"CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE"
JUNDLAND WASTES, TATOOINE
The former Jedi Master sat in the middle of the ground, inside his cave hovel. With his eyes closed shut, he allowed his mind to drift deeply into a state of meditation. With the supper at the Lars homestead looming ahead, Obi-Wan felt he needed a period of meditation to keep his emotional state in check. Especially since he would soon find himself spending several hours with his former apprentice's children.
Nearly a half hour had passed before Obi-Wan felt a familiar presence within the Force. He slowly opened his eyes and found the tall, transparent figure of Qui-Gon Jinn looming before him. A faint blue light surrounded his master. Obi-Wan took a deep breath and murmured, "Qui-Gon."
"Obi-Wan," the Force ghost responded in his usual calm manner. "You did summon me, did you not?"
A lie hovered upon Obi-Wan's lips. Realizing that he had not the heart to use it, he heaved a sigh. "I suppose I did. I . . ."
"Yes, I understand," Qui-Gon continued. "You wish to speak about your upcoming supper with Anakin's children."
Obi-Wan finally burst forth with a rendition of his encounter with the Skywalker children in Anchorhead. "I truly had no intention of contacting them," he continued. "But when young Leia had invited me for supper, I could not resist. You should see them, Master. The girl is a spitting image of her mother and young Luke reminds me Anakin at that age. Although, I suspect that he may have inherited his mother's height and temperament. Looking at them reminded me of the potential Anakin once possessed."
"Once?" One of Qui-Gon's brows quirked upward.
A slight cough escaped from Obi-Wan's mouth. "I did not mean . . ." Then he broke off with another sigh. "It's amazing. It has been at least twenty-four years since your death and you still manage to make me feel like the young apprentice I used to be."
"Only in your mind, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon stated firmly. "And I believe that you are still my apprentice. Despite my lack of a . . . physical presence. Now what did you mean by that comment regarding Anakin?"
Obi-Wan decided that he might as well express his true feelings. "Master, is it possible that the prophecy regarding the Chosen One might pertain to one or both of Anakin's children?"
A long pause followed, as Qui-Gon regarded Obi-Wan with a penetrating stare that made the latter squirm. "It is . . . possible," the Jedi Master finally answered. "But surely it is premature to discount Anakin?"
The question left Obi-Wan in an emotional quandary tinged with jealousy. It seemed ridiculous. He should have moved past his initial jealousy regarding his former apprentice and actually believed he had after becoming Anakin's tutor. Yet, it did not take long for his old feelings to rush to the fore during with great speed. Could his jealousy be linked to Qui-Gon's regard for Anakin?
"Is it?" Obi-Wan finally countered. "For a brief period, Anakin had been the apprentice of a Sith Lord. He is partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jedi."
"And you intend to hold that against him, forever?"
Unable to think or say anything original, Obi-Wan utilized an old lesson he had learned as a Jedi initiate. "Master, have you forgotten that Anakin had fallen to the Dark Side. Master Yoda once taught us that once a person starts down the dark path, it will forever mark his or her destiny. Even if he had managed to turn away from the Emperor, Anakin has done nothing to make up for his crimes. I have not heard nothing of him confronting the Emperor or Rasche. And instead, he is leading the life of a . . . a smuggler."
Qui-Gon's gaze became hooded. "I see. So, you are saying that Anakin's submission to the Dark Side will mark him forever. Even to the point that forgiveness is out of the question? Do we really know what the future will bring for Anakin? Or the prophecy?"
A sigh left Obi-Wan's mouth. "What if he never fulfills the prophecy?" Shaking his head, he added, "I'm sorry, Master. Years ago, I had managed to overcome my doubts regarding Anakin. But now . . . they are as strong as ever. Now, I believe that we should consider the children."
"If you insist, Obi-Wan," the late Jedi Master murmured. "I cannot determine what you feel . . . or how you think. But I do suggest that you ask yourself - have you ever believed in Anakin? Truly had faith in him?"
A retort hung on Obi-Wan's lips. Of course he once had faith in Anakin! After all, he had been the one who convinced the Jedi Council to knight his former apprentice. He and Anakin had fought as a team during the Clone Wars. And before that . . . Obi-Wan tried to remember the other times he had shown faith in Anakin. And yet, all he could recall were old doubts.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak and found himself unable to utter a sound. "Perhaps you might need more time to meditate," Qui-Gon continued. "I will take my leave now. Enjoy your supper with Anakin's children, Obi-Wan."
"Thank you, Master," Obi-Wan finally said.
Qui-Gon added, "And take care of yourself. May the Force be with you." The Jedi Master's ghost force faded from view.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan remained seated in the middle of the floor . . . staring into space, as he contemplated his master's last question about his former apprentice. And his own private response.
WORLPORT, ORD MANTELL
Arm-in-arm, the couple strode across the Hotel Grand's wide lobby - deep in conversation. They finally entered one of the turbolifts, which conveyed them to the tenth floor. Upon reaching the suite that she shared with her mentor, Igraine turned to smile at her companion. "Thank you for a charming afternoon, Captain Horus. I truly enjoyed myself."
"Including our little encounter near the lake?" Captain Horus replied with a roguish smile. Igraine merely chuckled at his light joke. He added, "By the way, my name is Set. Set Horus."
Igraine uttered a soft, "Oh." Then she added, "And my name is Igraine. Instead of . . . Milady." Again, she smiled. The couple locked eyes and Igraine found herself reeling inwardly from the force of the pilot's intense blue eyes. An idea came to Igraine. One she feared that her companion might misconstrue. "Captain Ho . . . uh, Set," she began tentatively, "are you . . . um, busy this evening?"
