behind the bike and like a nightwing on the hunt, the Sith Lord silently flew over to take a closer look.

      “It’s not a republic cruiser, Sir. It looks to be a civilian shuttle.” Mission Commander Jivian transmitted the lookout’s report to Thupten Leba who was overseeing the invasion force from their makeshift headquarters on Roon.

      “Then it is not the Fleet … at least, not yet….but it will not be long now. Have your men investigate further, and hold the crew. They may come in handy…” Leba’s mind was already working out his next move, and like a game of holochess, was even laying out his next two potential  moves  in advance.   He  needed  this  mission  to be successful. They had secured the dark side of the planet easily. Now they were able to move in with equipment to uncover the rumored fortune; enough precious jewels to finance their army for eons. But the threat of intervention from Coruscant still loomed. He knew he was running out of time; everything hinged on finding the hidden treasure, buried long ago in the ancient Rui Temple.

      “We need to speed up our search, Jivian. I am dispatching my Apprentice to assist you. Darklighter!” Leba bellowed.

      “Yes, sir.” Rigel was at his side all the time, silent but attentive to the entire conversation. “At your leave, Master.”

      “Proceed to these coordinates. Use your abilities to locate that hoard. I want it found now!”

      “As you wish.” Rigel swept out of the room, her own black cape flowing behind her.

      Well, Exate reports that the hyperdrive itself is okay, but the control circuits running to it under the fuselage are fried, Kali. I left the droid out there, trying to weld together what’s left at the blaster points.” Mauura extinguished the glowrod she used to check the exterior of the ship, while Kali stayed to survey the damage in the cockpit.

      “Can it be fixed?” Kali was on her back, and pulled herself out from under the control panel where she was attempting to splice what remained of the circuits there. It was a mess. Mauura’s discovery confirmed her worst suspicions; the short circuits ran nearly the full length of the ship. Only the premature shutting down of the hyperdrive saved it from severe damage.

      “I’ll try, but if we need replacement parts, this doesn’t look like the place to find them.” Mauura tilted her head at the desolate clearing they had landed in.

      “I know. It doesn’t look like there there’s much around alright…. I’d better contact Luke. He must have reached Corellia by now and is wondering where in the galaxy we are.” She got up off the floor and headed to the navigator’s station. Flipping the unit on, she was distressed to see the ‘Ready To Transmit’ button refused to light up.  Of course…what else can break down? Well, at least the automatic distress signal is still working. Just as Kali finished checking on the signal, a high-pitched shriek from Exate startled her and Mauura. Thinking it must have shocked itself, they both ran down the landing ramp to find the droid twitching in the long grass, it’s dome light blinking red and blue, lighting up a burn slash deep in it’s torso.

      “What the?” Kali stepped off the ramp to attend to R4-X8, but was held back by Mauura’s strong grip.

      “Kali. Look.”

      Out of the shadows a figure emerged, dressed all in black. They could not make out any features, as the hooded robe concealed the being’s face. He spoke not a word … only the hum of his red lightsaber broke the silence. The Sith Lord waved the weapon, directing Kali and Mauura ahead of him. They knew better than to argue or resist. After trading terrified glances, they raised their hands in surrender. As the trio marched away from the Goldstar, Exate’s dome light softly blinked out.

      Where could they be?” As he sat in his X-wing hovering just above the planet Corellia, Luke was getting more and more worried as the time for their pre-programmed reunion passed. He checked the ship's chrono once again. Yup. Definitely past the time they should be here. “Any sign of them yet, Artoo?”

      A short “blip” of a response emanated from the astromech socket behind him. The droid rotated its head dome back and forth, confirming there was no sign of the Goldstar in his sensory sweep.

      “Something’s definitely wrong....try hailing them again R2. They’ll have to respond sometime.  What could be keeping them? His sense of impending doom at the beginning of the jump heightened. They must have come out of hyperspace too early or too late, which meant they could be anywhere. Looking for them would be like hunting down a single grain of sand in the Dune Sea.... but I have  to  try.   “Artoo,  set  reverse  coordinates.....we’re going back.”

      With a questionable whistle to his master, the droid programmed the nav computer back to Tatooine.

      Leia. We’re headin’ out to the border of Bothan space and the Outer Rim next. Any luck reaching Luke yet?”

      “No Han, and I’m beginning to worry. I called his coordinates on Yavin IV, but only Winter was there. She told me Luke had left for a personal trip to Tatooine days ago and has no idea when he’ll be back. I’ve tried hailing him, but he’s not responding to his ship’s comm either.”

      “Don’t worry. He’ll turn up sooner or later. We haven’t come up with anything yet anyway.” Han stared out the front viewscreen of the Falcon, trying to picture his wife back home. She sounds tired. Since leaving Coruscant, Han had the uneasy feeling that this was turning out to be an overwhelming game of hit and miss. He was beginning to think he shouldn’t have volunteered for this after all. Well, score zip on the first stop --  maybe the next one’ll turn up somethin’ more exciting. He checked his flight plan again. “Chewie, set coordinates for....what’s thisplanet? Roon? Never heard of it ...”

      Chewie growled his assent, and took the Falcon into hyperspace once more.

      Back on Coruscant, Leia hugged herself to keep warm, but it wasn’t working. She feared she was getting sick; but she pushed the thought to the back of her mind. Sweating from chills, she turned off the holocomm and sat in her chair to steady herself.

      “Mistress Leia. Are you alright?” Threepio could see the Princess was not well, but he was not programmed to serve as a medic droid and did not know quite what to do.

      “I’m fine, Threepio. Just tired, that’s all.” Leia stood slowly, and proceeded to retire to her room.  “If Han calls, I’ll be resting -- come and get me.”

      The protocol droid followed her down the corridors until she was safely in her quarters. With a second glance as the door closed, the golden droid finally shuffled away, shaking his head with worry.

      Leia didn’t even bother undressing. Falling onto her and  Han’ pallet,  she was quickly asleep.   Soon the visions returned; armies of black-robed soldiers with polished black helmets were marching towards her. As they advanced, the all-too familiar sound of mechanical breathing became louder and louder....

      With a start, Leia awoke, heart racing. No! She was letting the current situation get too close to her. Every time she thought about Sith armies, she panicked inside.

      The recent accusations from her adversaries in the Senate weren’t helping either. Frustrations were growing; rather than admitting the watered-down plan was not working, Leia’s leadership of the New Republic was being blamed instead. She had her supporters, but that didn’t stop the escalating confrontations in the Senate, including some aimed directly at her: How can the daughter of a Sith lord possibly be trusted to put a stop to these travesties?

      Where was Jedi Skywalker? Why wasn’t he out, protecting the Republic with a new order of Jedi Knights?

      Leia’s values, loyalties and even family were being brought into question.

       Oh Luke....where ARE you?

      They’ve got to be around here somewhere, Artoo. Scan the area again.” Luke traced the ion discharge as far as he could from the origin of Kali's hyperspace jump. As he continued the series of small sweeps, his concern grew. Finally, the sensors beeped as they picked up a trace. Squinting at the display, Luke watched a minute stream of data appear in a definite pattern. It was their best lead so far.

      “Let’s follow it, Artoo. Set the nav. We’ll go as far as we can.” After letting the computer draw their route, the display lit up with a multitude of small objects. Luke knew they weren’t ships moving at random, but couldn’t make out the objects on his visual displays yet.  Soon, however, they tumbled into view.

      Asteriods! “Artoo, bring up the forward shields!” Using the Force to guide him around the obstacles, Luke was able to navigate the field without a single impact. Still, he was  relieved  once they  emerged  from  the other  side, and had open space to fly in again. Soon a planet came into view, his nav unit identifying it as ‘Roon’. Acting on a hunch, Luke descended into the night side of the planet surface. His feelings of success became much stronger as he flew over the uninhabited sector of a large landmass. Following his feelings, he found the automatic distress signal of the Goldstar and zeroed in on its location. There was no reply to his hailing, and as he landed beside it, the ship looked deserted. Strange....the landing ramp is open, but there are no lights on. “Artoo you stay there. I’ll take a quick look around.”

