AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the sequel to "Eye of the Storm." I highly recommend that you read it first -- otherwise you will be very confused. Also, this story isn't a humor entry, but focuses more on the relationships of the Skywalkers and the New Jedi Order. The Earth characters will have much less involvement. Sorry.

Chapter I - Unwelcome Surprise

From all outward appearances, Earth was a nondescript blue world on the extreme fringes of the Outer Rim. It boasted a population of nearly seven billion, a good number but incomparable to Corusant's trillion-plus residents. The planet was somewhat behind the rest of the galaxy technology-wise, and it had few heavy deposits of ore, major crops, or other exportable goods that the rest of the galaxy valued beyond items of curiosity.

But it was just in this category, items of curiosity, that Earth excelled. This little system had carved out its niche in the Republic, and its exports were slowly but surely leaving their thumbprint on life in general. All things Earth were leaking into the New Republic and were here to stay.

This Admiral Piett bemoaned as he began to rail on a trio of stormtroopers who stood at attention on the bridge of the Executor.

"How many times do I have to tell you?" he barked. "Your duty comes before all else, and your duty is to protect this ship and its occupants. You must remain on guard at all times. And how do you expect to remain on guard when you have THIS on at full volume?" He shook the plastic disk at them.

The trooper to the far right, one TK-333, squeaked "It wasn't full volume, sir."

"I don't care; it was much louder than permissible," Piett replied sternly.

"Can't a clone have a little fun?" snorted the one on the left, TK-409.

"When you're not on duty, I don't care what you do," Piett replied. "You can listen to this... noise for all I care. But if any of you start neglecting your duties in favor of 'a little fun,' you'll be transferred out of the Executor Garrison immediately."

He took a little perverse satisfaction in seeing all three cringe. Serving on the Executor was a much-coveted position among the Earth stormtroopers, if only because the Stardestroyer's troops rarely saw combat. In the clones' eyes, being kicked off the ship was as humiliating as an officer losing his stripes.

"You're dismissed," Piett said finally.

The third trooper, TK-577, waited until his companions had left, then held out his hand.

"Can I have my Smashmouth CD back, sir?"

The Admiral sighed and returned the disk. "That's what you call this racket, then. Quite accurate."

"That's the band name," 577 corrected. He chuckled. "You wouldn't really kick any of us off ship. You're too nice."

Piett grunted and turned back to a readout screen. "Is that a strength or a flaw?"

"Who's to say? You've lasted two years under Master Skywalker's command, longer than any other Admiral on this heap. Perhaps he saw something in you that no other Admiral possessed."

"An extraordinarily long lucky streak, I'll bet," Piett replied. "Why, how many Admirals did you see come and go?"

"Too many." 577 lifted his helmet slightly and spit to one side, a superstitious holdover from his training days on Kamino. Kaminoans always spit to one side before discussing the departed as protection against the wrath of the dead. "When Skywalker was still Vader, he was more tolerant of his soldiers than his officers -- meaning he mostly ignored us until he needed troops to send off somewhere. Most of us live longer than the average clone, so we've seen plenty of officers come and go. Every Admiral before you was rubbish. Ozzel was a pompous stuffed shirt, Dalzor was cranky as a rancor with a toothache, Lakka was so dumb he couldn't tell a proton torpedo from an asteroid, and Miso -- let's not even discuss him!" He spit again.

Piett chuckled. "I remember Miso from the Academy. Horrible, slimy backstabber of a man. I never saw Vader kill him, but they say he put up a good fight."

"Fight nothing! He groveled and begged for his life like the stinking bootlicker he was! Whoever gave you that bantha poodoo had his head screwed on crooked!"

"Ozzel. But seeing as he and Miso were friends at the Academy, of course he wouldn't have described him as a coward."

577 saluted. "Well, best be off, sir. I have guard duty at the starboard shield generator."

"Keep the music off during your shift!" Piett shouted after the departing trooper. He doubted the man heard him, or cared.

