Grow a set, Master Skywalker. I'm trying here. I was matching him up with someone who was equal in the force, but not his equal in life experience. I thought that would be a better way to handle the whole.
In the following you learn about Rose, my match for him, as well as one of my favorite crotchety old women-- Marchenta Windrunner.
The art above, again. Mr. McQuarrie and George Lucas worked together on the concept drawings from very beginning, and this was one of the small concept ideas for the overall story. The movie was called "The Star Wars" For a very long time, almost until release.
Without further ado, Episode 2:
Luke was fascinated by the transportation that Rose was using. It was an automobile, a car as she had called it. It was an enclosed, wheeled ground vehicle the likes of which he had only seen in Coruscant's archives. And it was shiny clean and very new looking, as if had only recently been manufactured.
He heard Artoo beep disdainfully from the trunk of the vehicle as they hit another bump. Luke felt somewhat guilty about putting the faithful little droid back there, and roping him in, but there was no room in the back seat for him and Jacen. "Sorry, Artoo," Luke called. "But there's nothing we can do about the road surface. Just hang on."
The little droid beedooped, and Luke guessed that he was reminding him that not only did he not have appendages, but there was nothing to hold on to. He also heard, quickly following the first noise, what he had come to know as Artoo's sigh of resignation. Luke smiled to himself, and settled back in his seat.
So far, he admitted to himself, he had been astonished by everything that he had seen on Buria. It was a modern world that liked the antiquated past, and clung to it with a passion.
But this car was something else. Of course, he should have suspect something when they landed at the main field in Westlake and were shuttled by another ancient looking vehicle called an airplane. It had taken them close to a full hour to get to the little town Rose had called Far Aboreas in the airplane. And then the car....
Luke laughed to himself. He could sense that Rose was getting a kick out of his reactions to everything. She was also glad to be getting home. But, she had told Luke, it would take at least two and half hours to get to their house in a place called Kathmu. Two and a half hours? Luke was amazed at the time these Burian people could waste travelling around from place to place.
Though it was beautiful here, Luke had one thing that was bothering him already, and that was Katarina. He let his enjoyment of the landscape here cover over the thoughts that he wanted to explore.
The first thing that was the most important was the way Katarina had gotten so angry when Rose told her that he was going to stay at her house, and then abruptly turned off the emotion when she remember that Luke was Jedi. And Jacen had said that she felt cold. (A quick probe of the back seat of the car revealed Jacen to be quite asleep.) He knew what kind of control a turning of emotions like that took. It had taken him years to learn it, and forget mastering it. But she had it down pat. A Jedi master's control of self where there were supposedly no other Jedi save Rose?
Then there was Rose's complete ignorance of the situation, and her laughing it off as a quirk of an Empress. That meant that Katarina had been like this for quite a while, and Rose had come to accept it. But it was a mask for her benefit. Did Rose refuse to see it? Ben had let the same thing happen with Anakin, ignored the other half until it was too late and looked what had happened there. Luke hadn't seen Joruus C'baoth's evil madness until Mara had shown him. Kyp had come dangerously close to the edge as well.... Maybe Luke would have to show her what Katarina was hiding,...as soon as he figured it out himself.
And on top of all of that, there was the evidence he had found in the Coruscant archives when he was helping Rose that day.
Then why in the name of all that was holy was here? That questioned was answered every time he looked over at Rose. He wanted to be there, he wanted to get to know Rose. She was different from every other woman who'd ever caught his attention. When he met Gaeriel, he felt something very like what he was feeling with Rose, but with Rose it was more. More of what, he didn't know. He remember telling himself that when he met the right woman, every emotion, every ripple of pleasure or pain, would bounce back from the other, resonating until sweet echoes faded. Very poetic, he told himself now, but not precisely. Not only did they echo each other, but they were in perfect syncopation.
He wondered if Rose was feeling the same thing.
Then, suddenly, her sense change next to him, from it's happy monotony to a happy revelation. And there in front of the car appeared the Clearwaters home. Once again Luke was fascinated, as he climbed out of the car. He felt Jacen stir from his nap in the back seat, and helped his nephew out. Both of them turned to the house to examine it.
Jacen summed it up, "Wow."
The house was an ancient three story home that only the richest of families in the New Republic could afford. It had a generous front porch with double, manual doors with key locks. It stood in it's grey color that warded off any intruders that dared to come near. Luke could tell the windows were of real glass, not plasteel, by the shine on them.
And behind one of those glass windows on the third floor, someone was cleaning. They looked up, and Luke saw that it was a younger girl. She saw the two of them there, and waved to them enthusiastically. Rose waved back, and the girl disappeared. Luke followed her enthusiasm into the house, to discover that there were seven others in the house beside the one girl.
