Author's Notes: Thank you so much, Thrawn's Girl! I really appreciate all your wonderful feedback. And if there's anyone else reading the story, I'd like to say thank you to you as well. Writing my post RotJ-AU series has been incredibly rewarding because I've met so many wonderful people and have had fun playing with the characters I love. So thank you very much!

Fear Part 21

The Naboo Angel landed close beside the office building where Han, Chewbacca, and General Madine had gathered to plan their response to the terrorist takeover of Theed Palace. It was an opportune spot-the office was near the palace, but out of sight so their movements could remain hidden from Ignatia Kane and her followers.

As Anakin, Luke, and Lando hurried down the ramp, an agent met them and led the way to a ground-floor room where their friends were poring over diagrams of the Palace.

"I'm glad to see you guys," Han told them as they entered. He reached out to give each of them a quick handshake. "We're gonna need all the help we can get."

"Tell us the latest," Anakin said, and Madine replied. "We believe that they bribed one of the security guards to let them in. That's how they got onto the grounds of the Shafliz estate in the lake country. Ignatia Kane, her son, and at least five more members of the group are barricaded in the throne room with King Tripday and two assistants. More terrorists are in the outer chamber. Captain Panaka and the Palace Guards tried to overcome them there, but had to withdraw when Ignatia Kane threatened to kill the hostages. Panaka estimates that there are about fifteen in the chamber."

"And they want Keren and Gil?" Luke asked intently. From the moment Han had told them about this latest crisis, he had managed to put aside his grief at the loss of his sister and focus on the task at hand with complete single-mindedness. No doubt the pain would return later, but learning that more innocent lives were in danger had galvanized him as nothing else could have.

Han nodded, "Yeah, Ignatia Kane sent a hologram about a half-hour ago, saying that if we didn't give the padawans to them within two hours, they would kill Tripday and his assistants."

"How does she expect to get away with this?" Lando demanded. "Even if we gave her the padawans, how does she think they're going to leave the palace? I guess she could be planning to keep Keren and Gil alive for awhile to use them as hostages to get away, but doesn't she know that we'd follow them or track them?" He shook his head. "There's no way she can get away with this."

"She may not be planning to get away with it," Anakin said grimly.

Madine nodded. "She's a fanatic, and fanatics are unreasonable. No price is too high as long as they achieve their objective."

"So she's on a suicide mission," Lando commented.

"I don't think so," Luke said slowly. "She wants to destroy the Jedi. If she dies now, Father and I are still alive and could train more padawans. She has to kill us to achieve her objective."

Chewbacca rumbled a question.

"No, I don't see how she could have known we would arrive back here in time," Luke answered. "We didn't know exactly when we would be able to leave Coruscant ourselves."

"So if she's not after you two this time, then that means she's got some escape route planned," Han remarked.

They were quiet for a few minutes, studying the maps of the Palace. Finally Madine shook his head. "I don't know what it could be, but we need to go ahead with our own plans. We have evacuated all the buildings within a kilometer of the Palace, and have Theed guards securing a perimeter around it now to try to prevent any escape attempts. Not counting those guards and the agents protecting your padawans, we still have about fifty men so we should have more than enough firepower."

"But she could still kill the hostages during the fight," Han pointed out.

"Yes, getting the hostages out alive will be very tricky," Madine agreed. "In fact, there is only a small chance of saving them. We have to either negotiate their release, or catch the terrorists by surprise. There's not much chance of negotiating. For one thing, I doubt that the terrorists would make any concessions in their demands. They want the Jedi padawans and nothing else will do."

"And we can't offer them clemency. Not when they're suspected of killing the Vice-Chancellor of the New Republic, along with two other innocent people. So we really can't bargain with them," he finished.

"What about a surprise attack? Could we save the hostages that way?" Lando wanted to know.

"That's what we've been trying to figure out," Han said. He pointed at one of the diagrams. "But the only entrances to the throne room are through the outer chamber or the windows. If we come through the outer chamber, the terrorists there can alert the ones in the throne room, and I'm sure they have lookouts stationed by the windows, too." He shook his head. "We could really use a hidden passageway right now."

"Naboo's a peaceful planet," Anakin answered. "They aren't used to danger and intrigue here. It probably never occurred to the architects to build such things."

