Luke stood at the edge of the forest, sensing Ben’s fear, but couldn’t understand the meaning of it. It didn’t make sense for Ben to fear Lilliya unless she had turned on him violently. And then the possibility hit Luke like bolt of hard energy. Maybe Lilliya was the alien imposter he and Leia surmised she could be.
Luke’s hand automatically drifted to the hilt of his lightsaber as he was vaguely aware of other Jedi gathering a few meters behind him. Maybe they felt Ben’s fear too. Ben hadn’t expressed fear since the death of Jacen, so feeling it ripple through the Force was shocking.
But before Luke decided to run in there after him, Ben’s figure finally broke free of the dark jungle. And in his arms was an unconscious Lilliya, sickly white with an odd tinge of blue.
“She was attacked!” Ben answered the unasked questions of his father and the other Jedi behind him. “About seventeen hundred meters from here. I killed the attacker, but left the body.”
Still refusing to use levitation to carry it with you, I see, Luke thought. “Sori, C’obin, retrieve the attacker’s body and bring it to the science lab,” Luke gestured to the two Jedi Falleen standing side by side. Without a word, they unhooked their lightsabers and disappeared into the jungle in the direction Ben instructed.
Ben looked very worried as he approached his father with Lilliya cradled.
“I can’t tell if she’s dying or if she‘s already dead,” Ben spoke quietly so the other remaining curious Jedi didn’t hear.
Luke observed the main wound, a deep bite mark, on her shoulder. The bleeding had stopped and it was already blackening over. She didn’t look like she was breathing.
“Let’s get her to the infirmary,” Luke said, eyes tight with concern. “I’ll call Uhala to see what she can do.”
Uhala was the leading Jedi Healer on Ossus and had brought many of those near death back to perfect health. She was also the first-ever Chiss to be a Jedi Master. Luke wasn’t sure how she could handle someone invisible to the Force, but there wasn’t much of a choice at this point.
Ben laid Lilliya down on the white bed. Uhala was already there wrapping herself in sterile robes. Luke stood outside speaking quietly into his comlink.
“How bad?” Ben asked as Uhala scanned her.
Her blue skin glowed under the bright lights and her red eyes flickered at Ben briefly before settling down on Lilliya’s bite wound.
“Scans say she is alive, but the venom inside her has paralyzed all functions,” Uhala said, her tone betraying no emotion. “It won’t be hard to extract the venom from her body. She should be fine, as far as I can tell with just these instruments.” Uhala gently probed the wound with a gloved finger. “Fascinating…” she murmured.
“What?” Ben said anxiously, glancing from Luke standing outside deep in conversation and Lilliya’s paralyzed form.
“This wound seems to already be healing itself. I will sterilize it anyway,” Uhala shrugged as she gathered solution and dressings to wrap the bite mark with.
Ben gazed down at Lilliya’s shoulder and noticed how drastically it had healed. When he had found her, the shoulder was oozing blood. The wound was not only scabbed up, but the skin around it was no longer inflamed or bruised.
“Is that also bad?” Ben asked, feeling like an amateur with this medical stuff.
Uhala shrugged again, barely glancing in Ben’s direction as she began to wrap the wound. She grabbed another needle-like instrument and began to hook Lilliya up with a computer. “This will detect the venom from the blood and extract it from the body,” she said and Ben knew she was just humoring him. Uhala never spoke unless she really had to, but she could sense his unease. He was nervous about Lilliya dying because he felt guilty. And this irritated him because he didn’t want to feel guilt.
“Sori and C’obin found your attacker,” Luke said suddenly as he walked into the med room. “They have it in the science lab and are examining it now. I want to see this thing. We can leave Lilliya here with Uhala.”
Uhala nodded in confirmation. Ben seemed strangely reluctant to move away from Lilliya’s bedside, but followed Luke out anyway.
The two Skywalkers walked side by side silently down the long corridor then through a metal doorway into the labs.
Sori and C’obin stood around a dissecting table with the strange white humanoid already being disassembled. Luke and Ben stood on opposite sides of the table as the green-skinned Falleen Jedi stopped their work.
“I was worried because I couldn’t sense Lilliya in danger,” Ben explained without being asked. “It was only when I heard her scream that I could detect where she was. I couldn’t sense whatever this thing is either.”
“Master Skywalker, may I explain,” Sori, the female Falleen, spoke.
“It is an android, built to look and feel like an organic humanoid,” Sori said. “Not so different from our own organic droids, but it’s tissue isn’t registered in any of our droid banks. Although the computer is still scanning its origin, all of our organically manufactured tissues are registered within the droid marketing corporations including black market droid sects.”
Luke’s brow furrowed as he stared down at the white face and wide black eyes. They seemed to be staring back at him, watching him.
“Are you sure this thing is dead?” Luke asked, looking up at Sori.
Sori and C’obin looked at each other, then back at Luke. “It’s primary functions are no longer operating,” C’obin said. “Ben Skywalker had severed the main server in its chest.”
“Continue the autopsy,” Luke said, moving away from the humanoid’s range of vision. “And cover those eyes while you’re at it.”
Sori and C’obin looked at each other again and shrugged. Luke and Ben exited the lab and continued back down the corridor toward the infirmary.
“I got a bad feeling,” Luke murmured.
