ou must return to Irithim immediately, Your Highness," Ma'duf'fey said, "This is a very serious matter. I could never expect that the Supreme Chancellor's safe haven could be under attack. Do you have any idea what has become of her protégée?"
They were sitting in the luxurious appartment of the governor of Dalmaran. The captain of the submersile had informed Ma'duf'fey. The governor had invited Leia at his private resort and she had kept her promise she would accept his invitation to have a short break with some refreshments.
"Governor, I promised Mon Mothma to report back to her, as soon as I would have come back to Vor'izon." Leia said politely, "She has to know what happened as soon as possible."
"Yes, yes, Your Highness," the Dalmarian governor said, while wringing his hand nervously.
"Can I make use of your communication system, governor?" Leia asked.
She reached out to the Force and surrounded the nervous Dalmarian leader with a soothing influence of her ally. The governor relaxed a bit, but Leia could still feel his shame. She knew Dalmarians often had a hard time if they've gotten involved in difficult situation they couldn't control.
"Governor, captain To'lo'imon has captured those intruders. It's a good thing that he could arrest them for threspassing the strict order regarding Na'ctaMagh'Ba."
"We will do a thorough investigation, Your Highness. This shouldn't have happened. The Supreme Chancellor's protégée should have been well protected and safe, that's what I promised the Supreme Chancellor."
"She has always express to me that she felt safe. She has enjoyed her stay in those cavern very much. I'm sure she is grateful to you, because you and the other members of your council have enable the possibility to build the Supreme Chancellor's safe haven. However, she also has made the decision to leave. I don't know the reason for her decision."
"Could it be, Your Highness, that she had become afraid, because her safe accomodation was under attack, because she no longer felt safe." Ma'duf'fey commented.
Leia laughed and shook her head.
"No, governor, as far as I know her, the attack didn't frighten her that much. It's obvious to me that my younger foster-sister had already been planning to leave the accomodation for some time. The only thing she needed was a good reason to leave, and she used the attack as a reason to leave. She must have convinced her two protectors to go with her. One of them knew that my brother's space ship was still waiting on Mas'onom."
"Your Highness, I've checked our security records, but I didn't find any recording of a granted permission for two of your men. How did they get access to the prohibited continent? The only humans who have a permanent permission are the scientist and ... " The governor stopped.
" ... Jedi Knights. Is that what you wanted to say? Her protectors are two Jedi Knights, or almost. They have left Na'ctaMagh'Ba via the hidden path which is only known to the Jedi." Leia said.
"If her protectors are Jedi Knights, why haven't they objected against her plans?" Ma'duf'fey asked.
"That's a good question, governor. I don't know, but my foster-sister can be very determined and convincing. She once was the commander of a large amount of tough fighters; she is a fierce fighter herself."
Like Fern'all To'lo'imon governor Ma'duf'fey started to laugh.
"It's better if I shouldn't worry about the Supreme Chancellor protégée, Your Highness. If I have listened well, she knows how to make decisions. Thank you for telling me this. I'm reassured that no harm will be done to her. Shall we go to the communication center. I will inform them to set up a procon connection with Irithim, so it will be safe for you to inform the Supreme Chancellor what has happened." Ma'duf'fey said.
They rose and Ma'duf'fey offered Leia his arm. While on their way they talked about some more trivial matters. Leia mentioned her marriage and accepted the invitation of the Dalmarian governor to visit him again with Han and Chewbacca. She carefully avoided the problems they were facing in the Palomintar System.
Han opened his eyes when Chewbacca pushed his shoulder.
"What's the matter, Chewie?" He asked and stretched.
Chewbacca pointed at the console which held a map of their surrounding.
"Hey, pal, what's the Basilisaea doing? She is entering the Palomintar System at sublight velocity."
Chewbacca grunted a long comment. Han shook his head.
"No, I don't think, they have seen us. Look they are heading in the opposite direction. Where is she going to? Let's plot a line along their trajectory."
Han pressed several buttons and a red line showed the possible direction of the Basilisaea. With raised eyebrows Han watched the moving dot.
