uke Skywalker lay hidden under some thick bushes in the dense undergrowth at the backside of the duraconcrete palace of senator Zolgathrii. The previous day he and his men had been fighting a unequal battle with the senator's ground forces. The New Republic ground forces had met much opposition, more than during their attack on Morantan. Several times they had to retreat, seeking a better location to find coverage. Before they had found the hidden clearing deep in an almost impenetrable forest at the rear of Zolgathrii's palace, they had lost several men. Unfortunately, the rear entrance of the palace also appeared to be guarded. Madine also hadn't been able to call in the help of Wedge's Gold Squadron, due to the thick foggy clouds rising from the river and the nearby lakes. A dense blanket of clouds covered the sky completely and fog patches drifted among the trees.
Luke, Madine and their staff officers had made their way through the bushes and the thick ferns to the foot of a slope behind which Zolgathrii had built his palace in a shallow valley. The army forces of Zolgathrii had taken their position near the top of the slope from which they carried out attacks on Madine's ground forces. Only the large tree stems and the dense undergrowth gave some coverage against the laserbolts of their opponents. Luke had been discussing several strategies with general Madine and captain Roxham Polta. He was aware that the endless waiting put some strain upon his men, but also on himself. Moreover, the Force told him that Leia urgently needed help.
Carefully Luke raised his macro binoculars to inspect their opponent's position. Far off, behind the hill in the valley, the attack at the main entrance was still going on, but at the rear entrance nothing seemed to disturb the silence. A slight breeze blew through his hair and made him look up to the sky above him. The thick fog patches hadn't changed, however the light seemed different.
"Day is dawning, Luke." A voice behind him whispered.
"Yeah, general. If we want to attack, we have to do it now, and fight our way inside the palace from the backside, there's no chance to get inside in another way. Zolgathrii's men are too well trained and equipped"
Suddenly Luke jumped aside and pulled Madine with him behind a huge broad tree stump. The tree, behind which they had been observing their adversaries exploded in a series of heavy laser blasts. Some ten of Zolgathrii's men were running halfway down the slope, shooting at random at the trees and the shrubbing. Luke activated his lightsaber and blocked most of laser beams. The shooting stopped as suddenly as it had started; Zolgathrii's men retreated to their original position and Luke ducked deeper in the undergrowth, looking for Roxahm Polta.
"We can take the backdoor. I'm going first with some ten of my men. Send the others as soon as we're inside the palace, Roxahm."
"You're crazy, Luke. There are at least some thirty men in position on that hill?"
Luke shook his head.
"There were some thirty of Zolgathrii's men, Roxahm. During the night about three squads and their officers left. Probably to take a new position near the main entrance. They thought we wouldn't notice the movement, but I felt their stealthy departure. After those squads had left, I have done some surveillance to get information about the men who were left behind. They are the ones who raided us a minute ago. It's a group of common soldiers without a leading officer; they are equipped with light sidearms and aren't sure how to defend their position. To the left there is a col between two hill peaks behind which an overgrown path immediately slopes downwards to the backdoor. The backdoor itself isn't guarded. I will distract those soldiers and give us a free run to the back door. Keep a squad three with you to capture them, but take care not to harm our opponents."
Luke was familiar with a Force strategy, that an unexpected attack, if trapped or outnumbered, would confuse an opponent. He ignited his lightsaber and ran along the edge of the forest to the left to seek coverage behind a remains of the exploded tree at the foot of the hill. Immediately the firing started again, but the young Jedi ran so fast, using the Force, that he reached his hiding place unharmed. He ducked behind the tree stem, picked up a rock and threw it high among the whirling fog clouds. Zolgathrii's men who saw the hurdled piece of rock, started laughing. Luke used the Force to drop the stone against an enormous tilted boulder near the hill top behind the position of the enemy soldiers. The impact of the rock disrupted the boulder's delicate equilibrium. Slowly it started to topple downhill. A landslide of rocks, broken tree trunks and large clouds of earth slid down with a thundering noise. Frightened and fearing for their lives the soldiers rushed downhill into the undergrowth, where Roxahm and his men overpowered and captured them.
Luke waited until the avalanche stopped. He rose and waved with his hand to his men.
"Squad one and two cover us; squad four and five follow me to the backdoor and take Artoo with you. Artoo, follow those men!"
General Madine watched, as Luke and his men were running uphill, and disappeared behind the col.
"May the Force be with you. Your commander has an exceptionally strategic insight."
On the other side of the low hills Luke jumped and ran down the sloping path to the backdoor. His men followed him in a wild run. Without any resistance they reached the backdoor. Luke ignited his lightsaber and the humming blade slashed through the durasteel door plates like they were made of thin wood.
Once the heavy locks had been cut out, the doors could easily be pushed open, showing a dark deserted corridor.
Luke entered and looked around, reaching out with his Jedi powers to scan the environment. No danger! He looked around and saw a computer outlet with a small monitor.
"Artoo, where are you. I need your help!" He said in the infocom, which fitted, around his head.
