Galactic Quest: A STAR WARS Fandom Fiction
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
10 ABY. Planet Nagi; within the satellite-galaxy of Companion Besh. Beyond the Outer Rim of the Galaxy:
The Namout Se flashed into existence from Hyperspace just outside of Nagi-proper. The sleek, elongated Nagai starship, with its chevroned-posterior fins, gracefully slid its way to the mottled planet. Mlip, a Nagai piloting the ship, could see the planet's space-traffic coming into view. Given that his passenger had business on Nagi and was coming from the city-planet of Coruscant, Nagi's traffic seemed more like a trickle of ships to and from the ochre and off-white planet.
"Every planet in the Galaxy seems so desolate after leaving Coruscant, huh, Mlip," the young, Human male commented from behind as he walked up to the cockpit area and sat on the co-pilot seat. Mlip had the console to the co-pilot section turned off since it was a relatively short run from the former Imperial capital.
"Indeed, they all do," Mlip said good naturedly. He had the build one would consider to be typical of a male Nagai: tall and wiry. He was wearing a neutral-colored jumpsuit and had his long, black shock of hair in braids and tucked underneath his work-cap, given that he was on the job for his family's business in the transporting sector of Nagi.
By contrast, Jedi Rin Shander was slightly short for a male, by human standards, and stocky. His hair was of medium-length and his young face was already clothed in a thick beard that one usually sees on a human male much older than Jedi Shander was...a sure sign that Shander had achieved full-Jedi status when he was even younger!
"Jedi Shander," Mlip put to the young man; dressed in a tunic attire associated with the Order, "would you mind if I were to ask you a question?"
Shander glanced at the pilot, whose eyes remained on the vista of the encroaching planet. "Sure..."
"I respect that you are a Jedi, even at such a young age. And, perhaps, it is because of your age that you may not be in the knowledge of how...secluded we, Nagai, are." At this point, Jedi Shander was already silently nodding to himself, Mlip could see. But he continued. "Do you think it wise for a Human-even a Jedi-to adventure to Nagi by himself?"
Jedi Shander learned a long time ago to let space cushion the area between a question and an answer.
"This is not a junket I'm on, Mlip. I'm taking a sabbatical that we, Jedi, are allotted from time to time. My Master had no problem with me going on a personal quest."
"This Master, being Jedi Master Skywalker," Mlip clarified.
"Mmm," the Nagai said with an approving nod. "Your Master's reputation proceeds him! Of talent, he is truly, fighting off that wicked emperor and his right-hand man...was it not this Jedi Master whom destroyed the first Death Star?"
"He is," Shander said proudly, as if Luke Skywalker were his father. Indeed, in many ways since the fall of the Galactic Empire, Jedi Master Skywalker was the father of a new gathering of young Jedi of late.
"This quest you speak of," the young Nagai carefully spoke after a long pause in their conversation.
Jedi Shander was one of the few Jedi that had interacted with the Nagai and their world as a whole. He understood what Mlip was asking. The Nagai were such a closed society that the only other known Nagai to be associated with the Jedi Order was one called Garn nearly four thousand years ago! And even then, as the ancient Jedi Archives told it, Garn was murdered with other Padawans by some secret cult called the Jedi Covenant.
"Well," Shander decided to say; in truth really wanting to tell Mlip it was none of his business, "I've decided to try to find out what the proper name of the Galaxy is."
Mlip finally turned his head from the Namout Se's dashboard and windows and looked at Jedi Shander. "So, you think you can find it on Nagi?"
"Well, I'd say I believe I can find a clue there...of all my personal researching this with the Jedi Archives and a myriad of other sources, not one of them actually cites a proper name for our large Galaxy! Your ancestors were the closest of any society that has some tangible reference."
Mlip visibly winced. "Skyriver sounds quite archaic!"
Jedi Shander chuckled at Mlip's embarrassment. The Nagai were a bit too proud, he thought. "Well, you can't blame your ancestors for using terminology they had useful for their time... have any idea how long ago since they started using Skyriver?"
"Like everyone else, my guess is thousands of years ago. Most likely before we achieved our system of literature."
At this point, Rin Shander whipped out a tiny data-pad from one of the small pouches ringing his tunic's belt. He then proceeded to enter portions of their conversation into the pad. Mlip began to laugh. Perhaps the most informal the Jedi had seen the pilot since they met days earlier on Coruscant.
"Jedi, are you actually documenting what I just imparted to you?"
Shander looked up from the data-pad. "Well, this quest of mine to discover the Galaxy's name starts with you, my friend. All I do will be for nothing if I do not document all this."
Mlip nodded his head in tacit agreement. Other ships in Nagi's planetary traffic were beginning to thicken up as the Namout Se got closer to the planet.
"Why not simply adopt the name Skyriver," Mlip asked after a pause. "As you know, I don't particularly care for the name. But, as you said previously yourself, Jedi, it is a precedence. I, respectfully, Sir, fail to see the purpose of you going to such lengths-all for the sake of discovering the name of a galaxy that has already been given one by a civilization."
" 'Our' galaxy," Jedi Shander interjected. "If we do not have a knowledge of our own place in the universe, Mlip, we do not have a good perspective of ourselves..." Jedi Shander replaced the data-pad back into its pouch; next to where his lightsaber was hooked. "Besides, I didn't want to bring politics into this, but there are some in the galactic core who refuse to use Skyriver as their choice for a galactic nomenclature."
