So this is not only a sequel, it's technically the third in a series. You need to go read A More Perfect Future First. If you missed the last one somehow, it is titled Rise of the Empire.
I will try my best not to make too many EU references, but seeing as how some of the major characters in this story include Mara Jade, Thrawn, Pellaeon, Karrde, and I reference a few things from the Thrawn Trilogy, it will be hard to avoid it. So in advance, I'm going to apologize to some of the plot points of Zahn's that get incorporrated here. I won't take any direct passages from them, but I will rewrite them to fit with them being moved up in the timeline by, what, 7? 8 years?
DISCLAIMER: This is my disclaimer for the whole story. Though I do have an immense love of flannel, I think my inability to grow facial hair (thank gods!) prevents me from impersonating George Lucas to the point of claiming Star Wars as mine. Further more, I am not Timothy Zahn. I was not even born when Heir to the Empire was written, so until I get a Flux Capacitor and can produce 1.21 Gigawatts of electricity, his characters aren't mine either. So all in all, only the altered plot line is mine, as are the rare but there original characters.
A More Perfect Future: Thrawn's Plan
"Gods this is boring," Anakin mumbled under his breath, reaching a hand up to scrub his face roughly in an attempt to stay awake. "I honestly have no idea how you and your mother do this."
"Practice," Leia shrugged, still focusing on the bill that was being presented: more casinos under the guise of bringing more money to the capital, unfortunately. "But this is really boring."
"How much longer?"
"Since the last time you asked five minutes ago?" she chuckled. "About thirty minutes."
Anakin let out another grown, slumping down into his chair. "Can't these people who made this threat against you just get on with it?"
"Of course you'd sacrifice your only daughter to have fun," she teased and rolled her eyes.
"Leia, you are not in danger when I am around, alright?" he said, looking her straight in the eye. She smiled brightly.
"I know, Daddy."
"Good," he nodded, returning his gaze back on the senate, arms crossed over his chest. "And to think your mother has to really listen to this all. You sure you want the nomination?"
"Yes," Leia nodded firmly. Her mother's term as Chancellor would be up in just under six months, and there were already whispers in the senate as to who would be nominated, several of those whispers referring to her. If, and that was a rather large if, she were nominated, that would name her the youngest Senator ever nominated for the bid for chancellorship.
"You two are out of your minds," Anakin shook his head, arms crossed. He fell into silence again, listening to the monotonous drone of Senate proceedings. His eye caught Padme's briefly, and she shared him a small but genuine smile, just enough to make him feel mildly better.
He started to scan the pods around him, but they all seemed as rapt with attention as Leia did next to him. A galaxy full of systems and planets, and they each managed to find a person of their own who enjoyed this as much as everyone else. It was madness, as far as Anakin was concerned, or maybe just perhaps some evil mind trick he wasn't aware of yet.
Just as he was about to delve into that idea, the faint tingling on his neck began and he reached deeply into the Force for some sign as to what was about to occur. He glanced at Leia and noted the stiffness that had encased her—she'd sensed it as well.
But what was it?
He stretched out, careful not to delve too deeply into the life forces that surrounded him, his only intent to locate the source of the coming danger.
The sense prickled more, and the urge to run was growing. None of the surrounding pods were looking this way at all, many of them focused intently still on the growing argument as to the necessity of casinos in a lower level of Coruscant versus a private planet.
"Dad," Leia hissed, growing anxious.
"Run," he whispered, jumping out of his seat and grabbing Leia roughly by the arm towards the back of the pod. They cleared the doorway into the inner hallway just as a loud explosion was heard, echoing thorough the chamber behind them. Anakin pushed Leia to the side of the hallway, out of the way of the blast, focusing only only on her safety.
Screams sounded in the distance, and various aides and Senators began flooding into the hallway, all with the intent to escape the newfound danger.
A secondary explosion sounded, this one forcing the older stone covered pillars out and away from the entrance to the Naboo pod. Anakin had only a split second to register the falling pillars before they clipped his right arm, pulling him down with them. He fell roughly on his back, his flesh hand coming up to shield his face automatically as tiny but sharp bits of duracrete and metal rained down on him.
"Dad!" Leia cried out as her father fell out of view and behind the smoky dust cloud that began to rise from the second explosion. Her heart pounded in her ears loudly as she pushed off the wall and to the pile. "Dad, can you hear me?"
"Yeah," Anakin coughed, waving the dust away from his face. "I'm alright. Kest, that hurt."
