A cool breeze whipped Jaina’s hair as she stepped out into the opening, kicking a metal shard with her boot. The smell of burnt decay wrinkled her nose and she tried to ignore the small animals scavenging the dead bodies.
The TwinSuns team had landed on Endor nearly over two weeks ago. They had decided to stealth land outside the Raider Base perimeter in case the base was being watched by the invisible enemy. When they had arrived in the system, there was no sign of a ship, but that didn’t make Jaina feel safe. The other investigation team had vanished in just a matter of hours, so Jaina and her team were taking every precaution.
They journeyed towards the base perimeter on foot, surveying the forest for any sign of alien life. By the end of the week, as they neared the base, they had discovered a crashed Z-Wing, half way melted to the ground.
The team had set up camp within the forest outside the wide crater where the Raider Base once stood, and waited. Nothing showed up. No sign of any alien life appeared on their scanners. Just a few local animals greeted the team every once in a while. So Jaina decided to move on ahead to the base. With her adept Force skills, she couldn’t sense anything out of the normal, and she felt it safe to accept the possibility that the ship had moved on. But that meant, wherever it might have moved to, there would be another attack, and that would be very bad.
“We’ve done a full scan of the area,” Gavin called from a few meters away. “There’s no evidence of the investigation team even landing here.”
“If that ship was here when they arrived in-system, there’s a chance they never landed at all,” Wess said, surveying the debris.
Jaina pursed her lips. The situation was more perplexing than she thought it would be. “Well, looks like whatever was here is gone now. And I think it’s safe to assume the investigation team has been eliminated. Nothing left for us to do, but to return to Coruscant and let the Alliance know we have a dangerous rogue ship on the loose.”
“Unfortunately that means we’ll have to wait for the next attack before we can do anything about it,” Gavin said. The other pilots exchanged grim looks.
“Seems that way…” Jaina grumbled, scooping up to pick up a melted shard of metal. She peered casually at it, thinking she recognized the warped emblem on the black metal. As she looked closer, it dawned on her. It was the specific Alliance emblem for secret security. The Raider Squadron wouldn’t have been issued the emblem because it was only given to the highest agents of the secret Alliance corps. That corps came from Coruscant. But before she could say anything, something froze inside of her.
“Sithspit!” Wess shouted from behind her.
She looked up from the shard and noticed a ghostly white figure, tall and slender, facing her from the edge of the forest. Jaina dropped the shard in surprise.
“Jaina, we got company,” Gavin called to her.
She turned around and saw five more white humanoids all spread out along the perimeter of the crater. They didn’t move.
“Looks like,” Jaina muttered, wrapping her fingers around the lightsaber’s hilt hidden within her jumpsuit. Gavin, Wess, Kenalle, and Bayley pulled out their rifle blasters and started to form a tight circle with Jaina. Still, the humanoids didn’t budge.
“You think these are our guys?” Kenalle said.
“Most likely,” Gavin said, his voice tight.
Bayley made a low growl in response.
“Don’t do anything yet,” Jaina said, locking her eyes on the humanoid across from her. “Let them make the first move.”
As soon as Jaina said that, the tall humanoids started sauntering towards the pilots’ little circle, no weapons in hand.
“All right…they’re making the first move,” Kenalle grumbled tensely.
Jaina’s grip on her lightsaber tightened as she realized she couldn’t sense these humanoids. She could sense the nervousness of her pilots, but the white humanoids were as though they didn’t exist…like ghosts. Like Lilliya. This realization turned her stomach to ice. It seemed that Lilliya was an imposter after all. Her thoughts turned to Ossus, fearing for the safety of the Jedi Temple.
“Jaina,” Gavin said, “what do you want to do?” The humanoids were just meters away, their strides careful and even, almost dance-like.
“Shoot ‘em down,” Jaina muttered, igniting the blue blade.
At her command, the pilots fired upon the oncoming humanoids, red laser beams propelling from the rifles.
Strangely enough, the beams absorbed into the humanoids’ skin, leaving nothing but smoke. And they kept coming. This time, all six of them pulled out a long silver, wicked-looking rifle, all aimed at the pilots.
“We are in serious trouble,” Wess said.
“Never saw that before,” Kenalle grumbled.
“Grenade!” Jaina yelled, pulling out a small round mine and tossing it at the humanoid in front of her. It exploded on contact, except that the humanoid had dodged it effortlessly. It was now charging at her, rifle aimed and firing. Silver-white bolts flew in Jaina’s direction, but she deflected them easily with her lightsaber, forcing the silver bolts back at the attacker. They struck the humanoid and it’s body disintegrated in sickening silence, leaving only a pale dust.
