Finding A Path (Part 1)
Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the movie "Star Wars."
"Anakin, I didn't expect you today," Candra commented stepping into the room.
For a few moments I just looked at her, taking note of the way the sunlight struck her long dark hair, and how the graceful rose tinted dress complimented her pale oval face.
"I'm sorry if I have interrupted anything," I apologized, although her delighted smile showed that seeing me was much more important than whatever I had interrupted.
"I came to say goodbye," I explained.
"Yet another mission?" Candra sighed. "It's almost enough to make one wish you weren't quiet so inexpendable to the fleet. Where are you being sent to this time, and how soon can you come home?"
"A rim world named Corellus," I answered, "They've applied for membership in the Republic, and as proof of the Republic's serious consideration of their request my wing and several others are being sent to deal with some very persistent raiders in the area."
"And to observe the Corellians, to see if they are truly the type of people one wants in the Republic." Candra suggested.
I laughed softly, "Candra you should be in charge of the council, you always know what they're going to decide weeks, no months, before they manage to make up their minds."
"That is because the Republic is becoming too large, there are too many people who's only goal is their own advancement. They slow the entire government or drag it down a dead end. When those kind of councilors and senators outweigh those who seek to help the people they represent the Republic will be destroyed. Mark my words Anakin Skywalker. The Republic which you fight for is decaying from within, and if people like you and I don't do something to stop it the Republic will be destroyed!" Candra's intensity startled me.
"Relax Candra, with the Jedi Knights, councilors like Mon Mothma, and Senators like Bail Organa nothing could go wrong."
"Senator Organa and Mon Mothma are only two people. They have to fight harder every year to be heard, how long will it be before their voices are drowned out altogether. And even the Jedi Knight can't be everywhere at once. The Republic has grown to large for them to address every wrong," Candra argued. "Besides Senator Organa's two sons are taking up more and more of his energy."
"Sending them to Star fleet academy certainly didn't work out. It was suppose to keep Lan and Cal out of the Senator's hair, but they get in more trouble there than they did on Alderaan," I commented.
Candra grimaced then asked, "What do you think will happen to them?"
"The other cadets are betting on whether they'll be killed or court-martialed," I replied then added hesitantly, "It might be best for everyone if they were killed."
"Anakin!" Candra exclaimed, "Don't even think that. Despite their faults they're still Senator Oragana's children."
This was starting to sound like an argument, so I changed the subject. I didn't want this afternoon to be ruined. "What did I interrupt?" I asked.
Candra smiled sadly, "You're right we shouldn't argue before you leave." She paused a moment. "We have a guest, General Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi Knight."
"Why don't you introduce me," I suggested, I had never met one of the Jedi Knights before.
"Alright," Candra replied, "He's in the Main Hall."
I caught her hand and we hurried to the Main Hall.
Kenobi was an older man with dark piercing eyes that settled on me the instant we entered the room.
"Who might this be?" Kenobi asked nodding in my direction.
"General Kenobi, may I introduce my fiance Anakin Skywalker, the best X-wing pilot in Starfleet!" I blushed slightly at Candra's introduction.
"I came over to say goodbye to Candra," I explained, "I've been sent to Corellus."
"When do you expect to be back?" Kenobi asked.
"In a month at best, but I'll probably be out there longer," I answered, confused at his interest in me.
"It is quite likely that you shall see me on your return," He commented.
"Why?" I asked bluntly
"We shall see," Kenobi said smiling mysteriously.
Later that evening Candra and I strolled through the immense gardens that surrounded her family estates.
"Are Jedi Knights always so... unsettling?" I asked.
"Most are," Candra replied. "Lets talk about something more interesting."
"Such as?" I asked laughing.
"Our wedding!" Candra exclaimed.
"What do you want to hear?" I asked.
"A date, when are we getting married." Candra demanded. "You've canceled six times already!"
"As soon as I get back from this mission we'll start preparations for the wedding," I promised.
"The minute you land on the planet we start."
"I'll see you then darling, I have to get my X-wing ready for the trip."