"C'mon, we need to get out of here," Leia pleaded, her eyes scanning the hallway for any other sign of danger. It had emptied leaving them the only ones in there.
"Hold on," Anakin stopped her prodding at him. "My arm is trapped under this support."
"Oh, gods," she mumbled, her eyes traveling to the spot where only a small slice of metal extended.
"I'm fine," he assured, "but I can't get this beam off myself."
"What?" she asked, her head racing in panic. "I'll get Luke, he can-"
"No, Leia," Anakin stopped her as she started to rise. "You can help me. Just focus on the beam, I know you can."
"I... I'm not strong enough-"
"Sure you are," he interrupted. "I know you can do it. I'll be helping you. It's just like the basic training I taught you when you were little. Remember? We used to float your toys around together?"
"Dad, I was six," she argued.
"But you can do this now, Leia, I know you can," he said though she still looked unconvinced. "I need you, Leia. Just roll it enough that I can remove the metal piece."
"And you'll help?"
"Of course," he grinned up at her. She couldn't help but smile and nod in agreement. "Now, close your eyes, and focus on the support. Imagine it pushing away from me."
Leia followed his instructions, feeling outwards with the Force until she located the beam. It was heavy, she knew and felt that, but she could also feel her father's power pushing against the beam. She joined in, immediately hearing the slow rumbling grind of the support pushing across the debris laden floor.
Anakin couldn't describe the immense pride he felt in his daughter as he watched her move the beam. Of course he was helping, but the power surge that came from her came close to Luke's own power. The raw edge that it held was captivating, and he could help the stray thought and worry as to what would happen if the sith managed to get their hands on her. The only comforting thought to that one was that the sith had been extinct for twenty years now, almost twenty-one.
The beam cleared most of Anakin's arm before he felt the beam shudder and collapse down closer to his wrist than elbow.
"I'm sorry," Leia panted, feeling the exhaustion of exerting that much power at once overcoming her. She hadn't done any specific Force related exercises since before the Youth Program when she was twelve. It was then that she'd made the decision to follow her mother's path, one that was proudly supported by both her parents. Since then, she'd only practiced the mild spinning of a stylus when boredom or intense thought took over. "I can't do any more, I'm sorry."
"It's alright," Anakin assured her, smiling up at her proudly. "You've done so much. You were wonderful, Leia." He reached down and grasped the lightsaber swinging by his belt, unclipping it and holding it out to her. "Can you cut it, too? I don't think I can get a clear angle."
Leia hesitated for a moment before grasping the offered blade, it's heavy weight foreign in her hand. She jumped slightly as the blade was activated, but quickly recovered, masking her surprise with the ease of a skilled politician. She swung the bright blue blade down carefully, severing the mechanic limb just past the midpoint. Anakin's arm came free, feeling oddly light at the sudden loss in weight.
Leia quickly shut down the blade and passed it back to her father, glad to be ridden of it. Anakin held the blade in his hand, not quite sure the danger was far enough past to consider putting the blade away. Leia launched herself into his arms though, hugging him tightly and relishing in the instant security the proximity to her father brought her. Even though she was twenty years old, she still felt the need for her father's constant protective aura. Anakin's arm tightened around her best he could, though it wasn't much of a hug without his other arm.
"Come on, Leia, let's go assure your mother we're all right," he chuckled, releasing her. Leia stepped back and smiled lightly. "I'm sure she's nearly driven herself into a gundark's nest waiting for us."
Leia laughed, shaking her head at her father's crazy analogy. They walked in silence towards the end of the hall towards the turbo-lift that would take them down to the offices of the Chancellor. They were greeted by the blue-robed guards at the lift, ensuring the lockdown of the Senate building.
"Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker, clearance code 'Binary Suns'," Anakin stated firmly, recalling the old safety codes in case of an event along these lines. The blue guards nodded, accepting the code and stepped aside. Anakin nodded in thanks, hitting the button and waiting for the turbo-lift to arrive. It did quickly, as per normal, and they stepped in. Leia pulled out the key to get to the office levels, sliding it past the reader and waiting for the customary 'ping' that authorized the code.
It came, and immediately the lift dropped, flying quickly down through the mass of levels before slowing and opening the doors.
Anakin stepped out first, stretching out with the force for any sign of danger, but found none. Apparently Republic security was good enough here...
They made the trek through the halls quietly, the eerie silence about them slightly unnerving. If Padme had had her way, the whole building would probably be evacuated save essential personnel… and her. Anakin palmed the door to her office and it slid back with ease, three pairs of eyes turning to look at the entrants.
