A young woman on an isolated planet joins the Jedi as a Healer with unexpected and startling results. The Sith play a part in her story, one she little suspects.
The sun had just started to rise from the North on the planet Adarlon and Larisa Doril was already out of bed. She threw herself into the morning's tasks in a fit of nervous energy, her mind a whirl of activity. Today was the day. Every three years two Jedi Masters came to Adarlon for about two weeks, picking up all the young children who had been tested and were chosen to train at the Jedi Temple. Today, through sheer luck or fate, they were visiting a town very near to her own, a mere twenty miles away. It was their last stop before they left Adarlon and returned to Coruscant.
She began making breakfast for her parents, still thinking about the Jedi. Shortly after her ninth birthday she had began developing Force powers. If she concentrated hard enough she could sense what other people were feeling and could even move small objects without touching them. Now nearly fifteen, Larisa knew that she was much too old to be considered as a Jedi Apprentice, but that did not bother her very much. Her strongest talent was healing. Over the past few years her healing ability had grown stronger with each use.
She had healed the occasional broken arm or leg, but she had rarely dealt with any injury serious enough to challenge her skills. If she could convince the Jedi to take her with them to Coruscant, perhaps the Jedi Council would allow her to study in the Temple. There she would have a chance to study other races in the galaxy, not just humans. She could offer her talents to whoever desperately needed a strong healer, regardless of their race. Finishing in the kitchen, Larisa carried the laden tray to the dining area.
"Good morning," she greeted her parents with a bright smile, setting the tray on the table.
"Good morning, Larisa. You're up very early this morning," her father remarked, taking in her disheveled appearance.
"Is there any particular reason for it?"
Setting the dishware on the table, blushed slightly and looked down at her feet, not noticing that her shoes did not match. "As you already know the Jedi have arrived today in Toreld. I can't wait to meet them," she replied, turning to stare out the window with a faraway look in her eyes.
"Well, before you leave you may want to make yourself a little more presentable," her mother told her, bringing Larisa's attention back to the present conversation. She looked at her reflection in a mirror on the far wall and gasped. Her normally curly, dark red hair seemed to be trying to escape from her head in every possible direction. She gasped again and fled back to her room.
She was back five minutes later, her hair tamed and she was wearing a different dress, with matching shoes this time, changing from the gray and red stripes to a dark blue. She sat at the table but was too nervous to eat more than half of the food on her plate. Larisa stood up and went back to the kitchen to fix a plate for her pet Ysalir, Rialth. She set it down on the floor and whistled, waiting several minutes for him to decide to come over. He was a temperamental creature, like the rest of his species, and didn't normally get along with humans. Hissing defiantly at her parents, who merely rolled their eyes and looked away, it slunk over to Larisa, rubbing against her legs before turning to its food. Larisa knelt down to stroke its furry scales and scratch the top of its head, making it hum with pleasure. She then went back to her room to get her cloak and headed for the front door.
"Good luck, Risa," her mother said when she stopped to give her parents a hug goodbye.
Larisa stepped outside and started down the path towards town.
When she arrived at the camp there were only four children sitting at a bench, their parents hovering over them. Recognizing one of them, Larisa went over to talk to her.
"Hello, Milori. How have you been?"
Milori looked up from her two-year-old daughter and smiled. "Larisa, I didn't know you were coming here today!"
Larisa looked down at her feet. "Well, I've come to see the Jedi about something."
"And would that something involve healing?"
"Well, it might," she hedged.
"Jalira, say hello to Larisa," Milori said.
"Hello, Jalira," Larisa said to the little blonde girl, who stared at her.
Milori laughed, "She still isn't used to being around other people yet. Her sister was the same way. "Have you heard from her lately?"
"Hardly at all, since she started her Jedi training." Milori sighed. "I've only had three messages from her."
Larisa's attention was suddenly drawn to the arrival of the Jedi Masters. One was wearing a dark brown robe, apparently the standard uniform of the Jedi. The other, wearing a lighter brown robe, looked rather young to be a Master. The other one was considerably older. His hair was gray and there were several lines around his eyes. They both appeared to be human. She backed away as they sat at another bench and began interviewing each family. The older one asked the questions and the younger one was entering information into a datapad. While they were with the first family, two more showed up. Deciding to wait until one of them had a free moment, Larisa walked over to a tree and sat down.
It took about an hour for them to finish with the families that had arrived. The older Jedi went back to the lodging. The younger one remained, studying the datapad. Larisa decided to wait again, until he was done with his work. She was a little relieved that it was the younger Jedi that she was going to approach. The older one had been looking more and more intimidating while she waited.
Jedi Knight Giron paused to rub his forehead. Only twenty-four children that were strong enough in the Force to be taken to the Temple. He almost winced at the thought of the Council's reaction to his report. In recent years they had found at least fifty children. He suspected that the other Jedi scouts were having the same difficulty. Thinking about it brought back his headache. He had suffered from headaches ever since that skirmish with pirates near Ord Mandell. He knew he had sustained some kind of head injury but he couldn't remember what caused it and didn't think it was too serious. As soon as he returned to Coruscant he would pay a visit to the healers. His headache suddenly worsened and he decided to go back to his lodging to lie down and rest before starting his report. He started to get up when he heard someone call him.
Giron looked up and was surprised to see a young girl standing there. She looked to be about thirteen. She was a little short for her age, but it was her appearance that surprised him more. She had dark red hair, an unusual color for the natives of this planet. Her eyes were even more unusual, a very strange shade of gray, almost silver. He stared at her for a moment before answering. "Yes?"
"I... Um..." She looked down at her feet, then looked up and tried again "I... uh... came here... My name is Larisa Doril."
"I'm Knight Giron. How can I help you?"
"I was wondering if you could possibly take me to Coruscant with you," Larisa blurted out. "I was hoping to study healing at the Jedi Temple."
At that moment the older Jedi returned. "Giron, have you finished with the datapad yet?" He looked up and saw Larisa standing there. "And who is this?"
"Master Ciari, this is Larisa. She was just asking if she could be allowed to study healing at the Temple."
Larisa looked up at him, suddenly wishing that she were taller.
Master Ciari stood there for a moment, studying her. Others claiming to be healers had approached him, but they had been adults, not children, and they had always failed the tests. Real healers were a rare find these days. Considering her request, he realized that he could conduct a test right here and now. Three days ago near Ord Mandell, they had had a run-in with pirates. During the attack Giron had sustained a head injury. He seemed to have recovered, but was still plagued with the occasional headache and they seemed to be getting worse. If Giron had a concussion, as he suspected, she should have no trouble healing him, if she was indeed a healer as she claimed.
"Giron, have you had any more headaches lately?"
"Yes, I have one now, as a matter of fact," Giron answered, immediately guessing what his Master had in mind.
Ciari turned back to Larisa and explained what had happened and asked her if she could heal the injury.
"Of course!" she said with a bright smile. She placed her hand on Giron's forehead and said with a slight frown, "I've never healed a Jedi before."
"That shouldn't be a problem. It will be no different from healing anyone else," Ciari told her.
She smiled again, then closed her eyes and concentrated. "He has a broken blood vessel, a small one."
Giron's eyes opened in alarm and Ciari gestured for him to remain silent. Larisa concentrated harder. For about five seconds nothing seemed to happen, then suddenly the tips of her fingers started to glow with a strange green light. Ciari was stunned. He had seen other healers at work often enough and had never seen such a strange display before. After about thirty more seconds she finished the healing. Giron had had his eyes closed and did not see the strange light, but he felt something that was just as strange. During the healing he had felt as if a freezing cold had entered his mind. He shivered just thinking about it. A Jedi had once healed him and it had been quite different from this. He frowned. His headache was gone but there was a strange sensation in the back of his mind. The girl had an odd expression on her face, as if she was feeling something as well. He thanked her and asked her to stay at the bench while he discussed the matter with his Master.
Larisa watched as they walked several feet away before they started talking. She could not hear what they were saying, and wondered is she'd done something wrong.
"Master, when she was healing me did anything unusual happen?" Giron asked.
"Yes," Ciari said with a frown. "There was a strange light coming from her fingers. Why do you ask?"
"I... feel different somehow. I don't know how to explain it."
Ciari frowned again, then asked, and received, permission to Force-probe Giron. What he found was another surprise. A strange bond seemed to have formed during the healing. This was yet another occurrence that neither Jedi had any experience with. It was very weak and was easily severed.
They turned back to the girl, who appeared to be getting nervous again. Ciari let Giron tell her the news.
"Thank you for the healing, Larisa. It would be our pleasure to accompany you to Coruscant."
"Then you will take me with you!" Larisa jumped to her feet and almost hugged them both. She managed to contain herself though, and thanked them both.
"We leave in the morning. It would be best if you collect whatever you need and spend the night here. There are several rooms available."
Larisa hesitated. The lodgings the Jedi stayed at looked quite expensive. Observing the expression on her face, Giron explained that the Council paid for all the expenses of Jedi missions. Thanking them again, Larisa finally left the camp. Trying to burn off a sudden burst of energy, she ran almost half the distance home. She reached her home and stopped outside to catch her breath. After a moment she went inside and found her parents waiting for her.
"Well, what happened?" Her mother asked when she stopped and just stared at them.
"They agreed to take me with them!" Larisa broke into a huge smile. "It was amazing. One of them had been hurt, I think it had something to do with pirates, and I healed him."
"Pirates?" her mother exclaimed.
"Don't worry, Mother. I'm sure some of their missions are a little dangerous, but they can handle it. They are Jedi, after all. Besides, I won't be going on any of those missions anyway," she said, determined not to let anything spoil her mood. "I've got to decide what to take with me."
She ran to her room and start packing some clothes, whistling to Rialth as her mother came in. "Do the Jedi allow pets?"
"I don't know," she replied, frowning. "I forgot to ask. I hope I don't have to leave him here."
"Perhaps if he manages to behave himself they'll allow it."
"Now I'm worried," Larisa said, with a small laugh.
Rialth finally appeared when she was done packing, and she picked him up and out him in his own travel bag. She stopped to give her parents another hug goodbye before leaving.
"Don't forget to send us messages and let us know how you're doing," her father reminded her.
"I will. Goodbye."
Larisa closed the door behind her and took a deep breath before starting down the trail. She walked several feet, then turned back to look at her home one last time before continuing to walk towards town. She did not look back again.
She was immediately shown to her room when she arrived at the lodging. There were actually three rooms: a refresher room, a bedroom, and a third room reserved for visitors. Apparently the Jedi reserved the best accommodations when they could. Larisa went into the bedroom and opened the closet, then decided to leave her clothes in her bag. She was only spending one night here, after all. The bag! She had forgotten about Rialth!
Quickly opening the bag he was in, Larisa stepped back as he wriggled out of it, growling in indignation. He quickly hid under the bed and refused to come out. She sighed. She would try to coax him out tomorrow. She might even have to get him a special treat. The Ysalir certainly knew how to hold a grudge, sometimes for as long as a week, and Rialth was more stubborn than most. She stretched and yawned, thinking about retiring early, but her stomach reminded her that she had skipped lunch. She had decided to close the bedroom door before leaving, but just then Rialth emerged from under the bed and glared at her accusingly, reminding her that he needed food, too.
"All right. But you behave yourself down there," Larisa told him before picking him up and taking him with her.
She located the dining room and looked around. There were two dozen children seated at the tables with their parents. She also saw that the two Jedi at a table by themselves. Larisa spotted an empty seat next to Milori and her daughter and walked over. "Hi. Do you mind if I sit here?"
"Of course not. And I see you brought your pet with you," Milori said, glancing at Rialth, who stared back.
"Yes, I did. And I told him to behave."
They ordered dinner for themselves, with Larisa ordering a bowl of vegetables for Rialth, and ate in silence. She finished her dinner, then had to wait on Rialth. He seemed to be deliberately taking his time eating and she started yawning every few minutes. Across the room the Jedi finished their meeting and stood up to leave. On his way out Giron stopped to speak to Larisa. He opened his mouth and promptly forgot what he was going to say. He stared at Rialth in dismay. The creature looked almost exactly like a Ysalamirri, and yet he could still sense the Force.
There was no interference. He attempted to speak again and got a sentence out this time. "What is that?"
Larisa looked up and saw the Jedi Knight standing there, staring at Rialth. "He's my pet Ysalir. His name is Rialth."
Rialth looked up at the Jedi and growled in annoyance before finishing his meal. Larisa squirmed a little. She wished Rialth would show some manners for once. Giron blinked and looked away from Rialth. He wished them both a good night and then left the room. She gathered up Rialth and said goodnight to Milori. It seemed to take forever to reach her room. When Larisa finally made it to her bedroom she was too tired to even change her clothes. She was asleep the second her head hit the pillow.
The sun shining through the window, and right into her face, woke her the following morning. She reached for the spread, wanting to pull it over her head, but for some reason it slipped out of her hand. Sitting up and looking around, she spotted Rialth with the spread between his teeth, pulling it off the bed.
"Rialth!" she yelled, throwing her pillow at him. "Can't you ever behave?"
He retreated under the bed again. Larisa looked around and suddenly remembered where she was. She got out of bed, pulled another dress out of her bag and went into the fresher to change, stuffing the wrinkled dress into a side compartment on the bag before looking in the mirror. Her hair was trying to stand straight up on one side. She was trying to flatten it when someone knocked on her door.
"Larisa?" Milori called. "They're leaving in about twenty minutes. Do you need any help in there?"
"No, thank you. Milori," she yelled. "I'll be down in just a couple minutes." Larisa saw that Rialth was still hiding under the bed. "Make that five minutes."
"All right. Try to hurry. I'll tell them you'll be right out."
Rialth refused to cooperate when she tried to coax him into coming out, finally having to bribe him with one of the treats she had for this kind of emergence, a purple apple.
He finally came out and Larisa put him back in his bag. Then she left the room; reminding herself that she only had one more treat left and would have to get more, a lot more. Hopefully she would find something he liked when she reached Coruscant. When she stepped outside the lodging the Jedi's camp seemed deserted.
Larisa turned around and saw Master Ciari walking towards her. "I'm sorry. I was having a little trouble with Rialth," she explained, holding up the bag and showing him the sleeping Ysalir.
Ciari almost took a step back, as if the creature were going to jump out of the bag at him. He recovered quickly and looked down at the creature. That was one more thing to tell the Council about. "We're leaving in five minutes. Knight Giron is already onboard. He'll show you to your room."
They walked to a large clearing a few yards away, where the Jedi's ship was kept. Larisa boarded the ship, following Master Ciari, who went to talk to the pilot. She stepped into a long corridor and looked around. There seemed to be hundreds of doors on each side, all numbered. She looked for Knight Giron, but didn't see him anywhere. She was about to go up to the cockpit area when Giron stepped out of a door on the right, several feet away.
"Hello, Larisa. I was beginning to think you'd changed your mind."
"I'm a little late because of Rialth. He can be a little difficult sometimes. It's all right if I bring him, isn't it?"
Giron considered it for a moment. Pets were rarely allowed in the temple, but the Council may allow her to keep it, at least for a while. "I'm sure it will be fine." He told her.
After being shown to her room, she pulled Rialth out of his bag. He was asleep. Missing his company, and having saved another special treat for him if he was still moody, she woke him up. He stretched and yawned, and then started to glare at her again. She quickly pulled another apple out of her pocket and practically shoved it under his nose. He glared at her for another moment, then gave up and accepted the peace offering. She gave him a pat on the head and stood up, feeling a sudden vibration in the floor. The ship was taking off. She went over to the window and watched as they left the planet.
Waiting until she could no longer see Adarlon, Larisa turned away and unpacked her clothes. It would take about three days to reach Coruscant and she wondered what there was to do to pass the time. She left her room, memorizing the number on the door, and started to explore the ship, wondering where the dining area was. She'd slept the entire morning and it should be time for lunch. She started to go down one end of the hallway, then changed her mind and went back the other way.
Larisa almost jumped three feet into the air. She whirled around and saw Knight Giron standing there. "I didn't hear you coming!"
"Were you looking for something?"
"Yes. The dining room."
"It's this way." He walked past her and they went back the way she had come.
After lunch Larisa still didn't know what to do with herself. She didn't bring any sort of entertainment and the children stayed in their rooms for the most of the trip. She started spending more time with the Jedi asking questions. She learned that a Jedi Apprentice was called a Padawan. Coruscant wasn't just a planet; it had developed into one giant city. There were twelve Jedi on the Council, and not all of them were Masters. She also answered any questions the Jedi asked.
After about an hour the Jedi gave her some datapads to study and sent her back to her room, saying they had to start on another report to the Council. She spent the rest of the trip learning more about Coruscant.
They reached Coruscant three days later and Larisa's first glimpse of the planet was disappointing. At a distance it was several shades of gray, no green or blue to be found. She knew that there were several large parks and gardens, some that were miles in diameter, but apparently not visible from space. It was forty-five minutes before they landed on a huge landing pad. After getting off the ship they were told that their transport had not arrived yet, so she had an opportunity to look around. There was not much to see. In every direction there were buildings of all shapes and sizes. She spent the next few minutes trying to identify any particular one. She spotted the Senate building, but the others were starting to look the same.
All that gray was starting to look a little bleak by the time another shuttle arrived. She watched as it settled to the ground and a few passengers walked down the ramp. One of them was dressed in the dark brown robes of a Master. He was a dark-skinned human, very serious looking. He walked over to their group.
He bowed low. "Master Windu. Have you received my message?"
"No, I had not. There have been some disruptions in communications lately due to the recent wars. Fortunately these conflicts have been resolved and everything is returning to normal," Windu informed him. "What do you have to report?"
"There aren't as many children found as in previous years, almost a fifty percent drop."
"I know. It is the same everywhere. The Council is becoming a little concerned. If the numbers continue to decline we may have to change the standards for accepting children. In the meantime, let's get these ones to the crèche."
"There is one other matter we need to discuss." Ciari led Master Windu over to Larisa. "This is Larisa Doril. A healer we found on Adarlon."
"Master... Uh..." She said.
"Master Windu," Ciari told her.
"Master Windu," she repeated, copying Ciari's bow.
"Pleased to meet you." Windu nodded, looking from her to Ciari. "A healer?"
"Yes. She has passed our test. I have a report ready for the Council."
Windu frowned slightly. A report on a healer was unusual. He hoped there wasn't a problem. He excused himself and left for his next meeting.
It was another ten minutes before their own shuttle arrived, and it took five minutes more to reach the temple. Master Ciari left her in the hangar and went to talk to another Jedi for a moment. Larisa glanced around. It looked just like any other hangar, just a bit more crowded. She wasn't sure what to expect from the Jedi, but they didn't seem so very different from ordinary people. She turned back the other way and almost collided with someone.
"I'm sorry," they both said at the same time.
"Um, hello. I'm Larisa. Larisa Doril," she told the boy. He looked about thirteen years old. He was a little tall for his age, she saw, with dark blonde hair.
"I'm Anakin Skywalker," he replied. "I haven't seen you around before. Are you visiting here?"
"Actually, I'm here to study healing."
"I'm Knight Kenobi's Padawan. We're going on another mission. We're going to Yaga Minor this time."
"I'm sorry, I've never heard of it."
"Neither had I," Anakin admitted, smiling.
Larisa smiled back, happy to have made at least one friend here.
"Anakin, our transport's here," another Jedi called to him, walking over to them.
"Master Kenobi, this is Larisa."
"Hello," Kenobi said before turning his attention back to Anakin. "We have to leave now."
"Okay. Goodbye, Larisa."
"Goodbye." She watched them leave, then looked around for Master Ciari He seemed to have disappeared. She started to look around the hangar, then decided to sit down and wait for him.
Master Ciari returned fifteen minutes later with another Jedi. She stood and bowed to them.
"Larisa, this is Councilor Mundi," he said, gesturing to the man next to him. Master Mundi looked human, except for an oddly shaped head. It looked almost domelike, with white hair at the top. Larisa started to bow again and almost fell over. She managed to keep her balance and said hello instead, sternly lecturing herself to stop bowing so much to everyone.
Masters Ciari and Mundi escorted her to the nearest sickroom, where one of the Jedi healers was waiting for them with a small boy, who looked to be about five. He was wearing a sling on his arm.
"Larisa, this is Master Miruche. She's here to observe your healing technique."
"Please come over here," said Master Miruche, in a business-like tone of voice.
Larisa walked over to the boy and placed her hand on his arm, concentrating for a moment. His arm was broken in three places. She sat down in a chair next to him and deepened her concentration, slipping into a meditative state. The Jedi healer watched intently as the same green light glowed from her fingertips. After about ten seconds she opened her eyes. "All done."
The boy gave a little shiver and asked permission to return to his room. Mundi let him out the door and returned to their table.
"Tell me, what do you feel?" Master Miruche asked.
Larisa frowned. "Fine, but there's some strange buzzing in the back of my head. A headache, maybe."
"It's not a headache. You seemed to have formed some kind of bond with your patient while you were healing him. We're not sure what kind of bond it is but it is easily broken," Master Miruche told her. "Tomorrow we'll begin teaching you the Jedi healing technique, and how to sever this bond yourself."
"Your other Force skills are underdeveloped," Mundi informed her. "You'll be studying with another Jedi Master to improve them. In the meantime I'll show you where your room is."
He escorted her to her room and opened the door with a small metal card. "You'll need this access card to enter your room and the training rooms, so remember to keep it with you at all times," Mundi told her, handing her the card and leaving her at the door.
The room was smaller than she expected but she supposed there was plenty of room for her since she didn't bring very much with her. Hopefully Rialth would finally start to behave himself. She pulled her clothes from her bag and hung them up in a small closet. There she found three pairs of clothes, matching tops, skirts and robes, all a light green in color. Apparently the healers had a standard uniform too; very similar to the ones the Jedi wore.
Larisa ate alone in the dining room. Some of the other Padawans stared at her when she came in, but none of them came over to say hello the way Anakin had. She quickly finished her meal and went back to her room, taking some of her leftovers with her for Rialth. She decided to go to bed early. Tomorrow would be a busy day.
The next day it took her three hours to learn how to sever that strange healing bond. In another week she learned how to heal without lapsing into the trance she was so used to. Apparently that was how she was accidentally bonding with her patients. However she was still unable to prevent the bonding when she healed the more serious injuries.
Larisa also spent three weeks studying with Master Plo Koon, another Council member. She couldn't see very much of his face as he always wore a mask, but she could tell that he was definitely not human. He was from the planet Dorin, wherever that was. Koon taught her to how to move larger objects, though ten pounds seemed to be her limit. She also learned how to read other people's feelings more easily.
Larisa sat at her own table, thinking about the past month. She had tried to visit the crèche three times, but her access card wouldn't open the door, so she couldn't see how Jalira and her sister were doing. She asked Master Mundi about it and was told that the Jedi strongly discouraged close relationships with family and outside friends. It would interfere with their training. Larisa wondered what she would tell Milori when she had time to send her a message.
She sighed and continued to play with the rest of her lunch. The other Padawans continued to ignore her, so she was determined to ignore them, too. Larisa started to get up to leave when she heard a familiar voice.
She turned around and saw Anakin coming over to her table.
"I'm so glad to see you again. How was your mission?"
"Boring, like all the other ones. I almost wish I was back on Tatooine podracing again."
"You were a podracer?"
"Yeah. One of the best. I used to race for my former master, Watto."
"Yeah. I used to be a slave until Master Qui-Gon Jinn found me. The Council refused to let him train me. After he died they agreed to let Master Kenobi train me," Anakin explained.
"And how old were you?"
"I was nine. I'm going to be thirteen in eight days. How old are you?"
"I'll be fifteen in two weeks."
"Wow! You don't look that old," Anakin told her.
"Um... Thanks," Larisa said, slightly embarrassed.
Anakin looked around and noticed the stares they were receiving. "I really hate it when they look at me like that, as if I've grown horns or something," he said, almost wincing at the inadvertent reminder of the Sith.
"I know how you feel. They stare at me all the time, too. I was going to go to the garden to finish the rest of this," she said, picking up her tray. "You could come with me if you like."
"They let you visit the garden. Wow! It's usually off limits to everyone but the Masters and Knights. I'll get my tray and we can go there now." Anakin quickly grabbed a tray and they both headed out the door.
Larisa looked around for Rialth when they reached the garden, but he was nowhere in sight. After the first day she'd decided to let Rialth spend his days here. At least in the garden he wouldn't be bored to death, and he was very careful about staying hidden from the Jedi. She led Anakin to a secluded spot by a huge tree and they sat down to eat. He told her all about his past missions and she had to admit they sounded pretty boring. She told him about her recent studies.
"You're actually studying with a Council member? I always thought they were too busy to train anyone."
"I only spend three hours a day with Master Koon. The rest of the time I'm studying with Master Miruche."
"Yeah, but she was a Council member, too. She gave up her seat years ago."
Larisa noticed that it was getting late and stood up to go, picking up her tray. "It's nice to see you again. When is your next mission?"
"Not for a while. Tomorrow Padmé, I mean Queen Amidala is coming for a visit. Her birthday's the same day as mine. It's supposed to be a surprise, but I heard my Master talking to Amidala about it. Do you think they'd let you come with me? I really want you to meet her. She'll be staying in the Senate building again as a guest of the Chancellor's."
"I don't know. I can't ask them if it's supposed to be a surprise for you," Larisa reminded him.
"Oh. They're going to tell me about it tomorrow right after breakfast. Would you mind eating in the Apprentices room with me instead of here?" Anakin asked.
"Of course not. I just need to know what room you eat in."
He gave her very detailed directions, then said goodbye and rushed off. Larisa walked over to the usual bush and left some scraps for Rialth before going back inside.
The next morning Larisa entered the dining room for the younger Padawans and looked around for Anakin. He was sitting at a table by himself. "Hello, Anakin."
He looked up, relieved that she had remembered to come. His Master hadn't arrived yet and he was starting to wonder if Padmé couldn't make the trip for some reason. Larisa sat down across from him and they both managed to eat a little of their breakfast. Eight minutes passed before Anakin saw his Master enter the room. He pretended not to see him walking over to their table and leaned over to whisper to Larisa.
"They are letting you have the day to yourself, aren't they."
"Yes, they agreed. Master Koon didn't seem very happy about it, but he always looks so stern I'm not sure how he felt," she replied.
"Probably relieved. The Masters usually jump at the chance to get away from the Padawans," Anakin said, laughing.
"There you are," Knight Kenobi said. "Chancellor Palpatine is here to see you."
"Really, about what?"
"You'll find out when you speak to him. He's waiting for us in hangar nine."
"Could Larisa come with me?" Anakin asked.
"Don't you have a class with Master Koon this morning?"
"No. He's let me have a free day. So has Master Miruche," Larisa told him, keeping a straight face.
"All right, you can come along," Obi-Wan told her before leading his Apprentice away.
When they reached the hangar Anakin insisted on making the introductions. "Larisa, this is Chancellor Palpatine. Chancellor Palpatine, this is Larisa Doril. She came here about a month ago to study healing."
Larisa, having never met a Chancellor before, decided to try the usual bow again.
Palpatine gave her a friendly smile. "It's very nice to meet you. So, Anakin, you've finally found a friend here. Good. The Queen was becoming concerned, as was I." He turned to Larisa. "So, you're a healer, are you." Larisa nodded. He turned to Kenobi. "Not to be rude, but isn't she a little old to be accepted into the Temple?"
"Yes, but the Council has decided to make an exception in her case," Obi-Wan told him.
"Very interesting," Palpatine said, frowning slightly.
She stared up at him, a strange expression on her face. He stared back for a moment before turning back to Anakin. "As you're probably already aware of, Queen Amidala is visiting Coruscant to discuss a new treaty and would like to see you. She is waiting in my apartments while her own are still being prepared."
Nodding enthusiastically, Anakin practically bounced in anticipation, raising his Master's suspicions.
"Anakin! Have you been eavesdropping again?"
"No," Anakin said with wide-eyed innocence. "You forgot to close the door when you talked to Amidala. I just pretended to be asleep and listened."
Obi-Wan sighed, wondering if he had given Qui-Gon this much trouble when he was his Padawan. Thinking back on it, he probably gave him even more trouble.
Anakin turned to Palpatine. "Would you mind if Larisa came with us. I really want her to meet Amidala."
"Of course I don't mind," Palpatine told him with another smile, glancing at Larisa.
Larisa looked back at him. There was something very strange about him, but she couldn't figure out what it might be. She managed to keep herself from staring again as they walked over to Palpatine's personal transport and boarded it.
Palpatine kept a smile on his face during the trip back to the Senate building, but he was slightly annoyed. That scrawny little girl stared at him as if she had almost recognized him somehow. He had spent years learning from his own Master how to hide his presence from the Jedi. It was a talent developed and taught from Master to apprentice for a thousand years. If she proved to be a threat he would have to dispose of her as soon as possible. After he got through this visit from that upstart Queen, he would be sure to read the complete report the Jedi had on the Doril girl. He didn't have spies in the temple for no reason. It was about time they earned the money he paid them.
Larisa sat next to Anakin at the banquet table, watching Amidala conversing with Palpatine and Knight Kenobi. She certainly looked like a Queen, wearing the most elaborate gown Larisa had ever seen. At times Palpatine managed to include Anakin in the discussion, however Amidala focused most of her attention on Knight Kenobi. Larisa, noticing that Anakin was beginning to get jealous, decided to distract him. She asked him if he had ever been to Naboo and he proceeded to tell her all about the Trade Federation invasion. She became distracted herself at one point. Sensing a presence nearby, she looked around the room. It seemed to be coming from? a wall? She stared at the wall for a moment before asking Anakin to repeat his last sentence. Palpatine watched with a puzzled frown on his face before he turned back to the Queen.
The meal finally ended and they said their good-byes to Amidala. Palpatine left them in the Senate's hangar, saying he had some meeting to prepare for. On the ride back to the Temple Larisa and Anakin chatted about Naboo and its Queen, while Kenobi spent most of the time staring out the window.
"So Amidala was elected Queen?"
"Yeah. They have the election every ten years, I think."
"And the Trade Federation invaded Naboo during her first year as Queen?"
Anakin nodded. "That's when the Gungans decided to help the Naboo. That's also when Master Qui-Gon died," he said, his expression turning sad.
"How did Master Qui-Gon die?" she asked, curious.
"He died fighting the Sith."
"Anakin!" Obi-Wan said in a warning tone of voice.
Anakin turned a bright shade of red and Larisa stared at the two of them.
"What's a Sith?" she asked, puzzled. The word sounded familiar to her somehow.
"The Council doesn't want me to talk about it," Anakin said apologetically.
"Oh." Larisa silently looked out the window for the rest of the trip back to the Temple.
Palpatine spent the next two hours reading the report on the Doril girl. Very interesting, he mused, especially the part about her Force powers emerging at the age of nine. That was yet another mystery about the girl. Fortunately, he was able to solve one of them right now.
