The night air was cooler than usual for Coruscant’s summer. The two suns had already disappeared far below the horizon, shrouding the city into a sparkling night. There was a gray haze in the sky, hiding the stars, but the city contained its own light. Fireworks, parades, and other lighting spectaculars lit up the night sky, reflecting off skyscrapers’ silver metal skin. Every spire was lit from the inside with blue, gold, yellow, and red.
The Galactic Palace had an array of colorful laser lights surrounding the base. The colors bent, twirled, and made shapes in the dark sky’s gray haze. The city echoed with sounds of all kinds, the palace being the main center of attraction. People from all over the galaxy traveled to see the palace on YVA day. Security had their hands full as they scanned every person before entering the palace and into the massive Crystal Ballroom. The ballroom had a live band playing New Republic classics that people danced to in the center of the room. Surrounding the dance floor were circular tables elaborately decorated with ice-mist sculptures that changed shape when no one was looking. The room was packed to the brim with delegates from all over, politicians, bureaucrats, celebrities, wealthy citizens, high military officials, ambassadors, and even some celebrated pilots who were graciously invited and decided to make an appearance.
Lilliya felt incredibly overwhelmed as soon as she stepped through the immense crystal doors and into the Crystal Ballroom. She could feel the eyes of all the people looking in her direction, probably because of her intimidating escort, the GP guard droids, looking very out of place in a room full of organics. Or maybe it was the gown she wore given to her by Jaina. A gown that Lilliya felt particularly exposed in and that drew too much attention to her figure. Her hair cascaded in curls down her back and the white satin dress, embedded with tiny little crystals, flowed down her body, clinging to all the right places. The low cut front and back made her feel too self-conscious. She wondered wryly to herself if this was punishment for something she did in an earlier life.
Lilliya shrank into the crowds, searching for anyone she might recognize. The GP droids stayed very close to her, which made the groupings of people part out of her way. She could hear them whispering about her. One of her many talents was her hearing, but at this particular moment, she didn’t want to hear what they were saying. Some were curious, others were jealous, and some were nervously backing away because of her escort.
After maneuvering through the crowds, it seemed impossible that she might find someone she knew. She was hoping Jaina would be easy to spot, the only person she felt remotely comfortable with.
She stopped near a group of high-class Calamarians and surveyed the room. There were too many people and Lilliya was thinking she’d rather go back to her apartment. If she couldn’t find anyone, then there was no point in her being there.
As she stood there looking through all the people, she had the strangest feeling she was being watched. She listened closely to the murmuring around her, but no one was paying attention to her anymore. The droids, of course, were watching her every move, but she could have sworn she felt something else too. A shiver ran up her spin as she became more and more aware of a pair of eyes peering at her from across the room.
Lilliya turned slowly to her left, saw a tall, blue Chiss glance in her direction, but then disappear onto the dance floor. It wasn’t the Chiss who caught Lilliya’s eye, however; it was the man standing behind the Chiss.
There was a man in simple black formal attire standing alone on the far side of the room. He had dark hair with a shock of white above each ear, a sinewy figure, chiseled jaw, and deep, glistening blue eyes. Even meters away, Lilliya could tell they were blue.
And he was staring right at her. His gaze didn’t even flinch when she looked right back. It was as if he knew her from somewhere. In that moment, Lilliya felt the world melt away. The bright colors blended together in a swirling mesh, the movement of the people slowed and mixed with the colors, and everything went silent. The only thing Lilliya could feel or hear was her heartbeat as her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t explain her reaction, only that she didn’t know if it was fear she was feeling, shock, or wonderment. His eyes never left hers. She couldn’t move—couldn’t look away, though her mind was telling her to run.
“Lilliya!” Someone shouted her name, but it sounded too far away. Suddenly, a cool hand grabbed her arm and pulled her at her.
“Lilliya, I’m so glad you decided to come,” Jaina shouted through the loud music, a wide grin spread across her angelic face.
Everything went spinning back up to speed as Lilliya broke her gaze from the stranger.
“Yeah, better late than never,” Lilliya murmured, allowing herself a weak smile. She glanced back to where the man was, but he had already disappeared. She felt very uneasy now.