"They are heading for Palomintar Six? What are they expecting to find there? Hey, wait a minute, could it be that someone has given them information about Ian."
He started to laugh.
"Very well, Chewie, we've got a great opportunity to reach Palomintar Four unnoticed. Forget about our plan to jump from planet to planet and set course to Palomintar Four. I'll feed the navi-computer with the coordinates of our last rendez-vous point.
Chewbacca let out a roaring growl, indicating that he too was laughing. He started the ion-engine of the Falcon again and slowly the space ship turned and started heading for Palomintar Four. Han checked the coordinates of Palomintar Four again and activated the navi-computer.
"Jump to lightspeed, Chewie. We will reached Palomintar Four in four hours," Han grinned and flipped the hyperspace lever.
On Palomintar Four Luke laid down on his couch and closed his eyes. Slowly he started to breath in and out until he clearly felt how his breathing slowed down. He surrendered to the Force and slipped into Jedi hibernation. His breathing almost stopped and his heart beat slowed down to an almost not noticeable level. Just before he completely became unconscious he thought he heard the voice of Liane.
"Impos .. " he wanted to say in response, but his thoughts now became blurred and he was no longer aware of his surroundings.
The hours passed and the body of the young Jedi stiffened as his body temperature followed his slowed breathing and the new rhythm of his heart beat. Luke didn't notice anything any longer. He laid in an unconscious state which would last at least for a week, maybe longer.
Under his Jedi tunic he wore a fiber foil jacket filled with a nutri-liquid. The liquid would very slowly be absorbed through his skin and nurture his inner organs which needed no more than a fraction of their normal metabolism. He had thoroughly tested the fiber jacket for more than three weeks. He hadn't eaten nor taken any liquid and to his surprise his energy level hadn't faltered. He had done his normal chores among Cornell and his men and hadn't felt weak or dizzy.
The thick heavy cloth at the entrance of the alcove moved as Chati slipped in. She carefully avoided too much movement of the cloth. On tiptoe she neared the couch with the body of Luke Skywalker. She held the tiny light above the Jedi's face and looked at the closed eyes and the ashen-grey color of his cheeks. She switched off the tiny light and concentrate on her own thoughts. As Luke had taught her she had to visualize Luke's face and body as it was laying on the couch in her mind. Chati took a deep breath and seated herself on the floor of the alcove near Luke's head. She shivered and felt unsure.
"Concentrate on your breathing, Chati," She said in her mind, "Breath in, and out. Notice the rise and fall of your chest. Don't interfere with the movement, just breath in and out. Luke is doing the same at the moment, but on a much lower level. Listen to his breathing, listen to his heart beat. You're able to use the Force to notice them."
She stretched out her hand and placed it over Luke's face pressing her fingers against the temples and all of a sudden she became aware of a very faint whiff of air along the inside of her wrist. Was this Luke's breathing? For moments she sat motionless, wondering if she indeed had felt the Jedi's breathing. After, what seemed an eternity, Chati again felt the soft whiff of air, and now she also became aware of a very slow rhythm of regular beating. Chati started to count the beats and noticed that she as she had felt a beat she had to wait for almost ten seconds before he felt the next one. Luke's breathing and heart beat worked slowly, but very regularly. He was still alive.
Relieved Chati ignited the tiny lamp and held it high above Luke's chest. She still held her fingers against Luke's temples. Tense she listened to the slow rhythm of the heart beat and when she felt the whiff of air, she noticed a slight, almost undetectable raise of Luke's chest.
Slowly Chati took away her fingers and exhaled. Once again she had been able to perform a task Luke had entrusted her with. She took the tiny lamp with her as he stealthily left the alcove and slipped to her place among the harvesters.
Liane stood in the small alcove and looked intently at the stones of the arch that marked the entrance. Artoo stood next to her and hooted a series of binary language. Liane listen and started to laugh.
"I think I know how Luke and Leia know what you're saying, Artoo. Those different bleeps can be translate into the binary language I saw on the display, but if I learn to listen attentively I don't need to read the display."
