It would take a moment for the holographic transmission to Falor to go through properly. As he waited, Parsis stared straight ahead of him where the image of the staunch Governor Milton would soon appear, going through his mental checklist of what to say. The Falorians were clearly past mere annoyance now. They needed to be dealt with as carefully as possible, and Parsis was well aware of that. Sending Leia to Falor would hopefully be the buffer that he needed to afford the Senate more time to deal with Falor's petition. At least he hoped that would be the case.
"Greetings, Governor. I have some good news for you."
"I hope so, Chief of State," came back the reply. Parsis had hoped that his message would be welcomed by Milton, but his face remained expressionless on the other end of their holographic transmission. Save for the subtle nod he gave in acknowledgement, Milton returned a blank stare, devoid of any emotion whatsoever. For a moment, Parsis wondered if he should continue or wait for Milton to say something else. The man's cool blue eyes simply looked back at him, communicating neither displeasure nor approval.
"I have arranged for a delegate to meet with you and the Prime Minister in Falor, as we agreed upon earlier. She will be arriving there in a few days. Ambassador Solo is looking forward to discussing the matter in greater detail with you, and we're hoping we will come to an understanding."
Milton shifted uncomfortably in his seat as Parsis finished his sentence. Parsis noticed his uneasiness right away, and it surprised him slightly.
"Ambassador Solo?" the Governor asked, his voice even-tempered despite the hint of agitation in his eyes. "Do you mean Leia Organa Solo, your former Chief of State?"
"Yes," Parsis answered him. "I take this matter seriously, Governor. And as such, I wanted to be sure to send my most experienced diplomat to get this resolved as soon as possible."
The Governor said nothing back for a few moments. Finally, he managed to find his voice. "Thank you for letting us know, Chief of State. We'll expect her arrival then, in a few days."
"Of course, Governor. Please feel free to contact me should any problems arise."
Parsis' image blinked off, and Milton nervously let in a sharp breath of air. Leia Organa Solo was the diplomat coming to meet with them... Sorbin would need to know this right away.
They would be dealing with a Jedi. This would no doubt change things.
Leia heard raucous laughter through the doors as she approached her suite. Hearing the familiar voices emanating from inside relaxed her instantly, easing the tension in her that she wasn't even aware she had been carrying . She hadn't realized how uneasy her meeting with Parsis had made her until just then. Something about Parsis' final words of warning about the Falorians had resonated in her, and she had been unable to forget what he told her as she had walked through the courtyard on her way back to her apartment.
They continued to laugh inside. Anxious to momentarily set aside worries over the upcoming mission, she hurriedly made her way inside, making sure to clear all negative thoughts from her mind. She would be with her family now, and now was not the time to think about this. She would deal with it later, when she was in the privacy of her own thoughts.
"Hey, did you start the party without me?" she announced, without a trace of anxiety in her voice.
"Mom!!" Jacen called out, as he saw his mother. "You're just in time, Uncle Luke's making us lunch. He says it's something special!"
"Oh he is, is he?" she answered. Suddenly, she brightened as she smelled the wondrous aroma. She pushed back the sleeves of her tunic and placed her hands on her hips, her mouth forming a tentative grin as she looked at Han. "Don't tell me..." she began, her eyes widening in excitement. "Luke, I can't believe you still remember how to make this!" she exclaimed, as she ran into the kitchen to see for herself if she was right about the smell she remembered from years ago.
"Brings back some memories, huh?" Han laughed.
"What is it, mom?" Anakin asked her curiously, as he tried to peer through the kitchen door, "What's the surprise?"
"Oh, it's this dish your Uncle Luke picked up a long time ago that he would make for us all the time on Hoth," she said, beaming brightly as she emerged from the kitchen.
"It's Aunt Beru's recipe!" Luke called out from the kitchen.
"You see, the Rebel mess hall was terrible," Han told his son, laughing as he saw Leia from the corner of his eye, involuntarily wrinkling her nose at the memory, "So whenever your Uncle Luke would make durpa, we were ecstatic!"
"Well, word eventually got around of Luke's culinary talents," Leia continued, letting out a small chuckle. "It got to the point where we would have to make it a secret when he was making it, so we could horde it for ourselves!"
"Yeah, and I was left to fend off some pretty hungry rebels when they would find out," Luke laughed at the memory as he joined them in the living room.
"Ah, those were the days, huh guys?" Han asked, evoking nostalgia in his wife and brother-in-law. He looked at the both of them, sensing that they too were thinking back on their long-forgotten adventures years ago.
