"They have delayed the approval again?"
Milton flinched as Prime Minister Tal Sorbin slammed his fist on the table in his outrage. He had expected Sorbin to be angry at the news--after all, he himself was more than upset when Parsis updated him this morning on the Senate's proceedings-- but Sorbin was downright livid. "Minister," he said calmly, trying his best to quell Sorbin's rage, though he understood all too well why the Prime Minister was so infuriated, "It seems the Senate fell short of the votes needed to re-open the matter."
Sorbin's scowl only intensified, and he drilled a stare at Milton. "And what exactly does that mean?" he hissed.
"I'm afraid this is exactly the sort of delay tactic I had told you about when we submitted our petition a year and a half ago," Milton said, trying to proceed as calmly as he could in the face of Sorbin's agitation. He shook his head, sighing in frustration. "The Chief of State reassures me that they want everything to go 'as smoothly' as possible, though it's quite obvious that it's not going as smoothly as we'd all have liked."
Sorbin was not looking at him as he spoke. His eyes had wandered to the empty space before him, his gaze no less intense than when it had been fixed on Milton a few moments earlier. "And what reason did the Senate give this time?" Sorbin asked, his voice somewhat calmer, but no less indignant. He finally raised his head slightly to look at Milton again. The violent fury that had been so evident in him just a few minutes ago had dissipated, though Milton noticed his fists were still clenched.
Milton looked him straight in the eyes and took a deep breath. He could only tell him what he knew, of course. "All Parsis could tell me was that the matter is still under review. Until the Senate calls for another vote to review our petition... Well, all we can do is wait."
Sorbin snorted incredulously in response, looking at Milton with disbelieving eyes. "Wait, Governor?" he spat out, his voice echoing in the empty boardroom. "Haven't we waited long enough in the last year and a half while they've come back to us with one excuse or another why our admission has been delayed?"
The news clearly distressed him, just as Milton expected. Damn you, Parsis, he cursed. Damn your bureaucracy, and your rules, and your policies...
"Just what are they investigating?" Sorbin went on, his voice slowly rising in anger once again, "What have they been reviewing all this time that has put everything on hold for a year and a half? What is it that they're expecting to find?"
Milton shook his head in response. "I'm afraid they've been rather vague with me about what they've been investigating, sir," he admitted. He cringed inside, hearing how inadequate the statement must have sounded. "I think it's safe to assume, however, that they've hit a snag along the way, or they wouldn't be putting us through the hoops like this."
Milton continued to watch Sorbin, trying to read his face, but the Prime Minister returned only a blank stare. Perhaps some good news, however minor it was, would appease him, Milton thought. "Sir, if it pleases you," he continued cautiously, "I've taken it upon myself to contact the Chief of State directly about this matter. He offered to send a delegate here to discuss the matters in greater detail. He must have realized that it's only fair that we finally learn the reasons that our petition has been delayed for this long."
Sorbin didn't stir, nor did not turn to look at Milton as he spoke. After some time had passed, he finally nodded, almost lazily, as if in deep thought over something else. His wild violet eyes, nearly black with inner rage, narrowed for the briefest of seconds, before he finally met Milton's eyes once more. Almost instantaneously, the anger in him had vanished, as he smiled coolly at his right hand man. "Yes, Governor, that sounds promising indeed," he mused, approving Milton's decision. "I'm glad they've come to the realization that we deserve to know the truth. We will not be kept at bay forever. They will soon learn that."
Milton winced inwardly. Something about the nonchalant manner in which Sorbin said those final words sent chills up Milton's spine.
"You know, kid, it's almost a crime that you don't visit us more often," Han teased his brother-in-law, folding his arms across his chest in mock disapproval. "I know you two have your obligations at the Academy, but it's been six months, buddy. We were starting to forget what you all looked like..."
Han's lop-sided grin was a sure giveaway that he was being his old facetious self. Luke couldn't help but laugh at his not-so-subtle way of telling them he missed them. "I know, Han," he conceded, giving his best friend a sheepish smile. "You're right, six months really is too long to go without visiting. But you know, there's no law that says you couldn't have swung by Yavin everyone once in a while, too..."
Chewbacca responded with a hearty chuckle at his friend's expense, and Han turned towards him to say something, but ended up breaking into a guilty grin instead. "Yeah, all right," he muttered to Luke, "You got me on there, kid."
Luke stifled a laugh. "I knew Chewie was the brains with you two," he quipped, giving the Wookiee a mischievous wink.
