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Shura walked around the house, brushing her teeth and humming to herself. It was a wonderful day - again. She wondered whether the constant sunshine and hot temperatures would start to go on her nerves if she were to live here permanently. Perhaps in time she would miss the snow and rainstorms, but so far she enjoyed every day of it. She felt relaxed and most of the times pretty content.
Of course, she was not happy or even content all the time. Considering the circumstances, she told herself as the familiar feeling of loss overcame her, that was to be expected. Every time a stray thought made her think of Anakin, all content feelings were washed away. This time, it had been the thought of snow that brought back the memory of Anakin’s fist visit to Tressilia. They were on a Firelord Day vacation and it had been Anakin’s first experience with snow.
Shura stared out into at the faded grey-leaved bushes, the sand glaring in the sun. Somehow she felt as if she had aged immensely since that time, much more than just the couple of years that had actually gone by. It may be just her imagination but when she thought back on how they had frolicked around in the snow like children it was like a memory from a distant and innocent past. Hell, even the war had been comparatively innocent then to allow them to go on leave for the holidays.
With an effort, Shura brought her thoughts back to the present. Whether or not the past had really been as innocent and picture book like as she imagined, it was irretrievably gone. She was here now, standing like a pillock in Rhona’s kitchen with her toothbrush forgotten in her hand. She was going to drip toothpaste all over the floor if she didn’t go back to the bathroom.
The sun glittered on the sea and she couldn’t stop herself thinking, if only Anakin were here to share this with me.
Walking back to the bathroom, her feet and her thoughts wandered on well known paths. Should Anakin and herself have left the navy after the end of the war? They could have resigned their commissions and settled down some place like this, in a small house where the climate was mild and the sea at hand for Anakin to indulge in it every day if he felt like it. Perhaps it would have been better if they had made a clear cut from the past and start over new.
Of course, Shura knew, they had never contemplated this. She had obligations, Anakin had obligations. They could not just drop everything and bunk off. It would have felt like desertion to them. They could not leave their comrades alone just because the shooting war was over.
Shura spit the toothpaste into the washing basin and rinsed her mouth.
They also had not known that everything would turn so horribly wrong. How could they have?
She turned half away from the mirror and stared at the reflection for a moment. Her pregnancy certainly started to show now. Stretching her bathrobe over her belly, she thought that she was really starting to get big.
What would Keeiara say when she noticed?
Shura pulled a face in the mirror. She could only too well imagine what Keeiara’s reaction would be: shrill delight.
It had been more than two and a half years since she had met Keeiara last but Shura could very vividly imagine what Keeiara would do. She’d stare at Shura’s stomach for a moment, then ask the question and when answered in the affirmative, she would give Shura a brief but fierce hug and standing back - perhaps holding on to Shura’s hand, stare back at her friend’s bulging belly and exclaim, ‘This is wonderful. You must be so happy.’
Perhaps the plan to hide out on Aldaraan with the Organas was not such a brilliant idea after all. But Keeiara knew about it and was so excited about the secrecy and her helping a friend on the run, Shura realised, that she could probably not back out of the arrangement now. At least not without antagonising Keeiara, and thereby Bail who might, just might, then drop a hint or two about his wife’s disreputable friend whereabouts.
No, Shura told herself, Bail would not be that vindictive - or would he?
She just had to make sure she wore the loosest gown she could find and perhaps postpone the moment before Keeiara noticed anything by at least a few days.
Keeiara is going to notice the moment you refuse wine to accompany dinner, Shura told herself. You’ll just have to endure her enthusiasm.
Shura washed her face and returned to the kitchen.
She fetched the tula-berry juice from the fridge and as usual grimaced at the picture that Rhona had stuck to the door of the fridge with an‘Astroflakes, Breakfast of Heroes’ magnet.
‘Your babies,’ Rhona had announced as she had brought in the picture for the first time. ‘Lucas and Leia.’
Shura stared at the picture now and she still found it hard to believe these two little critters were actually inside her.
