A/N: Wow! Thank you and welcome to all who have clicked the follow button! That just makes my day (so do reviews lol!). Anyway ... I had most of this chapter written WELL before today's episode aired (episode 13 - The Jedi) and had hoped to have it ready before today but ... I'm a bit glad I waited as I made a few changes to the very end to compensate for what has been revealed. In my head my story takes place in the few weeks before the start of the current season. The next few chapters will include things from the season and then we'll see. Remember, I started this just on a whim! Enjoy and let me know what you think!
Love - Thank you for all the reviews! So glad you found my little tale!
Guest - I fully intend to continue on with the story though I'm not sure how long it will end up being at this point! :)
All Hail Dave Filoni!
Though she tried to remain calm a rush of emotions flooded through her as she watched Coruscant grow large in front of the windows. Her life had started here, she had expected to spend most of her days there, but the majority of it had been lived far away in hiding and she wasn't sure what to feel as they approached. Anticipation, excitement, curiosity, fear. They all swirled together in such a storm that it left her heart pounding and her breathing a bit erratic. What would be waiting for them on the surface? What would they find at the Temple? For once her techniques for releasing all her anxiety into the Force was not working.
"Are you alright?"
"I think so."
"You don't sound very sure of that."
"I'm not sure what to feel at the moment. I don't know if I'm looking forward to seeing some place from my past or if I'm afraid."
He paused. "I can go with the kid if you'd rather stay in the Crest."
Something inside her settled and warmed at his words. He was offering her a way to avoid a situation that most likely, despite whatever they might find, would cause her some pain. He was willing to go into the unknown without someone watching his back. It showed a depth of caring that she instinctively knew was a surprise to him as well. Alés could've hugged him in gratitude if she'd thought the sentiment would be accepted.
"Thank you but I must do this. Besides helping you and the little one I feel like I need to see … I just need to see."
Din didn't question her further on the subject. After they'd landed he brought up a map of their sector of Coruscant and began scanning it for the Temple. For a couple moments names and images scrolled by on the screen though nothing about the Jedi Temple appeared.
"Could it be gone?"
Alés felt her shoulders sag a bit. "I suppose. Perhaps there is something else here that the Force was pointing us to." She paused, focusing all the energy she could now feel around her. "But I don't think that's the case."
"There's no mention of it in any of the directories." The uncertainty was clear in his voice.
"Well, there's one way to find out."
She spun and slid down the ladder leaving him to follow. Digging through the things she'd brought from her home in exile she pulled out the dark robe that had belonged to Master Brasi. Slipping her arms into the worn, rough fabric gave her confidence a small boost and when Din came to her side with the kid strapped to his chest she could feel it even further. As she clipped her lightsaber to her belt she could feel him frown.
"Isn't that putting a target on your back? If there are those that still despise the Jedi like you've feared wouldn't seeing that just make it easier to find you?"
"I will not stand before the Temple – or the remains of the Temple – as a coward. I will face it as a Jedi so anyone nearby might be reminded that we existed … and gave our lives to protect the Galaxy."
Din stayed as close to her side as normal movement would allow as they made their way through the city. Alés never hesitated and lead them in whatever direction that inner sense pushed her. He kept an eye on those they passed, his hand resting on his blaster, ready to defend her if the need arose. As they progressed there were a few who stopped and stared, a few whispered conversations between companions, but thankfully there was no other reaction from those on the sidewalks. The press of everyone around them reminded him why he avoided cities like Coruscant.
They finally emerged from between two rows of towering buildings into a large, open space which was dominated by the massive ziggurat in the center. The sudden lack of traffic around them put his senses on high alert. Why was there suddenly barely anyone around? Belatedly he realized that the woman by his side hadn't moved and the kid had grown quiet.
She was frozen to the sidewalk, her eyes locked on the building in front of them. She could hear some distraught cooing from the little one but she found she couldn't move. Couldn't pull her attention from what was before them. Yes, the statues of past Jedi were gone. Yes, the decorative façade had been removed. Of course there were no Jedi and padawans coming and going from the front entrance. That wasn't what had her rooted to the spot. It was the feeling of the place. The taint of the Dark Side lingered though it was clear someone – or someones – had been working since the Emperor's downfall to remove it, to cleanse it. That taint covered everything like a greasy, slick film and it sent a slight shiver down her spine; she hadn't felt the touch of the Dark Side so strongly since that night everything fell apart.