Rose interrupted his thoughts. "Now, remember, Luke, they maybe part of the royal families of SixSuns, but if you treat them like that, they'll wallop you one and good. So try to relax and lay off the stuffy ambassador act. Have fun."
Rose led him up the front porch stairs as she advised him, and before he had a chance to respond the front door was flung open by a young boy.
"ROSIE!" he yelled, and pulled her into the house, forgetting the door so Luke and Jacen could walk in. Luke stifled a laugh as two huge hairy creatures suddenly over ran Rose and the boy, practically knocking them over.
"Samson! Thunder!" a voice from the stairs on their right scalded gently. "Heel!"
The two hairy creatures gave Rose one more vigorous nuzzle and went over to the girl on the stairs.
Luke noticed then that all the people in the house were standing in various doorways leading into the main room of the house. They were all whispering and glancing at one another, and Luke could feel their happiness at seeing Rose safely at home.
"Okay, everybody," she called, and the whispers were gone almost instantly. "Yes, I'm back. I went to the New Republic, and they've agreed to investigate the situation."
Luke felt a malignant twinge from someone in the room.
"I've offered to put up their ambassador here for the duration of his stay," Rose said. "Everyone, this is Luke Skywalker, the New Republic's ambassador and his nephew, Jacen Solo."
"Hi!" Jacen exclaimed, waving at everyone in the room, while Luke caught another twinge of the malignant mixed in with shock and fear at his name. Rose didn't notice.
"This little creature," she said, musing the boy's hair, "is my brother, Mark."
Mark looked at Jacen, then at the small metal object in his hand. He proffered to Jacen. "Wanna play in the back yard?"
Jacen looked up at Luke. "Can I?"
Luke nodded, and looked over at Rose. Rose nodded as well. "Go ahead. We'll call you for dinner." But the two boys were already gone out the door. Rose giggled, and looked at everyone else.
"Let's start here," Rose said, to a couple in a door to the right. Neither could've been older than Luke was. "This is my Uncle Joseph and his wife Bella."
Luke proffered his hand as seemed to be the proper courtesy, and each of them shook it offering a polite, "Nice to meet you."
"And these two," Rose said, pulling two children out from behind them, "are my cousins, Caylee and Carson."
"Hello," they said together eerily. Luke sensed a great Force potential in both of them.
"Don't mind them," Rose said. "They always say things at the same time just to freak people out. I think that it's a twins thing."
Luke smiled thinking of all the time that Leia and he had done that, and how many times Jaina and Jacen had done the same. He nodded. "Definitely a twins thing."
"These are my parents, Marcin and Lauren," Rose said, directing him over to the next door way.
"Hello," Marcin said, genially. His sense was one of light‑heartedness and a lover of fun. He stuck his hand out first and Luke shook it firmly. "I hope you'll be comfortable here. As a guest, don't be afraid to ask for anything, Mister Skywalker."
"It's just Luke, and thank you sir," he responded, with a genuine smile.
He was expecting the same kind of response from Marcin's wife, but what he did get was nothing of the sort. Her icy eyes bore right into him, and she extended a stiff hand. Luke took and shook it quickly. He felt nothing but hatred in the touch. She was the one who had reacted to his name. She must've been the one who watched as his father cut down her father. But why was she afraid of him?
Rose still didn't notice any of this as she pulled him along to the stairs, where the girl who was in the window was standing. Luke could feel her presence like he could feel Leia's or a new student at the academy. She was being trained, possibly by Rose.
"This is my sister, Eve," Rose said. "And her two monsters Samson and Thunder." Rose scratched the two creatures behind their ears, and they enjoyed it.
Eve looked at Luke with a critical eye. "You're kinda cute," she blurted out.
Rose whipped her head around to look at her sister. Her color had gone from normal to bright red in record time, and she looked at Eve incredulously. "Eve! I think you have a little more tact than that."
"You're bright red," Eve smiled.
"Eve!" Rose yelled slapping her hand on the outside of her leg.
That elicited an instant response from Eve. Her hands dropped to her side, and she hung her head. "I apologize," she said, loud enough for everyone to hear. "I have more manners than that."
Luke took a second to realize that was Rose's way of making her student realize she was now a teacher and not a sister was the hand slap. It worked the same way Yoda's gimmer stick had with him. Luke felt something wet on the palm of his hand.
He looked down to see the two creatures fighting to lick his hand and sniff between his legs. He was a little surprised by this, and decided to take their attention away from there by scratching behind their ears much the same as Rose had done.
"They like you, Luke," Eve said, kneeling between them. "They don't usually take to total strangers so quickly. Usually they sniff and run."
"That's normal for them?" Luke asked.
