Section 4

Half-conscious, I found myself dangling head-first off the mining tower's edge. Below, the barren wasteland of Kessel seared into my eyes. Holding me with her scaly tail ribboned around my right ankle, Chyleal hissed.

"Call to him," she barked. "Order him to surrender to me, or I will release you to the world below."

Rolling my eyes in my head, I focused on the rooftop. Chyleal's shuttle filled most of it; the shiny, silver craft was only big enough for one person, and appeared far too pretty for someone like her. Behind that, however, was the durasteel doorway she had barricaded. If Skywalker was behind it, he wasn't making much of an effort to get through.

Lazy Jedi.

It wasn't Skywalker she was referring to, however. On the other side of the platform was another doorway, just as sturdy as the one keeping Skywalker out. The tower's central command post. Already, it was dented and charred from where Chyleal had clearly tried to break it apart to get to whoever was inside.


"Call to him—now!" Chyleal shrilled. "Tell him to come out of there, or I will end you!"

Even upside down, I managed to frown at the woman-creature. "What's the point?" I asked. "You'll just kill me anyway."

"By the time I'm finished with you, you'll beg for death. I am Empress Chyleal, future ruler of the galaxy, and I demand that you obey me. Now!"

It was like a punchline to a bad joke. I mean, I had heard of these Emperor wannabes, but to see one up-close and personal—a little too up-close and personal—I had to wonder how Skywalker and the rest of the New Republic didn't go nuts dealing with them over and over again.

My vision was getting blurry; I rolled my eyes at Chyleal. "Forget it."


"Are your earsdrums covered with scales, too? I said no."

From the door behind Chyleal, a small hint of yellow began to simmer in its center, like something was burning its way through. Skywalker and that lightsaber of his.

"I will kill you today," she proclaimed. "It will be a slow, horrid death that you can't imagine. If your brother comes out now, it will be swift."

"See—that's my point," I replied. "Telling someone you'll kill them no matter what is a bad motivator. Offer me riches...or at least tell me you'll spare my life—even if you're lying."

"I will spare your life if you tell him to come out."

"Well, that won't work now—I already know you're planning to kill me."

Fury masked her face like a veil of fire. "Tell him to come out!"

In the air, there was the tiniest hint of humming; in the center of the doorway, the small twinge of yellow was brightening to orange. Chyleal was too busy torturing me to notice. Her tail tightened like a dianoga's tentacle around my ankle. My body was going numb.

The woman creature screamed, "Do as I command, servant!"

"Go kiss a Wookiee," I snapped back, and then considered. "I mean, if I had a Wookiee for you to kiss. I don't, but there's one downstairs...if he hasn't been killed already. But I guess you could kiss a dead Wookiee—it still counts, right?" It dawned on me that I was losing consciousness. "What was I saying?"

From the durasteel door behind us, there was a crash. Although I could barely comprehend anything more than the fact that I really wasn't comprehending much of anything, I spotted the glow of green from Skywalker's lightsaber.

Chyleal shrilled, and she lost interest with me. Her tail loosened.

"No!" Skywalker shouted.

Everything happened within milliseconds. From Skywalker's hands, the lightsaber whirled. Chyleal screamed, her torso fuming from the saber's hot blade; her tail flicked towards Skywalker. He almost dodged it. The very tip caught his left temple. Then, the rooftop disappeared from my line of vision as I plunged downwards.

There was a snap, like someone cutting a chain with a vibroblade. Something caught my ankle; I stopped falling. A sharp pain shot through my lower leg and foot, and I peeked up at my legs. Across my right ankle, one the tower's metal support cords had wrapped around like an invisible hand had tied it.

Above me, I barely made out Skywalker as he peered over the ledge.

"You all right?" he asked, his voice muffled like the volume had been lowered to bass.

My eyes fluttered; darkness began consuming me. Then someone touched my foot.

"Stay awake," Skywalker ordered, his voice bouncing in my skull. "You need to stay awake."

"I need to stay awake," I repeated. Immediately, my head began to clear.