At least it was only a two-D, black and white picture, but it was enough to make out the arms, legs and heads of the babies. They looked like babies by now and not like the oddly deformed water creatures that they resembled in the earlier stages of their development.
She knew that she had really annoyed Rhona by her reaction, exclaiming ‘That’s disgusting.’ The very fact that it had been completely spontaneous was what Rhona regarded as the problem.
Rhona had simply glared at her and stuck the picture to the fridge. She had not told Shura that once the babies were born she would find them the loveliest and cutest babies ever like all the mothers in the history of sentient beings before her. Perhaps Rhona had given up on expecting Shura to ever develop motherly instincts.
Placing the picture on the fridge was a not-too-subtle hint of Rhona’s to stay away from the drink.
Well, Shura thought, I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol for fifteen days now and that must be a record since the days I was in high school.
Armed with a glass and the bottle of juice, Shura went to the living room and switched the holopad on. She had gotten used to watching the news since Anakin woke up from the coma. At first she had been just eager to hear any scrap of news about him, then she realised just how much she had missed in the days she had left the universe to itself.
Sometimes she wondered whether it was a good idea to watch the news at all. Things were looking grim on too many fronts and there was nothing she could do about it after all.
Shura got the tail-end of a report that Minister Novitski had resigned, which did not come as a surprise. Presumably bribes from big corporations to politicians were not that unusual but there had been no case, at least no minister had been discovered to date who had his hands as deeply in the pockets of ammunitions producers as Novitski’s.
The news were really depressing, Shura thought. Unemployment figures rocketed and a skirmish between forces of two neighbouring systems in the Senouit sector had almost led to a full blown civil war.
Perhaps it would be better if she read something.
Shura turned down the volume and got up to look where she had put The Five Ghosts, the book she was just reading. Having finished The Iron Glove, there had been no more Five Guardsmen books for her to read - except the last one which she did not care much about. Above and beyond the fact that she really did not want to read about any of the guardsmen dying.
The Five Ghosts was a horror story set in Five Castles that she had apparently given Rhona as a Firelord Day present when they were in their teens. She honestly had not remembered that they had ever been exchanging gifts on Firelord Day, leave alone that she had written as an inscription that she hoped it would remind Rhona of her vacation with them and the memorable trip to Five Castles. She did not even remember the memorable trip.
‘A man’s mind is a fickle thing.’ Shura stopped her walk around the room, trying to remember where she had heard that phrase.
“Oh, no,” Shura groaned when the memory came back to her. Obi bloody Wan Kenobi had said it during their fateful discussion. Of course, he had meant that Anakin’s mind may be unstable, but it was one of those neat, easy to remember phrases that fitted almost all occasions, because in the end they said nothing.
Damned the Jedi, Shura thought.
Returning her attention to looking for the The Five Ghosts ’she had just spotted the book lying under the sofa, when the word ‘Alma Serena’ made her return her attention to the news.
The scene was an exterior shot of the military hospital, first a still then the camera seemed to zoom in onto one of the side entrances. Only a few people, security judging from their uniforms, stood next to the doors and a black speeder was parked right in front of it.
“Earlier today, Dr Gerard Saint-Martin was arrested on Alma Serena for the attempted murder of Field Marshall Anakin Skywalker,” the voice-over announced cheerfully.
Shura sat down, hitting the arm of the sofa by accident and almost knocking over the juice on the occasional table. Attempted murder?
Shura felt her heart racing and her hands shaking. Calm down, she told herself, Anakin has survived the attack. She slid down onto the seat of the sofa but dared not to take a sip of juice as she feared she would spill it all over Rhona’s couch.
The news now showed how the side-door of the hospital was pushed open and a person, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was led out by more security and manhandled into the waiting speeder. The picture was not very good, no details were visible of either the arrested doctor or the men around him. It seemed as if the camera had been far off when the shot was made.
“As only emerged today,” the commentator continued, as the black speeder departed from the picture, “Field Marshall Skywalker barely survived and attempt on his life five days ago. After Saint-Martin’s arrest, Professor Cagliari, supervising the treatment of Skywalker made the following statement to the media.”
