Is everybody ready? 'Cause ready or not, here we go...
A Journey of Discovery — Book Three: PrismSummary: At last, the conclusion to the Journey of Discovery series. Luke & Mara's romance continues during their mission to the planet Lorrd, with Leia, Han, and the rest of the gang showing up, too.
Disclaimer: All these wonderful characters belong to George Lucas. No Imperial or Republic credits are being made from this story.
Before you start reading, a couple things to note ―
Lorrdians have long, convoluted names, per the Lorrdian woman that Han met in Han Solo's Revenge. They also tend to communicate among themselves with a series of complicated facial and hand gestures.
It goes without saying that you'll understand this fic much better if you've already read the first two books in the Journey of Discovery trilogy –– Book One: Pendulum, and Book Two: Pledge. Click on my screen name and follow the links.
As before, since ff.n doesn't like asterisks, silent Force dialogue will be enclosed in parenthesis, and Chewie's dialogue will be translated and put within slash marks.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed the ending of Pledge, and I hope you enjoy Prism.
Journey of Discovery — Book Three: Prism
"Your report, Admiral Gorra?"
Elbows resting on the highly polished table, Lorrd's Crown Regent, Pard-and-Rand Ke'lor-Mise, steepled his long dark fingers and let his heavy lids drift shut as his top military officer gave a lengthy report of the war's progress. Ke'lor had been hoping, praying, that a peaceful solution to the dispute between his planet and neighboring Argazda could be achieved. But the Argazdans, it seemed, were as determined to wrench control of this sector away from the Lorrdians as their ancestors were four thousand years ago. The heavy fighting was confined for the moment to Lorrd's eastern continent, on the far side of the planet from the capital. Lorrdian forces were holding their own against Argazda, but just barely.
Military strategist Colonel Ces-and-Grond Pimar-Archa sent a cautious gaze at his colleagues gathered in the opulent conference room, then directed his attention back to his leader.
"The situation is grave, Excellency," he pronounced, his grim-faced expression serving to conduct the news as much as his words. "We can hold on for perhaps another month – no more than that. Our forces have been clinging to our promise of a Jedi coming to lead them for far too long. There are rumors circulating among the air squadrons that no Jedi exists, that it is only a ploy to give them false hope."
"I see." The Regent turned to his aide, Meend. "Still no word, I presume?"
"Not yet," Meend admitted. "Today marks the tenth day since we received the Jedi's message of delay."
"Very well. If they do not arrive by sunset, we shall contact Mon Mothma to coordinate a search party."
Viceroy Dast-and-Yacit Blin-Ars, deputy of Lorrd's southern continent, raised his head in confusion. "They, Excellency?"
"He brings with him his padawan."
"You allowed this?" the portly viceroy questioned. "You expect an adolescent boy to also aid our cause?"
"A Jedi rarely travels anywhere without his apprentice," the Regent patiently explained, having studied the Jedi all his life. "It is considered an integral aspect of the student's training. To refuse to allow the boy to accompany his master would not be conducive to obtaining the Jedi's cooperation. Besides, if this padawan has been involved in battle in any manner, he may be an asset."
"If this Jedi cannot even appear as scheduled," General Chukla-Bref spoke up, his skepticism reflected in half the visages in the room, "how can we continue to hold faith that he will be able to lead our forces to victory?"
"The reports we have received of his victories with the New Republic say otherwise," Admiral Gorra countered.
"Sketchy reports, at best," Blin-Ars scoffed, his head shaking on his thick-set neck.
Objections and assertions rebounded among Regent Ke'lor's diverse staff of politicians and military officers, a staff he inherited when Lorrd's planetary governor died three months earlier. The ruler heaved a weary sigh as the debate escalated up and down the conference table ...
"He single-handedly slew both the Emperor and Darth Vader. How can we question his strength?"
"That does not prove that he can effectively champion our men and women to rally against the superior forces of Argazda." "He is a military commander; a hero in the eyes of the galaxy." "Yet we know nothing of the man himself. We have no information of his background, his education, or even his age." "He is a Jedi Knight, that is enough". "What if he doesn't agree to help us?" "He must. All Jedi are sworn to aid any galactic citizens that ask for help. Did not the Jedi assist our ancestors? "But if this Jedi... what was his name ― Skywalker... if he refuses?" "He will not refuse. Not if he wishes to obtain a treaty for his precious New Republic." "We would blackmail a Jedi Knight?" "We would give him an added incentive to carry out his duty."
