The fourth moon of the gas giant Yavin looked as it always had, its lush green jungles creating a beautiful gemstone among the backdrop of stars. But the three people aboard the Millennium Falcon had a more urgent matter on their minds.
"Yavin Four, please respond. This is the Millennium Falcon. Is anyone there?"
Static came over the speakers in the Falcon's cockpit. Han Solo was about to repeat the request again when Mara Jade entered the cockpit.
"Well," she asked eagerly, "what's happening?"
"I don't know," Han replied. "I can't get a hold of anyone down there. As of now, there's no way of knowing if they just don't want to reply, or if they can't reply. And considering what you and Leia said about Luke, well, there's a very good chance that there's no one down there in any condition to respond."
"Then we find out when we land."
"I'd feel a whole lot better about landing if I knew what happened."
"Han, I told you. I don't know what happened. I just felt Luke's pain, and then he vanished."
"That leaves a lot of possibilities, like -" Han caught himself just before going into a list of possible calamities. Mara didn't need to hear that right now. But he made sure that hyperspace coordinates were ready in case it was an Imperial attack or something else they might need to get away from in a hurry. He picked up his transmitter to try again. "Millennium Falcon to Jedi Academy on Yavin Four, please respond..."
As the Falcon entered the atmosphere of Yavin Four, Lando Calrissian joined Han and Mara in the cockpit.
"See anything dangerous out there?"
"If you want to stay on the ship, that's fine with me," Mara replied coldly.
"I didn't mean it that way. I mean, any sign of what happened?"
"The planet hasn't come under orbital bombardment, and it doesn't look like there has been any kind of ground fighting near the Academy," Han said. "But we'll know for sure when we get closer."
"Han, I can sense the Jedi students... they're alive. But I still can't sense Luke," Mara said.
"We'll be there soon. Hang in there."
The landing site in front of the main temple appeared before them. Han glanced at the site and noticed something that wasn't there when they left.
"Mara, isn't that your Z-95?"
Mara turned her glance from the main temple to the landing site.
"You're right. It is. But why... Oh no. Do you suppose the guy who took it..."
"Maybe," was all that Han could say. Kyp Durron was his friend. They had escaped the spice mines of Kessel together, and Han had been the one who presented Kyp to Luke as a potential Jedi student. If Kyp was somehow involved in the attack on Luke... well, he'd find out soon enough.
"Prepare for landing."
No one came out to greet the Falcon. The Jedi Academy looked like it had been abandoned. Nothing was moving. Lando was about to share his feeling about the situation, but decided not to say anything. He was sure that Han had the same feeling. And Mara... well, maybe he would find out just how strong her apparent attachment to Luke was. He decided to quietly watch.
He noticed a change in Mara while they walked across the landing site toward the temple. Aboard the Falcon, her overwhelming worry and concern could be read like a book. But now, a little bit of it seemed to be gone. Her hurried pace had slowed down somewhat. By the time they entered the temple, she was walking at a normal rate, and she looked like nothing at all was bothering her. When they entered the main chamber, her attitude seemed to have become one of complete apathy.
The Jedi students were all in the main chamber of the great temple. The body of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker lay on a table in the center of the immense room, with the students congregated around it in a circle, none coming closer than about 10 meters. R2-D2 stood with them. The little droid turned his domed head toward the newcomers, then back to his master. One of the students, Tionne, as Mara recalled, walked over to her.
"Thank the Force you've come back. Something terrible has happened to Master Skywalker," she said to the newcomers.
"What happened?" Lando asked, after noticing that Mara wasn't going to say anything.
"Something terrible. His body was found atop the temple. It looked like he had been in a struggle. We brought him down here, and his body seems to be alive, but he's not there. I mean, we can't feel his presence."
"Any idea at all as to how it happened?" Han asked.
"We don't know."
"Is Kyp here?"
"Could you show us where Luke was found?" Lando interjected, eager to get Han off the subject of Kyp.
At the top of the Great Temple, Tionne pointed out the spot where she had discovered Luke's body. The ancient stone was blackened from the energies that had been used against the Jedi Master. Another student, the Mon Calamari ambassador Cilghal, had joined them.
"When I used my Jedi abilities on Master Skywalker's body, I found that he was injured very little, physically that is. I did all that I could for him, but this problem goes beyond Jedi healing techniques."
"Somehow, I get the feeling that he wasn't fighting with stormtroopers," Lando said.
"Looks to me like our beloved Jedi Master took on a little more than he could handle," Mara said coldly.