Four days ago? What on earth had happened?
Professor Cagliari was next seen standing on the steps of Alma Serena Military Hospital. He looked harassed, Shura thought, but then he had every reason to. It certainly was embarrassing to say the least to have your most famous patient almost killed, and by a member of staff to boot.
Cagliari noisily cleared his throat, and without looking up from the paper he held in his hand, began to read. “Four days ago, on Midweek, Field Marshal Skywalker fell into anaphylactic shock as a result of acute liver failure. Thanks to the swift response of our medical team, Skywalker’s life was saved. In our investigation as to what caused this near fatal deterioration in Skywalker’s condition, it soon became clear that foul play may be involved. It seemed that a combination of two or more drugs administered to Skywalker at the time combined to cause the complete ceasing of all functions of his liver. Obviously, it was necessary to first prove that this was indeed an act of planned assassination and not merely human error. Unfortunately, I have to announce that evidence suggests that Dr Saint-Martin, a renowned member of our staff, deliberately advised the use of a little known sedative to bring about the death of Field Marshall Skywalker. As soon as our suspicion was confirmed we have called in the police and are going to fully cooperate in their investigation into this unfortunate incident. Field Marshall Skywalker has by now fully recovered from the incident. Thank you.”
Cagliari looked up briefly and without heeding the questions of various members of the media present, stalked back into the Hospital.
Shura sighed with relief. Anakin had come through yet again. He was alive and had recovered from the attack.
Watching Cagliari vanish into the Hospital building, she could understand why he did not want to face the reporters now. This was not merely embarrassing, it was a scandal. Alma Serena was a military hospital, there had been rumours of attempts on Anakin’s life before and now one of their own staff had almost succeeded.
The scene broadcast by the news, now changed to show a group of jedi, donning their official robes and standing around somewhere. Around it a caption read ‘archive footage’.
Before Shura had time to wonder whether this was a new news item, one of the men present was highlighted and the comment went on.
“Dr Saint-Martin, seen here during the cease-fire celebrations, is a high-ranking member of the Jedi Order. During the war he served in the Grand Hospital of the Order on Coruscant but transferred to Alma Serena five months ago.” The archive footage was replaced by an aerial shot of the Military Hospital. “According to internal sources, Saint-Martin had previously been noticed to be overly interested in the condition and treatment of Skywalker. Seven days ago, Saint-Martin was consulted by the team of doctors treating Field Marshal Skywalker on complications resulting from his special abilities. Considering Saint-Martin’s background and previously behaviour it seems like gross negligence to allow him any influence on Skywalker’s treatment. Our reporter has been able to question one of the team of doctors working in the ward where Skywalker is treated only a few moments ago.”
The scene changed again and on the holopad appeared two people, one of them the red-headed, pretty journalist who had previously interviewed Palpatine, as Shura remembered.
“This is Zoe Cox,” the reporter said, “at Alma Serena Military Hospital. With me is Dr Olman, senior consulting physician of the Ward C where Skywalker is treated.”
Dr Olman standing next to Cox looked every inch like a picture-book doctor, from the crisp white lab coat he wore to the pens sticking out of its breast pocket. He even had a stethoscope hanging round his neck. He glared at the camera with his hands pushed in his pockets. His skin was a dark shade of olive and he wore his dark hair in a neat cornrows. Shura thought that she had encountered somebody of his people before and that somehow there was a story connected to it.
Cox this time without the old-fashioned microphone turned to the doctor. “Dr Olman, can you tell us why Dr Saint-Martin was consulted about the treatment of Field Marshal Skywalker. I was given to understand that he is not a regular member of the team looking after Skywalker.”
Dr Olman briefly looked at the reporter but then fixed his eyes on the camera again. He gave the impression that he was not used to being interviewed.
