Chapter 30:

In his career Doran Melkor had visited hundreds of planets. Some were breathtaking, and some were little more than chunks of rock. Even on those desolate and dying worlds, Doran could find something he liked about them - some form of beauty, even if it was hidden. One such world he visited a little over a year ago. It was not even a planet at all; it was a moon that orbited around a gas giant. For nearly a thousand years it had served as a safe haven for refugees and those fleeing repressive governments in the outer rim. Because the moon could not support life, the inhabitants lived in underground bases that shielded them from the solar radiation and from the eyes of pirates and unfriendly governments. Only a few knew of the settlement's existence.

Even though they lived in very sparse accommodations, those that called the moon home were friendly and very generous. They were also fiercely independent and hated tyranny. Doran had gone there on behalf of the rebellion to ask for assistance. They hated the Empire as much as he did and were glad to help. Because their resources were limited they could only offer a safe haven for a few should it become necessary.

While he was there Doran could not help but draw comparisons between the hidden lunar settlement and his current home. Naboo was considered by many as the crowning jewel of the civilized galaxy. The planet was breathtaking. For most of the humans in the galaxy it was considered perfection. Doran Melkor was not one of them.

If he had to sum up the people of Naboo in one word, Doran supposed the word "content" described them the best. They were content with the peace and tranquility that their planet offered, so much so that the majority of them accepted the rise of Palpatine to Emperor with few complaints. The senator turned chancellor was one of Naboo's favorite native sons. When he announced that he would be reorganizing the Republic into the Empire, there were many concerns from the Naboo people, but most convinced themselves that Palpatine would give up his power once the crisis was over. They reasoned that since he had grown up on Naboo that he shared in the planet's much vaunted belief in democracy.

It sickened Doran to think that even after nine years many citizens of Naboo still believed that the Emperor had the galaxy's best interests at heart. They still thought that he would soon give up his power and return democracy. Until that day, they were content to wait in their beautiful homes on their paradise of a planet while what little freedom that remained was quickly being burned away by the fires of tyranny. All of his life he had heard about the Naboo's love for freedom and democracy, but since the rise of the Empire he had seen very little of it. They still talked about it, but did very little.

A sudden jolt interrupted his musings. The transport had finally landed after a one hour delay while the ship was boarded by Imperial officials. At first Doran thought that his activities had been discovered and that he was being apprehended. He had even covertly prepared the tiny capsule of drugs he kept with him at all times for such an occurrence. If he were captured, the capsule would ensure that the Imperial interrogators would only find a corpse in his cell by the time they got to him. But in the end it was not necessary. The troopers went right passed his seat and arrested a young woman four rows down. After the troopers left another passenger told him that the woman who was arrested was a reporter for an underground holo-news outfit that had posted unfavorable stories of the Empire's activities in the outer-rim. This reporter had told the truth about some Moff's forced labor operation, and would soon pay the price for it. Doran knew that she would never be seen alive again. He hated it, but there was nothing that could be done for her.

With no more delays the passengers disembarked. Doran was incredulous as he watched the other passengers. Less than an hour ago they saw heavily armored stormtroopers roughly remove one of their fellow passengers and they were still acting like they were on a holiday. Nothing was said about the young woman who had been arrested. The passengers were focused on the sites they would be seeing soon on this "paradise" planet. After the troopers left, it was as if nothing had happened. It was only the children on the transport that asked questions like, "Who was that woman?", "Where did they take her?", and "Why was she crying so much?" They continued their questions until their parents shushed them. Doran wondered how many times they would have to be told to be quiet before these children would stop asking questions and just accept the Empire's atrocities-just like their parents.

As usual, the first site that greeted him as he left the spaceport was the office of the planetary guard, but something was different this time. Instead of the symbol of the Naboo planetary guard, the Imperial symbol hung over the building. Like most planets, Naboo had its own police force. Over the last few years there had been a greater insistence from Imperial officials for the police forces of individual worlds to be absorbed into the Imperial armed forces. This had already occurred on many worlds, but the huge bureaucracy had made this switchover very slow. Doran sighed with resignation as he realized that Naboo was the latest in a long line of worlds whose security was now solely in the hands of the Empire. He knew that the planetary government really had no choice, but he also knew that the current queen and most of the legislature were Palpatine enthusiasts. They probably gladly accepted this loss of their sovereignty in exchange for political favors. Long gone were the days of politicians like Padmé Amidala who put the good of their people over personal gain.

