Looking For Home: My Home Is You

Chapter Six

Luke’s heart-aching mental shout of Mother! inside the obvious nursery still had Mara’s senses reeling. The pain was old and familiar to him and bled like a reopened wound. She was impressed that he had remained standing even as he had teetered and gaped in front of the complex manager.

She kept her pull and push on Irella Tarask gentle as she moved the older woman back down the hall towards the parlor. Tarask kept looking back over her shoulder. “Oh dear, is he all right? I know the room is so obviously a nursery but it can be redecorated. I didn’t send those baby things to her parents, since the baby died with her. It seemed too cruel.”

So that’s the story that was given out, Mara snarled in her mind. Retroactively, she was ashamed of her callous phrasing after Wayland when she had confronted him over what he hadn’t told her about his parentage. Holed up in his cabin on the Wild Karrde, having just woken up from the healing trance he had treated her with, and she had flung ‘What woman would have reproduced with Darth Vader?’ in his face. His stoic resolve to answer all her questions had cracked with sorrow. ‘I don’t know; no one is left to tell us who she was.’

Hiding her inner turmoil, she continued to pat Tarask as she guided her to the door. “It’s okay; it’s a Jedi thing. But you never know how long one will last, so we should let you get back to your work. We’ll see you again before we leave.”

“Oh, but I didn’t even show you the master bedroom suite!” Tarask twisted out of Mara’s grasp right in front of the turbolift.

“That’s fine, I’ll look at it while he’s in his trance. We’ll see you again before we leave.” Mara smiled, the pleasant one she usually reserved for one of Karrde’s compliments, because this woman was not the one responsible for Luke’s shock and pain. And set her body between Tarask and the doorway back to the parlor.

Tarask nodded with a slight frown. “Very well. Anyone at the front desk can escort you to my office. I’ll leave word with them.”

Mara heaved a sigh once the turbolift headed down. She didn’t know what to do now. What she wanted to do was shake the dead Jedi who had decided Luke’s past was off-limits to him until their teeth fell out. They were supposed to be better than the Emperor who stole her past! His mentors hurt him and never answered for it but they were dead and out of her reach. Thoughts like that wouldn’t help Luke, and she had to help him now. She shielded her thoughts up tight.

Did one treat emotional shock the same as physical? No one had covered that one in her medpac training. All she could do is judge for herself, but she doubted wrapping him in a blanket would ease the stabbing betrayal and the old ache of denied longing he was suffering from.

He sat in the yellow chair in the corner near the window and held the stuffed animal toy that had previously rested in the seat. Not collapsed on the floor was good. His comlink was chirping like his astromech. Not answering the comm wasn’t good. She crossed the room to him. “Skywalker?”

His anguish was as clear now as it had been when his sister arrived in C’baoth’s throne room on Wayland, but he was fighting to control it. His fingers fumbled around his comlink. “I need… I just need….” It came loose without him opening his eyes and he held out the chirping device.

His hand was much warmer than hers. Was that a shock symptom or was it just from clenching his fists? He wanted the chirping comlink gone, so she carried it out of the nursery with her. She answered it once she reached the parlor again. “Skywalker’s comlink.”

“Mara?” It was Leia Organa Solo on the other end of the link. “What’s wrong with Luke?”

So she felt that all the way across the district. The Skywalker twins could make anyone feel inadequate about their Force skills, and Mara had been training more regularly than Leia. “The Jedi is having an emotional upheaval right now. I think we stumbled upon who your mother was.”

“Our mother? How? Where are you?”

“In the penthouse apartment of the Senate Apartment Complex.” Mara stared out the windows at the surrounding buildings. “Vader didn’t decorate this place, if you’re worried about that. I was expecting to find a stash of lightsabers from Jedi he killed. I don’t know what your brother expected, but a nursery wasn’t on his list.”

“I can't get out of these meetings today. I'm sending Han over.”

“There’s a private airspeeder dock on the veranda. That will be more discreet than him running through the lobby.” Mara pulled out her datapad with the file of all the details Luke had on this apartment, which included the code through the shield. She passed the information through to Leia and signed off.

She peered into the nursery now that the comlink was silent again. Luke had dropped into a meditative trance, still holding onto the brown toy. She pocketed his comlink and left him to his psychometric trance. She might as well go through the master bedroom suite to get to the veranda.