Everyone stared at her for a few seconds, then started heading back down the temple. Before turning to follow them, she got the strange desire to touch the scorched stones. Perhaps to feel through the Force to get some idea of what happened. She really didn't know. She knelt down to touch the spot in the center where Luke's body had been. As she did, a brief wave of emotion came over her, and a single tear fell from her eye before she caught herself and shook it off. Then she descended the temple.
Lando decided that the Jedi students really didn't know what they were doing. They had been maintaining their vigil around Luke's body ever since it had been brought into the Great Temple, leaving only when necessary to eat or sleep, and even then, they usually stayed in the main chamber. R2-D2 stayed as well, seeming to meditate with them. Nobody had been watching the communications equipment, explaining the lack of response they had gotten coming in. They just sat there, meditating. Except Mara. Whenever she came into the main chamber, she finished whatever business she came for and left, not even glancing at Luke's body.
The pattern was well established: after being on Yavin Four for 3 days, nothing had changed.
Han had been spending most of his time working on the Millennium Falcon. It wasn't a matter of caring more about his ship than his brother-in-law. Rather, it was the realization, after a few hours in the main chamber, that there really was nothing he could do.
"So what are we going to do now?" Lando asked.
"That's the nineteenth time you've asked me that question since we got here."
"So what's your nineteenth answer?"
"Same as the other eighteen. Have you come up with anything?"
"Well, actually, I do have an idea. We could gather everyone up, put them on the Falcon, and get out of here. Something strange happened here, and I don't think its a good idea to stay."
"That's an awfully tight squeeze, all those students in the Falcon. And what about Luke?"
"We take him with us. What's so hard about that?"
"Lando, I've mentioned taking Luke back to Coruscant to the Jedi students. They're concerned that Luke's mind, or spirit, or whatever, might be stuck here somewhere, and that taking his body away might make things worse. Hey, I don't know much about these crazy Jedi things, so I'll just go along with them for now. By the way, how's Mara been doing?"
"She stays out of the main chamber as much as possible, in case you haven't noticed. I don't know what she's been up to. Want me to ask her?"
"No, don't bother her."
"Whatever you say. It's probably better that I don't. She's creepy, Han. I mean... Well, speak of the Emperor."
Mara walked across the landing field toward Han and Lando at a normal pace. As she approached, Lando could see that her face still showed that strange apathy she had adopted since arriving on Yavin 4.
"We've received a message," she announced. "Han, Leia has just arrived in system and will be here shortly."
With that, she headed back toward the Great Temple, leaving Han and Lando to prepare for Leia's imminent arrival.
Leia ran to embrace Han as her shuttle lifted off. She then gave Lando a quick hug before starting toward the Great Temple and asking them the usual questions. Han asked a few of his own, discovering, to his dismay, that she had told the ship that she came on to leave, and she would be coming back on the Falcon. Not that he didn't want Leia on the Falcon with him, but another ship to get everyone off planet (in case Lando was right) would make things much easier.
Tears streamed down Leia's face as she stood near the body of her brother in the main chamber. Han walked up to her slowly an put his hand on her shoulder. They stood there for a few minutes before she asked the Jedi students to go outside the chamber, where she wished to talk with them.
The Jedi students did as she asked with little hesitation. She was, after all, the Master's sister. After they had all left the chamber, Leia joined them. She looked across the faces of Luke's Jedi students, and saw the deep concern on each of them.
"Each of you, tell me what you know about this. I want every detail. I must know what happened."
Over the course of an hour, Leia found that there really was nothing more than Han had already told her. Unless Artoo knew something different, but she couldn't understand his beeps without Threepio, who was back on Coruscant watching her children.
"Thank you. You've done all that you could. I want to be with Luke for a while. But I would like one of you to join me."
The Jedi students stopped short of eagerly raising their hands like a bunch of children, but Leia could sense their eagerness to be chosen to help her with their teacher. But she already knew who she wanted.
"Mara, would you join me?" Leia asked.
"Sure, why not?" Mara said gruffly, walking toward Leia.
Lando turned around to see where she was coming from. He had no idea she was even there. From the look of the Jedi students, they didn't, either.
"Uh, Leia, I don't think..."
Han signaled Lando to keep it to himself. Though still bewildered, Lando complied.
Once Leia had closed the door behind Mara and herself, Kam Solusar, one of Luke's better students, spoke up, mostly in Han's direction.
"Why her? She doesn't care a bit about Master Skywalker. She wouldn't even stay to finish her training. Why was she chosen and not one of us?"