Beeping his little droid comrade quickly made its way to the entrance. Luke pointed at the computer socket.
"Show me the map of Zolgathrii's underground detention center and try to find the exact location where my sister has been locked up, Artoo!"
He watched the monitor with flashing maps and images. Artoo beeped. Luke nodded.
"I saw it! Thanks, Artoo!! Stay put here! I'll pick you up on my way out." He turned to his men, "Five of you stand guard, the others follow me to get to my sister and our escaped princess. They are at level 7c 382-ZI."
As the ran down the corridor they met with one of Zolgathrii's guards. Luke raised his hand and the soldier grab his throat.
"Tell me the way to your underground detention blocks."
"Th...at way!!" The man choked, struggling for air. "Se.co..nd to..... yo.ur left. Ele.... va...tor 10."
Luke released his captive, and the man took a deep breath, while Luke motioned one of his men to handcuff the guard and bring him outside the building. Luke hated this way of interrogation, but in case of an emergency he knew the Force would help him to extract the information he needed, taking care not to cause any harm to his opponent.
Followed by his men Luke ran through the corridor to the elevator block. He pressed the button and some moments later the steel doors slid apart. He and his men entered. He pushed the seventh button and the doors closed. With high speed the elevator dropped down in its tube. When it stopped again Luke stepped out first. They split up and carefully found their way along the corridor walls. So far, they hadn't met more armed troopers, but at a bend they met some four well-armed guards. One of Luke's men couldn't retreat in time. A heavy laser blast got him in the chest and he died with the scream. Luke clenched his fists. The death of any life form always gave a disturbing tremor in the Force. He ducked the laser beams, grabbed the unlucky trooper's remains and pulled the corpse out the line of fire. His men fired to give him coverage.
The entrance to the detention level was heavily guarded and it took Luke and his group some time, before they could get access to a kind of central space from which ten corridors radiated in several directions. Luke checked an information screen and ran down a softly lit hallway.
"Leia!!" He screamed. "Seek for coverage. I'm going to blast the door panel."
With a striking blow of his lightsaber the small control panel exploded in a shower a sparks. The door slid aside with a bang.
Leia and Liane, who had awakened at the first sounds of nearby fighting, stood against the rear wall of the cell. With mixed feeling Liane looked at the young Jedi who entered.
One moment brother and sister looked at each other.
"You both seem alright, so let's leave this place quickly!" Luke said.
He grabbed Liane's hand and put a blaster in it.
"I know by experience that you can use this kind of weapon extremely well. This time it is set to kill. Use it to defend yourself against our enemies, but don't use me as a target. I have enough enemies in front of me. Don't act on your own. Stay with Leia and me. It won't be easy to leave unnoticed. I think we'll meet senator Zolgathrii and his guards on our way out. So be prepared."
"Luke, do you think Liane can ... " Leia protested.
"She has no choice, Leia! Listen, Your Highness, I am here to rescue senator Leia Organa and you. However, each of us have to take care of his or her own safety and defense. If you're not able to protect yourself I will leave you here!"
"NO! NEVER!" Liane screamed and grabbed the blaster. "I CAN ... "
"Fine. Let's go! There's a reliable chance your host knows we're here by now."
He grabbed Liane's arm and pulled her with him. Leia followed, Luke's men closed up. They rushed back to the central control room to reach the elevator block, but at the detention level's main entrance they ran into Zolgathrii and his guards.
"Well, well, what young hero is running away with our royal beauties," He said with a sardonic smile.
Luke pushed Liane behind him. Leia ran up next to her brother. Completely stunned Liane watched how both ignited a lightsaber. Luke's men had also opened fire. In a split second Liane aimed her blaster at Zolgathrii who was yelling at his men, because they were seeking coverage against the heavy laser fire of Luke's men, and fired. The blast exploded near his head and the senator had to look for a safer position, before he screamed,
"JEDI KNIGHTS! SHOOT THEM .....! SHE HAS A BLASTER!"
Luke and Leia warded off the attack. With a quick glance over his shoulder Luke warned Liane. "Good shot, Your Highness, but stay close to Leia and me. I'm unable to come back a second time. They've only send me one invitation."
Liane grimaced and readied her weapon again. Luke quickly checked their surrounding, gave Leia a sign and hissed.
"Now, go, run! Left around the corner! At the end of that corridor is the elevator block!!
Leia grabbed Liane's arm and started to run. Both women ran to reach the elevator block; Luke's men covered them. For a moment Leia stopped and looked around. She signaled one of the officers close to her.
"Get some of your men and check the other corridors. Look for the other hostages and try to draw Zolgathrii's attention away from Luke and me. If you've find the other hostages, take them with you and find your way up and out of this building."
"Most certainly, Your Highness. We're on our way."
Leia pulled Liane against the corridor wall.
Liane nodded aghast and yelled on top of her voice, so she could be heard above the sounds of the heavy screaming and shooting "YOU CAN WIELD A LIGHTSABER. ARE YOU A JEDI KNIGHT, LEIA?"
"Yes, I am, but I'll tell you later; now, quickly, follow me!"
