© Rakelle Østenstad, 1998. All disclaimers apply.
This story takes place after the HTTE trilogy and disregards all later novels; all vague similarities to Zahn's SoTP/VoTF are entirely coincidental.
The title is the inspired by an (unrelated) episode of Babylon 5.

Ceremonies of Light and Dark


Chapter 1

The bulk freighter was completely surrounded by the smaller pirate vessels. The scanner data only confirmed what was plainly visible in the viewports: souped up fighters, small yachts and freighters, and hybrid ships were circling the freighter in groups of three. Their weapons systems were already disabled and tracked the attackers to no avail; now the pirates were strafing the shields. The front viewport was lit up with red and green bolts, and the starfield twisted wildly as the captain attempted to find a way out of the bee's nest. But it was too late. The ship shuddered violently, and the interior lights dimmed as the engine sound was replaced by metallic groans. Then, there was static.

The recording ended. In the silence that followed, Leia rose from her seat and adressed the assembly.
"The trader ship 'Galvena' was attacked in the Lwoslith system five hours ago," she started. "Somebody among the crew recorded the pirates' attack. Of course, these aren't necessarily part of the organized raiders, but the attack fits the pattern -and gives us a chance to evaluate the strategy."
"Looks to me like they wanted the ship -and the crew- in one piece," Han remarked. "Lots of shots across the viewports, but they weren't aimed to hit. And look at how they shaved away the shields, but didn't do any real damage to the ship. Just took out defenses and then stopped it." Han had intercepted the transmission at the Widimo Central Control. It had been a weak signal, and only powerful equipment would have picked it up.
"Dunno if it's for ransoms, or maybe they need labor, but these guys aren't just after the cargo."
Leia called up a holomap of the sector from a control panel. A pattern of white points of light marked the star systems in the sector, and a more condensed spattering of red dots, centered roughly 25 lightyears from Widimo and thinning out at the edges, marked the pirate attacks the last few months in an area that roughly matched the systems the Empire had taken during their stint with the last Sith. Using the Force, they had fought with pure mind-control and the fear they invoked, letting a small Imperial force do far more harm than expected -until their allies were destroyed.
Han glanced over the table at Luke. He and Mara had somehow tracked down the Sith and destroyed them. The kid probably had a tougher job now; trying to explain the Force to a planet of pompous technocrats who just couldn't get over the fact that it wasn't impossible to attack them.
As Threepio had reminded them on more occasions than Han cared to remember, the Widimans had always prided themselves on being selfsufficient. Over the centuries, the planet had turned into a hi-tech paradise, and although they'd never had strong ties to any of the galactic governments, they'd always welcomed outsiders. Until now, at least. Han thanked the stars they'd left the kids behind with Chewie and Winter.
Leia spoke up as the latest attack was added to the map, a brighter red point on the Widiman side of the red cloud. "I don't think ransoms are the reason; they have taken hundreds of people, and feeding that many just to get some extra money cannot be their motivation. Workers, however... they get a lot of good navigators, mechanics, merchants... and their wares and vessels."
"If that is what they're after," Luke interjected. "Second guessing too much can be dangerous."
"But we gotta start somewhere," Han added.
"The raids are getting closer to Widimo, correct?" the Widiman representative interrupted.
"Yeah, but don't worry, they're still only taking others," Han replied. Leia glared at him, but the Widiman didn't seem to have taken offense.
"We must protect our world. We cannot be disgraced by outsiders again," he said. "The New Republic offered assistance with the rebuilding. Why cannot you keep these pirates at bay?"
"We will aid you in any way we can, but we cannot do the impossible. And if we could have had the assistance of Widiman technology..." Leia started.
"A few Sith managed to take our planet," he interrupted her. "I see two thirds of the Jedi order in this room. Do you claim you cannot set this straight?"
Tempers were begining to flare around the table. Leia's expression remained calm, but Han could tell it was only skin deep.
"The Force is not a mere magic tool we can do miracles with," Luke said. "Abusing it the way the Sith did is not the correct way to solve anything."
The Widiman looked at him. "You were the one who killed them, and we are of course grateful. But it must not happen again."
Han rolled his eyes at Leia. Couldn't the Empire have taken this guy with them?

The meeting was finally over. Luke gathered his things and watched Leia leave for a meeting with the Widiman High Council. Helping the Widimans was fine, but they weren't supposed to do everything for them, were they? Besides, their attitude wasn't helping either. With all these army-style attacks in their sector just after the siege, they should've been jumping at the Republic emissaries for assistance; instead, they were stalling. Sure, they wanted help -demanded it actually- but they completely refused to contribute anything. The Republic entourage was allowed only one fighter squadron as backup, and their access to info about, well, everything was severely limited. And ever since they arrived, Han had talked about the Widimans growing more and more hostile. Well, they weren't exactly hiding it. A blind womprat could tell.
He finally exited the Palace of Widim and headed towards their quarters. He'd seen structures like this on other worlds, but none had housed several research facilities, Central Communications Control and even Main Defense Control as well as the government and council chambers. The largest single structure was the High Chamber. Connected to all the other facilities by walkways and corridors, it was literally the heart of the Palace; and in the midday sunlight, from street level, it did look somewhat like a castle from old children's stories.
The streets radiating out from the Palace were as usual crowded with humans of all shapes and sizes. As usual, there were also no aliens to be seen, not even of the more humanoid species. A small crowd was gathering at an intersection, where some representatives of the Fellowship were holding their usual street rally. Luke unconsciously increased his pace as he passed the banners with slogans like "End the submission", "Trust noone", and "It's us or them", only barely catching the glance one of the ralliers shot him. Hate and distrust.
"We must rely on ourselves," the rallier said in an even louder voice. "We mustn't be taken in by the tricks and magic games of outsiders. They will not get us again if we stand together against their evil ways!" The crowd cheered wildly, and several moved cautiously away from Luke's path, eyeing him. A few weeks ago, these same people had been terrified of the Sith. And before that, they hadn't been worried about anyone. This movement and their isolation agenda could well be part of their problem, Luke thought. Only question was, was its success a result of the general hostility and xenophobia, or a cause? He didn't know.
"Hey, slow down, kid!" Han called out behind him. "Cute bunch, aren't they?"
"Yeah, and they really love us." Luke shook his head. "Didn't feel like a government meeting?"
"Hey, Threepio was going to be there," Han smirked. Luke laughed.
"Well, they never much cared for outsiders here, and with first the Imps and now these raiders, I can't blame them." Han shrugged slightly. "Still, it's real convenient for this Fellowship, ain't it? Talk about being in the right place at the right time..."
"And coming out of nowhere too," Luke said. "I had Artoo check the public records, and there's no trace of them until after the siege. Something's not right about this, and I don't just mean what they stand for."
"This some kind of fancy Jedi insight?"
"No, just a plain old gut feeling."
Han grinned. "At least we're not the only ones with our hands full. Imagine the trouble Karrde must have holding his smugglers -no, wait, Traders- together in his sector. At least, our people don't vanish..." Han started, then he noticed the glum look on Luke's face.
"I'm sorry, kid." He paused. "But Mara's with Karrde, right? I'm sure she's ok..."
Luke turned to face him. "I'm not."


