Looking For Home: My Home Is You title image

Chapter Twenty-Six

The throne room viewscreen showed the chrysalis rancors lumbering into the street filled with laser bolts between the New Republic battle droids and the Imperial defenses. The creatures were shaped like rancors only their skin, claws, horns, and teeth were all colored an unnatural emerald green. The lead one leaped on top of the first X-1 Viper droid. Claws met metal so hard sparks shot away from the combatants. They sank into the plating and gouged the metal. The rest of the creatures piled onto the droid. Luke reached out with his senses to the battle below the Citadel. The Viper droids had controllers and most of them were familiar human minds. He didn’t brush against the Rogue Squadrons’ minds and distract them from the task they had. One recognized his droid was dying under the creatures’ attack and activated his escape pod.

Luke turned his awareness to the creatures. They resembled the rancors from Dathomir but twisted with pain, hate, and despair. “What did you do to those poor creatures?” he asked as he pulled his attention back to Darth Sidious and turned to the man on the throne.

Sidious’ raised his eyebrows over his sunken eyes. “Do I detect disapproval? I improved them with the power of the Dark Side, the power you repeatedly deny.”

He remembered the starved rancor in Jabba’s Palace and how the species thrived on Dathomir. “If you feed them and treat them kindly, they’ll do just about anything you ask of them.”

“You are a fool, Skywalker. An Outer Rim provincial who still does not see the truth. I rule the galaxy; I have foreseen it.”

An alarm wailed nearby, echoing through the immense corridors that surrounded the throne room. Luke raised his eyebrow. “I see you’re still over-confident that everything will go as you have foreseen it.”

Sidious glared at Leia who gazed up at him calmly. “The work of your thieving husband no doubt.”

Leia shrugged. “You’ll have to ask him. He usually has a good reason for what he does.”

“Believe me, I shall,” Sidious snarled. “How hard will you beg for his life this time, Princess? Will you degrade yourself again like you did for that miserable Hutt?”

“You didn’t make a habit of putting prisoners in dancer outfits before your death. Has that changed?” Leia turned back to the viewscreen footage of the battle.

The alarm continued to wail. Luke’s bond with Mara reverberated with her dismay and her determination that answered it. Sidious’ focus traveled from the throne room and his jaw dropped. Cold rage cascaded from the throne and drew Leia’s attention back. Sidious glared at Luke. “How? How do you turn my most loyal agents against me? They are mine!”

“I only show them that they are people with a choice, not tools to discard once their usefulness has ended.”

Sidious’ frown deepened, carving savage lines around his lips and chin as he stood. Luke gazed unflinchingly at that soundless snarl. Sidious’ hands reached out and blue lightning leapt from the claw-like fingers. Before the sparks hit Luke’s body, a blue blade intercepted them. The blue-white light highlighted the wrinkles becoming crags on Sidious’ face.

Leia held her lightsaber between the two men. “You’re not hitting my brother with Force lightning this time.”

Sidious reached the floor, strode away from the steps, and slipped a lightsaber hilt out from under his robe. Leia shifted her guard stance to face the Sith Lord. An explosion rocked the whole Citadel, but not strong enough to knock them off their feet.

Pain radiated along Luke’s left side like he had been slammed into a wall, but it faded quickly. He reached out through the bond. Mara was out cold. What had happened to her?

Blaster fire sounded in the corridor outside the throne room. The doors slid open spilling Kam, Han, Chewie, and one of the Noghri inside. Han brightened when he saw Leia and Luke. “Luke!” He tossed a silver cylinder into the air.

Luke called the lightsaber to his hand. His father’s lightsaber, the first one he had ever touched, countless hours drilling with the remote to be the Jedi the Alliance needed; a blade lost, found, and given away with friendship and hope. He ignited the lineal device and matched Leia’s guard stance.

Sidious ignited his red-bladed lightsaber. Blaster fire erupted at the throne room door, but neither Luke nor Leia diverted their attention to it. The red blade slashed but Leia easily blocked it. She pivoted the attack to Luke. He pressed the advantage, forcing Sidious back as the blaster bolts began firing inside the throne room. They all intercepted blaster shots that reached them between lightsaber clashes.

Another explosion rocked the building, closer to the throne room. Sidious took advantage of their unsure footing to shove his opponents with the Force. Leia fell to her knee and hand. Luke tottered back. Sidious’ swirling black robes disappeared under the throne dais stairs.

Luke remembered hiding under that on the second Death Star and stumbled after him, regaining his footing as the Sith Lord vanished down a trapdoor lift. Another explosion moved closer as Luke emerged from under the stairs.

“Secret door?” Leia asked as Han reached them.

“Secret door,” Luke said. A new explosion felt like three going off in quick succession. Luke stepped back out of the Force null bubble the ysalamir Han wore on his back created. Mara’s groggy awareness at the other end of the bond coalesced into satisfied regret. “Get to the Falcon. I’ve got to get Mara.”

Han ducked slightly, even though the explosion didn’t knock anything loose in the throne room. “This is her doing? I thought she was being metaphorical.”

“She’s the explosives expert in the family.” Luke reached out with the Force for the remote that controlled the cage. It flew down from the throne to his hand. Then he sprinted to the cage, blue lightsaber slicing through all the bars, and Force shoving the superfluous metal out of the way. The remote controlled the repulsors. The bond showed him the way to Mara.

The others had already cleared the doors and moved down the cavernous corridor to the hangar bays. He sat on the platform, braced against the stumps of the bars, and pushed the generator as fast as it could go. He sent it shooting over the head of the stormtroopers running into the corridor before they had a chance to draw aim on him.

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