"WHERE'S THAT JEDI SKYWALKER?"
"He can take care of himself. Now come on, let's get out of here!"
They ran to the elevator block. Behind them they heard Zolgathrii scream again at his men.
"SHOOT THE PRINCESS AND THAT JEDI SENATOR! DO YOU HEAR ME, SHOOT THEM!"
Some very heavy laser blasts hid the wall and the ceiling. Leia pushed Liane inside a small dark niche, before she ignited her lightsaber. Suddenly Luke turned up next to his sister. Liane wondered where he'd come from. Luke grinned and brushed a strand of his hair aside.
"Rather hot in here! Your Highness, we'd better hurry! I've no time for explanations at the moment. Come on!"
He grabbed her arm and pulled her further with him into the darkness of the small corridor. At that moment a grenade explode near the wall. Liane uttered a scream and stumbled. Luke caught her in his arms. He looked into her blue eyes. Liane's face reddened and she uttered an excuse.
"Never mind, Your Highness." Luke said with a big grin. "I can stand rough handling and I know you can too."
For some moments his gaze held those astounded blue eyes.
'Don't you recognize me?' He asked her using his Jedi skills. Liane looked at him, then she pushed him away, still looking at him.
"DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT," She snarled and turned her back on him. Luke let her go, but wondered why she got angry with him. Leia joined them.
"Zolgathrii has blocked our way to the elevators. We have to find out if there are other ways to get upstairs to leave this palace," She said.
"Maybe we should go back to the control center of the detention level. Zolgathrii won't look for us there." Luke suggested.
"But if he finds us there, we're really trapped. This underground level of Zolgathrii's palace hasn't another way out," Liane said unexpectedly, "I know a way out, but it won't be easy,".
Leia and Luke looked at her.
"What do you mean, Your Highness" Luke said friendly.
"This narrow corridor leads to the entrance of a maintenance shaft, which runs along the elevator tubes. The shaft provides these lower levels with fresh air and electricity. At ground level we can use the maintenance corridor to the blowers. The climb isn't easy; there are no staircases, but there are many cables in the shaft and at every level there's a small platform. I'll show you, so you can see for yourself."
She walked to the opposite wall and pulled at a durasteel bar near the ceiling. The wall panel in front of her slid aside. A dark hole with small platform became visible.
"There are level markings on the wall next to each of the platforms," Liane continued. "They can guide us..."
She stopped and looked inside the dark shaft.
"Damn, I forgot, that the maintenance lights are switched off."
"We'll use our head flashlights." Leia said, taking a small band from a pocket of her belt. "Do you know where we have to get off, Liane."
"Of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't have proposed it," She answered shirty.
"Are you sure, Your Highness, you can do this?" Luke asked.
"I've done this several times. I was bored, sitting upstairs in my apartment, doing nothing," She answered gruffly
"Let's go then. Guide us," Luke said
Liane grabbed a cable near the panel wall. Luke grabbed another cable. Leia followed them.
"Unfortunately the panels can't be closed once we're inside." Liane said. "But if we hurry, we will have reached the ground level, before Zogathrii finds our escape route."
"We won't leave traces of our escape route." Leia said with a nod and focused on the panel door. Slowly the door slit back in its original place. Liane heard the click of the lever. For a moment they huddled together on the narrow platform. Luke had already ignited the flashlight at his head band. Its glow cast a shadowy light in the dark shaft. Liane started to climb. Carefully she moved upwards. Luke watched her go and followed.
In silence they worked their way upwards to each of the six platforms. At every platform they took a few seconds to rest. Luke and Leia were astonished that Liane didn't show any sign of fatigue. They clearly felt how the young woman steadily worked herself up to the next level using the strong influence of the Force to aid her. After they had reached the sixth platform Liane pointed to a dark gap some eight meters higher in the opposite wall.
"That's the passageway of the maintenance exit corridor at the ground level. You have to swing yourselves in, the extension bridge can only be activated from a control panel at the outside."
"Did you do that too?" Luke asked with barely concealed admiration.
"No, the bridge was extended when I climbed these cables," Was the blunt answer. "But I'll manage. Can you point those headlights upwards."
She grabbed her cable and started to swing back and forth.
"Be careful, Liane." Leia whispered.
"I will," Liane answered steadily increasing her swing.
Luke and Leia saw how their companion climbed upwards on the swinging cable, until she had reached the level of the gap. In the beams of their flashlights they suddenly saw how Liane let go of the cable, somersaulted in midair and disappeared. Leia let out a muffled cry, but immediately they heard Liane's voice.
"I'm in. Follow me, the way I did."
Luke motioned to Leia. They grabbed their cables and using the Force they reached the platform. Leia jumped first, followed by her brother. Liane stood against the far end of the passageway near a bend in the corridor. Around the corner they saw a bleak light through a small grid.
"Where did you learn to climb, Liane?" Leia asked.
"In the Morantan jungle."Liane answered stiffly.
She pointed to the end of corridor.
