The Passion of Maul
Twilight Chapters 3-4


Dark Passions: The Journey Begins | Dark Passions: Exodus | Dark Passions Revisted: The Amber | Bouquet of Deflowers: The Thistle | Seeds of Darkness: Chapters 1-5 | Seeds of Darkness: Chapters 6-10 | Twilight: Chapters 1-2 | Twilight Chapters 3-4 | Twilight Chapter 5

Chapter 3 

All this will take months to rebuild, Maul thought, walking through the ruins a second time before heading back to his ship. He was going to have to acquire work droids, and find at least one reliable source for materials and supplies, but that would not prove difficult. He still had nearly all of those gemstones Bane had given him.

That was one mystery he was determined to solve. Where had those gems been hidden? He had a strong feeling that there were more of them here somewhere. A great many more. One of the first things he had learned from his Master - his former Master - was that that much wealth provided an endless amount of opportunities, and he was determined to find it. Unless, of course, the Sith spirits were of a mind to stop him, but he very much doubted that. They had to have known what Bane had in mind when she took that box. Perhaps they could even be persuaded to tell him where to find them. If he ever got a chance to speak to one, that is.

He'd felt them watching him when he first stepped off his ship, but he couldn't sense them now, and didn't have time to linger to see if any of them came back. Once this task was completed, he would begin searching for the stones, and attempt to communicate with the Sith.

Maul reached his ship, boarded, and the Infiltrator lifted off.

Shaking his head, Ki-Adi Mundi listened to the rest of Councilor Koon's report on the battles that were still going on after two days of fighting. Typical of Plo to save the bad news for last, he thought, leaving his quarters to give Mace the update. He found him in the map room.

"There's been another transmission from Plo," he told Windu. "They've freed Amorris."

"What else?"

"Two more planets in the Sumitra Sector have been attacked. I have heard that the Wookiees have joined in the battle, but many of the others seem to think that if they stay out of it, the Mandalorians will simply pass them by."

Windu snorted at that. "Hopefully they'll come to their senses and follow Kashyyyk's example. I'm going to send three hundred more Jedi to search for the cloning facility, though by now there could very well be more than one."

"And there are dozens of worlds that they could be on."

"I'll consult with Oppo and Yoda, and meditate on it. Perhaps the Force will give me some answers. They have to be found and destroyed soon if we're to have any chance of defeating the Mandalorians."

"Even then, this war could go on for a very long time," Mundi cautioned as they left the room. "They must have been using the clones to have built so many ships in such a short period of time."

"I know. I will advise the Chancellor to order another fleet to the Sumitra."

Mundi nodded in agreement, then left to find out what Taolisss was up to.

"I am aware of that possibility." It's exactly what I've been doing, Palpatine thought. "More ships have already been sent to the Sumitra Sector. By the way, have you spoken with Queen Amidala recently? I've not heard from her since she dismissed all of her counselors, and half of her personal guard."

"Yes, she contacted me just yesterday," Windu told him. "None of them know that the new cloning process came from the Naboo."

"I'm very glad to hear that," Palpatine said with genuine relief. The last thing he needed was the Hutts producing clone armies of their own. "And I do understand her precautions. It's not every day one learns that their predecessor was the victim of an assassin."

"Let alone one hired by a Hutt, though we still don't know what the motive was."

"Indeed," Palpatine agreed. "I only wish there was solid proof that they were aiding the Mandalorians. Of course, even if there were, punishing them would not be easy."

"I'll tell Amidala of your concern. Perhaps her new guard can come up with something."

"I certainly hope so."

I wonder which of the Hutts had King Veruna killed, Palpatine thought, musing over it afterwards. But no matter which way he looked at it, there wasn't any foreseeable advantage to having this information.

He got up from the desk and left his office. Two of the ships Sienar was building for him were nearly complete, and work had started on four more. He was going to have to send a few thousand more clones to ensure they were finished faster.

"Good morning, Larisa," Knight Ciral greeted in a cheerful voice.

"Morning," she muttered, flopping down onto the table. "You sound happy."

"I've gotten a message from Giron today. He said that they freed Amorris. Have you heard from Eeth?" Ciral asked as she began the examination.

"No." And I probably won't, Larisa thought morosely.

"I hope it's going as well for them as it is for Master Koon. What is this?"


Ciral examined her again and blinked twice, perplexed. "A few of your organs are larger than before, up to ten percent larger. I'll have to contact Master Ulizr. I'm not familiar with this kind of change happening in these situations."

"Oh, I did that."

"You did this to yourself?" Ciral asked in disbelief. Why?"

"Master Ulizr said that he wasn't growing as much. I know he said to wait and see, but I could tell that there was something wrong."

"Yes, I know that it hadn't looked good," she admitted. "But don't you think this was a little extreme? There could have been other alternatives."

"I did it for the baby," Larisa stated emphatically.

"I'm sure you did. It's just not something we normally find in patients," Ciral explained.

"I'm sorry," she said, picking at a thumbnail. "I should have told you when I got here."

"Well, everything else seems to be fine, but please come talk to me first before you do anything like this again."

"I will," she told Ciral and climbed off the table.

"Good. I'll see you in two days then."

"Yeah. Bye."

Larisa hurried back to her room and turned on the holovid, but there was very little new information about the war on the news. Knight Mundi had had his hands full with his Padawan lately, or she would have asked him. Maybe Master Windu would be in the mood to talk. Depressed, she turned off the holovid and went to go see him.

"Come in," Windu called out when someone tapped at his door.

"Hi," Larisa said, peeking her head into the room. "Are you busy?"

"No," he answered, getting up from the mat. That meditation had gone nowhere. The future had never been so clouded to him before. What it meant he couldn't began to guess. "Have a seat."

She hesitated before walking over to the table. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Windu said, sitting across from her. "Now, what did you want?"

"Well, I was wondering if you'd tell me what was happening with the war. There wasn't much on the holovid."

"The Chancellor wanted it kept quiet, to keep people from panicking more than they already have," he explained. "The Mandalorians have been driven from Amorris."

"That's what Knight Ciral said, but what about the others?" she asked, leaning forward. "Is Eeth all right? Is Anakin and Obi-Wan?

Yes, they're fine. The Republic Army is having some difficulty containing the Mandalorians, but there have been very few casualties."

"Good." Relieved, Larisa bit her tongue, resisting a sudden urge to ask if he had anything to eat around here. She simply had to stop thinking about food every five minutes.

"I'll let you if anything new happens," Windu continued, standing and walking her to the door.

"Okay. Thank you." Larisa bowed to him and went back to her quarters, and her datapad.

The next two months passed slowly for her. It wasn't long before she had to switch from tunic and trousers to loose gowns similar to ones that Master Billapa wore. She also gave up her fitness class and began taking walks through the Temple instead.

Master Windu stopped by briefly after every morning meal, though what news he did tell her was nearly always the same: More planets were attacked, and the Republic Army was spread out even further in their attempts to liberate them. They'd taken back the Braxant Sector, but it turned out that the Mandalorians had the majority of their army in the Sumitra and Meridian Sectors, and each time the Supreme Chancellor sent more reinforcements, the number of Mandalorian ships increased as well, leaving them constantly outnumbered.

The Army was managing to hold its own despite that, due almost entirely to the genius of Master Rancisis, according to the letter Larisa got from Anakin one day.

Rancisis was, in his rather exuberant opinion, the greatest Jedi that ever lived. He also mentioned that one of the cloning factories had been found and destroyed, but there was evidence that there were at least two more out there somewhere, prompting Windu to send more Jedi out, both to search for them and to aid the Republic Army.

That, however, reduced the number of eligible Knights and Masters in the Temple, and was beginning to discourage the older Initiates, so he recalled some of the Jedi first sent into battle, as well as ones that had been stationed to Rim worlds. Things quieted down for a while after that, then a morning went by without a visit from Windu.

Larisa fretted over it for an hour before deciding that he was probably just too busy to come right now. She dragged herself off of the sofa, rubbing at her aching back. It was getting harder and harder just to get up lately, and she was going to be late again for her appointment with the healers.

That was another worry. Knight Ciral had looked unhappy about something the last couple of weeks, and Larisa was determined to ask her about it on this visit. She pulled the robe closed and went to the healers room, sitting quietly in a chair during the examination.

"What's the matter?" she asked when Ciral finished, frowning as she stepped back. There couldn't be a problem with the baby; she'd been very careful with him.

"No, he's perfectly healthy," she told her, easily reading her thoughts. "That's not the problem."

"Then what is it?"

Ciral sat down in the other chair before answering. "As I've said, in the cases that we know of, these sort of pregnancies lasted anywhere between five and seven months, but at the rate your baby is growing he'll be too large for you to deliver safely."

"But... This can't..." Larisa paused, trying to gather her thoughts. "What am I going to do?"

"What we are not going to do is panic," the Jedi Knight firmly told her. "I'm going to consult Master Ulizr; we will come up with a solution. In the meantime you have to stay calm, and you'd best keep off your feet as much as possible."

"I'll try," she mumbled.

"Listen to me," Ciral said, regaining her attention.  "It will turn out all right, you'll see."

Nodding, Larisa slowly got up from the chair and left the healers, heading back to her room. She stopped a few feet from the door and leaned against the wall.

I've really done it this time, she thought, hanging her head.


Startled, she turned and stared at Knight Mundi, coming out of his quarters accompanied by his Padawan.

"Is something wrong?" he asked. 

"No. Yes. I can't do this anymore!"

"You go on ahead," Mundi told Taolisss. Something was obviously upsetting her. "Don't be late to Master Drnae's class."

"Yes, Master," he answered, glancing curiously at Larisa before walking quickly down the hallway.

"Let's go inside and talk," Mundi suggested.

"All right." She yanked her access card out of a pocket and went in.

"Now, would you like to tell me what's troubling you?" he asked, pulling out a chair from the table while she settled on the sofa.

"I just... I can't have this baby."

"You what?" Mundi's surprise quickly turned to stern disapproval. "May I ask why you waited so long before making this decision, and especially now that Eeth is away?"

"I didn't mean to! I swear! I was only trying to help him, and now I've ruined everything!"

"I'm afraid I don't understand," Mundi told her, puzzled by the outburst. "Perhaps if you started from the beginning?"

"First they said he wasn't growing enough, so I made a few changes, and now they say he's growing too much," Larisa explained in a rush.

"They? You mean the healers?"

"Yes." Stop babbling! she told herself, taking a deep breath. "Knight Ciral told me that the baby's going to be too big."

"I see. Well, I can't claim to know much about healing, but I'm sure they have ways of dealing with these sort of problems."

"Do you really think so? What if something goes wrong?"

Larisa sat up as a thought occurred to her. "I've heard that some Jedi can use the Force to see the future. Can they?"

"There are some who have the strength and skill for that. You wish to know about your child?"

She nodded vigorously. "Can you do it?"

"Yes, I can, but the future can be very hard to see," he cautioned. "What we learn is not always what we expect, or want to know."

"But it's better than not knowing anything at all."

"I suppose that's true." Mundi looked around the room. "You have a meditation mat?"

"It's in the other room. I'll be right back." Larisa got up and went into the bedroom. She dragged the mat out from under the bed and into the public room.

"This may take some time."


She moved to the chair and sat forward, watching intently, but couldn't tell if what he might be seeing was good or bad. His face remained expressionless during the entire meditation. "Well?" she asked the moment he opened his eyes.

"There won't be any problems," he told her with a smile. "You'll all be fine."

"You're sure?"


Larisa slumped back in relief.

"Has he a name yet?" Mundi asked as he stood.

"Not. I was going to wait, in case Eeth does come back."

"Of course." He frowned down at her. "You look exhausted."

"I am a little tired," she said, looking down.

Everything will be fine, so stop worrying," he admonished.

"I'll try not to, but it's not easy."

"I know. These are difficult times." Mundi sighed wearily before changing the subject. "Did Ciral say how much longer it will be?"

"Another two to four months. I haven't seen Master Windu today. Has something happened with the war?"

"Not that I'm aware of. We've been testing Initiates all morning."

"Oh. Is it time for lunch yet?"

"In two hours," he replied. "Shall I see about having something brought up to you now?"

"Uhm, no," she said, yawning again. "I think I'll just take a nap."

"You may want to set the chrono alarm," Mundi suggested on his way out.

"Uh-huh. Goodbye." Larisa walked back into the bedroom and closed the window shade, remembering to set the alarm before turning the lights off and climbing under the covers.

"The Mandalorians have control of almost a fourth of the Meridian Sector," Tiin informed Fey'Zon as they walked through the Linurian Palace, "and there have been reports of them taking large amounts of plasteel and other metals."

"They're building more ships," Fey'Zon noted.

"At least now we should be able to track their transport ships, and find out where they're being built."

"There may be more than one location, as with the cloning," Fey'Zon pointed out. "What about Concorde Dawn?"

"There's no evidence that they've been there in a year. Most of the people still living there are those with families." Tiin glanced back when a door behind them opened. "Master Ulizr."

"Councilor Tiin, Councilor Fey'Zon," he said, bowing to them. "We've healed the last of them, and I must ask to return to the Temple."

"The Temple? Why?"

"I've received a transmission from Knight Ciral. Apparently there's a problem with one of our patients."

"Larisa?" asked Tiin, knowing that they rarely had long-term patients in the Temple.

"Yes, but she was unable to go into any details. These solar flares are a bother. Anyway, I'd like to leave as soon as possible, with your permission."

"I'll take you in my ship," Tiin decided. "There's one stop I have to make first, but we'll be back on Coruscant this evening."

"You're going to tell Eeth?" 

"Absolutely. Can you handle things here?" he asked Fey'Zon.

"Yes. I don't think the Mandalorians will return here. They did not put much effort into this attack. It was just another attempt to divide the Republic forces."

"All right, but be on your guard, just in case," Tiin cautioned him before leaving the palace with Ulizr.

"I'm sorry, Masters, but Knight Ciral was called away to the Esseles Embassy. One of the Senator's children is ill," a young Padawan told to the three of them in the healers rooms.

"When was this?" asked Eeth.

"It's been almost forty minutes, Master."

"Then she'll be back shortly. I could try to contact her, but Ciral usually turns off her comm link during healing," Ulizr said, sitting at a computer. "Larisa isn't here, so it might not be too serious."

"I'm going to go find her," Eeth declared.

"I'll go with you," offered Tiin.

He nodded, closing his eyes in concentration. The long separation made this difficult. "She's in the garden, I think," Eeth said before leaving the healers room. He was halfway to the garden when a green-robed figure emerged from a side corridor ahead of them. "Risa."

Larisa gasped, spun around and fell over backwards.

"I think we should have sent word that we were coming," Tiin said as they hurried over to her.

Stunned, she lay there a moment, making sure the baby was all right before trying to get up.

"Are you injured?" Eeth asked, crouching beside her and helping her to her knees.

"You're back!" Larisa straightened and threw her arms around him, knocking him off his feet. "You're home!"

"We definitely should have sent word," Tiin remarked when they both sprawled on the floor.

Why didn't you then?

I was rather busy. It wasn't easy reaching Coruscant in under ten hours.

Yes, yes. We all know you have the fastest ship in the galaxy.

Unperturbed, Tiin reached down and helped them up. You could have sent a message, instead of spending the entire trip pacing the rooms.

Eeth ignored that and looked at Larisa. "Are you hurt?" he asked her again.

"No," she said, clutching the sleeve of his robe. "You're really here!"

"I told you I would come back. Master Ulizr is here, too. Is there a problem?"

"Not any more. Knight Mundi told me that it'll be fine."

"Ki-Adi? What does he have to do with it?"

"I asked him to see the future for me, and he did, and he said that everything will be all right."

"Is he certain?" Tiin asked, looking her up and down. "You have grown quite a bit larger these last couple of months."

"Ohhh!" Larisa huffed, and turned to leave.