Chewbacca suggested cutting through the walls or ceiling of the throne room, but Madine shook his head.

"It's a good idea, and one that I would normally want to use, but we don't have the necessary equipment for cutting through stone quickly, except for an explosive and that's too dangerous for the hostages."

"A lightsaber could cut through quickly," Luke said quietly.

Madine stared at him a moment, then slowly began to smile. "Yes, that might work."

Leia, Tera, and Elissa sat in a circle on the floor of the gungan sub with their hands joined. It was time for a final attempt to levitate the sub. They had run out of food, and were almost out of water as well. The situation was becoming critical.

The only good sign they'd had lately was that Leia's injury was almost well. She had regained her strength and had only a few twinges of a headache the last day or two. It was hard to believe, but she remembered that both Luke and her father had experienced miraculous healings right after the battle of Endor. Perhaps the Force had blessed her as well.

In any case, it seemed like now was the best chance for success in raising their underwater prison when they were all as strong and well-rested as they were going to be. And they didn't really have much choice at this point. They either had to levitate the sub, or prepare to die.

"Wesa can do this," Tera said firmly. "Wesa have levitated things before. The sub is no different."

Elissa nodded, trying to have faith in Tera assurances. "Do or do not," she said with a little smile.

"Luke has said that he pictures the object rising in his mind, and then he just reaches out with the Force to make it happen," Leia remarked. "We'll do that. I'm not trained, so I may not have the focus or concentration that's needed, but I am strong in the Force. If you two could somehow channel that strength, maybe it would help."

"Wesa will try," Tera said, and as Elissa poked her, she added, "Mesa knows, there is no try."

They all grinned at each other, and then Leia said, "All right, let's do it."

They had no trouble sneaking into the Palace. If there were limited entrances to the throne room, there were multiple doors leading in and out of the Palace itself, and the terrorists only controlled the outer chamber and the throne room. Mak Panaka met them at the southwest entrance, one that was blocked from view of the terrorists.

They conferred for a few minutes, and then Anakin, Luke, Han, Chewbacca, Lando, and Madine led a small squadron to the passageway above the throne room while Panaka gathered forces near the outer chamber.

The two Jedi used the Force to ascertain when they were directly over the throne room. Then they silently motioned for the group to stop and ignited their lightsabers. The others drew their blasters and made sure they were ready. They all knew they were going to have to act quickly if the hostages were to be saved.

Anakin and Luke began cutting a large rectangular opening in the ceiling, moving as quickly and quietly as possible, and using the Force to hold the block in place until they were completely finished.

They nodded at one another and all at once they let it drop, directing it away from the hostages with the Force, and jumped down to the throne room below, with the others right behind.

One of the terrorist gave a shout, and then blasters were firing and people were running every which way. Luke, Anakin, Han, and Chewie glanced about and located the king and his assistants standing in a far corner with Ignatia Kane and her son Garmon close by with their blasters drawn.

They aimed at the hostages, but Anakin and Luke jumped in front of them and deflected the bolts. Seemingly oblivious to the battle going on around them, Ignatia paused and then surprisingly, she smiled at them. It was a cold smile, almost a sneer, and hate blazed in her eyes. "So we meet again."

Keren sat fidgeting on the sofa in the living room of her parents' apartment, along with them, the Shafliz family, and Gil, who had come over that afternoon when they'd heard about the terrorist takeover of Theed Palace. The Shafliz home was much more spacious, but since her father was still serving his sentence, he could only leave the apartment to go to work.

She'd been feeling extremely restless and tense all afternoon, something she attributed to the events going on in other parts of the city, but now she was beginning to feel as if the Force were trying to tell her something, but she couldn't understand what.

Gil was sitting beside her, looking rather anxious himself. He leaned over to touch her arm. "Keren, I feel like we need to go somewhere."

She tried to give him a reassuring smile. "We're safe here, Gil. Don't worry."

But he shook his head. "No, it's not that. I just feel like someone needs us and we need to go to them."

Keren looked at him intently. "I feel the same way," she admitted.

Gil pointed at the holonet screen which was showing a shot of Theed Palace. "But not there. We don't need to go there."