Skywalker was now sporting a streak of blood down the left side of his face. From behind him, Chyleal released another scream. There was the sound of Tephro shouting in the distance, along with another small group of men.

Skywalker flicked his gaze between the tower and me, and then said, "Keep quiet."

Then, he was off.

Within a half minute, blasters boomed across the mining tower's rooftop. Skywalker's saber hummed, the pitch shifting with each swing. Chyleal hissed at him; my old acquaintances cursed at him, but the humming didn't quiet.

Then Skywalker flashed into my line of sight, and twirled his lightsaber like it was a wild creature that he was attempting to tame. Just as swiftly, he was gone. I heard Tephro yelp; I heard a body fall. The blaster fire ceased and then there was that hum.

I waited. A second blinked by and then another. No one was talking—no one was doing anything. My ankle was getting sore, my head was filling with blood, and a headache throbbed my temples.

A whoosh invaded the air. Chyleal's tail went wild on the rooftop, crashing into the flooring like she was attempting to destroy the entire building. Then silence. No tail. No lightsaber.

Across my ankles, the cording was losing its hold, and I tossed a look downwards. Kessel really was an ugly planet. Skywalker was right—I should have found a base on a nicer world like Naboo.

The cording released. My body tensed; I cupped my hands to my face, and waited for the inevitable. In that instant, however, I realized I wasn't falling. Lifting my head, I dared to peep out between my fingers. Skywalker stood by the rooftop's ledge. One hand outstretched my direction, he held his gaze. There was serenity in his expression—this bizarre Jedi calm that looked so foreign in the midst of a battle. From behind him, I spotted Chyleal. Her tail hurled downwards at the Jedi.

I screamed, but not for Skywalker. With his extended arm, the Jedi Master motioned upwards, and then, I shot into the air like a proton torpedo. Skywalker had already spun around to his opponent by the time I landed on the rooftop.

If the Jedi softened my landing, I couldn't tell. With a thump, I dropped chin-first into the clay structure, a mound of dust and debris bellowing into the air. I coughed.

"Take cover!" Skywalker shouted at me.

With a whimper, I rolled from my belly to my back, trying to figure out how to get my legs to function. My body felt as useless as a blaster missing its power cell, and as I angled my head around, I observed the scene in front of me.

By the destroyed blastdoor Skywalker had busted through, lay Tephro and one other acquaintance, their blasters by their sides. If anyone else had followed them up there, they had retreated.

Between the door and me, Skywalker and Chyleal fought it out. Crouched over, Chyleal's tail was arched above her head. Her five arms were extended; her face was warped with a fury that made her infected skin appear ten times redder.

I expected her to lash her tail at Skywalker. I expected him to deflect it. I waited for them to circle each other like it was a dance rather than a fight, until one attacked the other, and the battle would repeat again.

That didn't happen. Consumed by rage, Chyleal snapped out one of her hands. It clasped around Skywalker's lightsaber blade. The scales sizzled. Smoke whiffed into the air; the stench of burning flesh invaded my nostrils, but the woman didn't release her hold.

Skywalker tried to get his lightsaber back. The instant Chyleal grabbed the blade, he reeled around. He booted her square in the face. Her head wrenched back, but when she returned her gaze to the Jedi, there was something else on it. A smile.

Skywalker was barely able to extinguish his lightsaber before the woman jumped. It was a small jump, something you'd imagine from a bantha. But, just like a bantha, it didn't need to be high to be powerful. With all her weight, the woman crashed down on top of Skywalker.

The Jedi toppled, his head smacking the floor. A groan escaped his lips. In his right palm, he gripped to his lightsaber, but one of Chyleal's hands pinned his wrist to the floor. Her other limbs—the others snapped down at him.

Her tail speared the rooftop's clay flooring, barely missing Skywalker as he jerked his head out of the way. On the ground, he struggled, putting his entire body into the fight. One of Chyleal's arms plunged downwards, but with Skywalker refusing to be a stationary target, her aim was sloppy. She pierced into the flooring beside Skywalker's torso, and then heaved her arm upwards again.