Chapter 2

Tyr Arrig stood at the viewport as the small convoy docked. Half a dozen of his ships surrounded yet another captured freighter: the 'Galvena', with a cargo of electronic components and a crew of ten humans and half a dozen or so aliens. Not bad. It just went to show what a good information network could do for business; a gem like this would be too easy to miss by using the crude, random and predictable strategy of common space pirates.
Not that his mission had much in common with them, of course. He turned around in a swirl of black cloak and beckoned to an aide with a raised hand.
"Creatures in section F, people in section A. Treat them well."
"Yes, Lord Arrig." The aide bowed deeply and left. Tyr Arrig smiled inwardly. After so many years without recognition of his abilities, it pleased him to get the respect and reverence he deserved. He grasped the black fabric of his cloak and scrutinized it. By wearing this, he was mimicking the garb of his masters. His dead masters. They had seen his worth when he had been assigned to aid them. In return for loyalty and obedience, they would help him fulfil his potential. He had always been fascinated by tales of Darth Vader and the Dark Side, and he had always felt there was something there for him. And with his Sith masters, he would have had it all; if not for the Jedi. He frowned. How could the Jedi have bested his masters on their own ground? Deceit and treachery, as usual. There was no other explanation. Oh, he'd make them pay. Somehow. There were more ways to honor his masters than merely taking on their appearance; and even if it would take longer without them, he would make sure their legacy would be remembered.

The crew was split up, and its human members were led through a large hall filled with people. A few were working, repairing and making some technical gadgets, others were talking in small groups -all humans. Their captors led them in silence across the hall to a corridor, where several doorways could be seen. Nobody spoke as they were led to one of the rooms and locked inside.
"Well, it could have been worse," the navigator remarked in a mock cheery voice. The room had no windows or viewports, and there were no decorations, lockers, utensils or anything else that might be used as tools to escape, but there were several bunks and soft pillows, and a table -welded to the floor- with some soft plastic dishes containing food. He turned towards one of the others, a young woman who had settled herself on one of the bunks.
"Mara-" he started, but an icy glare from her stopped him short.
"Celina," she corrected him. "The ID they got says Celina Marniss, right?" Her real ID and certain other identifiable objects -like a lightsaber- were hidden somewhere in the 'Galvena'; she didn't see any reason to advertise her identity unless it became really necessary.
"Sorry -Celina," he muttered, embarrassed at his glitch. "Could you make anything of this place?"
"Well, looks like we're still on a ship. Not one of the very largest, but still large.
"It could be a space station, couldn't it?"
"No, looks more like a Dreadnaught, Old Republic style. Not too Imperial."
"So someone with a lot of money is behind this..."
"Or with connections."
"I wonder where they took Frei and the rest," one of them mused.
"Yeah, why were we separated like that? There's only humans in this part of the ship. Kinda creepy, ain't it?"
Mara settled back on the bench and closed her eyes. The separation puzzled her as much as the rest, but there wasn't much point in trying to find out anything before she knew more about her own situation. True, the general impression wasn't too Imperial, but the raiders seemed too well drilled to be ordinairy pirates. And what about the other humans she'd seen in the hall? They might have been ordinairy employees, if not for the guards posted along the walls.
She sighed. Jedi or Trader Alliance liaison, she seemed to get in trouble no matter what part she played. And to think she'd only taken this assignment as a favor to Karrde... he owed her a grand dinner when she got out of this. Or, if she got out of this. For a moment, her thoughts wandered to Luke. He'd worry about her. Some times she thought he didn't do anything except fret over her well-being, and he'd been concerned from the moment he heard she would be working in this sector too. And -this was no way to stay focused, she told herself. Forcing herself to not think about him, she let her mind wander down other, more meditative paths, ignoring the ongoing discussion around her.

Luke shut off the comm unit with a sigh.
"Nothing new, huh?" Han asked.
Luke shook his head. "Karrde hasn't heard from her since last week, she was going to K'dosn and should have been there days ago."
"At the very least... she can take care of herself," Han mumbled. Even though he wasn't exactly sure what Luke and Mara meant to each other, the kid was pretty wound up with her gone. Hell, he wouldn't want her missing either.
Luke nodded distractedly at Han and walked across the room to Artoo and Threepio. "Find anything?"
Despite Threepio's protests about breach of protocol and bad manners, they'd set the droids to search any non-public source they could access for more information about the Fellowship. Artoo had, as expected, seen it as a challenge; but now he bleeped somewhat dejectedly.
"I'm sorry, Master Luke, but the Fellowship's records Artoo managed to obtain are quite large and heavily encrypted, so there are still quite a few left," Threepio translated.
"Well, they're not all important either," Han quipped. "Like the kitchen schedules you pulled out yesterday?"
Threepio looked insulted. "That was-"
"Quiet, you two... look at this." Luke pointed at some data on the screen.
"Their budget. Donations, sales incomes, and other contributions make a fortune, but they don't use a tenth of it." Artoo whistled, then pulled a new file up on the screen.
"Looks to me like some offworlders are running this scheme and taking the profit. I kinda like the irony," Han smirked. "Anything else about that there?"
"No."
"Well, computers ain't everything. C'mon, kid." Han headed for the door.
"Where?"
"Got a pal I want to visit."

The bar was quite amiable -compared to the places they normally met Han's 'pals', at least. Less smoke, the band was just loud enough to mask a quiet conversation, and the drinks weren't too bad; while a spill might do a good job of cleaning the floor, it wouldn't make a hole in it.
"I can't help you. Someone might hear..." Han's friend, Dunam, was so much less friendly and amiable. "Hey, you can trust me, right? There's no way something like the Fellowship could be set up without you knowing anything. And," Han looked at him, "that look on your face tells me you do know. How bad is it?"
"You don't understand... they have people everywhere... if I talk and they get me..."
"Look, you don't want these guys hanging around here, do ya?" He shook his head hesitantly.
"See, if you can help us out, me might be able to help you out in return."
Luke interrupted them. "Somebody's coming."
Dunam turned pale and looked towards the door. "See? They'll get me now, they don't care if I told you what I know..."
"Seems like you got two choices, buddy, " Han said. "Come with us -or go with them."
He sighed unhappily. "Ok, ok, I'll come."