Now, this time it was Jedi Shander's turn to use subtlety. He let his eyes linger on those of Mlip's for a few seconds, then looked away toward the planet as it continued to fill up the ship's entire vista.
"The Nagai's invasion of the galactic core a few years ago..." Mlip sighed as he shook his head. "I fail to see how that should effect whether or not a being in the Galaxy should use the term Skyriver!"
"Well, there's also that situation with...certain among the Nagai who sought to go back to the old days and actually tried to enslave the Wookiee population!"
"Jedi, is that the real reason you are returning to my homeplanet?"
Shander's Jedi senses could feel the Nagai's annoyance turning to more than anger. "No, Mlip. Not at all...as I said earlier, I really did not mean to wonder into the politics of it."
There was silence in the cockpit for a while.
"Would learning a more-proper name for the Galaxy help?"
Jedi Shander looked upon Mlip with questioning eyes. The Nagai pushed to clarify.
"Would it help bring, if not peace, some diplomatic cover for other space-powers not to be reminded of my people's aggression into your part of the Galaxy?"
"If they were to use another source to discover the proper name of the Galaxy? Yes."
"But, Jedi, you are not going to another source for an alternate name. You are on your way to Nagi now. So I fail to see how this would help in the political front."
"It would if the Nagai help me," Jedi Shander quickly said, barely talking over Mlip; emphasizing his point.
Mlip was slightly taken aback. He looked at the Jedi for a while, perhaps gauging if such a young Human could be trusted in such inter-galactic politics.
The young Nagai thought hard on it, and nodded his head...both remained silent for the rest of the approach to Nagi.
The mountains of Nagi were so vast and high that the ancient ancestors of the Nagai had settled all of their municipals within the deep valleys of the planet. Many of the mountains reached thirty-five thousand feet, in Human terms! As if that were not a harsh enough environment, Nagi's weak atmosphere rendered those mountain ranges sterile from all the solar radiation bombardment. Privately, Jedi Shander wondered if such environment had lead to the current physiology of the Nagai Humanoid-tall, sinewy, pale...for many thousands of years, Mlip's ancestors had to live and develop in the permanent shadows of such monstrous mountains.
Upon the Namout Se's landing at Nagi's biggest city, Kotokai, Mlip seemed a bit more relaxed. Perhaps the couple of days of he and the Jedi boxed in together on a star ship was what he needed to warm up to a Human.
Kotokai, as with all of the Nagai's cities, was an unexpected beautiful sight within Nagi's rugged terrain. For the metropolis of ten million was built in a gigantic cluster of edifices and domicile structures that ringed the entire mountain base! The last time Jedi Shander had visited Nagi on another business, he had gone to one of their smaller cities. That conurbation was on a different landmass and only had two connecting inter-cities road network. Kotokai had scores of connecting road networks, all radiating out for inbound and outbound ground traffic.
After Mlip and Jedi Shander took care of the mundane business of docking procedures and Shander having gone through the necessary documentations for his trip to Negi, the two were greeted by another Nagai who had been standing by. He had waited amid the crush of foot-traffic in the docking area until Mlip signaled for him to come over.
"Jedi Rin Shander, this is Hquet," Mlip said, making the introductions with both hands held out to the respective male. Both greeted one another with a diplomatic smile and a nod of the head. Mlip continued. "Hquet is the administrator of Kotokai's municipal libraries."
"Wonderful to actually meet a Jedi in person," the graying Nagai shared with genuine anticipation.
Jedi Shander was surprised to see such good-natured expression from any Nagai, given the recent war that had been going on with the Galactic powers and the Nagai since they had blitzed the inner-core. But Shander knew to keep this to himself.
"Thank you, Administrator Hquet," the young Jedi merely stated.
"From here on, Administrator Hquet and his people will be with you on your trip, Jedi Shander...please feel free to contact me anytime you are ready to return to Coruscant."
The Jedi and the young pilot gracefully bowed to each other and Mlip had quickly strutted his way toward a maelstrom of Nagai bodies, along with a few other aliens and vehicles whirling about.
"Jedi Shander," Hquet said with a bit more formality in his voice, "the Nagai governance has already informed me of your reasons for being here."
"Wonderful...I hope it does not seem too odd to you," Shander said with a slight playfulness in tone.
Hquet returned the banter. "A bit of a secret, young Jedi. Most Nagai, themselves, don't like the name Skyriver!"
With a light exchange of chuckles, Administrator Hquet ushered Jedi Shander to an awaiting, hovering landspeeder to take them to one of Ktokai's libraries.
It had been two days since Jedi Shander arrived on Nagi. From a couple of municipal libraries in Kotokai, among many other subjects, he learned about the geology of Nagi, with all its extreme mountains and arid climate. He learned more about the deep history of the Nagai; that their crowning reign was some three hundred years ago, when they had began to use Superluminal Travel. And, as a result of that technology, how the Nagai ancestors had a run-in with a civilization called the Tof. Jedi Shander even learned a bit of the Nagai language, which was entirely different from the Galaxy's predominant Aurebesh...and then, he ran across something else.
"The Kwa has been here," Jedi Shander said to one of Administrator Hquet's subordinates. His name being Afiti.