“Yeah so do I,” Ben said, turning to stop Luke. “If that thing isn’t from Ossus, what the hell is it doing here? And why is it just as mysterious as Lilliya. I mean, the fact that it wasn’t detectable in the Force, Sori and C’obin say it’s tissue samples aren’t recognizable by the computer, and it was after Lilliya. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anything like that thing.”
“It is a big galaxy,” Luke said mostly to himself, looking deep in thought.
“Come on, Dad,” Ben said, frustration seeping into his voice. “That thing is just as weird and out of place as Lilliya. And what about Lilliya’s mysterious battle ship? What about Jaina? What’s happening on Endor? I haven’t heard from her in two weeks. Her mission shouldn’t be taking this long without an update.”
“Calm down, Ben,” Luke said, snapping out of his reverie. “It won’t help anyone if you’re panicking. I want you to get some rest while I speak with Uhala and Leia on this.”
Ben crossed his arms. “I thought we’d figure this out together,” he said.
“We will figure this out together, but right now I want you to rest while I get a hold of Leia and talk to her first,” Luke said more firmly, placing a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder.
Ben looked as if to argue, but held back. Instead, he nodded briskly, spun around and disappeared down the corridor.
Luke waited until Ben was out of sight before he returned to the med room where Uhala continued to examine Lilliya. Luke hated to be so secretive with his son, but he wasn’t ready to explain to him that Lilliya wasn’t human and that they didn’t know what she was. Luke had already contacted Leia, letting her know that Uhala would soon find out that Lilliya wasn’t human and that meant that Lilliya’s secret would then be known by one more person. And this made him uneasy. He wasn’t sure how long they could keep it a secret, or if they needed to at all. Perhaps Lilliya did know she wasn’t a human. Perhaps she already knew what species she was. Maybe they just needed to ask. But what would asking bring?
“How is she doing?” Luke asked Uhala.
“Quite well, surprisingly,” Uhala looked up with her bright red eyes.
“When will she wake?”
Uhala glanced down at Lilliya’s peaceful form. Her skin had already brightened back to its normal creamy hue and they could see her chest moving in shallow breaths.
“Probably within the hour,” Uhala answered, her gaze seeming to hide something.
“Should I keep her here under observation?”
“That would be a good idea, in case anything goes wrong,” Luke responded, staring back at Uhala. “Did you find anything on the venom’s origin?”
“No,” Uhala said bluntly. “The computer could not recognize the venom. The computer also could not recognize Lilliya’s blood, therefore was not able to determine what to extract as a toxin. It determined her as…unreadable.” For a female Chiss with barely any emotion, she looked as though she was actually excited by this information.
Luke glanced from Uhala and back to Lilliya, not quite making the connection. “Are you saying…she healed herself?”
But how? Luke thought. Maybe she was able to go into a Jedi healing trance before she went unconscious. But that didn’t make sense when she didn’t even know how to lift a rock with the Force.
“Uhala, you mustn’t tell anyone what you have discovered, not even Lilliya,” Luke said.
“I understand,” Uhala nodded professionally and as Luke exited the med center, he suddenly realized just how much he didn’t understand.
Maurel watched a holo image of a man in black with shocks of gray above each ear frown then disappear from view.
“That is Luke Skywalker, the Grand Master of the Jedi Council,” Captain Jorn explained as they watched the images change from a white ceiling to a green-skinned Falleen female and male. A few minutes later the image was lost to darkness, probably, Jorn surmised, by the Falleen Jedi disabling it.
Maurel had a grim smile on his chiseled face, but remained introspective.
“Was it her?” Captain Jorn asked, his sad, wrinkled face looking older now under the control of the Chrystallite Regime.
Maurel turned to a computer pad and read the readouts the probe droid had sent out before the Jedi, Ben Skywalker, terminated it. The droid’s mission was to identify and capture the woman Maurel was after, and if the droid couldn’t do the latter, then at least the identification readouts would be enough.
And as Maurel read the DNA readings taken when the droid bit the girl, his smile broadened.
“Reverse image back to point one-oh-five clicks,” Admiral Maurel commanded, and the holo images reversed back to a close up image of the woman backed against a tree.
“So you gonna eat me, or what?” the woman had said, right before the probe droid bit her.
“Back point one-oh-two,” Maurel said again. And the image showed a longer duration of the woman’s appearance struggling against the tree. Gold-blonde hair streaking with silver as darkness came, flawlessly ivory skin, one sapphire eye, one emerald and within the emerald was a diamond scar flashing a dark purple.
Dark purple, Maurel knew, meant fear. But only Maurel would know this. He watched the image of the young woman with a ferocious hunger, listened to the recording of her voice say, so you gonna eat me, again and then listened to her scream. The scream seemed to send Maurel a thrill of excitement, his sapphire eyes glittering bright.
“Set course for Ossus,” Admiral Maurel finally said. Then he turned to give Captain Jorn a fiery glare. “That’s her,” he said with a slow smile.
Captain Jorn nodded and turned to his second in command, giving the order. Maurel continued to watch the recording, repeating the same image of the young woman, and Jorn turned to leave him to his disturbing pleasures, all the while feeling sick to his stomach. Jorn had never seen anyone take so much pleasure in hunting someone. Even in his younger days, while growing up in the Imperial Remnant, the Moffs never showed such animalistic desire to kill.
But Jorn could have no opinion. Jorn had no freedom. Jorn was Maurel’s pet, along with all the other human captives forced into the Chrystallite Empire. They were all pets. And Jorn couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before Maurel decided he had no more use for them and kill them all.