Jaina’s eyes widened in horror. “Bad news guys,” she called, “don’t get shot.”
Too late, it seemed, as she heard someone behind her cry out in agony.
“Bayley!” Gavin cried out, running to support Bayley’s crumpling body. Bayley’s left arm had melted off and his shoulder still seemed to be disintegrating from the bolt.
Two other grenades went off as Wess tossed them towards his attacker. The second one successfully blasted the legs off of the humanoid. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop it. It started crawling towards Wess with its arms. Wess stared in horror, shooting at the humanoid’s head and hands to no avail.
Jaina propelled herself through the air, landing on top of the humanoid’s torso, and drove her lightsaber into the back of its neck, ending its progression. She grabbed the silver rifle the humanoid had dropped and tossed it at Wess who caught it swiftly.
The other pilots were retreating towards the forest, tossing grenade after grenade in an attempt to slow down their attackers. Gavin was nearly dragging Bayley.
“Come on!” Jaina clapped Wess on the back, snapping him out of his temporary shock and the two of them ran for the forest. Wess shot at one of the humanoids who had directed its attention towards them, but missed as the humanoid dodged the bolt.
Jaina flew through the air towards Gavin, Bayley, and Kenalle to help them fight off the other three attackers. She landed in between the pilots and the humanoids, deflecting the blazing silver bolts with every swing and arc of the blue blade.
“Wess!” Gavin yelled, shouldering Bayley onto Kenalle’s arm. “Get the hell over here!”
Wess was determined to shoot down the other attacker, but this one was adapting to Wess’ firing pattern, dodging every shot and getting closer with its own rifle.
Jaina was busy with her own threesome as each deflected shot seemed to miss the oncoming attackers.
“Grenade!” Kenalle shouted, as he tossed another mine towards the threesome. The explosion took out one of the humanoids, but the other two kept coming with relentless fire.
“Behind you!” Gavin cried, but his voice was soon drowned out by a guttural scream. Jaina took a second to glance behind her just in time to see Kenalle’s body melt away, Bayley falling into his dust.
“How!—” Jaina exclaimed, but was cut off as another bolt shot through Bayley’s chest this time, evaporating his body. In that instant, Jaina noticed Wess could not be found and saw the fourth humanoid charging at them from behind.
Gavin and Jaina exchanged tense looks as they grimly realized they were going to die.
Jaina turned back to her two attackers and concentrated on surviving a little longer, wielding her lightsaber in a blinding flash. She vaguely heard Gavin call out “grenade” and recognized multiple explosions from behind. She hoped one of the mines would take out that humanoid. Sweat trickled down her forehead. She wondered if this was really how she was going to die after all the wars, kidnapping, and assassination attempts she somehow survived. She was going to die on Endor by two alien humanoids shooting at her. She was the last surviving Solo child and she still wouldn’t make it to retirement. What a way to go down in history, she thought wryly. One of the bolts escaped her blade and nearly nicked her face if she hadn’t slid to her knees.
“Gavin?” she called out, wondering if he was still alive.
“Still here!” he called back, but his voice was tight. Jaina stole a glance behind her. Gavin somehow was able to disarm the humanoid and was now in hand-to-hand combat with it.
Jaina reached out with the Force and pulled at the abandoned silver rifle. It landed smoothly in her hand and she swung it at her attackers, firing wildly from side to side. The humanoids seemed to anticipate her move and fell to the ground rolling in opposite directions.
“Dammit,” Jaina muttered, watching the humanoids spread apart, making it more difficult to shoot at them. Then the rifle in her hand was shot away, the silver metal melting rapidly on the ground. As soon as that happened, the two humanoids sprung back up with incredible speed and were now sprinting towards her from both sides, rifles ready but not firing.
She pushed with the Force at one of them. It flew back a few meters, but didn’t slow it down. They weren’t firing at her anymore, so she didn’t have any bolts to deflect back at them. She pushed again at the second humanoid. Same result.
Wondering about Gavin, she glanced behind her to check on his status and came face to face with the other humanoid. For a split second she was completely caught off guard, but that was all it needed. The tall humanoid punched her in the nose, the impact knocking her backwards and blurring her vision. Jaina rolled to her side, grasping her nose reflexively and thought she saw Gavin lying on the ground a few meters away. She reached out, sensing that he was still alive. Maybe they weren’t going to die. Maybe the humanoids wanted prisoners, which could buy Jaina some time to escape…
A white hand grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet, pointing the silver rifle in her face.
