Lilliya was a little lost. She knew she took one of the lifts when she left the gardens, and it shot further up the palace till she reached the top. Now she was in a much more elaborate and lavish corridor with more wide windows looking out towards Coruscant’s cityscape. Noting the expensive looking décor, she assumed she must have ventured into a much more wealthy living area.
Rather than returning back down to the lower levels, Lilliya was compelled to explore the richer apartments. She found herself wandering down the brightly lit hallways until she reached the end. She was about to turn back around, but the apartment at the end of the hall had its door wide open. Lilliya cocked her head to the side in curiosity. Who would leave their door open, she wondered.
She stood alone in the hallway; there wasn’t much traffic up in the higher lofts compared to the lower ones. In fact, the hallway she stood in was completely empty. Lilliya waited to see if someone would come out of the apartment and close the door. She couldn’t explain why she cared, but she had the itching feeling to explore inside. She moved closer to the open door, trying to make her walk look casual just in case someone decided to show up.
“Hello?” she called into the apartment, barely leaning in an inch.
“I noticed your door was open…” she called again, a little more timidly this time. Still, nothing. Lilliya glanced behind her to see if anyone was coming, then slinked into the entrance. She held her breath as she went through.
There was nothing really spectacular on the inside other than the vast amount of living space. Lilliya descended down a few steps into the circular living area. Everything was very clean, almost untouched. The room had a spectacular view of the city and Lilliya found herself staring out the window for a few minutes. In the corner of the room, the sunlight glinted off something silvery. More curious than ever, she turned to where the reflection came from.
A silver object stood elevated on one of the mantels by the holovid projector. It was oblong and obviously made out of a silver metal material. It floated in the air and must have been held up by a type of magnetic field. Lilliya thought she recognized the object as she got closer. Carefully, she wrapped her fingers around its cylindrical shape and pulled it away from the magnetic field. It was surprisingly heavy in her hand for how simple it was, and very cold, though the room temperature wasn’t any colder.
Gripping it tighter, for fear of dropping it, she noticed a small knob on its side. She touched it.
Suddenly, the object came to life. A deep blue laser-blade shot out of the topside of the cylinder, humming and vibrating loudly. Lilliya nearly dropped the thing in shock, but thankfully had a tight enough grip on it that her hands were shaking from the vibration.
And she knew exactly what it was.
Her heart began to race as she quickly began to realize who’s room she was in, but before she could plan her hasty escape, the lightsaber was yanked out of her hand by some unseen force, the blade disappearing back into the hilt, and landing in the hand of a man.
Lilliya swore under her breath as she slowly turned around to face whoever was behind her. There stood a young man, probably in his early twenties, with dark blonde hair that seemed to shimmer with red in the sunlight, deep blue eyes shaded by thick, curled lashes, a straight nose and chiseled jaw, rosebud-shaped lips that were definitely curved into a frown. He wore a blue flight suit, academy rank, Lilliya recognized, black gloves and black knee-high boots. The man hooked the lightsaber onto his utility belt.
He was very good-looking, and very irritated.
“What are you doing?” he said, his voice deep and annoyed.
Lie! Lie! Think of something!
“I didn’t realize the apartment was occupied,” Lilliya said, her voice shaking nervously. “I saw the door open and it didn’t seem like anyone lived here. Until I saw that.” She pointed at the lightsaber.
The man didn’t say anything, but his hand reflexively rested on the lightsaber’s hilt. He continued to stare at her, frustration becoming very obvious in his blue eyes. This made Lilliya even more nervous. Not only did Jedi and their mysterious power called the Force make Lilliya feel very vulnerable, but their mere presence made her uneasy.
Feeling frozen in place, Lilliya stared back at the man, waiting for him to say something else. The two continued to stare at each other, not moving, as though two highly dangerous predators faced each other for the first time, not knowing what to do, whether they should attack or run.
Finally, he said, “This isn’t something to mess around with.” He gestured to his lightsaber.
Lilliya broke away from his blue-eyed stare for a second to glance at the silver hilt.
“I’m sorry about that,” she said, looking back up at him. His eyes were scrutinizing, almost invasive. It made her feel exposed. She could feel her cheeks warming. “I was curious…” She shrugged.
“You could have killed yourself,” he said, “if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Lilliya nodded, glad to know that the man cared somewhat about her well-being. That was a good sign.
“Well,” she said, “it definitely won’t happen again. I’ll be going now.” As she side-stepped the man to leave the room, she noticed other figures in the door way.
“Mr. Skywalker,” a deep mechanical voice reverberated. Her GP guard droids now stood in the hallway, their glowing red eyes zeroing in on Lilliya.
“Oh, great,” she muttered.