Doran again cursed the planet. If he had his way he would take his family off this world and return to Quellor. While his home world might not be as beautiful as Naboo, at least there he would could hold his head high and be proud of the planet he lived on. But he had made promises...promises that he was not ready to break yet.

He had promised his wife when they first got married that once they had children they would resettle on her home world. Malina believed that the heavily industrial world that he called home was no place to raise children. She missed the fields and flowers of her home planet and wanted to be close to her family. Doran managed to stall for a few years, but it was not long after their second child was born that he finally relented. Despite his wife's heartfelt assurances that he would grow to love Naboo just like her, he hated the planet even more every time he set foot on it.

It was a relatively short journey by speeder from Theed to his house in one of the rural communities on the outskirts of the capital city, but this time Doran took the long way. He needed the time to clear his head. He knew he should not greet those he loved so much in the mood he was in. It had been weeks since he had last seen them, and they deserved a husband and father free of such dark thoughts.

When he finally arrived he was greeted by the excited cries of his two young daughters. "Daddy!"

He barely had time to get through the door before they latched onto him. Doran was nearly knocked down. Despite his mood, he could not help but grin at their enthusiasm. "Wow, what a welcome! No one's been this happy to see me in a long time."

That part was true, normally the Rebellion operatives that were under him dreaded his visits and most of them loathed him. It was his job to get them to do things anyone with an ounce of self-preservation would be very hesitant to do. The faces of Zara Naedan and his operative on Coruscant flashed through his mind. One of them he had to lie to, and the other he had to both lie and threaten. Doran was under no illusions that he was some kind of hero, even if the side he was on was righteous. His job was necessary, he knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt; but he sometimes wished that he could aid the Rebellion in a different way-so that his girls could be proud of him in the future when the Empire was no more. So far, he had done very little that could be called heroic.

The younger of the two, three-year-old Trista, began jumping up and down. "Daddy's back! Daddy's back!"

Doran was amazed that even in the few weeks that he was gone that the girls looked older. "Kylai, girls have grown and it's only been a few weeks. What is your mother feeding you?"

"It's been forever, I thought you'd never come home!" Six-year-old Kylai interjected. Of his two girls, she was the one who complained about her father's many absences the most. She always made a point to mention how long he had been gone and was very sullen when he had to leave. Trista was sad when he left, but not to the degree her older sister was.

"But I'm back now." Doran smiled, trying to keep the mood in the household light. He did not want her to start crying, as she was known to do when she thought about her father leaving again. He knew that would come once he got ready to leave again, but he wanted to delay it as long as possible. He only had two days before he had to leave again. He really only came home to pick up two very special items that his wife had been working on for the last few weeks.

Kylai would not be so easily consoled. "But for how long? I hate it when you go away."

Doran sighed; he wished he did not have to go through this every time he came home. "I hate it too, but I have to." He reminded her again. "Where's your mother?" He needed to see how Malina's project was coming along.

"She's outside working on the droids." Answered Kylai. "She said she'll be done with them soon and then we can play with them." The girl's smile then returned. "They are so much fun."

It was all Doran could do to not groan in annoyance. He had explicitly asked his wife to not let the girls see the droids. Both of his children had inherited their mother's fascination with artificial intelligence. They loved machines just as much, or even more, than their dolls. "We don't have them for very long, don't get attached." He warned. In truth, he was not as concerned about the girls seeing them as he was of them seeing his daughters. For the job he had in mind for them, the last thing he wanted was Kylai and Trista's images in their memory banks.

"I'm going to go say hello to your mother." Doran announced.

Trista frowned. "Ah Daddy, we wanted to play."

"You'll have me all to yourself later, I promise." He understood their disappointment, he wished he had more time; but there was too much to do.