"Don't have a dog, hunh?" Eve asked. "Yes, perfectly acceptable. They have some of the keenest olfactory senses in the galaxy, and that's how they identify you. Your strongest person scent is, unfortunately, between your legs.
"This one," Eve continued, petting the black dog, "is Thunder. He friendly to you if you're friendly to him. He's a Rottweiler, and you don't peeve these dogs off." Eve pointed to a large scar on her hand. "Thunder did this when he was a pup. I learned not to hit him on the backside real fast.
"The other one is Samson," Eve said, indicating the light cream‑brown dog that Luke was petting. "That is the most friendly dog you will ever meet. She's a Saint Bernard, and her breed has a history of being rescue dogs. Legend has it that these dogs were let to roam in the wild, and that if they came up on an injured human, they would try and get help."
Before anyone could another word in, the front door swung open again and another young girl walked into the house. The dogs instantly forgot all about Luke and bounded over to the newcomer.
"Hi!" she called to the audience in the main room, and petting the dogs as they licked her enthusiastically. "Rose, you're back! Good, I need...." Her words cut themselves off as she saw Luke standing there. "Who are you?"
"I had hoped," Rose interjected, "that you would at least call before you came over. I guess that I was wrong. Luke, this is Sondra Hawking, our final unofficial family member. Sondra, this is Luke Skywalker, the ambassador from the New Republic."
"Oh," Sondra said. "Not bad." Rose turned bright red again. "Listen, you got some kind of thing in your trunk beeping and honking. I think it cursed at me when I walked by it."
"Artoo!" Luke exclaimed. "I forgot all about him."
"Come on, we'll get him out of there and in to the house. By that time, dinner'll be ready." Rose looked back at Eve. "And then you and I are going out back."
Eve groaned audibly, but really didn't seem to mind what ever the phrase had implied. As Rose motioned for Luke to follow her, Lauren called to them from the door to the kitchen.
"Rose, don't forget to introduce Luke to Grammy," she said. "She'll be very upset if you don't introduce them."
"I won't," Rose said. "As soon as we get Artoo out of the trunk, we'll go back there." Rose motioned for him to follow her again.
Artoo was beeping and honking from the trunk, and whistled a sigh of relief when Luke and Rose appeared. Which the little droid promptly followed up with a loud swear word directed at the two of them.
"Artoo, cool your circuits," Luke said. "I'm sorry I left you out here. I completely forgot. And you know that there is nothing that I could've done about the road surface." Artoo whistled a question, and Luke answered, "No, they don't seem to have repulsor lifts."
"Oh, we do," Rose said. "We just don't use them very much. No one in SixSuns is in that much of rush that every one has them. If we needed them, we'd have them."
Artoo burbled to himself for a minute as Luke and Rose untied him and lifted him out of the trunk. They set him on his wheels, and Luke brushed off some road dirt. "There, good as new." Artoo beeped disbelievingly, and rolled away.
"Do you want to put him in the house?" Rose asked. "Or he can sit out in the garage if it's easier for him."
"We'll see. He may be better off in the garage," Luke said, glancing after the little droid. Artoo was already exploring the area.
"Well, come on," Rose said, and set off for the back of the house. "Grammy will want to meet you, and the longer I wait the less happy she'll be about it."
Luke walked quietly for a minute, thinking about the girl, Sondra, who had come into the house. She had a very strong sense in the Force, and a very unusual personality. "Who is Sondra?" he asked as led him down a heavily wooded path.
"Sondra is Eve's best friend," Rose said. But Rose picked up the underlying mean in the question as well. "I don't really know how to explain her. She came to live with her aunt and uncle about two years ago and she sort of latched on to Eve. Eve doesn't even know all that much about her. But from what I can get in bits and pieces is that she lost her parents in a supposed accident when she was seven or eight, was bounced around her family until she came here. This seems to be the only place she'd fit at all." Rose cut her own words off.
"But what?" Luke asked.
"Her aunt and uncle were sort of hoping she wouldn't fit in. They don't really want her there, she's a burden to them. They have their own family, and they don't want anything to remind them of Sondra's parents. That's why she spends most of her time here." Rose paused. "I know she's strong in the Force, more than she knows, but you watch how she reacts when I take Eve to the course tonight. You'll get a real feel for what happened to her parents."
Leia had to run out again during the middle of dinner. The Ord Mantel incident still hadn't been complete taken care of, and every time something went wrong with the negotiations, Mon Mothma instantly called Leia down.
Chewie roared playfully with Jaina and she giggled ludicrously as she darted out from behind the couch to try and get away from the giant Wookie.
Han picked up Anakin by the pants and dragged him over to the changing table. "You, buddy, need a fresh diaper. This is one is overripe."
"Noo diapoo!" Anakin yelled, wiggling madly in his father's grip. "Nee noo diapoo!"
