Sorbin beamed as he gazed out of his window. His plan was all coming together now. Soon, the Republic would be thrown into mass confusion and turmoil, and he would relish witnessing the repercussions of it all.
Slowly and deliberately, he walked away from the window and headed towards his desk. The flickering image of the defense secretary appeared.
"Is everything in order, General Carron?"
"Yes, Minister, everything is as according to the plan. I have word that Lt. Dobros landed with the droid ship on Coruscant last evening. The thermal detonators have been inside the building, and the droids are now standing by, ready to be activated by Lt. Dobros at the precise time."
"Has he set all the droids to self-destruct?"
Carron nodded. "Yes sir, he has made sure to program all of them to self-destruct upon being hit by blaster fire. And hopefully they will have done their job by then."
Sorbin nodded slowly. "Yes, I hope so," he said. "Remember, General the droids are only to aim for Parsis and Skywalker. They can shoot into the crowd to create panic, but the targets are those two only. For the time being, we won't quite strike at the rest of the Jedi or any other high government official. All in good time. For now, Parsis and Skywalker are my main concern."
"Understood, sir," Carron answered obediently.
The Prime Minister sighed. Everything depended on this going right, and he wanted to make sure all possibilities were accounted for. "I must tell you, I am uneasy that Lt. Dobros is even accompanying the droids, General. We are taking an awful risk by sending him out there. If he were to be found and captured..."
"Sir, he knows what his orders are. He knows that he must be as inconspicuous as possible." Carron quickly answered, to reassure the Sorbin's last minute doubts. "And... I assure you that he will not betray us. He has served under me for the last ten years, and I trust him implicitly. Should he be captured, I know that he will reveal nothing to the Republic."
"Good, good," Sorbin replied in approval. "Well done, General. Now, I expect you to hand in a detailed report on this mission to Governor Milton. I want everything to be well documented, is that understood?"
"As you wish."
"Now make sure he has Mr. Wook at all times, okay, Threepio? Otherwise, he'll get cranky and start fidgeting..."
"Yes, Mistress Callista, I will make sure he will not be without it," Threepio answered diligently, taking the Wookiee doll that Callista handed him. "You and Master Luke have nothing to worry about, I assure you. Artoo and I will watch over the children very well. We'll see to it that they are well taken care of."
Callista smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "I know you will, Threepio. Thanks again. If the kids start getting fussy, you can take them inside, all right?"
Callista turned to Cray and Owen, who had been quiet all morning. For the last few weeks, they had been even more reluctant than usual to be separated from their parents. And even though Luke and Callista would be only a few feet away from them during the Jedi ceremony, Callista knew that they didn't want to be apart from them, even for a few hours. "Well, sweethearts," she said, trying to get them to smile, "We'll see you in a bit! Daddy and I are going to be right there up on that stage, so you can see us the entire time. Threepio and Artoo are just going to keep you company while we're up there, all right?"
"Okay, Mommy," Cray answered, trying to be brave for her mother. Owen reluctantly waved good-bye.
"That's my brave kids," Callista said, smiling at them. "We'll see you inside in a few hours!"
"Ready, Mrs. Skywalker?" Luke said, giving his wife a quick kiss. "They're about to start the ceremony."
She waved at the children as she followed Luke up to the stage to join Parsis and the other Jedi Knights. She took a deep breath as she looked around her, at the people that had gathered to witness this momentous occasion. Today was the day they had waited all these months for -- the dedication of the new temple to house the Jedi Council.
The beginning of a new era.
At last, the promise of the newly arisen Jedi Order had come to fruition...
It was a day to celebrate indeed, but even as the crowd was abuzz amidst the celebratory atmosphere, Luke was inexplicably uneasy. Cautiously, he looked around him, as if expecting something to jump out from the shadows, but he saw nothing -- nothing that aroused his suspicion.
"Hey," Callista whispered, caressing his arm. "You looked a little pre-occupied just now."
He smiled back at her, trying to focus on the day's events. "I'm sorry... I just... I had this feeling just now, like..."