"There's a durasteel door which directly leads to the exit of the building's back door. The backdoor isn't guarded, for it's only used as an emergency exit, or for maintenance purposes. Look out for those blower blades above us! Stay close to the wall!"
She turned and ran with bent head to the end of the passageway where she stopped and waited till the others joined her.
"This door can be opened from the inside," She said, pointing to the wall panel.
For several moments they all listened. They heard some noises of far off laser blasts at the other side of the wall. Luke activated the door panel and left their hiding place first. He quickly scanned the way to the back door which laid some twenty-five meters to the left.
"Run, Your Highness! I'll cover you." He whispered and gave her a slight push.
Liane hesitated as she heard the noise of running feet.
"THERE THEY ARE!" A voice screamed.
Heavy laser fire hit the wall near Luke. He ignited his lightsaber, while turning half around to look at Liane and his sister.
"GO!" He screamed.
At that moment Zolgathrii fired at the young Jedi. Luke whirled around to ward off the laser beam, but couldn't avoid, that his hand with his lightsaber was hit. For a moment his face was twisted with pain; while he had to drop his weapon. Liane rushed over, pointing her blaster at Zolgathrii.
"YOU, DIRTY TRAITOR!!" She screamed angrily on top of her voice. "ONLY COWARDS, LIKE YOU, SHOOT PEOPLE IN THE BACK! YOU THOUGHT I COULDN'T KILL! WELL, YOU'LL DIE, FOR ASSAULTING HIM THIS WAY."
She made a high somersault past Luke Skywalker and landed in a offensive stance on one knee before him, firing, focused and with great precision, at her adversary. Zolgathrii was hit in the chest more than once and fell backwards against the wall. Shocked his men stopped firing for a moment, then they retreated to the back of the corridor seeking coverage for the laser fire of Luke's men. Liane glanced behind her to look for Luke, but he stood next to her with his ignited lightsaber in his hand. He reached for her hand and pulled her to her feet.
"I REVENGED MYSELF FOR WHAT HE DID TO ME AND TO LEIA... AND TO YOU," She said with anger in voice, but immediately she continued on a more worrying tone, "Aren't you wounded? Is it severe? Let me see your hand.
Luke shook his head.
"It's nothing. Pay it no mind. Are you alright?" He asked.
"Your Highness, I told you to run and leave with Leia," Luke said. "The senator, or his men, could have killed you. I certainly didn't expect you would come to my rescue."
With her hand firmly in his, they ran to the back door. Still holding her hand he crossed the low ridge and ran downhill, looking for his sister in the forest undergrowth. Leia and general Madine were already awaiting them. Luke let go off Liane and took Leia in his arms.
"I'm so happy, you're safe." He said with much care in his voice.
Leia kissed him.
"I love your ways of rescue. When will you ever learn to make a proper plan for an escape route." She said teasing him. She kissed him again. "Thanks, Luke, for coming after Liane and me."
Luke looked at his sister with a loving smile. He laid his arm around her shoulders and addressed general Madine, who looked relieved.
"I told you, sir, she can take care of herself."
He turned to Liane, who was waiting a bit forlorn watching the affection between the two Jedi. Astounded and suddenly feeling unsure, she placed her hand in his. Luke walked with her to Leia. Liane looked at her former cell mate.
"Why haven't you told me that you're his wife, Leia?" She asked, pointing at Luke.
"I'm his sister. Luke is my twin brother, Liane." Leia answered friendly.
"Your what? He is your brother?" Liane echoed. "But you're name is Organa? Aren't you viceroy Bail Organa's daughter?"
"Bail Organa was my foster father. Skywalker is my birth name. Liane, thank you for defending my brother, when Zolgathrii had wounded him. My brother's men have told me how you ran for help. I will never forget this."
Leia kissed Liane on both cheeks. Still surprised Liane looked at her and then looked at Luke who grinned at her surprised look.
"You're twins?! Two Skywalkers!! If my father had known that ... And you're a Jedi Knight too, Leia?"
Leia nodded, "Luke trained me, two years after the Alliance destroyed the second Death Star, and won the Battle of Endor."
Liane looked at the twins.
"We're Jedi-twins, Your Highness." Luke said with a big grin. "Or may I also call you Liane."
Luke's calm and gentle demeanor reassured Liane.
"I've already told Leia I'm not a royalty. That hated title is only a nickname my father's men has given me. I'm called Liane Solichor, nothing else."
"Nice to meet you, Liane. Come on, I'll bring you and Leia on board and we'll bring you back to Dalmaran."
He grabbed her hand again and started to walk to the small shuttle which he and Madine had used to land on Ortel.
"Colonel Skywalker! Stop!"
General Madine stopped the young commander.
"I'm sorry, colonel, but you have to hand over Liane to our prisoner's transport. She has escaped from the detention building at Irithim and I have the order to arrest her and bring her back as a prisoner."
"General, she helped us to escape! She ran to rescue me, when she thought I got wounded, and she killed Zolgathrii! Without her we would ... " Luke objected.
"Colonel Skywalker, are you discussing my order?" Madine asked sternly.