He was one of many younger Nagai under Hquet's leadership. His attire was much the same as most of the Nagai employees of the city of Kotokai's library system-a drab of mid-length tunic and their customary long hair bounded up or down during working hours. He did not even have any Tehk'la blades on him, that the Nagai culture had valued so much. Jedi Shander had seen many of the Nagai in public with their bodies ornamented with the undulating daggers. Yet another visible reminder of the Nagai distrust of any potential visitors upon their world.
"You are surprised about this fact," Afiti said evenly. But then he seemed to feign a flinch with an understanding after further thought. "But then again, I suppose that is one of the reasons why you are here in the first place..."
Jedi Shander looked upon the tall, slender Humanoid with confusion. The young Jedi had sensed an adversarial side to him every since Administrator Hquet had introduced Afiti and the rest of his staff two days ago.
"Afiti, I merely meant that the Kwa's history is well-known in the galactic-core...I've never heard nor read that they had any presence in the Companion Besh-"
"Firefist," the Nagai interupted; his gray eyes unblinking at the Jedi. He took a couple of steps toward Shander in the isolated wing of the library they were in...with no one else around at the time. "My people have called our galaxy Firefist for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that for some Jedi from that jungle you call the inner-core."
The truth was, Jedi Shander had faced far worse enemies in his life. He had sensed that there might have been some conflict with Afiti, but Jedi Shander still tried to reach out to him from a humane standpoint. Shander simply did not want to contribute to the strained relations that Coruscant had with the Nagai. That, and to his knowledge, he was currently the only Jedi on all of Nagi!
"Of course, Afiti...I am on your planet, so I respect your planet's cultural references."
That had diffused a potential conflict. Indeed, the young Nagai almost seemed disappointed that the Jedi had treated him so respectfully! And Rin Shander, the Human, did not need his Jedi Force powers to sense that.
"Is there a problem, here," the deep voice of Administrator Hquet came from behind both of them. Afiti did not even bother to turn around to look at his superior.
"Afiti was just correcting me on how I should refer this satellite galaxy," Jedi Shander played down. He made sure to smile as he said this to Hquet.
"Afiti," the administrator said after a long, uncomfortable silence in the library aisle, "why don't you go over and help Tigh Malk with those new additions we received yesterday."
Surprisingly, the younger Nagai simply turned and left the aisle without a protest. Administrator Hquet breathed out a heavy sigh. He seemed to wait a little longer until Afiti was out of hearing range.
"I apologize for Afiti, Jedi Shander."
"It's alright, Administrator...I knew the politics of me being here before I left Coruscant." His face contorted as he thought on his interaction with Afiti. "Administrator, I mentioned something about the Kwa's presence here-almost a hundred thousand years ago, and Afiti seemed to accuse me of masking the real reason of my being here was because of something related to the Kwa!"
Unexpectedly, the administrator seemed to wax distant after Jedi Shander's statement. There was a definite tremor in the Force at that moment!
"Indeed..." By this time, Administrator Hquet graciously held out one of his hands; politely signaling that he was ushering the Jedi out of that section of the library! "We have been isolated for so many thousands of years, it is no wonder that most inner-core civilizations do not know this."
Jedi Shander had no idea where they were going, but he followed the administrator's lead.
"I thought, perhaps, with a reference to the Kwa with the Nagai, such deep history would lead to the etymology of Skyriver...seems to be my best lead to find out the Galaxy's name!"Again, Hquet seemed a little distracted. But he maintained his amicable attitude toward the Jedi. He simply laughed a socially correct response to Jedi Shander's point and remained silent until they both reached a floor-lift. There was another Nagai that Jedi Shander met earlier in the day. He was smiling brightly as he waited for the duo to reach him.
"Jedi Shander, Kile will escort you to one of our finest dining establishments-on the other side of Kotokai Mountain!"
All three broke out into a relaxed, low-key guffaw. It was approaching night time, and the sights of Kotokai at night were even more beautiful with all its lights than it was in the daylight...but the Force was telling the young Jedi that what he was dealing with at the moment was some kind of carapace.
He knew now was not the time-not while being restricted to a floor-lift. All Jedi Shander knew was that he was not setting foot onto any transporter with Kile!
Or, maybe he should...?
Kile lead Jedi Shander to a different landing bay than where the Namout Se had docked. It was in a slightly more isolated area of the spaceport. By that time, twilight had engulfed the mountain-metropolis, and the lights of the city were, indeed, a beautiful sight of a giant ring of lights emerging from the encroaching night at Mount Kotokai's base. From the distance, one was able to see the other mountains' ringed-cities, along with the stretching network of inter-cities roads.
Kile's transporter was a small, two seater pod that exhibited the typical Nagai design: aerodynamic, vertical fins for atmospheric travels, and tinted glass-again, most likely to keep out Nagi's harmful sun rays.
"Does this dining establishment specialize in any of your local vegetation," Jedi Shander inquired as Kile tapped in a series of security codes to the pod. "I'm vegetation-centric with my meals."
"That should be interesting," the young Nagai responded as the lid to the transporter opened up, "because the Nagai culture is exclusively flesh-"
Just then, the Jedi Force-pushed Kile away from the pod; flinging his lithe body perhaps ten yards away without seriously hurting him! Jedi Shander then hopped into the pod, entered the same code he had noticed Kile use to open the craft, and the duraglass dome quickly sealed shut.
A couple of other pedestrians, local Nagai, had witnessed the encounter and began running straight for the pod. Shander noticed from the corner of his eyes that Kile keyed in something into a communicator and the whole section of the spaceport was awashed with blaring lights and warning sirens!
So much for avoiding Nagai entanglements...
As with so much of Jedi Shander's experience, even as a young Human, Humanoid physiology tended to dictate the ergonomics of a space craft. So operating the craft and blasting out of Kotokai's spaceport was easy to do.
Unfortunately, the pod was entirely too small for hyperdrive capability. And with the port-wide warning that Kile had set off, there would, no doubt, be several of Kotokai's defensive ships on the way to blast the young Jedi out of the thin skies of Nagi! It was not as if Shander had a back-up plan or some fellow Jedi waiting up in orbit to rescue him. The only thing he could think of was try to punch the pod's system to take to another part of the planet and land; find a place to hide in all those mountains; send out an emergency signal to the other Jedi back on Coruscant, and wait for them to get him from Nagi...and start, yet, one more battle between the Nagi planet and one of the galactic-powers!
That was not an option for Jedi Shander. No way in the Galaxy would he let himself be responsible for another military skirmish between Coruscant and the Nagai-all for an academic quest to discover the proper name of the Galaxy!
The pod's detection system alerted Shander to several on-coming craft. Obviously, the city's defenses. He had already punched the ship's systems and was already going at top speed. Those Nagai ships would be on him in mere minutes at such a rate!
But then the pod's system alerted him to something. Something that Jedi Shander doubted that any other space craft that was non-Nagai would ever be alerted to...
At approximately three hundred miles above the surface of Nagi was an orbiting Infinity Gate! The astronomical portal was comprised of several floating platforms-themselves, the size of a mid-sized star ship!-that formed an enormous "ring" in low-orbit space. It seemed the Nagai had constructed the Gate so that it could adjust its diameter based on the size of the largest of star ships known in the Galaxy: the Super-Dreadnaughts that still traversed space, even those six years after the fall of the Galactic Empire.
"By the stars," Jedi Shander said aloud to himself. He could not believe what he saw in the telemetry. "So that is the Kwa connection...no wonder the Administrator didn't want me to hang around!"
The very ancient civilization of the Kwa had somewhat inherited the technology of the Infinity Gates from a rather mythological species that no one else in the Galaxy seemed to know much about. Indeed, it was one of those subjects that Jedi Shander researched a bit in the past years, but needed more time. Time, indeed...for the Infinity Gates were basically an instantaneous teleporter! And right at that moment, Jedi Shander was in a situation of Time severely about to run out for him with the approaching Kotokai fighter ships!
On Coruscant, it was very customary for many to use astromech androids as co-pilots. In addition to being sufficient at navigating and even piloting, they were also wonderful at being a companion...but in a Nagai star pod, it was totally up to the Humanoid that was piloting, with help from the ship's computer.
Seeing no alternative, Jedi Shander quickly scanned the pod's computer for coordinates and planets and set a course for the Orbital Infinity Gate...
Jedi Shander shook violently in his pilot seat. He could not tell if it were from the laser fire from the Kotokai defense ships that were raining on the Nagai star pod he flew through the Infinity Gate, or as a result of being teleported by the Gate itself!
He could not believe he had just experienced going through an actual Infinity Gate! Hyperspace was still amazing to him, having grown up in a small village on Corellia. But to experience the pod he was flying in start to break-up from all the barrage of weaponry from the Nagai in open space, to instantaneously emerge from another Gate to a serene spacescape was nothing short of magic to Rin Shander! And now, he was no longer in the Companion Besh satellite-galaxy. He was back in the prime-galaxy; in the Outer Rim Territories region. And the pod's computer confirmed that Jedi Shander was in the Greater Javin swath of space...and the gas giant planet of Bespin, with a couple of its moons in clear sight, was where he was headed for!
The Corellian trade corridor ran the majority of the length of space out there, and at some point in their lives, all Corellian Humans had used it. So Shander knew the area well. It was basically his homeregion.
Jedi Shander had been to Bespin only a couple of times in his life. And on both of those occasions it was to the famed Cloud City-that permanently, floating mega-city which crowned a massive superstructure of nearly twenty kilometer high with an even longer super-shaft that plumb lined toward the planet's surface!
Two things had bothered Jedi Shander as he flew the damaged Nagai pod closer and closer to Bespin: He was no expert on Infinity Gate technology, but he knew enough about the basics. There were ways to construct such structure with a high-end computer system that was able to track the traffic going in and out of the Gate...so, were the Nagai back on the planet of Nagi able to track Jedi Shander now, and therefore, follow him through the Infinity Gate?
Also, the fact that there was another Gate for Jedi Shander to teleport through very near Bespin was unexpected! Again, he had been to Cloud City before on more than one occasion. He had no memory of any Infinity Gates. Was it merely due to him being so young at the time and ignorant? Or was it later placed or constructed there since young Jedi Shander had been to Bespin?
Jedi Shander had finally reached Bespin's atmospheric levels. It was yet daytime, and the orange sky filled with majestic, billowy clouds were a nice familiarity for Shander. But there seemed to be some shadowing with the clouds several miles up ahead. Perhaps a storm on the way? And it was right in the direction of Cloud City...
