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Star Wars: Unexpected Consequences

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Title image showing Luke, Mara, and Lucinda

Lucinda stared down at her datapad, but she wasn't reading any of the lesson she had opened on the screen. After Palace Security had decided all the Imperials had been blasted or caught, they moved her and Mommy onto a new floor and into a two-bedroom quarters like Jedi Luke's but this one had viewscreens instead of windows. They moved Ghent into a separate suite in the same residential hall. She had slept in the bigger bedroom with Mommy when they finally got a chance to sleep. Ghent had checked in with a comm around lunchtime when they had all woken up. Mommy had asked that Lucinda not fall behind on lessons, so Lucinda had set up at the desk in the smaller bedroom to do them, but she couldn't concentrate on it. She should ask for a day off from lessons and they could watch a holodrama instead. Surviving an Imperial kidnapping needed time off like Mommy going to a medcenter did.

She slid out of the chair with that good idea, headed out of the bedroom, and froze in the hallway to the bedroom. Mommy was in the suite's foyer letting a bulky man wearing a Palace Security uniform into their quarters. "Colonel Jak Bremen, Director of Security for the New Republic Council. I'm afraid I have questions about what happened this morning and about you, Trader Jade."

"I am glad to help any way I can." The adults walked into the parlor without looking down the hall. Lucinda crept closer to the foyer so she could hear and see a little. Mommy continued talking as she gestured to the sofa. "After all, the Imperials targeted my daughter, my coworker, and myself as well."

The sofa squeaked as Colonel Bremen sat down. Lucinda pulled her head back and pressed her back against the wall. "According to the other witnesses' statements, you were adamant that your daughter was the target."

"Grand Admiral Thrawn promised C'baoth Force users, but I'm sure he told his operatives that the adults are expendable. My daughter is a more tempting target than the infants, old enough to not need a nanny droid."

"And just how do you know what the Grand Admiral promised?" His gruff voice sounded suspicious.

"He captured me because he wanted Captain Talon Karrde, placed a homing beacon on my ship, and let me go with a promise to actually pay for the Katana fleet. I led them straight to my boss, and they took us prisoner. Only Thrawn thought breaking a deal was an enlistment bonus. When I disagreed with that, he offered me a command position or to be a gift to his mad Jedi C'baoth like Jedi Skywalker already was. After he thought he had me cowed, it was easy to slip away and go get Jedi Skywalker." There was a long pause, before Mommy added in a softer voice. "The children wouldn't be able to see C'baoth's danger or his darkness."

Lucinda frowned. C'baoth must have been the one throwing rocks at their ship when they went to Jomark.

Colonel Bremen cleared his throat a bit. "That falls under Jedi Skywalker's purview. You were injured at the Katana fleet skirmish and spent a month in the Imperial Palace medcenter. Your first time staying at the Imperial Palace?"

"No," Mommy said. "As I told General Bel Iblis, I used to live here."

Lucinda's eyes widened. Mommy had lived here when she lived on Coruscant? How was that possible?

"How long ago?"

"Nine years ago, getting close to ten."

"While Emperor Palpatine was in residence." Colonel Bremen sounded like the name of the dead Emperor made his mouth hurt.

Mommy answered his statement like it was a question. "Yes, he was. I didn't return until Jedi Skywalker bought me and Captain Karrde on the thirty-third day of the sixth month this year."

"Were you born here?"

"I list Coruscant as my birth planet for simplicity's sake. I grew up here from age three or four. But my record was scrubbed, so I have no idea where the Emperor collected me from."

"Collected?" Colonel Bremen asked sharply. It confused Lucinda, too. Collected was what bounty hunters did.

"Jedi Skywalker didn't update my records within the New Republic?"

He made a funny noise, and it tempted Lucinda to look around the corner to see his face. She didn't though. "We have to verify your answers with Jedi Skywalker once he returns," he said.

