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 have 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.