The double doors at the end of the hallway opened into the largest bedroom of the three, and larger than anything Mara had ever slept in. But it was a simple room for the size. The bronzium-decorated ribs had continued down the hall from the parlor and around the dome-like side. One wide space between the ribs was filled with three horizontal panels of clari-crystalline windows from floor to ceiling. A glass-topped table stood in front of the window; whatever decorations it had once held had been packed up and sent to Naboo. The bed was wide enough for two people and dressed in shades of gray and rose with a pile of pillows against the headboard. Even more pillows were stacked on the bench at the foot of the bed. Round glass-topped side tables held round disk-shaped lamps within reach of the occupants of the bed. There was enough room to partition a sitting area in here. She wondered why Luke’s mother hadn’t.

The second door out of the master bedroom led into a wardrobe big enough to qualify as another bedroom. Who needed this much space for clothing? Mara shook her head and headed out the second door. That opened onto a landing for the steps down to the veranda and another doorway. That door slid open into a refresher as long as the master bedroom with two of everything, except for the tub raised up a step and set under a skylight. And the tub was big enough for two people. The tour should have started with that tub, because she really wanted to make an offer. Not that Skywalker was going to let her move into this apartment now.

On that note, she probed him through the Force. Still trancing. She left the amazing ‘fresher and sat on the veranda. The cushions on the sofas were still comfortable. Solo didn’t take as long as she feared. He parked a rental airspeeder from the Imperial Palace without the Wookiee or babies as passengers. He leaped out of the airspeeder’s open-air canopy and his long legs took the steps up to the veranda floor in double time. “What’s the intel? All Leia had time to tell me was Luke was in turmoil.”

“It’s emotional, but he’s calmed down enough to try a psychometric trance. Vader bought the complex and had the apartment closed off almost thirty years ago after the last pregnant tenant died. Oh and everyone was told her baby died with her. I’m glad for Skywalker’s sake that the nursery has a Tatooine mural covering one of the walls.”

Solo knew what that meant and his appraising frown questioned how much she knew about the situation. Did he think she didn’t deserve an explanation after the Noghri dropped that thermal detonator? But Solo only asked, “Where’s Luke?”

She led the way back through the master bedroom suite and left Solo at the nursery door. She backed away, trusting Leia’s knowledge of the two men and this situation, which was out of Mara’s skill set. She gritted her teeth. There was no one to kill, no deal to make, no one to threaten, no one to bribe, no one to investigate. Wait.

The console in the office powered on without any alarms. Whatever maintenance droids Irella Tarask employed on this floor evidently kept the consoles usable as well. Tarask hadn’t named the woman but she had given enough details to start an information search. Mara typed in “List of senators of the Chommell sector during the Old Republic” and started the information search.

The console moved slower than what she was used to. Ghent would have to get her something better, no matter where she ended up living. But the list filled in eventually and the last four names are what she focused on: Sheev Palpatine, Janus Greejatus, Horace Vancil, and Padmé Amidala.

She had been taught Palpatine’s political career as a child, but the focus had shifted from his Senatorial sector once he had been elected Supreme Chancellor. She hadn’t realized that many senators came after him. She brought up the biographical and political information on Padmé Amidala. One of Naboo’s elected child monarchs, a ruling system that had never made sense to Mara, but her youth didn’t stop her from ending the Trade Federation’s subjugation of Naboo without any resources from the Old Republic. Eight years later, she was elected senator of the Chommell sector. She led the faction opposed to the establishment of an army to battle the Separatists, giving a speech only hours after an assassination attempt. Mara’s eyebrows rose.

The holoimage of the woman that appeared bore more than a passing resemblance to Leia Organa Solo. Serious brown eyes gazed at the holorecorder, brown hair coiled into an elaborate upside-down dual-fan shape with a bun in the back, a small jeweled diadem rested in the center of her forehead, the high collar of the yellow underneath the blue velvet overdress was decorated in a beaded design that mimicked jewelry; this woman still demanded attention and knew how to dress for it. Leia had displayed that same skill at the celebratory ball for Thrawn’s defeat. The image from the Senate Chamber was from early in her senatorial career. She was also listed as having fought at the Battle of Geonosis, the first battle officially declared of the Clone Wars, along with her Jedi bodyguards Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father and future Darth Vader. This senator knew Luke’s father and put a mural of Tatooine on the nursery wall. Mara picked one of the Amidala’s last holovids available next.