"Oh no, you don't!" Eeth said, pulling her back. "You're going to go see Ulizr right now."

"Fine." She stared resentfully at Tiin.

"Sorry," he apologized, wondering what she was so upset about. He shrugged and turned to Eeth. "I'll go talk to Mace."

"Thank you," he said, steering her away from Tiin and into the nearest elevator.

"Do we have to do this now?" Larisa complained when they reached the healers floor.

"Yes, we do. Master Ulizr is waiting." Eeth opened the door for her. "Here she is."

"Larisa. What seems to be the... problem?" Ulizr asked as he turned and looked at her. "Oh."

She marched over to the chair and sat down. If one more person tells me I'm getting as big as a house... Larisa thought, staring sullenly at the wall while the healer examined her.

"Hmm. Has Ciral discussed this with you?" asked Ulizr.


"Discussed what?" Eeth asked, glancing between the two of them.

"She said that the baby's going to be too big," Larisa reluctantly told him.

"It's true," Ulizr confirmed when the Councilor looked his way.

Eeth quickly recovered from the shock. "You'll have to terminate him, then."


"Now, let's not be hasty."

"Hasty?" He stared at Ulizr. "You just said that she couldn't have this child."

Larisa jumped up in outrage. "The hell I can't! Mundi said..."

"Mundi could be wrong," he interrupted. "You're going to have to be reasonable about this."

"No, I don't!"

"Sit down, both of you," Ulizr said, forestalling an argument. He waited until they were seated before continuing. "Now, there is no danger to either her or the child."

You said..." Eeth began.

"I did not say that she couldn't continue to carry him."

"So what are you going to do?" asked Larisa.

"There's really only one thing to do. Simply remove him when the time comes."

"Remove him? You mean surgically?" Eeth asked, disturbed by the thought.

"Yes, surgically. No one here has any experience in this, so I'll see about purchasing a medical droid, and there will be a healer on hand in case there are any complications."

"Look, Mundi was very sure that nothing will go wrong. Has he ever been wrong about anything before?" Larisa asked Eeth.

"No. Not that I know of," he grudgingly admitted.

"Then why would this be any different?"

"It just is."

And he said I was being unreasonable. She sighed and looked at the Jedi healer. "Thank you, Master Ulizr."

You're very welcome," he said, glancing at the chrono.

"Well, it's getting rather late and I imagine you're tired."

"I am." She smiled when Eeth quickly stood and helped her up. "Thank you again."

"Yes, thank you," Eeth said, still disturbed by the news as they left the room.

Larisa sighed again when he looked pensively down at the floor. "Mundi told me to stop worrying, now I'm telling you. Stop worrying."

He shook his head. "You are one of the most stubborn females I know."

"I am not stubborn," she grumbled as the elevator door opened.

"That was a compliment," he said, smiling at her.


"What else did Knight Ciral say?" Eeth asked, pulling out his access card when they reached their quarters.

"She told me to stay off my feet as much as possible. Hey!" Larisa protested when he suddenly picked her up, carrying her the rest of the way into the bedroom. "I can walk!"

"Stop struggling. You have gained some weight, haven't you?"

"Ohh!" She slapped at his arms. "Why does everyone have to point that out to me today?"

"I won't mention it again," Eeth promised, depositing her on the edge of the bed. "I'll be back in a moment. Don't go anywhere." He grabbed a change of clothes from the closet and went into the fresher room.

Where does he think I'd go? she wondered, getting up and picking out a short gown. She remained standing, waiting until he came back out. "I need to go, too," she proclaimed when he started to say something.

"Will you need any help? All right!" Eeth held his hands up in surrender when she growled at him.

He's treating me like an invalid, Larisa thought peevishly, nearly groaning aloud with relief when she sat down. This constant urge to use the fresher was the one thing she was having a hard time controlling.

She finished up and went back to the bedroom, where Eeth was talking to someone on his comm link. "Who was that?" she asked when he was done.


"What did he say?"

"The same thing you did," Eeth replied, disgruntled by the I-told-you-so look on her face.

Larisa walked over and slid her arms around his waist. "I missed you."

"So have I."

"You've missed yourself?" she teased.

"You know what I meant." Eeth chuckled, then looked down at her intently.

"What's the matter now?"

"Nothing. It can wait until morning."

Larisa puzzled over that as she followed him to bed, wriggling around until she found a comfortable position. "So it took ten hours to get here? Where were you?"

"Tierfon. It's a beautiful planet. Have you ever been there?"

"No, but I've visited Alderaan. It was nice."

"You almost died there," he said, frowning at the reminder.

"Well, yes. I've also been to Dimok. Uhh... Let's talk about something else. Knight Mundi asked if the baby has a name yet."

He hesitated. "I don't know about humans, but Zabraks usually wait until after the child is born before deciding."

"Oh. Okay."

On a whim, Eeth put one hand over her stomach and concentrated. He brushed against something, and felt a tiny nudge in return.

What was that?"

"He's very strong," he said with a smile.

"You... Ow!" Larisa gasped and sat up, wincing.

What's wrong?"

"He's kicking me!"

"Here, lie back." He placed his hand on her again, this time coaxing the baby to sleep. He was unlikely to remember their brief contact. "Better?"

"Much, thank you," she said, relaxing again. "Could you wait 'til after he's born before you do that again?"


"What was it like?" she asked curiously.

"It's hard to describe, but I know that he feels safe and warm."

"Mmmm. So do I," Larisa murmured, curling up against him. "You will be staying now, won't you?"

"For a little while, yes."

A little while? Maybe I should talk to Master Windu, too, she thought, mulling it over before closing her eyes.

"Councilor Windu, you must understand that I cannot force a ruler to keep a Jedi counselor. If Governor Urdoma feels he no longer needs one, there is very little I can do about it."

"That doesn't explain why he was dismissed so rudely. We've always been on good terms with the Balmorrans."

"Very well," Palpatine conceded. "I'll advise Urdoma to reconsider his decision, but I can't make any guarantees."

"Thank you." Frustrated, Windu ended the transmission and glanced over at Saesee, who was waiting by the door.

"What was that all about?" Tiin asked.

"Knight N'seyn was told that his services were no longer necessary, and he was given one hour to leave Balmorra."

"You have got to be joking!"

"I wish I were. What are you doing back here?"

"I brought Eeth and Master Ulizr with me. There seemed to be a problem with Larisa."

"What sort of problem?"

"I really don't know, but she's convinced that it will be all right. She said that Ki-Adi looked into the future for her."

"That's not always a reliable source for information."

Windu rubbed at his eyes. "I'll stop by the healers tomorrow and see what Master Ulizr says about it."

"And since Depa isn't here, I'll say it for her: You need to get some sleep," Tiin told him.

Windu glowered at him a second, then smiled. "Yes, she probably would say that. Sometimes I wish I were any other species but human."

"Of course. But you're not, and you can't work days at a time without a rest."

"Thank you for that observation," Windu said dryly. "I'll retire in ten minutes. Since you are here now, I need you to stop at Durren and pick up some new Initiates that have been collected there. We don't want to take a chance of that world being attacked next."

"I understand. I'll leave immediately."

"And the next time you see Depa, you can tell her that she doesn't need to worry about me."

"I'll tell her, but I doubt it will do much good," Tiin said. "I'd better go now. I still have to refuel my ship."

"You'll want to take a food supply with you for the Initiates. It's a long trip back here."

"I will."

Windu looked back down at his work after Tiin left. I'll finish it tomorrow, he decided, and got up to go to bed.

"Was someone at the door?" Larisa asked, lifting her head when Eeth came back into the bedroom.

"Yes. One of the Padawans, delivering your breakfast. Are you hungry?"

"Yes! I'm always ready for food," she declared, eagerly sitting up as he set the tray down across her legs. She picked up a pastry and took a bite, then noticed how late it was. "Aren't you going to go eat?"

"I'll wait for the noon meal. We need to talk when you're done," he told her, then went into the public room.

Larisa put the pastry down and nervously began peeling a gervi fruit as Eeth went into the public room. Now stop that! There's nothing wrong, she told herself, and proceeded to eat everything in front of her, except for the shellava fruit she saved for Rialth.

Reluctant to go out there just yet, she moved the tray aside and went over to the closet, looking through it more than once before finally pulling out a gown.

I might as well get this over with, Larisa thought, changing her clothes and going into the public room. Eeth was sitting on the sofa, watching the holovid. He turned it off when he saw her standing by the doorway.

She walked over to the sofa and sat down. "Look, if this is about last night, I'm sorry about how I behaved at the healers."

"What?" Eeth looked puzzled for a second. "No, it's not about that."

"Oh. Okay. What did you want to talk to me about?"

"It's more of a question: Will you life-bond with me?"

"Will I..." Larisa trailed off in shock. He really wants to? What was a life-bond anyway? She still didn't know much about it, except that Master Windu said it was against the Code to form a bond without a person's permission, so she could refuse. At least Eeth asked, instead of assuming she wanted it, the way Obi-Wan had. And yet something was telling her to say no. "I..." She stopped and shook her head, struggling to get the words out.

Eeth frowned at that. Larisa looked confused and frightened by his request. "Risa?"

She blinked a couple times, then slumped over sideways in a dead faint.

That did not go well at all, Eeth thought, annoyed with himself for surprising her like that. He moved her so she was lying against one end of the sofa and went to the fresher room, bringing back a wet cloth and placing it on her forehead.

"Uhnn," Larisa moaned a minute later. "What happened?"

"You fainted."

She snatched the cloth away. "No! I didn't!"

"Yes, you did," he said, taking the cloth from her and tossing it onto the table.

Why do I keep embarrassing myself? she wondered.

"I apologize for frightening you," Eeth continued. "That was not my intention."

"You didn't frighten me." Larisa sat up straight. "And the answer is yes."

"Yes?" he repeated, unsure. She still sounded apprehensive. "Are you certain?"

She nodded. "Yes, I am. Is this kind of bond permanent?"

"They usually are, unless the bonded pair asks another to dissolve it for them. Perhaps we should discuss it later."

"No, I do want this. I just don't know how it's done."

"It will be easier if we're both meditating," Eeth told her, quickly walking over to the closet to get his meditation mat.

"All right." Larisa stood, ignoring a cold chill as she knelt on the mat.

"Ah! Master Windu!" N'seyn exclaimed, pleasantly surprised to see the head of the Council waiting to greet him in the hangar.

"Knight N'seyn. It's good to see you again, although I do regret the abruptness of your dismissal from Balmorra."

"It wasn't so abrupt, actually. Governor Urdoma had offered me a personal transport at the end of the week, but I decided not to delay my departure. And as you know, I don't have much more than the clothes on my back."

"Just what is going on over there?"

"I hardly know, to tell the truth," N'seyn answered. "There'd been fewer and fewer visitors to the Governor's residence in the last several weeks. For security reasons, I suspect. Some of the Balmorrans objected to Urdoma's choice of officials, though I hadn't found a reason for their discontent."

"Perhaps you were dismissed to prevent you from finding one," Windu speculated.

"I don't think so. I never sensed any subterfuge from anyone there," he answered, leaning heavily on his metal cane as the elevator door opened and they stepped inside.

"Would you like one of our healers to examine you? I happen to be on my way there myself."

"Yes, I would. My leg is aching abominably. Space travel is so damned cold," N'seyn complained. "By the way, I heard you had a run-in with a Sith Lord."

"Yes, I did, on Dimok. We believe it's a clone of the Sith that killed Master Jinn, but there's been no sign of it in months."

"It's creator must have found it to be defective and destroyed it."

"I certainly hope that's the case. Then whoever was behind it may have been dissuaded from creating more of them," Windu said as they left the elevator.

"Is my old room available, or did you give it away the minute I left?"

"Your room's ready and waiting." Windu grinned at the elderly Knight. "You've been away too long. Depa has chosen a Padawan. So have Ki-Adi and Yarael."

"Good, good."

"I'll see about a new post for you," he said, letting N'seyn precede him into the healers room.

"Somewhere warm, I trust."

"How does Capzo sound?"

"That would be a blessing to these old bones. And who is this?" he asked when Ciral walked over to them.

"Knight Ciral, this is Knight N'seyn," Windu introduced.

"Knight N'seyn," Ciral said, bowing. "How are you?"

As well as anyone can be, after spending hours on a freezing spaceship."

"Ah. Well, why don't you sit in this chair, and I'll get you a blanket."

"Is Ulizr about?" Windu asked as Ciral wrapped a heated blanket around N'seyn's shoulders.

"Yes, but he's rather busy with some Initiates. Is there something I can help you with?"

"I came here about Larisa. She's Eeth's mate," Windu said, answering N'seyn's curious look. "They're expecting a child."

"A birth at the Temple? That doesn't happen often," he observed. "I must say, though, that Larisa is an odd name for a Zabrak."

"Larisa's not a Zabrak. She came here from Adarlon," Windu explained before turning back to Ciral. "I understand Ulizr saw her last night."

"Yes, he did. He's going to buy a medical droid today. It will remove the child when her labor begins," she told him.

"A human and a Zabrak? That had to have been unadvised, surely."

"Well, unadvised or not, it's done," Ciral responded. "Besides, the child is doing very well."

"But you'll have to cut her open," N'seyn bluntly pointed out.

"I realize that this might seem a little barbaric to you two, but there have been other instances where surgery was necessary," she stated. "Master Ulizr assured me that there will be very little risk involved, to either of them."

"You're right; it's barbaric," Windu said, receiving a frown from her. "But if Ulizr thinks this is what's best, then so be it."

"He does." Ciral turned the frown towards N'seyn, who shrugged. "Is it your back that pains you?" she asked, gesturing to the cane in his hand.

"It's more my legs than anything else," he replied, stretching them out for her to examine. "The right one, especially."

"Well, I have to be going," Windu said, taking an access card out of his belt and handing it to N'seyn. "Here. I'll arrange for a shuttle to take you to Capzo, but it might be a few days before there's one available."

"That's fine. I can use the time to catch up with some old friends. The ones that are still here, that is."

"All right. I'll see you later, N'seyn. Ciral." Windu nodded to them before leaving.

"So, how long ago did you leave the Temple?" Ciral asked as she set about repairing some cartilage damage.

"We have to get up eventually, you know."

Not just yet, Larisa responded, lying against him on the sofa, enjoying the warm glow she felt in the back of her mind.

All right, but just a few more minutes, Eeth said, smiling at her persistence. Once she's learned how easy it now was for them to communicate this way, she didn't want to stop.

So what happened when you went back to Krst? she asked, returning to an earlier subject.

Let's just say that the Ykyr are no longer in charge of the mining there. I'll tell you about it later, he added when she started to ask another question. I'd rather not have Mace coming here looking for me.

You just got back last night! Doesn't anyone here ever take a day off?

Rarely, but it has been known to happen.

Have it your way. Larisa sighed and got up, then an idea came to her. I wonder if we can talk like this from a distance.

Yes, we can, but in certain circumstances it could be a distraction.

Like during a battle.


But you're not fighting anyone here, she pointed out.

No, I'm not, but I will be attending a lightsaber practice after the noon meal, he told her, then went into the fresher room.

I'd like to come watch, if you don't mind.

Not at all. It will be in room eleven.

I'll see you there, then.

Larisa picked out some clothes, stopping to look at the case in the drawer. She took the necklace out and put it on before getting dressed, then snatched up the fruit and left to feed Rialth. She came across Councilor Poof in the hallway, accompanied by his Apprentice and Mundi.

"Larisa. You're looking well this morning," Mundi remarked, exchanging looks with Poof.

"Thank you. I feel wonderful."

Uli, this is Lady Larisa Koth, Poof said to both of them. Larisa, this is my Padawan, Uli Soleym.

"Hello," answered the serious-looking, young Twi'lek girl.

"Hi." Lady Koth. I like the sound of that, she thought. "I was just on my way to the garden."