"That does not prove that he can effectively champion our men and women to rally against the superior forces of Argazda."
"He is a military commander; a hero in the eyes of the galaxy."
"Yet we know nothing of the man himself. We have no information of his background, his education, or even his age."
"He is a Jedi Knight, that is enough".
"What if he doesn't agree to help us?"
"He must. All Jedi are sworn to aid any galactic citizens that ask for help. Did not the Jedi assist our ancestors?
"But if this Jedi... what was his name ― Skywalker... if he refuses?"
"He will not refuse. Not if he wishes to obtain a treaty for his precious New Republic."
"We would blackmail a Jedi Knight?"
"We would give him an added incentive to carry out his duty."
General Chuckla-Bref leaned forward, his hands gesticulating the possibility which no one wanted to voice aloud. What if the Jedi never arrives?
"He must arrive, and he must lead our forces," Ke'lor pronounced solemnly. "He is our only hope."
Mara Skywalker watched as the star lines resolved back into pinpricks of sparkling light. Ahead, the planets of the Kanz Sector continued their lazy orbits around their solitary sun. Lorrd was the planet closest to the sun, close enough for the solar radiation to darken the inhabitants' skin to multi-hued light and dark browns, far enough away to not burn those same inhabitants to a crisp. Argazda, Mara remembered from the data file, was the next planet out. The only noteworthy event in this sector was some sort of dictatorial takeover of Lorrd by its neighbor planet several thousand millennia ago, an event which was eventually squelched by the Old Republic.
No sooner had realspace settled around her than the subspace comm began beeping in a loud tone. Mara reached for the switch at the same time as her senses reached out for Luke in the seat behind her. He remained peacefully ensconced in his healing trance.
"This is Lorrdian Spaceport Authority calling New Republic B-wing AA-615," a mechanized voice stated. "This is Lorrdian Space—"
"This is New Republic B-wing AA-615," she answered, cutting off the recording. Lorrd must have had the repeating hail going for days, she thought, waiting for the New Republic's errant negotiators to arrive.
There was a few seconds delay, and Mara could picture a bored spaceport controller noticing that someone finally answered the hail. "This is Controller Hauft, of the LSA, awaiting contact with Commander Luke Skywalker."
"This is Commander Skywalker's ... co-pilot," Mara replied, momentarily at a loss as how to identify herself. "We just arrived in-system, and were about to comm you. We should be in orbit over Lorrd and ready to land in approximately one standard hour."
"Acknowledged," the controller answered. "Relaying landing coordinates now." There was another pause, then the military-sounding voice returned. "We have an incoming transmission on a New Republic channel for Commander Skywalker. Rerouting now."
"Luke?" a familiar voice crackled onto the line.
"No, this is Mara Jade, Your Highness," Mara said in exasperation. Blazing stars – keeping tabs on little brother already!
"I want to talk to Luke."
Mara made sure her sigh was loud enough to be heard over the comm. "Hold on. I'll have to rouse him back to consciousness."
Smirking happily to herself, Mara sent the pre-arranged mental prodding back to her husband. (Time to wake up, lover.) She had jokingly reasoned that being referred to as anyone's lover was such a new concept to Luke that it would jolt him out of even the deepest trance. "Your sister's on the comm," she added aloud.
Luke jerked awake with a groan. "We're there?" he muttered, his voice gravelly as he shook off the remnants of his trance.
"Your sister. Comm," Mara repeated, ignoring his question for the moment.
He reached for the control on his own instrument panel. "Leia?"
"You were unconscious?" Leia asked worriedly.
"No, I was just in a heal— uh, just sleeping."
"A healing trance?" As usual, Luke's clumsy attempt at deception was utterly wasted on Leia. "Luke, what happened? Are you hurt?"
"It's nothing. I'm fine."
"Luke, tell me what's going on."
"Leia, did you want something, or are you just checking up on me?" Luke asked abruptly.
Mara listened with amusement to Luke's conversation with his overprotective sister. She knew he didn't mean to be so blunt; she'd discovered that he was sometimes a bit cranky when he first came out of a trance. Playing word games with Leia wasn't helping his disposition.
"Where have you been, Luke? You were supposed to be on Lorrd ten days ago," Leia continued undaunted. "I was worried about you as it was, and now I find out that you're injured and that Mara Jade is still with you."
