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Dawn of a New Threat

Chapter 18

"Thanks for coming to see us off, Leia."

Leia gave Callista a comforting smile as Callista stood on the boarding ramp, unconsciously gripping the leather belt where her heavy lightsaber hung. There was a fierce determination on Callista's face, a look Leia recognized immediately, recalling the days on Nam Chorios, when Callista, then powerless in the Force, had nonetheless faced each difficulty head on. She had had to brave through so many obstacles in her life, Leia thought, having to fight through terrifying uncertainties which Leia would never be able to comprehend. But Callista had always managed to fight through them with her irrepressible spirit, and Leia knew that it was that fighting spirit that would help her now in protecting her children.

And yet underneath the determination, she could sense the anxiety in Callista, which her sister-in-law fought to keep hidden.

Leia wanted to say something, some words of comfort, but couldn't quite figure out what to say. "I wanted to make sure you guys got off all right," she finally managed. "Luke... wanted me to make sure of that."

Callista smiled back. "That figures," she said with a knowing laugh, even as the sound of his name made her wince inside, knowing that she would have to be separated from him. "Was he always this protective with you?" she joked.

"I'm afraid so," Leia answered, laughing nervously along with her. Even in times of crisis, Callista could always be counted on to lighten the mood with her wry sense of humor.

"Do you think that Petevish and General Soola will believe Luke's vision?" she asked softly, touching the lightsaber on her hip.

"I think so," Leia replied. "Granted, they don't always understand a Jedi's intuition, and they tend to feel more comfortable when they have some hard core proof... But they know Luke, and they know that he wouldn't be this concerned unless he really believed that Yavin is in danger."

Callista didn't answer her, merely staring at the ground beneath her. She folded her arms across her chest, and stood in silence for some time. Then she finally looked up at her sister-in-law.

"Leia..." she began.

"I know," Leia said, meeting Callista's worried gaze. Callista didn't need to say more than she had; Leia knew that her thoughts were on Luke and his mission ahead. "We'll be in complete contact with him the whole time, honey. I'll keep an eye out on him -- I promise."

"Thanks," Callista whispered with a weak smile, glad that Leia read her thoughts. "I... I won't be able to subspace once we take off... It's too dangerous -- the transmission could be traced... But if I could at least know that you can be in contact with him at all times..."

"He'll be safe, Callista, I'm sure of it. And so will you and the kids."

Leia reached over to embrace her tightly. "Be careful," she whispered.

"We will," Callista answered as Leia broke from her hold. She watched her leave, taking a deep breath as she headed into the cockpit.

"Everyone set back there?" Callista asked one last time before she got set for take off.

"Yes, Mommy!" Cray answered for her and her brother, instantly making Callista's apprehension fade.

"All right, I want you both to be strapped in really tight," she told them as she walked into the back room to check on them. She gave them a comforting smile and touched their noses teasingly. Though they hadn't said much, she knew they must have been nervous and confused at all the harried events of the past few weeks. Children were aware of so many things, she thought to herself. There wasn't much she and Luke could hide from them. She just wanted them to know it would all soon be over. They were going to be safe, she would make sure of that.

For a brief moment she just looked at them. Not quite sure what to say, she sent her Force energy to them to comfort them and ease any doubts that they might have had. Tenderly, she caressed their faces, their angelic smiles letting her know that the Force was with them, and was keeping them calm and content.

She loved them more than life itself, and it killed her to think that they could be in any sort of harm. Quickly she banished the thought from her mind. Good thoughts, only good thoughts, she told herself.

Cray had sensed her mother's thoughts. Without missing a beat, she told her, "We're going to be all right, Mommy."

Callista smiled back at her, and nodded. "Yes, baby, we will be," she said, amazed at her daughter's composure. "I'm taking you both far away from here and those nightmares you've both been having will stop soon."

"I just wish Daddy could come with us."

"I do, too," Callista admitted, careful to hide her sadness from the children. "He wishes he could be here too, sweetheart. But he has to do something really important, to keep us all safe. He'll be thinking about us every single minute," she told her, bringing a smile to the little girl's lips. "And he'll be back with us before you know it."