It was a funeral, a state funeral judging by the crowds of people lining the street route the body’s open pall took as it was paraded past. The somber crowd dressed in dark colors and held primitive fire sticks in the twilight of the planet, must be Naboo, Mara mused as she realized that barges on the water held even more spectators. The holorecorder moved in close as the pall was escorted past. Padmé Amidala’s hair had been taken down and arranged around her face and shoulders with white flowers dotting it like stars. The aqua blue gown flowed over her swollen by pregnancy body and her hands rested on the top of the abdomen. Mara closed out of that file. Luke didn’t need to see that right now. She glanced at the death details. That was the sparsest information she had ever seen, just blamed the death on the Jedi Rebellion against Emperor Palpatine. Senator Bail Organa returned Amidala’s body to Naboo. Wasn’t that suspicious of Leia’s adoptive father? If Luke’s insight needed further corroboration, comparing the travel times when Leia showed up on Alderaan and this funeral was a potential source of clues.

She opened up other holoimages from the last months of Amidala’s life. The voluminous dresses continued to be made of luxurious fabrics but the shapes shifted from emphasis on her figure to a cone from the shoulders down, hiding her growing belly. Small wonder the wardrobe took up as much room as it did. She paused on one labeled “Senator Amidala and representatives of the Delegation of 2000 leaving Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s office.” Her hair was pulled back in many tight coils so her serious frown was caught clearly by the holorecorder. Mara saw an echo of Luke’s frown in it.

“See, I told you she was still here,” Solo said as he and Skywalker entered the office. “Who is that?” They hemmed her in at the desk as they got closer to look at the console screen.

“Padmé Amidala, the last Old Republic senator of the Chommell sector,” Mara answered. Skywalker’s gaze riveted on the image of the young woman. “Irella Tarask said she didn’t pack the baby stuff because the baby died with her. Bail Organa returned her body to Naboo for the funeral. And Anakin Skywalker was her bodyguard at the beginning of the Clone Wars.”

“Everything is pointing to her being our mother. There’s a resemblance between her and Leia.” Skywalker’s expression softened. “They didn’t tell Aunt Beru she was a politician. I never found anything under Padmé Skywalker.”

“The only way to be completely sure is to take a genetic sample to Naboo and compare with her medical records.”

Skywalker glanced at her and took back the comlink she held out to him. “We’ll probably go through the Coruscant records on her before taking a trip.”

“That’s enough fabric to cover the Falcon,” Solo said. “I’m glad Leia never wanted to wear anything like that.”

“That is a woman hiding her pregnancy, probably from the Jedi who'd steal her children.” Mara realized she was letting her indignation with his mentors and the organization they had belonged to leak out in her bitter tone. “Sorry, Skywalker, but they did. Imperial propagandists had a practice of that to use against them.” She could hear the mental echo of a woman’s voice please not my baby, and pushed it aside.

“At least when the Jedi took kids, they didn’t leave a trail of bodies out of the families left behind like the Empire.” Solo’s voice was full of quiet menace, the most dangerous kind, and Mara felt herself wanting to snap back in self-defense. He and his twins were still here thanks to her.

But Luke spoke with a gentle firmness that punctured the menace. “The Order I start won’t separate families. One day I'll have to put out a statement that I don't plan on re-instituting the practice.” Mara blinked at him, trying to remember any other time he flat out said that the Jedi were wrong. Nothing was coming to her mind. “So,” he continued, “do you think this apartment will work for you?”

“Well, I have plenty to blackmail the landlord with to get a below-market rental price.” She turned her seat to look directly at him instead of the console screen.

Skywalker smiled. “No blackmail necessary. I want you to have it at what you can afford. Keeps it from becoming part of the Luke Skywalker tour.”

“They're trying to expand to Hoth this year.” Solo told them cheerfully.

Skywalker muttered something under his breath that sounded like "Fierfek why.”

Mara kept the conversation on the apartment, but in all fairness, she had to point out the repercussions to him. “You know what I’m liable to do to protect my space,” she said.

“Better for you to maim them with your sarcasm than for some poor restaurateur to be besieged.”

“I can’t afford what this place is worth or the remodeling necessary.”

“I don’t need the money.”

“He really doesn’t.” Solo nudged her aside so he could look at the information she had found on the console. “But you will run out if you keep loaning money to Lando, Kid.”

“That’s an investment.” He glanced at the next holoimage Solo opened: Amidala in the Senate Chamber again wearing a blue so dark it was almost purple and her hair pulled back with a winged headdress. “I’ll cover the remodeling so don’t worry about that cost. What’s your rental budget?” She named her figure. He didn’t blink. “Okay, let’s go tell Tarask.”

Solo looked up from the console display. “I’m under strict orders to bring you home for supper, Luke.”