Lucinda wished he was back. The Imperials wouldn't have dared sneak in if he was here.

"Of course." Mommy sounded very thoughtful. "What is your question, Colonel? Do you want my entire biography? I don't see how that helps you plug the secret entrance Imperial Intelligence exploited."

"Secret passages that were never recorded in any plans we found for the Imperial Palace." Colonel Bremen's gruff voice grew thicker.

"They wouldn't be secret if they were on the plans."

"But you knew about them."

"And I used them to blast Imperial agents before they achieved their objectives." Mommy was a hero, Lucinda thought, growing angry. Why was this Colonel sounding so suspicious? Mommy continued. "I'm surprised that my access codes were never stripped from those secret passages. You are welcome to them for your security measures."

"Thank you for your cooperation. Of course, that cooperation is perfectly designed to position you as an Imperial asset inside our trust."

Mommy sounded amused. "And the invading Imperial operatives warned you of my treachery during interrogation?"

Lucinda couldn't take it anymore. She stormed through the foyer and into the parlor. "You take that back! You take it back right now!" The Colonel on the sofa startled as he twisted to face her. "Mommy would never work with the Imperials!"

"Lucinda!" Mommy said in her you're-in-trouble tone, but Lucinda would not let this stupid man get away with telling lies.

"Thrawn hurt her and Captain Karrde. And the Imperials hunted us! Mommy would never help them!"

Colonel Bremen's face turned a deep red and his features set in a frown as hard as durasteel. "Your mother was raised here, possesses access codes that an Imperial agent would find useful, has knowledge of secret passages built by the Emperor, and was positively identified as the Emperor's Hand. Now that name," he spat, "the New Republic has extensive files about the crimes accomplished by that Imperial threat: murders and sabotage." He turned to Mommy and grimaced, but continued. "Are you going to deny that you served Palpatine in that role?"

Lucinda looked up at her mother's face: white with fury and pain. "How dare you bring that up with my daughter right here," Mommy said icily. "Whatever you believe of me and my past, she's obviously not an Imperial of any stripe." Colonel Bremen sputtered, but Mommy raised her hand and he stopped. "I need to see Minister Organa Solo at her earliest convenience. After I have seen her, I will give you all the details of the Emperor's Hand you can stand."

Colonel Bremen opened his mouth, but glanced at Lucinda before speaking. He closed it, nodded, and stood up. "I will submit your request, Trader Jade. I also have to restrict your access to only these quarters, enforced by a G-2RD guard droid. Thank you for your cooperation with the investigation." He walked to the door. Lucinda scowled at his back as she watched to make sure he left.

"Spying, Lucinda Padmé Jade?"

Lucinda turned slowly to face her mother. She sank down into the armchair that faced the foyer doorway. The fury was leaving her face, replaced by exhaustion, but the pain never moved.

Luci scuffed her foot against the carpet on the floor. "I didn't mean to. But he is telling lies about you!"

"The Imperials are telling lies about me. But it makes sense to Colonel Bremen because he doesn't know the complete story. And neither do you."

Lucinda froze. "Mommy?" Her mother never lied to her. She always said they never had time for that.

Mommy shook her head. "I thought this story could wait until you were older. You have asked about our family and I never answered. I don't remember my parents. Emperor Palpatine took me from them when I was about three or four years old."

Lucinda's blue eyes widened. That was how old she had been when they met Ghent, and she remembered him. Why couldn't Mommy remember?

"Palpatine brought me here, assigned me to tutors and trainers, and when he decided I was old enough, he made me an Emperor's Hand. I was fifteen-years-old."

"You murdered people?" Lucinda felt her chin tremble. "Because he told you to?"

Her green eyes were very sad. "Yes. I killed two men on his orders. I don't know if it makes you feel better that they were evil men hurting people."

Mommy had killed more bounty hunters and Imperials chasing them than that, but Lucinda didn't feel much comfort in that comparison. "But the Emperor was more evil!"

