"You all right?" Leia asked her brother. He had been unusually silent that morning, especially once they had entered the Senate building. For the last few minutes, he had merely stood with her and Callista in the corner of the assembly floor, watching the various representatives from the many Republic worlds as they poured in, taking their seats in their respective floating daises. She could feel his nervousness, though the skilled Jedi that he was, he kept it well hidden underneath his seemingly calm exterior. But she knew him well, and she knew that deep down, he must have been feeling a twinge of anxiety at what was about to transpire. She gave him a comforting smile as she nudged him gently. "You awake?" she teased.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he answered, letting out a laugh, as he realized that she must have sensed his thoughts.
"It's going to go your way, I promise," Leia reassured him. She took his hand and squeezed it affectionately to offer him support.
He smiled back at her. "Thanks," he told her simply, knowing he never needed to use many words for her to know what he meant. He returned her squeeze gratefully, then looked up to see Chief of State Parsis waving them over.
"Master and Mistress Skywalker, Ambassador Solo," Parsis called out from a distance as he approached the three Jedi, "The Senate is fully assembled now. We're ready to begin if you are."
Luke nodded, and he, Callista, and Leia joined Parsis onto the main platform and rose up to face the assembly.
Leia stood to address them, taking Parsis' cue as he sat down to let her introduce her brother. Luke watched her in amazement as she stood there, composed and self-assured. This was her arena, he thought. She had always been comfortable in politics, thanks to an early involvement that began when she was just in her teens, when she was elected as the galaxy's youngest Senator. He, in contrast, had never been much of a politician. He recalled, with a chuckle, Leia's nervousness when he had accompanied her on her diplomatic mission to Bakura immediately after the Battle of Endor. She had been concerned at his lack of experience in matters of diplomacy, and at the time, he couldn't blame her. Leia had been raised in politics, trained her entire life for it, and it all came naturally to her. By contrast, he had spent the first eighteen years of his life on a backwater planet, far away from the excitement and intrigue of the galaxy. And though he had traveled to various exotic worlds since then, in some ways, he hadn't quite outgrown his naive farmboy mentality and was still in awe when it came to more cosmopolitan matters.
"Honorable delegates, thank you for coming here to this special assembly that Chief of State Parsis requested. I know that this was short notice, but my brother and his wife, Luke and Callista Skywalker, who run the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 , have an important matter for you to consider today."
Leia stepped aside to signal Luke to stand up. He nervously tugged at his Jedi robes to adjust them as he looked out into the crowd. "Good morning, honorable delegates," he began, managing to keep his nerves in check. "Thank you for coming here today to hear us. As my sister noted, my wife and I do seek your approval on an important matter involving the future of the Jedi, as well as the future of the Republic."
He paused as he heard the hushed whispers among the stunned delegates. A few moments later, they settled down once again. "Years ago, I opened the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, in the hopes of recruiting Force sensitive individuals for training to become Jedi Knights," he continued. "It was always my hope, that we would oversee the creation of a new generation of Jedi, an Order that had been all but extinct for decades. Because of the success of the Academy, I am pleased to say that we have indeed witnessed the rebirth of the new Jedi Order."
His statement was met with thunderous applause from the delegates. He smiled humbly in acknowledgement of their gesture -- he wasn't expecting it. "Thank you," he told them, bowing his head in gratitude. "And now, it's time for us to take the next step." He pressed a small button in front of him which produced a hologram that floated in front of him, an image of twelve Jedi sitting in a circle. He gestured towards the hologram. "Among the ancient institutions that we seek to reestablish is the Jedi Council you now see before you. It has been defunct for years, but can now finally become a reality once again. I seek your approval here today in reinstituting it."
He turned to Callista and she stood up to join him in addressing the Senate, gently smoothing her robes as she rose from her seat. "My husband and I are prepared to turn over the Academy to the Jedi on Yavin," she told the assembly, "We would then return here to Coruscant, along with ten other Jedi Knights, to sit on the Council. This is a monumental step towards bringing back more of the lost Jedi traditions. We ask you to approve this request, and help us move closer to fulfilling the promise of the New Order."
They both scanned the faces before them to gauge their reaction to what must have been a surprising announcement. Luke hoped fervently that they would vote in their favor, though he couldn't imagine what objection any of the delegates would have.
As Luke and Callista stepped aside to sit back down, Parsis addressed the delegates. "Ladies and gentlemen, you may now enter your votes," he announced to the crowd. Behind him, Leia looked at the monitor, anxiously observing the votes as they came in. Soon after, she breathed a sigh a relief and looked behind her, at her brother and his wife, smiling broadly to signify that it was good news.
"You have spoken then," Parsis declared, smiling at the delegates. "It is unanimous, the Senate grants full approval to the Skywalkers to reinstitute the Jedi Council. Congratulations, to the both of you," he said, extending his hand to Luke and Callista.
"Thank you, Chief of State," Luke answered him taking his hand enthusiastically, "We hope this will be the beginning of the Jedi working closely with the Republic."
"I hope that as well," Parsis nodded. "I've been amazed at how you've rebuilt the Order. This was the next logical step, and it can only mean good things for us all."