What had happened here?
She became aware of Din's hand on her arm and taking a few deep breaths she started moving forward, every step leading up to what had been the Temple almost painful. The startling silence wrapped around them as they made their way slowly up the stairs towards the entrance.
The shadow of the building swallowed them and she could feel her legs shake a bit as they walked inside. The interior had been stripped of any reminder of what this great place had once housed. Gone were the beautiful statues and shining floors, the soft rugs and donated art work. Everything was dark in color with ugly furniture scattered against the walls. She didn't know what would have been more painful: coming back and discovering what had been done to her former home or returning to see nothing had changed.
"So where do we go?"
"The Archives, if they still exist, were touted as the most complete and thorough collection of knowledge in the Galaxy. If there's information about him it would have to be there."
"And you still know how to get there?" She just glanced at him with a raised eyebrow then headed deeper into the Temple. The feeling of darkness seemed a bit less as they neared the entrance to the Archives. Whatever had been working to erase its touch had focused their efforts here … though when they stepped through the entrance she couldn't understand why. Just like all traces of beauty and grace had been removed from the exterior of the building gone was every hint of knowledge and wisdom that had once been contained within the room … and it hadn't just been taken away. The chamber had been completely destroyed. Piles of rubble littered the floor containing the remains of the massive shelves, computer stations, and statues that had filled the space. It was clear whoever had brought the Dark Side into the Temple had wanted everything in here wiped from existence. There was evidence someone had been trying to dig through the mess – most likely in an effort to find any of the thousands of holocrons that had once been housed here – which meant there was little chance anything of use remained.
"I don't think we're going to find anything in here," she said quietly, her eyes still raking over the utter destruction before her.
"Is there anywhere else we can look?"
Alés bit her lip as she tried to remember where the Jedi Masters would have gone for information during the War. "Perhaps, if it's still there, the Communications Center may have something we can look through. I believe it was an information hub during the Clone Wars so maybe it hasn't been destroyed since it would've been full of useful equipment."
After a not so short walk and a few turbolift rides they were rewarded for their persistence when they walked in to find a room full of computer terminals, holoprojector tables, and comm stations that all looked like they were still in working order. Quickly sliding into one of the terminals while Din tried to keep the little one from messing with too much Alés began trying to find her way through all the files that were surprisingly accessible. Her relief at finding anything was short lived as she soon realized nothing contained within the computer systems was older than the Imperial takeover. Not quite willing to give up yet she continued searching, hoping that she might stumble across something relating to the Jedi.
"Any luck?" Din asked from behind her right shoulder.
"No. Anything that was here before the Purge has been wiped clean. Apparently the Temple was turned into Palpatine's personal palace – his home – after he destroyed the Jedi." The thought of that creature desecrating the sacred halls with his presence, the joy he must have found in making his home where the Jedi had once lived, made her want to cry. "I've only come across brief mentions in old Holonews articles about how the 'Jedi uprising' was 'thankfully' put down and that the new government has assured all citizens any remaining Jedi were being taken care of." She frowned. "How could the population of the entire Galaxy have been so blind? How could they have just let this happen after all the Jedi had done?"
"Mob mentality. Sway one to your way of thinking and stick 'em in a large group. Eventually the rest will fall in line."
"Well, however Palpatine did it he was extremely successful. You're proof enough that most don't even remember there were Jedi. There's no mention of anything for several years until -" Alés froze as a name jumped out at her from the screen.
"What is it? Did you find something?"
"I … this … this can't be right."
"What are you talking about?"
She began reading from the article dated several years prior. "The destruction of the Emperor's newest space station is believed to have been a result of an attack from the Rebel Alliance headed by Princess Leia Organa, among others, and carried out by Luke Skywalker."
"Why does that last name sound familiar?"
"Because I mentioned it when we first met. The Jedi that fell to the Dark Side and helped destroy the Order was Anakin Skywalker."