"I know you don't take after me," Han mumbled to himself. "But why can't I see Leia doing this?"
Chewie rumbled with laughter at that comment. "Well, it's true. Think about it. Jacen has got a head like mine at the tender age of four, and Jaina is her mother's daughter." Chewie roared a suggestion. "Luke? You must be kidding? Can you see Luke Skywalker acting like this?"
Chewie looked thoughtful, then gufawed his answer and Han nodded. "You're right. I keep forgetting what he was like when he was younger." Han turned back to the task of Anakin's new diaper. "Looks like you get stuck with Luke as your role model, kiddo."
"Unka'Loof!" Anakin yelled. Han pulled the tabs off the old diaper, and bundled up the surprise inside. He threw it in the diaper pail with the loudest bang he had ever heard.
It took him a second to realize that it wasn't the diaper but the door in the main room banging open. And as he turned to see who it was, the person strode into the room.
"Where's Leia?" the person demanded.
"Good to see you too, Lando," Han said snidely, fastening the tabs on Anakin's new diaper. "How am I? Oh, fine. Three little ones you know. Keep me hopping. The missus? She's fine, but busy, busy, busy, as always. And you?" Han glanced over at the ex‑general and wondered what kind of trouble he had gotten in to now. Lando never showed up unless he was having some kind of problem.
"Where's.... ah forget it. You're just as good," Lando said.
"Jee, thanks," Han replied, pulling Anakin's pants back to their original position, and put him on the floor. He ran right over to Chewie and began to climb up the furry back as Chewie reached behind the chair to pull out Jaina.
"Here," Lando said, handing him a data chip. "Read this."
"You came all the way from...from... Where are you now?" Han asked walking over to the reader.
"Darkyon," Lando said. "But that doesn't matter. Read it."
"You came all the way here for me to read this?" Han asked, holding up the chip. "Why didn't you just send it on subspace?"
"Read it, damn it, and you'll see why," Lando said.
Han inserted it into the reader that Leia had installed separately from the main system, and the message appeared on the screen. "In demand," it began, "Thorindian crystals, top grade flawless only. Paying market price plus twenty percent. Needed‑‑‑‑ gods!" Han swore, looking over at Lando. "One point two five million metric tons. Broadcast availability immediately coordinates as follows."
"What do you think?" Lando asked, sitting down on the couch.
"I think that rounds out to about thirty‑six billion, billion, credits," Han said. "And thorindian crystals are used in cold lasers."
"You got it," Lando said, holding up an aqua colored crystal. "This little piece of top grade flawless weighs six point two karat. This has enough to power a turbolaser on a Star Destroyer. And the order is for over a million metric tons. I smell a war."
Han took the crystal and examined it. "Did you trace the coordinates‑‑‑"
"General Solo," came Threepio's voice, as he walked in. Lando threw Han a look at the title. "Sir, there is a interstellar communication for you."
"I'll take it here," Han said. He sat down in front of the comm screen and punched in his code. "Solo here."
"Solo?" came a questioning voice. "Good. This is Talon Karrde. I've been trying to get through to Skywalker, but they told me he isn't there, and he isn't on Yavin."
"No, he's on a diplomatic mission," Han said. "Maybe I can do some good?"
"Of course," Karrde said. "A couple of days ago I received an open market request for thorindian crystal."
"Yeah, I heard," Han said. "Lando just had the courtesy to tell me about it. He thinks that there may be a war in the works. Your thoughts?"
"I think that we may have a dark Jedi on our hands," Karrde said. "That's why I was trying to get Skywalker."
Han and Lando and Chewie looked at one another, and Lando said, "What makes you say that?"
"My new associate, Tipton is a Force‑sensitive. When we received the data chip, and I handed it to him, he had force fit, swearing and screaming. He said it was cold, and that a pair of icy hands ran up his back."
"A pair?" Han asked.
"A pair," Karrde agreed. "So you can see why I wanted to contact Skywalker. Is there any way that you can get in touch with him?"
"`Fraid not," Han said. "On an odd shot, have you decoded the coordinates?"
"Yes, I have," Karrde said. "A place called Mestovovok, in a place called SixSuns, or something."
"Uh, oh," Han said. "Guess where Luke went."
"SixSuns," Lando said. "He's walking right into the hands of a dark Jedi. Do you think that he'll notice?"
"Probably," Han said. "But let's not take that chance. Karrde, is there anyway that I can contact you?"
"I'll call you tomorrow at the same time, I'm sure that you understand. I'll see you then." Han nodded, and the screen went blank. "Lando, take my comlink, and go find Leia. I don't care where she is, get her here. I'm going to try and get Kyp on the comm. Go."
