NOTHING STAYS THE SAME

By: TygerEye Antilles

                Author's Note:  Takes place six years after Heir to the Empire.  Callista episode is already over.  Pre- Ambush at Corellia, Post- Crystal Star.

                CHAPTER ONE

                The man stumbled down the street, his alcohol-muddled brain barely allowing him to recall the location of his house.  He knew his wife would be angry with him for coming home in the middle of the night, drunk yet again, but to hell with her.  If she only knew the stress he was under, she wouldn't be such a pain in the ass whenever he was home.

                He walked through an alleyway lit with one lonely glow lamp that only accentuated the darkness.  He looked up and saw the numerous stars above his home planet.  He smiled drunkenly.  That was where he wanted to be.  In a starship, far away from his crumbling marriage, his shitty job, away from Coronet City where every day he saw men richer than he would ever be—

                --He stumbled over something and fell to the ground.  The sharp pain in his left wrist, where he'd taken some of the impact, woke his mind a little, but what he next saw sobered him instantly.  He glanced back to look at what he'd tripped over and found a body.  Half of the corpse's face was little more than a meaty mess.  One blue eye, widened with fear and glazed in death, stared at the stars above.

                The woman glanced at her partner, a 2-1B droid, and she repeated her original conclusion.  The med-droid recorded her statement.

                "Human male, about thirty years old.  Cuts and burns on both wrists indicate stun cuffs.  A piece of skin was sliced off the upper right arm.  Post-mortem.  It's probably to delay identification.  Numerous bruises and cuts all over the body.  He was beaten before he was killed.  As for the face, approximately half is gone.  Burn marks seem to be consistent with a hand blaster of some sort.  More tests are needed, but I'd guess a BlasTech of some sort, maybe a newer TR series.  One eye is sludge, the other, the right eye, is still intact.  My associate is running retina scans right now."

                She nodded to the med-droid and it cut off the recording.  The woman turned to the Corellian Security officer standing by the door.  "Yes?"

                "Just wanted to see if you were as good as everyone said, Doctor."

                "I'm better than they say, Detective."  She smiled and removed the protective gloves she'd been wearing.  "I've got to go put this stiff in the freezer, but then I've got some free time. What do you say we go grab lunch somewhere?"

                "What about the retina scan?"

                "Zak is going through criminals known to be on Corellia, then a System-wide search.  It'll probably be a while. This guy had good muscle tone. I doubt he's a local thug.  They always like to overdo the exercise bit and look like they're made of plastic.  This guy worked out on a regular schedule.  Rigor mortis never really set in, and I've sent a blood sample to the lab.  I'll have my comlink with me in case either one gets anything."

                "Great.  So, you want to try something Ithorian, or, oh, there's a good new restaurant, Kashyyyk something…"

                The medical examiner pulled the coveralls off her normal clothes.  "I don't know, but I'd rather have my meat cooked this time, so Wookiee's out…"

                Halfway through a meal of some roasted avian from Selonia, the woman's comlink went off.  She apologized to the detective, and took the call.  "Dony here."  She listened to the voice on the other end, and then, disappointed, said, "All right.  Well, let's hope the retina scan goes through."

                She turned back towards her lunch.

                "What's wrong?" the detective asked.

                "Turns out that guy I was working on earlier, you remember him, right?  Half his face just so much bone and meat?"  she noticed her friend turn slightly pale as he glanced down at his medium-rare bird, then back up at her.  "Well, the blood scan went through, and his entire DNA makeup is soft.  Renla checked for any additives to his blood stream and she found carythimol.  Does that ring a bell?"

                "Yeah, it alters DNA, preventing accurate identifications.  Black market crap.  Expensive."

                "Well, he's been pumped on it.  I won't be surprised whether they injected him, beat him around, then left him in the alley and blasted his face.  They probably didn't mean to leave one eye intact—"

                "That's great, but, hey, Dony, don't you think we can have one meal where you don't  talk about corpses and everything?"

                "Sure."

                Five hours later Dony Telenema was in her office typing up the report on the John Doe when the comlink in her pocket beeped.  She clipped it onto her shirt collar.

                "Dony."  A pause.  "Oh, yeah, Zak.  You have an ID yet?"  After a moment she dropped the caf mug from her fingers and it shattered into dozens of shards of glass on the floor.

                Han knew something was wrong when he commed his wife and no one answered.  She had been at home all day, taking a break from her seemingly endless days as the Chief of State of the New Republc.  Winter was in charge of the kids today so Leia could rest, and he believed that she and See-Threepio took the twins and Anakin to one of the museums Coruscant had plenty of.

                Winter had commed Han when she said she couldn't reach Leia.  She and the kids wanted Leia to come out for a relaxing lunch in the Botanical Gardens of Ithor.  Han walked to the turbolift, barely acknowledging the guard near the lift.  It's probably nothing, Han told himself.  She's sleeping and left the comlink in another room.  I'm just probably overreacting in my old age.

                But ignoring the HoloNet as well?  He knew his wife—she was a light sleeper.  And both he and Winter had used the special family channel, and, well, Leia never ignored that one.

                He opened the door and saw his wife kneeling on the floor, looking straight ahead, but from her expression, he doubted she saw anything.

                "Leia?"  he asked, and only when he put his hand on her shoulder did she look up.  He saw tears in her brown eyes, and worried, he asked, "What happened?"

                "Oh, gods, Han.  Last night I felt so strange, like something was gone.  I told you, right?"  Her voice was breathless.

                "Yeah, you told me to keep an eye out today.  Leia, sweetheart, what happened?"

                "It got worse today, like something was missing.  I realized it when Winter took the kids, and I saw Anakin leave.  Ani complained this morning of feeling strange."

                Han waited for her to continue.  After a few seconds where she was clearly trying to compose herself, she continued.

                "I called up the Jedi Academy, and Tionne said Luke had decided to take a vacation, and he went to Corellia."  She stared into Han's hazel eyes.  "Han, they found Luke.  He's been murdered."