Looking For Home: My Home Is You title image

Chapter Seventeen

The corridor that ran alongside the Citadel’s medcenter was filled with a mass of people. Kam Solusar remained on the outer periphery against the other wall. The other six Dark Side Elite were in the center surrounded by misshapen Byss Mages and lesser adepts. The Imperial Sovereign Protectors and their Master were the only ones not represented in the group. Projected physical pain washed over the group and a guttural moan rose unbidden from most of the mouths. Kam gritted his teeth and clenched his fists to hold in the urge to lash out. If he went straight through the wall, he could stop the flesh-cutting the disgraced Emperor’s Hand was undergoing. He didn’t know how she disgraced herself or why Darth Sidious had chosen this torture hidden that she was still serving their Master loyally, but her despair mingled with the pain. So she knew. He wondered who had slipped up and made her realize it.

He slipped away and none of the group noticed him leaving. He had no other duties assigned right now and he wanted as much space between him and the other adepts as possible so he wandered. He couldn’t save the Hand from her fate. He couldn’t save himself. Wrapped in his own familiar despair, he walked down corridors without a destination in mind. So of course he ended up in the rooms set aside as a museum of Force items. The door slid open before him and he stepped through into the dimly lit space.

Serenity washed over him as the door slid shut behind him. The pedestals circling the room illuminated the crystalline cubes resting on them. Those cubes called to him, but he resisted the urge to pick up the nearest one. All the pedestals were alarmed. Instead he moved to the long wall and looked up at the trays stacked to the ceiling. The lightsabers of various sizes and shapes gleamed. A tray had already been pulled down and set horizontal for viewing. He knew the contents of this tray well, he often looked at the lightsabers surrounding the one that always called to him. But the new lightsaber at the end caught his eye. It was predominately silver with vertical black hand-grips around the base, but the metal covering the crystal chamber was golden. Kam paused in front of it long enough for the holographic placard beside it to activate. “Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade” were listed.

That was odd. Not that the Emperor’s Hand had disarmed the Jedi and his lightsaber ended up here with the rest of the Jedi lightsabers, but that her name was listed on it too. None of the other lightsabers listed who had retrieved them. Maybe the Master decided to change the placard format? He moved down the tray of lightsabers to the one he always ended up looking at. The metal of the hilt had been silver, but a black finish had been rubbed into it taking away the shine. Dark brown pebbled leather covered the bottom half. The emitter matrix was protected by a wider disk at one end. And even though he had never turned it on, he knew the plasma blade was amber colored.

Its placard hadn’t changed, still reading “Ranik Solusar.” If they had changed to list who retrieved the lightsaber from the criminal Jedi, it should list Darth Vader. He never understood how he knew, but he saw it clearly once again. The museum room vanished for deserted city street in a downpour of rain. Lightning flashed behind the black armored and caped figure illuminating him for a moment. His opponent was dressed in sodden trousers and tunic and brought up the amber beam of light to block the blow from the red. Kam clenched his fists. There was no helping the man against the black figure; he had tried before to no avail.

“Solusar,” a familiar voice called out to him. It wasn’t either of the combatants. “Solusar!” He fell out of the vision and back into the museum room, nearly losing his balance. Sedriss crossed his arms over his chest. “You know you’re not supposed to be in here. One day, Darth Sidious will be the one to catch you and he’ll kill you for your disobedience.”

Kam shook off the lingering effects of the vision. “I only came in to see the Jedi’s lightsaber.” He waved a hand down the length of the tray.

Sedriss didn’t bother looking. “Succeed in this assignment and maybe our Master will decide to gift you with one of your own.”

“What is his will?”

“You’ve got such an easy-going manner. It’ll be simple for you to indoctrinate the child under her mother and the Jedi’s awareness.” Sedriss headed to the doorway on the opposite side of the room from the outer corridor. Kam trailed him into the room of powerful Dark Side artifacts. “The Hand will be distracted with the implanted clone.” He strolled to the wall of shelves and stared up.

“That’s what the Master decided to do with her?”

“You missed the wager pool for how many times she’ll go through the procedure before dying. See Nist if you want in on the credits.” Sedriss lifted his hand and a small opaque box floated down to it from a shelf a meter above their heads. “You were joking with the Jedi on the trip in; he won’t see you as a threat. The Force dampeners around the suite will keep him contained and blinded. If he attacks, you’ll be able to fend him off. And the child will accept this pretty bauble.” He passed the box to Kam.

He opened the leather-covered box. The red gem set in the gold pendent pulsed with Dark Side energy. “Give this to the little girl?”

“It will sway her to our beliefs and all they’ll see is a gaudy bit of costume jewelry.” Sedriss moved to the door. “Don’t delay. It will not please Darth Sidious.”

Kam closed the box and followed Sedriss out through the room of Jedi artifacts. The box in his hand grew heavier and unbalanced. He looked down rather expecting to see his hand dragging along the floor. It wasn’t, but the weight didn’t seem to ease until he stepped into the outer corridor.

The medical procedures would not distract the Hand from a strange man giving her daughter a gift. Sedriss hadn’t dealt with her back on the Eclipse. If she came out of the medcenter conscious, she’d be suspicious. So not a gift, not really, a collection of things to keep the child occupied. If the medical was as bad as it had felt earlier, both she and the Jedi would need that for the child.

Down on a level not far from the residential section of the Citadel was space that had already been appropriated and furnished for child care and classrooms, though never used. Kam found a larger crate, one that needed both his arms to carry but he could still see over it, and filled it with a couple of datapads, educational datacards, and mostly toys. The smaller box holding the Dark Side artifact rested on the bottom.

The suite the Hand and the Jedi had been imprisoned in was not far from those child care rooms. Two Imperial Sovereign Protectors guarded the corridor, but remained well out of the reach of the Force dampeners. Kam didn’t like the headache they gave off either. But feeling them wasn’t the only trepidation he felt. He did not want this task. The child cringed from them all already; why hurt her more? He heaved a sigh as he stopped outside the suite door. One didn’t tell Darth Sidious no. Not unless you had a sudden urge to feel how Force Lightning burned flesh.

The security droid on the door recognized Kam’s authorization and opened the door for him. The little girl was giggling madly. “You’re steering this ship,” the Jedi’s voice chided with an amused tone. “Better watch out for that asteroid.” Kam reached the doorway to the main room, no the only room of the suite, and blinked as he stopped short.

The astromech droid was projecting a hologram of an asteroid field blown up to fill the corner of the room. The little girl had a mixing bowl on her head and a long ladle between her legs as she sat on the dining table chair facing the droid. She tilted the ladle and her body and the Jedi standing behind her chair leaned it in the direction she indicated. The holographic rock moved past their arms and disappeared. The droid noticed Kam’s presence first with an alarmed beep and shut off the hologram.

The Jedi set the chair down on all four of its feet before turning around. The little girl was quicker. She slid off the chair and stomped between Kam and Skywalker. She scowled up at Kam. “No, you’re not taking my daddy away again.”

Kam stepped forward into the room. The headache was already blooming and the crate was growing heavier. “I—”

“I said no!” She thrust her finger in the air at him. “Leave my daddy alone!”

He’s no longer in the prison suite, but on a ship. And he’s no longer an adult, but a much smaller size. A man grabs him under his arms and swings him into the air. Kam shrieks “Daddy!” with delight as the larger hands safely catch him again. This man would never let him fall. Then everything spun around Kam again and the man older with thinning hair and sodden clothes falls back on the rain-pounded street and Darth Vader slashes the red blade down and through him.

That image faded as Kam’s body collided with a hard chair. A pair of hands pushed down until Kam’s head is between his knees. Kam blinked at the dark gray carpet on the floor. “No, it’s not your fault, Korora. Sometimes people almost fall when they remember something they’d rather not. Just stay back with Artoo.” The hands let go and Kam eased upright, blinking into the serene face of the Jedi. “You better have some water, Solusar, right?”

“Yes, Kam Solusar.” He continued blinking as the rest of the room came into focus. The child, Korora, sat in one of the arm chairs against the outer wall and the astromech droid had rolled in front of her. The crate of toys sat on the table that Kam’s chair was next to.

The Jedi opened the conservator built into the cabinets behind Kam and returned with a cold water bulb. “Luke Skywalker.”

Kam accepted the water with a puzzled frown. “You could have attacked and escaped, why?”

“Because you obviously came here for a fight with a crate full of toys.” He waved a hand at the crate on the table and then grabbed the matching chair to the table.

“And you promised Mommy to behave,” Korora said.

“And I promised Mara to behave.” He sat down across from Kam and gently caressed his bewildered mind with the Force. This was not the behavior Kam had been educated to expect from Jedi. He cracked open the bulb and drank. Skywalker withdrew and rubbed his temple against the headache that must have increased with that small use. “You seem to be all right now, though I don’t know why we would trigger a flashback for you.”

Kam’s gaze dropped to the floor again. “Darth Vader killed my father.” He jerked his head back up to stare at Skywalker’s blue eyes. “Why did I say that. It’s not true; I have no father.”

“Because it’s more than likely true. Everyone has a father and a mother unless you’re a clone.” A shadow passed over his expression, but he didn’t let it linger. “And Vader killed many before; well, he even killed to return to the Light. He killed to save me.”

Kam found his mouth had grown dry again. “I have no memories of my father.”

“There are holes in your memories,” Skywalker said softly. “Imperial interrogators can do that without the Force. There is a technique that can help.”

They had all underestimated the Jedi. Here was the manipulation at last. “A Jedi technique,” Kam sneered. Now Skywalker would force his way into Kam’s mind and leave nothing there to call his own.

Skywalker raised his eyebrow. “Yes, I am a Jedi so logically it is a Jedi technique. But it’s your choice, I won’t thrust healing onto you without your consent.” The shadows crossed the Jedi’s face again and this time he had to screw his eyes shut and breathed out the pain. “Mara,” was hardly audible.

Kam was amazed that Skywalker could sense anything outside the Force dampeners, but how quickly Skywalker composed his face again and glanced back at the dark-skinned girl made Kam realize that Skywalker did not want the child to notice. He went along with it; his confusion needed another answer. “I am your enemy, and you would heal me?”