Leaving his daughters, Doran headed to the small building behind the house that Malina had claimed as her personal workshop. The majority of the people that lived in their small community were farmers and his wife ran a fairly lucrative business repairing and upgrading agriculture and household droids for the local farms and plantations.

When he entered the workshop, Malina looked up from the droid she was working and smiled. "Doran, you're back."

"I missed you." He came over and gave her a passionate kiss. "It's been far too long."

Malina nodded. "Three weeks, this one was longer than usual."

"I had a few stops to make." His wife was well aware that he worked for the Rebellion, she did as well; however she did not know any details of his work. In turn, he knew little of her activities within the Rebellion. It had been that way since before they were married.

"Is everything going smoothly?" Asked Malina.

Doran shook his head. "Not exactly." There were times that he wished he could talk freely to his wife about his concerns, but it was far too risky. As usual when she asked him about his work, he changed the subject. "So, how's our friend here?"

Malina looked down at the deactivated droid she had been working on and laughed. "Talkative. Where did you get this thing? The kids love it, but it's driving me crazy."

"Protocol droids are annoying." When he first acquired the droids, Doran had the misfortune of sharing a tiny cabin with them while traveling from Coruscant. The protocol droid's constant chattering made him want to kill whatever wretched being built it.

Both droids were originally the property of Bail Organa, and were used in Alderaanian consulate on Coruscant. After Bail's execution, the Droids were de-activated and hidden by the Rebellion in case they were needed at some point in the future. For reasons Doran did not know, the senator had given his staff explicit instructions to not sell or destroy either droid.

"It's a good thing this one isn't the one that is being sent directly into the installation. It wouldn't last long." Malina had not been told where the droids were to be stationed, or what they were to be doing. All she was told was that they were to be used in an intelligence gathering operation, and she assumed that it was going to be in an ordinary military installation. Doran allowed her to think that. He felt that she did not need to know that they were going to be used to spy on the Emperor himself. The less she knew the better.

He nodded, "Indeed. How's the other one?"

"It's ready to go." Malina answered brightly. "I have it powered down right now."

"Great, my friend on the inside is ready." Doran had many doubts about the operative he was using to get the droid into the palace, but she was all he had. He knew she would eventually be caught, but he hoped that the droid would be in place long enough to gather some useful information. The operative would be interrogated prior to her execution, but she did not know enough about him or the rebellion to be overly concerned about that. He wished that there was a way he could prevent her inevitable capture, but there was not. She would be another sacrifice to the cause of the Rebellion. Of course, he was not foolish enough to tell her that.

"You need to tell your friend to not let anyone wipe the astromech's memory. Everything we're doing depends on that." Malina warned, not for the first time. She had been nervous about the operation from the moment Doran had proposed it.

Doran pointed to the protocol droid. "Is this one about ready?"

Malina nodded. "Just about to activate it-I'm done with the transmitter. It can now receive and transmit the astromech's messages from anywhere in the sector."

"Very nice, this is exactly what I needed." He muttered as he inspected the golden droid. The plan was to fit the astromech with a tiny wireless transmitter and arrange for it to be placed inside the Imperial Palace. The astromech would send out regular coded transmissions detailing its findings. The other one was to also be fitted with a transmitter to receive and translate the other droid's messages. It was risky, but it was a risk that they needed to take. Doran knew that if the Rebellion could get hold of intelligence from the Imperial Palace itself, they could gain more insight into the Emperor's plans.

Malina began attaching the droid's metal coverings back on its frame. "Where will the protocol droid be stationed?"

Doran looked at her in surprise; he thought his wife knew better than to ask such questions. When she saw his face, Malina began to back-peddle. "Actually, forget I asked that. I don't want to know anymore about this operation than I have to."

"It'll be close enough." He answered trying to hide how disturbed he was by her question. They had long ago agreed that she could never know the details of his activities. He felt the icy hand of suspicion grip him. It was a familiar feeling in his line of work, and one that had kept him alive. Something about his wife's seemingly innocent question bothered him greatly. What would I do if she turned against the Rebellion-against me? How could I contain the situation?

A multitude of scenarios rushed through Doran's mind as he went over his options if Melina turned traitor. I would have to stop her from sending any intelligence to the Empire, and I would have to do it away from the children. If she's turned traitor, she would probably use Trista and Kylai as blackmail. I'd have to act quickly…one quick blow would be all it would take.

Doran then realized the sudden darkness that had invaded his thoughts. It took nearly all of his concentration to keep his expression impassive. As quickly as the unwelcome thoughts came, he banished the worst of them. What am I doing? I can't think things like this. I'm getting paranoid. She's my wife! Still, he was unable to banish all of his thoughts. Even though the idea of his wife betraying him felt far-fetched to him, Doran's training and experience as an intelligence operative refused to allow him rule it out completely.

Malina, blissfully unaware of her husband's thoughts, completed replacing the coverings on the droid. "Ah, finally finished. Let me power it back up."

The droid's ancient processors began to hum as power was restored. After a few seconds its eyes opened and it looked up. "Mistress Malina." It greeted in the typical sycophantic tone that was common to protocol droids-a tone that Doran found especially grating. "I take it the maintenance to my systems went as expected."

"You be the judge of that, please perform an internal diagnostic." Malina requested. Doran shook his head. She had always treated droids like they were more than mere tools. She rarely ordered them to do things; she usually asked like they were sentient beings. Normally, this particular quirk of hers was a source of amusement, but today Doran was on edge.

He was reminded of an accusation leveled against him a few years ago by one of the operatives under him. "I'm only a tool-a means to an end to be used and discarded as you think necessary. I might as well be working for the Empire, at least then my family would get a stipend when I'm killed in the line of duty." It was that statement which sealed the operative's fate, the man had become a security risk.

Doran never forgot what he said, it echoed in his mind every time he performed his most unpleasant duties. It struck a chord with him because deep down he knew the operative was right about how he used beings as a means to an end. Seeing Malina treat a droid better than he treated his operatives reminded him of how far he had fallen. Doran attempted to sooth his conscience by telling himself that the operative was not right about everything, the operative's family did receive a modest stipend after the body was found. Doran paid it himself anonymously, it was the least he could do.

The droid shut its eyes momentarily as it ran the diagnostic. "Mistress, I am working at optimal efficiency." It reported proudly. "The transmitter is interfacing with my primary systems."

Doran turned to his wife. "So it'll be ready for its next assignment?"

"Of course, Master Doran," The droid answered even though it was not addressed. "I am always ready to serve in any way that I am needed. It is a great privilege to serve such a..."

"Wonderful." Doran answered with barely concealed annoyance. He could not wait until this job was complete.

The droid then addressed his mistress. "May I ask, what is the status of my counterpart?"

Malina pointed to the powered down astromech that was on the other side of the workshop. "I finished its upgrades this morning. It is staying de-activated until you two are put in place."

"When will we be sent to our next assignment?"

"In just a few days." Malina looked at her husband for confirmation. At his nod, she continued. "We're securing your transport now."

The sound of a little girl's excited cry interrupted any additional questions the droid might have had about its mission. "Threepio! You're awake!"

It turned and politely addressed the girl. "Mistress Trista, your mother was ever so gracious to repair many of my primary functions. They have been sadly neglected since I was shut down after Senator Organa's execution."

The girl turned to her parents. "What's an execution?"

At his youngest's question, Doran felt an emotional punch. He was angry at what the droid had said in front of her, but he was mostly grieved that in the galaxy she was forced to grow up in children had to hear such words. It made him ever more determined to do all in his power to fight the Empire, even if the methods he employed were not always honorable. The Empire was ruthless, and fighting it would require the same ruthlessness.

"Never mind that right now." Said Malina in the hope of changing the subject. "I'll be done here soon, go find your sister."

"Can Threepio come and play?" Trista asked with a grin.

Malina laughed at her daughter's enthusiasm. "Yes he can."

Trista jumped in excitement, "Thanks Mommy!" Doran was certainly not as thrilled, but decided to not say anything in front of the girl.

The droid began to protest. "Mistress, my primary functions are etiquette and protocol. I am not programmed to be a suitable playmate for your children."

"You will be getting back to your primary function soon enough." Malina responded firmly. "Until then, you are my children's playmate."

"Yes Mistress." The droid answered as it was reluctantly led from the workshop by the excited girl.

When the girl was out of earshot, Doran broke the silence. "I certainly hope that you're going to wipe its memory before you send him off."

"What kind of a fool do you think I am?" Malina scoffed. "I can't do a full wipe, it'll lose necessary information; but I can block its recent memories."

"Block, not remove?" Doran did not like this situation at all.

"I'm sorry, I'm afraid it's all or nothing with these older model protocol droids." She then shrugged. "I wouldn't worry about it. Someone would have to be some sort of magician to retrieve the blocked memories. Also, it's not like the protocol droid will actually be in the installation itself. He'll be translating from a distance."

Doran sighed. "It'll have to do."

Obi-Wan could feel Luke's anticipation as the ship's hatch opened and the gangplank lowered onto Dagobah. The boy was nervous about meeting Master Yoda but was doing very well at keeping himself together. Obi-Wan was very proud of his student. Siri, on the other hand, was holding onto him as if the Jedi was a lifeboat in the middle of a turbulent sea. The toddler was not crying, but he could sense that it would not take much for her to start. He knew that even though she was not even two years old that she somehow knew that her caregiver was leaving her. The tiny girl was not Force sensitive in any way that Obi-Wan could sense, but he had been surprised on many occasions by the natural intuition she seemed to possess.

Obi-Wan knew he would miss his unlikely charges very much. Caring for them certainly was not how he thought he would spend his exile, but he cared for them greatly. He wished he did not have to leave them. He would have been quite content to continue training Luke and caring for his toddler cousin on Sokoris until Luke came of age, but he could no longer ignore what was happening to Luke's twin sister. He had to save her from her Sith father, or die trying. He knew he would not be able to live with himself if one more Skywalker was lost to darkness.

The ship's gangplank fully descended and the unlikely family disembarked. The place where they landed seemed to be the only clearing within several kilometers. The planet seemed to consist of nothing but mist and trees. The scent of rotting vegetation was overpowering. Obi-Wan became even more concerned about his charges. He knew that Dagobah was very remote and untouched by civilization and technology, but he was not aware that the planet was little more than swamp.

He then saw a small figure coming out of the mist to greet them. When he saw it, Obi-Wan's heart became a little less heavy. "Master Yoda, it is good to see you again." When the diminutive Jedi master got closer to them, the first thing that he noticed was just how much older Yoda looked than the last time he saw him just nine years earlier. It seemed that exile had aged him, just as it had Obi-Wan.

"Good to see you." Yoda greeted in a voice that sounded tired and weak, but there was nothing weak about his presence in the Force. It was as strong as ever. It gave Obi-Wan great comfort to know that no matter how dark things might be in the galaxy with the Sith ruling and most of the Jedi dead that there were still great lights in the Force such as Yoda. He knew that Luke would benefit greatly from being in the presence of the great master.

Yoda then turned toward Luke who was watching with what appeared to be confusion and wonder. It was obvious that what he saw before him was not how he pictured what Yoda would look like. Unsurprisingly, the Jedi master picked up on the boy's feelings immediately. "Brought visitors I see. See through you, I can. Much confusion I sense. Not what you expected?"

The boy stared for a few more seconds and then remembered his manners. "Master Yoda, it is an honor to make your acquaintance."

"Much you have already been taught; but many lessons are ahead. Learning to judge not on of them." His expression was serious, but Obi-Wan could see a slight twinkle in his eye. It reminded him of his own early teachings as a youngling with Master Yoda...back when the galaxy was not ruled by darkness.

"And this is Siri, Luke's cousin." Obi-Wan announced.

Yoda then regarded the toddler who was staring at him with wide eyed fascination. "Yes, grave tragedy was her parent's death." The girl seemed enthralled. Obi-Wan was relieved that he was not feeling fear from her over meeting her new caregiver. "Siri? Choose her name well, you did."

Obi-Wan smiled thinking about the girl's namesake. He still was not certain why he decided to name the girl after his long departed friend, but it felt right somehow. He was glad that Yoda agreed.

The grand-master then began hobbling on his cain toward a small structure in the distance. "Come, to my home we will go."