They quickly got up and headed out a backdoor just as a group of grenclad men -security?- entered the bar.
"I think they saw us," Luke exclaimed as they stepped out into a dark alley.
"Which way?" Han asked. Luke pointed. "They'll be coming up from the law office the other way." They ran past several locked doorways, muddy water splashing around their feet and echoing down the narrow street behind them.
"They'll hear us!" Han exlaimed. "Can't you slow them down or something?"
"Well, if you want me to stop, fight them off with my lightsaber, and give them a real reason to dislike us offworlders, sure!"
Suddenly, the path in front of them forked. Luke halted. "Get in here -and don't move!" he whispered to Han and Dunam as he pointed towards the left opening, which was smaller and darker than the right.
"But-"
"Quiet!!" They could hear footsteps running up the street, not too far behind.
"They'll get me now," Dunam whimpered. Han covered his mouth with a hand and dragged him further back into the shadows. Luke stayed closer to the entrance. Dunam's eyes widened in surprise as the sound of splashing footsteps echoed through the street and faded away, as if someone was running past them. A few seconds later, their pursuers came up the street and passed them, following the sound. Dunam stared at Luke.
"They think we continued down that alley. Now, if we move quietly, we should get away this way," Luke explained.
Silently, they moved down the passage and headed for their headquarters in the Palace.


Chapter 3

They were assembled in the hall with the other humans. Things seemed more peaceful than Mara would have expected. People were talking in quiet groups, never crowding, and some were performing small chores, just like the day they'd arrived. Apparently the guards stayed out of the prisoner's doings... she looked around.
Him. And that one over there.
They were pretty good at it, but she could tell they weren't really prisoners. Seemingly walking from group to group in an innocent manner, they were keeping the groups from getting too large, leading the conversations towards 'safer' topics, and generally subduing all tendencies towards trouble without anybody noticing. Well, except her.
A hush fell over the crowd. She turned to see what had caught everyone's attention and saw a cloaked man, followed by guards, standing on a catwalk. There was something menacing about him... and something familiar, too.
He started to speak, and he got the crowd's full attention. It was conqueror's talk about how they should be grateful for being there, they could be part of a greater cause, and there could be rewards for them -and they were listening.
"Our time will soon come. Our forces grow every day, and soon, our goal will be obtainable. We will rid a world of the evil and distrusted, and rebuild its society in truth!"
The only thing more incredulous than the speech was the fact that the crowd hung on every word he said. Amazing; you'd never think this guy held them captives and had taken their ships and cargoes.
Tentatively, she reached out with the Force. Maybe... no. He had the talent for speeches, the fanaticism, and certainly the charisma, but he did not have the Force.
Still, there was something else about him too; an unnaturally strong and dark determination, deep down, overriding even his own will. In fact, the Sith they had encountered on Siqith had given her the same feeling; and now that she recognized the feeling, so had the Emperor.
"And there will be no more lies! No more hoaxes! No more governments stripping you of everything! No more phoney religions lying to your faces! We will rely on ourselves and not what those sorcerors say! And do you know who are the worst of all?" They didn't.
"They tell you they're pure. They tell you they're good. The truth is that they are killers..."
The image of an Imperial officer kneeling in front of the Dark Jedi on Siqith flashed through her mind. It was him, she realized. The Sith must have given him some training, even without him having the talent.
He had paused for effect, but Mara knew what he'd say next.
"The Jedi."

Sunlight poured into the small chamber through a multicolored glass window, giving the room an impression of warmth. Leia wondered briefly why she'd even noticed the pleasant touch the light gave, then decided to just accept it as a bright spot in a day that didn't seem to have many others.
She turned towards the committee again.
"Widimo did not sustain as much damage as some other systems in this area, and certainly not as much as systems seized by most other tactics. The real problem isn't the material damage; it's the emotional damage on the people and the tension the pirate raids in the area are causing."
Prime Minister Gedum snorted. "We are in no way incapacitated by this incident, and it is your duty to see to that it doesn't happen again!"
"The New Republic is not master of the galaxy. We can't command you to do anything against your will, and we can't force you to take any measures."
"But we can't help you unless you want the help," Han chimed in.
"And pray tell, what guarantee do we have that your 'help' will stop the pirates or prevent us from being attacked again? For that matter, nothing we have seen indicates that outsiders are to be trusted. In fact-"
Han interrupted him. "In fact, who says we don't want to take over Widimo ourselves, or that the Councilor isn't using her dangerous Jedi powers to subdue you all? Or that Skywalker won't turn the pirates loose on you?"
Leia stopped him with a glance. "We can't guarantee that you will never be attacked again. Nor that we can make the pirates disappear at our whim, and we certainly can't make you trust us."
She paused. "What we can do is what we have done: we can offer the assistance of the Republic. We can use our resources to stay in touch with the other raided systems in ways even you cannot, and eventually track down the pirates. And Jedi Skywalker can explain why five men could break through your defences with their willpower and possibly find some countermeasures should it ever happen again. If there was anything more we could do, we would. All that stands in the way is your wish to accept our assistance -and let us use onplanet resources for your own benefit." She nodded to Threepio, who made his way to her with a datapad and solenmly placed it on the table in front of her.
"Your main grounds for refusing most of our assistance is that we are not Widimans. Yet, your own government is cooperating with a political movement known as the Fellowship." She looked at the Prime Minister and the Fellowship pin on his official uniform.
"This movement was unknown here before the Imperial siege, yet you were quick to embrace it. Its opinions strengthen your prejudice and fear of outsiders -and you ignore the fact that it was started and is still run by outsiders." Whispered discussions filled the room.
"Your government is paying large sums and freely giving information you deny us for "security purposes" to a movement that has offered no concrete solutions, only strengthened your fears; at the same time you refuse our help. Do you also know that the Fellowship is sending its money and information to its real headquarters -off this planet?"
A gasp went through the Widiman part of the committee.
"Of course, I might be tricking you. I might fabricate this material to make you distrust them. The Fellowship would teach that, wouldn't it?"
Silence.
"It isn't forged. You can hand it to your staff, and they will verify that it even orignated on Widimo. But you know it is real already, don't you?" Prime Minister Gedum fingered the pin nervously.
"You speak well, Councilor Organa Solo. And there is much truth in what you say. But we cannot decide such matters easily or behind the backs of our people." He raised his voice. "Therefore, in a week, the High Council of Widim will meet and discuss our world's ties to the New Republic. We will decide, in a Grand Assembly, whether the ties are to be strengthened -or broken."