“You are right,” he stated, “Dr Saint-Martin was not involved in the care of Skywalker. However, when the Field Marshal emerged from the coma a few days ago, he was very confused and not in control of his abilities.” Dr Olman frowned at the camera, and after a long pause continued, “you have to understand that he did not know where he was or how extensive his injuries were.” Cox nodded sagely at this. “His confusion and panic, the pain he was in and the medication all probably added up to his inability to control his powers. He damaged some property and almost killed one of the doctors.”
Shura thought that she probably must have a similarly shocked expression on her face as the reporter displayed now. She told herself that she ought not to be surprised. Anakin had killed people with the Force before. So, of course, he’d have the power to kill somebody by accident.
“We had to consult somebody with experience in the treatment of people with the abilities Skywalker has. We thought we were lucky to have a doctor on the staff who does have that knowledge,” Dr Olman went on, his expression turning even grimmer as he did so. “We did not expect that the resentment of the jedi order ran as deep or that one of our colleagues would place his allegiance to this order above his sacred duty to preserve life.”
“What exactly did Saint-Martin do?” Cox prodded.
Dr Olman now turned to face the reporter. “He advised us that there were so-called force suppressant drugs. Something we lowly common doctors had never heard of before. They were - as he told us - used quite frequently in the Grand Hospital of the Order on patients delirious or otherwise incapacitated. After a thorough check on the information Saint-Martin gave us, we decided that we could risk administering them to Skywalker and almost killed him. If Skywalker himself had not alarmed Dr Hadasht and had she not reacted as quickly as she did we would have lost him.”
Still Dr Hadasht, Shura thought, and Anakin had realised that something was wrong. A shudder ran through Shura. How do you notice that your liver is failing, she wondered. Did it hurt?
“Why do you think Saint-Martin acted this way?”Cox wanted to know.
“Why?” Olman echoed. “Of course, I don’t know for sure, but I think we can all guess that Saint-Martin either acted on the orders of the Jedi Order itself or following his own resentment against Skywalker. In either case, it surely was the brave act of the Field Marshal of standing up against the Order’s regiment and the disclosure their corrupt practices that angered the Jedi. I just cannot imagine the kind of hatred that makes someone attack a man who is completely helpless. Dr Saint-Martin’s action are a disgrace and they show once more that a Jedi’s loyalties are always to his Order, they come before all other allegiances, duties and obligations he has.”
“So you think it is possible that Saint-Martin was actually acting on orders of the Council of the Jedi Order itself?” Cox sounded shocked and nervous now. Shura was sure she had not expected Olman to attack the Jedi Order as vociferously as this. “I cannot say that for certain but I consider it a definite possibility,” Olman stated firmly. He turned back towards the camera. “Skywalker has taken on the might of the Order and shown that it is not beyond the laws of this Republic. Most people, even here, are too scared to do that. There is a general fear that if you speak out too loudly against the Order that they make sure you are silenced permanently. As one says, accidents happen, and who can prove that the oxygen supply of your ship failed not due to mechanical failure but because somebody just thought away a vital part of the machine. Or that the reason you walked into the street right into the path of a speeder coming round a corner was that somebody just put the suggestion in your mind that you must walk now.
Cox swallowed. She looked increasingly uncomfortable. “These are pretty harsh accusations you level against the Jedi Order, Dr Olman.”
Dr Olman glanced back at her. “I know.”
For a moment Cox stared at the doctor without a word. It was obvious that the interview did not to go where she had expected. “If you are right, and I don’t say that you are” she said then, “you are putting your own life at risk by accusing the Order like this in public.”
Dr Olman half-smiled at her statement. “Possibly, but I am not afraid. As I am partially responsible for allowing Saint-Martin to attack Skywalker, I think I owe him that I take up his fight against the corrupt and manipulative Order and make sure the man who attacked him is brought to justice.”
“That’s - ah, very interesting,” the young reporter said. She glanced around her, as if she half-expected some vengeful Jedi to pop around the corner to kill Dr Olman.