Jedi Shander remembered how his parents would audio-contact the authorities of Cloud City for permission to land, even when they were several miles away from the City. As charred and hole-riddled the pod was, the Nagai star ship's communications was still in working condition.
"This is Jedi Rin Shander of the New Jedi Order, arriving from Coruscant...Requesting permission to land on Cloud City..."
There was a bit of static in the communications as Shander awaited for a response. Something was wrong. Indeed, the Force was now pulsating with a darkness and was growing stronger the closer he got to Cloud City! But the Nagai pod was not equipped for long-distance traveling. Jedi Shander lucked out, as it were, when he stumbled across the Infinity Gate and escaped the Kotokai attack ships! He had no choice but to continue to Cloud City.
"This is Jedi Rin Shander of the New Jedi Order, arriving from Coruscant...Requesting permission to land on Cloud City..." he repeated.
Again, nothing but the subtle static.
For over four hundred years Cloud City floated in the stratosphere of Bespin. Shander simply could not imagine such a pillar of civilization in the Galaxy could fall-just within a few years since he had last been there!
"This is Jedi Rin Shander of -"
"Permission granted, Jedi Rin Shander," a Human female voice finally came over the audio-comm; urbane in texture. "We will send you the landing coordinates in just a few seconds...Welcome to Cloud City."
Shander frowned to himself. In addition to his Jedi senses, his Human experiences suggested that there was a slight sarcasm to the woman's voice. But that thought was quickly replaced as soon as the pod flew through the last large, cluster of clouds...
The very immediate surroundings of Cloud City was a soup of hazy soot mixing with some nearby clouds as three enormous columns of thick, black smoke churned out from three, equidistant ventilation holes the size of small townships! The structures emitting that triad of smog were three monstrous, cylindrical stacks that, each, projected downward from the underbelly of Cloud City's superstructure. All three gigantic, stalactite structures were reinforced by a network of armature that connected them all to the base of the underbelly; where the very long shaft of Cloud City was connected to.
"By the stars..." was all that Jedi Shander could repeat to himself.
Despite such apocalyptic scene, Cloud City's air and space traffic was even busier than Jedi Shander could remember!
"We've just sent your landing coordinates, Jedi Shander," the same Human female voice said; shaking Shander out of his shock! "We will have an escort for you upon your landing."
The proper-city of Cloud City itself-that expansive, densely-packed area of towering edifices, was not that much different from when Jedi Shander last visited with his family as a boy. There were a few additions. But Jedi Shander just could not tare his eyes away from those metric-sized columns of plumes rising well-beyond the height of Cloud City. They were like three Exogorths burrowing into the superstructure of the City while the rest of their bodies slithered across the entire horizon!
Jedi Shander's troubling thoughts must have registered on his face as he walked away from the Nagai pod on the landing platform. For as he surveyed the cityscape, his host and her entourage were snickering at the young Jedi. Upon hearing them, he snapped his head in their direction as they approached him. Three Humans and a mixture of other species. Most of them Humanoid. Shander was surprised to see all of them wearing a mask of some sort. Some even wore eye-protectors...no doubt, both situations due to the extreme polluting on the new Cloud City.
"Flext, get him a mask and eye-protectors," the Human female at the head of the small crowd said to one of the other Humans. Apparently, she found it amusing that Jedi Shander was disturbed by the conditions of the City.
Flext, one of the other Humans, merely turned to the knot of beings behind the woman and one of the other aliens handed him a pair of eye-protectors and a mask. Flext then walked over to Jedi Shander and politely handed both to him. He then returned to the small group...behind the older female, Shander noticed.
"Your first time on Cloud City, is it," she asked the Jedi as he donned the two protecting items given to him. He could tell it was the same Human that had communicated with him on the audio-comm while approaching Cloud City. Also, Jedi Shander thought it odd that she did not seem the least bit curious of what happened to his scarred-up ship...
"As a matter of fact, Madam, I've been here more than once previously," Jedi Shander said; his voice, now, muffled due to his mask. Just as everyone else was in the group.
"Hence, the surprise in our new decor since you've been here!"
The young Jedi did not find that funny at all.
"Expedited processing," she simply said, upon seeing his demeanor. No one moved from their position since Jedi Shander arrived.
"Since you've been here, young Jedi, there have been some changes...in addition to mining tibanna, we, now, also mine for some of the minerals closer to Bespin's core!"
By the stars!, Jedi Shander said within himself. He let the woman, no doubt some leader, continue.
"With the fall of the Galactic Empire several years ago, I'm afraid it's become a free-fall for many planets that were under the influence of the Empire..." The woman, a bit on the slender side with cropped gray hair, jutted her head to the sky; indicating the plumes of pollution darkening it. "This is our way of adjusting to the new, galactic situation."
"I thought Cloud City was a non-aligned entity."
She looked back at the others and everyone shared a brief guffaw.
"I'm Baron Llem," she finally said as she walked over and shook the Jedi's hand. "And this is my circle of advisers. As you see, we keep things a little on the informal side."
Shander made sure to smile, even though he was troubled by how the Force was stirring in him about Cloud City, and something else he could not quite place... "So you're the new Baron."
"Indeed." She waved a hand in a friendly gesture toward the entryway. "Let's get out of all this and get you a room to rent."