      Luke jumped down and felt his lightsaber hilt at his side. There was something wrong here, and he wanted to be prepared. Wading through the tall grass in the darkness, he nearly tripped over a large metallic object. Exate! Luke’s fears increased once he realized the droid was inoperative, sliced open from what Luke was sure was a lightsaber attack. He looked around for Kali and Mauura.

        “Oh no......”

      Kali, we’ve GOT to do something!”

      Before she spoke a word, Kali could tell that Mauura was agitated....her normally olive skin was nearly glowing green with anger and frustration. Trying to develop a plan, Kali surveyed their small cell again. This isn’t a least that’s not what it was initially built as. It looks more like an industrial building. The old plasteel door has new security binders attached and the furnishings looked like they were right out of my office back home. This makes no sense. Inspecting the room’s single window, she found the thick pane welded to the frame. Outside, the complex was lit up in the night with tall portable lumas, illuminating huge binary loadlifters as they stomped around, burdened with cargo on their flat-topped arms. The droids were unloading space freighters with self-determined single-mindedness, never stopping, back and forth until the cargo holds were emptied.

      After their arrest, questions raced through her head. Who were these beings? Why were they being held against their will? What was going on here on Roon? How could they have stepped into such a mess? She was finally coming out of a state of shock since being marched across fields in the dark, the light of their captor’s saber their only beacon guiding their steps. No words were exchanged on their way here, and no one explained what they had done wrong.

      “I don’t know, Mauura. It doesn’t make sense. We have to find out more....who these people are, and what’s going on here. For all we know, we could have stumbled right into the middle of a local war!”

      The grinding of durasteel made them both turn to see the door finally open, revealing the black-hooded being who stepped inside, saber hilt in hand. Following him, a small humanoid entered, then an Imperial sentry droid hovering closely behind.

      The Facility Administrator stared at them for a few seconds, then got right down to business. “Who are you, and what were you doing out there?”

      Finally, someone to communicate with! Kali stepped forward. “We are from off-planet, and had to land after taking damage in the asteroid belt. We were just  repairing our  ship and planned  to  be on  our way,when your “guard” over there sliced our astromech droid and arrested us. We’re sorry if we’ve trespassed in any way, but it was totally unintentional.”

      Stepping forward and pointing his finger at her, he lashed out. “You are spies! Admit it!”

      “Spies? Us? No! Of course not! We’re not from here! We have no idea what is going on. We just want to repair our ship and leave.” Kali felt the weight of Mauura’s claw on her arm, clenching in anger. Kali had to calm everyone down. “Honestly. We’re just looking for my daughter. We got sidetracked and landed here by mistake. Just let me know what we have to do to leave in peace. We have no interest in any of this. Please. Just let us get back to our ship and be on our way.”

      The officer didn’t look like he believed her. “We will see if you are telling the truth. Tomorrow we will search your ship. In the meantime, you can consider yourselves guests of mine.” With that, he turned on his heels and left with the guard and droid in tow.

      “No! Please! Don’t go!” Kali rushed the door too late to prevent it from locking them in once more.

      “Well, THAT went well, didn’t it?” Mauura growled as Kali slid to the floor, convinced that she’d never see Rigel or Luke again.

      “Oh, yeah, as well as always...”

      You are behind schedule Jivian.” Leba pitied the Facility Administrator squirming at his presence. “This mission was to have been completed long ago.”

      “It’s not my fault. Between dealing with local interference and trying to work with outdated droids slipping around in the excavation site mud, we've tried the best we can with what we have.” He had no idea Thupten Leba himself would be here.

      “What kind of interference? This is supposed to be a covert action.”

      “Those two spies we captured last night.... I’m positive they were sent to stop our digging, so we will be interrogating them again today to try to find out more.”