He walked over to the wall that she had stared at earlier, pressed a button hidden in a statue, and a secret door opened. The room he entered was large with several computers on each of the five walls. Each computer contained information on select members of the Senate and their planets' governments, information gathered by his spies. There was very little else in the room, just a desk and chair, and one carbon unit.
Over the centuries the Sith had built a large network of spies. Palpatine had doubled it during his political career. He therefore knew that that damned Jedi, Councilor Adi Gallia, had almost as many spies as he did, and now they were searching the galaxy for any sign of the Sith.
As for the Sith, he should be able to find the answer to that one little mystery in their history. He searched for all the information he had on Darth Bane. Unfortunately everything pre-dating the last Sith War had been lost. Almost all of those records that were lost when the Jedi wiped out the remaining Sith. There was no evidence to support his theory about the Doril girl.
However, Palpatine considered, Doril had seemed to recognize him and had even sensed another presence in this very room, so she did have at least one Sith instinct, even if it was buried so deeply in her subconscious that she didn't recognize it herself. The danger in that was that she might say something about this to the Jedi. He would have to make sure that that didn't happen until he was ready.
Palpatine looked up at the carbon unit. Shortly after the failed invasion of Naboo, indeed mere hours after, he had arrived to "congratulate" the Queen and her ridiculous new allies, the Gungans. At the same time he had Maul's body retrieved and stored in the carbon unit. If, as Doril's behavior indicated, Maul was still alive somehow, it presented him with yet another problem. He had his eye on Anakin as his next Apprentice, but decided to wait until the boy completed his Jedi training. In the meantime he was left with no current Apprentice. His new duties as the Supreme Chancellor had precluded searching for another one. He stepped closer to the frozen body and laid one hand on it. Yes. Maul was indeed still alive, but barely. This was an interesting dilemma. He had few choices available. It was tempting to dispose of Maul's body, but Palpatine chose to keep it as a reminder to himself of the price of failure. It also made an interesting decoration for this room.
He could also have arranged to have Maul healed. There were several very strong healers among the Jedi, perhaps strong enough to heal an injury as severe as the one Maul had sustained. The fact that they were Jedi, however, had immediately discounted them. But now there was this Doril girl, which was rather ironic considering she sensed Maul. That report he'd read did state that with more training she would be one of the strongest healers ever trained in the Temple. Palpatine could wait until she was sufficiently trained before arranging a little test to see if she could heal an injury similar to Maul's.
He turned back to the problem of Gallia. He decided to buy the services of one of Jabba the Hutt's bounty hunters. There was one that was a failed Jedi Apprentice, Aurra Sing. Hmmm... Yet another reason to have Maul healed. He had a talent for gathering information that was usually useful later. In the meantime, Queen Amidala was becoming a little too attached to Kenobi. He knew that the Council was encouraging a relationship between those two. They liked to pretend to be above political alliances, but with the return of the Sith he knew that at least some Council members would want their Jedi in some kind of position of power, starting with the planet the Sith had targeted in the first place. Palpatine was not about to allow that particular Jedi live long enough for the Council to convince him to marry her. Kenobi, he decided, had to die. Perhaps now would be a good time for Skywalker and his Master to visit Naboo again.
For the next eight days Anakin and Larisa ate all of their meals in the garden. Anakin told her about all of the podraces he had raced in, and about some of his more interesting mission. Larisa, with no success, made several efforts to coax Rialth out of the bushes he was hiding in. After finishing lunch one day they met Chancellor Palpatine at the garden entrance.
"Anakin," Palpatine said with a friendly smile on his face. "Just the person I was looking for."
"Why? Is something wrong?"
"Not at all. I've received a formal invitation just this morning from Queen Amidala. She would very much appreciate a visit from you and your Master. It will be a much larger gathering this time. I was going to inform Jedi Kenobi of this first but he seems to have disappeared."
"Oh, he had a meeting with Master Yoda this morning." Anakin told him, barely containing his excitement. "I'll go tell him now."
Palpatine watched him rush off before turning to Doril. He's started to speak when Rialth appeared from a nearby bush. Larisa went over and picked him up. She started to walk back towards Palpatine when Rialth started growling. Palpatine quickly removed the scowl from his face before Larisa noticed it.
"I wasn't aware that the Jedi allowed pets in the garden. What exactly is that creature?" Palpatine asked. He was very aware of what it looked like but, like Knight Giron, he could still sense the Force.
"It's my pet Ysalir, Rialth. Master Mundi said he could stay in here every day as long as he didn't bother anyone." She started to move closer to Palpatine but Rialth began hissing at him. "I'm sorry. He usually has better manners than this. Well, a little better," Larisa amended. She walked back towards the bushes and put Rialth down. He stood there for a moment, growling at Palpatine, before hastily retreating.
"That's quite all right," Palpatine said, glancing at the bush where Rialth disappeared before leaving. It would seem that the reports had understated the potential the girl had. Why else would the Jedi let her keep a pet that looked so much like a Ysalamirri? He also suspected that they were keeping her on a tight leash. The Jedi were nothing if not thoroughly paranoid.
He came across Anakin and Kenobi and decided to interrupt their discussion. "Ah, I see you've found him. Can I assume you will accept the Queen's invitation?"
"Yes," Obi-Wan said reluctantly. He had promised himself that he would never return to Naboo, especially to the palace Qui-Gon had died in. Sometimes, though, it was impossible to say no to Anakin. At least the boy would have an opportunity to spend more time with Amidala.
"Can Larisa come with us?" Anakin suddenly asked.
Palpatine barely stopped himself from scowling. Skywalker was becoming a little too attached to his new friend.
"I don't think the Council will allow it" Obi-Wan told his Padawan.
Kenobi paused, suddenly at a loss for words.
"I'm sure she still has a great deal of training still ahead of her," Palpatine interjected.
"Oh. Can I ask Master Mundi if she can come? I'm sure he would let her. He likes her."
Obi-Wan frowned. He was going to have to do something about Anakin. He was getting too used to getting his way, and sometimes even resorted to manipulation a little too often. A longer mission would probably do them both some good. He would talk to Yoda after they returned from this visit to Naboo.
"All right, but this is the last time you're asking him for any favors, Anakin. Understood?"
"Yes, Master" Anakin replied, looking chagrined.
"We'll meet you in hangar four."
"Okay." Anakin hurried off to find Mundi.
"That boy is a handful, isn't he?" Palpatine asked with a tight smile on his face.
"He certainly is," Obi-wan agreed as they made their way to the hangar. "If you don't mind, I have a meeting to attend to before our trip."
"Of course." Palpatine boarded his ship as Kenobi left to meet with Master Yoda.
At that moment Anakin approached Masters Mundi and Koon about the trip. Mundi was one of the friendlier Masters so Anakin decided to ask him first.
"Master Mundi sir, Queen Amidala has invited me and my Master to Naboo. Would it would be okay if Larisa went with us?" Anakin asked meekly. "We'll only be gone four days."
Mundi pretended to consider it for a long moment while Koon looked disapproving, making Anakin nervous. "I don't foresee any problem," Mundi told him.
"Thank you," Anakin said, with a proper little bow before leaving.
Mundi returned to his quarters while Koon sought out Mace Windu.
Larisa was waiting in her room when Anakin showed up with the news. She packed all three healers robes and two of her own dresses, then remembered Rialth. Well, she thought, it was going to be a short trip. He should be fine where he is in the garden.
She followed Anakin to hangar four where they met Kenobi. Palpatine's ship was a great deal larger than Larisa expected. Once on board she learned that Palpatine had brought along all of his advisers on this trip. Apparently this formal gathering was a great deal larger than the one last week. There were at least a hundred other guests invited, including ambassadors and other dignitaries.
Because there were so many passengers on board already Larisa, Anakin and Kenobi were forced to share the same quarters, three bedrooms connected by one large public room. Luckily, each bedroom had its own small fresher room. After putting away the few clothes she brought with her, Larisa went back to the public room where Anakin was.
"Hi," he said. "It's almost time for the noon meal."
"Where's your Master?" asked Larisa.
"He's still in his room. I don't think he really wanted to go to Naboo."
"Because of Master Jinn?"
"Yes. He was Qui-Gon's Padawan," Anakin told her.
"Oh. I didn't know that," she said, thinking about how Kenobi always seemed so distant. He must still miss his Master, even after nearly four years.
Larisa and Anakin quickly ate lunch and went back to their own rooms. For the rest of the trip Kenobi spent most of his time in his room. He only came out to collect his own meals and to send a few messages back to the Council.
They reached Naboo in eight hours. The cruiser had been built for speed as well as for size. Larisa stared out her window at the planet. After spending over a month on Coruscant it was a relief to see a more natural-looking planet. Naboo had the most beautiful shades of blue and green she had ever seen. There was even a little purple in some spots, which must be very large mountains.
When they landed in the hangar the Queen was waiting to greet them. Larisa noticed Knight Kenobi looking around the hangar while Anakin went over to try to talk to Amidala, a difficult task while she was still surrounded by the Ambassadors and four handmaiden's.
After a few seconds Anakin gave up and walked back over to Larisa. "I'm going to go visit Jar-Jar. Did you want to come?"
"Sure. Who's Jar-Jar?" she asked, watching the Queen make her way over to them.
"A friend of mine. He's a Gungan."
"Hello, Anakin," Amidala said with a wide smile. "Have you been on any interesting missions yet?"
Anakin, remembering all his complaints of boredom, looked to make sure Kenobi couldn't hear their conversation. "Not yet," he replied with a sigh, looking depressed. "Larisa and I are going to visit Jar-Jar."
"Be careful," the Queen warned. "There has been a lot of rainfall lately, so stay away from the rivers."
"We will," Anakin promised.
"I think I'll join you," Kenobi said, approaching them.
Amidala smiled, a little sadly. "I could make other arrangement for you if you prefer. You don't have to stay in the palace."
Obi-Wan hesitated before answering. "No, the palace will be fine. I can't avoid it forever, can I?" he remarked, almost jokingly.
Amidala looked even sadder and Anakin looked down at his feet.
"Well, we'd best go now if we're going to be back before dark," Obi-Wan stated.
They left the hangar and made their way down a path to the forest, Amidala and Palpatine watching them go. As they walked along a path through a forest Anakin told Larisa about the Gungan battle. His excitement was so great about this visit she could barely get one word in, as he talked almost nonstop through their walk.
When they were almost halfway to the Gungan city, they came across a river. It ended in a waterfall that led down into a wide valley. Anakin insisted on showing Larisa the view. Kenobi followed them closer to the edge of the waterfall. There was a huge outcropping of rock on their side of the waterfall.
Obi-Wan inspected it and decided it was safe to stand on. He was grateful for a chance to get away from the Palace. Even the hangar brought back some memories he wanted to forget. He looked over the huge valley, thinking of the Queen's offer. He might as well stay at the palace, and try not to dwell on what happened there. Control my emotions, he thought, smiling slightly. Something Yoda was always telling him he needed to practice.
Larisa noticed his smile and wondered about it. She looked the rock over before deciding to join him up there. Kenobi looked back at her with a small frown.
"I'm not disturbing you, am I?"
"No. I was just enjoying the view."
"You were thinking about Master Jinn, weren't you," she asked quietly.
Kenobi started and whirled around.
"Anakin told me about him," she said apologetically.
"Of course he did. He tells other people a lot of things," he said, almost bitterly.
Larisa frowned. "Why did you take Anakin as your Apprentice?"
"Because Qui-Gon asked me to," Obi-Wan answered after making sure that Anakin wasn't close enough to overhear them. "And I agreed, against the wishes of the Council."
"Why didn't they want Anakin trained?" she asked.
"Because he was too old."
How odd, she thought. Why would a Jedi Master go against the wishes of the Council? This was one of the strangest conversations she's ever had. "And why did Master Qui-Gon want Anakin trained?"
"Because he was convinced that Anakin was the Chosen One," Obi-wan answered, then wondered why he was telling her this.
"And is he this 'Chosen One'?"
"I don't know," he said, tiredly. "The Council didn't agree. The Council didn't agree with Master Jinn on a lot of issues."
Larisa frowned. "Is the Council always right?"
"Of course they are."
"Then your Master was wrong."
"No. I didn't say that!" Kenobi said, suddenly frustrated. He owed the Council his loyalty, he knew that, but he didn't know how to explain the situation.
"Well, maybe they were both right." Kenobi stared at her. "It's possible for two people to be right about something," she said, a little defensively. She decided to go back to the original subject. "Why can't older children be trained as Jedi?"
"The younger children are trained because they haven't felt any negative emotions, such as fear and anger," Obi-Wan told her, glad to be off the subject of the Council and his former Master.
"Doesn't everyone feel those things once in a while? What's so wrong about it?"
"Those feelings lead to the Dark Side," Kenobi told her patiently.
"I don't understand."
"It's part of the Jedi Code."
"I haven't read the Code." Larisa said, wondering what that had to do with anything.
"It's what Yoda is always reminding us of. 'Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to the Dark Side'," he quoted from memory.
"It still doesn't make sense. Why would fear lead to hate. If I were afraid of a mouse, for example, I wouldn't spend every moment looking for one under chairs. And I certainly wouldn't start to hate it. Most people wouldn't," she said.
Obi-Wan smiled at the image of the Temple infested with small rodents. "I don't think the Code was referring to mice."
"Well, no, it probably didn't." She started to say more when she suddenly had a very odd feeling. Kenobi froze, as if he were listening to something. She heard a strange cracking noise, then the rock they were standing on crumbled underneath their feet.
Anakin looked up in time to see Larisa and his Master disappear into the waterfall.
Larisa continues to study with the Jedi, and finds her destiny tangled up with those of Obi-wan, his Padawan - and Chancellor Palpatine!
The forty-foot drop seemed to last for hours, though Larisa knew that it probably took no more than twenty seconds before they finally landed in the river below. She gasped as the icy temperature finally registered. Struggling back to the surface, she looked around for Obi-Wan and spotted him a few yards downstream from her. She let the current carry her towards him, finding him unconscious. When she reached out to grab his arm, a sharp pain lanced through her left arm.
Great, she thought, my first broken bone and with wonderful timing. Maneuvering to his other side, Larisa grasped Obi-Wan's other arm and her right shoulder under Obi-Wan's, then made her way to shore, fighting the current.
Once she reached dry ground, she almost collapsed under the Jedi's weight. In the water she hadn't realized how heavy he was and now she had to practically drag him over to a large tree. Close to exhaustion, she slumped next to him, then checked him for injuries. He seemed fine except for a couple of broken ribs, nothing that was life threatening. She was worn out and couldn't seem to remember her lessons, so she decided to use her own healing method. After she healed both of their injuries she resolved to worry about the bond later. She leaned back against the tree trunk, wondering how long it would take Anakin and the others to find them.
Her eyes heavy, she looked over at Obi-Wan. He certainly looked more peaceful when he was asleep, she thought as she brushed a lock of hair back out of his face. She jerked her hand back when he turned his head away and mumbled something. Something about a Sith. That word again, she thought, as she finally fell asleep. And dreamed.
She stood among a group of trees at the top of a hill, looking down at a huge temple. There was something strange about the sight. It was as if she looked through someone else's eyes. There were dozens of black-robed figures rushing about in a panic as the temple burned before them. She noticed plumes of smoke in the distance and knew the same was happening to the nearby city. There were dozens of figures lying dead or wounded on the ground, but she made no attempt to help them. It was their own fault for trusting the Jedi. The Jedi?
Ahhh, there they are, she thought as their ships finally landed next to the burning temple and the Jedi emerged. She continued to watch as the Jedi ignited their lightsabers and proceeded to kill the wounded that tried to defend themselves. She drew back further into the trees, then realized that something was different about herself. She looked down, finding she wore the same black robes as the others as well as a pair of heavy black boots. Puzzled, she realized that, judging by the size, these were definitely made for a man's feet. She glanced at the nearest tree. Yes, she was definitely at least a foot taller than she remembered. No, remembered wasn't the right word. She had a feeling that what she was witnessing here had happened a very long time ago.
She looked back towards the temple and saw that the buildings next to it were now on fire as well. She saw smaller figures; women and children, fleeing the flames only to be struck down by the Jedi waited outside. Other Jedi, she saw, headed back to their ships. They each seemed to be carrying something wrapped in black cloth, but she couldn't quite grasp what that meant. She looked back towards the temple and saw that a Jedi had spotted her. The fool didn't even alert his companions before charging straight at her. She watched him for a moment before reaching for her....
She jerked awake and stared up at the Jedi in front of her. She almost made a lunge for his lightsaber before she managed to stop herself. She shook her head, trying to remember what the hell she had just dreamed, but it disappeared so quickly she could only recall vague images of a burning temple. She came to her senses and wondered what she thought she was doing. She didn't even know how to use a lightsaber. She started to get up, then suddenly sneezed and fell back against the tree.
"Are you all right?" Obi-Wan asked with a puzzled frown.
"Yes. Umm... Just a dream, I think." Larisa noticed Anakin standing behind Kenobi.
"Are you okay?" Anakin asked her, looking worried.
"I'm fine," she assured him, barely managing a smile. "How long was I asleep?"
"Almost an hour," Obi-Wan told her.
She started to get up when she remembered his broken ribs and her own broken arm. She checked her arm again. It was fine. Perhaps that had been a dream, too. She looked back at Obi-Wan. "Are you all right?"
"I thought I'd broken something in the fall, but I guess it was just a dream."
"Well, we had better get back to the palace," he told her as she stood up and looked around.
"You don't remember?"
She shook her head. Obi-Wan paused for a moment. He had already spoken with Master Yoda about this incident and had been told not to discuss it with anyone. A simple accident was the official explanation.
"You fell into the waterfall," Anakin exclaimed, looking pale again. "I felt a disturbance in the Force."
"Anakin, we need to return to the palace now," Obi-Wan said, frowning down at his Apprentice.
There he goes, looking stern again, Larisa thought as they walked towards the Nubian transport. They didn't say another word on the way back to the palace.
Palpatine was listening to Sio Bibble's report and could barely keep himself from throwing the annoying Governor out the window. The Queen had received yet another offer of a political alliance. This time from Alderaan. The last thing he needed was a marriage between the Queen and one of his strongest critics. It would be almost as intolerable as a marriage between her and Knight Kenobi, which he knew the Jedi Council had already suggested to her. Bibble had finally shut up and left.
Palpatine put on a sympathetic face and turned to the Queen. "And are you considering Prince Organa's offer?" he asked.
They were interrupted before she could reply. "Your Highness, we're receiving another message from Coruscant," Captain Panaka informed her.
She sighed as a hologram of Master Windu appeared before her throne. Palpatine stepped to the side. He was not in the mood to exchange pleasantries with any Jedi, let alone that particular one.
"Master Windu," the Queen acknowledged before he could get a word out. "As you know there has been an accident involving Knight Kenobi, but he has been found, unharmed."
"Yes. We are grateful for your quick response to this situation."
Amidala stared at him. He wasn't surprised at her news. Was it possible that he already knew? She decided to test a sudden theory. "I have also received an offer from Prince Organa of Alderaan," she told him. Again there was no trace of surprise. Apparently the Jedi actually had a spy in her court. The audacity of that momentarily robbed the Queen of speech. Palpatine, well aware of why Windu already knew, smiled in the background.
"And have you considered the Council's proposal?" Windu asked her.
"I am considering all proposals," she told him.
"We are hoping you would see all the advantages of an alliance with the Jedi, considering that Kenobi had aided your planet during the recent invasion." Windu reminded her.
"Yes, he did. And he did not ask for a reward, a tradition the Jedi take great pride in," she stated, coldly.
Windu paused a moment, listening to someone, probably a fellow Council member. He turned back to her, looking like he had swallowed a lemon. "Please forgive the insult, Your Highness, it was unintentional."
The Queen nodded. "As I said, I am considering all proposals. I will inform Kenobi of your concern for his safety," she told him, cynically.
Windu bowed to her and the hologram abruptly disappeared.
"Well, that was interesting," Palpatine said, coming forward. "I wonder if they have even informed Kenobi of their intentions."
"It would not surprise me if they do not, at least until they have received an answer from me."
Palpatine managed a sympathetic expression. "Have you made a decision?"
"There is one possible solution to your situation, a temporary one," Palpatine informed her, then continued when she nodded at him. "You could name someone else as your Consort, perhaps young Skywalker."
"Except that Anakin is still a child," Amidala pointed out.
"That is exactly my point. According to Naboo tradition the Consort cannot marry until he or she is nineteen years of age. Therefore you would have another six years before marrying him, or anyone else you might choose during that time."
The Queen looked thoughtful for a moment. "I will consider this option. Thank you, Chancellor."
Palpatine bowed and left the room.
Amidala sat in her throne, considering her options. She would, she realized, have to marry someone. The Republic was becoming increasingly unstable each year and Naboo was extremely vulnerable, as the Trade Federation had proved.
"Governor Bibble." Amidala called.
"Yes, your Highness?"
"You heard the Chancellor's suggestion?"
"Bring me all the information you have on this tradition." Amidala sat there waiting, and thinking. Prince Organa's offer did have some advantages to it, but she was hoping for a personal gain as well as a political one. Most political marriages ended with the two parties barely on speaking terms and she had no desire for that kind of misery. Her thought wandered to Kenobi. He was a friend of hers, to be sure, but she wondered if there could be more with a little time. There was also Anakin.
He was five years her junior but was convinced that he would marry her when he grew up. A dream, he had said. Amidala, however, was too practical to put that much faith in dreams. She looked up as Governor Bibble came back with two datapads.
"Here is the information on Palpatine's suggestion," he said handing her one of the datapads. "Another tradition I've found states that any Sovereign can choose more than one Consort for a length of two years, then he or she must decide between them."
Amidala looked up from the datapad in her hands. "And if one of the Consorts is too young?" she asked, interested.
"Well, then the King or Queen must choose two years after the Consort's nineteenth birthday." Bibble read from the datapad.
Amidala dismissed him and sat back in her throne. At least now she had another option available. She stood and left to see if Kenobi and the others were back yet.
Palpatine reached his own quarters and brusquely dismissed his aides. "Of all the incompetent...." he muttered in a fury. Aurra Sing had a reputation of being one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy but one wouldn't know it from today's debacle. If she failed the second job he had paid her for he would have no choice but to get rid of her himself.
Larisa stared at the palace. It certainly looked impressive from this view. Not that she had ever really seen a palace before, she thought, fighting back another sneeze. She turned to Kenobi. "Are our rooms ready yet?"
She frowned at the curt reply. She was starting to get a headache and his rudeness was putting her in a bad mood. She decided to ask more questions. "How big are they?"
"How big are what?" He asked back, looking confused.
"I don't know. I've never spent the night here before," he replied, rubbing at his temple.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes! It's just a headache."
"Do you have to snap at everyone all the time?"
Anakin stepped into the fray. "He doesn't do that all the time. It's usually only when something goes wrong on our missions."
"I thought you said your missions were boring."
Kenobi felt his headache getting worse. This was not an appropriate conversation. "Anakin!"
Anakin sat back and rolled his eyes. "There he goes again!"
Larisa barely stifled a giggle as they reached the hangar. Kenobi practically jumped out of the transport. Larisa got out herself and stood looking around. She was almost swaying on her feet, she felt so tired.
She spotted the Queen entering from a side door. She watched Kenobi walk up to Amidala, then followed him over. Amidala took in the sight of him. There was dried mud covering half of his robe and at least three leaves stuck in his hair.
"Your rooms are ready." She turned to Rabé. "Take one of the less-used routes."
Larisa looked down at herself. Her skirt looked more brown than green. And her robe. Where was her robe?
She looked at Kenobi. "You have leaves in your hair."
"What?" He ran his fingers through his hair, looking dismayed as the three leaves and a large twig fell out. Larisa smothered a laugh as Rabé led them out of the hangar. They walked through an empty corridor.
Rabé led them to Anakin's and Kenobi's rooms first as they were right next to each other. Larisa's room was three rooms away, on the other side of the hallway. Entering her room, she found her bag of clothes on a chair next to a table. She pulled out a green nightgown, the same color as her Healers robe. Her wardrobe now consisted of three shirts and skirts and only two robes. A violent sneeze shook her again. I must be getting sick, she thought, aware she was having a difficult time concentrating. She would take a shower, then heal herself.
With that, she stepped into the shower and turned the water on. Wait a minute! She still had her clothes on. Disgusted with herself, she turned the water off and stepped back out, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She looked like hell. Not just the mud covering her, but her hair. Perhaps she should stop trimming it. Letting it grow longer would probably take care of those ridiculous-looking curls. She removed her mud-streaked clothes and studied herself again. If she were lucky she stood 5'3". Since her parents weren't very tall, she had little hope of growing much taller herself. At least the rest of my body's maturing, she thought grumpily.
She stepped back into the shower and turned the water on. At the stinging cold, she shivered and turned it to hot. Then it burned her and she returned it to cold. Twice more she switched the water's temperature before finishing her shower. Once dry, she returned to the bed, ignoring the gown she had left out. With a shiver, she crawled under the covers and fell asleep, kicking the covers onto the floor.
Anakin volunteered to unpack the clothes while his Master used the fresher room. He put away Obi-Wan's, then went to his own room and put his own clothes away. He walked back through the door connecting both their rooms and found Obi-Wan sitting in a chair with his head in his hands. "Are you okay?"
"No." Obi-Wan replied.
"If you're sick I could get Larisa. She could heal you."
"It's just a headache," Obi-Wan said, but Anakin was already out the door.
Anakin ran to Larisa's room and pushed the button that announced visitors. There was no answer. He pushed it three more times before giving up and went back to his own room.
Master Windu looked up as the hologram appeared. It was Skywalker. He wondered what had happened now. "Padawan Skywalker," he acknowledged grimly. "Is there another problem?"
"Master Kenobi is ill." And it's not my fault this time, Anakin silently added. "Larisa must be sick, too. She won't answer her door. My Master wanted me to tell you instead of the Queen."
To avoid any unnecessary questions from the Queen and her other guests, Windu knew. Larisa? Oh. That Doril girl Master Koon had spoken to him about. "We'll send a Healer to Naboo immediately. Inform the Queen, but no one else."
"Okay." Anakin said before Windu ended the transmission himself.
Several hours later Obi-Wan was lying on his bed. Anakin was trying to get him to drink a little more water when the Queen arrived with Master Miruche. "How is he?" the Master asked.
"He still acts sick, but he doesn't feel that hot," Anakin replied, placing his hand on Obi-Wan's forehead.
Obi-Wan sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "I am not sick!"
"Don't try to get up," the healer said as she walked over to the bed and examined Obi-Wan. She turned back to Anakin.
"He'll be fine. I'm sure you don't want to miss your own dinner," she told Anakin.
"Are you sure he'll be okay?" Anakin asked, still looking worried.
"Yes," she said impatiently.
"Come, Anakin. Let's see if you have something appropriate to wear. Tonight's dinner is going to be very formal," the Queen told him as they went to his own room. Anakin groaned as he closed the door.
Master Miruche helped Obi-Wan lie back down on the bed and covered him with a spread. There was nothing wrong with him except that wretched bond. Larisa must have had to heal him for some reason. It was her symptoms he was feeling. The bond had somehow grown stronger during the past several hours.
She made her way to Larisa's room, using a computerized key the Queen had given her to open the door. She went in and found Larisa sprawled on her bed, still asleep with the covers on the floor. She quickly examined the girl. It was only a fever, nothing too serious. As for the bond, she would wait until the girl woke up before she attempted to break it.
She went back to Obi-Wan's room and checked on him and Anakin. Obi-Wan was still asleep but Anakin was in his room talking to the Queen.
"Master Kenobi told me that when we get back to the Temple I'm going to start lightsaber practice."
Anakin noticed Miruche and jumped up. "How is he?"
"He'll be fine. He's asleep," she added when Anakin started towards the adjoining room. "And how are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. I was just telling Padmé--"
"You mean Her Highness," Miruche said, reminding the boy of 'Padmé's' official title.
"Her Highness," the boy repeated, subdued. "Master Kenobi said I'll be one of the youngest Knights ever to take the Trials."
"Really?" Master Miruche said as she noticed someone enter the room.
"Yeah. Once I'm a Knight, I'm going to back to Tatooine to free my mom."
"Excuse the interruption," Palpatine said from the doorway. "There's an urgent message from Coruscant for Master Miruche."
"Thank you." Miruche went to Kenobi's room to receive the message.
Kenobi was awake again when she walked in. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Much better," he told her.
"Well, you certainly look relaxed, more than you have in years," she noted. "There's a message from Coruscant. I assume you'll want to hear what it, too."
Obi-Wan nodded and leaned back against the headboard. He hoped nothing was wrong back at the Temple. He had decided to treat this visit as a sort of vacation.
They both looked up as Master Windu's hologram appeared.
"Master Miruche," he said gravely. "And Knight Kenobi. You have recovered?"
"Yes. Is there a problem?"
"Yes. The Council insists that you and Anakin return as soon as possible, as well as Master Miruche and that Doril girl." Windu said.
"Because Master Gallia is dead." Windu informed them. "Return immediately," he repeated before the hologram disappeared.
Master Miruche turned and left Obi-Wan in stunned silence. She marched into Larisa's room and found her just starting to wake.
"What's the matter?" Larisa asked, staring up at the Master.
"Well for one thing you've bonded with Knight Kenobi," Miruche told her.
"I did what?" Larisa asked, bewildered. She wished she wasn't so tired. She was having trouble following the conversation.
"You've bonded Knight Kenobi," Miruche said impatiently. "And now you're going to remove it. Get dressed and come to Knight Kenobi's room." Miruche left the room.
Larisa looked down at herself. She was wearing a robe. She looked around and saw the bed cover and her gown on the floor. She got up and went to the fresher room. Her muddy clothes were still on the floor. What a mess! She wanted to crawl under the bed and hide. She found a bag in the closet and shoved the dirty clothes in, then washed her hands. The Queen's servants would have to clean the muddy floor, she thought, embarrassed as she went back to the bedroom. She picked up the covering and tossed it back onto the bed before changing into clean clothes. She walked slowly to Kenobi's room.
When she entered she just knew that everyone was staring at her. "I don't remember healing him," she explained.
Master Miruche glowered at her. "Just do it quickly. We're been ordered to return to Coruscant immediately."
"Why?" Larisa asked.
"Do what?" Anakin asked at the same time.
"That is the Council's concern, not yours. Just do what you are told and don't ask for explanations," Miruche told her before turning to Anakin. "Apparently Larisa healed Knight Kenobi after the accident and formed a bond with him. A bond she is going to break right now. You know what to do," she told Larisa.
Miruche ignored the fact that all three of them were staring at her and left the room without another word.
