Excerpts from "Dark Stars: Book #2 inThe Stars Trilogyby C.R. Marks


New Republic Detention Facility
Borleias

Being imprisoned wasn't the worst thing Nash had experienced. That didn't say much. The worst...well, he avoided the subject unless forced to discuss it. Now all of his friends had left him. No one aside from his Jedi minders spoke to him beyond the basic orders to do this and do that. His food - if one could call it food - was put in a turnstile.

Never was anything Nash touched allowed to contact anyone else. The thought always brought a smile to his face. It meant they were still lost and groping in the dark for Nash's secret powers. It also meant they were blinder than BothBats.

They were so caught up believing Nash used mind control on Grhan they weren't thinking outside the box, Or the prison cell for that matter,he thought with a smirk. As long as they believed he had this power, he needed to use it.

Today he had other distractions. His "attorney" was visiting.

The man sitting across from Nash was wearing a lavish suit, custom made and likely costing more than most make in a standard year. His hair was blonde, cut fairly short yet stylish. His jewelry was tasteful: a designer watch, a plain gold ring on his right hand, jewel studded cuffs and matching tie clasp. To the average observer he was the image of a successful attorney.

Much like Nash's "mind control" abilities, it was a complete ruse.

This impeccably dressed and proper man was no attorney. In fact, in recent years Nash's visitor had barely spent a standard day on a planet where enough beings resided to fill a small city. Aside from the few days he visited Nash, he wore nothing more than rugged pants and shirts, hand mended and washed in a river near his lean-to.

"Hello counselor. What news do you bring from far away lands?"

"It's strange how far they go to isolate you," he said wryly, "but they'll let any old riff-raff in here if he says he's your attorney."

"Don't underestimate the power of a nice suit, Korus. What news do you bring to me?"

"Jarrus, Kabe and Mirrin are dead." Korus slipped a datapad into the turnstile and Nash retrieved it. No one appeared right away, but Nash looked at Korus and slowly shook his head to indicate he was waiting. Sure enough, within fifteen seconds two guards came around the corner and instructed Nash to drop the datapad in the waste drop. Nash complied without argument. A stern reminder was given that nothing should be exchanged between the two men unless it was first inspected by the guards.

After the guards had left, Nash nodded almost imperceptibly at Korus. "That means Alpha and Beta are gone," Korus said.

"Yes, they are," Nash sighed and nodded. The implications of these losses were profound. It made Nash's job much harder, but the inconvenience was hardly the important thing. They were now short three likely irreplaceable assets - two of them being the most important according to the information Nash had. This meant he'd have to execute his escape much sooner than anticipated. There was simply too much to do and too little time in which to do it. "We'll need to expedite my case."

"That will be arranged within the week," Korus confirmed.

Nash nodded slowly and lost himself in thought for a moment. He then brought himself back to address the remaining unfinished business. "And the others are...?"

"Alive. I made anonymous contact with each and verified identities. There's no question these are those referenced in the information you provided." Korus looked at Nash, and Nash knew what was coming. It always came at least once a visit.

"You are going to ask me how I know? How I found you? Why I chose you?" Nash asked.

"No."

"No?" Nash asked, eyebrows raised.

"No." Korus looked away for a moment. When he returned his gaze to Nash he had a look Nash recognized very well. It was acceptance. It could have been Nash's expression when his Master had taught him something he at first doubted, but then came to believe without question. "I had lost my faith in the promise. I thought you might be an imposter, trying to dig up information for personal gain, or maybe an agent for the Jedi. But, then you gave me the task, and I suspected that only a true Dark Apprentice would know what you know. If you lead me to more Dark Disciples, you'd earn my trust. And now, I know you truly are the one," Korus said in reverence.

Something Korus said amused Nash. He smiled and shook his head, "Korus, the Jedi will never use agents. They are more the hands-on type." Even Korus smiled, which was rare for the brooding, serious man. "You do seem...pardon the term, lighter," Nash observed.

Korus shrugged. "It's a relief to know I'm not alone in the Galaxy."

"Someone who has faced that loneliness and, to an extent still does, is Master Skywalker. We must hurry, though. Every day, Master Skywalker's students grow stronger and Force sensitives are turning to the Jedi. We are down to six, and must replace the three." Nash said.

"How? Without the Dark Lord?"

"How, indeed," Nash mused. "Much like Master Skywalker has. There are Force sensitive beings in the Galaxy. Not all have a predilection for selflessness and denying their natural instincts. In terms of where we are starting, we have an advantage of numbers. We have six, assuming the other four can be convinced to embrace their gifts with the Dark Lord's encouragement."

Korus's eyes widened and brow furrowed in confusion. Before he could comment, Nash held up his hand and shook his head. "There are ways for Force users to communicate with the living after death. I will be able to further explain this soon. I have almost everything we need. The one missing item will be hard to access, but I know generally where it is." Nash said. "We'll have to go to Jakku to retrieve it."