"I didn't know he was evil then. I thought he loved me and he only wanted good for the entire galaxy, but all these traitors were against him. I was raised with these lies. I was seventeen years old when I realized what love really is."

Lucinda clenched her fists. Her father; it must be her father who showed Mommy how wrong the Empire was before he left them. She didn't want to know who he was anymore. Jedi Luke had held her and sang to her while she cried. Did he know this about Mommy? Would he still love them when he knew? "How?" she started and couldn't think of what to put with it to ask how they could tell Jedi Luke.

But Mommy thought she was asking a different question. "You showed me what genuine love is."

"Me!"

"You were so bright in the Force and so helpless and innocent. And how much I wanted you to have a good life where you didn't have to spy or kill on orders overwhelmed me. That is love, wanting better for someone else, wanting to protect them from everything bad. I didn't want you to have the childhood I had. And the Emperor had already proved he had no loyalty to me, so I couldn't trust him with you. He would kill me to have the chance to mold you into a good Imperial. So I told him no, he couldn't have you and he tried to kill me, and he put us on his bounty list when that didn't work. And we've been running from the Imperials ever since."

Mommy almost died when Lucinda was just a baby? She ran forward, wrapped her arms tight, and squeezed. Mommy lifted Luci up to her lap and returned the hug. "It's all right, Luci-love. Keeping you safe was worth it. And everything I do is to keep you safe."

Lucinda snuggled against her mother. "How are we going to tell Jedi Luke?"

"He knows." Mommy kissed Luci's hair. "We talked about it. Apparently he didn't think Colonel Bremen needed to know."

That worry trying to settle into her stomach popped like bad wiring. But how the Colonel treated Mommy wasn't fair. "He's locking you up in here!"

Mommy chuckled. "Luci-love, there are much worse places to be locked up in. All that droid is for is to make sure I don't hide before answering all the Colonel's questions."

"Are you going to answer them?"

The door barely held back an angry Wookiee roar, and they both looked through the foyer at the sound. Mommy slid Lucinda off her lap and stood up as the main door slid open. Princess Leia walked into the quarters. Lucinda looked past her to see the guard droid close the door in front of Chewbacca's unhappy face.

"Hello, Mara, Lucinda," Princess Leia stopped in the foyer doorway. "How are you two?"

"What's wrong with Chewie?" Lucinda blurted out.

Princess Leia glanced over her shoulder at the door. "Someone in Security decided you shouldn't have more than one guest at a time unless it was one of them. Chewie had to stay outside, and he wasn't thrilled about it."

"He doesn't trust me either?" Mommy asked.

"Oh, it's not personal. He's still pretty upset that he nearly lost all of us to that kidnap squad. Wookiees take these life-debts of theirs seriously. He probably trusts you more than he trusts anyone in the Palace."

"Chewie should go yell at Colonel Bremen. He's locking Mommy up in here." Lucinda crossed her arms at the unfairness of it all.

Princess Leia looked sorry. "I know. We argued against it, but Security wants a full check and that takes time. I'm afraid I don't have any influence to use."

"That's not the favor I need," Mommy said. "I will answer all of Bremen's questions, but not with Lucinda here. Can you take her and protect her with your children?"

"Mommy! I won't spy!"

Mommy patted her shoulder. "I'm more worried about Bremen's questions. You don't need to know all about Imperial atrocities. If Luke was back from his mission, I would ask him."

"It's no trouble to have Lucinda stay with us while this is all sorted. I'd rather have you cleared of suspicion before Luke returns from his clone hunt."

Lucinda scowled at the floor. "I can protect myself if I had a blaster."

"Clones?" Mommy asked sharply. "What clones?"

Princess Leia frowned. "You don't know?"

Lucinda looked back up. "Jedi Luke didn't tell you his mission was hunting Thrawn's clones?"

