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Dawn of a New Threat

Chapter 5

"You know you can always call me if you need me, right?"

The look on Luke's face made Leia smile instantly. He was clearly concerned for her, as he always was. His hand held hers in the loving way she was accustomed to. She had been always aware of his tendency to be protective over her, even before either of them had known of the true nature of their relationship. During the years when they were in the Rebellion together, she couldn't even count the number of times when he would just be one step behind her when she was walking -- always trying to be inconspicuous, never knowing that Leia knew all along he was there, watching over her. And there were times when the simple gesture of asking her how she was would be enough to brighten her spirits when she was feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of what they were up against. He always knew when she needed someone. And even as she and Han had grown closer and fallen in love, Luke always held a special place in her heart as her confidant, her best friend.

As headstrong as she was, she knew there was one person in the universe with whom she didn't always need to be the Leia that everyone expected her to be -- unwavering, unflappable, unfaltering... There was one person with whom she could let down her guard and show some of her vulnerability -- her brother.

"I'll be fine, Luke, you taught me well, remember?" She smiled even wider, trying to erase the worried look in his blue eyes. "Besides," she went on, "I'm taking a few Noghri bodyguards with me. You and Han aren't the only ones that worry about me, you know. The Republic wants to make sure that their chief ambassador is safe. I'll be well protected."

Luke finally couldn't resist grinning. "I know you're a formidable Jedi, Leia," he told her, wanting her to know that he believed in her abilities, "I've seen that for myself. But to me, you'll always be my little sister, and I worry about you."

She burst out laughing. "Oh that's what it is!" she teased. "Hey, we still don't know which one of us is older, remember?" She poked him in the ribs for emphasis. "Besides, I think it's obvious that with the fact that I was far more mature at a younger age than you, that can only mean that I'm the older twin." She flashed him a triumphant smile to show him there was nothing to worry about.

"All right, I'll leave you to your delusions -- Ow! Stop poking me! Okay, okay! I better leave before you give me any more bruises..."

Leia's throaty laugh rang out in the docking bay, making Luke laugh as well. "Bye Callista!" she called out to her sister-in-law, who had already boarded the ship with the children. "Watch over this brother of mine, will you? He needs you to keep him in line... Bye Cray and Owen! We'll see you in a few days to help you get settled in!"

"Bye Leia! May the Force be with you..."

"Hey, you..." Callista said, meeting Luke halfway as he walked up the ramp. She met his worried gaze and took his hand in hers, leading him into the cockpit. "She's right you know," she said softly. She sat down and cocked her head to look up at him, her long braid brushing over her shoulder. "Sweetheart, I know you worry about her because she's your sister, but she can take care of herself. You and I both know she's a great Jedi Knight. She had a pretty amazing master. The best -- if I do say so myself." She gave him a wink, making him laugh out loud.

Luke pulled her up again and slipped his arms around her, drawing her close to him. "You always know what to say to make me feel better," he whispered, nuzzling his lips against her neck, in the way she found so tantalizing. She let out a small sound of pleasure in response. "How do you do that, Mrs. Skywalker?" he asked in his low, seductive voice that sent shivers up her spine.

"Mmmm... I have my ways," she replied with a teasing laugh, running her hands through his dark blond hair, pulling his face towards hers for a long, enticing kiss.

"Yup, like I said," he murmured between breathless kisses, "You know just how to make me feel better..."

"Well, Master Skywalker," she whispered sensuously, as she began to walk backwards, gently pulling him in the direction of their cabin, "If you'll follow me in here, I'll make you really mean that last sentence..."

A low throaty sound escaped Luke's lips, as he watched her set her hair free from her loose braid and begin to unbutton her blue silk blouse. She laughed mischievously at his involuntary response. "I'll take that to mean a yes?" she said, giving Luke a smile that set his nerve-endings afire. There was nobody else who could get to him the way she always could...

"It is most definitely a yes..."

It was the last coherent thing Luke managed to utter before he took her in his arms.