He watched Earth's Indonesian Islands spin out of view as the Executor orbited the planet. What an eventful two years this had been. Under Vader's command he had seen the destruction of the Rebellion's Echo Base, the invasion of Cloud City, and the ambush of Luke Skywalker in the little-known sector of space known as Area 51.

He still didn't know all the details as to what had happened during that failed mission, but from what he had been told, Vader, Luke, and Boba Fett had become stranded on Earth when the two ships capable of taking off on their own had been sabotaged. The denizens of Earth had befriended them and taken them in, thanks in part to a series of movies known as "Star Wars" that eerily detailed the rise and fall of the Empire. Then Piett had received word that Vader had defected to the Alliance, and he and a handful of his men had joined him.

The Emperor, in an effort to win his right-hand man back and have Skywalker in his clutches, had kidnapped two Earth children, tried to kill one (though the boy, unbeknownst to the Emperor, had escaped), and demanded Luke in exchange for the other. Rather than comply, Vader had led a team of Rebel leaders and Earth volunteers in a bold strike against the Emperor. The monarch had met his doom in the Executor's reactor core, and Vader had renounced his Sith title, becoming Anakin Skywalker.

Now Earth was a Republic world, and Anakin was serving a five-year exile on the planet. Once his sentence was up, he would once again helm the Executor, this time as a Jedi Knight.

Two off-duty stormtroopers strolled past, discussing something called "Nightmare on Elm Street," whatever that was. Those Imperial troops had been a sticky situation for the Republic to handle. They were clones, grown and trained for one purpose only, so disbanding them and thrusting them into civilian life was out of the question. It had been Earth Senator Hans Luther who had proposed the soldiers serve as Earth troops. The people of Earth were familiar with them, and they would serve a worthwhile purpose to the Republic.

A computer blinked a warning. He bent to examine the console, but he could find nothing wrong.

He never saw the hilt of a lightsaber smash into the base of his skull, nor did he see a pair of sparkling gray eyes flash in triumph as clawed hands dragged him away.

Liz elbowed her husband sharply in the ribs. "Honey, we're in public! Don't adjust your armor in front of everyone!"

Boba Fett hitched up his belt one more time. "No one's watching, dear. Besides, I'm getting comfortable. That tuxedo you foisted on me was murder."

"I was trying to make you look nice for the wedding," Liz snapped. "But you had to go and ruin it by wearing that blasted helmet with it!"

"I think he looked good," Amethyst put in.

"I think he looked like a dork," Liz countered.

Amethyst sensed it was time to change the subject. She was far from Force-sensitive, but any altercation between these two produced vibes that Anakin claimed he could feel across town. Not that their marraige was in jeopardy; they were completely crazy about each other. But when they fought, things could turn ugly in a hurry.

Then again, this was Vader's Elite, and things with the Elite always turned out, if not ugly, at least weird. And this occasion was no exception. This was the barbecue- reception following the double wedding of Han and Leia Organa Solo and Austin and Liberty King Powers, and the entire fan club, the Skywalker, Powers, and King families, Republic leaders, and Star Wars actors had shown up.

"Check out Austin's younger brother," Amethyst suggested, pointing to Dakota Powers.

"Um, what's with the bird under his arm?" asked Fett.

"Oh, he's a chicken farmer from Wyoming," Liz replied. "Said his prize laying hen was in delicate health and he couldn't leave her behind. Crazy man."

"Hey Fett, long time no see!" shouted Cody, Amethyst's husband, as he sauntered up. "Whatcha been up to?"

Fett was about to reply when Cody turned and saw the chicken farmer. He took one look at the hen, shrieked, and ducked behind the hunter.

"Oh Cody, quit overreacting," hissed Amethyst.

"It's gonna eat me!" he shouted.

"What's the matter, got poultry-phobia?" asked Conrad, approaching with his wife Diana and daughter Rachel.