From Chyleal's lips, a sludge of greenish-brown ooze drooled downwards. It slimed Skywalker across the chest and neck, and although the Jedi kept his focus on not getting killed, I could detect the slightest bit of disgust on his expression.

Chyleal leaned closer to him. "This is where it ends for you," she declared. "The great Jedi Master of the New Republic, brought to his demise by the galaxy's future empress."

It was only a half-second, but Skywalker managed to flick a glance my direction. In that time, I caught the expression on his features and understood what it meant. Is she serious?

Then something shifted. It's hard for me to describe the shift; it was like the air changed course, the temperature rose—even the stench of flesh and ozone in the air swayed and mixed, creating a new smell altogether.

As Skywalker stared at Chyleal, his eyes burned with intensity.

I covered my head.

Across the rooftop, everything except Skywalker and me burst into the air. The corpses, the door fragments, weapons...Chyleal's ship. And, of course, Chyleal. She went airborne like a detonator exploded underneath her stomach. Retracting his legs to his chest, Skywalker thrust them upwards; with one smooth motion, he was back into a standing position.

As Chyleal's ship crashed to Kessel's surface, Chyleal plummeted. Her arms, legs and tail flailed in mid-air. She screamed, and it sounded more like a five-year-old human with an especially whiney voice than a powerful empress.

With the exception of a few small items like a blaster or two, a chunk of the door, and a corpse, the rest of the debris dropped away from us and the rooftop. I sighed with relief as Chyleal followed it. I waited to hear the thud of her body on Kessel's unforgiving ground, but instead, there was another sound. Like skin sliding down metal.

With a frown, I shot a peek at the broken support cord beside me. It was tightened, bearing weight.

"Ah, nuts," I muttered as Skywalker shouted for me to back off.

Too late.

Chyleal might have dropped a story or two, but she was fast. She was strong. And it took her no time at all to leap back to the rooftop from the metal cording she had managed to grasp onto.

Unfortunately, another thing that took no time, either...was grabbing me by the back of the neck and lifting me like a protocol droid into the air.

"Back away, Jedi," Chyleal hissed.

Skywalker already had his lightsaber ignited, but when he attempted to extinguish the weapon, Chyleal was already shaking her head.

"That won't be enough," she said. "Turn it back on."

Skywalker cocked an eyebrow. "You want it on?"


A glint of confusion masked the Jedi's face, but he did as instructed.

"Good," Chyleal replied. "Now—cut off your hands."

"What?" Skywalker exclaimed.

"Do it!" Chyleal hollered, and shook me. "Start with the right one, and move on from there."

"I'm not going to cut off my hands."

"Do it or he dies!"

She shook me again, harder this time. As insane as she sounded, the woman was serious. She wanted Skywalker to slice off his own limbs, clearly making him too injured to fight. She would kill me if he didn't do as ordered, and as I watched Skywalker with his ignited lightsaber, I spotted something on his face. He was considering it. It probably wasn't a serious thought—after all, the second he couldn't fight anymore was the second Chyleal would kill him and then toss my sorry butt off the mining tower. He knew this as well as I did. But, somewhere beyond the logic, his brain was roaming with the idea. He would do it, if he truly believed that would save us.

As that thought coursed my mind, I realized my life really wasn't where it needed to be. Looking beyond the whole 'I'm about to die a horrible death' issue at the moment, I was surprised how depressing the thought of my existence was to me. I hadn't done one thing of value. At least as a stormtrooper, my brother had fought for something he believed in, even if he was misguided.

"You will do as I command!" Chyleal screamed, her fingers digging into my skin. "I am your ruler—you are my servant, Jedi! You will remove your hands, and then surrender your lightsaber."

She'd only want the lightsaber for one thing—to break apart the door still protecting my brother.

As I felt the psychotic monster-woman burrow her claws into my neck, I realized that I was going to die that day. My brother would as well—maybe Skywalker, too, if he was dumb enough to keep trying to rescue us. As I dangled from Chyleal's grasp like a piece of dead meat on a hook, I made a decision. I'd rather die a hero than a coward. As she shook me again and commanded Skywalker to slice off his hands like commanding a droid to remove a bad circuit, a belt of laughter spewed from my lips.