“I knew that dress would look great on you,” Jaina smiled wryly. “I know I could never pull it off. Come with me!” Jaina picked up the train of her blue silk dress and held onto Lilliya’s hand as Jaina pulled her through the crowds. The GP droids were somehow able to keep up. Jaina and Lilliya met up with a much more casual-looking group, all about the same age.
“This is my squad: Gavin, Kenalle, Bayley, and Wess,” Jaina said, introducing the four very tall and muscular men, all human except for Bayley. He was a yellow-skinned Andrian. They all grinned handsomely at Lilliya, Wess not hiding is obvious approval. “And this is my cousin, Ben,” she said, turning to the last man in the group.
Ben turned around to shake Lilliya’s hand, but then stopped himself when he recognized who it was. Lilliya, too, stopped herself and they both stared at each other awkwardly.
“We’ve met,” Ben said, his voice gruff. But he couldn’t help notice how stunning Lilliya looked. The crystal necklace caught his eye as it glittered against her near-bare chest and he had to concentrate on looking away.
“Yes,” Lilliya blushed. “Earlier today…we ran into each other, sort of.”
Ben grumbled something unintelligible and looked away.
“Oh,” Jaina said, giving Ben a sideways look. “Well, now you can meet again.”
“So we hear you’re a pilot for the Galactic Raiders,” the older man named Gavin said.
“Yes, I was,” Lilliya nodded. So it begins… “Or rather I am the last remaining Raider pilot.”
“Yes, we’re very sorry to hear about that,” Gavin said, and it sounded like he meant it. “We’re shipping out early tomorrow morning actually to find out what’s been going on over there. This is the first real disturbance we’ve had in years.”
“Let’s hope that’s all it’ll be,” Kenalle said to Gavin.
“Yeah, just a nuisance,” Wess piped in. “Though I’ve been aching for a little action. Patrolling the galaxy can get a little old, you know?” He winked at Lilliya. She pretended not to notice.
“I’m sure.” Jaina rolled her eyes.
“Lilliya,” another voice called in her direction. She recognized this voice as Leia’s. “I’m glad you’ve decided to join us.” Leia joined the little group of pilots, a gold gown clinging to her small frame and flowing far behind her. A man Lilliya didn’t recognize stood at her side and another entourage of droids stood a few more paces away from her. These weren’t the same droids, however; they were the HD organic droids. They were even more disturbing looking than the metal GP guard droids, despite their lifelike appearance.
Lilliya nodded a greeting. She was happy to find that Leia seemed to be in a much better mood this time.
“This is my husband, Han Solo,” Leia said, introducing the man at her side. He was very ruggishly handsome and looked more like a rouge than a president’s partner. He nodded and grinned a dashingly crooked grin at Lilliya.
“Something looks different about you,” Leia said, examining Lilliya’s face. “Did you dye your hair?”
Lilliya frowned in confusion, but then remembered that her hair did change color. But it always did when the sunrays didn’t shine on her. For some strange reason that had never been explained, Lilliya’s hair color would depend on the sun. During the day, her hair would be a golden blonde. At night, her hair would turn, not gray or white, but a lustrous silver. She was so used to it changing without explaining the strange occurrence, she had completely forgotten about it. It was another thing her father told her not to worry about, that she was unique and should feel lucky to have changing hair color…
“Oh, no,” Lilliya answered. “I have a weird hair pigmentation problem that is heavily affected by sunrays.” Let’s see if they buy that story…“That is weird,” Jaina said. “I didn’t even notice until you said something, Mom.”
Everyone was examining her, Jaina and Leia especially, and Ben seemed to sneak angry glances in her direction, his blue eyes very accusing. Lilliya was beginning to wonder why Ben acted so strangely toward her. He couldn’t have been still angry about her “breaking and entering” his house?
“So I hear you’re going off to Endor tomorrow,” Leia said, turning her attention to Jaina. “I’m a little surprised you didn’t run it by me.”
“You want someone to check out the system, don’t you?” Jaina said, irritation quickly filtering into her tone. It was obvious they had a similar discussion earlier.
“Yes, of course, but I’m not sure I want you going out there just yet.”
“Well, I think my squad could handle it better than any of your other teams the Alliance has,” Jaina said, keeping her voice calm.