Lando mock‑saluted him and walked out the door. Jaina ran after him yelling for him to wait for her. Chewie was allowing Anakin to climb all over him.
Han punched in his i.d. again and waited. The New Republic symbol came up, and Han requested, "Yavin Four, Jedi Academy, Kyp Durron, request communication immediately."
The symbol for the New Republic abruptly became the one for the Jedi Academy. Luke had spent hours look for the old symbol, and had simply updated it by putting a miniature version of the New Republic symbol where the Old Republic one had been.
A young woman appeared on the screen a few seconds later. "Han? Hello, how can I help you?"
"Where's Kyp? I need to talk to him, Tricia. Something important has come up, and Luke may be in trouble," Han said, not disguising the worry in his voice.
"He's...out. I don't really know where he is," Tricia responded. "He went out yesterday, and he didn't take a comlink. A sojourn, I think."
Han swore. "Perfect timing. Okay, when he gets back, get him right to a terminal and have him call us. Me or Leia, or any one, Just get him to call here."
"No problem," Tricia said. "Luke'll be fine, don't worry about him, Han."
"I hope that you're right, Trice, thanks. Care are of yourself and that kid." Han smiled and cut the link. He sighed angrily at himself, and suddenly began to feel very tired again.
Chewie rumble at him softly. Han looked over at his friend, and sighed again. "You're right Chewie. They should've gone by now. But the nightmare gets more intense every night, and I just can't remember them. It's gonna drive me crazy, or kill me. I haven't decided which yet."
Chewie cocked his head, and growled a question. "I hope she doesn't," Han responded. "That'd kill me really fast. But there's nothing I can do about them. Every doctor in the palace has looked at me, and even Luke doesn't know what it could be. I am stuck with them until further notice."
Chewie voiced his opinion of that, rather loudly. Threepio took offence at that, "Chewbacca! That is not the proper way to speak in front of the children! Such words should not be said around anyone, especially‑‑‑"
"Threepio, shut up," Han snapped.
"But sir..." he protested.
"Just clam it, Threepio. I am not in the mood for you or philosophy. Just be quiet and let me think."
"Yessir," Threepio said, and began examining the flowers on the table in front of him. Han shook his head, pulled out the data chip from the reader and began to toy with it.
"Two hands," he mumbled. "Not one, but two. And a request for a million tons of cold‑laser crystal. Something is going on." He looked over at Chewie. "Even I've felt fingers, usually those of Death, brush a little too close to me. But two whole hands?"
Chewie roared laughingly, and shook his head in complete seriousness. "I know I'm not a Jedi, but what about when we were on Kessel? Don't tell me that you didn't feel the hand of death when we were in that mine."
Chewie reluctantly grumbled his agreement, as he picked Anakin off his leg and put him on his waist. Han was still playing with the chip, and there was something about it....
"Well, I'll be damned," Han said. "This chip is an exact replica of the SixSuns insignia. The memory clusters are arranged like the suns on the insignia, and.... the chip is the same shape too. This has a little... thing in the middle." Han proded it with his finger. "I wonder wh‑‑‑‑"
Leia had never felt so hopeless in her life. She looked at the small form of Anakin in the incubator, and felt an anger like never before rising in her. It took all she had to push it back down. She looked over at Two‑Onebee, as he closed the lid to the incubator. "Will he be alright?"
"It's too soon to tell," Two‑Onebee said. "The stun was set for a being of General Solo size or larger. Anakin was in a most unfortunate place. The stun seems to have affected his cerebral cortex. But he is young and still growing. Allow him a few days and we'll see what has healed itself. He will live, but I don't know how much damage has been done."
Lando put a had on her shoulder. "Leia, he'll be fine. He's one of the liveliest kids I've ever met. There's no way that he could be damaged permantently."
Leia laid a hand on the incubator, and said, with ultimate calm, "Damn them." She turned to look at Threepio in the corner. No help there, he had been shut down internally because of the overload on his circuits. He wouldn't be back up for atleast five hours.
"Lando, do you have any idea what Han was doing when you left?" Leia asked.
"He was going to try and get Kyp on the comm. He wanted to talk to him," Lando said. "Something was on that data chip that had bothered him and Karrde had said something about a place called SixSuns and a Dark Jedi."
Leia took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Then Rose lied to us. The sh'Ris are not the antagonists. The people of SixSuns are. And Luke is in the middle of it all." She looked at Lando. "I want you to go to my apartment, get on the comm there and locate Ambassador Jorash Creo. Tell him he is needed in medical as soon as possible. Take a translator droid, the ambassador doesn't speak Basic well. And don't let him know what's gone on with Han, Anakin and Chewie. I'll warn you now, he's very Force‑sensitive."