Mundi nodded politely. "We won't keep you, then."

"Thank you." Larisa bowed, then headed down the hallway, humming to herself.

Thank the Force he's not up a tree again, she thought, spotting Rialth underneath a large bush, looking like he was in no mood to move anytime soon. Instead of trying to drag him out, she left the fruit next to the bush and went in to see Master Windu.

"Come in," he called out when she knocked on the door.

Larisa stepped inside and closed the door. "I need to talk to you."

"About what?" Windu asked, turning off a holocron.

"Well... I want you to not send Eeth away again."

Larisa started to fidget when he just sat there.

"You do realize that a Jedi's first duty is to protect the Republic."

"Yes, but I don't see what difference one more would make."

"One more? Eeth is a member of the Council, and it is our responsibility to lead the Jedi Order."

"I know that, but..."

"But nothing. Your request is denied," he said curtly.

"Oh, damn it!" Frustrated, Larisa stamped her foot and hunched over.

Larisa? Eeth asked. Are you all right?

Yes, I'm fine, she quickly assured him.

"What have you done to yourself now?" Windu left his desk and helped her to a chair.

"Nothing! The baby just kicked, that's all." She took a deep breath and looked up at him. "What about Eeth?"

"You're not going to give up, are you?" he asked, exasperated.


"Very well, I will keep him at the Temple for now," he agreed. "But if the situation deteriorates further I'll have no choice but to send him back into battle, along with more Jedi"

"It won't come to that, will it? I heard that the Republic Army was winning."

"I don't know. Right now things are at a stand-still," he told her. "The Mandalorians have a firm hold on several planets, and we're waiting to see which direction they go next."

"Oh. Well, I'll stop bothering you now."

"You're not a bother. Not much, anyway," Windu allowed. "You'd better go now. It's almost time for the noon meal."

"Oh! Right. Thank you." Hurrying out the door, Larisa made it to her room two minutes before lunch arrived.

Thirty minutes is plenty of time for a nap, she decided after she finished eating. She wrapped up three pieces of meat to give to Rialth later and put them away before using the fresher. Setting the chrono alarm for twenty-five minutes, she lay down on the bed and closed her eyes, sighing contentedly. Eeth was back. The baby's doing fine. Everything's going to be all right.

Turning away from the nearly completed buildings, Maul looked down at the black box he held in one hand. It was made of the same material as that tomb Bane had led them to, he was certain. It was time to go visit it.

"Sir? Lord Maul? The last generator is now in place," a droid informed him when he turned towards it.

"Good. Move everything inside and activate the shields, then have all the droids shut down," he ordered.

"Yes, Lord Maul," it said, and hurried away.

Maul glanced up at the setting sun, drawing his lightsaber before making his way through the woods to the valley, just in case he came across any animal life. And there were animals here. Nearly three months ago six droids, along with substantial amount of equipment had been damaged when left out overnight.

Fortunately, he had plenty of credits left from selling the gemstones and was able to purchase twice as many droids to make up for lost time, but he was forced to make sure everything was kept safe ever since, including the Infiltrator. He had sensed at least two kinds of predators prowling around outside his ship at night lately, neither of which he would care to meet in the dark.

He strode through the burial ground and stopped at the black crypt. There has to be a way to get inside, Maul thought, examining the outside for a door of some kind. Nothing. He started to use the Force to try to find an opening when something slammed into his face, sending him stumbling back.

Do not try that again.

Maul recovered instantly and defiantly faced the Sith Lord. He knew they were in there! Why not? They are of no use to you. Give them to us. He waited in angry silence for an answer.

Not yet, it finally said, then abruptly disappeared.

Glaring furiously at the empty space, Maul lifted one hand to the gouges on his left cheek. Those will need bacta. He gave the crypt one more hard glance before giving up and returning to the Infiltrator to tend to his wounds. As soon as this task was finished, he was going back to Coruscant.

"Come on, Rialth!" Larisa called from the garden bench. "I'm not going to go looking for you!" Looking around the bushes for a sign of her pet, she jerked back in shock when a large dark figure materialized in front of her.

Brushing aside her attempt at shielding, the Sith reached into her mind and dragged Bane to the surface. She has bonded with a Jedi.

I am aware of that complication, Bane replied. You're taking a huge risk in coming here, Lord Ragnos.

As risky as your choice of Maul is.

What has he done? Bane sat still as the encounter replayed in his mind. So he would tell Palpatine about it. This loyalty to his former Master will fade in time.

If it does not, we will destroy him, it warned before disappearing.

Unconcerned, Bane glanced at the Temple door. This bond made things more difficult. Most of the Jedi were too preoccupied to notice anything wrong, but he could sense Koth's growing concern. How to cover this lapse?

He looked down at her body. A few days would make little difference.

Gasping, Larisa came to and doubled over in pain.

Larisa? Answer me, she heard Eeth say, sounding alarmed.

Sorry, she managed once it passed. "Ooooh, that hurt!*

What's happened?

I think I'd better go to the healers now.

Now?! It's too soon!

I can't help it!

Calm yourself, he told her. I'll meet you there.

Larisa made it to an elevator and pressed a button. She pulled out her comm link, letting them know she was on her way there, then leaned against the wall and waited for the elevator to reach the healers floor.

Ciral sat her down in a chair and began examining her the moment she entered the healers room. She looked up when Ulizr came in and nodded. "When did it start?"

"Just a few minutes ago."

"I guess he's decided he doesn't want to wait any longer," Ulizr remarked casually. "Come in here and lie down," he instructed, leading the way to a large white room.

Larisa stopped by the doorway and stared at the knife on the table next to the bed. A knife that now looked enormous to her. "I can't do this!"

Ciral turned around in surprise. "What? Larisa, we've discussed this many times."

"It's a perfectly safe procedure," Ulizr added. "We'll give you a sedative, and it will all be over by the time you wake up."

"I know!" She backed away from them, tugging at her sleeves in a sudden panic. *Eeth, where are you??"

*I'll be there as soon as I can* he answered. *Just do what they tell you*

Do what they say, Larisa recited as she walked stiffly over to the bed, using a stool to get up and lay down on it.

"You need to relax," Ciral said, noticing how tense she was.

"I'm trying to!"

"I think we'll have to sedate her now," she told Ulizr.

"Give her a small amount of somniject. I'll bring the droid in."

Larisa watched Ulizr leave the room, then stared at the knife again.

Ciral covered it with a towel. "Now clear your mind. Try to think of something else," she instructed before going to one of the cupboards.

Think of something else, Larisa repeated, closing her eyes. Drawing a blank, she worked on trying to meditate instead and flinched when she felt something against her neck.

"Relax," Ciral said, pressing a button and setting the injector aside.

"What... what... was that?" she asked, losing consciousness before getting an answer.

"She's asleep?" Ulizr asked, coming back in with the droid.


He walked over to the bed and examined her. "Good." At the droid's request, he took several steps back, giving it plenty of room. *Would you wait outside?* he asked Ciral. *We wouldn't want Eeth coming in here and distracting the droid."

Yes, Master. She went back to the outer room and sat at the table. Eeth Koth came in four minutes later.

"Where is she?" he asked, looking at the various doors. They must have given Larisa some kind of drug; he could barely feel her through their bond.

"Councilor Koth," Ciral greeted, intercepting him. "You can go in as soon as they're done."

"As soon as they're done?" he repeated. "You mean it's happening right now? It's too early!"

"Only by a week. Would you care to sit down? It should be over any minute now."

"No." Eeth ignored the chair and began pacing the room, glancing at the chrono every thirty seconds. He whirled around when the door opened and the droid came out. "Well?"

"You may go in now," it uninformatively stated.

Growling at the droid in passing, Eeth went in and stopped next to the bed, where Larisa was beginning to wake.

She blinked several times to clear her vision. "Hi."

"Hi," he answered, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. "How do you feel?"

"Hnmm. Okay." Larisa glanced around the white room she was in. "Where am I?"

"You're at the healers," Ulizr answered from across the room. "Remember?"

"Where is he?" she asked, sitting up as it came back to her. "Is he all right?"

"He's perfectly fine," he assured her, walking over and placing a wrapped bundle in her arms.

"Ooohh!" Larisa gazed at the dark-haired infant, then up at Eeth. "He looks just like you," she exclaimed, smiling delightedly.

"Almost," Eeth said, smiling back as he pulled one small fist out of the baby's mouth, who responded by grabbing hold of him.

"He's got quite a grip, too," Larisa added, working to free Eeth's thumb. She grinned sleepily he shoved his fist back into his mouth.

"You can stay here a while longer and rest," Ulizr said when her eyes started to drift closed.

"No!" She held the baby closer to her when he reached for him.

Eeth looked down at her curiously. "What's the matter?"

"You can't have him!" Larisa said, glaring balefully at Ulizr.

"Would you give us a few minutes?" he asked the healer.

"Certainly." Ulizr gave her a perplexed look on his way out.

"What was that about?" Eeth asked once they were alone.

"They're not taking him away! I won't let them."

You must understand that he will be moved to the crèche with the other children. That is our tradition."

"I do." Larisa bit her lip and looked away. "When?"

"In two, maybe three months," Eeth replied. "It's not as if he'll be sent off-planet."

"And in the meantime?"

"In the meantime he'll stay in our quarters. He won't disturb anyone. All the rooms here are sound-proof."

"Good." She looked back down at the baby, now sound asleep, which was pretty tempting at the moment.

"What did they give you?"

"Sonim... Somi something."

"Somniject. Ulizr's right, you need to sleep it off."

"But we haven't named him yet."

"That can wait until later."

"All right." She handed him to Eeth, who held him in one arm and pulled the blanket up to her chin.

"We'll be here when you wake," he told her, stroking her cheek.

Larisa sighed, leaning into his touch, then lay back as he turned off the light and left the room.

"Is she all right?" Ulizr asked the moment Eeth closed the door.

"Yes, she will be," he answered. "The next classes began in about fifteen minutes, so the halls will be practically empty. Could you move her to our quarters then?"

"Of course, Councilor."

"We'll need to take a midi-chlorian count," Ciral put in, "as well as a few tests."

"Can they be done without waking him?"

"Yes, that won't be a problem," Ulizr told him. "Just set him down here."

Carefully laying the child on the square pillow set out for him, Eeth sat down in one of the chairs to wait.


Chapter 4

Take him to Korriban, Maul thought with a scowl, having to use his robe to conceal the child from prying eyes. On Coruscant there were always people about, no matter what the hour. Why not just take the brat to Sidi... Chancellor Palpatine now and be done with it? Maul came to a sudden stop at the voice inside his head.

Because they are not for him.


Yes, they. This one is only the first.

I am not going to play nursemaid to them!!

There was a short pause before Bane answered, sounding amused by his outrage. A droid will do then, until they are old enough to be trained.

By me? Maul questioned. I am not ready for an Apprentice.

You underestimate yourself, Lord Maul. I suggest you get used to having 'brats' underfoot.

How many will there be? he asked with sudden unease.

I haven't decided yet. Twenty, at least.

Twenty?!? Maul demanded, but received no further reply. Fuming, he collected his speeder and returned to his ship. Twenty of these squirming, noisy creatures? He was going to have to acquire more than one droid.

He reached the Infiltrator and ordered the droids to watch over the child while he went out to make a few purchases. The boy was still asleep when he returned, and would hopefully remain so for the duration of the trip. Just in case, though, Maul had him moved to one of the soundproofed room in the back of the ship. He did not need a screaming fit disturbing his meditation.

He waited until the droids had secured the supplies before lifting off, setting course for Korriban.

The beeping of the computer brought Maul out of his meditative trance hours later, alerting him of their arrival at Korriban. He entered the cockpit and took over the ship's controls, landing just outside the new compound.

"Bring him," he growled at the droids when they emerged from the back of the ship.

"Shall I unload the supplies, Sir?" one asked timidly.

"Yes," he snapped impatiently.

Maul strode over to the second largest building, then had to wait for the droids to catch up. Why was it that droid manufacturers could not build ones that could walk faster?

"In here," he ordered, showing them into the first empty room on the right.

"Yes, sir. Could you hold him, please, Sir?" the one timidly requested, handing the young boy to a reluctant Maul.

The droids noticed his annoyance and sought to ready the room as quickly as possible, which led to a debate about just where the small bed should go.

"Put it in the center of the room!" Maul snarled at the quarreling droids, grimacing when the boy stirred.

Startled, they answered in unison. "Yes, Sir."

Idiotic scraps of metal, Maul thought contemptuously. If there wasn't a chance of it affecting their ability to care for infants, he would have reprogrammed the pair then and there. The moment the bed was set up, he placed the child in it and deactivated the more talkative of the two droids.

"Turn it back on only if you need assistance," he told the other one.

"Yes, sir," it answered as he left the room and went outside.

An excellent choice.

Maul turned towards the Sith spirit standing behind him, the same one he had seen before. "You were in the room?"

Yes. I only allow others to see me when it suits me. The boy is strong in the Force.

"Would Bane have taken him from the Temple if he were not?" Maul asked, then realized how impertinent that sounded. "My apologies. I did not mean to offend."

Lord Bane has never had any use for supplicants.

Maul frowned, unsure what to make of that comment. Palpatine consistently employed several aides, up to a dozen at times, so that he would be free to tend to more important matters. "What do you..." he began before noticing that the Sith had vanished.

Disgruntled by its ability to come and go as it pleased, Maul boarded the Infiltrator and left the planet. There was no telling when Bane would call again, so he had best return to Coruscant immediately. Let the droid take care of that boy. That was what it was made for, after all.

The beeping of the computer brought Maul out of his meditative trance hours later, alerting him of their arrival at Korriban. He entered the cockpit and took over the ship's controls, landing just outside the new compound.

"Bring him," he growled at the droids when they emerged from the back of the ship.

"Shall I unload the supplies, Sir?" one asked timidly.

"Yes," he snapped impatiently.

Maul strode over to the second largest building, then had to wait for the droids to catch up. Why was it that droid manufacturers could not build ones that could walk faster?

"In here," he ordered, showing them into the first empty room on the right.

"Yes, sir. Could you hold him, please, Sir?" the one timidly requested, handing the young boy to a reluctant Maul.

The droids noticed his annoyance and sought to ready the room as quickly as possible, which led to a debate about just where the small bed should go.

"Put it in the center of the room!" Maul snarled at the quarreling droids, grimacing when the boy stirred.

Startled, they answered in unison. "Yes, sir."

Idiotic scraps of metal, Maul thought contemptuously. If there wasn't a chance of it affecting their ability to care for infants, he would have reprogrammed the pair then and there. The moment the bed was set up, he placed the child in it and deactivated the more talkative of the two droids.

"Turn it back on only if you need assistance," he told the other one.

"Yes, sir," it answered as he left the room and went outside.

An excellent choice.

Maul turned towards the Sith spirit standing behind him, the same one he had seen before. "You were in the room?"

Yes. I only allow others to see me when it suits me. The boy is strong in the Force.

"Would Bane have taken him from the Temple if he were not?" Maul asked, then realized how impertinent that sounded. "My apologies. I did not mean to offend."

Lord Bane has never had any use for supplicants.

Maul frowned, unsure what to make of that comment. Palpatine consistently employed several aides, up to a dozen at times, so that he would be free to tend to more important matters. "What do you..." he began before noticing that the Sith had vanished.

Disgruntled by its ability to come and go as it pleased, Maul boarded the Infiltrator and left the planet. There was no telling when Bane would call again, so he had best return to Coruscant immediately. Let the droid take care of that boy. That was what it was made for, after all.

"I've heard that the Mandalorians have been avoiding the Juvex Sector. Is that true?" Larisa asked once Depa was finished speaking with another Jedi Master on her comm link.

"Yes, it is," she replied, "but the majority of those worlds are poor, and would be of little interest to them."