Mild confusion settled in Set's eyes. "I'm sorry?"
The Maldarian woman fought an urge to succumb to her wariness. She took a deep breath. "Will you be occupied, this evening? I . . . I wondered if you would like to have . . . dinner with me." When the pilot merely responded with widening eyes, Igraine's wariness increased. She quickly added, "Your friends are welcomed to join us, as well."
The pilot's smile became even more roguish before he finally answered, "I'm certain that Han and Chewbacca will have other plans for this evening. Don't you think?"
Igraine's wariness quickly dissipated, as vibrant warmth spread throughout her chest. She returned the pilot's smile. "Of course." The pair agreed to rendezvous in the hotel's lobby in another five-and-a-half hours. Feeling bold, Igraine invited Set inside her suite for a glass of Alderaanian wine.
"I'm not much of a drinker," Set politely answered. "And I have an appointment with some . . . well, with some friends. I'll see you in a few hours."
"In a few hours," Igraine repeated. She and Set bid their good-byes before she entered the suite. The young woman stopped in her tracks at the sight of Senator Dahlma conversing with a visitor in the suite's living room.
". . . don't seem to understand, Zoebeida, is that ridding ourselves of the Empire might take years," the visitor was saying. "Perhaps another decade. It took us this long just to finally form an alliance."
Igraine coughed slightly. The other two women stared at her. "Pardon me, Senator Dahlma," she said. "I'm back."
The senator nodded. "Igraine." Then she nodded at the third woman. "As you see, I have a guest."
"Milady," Igraine politely greeted the exiled Senator Amidala from Naboo. Then she returned her attention to her mentor. "By the way, Senator, is there anything you need before we return to the conference?"
Senator Dahlma shook her head. "I don't think so." She glanced at Senator Amidala, who slowly stood up. "Leaving so soon, Padme?"
The soft-spoken woman replied, "I left my conference notes in my room. And I need to speak with Bail about a certain matter. Excuse me." She strode toward the door. "I'll see you within a few minutes."
After the Nabooan woman left, Senator Dahlma heaved a sigh. "Poor Padme. It must be quite a burden to be stuck near the edge of the galaxy without the benefit of family or identity. Even Solipo Yeb has his sister and a new wife, I hear."
"Why did she fake her death?" Igraine demanded. "Senator Yeb didn't."
With another sigh, the senator replied, "I believe she was forced to fake her death in order to escape the Emperor's wrath. Like poor Garm Iblis. After all, she was one of the main supporters of that petition asking for Palpatine to step down during the Clone Wars. The Empire tried to have both Padme and Garm killed. At least the two of them can now live their lives without constantly being hunted by the Empire . . . unlike poor Solipo."
"Then perhaps she is better off," Igraine added. She paused, as an uncomfortable idea came to her. "Do you suppose the same could happen to us? End up with a fake identity or becoming fugitives?"
The senator's dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why do you ask this question?"
"I . . ." Igraine hesitated. "Well, considering how we left Maladore . . ."
"Don't worry, Igraine," Senator Dahlma assured the younger woman. "I am quite certain the Empire is not aware of our trip. And if they were, Chattal or my friend, Dellis Bama would have warned us. Have you been imagining a life as someone other than a senator's aide?"
Igraine's face grew warm, as the image of a certain handsome pilot lingered in her mind. "No, Milady! I . . . I'm just worried. After all, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if we end up becoming fugitives."
One of the senator's eyebrows quirked upward. "I don't know. I can only assume that a future with the handsome Captain Horus might seem very appealing to you."
"Milady! Really!" Now, Igraine's face felt as hot as the Tatooine suns. "I never said anything about Captain . . ."
A knowing smile curved the senator's lips. "I've seen the way you look at him, Igraine. And the way he looks at you. And you should have seen the expression on your face, when you entered the room. Even Senator Amidala noticed." To Igraine's surprise, the smile disappeared. "However, if you are truly serious about Captain Horus . . ." Senator Dahlma paused.
Dreading the other woman's next words, Igraine cautiously said, "Yes, Milady?"
A long pause followed before the senator continued. “Be careful, Igraine. Beneath the handsome face and good looks, Captain Horus strikes me as a very dangerous man. It almost seems as if . . .” She sighed. “. . . as if he is haunted by a thousand personal demons. Demons that I fear you might not possibly understand.”
The older woman’s words took Igraine by surprise. “I don’t understand, Milady. If you’ve never trusted Se . . . Captain Horus, why did you hire him as our pilot?”
“Because I thought I could trust him. Then.” Senator Dahlma took a sip from her goblet. “But after knowing him for less than two days, I cannot help but wonder if I had made a mistake. He is . . . there is something about him that is dark. And deep.” She regarded Igraine with eyes filled with pity. “And I fear, dear Igraine, that you might not be able to deal with his true personality. Although you are familiar with the political world on Coruscant, you have very set ideas about how the universe should be. I wonder if you’re flexible enough to deal with such an ambiguous personality like Captain Horus.”
Igraine merely stared at her mentor. How could she . . .? Then the young Maldarian woman mentally dismissed the older one’s words. There was nothing wrong with Set! Igraine came to the conclusion that the senator feared the young aide would become serious with the pilot. Something that went against the senator’s sensibilities on class.
The older woman continued, “Igraine?” Dismay flickered in Senator Dahlma’s eyes. “Oh dear! I have upset you. I don’t mean to, but I simply wanted you to be aware of the possible consequences of a relationship with Captain Horus. Promise me that you will be careful.”
Keeping her resentment in check, Igraine softly replied, “Yes Milady. I will.”
END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN