Die, Jacen Solo, Die!: The Family Tree
Rating: PG
Iella

How do you kill a Sith Lord? Here's another twisted and very tongue in cheek death for Jacen, aka Darth Caedus.
It had taken Darth Caedus, joint Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance, the large part of one standard day to identify the reason for the sense of wrongness he had woken up to one morning. He really hated that kind of feeling, especially when it arrived out of the blue, unheralded and with no useful warning signs or premonitions. It was very unsettling, and unsettling things did not go down well with someone who favoured orderliness and constancy. But as with all such sensations, Caedus was able to accept it for what it was: the curse of the Master Force-user tuned in so acutely to the rhythms of the galaxy that he couldn't help registering even the most distant and seemingly irrelevant events. And so it was that after a morning of meditation and an afternoon's indulgence in a process of elimination — the non-violent, problem-solving form — he had become aware, albeit belatedly, of the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of Zonama Sekot.

Where it had disappeared to, however, was a mystery. Caedus had spent most of the evening tracking recent reports on the planet in the hope of determining if indeed it had decided to uproot itself again from the system into which it had settled over ten standard years ago. But there was nothing to suggest it had moved; in fact there was nothing to suggest any anomalous behaviour at all, leaving Caedus with an annoying conundrum, which of course he hated. He spent the next few days feeling extremely grumpy and frustrated, a state alleviated to a small extent only by the opportune discovery of an underground Commenorian group whose members made excellent, and credible, suspects for the spread of the afflicerus infection.

Mollified to a degree by the cathartic agony of several mass torture sessions, he was still unable to come up with a logical explanation for Zonama Sekot's disappearance. He knew he could discount the possibility it had been destroyed, because such an event would have created huge ripples in the Force, and its "vanishing" had most definitely been without cataclysm or drama. He had just about decided to try flow-walking to try and locate it at a point in time close to when he had first noticed it missing, when to his utter astonishment it reappeared in much the same way it had vanished — suddenly and without warning.

It was all very odd, and, as with most strange and illogical things, it definitely required investigation. Planets could not just disappear without huge forces being applied and massive expenditure of energy. He wondered if in fact Zonama Sekot had not actually gone anywhere at all, but had somehow slipped into the shadows of some vast body capable of masking its presence. Or, perhaps it had hidden itself from him — a possibility that, when he considered it carefully, was somewhat disturbing although highly unlikely.

One thing had become blatantly obvious, and that was the need for him to visit the planet and put an end to all the unknowns. It took a few days to reorganize schedules and feed Admiral Niathal a plausible story to explain his temporary absence, but eventually he was cocooned in the comfortable silence of hyperspace heading towards the redoubtable glow in the Force that was Zonama Sekot. It had been a long time since he had set foot on its verdant grasslands vibrant with living energy, and he pondered how he would feel once he was standing on its surface. Would Sekot appear to him in the guise of Vergere, his former teacher? The thought warmed him, but at the same time it brought home his intense loneliness. The path of a Sith Lord was undeniably a friendless one, and sometimes it was too tempting to wallow in self pity, especially since the one person he truly felt connected to — his daughter — had been snatched away from him.

He wondered if his proximity to such a strong Force presence as Sekot might provide some new insights on his situation? There were similarities between himself and Sekot: both had tremendous Force power at their fingertips; both were one of a kind. It was certainly food for thought, and that, plus the possibilty of seeing his old mentor again, made him begin to feel that the visit might prove to be advantageous — maybe even revelatory. He recalled his first contact with Sekot, and how it had tested him, along with his uncle and the others, in order to determine whether their intentions were worthy. It had even questioned his belief that peace could be obtained without fighting. He smiled. Sekot would no doubt be very interested to hear how his views on that issue had changed. Maybe he could convince it to join him ...

Now there was a thought. In fact the more he thought about it, the more he felt it made sense. He'd just begun to wonder if, in fact, Zonama Sekot's apparent disappearance had been none other than a ruse designed to grab his attention so it could offer him its help, when his shuttle emerged from hyperspace, and the planet shimmered like an opalescent bead before him.

Not unexpectedly, he felt the tentative touch of the planetary consciousness on his mind, and he sent it a welcome, which was quickly reciprocated and accompanied by the co-ordinates for the landing field near the Yuuzhan Vong village of La'okio. He remembered the name as being that of the village Tahiri had mentioned. He had considered bringing her along mainly because of her close connection with the planet due to the five years she had spent helping the Yuuzhan Vong to settle there. But he was a little tired of the woman and her obsession with his dead brother. In some ways he almost wished he hadn't gone to such lengths to reawaken her grief and desire for the little brat — but unfortunately it was a necessary evil, like so many of the acts he was forced to perform these days. He needed a spy he could maintain on a tether, and she was the obvious choice. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't heard from her for a while. Maybe their last little flow-walking trip down memory lane had provided her with enough of an emotional fix to fire her dreams for a little longer than usual. He shuddered. It had been rather ... intense, to say the least.

But anyway, he was sure that his own relationship with Sekot was still cordial. He had felt no hostility in its contact; if anything he had sensed anticipation tinged with a touch of restrained excitement. Understandable really as it had probably been several years since it had last been visited by Jedi. Underlying this, however, he also felt some confusion, possibly disorientation — no doubt connected with whatever had just happened to it. He pondered this feeling as he strode down the ramp and stepped on to the lush turf.

His arrival had been noted by the Yuuzhan Vong. A small group had clustered at the outside wall of one of the damuteks to investigate their visitor. But any approach they might have made was forestalled by the appearance of a regal blue-skinned woman with long hair whom he recognized as Jabitha, Magister and intermediary between Sekot and the planet's inhabitants — or, as in this case, its visitor.

"Welcome, Jacen Solo," she said, smiling warmly. "It's been too long since we last saw you here."

Caedus felt the usual flash of ambivalence at her use of his former name. The time had not yet arrived for him to publicly renounce it, but he still felt uneasy when people addressed him with the name his parents had bestowed on him at birth. Nevertheless, he stifled his thoughts and emotions, pushing them down deep.

"Time has a bad habit of slipping past too fast," he replied, acknowledging her greeting with a faint inclination of his head suggesting a small bow. "You look well."

Her smile widened slightly to one of appreciation. "You're too gracious, Jacen. Fortunately the passing years have not, so far anyway, had the same effect on my health as on the rest of me."

"Some would say age evokes dignity and serenity," he countered. It was not necessarily true, he thought, but he was prepared to give Jabitha the benefit of the doubt in this case. Although her once blue-black hair was generously peppered with grey, and the skin on her face and neck had succumbed inevitably to the degeneration of facial muscle tone, she carried herself with elegance, and her eyes exuded vitality.

"As I said — far too gracious. No doubt you have already sensed Sekot's welcome." She paused only briefly, as if to acknowledge that his choice of landing spot was sufficient answer to the implied question. "It hopes to talk with you later. It is a little preoccupied at present with a ... recent problem that has arisen."

"Yes," Caedus nodded.

Jabitha cocked her head, studying him curiously. "Am I to take that to mean you know about it? Come," she added, turning towards the village and gesturing to him to walk with her. "We can talk as we go. There is nothing to be hidden from the ears of the villagers."

"I sensed Zonama Sekot's disappearance, which I admit mystified me, followed several days later by its reappearance. So yes, I have to admit that the reason for my visit is fuelled by both concern and curiosity." He made a gesture that encompassed the village. "It would seem that no damage was done, though. I observed nothing obvious from orbit."

"It is, as you say, very mysterious." She led him to a canopy that on closer inspection turned out to be a straight-trunked shrub with massive oval leaves. A disfigured Yuuzhan Vong, short relative to his companions and with one eye unfocused as in the way of blindness, was in the process of arranging some platters of fresh fruit and crescent shapes of what looked like baked dough. He ducked his head respectfully to Jabitha and scuttled away, in so much as a stocky humanoid with a limp could scuttle without falling over his own feet.

The Magister waved Caedus to one of the dome-topped fungus stools arranged around the table. "We are still checking to ensure that Zonama has incurred no trauma. We also hope to discover some clues to explain what happened, but so far we have nothing conclusive — only theories."

Caedus had been busy Force-checking the food to make sure it was safe for him to eat. He was actually quite hungry, and the fruit certainly looked appetizing. "What kind of theories?" he asked, before selecting a wedge of a maroon skinned fruit with a soft pulpy centre.

"So far the only one that fits the circumstances — and I think I'd better warn you that this is going to sound very odd — is that our world slipped out of the known universe for a while. One minute we were surrounded by our usual array of constellations and familiar space objects, and the next we were somewhere unfamiliar where, Sekot claims, there were no emanations it would recognize as Force-related. In fact it claims it heard nothing but a deathly silence, and felt nothing but a void." She shivered. "The effects for us, although frightening, were nowhere near as unsettling as for Sekot. It is still shaken by its dissociation from the living matrix to which it belongs."

The fruit was delicious, but Caedus had stopped chewing. "Does Sekot have any plausible ideas about how this situation occurred?" He was suddenly very glad that he had made the trip to investigate this matter, and already his mind was racing with the possibilities that Sekot's theory raised. It was true that the Unknown Regions were recognized as a region full of anomalies, most of them being inexplicable even by astrophysicists.

Jabitha was silent for a moment as if struggling to articulate her reply. "You'll have to forgive any inaccuracies in my translation of Sekot's words," she said finally, "because my own poor understanding of physics limits my ability to communicate exactly what it said. But what it thinks happened was that Zonama happened upon a kind of tear or wrinkle in the fabric of space-time and fell through into another universe, and then not long later it encountered a similar thing there which dropped it back here again."

Caedus frowned. "Just Zonama or the entire system?" he queried.

"I'm not sure if Sekot has considered that." She sat looking pensive, apparently searching her memory of what Sekot had said to her. "Although, the silence it reported tends to suggest that nothing else from this universe came with us."

"True." Caedus steepled his fingers and considered the virtue of the explanation. He'd heard such things were theoretically possible, and in fact recalled his father telling them about an adventure he'd had on a planet in the Tarsus Sector that had been colonized by a race from a parallel universe — or so the story went. He wasn't sure how factual many of his estranged father's tales of derring-do were, but even he had to admit that Han Solo coming up with an adventure that involved something as esoteric as parallel universes from his own imagination was unlikely. Which meant it was probably true — which in turn gave some veracity to Sekot's theory.

"A space-time anomaly would certainly explain your experience," he agreed, and then added musingly. "Another possibility is dark matter, which I first heard about while on the journey that first brought us to Zonama Sekot strangely enough. From Soron Hegerty, the scientist we brought with us on that very first visit — do you remember her?"

Jabitha nodded in response.

"According to her, it's possible that a massive clump of dark matter containing galaxies, none of which we can perceive, could be in the process of colliding with our galaxy, creating gravitic anomalies. Like you, my understanding of such things is inadequate, but it seems that if Hegerty is correct, then perhaps Zonama Sekot was temporarily yanked into the other galaxy and then returned due to some imbalance its presence created."

The older woman's eyebrows rose as she pondered Caedus's words. "Metaphorically sampled and then spat out, you mean? Well," she said finally. "I'd certainly be the first to acknowledge that truth is often stranger than fiction. In other words we can't discount anything."

Caedus was drumming his fingers on the mollusc-shell platter in front of him, gazing distractedly into the distance. "I wonder," he muttered, as much to himself as to Jabitha. "I wonder if it's not so much damage you should be searching for as contamination — bacteria, maybe even infestations of alien life forms, possibly microscopic."

The Magister pursed her lips, and she gazed at Caedus, nodding slightly. "Hmmm, that's a very good point. I'll advise Sekot, although identifying such things will not be easy."

"Well, it did say that the Force was absent in the place it fell into, so I would suggest it search for blank spots — much like the process we Jedi used to locate the Yuuzhan Vong before the Force welcomed them back to its bosom." He stood up. "In fact, I think I'll take my own advice and search as well."

"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer to rest and begin afresh in the morning, Jacen?" She gestured towards the lumpy-faced Shamed One who was hovering dutifully just outside the entrance to the nearest grashal. "Bava has prepared some temporary quarters for you."

Caedus studied the malformed creature with a certain amount of distaste — Extolled Ones they called themselves now! Denial was a wonderful thing.

"Later," he said briskly. "I'd like to reacquaint myself with your world. As you said, it's been a while since my last visit and there is no doubt much I have forgotten." He didn't mention his anticipation of seeing Vergere again, even if it was only as a simulacrum.

Jabitha smiled. "I understand. Bava can accompany you. I'm sure you'll be interested in seeing the changes his people have wrought."

Caedus conjured up a winning smile, while secretly cursing the idea. "I'm sure I will. And I'm sure that between Sekot and myself, we'll have this little mystery sorted out very soon." And transformed into something I can use to purge the Galaxy of all its toxic infestations.

* * * * *

Although forced to endure the company of Bava, Caedus was glad of the excuse to get away from the Yuuzhan Vong village. He had forgotten what an ugly race they were; but even if they'd all been holo-stars he doubted he could have mustered up the desire to be sociable. He was still suffering from the loss of his daughter, Allana — spirited away from him by his parents of all people! Although he suppose he shouldn't have been surprised. Those two would stop at nothing to try and pervert the good he was doing for the Galactic Alliance.