Immediately, I got a reaction. Jerking me closer, Chyleal looked me over. "What are you laughing at?"

"I'm sorry," I coughed out. "It's's just the whole thing."

She frowned. "What? What thing are you referring to?"

"Oh, come on," I exclaimed, "you know what I'm talking about."

It probably wasn't the words, but the casual tone I was using that annoyed her. Okay, maybe both, but as she spun me around to face her, her eyes blazed hatred. "You will stop speaking in riddles and answer me!"

"It's just's so," I sighed, "unoriginal."

She inched me closer to her, but the anger had shifted to curiosity. "What does that mean?" she asked.

Dangling from my neck, I still opened one of my arms outwards in understanding. "Okay, I get what you're trying to do here. You've obviously put a lot into this whole act. The modifications to your body—the scales—"

"Zillo armor," she corrected me, "from a fossiled reptilian corpse on Malastare."

"Okay, fine," I replied, "but seriously—how many times has there been an admiral or Sith or warlord...or just some crazy person—that has decided that they're the ones that will conquer the galaxy and declare themselves ruler?"

Her perplexed look deepened.

Turned around, I didn't know where Skywalker was or if he even understood what I was doing. Nonetheless, I needed to keep it up. "Look," I explained, "Palpatine had a good run. Twenty years for an evil Empire is actually pretty impressive when everyone hates you.

"But after that, you had Ysanne Isard. And then there was Warlord Zsinj. Then Grand Admiral Thrawn—about the only one who actually posed a serious threat with those clone cylinders and that crazy Jedi Master of his.

"Then, things started to go downhill. There was the reborn Emperor—which never even made sense to me. I mean—seriously—if the Emperor could make clones of himself and transfer his spirit into them, why would he just sit and decay in that nasty body through his first reign? Was it too expensive for the leader of the Galactic Empire? Was he just procrastinating?"

The woman made a face, but didn't thrash me to pieces.

So, not being thrashed to pieces, I continued, "And don't forget about Admiral Daala, who slept her way into being a Grand Admiral. She even had a Death Star prototype, and still got her butt kicked in. And then there was the Eye of Palpatine, the Empire Reborn—Darksaber! Yes, let's be all evil by naming our ultimate killing machine after a Jedi weapon, but let's replace the word 'light' with 'dark.' Oooh! I'm shaking over here."

"What's your point?" Chyleal asked.

My neck was throbbing. I couldn't hear anything except my own voice and hers anymore. Nonetheless, she had asked me, and as I gazed upon her face, I decided to just say it.

"You're a cliché," I declared. "Your motives, your goals—your strange confidence that, despite the fact a thousand Emperor wannabes have tried the same thing you're doing, you will be the ultimate victor. It's been done already."

I couldn't really see her face anymore, but her breaths had shallowed. There was a moment of silence, either because I had lost consciousness due to the lack of oxygen or she was just being quiet.

Then her voice entered my ears, which gave me the impression I was still awake.

"I am an Empress," she declared. "Not an Emperor. Em-pur-ess."

"Oh, I beg your pardon."

A flash of red. It soared between Chyleal and me, and as another one came flying to Chyleal's wrist, her hand gave way. I dropped, my butt crashing into the rooftop dead-on like there was a magnet between it and my tailbone. With a groan, I flopped sideways onto the clay surface.

Another blaster bolt soared towards Chyleal, and then another. In front of me, Skywalker stood, Tephro's blaster rifle in his grasp. The red beams flew to their target; behind me, Chyleal screamed, her body teetering on the rooftop's ledge.

Then, a blaster bolt struck dead-center into her chest.

It would have been enough for any other humanoid. But the scales seemed to protect Chyleal's body from blaster fire as well as lightsabers, and as she gripped down on the ledge behind her, her balance began to recover.

My gaze spun back to Skywalker. The blaster in his right hand—his lightsaber simmered in his left. There was no hesitation. With one swing, he pitched his saber. It whirled through the air. To Chyleal's head it struck, and the power in that one attack snapped her head back. The blade didn't penetrate the skin—it couldn't. But that wasn't Skywalker's intention. The impact was enough to finish what the blaster couldn't.