Shura realised that she had never thought how afraind some people were of the Jedi Order. She had always felt resentful against their privileges and her experience during the war and what she learned from Anakin made her even more critical of the order, but she had only thought the Order had too much influence and money, that the Jedi - a lot of them anyway - were a bunch of pompous, supercilious idiots. But she had never feared they would kill her.
After all Anakin had told her how much they insisted in never using the force to harm people. Or to be precise harm people directly. If it just gave you the edge of a more precise shot it was alright. Was that just a screen to hide more sinister machinations of the Order?
“Well, Dr Olman,” Cox said with a tone in her voice that betrayed she desperately wanted to end this interview, “thank you again…”
“You see,” Dr Olman interrupted her, “people are not only afraid of the Order, they truly believe it cannot do wrong. When we discovered that this Saint-Martin person was behind the troubles with Skywalker, several of my colleagues would not believe it. Moreover, they said that even if that were true, one could not just simply arrest a Jedi. If anything was done at all we ought to call in the Jedi Order.” The anger in his voice was very audible now. “Are they supposed to get away with anything? Including cold blooded murder?”
“Thank you, again,” Cox said, “for this interview.” The camera zoomed in on her, cutting the fuming Olman out of the picture. “As you can see, emotions are running high here on Alma Serena. Dr Olman certainly holds a very extreme position in this case, but the investigations will unearth whether there is anything to back up his accusations. Back to Coruscant. I am Zoe Cox on Alma Serena.”
Shura turned to volume down again when the next item started. The bryasha championship was something for which she cared less than nothing.
So, she thought, surprised that she found herself completely calm again, somebody had tried to kill Anakin. Ingeniously pretending to help with his treatment, but he had been stopped in time.
Shura wondered what would have happened if they hadn’t managed to safe Anakin. Four days ago, she would have sat here watching the news and there would have been an announcement that unfortunately Field Marshal Skywalker had died of the injuries sustained in the dreadful crash over forty days ago. Would they have started an investigation about the cause of his death at all. Would this Saint-Martin fellow have been caught then?
But Anakin had not died, they had caught the bastard and he and the entire Order had been blamed by Olman.
The interview with Dr Olman was astounding in itself. Shura thought it must probably be the first time that anybody dared denounce the entire Jedi Order as murderers. Even Palpatine had not done that. He had charged them with being corrupt in every sense of the word, that the Order covered up for crimes committed by individual Jedi, but he had never accused the Order to be a criminal organisation, where the members committed crimes on the command of the heads of the Order. This doctor had done so now, and with just the amount of righteous fury that got people’s attention.
Senator Palpatine must be breaking out the champagne right now, Shura thought.
The mere fact that the interview was broadcast despite its incendiary content showed that the attitude of the media towards the Jedi Order had changed.
Shura sighed, casting a quick glance at the holopad, but they were now onto local news, something about the council elections in Monument City being rigged. She could not get even very interested in that. Even here on Tressilia, was all she thought.
She remembered being angry with the mysterious alleged would be assassin that Rhona’s friend had mentioned, she was not angry with this Saint-Martin bloke. He had been caught and that was a very satisfactory thought. Even better he had been handed over to the police and would be tried before a regular court, not in one of those behind closed-doors, mysterious councils of the Jedi Order. The Jedi would not want to find out the truth, they would have wanted to proof him innocent. What had Olman said, ‘even the Jedi are not above the laws of the Republic’. Perhaps not all news these days were bad news. This one certainly cheered her up.
Their opposition to the Jedi and their Order had been one of the few things where Palpatine and she had agreed on. She had been grateful when the Senator had allowed Anakin to leave the Order. Now she found herself somehow in his debt again for having brought about an atmosphere in which a high-ranking member of the Order, as the news had called him, could be brought to justice.
Anakin. Shura stared blindly at the holopad where a great, grey tower house was displayed now. After the first flurry of near-hysteria she had calmed down quickly, she realised. Yes, it had been clear that he had survived the attempted assassination but she ought to have felt more angry with his murderer, more worried about him. Now she ought to feel bad about not feeling these things, but she didn’t.