Bava led him past a series of garden plots along a trail that led into a massive stand of boras. The aroma of the rich leaf humus filled his nostrils — its stringent mixture of sweetness and decay was strangely comforting and had a clarifying effect on his thought processes. The Yuuzhan Vong seemed undeterred by Caedus's minimalist responses to his attempts at conversation, which left plenty of space for rumination. The slightly left-field explanations for Zonama Sekot's disappearance had begun to feel a little less like science fiction, and a little more like something that probably happened with reasonable regularity in a place like the Unknown Regions. And it began to dawn on Caedus that if what the planet had encountered was what some people referred to as wormholes, then maybe these wormholes could be used to advantage. Maybe — to someone who was sufficiently creative — they could be used as a weapon.

Imagine leaking some fictional information, such as the gathering of a GA armada, to the Confederation, feeding them the co-ordinates of a wormhole and then watching them being sucked into it? If such a thing could be done, the results would be brilliant. Wormholes! The perfect trap for worms like the Corellians, the Bothans and the Commenorians, and all their slimy sycophants.

Worms, he sighed, and a wave of nostalgia swept over him as the connection between worms and gardening reminded him yet again of Vergere. Vergere, who had told him he was "the Gardener" — the one who was to weed out the bad from the good, the useless from the productive. The one who was destined to grow the perfect garden where all existed in perfect symbiosis. Well, he'd certainly made a start on the culling process with Mara. Perhaps soon it would be Tahiri experiencing the slash of his scythe, or Ben, or maybe the Grand Master himself. Weeds all of them, poisonous weeds, he thought as his gaze took in the abundance of flora around him.

He had just decided the wormhole idea was definitely worth further consideration when he was brought up short by the fact he had banged into his guide, who had stopped walking and was standing stock-still exuding puzzlement. Alert to possible danger, Caedus peered around Bava's shoulder, but all he could see was vegetation: boras, of course, and what appeared to be an organized plot resembling those they had passed near the village.

"Is there a problem?" he enquired.

In reply Bava took a few tentative steps toward a row of eye level plants carrying husk-like seedheads, and cocked his head as if studying them. "This is very odd," he muttered. "Look." And he pointed at what Caedus thought initially were tendrils belonging to the plants in question, but on closer inspection turned out to be an epiphyte that had twined its way like a coiling serpent from stem to stem.

"Plants do grow quickly here," Caedus reminded him, a trifle patronizingly.

"This is sabotage!" Bava spat angrily and his damaged eye rolled incongruously so that he looked slightly deranged. "The warriors have developed some new poisonous weed to ruin our garden."

Caedus vaguely remembered Tahiri telling him a few years before about the niggling arguments between the castes over their gardens. Obviously they were still up to the same old tricks. Or maybe not! A sudden unpleasant thought occurred to him and he reached out to the climbing plant in the Force to find ... nothing. It simply wasn't there!

Caedus grabbed the Yuuzhan Vong by the shoulder and pushed him aside. "I don't think you can blame your warrior friends for that," he said stepping closer to the source of the problem. "I think we've found the ... argh!" He leapt back, but due to the fact that Bava was now behind him, and impeding his progress, it was not far enough. A tendril had shot out at him like a projectile and was busy corkscrewing its way around his body from the neck down. How he managed to stay on his feet he didn't know, because his major concern was his lightsaber. As soon as he realized what was happening he had Force grabbed it from its hook on his utility belt and levitated it clear.

"Go and get help!" he shouted to Bava, and then focused his resources on positioning his blade to cut the twining epiphyte away. But no sooner had he cut one strand then another coursed around him to take its place.

He stopped for a moment to think. Perhaps if he could locate the climber's roots, he could kill it at its source, which meant trying to locate an area of nothingness under the ground. He had just closed his eyes to concentrate when he felt a sudden strange tingling feeling in the soles of his feet. He turned his attention inwards in an effort to locate any voids within himself, but there were none. All he could sense was his own Force signature.

"Odd," he muttered wondering if he was standing on a myrmin nest or something of that ilk, and then he felt it again. It was quite distinctive now: an unsettling tickling sensation, this time not just in his feet but insinuating its way up the nerves in his shins. Unable to take a step, because his legs were still tied firmly together with epiphyte tendrils, he tried leaping clear of the spot ... and fell flat on his face, bloodying his nose on a fibrous knob of root that poked through the rich humus like a white knuckle. Feeling very confused, he used the Force to push back into an upright position and tried again to perform a small jump, but his feet simply wouldn't disconnect from the ground. It was like he was rooted to the spot.