As they walked, Obi-Wan could sense Luke's unease, and he wished there was something he could do about it. There was little about this situation that was comforting. In the space of just a few years, the boy had lost two caregivers. He had lost Owen and Beru to the Sandpeople, and he was about to lose Obi-Wan-possibly permanently. The boy had a rough short life, full of loss and heartache; but he knew enough about Luke to know that he would rise above it and become a great Jedi someday-something that his father never could do.

As the group got closer to the hovel, Obi-Wan could see signs of recent construction. Along with an older dome-like structure, there was what appeared to be a new addition to it. The mud that covered it was a different shade indicating that it was fairly recent. "Have you been building?"

"Yes, needed much more room for the younglings." Yoda answered.

"It hasn't even been two weeks since I told you we were coming."

The Jedi master then turned to look at Obi-Wan. "Known months you were arriving. Knew eventually you would make this decision, I did."

Obi-Wan wondered if Yoda had received the knowledge that he would eventually be bringing Luke and Siri to Dagobah from the Force, or had he deduced it from what he knew about Obi-Wan. Did he merely assume that he would eventually make this decision?

Yoda led them into the hovel. Obi-Wan had to stoop to fit inside, but Luke was still short enough to fit comfortably. Their surroundings were certainly rustic, but the fire and the cook pot over it made the place very homey and welcoming, but it was far more than that. There was a peace and a tranquility here that Obi-Wan had not felt in a very long time. Even though Dagobah had a dark side presence because of some ancient battle, Yoda's home was a refuge from it. He wished he could stay longer to meditate, but there was little time.

Obi-Wan then put the toddler down. "Luke, take Siri to the back rooms and put her down for a nap. I need to speak with Master Yoda alone." He assumed that Yoda would already have prepared beds for the children.

Luke nodded and took Siri by the hand. "Yes Master." The boy felt uncomfortable in this unfamiliar environment, but was handling himself well.

Yoda spoke as soon as Luke was out of earshot. "Done well you have with his training; and for caring for Siri."

Obi-Wan sighed. "I've done my best. It's not been an ideal situation."

Yoda nodded sadly, seemingly lost in his thoughts. "Very little is ideal."

A familiar pang gripped Obi-Wan's heart. It was the same thing that gripped him every time he saw a holo of Vader or Leia, it was the guilt and regret that had kept him awake for so many nights. "Luke should be no trouble. He's very good at accepting change." Much better than me. He wondered how long it would be before he himself accepted the galaxy as it was, rather than torture himself with what could be.

Master Yoda looked at the other Jedi with much sadness. "Much loss he has suffered; and much grief he still carries."

Obi-Wan nodded, suddenly uncomfortable by the intensity of Yoda's gaze. "I know, I have tried to help him as best I can; but I..."

Yoda shook his head. "Not the boy I was speaking of. Much grief you still carry."

The words cut like a lightsaber through durasteel. His first inclination was to deny Yoda's accusation, but he could not form the words. Obi-Wan knew that it was pointless; Yoda could see right through him. "Master, I don't know what to tell you."

"You know what you must do; need me to tell you, you do not."

Obi-Wan let out the breath he was holding. "Every time I think that I've put aside my grief, I go into town and see one of those damned holos of Vader and it brings it back up failure!" He was surprised by the emotion that was coming out of him. It felt very un-Jedi. He then stopped to center himself. There is no emotion, there is peace.

Obi-Wan expected a rebuke from Yoda but it did not come. "The failure was not yours; it was your apprentice who failed."

"But I should have seen that he was troubled." In the years since his exile began, Obi-Wan had gone over in his mind every conversation he had with Anakin in the turbulent months leading to the rise of the Empire, desperately trying to find something that he could pinpoint as the reason why he swore allegiance to the Sith. "I knew his faults and I closed my eyes to them." In the years that he had known Anakin, Obi-Wan had seen things in his former student that made him uneasy such as his quick temper and tendency to act without thinking. However, the idea that Anakin could be turned to the dark side never entered his thoughts. He thought he knew him well. I was such a fool.

"Go back in time, can you?" Yoda asked.

Obi-Wan shook his head. "No master." He knew he would give anything to be able to go back and set things right, but it was impossible. He would have to live with this for the rest of his life.