Over the rooftop's edge, she toppled.

There was a clank from the support cord again.

I was about to scream at Skywalker to slice through the metal when one more blaster bolt echoed through the roof. As the red beam crashed into the thin metal cord, the metal split apart. From over the rooftop's ledge, there was a scream. Seconds later, I heard as Chyleal's body slammed into Kessel's surface. Then there was nothing.

Laying on the ground, I sucked in a breath, waiting. I didn't really know what for—for Chyleal to magically appear again and rip me and Skywalker apart—for Skywalker to vise his hand around my arm again and drag me around like a dead tauntaun as he had been doing during our entire ordeal.

None of that occurred. As I finally twisted my head around, I found Skywalker crouched down by my side. "You all right?" he asked.

I released the breath I was holding. "Is it over?" I asked. "Please say yes. Even if you're lying, just say the words. I need to hear them."

Skywalker grinned. "She's gone. Even with all that armor, she didn't survive the impact."

"Thank the Force, and whatever else you Jedi believe in."

Above us, a rumble resonated in Kessel's clouds. I might have thought it was thunder, except that Kessel was too crappy a planet to get rain. My heart pounded into my ribcage. "Oh, no—no—no!" I shouted, watching over two dozen shuttles and fighter craft enter the atmosphere. "I don't even know this many people!"

I threw a glance to Skywalker. Amusement shimmered in his eyes; from his belt, there was a beep. Retrieving his comlink, he said, "Admiral Nesmah. How are you doing up there?"

"Master Skywalker," the admiral replied. "I'm relieved to hear your voice. I take it you're safe?"

"The mining tower is secure," Skywalker replied. "We're on the rooftop."

"I'll instruct one of the shuttles to pick you up, and take you to your ship. I'm sorry for the delay in getting here. The Empire Forgotten put up a stronger fight than we anticipated."

"That's all right."

At that, a jab of anger speared my gut. Snapping up, I snatched Skywalker's comlink from him. "It's not all right!" I screamed into the device. "Do you have any idea what we just went through? A dozen people shooting at us—a large tail! Bad breath! I almost died five times in thirty minutes! That sure as hell wouldn't be all right if it was you!"

"Who is this?"

Skywalker reclaimed his comlink. "It's Arvis Tasric," Skywalker replied. "The man who was trying to sell the Death Star blueprints."

"Ah, I see. Well, Master Skywalker, please tell Mr. Tasric that we have a room all ready for his arrival. It's called Cell Block C-1-5." The comlink fizzled out.

I set my jaw, and to Skywalker, I said, "Isn't it amazing how the reinforcements come along about ten seconds after you need them?"

Skywalker offered a smirk. "Welcome to my world," he muttered, and then stood.

I started to get my feet under me when I noticed a hand. Skywalker's hand, reaching out for me to take it. Surprised, I accepted, and the Jedi Master helped me up. Resting a hand on my tailbone, I hobbled next to Skywalker as we stepped towards the blastdoor protecting my brother.

As Skywalker placed a hand on the door, I knocked. The durasteel was heavy; I didn't know if Paiden could hear me, but I had to try. "Paiden!" I shouted. "It's Arvis. Open the door—it's safe now."


With the side of my fist, I banged on the door. Still nothing.

I sighed, and twisted to Skywalker. "Would you do the honors?" I asked, and gestured my hand to his lightsaber.

Skywalker remained motionless. Gliding his palm across the door, he shook his head. "Something isn't right."

I flicked my gaze between him and the door. "What is it? Is he okay?"

"He's fine," Skywalker muttered.

"Then, what's the problem?"

"He heard you," Skywalker replied, resting his hand on the door as it remained closed.

No more talk—the Jedi got to work. As I watched, he ignited his lightsaber, and slowly penetrated the durasteel, careful not to slice too deep into the metal and harm anyone inside. When the door's center finally gave way, Skywalker backed off, and I followed.