Artoo wobbled on his stubby legs, as if he wanted to agree with her words.
"We have to find the stone Ben mentioned. Can you help me as I push these stones one by one. Ben said I need to find a stone that can be taken out, but he didn't say which one it was. Let's find out, Artoo. I'll take the stones on the left side. Can you check the ones on the right side."
Liane pushed against the rectangular blocks one by one, but none of them moved. Artoo used one of this utensils. He knocked on the blocks and listened. After the fourth block he let up a triumphant bleep. Liane looked at her companion and saw how the little droid removed a small stone near the alcove floor.
"Great, Artoo, you've found it. Now let's see if we can find that lever I have to pull as Ben said."
Artoo had already reached inside the small hole with one of his mechanical claws. Liane heard a soft sound when the droid's mechanical hand touch a metal object. Artoo locked on the object and move backwards.
A loud noise was heard like stones that were grinding against each other. Liane turned around, looking at the rear wall of the alcove. She put her hands to her mouth in amazement as the wall slid slowly aside. Behind the hidden door a dark grotto became visible.
"Wow, Artoo, excellent. This must be the space Ben mentioned. You've listened well, thank you. With your help it's been quite easy to find the right stone. Now, let's see what's inside this dark space. I'll get a lamp. Wait here, I'll be right back."
She walked back and went over to the workplace alcove. On one of the shelves she found a ion-lamp. She ignited it and a wide beam of light enlightened the alcove and a large part of the living cave. Quickly she went back to the alcove, where Artoo had already vanished into the dark grotto.
"Artoo, what are you doing? Be carefull. Wait, I'll ignite this lamp." Liane said and walked over to the dark entrance. She heard the muffled bleeps of the astromech droid which seemed to have disappeared along a kind of corridor.
Cautiously Liane held the ion-light in along the walls of the grotto. She saw indeed a dark path that went further inside the mountain. She wanted to step inside, but hesitated a moment, than she went back to the living and lifted a low solid stool. She carried the stool inside her alcove and blocked the hidden door of the grotto. Then she followed Artoo inside the corridor.
"Artoo, where are you?" She called.
Immediately the droid answered. Liane sighed relieved. Carefully she walked on. The path was dry and smooth as were the walls of the corridor. It was all definitely made on purpose. The corridor made a bent and Liane bumped into Artoo who stood waiting in another carved out space. Liane held the ion-lamp above her head to inspect the new space. The room was cramped and was furnished with a chair and a table. On the table Liane saw some writing utensils and a stack of paper. Everything was covered with a slight layer of fine sand. She looked around, but she didn't touch anything. Several questions whirled up in her mind. This must be the place Ben had mentioned. He had told her to look for a hidden room. Why was it hidden? Didn't Ben want anyone to know what he had been doing here? Curiously she sat down on the chair and turned to Artoo.
"This is an odd place. It's dry and cool, but it feels very comfortable. What do you think, Artoo."
The little droid beeped in agreement.
Liane put the ion-lamp on the table near the wall. Now she could see the whole space. She started looking for clues about the use of it. In one of the drawers she found an infocom. She took it out and pressed the power switch. To her amazement the device activate and the soft voice of Ben started to speak.
"Luke has had an accident with his T-16 skyhopper. He and his friend Biggs were racing in Beggar's Canyon when the side fin of Luke's space craft hit the wall of canyon. The craft started spinning, but the boy used his inherited skills and kept aloft. He managed to land the craft without being hurt. I wanted to go over to the two friends, but unexpectedly Owen Lars turned up. He scolded Luke and ordered him to get back to the farm and get a speeder to transport the ruined space craft. I stayed out of sight, thinking about how I could find a way to talk to Luke. Owen Lars is protecting the boy forcefully. Why can't this man see the great potential of the boy? Last time I tried to talk to Luke Owen threatened me, telling he would shoot at me if I would try again. It's so difficult to remain patient and take care of Luke from the sideline. It's been a long time here and still I haven't got an opportunity to work out a good plan. I wonder if the Force will show me the right moment to tell Luke about his destiny."