“Leia,” Gavin said, and Lilliya was surprised he addressed her so informally. “If there is something dangerous out there, we should be the first group to investigate. You already lost one team. You know what our specialty is…and I can promise you we’ll bring your daughter back safely.” Gavin smiled, knowing that that was Leia’s main concern.
Leia kept a pleasant smile on her face, but her dark eyes were saying something else. “Thank you, Gavin. But I’d still rather send Squad 9 out before—”
“Mom!” Jaina interjected, already losing her cool.
“Listen to you mother, Jaina,” Han said, this being the first time Lilliya heard him speak. His voice was low and coarse.
Instead, Jaina spoke before Leia could. “Couldn’t we discuss this later,” Jaina said, gritting her teeth and her brown eyes glistening stubbornly at her mother.
Leia closed her mouth and seemed to agree with her daughter. “Later, then,” she said. Then she turned to Lilliya. “So, were you able to meet any of the squadron generals, yet?”
“Not really,” Lilliya answered, a little wary of the tension between Jaina and Leia. “I kind of just got here.”
“And what would be the fun of looking for a job when you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself?” Another person joined the group, surprising even Gavin and Han. It was a man this time with a deep, gentle voice.
“Ah, Luke, there you are,” Leia said, smiling brightly.
Lilliya turned to see who it was standing behind her and she caught her breath. It was the same man in black, the one who was staring at her from across the room. Now that he was closer, she felt like panicking.
The man named Luke stepped up right beside her, but didn’t glance in her direction.
“Lilliya,” Leia said, “this is my brother Luke Skywalker.”
Luke turned his perceptive blue eyes onto to Lilliya now and smiled warmly.
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” he said. “Leia’s told me so much about you.”
Lilliya’s glance flickered between Leia and Luke, as the shock began to seep in. This was Luke Skywalker, probably the most famous and well-known person in the entire galaxy. And Leia was speaking of her to him. Maybe that would explain the reason he was staring at her before. She then was beginning to wonder if Luke and Ben were related, but when she turned to look for him within the group, she noticed he’d gone.
“Luke! You better find time to come out with me before you leave for Ossus,” Han said, slapping him on the shoulder. Han was much taller than Luke, making the Jedi Master look quite small in comparison. “You owe me one, buddy.”
Luke laughed. “That I do. But it might have to wait for another night. I leave for Ossus early tomorrow morning.”
“We’ll see about that,” Han said. “Looks like I’ll have to send Threepio to disable you’re ship. You are staying here.”
“I don’t think his metal brain could handle sabotaging a Skywalker ship,” Luke said. “I have a feeling my father had him programmed that way from the beginning.”
The music suddenly changed to a slower waltz and many more people joined the dance floor.
“Well, since Luke doesn’t want to spend time with his old friend,” Han smirked, then turned to his daughter, “Jaina should dance with her father—you know, to help me plan a different attack.”
“Oh, Dad…” Jaina grumbled, rolling her eyes, but allowed Han to dramatically swing her onto the dance floor.
“Mistress Leia,” Gavin said, humor rolling off his tone. “Would you be so kind as to have this dance.”
“Why of course, Gavin,” Leia smiled wryly. “I would be honored.” The two of them entered the dance floor while the HDs stood aside, watching.
Lilliya was left with the other pilots and Luke, making her feel very awkward. She hoped no one was planning on asking her to dance. As far as she knew, she had two left feet.
She grimaced, feeling it coming, and not wanting to look up from the floor.
“Come and dance with me.” It was Luke’s voice, she knew it. So she forced herself to look up in response, if only to be polite, and met Luke’s glistening blue eyes. Again, she shivered.
Lilliya forced a smile and shook her head no. “I don’t know how,” she said meekly.
Luke smiled wide and suddenly his hand was upon hers, a warm, firm grasp. “Nonsense,” he said, and his voice was like silk. Before she could object, he pulled her onto the dance floor along with everyone else, and she could have sworn she heard the other pilots snickering.
As soon as they found a big enough clearing on the floor for the two of them, Luke stopped and turned toward her. Lilliya was in too much shock to really know what to do, so Luke bent down and picked up the train of her gown, placing it gently in her right hand.