He lifted a hand. The door made a rumble. He motioned his hand backwards. The door complied, breaking into two pieces, and toppling over from its frame. As the dust settled, I looked onwards. A figure sat near the door's edge, underneath a computer console, and clearly scared to death.

Stepping forward, I knelt down. "Paiden?"

That's when the man darted out. In a ragged pair of pants, and a shirt that appeared halfway torn, he staggered to me, clasping both my hands. On his face was a graying beard and a mouth empty of teeth. If you haven't figured it out yet, this was not my brother.

"Please don't kill me!" the stranger shouted.

I peered onwards, into the command station of the mining tower, searching for Paiden. I threw a look to Skywalker; the Jedi Master gestured to the old man, clearly indicating that he was the only person in that room.

"I just wanted a place to sleep," the man continued. "No one was using this place. I'm sorry!"

Skywalker took it from there. Approaching the man, he explained that he wasn't in any trouble and offered to take him off-planet to a shelter that could help him out. As Admiral Nesmah's shuttle landed on the tower's roof, I gaped in the command center, trying to fathom where in the worlds my brother was. If he wasn't on Kessel...

A lump swelled in my throat.

From behind me, Skywalker placed a hand on my shoulder. "This doesn't mean he's dead," he explained. "There are several other explanations to consider."

I grimaced at that. "You don't know my brother, Master Skywalker."

"Tell me about him. Perhaps I can help."

"He's an idiot. That's all you need to know—"

I caught myself. Skywalker remained silent as if he was afraid to break my train of thought. My words bounced through my skull like a blaster bolt in a room with magnetically-sealed walls.

He's an idiot...

"I think I know where he'd be," I declared, and with that, I hurried to the shuttle, Jedi Master and random drifter in tow.


On Admiral Nesmah's Mon Calamari cruiser, I was stuck in C-1-5 for almost a day before Skywalker was able to convince the admiral they needed me to figure out where to track down my brother. Some deal was struck; Skywalker assured me, "It'll keep you out of prison."

On the bridge, I sat beside Admiral Nesmah—a pudgy Mon Calamari female who managed to glare at me with those big fishy eyes—and I explained where to go. We spent days soaring from the Outer Rim to the Mid Rim. We reached the Corellian System, and then Coronet.

I had avoided the city for years. As I stood in front of one of the apartments near the capital's outskirts, I hesitated to knock. Skywalker didn't. As he rapped on the door, footfalls vibrated from inside.


"Arvis!" a voice pierced my eardrums the same instant a woman ripped open the door.

Her eyes didn't go to Skywalker. They didn't notice Admiral Nesmah behind him or the other security crew, including six Jedi and a dozen security officers. No, she went right to me, and then I felt a hand slap my face.

"Mom!" I screamed, holding my cheek.

"Twenty years!" she shouted. "I barely get one or two holo-calls in two decades, and you come home for this?"

I flung a look behind her. In the apartment's hallway, Paiden stood. He waved a hand at me, a smile beaming on his face. I glared at him. "He told you," I said to Mom.

"Of course he did," she snapped back. "He's a good boy. Unlike my other son."

"Ms. Tasric," Skywalker stepped forward and extended a hand, "I'm Luke Skywalker. Is it all right if we come in and speak with Paiden for a moment?"

If the woman held any interest in the fact that Luke Skywalker was at her door, she didn't show it. She glanced at his hand. "Did you just come from off-world?"

Skywalker raised his eyebrows. "Yes, Ma'am—"

"Have you washed your hands since arriving on-planet?"

"Um," Skywalker retracted his hand, "no. Sorry."

Mom rolled her eyes. "Just like you off-worlders," she spoke, and started back into the apartment, "bringing your nasty, germ-ridden filth to Coronet..."

"Come on," I said to Skywalker.

I walked into the apartment, the Jedi and Admiral Nesmah following. The rest of the troops stayed outside, which I'm sure Mom's neighbors didn't find odd at all.

Reaching my brother, I embraced him. I didn't really embrace anyone, so my brother stood rigid, clearly shocked. When I released him, I said, "I'm glad you're not dead, brother."