He left the hall in style, visibly pleased with the night's meeting. Mara could sense his emotions from across the hall as she entered with the rest of the cleaning staff she'd "volunteered" to join. Apparently, the galaxy would soon be at his feet, but even though she had trouble seeing him getting quite that far, she knew a man like him could cause enough damage if he wasn't stopped. She walked towards a bulkhead on the rear wall as he approached, so lost in his thoughts of greatness that he almost collided with her.
"My apologies, Lord Arrig." She bowed deeply in an expression of humbleness -and also to prevent him from seeing her face properly.

Tyr Arrig scowled briefly at the girl who had obstructed him, but decided to dismiss her. After all, trust and devotion was not created easily, but to destroy it... His loyal, devoted followers were so much easier to handle than the merchants, who would have to be led gently. He left the room without ever noticing how the girl carefully pried a small recording device from the bulkhead.

Messages were waiting for him, as usual. His mission, despite its uniqueness and importance, was still formally in the hands of the higher-ranking officers, a fact that never ceased to annoy him. But if they insisted on Imperial bureaucracy and protocol, he would humor them. At least for a while.
The progress reports were promising. They'd taken more ships than expected; despite the sinking traffic rates, there were always some who were brave or desperate enough to want the money. He opened the message from Pellaeon and cast a cursory glance at the contents, them froze in disbelief. He stared at the message, not wanting to see it, but the message was clear.
"You are overstepping the position of an Imperial lieutenant. This scheme will not advance the Empire, introducing religion will complicate matters in the systems, especially with respect to establishing proper control," he read out loud. "Your mission is cancelled as too risky. You will not receive backup forces to take Widimo. You will disband the Fellowship and await further orders?!"
He threw the datapad to the floor, breaking it in several pieces. The insolence of saying he was stepping out of his bounds! Their ineptness had cost his masters their lives before... but he was not powerless. In time, he would learn for himself, and they would pay for not heeding him.
All this for nothing? He'd show them, show them what he was capable of without them. Widimo was soon ripe, he mused as he began skimming the reports from the planetary agents; in fact, they could probably... Skywalker was on Widimo?!? He stared at the report. The murderer and his Jedi sister were leading the New Republic envoy? How very convenient...
He didn't need the Fleet to take Widimo. If he timed well, he could get to Widimo just in time for the reported Grand Assembly. A thin smile spread across his face as he continued to read the messages, contemplating what he'd do with the accursed Jedi once he got his hands on them. It wouldn't be long... He beckoned to his aide. "Have the bridge set course for Widimo."
"We're going in now?"
Lord Arrig smiled coldly. "Yes. And send word to the agents."


Chapter 4

It was way past sundown, but the parks and alleys around the Palace of Widim were more crowded than they ever were during the daytime. Leia felt the gazes of the many lantern-holding Widimans follow them as they walked up the main street between half a dozen Honor Guards. The pale faces were filled with many emotions: distrust, fear, confusion, even hate. She grabbed Han's hand and squeezed it.
"You'll do fine, sweetheart," he murmured softly.
A group of Fellowship members were gathered at a corner, right at the edge of the crowd. Luke nodded slightly in that direction.
"I think those could mean trouble," he whispered. "Keep an eye on them." A sense of uneasiness came over Leia. Walking between the Widimans was unnerving enough, but nothing would happen -unless something sparked them.
Something did.
"The traitors are coming!" one of the Fellowship Brothers yelled as they approached the corner. "They wish to sell our world for trinkets and trample the remains! And will we just let them do that?!" Shouts went up from the crowd. People pressed in from all sides, the Fellowship members the first to cross the lines marking the path. Leia was separated from the others by a living wall, Threepio's metallic voice complaining about the outrage and breach of protocol echoing briefly over the din.
"Get her!" someone yelled. She was pressed up against a doorway by the frenzied crowd. They weren't all hostile, she sensed; most of them were scared more than anything else. But it had to be stopped. Fast.
Somewhere in the crowd, a blaster was held up and aimed at Leia. It fired once. The bolt aimed straight for her heart -and was deflected harmlessly into a plaster wall as Leia lifted her ignited lightsaber to block it.
The crowd fell silent in the greenish light.
'Are you ok?' Luke's concerned thoughts touched her mind.
'I can handle it,' she reassured him.
"She'll be fine," Luke told Han as they grabbed the would-be assassin, who was too surprised to run. Han wrenched the blaster from his hand, frowning as he noticed the Fellowship emblem on his cloak.
Still holding her saber high in the gloom, Leia straightened up and looked out over the crowd. Her gaze stopped on the assassin. Confusion, dread, fear. They were all afraid of her, of what she would do.
"I truly hope this is not the modern kind of Widiman courtesy." Her voice rang clearly across the square. "We have been summoned to a Grand Assembly, and according to your own laws, no action must be taken to harm any participants." The Fellowship Brother looked at her. By Widiman law, he had just committed one of the most serious crimes possible, short of murder. By the same laws, she could also demand his death.
"Are you so afraid of what I might say?" she contimued. "Would you throw aside not only the laws you have sworn to uphold, but also your own teachings? Look at your Brothers over there. If not you, one of them would have drawn a blaster; but will they stand by you now?"
The crowd turned as one to look at the Fellowship members, who were trying in vain to turn themselves invisible.
"Let him go," she said in a disgusted voice.
Han and Luke released the arms of their prisoner. He just stood there for a moment, uncertain of what to do, then he wandered away. Leia calmly shut off her lightsaber and walked down the few steps, the crowd parting in front of her as she descended. Without a word, the Honor Guard reassembled itself around them, and they continued their slow march towards the Palace.

They were led in an uncommon silence to the High Chamber and seated near the main podium, across from the Widiman leaders. There was a tense mood about the place, as if something was about to explode.
The Widiman leaders remained silent for a few more minutes, then began the process of formal greetings, proclamations, and elaborate procedures they had learned was common on Widimo. Finally, Prime Minister Gedum took the stand.
"Deeply honoured guests from the New Republic," he began. "You say you offer assistance we need. We remember the last time we accepted outsiders. They would also improve our world -the way they wanted it. What reason do we have to believe you will not want the same from us?"
"We have always been independent. As our produce is wanted throughout the galaxy, we have no need for allies and have maintained ourselves alone for centuries. Many of our people recognize that we would do better on our own, dealing with other worlds on our own premises only, and protecting and rebuilding our world without outsider ideas to taint our minds."
He stepped down, leaving the stand to one of the Fellowship leaders. The man scowled at Leia.
"Widimo has not needed outsiders before, and we do not need them now. Widimo will fight its own battles against those who would constrain us." He continued with more of the same litany. Luke cringed. The Grand Assembly was broadcast all over the planet, and this man was definitely pleasing the masses outsid, while neatly avoiding the issue of his order's origins. He sighed softly and tried to filter out the hostile emotions he felt all around him, wondering if they were grating as much on Leia as they were on him.
Something remained. It wasn't quite like the unease and hostility he felt from the Widimans, but more like some kind of faint, distant warning. Too remote for him to identify it. Space?
Leia nudged him carefully. "What's wrong?" she asked quietly.
He frowned. "Not sure, but there's... something."

