JEDI TEMPLE; CORUSCANT
The Lucky Day landed gracefully on the landing pad atop the western section of the Jedi Temple, and Luke Skywalker, who had borrowed the transport from Lando Calrissian, stepped out of it the second the boarding ramp touched down, Jacen Solo less than a step behind him.
Days ago, on Yavin 4, the orbital sensors around the moon had picked up an irregularity within subspace which had made no sense. Only C-3PO had been able to decipher what they had all thought to be subspace static into a discernible message.
The message had been short, addressing no one in particular, and from Zak and Jaina. They acknowledged that they were aware of the failed attempt to rescue them, and that the station had indeed moved to a new location. They had said that the station’s new location could be found by tracing the source of the signal. And they had also said that a Jedi was dead.
The Jedi in question, Kylia Okras, was a Master, and one of Luke Skywalker’s earlier students; someone who had trained under him at the same time Brakiss had.
She had duelled Brakiss and lost.
While neither Zak nor Jaina had actually said as much, it could have been the only way for her to come to such an untimely demise. Luke was aware of her infiltration mission into the Second Imperium, and he knew that Kylia was too skilled a ’shifter to have had her identity compromised by anyone other than Brakiss.
The message had ended with a message for Luke, requesting that he pass something along to Jacen. When he had, Jacen had come to conclusions quickly, and the two of them had boarded a transport sent down from GemDiver for them—courtesy of Lando Calrissian—and set a hyperspace jump course for the Galactic Capital.
Here now, Luke found that he was in no mood for ceremony. He scowled when he saw the delegation of Jedi approach them from the landing pad lift tubes, and he sensed Jacen’s impatience at his side. Though when he saw who it was that came to greet him, his mood lifted just slightly.
“Calm, Jacen,” he said quietly. “I’m just as eager to get started on locating the whereabouts of Zak and Jaina. Let’s get through the ceremony as quickly as possible.”
“Yes, Uncle,” Jacen said with a defeated sigh.
Luke put his hands on his hips as they waited; drawing his robes away from his middle enough to reveal the lightsaber that hung from his belt. It wasn’t an intimidating gesture, merely informative. They were hunting, after all.
Jacen was similarly armed, but neither of them actually expected to use their weapons while on Coruscant. Especially not at the Jedi Temple, where there were so many Jedi that no man or woman in their right mind would think to attack it. And they hoped to find Zak and Jaina before Brakiss did, thereby avoiding conflict altogether. Luke had no desire to confront Brakiss after what had happened on Tatooine. It shamed him just remembering how he had acted.
The delegation stopped a couple of feet from them and bowed with respect. “Greetings, Grand Master,” the man in the middle said with a smile. “It’s good to see you again. The Council is expecting you.”
Luke examined him in a fraction of a second. The man was only fractionally taller than he, with dark hair tied back tightly behind him. His dark brown eyes never left Luke’s gaze, but they were full of only respect and admiration. He had a tight jaw with even cheeks and lips. He had a little more than average of a build, with muscled arms and chest the likes Luke had not seen on a human Jedi before, but not so much that it made him ungainly.
His companions were entirely different.
To the man’s left was a young woman with vivid red hair loose over her shoulders, and eyes that Luke could swear changed from blue to green as he watched her.
She had a thin build with a cute face and an earring on each ear that was disc-like with a chain that looped down and then back up to a clip at the top of each ear and was studded with brightly coloured gems.
To the older man’s left was a young man with white, close cropped hair and brown-blue eyes, built not too dissimilar to the young lady opposite him.
“Thank you, Keyan,” Luke said politely. “We’re in a kind of hurry, I’m sure you understand. So let’s get these pleasantries over with so we can get down to the business at hand.” He gestured past them.
The lead Jedi, Keyan Jace, smiled in return and nodded. “Of course,” he said. He turned to lead the delegation back to the stairs on the other side of the landing pad. Luke and Jacen followed them quietly.
Moments later, the pair stood in the circular chamber of the Jedi High Council. Of the twelve council seats, only five were presently occupied.
Luke knew one to be dead, from Jaina and Zak’s transmission, and felt sadness as his eyes drifted over the seat that would have been occupied by Kylia Okras.
The other missing members of the council were easily accounted for. The Barabel Jedi Master, Saba Sebatyne, was most likely on an assignment somewhere in the galaxy. Corellian-born Corran Horn was probably still on Corellia, overseeing the training of younglings there. Kam and Tionne Solusar were at the Ossus Praxeum, training younger Jedi there, and Mara was still on Yavin 4. One of the seats was his own, though he rarely had the opportunity to sit in it.
Of those in attendance, only three were human—Jedi Masters Kenth Hamner of Corellia, Kyp Durron of Deyer, and Kyle Katarn of Sulon. Then there was the Mon Calamari—and, most notably, the niece of Admiral Ackbar—Cilghal, and the Chev, Tresina Lobi.
All five of them were seated in chairs that were placed evenly spaced around the room in a circular fashion, with an open gap at one end for the turbolifts. The centre of the floor was adorned with the golden pattern of the New Jedi Order.
With Jacen and Luke in the centre of the circle, all five sets of eyes were upon them.
“Grand Master,” Cilghal started, bowing her head with her fingertips pressed together in front of her. Her large eyes blinked rapidly as they focussed on him. “It is good to see you again.”
Luke nodded. “I only wish it was under better circumstances, Cilghal.”
“Indeed,” Tresina Lobi replied solemnly. “We are to assume you are here in response to the situation regarding Jaina Solo and Zak Arranda?”
“We are indeed,” Luke replied, a spark of hope erupting in the back of his mind. “Have you heard, or seen, anything from either of them since the last transmission?”
“Not a word,” Tresina replied. “I’m sorry. But if they did affect an escape as planned, then perhaps they will be here as soon as they can, but travel time would likely depend on how far from the core they are.”
“Can I assume, from your presence here, that Coruscant is their destination?” Kyle Katarn asked, stroking his bearded chin. Luke nodded. “How did you come to the conclusion that they would come here? Why wouldn’t they return to Yavin Four?”
“Jaina wouldn’t want to put the Praxeum at risk. It’s true that Brakiss knows where we are and could attack at any time, but he knows that the last time he tried such action it resulted in the destruction of his Shadow Academy, and almost killed him in the process. We have a defensive fighter squadron station at the Praxeum now, but Jaina, and I daresay Zak, wouldn’t want to put them at risk if they were followed.”
“Why Coruscant?” Kenth Hamner queried.
“You heard the message?” Jacen replied before Luke could. He turned his head to look at his nephew as he continued. “Jaina made reference to my lightsaber, which uses Corusca gems from the GemDiver mining station at Yavin. She knew that I would immediately think of that because Zak mentioned a place to meet, and the gems are the only part of my lightsaber that are more or less named after a planet. It’s not a well-known fact, even amongst the Jedi—only myself, Jaina and a few others know it.”
“I see,” Kenth mused.
“Well,” Kyp started, “since your shuttle began its landing procedures, we’ve had all our orbital and system assets put on high alert looking for other new arrivals, and Ackbar has leant us access to data from the military’s assets as well.”
“And nothing?” Luke asked, a little crestfallen.
“Not as yet. The most that we’ve seen are a couple of small transports slipping by the customs patrols in orbit, within a few hours of each other, but they could just be smugglers or pirates.”
“I’m sure that when they arrive, they will open communications to identify themselves at once?” Tresina put in.
“It stands to reason that if their escape attempt succeeded, the only ships they would have access to would be Imperial.” Luke thought about it. “I think Jaina would most definitely announce their arrival.”