He was back on Yavin.
Luke immediately smelled the thick jungle perfume in the air, the familiar sights and sounds invading his senses all at once.
But all was not well. Despite the humid heat in the air, he felt terribly cold, as if he were standing on a glacier on Hoth. He couldn't shake the feeling of dread and blackness around him.
Something was very wrong.
Why was he here again, what was the Force trying to tell him? What was it whispering to him?
Those weren't whispers... They were the faint sounds of screaming. Terrified screaming. He strained his ears to hear more. He listened to the dim noise in the background, the one that made him shiver in fright.
He closed his eyes. Open yourself to the Force, he heard Yoda's voice whispering to him. He obeyed his Master, and allowed the Force to guide him through the confusion and disorientation.
And then the visions flooded his mind. Quickly they came, almost too quickly for him to assimilate. He struggled to catch his breath as he tried to make sense of the images that were flashing before him.
The screams were louder now. They rang in his ears. And then he saw them. The Jedi, wielding their lightsabers, fighting... He heard their voices... Kyp and Tionne and other Jedi, struggling against something his eyes couldn't discern...
What were they fighting? Whose were those voices that he heard, the ones taunting the Jedi? Their voices were so familiar to him... No, it wasn't the voices that were familiar, but something else...
Who were they? Why were the Jedi fighting? Screaming in pain?
The images faded...
He was not on Yavin anymore. He was on a strange, unfamiliar planet, at night. His eyes couldn't make out anything, but he knew he was in a place in which he had never been. His feet struggled to remain steady on the rocky ground beneath him.
He smelled the acrid smell of danger... Death... Coldness...
He heard their voices once more. The voices on Yavin, the ones from the Jedi's attackers.
Somehow he was able to make out words from the faint whispers, make out figures from the shadows in front of him... They looked so familiar... So familiar...
The Nightsisters! The realization hit him with such a force that it made him stumble. What were they doing here? On... Where was he? He was not Dathomir, where he had last faced them. He was in a strange place, an unknown planet... He was on...
"Callie!!" he screamed, his eyes flying open with a start.
"Luke, what is it? You're shaking, what is it?" She wrapped her arms around him to control his trembling.
"I'm... all right... I'll be fine," he murmured, his disorientation fading. Slowly, he began to calm, breathing heavily still, but his terror once again under control, as he opened himself to the Force.
"What was it, Luke?" she asked him again, still holding him tightly as if she were afraid he would slip away from her.
"I know who's on Dandoleer, Callie," he told her, his voice barely louder than a whisper. "All this time, we've been worried about Falor, but it's not just them... They're working with someone else, on Dandoleer. The ships they've sent... They're for the Nightsisters..." He looked back at her, his eyes almost black in the darkness of their room, frightening her with their intensity. "They're going to Yavin, to attack the Jedi... Soon."
Callista tightened her grip on him unconsciously. She continued to stare at him, speechless, her eyes starting to form tears though she didn't know why she would be crying.
"They're in danger," Luke whispered, shaking his head, trying to remember his dream, the visions that he had witnessed. "There were so many Nightsisters... So many more than the ones we saw on Dathomir... They've been hiding all this time! All this time we thought they had been destroyed, but they had been there, and we didn't know..."
"Falor must want the Jedi out of the way," Callista said softly. She looked back up at him, gently touching his face. She knew what needed to happen. They both did.
He touched her hand, not wanting to say what needed to be said.
"Luke," she managed, her tears flowing freely without embarrassment now, now that she knew why she was crying. "You have to go there... To Dandoleer." She saw him open his mouth, ready to protest, but she gently placed a finger on his lips. "We can't let Falor and the Nightsisters destroy everything we've worked so hard to rebuild... If the Jedi are in danger..."
"I don't want to leave you and the kids," he responded, pressing his forehead against hers. How could he make such a choice?
But he knew she was right. He couldn't deny that. He knew he had to go. "We'll be fine," she told him, squeezing his hand. "I'll watch over them, and I won't let anything happen to them. And we'll wait for you..."
"I'll be there, as soon as I can. I promise."
Callista pressed herself against him and clung tightly to him. "I love you, Luke," she whispered.
"I love you too."
He cupped her face and kissed her, tasting her salty tears. He wanted to remember the feel of her in his arms, the warmth of her skin against his, one last time before they had to go their separate ways.
Sorbin was growing more ambitious by the minute, even for Sorbin. Milton shook his head as he read through the minutes of the briefing that General Carron had handed him, detailing the risky and calculated strategy that Sorbin was planning as his next move to strike against the Republic. His eyes glazed over as he studied the datapad in his hand, staring in disbelief. Only Sorbin would be so arrogant as to even attempt such a feat.
"I'm curious to know your reaction to this, Governor," Sorbin said coolly in the holographic transmission. There was no hiding the cockiness in his voice.