Mustafer
Darth Vader's Castle

Luke entered the room and took in the scene. It had a single large chair, clearly designed to accommodate Vader in his suit. Something in the room felt familiar to Luke. He felt connected to something, though it was vague. Elusive. He moved to each surface, finding sealed, ornate boxes lining the shelves. Some were quite heavy. Luke wanted - needed – to take these with him. How? There has to be a way,he thought.

He decided to walk along the shelves and focus on the connection, then realized the pull was behind him. It was the chair. Luke went to the chair and stood there staring at the seat in which his father last sat. He moved on instinct and turned to sit in the chair. The size was a little overwhelming. Each arm had a small button on its surface. Luke depressed them both and covers over the ends of the arms retracted into the arms, revealing a variety of buttons and controls. Luke surveyed the options, then pressed the top right button on the right arm. Panels on a cabinet directly in front of the chair parted then receded to reveal a 2 meter x 1.5-meter HoloScreen. Luke pressed a smaller, green button and a video began playing on the HoloScreen.

He could see the brunette woman with Leia's eyes reclining on the pillows of a large couch in a room with ornate furnishings and artwork. A view of a traffic heavy skyline could be seen through the ceiling high windows that spanned nearly the entire width of the wall in the background. It was clearly a view from a higher floor in a very nice building.

Coruscant! Luke realized.

Into the room walked a man, and Luke held his breath. Luke knew with complete certainty that this man was Anakin Skywalker. Anakin knelt down and put his cheek on the woman's belly.

"Ani, what are we going to do? I'll be showing soon."

Luke gasped. My mother's voice. I can see and hear my mother.Luke felt an ache growing in his throat. His heart was racing. He tried to center himself, but it was as impossible. A lifetime of loss, grief, and unanswered questions were flooding into him from all directions. He felt powerless to resist.

"We're not going to do anything right now except enjoy being together. This baby is a blessing. Fortonight, let's feel nothing other than gratitude," Anakin soothed his mother in a remarkably kind and sincere voice.

"I've missed you Ani. It's been so much harder this time with you so far away and for so long. Hearing rumors you'd been killed - fearing you'd never know..."

His mother's voice cracked as she ran a hand through Anakin's hair. She reached out for his shoulders and pulled him up to face her.

"If I lost you-"

"Do not fear, Padme. If I have to go to the Council and lay my fate in their hands, I will. But I will not abandon you and our baby. If I have to make a choice, I know what I will do." Anikan kissed Padme sweetly and they embraced. "Now, I want to spend every moment we can talking about happy things - like how beautiful you are."

Padme smiled and laughed – a soft, light laugh. Luke's heart leapt at the sound. Padme, my mother's name is Padme.

"Artoo, make sure you get this on video to remind Ani he thinks I'm beautiful when I'm as big as the Temple."

A set of familiar beeps and whirs startled Luke. "Artoo was with my father?" Luke whispered.

"Oh, Mistress Padme, it's a disaster! The caterer forgot the jogan fruit for the cake!"

Threepio?Luke could barely believe what he was seeing.

"Threepio, when I created you, I seem to recall making your ability to reason and problem solve better than most sentient creatures. How about you and Artoo head out and get some jogan fruit."

The view moved closer to Anakin, and the end of a metal arm with a grabber came into view. It scooped credits from Anakin's outstretched hand. The droids left the room, arguing over who was in charge. That was the end of the video.

Luke was smiling even as warm tears threatened to spill over. Then the loss of the connection hit him like someone kicking him in the chest. He paused to catch his breath and began to search the chair for data cards or cylinders. He realized he was growing frantic. It had been quite some time since he felt such a loss of control without an immediate desire to regain it. He wanted the feelings to last. He wanted to know his story. He wanted to be there with his mother and hear her beautiful voice. He was desperate to know his mother's "Ani" – his real father. He was just as eager to share this discovery with Leia.

Luke took a deep, cleansing breath. It was time to go. He sat back on his rear-end and made a decision. I'm taking this chair.


Pikson-Kyrell Residence
Lothal

"Dalven – what are you doing home?" Gan walked around the corner with Sila in her arms. Sila began reaching for Dalven. He took her and gave her a big kiss.

"Sara needs a different outfit for work today. The Review Team is here and Daniel still hasn't replaced Sara. I gotta run, though. She needs the tunic in thirty minutes."

"I'll help you look if you want?" Gan said. Dalven nodded. They took the lift up – Dalven was winded and wanted to hold Sila a few more minutes.

They made it to the bedroom and he put Sila down. "Mom, check the closet. She keeps some of her nicer work stuff in there." Dalven began pulling out drawers. "Whoooooaaaa!" he pulled out a new negligee with the tags and Sila started babbling and clapping. "Not on your life, little girl!" Dalven snorted.

"You found it?" Gan said, peeking out from the closet. She saw him waving the negligee in front of Sila. "Dalven Kyrell!"

"Geez mom! I didn't buy it! Talk to your perverted daughter-in-law!" Dalven replaced it and pulled out the next drawer. "A-ha!" he pulled out an Aqua tunic and something fell on the floor. He bent over and picked up a plastic container with small pills inside. Sila was crawling over to investigate what looked and sounded like a colorful shaker toy.

