hati stood in front of the alcove entrance which Luke Skywalker used as his private place. She felt some reluctance, but master Skywalker, or Ben, had ordered her to come to the alcove around the time Cornell and his men would have their meal. Still hesitating Chati lifted the heavy cloth that separated the alcove from the rest of the cave. It wasn't really dark side, for a tiny bright light was burning near the entrance of the alcove. Chati took the electronic lamp in her left hand and walked over to the couch in the corner.
Luke Skywalker was laying on his back on the improvised couch. Step by step Chati neared the sleeping Jedi. She held the lamp high above the sleeping Jedi; the light illuminated Luke's face. The normal color of his face had became ashen-grey and it seemed that he wasn't breathing. For a moment Chati stiffened. She wanted to run back to Cornell, but then she remember the words Luke had spoken to him.
"M..aster.. Jedi ... it's time for... for ... the Jedi to e..eat," She stammered. When nothing seems to happen, she repeated the words more coherently.
"I have heard you, Chati. Thank you, for warning me," Luke said in his normal voice. He opened his eyes and sat upright. Then he looked up at his young companion and saw a mix of fright and relief in the girl's eyes.
"You... looked... almost dead, Ben," Chati stammered, "you... didn't... breath and ...you looked deadly ...pale."
"I'm practising Jedi hibernation trance, Chati, and I needed your help to get me out of it again. You did exactly what I asked you."
"You frightened me, Ben," Chati said sighing with relief, "Do I have to learn this too if I want to become a Jedi."
"Not as a padawan, Chati, but a padawan can help his master to get out Jedi hibernation at a certain moment and that's what you have been doing."
"Then I am I your padawan, Ben?" Chati asked delighted, forgetting the scary moment of a couple of minutes ago. Luke laughed, he rose and put his hand on the girl's shoulder.
"You will be a padawan, Chati, but it will some else to teach you the ways of the Jedi. I have a padawan already and a Jedi Knight can only have one padawan learner at his side."
"You mean the girl you mentioned. If she would have been here, Ben, would she have been recalling you from that Jedi trance?"
"I think, I would have asked her and she would have been as frightened as you, for she cares for me." Luke answered thinking about how Liane had reacted on board the Falcon, as she had seen him laying on a burial pyre in her Force vision.
"Do you love her, Ben?" Chati asked.
"Yes, I do. She's the loveliest woman in this galaxy." Luke said with a smile.
"Will I meet her one day?"
"Why do you want to meet her?"
"Well, Ben, I want to see for myself, if she's worth your love and friendship." The young female Quelan said rather bluntly.
Luke started to roar with laughter.
"Chati, I'll promise you that I will come with her to Palomintar Four, after we have brought back your family and friends to Ribana."
"I would love to meet her, Ben."
"And I'm sure that she would love to meet you. Before we join the others, will you help me again to bring me out of a hibernation trance again?"
"Of course, I will, Ben. I now know what to expect, so your pale face won't frighten me again. I see it as the possibility we Quelans have to change our skin color." Chati said.
Luke took the girl with him to Cornell's men. Before they left the alcove Luke warned Chati not to talk about what he has seen. Chati nodded in agreement.
In Mas'onom harbor four dark clad creatures crept in a single file in the shadow of a large building. The harbor was shrouded in darkness, no sound of human activity was heard. The only vague sound was the splashing of the water against the walls. The creature going ahead stopped and his comrades joined him. He pointed to a dark shadow bobbin up and down near the wall.
"That's the one we're going to use," He whispered.
The others looked amazed.
"How ...," but the leader cut off the speaker. He made a movement with his head as a sign to follow him. Bowed they ran to the wall and jumped on the bobbing shadow. The leader opened the hatch of the submersible and one by one his fellow men jumped in. He cut the mooring ropes, lowered himself inside the boat and closed the hatch.
"Fill the water tanks and let's sink at the bottom of the harbor. No engine, just sinking." the leader said. The three others went to the front and back side and opened the valves. Only the suction of influent water was heard. After half an hour the submersible landed on the bottom of the harbor with a soft thud.