"I'm sorry. I don't remember doing that," Larisa apologized.
"I don't remember being injured." Kenobi frowned. "At any rate, Master Miruche is waiting. She said you know what to do."
"Yes. I'll try." She placed a hand at his temple and concentrated. Damn! These bonds were harder to break than she remembered and she was starting to get another headache. "Um... I'll go get Master Miruche."
When she entered Anakin's room Master Miruche was talking to Master Windu's hologram. She quickly ended the transmission when she saw Larisa.
"Uh... I'm having a little trouble with the bond," Larisa admitted.
Miruche sighed in irritation. "Very well, I'll do it."
Miruche went back to Kenobi's room, Larisa following close behind. The Jedi Healer went over to Kenobi and put her own hand on Kenobi's forehead. She frowned in concentration before taking her hand away.
"Larisa, come over here."
"What's wrong?" she asked as she came over to the bed.
"Nothing. Just stand here." Miruche gestured next to the bed. Miruche put a hand on each of their foreheads. Larisa stared at her, then down at Obi-Wan. He's certainly handsome, she thought, especially with those pretty blue eyes. She quickly looked away and once again wondered what the hell was the matter with her. Then she felt a sharp pain lancing through her skull. She grabbed at her head and groaned.
"What did you do?" she asked, looking up at Miruche. Larisa saw that Kenobi had felt a similar pain.
"I've removed the bond." Miruche told her, looking almost angry. What did she have to be angry about?
"Why did it hurt?"
"I don't know, but you are going to have another healer with you at all times when you see more patients, to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Larisa stared down at the floor. Can this day get any more embarrassing? She thanked Miruche and wandered back to her room.
"Anakin, go to your room and get your things, now," Kenobi said as he stood up to do the same.
Anakin went back to his room, depressed. He hadn't gotten to spend much time with Padmé, again, and now Obi-Wan was getting all grumpy again.
Larisa stayed in her room during the trip back to Coruscant. She still couldn't recall healing the Jedi, so she spent most of her time trying to remember that strange dream. All she could recall though was that burning temple. She had a feeling the Jedi were somehow responsible. Why would the Jedi burn a temple? she wondered. She suddenly felt tired again and decided to try to get some more sleep.
She woke and looked around, blinking. What was that noise? Oh. They're at Coruscant. She got up, picked up her bags of clothes, and left her room. She encountered Miruche and Kenobi in the corridor. She kept her attention on Miruche, careful not to look at Kenobi.
"You do have a meeting with the Council." Miruche reminded Kenobi. "You don't want to be late, especially at a time like this." Kenobi nodded and walked away.
Miruche turned towards Larisa. "Master Windu is here to meet you. You're being moved to a different room."
Larisa followed Miruche out of the shuttle and into the hangar. There was Windu, looking as friendly as ever. She looked around, but there was no one else in sight. She wondered where Anakin had disappeared.
"Master Windu," she greeted.
"Doril," he replied. "You do still have your access card, don't you?"
"Yes," she said, pulling it out of a pocket and handing it to him. "Master Miruche said that I was being moved."
"Yes. And you'll be restricted to the rooms you'll be studying in."
"You did not have permission to go to Naboo."
"But Master Mundi said it would be all right."
"Master Mundi, I'm afraid, acted without consulting the Council."
"I didn't know I needed the Council's permission," she said, suddenly defiant.
Windu scowled down at her. "If you wish to leave the Temple I could have you escorted to the hangar. I assume you have enough credits to buy transportation back to your planet."
She opened her mouth, but couldn't seem to get any words out.
Windu looked down at her, almost condescendingly. "As you are probably aware, Adarlon is not a planet the Jedi visit regularly."
Larisa couldn't believe this was happening. If she didn't do what they wanted they would put her out with little more than the clothes on her back. She could go to the Chancellor for help, she supposed, but the thought of being sent back home in disgrace. She didn't think she could possibly be more mortified than she was at this very moment.
"Master Mundi didn't get in trouble, did he?" she asked in a small voice.
"No, but he has, at our suggestion, finally agreed to chose a Padawan." Windu actually looked a little amused at that.
"Here," he said handed her a new access card. "Your room is this way.
She followed him through three corridors before arriving at her new room.
"All of your meals will be sent here from now on," Windu informed her.
"Can't I eat in any of the dining rooms?" she asked.
"No. Those rooms are for Padawans and junior Knights."
"Well, is there a library I could visit?" she asked, wondering where she was supposed to spend her free time.
"The library is also restricted to Jedi."
She was beginning to get a little desperate. "What about the garden? Master Mundi was letting me keep Rialth there."
"That will be allowed, at least until the creature dies." Windu said, brusquely.
"Until he dies?" she asked, outraged.
"Yes. It is a close relative of the Ysalamirri, which has a life span of about ten years. Since it does seem domesticated the Council will allow it to remain, unless you intend to become hysterical about it." Windu frowned down at her.
"No, of course not." I do not get hysterical! she thought, resentfully. She almost asked him what a Ysalamirri was, but that would mean continuing the conversation with him. Such an unpleasant man, she thought.
His frown deepened and she suddenly wondered if he was reading her mind. Some Jedi did have that ability. He left her at the door and she slowly went inside. It was a lot smaller than her old room. There was a bedroom and a small fresher room but no public room for visitors. The bed was rather small as well, and the frame had seen better days. She dumped her muddy clothes in the tiny shower. It took three washings before they finally came clean. She went back to the bedroom and spread the clothes out on the two chairs at the table. She lay down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Was this was how Anakin had felt when he was a slave?
At that moment Obi-Wan was standing in the middle of the Council's chamber, waiting for Master Yoda to make an appearance. He'd never heard of any Councilors actually making a Jedi wait. They would never stoop to that level. If they were displeased with any of the Knights or Masters they let them know it immediately.
At that moment the door opened and three Councilors came in, looking very grim. Kenobi watched as Masters Yoda, Windu, and Billapa sat down. He glanced at Master Gallia's empty chair before addressing them.
"Masters." Obi-Wan bowed. "How did Master Gallia die?"
Windu answered him. "It happened here, on Coruscant. She was meeting a contact who had information about the Sith. Apparently she was struck by a blaster, set on stun, then was killed with her own lightsaber."
"Which is now missing," Billapa informed him.
Obi-Wan looked horrified. "And the contact?"
"Disappeared he has," answered Yoda.
They turned as the door opened to admit a tense-looking Master Mundi.
"Master Mundi. More to report, have you?"
"Three more of Master Gallia's contacts have disappeared and there is no response from several others."
"So the Sith are aware of Master Gallia's efforts," Obi-Wan stated. "Is there any clue who the Sith might be?"
"Gallia had found very little information until now. All we can deduce is that the Sith is in some position of influence, perhaps as an advisor to a Senator or even the Chancellor," Windu told him.
"The Chancellor has at least a dozen advisors of his own," Obi-Wan said, disturbed. "And there are hundreds of Senators."
"So you see how vulnerable we are now. With Gallia dead we have almost no access to any contacts that are left, even if they did try to contact us, which is highly doubtful." Master Billapa told him.
"We have received a proposal of sorts from Queen Amidala we would like you to consider." Windu told Obi-Wan.
"What kind of proposal? Obi-Wan asked, warily.
"The Queen has received a number proposals in recent years," Master Windu informed him.
"A political alliance would be in Naboo's best interest," Billapa interjected.
"And what is the Queen's proposal?" Obi-Wan repeated, dreading the answer.
"She has decided to choose three Consorts at this time. Prince Organa of Alderaan has already agreed," Billapa said, watching him.
"And the other two Consorts?" Obi-Wan asked.
"The other two she has proposed are you and your Padawan," Windu told him calmly.
Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "Anakin is only thirteen years old."
"Governor Bibble has informed us of one of Naboo's traditions. If the ruler cannot decided who to marry he, or she, can choose more than one consort," Billapa told him. "Since the Nubians cannot legally marry until they turn nineteen, the King or Queen has time to decide between them."
Kenobi was starting to look rebellious, Windu noticed. "I'm sure you appreciate the seriousness of the situation."
"Exactly how would marriage to the Queen help the Jedi?" Kenobi asked, stalling. He could feel a headache developing. He wondered if Qui-Gon had gotten them whenever he talked to the Council.
"If you agree to her proposal you would have access to all the political gatherings," Billapa explained.
"Gatherings that the Jedi are not normally invited to." Windu inserted.
"Since he is your Padawan we have decided to let you explain the situation, with discretion," Billapa told him.
"Of course," Obi-Wan replied, frustrated.
Windu started to say something else when another Knight came into the chambers.
"Master Windu. There's an urgent message from Chancellor Palpatine."
Windu pressed one of the buttons on the armrest of his chair and a hologram of the Chancellor appeared.
"Chancellor," Windu said. "Is there a problem?"
"A very serious problem." Palpatine informed them. "Apparently the Naboo have recently developed a new cloning method, one that I had not been informed of," he said with a frown.
"What sort of new method?" asked Mundi.
"One in which the takes only days to fully matures instead of weeks. And now it seems that one of their scientists has disappeared, along with his copy of all the data."
"When did this theft take place?" Windu asked, eyes narrowed.
"No more than ten hours ago, or so they tell me." Palpatine hesitated. "This wouldn't have anything to do with Councilor Gallia's death, would it?"
"We're not sure. With your permission, we are sending two Jedi to Naboo to aid with the investigation," Windu said, leaning back in his seat.
"Of course. Any help would be greatly appreciated," Palpatine said before ending the transmission.
Windu turned to Obi-Wan. "You were on Naboo at that time."
"Yes, And so were hundreds of others," Obi-Wan pointed out. "Including many Senators and other dignitaries." He paused. "I was under the impression that cloning was illegal."
"Technically it is. However there are many planets, Naboo included, that use a cloning process to send supplies, mostly food, to Coruscant in exchange for the latest technology."
"And Naboo has used that technology for cloning experiments. Are Anakin and I being assigned to Naboo?"
Windu stared at him, astonished. "Absolutely not! I've been informed that there has already been one attempt on your life. You and Anakin are to remain in the temple for now. You will, of course, attend certain functions as the Queen's consort and you will also continue to be assigned to missions."
Obi-Wan bowed and left the chamber, frustrated. He was hoping to talk to Amidala in person. A hologram would have to do instead.
Palpatine ended the transmission and dismissed his advisors. They had barely closed the door before he started to laugh. The Jedi were so incredibly naive it was ridiculous. He opened a desk drawer and looked down at the datapads he had finally acquired from his Naboo spy. Disposing of one of the scientists had been the easy part. He had, over the last few years, randomly chosen planets on the rim and built hidden bases on them. He had arranged to have all of those planets classified as uninhabitable, but he wasn't taking any chances of the bases being discovered by anyone. They had been built at least fifty feet underground and he had arranged to have all the scientists in his personal employ moved there. And as soon as he had the data delivered to them he would be ready begin building his own army when the time was right.
In the meantime, he had planted so many false leads that the Jedi would be kept occupied for years, searching for the Sith in the wrong places. If they did become a threat again he had another plan to distract them. A plan that would also strengthen his hold over the entire galaxy.
Obi-Wan had finally gotten a response from Naboo. Unfortunately it was Governor Bibble. He paced back in forth, waiting for the Governor to return with the Queen.
He turned back to the hologram. "Your Highness."
She smiled faintly, then dismissed the others from her throne room. "I think we can dispense with the formalities, Obi-Wan."
"Amidala," Obi-Wan said uncomfortably. "The Council has informed me of your proposal."
"And you don't agree?" she asked, watching him closely.
"I'm not arguing that an alliance wouldn't be beneficial for you..."
"But you don't want to be the 'sacrificial lamb'?" She almost smiled. "I understand. However being named a Consort is not a guarantee in the least. You are under no obligation."
"I'm not sure I understand," he admitted.
"This particular tradition is slightly complicated. If I name you as a Consort you have the right to refuse, as do the others. And if I announce any decision of who to marry you, or the others, still have the right to refuse."
"With your agreement, you would be one of my Consorts until Anakin reaches the age of nineteen. Then I will decide who to marry, either one of the Consorts or someone else."
Obi-Wan thought it over for a moment. "What are a Consort's obligations?"
"There is only one, actually. You will be required to attend any political function that I cannot, on Coruscant."
"And that's all?" he asked.
"Yes. It would not interfere with your duties as a Jedi. Or your personal life."
Obi-Wan looked relieved she noticed, but about which part? She had a sudden feeling that they would continue to be friends, but nothing more.
"Has Anakin been informed?" she asked.
"I'm sure he will agree as well. Tell him I look forward to seeing him again, hopefully under better circumstances than the last time."
"I will," Obi-Wan said, then ended the transmission.
After two hours of staring at blank walls, a Padawan finally stopped by with Larisa's dinner. Thoroughly tired of her room, she went to the garden to eat. Although she searched for Rialth, once again he was nowhere in sight. Alone, she sat on a patch of grass and wondered if there were any birds in the garden. She ate half her meal in silence and set the rest aside for Rialth. In no hurry to return to her room, she just sat there, looking up at the sky. The sound of footsteps broke into her contemplation of wondering where all the stars had gone. She looked toward the noise and saw Anakin approaching.
"Hi," he said, almost beaming.
"And what are you smiling about?" she asked curiously.
"Padmé named me as one of her Consorts! I'm going to marry her when I'm old enough."
"One of them?"
"Yeah. She chose three of us. Me, Obi-Wan, and some prince from Alderaan."
"I'm surprised she didn't chose the prince, since she's a Queen herself."
"She doesn't really like him. She said he's boring."
"Really?" Larisa laughed.
"Yeah. Well, we'd better go in. It's getting late."
"I suppose it is," she agreed with a sigh. She stood up and walked with Anakin back into the Temple, wondering what tomorrow would be like.
She woke the next day and just lay there, staring up at the ceiling. Well, she thought, I have to get up sooner or later. She stumbled out of bed and walked into the fresher. She was slightly disgusted at how small it was. At least there was a shower, she thought as she looked around. She took a quick shower and washed her hair. She stepped out and looked for a towel. There was only one large one. She wrapped it around her body, grimacing as her hair dripped cold water onto the floor. She looked in the closet for a robe. Nothing.
She sat back down on the bed and started brushing her hair, trying to dry it quickly. At least it was warm enough in the room. After about five minutes she went back to the fresher and looked in the mirror. Still curly but at least it was more manageable. She dressed and looked out the window. The sun was already up so her breakfast should be delivered any minute.
*I should probably be grateful that they're at least feeding me, no matter how awful the food might taste.*
She heard her door alarm buzz and quickly went to open it. Master Miruche entered, followed by a Padawan carrying a breakfast tray.
"Doril," she said. "Here is your new schedule." She handed Larisa a datapad. "You'll be meeting with Master Billapa in the mornings from now on. In room 87P. You'll continue your other studies the rest of the day." She turned and left before Larisa could ask her anything. The Padawan set the tray on the table and practically fled the room.
What was his problem? Larisa wondered. And why was she meeting with Billapa, another Council member?
She stared at the tray for a moment before taking it with her to the garden. Walking a little further into the garden, she sat on a bench, took three bites, then gave up. She whistled to Rialth and left the tray behind a tree, resolving to return and take care of it during her lunch break.
Not waiting for her pet to make an appearance, she went looking for room 87P. The P must stand for purple. Each hallway had different colored doors. Master Billapa was waiting for her, apparently in a hurry. She handed Larisa several datapads and told her that she could study them in her own room. Larisa walked back to her room, put the six datapads on the table, and then noticed a note attached to them. She read the note, then stared down at the datapads. She had to study the Jedi code? How long was the thing?
She picked up the first datapad and sat down. She might as well get started, as there was nothing else to do.
Three hours later she needed a break from it. Most of the information on the first datapad was lists of dos and don'ts. There was one section that was repeated several times and she practically had it memorized by now.
'There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is the Force.'
It kept repeating in her mind.
'There is no emotion; there is peace.'
No emotion? Did they want her to pretend to be a robot?
'There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.'
She did have a lot more to learn, but she wasn't an idiot!
'There is no passion; there is serenity.'
She felt calm enough most of the time. She certainly didn't go around attacking people, but what was so wrong about passion?
'There is no Death; there is the Force.'
What the hell did that mean anyway? They had better not ask her to kill herself. She got up and paced the room, suddenly restless. Frustrated, she left her room, discovering a tray on the floor next to her door. Involved in her studies, she hadn't even heard anyone at her door. She picked up the tray and returned to the garden, eating about a third of the food this time and wondering where Anakin was. He usually joined her in the garden. Rialth finally made an appearance, crawling onto her lap to let her feed him by hand. At least he was happy. She fed him the rest of the food, then stood and carried him over to a large tree. Placing him on a large branch, she stood there for a moment, petting him before going back into the Temple.
She went back to her room and sat at the table, staring down at the datapads for a moment before picking up the second one. This one contained information about the more important Senators of the Republic such as the names of their planets and their history, their cultures and several phrases in their language, greetings and the like. Apparently healers were not required to carry on lengthy conversations with their patients. After about five minutes she noticed the time. It was about time to go to the sick room she studied in.
Master Miruche deposited five datapads in front of her. "Those are the species you're to study first."
Larisa looked at the datapads. "Aren't they Council members?"
"Yes. All the humanoid ones. Afterwards you'll be studying some of the Senate member's races."
Larisa must have looked dismayed. Miruche started to frown at her. She quickly put on a blank face. "Do I have to study them here?"
"No. You can study them in your room, at least until your prepared to heal them. They do have a somewhat different body structure than we do."
Larisa nodded, picking up the datapads and going back to her room. She ran into Master Windu in one of the hallways.
"Master Windu, have you seen Anakin anywhere?"
"You mean Padawan Skywalker," he said.
Oops! I guess that first names aren't allowed either, she thought. Is his frown permanent?
"I was hoping to talk to Padawan Skywalker."
"He's preparing for his next mission. He and Knight Kenobi are leaving tomorrow." Windu informed her.
"Oh. Thank you." She managed to bow to him before returning to her room.
In her tiny room she sat on the bed and started studying the datapads Miruche had given her. Saesee Tiin was from Iktach. Instead of ears he had what looked like huge horns on each side of his head. Eeth Koth was a Zabrak from Iridonia. He had several horns on top of his head, and strange markings on his face. She didn't know what they were for. Maybe they were scars. Ki-Adi-Mundi was a Cerean from Cerea. She had already met him. Even Piell was a Lannik. He had huge ears sticking out from his head. She had no idea what purpose they might have.
She lowered the datapads to her lap. Zabraks. Lanniks. How many Iktachs were there really on Coruscant? She knew she could never argue about it, but she didn't like the fact that the Council members were considered more important than the other species on Coruscant, of which there were undoubtedly greater numbers.
And after the Council members, the humanoid ones, she would then study Senate members. She would probably be studying here the rest of her life if it were up to the Council. Which it wasn't. The Jedi were forbidden from asking for a reward, but she was not a Jedi. She intended to accept payment at the first opportunity, as long as there wasn't any Jedi around to see. She looked at all the datapads and sighed. Freedom was years away, she thought, sighing.
In the meantime, she had one more problem to solve. She knew by now that the Jedi didn't approve of even the slightest display of emotion. From now on they wouldn't see it from her. Starting today she intended to practice keeping her face carefully blank. Since some of them could also read thought, any emotions she felt would have to be buried, deep down inside.
She ate dinner in the garden again, hoping Anakin would show up to say good bye, but he didn't. She found out the next day that he and his Master had been assigned to several missions on Rim worlds, with very short breaks in between. They would be gone for at least two years and no one had any explanation for it. None that they would tell her at least.
As time passed she continued to eat her meals in the garden, sometimes wishing that birds lived in it. It would be a welcome change from the silence.
*Three years later*
Larisa was in the garden studying a datapad on Twi'Leks. Why, she had no idea. Were there any Twi'Leks on Coruscant? They had two large tentacles on top of their head, their function unknown, That would make healing them a little more interesting. She shut off the datapad and was about to go back inside when she heard someone calling her.
She turned and saw a Padawan coming towards her. He looked familiar. "Who are you?"
"It's me, Anakin," he said, confused. Larisa looked a lot paler than he remembered. And not much taller at all, an inch maybe. She looked too thin as well, giving her an almost frail appearance. Her hair was a lot longer. She had it in a simple braid, falling almost to her waist.
She stared up at him, amazed at how much he had changed but, as always, careful not to let it show. He must be at least six feet tall already. He would be about sixteen now, she thought. He had his own lightsaber attached to his belt, she noted.
"Padawan Skywalker," she greeted formally. "How were your missions?"
"Fine, except when Obi-Wan kept going to secret meetings without me."
"Hmmm," she said, gathering up her datapads.
"I'll walk you to your room, if you don't mind."
"No, not at all."
They entered the Temple and Anakin started to go the wrong way. "My room is this way." She pointed.
"I thought it was that way."
She thought for a moment. "Oh. That was my old room. They moved me after the Naboo trip three years ago."
They continued to her room and she opened the door. Anakin stepped inside and stopped, stunned. "Is this your room or a storage unit?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's so small."
She shrugged. "It just takes some getting used to."
He stared at her. Something wasn't right. Why was she acting so differently? "Well, Obi-Wan's probably still in the hangar. Did you want to come with me and see him again?" he asked.
"No, I can't. I have more studying to do." She gestured to the table and a pile of datapads.
"Okay, goodbye." Anakin left her room, depressed. He found Obi-Wan in the hangar, watching the Chancellor's transport land.
"What's the Chancellor doing here?" he asked Obi-Wan.
"I don't know."
They watched Palpatine hurry down the ramp. One of the hangar doors opened and Master Windu stepped out into the hangar to meet Palpatine.
"Chancellor. You said this was an emergency."
"Yes it is. I've just received a report of an invasion at Arkania."
Windu frowned. "There have been invasions before."
"Of course. But the report states that the invaders are the Mandalorians and that they suddenly have a very large army."
"Clones," Windu stated grimly.
"Exactly. It seems that our missing scientist has finally found a buyer for his services."
"I'll inform the Council immediately." Windu bowed to the Chancellor and walked back the way he came.
Palpatine watched him, a hint of a smile on his face before he turned to Anakin.
"Knight Kenobi. Skywalker," Palpatine greeted them.
"Is it true another war has started?" Anakin asked, almost eagerly.
Obi-Wan frowned at him. This craving Anakin had for excitement could prove a problem.
"There have been reports of an invasion, but I'm sure it can be resolved without any violence," Palpatine told Anakin. "And how are your studies?"
"Fine. I finally have been given a real lightsaber, instead of just a practice one. My Master says I'll be ready for the trials in another three or four years. Then he'll teach me how to build my own saber."
"You must be very proud of your apprentice," Palpatine said to Kenobi.
"He's done very well," Kenobi said.
"And how is your friend, Miss Doril?" Palpatine asked. Ever since Naboo the Jedi had practically locked her up. Well, that was going to change, at least for today.
"I'm not sure. She seems so different."
"It has been three years, Anakin," Kenobi reminded him.
Anakin didn't look at all convinced but decided to change the subject. He didn't want to get into an argument in front of the Chancellor. "How is Queen Amidala?"
"Fine. I have been sending her your messages, as I promised."
"We have to be going, Chancellor," Kenobi said.
"Of course." Palpatine turned to Anakin. "Perhaps I should visit Doril, since you are so concerned about her."
"I'd appreciate it, thank you," Anakin said. He saw Obi-Wan was getting impatient and quickly told Palpatine what room Larisa was in.
Larisa was almost finished studying the Twi'Leks when she heard the door alarm. She sighed and put the datapad down. She opened the door and saw the Chancellor standing there. What was he doing here?
"Chancellor," she said, too tired to remember to bow. Palpatine didn't seem to notice.
"May I come in?" he asked.
"Of course." She stepped aside. "What can I do for you?"
Palpatine looked around the room before answering. "Nothing at this moment, actually. I'd decided to visit you after speaking with Anakin. He is concerned about you."
"Concerned? About what?" she asked blankly.
Palpatine paused, considering how to broach a certain subject. "He was the first friend you made here." He looked puzzled. "There have been others by now, haven't there?"
"No, there haven't been," she said, keeping her face expressionless. "Just Rialth, my pet."
Just the opening he needed.
"I'm surprised the Jedi allowed you to keep the creature, considering it's resemblance to the Ysalamirri."
"What's a Ysalamirri?"
Palpatine silently gloated. It was a perfect opportunity for him. "A rather rare species, similar to your pet, on the planet Myrkr. The Jedi have severely restricted all travel there."
"Why?" she asked, confused.
"The Ysalamirri emit a sort of natural force field, if that's the correct phrase, extending up to ten meters. That field cuts off all contact with the Force, which is why the Jedi do not allow anyone on Myrkr. Any Ysalamirri discovered being smuggled off the planet are destroyed."
"They kill them?" She looked appalled. "How can they do that, they don't do any harm to anyone, not deliberately."
"I'm afraid that all the Jedi are concerned with is the threat to themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to go to Myrkr one day and exterminate the Ysalamirri." Larisa looked horrified. "They did the same to the Sith a thousand years ago."
"What is a Sith?" Larisa asked. Maybe now she would finally get some answers.
Palpatine shrugged carelessly. "I don't know what the Jedi's official definition is. They were some kind or religious group, I believe."
"And the Jedi exterminated them?" she asked in disbelief. "Why?"
"Well, the Sith were Force-users like the Jedi, but they followed a different philosophy, one the Jedi didn't agree with."
"And they killed the Sith for that?" Larisa felt like throwing up. It sounded like nothing more than a religious war and the Jedi were the intolerant ones. So much for peace!
"Are you all right?" Palpatine asked, sounding concerned.
She took a deep breath before answering. "I'll be fine. Thank you for your visit."
Palpatine nodded once before leaving. He smiled as he walked back down the hallway. That went better than he had hoped. Apparently the Jedi hadn't told her anything about the Sith themselves. A mistake he greatly appreciated. Now to see how strong a healer really she was. It made no difference whether she failed or not though, either way he had a great deal to gain.
*Four hours later*
Master Windu was trying to relax in his rooms when he received an urgent call from the Chancellor. He went into his spacious public room to receive the transmission.
"Chancellor," he said to the hologram. "What is the emergency?"
"I've just received another report. The Mandalorians are now attacking all the major cities on Arkania and my source tells me they appear to be killing all the inhabitants."
Windu cursed under his breath. "I'll call a meeting of the Council."
"I'm afraid there isn't much time for that. Some Senators have agreed to supply ships but there is no one qualified enough to direct the battle. I am already on my way to your Temple. Could you and Master Rancisis meet me in hangar..." Palpatine paused, looking over his shoulder at someone. "...twenty-one, I believe?"
Windu hesitated. The Jedi usually didn't involve themselves in wars, but if what he said was true millions of people would die if they didn't. "We'll be there."
"Thank you," Palpatine said, and the hologram blinked out.
Windu quickly sent a message to the other Council members, then went to the Council chambers and waited for them to arrive. Master Yoda was the first one in, followed by Billapa, then the others. Windu replayed the message from Palpatine.
"I suppose the Chancellor is bringing his entire entourage," Master Koon stated, sarcastically. The Council had only recently discovered that at least half of Palpatine's twenty advisors had never been tested for midi-chlorian levels. There was no explanation given for such a huge oversight and to ask for one now would only raise questions that the Council was not prepared to answer. What they should do is warn the Chancellor of the Sith.
"We are aware of your opinion," Master Mundi said.
"If we do inform the Chancellor the Sith would learn of it, sooner or later, and Palpatine would have no further use to them," Master Windu added.
"Tell him we must, but not now," Yoda stated firmly.
Koon nodded reluctantly. "But it must be soon. The Chancellor's decisions are becoming more erratic by the week. The Sith must be stopped from influencing him any further."
"We'll discuss this later. Right now the Chancellor is meeting waiting for myself and Master Rancisis in hangar twenty-one."
"And his advisors do accompany him everywhere," Master Billapa said, thoughtfully. "There is a chance that the Sith could use this opportunity to attempt something. You should not meet them alone," she told Windu and Rancisis.
"Then I'll choose an escort as well."
"A healer would be advisable, as well," Billapa said.
Windu agreed, if only to avoid another debate. He personally thought that the Council was getting a little too paranoid, seeing a Sith in every shadow. The precautions were most likely unnecessary, but Master Billapa and the others obviously didn't want to take any chances.
"Who will you bring as an escort?" he asked Rancisis.
"At least two of the older Masters, as well as Knight Kenobi. Having defeated one Sith already, his presence might provoke a reaction from the other Sith, assuming it is one of the Chancellor's advisors," Rancisis stated.
"Will Skywalker be included?" Windu asked.
Rancisis considered this. "It would be wise to have at least five Knights close by. Skywalker can watch from a distance with them."
"You sound as if you expect a battle right here in the Temple," Windu said, half jokingly.
"It may come to that, eventually."
"I don't think the Sith would be bold enough to strike at us here."
Rancisis did not reply.
"I'll find Kenobi, and choose a healer," Windu changed the subject.
"I'll meet you in the hangar," Rancisis said as he walked away.
Windu and Rancisis stood in the hangar, waiting as the Chancellors shuttle landed. Rancisis had brought Masters Ciari and Tovir with him. Windu had brought the Jedi's best healer, Master Ulizr, as well as Knight Kenobi. They watched as Palpatine hurried down the ramp. He had only seven of his advisors with him, Windu noticed.
Palpatine noticed his curiosity. "I insisted that the others stay on board the transport. I'm concerned that that the Mandalorians have planted a spy in the Senate. Their army seems to have left Arkania and disappeared. Apparently they have the ability to cloak all their ships. That was how they arrived at Arkania without being detected."
"There are diamond mines on Arcania. That could have been what they were after," Rancisis speculated.
"Except they seem to have completely ignored the mines, so greed doesn't seem to be their motive for this attack."
"Why do you suspect a spy?" Windu asked, changing the subject.
"Because of the timing of their withdrawal, of course. Only about thirty minutes after I asked the Jedi Council for their assistance."
"The timing is suspicious," Rancisis admitted, glancing at the shuttle.
"You had also said they were killing civilians. How many are dead?" asked Kenobi.
"I'm afraid they've done more than that," Palpatine responded. "They've completely destroyed the five largest cities, at least fifteen million are dead. They've also burned dozens of large fields, destroying crops and herds. I'm afraid that when winter arrives there will be a severe shortage of food and millions more will die."
"Arkania has no enemies that I'm aware of. It doesn't make sense to invade a neutral planet for the sole purpose of destroying it," Rancisis said, frowning. The Mandalorians had no real reason to attack Arkania. And where did the their mysterious army disappear to?
Kenobi had been keeping an eye on the shuttle during their conversation. Too late he noticed that one of the exterior guns was slowly moving, aiming towards the Chancellor and the Jedi.