"Like we're being watched?" she asked, her voice equally tinged with anxiety, as he realized that she must have sensed what he was feeling too.
He nodded. "I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary yet, but... I think we should keep our eyes open."
They sat down as they saw Parsis getting ready to speak.
"Ladies and gentlemen... Today is a very significant day in the history of our young Republic. Everything we have worked so hard for in the last eighteen years has been to restore the glory to the galaxy that was once only a memory that we had from childhood, or from our parents' childhood. Today, we take one step further in our mission to make this Republic what it was once. I present to you... The re-established Jedi Coun--"
Without warning, a horrid chill ran up Luke's spine, so intense that he momentarily forgot to breathe. His heart pounding in his ears, he struggled to make sense of the sudden awareness that something was horribly wrong. But before he had a chance to act on his instinct, laserbolts flew from the crowd, ripping into the open space like lightning. Before him, Parsis collapsed to the ground with a terrifying thud.
"Parsis!!!!" Luke shouted in horror as he lunged towards him.
"Luke, watch out!!!"
Callista's frantic cry rang in Luke's ears, alerting him to more laserbolts, this time headed in his direction. In an instant, he ignited his lightsaber with a snap-hiss and deflected them one by one, as security swarmed the stage to help the fallen Chief of State.
"Get down, everyone!!!!" an officer shouted to the crowd.
Leia's eyes darted towards the crowd, quickly scanning the area to determine where the laserbolts were originating. Reflexively, she ignited her lightsaber, ready to deflect any deadly laserbolts which could strike at any moment.
"They're assassin droids!!!" she shrieked, as her eye caught the metallic glimmer of the attacker droids, wheeling in one by one, aiming towards the platform and at the crowd. Twenty, thirty droids, materializing as if from thin air, firing continuously in every direction.
The security guards fired back, as they scrambled to get everyone to safety. Inexplicably, the guards' blaster fire was able to easily destroy each one it came into contact with.
But they kept coming. Before the officers had a chance to celebrate destroying the droids, even more emerged, much faster this time, almost too fast for the officers to fire at. One by one they appeared, and one by one they were struck down by the officers.
"He's unconscious!" Luke cried to the frantic medics who had surrounded him and Parsis. The laserbolts continued to rain down on them, and Luke kept his blade ignited, ready for each one that came his way. In front of him, panic had ensued, as people rushed to the safety of the nearby Senate building.
Callista had scrambled to his side now, helping him to his feet. "Come on, we gotta get you out of here," she whispered to him, pulling him off the stage, as his eyes remained fixed to the crowd, looking for the children.
"They're safe, Luke... Han's there, I saw him rush over there to help Threepio," she said, reading his mind. "Let's go," she urged. Somehow she had a gnawing feeling that Luke was in danger here, and she had to get him to safety.
"Keep your lightsaber on!" he shouted at her above the frenzied noise, wanting her to watch out for herself instead of watching over him.
"Luke, no!" she screamed, as he broke from her hold, and raced into the fray despite her protests. She should have known he was going to go after the droids. Instantly, she rushed to join him, wielding her amber blade, slicing at the oncoming droids, as he deflected their laser fire with vigor and ease.
"Watch your back, Callie!"
"I see them, Luke!"
Callista continued to hack away at the droids, though strangely enough, they were not firing at her, only towards her husband. It only aroused her suspicion that Luke was their target.
The security officers continued to fire at the assassin droids, as the other Jedi Knights rushed towards Luke and Callista.
From the corner of his eye, Luke saw them, Leia, Jaden, Sehla, Rison, and the rest, their lightsabers all ignited, swinging at the approaching attackers.
"Sehla, there's one right behind you!" Rison shouted at her.
"I got it!" she answered back to the Rodian as she slashed the droid in half with one swift stroke.
Leia saw the medics carrying the badly wounded Chief of State, and broke from the group to run towards them.
In the next instant, a tremor rocked the ground, knocking everybody down to their hands and knees. The sound of the accompanying blast was deafening.