The room had to be absolutely silent and pitch dark at this time of the day. Though the sun shone brightest in the mid-afternoon just outside his window, Sorbin took great care to make sure the thick, heavy curtains in his palatial suite were drawn and that he would have no interruptions. None whatsoever.

It was during this time of the day that he went through his daily ritual of meditation. He was not a particularly religious man, but he had practiced this ritual since he was a young man, learning it from a revered mentor he had in the Falorian military. General Dolcer had always told him that the secret to his laser-like focus, and his ability to harness his sheer ambition and turn mere ideas into reality, was meditation. He insisted that taking time out everyday to be at one with his thoughts, to refuel for the tasks that awaited him, was what made him the kind of man he was. And Sorbin wanted to be everything he was and more.

It was common knowledge that he was not to be contacted under any circumstances. Milton of all people knew that, and he knew that he was risking a verbal lashing by Sorbin for disturbing him now, but his news couldn't wait. Sorbin needed to know what Parsis had told him.

"This had better be life-threatening, Governor," Sorbin hissed as he accepted the transmission from Milton. The curtains were still drawn on his end, and though his face was barely discernable in the darkness, his eyes were lit up nonetheless with unmistakable intensity as he glowered at Milton. "You especially are well aware that I do not enjoy being disturbed during these hours of the day."

"I'm sorry, Minister, you have my word that it won't happen again," Milton apologized. He had little choice but to absorb Sorbin's ire at the moment. His message was urgent, and he needed to deliver it. "But I have just been contacted by his excellency, Chief of State Parsis. He has sent an ambassador to meet with us, and she will be arriving in a few days."

Sorbin scowled in the blackness of his room, clearly annoyed by the interruption for such a seemingly trivial detail. "And this could not wait until later?"

"Sir, the Chief of State is sending no ordinary ambassador. He has sent Ambassador Leia Organa Solo." He paused to wait for Sorbin's reaction. When Sorbin did not reply immediately, he continued. "Not only is she the foremost diplomat that the Republic has, but... She is also... a Jedi Knight."

Milton could tell by the silence on Sorbin's end that he had struck a chord. All he could hear from the Prime Minister was his breath drawing in and out as if he were in deep thought. Milton couldn't ascertain what exactly the reaction meant, however. He waited for Sorbin to speak once again.

A few awkward seconds passed before he finally heard Sorbin's voice.

"A Jedi Knight..." the Prime Minister mused, with an almost cocky air that surprised Milton. He started to chuckle to himself, further puzzling the Governor. "Well, it looks like our friends are serious about these discussions, Milton. We must have them worried, otherwise they would have sent us some token diplomat, not their former Chief of State."

Milton lost his train of thought for a moment, still a bit stunned that Sorbin would not be worried in the least that they were about to negotiate with a Jedi Knight. How could he not be alarmed at this new development? Surely he had heard of the legends of the Jedi? Surely he was aware of their reputations as being wise -- and cunning, when the need called for it? He couldn't understand how he could be so nonchalant, even amused, by the knowledge that Solo was coming to negotiate with them.

"Sir, as you can see... I felt this matter was urgent enough to call your attention to it immediately. Again, I do apologize for interrupting-"

"Yes, well I can see how you felt this was important information," Sorbin interrupted him easily. The fury in his voice, which had reverberated so strongly earlier, was now gone. "Now was there anything else?"

Milton shook his head. "No, Minister. I merely wished to inform you about Solo. To be honest, sir, I have a suspicion that the Republic has something up their sleeves. Sending her is surely a sign that they may want to bully us into something. We can not appear vulnerable to them."

"Of course not, Governor!" Sorbin answered immediately. "Nothing is to change in our position. We may have petitioned to join them, but I am not about to jump through hoops to please them. If they expect us to budge, they are sadly mistaken. The Falor system will not grovel to be admitted into the Alliance, that much I guarantee you." He snickered as he once again thought of the Jedi that they would be facing soon. "If they expect us to fall prey to a simple Jedi mind trick," he sneered, "then they take us for fools. Jedi or no Jedi, Ambassador Solo will have met her match this time."

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