"Look out!" he shouted and lunged towards them just as the gun fired. A laser, at least six inches across, struck Master Rancisis in the middle of his stomach and exited through his back. Windu caught him before he toppled over and slowly lowered him to the floor. He heard the laser fire again and looked up to see Chancellor Palpatine fall to the ground, clutching his right shoulder.
Windu saw Kenobi destroy the gun, and then the other Knights boarded the shuttle with their lightsabers drawn. Skywalker started to head towards the shuttle as well before Kenobi stopped him. He glanced down at Master Rancisis, horrified at the gaping wound. The laser beam had almost cut him in half. Master Ulizr hurried over to examine the wound. Windu looked up at him and Ulizr shook his head.
"Call Master Tiresk!" he ordered.
"Tiresk was sent to the Thisspian embassy two hours ago. There was some sort of accident," Ulizr said helplessly. "He'd never make it back here in time."
"Can't you do anything for him?" Anakin asked.
Ulizr shook his head and Anakin turned and ran from the hangar. Palpatine watched him go. To get Doril, he knew, having planted the notion in Anakin's mind. He turned back to the Jedi. Windu was certainly distraught about his friend. It would take very little effort to turn his sorrow to anger. But subtly, Palpatine reminded himself. Windu can't suspect a thing, at least not at this moment.
"How long does he have left?" Windu asked, thinking of at least moving him out of the hangar.
"Five minutes, perhaps, no more." Master Ulizr went to tend to Palpatine. Fortunately his wound was not serious. The laser had only grazed him.
Windu had slumped to the floor, shocked. Another Council member dead. He looked up as the Knight came back down the ramp.
"All of them are dead. Some kind of poison." One of the Knights told him.
Windu almost cursed aloud. One of the dead aides must have been working for the Sith. That left the Senators as the most likely suspects. It must be the Sith. Who else would attempt an assassination here in the Temple of all places? Like Kenobi said, there were hundreds of Senators and the Sith could be any one of them. How many more Jedi would die before they discovered where the Sith was hiding?
Larisa lay on her bed, staring up at the ceiling again. Why did I even want to come here? she asked herself. Oh, yes, she had wanted to study at the great Temple of the Jedi. She had wanted to help other people. The Jedi, from what she had seen, were more interested in helping themselves. The only ones who were actually friendly were Master Mundi and Anakin. But then Mundi was still a Knight so she couldn't really call him Master, especially not in front of the other Masters. Not that she ever saw much of him anyway. Maybe that was the difference. Maybe there was some strange ritual involved in becoming a Jedi Master, a ritual that destroys souls. No. That was ridiculous. Ciari was a Master as well and he was pleasant enough to talk to.
She looked towards her door. Someone was pressing the visitor button. "Go away," she muttered. Whoever it was kept pressing the button, then started pounding at her door of all things. She got up and approached it.
"Who is it?" she yelled.
"It's Anakin! Would you please open the door?"
"All right!" she almost yelled. "Stop pounding." She opened the door. "What is the matter?"
"Master Rancisis is dying," Anakin panted, out of breath.
"What! What happened?"
"Someone tried to kill him!" Anakin said, grabbing her by an arm and practically dragging her into the hallway.
"Ow! That hurts!"
"I'm sorry, but could you please hurry? The other healer can't help him."
"Is it that bad?" she asked as they both started running through the hallway.
"A laser blast from the Chancellor's ship. One of his aides tried to kill Master Rancisis and Chancellor Palpatine."
"Here in the Temple?" Larisa asked in disbelief.
Anakin didn't answer her as he used his access card to open the hangar door. Master Windu and the others looked up as Anakin and Larisa burst into the hangar. Palpatine noticed a little animosity between Windu and Doril. Time to extend his influence a little more.
"What is she doing here?" Windu asked, glaring.
"I brought her here to help," Anakin told him, glaring back.
"Quiet, both of you," ordered Master Ulizr, watching intently. He had heard rumors about this young woman but had dismissed it as just idle gossip.
Larisa crouched down next to Rancisis and examined his injury, ignoring Windu. He had a very thin body under all that hair, she saw. He was almost cut in half by the laser beam. Because it was a laser it left a very precise cut. There was very little chance that she would accidentally mismatch his organs, since she had never studied his species. That was one more thing about the Jedi that annoyed her. Why were human healers restricted to healing other humans? After years spent mostly studying datapads this was a real challenge.
She sat down next to Rancisis, ignoring Windu's frown and wishing he would just go away. Rancisis was unconscious and barely breathing. As she reached out with the Force, she slowed his heart. The biggest problem would be if the cauterized veins burst from the build-up of blood. In order to concentrate Larisa blocked everything else from her mind and entered the old trance. He certainly was strange looking. His head and upper body were completely covered with white hair, and the rest of him was a greenish-gray color, like a lizard's.
She was a little surprised at how many veins he had, almost all of them were very small. He didn't have any large arteries the way humans, and others, did. This was going to be a little more difficult than she thought. He was so close to death that she was forced to establish the bond first just to keep him breathing.
Reaching further into the Force, the green light appeared at her fingertips. First, she had to slowly remove the burned ends of each vein from both ends of the wound. Then she would work on the rest of the wound. She pushed deeper into the Force, deeper than she ever had before. This should work. It had for Rialth, although he was a much smaller patient when she had found him seven years ago. The green light at her fingers suddenly darkened, then became tiny currents of energy, flowing from her fingers and into the wound. Now there was another problem. The laser had destroyed about an inch of flesh. The veins wouldn't reconnect without a little help. She focused all her attention on manipulating each tiny cell into dividing until the veins were back to their original length and reconnected.
Next were the organs. Two of them had been cut in half as well. He had very small organs. He also had two spines. Both were about a third of the width of a human spine. Next were the nerves. She then worked on what little flesh he had, he really was incredibly thin. Last was the skin, with a paper-thin layer of fat underneath. She might as well replace the hair as well. He would look a little odd with a bald spot in the middle of his stomach.
She remembered to break the bond this time, then came out of the trance, looking at a small pile of ash on the floor next to the Master. Someone would have to clean that up, she thought tiredly. She looked up to find everyone staring at her as if she was some kind of freak. That was it! She had to find some way out of this damn Temple!
"Six minutes, twenty-eight seconds," said Master Ulizr.
Larisa stared at him. Was he actually timing her? She got to her feet and almost fell over before Anakin caught her.
Windu stood up and grabbed her by the arm, turning her around. "Where did you learn how to do that?" he asked, suspiciously.
He almost seemed to be accusing her. Of what she had no idea but she felt something snap inside.
"Let go of me!"
Palpatine took a step forward and prepared to enjoy the show.
"Answer me!" Windu demanded, shaking her.
That's it! Larisa slapped him in the face. Stunned by the sudden attack, Windu released her arm.
"You have some explaining to do," Windu said.
"Get away from me!"
"Leave her alone!" Anakin stepped in between them.
"I suggest you try to control your Apprentice, Kenobi."
"And I suggest you try to control yourself!" Kenobi snapped. He couldn't believe the scene he was witnessing. And in front of the Chancellor.
"That's enough, all of you." Master Ulizr said.
At that moment someone coughing distracted them. Master Rancisis was awake. Windu glared at them before turning to Rancisis, helping him to his feet.
Master Ulizr turned to Larisa. "I think it would be best of you returned to your room."
"No! I'm not going back there."
Palpatine stepped smoothly into the following silence. "If you feel that you are being mistreated, then of course you shouldn't be forced to stay," he stated. He looked back at the Jedi, his expression one of appalled amazement at the display he had just witnessed. "I've called another transport. It should arrive any minute. If you do wish to leave there are several guestrooms in the Senate building."
"Yes. Thank you." Larisa jumped at the chance to get away from them.
Windu stood up and opened his mouth again.
"Don't say another word." Master Ulizr advised.
Windu glowered at them, then helped Rancisis to his feet.
"What happened?" Rancisis asked.
"You don't remember?"
Rancisis shook his head.
"We'll discuss it in Council. Knight Kenobi, you and your Padawan will be present!" Windu told them before leaving the hangar with Rancisis.
"We didn't do anything wrong," Anakin stated.
"I think Master Windu has some explaining of his own to do," Master Ulizr told them.
"Will you attend the meeting?" Obi-Wan asked. Considering that Windu was the leader of the Council, he and Anakin would need as many witnesses as possible.
"Of course. I wouldn't be surprised if they advise Windu to take a little 'vacation'," Ulizr said, motioning for Kenobi to follow as he headed for the hangar door.
Anakin started to follow his Master, then turned and walked over to Larisa. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," she said, turning to look at the approaching transport.
"Are you really leaving?" Anakin asked, hoping she would change her mind.
"I have to. I can't stand it here another minute."
"I'm sorry about what happened."
"Thank you," she said, watching the transport land.
Palpatine noticed Skywalker standing beside Larisa and walked over to them. "Have you changed your mind?"
"No." She turned to Anakin "Goodbye."
"Goodbye," Anakin said, watching as Larisa boarded the shuttle and left with Palpatine.
After foiling the assassination attempt on Master Ranciss, Larisa receives an offer to leave the Jedi. She struggles to reconcile her treatment at the Temple against what she perceives another sort of imprisonment.
Larisa sat in one of the shuttle's smaller public rooms, thinking about the day's events. I can't believe I actually slapped a Jedi, she thought. And not just any Jedi, but the head of the Council, Master Windu. Not that he didn't deserve it, of course, but there must be some explanation for the way he behaved, considering that the Jedi were always preaching about self-control. Maybe he was insane. Would they allow an unbalanced Jedi to remain on the Council or did they just not notice Master Windu's problem? That didn't make any sense at all.
She sighed. There was also the matter of the Sith. If the Sith were extinct why did Anakin say that Master Jinn was killed by one? And how was this supposed Sith involved with the invasion of Naboo? And as for this difference in philosophy, the Jedi are supposed to uphold peace and justice. Why would the Sith disagree with that? What did they stand for? She supposed she should at least ask the Jedi to explain it. Of course they might tell her that 'it isn't her concern' again. She grimaced, then stood up and walked over to the window, watching as they approached the Senate building.
Mace Windu strode into the Council chambers and came to an abrupt halt. The room was empty, save for four other Council members. Masters Billapa, Tiin, Koon and Koth were waiting for him. "Where are the others?"
"Ki-Adi and Yoda are off-planet. The others are investigating the attempted assassination," Koon informed him.
Windu winced. He had somehow forgotten about that incident.
"Which is understandable, considering that you were under someone's influence," Tiin told him, easily reading his thoughts.
"Influenced? By who?" he asked, slightly confused. And alarmed. He hadn't sensed anyone using the Force against him. "The Sith?"
"Are you now seeing the Sith in every shadow?" Koon replied, almost sarcastically.
"Someone did try to kill the Chancellor, and Master Rancisis," Windu curtly reminded him.
"There is no evidence that the Sith are involved," Billapa said. "This invasion, however, is another matter. According to the report the Mandalorians have invaded Arkania, for no apparent reason, and have now disappeared."
"Yes. They apparently have cloaking devices on their ships," Windu told them.
Master Tiin looked puzzled. "Cloaking?"
"Yes. Cloaking devices are very rare because of a certain crystal used. One only found on Aeton II. A new mining company called the S.A.P. Corporation discovered it. It has been granted mining right to Aeton II for the next ten years," Koon told them.
"Which has probably already earned them a huge fortune," Tiin remarked.
"Master Gallia had intended to investigate them, but never explained why," Billapa said.
Koon shrugged dismissively. "They're probably using slave labor."
"Which is illegal," she replied, frowning at him.
"If this crystal is as rare as you say it is, then the Mandalorians must have discovered a new source," Windu speculated.
"Unless someone provided them with one. There have been no reports of the Mandalorians leaving Concorde Dawn until now," Eeth Koth said.
"Perhaps, but there is nothing we can do at this time except wait for the Mandalorians to reappear, and arrange for aid to be sent to Arkania."
"In the meantime, you should practice meditation to clear your mind," Billapa told Windu, reminding him of their original conversation.
"So someone was using the Force to influence me?" he asked.
She nodded. "And Knight Kenobi as well."
He sat back. It would have to have been someone very strong in the Force considering that he, and Kenobi as well, hadn't even felt it. It certainly wasn't Master Ulizr. That left Kenobi's Apprentice. "Was it Skywalker?" he asked. He still didn't fully trust the boy, and this would be the perfect excuse to have him removed from the Temple. Perhaps he could be sent to the Agri-corps.
"No, it was not."
"It was probably that Doril girl," Koon said.
"Doril?" Windu asked, surprised.
"Apparently so. You should go meditate," Billapa said in a firm tone. "I will speak with Larisa."
"Where is she now?" Koth asked, noticing that Windu started to look uncomfortable when Billapa mentioned talking to the girl.
"She's left the Temple."
Larisa walked down the shuttle's ramp and looked around at the huge hangar. The certainly were a large number of ships here, of all different designs and colors. The Chancellor was standing a few feet away talking with his advisors. Some of them did not look happy with what he was telling them. She waited until he had dismissed them before walking over.
"Chancellor. I appreciate your offer, but I should go back to the Temple and apologize for my behavior."
Palpatine ground his teeth. The wretched girl was already talking herself out of her decision to leave the Jedi.
They were interrupted by a rather large Twi'lek. Larisa was surprised. She had never seen a Twi'lek before, and was under the impression that they were a race of very slender people. This one, however, was large. "We have heard about the murders. It is such a relief to see you unharmed," the Twi'lek exclaimed.
"I do appreciate your concern," Palpatine replied. Of all the Senators to hear about it first, why did it have to be this grotesque creature, he thought as he kept a polite smile on his face. "I am going to call a Senate meeting tomorrow. There has apparently been another invasion."
"An invasion? Where?" the Twi'lek asked, looking concerned.
"Arkania, actually." Palpatine didn't need the Force to read the Senator's thoughts. He was thinking of his collection of Arkanian diamonds, and how much more valuable they might become. Such obvious greed was disgusting. "Senator Free-Taa, this is Miss Doril," Palpatine said, making the formal introductions. "Miss Doril, this is Senator Free-Taa of Ryloth."
Larisa bowed her head. There was no mention of a Twi'lek Senator in the datapad she had been studying. This was probably one more thing that 'wasn't her concern,' she thought, becoming annoyed with the Jedi again.
"Hmpphh. Yes." The Senator walked off without another word.
She stared after him. He had even worse manners that Master Windu!
"I could arrange a transport for you, if you insist on returning to the Temple tonight," Palpatine offered, pointedly ignoring the Senator's rudeness.
Larisa considered it for a moment. "I think I would like to spend the night here, if you don't mind."
"Not at all, though I'm afraid there is no room ready at the moment," he said as they walked out of the hangar and into a large hallway. "You can wait in my office while I tend to some business."
He led her down another hallway, then left her in his office. It was a rather plain room, she noticed as she entered. There were no paintings, like there were throughout the halls, and only one sculpture, set on a small table.
There was a desk facing a wall of windows.
It wasn't the same room where she first met Queen Amidala, that one was in another hallway, but she could sense that same presence nearby. It seemed to come from one of the blank walls. Larisa walked over and examined it. There was nothing unusual-looking about it, but she knew that there was a door here somewhere. She decided to wait and ask the Chancellor about it.
He returned ten minutes later. "Your room will be ready in about thirty more minutes." he told her.
"Good." She hesitated before asking, "Why is there a door hidden in the wall over there?" She might as well get to the point. The Chancellor didn't seem the type that appreciated small talk.
He glanced over at the wall before answering. "It's hidden because the Senate has a reputation for planting spies among the servants."
"Yes. The Senators have been using spies for hundreds of years. It's practically a tradition."
"Do you have spies, too?"
"Of course. And so did the Jedi, at least until poor Councilor Gallia was murdered. She had built an entire network of spies throughout the galaxy."
"A Council member was murdered?"
"Yes. About three years ago. Apparently she was killed by her own lightsaber." He walked over to the sculpture and pressed a hidden button, opening the door in the wall.
Larisa followed him into the room. "And she had spies everywhere? Even here?"
"She most likely did," Palpatine answered, thinking of the female Twi'lek he had imprisoned. She still wouldn't talk, even after several months of torture, and he was growing bored with her. Perhaps he would give her to a Hutt as a gift. Hutts were fond of Twi'lek slaves, and he couldn't think of a more unpleasant life for Gallia's little spy.
Larisa looked around the room. There were five walls instead of four with at least a dozen computers in them. All the walls looked exactly alike, and they each had a secret door that connected to one of Palpatine's rooms. There were two doors that she knew of, one was in the office, and the other one was in the banquet room. She wondered where the other three doors led.
Larisa turned around, noticing another desk and chair, and a carbon unit standing in front of it. She stared up at the figure, bewildered. "Who is that?"
"Oh, him. He was killed on Naboo during the Trade Federation invasion."
She frowned. He didn't answer her question. "Who is he?" Larisa asked again. She wondered who else might be keeping people in carbon freeze. This planet was getting stranger by the day.
"He was probably working for the Trade Federation." Palpatine shrugged. "It hardly matters now."
She stepped closer to the carbon unit, reaching out with the Force. "He's still alive. He can use the Force, too."
"Really! Perhaps he was a failed Jedi Apprentice, then."
"A failed Apprentice?" she asked, distracted.
"Well, yes. Not all of them become Jedi Knights. Most of them are shipped off to the Agricorps. However, a few of them do turn rogue. In fact one of Master Jinn's Apprentices had failed, I believe. He's dead now, of course." He turned back to the carbon unit. "It would probably be best to let this one die as well."
"But... I can heal him, I think." Larisa stared back at the figure. Could she heal him? She couldn't tell what kind of damage there was. Well, she wouldn't know until she tried.
"I suppose you could, but then I would have to turn him over to the Jedi."
"And what would the Jedi do with him?"
"They would most likely execute him. After a trial of course," he added quickly.
"Do the Jedi know he's here?" she asked.
"Well, no, but I would have to inform them, assuming you do heal him."
"Why? There's no proof that he was a Jedi Apprentice."
"True. I suppose I could keep him here for questioning. He does have a lot to answer for," Palpatine said, looking up at the frozen figure. "Well, if you think you can heal him..."
"I could try."
"Very well. This may take a while. He has been frozen for over seven years. In the meantime, I have an important message to send." He pushed a button on the carbon unit and left the room, leaving the door open.
She stared after the Chancellor. He was lying about something, she could feel it. But then the Jedi weren't exactly the most honest people, either. Anakin said that Master Jinn had died on Naboo, killed by a Sith Lord. This could very well be that Sith. Perhaps if she did manage to heal him, he would answer some questions. Larisa pulled the chair out from behind the desk and sat down to wait.
Anakin was pacing outside the Council Chamber when the door finally opened. He waited patiently for Master Billapa to appear, bowing to the other Council members as they emerged. Master Koth returned the bow while Koon walked right by him. Billapa came out a second later, but unfortunately she was with Master Windu.
"Master Windu, I apologize for my behavior earlier," he said, remembering the lecture his Master had given him when they had returned to their room.
Windu inclined his head, aware of Billapa watching him. "Accepted. And I apologize for my behavior as well."
Anakin stared at him. Windu had actually apologized for something? He bowed to Windu and repeated his reply. "Accepted."
Windu nodded to him and walked away. "You and your Master have been on quite a few missions lately, haven't you, Anakin?" Billapa asked.
"I think you and Kenobi have earned a vacation. To Alderaan, I think. Their Silver Flow holiday is in five days."
"That sounds nice." And boring! Anakin thought. Who cares about a bunch of fish? "I do have a favor to ask of you. Larisa left her pet behind. Could you have him sent to her once I catch him?"
"I don't think that will be necessary. I'm sure she will be back here soon," she said with an encouraging smile.
"Are you going to the Senate building to see her today?" Master Koth asked as he and Billapa walked down the hall.
"No, I have a meeting with the Aqualish Senators this evening. Tomorrow will be soon enough," she replied, sighing. The Aqualish were extremely ill tempered and she was not looking forward to the meeting.
Anakin trailed after them, annoyed. It was irritating the way some Jedi assumed people would automatically agree with them. He hoped Larisa would refuse to come back, especially after the way she had been treated, but there was little hope of that. Master Billapa was one the most persuasive Jedi on the Council, along with Master Yaddle and Poof. Poof, he was certain, sometimes used the Force on people to settle disputes. It was a technique his Master had yet to teach him, on the advice of the Council.
He had an idea of how it was done, having watched Master Poof whenever possible. The Chancellor himself had told him more than once that he should be more assertive. If the Council didn't change their minds soon he might have start practicing it himself, with or without permission.
Larisa jumped out of the chair the moment the body started to fall and immediately established the bond. It was a very close call. A few seconds delay and he would have been dead seconds after hitting the floor. As it was, he seemed to be fighting her somehow, as if he subconsciously wanted to die for some reason. Fortunately he was much too weak to put up much of a struggle as she forced him to start breathing again. She took a moment to examine his injury. He had been cut in half, she saw, shocked. It had been some kind of laser, but it wasn't a straight cut, there was an odd slant to it, possibly made by a lightsaber. This had to be the Sith that Anakin had mentioned. He had also broken nearly every bone in his body, as if he had fallen a great distance before landing on a hard surface. He had lost a great deal of blood, and was starting to bleed again. She reached out and slowed his heart, then started to work on him.
It was quite different from working on Rancisis. He did have veins and arteries, like a human, though not as many. There were far fewer nerves than a human had. She glanced at his horns. Possibly a Zabrak, though they were noticeably different from Master Koth's. These horns were all the same size and encircled the top of his head. Except for the two in front. They had been broken off completely. He didn't have any hair, and the skin on the back of his head and neck was black. He also had some human features. Perhaps he was half human and half Zabrak. There were, though, other species that had horns. She wondered if any of them were actually compatible with humans. There had been no mention of inter-breeding in the datapad she had studied.
Reattaching the two halves was a long, tedious process. She had to not only match up every single vein, but also force the blood to start flowing again. There was no damage to any of his organs, which was strange. They weren't where she expected them to be, and were a little oddly shaped, too. She was grateful they weren't damaged, since most of them were so close to each other she wouldn't have known where to start if she did have to heal them.
She finished matching the nerves, then started on the spine. He had much thicker bones than a human did and more muscles as well. Hmmm. He was sterile, apparently since birth from what she could tell. It wasn't natural, though, and there was no obvious injury, so it must have been done surgically. It certainly wasn't a fair thing to do to an infant, she thought. At least it was easily corrected. So were the broken horns. She paused to rest afterwards before tackling all the other broken bones.
Palpatine, meanwhile, had donned his Sith robes and was attempting to contact the Mandalorians. They finally responded in his third attempt.
"What is the problem?" Palpatine snapped. "I am aware that your little excursion to Arkania was a success."
"Yes," replied the figure in the gray armor. "And my commander has agreed to your plan."
"Then I expect results. You will attack Alderaan in five days."
Palpatine abruptly ended the transmission. The Stygian crystals he had provided the Mandalorians had been created in one of Sienar laboratories and were unstable. In another ten days, fifteen at the most, they would disintegrate. It was imperative that the Mandalorians cooperated now. The Jedi were beginning to get suspicious of him, and this would be a perfect distraction for them. In the meantime, the fleet of warships he owned neared completion.
Larisa slumped down, exhausted, next to her patient. She stared at his horns. There was a thin circle of red at the base of each horn. Was his skin red or black? Or both? A two-toned alien? That was a bizarre thought. She thought of turning him over, but didn't think she had enough energy for that. He looked rather heavy, with all those muscles. She noticed a metal object in his gloved hand. It looked like a lightsaber. She tried to pry it loose, but he had too tight a grip on it. Well, she thought as she stood up, he'll probably wake up soon. She should go see where the Chancellor had gone.
For what must be the billionth time, Maul relived the duel with the Jedi. He had defeated the Jedi Master and the Apprentice was still trapped behind the containment field. Then the other Jedi was charging at him. The next few minutes went by in a blur. He had met the Jedi's every blow until his own lightsaber was damaged, and he still managed to get the advantage over the Apprentice. The last thing he remembered was standing over a pit, staring down at the helpless Jedi, then nothing, except the sensation of falling. When he came to he was lying on a platform, staring up. There was a faint light above him, in the distance. He lay there for what seemed like hours, waiting as the pain slowly ebbed away. His vision blurred and he half-expected his Master to appear to finish him off.
He must have lost consciousness again. The next thing he heard was voices in the distance, but he was too weak to even open his eyes. Then there was a freezing blast of cold, then an endless darkness. Was this what death was like. He could barely sense the Force now, and was left with nothing but his memories. Until now. The coldness abruptly disappeared. He opened his eyes, but the darkness was still there. At least he could feel the Force again. He seemed to be back in his body, and he could feel another presence nearby. The Jedi!
He waited until he sensed that the Jedi had actually turned away from him. Amazed at such stupidity from his enemy, he opened his eyes again and could make out vague shadows now. He reached further into the Force then opened his eyes a third time. Much better, though he didn't need to see to know the exact location of his enemy, he had the Force to guide him. He sprang to his feet, pressed the button on his lightsaber, and nothing happened. He pressed it again, then threw it aside in disgust. There were, he knew, other ways of killing a Jedi.
Larisa was halfway to the door when she heard a noise. She turned; catching a glimpse of a black boot right before it slammed into her face.
Palpatine had just informed all the Senators of tomorrow's meeting when he heard the loud crash. Now what? he thought as he stood and entered the room. He stopped and stared at the sight before him. His desk was on its side, with Doril sprawled on the floor behind it. She appeared to be unconscious as Palpatine stepped around her and glared at Maul. "That is enough!"
Maul had just started to walk around the desk when he heard his Master's voice. It was Lord Sidious, dressed as Senator Palpatine. He immediately knelt, blinking as his vision finally cleared. He glanced around the room, realizing he was not on Naboo but in one of his Master's secret rooms on Coruscant.
"Master," he responded, bowing his head and waiting.
Palpatine stared down at him for a moment, letting the moment stretch out. "You may rise," he said, turning to stare down at his desk. There was also a bit of ash scattered on the floor. "I really should make you clean this up," Palpatine mused.
"Yes, my Master," Maul said, then lifted his head. "And the Jedi?" he asked.
Palpatine stared at him. Maul was usually more observant than this. Had the carbon freeze destroyed what few wits he had left? "What Jedi?" he asked contemptuously.
It was Maul's turn to stare. First at his Master, then at the Jedi he had attacked. He frowned. There was no lightsaber, but she was dressed as a Jedi healer, which was as good a reason as any to kill her.
"No, you will not," Palpatine said, reading his thoughts. "Not at this time. This impulsive behavior is the reason you failed your last mission. You do remember that, don't you?"
Maul bowed his head again and did not answer. Palpatine glared, first at Maul, then at Doril, who was starting to wake up. He turned back to Maul. "While you were letting the Jedi distract you the Queen captured the Viceroy, and defeated their army."
Maul stayed silent. He had forgotten about the Queen. All he had thought about was killing the Jedi. He had failed his Master, and he knew his Master would kill him for it. He bowed his head and knelt, waiting for his punishment.
"Stand up, you fool!" Palpatine hissed as the girl stirred again. "You have an apology to make. And try to sound sincere," he added when Maul stared at him. Palpatine left the room smiling. He had the perfect mission in mind for Maul.
Larisa groaned, then opened her eyes and stared at the floor. What happened? She concentrated and it all came back in a rush. She rolled onto her side, wincing at the pain, and raised herself up on one hand. She felt at her face with the other. Her nose was definitely broken, so were at least three ribs. At least her teeth were intact, she thought after checking them. She wondered, though, if this day could possibly get any worse.
She quickly healed her ribs and nose, then turned and sat up, noticing that her so-called patient was still in the room. She glanced up at him and stared at the red and black patterns on his face. There was no way that was natural. Then he spoke.
Larisa continued to stare. Was he actually grinding his teeth? What the hell did he have to be angry at? "Apologize for what, exactly?" She glared when he hesitated. "You kicked me in the face!" She narrowed her eyes at him. "And speaking of faces, what the hell did you do to yours?"
He glared back at her and stood up from the chair he was sitting in. Larisa jumped to her feet, prepared to defend herself.
Maul barely managed to control his temper. "Yes," he growled out. "I apologize for attacking you."
She watched him for a moment. "The Chancellor thinks you worked for the Trade Federation. Did you?"
For some reason his face went blank. "Chancellor Valorum?"
She frowned. "Valorum? Oh! No, Palpatine. He's been the Chancellor for almost seven years." His face got even blanker, if that was possible. "You were in a carbon unit all this time. How were you injured, anyway?"
Maul paused, then answered her first question. "I did not work for the Trade Federation."
Larisa thought for a moment. She could sense that he was telling the truth about that, but he avoided her other question. "What is your name?"
"Lord Maul," he said, glaring at her again. He turned and started to walk out.
"Lord Maul," she repeated. Something about that title tugged at a memory. "Darth Maul."
Maul whirled around. "What did you say?" he demanded. He glared at the girl, but she stared down at the floor.
Ridiculous! He must have imagined it.
Larisa looked up as he left the room. He was a Sith. She was sure of it. And she had forgotten to sever the bond. She stood there for a moment. The Chancellor didn't seem to know much about the Sith, and the Jedi apparently forbid any mention of them. This bond was probably the only way she could learn anything about the Sith.
She walked into Palpatine's office. The Chancellor was sitting at his desk. There was no sign of Lord Maul. He glanced up when she walked in, then stared at her. She looked down. Her shirt had streaks of blood on it. She could only imagine what her face looked like.
"Where's Lord Maul?" she asked, looking down at her feet.
Palpatine looked at her with a blank expression. "Lord Maul?" he asked.
"The man I healed," she explained, glancing up at him.
"In a cell by now, I imagine," Palpatine lied, turning back to the datapad in his hands.
"What are you going to do with him?" she asked.
"I have no idea. There isn't any evidence that he actually committed any crimes. I suppose I'll have to have him released," he said with a shrug.
"Oh." That would be a problem, especially if this Maul left Coruscant. She would have to sever the bond as soon as possible, she decided. It was probably a bad idea anyway. "I need to see him, if that's possible."
"Of course. In the morning, if you like. By the way, your room is ready. He will show you the way," Palpatine said, nodding to a servant who had just came in.
"Thank you." Larisa followed the servant down the hall to another room, about ten doors down from Palpatine's office. It wasn't just a room; it was an entire suite. She stared at the expensive furnishings. She was still looking around when the servant noticed her clothes and gasped. "I had a slight accident," she told the man.
"I'll draw a bath immediately," he said, rushing into one of the other rooms.
Larisa followed him into a huge bathing room and stopped in front of a large mirror, wincing at the dried blood on her chin and neck. She looked like hell. She turned around and caught sight of the largest bathing pool she had ever seen. It must be about ten square feet. Oh, I'm going to enjoy this, she thought.