Then again, maybe not…
The other humanoid stood ready, its rifle also aimed at her face. Jaina could feel warm fluid running down her mouth, tasted like copper, so she assumed her nose was bleeding and broken.
For the longest moment, it seemed, nobody moved. Jaina got a good look at her attackers. Their skin was whiter than white, almost clear. Their hair was also white and bristly. Their bodies masculine and lean, with muscle that bunched and twitched with every motion. And their eyes…their eyes were the most disturbing part of them all. Ice-blue and blank. There was no emotion, no hint of fear, anger, determination—nothing. Which disturbed Jaina even more because she couldn’t sense their presence in the Force either. But none of their appearances looked anything like Lilliya’s. The only thing they had in common was their ability to be invisible to the Force. But that was enough to put Jaina on edge and be convinced Lilliya was one of them.
“What now?” Jaina growled when nothing happened.
The humanoid to her right cocked its head curiously, then Jaina heard a moan from behind. Gavin was coming to. Jaina turned to see him grabbing his face in pain. The humanoid that cocked its head sauntered over to Gavin. For a moment, fear stabbed Jaina in the gut hoping that Gavin would know to stay perfectly still.
It didn’t matter. The humanoid pointed its rifle at Gavin’s torso. Gavin opened his eyes, peered up at the white alien, then flickered to glance at Jaina. Before he could even open his mouth to make a sound, the humanoid fired a single silver bolt into Gavin’s gut, disintegrating his body instantly.
Jaina felt bile rise up her throat, Gavin’s agonized expression imprinted into her memory. And then something burning pierced her in the back, blackness overtaking her.
“I can’t feel the damn rock!” Lilliya exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air, pacing back and forth in the center of the training room.
Luke sat cross-legged on the floor, his fingers making a steeple lightly touching his lips. He seemed to be battling patience with irritation and confusion. He had spent full days alone with Lilliya trying train her in the Force. He had decided to take her on as his personal student for many reasons. One of them being the other students felt antagonized by her ever since her confrontation with Pell, another being that she was a mystery that needed to be solved. He had tried to have her reenact the transportation technique, but she couldn’t do it again. Lilliya admitted that she had never experienced that before and had no idea how it happened.
Luke was convinced she was able to tap into the Force in a different way than most, which was in defense. So Luke spent hours putting her in situations which would cause her to protect herself, but nothing extraordinary happened. Lilliya was able to defend herself like any other normal being.
So Luke then tried the old-fashioned way of Force training. He used techniques and exercises on her that Yoda used to use on him. Still, to no avail. And Lilliya was losing her patience fast. Which meant she was losing concentration, making any Force training exercise pointless.
Lilliya kicked at the rock she was supposed to levitate, or at least sense through the Force, and winced.
“There,” she grumbled, “now I felt it.”
Luke looked up at her from his sitting position, rubbing his temples in exhaustion. She stood facing him, hands on her hips.
“Come here,” he finally said, weary seeping into his voice.
Lilliya hesitated for a second, then grudgingly knelt down in front of him, running a hand through her golden hair.
“Let’s try something else—” he started, but Lilliya interrupted.
“Aren’t you tired yet? I feel like we’ve tried everything in the book. I do not have the Force…” Her voice trailed off in response to Luke’s stern expression.
He took a deep breath and cleared his mind of frustration. “This is simpler. It’s just a meditation exercise. It should help you calm your mind. It is possible you are too distracted.”
“I just don’t understand the point of this,” Lilliya argued. “I’m a pilot, not a JedI. I should be out with the TwinSuns Squadron investigating Endor, not here wasting my time pretending to be something I’m not capable of being.”
“Don’t you think it’s extremely out of the ordinary that you could transport your body through time and space? By accident?” Luke said, his voice soothing.
“Yes. It’s the strangest thing I’ve faced yet,” Lilliya admitted sarcastically. “But I don’t really care about investigating it because it seems I can’t do it again. I’m okay with calling it a fluke accident.”
“Lilliya,” Luke said, resting a hand on her shoulder. “You are very unique and—”
“Yeah, yeah. Believe me, I’ve heard it before,” Lilliya muttered, jumping to her feet. “I’m one hell of a special girl, blah, blah. What I want to know is why you have such an interest in me. Why you? And Leia? And I can tell all the other JedI around here look at me like I’m some freak. Especially your son.”