Ben Skywalker glanced at the droids, the only non-organic droids allowed as legal by order of the Advisory Council, and then back down at the disgruntled girl. His feelings were a mixture of shock, anger, paranoia, and amazement. First, because he had no idea someone would be in his apartment. He had only been gone for a few minutes. Second, because he found someone intruding on his privacy and this “someone” was undetectable by the Force. Thirdly, because she couldn’t be detected, and that made him feel threatened by her. Fourthly, because she was not only beautiful, but fascinating to look at.
Her skin was a soft ivory color without a blemish or a freckle. Her hair was bright gold and curly past her shoulders. She was tall and slender, her curves perfectly proportioned. A sparkling crystal glittered in the sunlight and reflected against her breasts, which Ben didn’t fail to notice. Her lips were pink and full, and her face was of a gentle, elegant structure.
But it was her eyes that really caught Ben’s attention. Her right one was a sparkling, sapphire blue while the other was an emerald green. And within the green eye was a strange, diamond-shaped scar. When Ben stared at her, he saw the scar flash different colors, from light to dark. He’d never seen anything like it.
“Mr. Skywalker,” the main GP droid spoke again. “We apologize for the interruption, but we are ordered to escort Commander Lilliya Tentle back to her quarters.”
Ben cocked an eyebrow. He wondered why heavy duty military droids were assigned to someone like her. At least, she looked safe enough. Then again, she did have his lightsaber in hand. Who knows what she would have done with it?
“Who’s orders?” Ben asked.
“President Organa Solo,” it said.
Ben looked over at Lilliya curiously. He supposed he’d have to talk with his aunt Leia to get any answers about this strange girl.
“You‘re not an escaped convict or anything like that, are you?” Ben asked Lilliya, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“No,” Lilliya frowned.
“Well, then I guess you’d better go with them,” he said to Lilliya, a wry smile tugging at his lips.
A flash of disappointment crossed her face. Maybe she was hoping he’d get her out of the situation, but why would he do that after she’d just intruded on his home.
Lilliya’s shoulders slumped in defeat and shuffled to the waiting guard droids. Ben followed her out and watched her disappear down the corridor with her intimidating entourage.
Commander, he thought. Ben decided he would investigate this commander and talk with Leia. Maybe she couldn’t sense the girl either. He slightly hoped that was the case and that he wasn’t getting rusty with the Force. He would talk with Leia as soon as he cleaned up and showered. He had a very long and irritating day at the Academy. Perhaps it was because he was distracted when sensing his father’s presence arriving in Coruscant City. He was not looking forward to seeing his father today.
The door chimed, snapping Lilliya out of her bored daze. Evening was approaching and Coruscant’s two suns were sinking towards the horizon, shrouding everything into a deep red-gold. Lilliya had been laying on her bed, head resting off the edge and staring lazily out the wall-length window, everything upside down. She wasn’t allowed to leave her apartment without the guard droids following her every move. This time the droids used their sensors in case the room ever registered as empty, which made it pointless to try to escape at all.
So Lilliya tried to sleep away the day. When that didn’t work, she tried to entertain herself with the holovid. That lasted for about an hour before she turned it off. When she refused to go out for dinner if the droids had to follow her, dinner was sent to her. She ate it, but hated it. She didn’t understand why she had to be a prisoner when she only did her duty by warning the Galactic Alliance.
Lilliya, then, noticed an atmosphere parade in the distance and watched it until it faded further down the horizon. After a while, there was nothing else to do. She laid in bed and let her mind wander. She thought of the gardens, of Leia and her in the science center, and then her thoughts were clouded with the young man she had met earlier. For hours, he proved to be the main topic of her thinking. She couldn’t get him out of her mind. Everything about him bothered her and attracted her. Though, she hated the way he looked at her, making her feel so disclosed.
Then the door chimed again and she wondered sardonically if this was dessert. Rolling out of bed, she dragged herself to the door and activated it, sliding open with a hiss.
“Hello,” a warm voice said. Lilliya was surprised to see a beautiful woman standing before her. Her long chocolate-brown hair cascaded down her back and her dark brown eyes stared at Lilliya warmly. She wore a form-fitting red jumpsuit, with flight rank insignia embellished on the collar. “I’m Jaina.”
“Hi,” Lilliya said. The two young women stared at each other for a moment, Lilliya standing in the doorway. Lilliya, however, seemed to tower over Jaina.
“Leia sent me,” Jaina continued. “She wanted me to meet you. I’m her daughter.”
Lilliya frowned. It was strange to be under house arrest and be greeted by the President’s family member.
“Can I come in?” Jaina said.
“Sure, why not?” Lilliya grumbled. She was becoming more and more irritated by the minute.
“Sorry about my mom,” Jaina said, as she stepped into the living area. “She just wants to take every precaution when concerning you.” It was like Jaina was reading Lilliya’s mind, knowing exactly how she was feeling.
Lilliya kept a distance from Jaina, standing near the kitchen as Jaina leaned up against one of the couches.
“I’m not sure why I’m viewed as a threat,” Lilliya said, crossing her arms in front of her.