The servant finished filling it with water and turned back towards her. "Will you be needing anything else?"
"No," she answered, looking eagerly at the bathing pool. "Well, actually, I could use a robe. I left my clothes at the Temple." Her stomach decided to embarrass her at that moment. "Umm.. Some food would be appreciated," she said, turning red.
"Of course," the servant said, walking over to a large closet and retrieving a robe. He placed it on a nearby table, then bowed and left the room.
Larisa closed the door to the bathing room and unbraided her hair, then stripped off her robe and shirt. Ugh. The blood had soaked through the thin material. Grimacing, she removed her skirt and boots, then stripped out of her underclothes. She quickly entered the pool and immediately grabbed the soap, closing her eyes as she inhaled the floral scent. It must have been imported from Alderaan. She's heard that that planet was famous for it's flowers.
She washed her face twice before working on her hair. She hadn't realized how long it had grown. She quickly washed the rest of her body, then moved to the other side of the pool. She leaned back against the wall, wishing she could stay in the pool for the rest of the night. She rested there for several minutes, enjoying the warm water. She had almost fallen asleep when she heard the servant's return. She hurried out of the pool and put the robe on. Hmm. Silk, she thought, looking down at the dark red color.
Smelling food the moment she left the bathing room, Larisa followed the aroma to the huge public room. The Chancellor certainly spared no expense on his guests. It was a welcome change from her room at the Jedi Temple. There were three tables throughout the room. One of them had two trays of food on them. She sat down in front of them just as the servant walked through another door. She caught a glimpse of a large bed before the door shut behind him.
"Will you be needing anything else?" he asked.
"No, thank you. This is fine." Larisa turned back to the food after he left. There were slices of some kind of meat, plus three different vegetables. And bread. Real bread. She had forgotten what it had even looked like. There were also two large decanters. One contained water, the other a purplish-blue wine.
She quickly ate her dinner, then picked up the cup and water pitcher and took it with her to the bedroom. She stopped in the doorway and stared. The bed looked big enough for four people. She walked over to it and reached out to the covering and sheets. Silk, just like the robe. And the same dark red color. She went over to the closet and opened it. There were at least a dozens dresses and gowns inside. She pulled out a silvery-gray dress and examined it. It was obviously new. Hmmm. Suddenly, she wished she could stay here forever. She put the dress back and turned back to the bed.
After she finished two more cups of water, she started back towards the bathing room. The walk quickly turned into a dash. She stopped and looked around for the fresher. There it was, in a separate room in a corner of the bathing room. She came back out two minutes later and stumbled over to the mirror, vowing never to drink that much wine ever again. She stared at her damp hair, trying to decide what to do with it. Five minutes later she wearily crawled into bed.
Hopefully tomorrow would be a lot better than today, she thought as she fell asleep.
Maul stood in the middle of his room, staring at the spot where his bed used to be. The entire room had been stripped. Of course, there hadn't been much in the way of furnishings in the first place. Now, however, there was no trace of anyone ever having lived here.
"Surprised?" came a voice from the doorway.
Maul turned and knelt before his Master. "Master, that Je... healer claims that you are now the Chancellor."
"Yes. The Senate did vote in my favor." Palpatine sounded bored. "That, however, is not your concern. I have a mission for you. I'm sending you back to Tatooine."
Maul stood, perplexed. "Tatooine?"
"Yes. There is a certain slave there. Your task is to kill her. With this." Palpatine removed a blaster from his pocket and handed it to Maul.
Maul reached out automatically and took it, then stared at it as if he had never seen one before. "A blaster?" he asked, sounding bewildered.
Palpatine raised an eyebrow. "Your lightsaber is damaged, after all. You may build a new one, if you return. I suppose I must tell you that two Jedi have just been sent to Tatooine as well." He paused before continuing. "You are not to confront them. In fact you are not to let them know that you are even there." He glanced at Maul's tattoos. "You will have to wear some sort of disguise. I've arranged for a public transport for you. It leaves in about two hours. You'll need this," Palpatine said, handing him a small bag.
"Public transport," Maul asked, incredulous. And he was forbidden to kill the Jedi?
"Of course. Really, Maul. It has been several years, as that healer undoubtedly told you. Your ship was dismantled long ago." Palpatine paused. "I may allow you to construct a new one, if you succeed," he said, then turned and walked out.
Maul watched him leave. His Master expected him to fail, and he probably would. To be that close to a Jedi and be forbidden to fight was intolerable to him. He was being sent to Tatooine to die.
Upon reaching the nearly abandoned hanger, Maul was informed that the transport was actually scheduled to depart in five hours. He was also told that Tatooine was not the only stop. The ship was going to Etti IV first, which was about ten hours away from Tatooine. He stalked away, then pulled out the bag Lord Sidious had given him. Republic credits, he saw. Worthless in Tatooine, and in Etti IV as well, he guessed. He scratched at the brown cloth covering his head and face. Still another indignity he had to suffer through. Forced to dress in brown clothing, similar to what the Jedi scum wore. It was also, he was certain, none too clean. His Master had always enjoyed these little cruelties.
Maul left the hanger, searching for a monetary exchange. It took twenty minutes to find one that suited his needs. The more prosperous exchangers would have asked too many questions, assuming they would even allow him into their stores. He exchanged the credits for six small crystals and left, determined to buy a clean set of clothes at once.
Larisa woke with a start, then remembered where she was. Noticing the sunlight streaming in from the window, she realized that she had overslept. She quickly got out of bed and went over to the window. It looked to be late morning, so she must have missed breakfast.
Her healer uniform had been cleaned and was draped across a chair in the public room. She walked into the huge bathing room to use the fresher room, then undid all the tiny plaits in her hair. She turned towards the mirror. It was certainly a different look, especially after having kept her hair in a simple braid for years. She was going to have to experiment with it more often.
She went back into the public room and spotted her commlink and access card on a table. She was going to have to return those. And retrieve Rialth and her clothes. There was no point in putting it off. She stopped in her tracks, suddenly remembering what she had to do today. Maul. She had to break that damned bond. She quickly put on her uniform and hurried from the room, asking the nearest servant where the Chancellor was.
Master Billapa was waiting in the hanger when Master Koth appeared. "Don't you have a class to teach?" she asked him.
"I've decided to let them have the day to themselves. You don't mind the company, do you?"
Billapa thought it over. She was planning to speak to Doril alone. Too many visitors might make her defensive. Still, one more shouldn't hurt.
"Not at all," she replied, as their shuttle arrived.
Palpatine looked up from his desk as Larisa was shown in. It was about time, he thought. He wanted to get this over with so he could move on to more important matters. "Yes?" he asked.
Larisa stared around the room for a moment. This was the same room as yesterday, wasn't it? She was sure she had remembered the direction to this room, but it looked completely different. There were paintings on every wall and three large sculptures in the middle of the room. Even the desk looked different.
"Um.. I would like to see Lord Maul now, if that's possible."
"I'm afraid it is not. He was released three hours ago," he told her, turning back to a datapad.
"Released? Where is he now?"
"I have no idea," Palpatine said, looking up. She looked very upset. Very odd. "Why do you ask?"
"I just need to know where he is. Do you have any idea where he might be?"
"No, I do not," he answered with a shrug. "However I was just informed that there are two Jedi here, asking to speak with you."
"Two?" she asked. What did they want? They couldn't possibly know about what she did last night, could they? Palpatine did say they had spies everywhere. "Where are they?"
"In a conference room. You could meet with them in your room, if you would prefer a more informal setting."
"I think that would be better," she said. At least in her room she could ask them to leave if the meeting became unpleasant.
"Very well. I'll have a servant show them to your room. In the meantime I have a meeting of my own to attend to." Palpatine waited a few minutes after she left before leaving the office himself.
He strode down the hall, turned the corner and entered another room. Locking the door against any overly curious servants, he quickly donned his black Sith robe before entering the hidden room. He removed a large commlink from the desk and pressed a button, than waited for the hologram to appear.
"Sing," he greeted the tall bounty hunter.
"Lord Sidious," replied Aurra Sing, surprised to hear from him again, especially since she had failed that first assignment. She had, of course, killed the two Gungan children that had distracted her. She wondered if their bodies had ever been found. "I have arrived on Coruscant, as you requested. You said you have another job for me?"
"Actually, it's the same one you bungled three years ago. Knight Kenobi and his Apprentice are being sent to Alderaan. I want Kenobi killed, no one else. Unless, of course, you plan on being seen again." Palpatine smiled at her look of surprise. "Yes, I am aware of the reason of your failure. Primitives!" he spat.
She straightened to her full height. "I will not fail again."
"Of course you won't," he replied, mockingly. "You are to leave immediately and wait there for them to arrive. You will, of course, receive your payment after you return." He ended the transmission before she could reply. With any luck he would be rid of her, as well as Maul.
Larisa spent the next two minutes pacing her room until a servant arrived, followed by Masters Billapa and Koth. She took a step back. She had never met Master Koth before, and hadn't realized how large he was. He certainly was taller than Maul, assuming Maul was a Zabrak.
"If you are ready for the noon meal, I'll have it sent up," the servant informed her.
"Um... yes, thank you," Larisa said, distracted. "Did you want anything?" she asked, before she realized what she was doing.
"Actually, yes. Thank you," Billapa said. This meeting had started out better than she had expected.
Larisa turned away as they spoke with the servant. What was she thinking, inviting them to stay for lunch? Too late now, she thought as she watched the servant leave. Well, she might as well get this over with.
"Here," she said, handing Billapa the access card and commlink. "Was there anything else you wanted?"
"Actually, I came here to ask you to come back to the Temple."
"But... I did slap Master Windu," she said, confused.
"I'm sure a simple apology would suffice," Billapa told her. "You do still wish to study there, don't you?"
"Yes, but I do have a few questions I'd like answered first."
"Of course," Billapa said as they sat at the dining table.
"Why am I only allowed to study human species?"
"All healers study according to their own species. The so-called alien species have proven to be too difficult for human healers."
There seemed to be plenty of human healers at the temple, she thought. "Will I be allowed to try?" she asked.
"I suppose that could be arranged," Billapa said, looking down at Larisa's access card. She looked up with a puzzled frown. "You're staying in Y8?"
"Yes," Larisa said. "I was moved there after I came back from Naboo three years ago. Anakin said it looked like a storage unit."
"Moved there by whom?"
"Master Windu," she replied, watching them both. They didn't look very pleased. "It wasn't actually a storage unit, was it?"
"No," Billapa said, still frowning.
Larisa suddenly didn't want to know what it had been used for.
"You will be assigned a new room, if you do decide to return to the Temple with us," Master Koth said.
I do have a few more questions. Will I be allowed to 'visit' the library?"
"That shouldn't be a problem."
Larisa frowned slightly. "Master Windu had said the library was only for Padawans and Knights."
Billapa sighed. "When you had returned from Naboo?" she asked, intending to speak with Windu herself after her meeting.
She nodded, then changed the subject. "What are the Sith?"
"Where did you hear about the Sith?" Koth asked.
"Anakin said that Master Jinn had been killed by one on Naboo, and the Chancellor said that they're extinct." She watched, waiting to see what they tell her.
"The Sith were believed to have died out during a war a thousand years ago." Billapa told her. She knew that only made the girl more curious, but she didn't have the time to explain everything.
"Believed to be? Was Master Jinn killed by one?" Larisa asked.
"The Council believes so, yes," Billapa answered.
"And what happened to this Sith?" Larisa asked. She had a feeling she wasn't going to like the answer.
"The Sith was killed on Naboo as well."
"By Knight Kenobi?"
Billapa nodded, pausing before making an offer. "If you return to the Temple, I'll ask the Council to allow you to study Jedi history. I'm sure that will answer other any questions you may have."
Larisa thought it over. It was tempting. "All right," she agreed, as the servant returned with their lunches.
Maul glared furiously at the ship. What was supposed to be a two-hour stop at Etti IV was now going to take five. Apparently a computer malfunction was to blame for the delay. Even more annoying were the hunger pangs. It certainly felt like he hadn't eaten in years. He had, of course, refused the meals that were served on the ship. He left the hangar and walked out into the street, searching for a likely restaurant. It took ten minutes to find one that served the kind of food he required.
The servant set three trays on the table in front of them. Master Billapa's lunch consisted of a simple salad. Larisa stared down at her own tray. Some kind of fish, it looked like. She glanced at Master Koth's tray, then blinked. Some Zabraks, she remembered reading, still preferred raw meat to cooked meat. Meat she suddenly had a craving for. It would certainly be a new experience if she did try it, and she had eaten stranger things in the past.
She pulled her gaze away and turned to the servant. "Could you please inform the Chancellor that I'll be returning the Temple today?"
"Of course. Will there be anything else?"
She looked down at her own plate for a moment. Why not? she thought. It wouldn't be the first time she ate something that was different. "I really don't care for fish. I'll have what he's having," she said, pointing at the slightly bloody steak. "What is that, anyway?"
"That is Shaak, from Naboo. You want it uncooked?" the servant asked, puzzled. Billapa and Koth were staring at her.
"Yes. Thank you," she said, handing him her plate.
"I wasn't aware you ate raw meat," Billapa remarked after the servant had left.
"I don't, actually," Larisa said. "But I did eat poison berries once, back home." That got them staring at her again.
"You ate poison berries? Why?" Billapa asked in disbelief.
Larisa paused, thinking back. "Well, those berries weren't native to Adarlon. Some idiot had brought them over from another planet several years ago. I think he was a pirate. Anyway, no one even knew about them until two children had died. Nothing seemed to match their symptoms, so I went over to where they lived and found the berries. I ate a few of them to make sure that was what killed them."
"And you healed yourself afterwards?"
"Well, yes, of course."
Billapa turned back to her salad. How strange, she thought. The healers she knew were very careful with their own health. Illness and injury usually disrupted their concentration.
"That was rather impulsive," Master Koth told her. He could imagine the lecture Master Yoda would give her if he was ever told about this.
"Reckless is a better description," Billapa said. "There is one condition to your returning to the Temple. You need to control your emotions. If you do return, you will need to learn how to meditate."
"I've already tried to be unemotional, just as the Jedi code says. It didn't work for me. I'm not a robot."
"No one said you have to be a robot," Billapa said, patiently.
"But the code does say 'there is no emotion'."
"There probably are a few Jedi who take it literally, but that was not how it was intended. One of the first lessons in being a Jedi is to not let one's emotions control them," Master Koth told her.
Hmmm, she thought, meditating didn't sound very difficult. "And meditation helps?"
"Yes, And you can start practicing this evening. But first I have a meeting with the Rodian Senator to attend to," Billapa told her.
"All right." Larisa turned away as the servant came back in with a new tray. It wasn't as red as Koth's steak was; they must have drained most of the blood out of it. Slightly disappointed by that, Larisa picked up her fork and knife and dug into it.
Thirty minutes later she was back at the Temple. Billapa gave her a new access card and showed her to her new room before leaving for her meeting. She opened the door and went in. Her clothes had already been moved into the closet. She stood up and paced for a minute before heading for the door.
Master Windu, at that moment, was in Knight Kenobi's room with Master Tiin.
"What happened now?" Obi-Wan asked, noticing the grim expressions on Windu and Tiin's faces.
"Aurra Sing is here on Coruscant," Tiin informed him.
"But you don't know where?"
"No, nor do we know who she is after this time."
"But you have an idea," Obi-Wan guessed. "So this trip to Alderaan is out of the question?"
"Why?" Anakin asked from the doorway. He watched them turn towards him in surprise and suppressed a smile. He had spent hours practicing entering a room as quietly as possible. It was the only way he ever found out about anything.
Windu hesitated before telling him the truth. He would have to be told sooner or later. "Someone hired a bounty hunter to kill Kenobi three years ago. Now that bounty hunter is here on Coruscant."
"Which would be the safest place for him," Anakin said. There was something they weren't telling him. "Was that her, three years ago on Naboo?" His Master nodded wearily. "Who else has this bounty hunter killed?" he instinctively asked.
"Master Gallia," Tiin told him.
"So we're not taking a vacation?"
"Actually, we have decided to send you to Alderaan anyway," Windu told them. "Master Tiin and several other Knight will accompany you."
"You're actually going to try to catch this bounty hunter? Why?" Anakin asked.
"For one thing, this bounty hunter was once a Jedi Apprentice herself, which makes her very dangerous. We also intend to find out who has hired her."
Anakin thought it over for a moment. "I think you should include a healer in your group, in case something goes wrong."
"I suppose you have someone in mind," Obi-Wan said, guessing what he was thinking.
"Larisa Doril," Windu said dryly.
"Why not? I don't think she's ever been to Alderaan."
"That is up to Master Windu," Obi-Wan pointed out.
"I think it would be best to include two healers. You may invite Larisa to go with you," Windu said before leaving their room.
"You're to leave for Alderaan tomorrow, as planned," Tiin told them as he stood and left as well.
Anakin went back to his room to start packing.
Windu found Larisa standing outside his room. "What are you doing here?"
She jumped, then turned to face him. "Umm... I wanted to apologize for hitting you yesterday," Larisa said, backing away as he walked towards her.
He stopped in front of his door. "Very well, I accept your apology," he said, taking another step towards her. He stopped when she backed away again. Well, he thought, if she could make an effort so could he.
"So, you have agreed to continue studying here?" he asked, attempting to sound friendlier. It wasn't working. She stepped back even further.
"Yes. Billapa said I'm to practice meditation later today."
"You could start now."
She stared at him, blankly.
"I am offering to teach you myself."
"Why? I thought you didn't like me," Larisa said, bewildered.
It was more like he didn't trust her, Windu thought. Though, to be honest, he had no definite reason for it. Master Mundi seemed to like her, and if anyone could sense the Dark Side in anyone he could.
"I apologize for my behavior. Perhaps you would prefer to train with someone else."
She stood there for a moment, thinking. He had made some very bad impressions, but he was the head of the Council after all. It wouldn't hurt to give it a try. "All right, I accept your offer," she said, still wary.
Maul finally arrived at Mos Espa. He grimaced at the filthy streets, careful to keep his dark blue cloak off the ground. He pulled the wrap back over his forehead and continued down the main street. At least his Master had told him her name, Skywalker. The third person he asked had seen her at a shop owned by her master, a Toydarian. He found the shop and waited across the street.
A few minutes later an older woman emerged. She was at least forty, with gray-streaked dark hair. He followed at a distance as the two Jedi appeared and walked beside her. He could barely hear what they were saying, and he didn't dare use the Force when he was this close to him.
They were saying something about Anakin and trials. He watched as the Jedi accompanied her to her small dwelling. He crept up to a window and listened. Apparently her son was almost ready for his trials and intended to come here looking for her afterwards. The Jedi were here to purchase her from her master. Typical of the Jedi. They never acted unless forced to. This time they will be too late.
He went to the back of the house and leaped onto the balcony. He waited for a moment, hearing the voices approaching, then leaped onto the roof. He crouched down, waiting as the slave and the Jedi had walked out onto the balcony. He gritted his teeth as he looked down at his enemies, trying to remain still. He would prove himself worthy to his Master. He would not fail.
Master Windu was more patient than she had thought he would be. It felt strange to sit still and simply feel the Force instead of always manipulating it, as she usually did when she was healing someone. It took almost ten minutes to settle down and clear her mind. Apparently she had a lot of buried negative emotions to deal with.
Windu had left to go to a meeting. It seemed the Council members had meetings every hour. She decided to go to the garden to finish meditating. She went a little further into the garden than normal; she wanted some privacy. She sat down on a grassy spot and started meditating. For some reason she started to feel angry and impatient. Except that it wasn't really her that was feeling it.
Confused, Larisa reached further into the Force, trying to find the source of it. That was when she realized that it was coming from the bond. It had strengthened enough that now she could feel Maul's emotions. She wondered what he was doing to cause this anxiety. She concentrated on the bond, but all she could sense was that he was on another planet, far away from here. Great, she thought, by the time the bond was strong enough for her to actually find him, it would probably be impossible to break it. All she could do right now was deal with these negative emotions.
Ten minutes later, Maul was almost trembling with suppressed fury. The Jedi were still in the house and showed no sign of leaving anytime soon. He felt his tense muscles starting to cramp and knew he was about to fail again. Then he felt his muscles relax. His anger started to dissipate. What was happening? It was still too risky to reach out to the Force. Whatever was causing this would have to wait until the Jedi left the woman alone. Maul stood and stretched, then sat back down to wait.
She looked up to see Anakin walking towards her, then looked down at her lap. Rialth had showed up during her meditation and was now fast asleep. "Hello. Did you want something?"
"I came here to see if you wanted to come with us to Alderaan."
"I'd love to, but I'd better ask permission first," she said.
"Master Windu already said you could go, so all you need to do is pack. We're leaving tomorrow morning."
"All right, then, but I'll have to go see Master Billapa first. I need to ask her to feed Rialth while I'm gone."
"Okay, see you tomorrow," Anakin said.
"Sure," Larisa replied, and lay down on the grass to finish meditating.
The Jedi had finally left. Maul waited another five minutes before entering from the balcony. He crept through the house and found her in a small bedroom. It must have been her sons. She was in the process of activating a protocol droid. It was incredibly simple. All he had to do was quickly press the blaster against the back of her neck and pull the trigger. He stepped back as she fell to the floor.
Maul whirled back around, glaring at the droid. It lurched for the door, trying to escape. He used the Force to trip it up, then used the Force again to rip its head from its body. He took it with him outside and deposited it in a garbage container before leaving the house.
Larisa snapped out of her trance. Rialth was scratching at her arms. She had accidentally tightened her grip around his neck. She released him immediately. He turned to glare at her and she quickly snatched him back up.
"I'm sorry," she said, looking him in the eye. He glared for a moment, then relaxed. She sat there for a moment, stroking his back. She could feel Maul through the bond again, but this time she felt a smug satisfaction. For what, she wasn't sure she wanted to know. She just wanted to find him as soon as possible. She put Rialth down. It was time to visit the library.
Maul reached the hanger and sat at a dirty table, waiting for the next ship off this planet. He reached out to the Force, trying to find an explanation for what happened earlier. He searched the Force for several seconds before realizing the cause. There was some kind of bond. It was not his Master's doing, he realized, it was that healer.
Although, he was sure, his Master was aware of it. He fought back a surge of fury. It had helped him today, but it would eventually make him vulnerable. He had to return to Coruscant immediately. Sooner or later his Master would give him permission to kill her. And he would. Even if he had to enter the Temple himself to do it.
Larisa begins to have further problems with the links she inadvertently created between herself and her patients... Maul and Obi-Wan.
The library wasn't actually inside in the temple, but was one of two adjoining buildings. The other building contained workshops, where the Jedi apprentices learned to construct their lightsabers. The elevators, Larisa recalled, were two halls away, and the ones for going down were on the left side of the hallway. And, of course, they required an access card, like everything else. She stepped into one of the down elevators and pressed the symbol for the bottom floor. Her room was at least a hundred floors up, she noticed. She hadn't had a chance to see the Jedi temple from the outside, and had no idea how large it really was. She walked through a side door (using her access card again), then stopped a few feet away and looked up. The building was so tall she couldn't even see the top of it.
She walked around to the front of the temple. A strange fence surrounded it, appearing like some sort of green energy field. She walked closer to it. There weren't any exits or entrances, so the only way out of the temple was through the hangars. She could see streets and other buildings on the other side of it. There were also air taxis, a form of public transportation that, for some reason, the Jedi didn't use. She turned away from the fence and walked back towards the Jedi Library.
Mace Windu had just stepped outside his quarters when Master Billapa appeared.
"Master Windu," she greeted him formally which, he knew, meant that she was upset about something. "We need to talk."
"Very well," he said, going back into his quarters. Billapa followed Mace into his private office.
"Yes?" he said, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible.
"I would like to know why you had Larisa moved to one of yellow rooms. Rooms that are reserved for older apprentices, who have not been chosen as Padawans," she reminded him.
"It was a mistake," Windu admitted. "And I've already apologized to the girl," Windu told her, before she could suggest it herself. "I'll have her moved today."
"I have already taken care of that." She paused. "You've already seen her today?"
"Yes. I found her outside my room. Apparently she wanted to apologize for her own behavior yesterday. I've also given her lessons on meditating."
"Good," Billapa said, hoping that at least was settled. "There is also the matter of who used the Force to influence you yesterday. I do not think it was her."
"Which leaves the Chancellor's advisors."
"And the Chancellor himself. We cannot afford to ignore that possibility. And as for his dead advisors, all we have learned is that they were all from 'Rim' planets."
"We cannot accuse Palpatine of anything without proof," Windu said as his commlink beeped. "Yes?" Windu asked.
"The Chancellor has dismissed five of his aides, and has called a meeting of the Senate. He has apparently decided to inform them of the Mandalorian army," Master Tiin said through the commlink.
"Thank you. I'll call for a Council meeting when you return from Alderaan," Windu told Tiin, then turned off the commlink.
"Could the Chancellor could be the Sith we're looking for?" Windu asked.
"It is a possibility," Billapa answered. "And if he is, the galaxy is in danger. As Chancellor he could do a great deal more damage than he already has."
"Yes, but he still has to answer to the Senate. Not all of them are corrupt."
"Considering how easily Valorum was removed, I don't think we can rely on the Senate. We must make some arrangements of our own," Billapa said patiently.
"For one thing, we must convince Queen Amidala to marry, preferably Knight Kenobi."
"You'll have to convince him as well." Windu pointed out. "I don't think he has any intention of marrying anyone.
"Yes, I know. He's determined to spend his life traveling through the galaxy, the way that his Master did," Billapa said with a sigh.
"Another problem we have is that many worlds are not often visited by the Jedi Knights, and I suspect that those people now only test half of their children. That, I believe, is the main reason why fewer initiates are found. We should assign some of the younger Knights to more permanent posts on the planets. It would convince the people to trust us more."
"Wouldn't it be wiser to send the older Knight instead?"
"It might, but I am hoping that by sending younger Knights they would eventually be inclined to start families of their own, as Master Mundi had. Two of his children have been chosen as Padawans," Billapa reminded him.
"Yes, but the other three weren't. They were sent to the Agricorps."
"As have many others in the past, and yet some of their children have succeeded," Billapa pointed out.
"You know the Council will want to discuss this first before voting on it."
"I see no reason for the others to disagree," Billapa said confidently.
"We'll see," Windu said.
At that moment Palpatine had already announced to the Senate that Arkania had been attacked by an 'invisible' army, which had then disappeared and could now be anywhere in the galaxy. He stood for a moment, enjoying the resulting chaotic reaction. Half of the Senators were shouting at each other from their platforms, making some rather outlandish accusations from what he could hear. At least they had enough dignity left to stay in their places, though it would have been amusing if one of them actually tried to start a fight here. He waited a few more seconds before calling for order. It took at least five minutes before the Senators finally shut up. He put a somber expression on his face as he allowed Senator Horox Ryyder to come forward and address him.
"Have the Jedi been informed?" The creature asked through a translation device. Palpatine ground his teeth. A typical reaction. If something went wrong they always turned to the Jedi for protection and guidance. But not for much longer, he thought determinedly.
"I informed Master Windu myself. His reaction, though, was a bit... erratic," Palpatine informed them, with a puzzled frown. "I'm sure the Jedi will be ready to assist anyone in danger," he added in a slightly doubtful tone of voice.
"What do you mean, erratic?" demanded Senator Mot-Not-Rab, coming forward. "Will they help or not?"
"I'm afraid I cannot speak for the Jedi at this time," Palpatine said, regretfully. That set them all off again, he saw, amused. He waited until they quieted down again before attempting to speak again.
"Under the circumstances, it would be understandable if any of you wished to return to your own worlds," Palpatine suggested. "Unless, of course, you would prefer to remain on Coruscant. It would, I'm sure, be safer here." That should convince most of them to leave. Considering that the Mandalorians could now cloak their ships, it was only logical that they would eventually attempt to attack Coruscant. An attack that would, of course, never happen.
The Senators had started arguing again, so he quickly ended the meeting and left. They, of course, would argue for another hour, at least, before realizing he had left. They usually did. All he had left to deal with now was Maul, who had returned nearly an hour ago. And he can wait another hour, Palpatine decided, displeased.
The first three floors (there were at least twenty) of the library contained hundreds of tiny rooms spread throughout the huge room. Each one was surrounded by darkened glass, and had a small table and chair inside. About half of those little rooms were already being used, mostly by Padawans. She made her way to the nearly empty fourth floor and found what looked to be hundreds of holocrons spread out on several large narrow tables. Each one was labeled with the name of a planet belonging to the Republic. On a smaller table were holocrons for the worlds that were further out on the rim. She picked up the one for Iridonia. That, if she remembered correctly, was where the Zabraks were originally from.
Thinking of Zabraks, of course, reminded her of that Lord Maul. She could sense a vague frustration every once in a while, so the bond didn't seem to be getting any stronger. The problem with that, though, was that while she could sense that he had just recently returned to Coruscant, she had no idea where exactly he was. Hopefully, he was aware of the bond and would come looking for her himself. And won't that be fun! she thought, thinking of their first meeting.
She went back to the third floor and quickly entered the nearest empty cubicle. It took a moment to figure out how to operate the strange cube shaped device. She sat back as a hologram appeared on the table in front of her. For the next half-hour she sat through examples of all the different customs of the Zabrakian people. Apparently there were several species of Zabrak, and there were only one way to accurately tell them apart. And that was the size and position of the horns on top of their head. There were two that were actually quite similar to Maul's, although his were a bit smaller. Zabraks were, for the most part, monogamous, and some were quite possessive of their mates. They were also compatible with humans, but interbreeding was strongly discouraged. It seemed that children born to both Zabrak and human parents usually died after only a few months, having been born sickly and undersized. The ones that did manage to survive were apparently abandoned. Of course, after this they died from neglect, since no one was willing to care for what was considered a doomed infant.
How depressing! she thought as she turned off the holocron and returned it to the table on the fourth floor. A healer would probably have been able to help those poor babies, but there was no mention of any Jedi staying on Iridonia. It was probably one of those planets that the Jedi only visited every few years.
She wandered around the library, looking for anything on Jedi, and Sith, history. The fifth through eighth floor were mainly full of more cabinets containing datapads and holocrons. She didn't have access to the next six floors, they were reserved for classes. Finally, on the fifteenth floor, she found what she was looking for. There were wooden bookcases everywhere, and glass cabinets containing what looked like very old scrolls. The cabinets were locked, but there was a button to push to turn the pages mechanically. The Jedi weren't taking any chances and didn't allow any of these ancient scrolls to be touched by human hands, so to speak. In the back of the room were several large tables. All of them were empty, since none of the Padawans seemed to come this far up.
She looked through the bookcases first and found two rather thin books on the Sith in the back. She sat down at one of the tables and opened the book to the first page.