Just stop that, Shura told herself, stop feeling guilty of feeling too much or too little.
Somehow the building on the news looked familiar, Shura thought, two square towers their corners overlapping, narrower, round towers attached to their corners.
Sudden recognition hit her, this was her home!
Pressing her finger on the volume control, Shura leaned forward again, as if she could crawl into the holographic projection and somehow reach her home.
What on earth had happened?
“According to police investigation,” the commentator stated, “no trace of the perpetrators have been found. Police Commissioner March stated that this indicated it was more than simply local troublemakers.”
Shura clenched her hands together. What had happened? Was anybody hurt or killed? What local troublemakers?
As the camera moved on the front of her mother’s home, it became obvious what had happened. Windows were smashed in, black stains on the door and the walls around it were evidence that a fire had been set there.
There were three large white lumps dumped on the lawn in front of the castle that Shura could not explain for a moment, then the camera zoomed in on them, and she noticed legs sticking out from the shaggy bodies. These were some of their bilties, she realised, lying there dead.
Shura felt sick with anger and fear at the sight.
What had happened? Where were her family? Why did anybody kill their animals and was Nouna one of the limp forms on the grass?
Surely, if anything serious, like murder, had happened the place would be swarming with police. Now only a few were visible walking around the castle with what looked like recording equipment.
As the camera moved even closer, she could see blood staining the white, shaggy fur.
“Oh, please, please,” Shura heard herself mumble, as if praying. Just tell me what is going on!
If anything had happened to her family, she did not know whether she could handle it. There was an abrupt cut in the picture and suddenly there was Old Henneman, the local correspondent from Five Castles, standing inside Eris Castle. Next to him stood, Shura felt her heart skip at least one beat, her mother. Whole, safe, looking angry but not in pain or distressed.
Please, please, let the bilties be the only ones that were killed, Shura wished intently, I don’t even mind if they killed Nouna, just let my family be alright.
“Mrs Eris,” Henneman began, “this is the third attack on your home in as many weeks. So far no one responsible has been found or even left a trace of evidence behind. After this last and most vicious attack, do you still maintain that you have no idea who is behind these criminal acts?”
They were in the lower Hall, Shura realised, the blurry object behind her mother must be the tapestry of the death of Rosen Gall hanging over the fireplace. - The third attack? Why had she not heard about this before?
“You make that sound as if that was a very unlikely story indeed,” her mother replied, obviously annoyed. “What makes you think I should know who is attacking my home and my property? Isn’t that the job of the police to find out who did this?”
Shura was suddenly so homesick it felt almost as if she was physically ill. There, right in front of her was her mother, a miniature mother, but she was so real, and her voice went right into Shura’s heart. It was so hard to see her mother right here and know that she was far away. The homesickness was stronger than even her feelings of anger at the attackers and worry for her family. Worst of all, she knew that her mother was only an hour or so away by ship but she might as well be in a different universe, as Shura just could not go there.
“What makes me think you know?” Old Henneman asked Shura’s mother now. “The answer to this question is very simple, no other home has been attacked, yours on the other hand has been attacked three times. That certainly does look as if the perpetrators picked this place for a reason.”
“Yes,” her mother said, “but I don’t know what goes on in a criminal’s minds.”
“What happened?” Shura asked the three-dimensional projection of her mother. “Is everybody alright?”
She was by now almost sure that nobody had been seriously injured. Not merely because her mother looked quite calm, irritated at worst, she would never waste her time with a reporter, even a well-known reporter like Old Henneman, if somebody needed her help.
“Let me rephrase my question,” Henneman stated now, “if you don’t know, do you have a theory?”
Naureska snorted. “I don’t have a theory either. That, in my honoured opinion, should also be a task for the police. That and make sure we don’t have to go through another night like the last. Now, in the bright light of day we know that these bastards who attacked us were not planning to burn down the house, or kill us all, but with a fire burning at your doorstep and your windows being smashed in and the screaming of dying bilties in your ears, it is a completely different story. Particularly if they have cut your electricity and communications, too. Where do I ask you, was the police then? My daughter is pregnant…”
“Your daughter?” Henneman interrupted her.