"Us against the world," Leia added absent-mindedly, recalling those long ago days of the Rebellion, which seemed so far removed from their lives now. A million lifetimes ago. She found it ironic that they each seemed so much more carefree back then, despite the always looming threat of the Empire. All they had was each other, and there were no other ties but the ones in their close-knit rebel family. Now, they were mired in duty and obligation and responsibility, the excitement of the Rebellion only a faded memory. She sighed without even realizing it.
"Hey, what's wrong, sweetheart?" Han probed gently, as Leia suddenly realized all eyes were on her. He had heard her sigh. They all had.
"Oh... It's nothing we should be talking about now," she quickly replied with a wave of her hand, trying to lighten the mood once more. Falor was the last thing she wanted to talk about now, and she hastened to change the subject. "Come on, we should be just enjoying ourselves, right? We haven't seen these guys in months, and Luke's made this wonderful meal for us... Let's not spoil it with talking about work."
Immediately, she regretted her slip of the tongue. Now they were surely going to ask what she had meant by that. Inwardly, she scolded herself for having said anything at all.
"Oh it's about work," Han said with a nod, suddenly understanding his wife's reluctance to say anything. She didn't need to say anything more than that -- he knew her well enough to know when something was upsetting her, even when she tried to hide it. She never could hide anything from him.
"Leia, this doesn't have anything to do with what Parsis talked to you about today, does it?" Callista asked gently. "Everything's still fine with the vote today, right?"
Leia nodded to reassure her. "Yes, everything's still set as far as the Council is concerned, it wasn't about that. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to alarm you." Might as well tell them everything now, she thought, letting out another sigh. "You're right though, Parsis did want to talk to me about something urgent. He's worried about a problem arising with the Falor System..."
"That's the system that petitioned to join us a while back, right?" Han asked, recalling vaguely having read something about the Falorians. "Didn't they have some problems with their application?"
"You got it," she answered him. "Things have gotten delayed in the Senate, and as you can imagine, they're not exactly thrilled with that. Apparently, they've been making more noise lately, and Parsis is worried enough to send me there to talk with them and make sure that there aren't any 'misunderstandings' that might lead to something else..."
From the corner of her eye she saw Han's concerned expression. He leaned over the dining table, hands gripping the edges. He never said much at times like these, but she knew exactly what he was feeling. "I know what you're thinking," she said gently, placing her hand on his shoulder. She looked at her children, who were quiet as she had been speaking. She offered them a smile to reassure them that everything was going to be all right. They were old enough to understand everything now, and she knew they could sense why their parents had suddenly turned serious.
"I didn't say anything," Han answered back, his voice betraying his concern for her. He knew what she was going to say. In all their years together, he had never once stopped her from taking on something dangerous, and he wasn't about to do so now. Not that he could stop her anyway. There was no stopping Leia once she had made up her mind about anything.
"How soon do you have to go?" he finally asked, after some uncomfortable silence.
"As soon as possible," Leia admitted. She looked at him until he met her gaze once again. "Han, I'll be all right."
"The Republic must really be concerned in order to send such a high ranking official, Leia," Luke interjected, his own brotherly protectiveness kicking in. "The fact that you're a Jedi... That wouldn't have anything to do with the matter, would it?"
"Don't you start, too," Leia said to him, anticipating his argument, though it didn't surprise her that he would have guessed as much as he did.
Luke flashed her an innocent look. "I just meant--"
"I know what you meant," she shot back. "I'm... I'm sorry, honey, I didn't mean that," she stammered, instantly regretting getting testy with him. She knew it was just his natural protectiveness towards her. "I won't lie to you," she told them, "Parsis wants me to watch my back, that much I know. But he also made it abundantly clear this mission is very important, and I know I can help." She looked at Han and her children. "I'll only be gone for a few days... And then I was planning on taking some time off to just hang out here with you guys. We can even help Luke and Callista move in to their new place."
Han let out a deep breath, and his frown slowly turned into a smile as he reached over to embrace her. "You know I'm behind you, 100%, princess," he whispered lovingly to her. "Besides, you know should anything happen, you've got your own rescue crew right here," he said, winking to Luke, as they both tried to stifle their laughter.
Leia elbowed him teasingly, relieved to see him and her children smiling once again. She hoped that all their worrying was for nothing.
But something inside of her couldn't shake the feeling of dread that continued to gnaw at her very being.
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