"Oh Stars... It's the Temple, Luke!!"
Reflexively, Luke grabbed Callista, dropping both of them to the ground, raising his arms to shield them both from the falling debris. Horrified, they lay motionless, looking at the aftermath of an explosion that had ripped open the newly erected Temple.
"It was a thermal detonator!!" Luke heard someone shout.
"Find cover, now!! Move!!!" another voice cried out as more of the panicked crowd rushed to find cover.
Shaking himself out of his shock, Luke got to his feet, pulling his wife as they headed for safety.
"Oh no!! Oh my, Artoo, we must get the children inside at once!" Threepio exclaimed, trying not to panic. "Come along, children, we must go."
"No!! I want my mommy!!" Owen answered defiantly, refusing to take Threepio's outstretched hand.
"Threepio, what's going to happen to Mommy and Daddy?" Cray asked, trembling infear.
Artoo beeped wildly, as Threepio attempted to maintain his authority.
"I know, I know, Artoo!! You don't have to tell me more than once! I know what we promised Mistress Callista! We shall get to safety at once! Mistress Cray, Master Owen, we must go inside now. Your parents will be all right, but we must get you inside."
"No, we can't go until we know they're okay, Threepio!!" Cray was clearly distraught, even as Threepio tried to reason with her.
"Jacen, Jaina, Anakin, run inside, now! Come on, Goldenrod, what are you waiting for, let's get these kids inside!" Han barked at him.
"Yes, General Solo, Artoo and I --"
But Han was not going to wait for Threepio to negotiate with a four year old. Without a moment's hesitance, he grabbed the two children and ran in the direction of the Senate building.
"General Solo, wait for us!! General Solo!!"
"Come on, Threepio!" Han shouted behind him, not even stopping to wait for the two droids.
"Uncle Han, where are Mommy and Daddy?"
"They'll be here soon, Cray, I promise... Right now, we have to stay here until they can make sure it's safe to be outside."
"No!! It's just like our dream!! They're not here, where are they??"
Han held her close, trying to ease her fear, feeling her tiny body tremble with fright. Beside her, Owen cried.
"I'm here, sweetheart, I'm right here, it's okay, now baby..." Callista cried, as she ran towards her children to embrace them tightly. "Mommy's here now... I'm right here..."
"Where's Daddy?" Cray wailed.
"Daddy's fine, sweetie... He's in that other room talking to the security officers. He'll be in here soon, I promise."
"It was just like our dream, Mommy... We were so scared..."
"I know, baby, I know... Shhh... It's going to be all right... Daddy and I aren't going to leave you and Owen alone..."
Han approached Callista, his face lined with worry. "Are Leia and Luke still in there?" he asked.
"Yes, Luke's still in there with the security officers, and Leia's talking to the medics about Parsis."
Han grimaced. "How bad is it?"
"I'm not sure, Han... He was unconscious when they brought him in--"
"Leia!" Han exclaimed, as he saw his wife.
"Han! Jaina, Jacen, Anakin!" She rushed towards them as Han enveloped her in his arms.
"I'm all right, Han," she said, her voice slightly shaking as he squeezed her tightly.
"The hell you are! You just watched one of your closest political allies get shot out there, the new Temple blows up only a few feet away from you--" Han backed down, suddenly becoming aware of his raised voice.
"I'm... I'm sorry, princess... I didn't mean to--"
"I know," she told him, burying her face in his chest. For a while they just stood there, Han gently stroking her hair, just letting her be.
"He's alive, thank the Force... Barely, but he's alive..."
"What about droids that are still out there?!"
"Security got them all, Han... They've finished off the rest of them. They were all set to self-destruct... I don't understand it, they just all blew up as soon as they were hit..."
Callista squeezed her eyes shut at Leia's words. "Stars..." she whispered to herself, "This is what the children's nightmares were all about..."
Dread engulfed her as she sat there, paralyzed, clinging to her children in panic. And she could barely bring herself to wonder what could possibly happen next...
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