      “Ah, yes, those two.... Perhaps I can.... assist. Where are they?”

      Using his photoreceptors alone, Threepio could tell Leia was getting worse and he didn’t know quite what to do. “Mistress, Leia. Have you been in contact with Master Han yet today?”

      Leia was hunched over the comm unit, staring at nothing. Her eyes had dark circles under them, showing her stress and lack of sleep. “What? Oh, no, not yet anyway. I’m waiting to see what he turns up near Roon...” Leia drifted back into her own worries once more.

      “I see. Perhaps I can hail them for you to get an update.”

      “Huh? Oh, sure, the coordinates are locked in.....go ahead....”

      Threepio decided he needed to make a private transmission and copied the coordinates into memory. Shuffling off to the next communication console and out of Leia’s listening range, he hailed the Falcon. Glancing back at the Princess, he was assured she didn’t even notice what he was doing.

      “Master Han there is something I need to speak with you about ....” The protocol droid felt like he was betraying the Princess’ confidence, but his logic sensors deduced it was for her own good. He had to let them know there was something wrong.

      Han had just begun the landing cycle on their decent to Roon when the transmission came through. After hearing the full story from Threepio, he halted the procedure and aborted the mission.

      “C’mon Chewie. We’re going back. Threepio. I don’t care what she says, have 2-1B check in on her. We’re on our way home.”

      The Wookiee whined his concern and set coordinates back to the Core.

      Han scowled with worry. “Okay. Punch it!” With a flash, the Millennium Falcon jumped back into hyperspace.

      Luke followed his instincts and the slight trail of bent grass to what looked like a cordoned impound, consisting of a single story building surrounded by a work yard. Bustling with activity, huge loadlifter droids toiled in the yard, removing crates from freighter ships parked inside the compound.  He knew he was on the right trail; his entire body felt chilled. I have a bad feeling about this.

      Easily slipping around the mech sentries, he was able to walk right into the building. Once he was inside the brightly-lit interior, he shut his eyes to reach out with his senses for any sign of Kali or Mauura. Following his feelings once more, he made his way down the quiet corridors, checking each room with his senses. The building was almost deserted. Only a power droid passed him with a “Gonk!” Luke ignored the droid, but could not ignore the fact that the farther he went, the colder he was getting. His senses tingled, so he unclipped his saber, readying it for action.

      Master! We’ve done it! We have found the treasure!” Rigel had returned to headquarters just as Leba was on his way to interrogate the spies.

      “That is wonderful news, my future Apprentice! Wonderful, indeed! Is it what we expected?”

      “Yes. And more.  The legends you spoke of were indeed true. We had to trench very far down, but the droids finally uncovered an ancient wall. We followed it to an inner chamber, which was still sealed. Once inside, we found a cache of crystals, precious metals and ancient artifacts even more immense than you had predicted.  The droids on site are shipping it back as we speak.”

      Rigel had never seen her Master so pleased. His eyes nearly shone with glee at the news. “I knew it! There will be no stopping us now. But time is of the essence; we must leave quickly, young Darklighter. Which reminds me… I have a small task for you. Something I was going to take care of personally, but now I must prepare for our return to Echnos. I need you to dispose of two spies in our Detention cell. They cannot be allowed to leave. See to it immediately.”

      “As you wish, Master.” Rigel made her way to the converted prison, stopping outside the door to kneel and prepare herself. Closing her eyes, she summoned the Dark side of the Force to give her the strength and courage to complete her task. Rising again, she lifted her hood off her shoulders to enshroud her head in darkness. Unclipping her saber from her belt, she held it in her black gloved hand and squeezed tightly.

      Rigel didn’t know if the spies were suspecting of the sentence about to be passed on them; but she did know this would be the first time she struck down anyone who was defenseless. Doubts rose in her mind….How can I do this? NO!……I WILL do this! My Master has ordered me….I MUST do as he commands! She straightened her shoulders in defiance. If my Master has ordered it, the scum must deserve what they are about to receive!