"Or maybe it's because they're finally starting to run out of ships."

"There is not much chance of that happening any time soon, I'm afraid. The Mandalorians robbed several planets of their metal supplies, primarily ones used in constructing ships, and have been using clones to build them." Depa glanced at the adjoining door, hearing movement in her Padawan's room. "Let's go talk somewhere else," she suggested.

"Yes, please," Larisa agreed, eager to avoid another encounter with Zyrid. "It's about time for me to visit Vareth."

"Ah. I would like to see him again, if you don't mind my accompanying you."

"Oh, no. Not at all. Has there been any good news lately?" Larisa asked once they were inside one of the elevators.

"Yes, there is, actually. The Mandalorians have been driven from five systems, and through his contacts, Fey'zon has determined that their bases are not in the Sumitra Sector. That one contains hundreds of worlds, and was the most difficult to search in."


"Fey'zon and other Bothans have established a network of informants throughout much of the galaxy," she explained. "It's not as extensive as Adi Gallia's was, though. Her death was a great loss to our Order."

"She's the one that bounty hunter killed, wasn't she?"

"Among other Jedi," Depa answered as the elevator door opened and they stepped out. "Aurra Sing had been a problem for many years."

Larisa dug out her access card and they entered the crèche. "Good morning, Master 'nllyr."

"Good morning, Larisa. Councilor Billapa," the crèche Master responded.

"How is Vareth today?" Depa asked.

"He's doing well," 'nllyr said, getting up and leading them down a long corridor. "As a matter of fact, we expect he'll be trying to walk soon."

"Really?" Larisa exclaimed. "Could you call me when he does? I'd like to be there."


He escorted them into a room at the very end of the hallway. Larisa looked around at the various children crawling around on the floor, watched over by six other creche Masters. Vareth was sitting near a wall with a puzzle toy, tongue sticking out in concentration as he worked on getting the intricately shaped pieces in their proper places. She walked over and knelt down beside him. "Hello, honey. What have you got there?"

"Puh!" he pronounced, almost hitting her in the chin when he waved the last piece in the air.

"Puh?" Larisa smiled as he jammed it into place and grinned triumphantly. "You mean puzzle."


"All right. Pufl it is." She picked him up and stood.

Vareth noticed Depa standing there and looked around the room. "Eee?"

"Your father is away from the Temple, little one," the Councilor told him.


"Shhh." Larisa tightened her hold on him when he started squirming. "I know you miss him. So do I, but he can't be here right now."

"Eee!" he demanded again, doubling his efforts to get loose.

"Would it be possible for Eeth to come back? Just for a day or two?"

"It might," Depa replied, placing a hand on Vareth's head to calm him. "I'll ask Mace if something can be arranged, but it might take a while."

Thank you. I really appreciate it. We both do."

"You're welcome. I'll go contact him now. Enjoy your visit."

"I will," she replied, looking back down at Vareth as Depa left the crèche.

Avidly reading about the Anx species, Larisa was tempted to ignore whoever was at her door. It couldn't be Depa; the Councilor had told her that morning that it would be a few days before getting a definite answer from Master Windu. The door alarm buzzed again and she finally put the datapad down. Maybe it was Knight Mundi. He stopped by every once in a while to visit, too. She got up and opened the door. "Anakin?!"

"Yeah, it's me," he said with a tired grin. "I got back about a half an hour ago. How have you been?"

"I'm fine, but you look like you need more sleep."

"I'll get some, as soon as the noon meal begins." Anakin glanced over his shoulder. "Can I come in? I've had enough lectures lately."

"Yes, of course. What happened?"

"I crashed my ship," he said, heaving a sigh of relief as he sat down on the sofa. Even padded, those examination tables were way too hard.

"Oh, no! Are you hurt?" she asked, looking him over for any signs of injury.

"Some cuts and bruises, that's all. I've already seen a healer," Anakin told her when she hovered over him.

"Good." Larisa sat down next to him. It must not have been too bad, then. All of the less seriously injured Jedi were sent back to the Temple. It eased the burden of the healers serving with the Army. "Was Obi-Wan with you?"

"No, he's gone to look for cloning factories with Master Tiin and some of the others."

"How long is the Council going to keep you here?"

"I don't know. Until they decide to send me out again, I guess. Master Yoda told me to spend the day contemplating the virtues of diligent... something or other."

"Oh. Anyway, Councilor Mundi's letting me visit the marketplace again later this afternoon. Would you like to come with me? You can meditate tomorrow."

"Sure. When?"

"Around three," she said, getting up to answer the door again. It was another Padawan, delivering her food tray. She took it and set it down on the table, wondering when Master Ulizr was going to remember to rescind the order of having meals brought to her.

"It's noon already?" Anakin asked, getting a whiff of the food.

"Almost. Maybe you should just take a nap here," Larisa suggested when he made no attempt to get up.

"That'd be great, if it's okay with you."

"Sure, as long as you take your boots off." She turned the lights down and moved to the bedroom to eat.

"Ready to leave the Temple?" Larisa asked what seemed like seconds later.


"It's nearly three. You do still want to come with me, don't you?"

"Yeah." He quickly sat up and pulled his boots back on. "What's the bag for?"

"It's just in case I need it."

"I'm sure there'd be plenty of them at the market." Anakin squinted at her bag. Was there something already inside it?

"It's nothing that concerns you," she coldly informed him. "Are you ready?"


"Are you ready to go?"

"Sure, but I have to go get some credits first," he said, standing.

"Fine. Meet me in hangar sixteen," she directed as they left the quarters.

"I'll be there." Anakin hurried back to his room to retrieve some of the money he had hidden.

"I can't believe the prices of those things!" Anakin complained once they were outside the shop.

"This sort of thing happens during a war."

"I suppose so," he grumbled.

"Some of the people here don't seem particularly happy to see a Jedi," she remarked when another couple gave Anakin a stony look.

"I've noticed. I wonder what's going on in the Juvex Sector."

"Let's go ask the Supreme Chancellor."

"I don't think my Master or the Council would approve."

"Why not? He is the leader of the galaxy. Why would they want to avoid him?"

"I have no idea. They don't usually explain their reasons for anything."

"They don't need to know, then. Besides, how else are you going to find out how the war is going?" She tilted her head. Anakin still looked uncertain. "Well, I'm going over there. You can go back to the Temple if you like."

"All right, I'll go with you," he finally decided.

"Good." They walked down another street and caught an air taxi to the Senate building.

"Chancellor, there are two Jedi here to see you," the Republic guard informed Palpatine.

"Let them in." He dispatched messages appointing five more Governors and sat back as Doril and Skywalker walked into his office. "Miss Doril, Padawan Skywalker. This is a surprise."

"We're here to inquire about the war," she explained.

"Yes. There's been no mention of it on the news lately," Anakin added.

Palpatine glanced sharply at Bane. Or was it Doril, with this visit a strange coincidence?

It is not.

Lord Bane, he responded, looking back at Skywalker. The Jedi Padawan was oblivious to their exchange. I was wondering if you intended to keep your part of the bargain, but I didn't expect you to bring him to my door.

"How may I help you?" Palpatine asked Anakin.

"I need to know if Knight Kenobi is all right," he answered, his first concern being his Master.

"I'm afraid I don't know exactly where he is at the moment. Communications have been somewhat sporadic of late."

"Chancellor," a tall Chagrian spoke from the doorway. "It is time for the meeting with the Senate."

"Yes, yes. I'll be there in a moment," Palpatine said, waving the alien off. He rose and walked the two of them out of the office. "You were at one of these meetings once before, were you not?" he asked Anakin.

"When I first arrived on Coruscant, yes, but I don't remember much of it."

"Then perhaps you would like to attend this one."

"I don't know..." Anakin glanced over at Larisa, who nodded encouragingly.

"I'll give the Jedi pilot some excuse," she told him.

"I think you should sit in on this one. After all, your Order does serve the Senate, to some extent," Palpatine interjected.

"All right. Can Larisa come with me?"

"I'd like to, but I have an errand to attend to. Meet me by the marketplace entrance in about... two hours?" she guessed, looking at Palpatine.

"Two hours is plenty of time," he concurred.

"Okay. I'll see you later," Anakin said.

"Do enjoy it."

"I'm certain that he'll find the meeting quite enlightening," Palpatine said, a faint smile on his face as the guards escorted them to the Senate Chamber.

Seated at a bench near the entrance, Bane watched Skywalker work his way through the crowded street. He did not look pleased. "How did it go?"

"Banthas have more brains than they do!"

"That bad, was it?"

"It was worse! I swear some of them think we can just snap our fingers and the war will be over!" Anakin exclaimed, his face flushed with anger. "If they want fast results, they should go join the Army themselves."

"In most cases, I think that would prove to be more of a hindrance."

"I have never seen so many stupid, idiotic..."

Bane listened to the tirade a few more seconds before cutting him off. "Enough! Do you want someone to hear you? You know how the Jedi feel about emotional outbursts."

"You're right. I'm sorry." He sat down on the bench, taking a moment to clear his mind. "But something should be done about those Senators."

"I'm sure it will be, but it's not the Jedi's place to do it. Now it's time we returned to the Temple. I told the pilot we went to a theater. If he asks about it, simply tell him you fell asleep halfway through."

"Okay." Anakin hastily stood and followed her to the waiting shuttle.

Two weeks later

Glancing out the cockpit window again, Saesee tossed aside the book he had been reading and took the ship off autopilot. Eeth, we've reached Coruscant. How are our new additions doing?

Still sleeping. Have you notified the crèche of our arrival?

I'm doing that now. He sent a quick message, then guided his ship through the night traffic to the Jedi Temple. A group of creche Masters were in the hangar waiting for them.

"How many are there?" Master A'vedan asked.

"Nine. They were found at an orphanage."

"An orphanage?" questioned another.

"Yes, but they were well-cared for," Eeth assured her.

"All right. Let's get them settled in the creche," A'vedan ordered, leading the way up the landing ramp.

"Where are you off to now?" Eeth asked when Saesee started to follow them.

"Senator Antilles has requested transportation back to Alderaan. He won't use a Republic Cruiser," Saesee added.

"He has been extremely cautious lately," Eeth said thoughtfully. "See what you can find out on the way there."

Saesee nodded. "You'd better give Ki-Adi your report on those children now. He won't want to wait until morning."

"How well we all know that," he commented, starting towards the elevators. "He's probably waiting for it right now as we speak."

"Give Ki and Depa my regards."

"I will," Eeth answered, then took an elevator to the Councilors' floor. He turned the report over to Ki-Adi, who was, as he predicted, anticipating it, and went to his quarters a few doors down.

It took only a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness and he went to the bedroom, turning the light on low. Surprisingly enough, Larisa was still sound asleep, unaware of his presence. Eeth quietly changed out of his clothes and slipped into bed beside her, brushing his hand against her forehead and finding their bond partially blocked. She must have tried to suppress it to keep from distracting me, he thought, carefully removing the block.

"No!!" Larisa jerked upright and swung her fist at him.

Reacting instinctively, Eeth deflected the blow and held her down. "Risa! It's me. Eeth," he said when she struggled wildly.

She stilled, blinking at him in the dim light. "Eeth?"

"Yes," he answered, releasing her. "I take it you weren't given my message?"

"No. No one told me you were coming back."

"It was rather short notice. Depa and Ki-Adi are probably preoccupied managing the Temple."

"I guess so." Larisa turned over and wrapped her arms around his waist. "It doesn't matter. All that matters is that your here. I have so much to tell you. I've been helping the healers here, and..." She broke off and yawned.

"We'll talk in the morning. It's late," Eeth said, untangling her arms when she resisted and lightly brushing her face. He settled back and gazed down at her. She was rather small for a female. Too small to bear his children, as was already proven. He was going to have to be careful from now on, to avoid her conceiving again. Not that that bothered him at all; Zabraks were not known for having large families.


Larisa was looking at him questioningly. Eeth quickly banished that line of thought. "Go back to sleep," he told her, laying his hand on her forehead and using a stronger Force suggestion.

"Okay." She closed her eyes and dozed off again.

Waking before Eeth did, Larisa reflected on what she'd heard him thinking last night. Hmmm. Another baby. I'll have to give that some thought. A lot of thought, she amended, then noticed a fresh scar on Eeth's shoulder. How did that happen? He woke when she touched it. "Where did you get this?"

"Near Woostri," he answered uninformatively before rolling over onto his back. "I was told that Vareth's been asking for me."

"Yes," she said with a long-suffering sigh. "He won't take no for an answer."

"Like his mother," Eeth teased, smiling when she blushed.

Larisa recovered quickly. "Was that a complaint?" she asked, stretching and rubbing a leg against him.

He growled in response and pounced.

Mmmm. How long will you be staying this time? Larisa asked some time later.

Three days, no more. Mace was quite emphatic about it.

I can imagine. Well, we'll just have to make the most of it. We could visit Corsin, and maybe take Vareth with us. I'm sure he'd enjoy it.

Perhaps, if Depa and Ki agree.

Why wouldn't they? You'd never let anything happen to us.

True, but we shall have to ask them anyway. Eeth glanced at the pearl necklace lying on the table.

I've been wearing it every day, she told him, sighing when his arms tightened around her.

It's almost time for the morning meal, he said a few minutes later, lifting her off him. We'll visit our son afterwards.

"Oh! There's something I've got to show you." Larisa jumped out of bed and ran over to the table. "He started walking a few days ago."

"He did?" Eeth sat up as she grabbed the holopad and a datachip from the table.

"Uh-huh. I asked the creche Master to record it."

She climbed back into bed, inserted the chip into the holopad and turned it on. Together they watched Vareth take three wobbling steps before falling over.

"He's usually very quiet," Larisa assured him when Vareth began shrieking at the top of his lungs at the indignity of it all before being calmed by one of the creche Masters. They were interrupted by the door alarm. "Who can that be?"

"Are your meals still brought to you?"

"Oh, yeah." She got back up to go answer it.



You might want to put something on first.

Agh! Thanks!

Eeth chuckled at how flustered she sounded and replayed Vareth's first steps.

Ki-Adi-Mundi listened patiently to the request, then sat back in his conference chair, a less-than-promising expression on his face.

"It could wait until later, if you need Eeth here," Larisa volunteered when he remained silent.

"It's not that he's needed, precisely, it's..."

"It's that you'd like to go on a vacation as well," Depa discerned.

"We could all use a little time to ourselves once in a while," he said primly.

"Why not visit Cerea, then? I'll look after your Padawan."

Mundi shook his head reluctantly. "I can't ask you to look after everything by yourself."

"Only for a little while. It's time Master Yoda returned to the Temple. He's been away long enough the past year."

"If he cannot, you could ask Plo. He's been off-planet quite often lately as well." Mundi looked back at Larisa, who waited anxiously. "You may go to Corsin."

"A welcome change, I suspect, from this world," Depa added.

"Well, yes, but Coruscant's not so bad."

"Perhaps not for visitors, but it can be stifling to those who live here."

"You haven't been off-planet very often, have you?" Ki-Adi asked.

"Just three times, I think."

"I see." He paused to consult a datacube. "There's a transport leaving for Dandalas in the morning that can take you. Corsin's not too far out of the way."

"Great! Thank you."

"We should start sending her out again," Mundi stated after Larisa left to tell Eeth the news.

"I know, but that's not possible right now. So many of our healers are serving in the army now that there are barely enough here to take care of the Initiates. We can't very well stop their training."

"Hmm. The only alternative I can think of would be an increase in the production of bacta and medical droids."

"Which only the Supreme Chancellor can order." Depa pushed back her chair and stood up. "I'll speak to him about it. Are you still using that tracker?"

"Yes, but not for much longer. Taolisss should be over it in another three months or so," Mundi told her.

"That's good to hear. Let me know when you're leaving; I'll stop by for the tracker."

"I will."

Depa nodded to him and left the conference room, going directly to the Council Chamber.