"Ani," Padme sighed, running forward and hugging him deeply. The stress and worry rolled off her in waves. "I was so worried, I saw the explosion and-"
"Shh, Angel, it's alright," he assured her, moving his hand around to her shoulders. "Leia and I are fine. There's no need to worry."
Padme inhaled deeply, closing her eyes at his presence. It wasn't until Luke spoke that her worry increased once more.
"Dad, where's your arm?"
Anakin stiffened against Padme and she looked down to the stump where his robotic arm had once been.
"There was a beam, it's nothing," he tried brushing off. "Leia got it off me. I'm fine."
"Ani," Padme looked up, her brown eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
"Really," he brushed off. "We have more important things to worry about."
"He's right, Mom," Leia said, stepping up and around her parents towards the security console by her mother's desk. "Do we have security footage prior to the attack?"
"No," Mara shook her head, walking up next to Leia. "The cameras cut out a minute before the attack everywhere and haven't returned. Techs are supposedly on it, though they must be mighty incompetent to not have them up yet."
"Or we have a mole," Leia mused. "And if that's the case, we can't run an internal investigation."
Leia sighed, running her hand along the top of her head until she hit the small coronet of braids that held her hair out of her face. The thought of a mole sent a small bit of terror through her system, distrust in the system she so highly supported chilling her to the bone. They needed to do something, but at the same time, any act could jeopardize the next.
"What do we do then?" Luke asked as he crossed his arms across his chest. "We need to investigate this off the records somehow."
"We could bring more Jedi into this," Mara suggested but Anakin shook his head, turning down the thought.
"No, the Jedi are already being stretched thin as is between Alderaan and Yavin," he sighed. The Jedi order had been forced to move the Younglings to Naboo during the threat of the Death Star over their temple nearly six months ago. After the attack though and the subsequent take down of the Death Star, the Younglings had been sent to Alderaan where Bail had ensured more specialized training facilities than Naboo could offer. He now held the safety of the Jedi Order's future there. Only Younglings and the caretakers had been moved, but in recent months the teachers of the temple were being shifted around more and more as the circumstances proved permanent. Many healers, masters and even council members were being ferried between the two planets in an effort to keep their order somewhat safe.
"What about Han?" Padme asked and four sets of eyes turned to her curiously, waiting for an explanation of her thought process. "He was a smuggler for years. Could he possibly know someone?"
"Maybe," Leia shrugged. "I suppose we could talk to him. He at least might be able to send us in the right direction."
"That sounds like a good idea to me," Luke agreed with a nod.
"Then it's settled," Padme nodded before turning to her husband with a serious stare. "Now you," she said firmly, indicating no room for argument. "You and I are going to a healer and we are getting that arm of yours replaced."
Anakin sighed with a smile, conceding to his wife's demands. The arm, or lack thereof, was starting to throw him off balance wise, and the itch to wiggle fingers that were no longer there was overwhelming at moments.
"I'll make sure Leia gets home," Luke assured his mother, who smiled thankfully at her son.
"Of course, thank you," she said before pulling out her comlink and speaking into it. "Sirtae, please have the speeder brought around to the exit. My husband and I will meet you there."
She closed the comlink quickly and raised her eyebrow at her husband in expectation. He sighed and began to follow her out, nodding quickly in goodbye to his children and Mara. Luke smirked and shook his head at his mother's domineering presence.
"Shall we?" he asked of Mara and Leia as soon as the door cycled shut behind his parents.
Mara rolled her eyes and walked past him, Leia quickly following suit. They made their way through the quiet hallways to the small hangar that held the speeders for the higher staff. Luke's own yellow speeder sat among them, open cockpit revealing the muted navy blue interior. It was his pride and joy so to say, one of the few indulgences he partook in from time to time to separate his life as a Jedi from that of his home life.
The three of them filed in, Mara sitting in the back so they could properly keep Leia in sight should something happen while en-route to 500 Republica. Luke started up the speeder in silence, pulling out of the hangar quickly and easily and joining the throng of Coruscanti citizens on their way about the city-planet.
The senate building wasn't far at all from that of 500 Republica, the apartment complex home to nearly all senators and dignitaries that resided on Coruscant. It was one of the most highly valued addresses in the level, many deals brokered over the addition to a residence there. Despite the shady politics that occurred for residency there, the building was well kept, and still highly esteemed. Only those with permission to enter could, and the airspace right next to it was restricted for all except residents for privacy.
They approached the landing platform that sat to the edge of their apartment, high up towards nearly the top most level of the building. Luke pulled the speeder up next to it, hitting the slave system to keep it attached and the three of them exited the speeder.
Leia wasn't a step onto the platform before Han came barreling out of the home, worry etched all over his face. Leia smiled gratefully when she saw him, jogging slightly up to him to meet him more or less half way.
"Gods, I was so worried about you," Han murmured just loud enough for her to hear as soon as he embraced her. "I saw the news, but they never mentioned whether or not you survived."
"I did, I'm sorry," she responded, the tension of the day beginning to ease out of her at the warm comfort he exerted.
Luke shook his head at the two and stepped around them to head into the house, Mara following quickly beside him.
"Gods, those two are worse than your parents," Mara mumbled when they were out of earshot.
"Aw, c'mon, they are not," he countered, rolling his eyes. "Besides, it's about time they finally got together anyways."
"Oh, gods, you're a romantic!"
"And what's so wrong with that, hmm?" he asked, turning on his heel to face her and crossing his arms across his chest.
"Everything!" she retorted with a smirk. "Flowers in bed, sensitivity, all that bantha shavit."
"You're just jealous that you can't have that."
"I could if I wanted it, which I don't."
"Janson doesn't count as your ability to have that," Luke rolled his eyes. "That moron would try to woo a woman's heart by reading her hyperdrive schematics."
"I wasn't referring to Janson," she narrowed her eyes. "Why do you think it's so impossible for me to have that, anyway?"
"I never said it was impossible."
"You said I couldn't have it."
"I meant at the moment."
"Did not," she scoffed. "What about you, anyways? Why aren't you showing off this sensitive side right now?"
"Maybe because the girls I know wouldn't want that," he said with his own smirk.
"I bet Winter would want that," she teased.
"Maybe I don't want Winter?" he asked, eyebrow raised in challenge.
"Well then who?"
Before Luke could respond, Leia and Han walked into the room, hand in hand, stopping short as they saw Luke and Mara. Before Han could say anything, Leia gave a subtle squeeze to his hand, silently letting him know not to push them.
Instead he sighed, leading Leia over to the couch and sitting down. Luke and Mara set the minor argument aside, though they still narrowed their eyes at each other, and sat opposite Han and Leia on the couch.
"Alright, so Leia was tellin' me you all need someone on the outside to do the investigation," Han started.
"Do you know someone?" Mara interrupted, drawing a smirk from Han.
"I do, actually, but if you'd be quiet for a few seconds and be good, I'll even give you their name," he teased, prompting Mara to narrow her eyes. Her mood was not in the state to take any teasing. "There's a guy out there with a knack for collecting information. A smuggler, but he mostly sells information. He'll play both sides though. Claims neutrality. Quite frankly, I can't argue with him. He's got a pretty sweet deal going for him this way."
"Name, Solo?" Mara urged, her patience waning.
"Karrde," Han supplied. "Talon Karrde. Works out mostly in the Rim, though last I heard he'd set up a base on some Inner Rim planet without many people."
"How do we contact him?" Luke asked, leaning forward into the conversation and resting his arms across his thighs, clasping his hands in the middle.
"By Comm," Han smirked. "I've got his signal number stashed somewhere on the Falcon, I'll look around tonight."
"That's reassuring," Mara rolled her eyes, leaning back on the couch.
"Hey, I try my best," Han smirked with a shrug.
Now, I don't have all of this one written out, so updates come as they may. For the time, I will stick to the semi-regular updating I've kept with the previous stories, and usually the closer I get to running out of chapters, the more my muse hits. I'm about halfway written I'd wager.
That being said, something called college seems to like good grades, and for some reason you only get those by living in real life. I know right? Pain. So while I may no all about the fall of Vader and the positives and negatives of in-atmospheric flight between TIE Fighters and X-Wings, I don't know the finer details to the events leading to the American Civil War and how tensions over the Missouri Compromise led into that. One of those things will be on the AP exam, and the only hint I can give is that it has nothing to do with Space.
If I was in Galactic Standard History AP versus AP US History, I would pass that class with my eyes closed.
But I'll do my best to keep up with this, because I really do like where I'm going with it. I have a few other stories I'm writing too (Darn Plot Bunnies! Curse You to the Nine Corellian Hells!) but I won't post them until they are completely finished in an attempt to keep this going. So best of luck all around.
DON'T FORGET TO REVIEW! I love bantering over plot points with you all! It's so much fun!