Jedi Shander thanked the service droid for picking up the empty plate that once had his dinner. He waited for the female-styled, WA-series droid to roll out of his rented suite. When his suite door closed he straightway got out his communicator and keyed for Jedi Master Skywalker. The middle-aged, legendary Jedi was in his typical dark robe and that single, right-hand glove. The bearded figure's three-dimensional image had shimmered a lot during this communique, given that Jedi Master Skywalker was on assignment on the opposite end of the Galaxy from where Shander was. It was all somewhat reassuring to the young Jedi, being able to see his Master. But Jedi Shander could tell, there was something on his Master's mind...
Shander had just given Jedi Master Skywalker an update of what he had been experiencing since his flight to Nagi, up until his landing at Cloud City. Skywalker had visited Cloud City since its societal changes. As for the Nagai having two, known Infinity Gates-that was news for him, and in a very disturbing way! For Skywalker reminded the younger Jedi that Infinity Gates had a dual purpose some one-hundred thousand, standard years ago by the Kwa: for teleportation and as a weapon! Perhaps Jedi Shander's quest to learn of the Galaxy's proper name was fortuitous on a much larger scale after all?
"...and you're doing alright," Luke Skywalker asked with genuine concern.
"I promise, Master Skywalker," Jedi Shander tried reassuring him.
"That is the most important thing, Rin. Any other situation we can clear up later...like whether or not you should go to Nagi and stand trial in their courts for stealing Nagai property."
Jedi Master Skywalker gave the young Jedi an admonishing look over the holographic communique.
"Forgive me, Master...I, I mean no offense, but I've never stolen a thing in my life!"
"The Nagai's governance contacted me, Rin."
Jedi Shander froze upon this revelation. He thought he sensed something with Skywalker! "So, you already knew about it?"
"I wanted to hear your side of the situation first, Rin..." The Jedi Master sighed over the communique and became pensive for a few seconds. "Rin, I know I don't have to remind you of the small wars the New Republic has been going through with the Nagai over the past few years. Seems like this poor galaxy just can't get a break, huh? Took my friends and I in the Rebellion movement years to take down the Empire, just to find our newly-rebuilt Republic at constant skirmishes all over the galaxy with smaller empires!"
They both shared a chuckle of irony at that moment. It was silent for a moment as they both thought hard.
"I've got a lot of friends all over this galaxy," Jedi Master Skywalker finally said; with a more hopeful disposition. "I'll see who can help us out on this."
Jedi Shander had a despondent posture, Skywalker could see.
"Hey, Jedi; we've all been through a lot worse entanglements than a legal drama...now, had you hurt, let alone killed, that Nagai you Force-pushed while you commandeered that pod, then I would be worried. You'll be fine, Rin."
"But, Master Skywalker, we, as Jedi or otherwise, have the inherent right of self-defense. I'm telling you, Jedi Master Skywalker, the Force was warning me about the situation I was in-and it felt fatal!"
This time, Jedi Master Skywalker had a paternal smile. He stroked his thick beard while he waited before responding. "Trust me, Rin, I know exactly what you're talking about. You've heard me say during our sessions time and time again, how my master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, told me as a padawan of sorts that I needed to control my use of the Force.
"Now, unfortunately, ol' Ben and I did not have very long together." Here, Jedi Shander could see and sense through the Force that this particular history was very troubling for Skywalker. There were rumors among the new generation of young Jedi that there was some kind of family connection to this history. "So Jedi Master Yoda was gracious enough to finish training me...Control, was one of my weakest strengths. And I'm going to do you a favor. The same as what my two masters had taught me, Rin. You are, indeed, strong in the Force; that I saw in your training. But, in your case, Jedi Shander, you must learn to observe a bit more before reacting with the Force."
Jedi Master Skywalker sensed no animosity from Jedi Shander after his statement. Skywalker was relieved to see that the young Jedi nodded at his point and seemed to take heart to his words.
"You know, that's the irony of you, Jedi Shander."
Rin snapped out of his quiet gaze. He looked at Jedi Master Skywalker with pondering eyes.
"You are, perhaps, the most inquisitive Jedi I've ever met! With all your researching...the very fact that you chose to trace down the official name of our galaxy during your sabbatical shows just how observant you really are!"
They both smiled at this point over the holographic transmission.
"Now," Rin said somberly, "all I need to do is utilize that same quality in my Jedi life!"
"I'm confident you will, my friend...stay put on Cloud City for a while until you hear from me about the Nagai situation. Just in case you have to go back to Nagi for their courts."
"Yes, Master." Jedi Shander called out before Skywalker cut the communication. "Master Skywalker...what of the Infinity Gates?"
Both were furtive at this point. Luke Skywalker gave Shander a determined look with a matching nod. "The Republic will deal with that...I want you to have plausible deniability, Rin. Especially with your legal situation on Nagi."
And the holographic communique was cut.
Cloud City, in many ways, was just the same floating paradise as before its superstructure was retro-fitted with the gigantic smoke stacks as a result of the City's governing businesses' decision to increase the items mined from Bespin's inner-core.
Jedi Shander was glad to see that the air quality within the fifty-leveled Tourist District was good enough that everyone could walk around without face-masks or eye-protectors. Over the past Bespin day since his conversation with Jedi Master Skywalker, Jedi Shander took a break from his quest of the Galactic nomenclature and took in the sights and events of the District! Many of the other galactic aliens were surprised to see a Jedi-attired in his tunic with lightsaber hilt in full-display, no less!-engage in gambling and taking a sip from the City's cantinas.