I stared at my group of cadets, then turned to the Corellian Ambassador, "Some of these cadets are children!"
"They are Kaadish, and all have flown before." the Ambassador replied.
"Without training! You sent up a bunch of kids without training!" I yelled.
At my words one of the younger boys in the group stepped forward. Unlike the rest of the cadets his head was up and his dark eyes were bright with angry fire. "Sir, we're not children, and if you do what you were sent to do we wouldn't be untrained!" he exclaimed hotly.
The ambassador glared at the boy, "You speak out of turn!" Suddenly the boy's hand flew to his temple.
"I apologize," The boy whispered through tightly clenched teeth.
"Do not forget yourself again." The Ambassador ordered, and the signs of pain disappeared from the boy as quickly as they had appeared.
"I am sorry our discussion was interrupted," the Ambassador remarked calmly.
"What happened to that kid?" I demanded, shocked.
"I'm sure you're very confused Commander Skywalker, and possibly drawing several incorrect conclusions from this incident. All you saw was a Kaadish being reprimanded by the only medium they understand," The Ambassador explained.
This gave me a very good lead on one part of my mission here. If the laws on Corellus had the attitude toward the Kaadish that I expected them to have this planet would have an extremely long wait to get into the Republic. "Thank you for clarifying the matter," I commented, "I'd like to start working with the cadets."
"I'll leave you to your work," the Ambassador replied.
As soon as he left I said, "I'm Anakin Skywalker, and I'm here to help you to learn to defend your planet."
"Frankly Anakin Skywalker this isn't really our planet." A pale blond boy with startlingly blue eyes informed me.
"Weren't you born here?" I asked.
"We and all our ancestors were," A girl with short auburn hair replied.
"Then why isn't it you planet?"
A young man in his late teens answered boredly, "You heard the Ambassador, we're Kaadish, the conquered ones."
The boy who had spoken to me originally whirled to face the youth, "We're not Kaadish Jak! We're Corellians. They've taken this planet from us, but they can't take what we are, not unless we give it to them."
"They did conquer our planet Han. And with the implants," The auburn haired girl paused to tap her temple, "We can't fight them."
I listened curiously to this conversation. These kids were revealing some very interesting facts about their planet. The blond boy stepped forward to confront the one called Han. "And you're the most conquered of all, you fight for them!"
"I defend this planet! Our home!" Han yelled.
"You protect the colonists' homes and lives," The older boy, Jak accused.
"Would you have me allow the raiders to destroy our planet!" Han challenged. "Once the colonists are gone it will be us living on a burnt out shell!"
"Give up your fantasies, Han. The Colonists are never leaving. Letting the raiders destroy this planet is the only way to beat them!"
"Kaadish like you are what could cause the rebellion to fail," Han snarled.
"The Rebellion," The blond boy sneered. "Your Rebels are helpless!"
Han and the blond boy were suddenly circling each other warily.
"Cool it!" I yelled, stepping between the pair, "I'm going to teach high altitude fighting, whether you want to learn or not." I paused a second, "What are your names and how old are you?"
The cadets stood silently for a few moments more then the fiery dark haired boy stepped forward, "Han Solo," He said simply.
The blond boy moved forward next, "Eric Jaff, I'm fourteen, Han's thirteen."
"Jak Col, seventeen," The older boy commented.
"Calla, fifteen" that was the auburn haired girl.
"Callandra Tradd, fourteen and a half," Eric Jaff corrected.
"Just Calla," the girl stated firmly.
Han brought forward a small fine boned girl, "This is Trish Del, she's thirteen years old."
"Just what I need, a nursery school," I muttered angrily. "You've all been up before, correct?"
"We've all flown in five battles," Han volunteered.
"There were fifty of us before the first battle," Calla stated accusingly.
"Many of them believed by defending their lives they would be helping the colonists, so they wouldn't fight," Han explained. "Eric, Calla, and Jak survived by firing only when fired on."
"It's the only ethical way to survive," Calla insisted.
"You and Trish betrayed our people," Eric added.
Han's eyes sparkled angrily. "Let's move on to your ships," I instructed.