The Fellowship leader finished, and 3PO arose.
"Speaking for the New Republic, Council Member Leia Organa Solo of Alderaan," he announced in a loud voice. Leia rose from her seat and took the place as the third party in what was originally intended as a two-sided debate. The Widimans were good at fancy words, but what they -the Fellowship- wanted was to be left alone and run the show themselves.
"Prime Minister Gedum," she started. "Our offer of assistance has been met with reluctance from the beginning. This has only worsened with time. At the same time, the Fellowship has gained larger and larger support while it has worked against us, encouraging distrust." She pointed at him.
"You yourself now wear their badge, even at the Grand Assembly. Am I dealing with the planet Widimo, or am I dealing with their organization?" An uncomfortable silence filled the room. Luke still looked troubled, Leia noticed.
"Only a short while ago, Fellowship brothers tried to kill me, the offworlder who would destroy the world. Or is it their hold on this world the Fellowship fears we would destroy?"
"This is not the subject of the Grand Assembly!" the Prime Minister yelled.
"Isn't it?" Leia asked. "Can you say that their efforts aren't the main reason we are being held in contempt when they have no more roots on this planet than we have? Can you show me that the good they have done isn't dwarfed by what they have gained from their presence here?"
Behind her, Threepio was complaining about breach of protocol. She turned, just in time to see Luke get up from his chair and head for the exit, taking a protesting Threepio with him. Had he figured out what was bothering him?
The answer came in her mind. 'Mara is near.'
'Mara?? Are you sure?'
'Yes... and there's trouble.'

The blue and green world grew on the viewscreen as they approached. Tyr Arrig had emptied most of the chamber, and now he took a moment to survey Widimo while the final preparations for their arrival were being made. The merchants as well as the creatures were all secured in the cells, leaving the working areas empty, just in case. The comm systems were prepared and ready, so the entire ship would see the broadcasts. Nothing like a successful mission to convince the stragglers... It might be a bit early for their presence, but he had to strike while the Jedi were still there, and if he did things right... The Grand Assembly had started; as he watched, Organa Solo began berating the Fellowship.
How dare she?
One of the remaining ensigns approached. "Mylord, we are approaching scanner range."
"Good. Prepare to broadcast when they hail us." This would be the perfect time to take over, after all.

Luke started towards Central Communications Control in another part of the Palace, calling Artoo on his comlink and telling the droid to meet them there as he walked. So far, most of the CCC Staff had remained more open towards them than most; he hoped the Grand Assembly hadn't changed that. Threepio was having trouble keeping up with his pace, but he didn't have time to slow down. If the faint echoes in his mind were anything to judge by, Mara was getting closer; they were growing stronger every minute.
Artoo was standing outside the entrance, arguing in angry tones with the guard.
"What is it?" Luke asked.
"Ah, Jedi Skywalker, we cannot allow your droid access alone," the guard replied. He looked a bit more wary than usual, but Luke didn't think he was about to slit his throat or anything.
"Do I still have access? It's urgent."
"I'm not certain..."
"I only want to monitor something."
The guard disappeared inside for a moment, and Threepio finally arrived.
"Oh, Artoo," he complained. "This is awful. Master Luke ran out of the assembly. What will the princess and the Widimans think?"
Artoo just whistled rudely at him.
The guard returned, opening the door for Luke and the droids.
"They seem to think it's ok for now. Things might get hot, you know."
"I think they already are," Luke replied as he stepped inside, closely followed by Artoo and Threepio. Most of the CCC staff were looking at a big screen, showing the Grand Assembly. Kawor, the shift leader, showed him to a vacant terminal.
"Seems your sister is holding her own quite well, Jedi Skywalker," he said in a friendly manner.
"Thanks for the support," Luke said with relief; at least he wouldn't have to argue with them about this. "But there might be some other things to worry about soon; I need to set up a long range scan of the system." Kawor initialized the scan as Artoo plugged into the system.
"What are you looking for?" he asked.
"I don't know, but something's out there." He tried to pinpoint Mara more accurately, but she was too far away. Wondering how he could even sense her presence at such a range, he still managed to get some kind of sense of direction. For a minute or so, nothing showed up in that sector, even with deep scans. Still too far out. They just had to be patient and... There. A large vessel.
Definitely not a freighter, but unknown to the Widiman system. And incoming fast.
"Artoo, try to get a match in your own database," Threepio advised him. Kawor frowned. "We have practically every known vessel type in our system." As he worked on establishing a comm channel to the unknown ship, Artoo found a match and displayed it on the screen. Luke whistled, impressed.
"A Katana dreadnaught???" Kawor exclaimed. "Wait, I got the connection." He sent the regular request for identification, waited...
The answer came as a short, garbled message, then the Grand Assembly broadcast went black. A few lines of static crossed the screen, and an unfamiliar face appeared.
"Greetings, citizens of Widimo," the man said. "I am Tyr Arrig. You do not know me yet, but you know my work. I am the leader of the Fellowship."


Chapter 5 It sounded like Arrig was giving the Widimans the works. Unnoticed, Mara snuck out of the main hall and towards the communications sector, the little recorder she'd "borrowed" hidden in a deep pocket. The corridors were unnaturally empty due to the important broadcast, but at least that made her job easier. She wasn't sure how things actually were on Widimo, but the last time she'd spoken with Luke, he'd mentioned a Fellowship campaigning against outsiders. Odds were they were Arrig's people, given this broadcast. What a pretty ruse, working at the planet from two angles after the direct attack had failed.
She stopped just outside the comm room. There'd be no turning back after she went past that door. Was this little recording worth being caught for? She didn't know if her guess was correct, didn't know if Luke had noticed her, didn't even know if she could override the comm system. She looked at a screen showing Arrig sweettalking the Widimans.
"Skywalker, you'd better hear me," she muttered, then pushed the door open.