Lando nodded, a little reluctant. He turned and walked out quickly, hoping Leia wouldn't pick up on his anger at himself. He ought to know better than to come here by now. Every time he got involved with Han, he got sucked into another New Republic problem. It was almost ironic that one of the best smugglers he had ever known was now one of the best military leaders he had ever known as well. Who would've guessed that the smart‑assed kid from Corellia who had hated authority would be made a general not once but twice. Lando had to laugh. Only Han Solo could be a general and retain his position in the smuggling rings the way he did.
Leia wanted to scream. That's all. Just scream. It wasn't fair, not in the least. Han would be fine, he'd been through worse, and Chewie, well at two hundred years old that sort of said it all.
But Anakin. Little Anakin who had just come out of hiding. This was his first time at home. And he nearly gets killed. Leia wanted to be angry. But who was there to be angry at? Not Rose, that was for sure. Perhaps she had lied, but it was not intentional. She hadn't known a thing about this.
Or had she? Maybe the whole thing had been a trick to get Luke in their grasp. Leia desperately hoped not. Rose had seem genuinely interested in Luke, and for Luke to lose another girl... that would crush him.
Chewie's low grumble came from the other side of the room. Leia walked over to him, and brushed his furry hand with her fingers. "Chewbacca? Can you hear me?"
Chewie grumbled softly and slightly drunkenly. Leia made out the question there though. "You were hit by a stun and knocked out. How do you feel?"
He groaned again, and Leia translated it to mean roughly, "Like hell." She sighed. "I know that you aren't up to this, but can you tell me what Han was doing before you were knocked out?"
Still very groggy, it was hard for Leia to get the exact words that he said. But she got the general idea. Han had been playing with this infamous data chip, and had just realized that it was in the shape of the SixSuns insignia. That was all that he could remember.
"Thanks, Chewie," Leia said. "Get some sleep, it was a very powerful stun, so you'll be out for a few more hours."
He rumbled meaninglessly, and rolled onto his side. Almost instantly his breathing pattern was that of a sleeping Wookie. Leia felt a resurgence of anger, and pushed it back down again.
Winter walked in to the room, and stopped to look at Anakin. Leia could feel her friend's sense twitch unhappily upon seeing her young charge wounded. Leia could detect no anger in Winter, and had never been able to. The woman was the proverbial pillar of rock. But then Leia had learned long ago that some one with a perfect memory couldn't get angry or they would go crazy.
"Winter?" Leia asked.
"Your highness," Winter said. "Captain Calrissian told me to come down here and give you this:" Winter handed her a chip in a transparisteel bag.
"The data chip," Leia said, accepting the bag. She glanced at it, and realized that it was indeed in the shape of the SixSuns insignia. She pulled her comlink off her belt. "Locate Ghent Takson."
"Takson," came Ghent's voice.
"Ghent," Leia said, "I've got something for you to do. Come to medical right away."
"On my way, your highness," he said, and the comlink clicked off.
"What are you going to have him do?" Winter asked, looking over her shoulder at the incubator with Anakin in it. "If he sets it off, he'll end up in the spot as General Solo and Anakin."
"I think this is set to off only once," Leia said. "And I want Ghent to look at this and tell me if this the kind of crystal I think that it is. Because if it is, then we are in the middle of another war."
Winter looked at Anakin again. "Will he be alright, your highness?"
"Two‑Onebee said he will live," Leia said, not turning to look at the incubator. "But if the frequency was off even a little bit, it may have done permanent neural damage." Leia felt her friend's sense waver in the Force. "But for now, all we can do is hope."
The house in front of them was not big in the least. It was actually one of the smallest dwellings that Luke had ever seen. It couldn't contain more than four rooms, and they would be extremely tiny at that. He could sense one person inside the house, and two animals, different from the two dogs that he had previously met.
Rose looked back at him and said, "I think that you'll like Grammy, and I know that she'll adore you. I've got warn you though, Grammy is a little nuts. She does lots of weird things all the time, so expect anything. "
"I've learned that's all you can expect from a Jedi Master," Luke said, remembering his first encounter with Yoda.
Rose knocked on the door and swung it open. She walked into the house. "Grammy? Are you here? There's someone I want you to meet." Rose motioned for Luke to come in.
Just as Luke was about to step over the threshold into the small main room, something in the Force told him to halt right where he was. And he was thankful that it did.
Not five centimeters in front of his neck appeared a red glowing blade that was attached to an intent that would hold back from taking off his head.
"Don't you dare take another step, Skywalker," came a gravelly female voice. "Back away from the door."
Luke complied. He really wasn't in a mood to lose his head. But as he backed up, he felt his light saber leap out of hook on his belt and saw it land in a waiting hand.