"We need to go to Lake Paonga," Keren finished for him.

She glanced around at her parents, the Shaflizes, and the NRI agents who were guarding them, and said, "Gil and I need to go to the lake."

Han and Chewie grabbed King Tripday and his assistants and almost threw them at some NRI soldiers nearby. "Get them out of here!" Han shouted and turned back to help Luke and Anakin.

He and Chewbacca both raised their blasters at the Kanes, but before they could fire, laser bolts zipped past their ears and forced them to defend themselves. Some of the terrorists had slipped in from the outer chamber, despite the battle that Captain Panaka and his men were waging in there, and had come to protect their leader. Everytime Han or Chewie tried to aim at the Kanes, these followers would engage them in a firefight.

Fortunately, Luke and Anakin didn't really need any help. They effortlessly blocked shots from the Kanes' blasters when Garmon suddenly pulled an explosive from his jacket and threw it at the Jedi. Father and son barely had time to shield themselves with a Force-bubble when it exploded.

By some lucky miracle, it was a small explosive and no one was hurt, though the shock of the blast knocked both Luke and Anakin halfway across the room. In fact, Garmon seemed to have hurt his own side more than anything else because a chunk of wall crashed down separating them from most of the other terrorists, and the New Republic soldiers and Theed guards were rapidly subduing their enemies.

Garmon grabbed at his mother's arm. "Mom, we have to go!"

"Not without the Jedi," she shouted back.

Garmon had already pulled a comlink out and spoke briefly into it. Then he turned to his mother and told her, "Mom, they're winning. We can get them another time, but we need to leave now, while we can."

Ignatia hesitated for an instant, then reluctantly nodded. She and Garmon began fighting their way towards the windows.

Luke jumped back to his feet and looked for the Kanes. They couldn't be allowed to escape, or more attacks were inevitable.

"Over there," Beside him, Anakin pointed and Luke saw Ignatia and Garmon standing on the window ledge. Apparently at least one of the terrorists had gone to the palace hangar because a second later, a speeder pulled up outside the window and they jumped in.

"Oh, no," Anakin said grimly. "They're not getting away that easily."

With a sudden burst of energy, he raced towards the window.

"Father!" Luke shouted and took off after him.

Both Jedi reached the window and without even pausing they launched themselves into the air towards the speeder.

Han was taking cover behind the wall that had fallen and aiming at one of the few terrorists still fighting, when he caught a glimpse of Luke and Anakin leaping from the window.

"Crazy Jedi!" He looked over at Chewbacca. "What do they think they're doing?"

It was a long jump and they just barely made it. Anakin landed further up the speeder's trunk and reached to pull Luke up beside him.

"What do you think you're doing?" He shouted at his son. "You should have stayed back there."

Luke gave him a stubborn look. "I'm not losing you, too. Wherever you go, I go."

There was no more time for arguing, though, because the driver of the speeder begain dipping and twisting in an effort to dislodge them. At the same time, the Kanes began firing at them.

Reaching an immediate, unspoken agreement, father and son began concentrating on different areas. Anakin used the Force to help secure himself and Luke to the speeder, while his son leaped to his feet, ignited his lightsaber and deflected the blaster shots.

As he twisted to block one shot his lightsaber sliced through the trunk and happened to disable the rear repulsorlifts. The speeder abruptly plunged to the ground.

"Jump!" Anakin shouted, and they leaped from the falling speeder. Luke caught a glimpse of the Kanes and the driver, and thought he recognized the same gungan that had blown up Leia's sub. They looked like they were reaching for the ejection switch, but before they could the speeder crashed into the ground and exploded.

The two Jedi slowly fell and landed lightly on their feet. They studied the nearby fireball in silence for a time. Finally Anakin took a deep breath and said, "It's over."

Luke bowed his head, not sure how to feel. He was relieved that the threat against the Jedi had ended, and he was fairly certain that they had rescued the hostages. But he hated any loss of life and this entire situation suddenly seemed so horribly tragic and unnecessary.

And Leia, Tera, and Elissa were still dead.

A tear slipped down his cheek and then his father wrapped his arms around him and held him close for a time before finally saying in a heavy voice, "Let's go back, son."

They began walking back down the deserted street toward the Palace.