      Rigel burst through the door of the cell. Saber ignited, spitting and hissing as she brought it up to the attack position.

      Where is she?” Han stomped his way toward Threepio with a scowl on his face that clearly relayed to offer information and get out of his way. Fast.

      “She is…umm…still in the Comm Centre, still trying to reach Master Luke. I’m afraid she didn’t take your request for medical attention too well…..”

      As Han stormed past the droid, Threepio backed up into the wall with a crash, but safely out of the way of the human’s rampage.

      Entering the Communications Centre, Han spotted Leia, back to the door, staring into a blank holocomm module. “Leia?”

      With a start she turned; revealing dark rings under her bloodshot eyes.

      Blast! Goldenrod was right….she looks terrible!

      “Han? What are you doing here? Did you find something? Did you find Luke?” Leia was so tired she couldn’t think straight.

      “No. No, we didn’t. I had something….more important….to take care of.” And with that, Han lifted his wife up into his arms and carried her to the Med Centre.

      Surprisingly to Leia, she didn’t have the strength to resist.

      Rigel stopped and stared at the two beings looking up at her in terror. Sitting on the floor, their legs were strapped with binders.

      NO! This is some kind of mind trick……a test! Yes, a test! Rigel would not believe her own eyes.  Her saber lowered and wavered uncontrollably once she saw who the human and Nikto “spies” were.  Confused, Rigel just stood in silence, unable to advance further.

      The prisoners didn’t recognize her however.

      “Please! We’re NOT spies! Please believe us!” Kali was in tears, pleading for their lives.

      Rigel shook her head to clear the forces of Light and Dark battling within her conscience. NO! This can’t be! This must be my final test--that’s NOT my mother and Mauura. He’s using a mind trick on me!

      Suddenly, with a ‘clunk’ everything went black. Rigel’s saber was the only light in the room. Outside in the compound, it was completely dark as well. All lumas in the area had been extinguished. The Sith were leaving Roon, and the temporary power circuits had been turned off in preparation for their departure.

      Rigel could not face this final trial. Not yet. She could not overcome her feelings for family and friends enough to strike them down. Turning to go, Rigel stopped dead in her tracks as the glow from another saber approached.

      “Young Apprentice! Where are you?”

      It was Leba! Rigel panicked. She didn’t know what to do. The red beam from his saber was now coming closer. No! I can’t do this! I have to leave…..I can’t …I won’t…. Rigel felt like a small child once again, and as before, tried to run from her troubles. She deactivated her blade, and took off down the corridor, bumping into walls in the dark, until she was outside trying to calm down.

      Leba reached the cell and found the door ajar. By his saber’s light, he could see the two spies were still alive…..crouched on the floor in terror. He lifted his head and subconsciously chastised his disciple. Darklighter! You have failed me!

      Outside, Rigel cringed at her Master’s angry reprimand in her head, and knew she had signed her own death warrant by betraying him. She opened her eyes and looked around the compound. It was empty. The droids were gone, and everything was stowed in the ships, ready to depart.

      Inside the cell, Leba approached the prisoners. I have no time for this foolishness! Without a second thought, the Sith Lord’s saber rose to strike.

      “NO!!!” Kali cried, squeezing her eyes shut, unable to watch as the blade swept down. But the fatal blow never struck…..Mauura grabbed Kali and they both rolled from the saber’s heat to safety.

      “Kali! Look!” By the saber’s glow, Mauura could see the doorway was clear. “C’mon!” Just as they got to their feet, another blade lit up the doorway.

      “Oh no!” Kali couldn’t believe their only escape was cut off once more. But the saber lighting the doorway silhouetted a figure Kali never thought she’d see again….. “LUKE!”

      Leba turned just in time to deflect the blow from Luke’s saber. The two combatants locked blades, which sparked at their contact.

      Luke was cold to the bone; his senses became numb as his memories swept him back in time to the Dagobah tree…and again when he battled Vader, then under attack by the Emperor…..the coldness of pure evil had returned.