"He might have gotten around to it if they hadn't called him out five minutes after we finished eating." Mommy looked at Princess Leia for an answer.

"The Empire has found some Spaarti cloning cylinders somewhere. They've been turning out huge numbers of clones to fight against us. It has been the principal topic of conversation in the Palace for a month."

"Mommy was in the medcenter," Lucinda reminded her.

"That's right—I'd forgotten." Princess Leia looked puzzled at Mommy's far-away expression. "Mara, are you all right?"

"I think I know where Thrawn's Spaarti cylinders are."

Princess Leia's brown eyes widened. "Where?"

Mommy's voice sounded like she wasn't in the same room with them, even though her body hadn't left. "The Emperor had a private storehouse. It was beneath a mountain on a world he called Wayland—I don't know if it even had an official name. It was where he kept all of his private mementos and souvenirs and odd bits of technology he thought might be useful someday. One of the artificial caverns held a complete cloning facility he had appropriated from one of the Clone Masters."

"How complete was it?"

"Very." Mommy shivered and seemed to return to herself. "It had a full nutrient delivery system in place, plus a flash-teaching setup for personality imprinting and tech training on the clones while they developed."

"How many cylinders were there?"

Mommy shook her head. "I don't know for sure. It was arranged in concentric tiers, sort of like a sport arena, and it filled the whole cavern."

Princess Leia looked very serious. "Were there a thousand cylinders? Two thousand? Ten?"

"At least twenty thousand," Mommy told her. "Maybe more."

"Twenty thousand," Princess Leia repeated. Her serious face had grown harder. "And he can turn out a clone from each one every twenty days."

Lucinda shivered now. The Grand Admiral could make enough clones to crew one of the Katana fleet Dreadnaughts in less than a month.

Mommy's mouth fell open "Twenty days? That's impossible."

"I know. Thrawn's doing it, anyway. Do you know Wayland's coordinates?"

Mommy shook her head. "I was only there once, when I was Lucinda's age. But I could find it if I had access to charts and a nav computer."

Princess Leia nodded as she gazed at Mommy's face. Lucinda felt like a wind was racing past a cockpit. "I'll see what I can do about getting you access to one. You aren't to tell anyone what you've just told me. Anyone. Thrawn is still getting information out of the Palace, and this is worth killing for."

Lucinda grabbed Mommy's left hand. "I understand," Mommy said. She looked down at her. "And you know nothing, right, Lucinda?"

"I won't tell. You be careful."

Mommy knelt on the floor, pulled off the datacard necklace, and put it around Lucinda's neck. "I'll be careful. You be good and keep that safe." Mommy hugged her tight. "Now go get your stuff," she said as she let Lucinda go.

Lucinda went to the bigger bedroom and grabbed her still-packed duffel bag. Princess Leia was speaking to Mommy as she returned. "We will keep her safe, Mara. You don't have to worry about that."

"I trust you. You're Luke's family." Mommy smiled, but it was a little brittle when she watched Lucinda taking the Princess' hand. "Tell Colonel Bremen I'm ready when he is."

The door slid open before them, and they stepped out into the residential hallway. Colonel Bremen was waiting with his hands clasped behind his back and staring straight ahead, trying to look like he was ignoring the Wookiee looming within arm's reach. Chewbacca looked like he was studying the best way to take him apart. The human male was sweatier than he had been interrogating Mommy, so he knew he was under someone's goodwill. Probably the Princess'.

Chewbacca's attention refocused on them as they exited the suite, and his shoulders relaxed. "Lucinda is going to be staying with us, Chewbacca, until Mara's cleared." Princess Leia explained.

The Wookiee nodded and rumbled {Hello} at Lucinda, which was the only Shyriiwook Lucinda had picked up so far. He had a longer statement for Princess Leia.

She nodded. "Yes, we'll get Lucinda settled before my meeting. Colonel Bremen, Mara said she was ready to resume at your convenience."