"You really found it?" Gan came back out of the closet and saw Dalven standing there holding the tunic in one hand and the pill dispenser in the other. She walked up to him and looked curiously at what he was holding. Then she reached up quickly and took the pill container and began shooing him out the door. "Dalven, if you don't hurry you won't make it in time."

Dalven looked at Gan, his expression one of confusion and worry. "Mom? What are those?" Gan looked at them and then shrugged her shoulders, reaching down for Sila who was starting to fuss.

"They're Sara's, Dalven." Gan wasn't sure what she should or shouldn't say. She was confused about Dalven's confusion. She was not confused about what the pills were. She had seen enough of these dispensers at the Family Planning and Counseling Center. "Honey, you need to go. Is that the top?" Dalven slowly held it up and nodded.

"Okay, yah, I need to go," he leaned over and gave Sila a kiss. Gan was smiling and kissed him on the cheek. Dalven left the room. Gan sat down on the bed looking at the pills and put her forehead in her hand while Sila wiggled in her other arm. She didn't notice Dalven had turned around and was standing in the doorway.

"Mom." Gan was startled. She didn't have a chance to wipe the tears from her face.

"Dalven! I… I thought…" Gan stammered. She took a deep breath and said, "Let's get Sila down and talk for a minute." Dalven nodded and Gan followed him down the stairs this time.

Lucy was already asleep in her Playpen. Gan tried to put Sila down, but she was becoming desperate to get to Dalven. She knew he was upset. She always knew when Dalven was upset. Dalven took her and sat on the sofa. "What are those, mom?"

"I think they are birth control pills, honey."

"They can't be. We're… we're trying to get pregnant." Dalven looked up at Gan with what began as a look of happiness that quickly turned into something dark. He was shaking his head. "They can't be. Why would Sara be taking birth control pills if we are trying to get pregnant? That doesn't make any sense."

"Honey, listen." Gan knelt down and took his hand. "Whatever this is, the worst case scenario is not as terrible as you're going to imagine it to be. If Sara has been dishonest, it's going to hurt and you'll be angry. But it does not change the fact that Sara loves you deeply. She needs to answer your questions, and whatever those answers are, it will be okay." Dalven was looking at his mother and listening.

"She does love me," he said quietly, but seemed to be confident in this fact.

"Oh, Dalven, yes! Sara loves you with all of her heart. I am absolutely certain of this." Dalven nodded, took a deep breath, and then he stood up.

"Well, I might can still make it on time. Let me get down the mountain and get this to her." Gan nodded and took Sila, who began to cry. Dalven kissed her cheek and smiled. Sila stopped crying and smiled back. He headed for the door, and then turned around. "Mom, can you put those back in that drawer. Maybe you can do it in a way that looks like they weren't seen? I… I don't want to force her to talk about it if she isn't ready. I know she will when she is able." He looked so sad and lost, but Gan was prouder of Dalven in that moment than she had ever been in his entire life.

She smiled and said, "Of course, sweetheart. Just you and me know, and I agree with you 100%. Give her some time, and if you need me I'm here for you."

"I know you are, mom. It's… it's one of the best things about my life – to know that you are here for me." He nodded, and his voice started to crack. "Even though I probably don't deserve it."

Before Gan could respond, Dalven had closed the door and was headed for the Zip line. Sila was quietly resting in her playpen already. Gan went into the bedroom and cried into a pillow so she wouldn't wake the girls.


Jedi Shuttle Star Gazer en route to Rebel Victory

"Belly button," Kendy said.

"Navel," Grhan said.

"Belly button! It's….funner." Kendy insisted.

"First, 'funner' is not a word. Second, 'belly button' makes no sense. A button for what? It's ridiculous."

Kendy slowly opened her eyes. A soft light from the refresher cast a dim glow over the surfaces in the room. She blinked and reached up to rub her eyes – they burned. She noticed her sleeve. I'm in my flight suit?

She thought about sitting up, but something held her back. A voice…

"I love you, Kendy Idele. From the moment you boarded my ship - I knew I would."

"I love you, too," she whispered.

Kendy sat up, her hand clutching her chest. The pain crashed down on her and she couldn't catch her breath. It felt as though she was little again, fearlessly facing the waves of the ocean back home, only to find she's swirling under the water and reaching for the sunlight above. But now she wasn't able to find the surface – there was no light. Her arms, her legs – her entire body – it was so heavy! The weight on her chest was pressing her down as she sank into the darkness.

She couldn't make sense of it – and then… suddenly she could. She reached out to her right and found nothing there. Slowly she turned to see the empty space beside her.

Marida flew off of the couch the second she heard the sound she had been dreading. She was beside Kendy in an instant, wrapping her arms around the poor girl as the grief consumed her. Marida understood this sound and where it was coming from – she knew Kendy was falling and the only thing Marida could do was fall with her so Kendy wouldn't be alone. Kendy cried for Grhan, calling his name and pleading to the Force and the Stars - whatever took him - to give him back.