He called two of his men. They handcuffed Liane and pushed her between them in the opposite direction. Furiously Liane looked back at the twins.
"LEIA! YOU LIED. YOU'RE A JEDI. YOU'RE A TRAITOR. FATHER WAS RIGHT. YOU JEDI CAN'T BE TRUSTED. NEVER! I HATE YOU AND THAT JEDI SKYWALKER!" she yelled, struggling to get free.
Her voice was full of hatred and anger, then she disappeared among the trees and was out of sight, but Luke and Leia still heard her screaming and exchanged a concern look.
The Tychorion's voyage back home lasted five days. General Madine surrounded Leia with so much care, that she almost felt guilty about her voluntary kidnapping.
The general had a long meeting with Luke and Leia about Leia's rescue from Zolgathrii's palace and Liane's part in their successful escape. He had already heard from several of his men how Liane had killed Zolgathrii. Both Luke and Leia told general Madine that they were convinced that Liane wasn't a real danger, but Madine kept to his orders: Liane remained in detention and was treated as an escaped prisoner.
Shortly after the Tychorion had gone into hyperspace, Liane was brought to the space ship's briefing room for a first interrogation. Luke asked, if he could take part in that meeting. With some hesitation Madine gave his permission, but he insisted that Luke would not take part in the interrogation.
General Madine and the captains Roxham Polta and Daino Phylotar were sitting behind the large table, when Liane was brought in. Luke stood aside near one of the command consoles.
Liane looked very defiantly and haughty at her interrogators. She looked around and almost immediately her eyes caught Luke's eyes. Her mouth grimaced and she cast him an angry look, but Luke felt how unsure she was. Unwittingly he reached out to her with the Force to surrounded her with his compassion, for the strong influence of the Force on her, amazed him once again.
Captain Polta started the interrogation.
"Your name is Liane Solichor, isn't it?"
"YES," Liane said at an rebellious tone .
"And you're born on Morantan, aren't you?"
"I DON'T KNOW. I PROBABLY AM," Liane answered cross, shrugging her shoulders
"Then we'll assumed that Morantan is your home planet. How old are you?"
"And you're Lord Vader's daughter, aren't you?"
"You're supposed to answer all our questions without hesitation, prisoner Solichor, and not to come up with any of your dark lies!" Captain Phylotar suddenly snarled in Liane's direction.
Luke immediately felt how Liane's uncertainty aggravated. Daino Phylotar's loud and sneering voice seemed to frighten her. For some seconds she seemed to flinch, clenching her fists, but all of a sudden she looked up furiously and defiant at the three men in front of her. Her eyes had grown dark and were suddenly full of anger and loathing.
"YES!" She snapped. "YES, DARTH VADER WAS MY FATHER! HE IS DEAD! THAT JEDI KILLED HIM!"
Those last words she shouted at Luke, pointing at him.
Again Luke felt how the girl was covering her fears and anxieties behind a mask of aggression and rage. Once again he saw the young woman he had met on Morantan and who had attacked him during his visits in the prison of Irithim. One moment he also recalled the strange way she had reacted at his question on their way out of the Ortel fortress.
"Who contacted Zolgathrii for you?" Daino Phylotar snapped unfriendly.
Liane said nothing. She looked defiantly at her interrogators. She would not answer any of their questions. Zolgathrii had interrogated and beaten her. He had frightened her, but that wouldn't happen again. These men wouldn't humiliate her. She looked away from them and closed off her mind.
"Do you have any other contacts on Dalmaran?"
No answer, only a withering angry look.
"Who bribed your guards?"
What a fool! That man! She probably could easily manipulate him with her voice, or possibly with any of the other ways of the Force her father had taught her. Maybe she should frees his movement, so he couldn't scream at her any longer.
"Why did you take senator Organa as hostage with you?"
Liane cast another mocking look at the furious captain. Senator Organa? Leia had admitted that she was not a senator anymore. She was that Jedi Skywalker's sister and ...
For a moment a unsure look appeared in Liane's eyes, but immediately the anger rose again inside her mind. Leia had betrayed her; she was Luke Skywalker's twin sister and she was a Jedi Knight! The anger she felt subsided and she felt a pang of uncertainty. She recalled Leia's earlier visits at the Irithim prison. She had used her voice manipulation technique on Leia... which was... impossible! A Jedi Knight couldn't be controlled that way her father had told her, as they had been discussing how she would handle Luke Skywalker. So Leia really had lied to her from the beginning and only pretended she had been under her voice manipulation influence. It was now clear that Leia was her enemy, like her brother, that Jedi Skywalker. Leia wasn't a friend, that was for certain. For a moment she looked angrily in Luke's direction and it seemed as if she heard his calm friendly voice.