Might as well start with the more difficult one, she decided, turning on the holopad to contact Yoda.

"So, where would you like to go?" Eeth asked once Larisa was finished taking deep breaths of fresh air.

"Oh, I don't know. A zoo, maybe." She lifted Vareth higher and pointed at a nearby tree. "See them? Those are birds."


"Close enough. Is there a zoo here?" she asked Eeth.

"Yes, but it's a large one, so we'd better go there now," turning around when a ground transport stopped a few yards away from them. "There's our transport."

"Is it very far from here?" Larisa asked once they were inside the small shuttle.

"A few miles. We'll be there soon." Eeth watched as she pointed out the occasional animal to Vareth as they left the landing pad and sped through the countryside.

She stopped and stared out the window at the blue-fenced enclosure they entered. "This is big."

"There are many species kept here."

"Wonderful! I think Vareth's tired of looking at the same old holograms." The shuttle stopped next to a line of speeders and Eeth helped her out. She looked around the deserted entrance. There was no sign of any attendants. Or any other visitors, for that matter.

"What do we do now?"

"The speeders are programmed to take visitors through the zoo."

"So all we have to do is get in?"

"Basically," he said, opening the door for her. She eyed it doubtfully a moment before getting in and setting Vareth on her lap. Eeth sat in the other seat, pressed a button and the speeder began moving slowly down a dirt path.

"Look, Vareth. By the river." Larisa turned him so he could see the six-legged animals.

Vareth leaned forward and pointed at them. "Up!"

"I don't think anyone's allowed to ride them."

"Up!" he repeated, looking back at Eeth.

"No. All the animals here are wild," Eeth explained.

"See the lizard under that tree?" Larisa asked, distracting him from throwing a tantrum. "Isn't he huge?"

Vareth nodded, wide-eyed.

"It's all right. They can't hurt us. There's some more birds," she pointed out, turning him towards the other side of the speeder. "I've seen a statue of one of them, but it had three wings."

"The dwuur. The last few to survive on Coruscant had been mutated from the pollution," Eeth explained.

"Ugh. Those poor things."

"Ugh!" Vareth echoed.

"Exactly," she said, smiling down at him before looking at the empty path ahead of them. "Where is everybody?"

"Let's see." Eeth pulled a guidebook out of a small compartment. "There are a few lectures scheduled today."

"Did you want to go to them?" Larisa asked when he looked thoughtfully down at the book.

"It could provide a source of information. The Senators have not been very forthcoming. If you don't mind, that is."

"No, but I don't know how long Vareth will stay awake.

"It shouldn't take long." He pushed another button and the speeder changed direction.

"Okay, hon, we're going to listen to some boring people talk for hours," Larisa told Vareth, grinning at the look Eeth gave her. They came to a stop next to one of the large buildings and she got out. "It's made of wood! I haven't seen one this in a long time."

"It carries sound better than most metals do, and they wanted to use a more 'natural-looking' material."

"Huh. Which one do you want to try first?"

That one," he said, choosing the second one on their right and they walked over and went inside.

It's a lot more crowded than I thought it'd be, Larisa remarked, looking around for an empty seat. I guess we'll just have to stand here.

That won't be necessary, Eeth decided after studying the roomful of people. I don't sense anything useful here.

Nothing?" she asked once they were back outside.

"No, they were focused on the speaker."

"Where do you think they're going?"

He glanced at the people filing out of the next building and down the walkway. "Meals are being served in the pavilion."

"Some of them look like they're from Alderaan."

"Do they?" Eeth looked back at them with interest.

"Uh-huh. I think we should go with them; we need to eat too, after all."

"We do indeed," he agreed, and they joined the end of the line.

Larisa stopped a minute later when Vareth started squirming.

"Would you like me to carry him?"

She frowned when Vareth immediately reached for him and adjusted her grip. "No, that's okay. How come he always wants you to hold him?"

"Perhaps because we both have horns," Eeth said mildly.

"Well, I'm not going to even try to do something about that," Larisa declared, looking down at the top of Vareth's head where two tiny horns were just beginning to grow in. "Do they still itch?"


"His Basic is improving," Eeth observed as they started down the street again.

"Oh, I know. The creche Master said that he's been practicing every day. And here we are." They turned a corner and reached a cleared space fill with over a dozen benches, scattered underneath a tent-like structure. They sat down at one of the outer benches and Larisa noticed a group of young women standing several feet away looking back at them. "They're staring at us."

"Just curious, I think," he answered, watching them talk amongst themselves before two of them walked over.

"Aren't you a Jedi?" asked the one in front. "I thought they were all out fighting."

"He was. He just got back yesterday," Larisa informed her.


"So, you're from Alderaan?" she inquired when their leader, a blonde, didn't ask about the war.

"Yes. Our fathers dragged us here. Mine works for the Minister of Education." She pointed towards a grey-haired man seated at another bench.

"Is he by chance acquainted with King Organa?" asked Eeth.

She nodded. "They both attended Aldera University. It's the same one we have to go to."

Go ahead and talk to him, Larisa said when he looked over at the bench again. I'll wait here.

Thank you. "If you would excuse me," he said to the others.

"Of course." They both waited until after he'd gotten up and walked away before sitting down. "Are you one too? You're dressed just like him."

"Except her clothes are green," pointed out the younger one, a brunette.

"It's what the healers wear," she explained.

"Is that why you're taking care of his son? Because he's ill?" she asked, gesturing to Vareth and pulling her hand away when he tried to grab it.

"He's our son, actually, and he's just fine. His name is Vareth." Larisa stiffened when her mouth dropped open. Not again!

"You and that Zabrak??" the blonde asked, looking dumbfounded.

"Yes. Is that a problem?" Larisa asked defensively.

"I didn't mean... that is, I..." She stopped and shook her head. "How do you sleep at night?"

"I-I... It did... um... take a little... getting used to," Larisa stammered, her cheeks burning.

Are they upsetting you? Eeth asked.

No, no. I'm okay, she hastily assured him. "You're familiar with Zabraks?"

"A little. One of my brothers is studying Outer Rim species."

"What did you mean? Get used to what?" the brunette asked, giving them a puzzled look.



"Are you two related?" Larisa interrupted. "My name's Larisa, by the way."

"We're cousins. I'm Sojelle, and this is Varenia."

"Who no one tells anything. Hello."


"We'd better get back to our table. They'll be serving lunch soon," Sojelle said, looking over her shoulder. "It was nice meeting you."

"You, too," Larisa replied, relieved that that conversation was over. Except now all she could think of was getting back to their quarters at the Temple.

You wish to leave now? Eeth sounded perplexed.

Not yet. I just need a cold shower. Get a hold of yourself! She closed her eyes a moment to clear her mind. *How's it going?*

Rather slowly, I'm afraid. He's still talking about extinct trees.

Larisa sighed and sat back, waiting for one of the food serves to reach her table. "And could I get some of that uncooked for him?" she asked after picking something out from the limited menu.

"I'm sure something can be arranged."

"Thank you." She looked over at Eeth again. He was still deep in conversation with Sojelle's father. Nothing to do now but wait for the food, but afterwards we're going to finish the zoo tour, Larisa decided, determined.

"Is he still asleep?" Eeth asked.


"We're almost at Coruscant."

"Yes." She continued to stare out the window of the public transport they were on.

Still angry. Well, she'll get over it. Eeth checked his chrono again. A few more minutes and they'd be back in the Temple where Depa would be waiting, if she received his message.

Larisa remained silent as the ship landed and they disembarked. Not only was Depa in the hangar, but so were Yoda and Padawan Skywalker, both with distinctly stubborn expressions on their faces. He stayed a few  feet back while they conversed.

"A Padawan's place is with his Master," Skywalker insisted. "Isn't that what we're always told?"

"That is true, in most cases," Depa patiently told him, "but you're simply not ready for that sort of mission.

"Too impulsive you are," Yoda added, pointing his wooden cane at Anakin.

"But you won't reassign me to Master Rancisis, either. You let her leave the Temple," Anakin stated, catching a glimpse of Larisa standing behind Eeth. She stared at Yoda for a second before turning her back to them.

That was weird, the way her eyes started to turn dark. Must be my imagination, he concluded. Nobody else noticed it.

"These are two entirely different circumstances, Padawan," Depa told him patiently. "But we will discuss it at our next Council meeting. Now go inside."

And when will that happen? "Yes, Master Billapa." Frustrated, Anakin gave them a perfunctory bow before obeying.

"How was your excursion?" Depa asked.

"Fine. I'd better take him back to the crèche." Larisa nodded to her and headed towards the elevators.

Depa frowned after her. "Problem?" she asked Eeth.

"Nothing I can't handle."

"Too permissive you are," Yoda said disapprovingly.

"It is our custom to make allowances when we can," Depa answered with a cool glance.

"Hmmpphh. Better used, that time could have been."

"As a matter of fact, I did learn something interesting. King Organa is ordering two more fleets into battle."

"Two? That would be more than half of Alderaan's army."

"There's more. He intends to accompany them."

"Unwise that decision is. Advise him against it I will," Yoda stated, and stomped off.

"First Amidala, now Bail. I do hope Yoda can talk the King out of it," Depa said, concerned. "If this continues, the Army will have to deal with incompetent leaders trying to give orders."

"Unless the Chancellor orders them to remain on their planets," Eeth suggested.

"He does not have the authority to do that, and quite frankly, I don't think he ever should."

"Yes, I see your point. Master Yoda seemed to be in a rather unpleasant mood," he observed.

"He was less than enthusiastic about returning to the Temple. He's certain that there is still at least one more Sith out there somewhere, and has spent most of his time trying to find it."

"If he feels that strongly about it, we should have another Councilor take his place here."

"Except that he has other responsibilities. Ones that cannot be ignored. No, I shall ask Saesee to take over the search," Depa decided.

"So long as Yoda has no objections. He does sometimes think he can do everything himself."

Eeth chatted with her a few minutes longer before heading up to his quarters. Larisa was lying on the sofa, and glowered at him the moment he stepped through the door.

"You're still upset about earlier? You did agree to it," he reminded her.

"I didn't know it would take that long! We sat through three lectures! Can't you just forget you're a Jedi, just for a little while?"

"No. Now come to bed. It's late."

"I think I'd rather sleep here tonight."

"No, you are not," Eeth stated, and went into the fresher room.

Larisa crossed her arms and looked at the wall. He can't make me.

We'll see.

Larisa looked nervously at the closed door, wondering what he intended, before grabbing hold of the cushion underneath her, determined to stay right where she was. He came out of the fresher a couple minutes later.

Stubborn as ever, Eeth thought, exasperated. He walked over to the sofa and scooped her and the cushion up.

"Hey!! Put me down!" she demanded, slapping at his arms as he carried her into the bedroom.

"I told you, you were not sleeping out there." He pulled the cushion out of her hands and sat her down on the bed. Larisa stared stonily at the floor and he grasped her chin, tilting her face up.

"Why don't you..." She shut up when his hands encircled her neck.

"Releasing our anger into the Force is one of the first things we learn as Initiates," Eeth remarked, his thumb resting against her pulse.

"Maybe I like being angry," she retorted, staring into his eyes.

"Somehow I don't think so," Eeth laughed, removing his hands. *Let it go*

Larisa lowered her gaze. He was leaving the day after tomorrow: Why spend the rest of their time together fighting?

She smiled up at him and lay back.

Gone again, Larisa thought two days later, watching the shuttle finally take off after a lengthy delay before turning to go back inside. Next time I'll ask Depa if I can go with him. One of the elevator doors opened and Anakin came out.

"Anakin. Hi. What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to meet Obi-Wan."

"He's coming back?"

"Yeah. I would have told you yesterday, but you were kind of... busy. Anyway, they found another of the Mandalorian bases."

"So there's only one left," she said. "That's good news."

"Yeah, but now there'll probably be an increase in the production of clones. Those Mandis might even build more facilities on some of their bigger ships."


"That's what we've been calling them." Anakin looked past her as a ship came in to land. "There's his ship now."

Larisa waited as the landing ramp lowered and Obi-Wan appeared, looking very tired.

"Master," Anakin greeted with a dignified bow.

"Hello," Larisa added.

"Padawan." Obi-Wan gave her the briefest of nods. "Lady Koth."

She took a step back at the frigid tone. Waiting to talk to him had not been a good idea. "Knight Kenobi. The two of you must have a lot of catching up to do."

"Yes, we do."

"I'll talk to you later," Anakin told her, anxious to avoid a fight.

"Fine." She lifted her chin and walked off.


"Have you kept up with lightsaber practice?" Obi-Wan asked, waiting until Larisa was gone before heading towards the elevators.

Anakin sighed and followed. "Yes, Master. Do you know how much longer we'll be kept here?"

"We'll probably be assigned to another mission in about a week. I thought that would please you," he added when Anakin grinned.

"Are we going to serve Master Rancisis again? I haven't seen Padme in a long time."

Obi-Wan grimaced. He had hoped that his Padawan's infatuation would have faded by now. If this continues, he may have to ask Master Billapa to speak to Anakin. "We will go wherever the Council tells us to."

"Yes, Master. Of course." Discouraged, Anakin said no more on the way to their quarters. Damn. The way his luck was going lately, the Council was liable to send them to the Outer Rim. Maybe Chancellor Palpatine would be willing to help.

"Tell Governor Urdoma that the troops he requested are on their way," Palpatine told his aide, standing and walking over to the window. There was that odd sensation again, and now that he was no longer preoccupied, he could try to find the source of it.

He entered the hidden room and sat down, closing his eyes as he opened himself to the Force. They opened an instant later, turning almost yellow with rage. How dare he!

Launching himself out of the chair, Palpatine left the hidden room and stormed out of his office. "If anyone tries to contact me, tell them that I am in a meeting and can't be interrupted," he snapped at the guard outside.

"Yes, Chancellor," he replied, getting out of the way.

Palpatine strode through the Senate building, barely acknowledging the greetings he received as he anticipated the confrontation with his former Apprentice.

Standing yet again in the doorway of the vacant Embassy building, Maul looked in the direction of the nearby Jedi Temple. Not a word from Lord Bane in nearly a week, then a curt order to meet here. Where in the Seven Hells was she?

He closed the door and resumed pacing the lobby, stopping a few minutes later when the door opened. It was about time!

"I couldn't agree more."

Maul turned to see Palpatine standing there, dressed in his official robes. He started to kneel automatically before stopping himself.

Palpatine smiled mockingly. "I made it clear that I would not tolerate your presence."

"I came here to meet Lord Bane."

"Oh?" He made a show of looking around. "I don't see anyone else here. Perhaps Bane has found someone more worthy than you, as I did."

"She ordered me here!" Maul insisted, standing his ground.

"Why?" So, he has developed a rebellious streak these last few months, Palpatine thought when Maul did not answer. "Tell me why and I may spare your life."


So be it. Wasting no more time, he attacked, streams of energy leaping from his fingertips. A glorious feeling, having this much power flowing through him. It was almost addictive.

Staggered by the Force lightning, Maul tried to use his anger to counter the pain, remember how he had been tossed aside like so much garbage. He drew his lightsaber, then let it drop and sank to his knees. What point was there in resisting?

Palpatine paused and eyed Maul warily, suspecting a trick. It was not like him to give up so quickly.

"That will be quite enough, I think," said another voice from the doorway.

"So you have come," he said, calmly backing away from his former Apprentice. "Just how long were you standing there?"

"I told you I would not tolerate your interference," Bane replied, looking at Maul with extreme annoyance.

She's more angry with him? Palpatine wondered, baffled. "You agreed that he would be kept far away from here."

"I can hardly travel to the other side of this planet. Besides, you sought him out. How long before people start wondering where you are?"

"Find another place to meet," he reiterated.

"A word of advice, Chancellor," she said when he passed by on his way out. "If Maul dies, then so does your trophy Apprentice, Skywalker."