"Feed the navi-computer with the coordinates the colonel has given us," the leader said, "Start the ion-power at the lowest impact power. Avoid swirls in the water. Get us out of the harbor real slowly."
Nothing was spoken during the next hours. The submersible hardly seemed to move, her speed was almost zero, but finally the four men sighed relieved.
"We're outside and the navi-computer points north-west." The man at the helm reported.
"Keep the ship near the bottom of this straight. If necessary dived deeper. These vessel can easily reach seven or eight hundred meters at least. Do not use the lights. If I'm well informed there will be very little underwater surveillance the next five hours. I figured out we can reach those coordinates in two at most three hours. We only have to confirm that there is a kind of accommodation, nothing else. As soon as we have found something that looks like a inhabited building, we record these new coordinates and go back. We're not hired to do further investigation. Now put the ship on automatic pilot, but keep looking for other surveillance ships."
The others nodded tight-lipped and went back to their posts. The boat slid through the water near the bottom of the sea-straight between Mas'onom and Na'ctaMagh'Ba. The hours passed. The men on board weren't talking. The tension of their mission became apparent from their facial features, but they met no obstacles and after nearly three hours the helm's man reported that their were nearing the given coordinates. Their leader ordered to stop the engines and to switch on the underwater sensors which could trace any deviation in the shore edge or underwater.
The leader watched the results on a small screen, when he suddenly turned around.
"Move seven-four-three to the left and get on slowly. There's and underwater cave I want to investigate.
The submersible turned her bow, the ion-engine started again at the lowest speed. They entered a huge cave entrance. The men follow their progress, watching all the monitors conscientiously.
"We're in the outflow of an underground river. We move upstream," The leader murmured. He cast a glance on the monitor that showed the rocky ceiling of the cave.
"Move forward very slowly," He ordered.
The submarine's became hardly noticeable, when suddenly the image of the ceiling became blurred and disappeared.
"We're inside the cave. Let's get to the surface carefully. Probably the river has eroded an underground tunnel."
"Do you really think that a underground property has been built here?"
"Everything is possible. The coordinates we use are still in this range. We're even closer to them," The leader commented.
"We're at the surface," One of them said, "Look, it's indeed a huge tunnel. It's more than six meters high."
"Top lights at maximum," The leader ordered and walked over to the small staircase and opened the top hatch. Carefully he looked around, but he didn't see any proof of an underground accommodation. He went down again and checked the coordinates the colonel on Palomintar Four had given him. He was almost on top of them. There has to something here, but all he had seen was a tunnel with solid rocky walls.
"There's a broad chasm to left, look," One of his fellow men pointed at a dark spot in the rocky wall.
"Steer as close as possible to the wall," The leader said. He pointed to the former speaker: "You and me are going to jump in that chasm and investigate."
The submersible move to the wall and the two men climbed on the deck. They jumped and landed on the rocky floor near the chasm. The leader switch on a flash light and the two men disappeared in the chasm. They hadn't walked far when the chasm widened and became a huge dry cave. The beam of the flash light move to and fro along the walls, the ceiling and the floor.
"This is it," The leader said, pointing at some scratches on the cave floor.
"What do you mean, boss," The other man asked.
"This cave has been used recently. I don't what for, but some one has been here before us. Let's get back to the entrance and check the walls of the tunnel left and right of this chasm."
They went back on board, got some heavy equipment and started to search the walls left of the chasm.
"Solid rock, boss. There's nothing here I fear."
"Check the wall to the right."
With difficulty they clung to the overhanging rocky wall to the right. The leader tapped with the heavy stick on the wall, but it sounded like solid rock.
"Get the ship a bit more to the right, slowly."
He tapped the wall again and this time the sound was clearly different.
"This is no rock, this sounds like a durasteel door. We found it. There's secret door to a kind of underground hiding place."
He tapped a bit harder on the rocky wall. The sound reverberated through the tunnel.
"Determine the coordinates of this spot. We have found the place from where that procon message was sent. We'll go back now and inform the colonel."
"We could use our blasters and see if we can get through those doors, boss. If we succeed and capture the one who seemed to be living here, we might get a much higher reward." One of the man suggested.