Jaina’s lip twitched. “In any case,” she said, “I thought you might want someone to talk to. So mom told me to come see you. I hear you’re a pilot.”
Lilliya cocked an eyebrow in suspicion, but played along. This woman deftly avoided Lilliya’s comment. “Yes, I am.”
“I captain the TwinSuns Squadron,” Jaina continued. “I’m sorry to hear about the Raider base. I didn’t know much about them, but I assume they were one of the topnotch military squadrons on the outer rim.”
Lilliya glanced away from Jaina to focus her attention outside. She could feel a lump in her throat swelling, but quickly forced it down.
Jaina seemed to understand, but didn’t change the subject. “I’m actually bringing a squad out to Endor with me to investigate what happened to the first team later tomorrow. Is there anything you could tell me about the alien battleship you intercepted?”
“The President is sending out another team? Doesn’t she think that’s a bad idea since they lost contact with the first one so easily?” Lilliya asked.
“My squadron is a little…different,” Jaina said confidently. “We’re able to handle unusual situations like these. Most of my squad are adept in the Force. We can anticipate attacks better than other squads.”
Lilliya took a deep breath. “Well…the only thing I can tell you is that this ship was able to wipe out my entire team and the military base in only a matter of minutes. For some reason, they left me alive…maybe to give the Galactic Alliance a little scare. Who knows? They have technology that isn’t recorded in any of the Galactic Military logs. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Did the ship have any likeliness to the Yuuzhan Vong?” Jaina asked.
Lilliya thought hard. She had really buried this memory as soon as she could, so bringing back into focus was difficult. “No…” she murmured. “In fact, the closest resemblance the ship had was to the old Imperial Empire.”
Jaina frowned. The Empire had been long gone and the Imperial Remnant had joined their forces with the Galactic Alliance near the beginning of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. For the Remnant to be defecting now didn’t make any sense.
“During their first attack, they used old TIE interceptors,” Lilliya continued. “We thought it was a joke. We were able to wipe all of them out. But as soon as we did…they unleashed new ships. Fast and nearly impossible to fire on. Faster than anything we have…”
“The Galactic Raiders were using experimental ships, weren’t they?” Jaina said.
“Yes, V and Z-wings,” Lilliya said. “We had trained with them for a few years when they were given to us by the Alliance. They are supposed to replace all the older fighters. The technology is fantastic, but is nothing compared to what those alien ships could do.”
Jaina nodded in contemplation. “Seems like somebody was busy building a fleet behind our backs. Something stronger than us…”
“One more thing,” Lilliya said. “I remember that when the ship appeared, it gave no warning. Normally we can trace previous lightspeed coordinates, but this ship didn’t seem to have any. Our only warning was a…bend in space, so to speak. It’s something to watch out for. Maybe they have a cloaking device…”
“Maybe,” Jaina said. “It’s good to know, though. I’ll make sure we have our scanning sensors on at all times when we enter the Endor system.”
They were silent for a moment again. Lilliya was trying to remember if there was anything else important she could tell Jaina. Lilliya found herself already warming up to the woman, but maybe it was because of the common interest they had—both pilots, and pilots always knew how to get along.
“Oh,” Jaina spoke again, breaking the awkward silence. “I also came to tell you—or invite you to come to the YVA banquet.”
“I don’t think so,” Lilliya said, shaking her head. “I don’t fit in well in social gatherings like that.”
“Mom insists, actually. She said that you need to come in order to meet some of the generals and recruiters that could sign you up with another squad.”
“I’m sure I could do that another day,” Lilliya said. She had no interest in having fun and hobnobbing with rich people.
“Yes, but not everyone gets an opportunity like this, where squads from all over would be in the same room together,” Jaina pushed. “You’d get your pick of the location.”
“Tempting,” Lilliya sighed. “But I’m not really in the mood to socialize.”
Jaina frowned. “Of course, I completely understand. I wouldn’t want to be going either, but I have to make a social appearance for my mother’s sake. You could always meet up with me once you arrive and I could make sure nobody unwanted bothers us.”
Why was Jaina trying so badly to convince Lilliya to go, she wondered. It didn’t look like Jaina was going to drop the subject easily and leave. So Lilliya chose to go the “excuse” route.
“Isn’t it a formal thing? I have nothing to wear anyway.”
“That’s not a problem,” Jaina perked up. “I have the perfect dress for you.”
Lilliya tried to hide the groan that emanated from her tight-lipped grimace. Why couldn’t she just drop it?
“Dresses don’t really suit me.” Lilliya tried one more time to get Jaina to give up and leave.
“Oh, this one will…” Jaina smiled, though Lilliya could have sworn she detected a note of sarcasm.
“I guess I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” Lilliya grumbled, but gave in to Jaina. She supposed the distraction wouldn’t be so bad and it might make the night go by faster.