"Understood." Palpatine punched the door controls and stalked out.

"Were you going to just lie there and let him kill you?"

Maul raised his head, eyes bright yellow with a sudden rage. "As opposed to looking after half a dozen children? They leak more than those droids do!"

"I do recall that the climate tends to damage certain metals over time. You're still relying on droids?"

"You told me to purchase them!"

"I also expect you to come up with your own solution to any problem that might arise," Bane said, keeping a tight rein on his temper. A lifetime of servitude was not so easily erased. And that one had been particularly brutal in his idea of how to train a Sith Lord. "Have you ever been on a mission and lost contact with your Master?"

"Once, years ago." Maul tensed at the memory. "He had not been pleased."

And you? How did you feel about being free of him, even if it was only temporary?"

He picked up his lightsaber and stood. "I don't understand what you mean."

"No, I suppose not. The only times you were ever truly happy were when you were fighting the Jedi." She took the child out of the bag and handed her to him. "Take this one to Korriban, and when you return I'll find another Jedi for you to kill." That, predictably, got his attention.

"Which one? Windu?" Maul asked, eager for a rematch with the Councilor.

"Perhaps. Now I must get back to the Temple."

"Yes, Master," he replied, already thinking ahead to the battle as they left the Embassy in two different directions.

So he is capable of civility, Bane mused on the way back to the Jedi Temple. I had begun to wonder. And he was going to have to spend time with those children eventually, otherwise they'll be all the harder to train. It will be even more interesting once they learn to walk. Pity I won't be there to witness the chaos that will result in.

Curiously enough, Skywalker was waiting in the hangar when the shuttle landed. "Anakin. Are you going somewhere?"

"No, but I saw you leave earlier. Where did you go?"

Nowhere you'd find interesting, I'm sure."

"Really? I'd noticed that there was something in your bag, but it looks like it's gone now."

He wants something from me, Bane sensed. Interesting. "So?"

Anakin hesitated before plunging ahead. "So if you don't want me to tell Master Billapa about it, you'll do me a little favor."

"Is that so? Tell me, do you make a habit of blackmailing your friends?"

"I'm sorry!" Anakin immediately apologized, upset with himself. "I don't know what else to do."

"About what?"

"I've been stuck here for weeks with nothing to do but practice, and now Obi-Wan and I will probably be sent to the other side of the galaxy. Where I'll never see Padme again."

"And that's important to you? Seeing Padme?"

"More than anything," he avowed as they entered one of the elevators. "But you already know that."

"Of course. How do you propose I help you?"

"Well, could you convince them to let me come with you the next time you go out? Then I can ask the Supreme Chancellor to have us sent back to the Sumatra Sector. But don't mention it to Obi-Wan. He'd ask too many questions. He always does."

"You've planned this rather well. Agreed."

"Thanks! I knew you'd understand!" He hugged her, then stepped back at her expression. "Are you feeling all right?"

"A little fatigued, that's all. I'll be leaving the Temple again in three days. Be ready."

"Okay, and you should go lie down and rest for a while," Anakin advised before getting off on his floor.

Keeping track of the time, Bane removed the blankets and toys from the creche bed and dropped them into the recycle unit. He picked up the bag and went back into the main room, sitting down at the computer to erase the last trace of the boy he had chosen.

That done, he stood and walked out of the creche. Skywalker was probably already in the hangar, waiting impatiently. Sensing someone watching, Bane turned around and looked at the young Gorezh Padawan standing at the other end of the hallway.

"Welcome back, Ki," Depa warmly greeted her friend.

"Depa. It's good to see you again. I must apologize again for being away so long."

"That's perfectly all right; I know how much you missed your home. Do come in," she invited, stepping aside to let him into her quarters.

"How are things here?"

"Taoliss is fine, and Yoda is the same as ever. Now I want to hear all about your trip. We can talk about Temple business later."

"If you insist," Mundi said, smiling when Depa practically ordered him to take a seat at her table. He waited until she'd poured both of them a glass of cold juice before beginning.

"... then I had to change shuttles again." He paused to take another sip of juice.

"Three times? That's must have been very trying for you. Why didn't you contact me? One of our ships could have picked you up."

"Well, I thought since I'd come so far already, I might as well push on. It was quite an experience."

"I should say so. Where were all the competent pilots?"

"Unavailable, or so I was told. I must say, many of the people I spoke to were rude about it."

"Preoccupied with the war," Depa concluded.

"That may be the reason," he said uncertainly. "Still, I would have thought they'd have made an effort when talking to a Jedi."

"Once it's over, things will return to normal, or as close to normal as can be."

"I hope that's true," Ki-Adi muttered, setting his cup down on the table. "I'd better let my Padawan know I've returned. Where is he, by the way?"

"Let's see." Depa rose and turned on the tracking device. "He's in the library. You've had quite a day. Why don't you go to your room and I'll tell him you're back?"

"An excellent idea. Thank you."

"You're very welcome." She walked him to his door before going in search of Taoliss.

At last, Ki-Adi thought upon entering his quarters. Cerea may have been his birthplace, but he would always think of the Temple as his home.

The first thing he did was take a quick shower and change into a fresh set of clothes, minus the robe and outer tunics. He then sat down on the sofa, turned on the holovid, and waited for his Apprentice to show up.

Where is that boy? he wondered twenty-five minutes later. Could he still be upset about staying behind? No, more likely Taoliss had already left by the time Depa reached the library.

The door alarm buzzed a few minutes later and Ki-Adi swiftly answered it. Depa was standing there, alone, as he expected.

"Ki," she began, haltingly. "I..."

"You couldn't find him," he surmised. "Don't worry.

He'll turn up."

"No. No, he was there."

"What's happened?" he asked, concerned by the distraught look on her face. "Has he injured himself?"

"Oh, Ki. I'm so sorry. Taoliss is dead."

"WHAT?" Ki-Adi gaped at her. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"I wish it were," Depa said, twisting the sleeve of her robe in agitation. "I found him in one of the study rooms and called a healer, but there was nothing that could be done. Please, come sit down," she urged when he swayed on his feet.

"How could this happen?" he asked, in a stunned daze as she guided him over to the sofa. "How?"

"We don't know yet; there was no sign of injury or illness. The healers are examining him now."

"I should be there."

"I'll let you know when you wake," she decided, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Sleep now."

Ki-Adi objected, but was too emotionally drained to offer much resistance to the Force-suggestion. The last thing he heard was Depa summoning a healer.

"Lie still, Councilor," the healer urged when he struggled to sit up. "You've had a terrible shock."

"Terrible doesn't begin to describe it. Now leave me be!" Ki-Adi demanded.

"It's all right, Daish'r," Depa said, coming out of the kitchen area. "I'll look after him."

"I would prefer to be alone," Mundi stated after the healer had left.

"I know you would," she replied, pulling a chair away from the table and sitting down. "Blaming yourself is a perfectly natural reaction, but..."

"There is no 'but' about it. This would not have happened if he had had a different Master."

"You mean if he had had a Master that he could have bonded with? I'm afraid that is not true. According to the healers' report, his heart simply stopped. They found no explanation for it."

"He could have been saved if he had been Apprenticed to a healer," Ki-Adi mourned.

"Healers rarely take Padawans that haven't the same talent," she reminded him. "And even then his Master would have been with him at that very second. He went very quickly, Ki. Very painlessly."

"And very senselessly! I know, I know. It was the will of the Force and we must accept it," he continued when she tried to reply. "I've said that to dozens of others."

"Nothing makes it any easier," Depa said sympathetically. "But that doesn't mean we cannot mourn his passing. Would you rather I made the arrangements?"

"No, I'll do it. I just need some time. An hour."

"Of course. Will you be all right alone?"

"Yes, go ahead. Yoda's probably already scheduled a shuttle for himself."

"He would not leave until after the funeral," Depa contended.

"I know." He leaned back and closed his eyes. "This evening will be soon enough. The tenth hour."

"I've baked some druyza pies, in case you're hungry."

"Thank you. I am."

Depa left then, knowing that there was little more she could do for him. Unless.... I could ask another Councilor to come back and relieve Ki of his Temple duties. But no, Ki would want to keep busy, and might take it as an implication he was unfit to lead and resent it. All he really needed now was time to recover from this horrible loss.

Such a tragedy, she thought. And at his advanced age, it was very unlikely Ki-Adi would take another Padawan. Shaking her head sadly, Depa went to speak to Yoda about the search for the Sith.

The next day

"It worked!"

Startled, Larisa jumped and dropped a piece of meat on Rialth's head. She apologized to him and turned around. "What worked?"

"Asking Chancellor Palpatine for help, of course. He's petitioned the Council to have more Jedi sent into battle, us included."

"But weren't you almost killed the last time?"

"Yeah, well, I'll be more careful this time. I gotta run and tell Obi-Wan the good news."

I doubt he'd call it good news, Larisa thought, watching him rush off. She fed the rest of the scraps of food to Rialth and went back inside. Halfway to her quarters, she stopped the elevator and pushed a different button, realizing she'd forgotten to ask Anakin when he was leaving.

It wasn't long at all before Anakin answered the door, looking like he'd just received a severe lecture. "He wasn't happy about it," she concluded.

"It's not that," he said, glancing nervously over his shoulder. "I should have mentioned it before now."

"Mentioned what?"

"Obi-Wan doesn't want me to see you anymore," admitted Anakin.

"He actually said that?" she demanded, incensed.

"Yeah. I guess he thinks you're a bad influence or something."

"Oh, he does, does he?" Larisa huffed and stomped over to Obi-Wan's door. "If you hear any yelling, would you please ignore it?"

"Um, sure. I'll get some music playing," Anakin said, uncertain. Well, so long as they don't get too loud, he amended, closing his door.

Still fuming, Larisa pressed the button and didn't let up until the door opened. "What the hell is your problem? How dare you order Anakin to stay away from me!"

"I'm surprised he didn't tell you sooner," Obi-Wan said in reply. "Would you please keep your voice down?"

"Don't tell me what to do!" she snapped, trying to control her temper. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

"Anakin's Master, that's who," he shot back, "and I'll decide who he keeps company with."

"He's my friend, you self-righteous pig!"

"Not any more."

Oh, the hell with it! she thought, and swung her fist at him.

"Stop it!" Obi-Wan ordered, grabbing her arm and dragging her into his room. "I might have known you'd make a spectacle of yourself."

"It's what I'm good at, now let go of me!"

"You haven't changed at all, have you?" he asked with an odd smile. "Remember the time someone almost walked in on us in the practice room?"

Do I ever! she thought as that, and so many other moments, came back to her. Why now, after all this time? "I didn't come here to reminisce!"

"No, you came here to punch me in the face," Obi-Wan said drolly.

"You deserve it!" Larisa snapped in an attempt to stay angry.

"I know. I should be beaten with a vibrohammer."

"Yes! You're arrogant, and overbearing, and insufferable, and..."

"...and I've missed you," he finished, pulling her closer. "Why did you do it? Why him?"

"I... I don't know," she said, suddenly feeling as if she were neck-deep in quicksand. "I don't understand any of this."

"I knew it. Listen to me," he said determinedly. "No one can force you to stay with Master Koth. Just admit that it was all a mistake and you'll be free."

"A mistake," she repeated, confused. What is the matter with me? Why am I just standing here?

"Yes, a mistake. You don't belong with him," Obi-Wan insisted.

"I don't..." Larisa forgot what she was trying to say when he kissed her. It was even better than she remembered, and she promptly kissed him back, her arms going around him.

They'd moved onto the sofa, Larisa underneath him, when she reached up with one hand and grasped her necklace. Those pearls were a gift, she recalled with a jolt. From Eeth. "Stop it! Get off me!"

"What the... What's wrong with you?" Obi-Wan angrily demanded as he let her up.

"Leave me alone!"

Frustrated, he grabbed her by the shoulders. "Stop toying with me, damn it!"

"I am not!" she shrieked. "Get your hands off me!"

"Go ahead!" Obi-Wan yelled back, pushing her away. "Keep pretending you're the victim! You're an expert at that! Now get out!"

Larisa turned and fled the room.

"Damn, damn, damn!" Obi-Wan cursed, knocking an empty water pitcher to the floor with a loud crash. Great! Now Anakin was bound to come in to see what was going on. He picked up his robe and was out the door before that could happen.

Does she think I can be turned on and off like one of her damned data pads, he wondered, walking quickly through the Temple hallways. This was going to end one way or another. It came as no surprise when he found himself at Master Billapa's door.

"Obi-Wan," Depa greeted with a curious frown. "Is something troubling you?"

"I really don't want to talk about it, thank you. I came here to request a permanent post, somewhere far away from Coruscant."

Depa raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You wish to train Anakin outside the Temple?"

"Once we're no longer needed here, yes. I have a strong feeling that this war will end soon, and I know that other Knights and Padawans have settled on other worlds," Obi-Wan pointed out as they both sat down at the table.

"That is true, but I sense that Larisa has something to do with your decision somehow," Depa said, noticing a scratch on his neck. "Is that how you were injured?"

"What?" He lightly touched the wound. "Oh. I didn't even notice."

"So it was Larisa. What happened?"

"I have no idea," Obi-Wan said, a note of bewildered frustration in his voice. "All I know is that I keep losing my head every time we're alone together. That's why I have to leave."

I should have realized this would not be so easily resolved, Depa thought ruefully. "Why don't you start at the beginning? How was it that the two of you ended up alone in the first place?"

"I asked Anakin not to see her anymore," Obi-Wan answered, looking away. "I told him that she wasn't a proper influence. He, of course, went and told her."

"Improper? Larisa has been overly emotional at times, but she's learned better self-control. She never deliberately tried to influence anyone. What were you trying to accomplish? Force Anakin to chose between his Master and his friend?"

"I suppose I was," he said defensively.

"No, I don't think so. You would never do something so foolish," Depa said thoughtfully. "You knew that Anakin would tell her what you said. Perhaps that was what you were hoping for; that she would confront you about it personally."

"You think I wanted this to happen?"

The beeping of Depa's comm link interrupted them just then, and she rose to turn on the recorder, taking advantage of those few seconds to come up with a solution to this dilemma. There was one that came to mind that might be best for all involved.

"Running away is not the answer. You obviously still have feelings towards her, and I would guess that she still has some for you. What if something could be worked out?"

"Worked out? As in between the three of us?" Obi-Wan asked, astonished.

"It's not unheard of," she said, sitting back down. "And I can tell you that the partners are quite satisfied."

"I don't doubt that," Obi-Wan muttered, shaking his head. "No, I couldn't."

"Most would find it a difficult prospect at best," Depa allowed, "but I think you should seriously consider this alternative."

"If you say so," he said, sounding extremely doubtful. "Do those others actually live together?"

"Some do, but most of them preferred connecting rooms."

This has to be one of the strangest proposals I've ever had, Obi-Wan thought, but coming from a Councilor... He stood, his mind on another option.

"Thank you, Master Billapa. I will think about it."

"That's all I am asking, Obi-Wan. In the meantime, you and Anakin need to pack. You may want to have a little talk with him while you're at it."

"I will. Goodbye, Master."

What a tangle-puzzle this has turned into. Depa sighed and picked up her comm link, playing back the message. It was from one of the creche Masters, letting her know that Larisa had made an unscheduled visit and was allowed in. Good. She was probably still there, then.

Depa turned the lights down low and headed to the crèche to talk to Larisa.

She was directed to the visitors room, where Larisa sat in one of the chairs holding Vareth. For a moment she thought both were asleep, then Larisa opened her eyes.

"Hello, Larisa. Do you mind if I join you?"


Not a very positive sign. Depa sat in the chair across from her. "Obi-Wan stopped by my quarters a few minutes ago."

"Please!" Larisa cried out, still shaken by what almost happened, then lowered her voice, not wanting to wake Vareth. "I don't want to talk about him. I never want to see him again."