The message stopped abruptly, but Liane concluded that Ben had recorded this message during his stay on Tatooine while he had been watching over Luke.
Artoo bleeped and Liane turned to him.
"You've never heard this story, haven't you, Artoo?" She asked, then she shook her head.
"Of course, you haven't. You served on that space ship with Leia, but it must have been around the same time. So this is probably Ben's last note about Luke."
Liane started looking around more seriously. The ion-lamp cast its light in every corner of the small room. Except for the table and the chair there was no other furniture, so probably Ben had been using this room to sit here, ponder and think, maybe he did some Force meditation here. But why had this space been hidden behind a secret wall? Ben had lived alone. He could have been doing his meditations in the center cave. Did he want to hide for some one? Had he been afraid of the moisture farmers who saw him as a wizard, a weirdo, a kind of hermit. Could Ben have recorded more on Luke, growing up at the farm of his uncle. Where are those recordings. She scrolled through the memory bank of the infocom, but there was any other message. Her eyes carefully searched every spot of the space and suddenly she saw a metal box at the left side of the table. It was hidden half under the table and stood in the shadow. She had nearly overlooked it. She pushed the chair aside and grabbed one side of the box.
"Can you give me hand, Artoo. I want to look at this box."
Together they managed to pull the box in front, so it could be lifted. Before she put it on the table, Liane carefully put the infocom back in the drawer. The lid of the box wasn't locked, but Liane felt some reluctance as she lifted it. Inside the trunk were two other small metal boxes. On the lids Liane read a few words in Jediese: 'My life in exile' and 'For Luke'. Between the boxes lay a leather pouch. Liane took out the pouch and opened the strings. She spread the leather cover on one of the boxes and looked amazed at the content. On the leather cover lay a Jedi holocron, a small square orange cube. This was a great find. This holocron probably held Ben's recordings of his knowledge. Luke would be delighted. Luke! Was he alright ... stop, Liane. Luke's a Jedi Knight. Stop worrying about him. Remember what you answered Trevor when he stood next to you looking at Luke on that burial pyre: "He is alive, Trevor, you're lying to me, like you've been lying to me on Morantan."
She wanted to take the holocron in her hand, when a bluish light appeared behind her.
'You'd better put this holocron back in its cover, Liane. You don't need it, as you have found my former message to Luke. I recorded this holocron during my watch on Tatooine while Luke grew up with his uncle and aunt. It contains the story of my own life and of Luke's youth as far as I was able to witness it. In two boxes are datapads with the orginal recordings of both stories in Standard Basic,' The apparition of Ben Kenobi said quietly.
"Why did you write them down too, Ben?" Liane asked curiously.
The old Jedi laughed.
'It's the other way round, Liane. I first wrote both stories and later I decided I would record everything in a holocron too.'
"Because you weren't sure if those recordings would survive, the holocron would certainly have. And because only a Jedi Knight recognizes a holocron so your recordings would be safe, until Luke would have become a Jedi Knight and would know how to retrieve the recordings."
'Or when a curious young woman by the name of Liane Solichor would intercept an old recording in an astromech droid.'Ben said with a pleasant laugh.
Liane's cheeks colored and averted her eyes for a moment. Ben watched her closely. Was she really strong enough to know the truth? Could he rely on her strength?
'Liane, I've asked you to tell Ian the truth about his birth. I want you to tell him that he is my son. I also said you need more information to fulfill my wish. That is why I told you how to find this hidden cave. I knew you would find the metal box. I knew you would recognize the orange cube as a Jedi holocron. The only thing you need to do now is read the story of my life in exile which starts at the moment I had to flee Coruscant to save my life and fulfill the promise to protect Luke. Please, Liane, read it and afterwards I will be there to answer any questions you have.'
Liane heard a begging tone in the old Jedi's voice. It felt as if the old man would burst out in tears, feeling ashamed about all the mistakes he had made. She felt the sadness of Ben's words in her heart.