Depressingly, it was written in a very old form of Basic, and therefore was difficult to understand.
The Sith, from what she could make out, apparently spent all their time fighting in wars. Wars that they usually started and were usually against the Jedi. Didn't they have anything better to do? She quickly skimmed through the rest of the book, looking for more specific information on the Sith.
Unfortunately, she found nothing to prove that Maul was a Sith. He had been wearing some sort of black uniform; similar to what the Jedi wore. She didn't find any mention of what the Sith might have actually looked like and there was no mention of any by name. There were, though, a few Jedi mentioned, names like Qel-Droma. He had died about four thousand years ago, though, so that wasn't any help either.
She turned to the other book and it was even less help. The Sith, apparently, had killed each other in the last war. There was no mention of the Jedi having been involved, as Palpatine had claimed. He could, she supposed, have been mistaken, especially since it had happened a thousand years ago.
She got up to out the books back, then looked through the scrolls. They were no help at all, since they weren't even written in Basic. She went to the next floor and found even older looking scrolls. They weren't in basic either. Nor were they in the same language as the last scrolls.
Approaching the last glass cabinet, she stared down at the oldest looking scroll. Something about that handwriting looked so familiar to her but she couldn't figure out why. She stepped back, feeling a little dizzy. Now she heard a strange buzzing noise. It was her commlink, she realized. She shook off that strange feeling and pulled the commlink out of her pocket. She looked down at it for a moment before pressing the small button. No one had ever called her on it before.
"Larisa, would you please meet me in your room?" Master Billapa said, sounding perturbed.
"Of course. Is there something wrong?"
"No, but there is something that we need to discuss immediately."
"All right," Larisa said. Now what? she thought as she turned off the commlink.
She found Master Billapa already inside her room, with one of Palpatine's servants. He was the same one who had served her earlier. They were standing in front of three rather large trunks.
"What's going on?" She had a pretty good idea those trunks contained: the clothes she had found in her room at the Senate building. She definitely did not trust the Chancellor, and the last thing she wanted was to feel indebted to him for anything.
"These are for you." Billapa gestured to the trunks. "As well as this," she said, handing Larisa a small bag.
"A gift from the Chancellor," the servant said, hesitantly. Actually, his exact words had been "get rid of them". The bag of credits, though, had come from Palpatine.
"Well, you'll just have to take them back," Larisa told him.
"Unfortunately, in many cultures that would be considered an insult. You may go now," Billapa said, dismissing the servant.
Larisa opened the first trunk and pulled out two very formal looking gowns. "These are the same clothes I saw in my room last night," she said as she deposited the gowns on the bed.
"It is customary for the Chancellor to provide for guests who arrive with no luggage. One that Chancellor Palpatine has, no doubt, now abolished." In fact, Billapa thought, there were quite a few old customs that Palpatine had recently forbidden.
"And these?" Larisa asked as she walked over to the table and upended the bag. She looked at the contents. "Five thousand credits."
"Those are another matter," Billapa said, carefully considering her words. This would be a lot easier if the girl was in fact a Jedi apprentice. She had to find a way to discourage her from accepting any more gifts, without it sounding as though it were an order. "I'm sure you're aware that the Jedi have a tradition of refusing rewards, in order to maintain their neutrality. I must ask you to follow that tradition during the rest of your stay here, as an example to the Padawans."
"How long will that be, anyway?"
"Training as a healer usually takes at least fifteen years."
Ugh. Larisa thought. That was too depressing to think about. Back to the original subject. "You said most cultures feel insulted when a gift is refused. What do the Jedi do with them?"
"The Council manages all the monetary gifts. They're usually used to fund Jedi missions," Billapa told her.
Hmmm. So that's how Master Ciari could afford those lodgings back home on Adarlon. She looked back down at the credits. Well, why not. "Five hundred credits is enough for me. I really don't need the rest," she said as she put the rest of them back in the bag and handed it to the Jedi Master.
"Thank you," she said, looking surprised.
"You're welcome. Now I need to figure out what to do with these clothes," Larisa said as she went back to the trunk and pulled out another gown.
"Those are yours to keep," Billapa reminded her.
"I suppose I could take some of them with me to Alderaan."
"Speaking of Alderaan, there's also been a change in plans. Knight Kenobi and his Padawan are leaving for Alderaan today and I was informed that Master Windu gave you permission to go as well," Billapa said as she stepped around the trunks.
"Their ship leaves in about twenty minutes, in hangar three."
"I do have a favor to ask. Could you make sure my pet is fed while I'm gone? He's been staying in the garden."
"I'll assign a Padawan to that. What do you feed him?"
"Well, he'll eat just about any kind of vegetable. He doesn't like strangers, though, and I usually leave it next to a bush for him," Larisa told her as she began pulled out the rest of the gowns and matching shoes. She looked at the small table, then laid them out on her bed.
"I can't take these with me, they look like something a Queen would wear," she said, looking down at least six heavily beaded gowns. They did look like something Amidala would own. "I doubt I be spending time at any royal courts."
"As a matter of fact you'll be staying at the King's palace. The Organa family have always been allies of the Jedi," Billapa explained when Larisa stared at her. "You can leave what you don't want on the bed, I'll have someone remove them later today."
"Thank you," Larisa said as Master Billapa left. She looked over the gowns again. Definitely not. They looked too heavy and uncomfortable to wear for several hours at a time. She wondered how Amidala managed it.
She turned back to the other two trunks. One held an assortment of silk dresses, and the other had several sets of rather plain looking travel clothes. Most of them were in dark colors. She pulled out all the clothes, then started sorting through them. She picked out the silver-gray dress first. I'm definitely keeping this one, she thought as she hung it back inside the trunk. She picked out two more silk dresses, and their matching sandals, and went to look at them in the mirror. The dark red one would work, but the black wouldn't, she thought with a shiver. The color not only reminded her of Maul but also those people she used to dream about.
Larisa hung the red dress up in the trunk and left the black one on the bed. The yellow was definitely out, so was the purple. She picked up the dark green and placed it in the trunk. That left three more, including a pink one. Yuck! She hated pink dresses. And any other color that made her look younger that her eighteen years. She chose the deep blue one, then went to the mirror with the white dress. That, combined with her pale skin, made her look like a ghost. She really had so spend more time in the sun instead of the shade. It would definitely look better if she could manage to get a tan.
The white dress filled up the first trunk and there were still the travel clothes. She quickly picked out six of the outfits and, of course, the matching boots and placed five of them in the second trunk. Since it was supposed to be a vacation, she shouldn't have to wear her healer's robes, she thought as she pulled out a dark gray outfit and went into the fresher room and changed. She might as well include them, though, just in case.
Once she finished packing she had to figure out how to get the heavy trunks down to the hangar. There were no straps to be found, just a pair of buttons on one side. One, she discovered, made the luggage hover, and the other button actually programmed the trunk to follow her movements. Hmmm. Computerized luggage. That certainly made it easier, she thought as she walked out the door, followed by the trunks.
Palpatine looked up as a servant came into his office, followed by a figure covered in layers of dark blue clothing. He waited silently until the servant left, before speaking.
"Lord Maul. I see you have returned," Palpatine said, sounding slightly disappointed.
"Yes, my Master," Maul answered, gritting his teeth.
Palpatine looked at him, amused. "You also seem angry about something," he remarked.
"That healer," Maul growled, then stiffened as his Master casually probed his mind.
"Ah," Palpatine said, "So, you have been unable to break the bond yourself?"
Maul glared at him resentfully. He had spent the first half of the trip back trying to sever that accursed bond himself, to no avail. The rest of the trip he had attempted to erect shields against it, with little success so far.
"Oh, yes. I am aware of it. The Jedi report mentioned it as a consequence of her healing. Perhaps you would like to read it." Palpatine offered with a smile.
"I would prefer her dead," Maul stated.
"Hmmm... if you do feel that strongly about it," Palpatine mused, considering the matter. The solution he suddenly came up with almost made him laugh. "I suppose I could reward you for your success." Palpatine paused again. "I will give you a choice. I will allow you to dispose of Doril or..." he paused again, enjoying the moment. "Or I will allow you to rebuild your ship, the Infiltrator."
He watched as Maul's eyes widened. He waited several seconds, enjoying Maul's internal struggle before snapping at him. "Choose now!"
"I chose the ship," Maul finally said, sounding defeated.
"Hmmm," said Palpatine, watching Maul. "I must admit that this bond could be an inconvenience to you. Perhaps she can be persuaded to break it." He watched as Maul looked up at him, his eyes starting to gleam, then he continued.
"Unfortunately I've just been informed that she is leaving for Alderaan today with several Jedi, including the one that defeated you on Naboo. For now I suggest you meet with Sienar about your new ship. They've already been told to follow your every instruction."
Maul bowed, seething. It was no surprise that his Master had already known which 'reward' he would choose. He quickly walked out the door. The first thing he needed to do was construct a new lightsaber.
After an hour's work Maul had almost finished his new double bladed lightsaber. All that was left to do was to choose the appropriate crystals. He stopped for a moment, thinking of how the last one had been damaged, and how to avoid such a near disaster in the future. He intended to be better prepared the next time he confronted a Jedi.
The Jedi, he knew, were restricted to one lightsaber. So were the Sith. Except that the Sith, on a whole, do not follow those same rules as the Jedi. With that thought in mind he finished the double bladed lightsaber, then began constructing two single lightsabers. The next time he was allowed to confront the Jedi he would be better prepared.
He could still feel that girl through the bond. She actually felt happy, he thought, disgusted. The shield he managed only dampened her feelings, and not very well. He would practice with his new saber first, then make another attempt to shield himself.
Larisa made it to hangar three with less than five minutes to spare, then stopped and looked around. There were none of the usual transport shuttles, and only one spaceship. A very large one with an odd looking design. She turned as a door opened behind her. It was Anakin and his Master, who was looking as tense as usual. At least six other Jedi Knights followed them, as well as a Jedi Master. That must be Councilor Tiin, judging by the huge horns on his head.
She walked closer to where Master Tiin spoke with Knight Kenobi, Anakin at their side. Despite their quiet voices, she heard them mention someone named Sing. Not wishing to interrupt, Larisa waited until they finished and Master Tiin stepped aside to answer his commlink.
"Who's this Sing person?" she asked Kenobi before he walked off.
"I assumed Anakin told you," he said, glancing at his apprentice.
"I haven't had a chance to," said Anakin.
"Who's Sing?" she repeated. Why did the Jedi have such a hard time answering questions?
"A bounty hunter."
"She tried to kill Obi-Wan on Naboo," Anakin added.
"And she left Coruscant hours ago," said Master Tiin, walking back over to them.
"So she might already be on her way to Alderaan," Anakin stated.
"We'll be ready for her," Kenobi said grimly as he headed for the ramp, accompanied by Master Tiin.
"Doesn't he ever relax?" she asked Anakin, irritably.
"Not that I know of. Not since Qui-Gon died," he said as they made their way over to the ramp.
"This is an odd looking ship. Whose is it?"
"It's Master Tiin's. He's one of the best pilots in the galaxy." Anakin said, excitedly. "Every two or three years he designs a new ship. He's determined to have the fastest one in the galaxy."
"So how long will it take to get to Alderaan?"
"About three hours," Anakin told her as they both walked up the ship's ramp.
Obi-Wan looked up as they entered the cockpit. He actually had the nerve to frown at her when he noticed what she was wearing. "You're not wearing your uniform."
"I thought this was a vacation," she nearly snapped at him.
She watched him blink in surprise as Anakin stepped in between them.
"What's wrong with what she's wearing?" Anakin asked.
"Nothing," Obi-Wan said tiredly, leaning back in the co-pilots chair. "It's very pretty, I'm sure," he almost mumbled as Anakin shrugged and walked away.
Was there no end to this man's rudeness? Larisa thought. She was tempted to be just as rude. There was, though, another way to deal with him.
"Thank you. You look very pretty too," she said, smiling and walking away. She didn't need to turn around to know that he was staring at her.
Disgruntled and bored, she entered the small room she had been assigned with her trunk she had moved from the cargo hold. Returning to the main cabin, she saw no sign of the other Jedi Knights that had boarded earlier and concluded they probably were meeting in another room. As for Anakin, he had disappeared and knowing him, he must have gone back into the cockpit.
She sat down at a round table and looked around in exasperation. Since this wasn't a luxury liner, little had been provided for the passengers to do. In the rush to leave, she hadn't brought any datapads with her. Irritated, she thought of the specific species she had planned to study, such as Quermians. One sat on the Council, and from what she little she read in the library, they were all invertebrates. She could only imagine how many muscles they had, especially in those long necks of theirs.
Kenobi walked through the room and into a small hallway. He either didn't see her there or was making a concerted effort to avoid looking at her. Which annoyed her even more.
Despite her aggravation, she knew she usually wouldn't feel this way. Since she had healed him, these aggressive feelings could only have come from one person. Maul. She wished she could have come up with a plausible excuse to skip this trip. However, the best she could do at this point would be to continue to try to ignore the bond. On that thought she got up and followed Obi-Wan.
She found him sitting alone in a small room in the back. He really should have closed the door if he wanted privacy, she thought as she stood in the doorway. After two whole minutes he finally looked up at her, frowning again, of course.
"What do you want?"
Uh-oh. He sounded positively hostile. She walked in and sat down on the bench next to him.
"I'm just trying to figure out what's wrong with you," she said, watching him.
"Nothing's wrong with me," he said frowning at her.
"Really?" She paused, studying him. "Anakin told me that Qui-Gon was killed by a Sith." She paused again, then continued when he stayed silent, staring at the wall. "And you killed the Sith."
"Yes," he ground out. "Too late."
"Too late? What do you mean?"
He refused to answer, so she tried a different approach.
"What was he like? Your Master." That got him talking, reluctantly at first.
"He was one of the best Jedi Masters. He had a habit of taking the most difficult missions," Obi-Wan said with a slight smile.
"You know, you should really try to smile more often. Never mind," she said as he stared at her. "What kind of missions?"
He hesitated for a moment. "I don't know why I'm telling you this."
"No, I suppose you don't. You don't talk to anyone about your Master, do you? Not even to Anakin?"
"No," he said, hesitating again. "Qui-Gon had a reputation."
"What kind of reputation?"
"He had a habit of arguing with the Jedi Council, and making what they considered reckless decisions. In fact, that was all that was keeping him from a Council seat of his own. It's also what got him killed," he said, the smile fading.
Well, now we're getting somewhere, she thought.
No answer. Oh well, back to the subject.
"So he liked to think for himself. There's nothing wrong with that. Would you rather talk about something else?" she asked when he started to look uncomfortable again.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
Hmmpph. He couldn't change the subject fast enough, could he?
"I'm from Adarlon. I came to Coruscant a few years ago."
"Who found you?"
Found indeed! she thought. What am I, a stray pet?
"Two Jedi. Master Ciari and Knight Giron. What?" she asked when he smiled again.
"It just reminded me of another of Qui-Gon's habits - picking up stray life forms. Master Ciari was a friend of Qui-Gon's," he explained.
"What did you just say?" she asked in disbelief. And just when he was starting to act human!
"What?" he asked, sounding confused.
"You just called me a 'stray life form'!"
"No, I did not."
"You implied it!"
"I wasn't referring to you, I thinking of Jar Jar."
"Who's Jar Jar?"
"A friend of Anakin's. He's a Gungan, a rather clumsy one."
"And his clumsiness makes you feel superior, doesn't it?"
She narrowed her eyes at him as another thought occurred to her. "Did you consider Anakin a stray as well?"
"Would you please keep your voice down?" he said, as he looked out into the hallway. Probably making sure Anakin wasn't around to hear his insults, she thought angrily. He came back in and closed the door.
"I do not consider Anakin a stray."
"But you did, didn't you?"
They were interrupted by Obi-Wan's commlink and he turned away from Larisa before answering it.
"Yes!" he almost yelled.
"Kenobi. Are you all right?" Master Tiin asked, puzzled.
"Yes, I'm fine. Is there a problem?"
"No, but there is a small asteroid field coming up."
"Of course there is. Thanks for the warning," Obi-Wan said, dryly, and shut off the commlink. When he turned back around Larisa was lying down on the bench, staring up at the ceiling.
Tiin exchanged puzzled looks with Anakin. Kenobi sounded angry for some reason.
"What was his problem?"
"I have no idea," Anakin said from the co-pilots seat. He was looking intently for the asteroids. "Should I go back and check?"
"No, I'm sure he'll be fine. There's the asteroid field."
Anakin leaned forward for a better view as they headed straight towards the asteroid field.
"Now what are you doing?" Obi-Wan asked, looking down at her.
"I need to meditate."
"I do not consider Anakin a stray!" he reiterated.
"Fine. Whatever," she said, determined to ignore him.
Obi-Wan sat back down on the other bench, shaking his head. "You do know the proper stance for meditating, don't you?"
"Yes. Master Windu showed me this morning, but I prefer to lie down."
"We're about to enter an asteroid field," Obi-Wan told her, abruptly changing the subject.
She turned her head and looked over at him. "We're flying through an asteroid field?"
"A small one," he replied, glancing over at her. She stared at him, looking alarmed. "Don't worry. Master Tiin is one of the best pilots in the galaxy."
She gave up on meditating and sat up. They were worried about bounty hunters, and then they go and fly through an asteroid field for fun. She had a feeling she wasn't going to forget this little 'vacation' any time soon.
Mace Windu had just informed Yoda and Ki-Adi-Mundi of this evening's Council meeting when he heard someone at his door. He opened it and Master Koon entered, with even more bad news.
"Skywalker's mother is dead," Koon announced after closing the door.
"And when did this happen?" Mace asked, leaning back in his chair.
"Apparently right after Belarim and Toreiv spoke with her. According to them she was killed by a single blaster shot."
Windu sat there, considering the matter. Obviously, there was at least one spy in the temple. Out of at least two hundred servants. Waiting to find out the identity of the guilty party was too dangerous to even consider. They would have to dismiss all of them and assign more duties to the Padawans, at least until they could find employees that could be trusted. He looked up as Koon spoke again.
"Apparently a protocol droid was involved. It was found, damaged, in a bin outside. Toreiv was able to repair it, but it hasn't been much help. He says it tends to babble. And of course her master claims to have no idea who might be responsible.
Windu looked down at his desk, frowning. Whoever heard of a babbling droid? "Well, he can't bring this droid back with him, not without Anakin finding out about it."
"You don't think he should be told?"
"It would interfere with his training," Windu pointed out.
"He will find out eventually. Unlike the other Padawans, he hasn't forgotten that he has a family outside the temple. Keeping this from him is a mistake," Koon stated before he bowed and left.
One more thing to vote on tonight, once the others returned. He wondered what else could possibly go wrong today.
Maul stalked into the large, square shaped building that housed Sienar Advanced Projects and was immediately approached by one of its scientists.
"Lord Maul, we've been expecting your visit. Lord Sidious informed us of your request several hours ago. Would you come this way please," he said, as he walked through the large hallway.
Maul followed him. It was another reminder that his Master always anticipated his every movement. Once, just once, he wished he could surprise him in some way. He swiftly ended that train of thought. He would continue to obey his master, as always. It was the only choice he had. He followed the scientist into a large room and came to a sudden stop, staring at a partially completed Infiltrator.
"Lord Sidious assumed you would want the same design as the old ship," the other man told him. "However, he decided to leave the smaller details to you. Unless, of course, you don't want to make any changes to it."
Maul stared a moment more before walking towards the ship. He stopped in front of a large worktable, looking down at the stygium crystals laid out on it.
"These are, of course, natural stygium crystals," the scientist assured him, picking up the three smallest ones. "These, however, are useless. Much to small to use on any ship."
Maul looked down at them, considering an idea. "Could these be used to cloak probe droids?"
The scientist hesitated for a moment. He was told to follow all of Lord Maul's orders. Cloaking devices had, until now, been used solely for spaceships, but Sidious had never actually placed any restrictions on them.
"I believe they can. How many do you require?"
"Eight, three with cloaking devices. And a new speeder as well. That will be all."
"Very well. We'll should have it finished within twenty-four hours," he said as he followed Maul to the door.
"It had better be," Maul growled before he stalked out. There was nothing to do now except wait, practice with his new sabers, and finally read the datapad his Master had given him.
After they finally passed through the asteroid field, which really took longer than it should have, Larisa spent the next two hours in the large salon watching Anakin and Obi-Wan play holo-chess. Of course they weren't playing it for fun. Obi-Wan had to turn each game into a test of strategy. Ten minutes later the other Jedi, including another healer, had come in and started their own games. She'd given up trying to figure out the strange game when Master Tiin appeared in the doorway.
"We've reached Alderaan," he announced before returning to the cockpit.
She turned and looked out the window as they landed in a field about a mile from the city. There were three speeders waiting for them and, of course, she had to ride with Anakin and Obi-Wan. The other Jedi weren't staying at the palace; they had made arrangements to stay in a nearby building. Master Tiin, though, was only staying for two or three hours before returning to Coruscant. From what she heard Master Windu had called for a Council meeting this evening, Coruscant time.
The city of Aldera was certainly colorful, she thought as they approached the palace. Every ten feet or so there were flowering trees and bushes, and the buildings behind them had been painted to match them. The palace itself was white, and was at least twice as big as the Theed palace. It had what looked like walls of flower bushes on each side of it.
There were only two dignitaries, and several servants waiting in the courtyard as their speeder finally came to a stop inside a huge courtyard full of people. They exchanged greetings with Obi-Wan, then walked with him into the palace. Obi-Wan glanced back at the street as Anakin and Larisa followed him into the palace.
Aurra Sing watched from the crowded street as Kenobi and his apprentice entered the city. She followed them to the palace and watched as they entered the courtyard. They were accompanied by a female human, another Force-user, she noticed, puzzled. Aurra could sense the young woman was not a Jedi, which the bounty hunter found odd given her companions and her mode of dress. The Jedi did not normally associate with what they considered failures, no matter how strong they might be in the Force. Aurra stepped back out of sight as Kenobi looked back towards the street, as if he sensed her watching. She continued watching after they entered the palace, sensing that an opportunity to kill the Jedi would soon present itself.
Kenobi and Anakin were still talking to their hosts while Larisa was shown to her quarters. Unfortunately, they sat right next to Obi-Wan's rooms. She looked around as she walked through the large hallway. The people of Alderaan were certainly obsessed with flowers, every few feet there were large vases full of multi-colored ones. It was the same in her rooms. The public room was rather large, as was the bedroom and the fresher room. Not quite as large as the rooms at the Senate building, but a lot more simply furnished, except for the flowers.
"Here is the key to your room," a female servant said as she handed Larisa a small, computerized card, similar to the one she had been given when she had visited Naboo years ago.
"All right," Larisa said. The weather was warmer than she had expected so she left her robe and outer tunic on the bed. The servant began removing her clothes from the trunk and hanging them up.
"Could you open all the windows while I'm out?" Larisa asked as she headed for the door, putting the key into the belt pouch that contained her five hundred credits. She couldn't wait to start exploring the city.
Larisa closed the door behind her, then memorized the markings on it. There was the number eleven, with what looked like some sort of lily above it. The first thing she needed to do was buy some lighter clothes. What she was wearing was a little too warm for the weather here. She also needed to do something with her hair, she thought as she pushed it back out of her face. She made her way out of the palace, through the courtyard and into the city.
"Someone was watching us," Anakin stated, as he walked into his Master's room.
"I know. I think you and your friend should stay inside the palace, at least for today," Obi-Wan said, sitting down at a table. By tomorrow evening, with any luck, they will have captured Sing.
"Fine, I'll go tell her. And her name is Larisa," Anakin said as he left the room. He resented times like this, when his Master insisted on taking all the risks while he was left behind. Another thing he disliked was that his room was always adjoining his Master's, even on missions. It was as if they were afraid he would somehow disappear in the middle of the night.
He was back a minute later.
"She's already left the palace," Anakin informed Obi-Wan. "Do you want me to go look for her?"
Obi-Wan stood up, annoyed. "I'll look for her. You stay in the palace and tell Prince Organa I'll meet with him as soon as possible. And get rid of these flowers."
"Yes, Master," Anakin said, as he walked back into his room. He waited until he heard Obi-Wan's door close before leaving his own room.
Larisa started down the left side of the street, stopping at every shop. Most of the clothes she saw were too brightly colored and some were even embroidered with fresh cut flowers. She found some relatively plain clothes in the eighth shop she visited and picked out a pale blue cotton vest with matching shorts. She bought underclothes to match them, and a few others to go with her other clothes, making sure none of them were the same shade of green as her healers uniform. It was, she knew, the standard color for Jedi healers, but she was getting really sick of it. She kept the blue outfit with her in a bag and had the rest of the clothes sent to her room at the palace.
Now she had to do something about her hair. She found a salon further down the street. Most of the hologram she was shown were of different styles of braids, another thing the people here seemed obsessed with. She decided on simple curls, fastened behind her head with a simple gold clasp. The best place to get a tan, she was told, was in some kind of solarium, about a mile away. She bought one of the small curling devices the salon used and had it sent to her room before staring out in search of the solarium.
Obi-Wan searched the palace and the courtyard first before stepping out into the street, looking around. There was no sign of the girl anywhere, and he couldn't sense Sing's presence, either. He stepped back into the courtyard and used his commlink to alert Master Tiin.
"Master Tiin, it's Kenobi. I'm outside in the courtyard. Sing is already here. I could feel her watching us when we arrived. Anakin sensed her as well."
"Is Skywalker with you now?" Tiin asked, after a brief pause.
"No. I ordered him to stay inside, but Larisa Doril has already left the palace, at least ten minutes ago."
"Find her immediately, and try to stay on the busier streets. I'll alert the other Jedi."
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied before stepping back into the street and beginning his search.
Anakin stood behind a group of nobles, waiting for his chance to speak with Prince Bail. Padmé had no interest in marrying the Prince, but he knew enough to realize that politics could force her into it. Unless, he suddenly thought, the Prince married someone else. He looked around the chamber, making sure that Master Tiin wasn't in the room. The last thing he needed was for his Master to find out about what he was about to attempt. The nobles finally moved away from the prince and Anakin stepped forward.
"Prince Organa," he said, bowing. "I'm here on behalf of my Master, Knight Kenobi. He was delayed and asked me to send his apologies."
"I understand he's been rather busy lately," the Prince replied. "What I am wondering about, though, is Queen Amidala. Has she shown any preference in her choice of a husband?"
"None that I'm aware of." Anakin fumed inside. The Prince was obviously determined on making the alliance.
Anakin glanced at the blonde woman he had seen Bail speaking to when he had entered the room. "Who is she?"
"That is Lady Torella. I believe she works for the Minister of Education. Why do you ask?" the Prince asked, curious.
Anakin looked around again before he answered, making sure there was no one in earshot.
"Well, because you have no wish to marry Queen Amidala," he said, directing his full Force powers at the Prince.
"I have no wish to marry Queen Amidala," the Prince repeated.
"In fact, Torella would make a much better wife for you," Anakin said, smiling as the Prince again repeated his words.
It worked after all. He had had his doubts, considering the Prince was strong-minded, but he was more than strong enough to bend him to his will. He watched as the Prince made his way over to Lady Torella.
The so-called solarium actually consisted of a large garden beneath a glass dome that seemed to intensify the sun's rays. In the center of the lawn a large pool sparkled, at least a hundred people, mostly grouped on mats on the grass, surrounding it. An employee led Larisa to one of the most secluded spots, hidden amongst tall, flowered bushes.
The place also boasted a selection of floral scented oils available for customers who wanted a quick tan. Picking out the least pungent one for an extra ten credits, she chose a droid attendant and opted for a full body tan. Most of the other customers she had observed had made a similar choice.
Once she took off her clothes and set them on top of her bag, she considered what she should do afterwards. With almost two hundred credits left, she planned on visiting a restaurant next. Her last meal had been that steak hours earlier. Whatever had possessed her to order it raw? She shook off that particular memory and stretched out on a padded mat.
Frustrated, Maul threw the datapad down on the small table in disgust. It was no concern of his whether or not this healer might possibly be descended from a Sith Lord. And it was no real concern to his Master either, except as another means to torment his apprentice. The only other part of the report that interested him was that the girl was never tested for a midichlorian level. In itself it meant nothing to him, except to indicate the Jedi had become careless.
He looked around at the now furnished room. There was the table and a small steel trunk for what few possessions his Master allowed him, as well as a real bed this time. It was not something he was used to and he eyed it with suspicion. He pulled the thinly padded mattress off of the metal frame and laid it on the floor. Thinking of the Jedi reminded him that he needed more practice with his new lightsabers. He went to the training room began programming the training droids.
After twenty minutes of searching Obi-Wan gave up and reached for his commlink. Using it was risky. If Sing were close enough she could easily listen in the conversation.
Larisa was just starting to fall asleep when she heard a strange beeping.
"Who's there?" she mumbled. The beeping continued and she managed to lift her head up. It was coming from her belt. Her commlink. She quickly answered it. "What?"
"Where are you?" the voice demanded. It was Kenobi, of course. It figures she wouldn't be allowed to enjoy herself. Maybe there was a part of the Jedi code that forbids it. She would have to look through it when she got back to the temple.
"I'm in a solarium."
"A what?" Obi-Wan asked in disbelief. She had practically flown out of the palace for that? "Where exactly are you?"
"It's about a mile away from the palace, inside a glass dome. Why?"
"Stay where you are until I find you," he ordered.
"Because I sensed the bounty hunter when we arrived. She was watching us. Master Tiin has alerted the other Jedi."
She paused for a moment, thinking it over. "If she saw me with you, she might think I'm a Jedi and come after me. What does she look like?"
"Don't even think of looking for her."
"But you want to catch her, don't you?"
"Just do as you're told and wait there!" he said, exasperated.
"Fine!" she said, turning off the commlink and half tempted to throw it into a bush. When she returned to her palace room, she would definitely need to meditate again. Quickly, she rose and dressed in her new clothes, then picked up her bag and looked for an exit.
Five minutes later Larisa waited outside on one of the stone benches in front of the solarium. She set her bag on the floor, irked that Kenobi still hadn't arrived. A cold metal object pressed against her temple. She jerked and slowly straightened. A tall, white skinned alien moved in front of her until she could observe it more closely. The creature appeared a female humanoid, clothed in a red body suit, of all things. This must be Aurra Sing, she thought, looking out of the corner of her eye at the lightsaber the bounty hunter held.
"What do you think you're doing?" Larisa asked, feeling more annoyed than frightened.
"We are going to wait here for the Jedi, of course. All of them," Sing told her, aware Kenobi finally appeared and walked slowly towards them. She had, of course, heard what he said about the other Jedi, who obviously came here to trap her. She had been very careful in covering up her tracks so she knew of only one plausible explanation for this... her employer, the so-called Lord Sidious.