      The Dark Side of the Force! Sith!!!  Luke stepped back in shock, and probed with the Force into his aggressor’s mind. Anger! Fear! Hate! Yes. I should have expected this. The Dark Jedi HAVE reawakened.

      “So…..I have the pleasure of meeting the almighty Luke Skywalker.” Nearly spitting out the famous name, Leba struck with fury at Luke, ignoring Kali and Mauura who were making their way slowly out of the cell.

      Luke watched from the corner of his eye and parried with Leba until they were safely out of reach; and with a slight wave of his hand, unlocked their shackles. The Sith Lord’s size was deceiving…he was more powerful than Luke realized.

      The roar of engines powering up outside confirmed Leba’s guess that time was running out. It was time to  go  if  he  wanted to keep  the  treasure  for himself. Leba continued the battle while calling out with the Force to Rigel. Apprentice! I need you.  You will be
      forgiven if you come now, and help strike down our enemy!

      His plan was neat indeed. Skywalker and Darklighter could fight to the death….each other’s… while he was on his way back to the safety of the domes on Echnos.

      Outside, Rigel winced at her Master’s subconscious plea.  I need you, my Apprentice. Remember, I chose you, over all the others, to be at my side. It is a great honor….a great privilege…..come to me.

      “Yes, Master. Hold on. I’m coming!” Rigel’s fears were swept away as she unsheathed her saber and ran down the corridors once again. His assailant’s back to her, all Rigel could see was Leba’s broad smile when he saw she had returned. The dark form that was attacking her Master did not turn; that is, not until Thupten Leba called her by name. “Darklighter! Strike him  down  with  all  your might!” Leba ordered. “Go on! I command you!” The Sith Lord ducked as Luke swiped his blade past his cloaked head. Leba deactivated his saber and raced to catch his shuttle. The fools! They can take care of each other, while I take care of myself!

      On the swing around, Luke turned to the new foe behind him, shocked at the familiar face staring back under the huge black hood.

      How is she doing, Commander Solo?” Mon Mothma had been waiting for news when Han finally appeared from Leia’s room.

      “Well, they have her sedated; with more fluids and vits pumped in, he says she’ll be okay. But I still don’t know why she got so run down…she was really dehydrated.”

      “I think I can shed some light on that.” Mon Mothma took Han by the arm and sat him down for a detailed review of the past few days.

      Han shook his head. “But it’s not like Leia to let those nerfs on the Council get to her like that. It has to be something more. She mumbled somethin’ about ‘Sith’ just before she nodded off. I think she’s waging a battle inside and out.”

      He stood and checked on his sleeping wife again. She seemed peaceful enough now. Han turned back to Mothma.

       “Would you stay with her for a while? I have to track down the Admiral. It looks like he’ll need to get a replacement to continue the recon in Sector seventeen…for now, the Falcon’s grounded.”

      Rigel?” Luke’s worst fears had come true. His daughter HAD turned. He felt sick to see her like this, dressed in black, a pawn of this evil criminal. “Rigel…’s me. Luke. Please, Rigel. Remember me.”

      Saber still raised in the attack position, she began to shake. Rigel couldn’t move her arms; locked in a battle within herself.

      Luke continued in the struggle for his daughter’s soul. “Rigel. It is me. Look. I’m here for you. I’ve come to take you home.”

      Home? Home….Thoughts of Tatooine came flooding back. It seemed like so long ago…

      “Rigel?” Kali and Mauura had returned to the cell when they saw Leba outside, boarding a shuttle. “Rigel!” Kali broke down and cried at the sight of her daughter. “Rigel….I can’t believe it’s you!”