Tyr Arrig's voice rang through the High Chamber.
"...There is no reason to assume we would do unto you as these Jedi would, instead, we have assembled and are now prepared to fully assist you in protecting Widimo from outsiders. They will not gain anything through their policies and magical tricks." His speech was calm, soothing, and just what the cheering Widimans, inside and outside, wanted to hear. No obligations to the rest of the galaxy, nothing they couldn't understand. They seemed to be ignoring what Leia had just pointed out; that even this ship was full of outsiders.
"But is this just words, or do you have anything to show for yourself except an Imperial Dreadnaught?" Leia asked in one of Arrig's pauses, putting down her comlink. Her remark seemed to catch him off guard. Before he could respond, the broadcast flickered, went black, and returned again.
It was still Arrig, but he was further off, in some kind of audience chamber. There seemed to be quite a large crowd in the room, all dressed in green uniforms. And Lord Arrig was speaking to them.
"The time is soon ripe. Our raids are successful, our forces are growing by the hour, and Widimo is ready to fall into our hands. It will come to us freely, and we will reshape the planet in our image and create a new era, a new mankind! And the lesser peoples will crawl at our feet in submission!"
A gasp went up from the Widimans. The Prime Minister, who had been beaming only minutes before, was pale with shock. Han looked around, noting the Fellowship contingency talking feverishly in a corner. A few seemed shocked, but most of them were surprisingly unaffected; the top guys knew about the great plan already, huh? Either way, he didn't think they were up to anything pleasant.

The barricaded door didn't last long. Four of Arrig's security guards burst into the room, tearing her away from the console.
"How did she do this?"
"Don't know, just turn the accursed thing off!!!"
One of them found a main switch and started working on shutting the system off, while two of the others pinned Mara's arms behind her back and led her out of the room.

The screens went black for a third time, then resumed their normal display of the High Chamber, letting the Widimans outside see Prime Minister Gedum stand up with a stricken look and slowly remove the Fellowship pin from his chest.
The local Fellowship leaders moved slowly towards Leia. The Jedi woman might have the upper hand for now, but she was not going to benefit from it. They gathered behind a screen, brutally shoving aside the Widimans around them. One of them drew a blaster from a hidden pocket and motioned to the others to do the same. A strong hand gripped his arm, and the blaster was wrenched away from him. Turning around, he looked into the face of the Jedi woman's husband.
"I don't think we want you there, do we," Han said coldly as the security guards unarmed the rest of the Fellowship leaders. One of them balked; he hit the security guard with a cane and tried to run, but the confused crowd blocked his path. Choosing the only free path, he headed for the Widiman leaders and found his path blocked by Leia. He stopped.
"Now what, going to cut me in half, Jedi?" he sneered.
Leia held her ground, looking at the blaster in his hand.
"I would not draw a weapon in the High Chamber," she said out loud. He lifted the blaster and watched it slip from him and fly into her hand. Han and a guard used the opportunity to grab him and put him in binders.
"There's going to be trouble," Leia told Han, handing him the blaster.

Artoo beeped shrilly as some of the Dreadnaught's stats changed.
"What is he saying?" Kawor asked.
Luke pointed at some scrolling figures. "They're moving away from the planet. I guess it'll get pretty busy here soon."
"But if they're withdrawing...?" a younger operator asked.
"They're not withdrawing, just getting a better position. Wait and see." Kawor opened a channel to one of the orbital stations.
"Of course, we can't let them do anything before our orders come through from the council, but at least we can have them alert and ready," he told Luke conspirationally.
"Oh dear," Threepio muttered to himself.

Mara was led to a small chamber she recognized as the room Arrig had used for the Widimo broadcast, even if the lights were shut off. She waited.
A few minutes later, Arrig stepped into the room, holding a bag.
"Sit down," he ordered.
"With my hands behind my back?"
"You will do as I command, Jedi!" He shoved her down on a cold metal bench and emptied the bag on a table: her real ID, her blaster, and her lightsaber.
"As soon as they showed me your accursed face, I had my men search your ship. I hope you won't deny that this is your property."
She didn't respond.
"I will have respect!" He moved towards her, hand lifted to strike, but a cold glare from Mara stopped him.
"You alone have disrupted all our plans for Widimo-"
"Good."
"-but if we cannot win them over, we will find other ways. You and your Jedi friends have destroyed enough, now it is your turn to be destroyed." When was he going to get to the point?
"Widimo has a grand destiny, my destiny." He activated a control panel.
"Once the planet is cleared of your influence, my people will restore the order it should have had now."
"The "order" they already refused under the Empire, you mean."
"Do not mention the Empire again! They are as weak and indecisive as your Republic!" He turned away.
"In time, they will regret ever trifling with me. They will learn to recognize greatness," he muttered.
Mara smiled sarcastically. "I doubt the Widimans will take your word for that."
"Yes, you made sure of that, didn't you. So, I'll have to convince them with force." He turned away from her and began transmitting orders to his troops.


Chapter 6

"What is it, Master Luke?" Threepio asked anxiously. Luke was staring distractedly at the display, where several smaller ships could be seen surrounding the dreadnaught.
"They're deploying their forces. I think it's time to launch the fighters."
"But, we need permission to start retaliation," Kawor said. "And the defense stations should be more than capable of taking care of them."
"I don't think it's the stations they're after," Luke replied. He could feel Mara's presence clearly now, incessantly nagging at him. He kept hearing one word over and over again in his mind; Solshe, Solshe. He turned to a global map of Widimo and located a small coastal city, out of range of the defense platforms' protection zone: Solshe.
"Kawor, see if you can calculate a trajectory between the fighters and Solshe," he asked before calling Leia.

The Great Hall had quieted down somewhat, but the Widiman guards outside were having problems calming the public. Reports were coming in from all over of hysteria, rioting Fellowship members, chaos. And now this. Leia approached Prime Minister Gedum.
"Prime Minister, you must release the fighters."
Gedum looked at her. "The defenses will deal with them."
"Do you want us to needlessly sacrifice our ships?" another Widiman added.
"They're heading for the towns, not the stations," Leia replied.
"They're tageting Solshe, and the defense stations cannot defend that area. Would you needlessly sacrifice your people instead?" Gedum didn't answer.
"How would you know where..." the other Widiman protested, then paused as the small display showed the enemy fighters deviating and heading away from the defense station.
Leia indicated the bewildered crowd around them. "You don't have time for confusion, unless you want Arrig to just walk all over you."
"He can't-"
"Yes, he can. If you let him. Will you do as you always say and defend yourselves, or not?"
Gedum finally raised his hand and called for silence.
"The Fellowship is preparing to attack our planet from space. Therefore, we are forced to take countermeasures." He activated a comlink. "Commander, launch your fighters."
"One more thing," Han added. "Maybe your defense system is some of the best money can buy, but how well can you use it?"
"What are you implying?" Gedum asked.
"Oh, nothing. Just thought I'd mention our squadron is pretty experienced with attact situations. Maybe you'd like some help? No strings attached, you just have to work with us."
Gedum glanced at the defense minister, who nodded. Han grinned. "I'll join Skywalker in CCC, if you don't mind." He gave Gedum a sharp mock salute and walked off, leaving Leia to hide her smirk from the reddening Widiman Prime Minister.