She recalled his instructions regarding the Jedi, instructions she now had no obligation to follow. She had no intention of passing up the chance to kill another Jedi Master, especially when that Jedi was another member of the Council.
"That's close enough," Aurra said when Kenobi was ten feet away from them.
"I suppose you plan to give yourself up, like the noble Jedi you are," Sing said, mockingly.
"You came here after me," Obi-Wan said, taking a step towards her. "Let her go."
"Don't take another step," she said, pushing Larisa up against the dome and pressing the saber against her chest, directly over her heart.
Larisa looked from one to the other, trying to come up with some kind of plan.
"What do you want?" Obi-Wan demanded, glancing around.
"I want you to tell the other Jedi where you are. Yes, I know about them," Sing taunted, enjoying his discomfort. "And I especially look forward to killing Master Tiin. Now pull out your commlink and call them."
Larisa watched as Obi-Wan pulled put his commlink and hesitated. This was certainly an impossible situation for him. She glanced back at the bounty hunter, then stepped to the side, momentarily distracting Sing.
The other woman pushed Larisa back against the glass dome and put her finger on the button. Then she pulled out a blaster, setting it for stun and aiming it at Obi-Wan. Larisa looked up and saw the blaster pointed at Obi-Wan. She quickly grabbed the saber's handle with one hand and pulled it down over her midsection. She instinctively placed her other hand over Aurra's chest and blinked at a flash of bright green light. Aurra's fingers tightened around the handle, pressing the button before she lost her grip on it. The lightsaber deactivated and it, as well as Sing, fell to the ground.
Larisa gasped as the saber's blade burned through her and Sing fell to the ground. She heard Obi-Wan shout something as she slumped down next to the dome, trying to fight through the pain and focus on healing her injury.
Maul had just demolished his tenth droid when he felt a familiar searing pain lance through his abdomen. It came, he realized, from that accursed healer he was bonded to. She was somehow protecting a Jedi, he sensed through the now stronger bond. He quickly knelt in a meditation stance, trying to block out the pain. If this had happened just a minute earlier he would most likely been killed by the training droid.
The obviously serious injury gave him an idea. There just might be a way to use the bond against her. He dropped his shield and focused on the bond, sensing her attempt to heal herself. He thought back to his duel with the Jedi, bringing forward all the hate and rage he had felt on that day and sending it into the bond. If this worked the way he hoped, he would be rid of the bond and her without his master suspecting a thing.
Larisa had just started to heal herself, then flinched as a sudden flood of anger and hate swept through her. It was coming from the bond she shared with Maul. He must have felt her injury and now he was deliberately trying to interfere with her healing. She was forced to stop healing herself in order to deal with this distraction.
She looked over at Obi-Wan and saw him practically yelling into his commlink. She looked back up at the sky, fighting to stay conscious and finally managing to shield herself from Maul. The pain was starting to fade, but now she felt too tired to stay awake long enough to finish healing herself. She turned her head as Obi-Wan knelt down next to her, staring at her wound. He looked like he was going to be sick.
"Could you get me some cold water?"
"What? You want a drink?" he asked, incredulous.
"No, I don't want a drink! I want you to dump it on my head. I need to be awake to heal myself, and her," she said, looking over at Aurra Sing. "Would you please hurry."
"I'll be right back," he said, rising and heading towards the dome. How she expected to heal her own injury was beyond him. Master Tiin had said the other healer would be there in a matter of minutes, which would probably be too late to help either of them. He poured the water over her, then turned and checked on Aurra Sing. He saw no visible injuries, but she seemed to be in as bad a shape as Larisa and would probably also be dead before help arrived, just like Qui-Gon. He slowly sat down on the bench and stared down at the ground.
Larisa, meanwhile, sat up on her elbows and wiped the water out of her face. The water didn't need to be that cold, she thought with a shudder. She quickly focused on healing her injury, the sooner the better, since she still felt weak. After a few minutes she sat up and looked over at Obi-Wan, who was on the bench looking dazed. She quickly stood and walked over to him.
"Are you all right?"
Obi-Wan head jerked up and he stared at her, almost as if he had just seen a ghost. He looked down at the large hole burned into her vest.
"Am I all right?" he repeated, looking back up at her. "You almost got yourself killed and you're asking me if I'm all right."
"She was going to shoot you. I had to do something," she pointed out, turning away from him and walking over to Sing.
She checked to see if Aurra was still alive before trying to figure out just the effects of her actions had done to the bounty hunter. Both of Sing's lungs seemed to be collapsing, and there was no telling what other damage had been done. Larisa healed what she could, then decided to leave the rest of it to the Jedi healer.
A speeder came to a halt five feet away, bringing her gaze up. When Master Tiin walked over to Obi-Wan, Larisa stood and then stepped back as the healer knelt next to Aurra to begin examining her. Strangely detached, Larisa looked back at Tiin and Obi-Wan, who obviously told him about everything that had happened.
She looked back down at the healer, who had begun working on Sing. Several minutes passed before he finished and when he rose to join the other Jedi, she followed him.
"Will she be all right?" she asked.
"Yes, she'll recover," the healer responded, then turned away. "Master Tiin, I need to speak to you."
She watched, nervously as they walked back to the speeder. They spoke for a minute before Tiin turned back to her and Obi-Wan.
"We're returning to Coruscant, now," he announced. "Kenobi, tell your Padawan to meet us at the ship." He turned away and pulled out his own commlink to inform the other Jedi.
"What's wrong?" Larisa asked Tiin.
"We're leaving now," he said. He was obviously not in the mood to explain. She followed him over to the speeder.
"We're going back to the palace first, aren't we?"
"No, we are not. We're leaving immediately. Now get in." She rushed over to the bench and grabbed her bag before getting in the speeder.
Maul sat for several moments, growing increasingly frustrated over his failure, especially when it had actually been working. He quickly rose and programmed more droids. He destroyed at least ten more before his Master entered the room. Palpatine watched as Maul quickly knelt before him. His apprentice rarely showed this much frustration, he thought, looking at the scattered remains of the droids.
"I think you're finished here. Return to your room and wait there," he commanded, annoyed. He waited until Maul left the room before ordering the Twi'lek spy sent to him. He had planned to send her to Jabba the Hutt, but he supposed that would have to wait. Perhaps he would arrange to have Senator Taa's 'associate' sent to Jabba instead.
Anakin waited for them as they boarded the ship.
"What happened to you?" he asked, staring at her vest.
"Well, I met Aurra Sing," she said, following him into a small room and sitting down on a bench.
"That was from a lightsaber, wasn't it?" Anakin asked.
"Yes," she said, then told him what happened.
"That's how Qui-Gon died," Anakin said, looking sad.
"Was Obi-Wan there when it happened?" she asked. That would certainly explain his reaction.
"Actually it happened right in front of him. From what I remember he had been separated from his Master by some kind of laser."
She sat back for a moment. That would explain his earlier comment about being too late. For some reason he was blaming himself for his Master's death.
"Where is Obi-Wan?" she asked.
"He went back to the palace to meet with Prince Organa. He should be back soon," Anakin said before getting up and making his way to the cockpit.
Maul looked up from his meditation mat as a blue skinned Twi'lek was forced into his room. He watched as she immediately backed away from him and crouched down in a corner. He stood and approached her, then reached out and pulled her towards him by a head tail, ignoring her cries of pain.
He threw her down on the floor, then turned away and knelt on the mattress. It was typical of his Master to occasionally provide a different outlet for his anger and frustration, whether he asked for it or not. Sidious, of course, always picked the women himself, never asking Maul his opinion on the matter. It was just one more aspect of his life that Lord Sidious had complete control over.
He looked back at the Twi'lek, who was now curled up into a ball. She had obviously suffered from his Master's attentions, and would provide very little challenge for him. There might still be a use for her, however. The first thing he needed to do was find a way past that shield the healer had managed to put up. Until he had the opportunity to force her to break the bond, he decided to make it as much of an inconvenience to her as possible.
Several minutes later he succeeded in weakening it enough for his purpose. He stood and approached the Twi'lek, who shrank back, then tried to run to the door. He used the Force to keep the door shut as he slowly removed his clothes. He tore a strip of material from his robe to gag the Twi'lek. He was not in the mood for her cries.
He used the Force to push her onto her back on the floor and hold her still, letting her know just how defenseless she was against him. He knelt down next to her and paused, focusing on the bond before releasing the Twi'lek. He released his Force-hold and quickly pinned her down with his body before she had a chance to roll to the side. He thrust inside her, hard, letting the waves of fury and lust he was feeling flow into the bond.
When Larisa first felt it, she had been staring out the window, waiting for the ship to finally take off. At the realization of what was happening, she nearly fell out of her seat. Maul had again revived the bond, but this time she could sense he wasn't alone. She could almost feel his every thrust, then realized exactly what he was doing. From the sensations, Larisa knew he had taken a female, but some she felt it wasn't consensual. He was forcing himself on her.
Furiously, she got to her feet, trying to block it out of her mind and failing. She leaned against the wall, taking a deep breath. Somehow she had to find some way to stop him. She stumbled out the door, then quickly straightened up before anyone noticed. Thankful for the deserted hallway, she made her way to the tiny, kitchen area, again grateful no one remained inside. Without hesitating, she found a vibroblade used to slice vegetables, a container of water, and a cloth and hurried back to her room.
Once inside, she shut the door, but there didn't seem to be a lock. All she could do was hope no one would approach her room in the next few moments. She focused on the bond; aware he still raped the poor woman. With a deep breath, she turned on the vibroblade and drove it into her thigh, taking care to avoid striking bone.
Recoiling from the sudden pain, Maul pulled out of the Twi'lek and rolled off of her. He got to his feet and stumbled away from her, staring down at his left leg. He leaned against the wall, waiting for the pain to fade. It was that healer's doing, he knew. She had deliberately injured herself, most likely trying to save the female Twi'lek.
When the pain finally disappeared, he had the Twi'lek removed, then sat down on the mattress to meditate. And plot his revenge.
Larisa waited a full minute before healing herself, making sure Maul got the message. The bond worked both ways; if he could use it against her, then she could also use it against him. She was especially angry at his attempt to kill her earlier. She also felt aroused, which was rather disgusting, considering the circumstances.
She quickly cleaned the blood off of her leg and the bench, the put the vibroblade in her bag before going back to the kitchen area. She put the bloodied cloth and water container in the recycle unit, then sat down, trying to clear her mind and meditate. She gave up after several minutes and tried to think of another solution. What she needed to do was get her mind off these residual feelings. Larisa left the room and went looking for Obi-Wan. He obviously hadn't gotten over his Master's death, even after all these years. Perhaps she could help him somehow.
She found Obi-Wan in a back room. He had pushed the table to the back and was kneeling on a large meditation mat. She stopped in the doorway for a moment and just stood there, watching him. She let her gaze drop from his dark blonde hair to his wide shoulders, and then down the rest of him. Talking was suddenly the last thing she wanted to do. She closed and locked the door, then sat down in front of him on the mat and waited for him to come out of his trance. She concentrated on strengthening her shield. The last thing she wanted was for Maul to sense what she intended to do, and especially with who.
He opened his eyes ten minutes later and jerked back, surprised to see her there.
"What are you doing here?"
"I just want to talk," she said, watching him. "Anakin told me about how Qui-Gon died."
"I don't want to talk about it. Go back to your room," he said when she just looked at him.
"All right, I don't really want to talk either."
"What do you want then?" he asked, sounding puzzled.
She hesitated for a moment. Enough with the small talk, she thought. It was time to get straight to the point.
"You." She took advantage of his surprise, leaning forward and kissing him. She felt him respond for a moment before pushing her away.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Does this bother you?" she asked, looking down at the burned vest. "I'll take it off then." She leaned back and removed the vest, tossing it onto the bench.
He stared down at her, then quickly stood up and turned away, fighting to stay in control of himself. Ever since Qui-Gon died he had devoted every waking moment to training Anakin, trying to keep the promise he had made to his Master. There was no room left for anything else, especially any kind of relationship. Now he had to deal with this girl, who was practically throwing herself at him.
Larisa got up and stood between him and the door, in case he tried to escape. She watched for a moment as he looked at the far wall, then stepped up behind him. "I'm trying to seduce you," she whispered in his ear, feeling him twitch. "Stop fighting it."
She stepped in front of him, pulling his head down for another kiss. She felt him resist again, then he gave up and kissed her back. She pressed up against him, slipping off his robe and outer tunic. She felt his hands slide down her body and stop at the shorts she was wearing. She felt the thin material of her shorts tear as she slipped off his under tunic, rubbing her palms against his smooth, muscular back.
She suddenly found herself lying on the mat, underneath him. She felt his erection pressed against her and realized he had discarded the rest of his clothes. She arched her back as she felt him push inside her. There was a sharp pain when he thrust further inside but it was nothing but a minor annoyance to her, and quickly faded away.
She sucked in a breath when he thrust all the way in and she felt herself tear again. Damn, she thought, I should have known something like this would happen. She felt him freeze in alarm, then try to withdraw. She wrapped her legs around his waist, trapping him against her.
"No!" she said, closing her eyes and focusing on her latest injury.
Obi-Wan tried to pull out again. The last thing he had wanted to do was hurt her. He could almost feel the Force swirling around him as she healed herself, and he could barely keep himself still as he felt her stretching to fit around him. It was the strangest sensation he had ever experienced, as well as the most erotic. Then he felt her fingernails digging into his back, urging him on.
Larisa held back a gasp as she felt him thrust all the way inside. She closed her eyes and relaxed, feeling him move inside her. It was unlike anything she had ever imagined. Each thrust felt deeper than the last, and was quickly driving her over the edge. She shuddered as she felt him thrust even harder, then they both climaxed together.
She felt Obi-Wan nearly collapse on top of her and closed her eyes, attempting to slow her breathing, or at least her heartbeat. That, she could hear Billapa say, was reckless and impulsive. It had also felt incredible, she thought with a smile. He seemed to have fallen asleep, she observed, feeling exhausted herself. She wondered if there was any food onboard as she felt herself falling asleep as well.
Things begin to heat up between Larisa and those she has bonds with and up with an interesting twist.
Larisa was awakened five minutes later by a loud knocking. She froze for an instant before remembering that she had locked the door, then managed to wriggle out from underneath Obi-Wan and approached the door.
"Who is it?" she asked quietly, hoping it wasn't Master Tiin and wondering how she was going to explain this if it was.
"Larisa? Is Obi-Wan in there?" Anakin asked, sounding puzzled.
"Um... Yes, he is. Why?"
"I need to talk to him about something."
"Uhh... He's meditating right now. Can it wait?"
"I suppose it could. Why is this door locked anyway?"
Damn! He would ask her that, she thought, looking down at herself. She desperately needed a fresher room. So did Obi-Wan, for that matter, she realized, glancing over at him.
"I was looking for a fresher room. Do you know if there's one on this ship?" she asked Anakin.
"Yes, there is. It's in the back."
"Thank you," she said, sighing in relief and hoping he wouldn't ask any more questions. Apparently he didn't have any, since she heard him walk away, probably back to the cockpit. She knelt down next to Obi-Wan and shook him awake.
"What?" He sat up, then remembered what happened and lay back down, rubbing at his forehead with both hands. "We didn't," he groaned, apparently trying to deny what happened.
"Yes, we did. We had sex," she told him. "You're not going to tell anyone, are you?"
"No!" Obi-Wan said, sounding furious.
"You're angry," Larisa stated.
"Yes, I am!"
"Because I was a virgin?" she guessed. "I can't help that, I was born that way." She paused for a moment, realizing how ridiculous that sounded. "Besides, I'm sure you've done this before, since you seem to be so good at it," she added before quickly closing her mouth.
That was the wrong thing to say. Obi-Wan sat up again and stared at her, looking confused. Then he actually seemed to blush as he looked down. He kept his gaze on the floor for several more moments before speaking again. "I apologize for hurting you."
"Oh. That. Well, you were a little bigger than I expected."
That was the wrong thing to say as well, she realized, watching as his face turned even redder. She hesitated for a moment. "It was my fault anyway. I was too small," she blurted out before her mouth snapped shut.
"What?" He stared at her, amazed. "We are not having this conversation!" he said as he stood and gathered up his clothes.
"Well, anyway, I've taken care of that problem. It won't happen again."
"I hope not," he muttered before realizing what he was saying. "It should never have happened in the first place!"
Larisa looked down at the floor. Sometimes it seemed she just couldn't say anything right. "I suppose it shouldn't have. I've been in a few strange moods lately," she admitted.
"A strange mood? Is that what you call it?" he asked in disbelief.
"Well, yes. But I enjoyed it and it did seem to relax you. You do seem a little tense right now though."
"Don't even think about it!"
"All right. Well, we both need a fresher room," she said as she stood up. "Anakin said there was one in the back of the ship."
"Anakin was here?" Obi-Wan asked, sounding panicked and looking around the room. He pulled on his robe and fastened the belt on over it, making sure he was completely covered.
"No! Of course I didn't let him in here. I locked the door," Larisa told him as she picked up her own clothes. The shorts, as well as the underclothes, had been ripped almost in half. "I left my bag in the other room. Could you get it for me when you're finished?"
"Yes. Keep the door locked while I'm gone." Obi-Wan tucked the rest of his clothes under his arm and headed for the door.
Larisa locked the door behind him, then turned towards the tan-colored mat. A mat with a red stain on it. Feeling embarrassed, she rolled the mat up and pushed it against the wall. That would have to wait until after her shower, then no one would ever know that anything had happened. Now she needed to move that table back into place, she thought as she turned around, then froze, staring down at Obi-Wan's boots. Oops!
Obi-Wan was halfway to the fresher room when he heard someone calling him. He turned around and saw Anakin ten feet away and coming towards him. "Not now, Anakin," he said impatiently. His Padawan was sounding guilty about something, again. He didn't have time to give the usual lecture, though he did wonder what Anakin had done this time.
"Yes, Master," Anakin said, stopping a few feet away. Now what was the matter? Something had obviously disturbed Obi-Wan, Anakin noticed, watching him walk away. He must have been arguing with Larisa again, he decided. If this keeps up he was going to have to have a little talk with his Master.
Obi-Wan reached the fresher room without encountering anyone else. He quickly locked the door and took off his belt and robe. He had stepped into the tiny shower when he realized he had left his boots in that room. Shaking his head in frustration, he hoped that Anakin hadn't noticed.
He turned on the water and grabbed the soap, pausing when he noticed a faint floral scent on his skin. It must have come from Larisa, he realized, which brought back a few memories he tried to suppress. Like those long legs wrapped around him. Obi-Wan shook off that particular thought and tried to focus on something else. Unfortunately he couldn't think of anything else at the moment and suddenly realized that he was stroking himself.
He quickly snatched his hand away, cursing as he dropped the soap. Unbelievable! To think he was now masturbating in the shower, as if he were a teenager again. What he needed was a cold shower, but the water was programmed to one temperature and couldn't be changed. Obi-Wan rested his head against the wall and took several deep breaths, wondering if Qui-Gon had ever been in a situation like this. What would he do? He picked up the soap and continued washing.
Qui-Gon, he knew, had never married like other Jedi he knew, and was careful to avoid becoming entangled in any permanent relationships. That didn't mean, though, that he avoided women altogether. There were, Obi-Wan recalled, a few occasions when Qui-Gon had returned to their rooms at a late hour, with no explanations offered. That was something to think about, considering it was another hour before they reached Coruscant. He finished his shower and dressed, then went to find Larisa's bag.
Larisa looked up at a brief knock on the door.
"It's me. Open the door," Obi-Wan said, sounding preoccupied.
It's about time, she thought as she picked up his boots and opened the door.
"Here," he said, shoving her bag into her arms and grabbing his boots before walking away.
Larisa quickly locked the door and set the bag on the table. He obviously couldn't stand the sight of her right now, she thought, feeling her face grow hot. The best thing to do was avoid him for the rest of the trip back. She pulled out the vibroblade and set it aside, she might need that later. All that was left now was a skirt and an undertunic, as well as the underclothes, which she really didn't feel like wearing right now. She put them back in the bag, along with the shorts, vest and hair clasp, then quickly dressed and went looking for the fresher.
Anakin looked up from his game of holochess as Obi-Wan entered the salon and sat down at a table. "Interested in a game?" Anakin asked.
"No. Where is Master Tiin?"
"He's flying the ship. The others are in the cargo hold with that bounty hunter. Are you still fighting with Larisa?" Anakin asked, watching him closely.
"No," Obi-Wan replied, staring pensively out the window.
Anakin shrugged and turned his attention back to the game.
Twenty minutes later Larisa walked into the salon and sat down on the other side of the room. Anakin watched them both out of the corner of his eye. Larisa glanced over at Obi-Wan and nervously jumped to her feet when he stared back at her.
"Where are you going?" Anakin asked.
"Ummm. I need to go meditate."
"Really?" Obi-Wan asked in an odd tone of voice.
Anakin glanced over at his Master. Obi-Wan was starting to look a little uncomfortable.
"Uh, yes. Excuse me," Larisa replied as she quickly left the salon and entered a conference room.
"Is she all right?" Anakin asked Obi-Wan.
"What?" Obi-Wan replied, sounding distracted.
"She looked a little... upset, I guess. I think you should go check on her," Anakin said, watching as Obi-Wan stood and walked towards the conference room.
Larisa closed the door and looked around the room. There were no benches here, just a large rectangular table, surrounded by eight chairs. It would do, she thought as she moved a chair out of the way, then hopped up on top of the table and lay down. She heard the door open a moment later and looked up, surprised to see Obi-Wan standing in the doorway.
"Anakin was concerned about you," he told her.
"You didn't tell him anything, did you?" she asked, sitting up in alarm.
"Is she all right?" Anakin asked, appearing behind Obi-Wan.
"I'm fine," Larisa muttered, turning her face towards the wall as Obi-Wan walked further into the room.
Anakin stood there for a moment, watching them. There was definitely something going on between them. "Well, I'll be out here, playing holochess. I'm glad you two are getting along now," he said slyly, hiding a smile as they both turned and stared at him. He stepped back and closed the door before returning to the salon.
Larisa swung her legs over the side of the table and stared down at her hands. "He knows, doesn't he?"
"He does suspect something," Obi-Wan admitted, walking over to the door and locking it.
"What are you doing?" she asked, looking up.
"What you did earlier when I was meditating," he reminded her.
"I'm sorry about that," Larisa told him as he walked over to the table and stood in front of her. "Umm... What are you doing?" she asked again, confused.
"I was just thinking about Qui-Gon's philosophy."
"Which was?" Larisa asked, wondering what that had to do with anything.
"He was always telling me to concentrate on the moment," Obi-Wan mused, draping his robe across a chair as he looked down at her.
"Really?" she asked nervously.
"Yes," he replied, placing a hand under her chin and lifting her head up. Her eyes widened in surprise when he leaned down and kissed her.
"We really shouldn't. You were angry after the first time," leaning away from him and trying not to babble.
"Yes, I was. And you said you enjoyed it," he reminded her.
Larisa tried to think of something else to say, but nothing came to mind as he kissed her again. The she felt his tongue slip inside her mouth and her mind went blank. She kissed back for several moments before he pulled away and removed his boots and pants, tossing them underneath a chair.
Obi-Wan kissed her again as he grasped her by the hips, pulling her over to the edge of the table. He pushed her down onto her back and slid his hands up her thighs, pushing the skirt up around her waist. He pressed against her, then felt her legs wrap around his waist when he hesitated. He closed his eyes in relief as he entered her, finding a perfect fit this time.
This is... different, Larisa thought, looking up at the ceiling as she felt him moving in and out of her. She trembled at the waves of pleasure that swept through her, then felt a sudden flash of pure hatred. She'd forgotten about that damned bond! A hard thrust broke her concentration as she tried to block it out of her mind, then felt the hatred abruptly disappear. She sat up in surprise just as Obi-Wan thrust into her again. Larisa moaned at the sensation, then wrapped her arms around his neck to keep from falling backwards.
Obi-Wan froze, fighting to maintain control as he felt her spasm around him. She went limp afterwards and rested her head on his shoulder, barely aware of him lifting her off the table and, still buried inside her, pushing her up against the wall as he continued to drive inside her. Larisa sighed when several minutes later he pulled nearly all the way out. She jerked her head up as he thrust deep inside her again, then shuddered as she felt him climax, bursting inside her.
"Mmm... What happened?" she mumbled as he withdrew and they both slid to the floor.
"We had sex," Obi-Wan told her, repeating her earlier words as he stretched out on the floor, pulling her on top of him.
"No... I mean... why? Oh, never mind." Larisa gave up on that and tried to think of something else to say. "Are we at Coruscant yet?
"I don't know," Obi-Wan replied, making no attempt to get up.
She lay there for a moment, concentrating on the bond. There was nothing to feel, so Maul must be blocking it himself, which made her a little nervous. She wondered what he was doing at this moment before firmly putting it out of her mind, letting her head drop down onto Obi-Wan's chest.
Palpatine looked up from a report a moment before Maul barged into his office. "What is the meaning of this?" he snapped, outraged at his Apprentice's carelessness.
"That witch!" Maul spat as he began furiously pacing the room.
"What about 'that witch'?" Palpatine asked in a milder tone of voice.
"She's with the Jedi!" Maul growled.
"'With the Jedi,'" his Master repeated, as he comprehended what Maul was referring to. He looked down at the report he had just received, hiding a small smile. It was amusing to him that Maul seemed to feel some of what happened. It was, however, because of Doril that Aurra Sing had been so quickly captured by the Jedi. Something had to be done about her before this bond drove Maul insane, as it seemed to be doing.
"Very well," he finally said. "You may do as you like with her."
Maul paused for a moment, then resumed his pacing. "How, Master? She is staying at the Jedi Temple."
"Not for much longer. In fact she may even be leaving the Temple this very evening. You may go now," he said sarcastically. Maul was halfway out the door already.
Palpatine leaned back in his chair, thinking. From what the report said, Doril had nearly killed Sing. An action which would undoubtedly convince the Jedi to turn her out of the Temple permanently. Perhaps I should warn Maul, he mused. On second thought, let him find out for himself. It would make for a more interesting encounter between the two of them.
Maul stepped out onto a deserted balcony, glaring in the direction of the nearby Jedi Temple. At least thirty hangers were still lit up, and there was no telling which one that healer would arrive at. Or which one she might leave from. He looked up at the sky traffic, sensing that she was now very close to Coruscant, and would probably be back at the Temple within an hour.
Turning his attention towards the maze of nearby buildings, he realized that once she left the Temple it would be very hard to track her, since the bond was not strong enough yet for him to sense her exact location. Coming up with a solution to that problem, he left the balcony, making his way to the Sienar building.
"We weren't expecting you back so soon, Lord Maul!" a scientist exclaimed, looking decidedly nervous as Maul entered the back room. "Your ship isn't finished yet."
"I require probe droids," Maul informed him.
"We do have five of your droids ready, including the three cloaked ones."
"I need at least sixty," Maul said, glowering at him.
"Sixty?" the man repeated, astonished before quickly wiping all expression from his face. He had learned long ago never to question his employers about anything, no matter how strange it might seem to him. "We do have more droids available, but they are in several different designs."
"They will do," Maul replied, following him into another room. He waited until after the scientist left before approaching the stacks of probe droids. Many were round, like the ones he preferred, but were much more brightly colored. He picked up several wrist links from a nearby table before activating the first probe droid. He swiftly programmed each of the seventy-five droids he had chosen to watch, from a safe distance, each of the Temple's active hangers, and to report back to him any unusual occurrences. Using the datapad, he also instructed them to search for and locate that healer.
Maul stepped outside Sienar and watched, placing the wrist links inside a belt pouch, as the droids quickly disappeared into the night, heading in the direction of the Jedi Temple.
"Where is Obi-Wan?"
Anakin nearly jumped out of his skin when Master Tiin suddenly appeared next to the table.
"Uh... Hello, Master. Were you looking for something?" Anakin asked, keeping his gaze, and his thoughts, away from that closed door.
"Where is Obi-Wan?" Tiin repeated, looking at Anakin curiously. The boy looked nervous about something.
"He might be in the cargo hold, with the others."
Tiin stood there for a moment, watching as Anakin began another game of holochess. He answer didn't seem quite right, somehow. Tiin shook his head as he headed down to the cargo hold. It was highly doubtful that Skywalker would actually lie to him, especially about something as trivial as Kenobi's location. What possible reason would he have for that?
Anakin waited until Tiin left the room, then pulled out his commlink.
"Your... thing is beeping," Larisa said as she slowly got to her feet and pulled her skirt down.
"My commlink," Obi-Wan corrected as he got up and answered it.
Wake up! she told herself. You know what a commlink is! She definitely needed to get some sleep soon, considering the day she just had. A glass of water sounded good as well, she added, noticing how dry her throat felt. Not to mention some food. First, though, she needed another shower.
"Who was it?" she asked as Obi-Wan turned off the commlink and began dressing.
"That was Anakin. He said that Master Tiin was looking for me."
"Isn't there a Council meeting tonight?" she asked, trying to focus on the conversation.
"Yes. The Council wants to speak to me, and you as well."
"Oh." She wondered why they wanted to see her but was too tired to even think about it right now. She waited until Obi-Wan finished dressing before opening the door.
Anakin was about to get up and knock on the door when it opened and Larisa wandered out, looking dazed.
"Hello," she said absently as she walked towards the back of the ship.
He started to say something when his Master entered the salon, then changed his mind at the quelling look Obi-Wan gave him before heading down to the cargo hold. It was about time his Master found someone instead of concentrating on an endless stream of missions. And besides, Padmé would never consider marrying Obi-Wan if he were involved with another woman, Anakin thought, smiling to himself as he started another game.
Larisa quickly showered, wishing the water was cold. she could barely stay awake, and there was a Council meeting she had to worry about. If only there was a way to put it off, at least until tomorrow, she thought as she yawned again. She dried herself off and dressed, then went back to the salon, which was now empty, except for Obi-Wan, who was sitting on a chair facing away from the table.
"Where's Anakin?" she asked after a few seconds of silence.
"I sent him down to the cargo hold," Obi-Wan replied, looking down at a datapad.
"Oh." She stood there for a moment, trying to think of something else to say. "This is an odd-looking ship," she remarked.
"Master Tiin decided to use some kind of Corellian design this time," Obi-Wan said, barely glancing at her.
"You're angry again, aren't you?" she asked as she walked over to him.
"No," he replied with a frown, wishing she wouldn't stand so close to him. He had a meeting with the Council, and didn't need this kind of distraction right now.
"Well, you sound angry. Is it because you're one of the Queen's consorts?" she asked, suddenly remembering that little fact.
"I have no intention of marrying the Queen, or anyone else," Obi-Wan said as he looked up.