"Well, you won't have to if his request is granted."

"What request?" Not that I'm the least bit interested!

He asked for a permanent assignment to another planet after the war is over."

"He did?" Larisa frowned, unsure how she felt about that news. "Anakin would have to go, too, wouldn't he?"

"Yes, but I expect he'll return for his Trials. It's Obi-Wan that you'll never see again," Depa said, studying Larisa intently. She'd definitely felt a brief flash of disappointment from her. "It's what you wanted, is it not?"

"I'm...I'm not sure."

"I know this must be very confusing to you, but there is another solution to his leaving."

"There is?" she asked, curious in spite of herself.

"Yes. In other situations like this, an... arrangement was worked out," Depa delicately explained.

"Y... y... you mean... b... both of th... them?" Larisa stuttered, staring at the Councilor in shock. Was she serious? She certainly looked it!

"Larisa, calm down! It was only a suggestion," Depa was quick to add. By the Force, the girl looked frightened half to death. "Now take deep breaths. Master Ryiso, would you bring her some water, please?"

"Right away, Councilor."

"I'm... okay," Larisa wheezed. She took the glass of water from the crèche Master and gulped it down. "Do people really do that?"

Yes, they do."

"And you talked to Obi-Wan about it?" she asked, still unnerved by the bizarre notion.

"I did. He wasn't very receptive to the idea either, and I don't know if Eeth would allow it anyway. Still, it's something you might want to consider."

Larisa's eyes widened in alarm. "You're not going to mention it to Eeth, are you?"

"Only if you ask me to," Depa assured her. "It's entirely up to you."

"Thank you."

"Whatever you do decide, take your time at it. There's no need to rush into anything."

"Yeah," Larisa said distractedly. She remained in her seat after Billapa left, stroking her son's hair when he twitched in his sleep. What do these people want from me? The whole thing sounds obscene. Councilor Mundi had several wives, but he was a Cerean and followed their customs. There is no way I'm going to try to copy him, no matter what anyone else says! she swore. The sooner Obi-Wan was gone, the better, and I'm going to pretend this conversation never took place.

She pressed her fingers against her temple, working to relieve a headache. This was the second one today, and there had been many others lately. I should visit the healers about it sometime, Larisa thought, nudging Vareth awake. "Ready to go back to your room?"


"Come on. We can't stay here all night," she said, tugging him upright.

"Don't wanna!" Vareth twisted around, his arms going around her neck in a strangling grip.

"Um...could we have just a few more minutes?" Larisa asked, loosening his arms enough for her to breathe.

"No, you really have to stop spending so much time with him," the other Crèche Master answered, gently prying a resistant Vareth away. "It's important that he not become emotionally dependent."

"Really?" she asked, offended.

"What she means is that we must take care nothing obstructs his early training," Ryiso said, coming forward to take Vareth.

Yeah, yeah, otherwise the galaxy might end, Larisa thought scathingly. "Would it be all right if I come back next week?"

"That will be fine. and the proper phrase is 'don't want to', not 'don't wanna', young Koth."


"Now where did you hear that word?"

Smiling at her son's precociousness, Larisa went back to her quarters and fixed herself a cup of tea. That helped a little, but what really sounded good right now was a nice long soak in the bathing pool. She walked into the fresher room and filled the small pool, wasting no time discarding her clothes before getting in and stretching out. This was much better.

She lay there for a minute before grabbing a cloth and running cold water over it. Larisa closed her eyes and draped it over her forehead, sighing with relief when the headache finally eased. Thank the Force.

All too soon the water cooled and she got out and dried off. It was a little early, but she felt wrung out from the events of the past hour. Larisa looked in the closet to pick out what to wear, passing over her own sleep gowns and putting on one of Eeth's robes before lying down on the bed.

Taking a chance, Larisa tentatively reached along the bond. If only their bond weren't so stifled by the distance between them. He always remained calm and steady, whatever he was doing. Exactly how I should have handled things. Why was I so shocked anyway? It's not like I haven't read about stranger practices.

Unable to come up with a logical explanation, she started to pull back, worried about distracting Eeth, when she felt a pushing sensation inside her mind. Could it be? Eeth?


She sat up, surprised by the faint reply. It's really you? How is this possible?

I've linked with Plo, so we must keep this brief.

I didn't mean to bother you.

You didn't. Meals are being handed out right now, he told her. Why were you blocking me?

I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was, Larisa said, chagrined.

Hm. Well, no harm done. What was upsetting you earlier?

It's nothing, really. How have you been?

Busy. We've driven the Mandalorians off, but many cities have been damaged. Unfortunately, there are some worlds they're not willing to surrender as easily as others.

Oh. Is it very bad?

I'm afraid so. It will take months to rebuild, and we're trying to have emergency supplies sent here as soon as possible.

There is enough food, isn't there?

Yes, enough to last a few weeks. Don't worry.

I'll try not to. Well, I'd better let you eat your lunch, she said, reluctant to break off their tenuous contact.


Goodbye. I love you.

It was so good to hear his voice again. Larisa put her necklace back on and curled up in bed, falling asleep with a smile on her face.

Thank the Force! We've finally made it. Anakin watched impatiently from the cockpit window as their shuttle approached the command ship, willing the huge vessel closer. It was another few minutes before they landed, and he followed Obi-Wan off the ship, taking care not to step on his heels. Why was it my Master always walks so slowly at moments like this?

Oppo Rancisis was studying the enemy's latest attack trying to predict where they would strike next when they entered the room. Amidala was seated at the table, conversing with Prince Bail Organa.

"Knight Kenobi," Rancisis greeted without looking up.

"Master Rancisis. May I have a word with you and Lady Naberrie, when it's convenient?"

"About what?" asked Anakin.

"Council business," was all his Master said.

"It's past the eleventh hour," Rancisis noted. "Let's talk now before we retire."

"The eleventh?" Amidala stood in surprise. "Where did the time go?"

"Are you all right?" Anakin asked when she swayed a little.

"There hasn't been much time for sleeping lately. Or eating," she answered, sounding worn out.

"You must not neglect your health," Obi-Wan advised, taking her arm and escorting her out the door. The former ruler of Naboo was courageous, loyal, trained practically from the cradle to lead. Any man would give his right arm to have her for his wife.

Amidala smiled gratefully up at him. "Thank you."

It should be me in there with her, Anakin thought, glowering when Rancisis directed them into a smaller, more private room.

"Well, I'll see you in the morning, Jedi Skywalker," Organa said, drawing his attention away from the closing door.

"Of course, Prince Organa." Anakin bowed to the man, uncomfortable with the stab of guilt he felt. It's not like I did the man any real harm, he reasoned. Bail was perfectly happy with the wife he had.

Wondering why his Master was being so secretive, he put his ear to the door, but couldn't hear a thing through the thick metal. I can't use the Force to listen in. Obi-Wan and Rancisis would sense it for sure. Stymied, Anakin left to find out what room he and his Master would be sleeping in.

"Were there any problems on the way here?" Amidala asked Obi-Wan.

"Not at all. It was excruciatingly uneventful, as my Padawan would say."

"Boys his age always hope for a life of adventures."

"Which our Order strongly discourages," Obi-Wan said gravely before addressing Master Rancisis. "One reason I took this assignment was to inquire if the Council is still in favor of making political alliances."

"Many of the Councilors are, but recent events have impugned that objective," Rancisis told him. "Am I to assume you have reconsidered the Council's request?"


"But why?" Amidala asked, surprised. "You refused so adamantly before, and I am no longer Queen. Why would you change your mind now?"

"I have my reasons," he evaded. "And you still wield a great deal of influence in the Senate. You don't have any other objections, do you?"

"She might not, but Padawan Skywalker very well may," Rancisis interrupted. "He could even try to prevent the marriage."

"I can handle Anakin," Obi-Wan said confidently.

"General Rancisis, would you excuse us, please?" Amidala asked.


Amidala waited until they were alone before speaking again. "Why do you really want this marriage? What about... Norisa, was it? What has she to say about it?"

"It's Larisa, and I don't care what she might think," he said emphatically, hoping she would ask no more questions.

"But you seemed so happy the last time we met. Is there no chance of a reconciliation?"

"No! She betrayed me. Just like... just like he did," he finished quietly.

"You mean like Qui-Gon, when he made his announcement to train Anakin," Amidala surmised. "I'm very sorry you've been hurt again. May the Force see fit to bestow such pain on her."

"We should never wish harm to others," Obi-Wan replied hastily, which brought a smile to her face.

Always so kind and forgiving, she thought. This Larisa must have a heart made of stone. "If this is what you truly want, then yes, I agree, but now is not an appropriate time to make an official announcement."

"Yes, and I'll also have to talk to Anakin about it first."

"If you do find that you need help with him, let me know. Young men can be quite unreasonable sometimes."

"That won't be necessary," Obi-Wan assured her. "He knows his duty is to the Jedi Order."

"I'm glad to hear it. I'd better retire now, if I'm to get any sleep at all."

"You could ask for a mild sedative," he suggested. "I just might do that. Sleep well, Obi-Wan. It may be a few days before you'll have another chance to."

"I will. Good night."

That was the last thing I'd expected, Amidala mused as a handmaiden prepared the bed for her. But have I made the right decision? It wasn't as though I could have chosen a better partner, but there was some question about his motive. Obi-Wan may not be completely over that other woman yet, but time and distance would remedy that. And I will do my best to make sure he never gives her another thought.

"Thank you," she politely dismissed her handmaidens, pulling the coverlet over her head as they turned off all the lights and closed the door.

"We need more Nyex this time," Master Ulizr told her, going his once-again dwindling supplies. "Conergin, too, if you can find any."

"Okay." Larisa dropped the credits into her belt pouch and went to the hangar, taking the shuttle to a nearby market, the same one she'd visited three times these last six days. It was more crowded than ever, and no one had what she was looking for, so she took an air taxi to another marketplace, miles away from the Temple. There she found the drugs, but the prices had risen lately, so she dug out a little of her own money in order to buy a decent amount. It was for a good cause, after all.

The number of wounded refugees being diverted to Coruscant was steadily increasing, and she had heard that the vacant Embassies housing them were nearly full. The Coruscant guard was now searching for any other empty buildings that could be used. Like that one over there. Larisa stopped and stared hard at the closed-up store, hearing a muffled noise coming from inside. It was probably just a homeless person in there, but she wasn't about to take any chances. Not all thieves waited until after dark to break in and look for any weapons that might be found, which were in great demand these days. She stood there for several seconds before turning on her heel to go alert one of the city guards.

"By the Seventh Hell," Maul snarled under his breath when she walked away. So it wasn't Bane, as he had expected. Angered by the delay, he started to move away from the second floor window when he spotted Doril coming back, this time accompanied by an armed Coruscant guard, as if that were adequate protection. Snorting disdainfully, he scowled when she remained outside while the guard entered the building. There was one sure way of luring her inside. Maul silently made his way downstairs and waited for the guard to return from searching the back rooms, lightsaber ignited.

The second he appeared Maul sliced his weapon in half, using the Force to throw the guard against the wall next to the shop entrance. "Call her in here," he demanded. "Now."

Instead of obeying instantly, he flung his blaster handle at Maul's face, breaking his concentration. Annoyed by his own carelessness, Maul stepped back, holding his lightsaber behind him when the guard drew two small blasters that had been concealed underneath his cloak. This was a welcome change. Other guards that he had encountered at night had made every effort to avoid a confrontation.

"Don't move," he ordered, keeping a safe distance between himself and his attacker. "Get over there, against the wall."

"What is your name?" Maul asked, moving in the opposite direction and activating the second lightsaber blade.

"None of your damned business! Now stand against the wall!"

"I prefer to know the names of my opponents before I kill them."

Arrogant bastard. "This is your last warning." The guard narrowed his eyes when the intruder continued to defy him. Fine with me. What's one more horned alien? Aiming the blasters at Maul's head, he pulled both triggers.

Ready for the shots, Maul deflected them with both blades of his lightsaber. One hit the ceiling while the other struck the guard just below the knee. He deactivated one blade of his saber and walked over to the now-crippled man.

"Now will you call her?"

Gritting his teeth at the excruciating pain, the man reached for one of the dropped blasters and had his ruined leg stepped on. "Ahhh! Yes!" he groaned. "Jedi! In here. Someone's... injured." Maul turned away from him and looked out the window at Doril, who hesitated before approaching the building. "What is your name?"

"Uhn! Jessic."

"Good," Maul said, and drove the red blade through the man's chest. He used the Force to dump the body under a table, then looked back out at Doril, waiting until she was a foot away from the front door before exiting out the window.

"Hello?" Larisa swallowed hard and took another step inside. "Where are you?" Still no answer, and no sign of anything moving among all this clutter. Something must have gone wrong. He said that someone was injured, and that noise a few moments ago had sounded just like blaster fire. I'd better go find another guard. Larisa started to back out the door when someone shoved her from behind. She stumbled forward, almost falling over, and whirled around.

"What the hell do... you..." She froze. It was that Sith she had seen on Domik, and he looked angry enough to rip her head off. Why? "Wh...what do you want?"

"I want to speak to Lord Bane!" he demanded.


"I have waited long enough!" Maul snarled. "You will let him out now!"

"No!" Larisa picked up the nearest object, a broken statue, and threw it at him.

He knocked the figure aside and caught her by the hair when she lunged towards the door.

"Oww! Let go!"

"Stop it!" he growled, grabbing her face and attempting to reach Bane.

Gasping, Larisa clawed at his gloved wrists, then went for his eyes.

"You!" Maul reared back and slammed his fist into her face. She stumbled backwards and collided with a metal shelving unit.

This will make it easier, he thought when Doril fell to the floor, unconscious.

"It did." Bane sat up and stared coldly at him. "Why have you forced this meeting?"

"You promised me a Jedi over a week ago! How is it she managed to keep you at bay?"

Slowly standing, Bane briefly considered tearing Maul's tongue out as he healed her injuries. He turned and glared at the reflection in a small mirror.

Defeated by a bauble, of all things. That incident with Kenobi had not gone far enough for that Zabrak to sense anything amiss, and the chance to rid himself of that troublesome life-bond once and for all was lost. Even now he could feel his control slipping a little more.

I shall have to retreat, he decided, and wait for another opportunity to present itself. And if she continues to interfere...

"Well?" an impatient Maul persisted.

"All right. You want a challenge? I'll give you one. Councilor Yarael Poof."

"Poof?" Maul paused, mentally reviewing his knowledge of that particular Jedi Master. "The Quermian?"

"He is the best these Jedi have at mind illusions. I'll find out where he is. You will, of course, have to be very careful of being captured."

"They will never take me alive!"

"Be sure that they don't. Do not try to reach me again yourself. I will call on you, but it will be some time before I'm able to again."

Maul scowled in suspicion. "Why? How long?"

"I am not accustomed to being questioned," Bane said warningly. "All you need to know is that there will be more children to take to Korriban. Now go. You have a Jedi Master to prepare for." Turning back to the mirror, Bane looked into it a moment longer before shattering the glass with a fist.

Chancellor Palpatine was conducting a meeting via holographic transmission when he received the first news. He cut off the Senator in mid-sentence. "Councilor Poof has been killed?" He stared a moment in surprise. "How could this have happened? I was told her was overseeing the delivery of fuel for the Republic ships. Was there some sort of accident?"

"There've been no reports of any, Chancellor, and Jedi we spoke to would not give us any details. All they will say is that they are investigating this themselves."

"Are they? Well, this had to have been a terrible shock to them. You are excused. I must send my condolences."

"Yes, Chancellor." His aide bowed and left the office. So the Jedi were investigating Poof's death. Definitely not accidental, then. And very little chance of learning just what did happen to the Councilor. Palpatine composed his features before contacting the Jedi Temple.