"So what's the problem?"
"One of the aspects of the Jedi Code, the rules Jedi were to follow you might say, forbid close attachments and having a family. To be carrying the same name means Anakin married at some point."
"Perhaps it was after he … stopped being a Jedi. Or maybe it's just a coincidence."
"There's a picture here of Luke and an estimate of his age. Besides the fact that I can see Anakin in his face and eyes his age puts him having been born right at the end of the Clone Wars." She couldn't pull her eyes away from the image on the screen. Though she'd been young there had been opportunities to see Master Skywalker around the Temple, even if it was just in passing, and he had certainly been on the Holonews enough during the War and there was no doubt in her mind that the young man she was now looking at was his son.
"Alright. So a former Jedi had a kid. Is there any information that will help us find this kid's people? Or a current Jedi?"
Alés didn't answer as she was focused on searching for any more information on Luke Skywalker. As the fight between the Rebellion and the Empire had heated up there was more and more mention of him until –
"Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker?!"
"This guy was a Jedi after all? Is he still around?"
"The last mention in any article just says he is wanted by the Emperor and for the citizens not to worry as this remaining Jedi will be found and held accountable for all his crimes."
"So maybe this is the Jedi we need to find."
"Perhaps. I can't find anything else on him. All information into this system came to a halt when the Empire was overthrown. I suppose we could try searching somewhere in the city that would have current news but that would mean staying on the planet longer but I'm not comfortable with that right now. We can easily access the Holonews elsewhere in the Galaxy."
"What do you suggest we do now?" There seemed to be an edge to Din's voice.
"Head back towards the Outer Rim. I think it'll be easier to avoid anyone that's looking for us out there. We can try to locate Luke Skywalker along with any other Mandalorians that might have helpful information."
"So you're coming with me?" This time his words, spoken more softly than she'd heard from him before, had a tinge of surprise and relief in them.
She turned to face him as she rose from the computer. "Of course I'm coming with you … unless you would rather I remain here. I'm sure I could find a ride back home."
"No. I … I would like it if you stayed with me – us, stayed with us. You're rather handy to have around and I … the kid seems to like you." A little spark of hope ignited deep inside her as she took in his words – spoken and unspoken. "I wasn't sure if you would want to stay here on Coruscant since this used to be your home."
"That is very much in the past tense. My place is with you and the little one until we've delivered him safely or you tire of me."
"I doubt I would tire of you."
Alés couldn't keep the smirk off her lips. "Don't be so sure of that."
"And you're fine with this arrangement? Staying with us?"
"I gave you my word that I would help you find where the little one belongs."
"So it is merely a sense of obligation and duty that keeps you with us."
"No." When he didn't respond she sighed and ran a hand over her face. She hoped she wasn't about to ruin everything. "I do want to help the little one but even if we weren't looking for his people I would stay with you. I … I've grown to like you Din. I haven't trusted anyone except my Master since the Order fell but you have earned it."
That was as much as she would admit to him (or herself) at the moment but there was no denying she felt a growing attachment to this Mandalorian the longer they were together. In a way it frightened her but at the same time she hadn't felt as happy or as alive as she had since he'd shown up on her planet. She wouldn't let her mind go to anything beyond that at the moment, though, and she hoped what she had just said wouldn't ruin whatever it was they'd let grow between them. Alés had never wished to see his face as much as she did right then. Her cheeks warmed and a rather sick feeling formed in the pit of her stomach when he remained quiet. Unable to bare his silent scrutiny she turned to go but was stopped when he laid a hand on her arm. When she was once again facing him fully he cupped her face with both hands and leaned down to rest his helmeted forehead against hers. They remained in that position for a moment and while no words were spoken Alés felt like quite a bit had been said.
Straightening to his full height he scooped the little one up before taking her hand and she found comfort in the feel of the warn leather against her skin as they made their way back through what had once been her home. The Force had not revealed much to her in regards to their future or the little one's future but she could feel it hovering around them and she had to hope that meant it was pleased. They hadn't discovered much that would help in their quest but at least they had a name now and if they could find more of Din's Mandalorians then perhaps they could provide another piece in this increasingly complicated puzzle.