“Leia’s actually getting to leave her office for supper?”

Solo turned an apologetic gaze to Mara. “I’m sure you’re welcome too, under the circumstances.”

“It’s family stuff.” She didn’t think she needed to be present for any more Skywalker family stuff. “I can get take out and start redecorating leg work. It’s fine.”

Solo nodded as she stood up. “Okay, I’ll meet you down in the lobby then.” He sauntered out of the office and down the hall toward the master bedroom.

“What did you tell Tarask?” Skywalker asked as she turned off the console.

“That you were going into a Jedi trance,” Mara answered. “Out of your control. I didn’t think I should tell her she accidentally told you who your mother was.”

“Thank you.” He let her leave the room first.

It didn’t take as long with Irella Tarask as Mara feared. The older woman insisted on speaking to Luke alone when it reached Mara’s monthly rent. He didn’t use the Force on her and judging Tarask’s expression, she had come to her own conclusion as to why Mara rated such a low price. Mara sensed Tarask’s pride in her discretion and her protection of her tenants. She wouldn’t see her name paired with Skywalker’s in the tabloids because Tarask said something. Solo took charge of Skywalker before Mara had finished signing the lease agreements. She promised to turn in the airspeeder Skywalker and she had rented this morning and they left. Mara shifted the conversation to the work the apartment needed. Tarask gave her the security firm, contractors, and suppliers she used in the rest of the complex. Mara wasn’t completely sure what she wanted to change beyond the thirty-year-old appliances and computer equipment, but at least she had contacts for who could do the work.

Realizing how late it was, she opted to save contacting Ghent until tomorrow when she could track down whatever hole the New Republic had let the young man stuff himself into, stopped at a good diner on the way back to the Imperial Palace, and brought her meal back to Skywalker’s quarters. The guest code unlocked the door and she sighed as she entered.

Artoo rolled into the foyer with a quiet beep that turned into a screech. His dome swiveled to do a sensor sweep of the hallway and the kitchen doorway. Then his whistles and beeps got angry. He rolled back and forth in the foyer, keeping Mara from advancing into the rooms.

“Shavit, really?” She shifted her food bag and activated her comlink. Artoo warbled and screeched again before she spoke into it.

“Is that Artoo?” Skywalker asked.

“Your droid is having some kind of fit,” Mara said. Artoo buzzed her and extended his arc welder from its cavity in his white cylindrical body. “You zap me with that and I will feed it to you!”

“Give me a second.” Skywalker ended the comm.

Mara shifted her food bag again so her right hand was free to go for her blaster or her lightsaber. The console in the parlor chimed for an incoming comm. “I’m pretty sure that’s for you,” Mara told the droid.

Artoo retracted his arc welder and rolled into the parlor. Mara took advantage of the opening and headed for the table. The droid connected his computer interface arm to the console and answered the comm. Skywalker’s face appeared on the screen. “Artoo, will you please stop treating Mara like she’s a hostile invader.”

The droid’s response typed on the screen on top of Skywalker’s image, perfectly legible from Mara’s vantage point as she unpacked her food. “You left with her. You did not return with her. She was programmed to deactivate you. Alarm is justified.” His beeps and whistles followed along with the words.

“Alarm is not justified. Mara’s not programmed to kill me anymore. I’m having supper with Leia and Han. Now knock off the bad behavior.”

Artoo trilled questioningly. “Visiting Captain Solo and Princess Leia was not on your agenda today?”

Skywalker sighed. “Plans changed, Artoo. I just found out who our mother was and need to share that with Leia. Okay? I’ll be home later.”

The droid went so still and quiet, Mara thought that it had powered itself off. Then it whooped. “Just found out? You did not have this information before?”

“That’s what just found out means, Artoo. Do we need Threepio to translate?”

“Jedi Master Yoda did not interface the information about Mistress Padmé to you on Dagobah?”

Skywalker’s expression sagged. “No, he barely told me about Leia before he died.” Then he frowned. “Mistress Padmé? Artoo, how do you know her name?”

Artoo unplugged himself from the console and let out a string of beeps and whistles angrier than the ones he directed to Mara in the foyer. He continued the tirade as he rolled out of the parlor.

“Artoo?” Skywalker called out. “Threepio, what did he just say?”

Mara heard the quarters’ door slide open and reached the foyer’s doorway to the parlor in time to see Artoo roll down the hall before the door slid shut again. She went to the console. “He hightailed it out of here.”