      “Mom?” Rigel became calm at the sound of Kali’s voice, lowered her saber and deactivated it. She even took a few steps forward toward her mother’s waiting arms. She was a small child again, yearning for the protection of her parent’s safe embrace. But the rumble of engines in the compound made her stop dead in her tracks. As swiftly as turning off a light, the Darkness enveloped her once more when she realized what was happening. In her mind’s eye Rigel saw Thupten Leba aboard his ship, ordering the pilot to set the nav for Echnos. NO! Wait! Wait for me! Don’t leave! Don’t leave me here, Master…. I WILL be a great warrior….your worthy Apprentice! The ships departed, climbing to the stratosphere in a mass exodus of Roon. Rigel had failed, and was left behind as her punishment.

      A low roar began to shake the room, growing steadily in intensity. In a sudden fit of rage, Rigel ignited her lightsaber as she swung it around, catching Luke off guard with a furious attack.  At the last possible moment, he brought his own weapon up to protect himself. Out of control, she tried to pummel him with all her might. With every strike, she screamed. “NO! NO! NO! You RUINED it…you ruined everything!!!”

      Luke blocked her fatal blows as best he could with a sparking clash of blades, keeping a safe distance from Kali and Mauura at the same time.

      Kali found herself held back from the fray by Mauura’s strong claws. All she could do was plead with Rigel to return to her senses. “Rigel! NO! Please!” She wasn’t having any effect - her daughter continued like a droid, unrelenting in her assault. “Mauura! Let me go!” She struggled to release the tight grip her friend had on her, to no avail. She tried again to stop her family from harming each other. “Luke! Don’t hurt her!” Kali could barely watch the battle; this wasn’t happening! Rigel was in a frenzy, trying her hardest to slay her foe. In a final attempt to break through to who her daughter once was, Kali couldn’t help but blurt out….

      “NO! RIGEL! He’s your FATHER!!!”

      As if time stood still, everything just stopped. Dazed, Mauura let go of Kali’s arms. Luke stood, panting, saber still raised in defense. Rigel became a statue; unable to comprehend what she had just heard.

      “My… father?” Inside she knew it was true; but she didn’t want to believe it. Her saber still hummed with life in her black gloved hands.

      Luke glanced at Kali, then turned once more to face his daughter. “Yes, Rigel. I AM your father.” Luke was shocked at how he sounded. He had wanted to announce that wonderful proclamation for years; having his daughter proud  to be  the product of  his and  Kali’s love. Now, his voice raspy from fatigue, his breath labored from the conflict…. it came out all wrong. He sounded just as his own father did, so many years ago on that ledge in Bespin’s Cloud City.

      Only this time the one in black, seduced by the evil Dark Side of the Force wasn’t his father….it was his own daughter.

      Rigel couldn’t control the conflicting emotions churning inside her. Torn and confused, she was unable to master the deep forces battling for her soul. The room began to spin. Her ears started to ring and everything became a blur. In a heap, Rigel fell to the floor, unconscious, her extinguished blade clattering on the cold floor beside her.
       “I’m FINE…..Really. I want to go home now.” Leia was propped up in bed, watching 2-1B silently taking readings on her monitors.

       “Well, for once, sweetheart, you don’t have the final say.” Han tried his hardest not to smirk at the look that came over her face in response to that one.

      Too-one-bee finished its analysis and turned to Han. “The patient’s condition has stabilized. She will be allowed to be discharged home, on this protocol.” The droid handed him a flimsy with pre-printed orders.

      “Finally! Come on, let’s go!” Leia nearly leaped out of her pallet, but Han steadied her when she hit the floor, wavering slightly.

      “Okay. But HOME. Work will wait.” Han put on his most serious look.

      Grudgingly, Leia condescended.

      Once they were settled in their own home, Han was determined to find out what was wrong.  He sat down in their living quarters while she went directly to her desk on the far side of the room.

      Han didn’t know where to start. “Leia. We’ve been through a lot together, right?”

      “More than most, I guess.” Leia was only half-listening, flipping through a backlog of flimsies.

      “Leia. Look at me.” Han walked over and slammed his hand down on her work, forcing her to face him. “And we’ve always been open and honest with each other, right? Well, then, you have to let me in. What’s wrong? What’s goin’ on that’s upset you so much?”