"He's got this new obsession with bad horror movies," Amethyst explained. "Last night he saw 'Food of the Gods,' a cheapo flick about giant killer rats and chickens. It's getting on my nerves -- after watching that stupid 'Orca' movie we had to cancel our vacation to Sea World."

"Hey, 'Orca' was cool!" Cody protested.

"So I hear you two are going to be parents!" Conrad exclaimed, changing the subject again. "Congratulations! I didn't think the adoption agency would approve you so fast."

"They're just afraid to turn down anyone with the last name of Fett," Cody quipped.

"Being a husband's already softened the galaxy's best bounty hunter," Conrad went on, slapping Fett's shoulder. "How'll being a father affect him?"

"Do you know what child you'll be placed with?" asked Diana.

"We'll find out when we go to the adoption center on Corusant day after tomorrow," Liz replied. "We didn't put down any specifications for age or gender, so we may have several to choose from."

"Did you specify species?" asked Amethyst.

"No," Fett replied. "Human and humanoid children are normally the first to be adopted, as the majority of adopting parents are human. Aliens often remain in orphanages and foundling homes for years before they're placed with a host family."

"So you're going for an alien child," Diana noted. "How sweet. What do your parents think, Liz?"

Liz gave a snarling sigh. "I can't believe my folks' gall! Dad's threatened to disown me for getting hitched to a bounty hunter! Well, fine, he disowns me, I disown him, the baby disowns him!"

"He's your father," Fett defended. "A stormtrooper walked you down the aisle. I think he's got a right to be a little upset."

"What about your mom?" asked Amethyst.

"She's fine with it, but ooohhh, Grandpappy's in a tizzy. 'Five million bounty hunters in the Guild, and you couldn't find a nice Jewish one?'"

Fett laughed.

"So when's your little boy due, Diana?" asked Cody.

"July 28th," Diana replied, placing a hand on her belly. "We've already picked out a name, too."

"Isaiah Anakin Church," Conrad announced with a grin.

"I'm sure Anakin's honored," Amethyst said.

"More embarrassed than anything, really..." Diana began.

A rending, deafening blast of noise smothered the rest of her sentence.

"Damn!" Cody swore, running for shore. "This again?"

Luke threw his head back and flung an ecstatic laugh to the wind, relishing the breeze against his face as the motorboat roared across the lake, kicking up sheets of spray. When had he last gotten a chance to simply relax and have fun? Since last year? And before that? He'd been extremely busy, what with overthrowing the Empire, helping negotiate an alliance between Earth and the New Republic, getting said Republic to approve restoring the Jedi Order, and gathering students for his Corusant Jedi Academy. He needed a day off.

In the boat with him were Tina, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Austin, Liberty, and Trapper. Tina and Trapper were hollering for Harrison to speed the craft up while Austin pleaded with him to slow the thing down. Liberty held a bright orange flag -- it was her duty to raise it as a warning to other boaters if someone went overboard. Mark, meanwhile, kept an eye on Brigham, who was being towed behind the vehicle on a wakeboard.

"Brig still hanging in there?" asked Harrison.

"Going strong!" shouted Mark.

"Well, I can fix that!" Flashing a Han Solo-ish grin, Harrison brought the boat around in a sharp turn.

Brigham, lying face-down on the board and clinging to it for dear life, bounced several times as the board skipped over the frothing wake. One jolt dislodged his grip, and he cartwheeled over the water before going under. He bobbed for the surface, gasped for air, and hooted in exhilaration.

"What a ride!" he panted as they brought the boat alongside him and Austin hauled him in.

"Nice landing," commented Trapper.

"Trapper!" chided Liberty.

"I'm next!" shouted Tina, ever the daredevil. She lay on the board and shouted for Harrison to not be so wimpy on her.

A second boat zipped past, this one carrying Han, Leia, Mike, Steve, Opal, and Jason, with Anakin riding the wakeboard. Luke shouted a hello but doubted anyone heard him. The others couldn't hear him over both craft's engines, and Anakin was too involved to pay attention. He was totally absorbed in the speed, leaning into the curves, as if this were a podrace on water.