Calla immediately moved off toward a row of battered high altitude fighters. I groaned upon seeing them, all they had in common was that they were antiques. One was an early model Headhunter, another an E-6 Light, the other three seemed to be unsuccessful prototype IRD's each of a different make.
"This makes things difficult," I commented. "Everyone to your ships."
I followed Eric Jaff to the first ship in the line up. "What can you tell me about this ship?" I asked.
"It's the earliest working model of the Light series. It was developed on Corellus and was used by most of the galaxy... 300 years ago. This particular ship was stolen from the Aeronautics museum in the old capital city." Eric reported without expression.
"I don't want a history lesson, Mr. Jaff, I want a performance report," I reprimmanded him sternly.
"It just barely classifies as a high altitude fighter, It's top performance level is in the upper troposphere. The main advantage of an E-6 is their weapons range. Their main weakness is speed. They can just break the sound barrier," Eric reported crisply.
"Much better," I commented, then moved on to the next ship. It was one of the IRD prototypes, and Jak Col manned it.
His answer to my question was: "It flies, it kills people."
"Elaborate," I ordered.
"I steer it with the control-stick embedded in the armrest," Jak reached across his body and gripped the stick with his left hand. "I'm left handed," he explained, "The colonists wouldn't pay anyone to reroute the controls for the convenience of a Kaadish.
"Back to how the ship works. There is no reverse, you're always moving forward. Push the stick forward; you loose altitude, pull it back; you gain altitude. Move the stick left; the ship peels off to the left, move it right; the ship peels off to the right. Depress the red button on top of the control stick and the lasers on both sides of the ship fire," Jak recited in a disinterested voice.
"That's very good Mr. Col, now could you demonstrate your knowledge of the sensory equipment?" I requested.
"Altimeter, speedometer, targeting computer, and gyroscope," He listed pointing to each as he said it's name.
"What display mode should they be in during battle?" I demanded. A blank look was the only answer I received. "Have you ever heard of a heads-up display?" I asked he nodded, "Please activate it."
For several seconds he searched for the switch. When he finally found it, ghostly images of the instrument panels appeared on the IRD's canopy.
"Be sure to use the heads-up display from now on. What make is your ship and what are a few of it's strengths and weaknesses?"
Jak shrugged without a flicker of interest.
"It's an IRD prototype, I'll have to fly it myself to discover the other."
I moved on to the next IRD, it was Calla's. Her answers showed she knew a lot about the ship, but couldn't care less.
Trish was a surprise though. "Tell me about your ship," I ordered, not quiet sure how a child would answer.
"It is an IRD prototype, the Republic abandoned it because of it's short weapons range, the lasers are effective at a maximum of only 25 meters, and most people can't target when their ship moves as fast as this one does. It maneuvers well enough in the ionosphere, but if you try anything fancy in the thicker air you'll rip the wings right off. The controls have been rerouted so a small person, like myself, can use them. Han and I team up as much as possible because..."
"Hang on a second Trish, if your controls are rerouted for you, why didn't anyone fix Jak Col's?" I asked.
"Han and I spent two months worth of free time getting our ships in the best shape possible. Both of us know a lot about high altitude fighters, our parents all flew in the same wing."
"You and Han fly in a pair, why?"
"A two ship element is safer and more effective. It's hard with ships of different makes, though. Han has a Headhunter, a Z-95, so he'd rather be down in the middle stratosphere, or even the cellar, I mean the lower troposphere, while it's best if I stay as high as possible," Trish replied.
"Thank you Trish," I said. Then headed to the last ship. After talking to Trish I really didn't know what to expect from Han Solo.
"What do ya what to know?" Han yelled as I approached the ship.
"I'd like to get an idea of how much you know about your ship," I answered.
"Alright," Han replied with a laugh.
He shut the cock-pit and started the ship. Hurriedly I backed away. A second later Trish's ship roared to life. I ran to Calla's IRD, leaning over her, I activated the ship's com system.
"Han, Trish, what do you think you're doing!" I yelled.