"Stop using and lingering on your dark feelings, Liane, don't mask your true emotions. I can feel that captain Phylotar is scaring you, but please, trust Leia and me. We're not your enemies. Leia and I want to help you. We want to be your friend! "
Furiously she shook her head and clenched fists tighter. She clearly felt, that he was trying to influence her. He could do that even she didn't want it. He was a Jedi. He could manipulate her. Her father had warned her for him. He could let her do anything he wished, like her father had done. She didn't want help or friendship from a Jedi; she detested him, and now she also detested Leia who had pretended she was her friend, but had lied; she detested their use of the Force, that evil power her father had taught her to wield; she hated her father and she hated that foolish man at the other side of the table.
Daino Phylotar continued to question Liane, but Liane refused to answer any of his questions. Luke walked over to general Madine and changed some whispered words with him. The general nodded and rose. He ordered the guards to bring Liane back to her cell.
"I've never met a stranger person," Roxahm Polta remarked, after the door had closed behind Liane, "At first I tried to feel some compassion for her, but she became defiant, arrogant and unapproachable."
"She's a very dangerous person for the future of the New Republic. She should be exiled from this part of the galaxy forever. Did you see that hatred look in her eyes? She probably has manipulated the guards with the knowledge Darth Vader has taught her. Who knows, what more she has learned from him. By the way, sir, some of my men told me that the senator she has killed was about to take her to a system in the Outer Rim. Maybe the Supreme Chancellor should heed that idea," Daino Phylotar said loudly on a demanding tone.
"We will question her again tomorrow." Madine said, neglecting captain Phylotar's words. "Colonel Skywalker, what's your impression? Do you think she can be persuaded to be more cooperative?"
Luke looked at the three men.
"Liane is masking her real feelings behind her unapproachable and aggressive attitude," He said. "I suggest that Roxahm Polta will do any further questioning and tries to reassure her a bit. Maybe he should explain to her what is going to happen after she has been brought back to Irithim. The others should only listen and record her answers, otherwise the interrogation will lead to nothing. She will not answer any question of Captain Phylotar. His way of interrogation frightens her."
Daino Phylotar grinned maliciously.
"Of course I do. I want to frighten her, that's what I'm here for, colonel Skywalker. If she doesn't answer my questions, we should force the answers from her. Don't think you can protect the baby sister of you with your Jedi protection! You probably know what she has learned from that famous father of yours, don't you?"
"No, I don't, captain Phylotar. As a matter of fact she hates me even more than you. I'm her enemy and she thinks I'm a lot more dangerous than you are. Even if I wanted to protect her, she wouldn't accept it. Excuse me, sir, I want to leave."
Madine nodded and answered Luke's formal salute.
Luke went looking for Leia, and found her in the officer's mess, talking to Wedge Antilles, Luke's best friend and the new commander of the Gold Squad after Luke's has lost his rank. With great enthusiasm Luke greeted his friend and punched his shoulder.
"Hey, Wedge, I didn't expect to find you on board during this return flight. I thought you and the other guys were escorting the Tychorion?"
"Green squad and Red squad are escorting the Tychorion's trip back to Dalmaran." Wedge grinned. "They're a bit careful with your special elite forces, Luke. Any chance you will come back soon. You're no longer grounded I heard. It's a bit boring out there without your company."
"I've got permission to fly as a private pilot, but I won't get my rank back soon."
Some other younger pilots had joined them. Luke recognized Madine's former liaison officer, Yarmod Martan. Surprised he greeted the young officer.
"It's a great pleasure to meet with you again and see you among the elite forces, Yarmod." Luke said with a smile, "I thought you were one of the ground force's officers."
"I was, sir, but commander Antilles has drafted me as his wingman," the young officer answered with a proud laugh, "I got my space pilot licence before I joined the New Republic's army, but after my application there wasn't any vacant position as a pilot. It's a great surprise I've got a commission in the elite forces so soon after we returned from Morantan."
Luke exchanged a quick glance of understanding with Wedge, who nodded imperceptibly.
"My congratulations, Yarmod. I'm sure you will do fine in this new commission."
He turned to Leia who had put her hand through his arm.
"Any news about Liane, Luke?" She asked
Before Luke could answer, Yarmod Martan spoke again.
"Sir, are the rumors true, that our female prisoner is your sister?"
A silence fell among the listeners. Wedge Antilles opened his mouth, but Luke calmly addressed the young pilot.
"Our prisoner is called Liane Solichor, not Skywalker, she's been born on Morantan. Darth Vader, my father Anakin Skywalker, has been her tutor. Does that answer your question?"
"Sir, has she the same knowledge as you have...? uh, ... of the Force .... I mean.... is she a Jedi too?" Yarmod Martan asked again.
"That's not an easy question to answer, Yarmod. She certainly is no Jedi, for she's got her first training at the Dark Side of the Force."
"So she's a Sith. A follower of the Dark Side, sir." The young pilot persisted.
"You quickly reach a conclusion, Yarmod. I'm not so sure that Liane Solichor is a follower of the Dark Side of the Force. You are right in so far as Liane knows ways to use the Force, which my father also used, but that does not mean that she really wants to use the Force, as my father did."
Yarmod Martan's face became red and he stammered.