      Leia sighed, realizing she couldn’t keep her fears to herself any longer; but she hated to have to verbalize them. “Han. I can’t help but feel personally responsible for all this.”

      “All what? This workload? Or this latest mission? I don’t understand…”

      Leia explained how the reappearance of the Sith had affected her so deeply. How she never thought she would have to face that evil presence again; especially alone. With Han gone, and being unable to reach Luke, she let her guilt get the better of her. She still had a deep wound when it came to her parentage, and this latest revelation tore it wide open.

      “You have to know this has nothing to do with you personally, Leia. You’re not responsible. You have to reconcile your past. Luke has.”

      “That’s one reason why I wanted to have him here so badly….I need his help. For years I’ve been able to push it to the back of my mind, not dealing directly with it. Now I have to.”

      “We’ll find him. Soon. In the meantime, I’m here.” She hugged him, and Han smirked at a remembrance. “What?”

      “I was just thinking, there was a time when I was jealous of your needing him more than me. But now I understand. I really do.”

      “Just hold me. I’m scared, Han. Really scared.”

      It will take time to reverse the Sith training Kali, but I know we can do it.” Luke had returned to the Goldstar’s cockpit after checking on his daughter yet again. Now safely sedated in back, Rigel was secured to her bunk for their trip home.

      “So you will take her to Yavin? Are you sure that’s what’s best?” Kali couldn’t bear to think of being away from Rigel even more.

      “Yes, I do. I’ll ‘suggest’ to the local officials in Mos Eisley that Rigel make good by working at the Academy, under my supervision. While there, she’ll be de-programmed to bring her back to the Light side of the Force. But it will take time. I want her to focus, so it’s best that she be on her own at first.”

      Kali knew he was trying to be diplomatic. Yes, she would give them time together. Then, hopefully they will both want her to join them. But until then, she had to think of what was best for  her daughter, not for her own selfish desires. If anyone could get through to her, Luke could. Yes, he WOULD bring her daughter back to her. She had to believe that. And what of her and Luke? Well, she knew she would be seeing more of him now, and that could only be good news.

      “Artoo has made repairs to the Goldstar with some spare parts from my ship, and I’ve set the coordinates around the asteroid belt into your nav computer. But this time, you’ll go first, and I’ll follow. We’ll both head for Tatooine, set thing straight, and then I’ll take Rigel to Yavin.”

      “It will be good to be on solid terra again” Mauura’s favorite saying once more echoed from her station. “And the trip will be much more pleasant without that thing bleeping all the time.” The Nikto’s scaley head nodded toward R4-X8’s deactivated form.


      “Artoo!” Luke laughed, trying at the same time to scold the droid as one would a small child.

      “Hmmphh!” The Nikto had enough. She forgot about the blue R2 unit…she pretended to ignore the comment and prepare for liftoff.

      “See you on Tatooine.”   Kali said as she saw Luke to the landing ramp. But as Artoo continued to roll out towards his snubfighter, Luke stopped and turned. Taking Kali tightly into his arms, no words were spoken, only a deep kiss that made her weak at the knees, wanting more. Too soon they broke the embrace, his eyes twinkling clear blue, his mouth curved in a wry smile.

       “I’ll be there.”

        The huge domed auditorium was filled to capacity with an army of black-cloaked soldiers. At the front of the gathering, a lone figure stood at the top of the wide stairway, addressing the mass with a powerful speech.

        “We have taken a great leap forward, my friends. We now have the means to complete our destiny. It is time to prepare for war.” Thupten Leba’s words echoed in the massive theatre……

        Leia awoke, screaming. “NO! Not again!” Leba’s words continued to echo in her ears. Han tried his best to comfort her, but could only hold his wife until her sweating body stopped its violent shaking from her nightmare.

        On board the Goldstar, Rigel’s eyes suddenly snapped open. Yes Master! And I will return to fight in this war by your side, as your deserving Apprentice!


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