Luke sighed, sensing defeat for today. He was bothered by Ben treating Lilliya so harshly. He was surprised that Lilliya wasn’t lashing out at him yet.
“The reason I have such an interest in you is because you have displayed a skill that has never been recorded by any person in the whole galaxy,” Luke said, rising to his feet to counteract Lilliya. “That makes you very unique and worth understanding.”
“I’m like a science project to you.”
Luke was silent for a moment while he thought of a response. “In a way…yes.”
Lilliya was about to turn away, but Luke grabbed her arm and continued.
“I know how you feel,” Luke started, his voice suddenly very soft. “I know that you feel isolated, alone…useless. Everything you belonged to is gone now. It’s all gone.”
Lilliya looked away, trying to hide the pain building in her eyes.
Luke took her other arm, holding her at arms length. “This is your new beginning. You are unique. To me. This is why I want to waste all my time teaching you. How else do you think I single-handedly built the JedI Academy from the ground up?” He smiled wryly because if anyone else were to have heard him say that, he would never hear the end of it. “I believed in people and never gave up on them,” he continued. “Just like you.”
Lilliya stared at the ground, her lips pulled in a tight line. She shook her head in defeat. “This is…ridiculous,” she muttered, then met Luke’s blue stare with clear eyes. “Jenar—my best friend, or was until…” Her voice trailed off, but Luke encouraged her to continue, gently tightening his grip on her arms. “Well, anyway, he always thought I had a connection to the Force. He and I would argue about it all the time. I didn’t like the whole JedI thing because he kept pushing it on me. He never gave up, I guess. I told him he was crazy…”
Luke cocked his head in interest. “What inspired him to think you had the Force?”
Lilliya hesitated. She wasn’t sure how to explain it. “There were times,” she said softly, “where I could feel something about to happen before it did. Almost like really accurate intuition. It always came as a tingling sensation, like on the back of my neck. I got that feeling the day of the attack. The problem is I can’t always pinpoint it. I just know something is going to happen or change.”
Luke nodded slowly. “All the more reason to keep you training. We’re bound to discover something.” He smiled crookedly, sensing the tension between him and Lilliya had passed.
Lilliya rolled her eyes. “I guess that means we’re not taking a break.”
Luke smiled widely. “Nope.”
“You JedI are relentless,” Lilliya groaned in resignation.
“We are at that,” Luke laughed. He sat back down and crossed his legs, motioning for Lilliya to do the same.
She sat opposite of him on the hard stone floor, wiggling to get comfortable. “I’m assuming this is gonna be a while. Do we have any pillows?”
“JedI move past any discomfort. Meditation helps with this,” Luke explained. “With this particular exercise, I am going to help you in meditation. I will be reaching out to you with my mind, hopefully connecting with your thoughts, and help you focus them.”
“Sounds invasive,” Lilliya said humorously.
“If you think of it that way,” Luke said, cocking his right eyebrow. “But I’d rather you think of it as me helping you focus on a target, so to speak. I will be helping you aim your thoughts on a spot of light. That light will represent the Force. Of course, it won’t really be the Force, but it will help you direct your thoughts in knowing what to look for.”
Lilliya nodded, taking a deep, relaxing breath.
Luke took her hands in his; she jumped at the touch, so he squeezed tighter in reassurance. “Close your eyes,” he said, his voice turning hypnotic. “And clear your mind of all thoughts…worries…desires…”
Lilliya did as she was told, letting her eyelids fall and pushing all thoughts from her mind. The last image she saw was of Jenar smiling at her before she fell into a deep meditation. Her senses resorted to the physical. She could feel a warm breeze emanating from the windows brush by her skin; could hear distant animals call each other from the jungles; could smell the sweet scent of floral mixed with dry, dusty dirt; felt her lungs slow with every intake of oxygen and her heart beat in a calming rhythmic pattern; felt warm hands clasped to hers.
Very warm hands. Almost too warm. Lilliya concentrated on not thinking about how Luke’s hands tingled against hers. But as she forced herself to forget about it, the tingling worsened, moving up her arms, crawling up her chin and to her mouth, down her throat and into her chest. Her chest felt heavy, the tingling nearly overwhelming, as if it were drowning her. Her breathing began to quicken and she felt something very hot against her sternum. The sensation was familiar, but she couldn’t pinpoint it.