"Councilor Mundi," he began in a grave voice. "I've been informed about Councilor Poof, and...""There is no time for that right now, Supreme Chancellor," Mundi interrupted. "We've just received an urgent transmission from Knight Qiraj. Senator Argente assumed command of one of the larger fleets."


"It is true, and all our attempts to contact him have failed. He may be deliberately ignoring them."

"I see," Palpatine said through clenched teeth. "I... appreciate you're informing me of this insubordination."

"The Senator must be stopped immediately, before he does anything reckless."

"He will be, I assure you."

Mundi nodded. "You will keep us apprised?"

"Naturally. Now, if you would excuse me?"

"Of course."

Ki-Adi-Mundi said something more about trying again to reach Knight Qiraj, but Palpatine barely listened. That treacherous idiot!

He sent messages to all the other Commanders in the Army, informing them that Senator Passel Argente was to be apprehended as soon as possible. It could be days before that meddling fool was captured, and if he does anything that results in lost ships, he would pay dearly.

One month later

"Thank the Force this is finally over," Depa said quietly after she and Mace finished watching the results of Argente's trial. "What do you think his sentence will be?"

"He'll be executed," he answered flatly. "Fitting punishment, considering the damage he's done."

"So many lives lost." Depa sighed sadly. "Did they ever determine how Commander Charvyn died?"

"No, but there was no evidence of foul-play, so if Argente had a hand in it, nothing can be proven."

"I don't think he did. He always took advantage of others' misfortunes, but he never actively caused them."

"Something he's never going to do again," Mace remarked caustically.

"I think I'll go visit the creche. Master Na'ajh's returned with a number of promising Initiates. Would you like to come with me?" Depa said, rising and walking beside him as they left the Council Chamber. "It would be my pleasure."

They reached the first floor of the creche and found Larisa there.

"Larisa, what brings you here?" asked Depa.

"Huh? Oh. One of the new children is sick," she told them. "From the group that arrived earlier today?"

"Uhm, yes, but she's all right now. We just wanted to make sure the other's didn't catch anything."

"Good. And how has Vareth been?"

"Oh!" Larisa glanced over at the chrono and sank down on a chair. "I don't know. I've missed my weekly visit."

"Well, we'll just have to remedy that. Won't we, Mace?

"As you say."

"If you're sure it's all right," Larisa said uncertainly.

"Of course it is," Depa answered, giving Mace an exasperated look. "Mace?"

"Yes, it is," he replied, knowing there was no use disagreeing with his former Padawan, especially after that fiasco with Senator Argente. Depa had been very upset by the loss of so many Jedi. "Let's go see him now."

"Um. Okay."

"Will you be leaving soon?" Depa asked Mace as the three of them strolled down the hallway.

"Yes, tomorrow at noon. I've asked Saesee to remain at the Temple while the new Councilors become accustomed to their duties."

"Uli is adjusting well to her new Master."

"Good." There's been little enough encouraging news lately, Mace thought.

"Councilors," one of the female creche Masters greeted them when they walked through the door. "Larisa. We were expecting you two hours ago."

"There was an emergency with the new Initiates," Depa explained. "Nothing serious, I hope."

"No, it's been taken care of. Is Vareth in his creche?"

"Yes, he was fed a few minutes ago," she replied.

"Is he asleep?" asked Larisa.

"Not yet, I don't think.

"Then we'd better look in on him now before he is," Windu said, motioning for her to lead the way.

"Why do you have to leave again so soon? You just got back a couple days ago," Larisa grouched on the way to the room Vareth was kept in.

"The Republic Army needs as many experienced leaders as possible," Mace patiently explained to her, for the third time, "thanks to the disarray Senator Argente caused."

"The Army must reorganize before they can even begin trying to take back the territory that was lost during that time," Depa added.

"I hope they lock that Senator up and never let him out."

Windu started to answer her, then left it at, "We'll see."

Larisa opened the door and walked quietly over to the one of the beds. Vareth was still wide awake, so she leaned over the bed railing and picked him up. "Hi there. Have you been behaving yourself?"


"Good boy. Now say hello to Master Windu."

"Hello," he repeated, looking up at the tall Jedi.

"Hello," Mace replied, smiling to put him at ease. "How was your morning?"

They all sat down as Vareth launched into a minute-by-minute account of his lessons. Ten minutes later he could barely keep his eyes open.

"I think he's ready for his nap now," Depa observed.

"Yes. Thanks for coming here with me."

"You're welcome."

Larisa sat there for a few minutes after they left, thinking. "Var? You awake?"

"Hrm?" He blinked sleepily at her.

"How would you like a baby brother?"

Vareth broke into a huge smile.  "Brother!"

She smiled back at him. "I'll see what I can do, then."

Halfway through recording newly-chosen Padawans, Saesee Tiin paused when someone knocked on his door. "Come in."

The door opened and Larisa poked her head in. "Master Tiin?"

"Yes? Come in."

"Thanks." She ducked inside, making sure the door closed behind her.

"May I ask why you're here?" he prompted when she just stood there. "I... uh... I wondered if... I need to ask you for a favor."

Saesee sat back in his chair, curious about her odd behavior. "What sort of favor?"

"Well, you know where Eeth is, right?"

"Yes, he and Councilor Ngr'Savh are still working to relocate refugees. Why do you ask?

"Well, I was wondering if you could have one of the transports take me there."

"I'm sure they could use another healer over there," she said when he didn't reply right away.

"This is true," he conceded. "If one of the other Councilors agrees, then I'll arrange it."

"Okay. Thank you."

Larisa hurried over to Depa's quarters, but no one answered. Drat! She hesitated before trying Ki-Adi's next.

He answered, looking irate. "What is it?"

"Kn... Councilor Mundi," she corrected herself, wanting to avoid any possible reminder of his dead Padawan. "Would it be okay if I.. went somewhere?"

"Yes, yes. You may."

"Great! Thanks." Larisa turned and dashed back to Master Tiin's office. "Depa wasn't there, but Ki-Adi was. He said yes."

"All right." Saesee entered the last two pairs of names and turned off the com-pad. "Why don't I take you there? My ship is faster than any of the shuttles."

Larisa blinked in surprise. "Really? I wouldn't want to interfere with your work."

"It can wait until tomorrow, and this will give me an excuse to try out my new ship again."

"You built another one?"

"A Mon Calamari design this time. Mostly, that is. It's in hanger twenty-one. Can you be ready in ten minutes?"

"Absolutely! Thank you!"

She rushed out the door and down the hallway to her quarters, thankful that there was no one about this time of day. The Jedi did not approve of people running through the Temple.

Rialth had been fed just yesterday, so he should be fine for a few days, Larisa decided, grabbing a couple spare changes of clothes and stuffing them into her travel bag. She added a small amount of money, and what was left of the bag of bofu treats she bought the other day.

Larisa looked around for anything else she might need, then used the fresher before heading out the door. She reached hanger twenty-one with a minute to spare.

"Ready?" asked Master Tiin.

"Yes." She held her breath, afraid he might have mentioned the trip to Ki-Adi.

"Let's go, then." Saesee led the way up the landing ramp and disappeared into the cockpit.

Larisa planted herself in a seat by a window, and didn't relax until they were on their way.An hour into the flight, Saesee turned on the autopilot and went back for something to drink. He found Larisa lying on a bench, eyes closed with both hands crossed over her stomach. "What are you doing? Meditating?"

"I'm, uh... preparing."

Preparing? He puzzled it out over a bottle of Bellorian ale.

"What are you doing here?"

Flustered by Eeth's reaction, Larisa looked back at Master Tiin for help.

"She wanted to help with the wounded," Saesee explained.

"There are safer places you could have taken her to, Saesee."

"We're three systems away from the battle. I think that's safe enough for now."

"Very well," Eeth grumbled. "We could use another healer."

"I'll stay a little while to help as well. I believe there's some bacta left on my ship."

"How much? I requested more, but it hasn't arrived yet."

"Enough for eight, maybe ten people."

"Well, any amount would be helpful. This way, Larisa."

She meekly nodded and followed him to a large room on the other side of the building. It was filled with people lying on cots, attended by about fifteen Jedi healers.

"You can start with this room," Eeth told her. "Everyone who's already been tended to has a green badge attached to the foot of their beds."

"Okay." Larisa watched him leave before getting to work.

He could at least have said 'hello', she thought sourly hours later. Healing this many people, combined with the other, was starting to make her dizzy.

"Go ahead and find a place to sleep," one of the Master healers told her when she slumped against the wall. "We'll take care of the rest of them."

"Okay." Larisa had to brace herself in order to get up. "Thanks."

She wandered through several rooms before finding Eeth and Master Tiin. "Where's your room?"

"On the second floor. Shay'l, would you show her to it?" Eeth asked one of the Jedi Knights.

"Yes, Councilor."

"But...You're not coming?"

"No, there's still much that needs to be done," he said distractedly.

Frustrated, Larisa bit her tongue to keep from shouting at him and stomped off after the Jedi. I'll just have to try again in a few weeks.

Saesee looked after her and turned to Eeth. "You do look tired."

"I'm fine."

"Eeth, go upstairs."

Eeth frowned at him, then looked around at the other Jedi. All of them avoided his gaze, but more than one had an amused expression on their faces. "We did come here to help these people," he reminded them.

"And we're doing exactly that. Oh, go on. We can handle things without you for one night."

"Hmm. If you insist," Eeth said in a dignified voice. He could have sworn he heard someone snicker as he left the room.

Larisa jumped up out of a chair when he walked through the door. "You came!"

"Saesee practically ordered me to," he said dryly.

"If you don't want me here, just say so!" she blurted out, agitated.

"What I want is not the point. You should have stayed at the Temple where you were safe."

"Fine! I'm leaving!" Larisa flung the bag over her shoulder and stalked towards the door.

"Now wait just a minute!" he said, stopping her after five steps. "What are you so upset about?"

"I came all this way and you want me to just go away!"

"We have been rather busy here."

"I know! I don't mean to be a bother!"

"You're not a bother. Come sit down." Eeth started to lead her over to the table, but she pulled away and went to stand in front of the window. "Risa?"

"Leave me alone."

"Fine," he said, growing impatient. "I'm going to shower and then go to bed."

"Oh! Don't be too long."

Confused by her strange mood swings, Eeth half-expected her to be gone when he left the small fresher room, but she was now sitting at the end of the bed. "You're still here?"

"Yes, of course. I'm not going anywhere."

He frowned again. Trying to use their bond to find an answer was pointless. Her emotions were all ajumble. "I'm not in the mood for games, Risa," he said, taking his robe off and laying it across the chair before climbing under the covers.

"Good!" Larisa replied, and was suddenly all over him. "I've missed you."

So now she was feeling amorous. Better than sulking by the window, Eeth decided. "There's one small problem, Risa."


"You're still dressed."

Damn! How could I forget that? She hesitated, reluctant to leave such a comfortable position, before getting up.

Eeth sat up to watch her take her clothes off. The second she was finished he pulled her back down. "I've waited all day for this," she purred, relaxing under his weight.

"All day?" he asked, pausing.

"Yes." Larisa waited expectantly, only to have him move off of her. "What... What are you doing?"

"I have something else in mind." Eeth pushed the blanket aside and picked up his pillow.

"What do you need that for?" she asked, baffled.

"You'll see." He placed the pillow between his ankles, then lifted her up and set her down in front of him, facing him. "Lie back."

What are you up to? Larisa wondered as she obeyed, her shoulders resting on the pillow.

"Close your eyes," he told her, leaning over and brushing his fingertips down her face and neck.

"Mmm, that feels soo good," she murmured, arching under his touch.

"Yes, it does," Eeth agreed, then grasped her hips and slowly pulled her forward.

Larisa sighed as he slid inside her. Was that all? Not that she was complaining.

"It's not." He placed a hand over her stomach and pressed down."Oh!" She gasped, jerking upright. "Oh... my!"

"Did I hurt you?" Eeth asked, concerned by that reaction.

"Noooo." She blinked several times before laying back down. "Do that again."

"Certainly," he said, running his hands over her body again before complying.

Larisa shuddered, digging her nails into his legs as she came. "Ahh, yesss. Don't stop!"

Eeth ignored the discomfort and continued on, determined to hold back his own release until the very end. He stopped a few minutes later when she went limp. "Risa."

"Uhn," she moaned.

I should have done this some other time, he realized. She must have exhausted herself today. He pulled her up and rolled over, settling on top of her before finally letting himself climax.

"Ooohhhh!" Larisa gasped, eyes opening wide when he spilled inside her.

Eeth turned over on his back afterwards. "Are you all right?" he asked again.

"Perfectly," she purred, sounding utterly content. "That did it for sure."

He gave her a puzzled look. "Did what?"

"Mmmm." She smiled and rested her hand on her stomach. "Yes."

"Would you mind telling me what you're talking about?"

"We're going to have another baby."

"What? What did you just say?"

"We're having another baby," Larisa happily repeated.

"What? How could this...." Eeth broke off, thinking of how long they had been apart. Approximately seven weeks, and she had a five-week cycle. "This isn't the right time."

"Well, no, it wasn't, but I took care of that on the way here."

"You planned this?"

"Uhm, maybe a little, I guess."

"A little?" That did it. He got out of bed and stood, glaring sternly down at her. "Of all the reckless, deceitful..."

Larisa surged to her knees in protest. "I am not deceitful!"

Eeth shook his head in disbelief. "You manipulated me into this and you don't think that's deceptive?"

"I never actually lied to you," she said defensively. "Besides, don't you want another baby?"

"That's not the point!"

"Then what is the point?"

"You remember what happened with Vareth! I didn't want you to have to go through that again."

"Go through what? I was asleep the whole time!"

"And what would happen if something went wrong this time and there was no one on hand?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" Larisa asked, confused.

"I mean that at the rate this war is going, nearly all of our healers could be called into service."

"Oh. Well, I'll just move into one the healers' rooms later. I'm sure they won't mind."

"They're not there twenty-four hours a day," Eeth pointed out. "What if an emergency arose and they were unavailable? All you would have is a medical droid, and they can only do so much."

"Then I'll take a stim shot to stay awake if I have to. Look, I am going to have this baby, so just... get used to it!"

"Have I ever mentioned how obstinate you are?"

Larisa folded her arms and glowered at the change in subject. "You never answered my question. Don't you want another son?"

Eeth gave up arguing and sat down on the edge of the bed. "I never let myself think about the possibility," he admitted.

"Well, I think you'd better start, then," she suggested, then smiled mischievously. "We could even have ten if you want."

"Ten?" he repeated, unable to grasp that number at first. "Ten."

"Would you rather have an even dozen?"

"Why don't we concentrate on this one for now?"

"Sure." Larisa scooted back to make room for him.

"You're sure it's a boy?" he asked, lying down again and gathering her in his arms.

"Uh-huh," she yawned.

"Go to sleep now. It's been a long day."


Twelve children! Eeth thought, bemused. How would she react if I said I'd take her up on that offer? He smiled and used the Force to turn off the light.

He woke an hour later when something struck his chin. Sensing no one else in the room, he turned the light on and shook Larisa. "Risa! Wake up."

"Nooo!" She jerked away from him and almost fell off the bed.

He caught her and hauled her back. "Risa, stop it. You had a dream, that's all.

"Ohhh." Larisa grabbed at her throat, but all she felt was the pearl necklace. "That was awful!"

"Did you want to talk about it?"

She shook her head emphatically. "No!"

"All right, you don't have to," he said, stroking her hair. "It was only a dream, Risa."

"Only a dream. Yes." Shivering, she turned and burrowed into his arms. "Could you keep the light on?"

"Of course." Eeth tugged the blanket up around her shoulders, then turned the light down a little so it wouldn't keep her awake. "Is this all right?"

"Yes, thank you." It was just a dream, Larisa told herself as she closed her eyes again. Just a dream.

Twilight Chapter 5