“You may want to hold on to this,” he said, his voice so soft it nearly put Lilliya in a trance, if she wasn’t in one already. Luke then placed her left hand in his, pressed his other hand against the small of her bare back, his fingers sending thrilling waves up her skin, and pulled her to him.
Lilliya had to concentrate on not shuddering as every nerve-ending in her body seemed to be firing sporadically all over. She had never felt this way, nor had anyone ever come close to affecting her like this. There seemed to be no explanation for it either.
The two of them began moving to the waltz, slowly at first, and then more up to speed once Lilliya felt more confident.
Finally, she was able to recover her voice. “This isn’t really my area of expertise,” she said, trying to hide the shy quiver in her tone.
“It isn’t mine either,” Luke said, smiling kindly. “But don’t worry, I’ve got you.”
Lilliya allowed a little nervous laugh to escape. She figured that comment might have had a double meaning.
“So you’re the daughter of Admiral Tentle?” Luke asked.
Lilliya nodded, trying not to think about it.
“I think I met him once,” Luke said, his voice soothing. “He was a good man and a good leader.”
“Yes…” Lilliya said, her voice barely a whisper. “He was.”
“If I remember it correctly,” Luke continued, “he didn’t have any other children.”
“No,” Lilliya responded. “My mother died when I was very young and he never remarried. I suppose he was too busy bringing up a stubborn little girl like me.”
Luke smiled again, and Lilliya was enchanted by it. It was strange that the feeling of fear she felt before now seemed a distant memory, as though it had melted away and reformed into a bizarre attraction. Despite the age difference, Lilliya found herself oddly drawn to the Jedi Master. There was a magnetic desirability she sensed but couldn’t describe.
Lilliya forgot she was holding her breath and forced herself to let it out slowly, all the while knowing other people were watching them intently, especially the young TwinSuns pilots.
“Do you have any other family?” Luke spoke again, his breath warm and inviting, caressing her mouth.
Lilliya blinked, hoping she heard what he said. She had lost her concentration just a minute ago and all she could think of was the hot pulsing she felt deep inside her. He was so close, she could barely breathe, and his blue eyes were looking at her with such fierce intensity that she was getting dizzy just looking back.
“What?” Lilliya mumbled. She could have sworn she felt something burning against her chest, but couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from Luke’s to check what it was.
As if reading her mind, Luke glanced down and frowned.
“That’s an interesting crystal,” he said, his gaze glancing back up at her.
Lilliya looked down too and frowned as well. Her crystal charm was glowing brightly against her sternum. That must have been the heat she was noticing. She knew her crystal glowed from time to time, but they were rare and always seemed to signal something coming—usually danger. Suddenly she wasn’t feeling so good.
Without really aware of what she was doing, Lilliya leaned into Luke and laid her head against his shoulder.
Luke tensed in surprise. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Lilliya squeezed her eyes shut to stop the spinning. The whole room was swirling in a sickening, dizzying mess. She hoped it wasn’t her concussion. The MD droid told her she’d be fine.
“I don’t think I feel so good…” Lilliya moaned, trying to work moisture into her mouth.
Luke’s grip tightened on her if only to keep her from falling to the ground. Suddenly, he felt her whole body weigh onto him, her hand going slack in his, and she collapsed, her head snapping backward.
Luke heard the people watching gasp in surprise. He balanced his body with hers, placed his hand behind her neck in support, and lifted her into his arms. Leia, Jaina, and Han were already there at his side. He saw the other pilots pushing their way towards them as well.
“What happened?” Leia said, a little astounded.
Luke shook his head. “I’m not sure.”
“Maybe she’s exhausted,” Jaina said. “She’s had a rough couple of days.”
“Could be the concussion,” Leia wondered.
“Or maybe Luke was a little too hot for her to handle,” Han smirked, winking at Luke. “You’ve got a blonde-bombshell in your arms, kid. That doesn’t happen every day—”
Leia punched him in the arm and Luke rolled his eyes. A crowd of curious people began to gather around them.
“Well, if anything, someone should get her back to her room,” Leia said.
“I’ll do it!” Both Wess and Kenalle exclaimed fervently.