The gold-plated protocol droid appeared behind Luke’s head. “Master Luke, I really shouldn’t translate what Artoo just said. It’s not language appropriate for children. However, it was an invective directed at the mud-bogged, green-skinned troll organic.”

Skywalker rubbed his face. “I guess he’s on his way here. Enjoy your evening, Mara. I’ll be home later.”

“May the Force be with you.” She ended the comm on the console. He needed all the help he could get with the mood his droid was in.

She ate her meal in blissful silence and studied the copy of the apartment’s floor plan on her datapad. The veranda had to have more doors. She didn’t care how shielded the other end was, open doorways were begging for trouble. If the wall between the central hallway and the dining room disappeared, that would make it one big room around the light well. That would make for a much better flow. Nothing was wrong with the color scheme or the guest bedroom suite. She would add a sofa to the master bedroom suite. That would be a nice spot to curl up at the end of the day that didn’t scream ‘work some more’ like the sofa in the office would. The baby furniture would have to be replaced with an adult-sized bed, but she found herself feeling guilty about the idea of painting over those murals. They weren’t holoimages on the walls, but art created out of paint. So she wouldn’t paint over them. After all, the only people who would possibly use her guest rooms would be members of Karrde’s organization and she could get away with telling them they were uncultured louts if they brought it up. She typed up her notes for a meeting with the contractors and was looking over her schedule for tomorrow to see when to fit it in. She had requests for ships already. Those meetings had to come first.

She cleaned up her meal and was in the process of moving to the sofa when her comlink alerted. It was Karrde. She routed the comm to the console and answered it. Her eyebrows rose at the level of encryption available. “Military grade,” she murmured.

“Greetings, Mara.” Talon Karrde smiled inside his goatee. “How secure is this connection?”

“A little less secure than one of Ghent’s machines, but not by much. Too many important people comm Skywalker to have anything less secure.”

Karrde’s eyebrow rose. “You’re at Skywalker’s?”

Her employer was going to read all sorts of implications in that, and she had been circumspect in her earlier message to him. She gave him the expanded story now with all the details he could want.

Karrde listened to her gravely. “First, good job on getting the contract done. The terms have made the others in the Alliance happy. But you are going to have extra work keeping the oversight the New Republic has asked for.”

Mara smirked. “Only in the near term. Once a year is reached without any criminal complaints, the oversight scales back. They should all consider themselves trading partners by then.”

Karrde nodded. “Second, I’m glad you accepted Skywalker’s aid.”

“Are you?”

“If the vandalism is from disgruntled New Republic participants, having their Jedi on your side sends a definite message. I’d expect that would make them reconsider their actions. If the vandalism is from some unsavory aspect targeting you or me through you, the Jedi who destroyed the Empire and Jabba the Hutt protecting you will make them reconsider their actions.”

She scowled. “I can protect myself.”

“Of course, you can. I fully expect you to neutralize the threat while they’re all busy gawking at Skywalker.” He smiled at her chuckle. “I’ll research the Columex angle. You concentrate on setting up your new home base and getting the shipping schedules active. We should be landing on Coruscant in a week, but not much longer than that. I’ll comm you with the travel details once they’re finalized.”

“I’ve got Wild Karrde last on the shipping list.”

He nodded. “Spread the New Republic wealth around to our partners first. Where did you put Mazzic?”

“Third because he caused me grief. Clear skies, Karrde.”

“See you soon.” He ended the comm.

She sat cross-legged on the sofa facing the foyer, after removing her shoes, and immersed herself in her schedule for the next week. Tevv had messaged her that it would be two months before they could schedule the ‘we finally signed the contract’ ball. She replied that schedule was fine because it would take that long to get the shipping schedules set up where the smugglers could attend. Then she methodically went through who would get what days, leaving a big chunk of tomorrow free to find Ghent and hire contractors. Six months had built up a lot of shipping offers, and the New Republic had needed shipping before Thrawn had reared his blue head. She hoped the Alliance was ready with ships to take all this on.

The door to the quarters slid open and she jerked her head up. She felt Luke in the Force, much more at peace than how he had left her, before he entered the parlor. Surprise flickered across his face. “You didn’t have to wait up for me.”

“I wasn’t,” she lifted her datapad. “I was working and lost track of time.” She looked up at the chrono and winced. No wonder she felt stiff, it had been hours. She uncrossed her legs while Skywalker dropped into the armchair. The astromech did not follow him into the parlor. “Where’s your copilot?”

“Artoo dropped a bombshell on Threepio and he wasn’t handling it very well. Han told Artoo to get Threepio back to normal, or he’d drop them both off on Tatooine to stay.”