“Are you my enemy or are you a man who has suffered under Sidious? Think about what you want.” Skywalker stood up and leaned over the terminal console in the corner. “Are you in charge of our supplies? Korora and Mara need more nutritious food.” He turned back and handed Kam a datapad.

There was nothing odd about the list, so Kam transferred the file to his own datapad. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Daddy.” Korora held up her arms.

Skywalker lifted the child that looked nothing like him and hugged her. The suspicion wormed its way from Kam’s mind to freedom through his mouth. “You’re not her father.”

“I’ve been adopted. Mara didn’t seem to mind.”

Before Kam could process that for a suitable response, the door of the suite slid open. Doctor Akura entered first and stepped into the kitchen area to direct the medbed to transfer the occupant to the bed in the room.

“Mommy!” Korora tried to lunge out of Skywalker’s arms. The Jedi juggled the child so she didn’t fall, but his eyebrows drew together and his jaw tightened as he looked at the woman being lifted to the bed.

The pale woman waved an even whiter hard. All her freckles stood out of her skin like stars on a planet with no light pollution. “Just wait a minute, okay?”

Doctor Akura stepped over to the bed once the medbed retreated to the outer corridor and briskly ran a med scanner over the Hand. “Sensor readings are still optimal. Can you confirm that the procedure was a success, Jedi Skywalker?”

Skywalker’s face was impassive again when everyone looked at him. He nodded and set Korora down as he crouched down next to the bed. The little girl grabbed her mother’s hand. Skywalker rest his hand on the woman’s abdomen and closed his eyes. “Both feel healthy, but the placenta—”

“Needs more time to adjust,” Doctor Akura said. “The patient needs to remain on bed rest for the next two days. We’ll re-evaluate after that point what the proper exercise level will be to insure a healthy pregnancy.” He made notes on his datapad and left the suite without a farewell.

“I hate bed rest,” Mara muttered.

“You look sick,” Korora said with a whine of concern. “Daddy said they’d make you better.” She clambered up on the bed and snuggled under Mara’s arm.

Kam’s breath caught as a memory fragment of being safe in a woman’s arms and a lullaby in her voice jarred him. The lie from the Hand shattered the memory. “It will take some time for me to get better. We have to be patient.”

“This would be easier if I had ever been pregnant.” Skywalker huffed. “Artoo, pull up some human anatomy references.” The droid warbled and rolled to the console.

“I think you left out something so that makes sense, Farmboy,” Mara said. “And why do you have a bowl on your head, Korora?”

“It’s not a bowl; it’s my X-wing helmet.”

Skywalker leaned over them both, pulled the bowl off Korora’s head, and then brushed red-gold hair back from the Hand’s face. “Don’t get too close. I’ve got bacta breath,” she said.

“We’ve got muja juice. That’s strong enough to wash the taste out.” Skywalker circled around the bed for the conservator behind Kam.

Mara’s eyes tracked his movements and stopped on Kam with a startled frown. “What did you do to get a chaperon?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Skywalker said as he returned to her side with a juice bulb in hand. “He brought things for Korora.” He waved a hand at the crate on the table.

“And I told him he couldn’t put Daddy in the box again,” Korora said.

“She was fierce.” Skywalker confirmed.

Mara kissed the little girl’s head. “I expect nothing less.”

Kam’s head pounded. They hadn’t attacked him. She was loved. Sidious and Sedriss would take that away from her for what? To stand next to a being’s suffering and feed off of it? His hands twitched in remembered pain and he heard an echo of Sedriss’ mocking laughter. He stood up and pulled the crate across the table. Skywalker and the Hand watched him dig the items out, but they didn’t say anything as the pile grew larger on the table.

His hand curled around the leather box. It pulsed and called to him, begging to be worn and used. He drew it out of the box.

Skywalker straightened and moved in front of the window. He stretched out his right hand and a golden glow spread between the woman and child on the bed and Kam. The dark gem laughed. It continued begging for Kam to use it shatter the shield, slay the Jedi. Kam gaped at the man. “But the Force dampeners? How powerful are you?”

“The Force is a powerful ally.”

“What is that?” Mara demanded as she struggled up onto her elbow.

Kam pulled the jewelry box to his chest. “This is not for your daughter.”

“I don’t think it’s for you either, Kam Solusar.” Skywalker said softly.

The Jedi was concerned about him. Perhaps there was no machinations in his offer to heal Kam’s memories. But now wasn’t safe, not with this Dark Side artifact present. He ignored its screaming. “I’ll see about getting you the groceries you want, without dangerous artifacts.” He headed to the doorway. “May the Force be with you.”

No one stopped him as he left the residential section. No one stopped him as he entered an empty hangar bay. The dark gem promised him power and glory. With its help, Kam would sit on Sidious’ throne.

“That’s not what I want.” Kam anchored himself with the Force and triggered the controls for the hangar bay’s particle and energy shield. The wind whipped into the hangar bay. He lifted the jewelry box with the Force and pushed it out the bay door. It dropped out of sight as soon as he let it go.

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