"Showing you what we know," Han replied coolly.
"Shut down your ships immediately!" I ordered.
"Sorry Commander," Han laughed. The pitch of his engines became a high whine, and his ship streaked toward the skies. Trish followed close behind him.
"Come on up," Han invited.
"Calla could I borrow your ship?" I asked tensely.
Calla hurriedly threw herself out of the fighter, and ran to Jak's, probably to listen to Han and Trish getting bawled out.
As I prepared for take-off Han kept up a running report on what he was doing, and how the ship was responding.
"Going to heads-up display... Trish is behind and above me, relative to angle of ascent... Exiting troposphere... Keeping things simple 'till ionosphere... Reached upper stratosphere... Leveling off," Han narrated. "Engines running smoothly... Trish peel off sharp left, I'm going right."
I had visual contact with them by then.
"Meeting loops," Han called.
The two ships quickly moved so that they were flying one upside-down close beneath the other. Then each peeled off slowly so that they flew wing tip to wing tip. They continued to turn till they reached their original position. Then they repeated the maneuver. Slowly I became aware that they were gradually increasing speed, still keeping their formation incredibly tight.
Both Han and Trish were yelling exited congratulations to each other.
"Split!" Trish yelled sharply.
Han's Headhunter spiraled deep into the atmosphere, while Trish spun off toward space.
"In coming!" Han yelled, "Four o' clock, five seconds from firing range."
Confused I checked my equipment, other than our three ships the sky was empty.
Suddenly Trish's lasers fired, precisely where Han told her the `enemy ship' was.
Trish's course became erratic, "I'm being followed!" she screamed, "I can shake him!"
Han raced after her, "Thirty meters behind me," Trish calmly informed him. Han paused a second then opened fire.
As they continued to play their game I realized they had come up with an ingenious way to practice battle maneuvers. At the Academy we used million dollar simulators to do the same thing two children did with their imagination.
"Solo, Del! It's time we land," I ordered.
Trish sighed and began angling her ship toward the ground.
"Trish, eleven o' clock, 30 seconds to range!" Han yelled desperately.
Automatically Trish pulled up and prepared for battle. "Give me a hand here, there's quite a few of them," Trish replied steadily.
"Enough's enough you two!" I yelled. "Land your fighters!"
"Before we do, you should check your sensors," Han insisted.
I had switched off the heads up display to watch Han and Trish. Now I quickly searched for the button to turn it back on. When I found it, there were eight blips right where Han said they would be.
"Jak, Eric get up here! We're about to be hit by raiders." I shouted.
It would be the oddest battle I ever fought in.
Jak and Eric flew around the perimeter of the fighting, ignoring any ship which didn't fire on them. While Trish and Han seemed to be engaged in a game of cat, mouse, and dog. One of them would trick one of the raiders into following them, then the other would quickly destroy the enemy ship.
I abandoned fancy tactics and concentrated on just blowing up as many ships as possible. I took care of three of the ships, none of the other pilots were anything special. Jak got one kill, I'm reasonably sure that was an accident. Three of Han and Trish's kills were as unspectacular as the rest of ours, but their last opponent was a cut above the rest. I couldn't watch them, being engaged in battle myself, but I could hear them explaining different plans to one another, and I could hear the strained shriek of their engines as they pushed their ships well beyond safety limits.
"Trish pull up! You can't use that maneuver in the cellar," Han cried, seeming to end one plan.
That was on an open channel, I knew the other pilot had heard. I waited tensely for the sound of Trish's ship coming apart around her, silently cursing a government that would send children into battle. Watching Han and Trish fly, I had forgotten how young they actually were. What was going to happen wasn't Han's fault. A fighter pilot had a million details to keep track of in a battle: the strengths and weaknesses of enemy ships, your ship, your allies' ships, altitudes, speeds, positions of all ships just of name a few. How could a thirteen-year-old kid remember all of them.
But Han's mistake, failing to code his transmission, would cost Trish her life.
I waited, but there was no explosion. Then I heard Han's low soft laughter. "He fell for it Trish, he fell for it," Han sounded incredibly relieved.
