The harrowing events of the day before had left their impact on Luke. His eyes bleary from lack of sleep, he sat in stillness at his kitchen table, his weary face buried in his hands.
A Jedi would ordinarily be calm and passive during times like these. Years of diligent training had taught them to remain open to the Force, to keep from themselves from feeling distraught, disillusioned... It should have been easy for him to block out the events that had gone on.
But he couldn't stop reliving them in his mind... Over and over the visions played like a broken holovid. Taunting him.
Beside him, Callista sat quietly, her soft breath barely even making a sound. Tenderly, she leaned against him, absorbing his shock and dismay, and silently sending him her comforting energy.
"Why didn't I sense it in time, Callie?" Luke's whisper was barely audible, but the remorse in his voice was unmistakable. "I should have been able to keep him from getting hit... I should have listened to my instincts... I should have listened to the kids--"
"Luke, we Jedi aren't super-human... We can't anticipate everything. You're not the one to blame. None of us are..."
"Blast it! Even the kids could sense it coming. If Parsis dies..."
"Don't talk like that, sweetheart..." she told him, cupping his face in her hands, pressing her forehead to his. "He's going to make it, I can feel it..."
She took a deep breath, and Luke could sense she was about to say something else. He pulled away slightly to look her in the eyes. "Luke," she began carefully, "I... I think one of those bolts was meant for you..."
He looked at her incredulously at first, but his instincts wouldn't let him deny it. She was right. "I don't think it was a coincidence that this assassination attempt was staged on the day of the Jedi Council ceremony, or that a detonator was placed at the Temple, where you in particular were standing so close," she continued, her eyes lit with intensity. "And did you notice that none of the bolts were really close enough to hit the rest of us up on that stage, or anyone in the crowd, for that matter, even though those droids kept shooting?"
"I... You're right... I didn't really think about it at the time, but everything was happening so fast..."
"It would be pretty unfortunate if the leader of the new Jedi Order were killed along with the Chief of State, wouldn't it?" Callista whispered. "Whoever planned this knew that getting rid of you and Parsis would create some sort of havoc..."
Luke rose from the table, his knees weak, almost making him stumble. "That means this is only the beginning, Callie," he said hoarsely. "If I'm in danger, then this entire family is in danger too. And I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure you're all safe."
Sorbin was not going to be happy with this new development. Milton could already picture the fit of rage that was sure to come once he learned of the failed assassination.
He grimaced. Of all the countless options from which to choose, what could have possessed General Carron to suggest mere assassin droids? Why did he ever approve it? Why did he ever approve it? Damn my lack of foresight, he cursed silently. I should have known this would happen. And now I'm going to take the fall for this.
Still, he had to admit that part of him felt strangely relieved when he learned that the assassination had fallen through. Despite his outward show of support -- lukewarm though it was -- he had not been able to shake his misgivings about Sorbin's elaborate plan.
He took a deep breath before entering Sorbin's chambers. "Good Morning, Minister," he said, clearing his throat.
"Good morning, Governor. I trust you have news on the outcome of the Coruscant mission?" His violet eyes twinkled with such frightening glee that Milton found it difficult to think of the words to inform him that the plan had failed.
"Yes, I do, sir. But, first I had wanted to inform you that I had spoken with the last of the systems you had asked me to contact."
"Oh, yes... Please do go on, Milton. Did you manage to convince their head of state to attend the meeting I've arranged?"
"I have, yes. In a few days, Minister, all the heads of state or their representatives that you had me contact will be gathered here to discuss forming an alliance with us. They were all very interested in what we have to say regarding matters concerning the Republic."
Sorbin laughed at the good news. "Excellent! Well, I'm delighted to hear that we are remarkably close to phase two of the plan. Am I correct in presuming that phase one went as anticipated, Governor? I did ask you to brief me on that this morning, did I not?"
Milton nodded weakly, his throat tightening slightly. "Sir..." he began, feeling tension grip him as he saw Sorbin's eyes narrow in response to his hesitancy. He knows... He can tell I am about to give him bad news... "General Carron was contacted by Dobros late last night. He informed them that... the assassination failed. Parsis was struck and is in critical condition, but the Jedi Master Luke Skywalker managed to escape unharmed. Neither one was close enough to the blast when the Jedi Temple exploded, and both are under heavy guard right now."