“Right,” Jaina said, pushing them both back. “I’ll take her back. I’ve had my fill of the party anyhow.” She turned to look for the GP guard droids, but they were already on their way. The first one reached Luke and he slid the unconscious Lilliya into its massive, bulky arms. Jaina followed the droids out of the Crystal Ballroom, random people cheering sarcastically as they left.
Leia looked at Luke, a worried expression on her elegant face.
Luke’s expression was a grim mix of confusion and worry, his eyes staring at the floor.
“I’m not sure what happened,” he finally said.
“Maybe she really is still sick,” Han pointed out.
Luke shook his head, but didn’t say anything. People were watching them and that was making him more aggravated.
“Were you able to detect her?” Leia asked. “Or at least figure out what she is.”
Luke’s expression grew darker. “I don’t want to talk about,” he said, then suddenly stormed off into the crowds.
Leia’s mouth dropped in confusion as she watched him disappear.
“What was that all about?” Han said, a little irritated at Luke for leaving them so abruptly.
“That was weird,” Gavin said, and the other TwinSuns pilots standing by him agreed. “And where’s Ben? He just up and disappeared earlier too.”
Leia was still staring where Luke left off, her brow furrowing in concern.
“There’s a lot of weird things going on,” Han grumbled. “Remember what I said about wanting a little adventure? Well, I take it back.”
Lilliya woke up in utter darkness. Her hands felt around the soft cushion she laid on and assumed she was most likely on a bed.
“Lights,” she said, and the room lit up immediately. She winced at the brightness and shaded her eyes. She realized she was back in her bedroom, still dressed in the white gown Jaina had given her. She couldn’t really remember what happened or how she got there, but her sternum felt sore. Lilliya glanced down and noticed a tender red spot in the shape of a tiny oblong object—her crystal. But it wasn’t glowing anymore. She fingered the crystal lightly and noticed it was cold.
Rubbing her eyes, irritated from the bright light, she said, “Lights dim, shades off.” The lights dimmed down to a soft glow and the windows went from opaque to clear, allowing more city light to glitter against the bedroom walls. It was still night.
Someone must have placed her in the room and activated the window shades. Lilliya didn’t remember doing any of it.
It was then she noticed a steel black box laying next to her on the bed. Cocking her head to the side in curiosity, she picked up the box—it was heavy and cold—and placed it carefully in front of her. There was an old New Republic emblem engraved on the cover of the box. She recognized it as her father’s private safe.
Lilliya held her breath as she realized this must have been restored from the Raider base. At the moment, she didn’t seem to care how it got in her room or how it was able to be sent from Endor to Coruscant.
Her fingers traced the outside of the box lightly until she found the latch to unlock it. Inside, she found her father’s personal documents, a few expensive credit chips, a carbon photo of her and her mom—that made her stop for a second. She held the photo in her fingers, peering at it in the dim illumination, the city lights twinkling against it. Her mother was young and beautiful holding a five year old girl with long curly gold hair. The two women in the photo were laughing.
“Aw, Dad…” Lilliya murmured, absentmindedly brushing a tear from her cheek. She placed the carbon photo on the bed and continued searching through the box. She came upon a smaller case, only a couple inches wide, and opened it. It was black velvet inside and was mainly empty except for a tiny silver, rectangular object. Lilliya frowned, marveling at the thin metal, carefully picking it up with her fingers. It was only about a centimeter long, very small. There was a hook attached to it as if it could be attached to a chain of some sort. She rotated it letting the dim light reflect off of it softly. She thought she saw something written on it.
As she peered closer, she did indeed see a script of some kind, but it was in a language she didn’t recognize. She thought of Jenar, wishing he was with her. He would have been able to translate it. She smiled wryly to herself remembering their little conversation about the point of learning more than five languages…
And then she stopped herself from thinking any further. Blinking the burning tears away, tears she hadn’t even noticed building, she carelessly balanced the metal charm on her finger. Then, without giving it much thought, she hooked the piece of metal onto her necklace, letting it clink against her crystal.
Lilliya piled everything back into the metal safe, locked it, and placed it on the floor next to her bed. She stripped off her dress and buried herself into the covers.
“Lights off,” she grumbled as she threw a satin pillow over her head. The lights immediately plunged the room in darkness, only the city lights making soft, glowing orb-like shapes against the bedroom walls, and Lilliya willed sleep to take her.