"The raiders have never been that good before," Trish remarked shakily.
"What did you two do!" I demanded. "He knew Trish was going to pull up!"
Han laughed again, "We fooled you, too."
"I didn't pull up," Trish explained, "But he reacted like I was going to!"
"He pulled up right into my sights!" Han exclaimed triumphantly.
"This world practices slavery," I reported to Admiral Dayvon. "The cadets didn't volunteer, they were forced into it. Some of them think it would be better if Corellus were destroyed.
"The beings in charge of the planet aren't even native to it. They're just colonists. They conquered the planet and forced its natives into slavery!" I heard my voice rising in anger. "Some of those cadets are children, and the youngest cadets are the only ones that want to protect their planet!"
"Commander Skywalker! Calm down. You were supposed to help Corellus to take care of the raiders irregardless of whether or not Corellus would be allowed into the Republic. It's obvious they won't be, but as to the cadet's ages, the Republic may have enough people to train cadets for several years before sending them into battle; fringe worlds don't. Consequently they have to send up sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds."
"I'm not complaining about the seventeen-year-old! I'm furious about a fourteen-year-old who doesn't even want to fight, and worse yet two thirteen-year-olds who do want to!" I yelled. "All three have survived six battles already, how much longer will their luck hold out? How long will it be before they're put up against a well trained pilot?"
"Corellus isn't a member of the Republic, Commander. That means we can't tell the Corellians or Colonists how to run they're planet. All we can do is inform them that they won't be admitted into the Republic until they stop practing slavery. What you can do is teach those cadets everything you can about high altitude fighting. You can give them a chance to hang on until the planet gets itself streighted out."
And so the months passed. Trish and Han became two of the best pilots I ever knew. I borrowed several X-wings and they learned about fighting outside a planet's gravity-well. Our daily schedule ran something like this:
6:00 Tactics- Han and Trish
9:00 Practice with High Altitude Fighters- All
1:00 Take the X-wings out scouting for the raider's base, and practice with the X-wings- Han and Trish
6:00 Return to planet
7:00 Trish and Han disappear. They refuse to tell me where they go.
Whenever the raiders showed up everything was dropped to fight them (or to fly around the battle field avoiding the fighting, depending on which cadet you were talking about.)
Every battle brought Han and Eric closer to a confrontation of their own. Whenever they were in the same room there was carefully aimed talk of betrayal, cowardice, hopelessness, and submission.
Their voices woke me from a sound sleep one morning approximately three months after my arrival.
"Why are you protecting them?" Eric accused angrily.
"We protect this planet," Trish corrected softly.
"No, you show-off for Commander Skywalker. You think he's your ticket off this miserable world, don't you," Eric taunted.
"I won't leave this planet," Han stated firmly.
"Why not?" Eric asked. I heard a trap setting in his voice and hoped Han heard it as well.
"It is my home," Han answered simply. The breath I hadn't known I was holding escaped.
"Your home," Eric sneered. "Everything on this planet is the colonists', including us! We are Kaadish."
"You may have been conquered," Han replied, "But I haven't given up, not yet."
"Do you continue to fight?"
"I have yet to surrender," Han answered, a note of caution entering his voice.
"You almost sound like a member of the group which is bringing about the destruction of our people," Eric remarked.
"That's funny, I didn't think I sounded anything at all like you," Han commented lightly.
"It's not me destroying my own people," Eric's voice was angry, intense. He discarded the vague questions and comments that they had been using, "The Rebels are scaring the Colonists. Anyone they even suspect of being connected to the Rebellion disappears, but the real Rebels are never suspected are they Solo? The real Rebels are much to careful for that. They never slip, except maybe were kids like you are concerned, your parents where certainly Rebels, you grew up with a detailed knowledge of the Rebellion, but you aren't careful enough. I suspect you. All I have to do is remark on my suspicions when a colonist is around, and then you'll disappear and they'll have found the real Rebellion."
Trish's pale bloodless face could almost confirm Eric's suspicions, Han just smiled. "You're so far off the mark it's not even funny, but you're right about one thing, you could get the Colonist to suspect me without even half trying. And what if you were right, what would the Rebellion do about you? They'd kill you before you could betray your planet again."
"You'd still die, and pull a part of your precious Rebellion down with you," Eric answered smoothly. "That would be worth my life. Besides, the Rebellion would give me a merciful death, I can't say the same of the Colonists."
Han shrugged, "Dead is dead, and what if you're wrong? What if I have nothing to do with the Rebellion. What if the only name I tell them is yours. What will you do then?"
"I guess it all boils down to how much I hate you. That could be quite a lot. You were the only known survivor of the Caldor Square massacre. Why won't you tell me what happened, who else survived?" Eric demanded.
Han looked tired, "If I knew I'd tell you, but I was knocked out right after the shooting started. I've told you that a thousand times."
"You're lying, you have to know more," Eric insisted. "Eventually I'll get tired of waiting for you to tell me. So watch out Solo, I hold your life in my hands."
Han sighed, "With things the way they are, so does every other person on this planet."
I stepped back from the window, wishing I were home. Wishing I'd never met Han Solo or Trish Del. Wish I had no reason to stay here. Unfortunately it would take something more substantial than wishes to solve this problem.
The first step to solving a problem is to understand that problem, so I dedicated the day to finding out everything I could about the Rebellion.
I started by talking to the other Republic pilots. They knew just about the same stuff about the Rebellion as I did. But I found it odd that there were seventy-three people in the training program that held the same political views as Han and Trish, and all seventy-three had some previous experience with High Altitude Fighters, such as having a parent that flew one. That was almost 3/4 of the trainees, but only a fifth of the original number of recruits.
Then I checked out how the people in the training program had been selected. The answer to this made the afore mentioned numbers even odder. I learned that the Corellians all were living on a small continent in the Nardra Ocean. When someone needed workers they simply flew out to the continent and kidnapped the number of people needed. (Often without regard for the workers' ability to do the job. If the first group didn't work out there were always replacements.)
The cadets had been picked in the normal random way, that so many of them were fit for the job had to be more than luck. Besides, if I were planning a rebellion and someone offered free training for fighter pilots, I knew I'd be sure to have as many of my people enrolled as possible.
Han and Trish's nightly disappearances clinched it, for the other seventy-three could never be accounted for during that time either. The obviousness of this plan and the regularity of the Rebels meeting hours led me to believe that the Rebels weren't all that experienced. In addition to that the seventy-three cadets were all between thirteen and twenty-two.
I decided that the only thing left to do was to confront Han with what I had discovered.
"Han, I overheard your argument with Eric the other morning," I commented, watching Han carefully.
I was disappointed to see a tense guarded look enter his eyes, I never would have brought this up if I hadn't believed that he trusted me, but it seemed that this issue lay well beyond any trust Han had in me.
"I wanted to know if what he said was true," I continued.
"I really have told Eric everything I know about Caldor. He had some friends that were involved with it. I'm the only person he knows of that survived. He can't accept that I'm really the only survivor. I might not be, but I don't know that, I don't know what happen to his friends. If I did he'd be the first person I'd tell. Even if I hadn't been knocked out I wouldn't know much about what happened. The protest was completely unorganized. About fifty Corellians decided that the Colonists simply didn't understand how bad things were for us, so we all got together in a mob, and demanded that they treat us like human beings. The Colonists response was to start shooting at us. When that happened we panicked. I hit my head and lost consciousness. When I woke up it was all over," Han exclaimed.
"I already knew that you wouldn't with holding information from Eric out of malice. Han I want to know if you're involved with the Rebellion," I explained.
"What would you do if I am, turn me in?" Han asked tensely.
"I think you know me better than that."
"Alright Anakin, let's pretend I'm a member of the Rebellion. I'm not saying I am, but let's assume it. Now what are you going to do," Han stated nervously.
"I'm going to ask you about the Rebellion," I replied.
"I may not be able to answer all your questions," Han warned. "Remember I'm just pretending to be a Rebel."
"That's fine," I remarked, thinking this way if I ask a question about something I shouldn't he could claim that only a real Rebel would have that type of information.
"How long has the Rebellion existed?" I asked.
"When did you join it?"
"When might have I joined the Rebellion," Han corrected.
"Alright," I sighed, "I rephrase the question."
"Three years ago."
"When did Trish become a Rebel."
"Who says she is!" Han exclaimed angrily.
"Sorry, forget the question. How might you have become involved with the Rebellion?" I asked, trying to play the game by Han's rules.
"I might have had some friends who were trusted members of the Rebellion, and when it was brought up that the Rebellion needed pilots one of those friends that I might have, might have submitted my name." Han was making absolutely sure I wouldn't forget that this was only a hypothetical discussion.
"Then the Rebellion set it up so you and around seventy other Rebels ended up in this program right?"
"I wouldn't know for sure, but if they did it would be pretty sharp of them," Han replied.
"It would be all but impossible to guess where and when the colonists were going to get the people for this program. Unless you had a spy in the colonist government." I spoke carefully now, this was the most delicate information I had asked for, but I wanted to know just how far he trusted me.
"Or a sympathizer," Han suggested.
"This sympathizer would probably be fairly young, say mid-teens to, oh around twenty," I suggested.
"Probably." Han smiled suddenly, "How'd you guess her age?"
"I thought she'd be about the same age as the Rebels. She's the daughter of one of the government officials, isn't she?"
Han laughed, "You ought to know that that is sensitive material."
I smiled back, and dropped the subject. "If your Rebellion succeeds, what will you do then?" I asked.
Han's confused blank look worried me. I tended to forget his age because in most ways Han acted much older than he really was, but this failure to look ahead was all too normal for a child.
"Well, I guess everything will go back to being like it was before the colonists came," Han finally answered.
"It won't be quite that easy Han," I warned. "Your Rebels are going to have to set up a new government."
Han smiled, "I guess we'll work that out after we beat the colonists."
"How much damage could it do the Rebellion if Eric follows through with his threat," I asked.
"It would cost them one of their best pilots," Han replied calmly. "Every member of the Rebellion is conditioned not to break under torture."
I wasn't surprised to see Han grimace slightly. Thinking about my own conditioning tends to make me react in the same way.
"Besides," Han said more cheerfully, "I've already made certain Eric won't follow through."
At dinner that night I found out what Han had done to insure his safety.
I was surprised when Han took a seat right next to Eric, usually they sat as far apart as possible.
Within moments they were arguing. This dinner seemed destined to be unpleasant. What it actually became, was shocking.
In the middle of a particularly nasty comment Eric's eyes turned glassy and his words stumbled to a halt.
"I think Eric's sick," Trish commented, "I'll help him to his room."
As Trish fought to guide Eric's unstable mass to the stair case it became obvious that there was something very wrong with him.
"Maybe we should take him to a hospital," I suggested with real concern.
"Colonist med-centers don't treat Kaadish," Jak snarled.
"Trish there's no way you'll get him up the stairs by yourself," Han remarked in a cool detached voice. "Here, let me give you a hand." With that comment Han slipped under Eric's free arm and began guiding both Eric and Trish toward the exit.
Han was waiting in my quarters when I retired that night. "How'd you get in here?" I exclaimed.
"It doesn't matter," Han replied shortly.
"Eric will be fine, he'll sleep for around ninety-six hours and wake up none the worse for wear. Except it will be too late for him to hurt the Rebellion.
"More importantly," Han continued, "You've got to get off the planet. I've had people make sure all your ships are ready for lift off. What's going to happen is none of the Republic's business. I have permission to give you a twenty-four hour warning; be off Corellus in the time allotted." Han, then slipped out the window and disappeared into the night.
Obviously the Rebellion was preparing to make its move. That Han had told me about it showed he really did trust me. With this information I could ruin the Rebellion, I could also help it. If all the Republic people suddenly pull off the planet without an explanation it could confuse the Colonists, and confusion could only help the Rebellion. I wished I could stay and see how everything turned out, but Han was right it was none of my business.