She stood up to get ready to go back into the cockpit. "Ready for take off?"

"Yes ma'am!" they both answered, making Callista laugh in response as she walked away.

"Ready, Threepio?" she asked the droid, as she observed him still walking about the ship. "Better strap yourself in, we're leaving in just a few moments."

"Oh yes, of course, Mistress Callista," he responded somewhat nervously, taking a seat beside her.

"If I may confide in you," he continued, "I have never quite acclimated to space travel."

Callista stifled a laugh. "Well, one wouldn't know it," she told him reassuringly, winking to put him at ease.

"I have been meaning to ask you, madam... Where exactly are we headed?"

She stared straight ahead, not turning to meet Threepio's gaze. "We're going to a planet called Tegris, Threepio," she said softly, almost to herself.

"Tegris?" Threepio quickly searched his memory banks for such a name, but it was not familiar to him.

She nodded absent-mindedly. "I stayed there once years ago. I have an old friend there..." She had a faraway look in her eyes, and for a moment, Threepio wondered if she were still talking to him.

"This friend will help hide us, Mistress Callista?"

She shook herself out of her reverie to face him. She gave him a smile, sensing his apprehension. It always surprised her that droids could be just as emotional as humans. "Yes, Threepio. Manzir won't let us down, I know it. We'll be in good hands."


It had been years since Luke had been in the cockpit of a fighter ship. Though he had kept his cherished X-Wing over the years, the one the Republic gave him after his ill-fated rescue mission on Bespin, it seemed like a lifetime ago when he was just another hotshot rebel pilot. Back then, he was the commander of the elite Rogue Squadron that he had founded, ready to take on the entire Empire by himself.

It all came back to him so quickly -- the feel of the controls, the familiar whirs and hums of the ship, the ecstatic beeping and tweeting by Artoo in the back as he served his beloved master. He couldn't help but smile to himself as he felt the pang of nostalgia sitting in the cramped cockpit of his X-Wing.

Artoo's insistent tweetering got Luke's attention immediately. "Yes, Artoo," he chuckled softly, "Let's get 'er ready for takeoff. You comfortable back there?"

He beeped back an affirmative answer. "Yes, it does seem like the old days, doesn't it?" Luke replied to the little droid, laughing as Artoo refered to their past exploits as a team. And just like in the old days, the mission at hand was not one to be taken lightly.

Carefully he took a deep breath, as he thought of the task ahead. Success was crucial here. There was no telling what might happen if the Nightsisters were to get away from them now. They had to find a way to stop them.

Somehow he had managed to convince Admiral Petevish and General Soola to let him go to this mission, and to let him take a few of the Republic's best fighter pilots with him -- the Alpha Squadron - as well as a few Jedi trainees from Yavin. He knew it would take more than his clout as a revered Jedi Master to convince them to trust this much in his gut feeling. No doubt, his background as a respected commander in the Rebel Alliance had likely tipped the scales in his favor in getting approval for this mission.

There was no time to wait for word from the spies that the Republic had sent to Dandoleer, he had insisted. The Nightsisters were poised to strike very soon, and the Republic had to act swiftly to prevent disaster.

Time was running out for the Jedi on Yavin.

His plan was simple: to set up a blockade on the planet itself. Surprise would be their ally. The Nightsisters would be leaving for Yavin soon, and if their timing was precise, the squadron would arrive just in time to prevent the witches from leaving the planet. Luke winced at the thought of having to destroy them, but it had to be done. They were doing this in defense, not in attack. It was necessary, he reminded himself. The Jedi were depending on them.

"All set, Alpha leader," Luke heard the familiar voice say to him in his earpiece.

"You don't have to call me that, Wedge," Luke answered him with a sheepish grin, slightly embarrassed at the honorary title that his friend had given him.

"Come on, Luke," Wedge Antilles teased, "For old time's sake, huh? There's never been another one like you, and there never will be."

"Thanks, Wedge."

"Alpha three, all set."

"Alpha five, all set."

"Alpha two, all set."

One by one they called off, as Luke closed his eyes in concentration. This is it, he told himself. May the Force be with us.


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