"I can't believe you talked us into this," one NRI agent grumbled as Keren, Gil, the Shaflizes, Mirets, and the accompanying bodyguards drove through Theed towards the lake.

Keren couldn't really believe it herself. When had she become a strong- willed, determined person? But the feeling that she and Gil ought to be at Lake Paonga had been growing steadily stronger until she couldn't ignore it any longer.

She looked at the agent. "No one ever said we were under house arrest," she reminded him.

"This is too close to the fighting," he grumbled, looking over at the nearby palace. "We're supposed to keep you away from that."

"We need to be here," Keren replied simply.

"But how do you know?"

Keren sighed. "I can just feel it."

The speeders approached the shores of the lake and entire party climbed out. The Shaflizes stayed close to Gil and Keren's parents joined her. Normally her father would have had to remain behind, but one of the agents had taken pity on him and said that this little excursion could count as an emergency. The NRI agents drew their rifles and surrounded them, not sure what to expect, but wanting to be ready for anything.

"Look!" Gil pointed out to the lake, where a burned shell of a sub poked its nose above the water, but then rapidly disappeared.

"Gil, quick!" Keren ordered. "Help me lift it."

They reached out with the Force, and to their absolute amazement, sensed some familiar presences that they had thought were lost forever. But there was no time to rejoice yet. They joined their skills to Tera, Elissa, and Leia, and slowly the sub rose and glided across the water before coming to a stop at the banks. The door opened and then Keren, Gil, and several of the agents were hurrying to help Leia and the padawans out.

Tera beamed at them. "Mesa knew we could do it!"

Anakin and Luke made it back to Theed Palace just as the fighting was ending. General Madine and Captain Panaka were supervising the transfer of the surviving terrorists to prison. Han, Chewie, and Lando came hurrying out the front entrance just as the Jedi approached.

"We were just coming to look for you," Han called as he hurried to give them both a hug.

"What happened to Ignatia Kane?" Lando asked. "Do we need to send out search teams?"

Anakin and Luke explained how the Kanes had met their demise and they began slowly walking down the street. As they reached an intersection, Lando noticed a small group of excited people standing near the edge of the lake. "What's going on over there?"

They exchanged glances and headed over. They had only taken a few steps when Anakin and Luke both froze. They had never expected to sense Leia's presence or the padawans' again, but they were here.

"Han," Luke whispered.

But it was unnecessary. Han had already seen a familiar figure among the small group.

"Leia!" he shouted in disbelief.

She looked up. Her long hair was hanging loose down her back, completely undone from its braided coronet, and her clothes were rumpled and dirty, but it was unmistakably Leia.

"Han!" she called back. And then they raced towards one another, and met in the middle of the street. Han caught Leia up and swung her around and then they kissed, long and joyously.

"I thought I'd lost you," Han said in a rough voice.

Leia smiled tremulously. "I'm pretty hard to lose."

And then Luke and Anakin couldn't hold themselves back any longer and they were there, hugging Leia, and they were all laughing and crying together. Lando and Chewbacca came next, and then the four padawans, and the family was once again complete.

The End

Epilogue:

Two weeks later.

Luke, Leia, and Anakin sat on the lowered ramp of the Naboo Angel, looking at the almost completed lake retreat, and huddling together in blankets against the chill of the coming winter.

"When can you move back in?" Leia asked.

"Probably not until we get back from spending Christmas with you on Coruscant," Anakin replied. "The building itself will be done soon, but then we're going to have to paint the walls, have carpeting put in, and refurnish it, so it'll be a little while before it can be lived in again." He smiled and hugged both his children close. "Not that I'm complaining. I still can't believe how fortunate we've been."

They nodded, and then Luke said, "I wish you didn't have to go back to Coruscant just yet."

"Well, at least it won't be long before you and Father come," Leia told him. "And we'll have the best Christmas ever."

"Yes, we will," Anakin agreed.

"What are you going to do about the padawans?" Leia wanted to know. "Are they coming, too?"

Luke shook his head. "Not this time. They're going to spend the holidays with their families. Tera will go to Otoh Gunga. Keren will go to Theed. Father and I are going to take Elissa back to Roon on our way to Coruscant. And Gil is going to stay with the Shaflizes."