Shura was just as surprised as the reporter. Her mother couldn’t mean her, so who was pregnant?
Her mother rolled her eyes. “My other daughter,” she snapped, “one of my other daughters, Kyrela. She and her husband are living here.”
Kyrela pregnant? Shura felt tears rising in her eyes. She had been at Kyrela’s wedding only five months ago, with Anakin. It had been the last time they had been to Tressilia together. The war had been over and life’s possibilities had seemed infinite and good.
“I happen to have more than one daughter, you know,” her mother continued angrily. “And before you can ask, no, I don’t know where Shura is either. Nor do I know what happened. I can only tell you, if she really left her husband, she had a good reason for it. And if she thinks she has to go into hiding, she will have her reasons as well. So, stop it and just leave the poor girl be. She’s been through enough already without you lot stirring things up.”
“Oh, mum,” Shura whispered. She was crying now, wishing she was there, with her mother and her family. How could she have ever thought they would not understand? Her mother would hold a fire-breathing dragon at bay to protect her daughter, no doubt she’d also keep her safe from the media.
Old Henneman dramatically cleared his throat. “The police have found something in the woods out behind the road to Twin Springs, which I think may revise your thoughts about not having a theory who is behind this. Let me show you.”
There was a shuffle as somebody off screen handed Henneman a clear plastic bag with a metallic, cylindrical object in it.
“Oh great goddess,” Shura breathed, just as her mother said the same.
It was a lightsaber.
Her mother gingerly took the plastic bag into her hand, just as if she feared the lightsaber might explode every second.
“Hang on,” Shura exclaimed. This clue was just too obvious. Detestable as the Jedi were, they were not that incompetent. Leaning over she picked up a tissue to blow her nose and wipe away her tears. This lightsaber was just a way-too-obvious pointer. “Do you have a theory now,” Henneman asked.
Her mother shook her head. “No.”
She handed the evidence bag back to Henneman who looked more than a little surprised. “I do know what that is,” Naureska continued. “But don’t you think this is just a bit odd. The attackers managed to belt the house with stones, start a fire on the doorstep and kill several of our animals and did not leave so much as a footprint, fingerprint or a single hair on the scene, just to drop this close by where it is certain to be found?”
“Ah,” Henneman made.
“It’s fishy,” Shura’s mother said. “You should give this back to the police, let them get on with their work. - And I have to get on with mine.”
“Yes, thank you very much for your time.” Henneman at least knew when he was dismissed.
“This was Tod Henneman reporting from Eris Castle,” a voice-over continued while the camera was still on Naureska and Henneman talking animatedly but inaudibly, “where the family of Admiral Shura Talassa was attacked again tonight by a group of persons unknown. Back to Five Castles and the local sports news.” Shura switched the holo off. For a moment she stared at the blank pad, then she buried her face in her hands. This was just too much, too many things all happening at once. She did not know what she should be thinking or feeling about all of it. First, some idiot Jedi tried to kill Anakin, then she found out that somebody, some group had attacked the house of her mother and not for the first time. If she imagined what it must have felt like for her mother, her sister and her brother-in-law, trapped in the dark with no means to call for help while some attackers smashed in their windows, set a fire and killed three - at least three of their bilties, she was shaking with fear for her family and anger at the person or persons who did this.
No, she did not believe it was the Jedi. They had no particular quarrel with her or her family. Nor was in their style. Moreover, as her mother said, if they took such great pains to avoid leaving behind any trace of who they were, would they be as incompetent to just drop the one item that made everybody immediately recognised and connected to them? Hardly.
It was possible, of course, but Shura had a very different theory: Palpatine.
He certainly had a personal quarrel with her, and getting back at her - or as much as he could not knowing where she was - and blaming the Jedi for it, would be killing two birds with one stone in his eyes, wouldn’t it? Granted the dropped lightsaber was a little more heavy-handed than she would expect of Palpatine, but then perhaps his lackeys who actually did the dirty work had thought of that particular clue.