It was obvious to Han that if he didn't give an answer to explain his wife's actions, they might have a mutiny. He thought about it briefly, then gave his customary answer to such questions.
"It's probably one of those crazy Jedi things. You'll have to ask Leia about it. But not right now."
Han looked over the group. They seemed to buy it. He knew exactly why Leia had chosen as she did, but he had found a way to let her talk her own way out of it. He wasn't going to be the one to tell.
Seeing that they were not going to get anything else out of Han, the students settled in to wait for Leia to reemerge.
Once behind closed doors, Leia approached Mara.
"Don't you think you're overdoing it a bit?"
"I don't know," Mara replied, her hard edge fading. "You try it sometime. It's not easy hiding emotions, especially among a bunch of Jedi." Leia was about to say that she understood, but stopped short. She really didn't.
The two women stood silently for a while, looking across the chamber at Luke's body. Abruptly, Mara thought she heard a familiar sound.
"Did you hear something?"
"Like what?" Leia asked.
"Like a voice. Very soft. A whisper, really."
"Now that you mention it, I think I did."
They stopped talking and started listening. It was very faint, but it was there. Definitely a voice. Not actually a whisper. More like a shout from a vast distance. Concentrating on the voice, Mara made out a word: danger.
"I know. Someone is giving us a warning through the Force. At least, I think that's what it is. Maybe together we can hear it better."
They held hands, concentrating, using the Force together. The voice became closer, clearer. Suddenly, it was right next to them.
It was not just any voice; it was Luke's voice. And an image of him was appearing.
"Luke! You're back!" Leia said excitedly.
"Yes," said the apparition. "But you must go. There is danger here. I didn't realize how great it was. You must leave. Everyone must leave. The Dark Side is too strong here. I would have spoken to the others before, but it kept me away. You two have pulled me across the barrier."
"You want us to leave, but what about you?" Mara asked, dreading the answer.
"I don't know. I can't get back into my body. I can't get near it. You brought me through the darkness that kept me from returning as you see me now. I know the students were trying to reach me, but they were too close to my body. The Dark Side is very powerful here. It has destroyed one of my students, turned another, and done this to me. I was wrong. I wasn't ready for the responsibility of training Jedi. It's my fault."
"Luke, we can worry about that later," Mara said urgently. "If it's really as dangerous as you say, we'd better leave. But I'm not leaving without you. I remember you saying that Kenobi latched on to you. Well, latch on to me."
"It might work... but I'm not really dead. That is, my body still lives."
"So maybe we can take your body with us, too. Then, when we're clear of here, you can get back in."
"She may be right, Luke," Leia said. It sounds to me like you're being held here. If you latch on to her, maybe you can leave."
"It may work. But Mara, you can't be anywhere near my body until we're clear of this darkness. You can't go with the others on the Falcon."
"That's no problem. That guy who stole my ship brought it back."
"Then we must hurry. The danger is growing. We must leave now."
The Jedi students eagerly followed the instructions Leia gave them, once they found out she had spoken with Luke. Within fifteen minutes they were boarding the Falcon. Han had never seen the Falcon so crowded before. He was running the preflight check when Lando took the copilot's seat.
"They're all here. Just finished strapping Luke into the med station," Lando replied.
Han saw that Lando looked somewhat satisfied with himself.
"So what are you so happy about?"
"Well, I told you we should just leave, but you wouldn't do it. It looks like I was right after all."
"I wanted to leave, too. It was those students that said not to. And they were right. At least now we have a chance of getting Luke back."
"Han, we've got Luke's body strapped in. Artoo and Cilghal are watching him," Leia said, getting into one of the back cockpit seats.
"Could you patch me through to Mara?"
"Sure," Han said, keying the connection.
"Mara, come in."
"I read you."
"I think we'll go back to Coruscant. Luke's quarters there are a better place for him to recover than any other place I can think of."
"Sounds good. I'll see you there. Solo, don't make me wait too long for you to arrive in that crate."
"We'll see who gets there fastest," Han defended. At least she got a little sense of humor back. Han began the liftoff.
Just after entering hyperspace, Luke spoke to Mara.
"Thank you for coming after me."
"Hey, did you ever think I wouldn't? Anyway, how exactly is this going to work? I mean, getting you back into your own body."
"I'm not actually IN your body, just attached to you. Anyway, I'm not exactly sure. I assume I can probably just get right back in."
"But if you can't...?"
"We'll just have to do something else."
"I don't know. But we'll think of something. We've got the whole trip to discuss it."