"We did it!" Callista whispered to Luke, embracing him excitedly. "I knew they'd vote in our favor! You did great, sweetheart..."
"So did you... You know I couldn't have done without you," he whispered back, giving her a kiss. "Well sis," he said, turning to Leia, "I guess I've managed to pick up a few pointers from you on diplomacy, huh?"
"Not bad, for a farmboy," she teased him, evoking a groan out of him. "Congratulations, Luke," she laughed, reaching up on her toes to wrap her arms around him. "You know I'm proud of you! This is going to be the beginning of something extraordinary, I can feel it!"
"Madame Ambassador," Parsis interrupted, offering an apologetic smile for having to pull Leia away. "I'm sorry to intrude, but I have some urgent matters I must discuss with you in my chambers. If you'll please excuse us..."
"Certainly," Luke nodded. "Leia, we'll be back at our suite. We'll see you later for lunch."
"All right, I'll see you both later today."
Parsis was quiet as he and Leia walked to his chambers. She watched him from the corner of her eye, noting his subdued demeanor as he walked in deliberate strides, eyes fixed ahead. Under normal circumstances, he was the typical brash and confident Correllian, with a ready smile and a magnetic personality that naturally drew people to him. It was so unusual to see him so unlike his jovial self, and it worried her. She hadn't really noticed anything wrong with him in the hearing earlier, but now it was clear to her that something was troubling him greatly. Whatever it was, it must have been very serious.
I've got a bad feeling about this, she found herself thinking... She hoped she was simply reading too much into the situation, but her instincts told her that she wasn't -- she knew he was concerned about something.
He gestured towards the chair, as they entered his chambers. Leia took a seat as she looked up at him in curiosity. For a moment he stood awkwardly, with his arms folded, and then finally sat down on the edge of his desk, his lanky figure towering over her. Nervously, he fingered his rusty beard as Leia waited in anticipation for him to speak.
"Ambassador Solo..." he started, his usual airy voice infused with a slight edge as his eyes met hers. "Are you familiar with the situation with the Falor System?"
"Actually, I haven't had much of a chance to keep up with it, I'm afraid," she admitted, siting up on her chair. "But, as I recall, they submitted a petition to join the Alliance about a year and a half ago, is that right?"
"That's correct," he nodded, confirming her memory. He stood up again to pace the small office. "As all systems know, they will be subject to evaluation to make sure they comply with the body of laws that we as the Republic have established."
"Yes, that's standard procedure," she remarked. "That's been the case with all of the worlds that have petitioned us."
"We made it clear to them that any system not willing to comply would be denied admission into the Alliance, though we would make every effort to establish a peaceful coexistence." He looked back at her, unable to hide the anxiety on his face. The lines on his face deepened, and for a brief moment, he looked far older than his forty-three years. Leia nearly flinched as she sensed the distress in him. But she remained composed for his sake.
"And Falor does not want to comply?"
He shook his head. "No, they don't," he replied. "That's why the matter has been delayed in the Senate for the last few months. And not surprisingly, Falor has grown tired of our 'stalling tactics' as they called them. I made it clear to them that we are still willing to work peacefully with them, but that until they agree to comply, under no circumstances will they be part of this Alliance."
"You were right to stand your ground," she told him, trying to ease the doubts she sensed in him, "We can't make any exceptions. You did the right thing."
He had stopped pacing and merely stood there looking at her, as if getting ready to ask her something. He sat back down at his desk and faced her. "I offered to send a delegate from the Republic over there to discuss this in entirety."
He sighed, the weariness in him becoming more evident now. "We really should have discussed this matter with them sooner," he said regretfully. "I suppose I can understand why they are frustrated. Maybe we were right in delaying the approval, but we should have kept them informed about the reasons... That's why I wish to send someone to them right away before this small misunderstanding escalates into something bigger."
He paused, and Leia knew what he was about to ask. "I would like to send you to Falor to meet with them as soon as possible. I realize this may not be the best time for you... I'll understand if you don't want to take this mission if you want to spend time with your family, especially with your brother here."
Leia smiled, touched that he would remember her commitment to her family. That Leia was extremely devoted to them was no secret--it was common knowledge that she had stepped down from her Chief of State position seven years ago to spend more time with her husband and her young children.
"I appreciate your concern, Karvel," she told him in gratitude, "But if you need me to carry out this mission, then I am prepared to do what I can to help."
Parsis exhaled noticably, the first outward sign of relief he had shown since they had been talking. "I'm glad you feel this way, Leia," he told her, the tension in him beginning to evaporate. "I feel much better knowing that my most experienced ambassador -- a Jedi Knight no less -- will be meeting with the Falor."
Leia knotted her brow in curiosity at his mention of her being a Jedi. How could that possibly make a difference in the mission?
"Do you expect much resistance on their part, Karvel? Is that why you wanted me in particular to meet with them?"
Parsis didn't answer her immediately, as if unsure what to tell her exactly, that she wouldn't be alarmed. "To be quite honest... I'm not sure what to expect," he replied. "You'll have to keep your eyes open where they are concerned. In light of all we know of them... It is crucial that you watch their every move."
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