The leader pondered over the suggestion and grinned.
"You're right. It's against the order, but now we've found the spot, we deserve the full reward. Get our blasters and set them to maximum fire power."
Inside Mon Mothma's underground residence Ian and Yarmod had already sensed the presence of the intruders. They looked at each other and looked seriously. Both used the Force to see what was going and when they looked at each other again, Ian nodded.
"Liane's hiding-place has been discovered. Where is she? We have to get ready, if those intruders find their way inside." He said.
"I saw her going to forest cave. She said she needed some moments alone. She's probably been doing some Force meditation. Shall I get her?" Yarmod said.
"Yes, I'll see what Threepio and Artoo are doing. We have to remain completely silent."
Yarmod walked quickly to the forest cave and found Liane sitting in a Force trance under her favorite tree. He waited patiently for some moments so she would feel his presence. Within minutes Liane came out of her Force meditation. She looked up at Yarmod.
"There are intruders in the tunnel," She said while she rose.
"You know already," Yarmod asked.
"I felt them."
"Ian and I are going to prepare to defend ourselves and you, in case they might get through the blast doors."
Suddenly the cave heavy laser blasts echoed through the caves.
"We will leave this place immediately, Yarmod. Do you and Ian need to take things with you?" Liane asked.
"Where do you want to go?"
"To the Jedi library. For the time being we're relatively safe there. Once there I will warn Luke that the residence is under attack."
"What about Threepio and Artoo?" Ian asked who had come over to the lawn, when he has seen that Yarmod and Liane were hurrying out of the forest cave.
"We'll take them with us." Liane said quietly, "I'll get a few thing I don't want to part with. I'll be right back. We leave immediately. I'll meet you and the droids near the herbs cave."
She walked over to the living, passed the library and went to her private quarters. She grabbed her old backpack, took off the Jedi-pendant and put it back in its green box next to the little statuette from her Draga friend Muguro, then she put Ben's copy of the silverline grey book of the Jedi Path next to the box. She quickly changed her clothes and put on her brown tunic, pants, boots and her belt. Her eye caught the holo-image of Luke, while she put on her coat. She opened her backpack and put the image on top. For a moment she hesitated if she would take with her the white dress Luke love, but she decided not to. It would be useless. She walked back to the living. The heavy laser blasts still echoed through the tunnel outside. Calm she activated the control panel and darkened the residence. She switch on her flashlight and walked over to the end of the lake. Ian, Yarmod and the droid were already waiting for her.
Ian went to meet her.
"We can defend ourselves, Liane. Our lightsaber can match against their blasters."
Liane shook her head.
"No, Ian. I appreciate your plan, but I've expected this for months. Ever since the Supreme Chancellor visited me and told me about the problems on Quoith I wasn't so sure that this place would be safe any longer. Our training lightsabers aren't good enough the repel heavy blaster fire. We don't know how many intruders there are. You might put your life in danger on behalf of me. We're going to the Jedi library. I've made up my mind what we need to do. I tell you my plan as soon as we're behind those two secret doors."
Ian had listened with admiration to her words. She was a real leader, calm and organized; she knew where to go. Threepio was jittering and gibbering at Artoo who stood placidly waiting for Liane. The group left the herbs cave and went over to the long passageway to the last store room. The sound of the laser blasts went off. They reached the entrance to the secret door within half an hour. Liane opened the door.
"We have to help the droids to get on top."
Yarmod grinned and raised his hand. Threepio started to levitate and panicked.
"Better switch him off first, Yarmod. He's quite nervous I think."
Yarmod put the droid down and Liane flipped the main switch at Threepio's back. His photoreceptors dimmed and he stooped. Meanwhile Ian had climbed on top of the stack of container and tuned in on the Force. Slowly Artoo started to lift. The barrel shaped droid didn't protest and Ian could easily bring him to the other side of the containers. Yarmod lifted Threepio and Ian took over the golden droid and put him down next to Artoo. He and Yarmod jumped next to the droids. For a moment Liane was busy changing the access code on the inside of the storage room, then she followed her two companions. Yarmod had already slid the secret door aside, Ian had taken Threepio and Artoo with him and after Liane had entered the first secret cave, Yarmod closed the rocky wall. For a moment they looked at each other in the beam of their flashlights and sighed with relieve. The sound of the laser blasts were hard audible here. Liane beckoned her companions to move on. She reached the heavy durasteel door and reached out to the Force. The door rose and they all passed through. Ian lowered the door and looked at Liane.