The streets were quiet. Everybody's focus was on the screens, showing both battle displays and live footage from Solshe. A few dozen fighters swooped over the city; some from the Dreadnaught, others behind them, painted in the Widiman colors. A few from the first group started firing on buildings, while others looped back to meet the defenders. A block of the hastily evacuated town burst into flames as one of the attacker ships went down in it, but it was followed by a defender, which crashed in the ruins beside it.
Suddenly a third groups of ships appeared on the scanners; the live footage showed them to be the Republic squadron. Meanwhile, the Widiman fighters regrouped. One squadron went for the ships still attacking the town, while the rest started driving the pirates toward the Republic fighters. Splitting in two groups, they caught the souped-up vessels in a crossfire as they veered away from the oncoming A-wings. The other pirates were ignoring the town now, battling the Widiman fighters. One of them, thinking he had time to blast the Solshe Castle, was blown up by a pair of A-wings circling the hill.
The rest was carnage.

Mara had studied Arrig as the battle progressed. His elaborate scheme was backfiring. And he knew it. He'd have to be pretty desperate to suddenly send in his fighters like this; she guessed he just wanted to do what harm he could now. Almost as scary as his fanaticism. How could people become so dedicated to something so wrong?
And still, it kept on happening. Goodness knew she'd seen enough of what evil could do.... watching Arrig made her recall more than she liked. She wondered how long time he'd actually spent with the Sith, and what they had told him about the grandness of existence on the Dark side.
And now Mara watched as he slammed his fist against a table. His remaining fighters -half a dozen- had just returned to the Dreadnaught, and once again he was venting his anger on the furniture.
"Guess the Imperial forces would have been handy after all, huh?" she said. He glared at her. If looks could kill...
"You are not the right one to speak," he said in a cold voice.
"After what the Empire could have given you. After what my masters could have given you. But you destroyed them. Are you aware of what you threw away with your folly?"
"Yes. Are you?"
Ignoring her last comment, he yanked her head backwards by her hair.
"So you realize my lord would have made you his queen? That you were destined to rule the galaxy beside him?"
"Yes, I know that too."
"And yet, you refuse to see the foolishness of your ways... but there is still time to undo what you have done."
Time for bluntness.
"I won't teach you how to use the Force, you know," she said, matter-of-factly. He stared at her.
"That's what you want, isn't it? You want me to teach you how to use it before you finish us off. They told you you'd learn to do what they could do with time, didn't they?" She looked into his eyes. "They lied to you. I bet they told you you weren't ready, that if you obeyed them a few more months..."
The slap didn't really come as a surprise, but it was harder than she'd expected.
"Liar!" he hissed.
"You know better than that."
He picked her lightsaber up from the table and held it against her throat. If he switched it on, she'd be dead.
"You will learn to obey me, or..." She didn't move.
He removed the lightsaber.
"Doesn't matter. You might still be of some limited use to me."

Han and Luke had returned to the High Chamber to cheers from the Widimans. With Solshe saved and the pirates driven off, they seemed to think everything would be sorted out in no time. But the Dreadnaught was still there, orbiting the planet just out of the defense system's range. The sensors showed it had deactivated its weapon systems, but it showed no sign of retreating; neither had they responded to any communication attempts. Instead, the broadcasts had resumed, showing footage from the Dreadnaught again.
"...You have chosen to decline what we have to offer and follow the New Republic's orders. We have clearly overestimated the valor of Widimans, so fulfil our final request and we will leave."
The room echoed with disgust at Arrig's words. He'd have a hard time getting whatever he wanted now that the Widimans had regained some spirit, Leia thought. Still, it made her uncomfortable.
"We have unsettled business with Jedi Skywalker."
The shot pulled back to show the entire room, including a redhaired woman sitting on a chair.
"If he does not come to us, we will have to dispose of the people we so carefully selected among the travellers of this sector. People like her."
"That's Mara!" Han whispered in Leia's ear. She nodded slightly. It was Mara, but she didn't seem very subdued, even with binders.
The shot changed to a room full of prisoners.
"She and hundreds of others will have to be destroyed unless Skywalker will give us our due," Arrig said in a regretful voice.
"The choice is yours." He smiled condescendingly at them, then the broadcast ended.
Luke got up from the chair he'd taken in the rear and headed for the stand.
"Get me a shuttle," he asked quietly.


Chapter 7

Docking went surprisingly smooth. He'd been prepared for a welcome committee, but the hangar was empty. He stepped out of the small Widiman shuttle. Maybe Leia was right; maybe he was crazy. But he didn't want to find out what would happen if he didn't go.
He walked slowly past a few freighters and headed for an exit. It was still deathly quiet. Arrig'd have his people gathered somewhere, no doubt prepared to capture him. If only there was some way to avoid them...
'Over there.' Mara's voice sounded in his mind, filling him with relief. She was still unhurt, and even seemed a little cheerful. Silently thanking her, the Force, and every lucky charm he'd ever heard of, he headed for a smaller door.

The corridor was empty, but not silent. Although they were almost drowned out by his footsteps, he heard murmurs and clattering noises here and there. He put his ear against a bulkhead. Some kind of conversation was going on inside, in an alien language. Alien? He tried the entrance hatch. It opened with a sigh, revealing a dimly lit room.
A Wookiee rushed towards him with a snarl, then halted when she got a better look at Luke. She growled over her shoulder, telling whoever else was there that he wasn't in uniform.
"I'm a friend," Luke said. The Wookiee looked questioning at him, then grunted a question.
"Yes, I am Jedi Skywalker." Several aliens of all kinds and sizes appeared in the light from the entrance. Most of them were dressed in overalls -or their species' equivalent. "Who are you?" he asked.

They had been crew members on the freighters that had been captured in this area. From the very start, they'd been locked into separate rooms, but lately their captors had begun putting more of them in each room. It was then they'd noticed that not one of their Human coworkers had been locked up with them; they didn't know what had happened to them. They were given food once a day, but other than that, they had nothing from the outside, except hearing the shipwide broadcasts. That was where his name had come up. They assumed the Humans were somewhere else on the ship, but they had no idea where. Nor did they know how many guards there were, or where to look for them.
Luke considered the situation. With Mara's help and the Force, he might be able to get to Arrig undetected, but why not try to alter the stakes?
They worked their way down the corridor, silently opening hatches and filling the prisoners in on the situation. There wasn't much in the way of weaponry, but there was strength in numbers -and Wookiees. The Wookiee and a Barabel led the first group of aliens down the hall in the opposite direction of where Luke was heading, looking for a potential distraction.