"Grandmother!" Rose exclaimed, astonished. "What is wrong with you?"
"This man is not welcome here," said the elderly lady. "And if he tries to come in here, I'll take his head his head off, just like his father took my husband's."
"Grammy, Luke is here as a friend, not an enemy," Rose said, pulling the light saber out of her hand. "He's the ambassador that the New Republic sent to us."
"Luke, hunh?" the woman said. "Is that his name? Well, Luke, you aren't welcome here. Go to Katarina's court stay there. But don't foul my home with your presence here."
"I think that you‑‑‑‑" Luke began.
"Shut up," the woman yelled. "You are a Skywalker, and you have no place among my family, and no right to be near my home. Neither you nor your sister."
"Grandmother, you are acting like an ass!" Rose snapped at her.
"Do you know who he is?!" the woman demanded.
"Luke Skywalker, the only son of Anakin Skywalker," Rose stated clearly and loudly. "The man you would call Darth Vader and whom I would call dead."
"He has no place here," the woman stated.
"He is not his father, why don't you understand that?"
"I am trying to right the wrongs of my father," Luke said quickly so that he wouldn't get cut off again.
"Did I ask you?" the woman snapped.
"Grammy, give him a chance," Rose said.
"I give no Skywalker any chance at all," the woman stated, calmly and angrily. "I taught you‑‑‑"
"You taught me that all people, no matter what their position, rank, species or history was, deserve a chance to prove themselves!" Rose barked the words at the elderly woman.
"His is the exception!"
"No! You taught me better than that! He isn't his father, and I know that he doesn't act like that! You are being a stubborn ass, Grandmother. And until you see that I am right, and Luke is not like his father, you aren't coming in to the main house either."
Rose walked out the door quickly, handed Luke his lightsaber and marched smartly away from the house. Luke turned and followed just behind her.
"I don't think that that was adoration," Luke said.
"I had completely forgotten about the obsession she had about your father," Rose said. "I am sorry that you had to be witness to that. You see, before they came here, Vader swore that he would follow her anywhere and finish what he had begun with my grandfather. And she has never forgotten those words. That's why she stays in the house back there. She thinks that the woods will protect her from his wrath." Rose took a deep breath. "But there is no wrath to escape anymore, and she won't acknowledge that. Probably never will."
"Well, I will admit," Luke said. "Vader was rather frightening. He had a way about him that could scare anyone, and I wasn't the exception. His ultimatum with me was join him or die. Took my hand off to prove his point." Luke wiggled the fingers of his right hand.
Rose sighed. "I don't understand her anymore. When I was little, she always made perfect sense. Now, she seems to babble endlessly. And I'll be lucky if she ever talks to me again after this." She glanced over at Luke. "No offence to you. You aren't the crazy person."
Luke laughed. "Thanks."
"Well, dinner is going to be ready by the time that we get back to the house," Rose said. "So let's find Mark and Jacen and go eat. I'm getting hungry."
Luke wiped his mouth, and secretly wished he could lick the plate. "That was fabulous, Bella," he said. "I haven't had a meal like that in years."
"You ate like a starving rhino," Bella teased him. "Don't they have real food in that New Republic of yours?"
"Oh, they do, but it always seems to taste the same," Luke said. "And a meal like this is only served at very formal occasions."
"Then you'll like it here, Luke," Marcin said. "This is what we eat every night. Bella and Lauren are excellent cooks, and we never lack for a meal."
"Can I have some more?" Jacen asked, politely.
"Sure thing, Wolfie," Rose said, and scooped some of the food in the bowl on to the plate. "Luke?"
"My mouth says yes, but stomach is saying don't you dare. So, I'm afraid I'll pass." Luke smiled. He could learn to like it here. Everything was very informal, and very much reminded him of how it used to be on Tatooine when he younger.
"I think I'm done," Eve said.
"Good," Rose said. "Then come on, and we'll go work by the lake tonight."
Luke felt Sondra stiffen at the reference. She had been talking non‑stop through the meal and had a comment for everything. But when Rose said that, she froze for only a second, and her sence went from bright and happy to dark and brooding. Without another word, Sondra got up from the table, taking her plate to put in the sink, and walked out of the kitchen altogether.
Rose quickly looked at Luke and nodded at him. Do you see what I mean? She stood from her own seat, and motioned for Eve to do the same.
"Luke," Eve said. "Do you want to come with us?"
"I don't see why not," Luke said. "Jacen, are you going to behave here?"
"Sure, Unca'Luke," Jacen said, more intent on his food than anything else. "Mark and me are gonna play in the yard after dinner."
"Be good?" Luke asked.
"`Course," he said, and shoveled some more food into his mouth. Luke smiled and tousled his hair as he passed him.