"Did you already work out this plan, Liane?"
"More or less. The Jedi library is unknown to others. Only we and the other Jedi know the connection between Mon Mothma's residence and the library." She said.
"We even could leave it," Yarmod said.
"I know, and that's part of my plan. Wedge mentioned that the Astreaga stands at Mas'onom space port. Yarmod, you came in through the back door. How did you get to the entrance."
"I have got a map from master Luke, we only have to follow the trail back to cave. There master Antilles and I hid a amphibious speeder which we can use to cross the sea straight and get to Mas'onom."
"Then we go on. I want to leave Na'ctaMagh'Ba as soon as possible. Most preferable unseen."
"If we can get to the Astreaga, where do you want to go, Liane?" Ian asked.
"To Palomintar Four to assist Luke. He's on his own, now Leia and Wedge are on Dalmaran to convince the Supreme Chancellor to set support to the Palomintar System, but first I want to get us better equipped."
"Better equipped, what do you mean?"
"As I remarked our training lightsabers aren't good enough in a battle. They are nice for training as we did these last weeks, but if we need to encounter a group of enemy fighters we need real lightsabers."
They had already started to splash through the shallow riverbed. Yarmod and Ian kept Threepio up in the air. Artoo rode through the water on his stubby legs. He didn't seem to be uncomfortable in the water.
After Liane's last remark about getting real lightsabers Yarmod started to laugh.
"Where do you think we can buy them, Liane?" He said with a grin.
Liane heard a teasing tone in his voice and laughed too.
"As a padawan you should know, they aren't for sale, Yarmod Martan. We have to assemble our own lightsabers on Tatooine."
"On Tatooine?" The padawans echoed, "How do we get there?"
"With the Astreaga. I've been there with Luke. I'm sure the log of the Astreaga holds the coordinates of Ben Kenobi's dwelling."
"Ben Kenobi's dwelling?"
"Yes, there we will find everything that is needed to assemble our own lightsaber with an Aldegan or Kyber crystal inside. You, padawans, are already experienced enough to perform the necessary Illum meditation."
"How did you get all this knowledge?"
"Luke told me when we were on Tatooine. He taught me to assemble a training lightsaber. Not the one I'm carrying, that's present from Luke."
"And after we have assembled our own lightsaber, you want to go to Palomintar Four?"
"Yes, as soon as possible."
"Are you going to tell master Luke about your plans?" Ian asked.
Liane shook her head.
"I don't think I will, Luke don't want me to leave Na'ctaMagh'Ba. Maybe I will tell him we're on our way to Palomintar Four, after we have assembled our own lightsabers. Look, we're at the entrance of the library. We can take a short rest. Yarmod, we leave Threepio switched off. We will activate him as we have reached the speeder."
They passed the final chasm and Yarmod activated the lighttubes. Ian put the droids near a set of boxes and told Artoo to keep an eye on Threepio. Then he sought for a separated place to do a Force meditation. Yarmod did the same. For a moment Liane looked at her two companions. She walked over to the desk and sat down in the chair. Hesitatingly she took the green box from her backpack and open the lid. Should she warn Luke? He shouldn't worry about her. He has a lot to do Palomintar Four. If she would use the pendant he certainly would discover what she was up to. Could she reach him on Palomintar Four using Jedi telepathy. She concentrated strongly on the Force.
'Luke, the residence is under attack. I'm in the library.'
'Mon Mothma's residence was under attack?'
'Yes, Yarmod and Ian are with me and we took Threepio and Artoo with us.'
'Stay in the library. I hope Wedge, Leia and the others are still on Dalmaran. I see if I can reach one of them to warn Mon Mothma.'
'How long will that take?'