"I ... apo..log..ize! I've ... heard .... so ma..ny ... things about ... the Fo..rce. I ...wanted ... to hear ... the truth ... about ... Lia ... our prisoner ... from you. I didn't ... want ... to insult her."
"You're not insulting anyone, Yarmod." Luke said with a smile. "But be aware, knowledge about the Force can be used for good and for evil. The Force requires a good insight and full commitment to find the truth, but sometimes it is more dangerous to know the truth, than to remain ignorant."
Yarmod Martan looked relieved.
"Thank you, sir. I hope you will come back soon as our commander, sir. I would love to learn more about the Force from you."
Wedge Antilles made it appear as if he was offended, but he gave Luke a knowing look. The other listeners started laughing aloud. Yarmod's remarks brought a big grin on Luke's face.
" You have found yourself a fine instructor so far, Yarmod, but, yes, I hope I will get back my special mandate as Jedi commander. If that happens, I'm sure we will meet again, that's a promise. I'm sorry, guys, but I have to excuse myself now. Leia, are you coming with me. I have some private matters to discuss with you. "
Luke walked back with his sister to their private quarters. Leia felt Luke's worries about Liane's interrogation.
"How did it go?"
"Terrible. From the beginning Liane used her defiant behavior as a way to protect herself. Roxahm Polta asked some question in a calm and friendly way, but when Daino Phylotar rudely intervened, she became angry, masking her uncertainty, trying to cling to her knowledge of the Dark Side. She hit herself behind a mask of silence and loathing for her interrogators. However, she didn't fall back to any use of her dark knowledge, otherwise I should have intervened to protect the general and his men."
"Luke, maybe the general would let me talk to her. We were close to a kind of real friendship those last few weeks on Ortel."
"I had the same idea in mind, Leia. During the interrogation she has realized that she has tried to use Affect Mind on you. She seemed to remember suddenly that a Jedi Knight can't be controlled in that way. So, I think, it's really important, you talk to her, before she might change her mind about you and sees you as her enemy too. She did trust you and you must convince her that we're her friends. I need to have a word with her again, Leia, for I need to convince her that I want to help her too. I have promised Anakin to train in the future her as a Jedi Knight."
Astonished Leia looked at her brother.
"Are you seriously thinking of taking her as your padawan learner?"
"Is that so unlikely. It's a great opportunity for me to train some one so Force sensitive. Anakin has brought her to the Morantan his stronghold at a very young age. She probably must has been as old as once the Jedi younglings were. It's a pity, that Anakin hasn't told me, where he has found her. The only thing he told me was, that she's no relative. He has taken her as his apprentice, because he sensed the influence of the Force on her. He taught her to use the Dark Side of the Force."
Leia had a worried expression on her face.
"So he indeed wanted to raise her with the intention to become a Sith lady? "
"I think so. That's what he told me? He has admitted that he has failed. Liane has strongly opposed his intentions, but she is now using his Force use to defend herself in a very peculiar way, for she masks her fear for the Force through an odd use of the Dark Side."
"We're already familiar with the way she is using the Force." Leia said still worried. "That reminds me of one of Liane's remarks: I told you that Zolgathrii wanted to bring her as a prisoner to a planet in the Outer Rim Territories, didn't I? Luke, can it be that some one else knows about Liane upbringing on Morantan and about the knowledge she has gained from our father? Can it be that some one with dark intentions is after her, a former supporter of emperor Palpatine for instance?"
"Has Zolgathrii told her that?"
"On the first evening, after she had been locked up with me, she told me that Zolgathrii had ordered her to use her Force power to execute the other senators in the same way as our father did. About what she said I recognized the Force Choking or Force Stasis. She admitted that she knows how to use the Force that way, but she opposed Zolgathrii and refused to carry out his order. One of his guards slammed her face and Zolgathrii tore her clothes in rags with a whip. He accused her being a spy for the New Republic and locked her up with me. I heard him threaten her when he brought her to my cell.
Luke looked at his sister.
"I'm really worried about your words, Leia. This is really serious. We have to find out the meaning of Zolgathrii's words. Now it's really a pity that he can't be interrogate for his actions. I'm glad you and Liane have built up a kind of friendship. You two have done a lot of talking, haven't you?"
" Yes, she told me a lot about her life on Morantan. There is one other thing you have to know about her. I hadn't time to let you know earlier, but Liane told me, she grew up in a Baroontarian community, "Leia said softly. Immediately she felt the pain these words caused on her brother.
"Oh, no!" Luke whispered devastated.
"I'm sorry, Luke, I had to tell you, if you want to take her as your next padawan. Maybe it is not what you're thinking now, for she also told me, that Anakin brought her to the mainland, when she was about seven years old. He told her he was her father. As far as I know she never returned to the Baroontarian community."
Luke relaxed at Leia's last words, but his sister still felt his hidden pain.
"This sheds indeed new light on Anakin's request to take Liane as my padawan, Leia. I have some doubts now. I have to be cautious."
Slowly he started to tell Leia what he has promised their father.