With a sigh I turned to my com station and began preparing the Republic personnel for departure.
Twelve hours later I found Han preparing his ship for battle.
"Good luck Han," I said softly. "If you ever need a hand, you can contact me through Starfleet headquarters on Courscant. Good-bye."
"Good-bye Anakin. You'd better get going," Han replied. "I'll call up sometime and tell you how every thing works out."
"Be sure to do that," I said, returning to my X-wing.
I contacted Candra when I was forty-eight hours from Courscant. Much later I learned that that call marked the start of the mad rush that surrounded Candra and I's wedding.
Candra was determined to have a proper wedding, she was also determined that no emergency should have a chance to force me to leave the planet before the ceremony was complete.
During the two day it took me to reach the Courscant, Candra sent invitations. We'd planned the list together before an earlier wedding date that was called off on account of an impending war between two of the Republic's more bellicose members. Candra also contacted a local minister and made arrangements for the ceremony to take place in her family's home.
The decorations had already been taken care of. (Once we had made it to the morning of the wedding before I had been called away. That time it was to fight a nearly invincible war machine that, because of some glitch in it's logistics system, had decided that EVERYTHING was the enemy.) So far Candra and I had been engaged for three years and had set six different wedding dates. I've heard seven is a lucky number in many ancient societies, maybe this time the disaster could wait till a few hours after the ceremony had been completed.
Amazingly Candra and I were in the process of being married only three days after my return to Courscant.
At the reception I spoke to General Kenobi again, "You have more potential than any Jedi I know," he insisted. "You already use the force on a subconscious level when you fly your X-wing."
"You're crazy," I informed the old man coolly, "I may be one of the hottest pilots alive, but that's due to training, practice, reflexes, and instinct, nothing more."
"The force is a part of you," Kenobi replied in the calm, all knowing, extremely annoying way of his. "You cannot ignore it. Think on what I've said, when you're willing to listen with an open mind contact me."
With that the infuriating Jedi Knight walked away. I didn't see him again for almost a month. I still wasn't sure if I could use the Force, but at that time I realized I would need all the power I could get my hands on.
"Do you realize its been two weeks since we were married, and Starfleet hasn't had one emergency requiring the unique and legendary talents of Anakin Skywalker," Candra commented at breakfast one morning. "Maybe we should relax and take our honeymoon."
"Don't even think about it, as soon as we decide nothing's going to happen, something will," I warned.
"Anakin we aren't spending our whole life hiding on my parent's estate!" Candra exclaimed. "Today we are going to go somewhere."
"As madam wishes," I replied lowering my head.
Candra laughed and softly punched me. "Cut that out," She demanded still laughing. "We will go to the Telcar Mountains."
"If you don't mind crowding I'll take us in my X-wing." I offered.
"We'll be there in an hour," Candra cheered.
Just as we were landing the call came, "Commander Skywalker report to the base."
"Acknowledged," I replied. "I'm sorry Candra, do you want me to drop you off at home?"
"No, I want to go with you. That way I'll find out immediately where you're being sent."
"Okay," it was the least I could do after that untimely call. We should have gone right after the wedding, then we could have had two weeks for our honeymoon.
So a little over three hours after breakfast, Candra and I sat in Admiral Dayvon's office and listened to him describe my latest mission.
"This time it seems the threat is an internal one, a new Senator has been elected, Senator Palpatine. Where ever he goes there's trouble, but we can never connect it to him. You're a very observant person, Anakin. It only took you twenty-four hours to find out what we needed to know on Corellus."
"Sir, on Corellus I was working with children who didn't always think before they spoke!" I protested, wondering once again how Han's rebellion was faring.
"I expect this will take longer," Dayvon replied. "But you're still the best man for the job. I'm assigning your wing as Senator Palpatine's party's escort. I would like you to keep an eye on him."
"How long will this assignment take?" Candra asked.
"There's no way to know, it all depends on how tight-lipped Palpatine turns out to be," Dayvon answered.
"When do I leave?" I asked.