"Getting impatient, are we?"
Tyr Arrig stopped looking at the monitors and turned to face her.
"I wouldn't speak if I were you," he growled. "Your time will come soon enough."
"Why don't you just kill me now then?" It was risky, talking to him like that, but the less he could concentrate on the monitors, the less likely it'd be that he'd discover Luke in one of the auxillary passages.
"Don't tempt me, woman."
"You prefer killing us together, is that it?"
He smiled; a cold, wicked smile.

The five-man squad was almost at the end of the shift, with only a couple of corridors left to patrol. It was quiet today; Arrig had locked the Humans up as well. They walked around a corner, and the leader's face was smashed by a Wookiee fist.

Arrig slammed the console. Again. This time, it was the reports from his "secret" guard patrols that sparked the equipment abuse.
"Your partner in crime is having a party with the creatures, it seems," he muttered. "Let's show him what it means to trifle with me."
He activated a system.
"There," he grinned viciously at Mara, turning on the ship's intercom.
"My welcome and not so welcome guests, I have now activated the ship's self destruct mechanism. I'd strongly suggest that Jedi Skywalker," he sneered as he pronounced the name, "come out from his little hiding place and settle things."
Self destruct? The prisoners' shock and despair at the announcement washed through her, and she lost track of Luke for a moment.
"You'd destroy everything for petty vengeance?" she asked incredulously as Arrig turned towards the monitors. It shouldn't be long now...
"You're not worth answering," he said dully. Maybe not, but she'd been worth turning away from the main entrance.
"Looking for me?" The sound of a lightsaber igniting came from the entrance. Startled by the sound, Arrig span around to finally face Skywalker.
It was time. She concentrated on her binders, felt the internal mechanism, and pushed a little in the right spot. They fell clanking to the floor.
Arrig had picked up her lightsaber again. This time, he'd activated it, and was slashing wildly at Luke. He wasn't completely useless with it, she thought, but he lacked control, and...
Well, if he wanted to gain Dark Side power through anger, he sure had some work to do. She smirked slightly. There was still the self destruct, though. She bent over the console and cursed. It was coded.
Arrig's back faced her as they moved towards and adjoining room, his entire focus on trying to kill Luke.
She positioned herself behind him, waited for the right moment. 'Ready?' Luke asked. She nodded slightly, and he drew back a few steps to give Arrig some space.
Arrig smiled triumphantly at Luke, thinking he was gaining.
'Now!' She lunged at Arrig and pinned him to the floor, ripping her lightsaber from him. It hung in midair for a few seconds, shut off, and fell to the floor. He struggled to get free, flinging some pretty creative curses at her, her ancestry, Jedi in general, and traitorous women.
"Shut up," she told him in a harsh voice. "You'd better give us the self destruct codes, you know, or you'll die with us." She had no doubt he had a shuttle ready, but they couldn't let all the other captives die.
He spat at her and Luke as both of them restrained him. This was going nowhere.
"Shut up and listen," she said, glaring at him. He tried to get up, but the two of them easily held him down.
"You've tried so hard to live up to what you think your "masters" left you. You dress like them, speak like them, think like them, but you'll never be like them, no matter what." She paused.
"You don't feel the Force. You never have, and there is no way you'll ever be able to twist people's minds with it, use it to battle, or threaten people. Nothing I could do would change that, and I wouldn't want to even if I could." Everything inside him was screaming at her, but he didn't say a word.
"They used you for their own purposes, and you believed them as your own people and the Widimans wanted to believe you. You wanted to believe it, so you ignored what you knew was reality."
How would she know, his expression said.
"I know better than you think what they wanted. I saw the future they had in mind. I saw myself with all of their power, but there was nothing worth having it for. Just darkness. Do you have any idea what it would be like?"
'Help me,' she asked Luke, then she looked into Arrig's eyes and showed him.
She let him see Coruscant on fire, hear the wails of the tormented people, smell the fumes. She showed him the six thrones with Dark Lords seated on them, one of them was herself, and they were gloating at the despair around them as if to block out the chilling emptiness within themselves. She held him like that for a moment, then she closed her eyes and let go of Luke's hand.
Arrig had stopped struggling.
"You see what they really wanted?" she asked wearily. "Power, at all costs. Even destroying the planets they'd conquered. Can you imagine seeing your home in shambles just so the galaxy would cower in fear of you? Do you really think they wouldn't just discard you like everybody else the minute you ceased to be useful? Is their world really worth destroying your life for? Your soul?"
His voice could hardly be heard as he whispered, "No."
A jumbled-up mix of freighters, small personal craft, and the remaining fighters from the dreadnaught filled several of the Widiman stations. Most of Arrig's personnel had surrendered quickly; apparently they didn't like the thought of being blown up any more than the prisoners had. It would take some time to empty out the Dreadnaught, though. A preliminary inspection had uncovered large supplies of electronics, spaceship parts, tools, valuables; the traders' cargoes.
Tyr Arrig himself was kept safely in Widiman custody, awaiting his sentence. There wasn't much left of the brash would-be conqueror now; he'd finally decided to meet his fate with dignity. A model prisoner, according to the guards.
Luke wasn't really surprised at that; after seeing what Mara'd shown him, he was even more impressed with her stubborn persistence. But he wouldn't think more about Arrig now; as far as they both were concerned, that story had ended.
Mara entered the room and sat down beside Luke.
"Looks like we're getting the full happy ending." She smiled and indicated the holoscreen, showing Leia and the Widiman Prime Minister finalizing the Galactic Republic-Widimo Treaty of Mutual Defense and Cooperation in a tranquil and dignified ceremony with enough pomp and circumstance to make even Threepio cheerful.
"Yeah, and if you can stay out of trouble long enough-"
"Trying to control me, Skywalker?" She smirked.
"Nothing of the kind, but I'm not sure I like being nagged at across half a star system."
"We've got a grand destiny, you know," she quipped. "Just take it as a sign."
"I was thinking more that it'd be nicer if you weren't so far away when you were nagging me."
Mara looked at him thoughfully, then a smile began to spread across her face.
"Well, for now, let's just enjoy what my troubles got us this time," she grinned as the grand, extravagant and expensive dinner Karrde had bought for them was set out on the table.