His father looked to be having a great time. Good. The man deserved some R&R after all these years. He'd not had an easy life, first as a slave, working for a greedy junk shop owner, then a Jedi, undergoing the grueling training of the old Order. Then there had been the Clone Wars, his fall to the dark side, the Purges, and the even more brutal training of the Sith. His dark time... a time he rarely discussed even though it took up a good half of his life. No, there had not been much time for leisure in his life.

Except for last year's Eye of the Storm, of course. It had been during that time that he had found the good in his father, found it and brought it forth. Of course, he'd had some help from his wacky Earth friends. He owed so much to them.

The past year had been a busy time for Anakin, what with getting his visa so he could legally live in the U.S. while he served his exile, purchasing and running the garage, and doing what he could to help Luke reestablish and reorganize the Jedi Order. This was his first chance to take time off in a long time, and his last chance for another long while.

And he had yet another battle ahead of him -- the battle to shed his life-sustaining armor and, through it, the last vestiges of Vader. An extensive examination by several doctors had determined that nothing short of a lung transplant would restore his breathing. But the waiting lists for donor organs were distressingly long. Another option was cloning the needed organs, but human cloning of any sort was banned on Earth due to unresolved ethical conflicts. Anakin would have to wait for either a donor set of lungs to become available, cloning to be legalized, or his sentence to end before he could be healed enough to remove the mask. Luke knew how much Anakin hated that, but for now he had to accept it.

His thoughts were interrupted by a disturbing clatter. He looked around, alarmed, to see where the sound could be coming from. Was the boat's engine slipping a cog? Then he saw the smoke oozing from under the hood.

"Bail out!" Luke screamed. "The boat's going to blow!"

No one had the guts to disobey a Jedi, especially one who shouted in such a panicked tone. Luckily, everyone was wearing a life vest, so it was a simple matter for everyone to leap into the water and paddle away.

"What's this all about..." began Mark.

The boat's bow shattered, ripped apart by a massive explosion. Debris pelted the water around the blooming sphere of flame that used to be Harrison's watercraft.

"Good night!" cried Jason as Han and Leia's boat pulled up to haul everyone out of the water. "What happened?"

"Where's Liberty?" asked Austin as he helped Trapper into the boat.

Luke scanned the water. He saw no sign of the woman. Taking a deep breath, he ripped off his life vest and plunged beneath the surface.

His eyes stung from the water pressure against them, but he forced them open as he searched. The ruined hulk of the boat was sinking to the bottom of the lake, and he carefully eased himself past the debris.

There! She was clawing at her legs, where she had gotten tangled in the towing line and was being dragged down by the wreck. Luke put one arm around her to keep her calm, drew his lightsaber with his free hand, and ignited it. Water around the weapon boiled and frothed as he slashed the rope and kicked to the surface.

Black-gloved hands snatched the two of them and deposited them somewhat roughly in the back of the second boat.

"Luke, are you okay?" asked Anakin anxiously.

He nodded as he gulped in air.

Austin embraced Liberty tightly, nearly hysterical with concern for her. Her left shoulder was stained red where some flying debris had struck her, leaving a gash a handspan long.

"I was so scared," he whispered.

"I've been told I have explosive beauty," Liberty quipped, "but this is ridiculous."

Everyone burst into laughter.

"So the blast didn't disrupt your charm," noted Han.

Luke and Anakin locked eyes. This explosion could only have been a deliberate attack. There was no other explanation for it. That was disturbing, for while several attempts had been made on Anakin's life while he was on Earth, everyone had thought Luke to be too well-liked to be a target. Was someone out to destroy the New Jedi Order? Was the Empire planning to take back the galaxy? Or was this the work of an unknown entity?

"I think the party's over," said Luke gravely.

No one disagreed.