"I couldn't refuse, Leia. Anakin feels very guilty about what he has done to her. I had to promise him, that I would help her and teach her the ways of the Jedi. "
Leia put her hand on his arm. She knew how Anakin's debts were still her brother's burden and her story about Liane's upbringing now had increased that burden even more.
"I'm sure, she isn't what you're thinking, Luke." She repeated on a soft soothing tone.
"I hope so, Leia, but your words are confusing. I really hope she isn't..."
The rest of his words remained unspoken. He looked at his sister.
"I'll have to ask father, when I'm on Dagobah again. He is the only one who knows the truth about her birth and parentage. He also has to tell me exactly how much he taught her of the Sith lore."
He shook his head.
"The tremendous influence of the Force amazes me each time I meet her. She is so Force sensitive!" He continued.
Leia saw her brother stare to the opposite wall deep in thoughts. Her fingers clenched his wrist.
"Are you still intending to take her as your next padawan, Luke?"
"No, not after what you told me. That plan has to wait, Leia, until I know more about her past. She could be a powerful Jedi Knight with a very strong knowledge of the Force, but first I have to find out whose daughter she really is, " He sighed.
"I'm worried too about our father's wish, Luke; he may have asked you to take over his training, but her strong Force powers are still driven by the Dark Side."
Luke smiled and looked down at the face of his sister.
"I'll be careful, Leia, very careful on this matter. There are too many uncertainties around her. I have to figure out who she is, before I will reconsider her apprenticeship. She's still a mystery to me and after your story even more."
"First of all I would be happy if she would learn to trust me and see me as a friend."
Leia sighed too.
"What happened further during the interrogation?"
"Nothing. After Daino's rude intervention Liane stopped answering any questions. Leia, if Roxahm Polta had done the questioning I'm sure she would have been more cooperative. Her dark knowledge is only a strong shield of self defense. I suggested the general, that he and Daino would just listen and leave the talking to Roxahm. Daino became furious about my words."
"Daino Phylotar always has been a nasty loud mouth, Luke. Well, I'd better see the general now and ask him if I may talk to Liane. "
Leia kissed her brother on his cheek.
"Stop worrying, dear brother."
Leia left and Luke walk to his own cabin. He activated the infocom at his desk. Still thinking about what Leia had told him he started to record the draft request to testify on behalf of Liane in the oncoming trial. He hoped his early testimony would lead to reduce Liane's sentence. It would be better, if she shouldn't be jailed too long. He accepted that she had to be punished, but he wanted to help her to build a new life. He had promised Anakin to protect her and he wanted to keep that promise, but first Liane had to learn to trust him. Without trust any attempt to help her would be useless. In his mind Luke saw Liane's wide astonished blue eyes looking up at him in that corridor at Ortel. He wondered if she had heard the question he had asked her using Jedi telepathy. Her snappy answer could be an indication. For a short moment his thoughts dwelled upon the images he had seen on Morantan, before he focussed himself on this task. He smiled, but then concentrated fully on his request.
Next morning he woke up as Leia tapped the door of his cabin.
"Are you awake, Luke? Madine has planned to start Liane's second questioning around ten."
"I'm coming. "
He had opened the door. Leia smiled at him and kissed him good morning. With a warm loving kiss Luke returned her wishes.
"Good morning, my dear sister. You look so beautiful this morning."
He pulled her to him with a warm deep smile. She was again that beautiful, radiant princess he first had seen, years ago in Artoo's message on Tatooine.
"I'm so glad, nothing has happened to you on Ortel." He said. "What did Madine say? Did you get his permission to talk to Liane?"
"He insisted to interrogate her again. If that attempt fails, I may talk to her."
"I feared he would say that. Let's hope Liane won't loose her confidence in you, Leia. "
"Luke, ... We can't protect Liane if she doesn't want to trust us, remember that."
"You're right, Leia, but after what you told me last night about Zolgathrii's threat to bring her to the Outer Rim, I'm not so sure, that we can keep ourselves out of this matter. We're the only Jedi Knights who can fight the Dark Side, Leia. ... Anyhow, I'll see you at lunch time."
He kissed her again and went straight to the briefing room.
Later that morning he joined his sister again in the officer's mess.
"Well?" She asked him.
He shook his head.
"Nothing. She doesn't cooperate. I gave Madine the advice to stop this way of questioning, but he wants make a last attempt. This afternoon!"
He sighed and vented his frustration.
"Leia, Daino really frightens her. He's bullying her. Why can't I make her understand, that I'm her friend? I want to help her! Why doesn't she trust me? Why doesn't she trust us?"
Leia watched her brother for a couple of minutes in silence.
"I feel so much compassion for her, Leia. How has she survived all those years under our father's regime? How did she manage to protect herself against his dark influence? I remember my first encounter with him like it happened yesterday. He scared me to death and I had already completed a large part of my training as a Jedi."
"We'd better wait until Anakin or Liane herself will tell us more about what happened on Morantan, Luke. Maybe Liane will tell us more after her trial. Did you send our request already to the High Council?"
"I've got a draft recording. If you view it right now, I'll can transmit it to Dalmaran before we're back home."