"There were many mistakes made-blinded by the Sith we were. Allowed ourselves to be distracted by the war, we did." Yoda then sighed. "Even still, go back and change things we cannot. We must focus on what is in front of us-the here and now."

At that moment, Obi-Wan was reminded of Qui-Gon. He remembered his many lectures on the Living Force and how important it was to focus on the here and now. It seemed that Yoda had also become a student of the Living Force in his exile. "It is the here and now that makes me lose sleep. Palpatine has the galaxy in his grasp, and a future apprentice at the ready."

"Much darkness in the girl; and much confusion." Yoda's expression was grim.

"How much can you see, Master?"

Yoda closed his eyes. "The dark side clouds much; I cannot see clearly; but sense her confusion I can." He then opened his eyes and looked straight at his former student. "Much time, you do not have."

"I need to go now. I have delayed far too long." He wished that he had more time with Master Yoda. Being in his presence and hearing his counsel had centered him and brought him more peace than he had known since his exile began. However, Yoda was right, there was very little time left before there would nothing left of Leia to save. "I'll go say goodbye to the children."

"Miss them you will."

"Yes, very much so. I have formed an attachment." It was another very un-Jedi thing to do, but he refused to apologize for it. He cared for Luke and Siri greatly.

"You must be focused on your mission." Yoda reminded him. "Safe, the younglings will be."

"I know that Luke will benefit greatly from your teaching."

"He has learned much already." Yoda stated approvingly.

"But there is so much more he needs to know...and Siri, what of her? I'm concerned about her health in this environment." He was beginning to feel overwhelmed again thinking about what could happen to either child on this dangerous planet. Obi-Wan then remembered something Qui-Gon told him once. "Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the here and now."

"Clear your mind of concerns. Taken care of, both younglings will be." Yoda promised.

Obi-Wan then headed toward the recent addition to the hovel to where his charges were waiting. The room held two small beds. Siri was asleep, but the boy was awake and meditating. It did his heart good to see his student like this. He was doing as he was taught and releasing his anxiousness to the Force. "Luke, I am going to be leaving."

The boy nodded. "I understand."

"Take care of Siri, and listen to Master Yoda. He has great wisdom. He has taught me much." Obi-Wan knew that was an understatement.

"How long will you be gone?" Asked Luke.

"I do not know, it could be weeks, I have to go a long way." He was going to have to go to another planet, find a better ship, obtain false identification papers, and somehow get to Coruscant without being detected. There was an Imperial holiday coming up and he hoped that he could more easily gain access to the planet if he posed as an Imperial subject coming to the capital for the holiday. He would be one of untold millions of visitors on top of the billions that already made Coruscant their home. Obi-Wan hoped he could blend in and not be sensed by either Sith lord.

"You're worried." Said Luke.

Obi-Wan nodded gravely. "There is much at stake." There was more than just one little girl's life at stake, there was also the fate of the galaxy and Luke at stake. The idea that one day the boy would have to face his own twin sister in combat was horrific. He had to do something.

Luke then smiled, his earlier apprehension seemed to melt away. "The Force will be with you Ben. Don't worry. Me and Siri will be all right."

Obi-Wan wondered if the boy got that knowledge from the Force, or his own natural optimism. "Luke, there is a very good chance I will not return; I need you to be prepared for that. If I'm killed or imprisoned, you will remain here on Dagobah with Master Yoda."

Luke nodded. "I understand."

Obi-Wan then turned to look at the sleeping girl. Even in her sleep he could sense that her earlier fear and apprehension had lessened. She was at -Wan suspected that Luke was responsible; from the moment she was born he had an uncanny ability to calm the temperamental baby even before he began Jedi training. Obi-Wan decided not to wake her, he had already said his goodbyes to her on the ship.

He then turned back to the boy. "Goodbye Luke. May the Force be with you." Obi-Wan was confident in very little, but he knew without a shadow of a doubt that the Force was with and would continue to be with Luke no matter how his mission to rescue Leia turned out.

"May the Force be with you, Master." Luke answered. Obi-Wan desperately hoped it would be so.

To Be Continued...