Mara frowned to herself. What was that supposed to mean?
"Did you think I would misplace her along the way?" Luke retorted. "Leia, I told you I'm fine. We had trouble with the ship and had to land for repairs. But we're just about to touch down on Lorrd" ―his foggy mind reached out to Mara for confirmation— "and I'll be sure to grovel on my knees in apology when we meet the Regent."
"I'm not worried about the negotiations, Luke," Leia said. "I just ... Just be careful, brother. Don't trust anyone, do you hear me? Anyone."
"Sure, Leia," Luke replied slowly. "We'll be careful."
"All right. I'll contact you again tomorrow," Leia said. "I love you, Luke, and ... and ... just watch your back."
"I will," he said again. "Love you, too, sis."
"Nothing like being neurotic," Mara said as soon as Leia had signed off.
"Yeah, she was acting kinda strange," Luke murmured. "I wonder if she's sensing some sort of danger that we aren't?" He paused a moment. "There's something about Lorrd that doesn't seem quite right to me, but I don't feel any real danger. I guess I should have asked her to explain herself better, but maybe she thought the transmission was being monitored." He sighed audibly. "At least we don't have to wonder whether Mon Mothma told her that you came along."
"I didn't expect she'd keep it a secret, did you?"
"No, I suppose not."
"Speaking of secrets," Mara said. "Do we tell them?"
"Do we tell who what?"
"The Lorrdians, of course." She tried to twist around in her seat, but it was no use. It was impossible to talk to Luke face to face in this blasted cockpit; she would have to settle for feeling his emotions. "Do we tell them we're married?"
Several seconds passed before Luke answered. If it weren't for that precious emotional link, Mara would have thought he'd fallen asleep.
"If it's all right with you," he finally began, "I'd rather keep that to ourselves until we get back to Coruscant. It's not that I'm not bursting to shout it to the galaxy, but I didn't even get a chance to tell Leia, and if she finds out through some Holonet headline ..."
"Which she no doubt would," Mara finished. "You're right, you should tell her in person yourself."
"So that's Lorrd?" Luke said after a few minutes' pause.
Mara turned to gaze out at the mottled green and brown planet they were hurtling toward. "So the charts say. I already talked to the spaceport at the capital, which is also called Lorrd, by the way; they sent landing coordinates." She glanced down at her instruments. "Want me to send control back to you?"
"No," Luke muttered, and Mara could feel his mind still puzzling over what had Leia so jumpy. "You can land."
"Me?" Mara bit her lip in hesitation. She hated to admit that she was unsure of herself in any situation, but ...
"I remember your telling me that you could fly anything." A hint of amusement colored his offhand comment.
"Fly anything, yes," Mara said grudgingly. "Land the most bizarrely designed ship in the galaxy, well ..."
Luke sent a sensation of understanding to the front of the cockpit. "I'll talk you through it," he promised. "How was the trip here? Did I miss anything?"
"Like the hyperdrive failing again or a band of pirates attacking?" Mara asked, laughing. "No, it was boredom personified. And I did as I was told, Master. Rested, meditated, practiced focusing with the Force. Oh, and I reviewed the negotiation directives."
"Good. Glad one of us will know what we're doing." Luke exhaled wearily. "This will be my first assignment as a true Jedi – the first one that doesn't involve warfare."
"Looking forward to playing ambassador?"
"Looking forward to not having pilots dying under my command."
"Well, that was subtle," Han mumbled under his breath, his fingers punching in the coordinates for the final jump. The Millennium Falcon had been hanging quietly in space while Leia made her latest, and ultimately successful, attempt to reach her brother. An earlier attempt at the edge of a small asteroid cluster proved to contain too much static for a clear transmission.
"I could hardly blurt out 'Luke, she's an Imperial spy, take her prisoner.' Jade would've had her blaster pinned on him faster than he could blink." Leia settled back into her seat and adjusted her crash webbing. She hoped against hope that Luke had gotten the message. His refusal to admit that he'd been in a healing trance had her worried, too. Her brother never could lie convincingly. Why had he felt the need to lie now?
Han glanced back to Lando. "How soon before we reach Lorrd?"
"About fourteen standard hours," Lando answered. "It will be early tomorrow morning, their time."
"And then we still have to find Luke," Han added.
"No," Leia said grimly. "Then we have to find her."