"I can understand that," she said as she went over to a bench. She stretched out on it, hoping to take a nap.
"Could you go do that somewhere else?" Obi-Wan asked, trying not to stare at her legs.
"Fine," she replied, getting up. He sounded angry again, which was starting to annoy her. "It wasn't my fault that last time," she stated, planting herself in front of him as he looked up at her. "Especially since you're such a good kisser," she heard herself say as she stared down at his mouth.
"You're doing this deliberately, aren't you?" he asked as he set the datapad on the table behind him.
"Uh... I didn't mean to say that," she said flustered by the expression on his face.
She'd just started to take a step back when he grabbed her and pulled her onto his lap. She jerked back in surprise and almost fell over backwards, automatically spreading her legs to balance herself. "This is not a good idea," she said, looking around the salon. She had a feeling someone could walk in on them any second.
"Probably not," Obi-Wan agreed, pulling her up against him and kissing her.
"What do you think you're doing?"
They both looked up at Master Tiin, who was glaring at them from the doorway.
"Um..." Larisa thought for a moment. Well, she might as well state the obvious. "I'm sitting on his lap, kissing him," she told Tiin, then buried her face in Obi-Wan's shoulder.
"In case you haven't noticed, we've arrived at the Temple," Tiin announced, frowning at Kenobi.
"Thank you, Master Tiin. Is there anything else?" Obi-Wan asked, gazing steadily at the Councilor.
"No," Tiin told him, still frowning.
"Then I'll see you in the Council Chamber."
"Yes, you will," Tiin said with another hard glance before returning to the cockpit.
"Is he gone?"
"Yes, he's gone," Obi-Wan said as he stood and set her down on her feet. "And we have a meeting with the Council."
Assuming they even reach the Council Chamber since, for whatever reason, he couldn't seem to keep his hands off her right now.
"Are you all right?" he asked when she swayed on her feet. He started to reach out to steady her, then thought better of it when she straightened up.
"I'm fine. Just a little tired, I guess. Can't this meeting wait until tomorrow?"
"No, it can't. And we can't keep them waiting either," Obi-Wan said with a grimace as they left the ship and stepped into an elevator.
"How far up are we going?" she asked after several seconds of silence.
"The Council Chamber is inside the Central Spire," he told her. "It's at the very top of the Temple," he added when she looked at him blankly.
"Oh." She looked down at the floor, nervous about facing the Council, especially Master Tiin, and wondering just how far it was to the top of the Temple. And hoping that the elevator would suddenly break down.
The other Councilors turned as Master Tiin entered the Chamber.
"Late, you are," Yoda admonished.
"I apologize. I was delayed," Tiin explained, ignoring the stern glances.
"Have you learned who hired Sing?" Billapa asked.
"All she's told us so far is a name: Lord Sidious. She claims she never saw what he looked like."
"The Neimoidians had claimed that a Lord Sidious aided their invasion of Naboo," Ki-Adi-Mundi mused.
"Where is Master Rancisis?" Tiin asked, noticing the empty chair.
"He has agreed to return to Thisspias, to take back his throne. Billapa believes that Chancellor Palpatine may be the Sith, this Lord Sidious," Windu informed him.
"If it were the Chancellor, why would he send just one bounty hunter after a Jedi?" Koon asked.
"It does seem odd, considering he apparently had the entire Trade Federation at his disposal not so long ago," Mundi said.
"He may have chosen Sing because she was once a Jedi," Billapa speculated.
"If this was meant as a personal insult, then this Sidious could have been a failed Jedi himself. Or someone who was refused entry into the Temple," Piell suggested.
"Difficult to prove, that may be," Yoda stated, dismayed.
"It would take some time to go through the records, to see if Palpatine had ever been considered a Jedi prospect," Windu admitted.
"Assuming that is even the name he was born with," Koth added, frowning.
"If the Supreme Chancellor is a Sith, we need as many allies as possible. Billapa suggests that we convince Queen Amidala and Knight Kenobi to marry, as soon as possible," Windu told the others, most of whom started to nod their agreement.
"I don't think that would be appropriate at this time," Tiin said.
"How so?" Billapa asked, curious.
"I think we should discuss this in private," Tiin told her.
"Discuss it later. There is another problem that needs to be addressed right now. Skywalker's mother was killed," Windu informed them as he looked towards Koon. Koon explained the situation and Windu's position on the matter.
"You don't think Skywalker should be told?" Koth asked Windu.
"Not at this time. It would disrupt his training."
"Not telling him immediately would be even more disruptive. He will find out eventually," Piell stated firmly.
Windu looked around the Chamber as the others agreed with Piell. "Very well, Anakin will be told," he relented.
"There is also the matter of this C-3PO, the protocol droid that Skywalker had built," Koon said, looking down at the report. "Padawans are not allowed to own droids."
"We could ask Queen Amidala, or Prince Organa, to take the droid," Billapa suggested.
"Amidala might be a better choice," Tiin said.
"Then I'll contact her in the morning about the droid," Windu said. "Now, do you still want Kenobi brought in?" he asked Billapa.
"Not at this time," she said after exchanging glances with Tiin, who had shaken his head. She was determined to talk to him after the meeting, though, to find out what was going on.
"Very well," Windu said, pressing a button on his commlink. "Send Doril in."
Larisa and Obi-Wan both looked up when the Chamber door opened and an older-looking male Padawan came out.
"What?" She sat there, looking up at him. "Don't they want to see Obi-Wan first?"
"Knight Kenobi," the Padawan emphasized, "May return to his quarters now. The Council is waiting to see you."
She jumped to her feet, feeling lightheaded as her vision started to blur.
"I think I'll wait out here for you," Obi-Wan said when she started to look panicked.
"It may take a while," the Padawan said as he opened the Chamber door.
I definitely didn't need to hear that, Larisa thought as she entered the Council Chamber.
Larisa walked to the center of the room, aware of everyone staring at her. She glanced over at Windu, who was looking as stern as ever when the large window behind him caught her attention. The Temple must be several miles tall, she thought, looking down at all the buildings below.
She turned away from the window, wondering why they just sat there. They continued to stare at her, almost as if they could see right through her. Which, she thought, looking down at herself, they probably could have earlier. That lightsaber had left a pretty big hole. She looked up when Mundi cleared his throat, looking a little ill. Oops! He must have heard what she had been thinking, she realized, feeling her face flush.
"You have some explaining to do," Billapa said coolly.
"About what?" Larisa asked, bewildered.
"About what you've done," Windu said sternly.
She stared at him for a moment, then noticed the small green being sitting next to him. Distracted, she stared down at him, wondering what species he was. And there was another one, one that looked like a female.
"Pay attention," Windu said, sounding impatient.
Larisa jerked her head up, looking around the room. Everyone seemed to be glaring at her, she thought as something else caught her eye.
Master Rancisis was missing, she realized, staring at the empty seat. She had healed him herself yesterday. Was it only yesterday? She never thought to ask how he was doing, and no one had said anything to her, but she knew that none of the Councilors had ever missed a meeting. Not unless they were dead. She froze for a moment. She hadn't been familiar with Rancisis' species, but she had assumed she could heal him. Apparently she had done something wrong, she thought, stunned by her failure. She thought she heard someone start to say something as she took a step back and fainted.
Trying to figure out where she was, Larisa opened her eyes and gazed up at the ceiling. Hearing voices nearby she slowly lifted her head, looking around at the small white room she found herself in. Master Windu was standing near the door, speaking with the Jedi healer, Master Ulizr. Tiin was there as well, along with Mundi, Koth and a small green creature. And Billapa, who was looking down at a datapad. None of them looked very happy.
Wondering what she'd done this time, Larisa struggled up off the bed, managing to stand for two seconds before she found herself sprawled on the floor, staring down at a pair of boots in front of her face.
"What do you think you're doing?" Windu asked as Larisa looked up at him.
"I don't know," she muttered as he helped her to her feet and back onto the bed.
"You shouldn't even be awake yet. Not until morning," Ulizr stated.
Larisa glanced around at the other Jedi, then suddenly remembered standing in front of the entire Council and abruptly sat up. "I'm sorry about Master Rancisis. I thought I knew what I was doing. I'll never try that again," she exclaimed, stopping to take a deep breath.
"Rancisis is not dead," Windu said apologetically. "He's returned to Thisspias to reclaim his throne."
Larisa looked around the room again, confused. "What happened? How did I get here?" she asked, watching as they exchanged glances.
"You passed out in the Council Chamber," Billapa informed her.
"From exhaustion, according to the healer," Tiin added with a glance at Billapa, who looked back at him with a puzzled expression.
"Fortunately, we always keep a healer nearby during our meetings," Windu said.
"I needed a healer?"
"Yes," Windu reluctantly replied.
"When you collapsed your head struck the floor," Mundi added, looking a little uncomfortable.
I am having a really bad day, Larisa thought as she leaned back against the pillow.
"Since she is awake, we may as well get this over with," Windu told the others, dismissing Ulizr before addressing Larisa. "You almost killed the bounty hunter, Aurra Sing."
"I didn't mean to, but she was going to kill Obi-Wan," Larisa pointed out, hesitating when Billapa gave her a sharp look and glanced over at Master Tiin. He must have told her about what he saw earlier, she thought with a sinking feeling.
"We realize that," Mundi said. "However, it was your method that concerns us."
"We want to know who taught you the Moricho," Windu added.
"Strictly forbidden, it is," said the smallest Jedi.
"The what?" Larisa asked, suddenly distracted as she stared down at the small green Jedi Master, who looked back at her, lifting its ears. How did it do that? "Who are you?"
"Master Yaddle, I am," it replied.
"Hello," she said before turning back to Windu. "I'm not sure what I did," she admitted, embarrassed by the look of disbelief on his face.
He obviously thought she was lying.
"Perhaps she knows it by another name," Koth suggested.
"Either way, this will probably require a mind probe," Master Tiin stated.
"Hmmm. Wait until morning, the probe can. Rest now, she must," Yaddle declared.
Larisa watched apprehensively as the others followed Yaddle out the door. All except Billapa, who spoke with Koth before approaching the bed.
"As you probably already know, Knight Kenobi had been waiting outside the Council Chamber. Master Windu had to order him to return to his quarters."
Larisa flushed guiltily as she recalled her recent behavior. Staying silent, she waited for the inevitable question.
"You and Obi-Wan?" the Jedi Master finally asked, sounding resigned.
"Yes," Larisa grudgingly admitted. "On the way back from Alderaan. It just... happened," she said, unable to come up with any other logical explanation. Not that the one she just gave sounded even remotely logical.
'Just happened'? Billapa thought with a small frown. That did not sound at all like Kenobi. He was the least impulsive Knight she knew, due mostly to Qui-Gon's death. "You are aware that he is Queen Amidala's consort?"
"Well, yes. But he said that he doesn't want to marry anyone," Larisa told her.
"I see," Billapa said, sitting down at a nearby table and sighing in disappointment. She had hoped that Kenobi would agree to marry Amidala, since they appeared to be so fond of each other. That seemed impossible now. If what Larisa said was true, he was unlikely to change his mind on the matter, and the Council couldn't very well order him to marry the Queen.
As for Larisa, this was bound to happen sooner or later, though her choice of Obi-Wan was unfortunate, since it apparently wasn't going to last. Eventually, though, she might show some interest in a more permanent relationship with another Knight.
Larisa looked up as Master Koth came back into the room, handing Billapa a small comm chip. "What are you going to do?" she asked, eyeing what looked a tiny needle in the middle of the chip.
"I just need a blood sample from you," Billapa told her.
Larisa wearily held out her arm. With my luck they'll probably find out that I'm carrying some kind of deadly disease, she thought as she watched the Jedi draw a small amount of blood.
"That is highly unlikely," Billapa commented, sounding amused. "Now you need to sleep."
"I can't," Larisa said, fretting about tomorrow's mind probe.
"Close your eyes," Billapa instructed, placing a hand on Larisa's shoulder and waiting until she was asleep before turning away.
"What is that for?" Koth asked, glancing curiously at the comm chip.
"I was reading Master Ciari's report and there was no mention of any midi-chlorian test," she replied as they both left the room.
The moment the door closed Larisa opened her eyes again. She lay there for a moment, making sure the Jedi were long gone before sitting up. One thing's for certain, she thought, I made a complete fool of myself today. Fainting in front of the Jedi Council was humiliating. Not to mention having sex with Obi-Wan, a man she barely knew. Twice, actually. She had no idea what she would say if she ever saw him again.
And what was it he had said about Qui-Gon's philosophy? Something about concentrating on the moment, she recalled.
What did that mean anyway? He had sex with her that second time because his Master would have? Shaking her head at how bizarre that sounded, she turned her attention to tomorrow's mind probe. The only way to avoid that was to somehow leave the Temple. And the sooner she ended this miserable bond, the sooner she could find a way back to Adarlon, since her stay here now seemed a disaster.
Slowly getting off the bed, she waited until her legs stopped shaking then made her way over to the door. Listening to make sure no one was outside, she pressed one of the buttons, turning the light on and looking around. Thankful to see her bag lying in one corner of the room, she went over to it and peered inside.
Her ruined clothes were missing, so the Jedi must have looked through the bag. She blushed, remembering how the shorts had been ripped, then continued searching the bag. The vibroblade was still lying at the bottom, as well as the gold clasp, so the Jedi must not have looked that thoroughly. Now all she had to worry about was finding a way out of the Temple. She picked up the bag and opened the door, making sure there was no one in sight before quietly walking down the hall.
She made her way to her room, putting on the spare healer's robe that she had left in the closet. Her other clothes had been left behind on Alderaan, but they would probably be sent back to the Temple, maybe even today. She was going to have to come back for those, as well as Rialth, she thought, leaving her commlink, and a short note, on the table before leaving her room.
Stopping at the end of the hallway, she spied a small group of Knights waiting at the elevators. Pulling her hood up to cover her face, she calmly walked over and joined them. She entered the elevator, thankful they were too busy talking with each other to take much notice of her, other than a casual greeting. Fortunately, they were on their way to one of the hangars, so all she had to do was follow them. She took a step back, dropping her access card on the floor behind her for the next passenger to find.
Stepping out into the hangar, and trying to look as if she belonged there, she glanced around at the five ships. Asking the Jedi pilots where each one was going was risky, since all the Jedi seemed to know everything already, but she didn't have any other option. She just had to make it sound good.
"Is one of these transports going to... the Cerean embassy?" she asked a passing pilot, quickly coming up with a destination.
"No," he replied, looking at her suspiciously.
Thinking fast, she slowly pushed back her hood, making sure he noticed that there was no Padawan braid and, copying Master Windu, gave him her best I'm-superior-to-you look.
"Then where are they going?" she asked loftily, putting her nose in the air.
"That one is going to the Candreas Garden Center," he said, pointing to the nearest ship with a small bow.
"That will do," she said, turning away and walking towards it, careful not to glance back at the pilot. Pulling up her hood, she entered the ship, nodding at a Jedi Knight and his Padawan before taking a seat. Two minutes later they were lifting off. She looked out the window, watching as they left the Temple behind.
"You're still here?" Master Koth asked, walking into the healer's office.
"I finished the midi-chlorian test on Larisa," Billapa said, looking depressed as she leaned back in the chair.
"And?" he prompted.
"Over fifteen thousand."
"Fifteen thousand?" he repeated, surprised.
"Yes," she sighed. "And there's no telling how many others we've missed in recent years."
"Fifteen," Koth mused before a sudden thought occurred to him. "She's stronger that you," he pointed out.
"Meaning she's probably awake again," Billapa said, standing and picking out a sedative from the healer's large supply.
She quickly walked down the hall and opened the door.
Turning on the light, she stopped in the doorway, startled to see an empty bed.
Larisa waited until the two Jedi were out of sight before taking off her healer's robe and shoving it into her bag. She took a deep breath, shivering a little at the chill in the night air. It never got cold in the Temple garden, she thought, wondering how they managed that little feat as she looked around at the still busy street.
"Go away!" she snapped irritably as she turned and almost walking into a small round droid. Stupid thing, she thought as it hovered there for a moment before backing away. She ignored it and walked down the street, catching a nearby air taxi.
She rode to the nearest spaceport, grimacing at the twenty-credit charge for such a small distance. She entered the large building and looked around. Finding a safe transport back home might be a little more difficult than expected. Most of the pilots she saw looked a little rough. She took a deep breath and walked further into the spaceport.
"Do you know anyone that's going to Adarlon? In the Minos Cluster?" she asked a nearby pilot, a relatively clean-looking human.
"Who wants to know?" he demanded, eyeing her warily.
I suppose you're either a pirate or a smuggler, she thought, narrowing her eyes as she answered. "Someone who wants to know your price before she makes any plans."
"Five thousand credits," he finally said.
The exact amount of credits she'd received from the Chancellor, she realized, suddenly wanting to bang her head against the wall.
"Thank you," she said numbly as she turned around and went back outside.
Now what was she supposed to do? She couldn't ask Chancellor Palpatine for more money, any more than she could ask the Jedi to give her back the rest of those credits. All she had on her were one hundred and sixty-eight credits. And a vibroblade. Well, she would just have to figure something out tomorrow, though she may have to return to the Temple sooner than she wanted to. For now, though, she needed to eat, and find somewhere to spend the night.
Shivering, Larisa walked further down the street, then stopped and put her robe back on. Looking around, she continued walking, keeping an eye out for any kind of nearby restaurant or lodging. She hadn't gotten very far when she felt someone grab her from behind and drag her into an alley between two large buildings. She struggled to get free, catching a glimpse of a black and red face in the process.
"You!" she yelled. How the hell had he found her so soon? He hadn't been using the bond else she would have sensed his presence. She finally pulled away and took a swing at him, missing completely and staggering back.
Sneering down at her, Maul shoved her against the wall, wrapping a hand around her throat. Watching her eyes widen in alarm, Maul stood there, enjoying her apparent helplessness. Grabbing at his wrist, Larisa tried to think of a way out of this situation.
"What do you want?" she asked, looking back at the street. "Look, just let me go and I'll break this bond," she offered, trying to stall for time.
"I would prefer to kill you," Maul answered. "My Master has given me permission," he added, narrowing his eyes as he tightened his grip on her throat.
Larisa stared up at him. Struggling to remain conscious. Black spots started to cloud her vision and, desperate now, she reached out and placed both hands on his chest. Maul stiffened the moment she touched him, then felt nearly every muscle in his body completely relax. He fought to stay on his feet and failed, falling forward. Larisa squeaked as Maul nearly crushed her against the building. He was a lot heavier than he looked, she thought as she finally got loose and healed her bruised throat.
"I'm really sorry about this. I'm not sure how I did that," she explained, taking a deep breath of air as she pulled him away from the wall and managed to lower him to the ground. She stepped back, noticing that her apology only made him angrier. "You're the one who had to make this so difficult," she pointed out when he actually growled in frustration.
Maul glared at her, enraged that she had so easily gotten the best of him. He grimaced, trying to force his body to move and barely managed to lift an arm.
"Stop that!" Larisa exclaimed. "You might hurt yourself. Anyway, you'll be all right in a minute or two. Probably," she added, sounding unsure of that as she knelt down next to him. She glanced at his robe, noticing that it looked very much like the ones she had seen in her dream. She picked up a fold of it, then dropped it as if it had burned her.
Fighting off a sudden headache, she looked down at Maul, wondering if red was his natural skin color. She certainly hoped not. What kind of person would actually have the insides of his ears tattooed? Larisa shook off that thought and placed a hand on Maul's head, breaking the bond, then rose and picked up the bag she had dropped.
Stepping around Maul in a wide circle, she walked back towards the street. Wondering how he had found her so quickly, she stopped in her tracks, recalling the droid from earlier. That must have been it, she thought as she looked around, making sure there were none in sight before continuing on.
Watching her walk away, Maul slowly rose to his knees and pulled out his wrist links. Dropping all but one, he summoned his own probe droids to him. He glanced up as one of them reached him almost immediately, one of the ones with a cloaking device, he noted with satisfaction. Maul quickly reprogrammed it and sent it after the healer. He sat back, watching, as it suddenly seemed to disappear before his eyes. Leaning back against the wall, he waited for his body to fully recover, determined to make her pay for this humiliating defeat.
"She's left the Temple?" Mace Windu repeated. "When did this happen?"
"Apparently while I was checking her midi-chlorian count. I'd tried to make her sleep, but it didn't work," Billapa told him, pacing the room once before sitting down in a chair across from him.
"You were running a midi-chlorian test?"
"Yes. I didn't find one in Master Ciari's report, but we can talk about that later. I was going to sedate her, but she was already gone. Her access card was found in an elevator, and there was a note left behind in her room."
"What did it say?" Windu asked reluctantly.
"There was no mention of why she left. Just that she'd try to be back soon for her clothes, and her pet, Rialth. She's also asked us not to kill the creature," Billapa said, standing and pacing again.
"She thinks we're going to kill her pet?" Windu asked, astonished.
"I doubt she's thinking clearly at all. One of the pilots I questioned said that she was in the hanger, asking about the Cerean embassy, then she took a shuttle to the Candreas Garden Center."
"She's gone to the Cerean embassy?" Windu asked, puzzled.
"No, she didn't. We contacted some people there, and at the Garden Center and there was no sign of her. She could be anywhere by now."
"We?" he asked, frowning.
"I asked Ki-Adi and Eeth for their help."
"I'll make some discreet inquiries. In the meantime, don't tell anyone else about this. I don't want everyone in the Temple thinking the Council can't even keep track of one girl."
Catching the first air taxi she saw, Larisa told the pilot to take her to the nearest hotel, then slumped down in her seat, exhausted. Remembering that the Jedi always stayed at the Temple, and not wanting to draw attention to herself, she took off her robe again and stuffed it into her bag.
She quickly paid him the thirty-five credits and hurried into the hotel. Blinking in surprise at the rather crowded lobby, she quickly got in line, looking back as more customers entered the hotel.
"Why is it so crowded?" Larisa asked when she got to the front of the line. She listened as the two employees started rambling on about an invisible army threatening the entire galaxy. Apparently, several of the Senators had closed down their embassies, forcing all their guests out in the process, before returning to their own worlds.
"There are enough rooms available?" she asked, looking back at the growing line behind her.
"Of course. This is one of the largest hotels on Coruscant," the taller one said proudly.
"I assume one hundred credits is enough for one night, for one of your smaller rooms?"
"Yes, but we won't have one available for about an hour," he replied, checking the computer.
"That will do," Larisa sighed, looking around the lobby. "Is that museum across the street still open?" He nodded.
"Good," she replied. "And could you send up some... soup when I return?"
"Certainly. And I'll need your name for our records."
She hesitated for a moment. Well, the Jedi probably won't be looking for her until morning, if at all, and she doubted Maul even knew her name in the first place. "Larisa Doril," she finally replied. Stepping outside the hotel, she quickly pulled out her robe, putting it back on before walking over to the museum.
"I need to use one of the less visited rooms for an hour," she told the silver protocol droid that greeted her. "And I require privacy for my studying."
"Of course," the droid responded automatically, taking note of her Jedi healer's robe. "Right this way."
Larisa followed it down the hall and into what looked like a private library. There were statues of strange animals all around, and tables and bookcases everywhere. "This will do," she said. "Is there anyone else in this building?"
"No one at this time. The museum rarely gets visitors this late at night," the droid said as it backed out of the room and closed the door.
Larisa strolled across the room, stopping and staring at the strangest-looking bird she had ever seen. What possible purpose was the third wing? Shaking her head, she walked to the back of the room, standing in front of a very comfortable-looking chair. Glancing around, she placed her bag on a nearby table and moved the chair around until it was facing away from the door. Sitting down, she sighed in relief as she leaned back and quickly fell asleep.
The probe droid returned five minutes later. Maul stood there for a moment, listening to its report with a smile before striding further into the alley, retrieving his speeder bike. Arriving at the museum moments later, Maul paused outside the entrance. Opening the door, he allowed the now-cloaked probe droid inside first, to take care of any potential witnesses. Waiting a full minute before entering the museum himself, he walked past a deactivated droid and started down the hallway, pausing at every open door before continuing on.
Jerking her head up, Larisa sat still for a moment, hearing the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the hallway. Frustrated at being such a light sleeper lately, she bolted upright, realizing that it wasn't the droid she heard out there. Not again! she thought as the footsteps stop outside the door. Discarding her robe, she stood and snatched up her bag, holding it behind her as the door opened and Maul stepped inside the room. Standing in front of the doorway, Maul casually glanced, taking in everything, including the lack of windows, before turning towards her with an angry stare.
"How did you find me?" she asked, letting her mind go blank as she pulled the vibroblade out of the bag. Knowing there wasn't much she could do until she got closer to him, she kept a firm grip on her weapon, dropping the bag behind her and taking a couple steps forward.
Instead of answering, Maul looked down at a strange-looking bracelet and pressed a button. Puzzled, Larisa had taken a step back when she felt a sharp pain in her neck. That felt like a needle, she realized, rubbing at the spot.
"What the hell was that?" she demanded, annoyed by the smug look on his face as he pressed another button. Larisa jumped back when a black droid suddenly appeared right in front of her. It had been invisible, she thought numbly, watching as it retreated towards Maul. That was what she had felt, she realized. She had either been drugged or poisoned.
Most likely drugged. Maul had already said he was going to kill her, and from the look on his face now as he started to stalk forward, he intended to make it as painful as possible. With him here, she would have little opportunity to heal herself before whatever drug he had given her took effect. Unless, of course, she managed to distract him. And she knew just how to do that. Maul stopped in his tracks when the healer stepped around a table, walking towards him.
"I know you've been bothered by what happened today. Between me and the Jedi," she said, stepping closer. "Well, in case you don't know who I was with, it was Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi who sliced you in half!" she spat at him, contemptuously.
Filled with a sudden rage, Maul reached out and grabbed her by the throat, throwing her to the floor. Seizing his lightsaber, he lit both ends and approached, furious when she rose to her knees and glared up at him, daring him to kill her.
Leaning forward on one arm, Larisa stayed where she was, waiting until he had come close enough before lunging forward, slashing him across the left thigh with the vibroblade. The second he shifted his weight to his other leg, she grabbed it and yanked as hard as she could, sending him falling over backwards.
Turning off his lightsaber, Maul struggled to his knees, snarling as she rushed to the other side of the room, putting a hand to her neck as she made her way to the door. Seeing a small green glow at her fingertips, he realized that she was somehow healing herself. Glancing around the room, he gestured, sending a nearby stool flying at her back. Larisa was halfway to the door when she felt something large hit her between the shoulder blades, knocking the wind out of her as she fell to the floor, losing her grip on the vibroblade, which slid across the floor. She lay there for several moments before managing to climb to her feet.
Looking towards the door, she saw the droid hovering in front of it, standing guard. Too tired to take another step anyway, she leaned against the wall, waiting to see what Maul would do next.
He climbed slowly to his feet, then tore a strip of material from his tunic, binding his wound before limping over to her. Angry that he had let himself be distracted like that, he pulled off a glove. The sooner he finished the mind probe, the sooner he could dispose of her and turn his attention to more important matters.
Larisa flinched when Maul stopped in front of her and roughly placed a hand on her forehead. She gasped, feeling a flash of pain stabbing into her skull. "Get out of my mind!" In a panic now, she started struggling frantically, scratching at his hand.
Grimacing, Maul used his body to pin her against the wall, trying to keep her still. Pulling his hand away, Maul felt himself becoming aroused as she continued to writhe against him. This was unexpected. Still, his Master had said he could do as he liked with her.
Larisa froze as he grew hard against her stomach. What? she thought as he suddenly stepped back, grabbing her by the hair and forcing her down onto her hands and knees. Feeling him tear at her skirt, she looked around the room, spotting her vibroblade lying on the floor a few feet away. She focused on it, attempting to retrieve it with the Force and watching as it refused to budge.
Positioning himself between her legs, Maul plunged inside her. Feeling her stretch tightly around him, he began pounding hard into her. Stunned by the sudden turn of events, Larisa bit her lip, determined to stay silent with every hard thrust. Still, it wasn't as bad as she had thought it would be. Now what the hell was she thinking?
Coming to her senses, and determined not to make this any easier for him, Larisa lifted herself onto one arm, freeing the other in order to elbow him in the ribs, hard. Hearing him grunt from the impact, and felt him pull out of her, only to turn her over onto her back and bury himself inside her again, covering her with his body.
Feeling her body shudder as Maul increased his pace, and disgusted that she might actually be starting to enjoy it, Larisa turned her head and sank her teeth into his shoulder. That was a mistake, she realized as he thrust into her even harder. He stiffened, growling as he spilled inside her. She felt herself climax as well before she passed out.
Gritting his teeth as she clenched around him, Maul waited until he felt her body relax before he quickly pulled out of her and stood, adjusting his clothes. That was not something he had any experience with. Shrugging it off, he looked down at the unconscious healer. Curiously enough, the only real fear he had sensed from her was when he had attempted a mind probe. Kneeling down next to her, he put his hand on her head again. Settling into a trance, he slowly entered her mind, seeking an explanation for her odd behavior.
Searching her more recent memories, he growled at all the Jedi he saw, especially Kenobi. His day would come, Maul silently promised as he probed deeper. Catching a glimpse of black robes, Maul focused in on it, disappointed that it seemed to be just a dream. Remembering her reaction to his own robe, though, made him take a closer look. It seemed as if he was watching the scene from above, he thought, startled to see what looked like a battle between Sith Lords and Jedi Knights. Except now it seemed more like a memory than a dream. A battle that took place long ago, which didn't make any sense to him.
He continued to watch, growling as he saw the Jedi kill one Sith after another. In many cases there was more than one Jedi fighting a single Sith. Other Jedi were coming out of nearby buildings, carrying small bundles wrapped in black, and there was a temple in the distance. A temple that looked oddly familiar, as if he had seen it somewhere before, perhaps from a drawing. Whatever this was, he would have to dig further into her memories to find its meaning. He had never had any experience with a mind probe this deep.
Mentally steeling himself, he reached further back.
Sneering at the childhood memories, he became confused when there was still was nothing to find. He paused, sensing that what he was looking for was nearby. It seemed to be calling to him somehow. Searching even further, he suddenly found himself in an empty black void. Except that it wasn't empty. He could feel another presence as it seemed to coil around him, brushing against his mind.
Uneasy now, Maul started to draw back when he felt it seize hold of his mind with a vise-like grip. Feeling his own memories probed, he struggled to free himself and felt it tighten even more around his mind. When it felt as if he could endure no more, it suddenly released him. Withdrawing as quickly as he could, he felt the dark presence follow him.
Finding himself back in his own body, Maul opened his eyes. Still kneeling, he looked up at the healer, who was now on her feet. Holding his ignited lightsaber in front of his face, she looked down at him with cold black eyes.
Seeds of Darkness: Chapters 6-10