It was until late in the evening that day when things took a drastic turn!
The electronic wanted poster had a slightly out-of-focus picture of Jedi Rin Shander. The message, WANTED: by the Governance of Nagi: Assault of Nagai Citizen and Theft of Nagai Star Pod. Subject: Rin Shander-Jedi, Male Human, Second-Decade and Older of Age. CAUTION: Armed with Lightsaber. REWARD: 50 THOUSAND Credits, was all in Aurebesh!
So much for letting the legal process take place!
By the stars, I can't believe I have a bounty on me!, Shander panicked.
Jedi Shander quickly looked around and saw at least two more electronic posters and one plastered up in a rather sketchy alley of the current neighborhood he was in. The section was one of Cloud City's busiest concourses, and with an over-all population of seven million citizens, visitors, and mine-workers, Shander would not stick out so easily. Nevertheless, Jedi Shander had to disguise himself and vacate Cloud City after all, despite what Jedi Master Skywalker said. His suggestion of staying was predicated on the Nagai using their court system to try Shander. Apparently, the Nagai justice system moved a lot faster than what Jedi were accustomed to!
No doubt some in the gambling establishments and cantinas would recognize him! To say nothing of Baron Administrator Llem! By that time, she most likely already sent City security over to his suite to retrieve him.
Shander calmly walked down another major concourse that teemed with vendors, cantinas, aliens, and hovering vehicles. He looked off toward the edge of the concourse and saw a few public transporters zip by. He fought against the urge to hop onto one of them that would send him directly to the Nagai pod, and that was because of two reasons: Again, Baron Llem would have gotten word of the Nagai warrant for him before Cloud City's governance would have even put up the wanted signs. Secondly, should someone recognize Jedi Shander, he would be trapped in the public transporter.
The lessons from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker about observing were, indeed, at work already!
He, then, got his lightsaber hilt and casually slipped it into his tunic-very uncomfortable! And to say nothing of the risk of someone in the big city bumping into him by accident and activating the lightsaber while there! Shander had to get another set of clothes...which presented another problem.
The credit system, at least in the major planets and commercial sites in the Galaxy, were all tied to direct identification of the user of those credits and the currency for that credit. Should Jedi Shander make a purchase of clothing for disguise, that purchase would pop up in the Galactic credit system, and Baron Llem would know where to apprehend him!
Jedi Shander was, now, becoming desperate. He decided to walk into a corner business where an older, female Human ran the establishment of clothes and other sundries...he simply used the Jedi Mind Trick and convinced her to give him a free, local outfit that came with a cap. It was basic in color and was perfect for Jedi Shander to hide his lightsaber hilt under. After changing into the suit in the establishment's refresher-and making sure to discard his Jedi tunic deep into the refuse, he thanked the clerk and walked out with a lot more confidence as he adjusted the cap on his head; making sure to partially cover his face.
Another good thing Jedi Shander had going for him while he remained on Cloud City were the three-hundred, ninety-Levels that the City had! He figured a good place to hide, get food without having to use his credit currency, and find a ship to get out of Cloud City were the Levels 161 to 220-the housing sectors for the workers of Cloud City's general functions that were not directly connected to the mining sector. He reasoned that the other, upper Levels with the tourists District, as well as upper-management private housings and high-end properties, he would surely get tagged. On a regular day, such citizenry had the tendencies of paranoia due to their large wealth...
On the other hand, below Levels 161 to 220-the gas refineries and other factories, along with the monstrous machinery that kept Cloud City afloat, Jedi Shander would look out of place just as well because everyone there had a job to do; but Shander would be seen by several people, just wondering around or looking suspiciously idle.
Jedi Shander dared not to contact anyone from Coruscant for help. Again, traceability issues.
How the blazes can smugglers and other scoundrels in the Galaxy live like this!, Jedi Shander wondered within himself as he looked around the high-rises of housings and small vendors that were there to supply the local workers with their basic needs. He made sure to keep his cap partially pulled over his forehead; but not so low that it was obvious that he was a Human who had something to hide! After all-
"Don't turn around, Jedi!"
Jedi Shander felt what he assumed was the muzzle of a blaster on his upper back. Indeed, he did not turn around-yet.
"Now, slowly...give me your lightsaber." The voice was Human and female. By the pitch of her voice, she seemed of mature age.
Shander opened his shirt partially and slowly pulled out his hilt. As he held it up for the woman to take it from him, Jedi Shander noticed a big crowd of onlookers starting to form around him and whomever was behind him. He did hear chatter of, She got that Jedi-thief!, See, I told you; things were better under the Empire!, and, He's so young, I can't believe they would hurt him!
"Bounty business, everyone," he heard her say. "Go back to your-"
Just then, Jedi Shander used the Force to rip his hilt from her hand-in what amounted to a reverse Force-push! By the time the hilt smacked in his hands and his blazing-blue Force sword was ignited, Jedi Shander was fully facing the bounty hunter!
The Human female, in a drabby jumpsuit; her very long hair braided into one, big tail, began firing thunderous bolts at the young Jedi! But each and every laser pulse was deflected by Jedi Shander-safely away from the onlookers. By that time, they were all scattering away from the fight scene!