Goddess, Shura thought, he’s really going after me.
If Palpatine was really behind this vicious attack on her family, and the more she thought of it, the more likely it seemed, he was not just angry with her or did not like her influence on Anakin, he really, really had it in for her. He was determined for her to stay away from Anakin. The question was of course, did he just want to scare her, or did he really want her dead?
The real question was why did the bastard do it.
Shura had always disliked Palpatine intensely, but she would never think of attacking him personally or his family. Though of course, even if she would like to do anything like that, there was nothing she could do about it. Palpatine on the other hand had he the means and the ruthlessness to organise this attack on her family.
Additionally, Palpatine would hardly care if she was to kill his ex-wife, or his children. He just would use their deaths as propaganda.
If only she could protect her family. A part of her wanted nothing so much than jump into her ship and fly home. Seek comfort from and bring help to her mother.
But what then, she found herself wondering. What if these people attacked again, what could you do? Run outside blasters blazing and fire into the dark? All you’d manage to do would be to get yourself killed.
And wouldn’t that just be what Palpatine wanted? Have her dead and permanently out of the way?
Shura rubbed her face and straightened up.
She could go somewhere else, appear in public and lay a false trail, draw Palpatine’s attention away from her family. It wasn’t as if she were a criminal on the run, she could just go anywhere she wanted to, she could even go straight to Coruscant and confront the weaselly little bastard. His connection to the attacks she’d never be able to proof, so what good would it be? Or she could go to the media, tell her side of the story. Rhona would be pleased, no doubt. But once she blew her cover, once her false identity had become known she could not hide again. Other people, with more experience in this sort of almost criminal behaviour might know how to but she didn’t.
Perhaps that was Palpatine’s actual intention, scare her out of hiding. Then he could set his henchmen on her, make sure she had a nasty accident she did not survive. Ships blew up everyday, people got mugged and killed all over the Republic with hardly a word lost about it. Would anybody think to blame Palpatine if she died?
You are getting paranoid, she reprimanded herself. She had no real indication that Palpatine was behind any of this, or that he planned to kill her.
But it was better to err on the safe side. She had to leave and had to leave now.
What if they attacked Rhona? Rhona who lived here all by herself, her home was even further away from the next help than Eris Castle, and it was made of wood.
A shudder ran through Shura when she thought of an attack out of the night, fire being set on the wooden porch, Rhona trapped in a blazing inferno.
So far, there had been no attacks, but if her theory was true, if she wasn’t completely paranoid, there would be if Palpatine or his helpers found out that something odd was going on here. Which meant again that she had to leave, as soon and as stealthily as possible.
Shura sighed and stood up.
Looking around herself, she was almost surprised that it was not even midday yet. The sun was still shining brightly outside as if nothing had happened.
As she could not leave before nightfall, she had plenty of time to prepare, doing this - as Rhona would advise - slowly and thoroughly.
She had to contact Keeiara, organise a rendezvous-point, she had to pack her things, papers and some food and last but not least she had to finally write to her mother.
Shura groaned and almost sat down again. The prospect of having to write this letter, an old-fashioned letter on paper, that Rhona would deliver to her mother personally with no danger of it being intercepted, had been one of the main reasons she had postponed her leaving this long. This letter and the prospect of giving up the comfortable life here.
But, it had to be done, and she better did it now. As her mother would tell her, start with the worst and everything else will be easy.
And, as her mother was also fond of saying, if you do something, do it properly.
Shura gritted her teeth and stormed into the kitchen, before her nerve could fail her, and took the picture of the babies off the fridge.
Perhaps that was a good way to start the letter. ‘Guess what, mum, I am pregnant, too, and as far as I can tell, I’m as far along as Kyrela, so you might have four more grandchildren soon’.
Shura had to grin despite herself, though of course, she knew that this would not do.
She stared down at the black and white picture, her babies.
Alright, she thought, it’s time I introduce you to your grandmother.

The story continues

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