'I can't tell. Why aren't calling me using the pendant, my love?'
'I wanted to practise Jedi telepathy and it works. It's a much easier way to communicate with you.'
Liane heard Luke chuckled.
'You're becoming quite experienced in the Force, Liane. I would love to take you with me as my padawan. Did you have any Force visions recently.'
'No, Ian and Yarmod have kept me busy. We did a lot of lightsaber duels. It was great fun. We also fought the remote balls. Ian can handle seven already, Yarmod put out six and I manage to handle four. Next time I want to put out five.'
'The attack didn't seem to have frighten you, did it?'
'Luke, ever since Mon Mothma told me about the computer hack on Quoith I had the feeling they would find the residence some day. I'm glad I know that the blast door will hold them for a while. '
'Yes, we talked about it. I'm glad you warned me, and that Yarmod and Ian are with you. They will protect you, Liane.'
'They have become fine companions, Luke.'
'I'm glad you like them. Alright, my dearest, I will warn one of the others. You did well to get to the library immediately. I hope you won't have to stay there for a long time. May the Force be with you.'
'There's enough to explore here, Luke. May the Force be with you.'
Liane came out of her Force trance and looked at Yarmod and Ian who were sitting on the lounge supporting each other while reading a page in Jediese. She went over to them.
"Ready to go?" She asked, "I have used Jedi telepathy to tell Luke about the attack. We have to get on. We're not the only ones who knows the Astreaga is in Mas'onom. Yarmod, you take the lead from now on. Ian and I will follow with the droids."
Yarmod pointed to a spot behind one of the racks.
"Master Antilles and I entered this cave over there. There's another secret door."
'Leia, are you still on Dalmaran?'Luke asked.
Leia heard the tension in her brother's voice.
'We're on our way to Palomintar Four, Luke. Wedge is accompanying us with the Gold Squad. Mon Mothma promised that the Tychorion will come within six or seven weeks. I hope...'
'I want you or Wedge find a way to warn Mon Mothma. The hidden residence is under attack. Liane and the two padawans are locked up in the library.'Luke interrupted his sister's words.
'Mon Mothma's residence under attack? I'll ask Han to get the Falcon out of hyperspace as soon as possible and return to Dalmaran. I will contact Wedge, Luke, but if I'll go back to Dalmaran you're still on your own. Wedge and his men have the order to keep the Basilisaea at bay. Neither of us are allowed to land on the planet. Mon Mothma wants to avoid a confrontation with the imperials.'
'That of later concern, Leia. Get back to Dalmaran as soon as possible. Mon Mothma can warn the Dalmarian government and the security squads which are surveilling the waters around Na'ctaMagh'Ba. My first concern is Liane's safety.'
'I will, Luke. Take care of yourself.'She said worried, but the Force connection had vanished. Before she contacted Wedge Antilles, Leia warned Han who started the procedures to get the Falcon out of hyperspace and plot their course back to Dalmaran. In the meantime Leia warned Wedge using their Jedi telepathy skills. Wedge promised to continue their mission. He would go into orbit around Palomintar Three or Two which were both out of reach of the Basilisaea. When Leia returned to the cockpit of the Falcon Han just pushed the hyperspace level and ordered Chewbacca to start the sublight engines. The Falcon drifted at low speed in the void of space.
"Darling, we're near Morantan," Han said pointing to the navigation screen, "Can't you send Mon Mothma a procon message from there? It's much faster than going back to Dalmaran."
Leia did some quick thinking and nodded.
"You're right, Han. We can't do anything to help Liana and the padawans at the moment.Set course to Morantan. "
Han fed the navi-computer with the coordinates of Morantan. The Falcon turned and vanished into hyperspace.
Yarmod, Liane and Ian had reached the steep rock that marked the end of the sloping path to the outside world of Na'ctaMagh'Ba. One by one they jumped and Ian and Yarmod used their Force strength to get the droids on top. Quickly they hurried along the path to the chasm in the cave. They stepped outside and Yarmod grinned pointing at the speeder which was still hidden behind the thorny bushes. Liane was silent. For a moment she stood motionless in the cave, where normal daylight sprinkled pathes of light on the floor, then she rushed over to the bushes and pushed the branches aside. The thorns scratched her hands, but she didn't seem to notice.