“You’d let him do that?”

“I let him threaten; Artoo deserved it at that point. He was telling the past in such a way to upset Threepio. They are doing a file share or something, should take the rest of the night.” Skywalker leaned forward. “Artoo, he was my mother’s droid and he flew with my father. He still had recordings of their wedding and Leia and my births. Do you want to see?”

Mara raised her eyebrow. “Your birth? Not particularly.”

“Their wedding.”

Her head reared back with his words. Vader married? He had shown nothing but contempt for so many married members of the Imperial Court. But no, it was Anakin Skywalker’s wedding even though Jedi didn’t marry. Luke’s face was beginning to fall and he had gone through enough today. “All right.”

He pulled a hand-held holoprojector out of his pocket. She moved to the other end of the sofa to see the blue-tinted figures. A young man with short, shaggy hair dressed in a Jedi robe held the hand of the shorter woman dressed in lace. The man behind them must be the officiant. Her first thought was Luke and Leia got their heights from their mother because Anakin was already taller than the older officiant. Her second thought she actually shared. “They’re both so young.”

“It was right after the Battle of Geonosis and they kept it secret from everyone. He was twenty and she was twenty-four and they had already fought in two battles together.” His gaze on the holovid was a bit awe-struck. “I wasn’t ready to get married at twenty.”

“I wasn’t either,” Mara admitted. “So if your droid knew all this, why hadn’t he told you already?”

“He thought Master Yoda had told me. Threepio was wiped and the last owner he told me about was on Leia’s ship, so no reason at all to connect him and Artoo with my parents. His blue eyes twinkled. “I’m older,” he said proudly.

“And what does Leia say to that?”

“She’s smarter.” He rolled his eyes with a smile as he turned off the holoprojector. “She’s invited you to come see the twins, if you want. They’re almost crawling and are reacting to real interactions. Just comm her if you want to.”

“To check in on who I saved or is your sister one of those mothers who thinks everyone is obsessed about their babies?” Mara realized she was fidgeting with her datapad and stopped.

“The first one. Leia doesn’t thrust Jacen and Jania on people who don’t care about babies. She won’t be upset if you’d rather not meet them until they’re talking.” He walked over to the console and set the holoprojector onto the desk. He wanted to ask her something and didn’t know how she’d react. How she felt about babies probably, not that it was any of his business.

“I’ll comm her about it after I get moved. I don’t think I’ll have time for social calls before then.”

“Okay.” He didn’t turn around, but his shoulders tightened. “Mara, did you really think I would be like Palpatine and Thrawn and steal babies from their families?”

Not the baby question she had expected, and she probably should have. “You’re very enthusiastic about recreating the Jedi Order. They took babies away and raised them to be loyal to the organization above family.” He whirled around to face her with a spike of justification jabbing through the Force. She raised her hand to stop him from speaking. “That’s something I will always have a problem with, no matter who does it. Did I think you’d arrive at someone’s medcenter bed and demand custody of the Force Sensitive baby? No, of course not. But I did have a worry about what would happen in the future. You never said it wouldn’t happen until today.”

Understanding replaced Skywalker’s need to explain himself. “I thought it was obvious, at least to you. You know me. I should have explained.”

“To be fair, it hadn’t come up before.”

“Well, I’ll be sure to put a statement out once I figure out how to handle more students. And put in our history lessons what the Empire turned giving children up into so that is why we don’t separate families any more.” He returned to the armchair and leaned back. “Oh, I want the baby bed mobile. I don’t know if I told you.”

Mara shook her head. “I think you forgot, but that’s okay. Do you want the baby bed too?”

“I don’t need a baby bed, and its safety features are probably thirty years out of date.” He focused on her again. “We could look for your birth family. I have access to the archives.”

“I’ve looked.” Her datapad was still on. She turned it off. “Remember the codes I used on the Chimera’s computers?” He nodded. “When Palpatine gave them to me, I used them on the archives to find all my records. I don’t really know what I thought I’d do with it. Go back and tell them I was the Emperor’s assassin? I was so stupid and so proud.” He winced in sympathy. “The first record I found only identified me as an Imperial citizen, age five, and named Mara Jade. No home planet, no relatives listed. Short of taking a genetic sample to every human settlement in the Empire’s old borders, there’s no other way to find any relatives. If Palpatine left any behind when he took me.” She stood up. “Thanks for the offer, Farmboy. But concentrate on your relatives right now.”

“Okay. Good night, Mara.”

“Good night.”

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