"Me, too...I mean, I'm glad you're not dead—yeah, that's what I meant."

"How did you get away from the Mon Calamari ship?"

"Oh, the hyperdrive wasn't as damaged as I thought. I went to lightspeed as soon as I made it off Ryloth."

"Why didn't you go to the rendezvous point?"

Guilt clouded Paiden's features. "Well, you see, I kind of—"

"You forgot where it was."


"And so you decided Mom would be great to involve in all this?"

Paiden lifted his shoulders. "I couldn't think of any other place." He lowered his head. "Did I do that bad?"

I embraced him again. "Yes," I told him. "Yes, you did. But I love you anyway."

As I released him, Paiden smiled at me. With Skywalker and Nesmah, we followed Mom into the kitchen.

"Well," Mom said as she sat down at her kitchen table. On its surface laid the memory disk Paiden had found on Tatooine. "I guess this is what all the commotion is about."

There was no reluctance. Mom handed the datacard to me, and then reclined in her chair.

Paiden leaned over my shoulder as I handed the disk to Skywalker. "What's he going to do with it?" Paiden asked. Paiden was a moron, but even a moron would recognize Luke Skywalker.

Clearly, Paiden didn't approve, so I decided to enlighten him. "He's going to keep us out of prison, brother," I explained. "So, keep your 'rebel scum' talk to yourself. Got it?"

On the kitchen counter, Nesmah placed a thin, rectangular box. As she pressed its center, the droid flashed to life and its four table-like legs extended from its bottom.

"Emdee," Nesmah called her computer console, "I need you to analyze this datacard. Open any holoproj files it contains."

She inserted the datacard; a silver disk at the top of the box shimmered, and then a red holoproj appeared above it. It was the Death Star.

"One file only," Emdee explained. "Incomplete."

I shot a look to Paiden, then Nesmah, and then Skywalker. "What does that mean?" I asked.

Nesmah toyed with Emdee, trying to bring up any more information. Emdee had none. Finally, Nesmah asked the droid for data history—any records on the transferring process. The droid had the date of creation, which Skywalker confirmed as being accurate from the time he purchased his own Artoo droid on Tatooine.

Then, Emdee explained, "Data file was transferred illegally to malfunctioning Artoo droid 'A' from functioning Artoo droid 'B.' Artoo droid 'B' recognized the illegal transfer and halted its continuation. All file data transferred remained with Artoo droid 'A'."

Skywalker leaned down to the computer console. "And just how much of this file was transferred? Do you have the percentage?"

"In total, .000000000000000000000001 percent of the file was transferred illegally to Artoo droid 'A'."

Standing in the kitchen, not a sound exited anyone's lips. Everyone's eyes were hooked to Emdee, observing the one distant picture of the Death Star rotating around on the holoproj.

After a minute, I turned to Paiden. "You were certain you had the blueprints, huh?" I asked him.

Paiden licked his lips. "Technically, they are the Death Star blueprints. Just not quite as much of the blueprints as I first thought."

Mom burst out laughing. Pointing her finger between Paiden and me, she looked at Skywalker and Nesmah, and exclaimed, "You think saving the galaxy is hard work? Try dealing with these dummies for the rest of your life!"

With a grumble, Admiral Nesmah asked Paiden if he had made any copies of the datacard, which my brother insisted he hadn't. Shutting down Emdee, the admiral yanked the droid console from the kitchen table, told Skywalker she'd take it up to the cruiser to be analyzed, and then stormed out with the datacard still in Emdee's systems.

Skywalker, on the other hand, didn't move. Placing a hand on the table where the computer had rested, he brought his attention to me. I half-expected a lightsaber blade to my head or perhaps a Force-choke. On Skywalker's face, however, there was only a grin.

I didn't know the Jedi well, but I had figured out that look. He thought it was amusing. He found the entire ordeal funny and ironic, and as Mom offered to make Skywalker a large Corellian breakfast for, "having to deal with my idiot sons," Skywalker gladly accepted. Sitting, the Jedi looked up at me, that same cocky little smile on his face.

See? I told you he was a jerk.

The End

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