"I will read your story, Ben?" She asked on a whispering tone, "And I will carry out the task you've asked me, although it isn't an easy one. You have my word."
'I can only hope, Liane, that after you have read those line, you'll find the strength to tell my son the truth.' Ben said and his apparition disappeared.
Liane looked at Artoo who stood softly humming next to her.
"It breaks my heart to feel his sadness, Artoo. He did, what he felt was right, when he brought Ian to safety. What's he blaming himself for? Well I'd better start reading. Will you help me to get this box to main living and close this room again."
Artoo whistled an affirmative. He extended a pair of utensils and clamped them around the trunk. Liane took the other side and together they brought it to the main living. Liane sat down on the couch and pulled out the datapad out with Ben's recordings about his life in exile.
The Millennium Falcon slowly descended to the surface of Palomintar Four. The landing claws extended and the space ship made a soft landing. Han looked at his co-pilot, looked through the windscreens of the Falcon and nodded in agreement.
"We can switch off our cloaking protection, Chewie. We're on the right spot. Let's see if we can find those harvesters and what's more if we can find Luke and ask him for an update."
The Wookiee grunted a sentence.
"You're right, pal, I'll get out and you stay here and cloak the Falcon again. We must be aware of spying eyes. Get the ramp down. We'll use our special infocoms to keep in touch."
Han walked over to the ramp and left the Falcon. Immediately after he had set foot on Palomintar Four his vessel vanished. Han grinned approvingly. Then he turned around and started walking to the cave entrance where he had dropped off his brother-in-law and the Quelan harvesters. It took him a few minutes to check his surroundings, but when he recognized some large boulders and huge bushes and set course in their direction. Behind those bushes he saw the winding path to the dark cave entrance. For a moment he turned around and looked at the spot where he knew the Falcon must be. The ship was invisible as if it had disappeared completely. Han followed the path among the bushes and entered the cave. It was dark inside and he had to ignite his flashlight. The cave was empty, but in a far corner Han saw the crates and boxes the harvesters had taken with them.
"They are still here somewhere," He said to himself and took a few steps further inside the cave. His eyes now had become adapted to the dark surroundings and he saw more signs of habitation. Slowly he walked around until he saw the pit with the hanging ropes that lead to a deeper level. He sat down and called.
"Anybody down there?"
Almost immediately the grey-green bold head of Cornell looked up at him.
"General Solo!" The Quelan called out, "Nice to have you back with us. Wait, I'll come up."
Quickly he climbed up along one of the ropes. He shook hands with Han.
"Any good news, general. Will we get more help?"
"Help is on it's way, Cornell, not as much as we want, but at least one of our star cruisers is coming this way."
"Great. Where is your assistant, the Wookiee? Did you bring the lady with you?"
"Chewbacca is attending the Falcon and my wife will join us soon. Where is master Skywalker?"
"He doing investigations in the dry riverbed. This morning he left and told us that he would be away for at least a week, because he was loosing too much time travelling back and forth to our base camp. So far they have investigated a long stretch of the underground riverbed. I think that they will reach the other end, where it's surfaces again, soon."
"Can you show me?" Han asked hiding his disappointment.
"We have to get down again. Do you intend to go in and look for master Skywalker?"
"You just said they are doing investigations; what do you mean?"
"Oh, yes, you don't know yet, general Solo, but Toallin's son Tomal has secretly come with us when we left Tyr. He had hidden himself in one of the storerooms of your space ship. Master Skywalker and me are keeping an eye on the boy, but this morning Tomal said he would stay with me and the others. Although I reprimanded him for his action, he is doing fine. He is doing his chores and he gets along very well with master Skywalker. Shall we get in?"
Han followed the Quelan and descended along the ropes to the lower level. Cornell ignited a ion-lamp and beckoned Han to follow him to the entrance of the former riverbed. Han did a few step inside the passageway.
"Luke!" Han called, "Luke, are you there? I..."
His voice echoed along the walls and Cornell grabbed his sleeve.
"Do not yell, general. They might hear. The sound of your voice echoes a long way through these tunnels. We still don't know if we're being watched." Cornell said startled.