She slowly opened her eyes and noticed Luke’s were still closed. He didn’t seem to notice her change in countenance. Lilliya was beginning to perspire and the room was spinning.
“Stop,” she said, but the word was barely audible. She tried to let go of Luke’s hands, to break the connection, but she couldn’t seem to remember how to move them. Searing heat pressed hard against her chest. She figured it was her crystal necklace again. She neglected to take it off like Luke had requested, and instead hid it beneath her clothing. A heavy weight seemed to press against her lungs and it felt like only a matter of seconds before she would pass out.
“Stop it,” she mumbled again. Her eyes rolled back and she began to fall backwards.
This snapped Luke out of the meditation immediately. He felt Lilliya’s weight pull on his arms as she fell backward to the stone floor. He let go of her hands and quickly moved to her side, placing his hands on either side of her face. Her eyes were flickering and rolled back. She wasn’t having a seizure, she was definitely not coherent.
“Lilliya, can you hear me?” Luke gently patted her cheek, trying to bring her to. He couldn’t believe this happened again. The last time he tried to penetrate her mind was at the YVA celebration on Coruscant, but he thought that was because she was unaware of the intrusion. This time he warned her of what he was going to do and still she reacted badly. A mind connection through the Force wasn’t supposed to be harmful. Never was before.
Her eyes blinked twice, then closed tightly as she rolled to her side.
“I don’t feel so good,” she mumbled, clutching her stomach.
Luke stared at her in concern. “What doesn’t feel good?”
“My stomach…and chest…head.”
Luke sighed in frustration. “Well, I guess that won’t work either. I’m not sure I understand what went wrong.”
“Science experiment…” Lilliya muttered, smiling weakly as she leaned her forehead against the cool stone floor.
Luke smiled sadly. “I suppose you are.”
Lilliya’s breathing began to even out and the heat against her chest subsided completely. She blinked a few times and pulled herself up to a sitting position, Luke supporting her in case she fell again.
“Do you have a history for passing out a lot?” Luke asked wryly.
“Just around you,” Lilliya answered.
“Can you tell me exactly what happened?” Luke said, turning serious.
Lilliya thought for a minute, collecting her thoughts. “I thought I was doing good. I was focusing on everything involving my senses—wasn’t thinking about anything—just noticed how everything felt. Then your hands felt hot—tingly. It spread up my arms, throughout my body, and before I knew it, I couldn’t breathe anymore—felt really sick to my stomach—dizzy.”
Luke frowned. “I’ve never had anyone react that way before.”
“You’ve never seen anyone transport through time and space,” Lilliya mocked. “Unique…”
Luke didn’t respond this time. His blue gaze stared off into space as more and more questions filled his mind. Only one possible answer kept popping up into his thoughts: not human.
His dark blue eyes flicked back to hers, meeting her concerned gaze. His eyes burrowed into hers as he examined them. One eye blue, the other green. The green eye had a diamond scar that flashed colors according to her mood. Her hair changed from gold to silver according to the sun. She didn’t exist in the Force. She couldn’t feel the Force. She could defy physics by transporting. And she wasn’t human, according to her DNA. But she looked exactly like a human, as far as he could see. And that didn’t answer anything.
“Why are you staring at me like that? You’re making me uncomfortable,” Lilliya said, snapping him out of his reverie.
“I’m sorry,” Luke said. “I was just thinking.”
Luke took a deep breath and decided to change the subject. He needed more time to think on this. “Let’s try one more thing and then we’ll call it a day.”
“Are you serious? After I had already gotten sick?” Lilliya exclaimed.
“This one is less complicated and involves more combat. Something you already know.” Luke stood up and called to his hand a remote. He set it to “light stun,” activating it. The remote hovered in the center of the room as Luke pulled out a practice lightsaber.
“Let’s do some lightsaber exercises. Really simple ones,” he said. “I want to test your concentration and defensive skills.” He handed her the lightsaber.
She hesitated, staring at the weapon, then looking doubtfully at the hovering remote. She decided to keep her mouth shut and get the exercise over with. She knew it would be a quick failure anyhow.
Shaking her head, she ignited the lightsaber in resignation, the light blue blade snapping to life.
Luke watched her from across the room clumsily parry with the remote. He knew the exercise would be pointless and wouldn’t shed any light on the mysteries behind Lilliya, but it bought him some time to think. And as he watched, he noticed the lightsaber whined higher and louder than usual; the blue laser blazed brighter. Another curious, unique, and inexplicable reaction to Lilliya’s invisible existence.