"What??" Sorbin hissed, "We had dispatched over 50 assassin droids!! How could all of them miss?"
"Security was able to secure the surroundings right away, sir. They rushed the stage to protect the two targets, and were able to destroy all the droids. Dobros barely managed to flee the scene. Thankfully he was undetected as the attention was on the droids themselves."
Sorbin growled under his breath. "Yes, I suppose we should be grateful at least that he was able to get word back to us. I should have known that there were risks in sending these self-destruct droids instead of trained killers!"
"Sir, I take full responsibility for approving General Carron's decision to send droids for this mission... I regret that in retrospect, I should have had more reservations about--"
"Well there's no use in second-guessing ourselves now, Governor. This does thwart our plans somewhat, but we must focus now on the next part of the plan. Perhaps we can still move ahead with the coup even with circumstances the way they are. Parsis is incapacitated for the moment, and I will find a way to deal with Skywalker and his Jedi later. But for now, we must focus our energy on bending the ear of these sympathetic systems... Yes... If we can somehow lure them into our corner, we may yet be able to stand up the Republic after all..."
"We counted about 55 assassin droids, Master Skywalker. They were all set to self-destruct once they were shot at. They were there for one purpose, and one purpose only, and they were to be destroyed if they failed in their mission."
"And that was to kill the Chief of State and me, Admiral?" Luke responded, his normally calm voice betraying his worry. Before him stood Admiral Petevish, who merely nodded in response. The Director of Intelligence was visibly frustrated at his inability to supply more information for the Jedi Master.
"Evidently, sir," Petevish continued, hoping to share what little he did know, "whoever thought this out knew that sending droids would eliminate the risk of assassins being captured by us and then revealing information about the attackers. We shall try to study the wreckage of the destroyed droids in order to determine their origin."
The tension in Luke's shoulders only increased. The picture remained murky as ever. Callista moved closer to him and quietly slipped her arms around his waist to offer him support. "So all we really know at this point is that these droids were programmed to aim for me and Parsis, but we don't know where they came from?"
"And you won't find out soon, kid," Han told him grimly. "Admiral, we might as well try to piece together our own leads at this point. Those droids are standard assassin droids manufactured on Miden. They're used all over the place. I even had some on my tail for a while when Jabba the Hutt was still hunting me down. Anyone could have sent them."
Petevish exhaled deeply. "I realize this will be quite a task trying to trace these droids," he admitted, "But we shall nonetheless investigate. Master Skywalker, under the circumstances, I would advise that you remain under heavy security while we continue to investigate this matter. As long as we don't know where this threat originated, you and Chief of State Parsis are in grave danger."
Luke nodded in acknowledgement. "I understand," he said softly, without lifting his eyes from the ground.
"Thank you, Admiral," Han added, speaking for his brother-in-law. It was clear to him that Luke was upset with this new development.
"Of course, General. Please don't hesitate to contact me should the need arise."
Luke watched the Chief of Intelligence leave, his mood only growing more somber. "I don't this is a very good idea," he said simply, looking at Han, Leia, and Callista. "I feel like we're easy targets right now. I'd feel much safer if Callie and I could the kids somewhere isolated rather than wait things out here."
Leia walked over to stand beside him. "I know you feel helpless like this Luke, but for now, maybe it'd be best to stay here, under guard, don't you think?"
"The kid's right, princess," Han interjected, shaking his head, "I know staying here waiting for some phantom attacker would drive me insane. But... There's not much we can do right now, Luke. Like it or not, you're a high-ranking member of the state now... That means you gotta let them keep you safe." He rolled his eyes in a show of empathy for Luke's frustration.
Luke let out a small laugh in response. "Well, looks like we're going to have to stay here for the moment, Callie," he finally said. "But the minute they give us the go ahead..."
"Then we're off," Callista finished his thought, smiling. "It'll be all right," she whispered, embracing him, "it'll be all right..."
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