"Liane, wait, there's an easier way to get outside the cave," Yarmod said and walked over to the bushes. He raised his hands and the branches bowed aside. Liane quickly ran to the grassy spot before the hidden cave. Ian ignited the engine of the speeder and brought the vehicle outside. Both padawans watched the young woman they were supposed to protect. Liane seemed elated and turned round and round. She laughed and ran back to her companions.
"It's so good to breath fresh air. Why didn't I get to this spot earlier. I knew about this entrance, because Luke used it to visit me." She exclaimed.
"What would you have done, if you have left the hidden residence, Liane? Would you have gone back?" Ian asked concerned.
For a moment Liane pondered on his words.
"Probably I would have looked for a way to leave. The residence is beautiful. I had a wonderful time there, but it's nothing compared to the real world. This is where real life is."
Ian took a package from under his cloak.
"You'd better put on this Jedi cloak, Liane. If we want to leave Na'ctaMagh'Ba you must look like one of us even you aren't a padawan learner." He said.
Reluctant Liane took the Jedi cloak and put it around her shoulders. It felt strange, but not uncomfortable. She looked up at her companions and chuckled.
"I'll complete my disguise. Wait."
She unbraided her hair and used a strand of it to make a long loosehanging braid at the right side of her head. Then she braided the rest of her hair.
The two boys chuckled and patted her at her shoulder.
"You're one of us now, Liane. You're master Skywalker's padawan learner," Yarmod grinned, "What we're going to do next? I suggest we wait untill nightfall to head back to the jetty and inform the Dalmarian officer we're leaving Na'ctaMagh'Ba. We can crossed the sea straight while it's dark and find our way to Mas'onom space port before daylight returns. What do you think?"
"Sounds good to me." Ian said, "What do you think, Liane?"
"How much time is needed to reach the jetty?" Liane asked Yarmod.
"A few hours. There's only one track we have to follow. It leads straight to the small beach where the Dalmarian officials have set up a small harbor where the scientists come ashore."
"Do they keep track of the persons who are setting foot on Na'ctaMagh'Ba?" Liane asked, "I mean, Yarmod, you came here with Wedge Antilles, but it's the three of us that are leaving including our two droid friends."
"Don't worry about that. We can convince the guard you have entered the hidden path earlier too." Yarmod answered.
"You want to use the Force to convince the guard. I don't like the use of Jedi mind control, guys."
"I promise I will only use our Force strength if it's really necessary. I don't expect any problems, Liane. The Dalmarians are very cooperative. They respect the Jedi."
"Alright. I agree with your plan, Yarmod. I will have a better disguise when it's dark."
"Put the hood of the cloak over your head, Liane. We will do the same, so we will look all equal," Ian said, "We're still around to protect you."
Liane looked up at him and met his friendly and compassionate brown eyes. She put her hand on the sleeve of his cassock.
"You're both fine friends. Shall we use our time to look around a bit. It's so great to be out in the open again. We activate Threepio to help us and Artoo can scan the area to see if there are any dangers."
She looked up to the two high rising mountains on either side. Yarmod sensed her longing to climb one of them to see what's on the other side.
"Liane, the Jedi are only allowed to use this path, but it's prohibited for us too to set foot on the inlands of Na'ctaMagh'Ba."
"That's a pity. I would love to cast a look on the valley with the lakes," Liane sighed, "but I'll won't violate the rules."
She beckoned Artoo to join them and activated Threepio's main switch. The golden droid acted a bit confused when he noticed he was outside the cave.
"Mistress Liane, you shouldn't deactivate me again. I want to know what's happening and give me opinion about your actions."
"I deactivate you for your own good, Threepio. The attack in the cave distracted your nerve circuits."
"Are we out of trouble, mistress Liane?" The droid asked.
"So far, yes, but it isn't over yet," Liane responded, "Come on, Threepio, we're going for a short walk to pass the time before we're going to Mas'onom space port and head for Tatooine."