The bounty hunter fired a few more shots, but the same results happened. Perplexed, she looked upon him with burning eyes and panting from all the action. It was obvious that she was not going to win that fight!
"I suggest you move on," Shander warned her; his lightsaber pointed toward her face. "You don't know the situation...if I wanted to hurt that Nagai, he would have been dead! I think you can see that now!"
Apparently the middle-aged Human had no backup. Most likely a lone bounty hunter who had a different life years ago and had fallen to the bounty lifestyle.
Suddenly, Jedi Shander felt a familiar, warm feeling upon him! Just as that happened, the bounty hunter's eyes were distracted to some people behind Shander.
"No," the bounty hunter demanded. "I found him first! I have all these witnesses!"
Jedi Shander's heart and eyes widen with delighted surprise... "Minister Organa Solo!"
The very same crowd that had ran from the fire-fight just a couple of minutes before were, now, mostly gathering around the famed Minister of State for the New Republic! She was surrounded by an entourage of New Republic soldiers. And for good measure, Cloud City Baron Administrator Llem was off to Minister Organa Solo's side, and not looking too happy about it. The message was loud and clear: Minister Leia Organa Solo was there as a New Republic official and she was backed by Cloud City's administrator and some heavy weaponry!
There were some who were politically opposed to the re-establishment of the Republic. For Cloud City, in time past, was mostly a free sovereign due to its wealth. Plus, there were many former Imperials that had sought refuge in Cloud City and they had their sympathizers. Nevertheless, history went to the victors, and it was the New Republic and their representatives that had ultimate power in Cloud City over the case of Jedi Shander against the Nagai governance!
"I see you're blending in with the locals well, Rin," Minister Organa Solo quipped upon seeing Jedi Shander's suit he had Mind Tricked the store clerk earlier in the day to give to him! She had on one of her official diplomatic gowns-all-white; draping her frame. Her hair was braided in alternating patterns and topped her head like a crown. Indeed, Leia Organa Solo was still a princess!
Even the onlooking citizens had laughed at the Minister's remark. They were now slowly returning to their own business. Shander had disengaged his lightsaber and replaced it in the same spot underneath his jacket as before. He still did not want to draw attention to himself; even now!
"Arnna, the Republic will reimburse you a percentage of your fuel costs for getting out here," Minister Organa Solo said to the bounty hunter just before she stomped off; irritated with the whole situation.
"Just message it to me like you did last time," Arnna Numay's trailing voice said and she was absorbed into the crowd.
"I take it your brother sent you," Jedi Shander said with a smile.
"He did. Luke would've come here himself, but he's still trying to put together that new Jedi academy you and I talked about."
"That's wonderful," Jedi Shander said, having been a supporter for Jedi Master Skywalker to continue the ancient ways of the Jedi.
"Baron Llem's people tagged you hours ago, Rin. It's a good thing they did!" She gestured with her head that they should all walk toward the nearest floor lift; the New Republic troopers behind them. "Thank you for your cooperation, Baron Administrator...I promise, the Republic will repay you the favor."
"I hope so, Minister," Llem said as she began to walk off to her own destination. "The Empire still has its influences in this town."
Jedi Shander and Minister Organa Solo both watched as she, also, melted away into the crowd of citizens on the Level.
"I got a chance at using some of my charming diplomacy in regard to the Nagai situation, Rin..."
His head shot over to her direction.
"The Kotokai library administrator is willing to call off filing an official grievance between the Nagai and the Republic. Especially since no one got hurt-"
Jedi Shander blew out a sigh of relief.
"-but, Jedi Shander, you have to personally pay for the damages done to the pod. I'm sorry, Rin, but a lot of your sabbatical payment will be diverted for its repairs...you'll have to cut your quest short, I'm afraid, Rin."
She looked at him; the cap yet over a portion of his eyes. But the young Jedi was simply relieved he was not going to any holding cell on Nagi-or anywhere else, for that matter!
"I'll have to continue my quest for the Galaxy's name much later in life, I'm guessing. But, given what I've been through in just these few days, you get no arguments from me, Minister."
The New Republic group were now going to an isolated floor lift, where not so many Cloud City citizens could gawk at the entourage. In fact, the lift had emptied out, especially when some citizens had seen the troopers with their big guns! This left the floor lift fully in their privacy.
"If I may, Minister...what of the Infinity Gates? I understand that the Nagai are sovereign and they can build whatever defenses they believe fulfills their needs. But as your brother said to me, the Gates have a very deep history of causing great havoc in the Galaxy..."He looked upon Leia, expectantly. She sighed.
"That, my friend, is something that will take the whole New Republic government to look into. Like you said, they are sovereign. But did the Nagai build the Gates, or did someone else supply it for them?" The Minister shrugged. "That, young Jedi, may make a difference in how the Republic proceeds with this. And, by the way, your discovering the Gates and giving the Republic a warning about them has its political rewards."
Jedi Shander slowly lifted the cap from his eyes and fixed them on hers. Leia smiled back, getting ready to depart the floor lift. "In due time, young Jedi."
They all departed the floor lift, which lead them to a platform with an awaiting ship with steam shooting out from underneath, in preparation for take-off. After the New Republic entourage fully boarded, the Millennium Falcon steamed up from Cloud City and blasted its way to another part of the Galaxy...