"Hey, don't push it-"
"Oh no, here we go," Leia groaned, as she and Callista walked in on Han, Luke and Chewie. She turned beside her to Callista and rolled her eyes. "What is it about men, huh? They don't see each other for months and all they can do is trade jabs at each other..."
Callista shrugged and smiled. "As crazy as it sounds," she said, chuckling softly as she looked at the three's chagrined faces, "I actually miss this bantering of theirs. You know, we really don't see each other nearly enough..."
"Well, you're right about that," Leia nodded, shooting Luke a glance that made him instantly guilty. "Han does have a point, Luke. You know how we love seeing you and Callista, and the kids..." She reached down and gave Cray and Owen a kiss, and they giggled and squirmed in their aunt's arms. "If you bring them by this seldomly, how are they ever going to remember who their Aunt Leia is?"
"All right, I get the point," Luke said, shaking his head. "Boy you sure know how to lay a guilt trip, don't you?"
Leia shrugged innocently. "Sometimes you have to resort to that, don't you, Callista?" she said, giving her sister-in-law a nudge.
"Whoa, I am staying out of this one," Callista laughed, giving Luke a look of support.
He met her gaze, then cleared his throat, his face suddenly turning serious. "There's something we've been meaning to tell you," he began.
They looked back at him with sudden curiosity.
"We were planning on making a formal announcement to the Senate tomorrow," he went on, "but you're family, and we wanted you to hear it from us first."
Leia was the first to say something. "Luke, what's wrong?" she asked him, as only a concerned sister would. She released the children, allowing them to run off into the corner to play with their cousins. Crossing the room towards him, she placed a hand on his arm, a common gesture of hers whenever she was worried about him.
Luke smiled, waving off her concern. "No, Leia, it's nothing like that, please don't worry," he reassured her. "But Callie and I did make a pretty important decision..." His eyes went to Callista, who gave him an encouraging smile.
"We've slowly rebuilt the Republic to the way it used to be, but there's still one very important part that's been missing all this time."
He saw Leia furrow her brow, waiting for him to continue.
"There was a group of Jedi who formed a Council," Luke explained, "They upheld the Jedi Code and presided over matters that were of great consequence to their fellow Jedi, as well as that of the Republic itself."
"Yes, and they worked in conjunction with the Republic, right?" Leia nodded, her eyes brightening in comprehension.
Luke nodded in affirmation. "And when the Jedi were killed, the Council just became a part of history... But I had always intended to bring it back--once the time was right."
"We could never form the Council before now because we were still concentrating on training new Jedi and trying to rebuild the Order," Callista added, "But now we have enough Jedi..."
"And now you want to reinstitute the Council," Leia finished her thought.
"That's right," Luke told her. "But there's only one catch, though. We can't do that and run the Academy at the same time... So, Callie and I decided that we would turn over the Academy to the fully trained Jedi there so that we could move back here to Coruscant and reestablish the Council. We have enough Jedi now to sit along with us. It's time that we continued in bringing back the Jedi traditions, especially now that the Republic is more established."
"We know we'll need permission from the Senate on this," Callista said. "We've come here to ask for a vote."
No one said anything for the moment. They were no doubt stunned, just as Luke expected them to be. After some time, Luke finally broke the silence. "Well... What do you think?"
Leia looked at her husband, who smiled back at her, and then back at her brother and Callista. "I'm a little surprised," she admitted, "I know how much the Academy means to both of you..."
"It does," Callista nodded, her eyes on Luke as she spoke. "It was very hard for us to make the decision to leave it... But we both knew how important this is for the future of the Jedi, and the Republic."
Leia gave them both a smile. "Well I don't think you have anything to worry about as far as the Senate is concerned. I'm sure it'll be just a formality to request permission, but I have a feeling they'll approve this whole-heartedly!"
"I hope so," Luke said. "We'll keep our fingers crossed."
"Oh, you have nothing to worry about," Leia told him. She rose from her seat and reached forward to hug them both. "You know, I have to admit," she added, "The selfish part of me thinks it's great that you aren't going to be so far away anymore. It wasn't any fun having my only brother and his family halfway across the galaxy!"
"Yeah, it'll be great to not have to go six months without seeing you guys," Han interjected, unable to resist the easy jab. Luke groaned in response, and Han flashed a lopsided grin. "It's about time you folks joined the party over here."
Leia nodded in agreement, beaming widely. "I'll ask Parsis to arrange a special hearing tomorrow in the Senate. This will be welcome news, for sure."
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