It was a twenty minute hike up hill to the lake that Rose had mentioned. And it wasn't an easy hike either. Luke had been on easier trails on Endor and Wayland. When they finally reached the lake, Luke saw that they hadn't even put a dent in the climb to the top of the mountain that they were on.
The lake was at least a kilometer long and half as wide. One complete side of the lake was a cliff face off which a waterfall emptied it's self into the lake. The water was crystal clear, full of fish and plants, and very deep.
Rose pointed Luke to a rock ladder. "You and I are going on top of the cliff and watch from there. Eve starts over here," she pointed to a vine, "and ends up on the other side of the waterfall's ravine. Go on up, and I'll be there in a minute."
Luke nodded and walked over to the rock ladder. It was very dangerous looking. Luke scaled it carefully, and when he reached the top, found Rose only a few steps behind him.
She was complete relaxed into the Force, and Luke found himself relaxing as well. Rose gestured to a grove of trees. "You'd better stand out of the way. She is still learning and you may distract her."
Luke nodded, and backed into the grove. He stood there silently as Rose nodded to Eve. Eve nodded back, and started on the course.
She lept up the vine a good three meters, and then began to climb the rest of the way. She flipped herself onto a branch, and found another vine. She hung from this one, and swung along it hand‑over‑hand.
The next pause was at another tree and another vine. Eve grabbed the vine and swung out from the tree, stayed with the vine until it reached it's pinnacle, let go of it, and managed to grab a branch on another tree four meters away. She leaped up onto the branch, and without pausing, vaulted off the branch and onto the cliff edge.
Immediately, she began to jog along the edge until she was above one of the deepest parts of the lake. She launched herself off the cliff, did a perfect half‑gainer, and slid into the water without a sound or a splash.
She appeared in the middle of the lake in less than twenty seconds, and emerged on the opposite shore in less than thirty more. She began jogging again, this time, a full kilometer from the spot she had emerged to what looked very much like a shear cliff face.
Eve climbed up the twenty meter cliff face in less than twenty seconds and this time broke into a full run. She darted right past Luke, and headed for the ravine. She launched herself again into the air, turned a perfect aerial somersault, pulled her lightsaber off her belt, and sliced at the metal rod that Rose had thrown in to the air.
By the time she landed on the other side of the four meter ravine, she had the lightsaber back on her belt. The metal rod followed her to the ground and it clamored‑‑‑
‑‑‑Into four pieces.
Rose looked at her sister critically. "Only four?"
Eve's eyes went wide. "ONLY four?" she asked. "The last time it was only three, and the time before that was only two. Give me a break, I did everything else perfectly."
"Well begun is half done," Rose said. "If you had everything perfectly, that would be in eight pieces."
Eve groaned and sank to the ground. "I can't do again."
"You can and you will."
"You said the first thing a Jedi has to learn is their limits! Well, I've reached mine!"
"With anger like that, you'll never be a Jedi."
"It's impossible!" Eve despaired. "Six is the most you could you do!"
Luke smiled to himself. He remember the feeling of despair that he had when he was training. He knew that Eve was getting to the point where she was going to give up if she didn't see that it could be done.
Luke sprinted out from behind the trees, and vaulted himself over the ravine. He lifted another one of the metal rods that lay at Rose's feet through the Force, and sliced it. He landed next to Eve.
And the rod fell into twelve pieces.
"Not you too," Eve groaned. "I have been practicing, and I just can't get it into more than six pieces."
“When I was training," Luke offered, "I thought that I had impressed my master with six. He told me that had I been a Jedi, it would've been in seven. And do you know what happened when I got to seven? If I were a Jedi, it would be in eight."
"If it's any comfort," Rose said. "It took me nearly five weeks of doing the whole routine six times a day before I even got to four. You're two weeks ahead of me."
Eve rolled her eyes, but stood up anyway. "What's next, teach?"
"Since you are having trouble with the lightsaber, let's try doing some work with that." Rose lifted two round globes off the ground.
"Two?" Eve asked. "But I've only been working for a week on the‑‑‑‑"
They all froze, and looked at one another. Luke felt the all‑too‑familiar chill roll up his spine. Eve looked at the two of them.
"Is that the Dark Side?" she whispered. "I feel so cold..."
Luke nodded. "Yes. And it's intentions are directed at us." He sent a tendril of the Force toward the intentions that were tinting the air foully to see if could get exactly what they were going to do.
And it was obvious that they wanted these intentions heard. Luke picked them up right away. He whirled to look back at the house where Jacen was.
"We've got to get back," he said.
He felt Eve realize the intentions right about that time. She looked at him. "Follow me, I'll show you the quickest way back."
She launched herself off the cliff, and Luke followed her without an instant of hesitation. Rose groaned, and jumped in after them.