A few other Quelans turned up.
"Be quiet," They hissed, "He might hear!"
Han turned around and looked at the startled Quelans.
"Sorry, folks, but I need to find my friend. I have to talk to him in private. Where is your friend Tomal? Can't he get to Luke and warn him?"
"Tomal isn't here at the moment, general. He is working near the waterfall outside. We set up an extra camp to made a new riverbed from both sides. It's too late now to get there," Cornell said, "You'd better stay with me and the others, general and have a word with Tomal tomorrow. Do you want to see our progress?"
Han gritted his teeth, and tried to remain calm.
"Yes, show me, Cornell," he said after a few moments.
Cornell and his men walked to the opposite side and disappeared into the man-made tunnel. It had reached a depth of some twenty meters. Han had to mind the low ceiling and walked with bowed head. They joined the rest of Cornell's men who were busy crumbling the hard rock on the inside of the tunnel. They were just freezing a layer of rock and Han looked astounded how the solid rock crumbled under the layer of fiber foil. Cornell proudly explained the working of the foil. Han complemented the men with their invention, but he almost started to laugh mockingly when Cornell told him they had been digging out some ten meters sofar.
"Ten meters?" He asked surprised.
"Yes, general. It's much more than we expected," Cornell said proudly, "We made some improvements and now we can crumble about half a meter a day."
Han was astounded, but remembered in time Luke's words on Tyr about the pride of these men.
"Can I give you hand?" He asked politely.
"Of course, general. We were just going to clear away these crumbled rocks. We fill these baskets, pulled them up and bring them outside the main cave, where we can empty them."
Once again Han was astounded about the primitive way Cornell and his men worked. Working this way their task would take years. Han felt relieved that in the darkness of the tunnel his face didn't show his disbelieve and disappointment. He took the shovel one of the Quelans handed him and started to fill the baskets.
"No, madam, I don't know where they have gone. Our friends were so kind to inform at Mas'onom space port. The duty officer told that they have taken my brother's space craft and left without stating their destination. I have informed Wedge Antilles to be on the look out if the Astreaga turns up in the Palomintar System. He will ask commander Vestor to cooperate with us and have the ship pulled inside the Basilisaea." Leia said, looking at the concerned image of the Supreme Chancellor.
"Could be dangerous, Leia. Please, come back to Irithim immediately. I will inform all known space ports the markings of the Astreaga. General Madine has the Tychorion ready. I'll tell him to wait for your return, so you can join him."
"Thank you, madam. I leave Vor'izon immediately. Our Dalmarian friends have done their utmost to help us," Leia said and switched off the holographic display.
She turned to governor Ma'duff'ey.
"Thank you for your kind words to the Supreme Chancellor, Your Highness. I already have ordered some member of my staff to have your submersible ready. You can leave any moment."
"Thank you, governor. It's been a great pleasure to work with you and your men," Leia said.
She rose and left the communication center of the Dalmarian government. The governor accompanied her to the quai where the submersible of the New Republic was waiting ready to go back to Irithim.
"Captain To'lo'imon will accompany you to Irithim, Your Highness. I have ordered him to use one of our secret waterlanes to get you back home faster than the standard route. He also will report to the Supreme Chancellor about what happened on Na'ctaMagh'Ba."
"That's very kind of you, governor, but how will the captain get back to Vor'izon?" Leia asked, showing her concern for the kind captain.
Ma'duff'ey's face lit up in a broad smile.
"I've granted the captain permission to stay at Irithim for a while. He is curious about the progress of the new town. He also wants to offer his service to the Supreme Chancellor. I will miss one of my best men, but it's reward for his loyality to the Dalmarian people."
"I'm sure the Supreme Chancellor will find a task for him in accordance with his rank and experience." Leia said with a formal bow.
She walked over to the submersible. To her surprise Fern'all's head emerged through the open hatch. He jumped out and helped her on board. He brought a formal salute to his governor, before he went inside the submersible, closed the hatch and started the engines.