"They've really gotten attached to him, haven't they?" Leia commented.

"They're going to adopt him," Luke said.

"Are they really? That's wonderful. How will it affect his training?" she asked.

"It is wonderful, and I don't think it will affect his training that much," Anakin said. "Gil will stay here during the week and go to his family on the weekends, except for the times we take him to Coruscant or on a mission, of course." He shrugged. "In any case, there are a few things more important than training, and I think family is one of them."

The twins smiled and leaned against him.

"I agree," Leia said softly. Another, sadder thought occurred to her. "I can't help feeling bad for Warrak Kane and Reynard."

Luke thought of the tall, sad man who had been Ignatia Kane's husband and the younger son, who had lost his mother and brother. Warrak had sent them a message a few days after the battle at Theed Palace, saying that he had not known the extent of his wife's fanaticism and that he had believed her to be innocent until it was too late. He had apologized for all the trouble and grief she had caused and said that he was planning to take Reynard and move off-planet. He thought it would be best for the boy and hopefully would help him to heal and recover from both the deaths and the poisonous teachings of his mother.

"It was all so needless," Luke murmured. "If only she'd been willing to listen and talk to us, maybe none of this would have happened."

Leia reached over to squeeze his hand. "Luke, it was her choice to give in to anger and hate."

"I know."

They watched in silence as the sun set over the lake and evening fell. The temperature slowly dropped and by the time the first star shone in the sky, they were all shivering.

"I think it's time to go inside," Anakin remarked. "We don't want to get sick."

As they slowly stood, Leia sighed and peered into the darkness. "I wish Han and Chewie would come on."

"I'm sure they'll be back soon," Luke told her. Lando had been so taken with the Angel that he had placed an order for a similar starship for himself. Han and Chewie had taken him into Theed that afternoon to pick it up and see him off. Lando was returning to Coruscant.

Han and Leia would have gone with him except that the medic wanted to be absolutely certain that her head injury was healed so they were waiting a couple more days before leaving themselves.

"It's ridiculous," Leia had fussed about that decision at first. "I'm perfectly fine now, and I've been away from Coruscant for too long."

"Sweetheart, never turn down the opportunity to spend a few quiet days with your husband," Han had told her. He'd grinned. "Force knows we don't have enough of them."

Leia had studied him a moment, along with her father and brother. Then she'd smiled. "You're right. I'm going to enjoy the chance to be with my family for as long as I can."

And they had all been taking advantage of their time together. Now Anakin, Luke, and Leia hurried back inside the Angel and settled down to watch the holonet while waiting for the others to return.

Later that night, Han and Chewbacca parked their speeder beside the Angel and entered to be met by Artoo, who whistled softly at them.

"What's that, Artoo?" Han asked.

Before Artoo could say anything else, Threepio came bustling towards them. "General Solo, it is good to see you again. Artoo is warning you to be quiet. See?" He pointed to the living area.

Han and Chewie walked into the living room and Han had to smile at the sight.

Luke, Anakin, and Leia were side by side on the reclining sofa. The holonet was on, but they were all fast asleep. Anakin was in the middle, with his children on each side. Luke and Leia were nestled close beside him, their heads resting on their father's shoulders, and his arms were wrapped around them.

"Don't worry, Artoo. We won't wake them up," Han said softly.

Chewbacca shook out a blanket on a nearby chair, and he and Han carefully laid it over the Skywalkers before retiring to their own rooms for the night. Artoo and Threepio turned off the holonet, dimmed the lights, and shut themselves down.

And the Skywalker/Solo clan slept peacefully through the night. The danger had passed, and a new era was ready to begin for the Jedi Order.

The End

Author's Notes (again): If anyone out there is reading my series, please help. I need your opinion on something . Back around Christmas, I wrote a short holiday story that takes place immediately after "Fear" called "Christmas Reunion." I've also begun working on the sixth story in the series "Sandstorm." I would like to begin posting "Sandstorm," but you really need to read "Christmas Reunion" first and I feel kind of funny posting a Christmas story in February. At first I thought I'd just wait til the holidays roll around again, but then I thought I might just ask and see if anyone really was interested in the series continuing. If you are, could please let me know? Thank you.

Kristeh