"It's quite complicated, Minister," Milton answered with a tone of caution. "Do you really believe that the Republic will take the bait?"
"Oh I'm quite sure of that," came the ready reply.
I should have known he'd say that, Milton thought to himself.
"By now they should have received the false distress signal from Hoddee," Sorbin continued.
The cockiness in Sorbin's voice sickened Milton, and his stomach twisted slightly in disgust. He didn't know how the Prime Minister could be so confident about everything, when there was so little room for error with his plan. "Ambassador Unar has not contacted me yet," Milton remarked. "We have no word on whether the Republic has responded to the plea yet."
"All in good time, Governor," Sorbin replied matter-of-factly, deflecting Milton's concern. "They'll respond before long. They like to be heroes, and come in to save the day." He suddenly laughed, as if hearing a private joke inside his own mind. "But they're also much too cautious for their own good, and we will use that to our advantage."
Milton ignored his laughter and tried his best to stay focused. "Sir, General Carron informed me earlier today that the fleet is already assembling near Hoddee. They await your orders."
"Good," Sorbin nodded, leaning forward in his chair. "As soon as we confirm that the Republic's aid is on its way, we will join them. Is there anything else?"
Milton didn't respond immediately. He wasn't sure if he should say what was on his mind, although the thoughts had been haunting him since he had received the briefing.
"Well, if there is nothing else, then--"
Sorbin was just about to end the transmission when he heard Milton's call. He looked back at the Governor's image in curiosity. "Yes, what is it?" he asked with mild annoyance.
It's now or never, Milton thought. If he doesn't want to tell me, then he won't...
"When the delegates were here... You told them that you had found a way to make sure the Jedi do not get in the way of our plans?"
The cocky smile returned to Sorbin's lips. "Ah, yes," he responded, laughing slightly. "And you must be curious to know what I meant by that?"
Milton nodded and pressed on. "Are these the allies you referred to earlier, Minister?" he finally asked. "The ones you hinted at with me?"
Sorbin stared for what seemed like an eternity before he finally replied. "I suppose it's time you knew," he nodded. Milton would need to know sooner or later, he reasoned. He cleared his throat and leaned in again in his seat, almost as if Milton were really sitting in front of him. "Have you ever heard of the Nightsisters, Governor?"
Milton narrowed his eyes momentarily, searching his recollections for that vague name. "The Nightsisters..." he said under his breath, trying to conjure up an image, but to no avail. "Minister, I may have heard of them before, but I'm--"
"I'm not surprised you don't remember them," Sorbin said, cutting him off. "They were Force-sensitive beings who lived on Dathomir years ago until they were destroyed by Luke Skywalker and his friends. A few were able to survive, however, and they went into hiding."
Milton could almost see the wheels spinning in Sorbin's mind. But he kept quiet and let Sorbin continue.
"I found them, Governor," the Prime Minister stated ominously. "They have sworn revenge on Skywalker and his Jedi, and with their help..."
"They will invade the Jedi on Yavin?" Milton whispered, finishing his sentence. His mind was spinning at t he thought. Sorbin had struck a bargain with them to commit genocide...
"Very good," Sorbin replied, pleased that Milton had deduced the plan. "So as you can see, all we will need to concern ourselves with now is the ambush on Hoddee. Soon, the Jedi will no longer even be in the equation."
Sorbin was clearly bored with the conversation now. He had revealed his secrets to Milton, and he did not want to discuss it any further. "That is all, Governor," he said nonchalantly, before he ended the transmission abruptly.
Milton switched off the holopad and slumped down in his chair. He threw the datapad in his hand on the ground in disgust, burying his head in his trembling hands, rubbing ferociously at his temples, as if that one simple act could erase the conflict raging inside of him.
He didn't question his loyalty to Falor. There was no doubt about that whatsoever. And the very thought of the Republic still enraged him -- that had not changed. His disdain for their treatment of Falor, for the casual manner in which they brushed them aside, was as strong as ever.
But this was wrong. Sorbin's grand plans of wresting the capital from the hands of the Republic, stirring unrest in these systems, manipulating them into revolt... He cringed at the madness of it all.
At times he wondered what truly motivated Sorbin to do this. Why was he so driven to take revenge on the Republic in this manner? Why did he want to forcibly take what he felt was due them? Falor had so many options, so many other alternatives. He simply could not comprehend the zealousness in Sorbin.
And yet he was ever the obedient right hand man -- no questions asked, no doubts expressed, at least not enough to cause too many waves. Sorbin expected no less from him. It had been this way from the beginning. He was the subordinate, Sorbin the mastermind. Those were the roles they had played for last twenty years, and neither one had ever made a move to change that.
Reluctantly he picked up the datapad again. It lit up in his hands as he pressed
on the buttons to bring it to life once more. He took a deep breath and steadied
himself. This was his sworn duty. No matter what his personal feelings on the
matter, he was bound to his obligations.
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