Sithspawn-13 - Thank you, that sequence had me worried a bit.
K9 - What? Sith got your tongue?
AN: I want everyone reading this to count the number of people I'm thanking here. One . . . two. Very good. That's the number of reviews the last chapter got. That's pathetic. If you don't want to broadcast your comments to the whole world e-mail me personally, but please give me feedback.
Keep talking to me! I'm listening.
Chapter 5: Truth Be Told
"Mon Mothma," Leia bowed as the Rebellion leader turned from her conversation with the head of security. "I'm afraid I must request a leave of absence."
"For how long?" the petite Senator asked concerned.
"I don't know," Leia answered her eyes on the floor. "I've just discovered that I am Force-sensitive and I need time to be trained." She finished quickly.
Strangely, Mon Mothma showed only minimal surprise at the statement that had floored Leia when she realized it. "Where will you go?"
Leia shrugged. "Wherever my Jedi Master takes me, I guess." Now that she was faced with all the unknowns concerning her Jedi training, she was seriously considering backing out. She didn't want to leave the Rebellion just when they had a chance of really doing something. Guerrilla tactics would do no good to set up a new government; no one wanted to live under the thumb of terrorists. On the other hand, she couldn't stay around here now that her father was so close. "Hopefully away from the memories of my father. I'm having trouble dealing with them."
Mon Mothma laid her hands on Leia's shoulders. "Alderaan?" she asked simply.
Leia nodded, "Among other things. Bespin. The recent battle." In the back of her mind, Leia knew that they were not referring to the same man. Mon Mothma had known and respected Bail Organa; no one had really known Anakin Skywalker for decades. She felt obliged to explain. "I've just recently encountered my biological father. He's on-base."
"Has he been cleared?" The chief of security for Rebellion High Command spoke up. She was a slight woman, Leia's equal in height and build. She was old enough to be Leia's mother, and many that saw her wrongly believed her shrunken from age due to her wiry frame. But she was strong in both body and mind. Her intensely private nature limited her activities to making sure that security breaches were closed before they even opened. Most of the people who knew her didn't even know her name, and she refused any title except the honorific Mi'Lady.
"No, Mi'Lady, he defected after the battle," Leia informed her.
"How high was he in Imperial Command?" The question followed right on the heels of the young woman's answer.
"Fairly high, Mi'Lady."
The older woman nodded. "Good. I need to speak with him. There are rumors going through the base that Vader survived the recent battle and is on-planet somewhere. If those are true, he poses a serious security risk. Any new recruits should be debriefed as soon as possible."
Now or never. "About that, Mi'Lady-" That was as far as Leia got before Anakin burst into the room.
"Leia," he began immediately, "do you know where Luke is? I have a bad feeling that something is wrong with him." He stopped moving closer when he noticed Mon Mothma and the chief of security.
"Leia, who is this?" Mon Mothma asked with a regal calm that Leia envied.
Leia straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath. "Mon Mothma, Mi'Lady, allow me to present my father, A-"
"Anakin?" Mi'Lady stepped around Mon Mothma for a closer look. Anakin's eyes went wide when she stepped into full view. "Anakin Skywalker?" Her tone was disbelieving, though her face glowed with joy.
"Padmé?" Anakin asked in the same voice. As if in a dream, he stepped forword, reaching out a white-gloved hand towards the face of the chief of security. Leia caught the tail end of a memory flooding over her.
A young woman, her mother Leia realized, stepped out from the crowd, eclipsing the Queen. She was small, but still larger than the nine-year-old-boy that was watching. She looked like a younger version of the Rebellion's chief of security. "Your Honor," the girl called. "I am Queen Amidala of the Naboo . . ."
Anakin's fingers brushed Mi'Lady's cheek and he pulled back. "Forgive me, Sabé, it has been so long."
" . . . This is my decoy. My protection." The girl turned giving Anakin and therefore Leia, a better view of her face. "My loyal bodyguard." From this new angle Leia noticed the subtle differences between her mother and Mi'Lady. On second look, the girl dressed as the Queen looked closer to the chief of security.
Coming back to reality, Leia realized that Mi'Lady, whom Anakin had called Sabé, was chattering excitedly, releasing in a few minutes what would have otherwise been her normal quota for a day's worth of talking.
" . . . One look at Luke and I knew he was your son, and of course Leia is Padmé's daughter, but twins!" She giggled a sound that had never before escaped her lips. "I always thought you and Padmé should have gotten together; I didn't know you really had. At least that explains why she tracked Obi-Wan's movements so closely; I was getting a little jealous." She suddenly went serious. "I'm sorry about Obi-Wan, Anakin. Truly I am. And poor Padmé, what I wouldn't give to have her standing here with you instead of me."
Anakin nodded sadly. "I am glad she left when she did though. She was spared the worst of Vader's rampages."
Sabé's face went hard. "Speaking of that monster, you must be careful Anakin. There are rumors that Vader is on-planet, and he may come after you to finish what he started. Obi-Wan told me you were dead and that Vader killed you." There was a question in her eyes that needed a truthful answer.
"In a real sense, I was and he did. But I don't think he's a major threat anymore," he tried to reassure Sabé, but her bodyguard training kicked in.
"What do you mean 'not a major threat'? Anakin, he nearly killed you; I'm not taking the chance that he'll show up and finish the job." She would have continued, but at that moment, the doors opened again.
Luke and Mara entered. Luke's arm was thrown across her shoulders and Mara wrapped his waist in a tight hug, but despite the positioning, it was fairly obvious to Leia that Luke was supporting Mara and not the other way around. The red-haired diplomat was heavily favoring her right foot. Mara cast about, her gaze finally resting on Anakin. "Hey, Vader!" she called. "A little help here?"
"Vader?" Sabé repeated incredulous. "You mean, you've been . . . all this time . . ." Her confusion cleared to return as steely determination. "We will talk of this later, Anakin. Go help them."
Anakin had obviously come to the same conclusion as Leia, because he immediately stalked over to the two young warriors and scooped Mara into his arms. She struggled and beat her fists against the hard plate of his armor. "Not me you overgrown droid," she protested. "He's the one that needs help," she indicated Luke.
"But you're the one limping," Anakin countered. "I don't want you to be in pain."
For the space of a heartbeat Mara's face went deathly rigid. Her eyes froze into cold hard gems without a life of their own. "Then drop dead, Skywalker," she hissed for him alone to hear.
Anakin's response was to hold her closer to him so she couldn't flail out of his arms. "Don't think I haven't considered it," he whispered in her ear, "but it would break Luke's heart."
Mar'isu stepped through the medcenter doors, and straight into an argument.
"I'm telling you, this man stopped breathing!" Even leaning on a crutch, Mara Jade was a force to be reckoned with. She jabbed her finger in Luke's direction, never taking her eyes off the medic squirming in front of her.
The man craned his head over to Luke, who shrugged his shoulders in response to the unasked question. "He's breathing now," the orderly observed refocusing on Mara.
"And it doesn't worry you that five minutes ago he wasn't?" Mara responded.
The medic held his hands up in a surrendering gesture. "Ma'am, I don't know how to handle this. When the Death Star cooked the Med. Frigate, I got pulled off tech support to staff a center. I'm here because I took some First Aid training in my off time. You tell me what to do and I'll do it, but I'm not a 2-1B, and the Commander doesn't look like there's anything wrong with him." Luke shifted uneasily at the last statement, but remained silent.
Mara gritted her teeth her face going rigid and menacing. Through the Force, Mar'isu felt the darker powers gathering about the young woman, but they were twisted somehow, stained with the Light of good intentions and a pure soul. A Force-probe stabbed through the haze around Mara and winged its way to Luke, cataloguing old injuries and new weaknesses, searching for the key to release his injuries. The strength and focus of the probe were instinctive to the point that Mar'isu doubted Mara herself was aware of the potential she carried.
"Check his blood." Mara's lips moved, but her voice seemed to come from far away. Here eyes were unfocused, staring into the far distance of a room that ended ten feet away from her. Mar'isu did her own quick check and found Mara's recommendation to be sound.
"What?" the poor man asked his nervous glance twitching convulsively between Luke and the cabinet that held the needles. "I don't think that's such a good idea . . ."
Mara's eyes refocused on her immediate surroundings. "You heard me take a blood sample," she snapped. The medic shook his head and refused to move fear spilling out of him. With a huff, Mara stormed over to the cabinet and pulled out a sample card and lancelet. "Give me your arm, farmboy."
Luke pulled his shoulder out of reach. "Why?" He was almost as nervous as the medic.
"You're not leaving until you've been checked out, that's why." With practiced ease, Mara reached out and caught his upper arm in an iron grip. Luke struggled more than she thought necessary, but could not escape her. A quick thrust and she had the blood sample she needed and was feeding it into the analyzer. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" she asked mock-sweetly.
"Yeah," Luke nearly shouted his eyes wide and frightened. He was staring at nothing, his eyes darting wildly around in the throes of panic. Instruments began to rattle on their trays. Mar'isu acted quickly, reaching out through the Force to envelop the terrified Jedi with all the peace and security she held within her. Slowly Luke's eyes refocused on Mara who was still holding his arm. "Sorry," he apologized to her still panting in the aftereffects of his fear. "Vader caught me once, right after Yavin. Since then . . . needles aren't my thing."
Mara shuddered the way a sheltered bureaucrat should. "I've heard stories. How high did you get?"
Luke looked up at Mara various scars suddenly painfully obvious on his face. "The very highest and then some."
Mara's eyes went wide. The highest level of torture wasn't supposed to leave a sane man behind, much less one who could still fight. "Sorry I asked."
Luke shook his head. "Don't be. I'm not." The analyzer beeped and the shadow passed from his face. "So, what's wrong with me, Doctor?" His tone was light; he was trying to forget the past.
Mara glanced down at the readout and frowned. "I really don't know," she confessed. She looked up at Mar'isu. "Master Jedi?" Mar'isu stepped around her to read over Mara's shoulder.
"I've never seen anything like this." Her single lek twitched in confusion. "Perhaps a full-body scan would help?" The suggestion was more a question than anything else.
Mara shrugged dropping the analysis datapad onto the counter. "Couldn't hurt." She walked over to Luke and gently pulled on his sleeve. "Could you step behind the panel, sir?" She imitated a Two-one bee's distinctive buzzing voice eliciting a smile from Luke. Stiffly, he stood and made his way behind the scanner.
"Whoa," the medic leapt from where he'd been casually leaning against the counter perusing Luke's blood work. "Freeze the holo." Pushing Mara aside, he fiddled with some controls on the scanner, bringing the skeletal scan into sharp focus. "That's what I thought. Massive calcification, microseizures. You've had double vision recently, right?" the medic called over the top of the scanner. Luke grunted and uneasy affirmative. The tech gave a final knowing bob of his head. "So, Commander, when were you zapped?"
"Zapped?" Luke repeated not understanding the question.
"You know, large amounts of energy running through the semi-conductor that is the human body?" The tech pantomimed repeated high-voltage shocks in an attempt to communicate his meaning. Mara frowned, wondering why the action seemed familiar. "It's nothing to be ashamed of, the junior techs manage to fry themselves once a shift until they learn to stay away from the energy relays."
"What's happening to me?" Luke asked, still not understanding what the man in front of him was babbling about.
"Whatever fried you, it set off a chain reaction that has your bones sucking the calcium from your blood. You kind of need the calcium ions for other stuff in your body, like muscle contractions. So your bones are going all spiky while your muscles loose any sense of rhythm." The medic continued hastily as Luke's blue eyes went wide. "You've gotten a bad jolt, but it's nothing to be worried about, provided you get treatment quickly. It's the quickly part that worries me now, so I repeat, when were you zapped?"
Suddenly, Mara blundered back into the memory. The Emperor lifted his hands, blue lightning spraying from his claws to strike his assailants. The stranger, Luke, dropped like a rock and began to convulse, but Vader kept coming. Desperately, Palpatine shifted most of his attention to the Dark Lord. In the respite, Luke once again mastered his body, joining his erstwhile enemy against a common foe. YOU WILL KILL THE SKYWALKER. . . .
"Two days," Mara answered for Luke. Three pairs of confused eyes focused on her. "I saw it," she explained quickly. Only Luke continued to stare at her. As well he might, she reasoned, only he knew she wasn't there.
"Well, you're in luck, Commander, if you'd waited much longer, I would have been unable to help. As it is, I know exactly what you need. Now, do you want the injections, or bacta treatment?"
Luke was making his way back to the examination table when the question slammed into him. His steps faltered and his eyes flashed between the needle and the tank, both eliciting sharp waves of terror and claustrophobia.
"I can knock you out for the injections if you want." The medic offered. "Just one prick and you'll be fine. Bacta won't hurt like the meds will, but you'd have to stay in the tank for a while."
Choosing the less traumatic option, Luke gestured to the cabinet full of needles. The bed dipped as Luke sank onto it, visibly bracing himself for the minute pain of a hypodermic sliding under his flesh. Mara moved to Luke's side, watching the medic as he drew the anesthesia and Luke caught the redhead around the waist, cringing like a child as the sharp point of pain jabbed into his back. Surprisingly, the panic he expected refused to manifest itself, his tension leeching from him through his contact with Mara. He held her closer, as if greater surface area could speed up the diffusion to worry from his body. He would be all right. Mara was there, he would be all right.
"You might want to peel him off you before I start this," the medic was grinning at the way his unconscious charge continued to cling to the fiery diplomat who had brought him in. "Unless you like the idea of getting squeezed in two."
"He's going to sleep," Mara commented, fishing for an explanation while gently removing Luke's death grip around her waist.
"Yeah, but this ain't gonna feel pretty." The medic plunged the first of five injections into Luke's deltoid. The young Jedi cried out even in his sleep and grabbed for the nearest comfort he could find, Mara Jade's hand. Luke murmured in disturbed tones until Mara pulled up a chair next to him and began stroking his hand.
"I'll stay with him."