"Thank you, your Highness." He didn't enter the suite right then though, and the spherical droid with three arms floated next to the door as they left the vicinity.

Inside the turbolift, Princess Leia punched the code for Jedi Luke's floor. "Am I going back to my room at Jedi Luke's?" Lucinda asked. It wasn't really her room, but they had both gotten in the habit of calling it hers. Jedi Luke had even offered to let her change the colors in it if she wanted.

"No, Luke isn't back yet. But we moved in all around him," Princess Leia said. "It's better for meals if you bunk with us."

Chewie barked something followed by a chuffing.

"If Luke hates it, he can go bunk with the Rogues. But at least this option meant we didn't have to pack his things too." Princess Leia took a deep breath, looked down at Lucinda, and asked in a less snappy way. "Lucinda, did Luke let you go to the library on this floor alone?"

"If he couldn't go with me, me and Artoo would go."

She looked pensive. "Threepio can't take you right now. He can't shoot. You'll have to go with an adult."

"I can shoot if I had a blaster."

"This is the Core, not the Fringe. You don't have to be armed every second of the day."

Lucinda looked at the bowcaster in Chewbacca's hands and the blaster strapped to the Princess' right thigh. It wasn't polite to point out when adults were treating her like a baby. Maybe she should ask for one that she could hide under her sleeve like Mommy did the next time she had to take care of Ghent. "I still have to check on Ghent during the day."

"We'll help you do that. And to go see your mother every day too."

The turbolift stopped in the lobby of Jedi Luke's floor. Four Palace Security officials now guarded the stairs where there had been none before. They headed to the residential hallway east of the stairs. It now had a door blocking the whole hallway from the lobby. Princess Leia keyed in the code, and it slid up instead of sideways. They stopped at the first door on the right. Jedi Luke's quarters were further down and around the corner of the hallway.

"Chewie is staying in that suite when he actually goes to bed." Princess Leia waved a hand at the first door on the left while she keyed open the smaller door. It slid open normally, and they walked into the three-bedroom suite just like the one she had been staying in with Mommy and Ghent before the attack. "Lucinda needs to borrow the extra bedroom for a while."

Doncella Retrac spun gracefully from the terminal in the parlor's corner. Captain Solo looked up from the repulsorlift bassinet in front of the sofa. "You're welcome to it, Little Jade," he said. "But what happened? Did they arrest Mara Jade?"

"No," Princess Leia said with a quick look at Lucinda. "Mara hasn't been arrested."

"Colonel Bremen wants to ask about stuff I shouldn't hear about." Lucinda was full of impatience with all the adults. "Where do I bunk?"

"I'll show you." Doncella Retrac crossed the room and headed down the hall to the bedrooms. She pointed to the door on the right. "Princess Leia and Han are in that room with the twins. I'm here in the middle, so you'll be here on this end." She opened the door on the left end of the hallway behind the kitchen where Mommy had put Ghent on the other floor.

Lucinda tossed her bag on the bed big enough for two people. She didn't think there were smaller beds in the entire Palace.

"Do you need anything right now?"

Lucinda shook her head. "Unless I have to do lessons."

Doncella Retrac smiled. "I think you can go back to them tomorrow. The Princess and I have to go to her meeting, but you and Captain Solo can take care of the twins."

"Okay." She trailed after Doncella Retrac back into the main room.

Captain Solo patted the sofa next to him. "Come on, Little Jade. Help me find something on the HoloNet the twins can listen to while Mommy goes to work."

Lucinda headed that way while the other adults headed to the door and called out goodbyes. Captain Solo had been a smuggler; he knew how necessary a blaster was.

As if he read her mind, he asked as she sat down. "Is there something you want, little Jade?"

"Do not get her a blaster, Han!" Princess Leia called back before the door slid shut.

Lucinda slumped. "Never mind. I don't want to get you in trouble."

"Well, I appreciate that."