He stared down at his feet in sudden realization, and horror. He was rooted to the spot! The protuberance that had damaged his nose belonged to a root all right — the one that extended from the nearest of the boras and was now joined to his left foot. He felt the tingling sensation again, this time spreading up from his knee, and it was then that he remembered something Jabitha had told him on his very first visit to Zonama Sekot about the boras, and how they began life not as a plant but in animal form.

He shuddered. Could it be that they hadn't so much been animal as human?

Well, there was no way he was going to turn into a tree! Angry now, and not a little frightened, he reached out in the Force for his lightsaber again with the intention of using it to cut his feet loose, but when he looked closely he could find no gap into which he could manipulate the glowing blade. He would have to cut out a clump of soil around each foot.

So be it then, he thought grimly and focused on using his Force connection to his lightsaber to begin cutting — and gasped. It felt as if the nerve endings in his toes were on fire.

It was then he smelt the smoke.

Fortunately, he managed to douse the flames by Force dredging clumps of damp humus and dumping them on his feet. Unfortunately, the tingling had reached past his groin, and he realized he'd become very stiff ... and completely unable to bend at all. Something began to rise within him that he recognized a few seconds later as panic, but he pushed it down. He had to remain calm and think his way through this.

He took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes and focused inward.

"It's a bit like the trees on Dagobah, isn't it?"

Caedus's eyes jerked open and he swung in the direction of the voice, but he couldn't quite twist far enough around.

"Except of course they begin as spiders — and you're not a spider, are you, Jacen? You're more of a life-sucking insect."

Caedus blinked as recognition of the voice dawned. Tahiri? What was Tahiri doing here? Vape it, forget about trivialities! Get the girl to cut you free.

"Tahiri!" he said, infusing a Force command into his tone. "I need your help."

"I don't think Tahiri likes you any more."

Caedus started at the new voice. And then shook his head in disbelief. No, it couldn't be. And yet the tone was ... so much like ... No. This is definitely some kind of elaborate trick. He reached out in the Force but felt neither Tahiri nor anyone else, only the massive vibrant presence of Sekot, so loud it was practically thundering in his ears.

"What makes you think this is a trick, Jacen?" asked the Mara voice. "We're perfectly capable of hiding our presence from you, you know. A trick we learned from you — indirectly of course."

"Well, I know it's not you," Caedus hissed, his growing frustration making him angrier than he had been for a while. "Because you're dead. I killed you, remember?"

"See," a boy's voice said triumphantly. "I told you it was Jacen, but you wouldn't believe me."

Ben? Caedus would have tried to turn towards the new voice, but his trunk was fast becoming ... well, a trunk. A trunk from which branches had begun to sprout, if the nauseating wet sound of ripping flesh in his navel was any indication.

"I'm sorry, son. I should have listened. We all should have."

Luke? What was this? Some kind of nightmare family picnic? The pain in his abdomen was intense, but he was used to dealing with that. What was truly agonizing was the mental overload he was experiencing: Tahiri, Mara, Ben — were they real or were they Force projections? And if the latter, then only one being could be responsible for it.

"Yes." Mara strolled, youthful and lithe, from behind his right side. "It is indeed me — Sekot," she said. Her jade eyes studied him with a mixture of sorrow and revulsion. Mara, he thought, but not as Sekot remembered her from their visit. This was a Mara from Luke's memory, which meant ... which meant the two were in collusion. And not just Luke, by the looks of it, but Tahiri and Ben as well.

"Very good, Jacen," Mara said with an appreciative nod, although he noted traces of pity in her eyes. Pity, and something else — betrayal maybe? He gave a derisive snort. Betrayal was very much dependent on point of view — one of the many truths he had learned from Vergere.

"We are, as you say, in collusion, but it isn't something I agreed to lightly, believe me. I just see no other course of action available to me. It was you Jedi who taught me about the dark and light sides of the Force and the existence of evil, so I am merely acting in accordance with your teaching." Mara-Sekot paused, her expression suggesting she had picked up on his latest thought. "I know you yearn to see Vergere again, but since I sense from your emotions that she played a part in birthing what you have become, I refuse to oblige you. In fact I now regard her as an enemy and a trickster. And anyway," Mara shrugged. "I prefer this form. Fosh are somewhat ludicrous looking creatures."

Caedus didn't reply straight away. Obviously they'd tricked him into coming here and then into admitting he had killed Mara, but that didn't mean the situation was hopeless. If he could just figure out how to stop his arborification, he would stand a chance.

"You're looking a bit seedy," said Ben who had emerged from his left and was studying him with a certain morbid curiosity. "Any thoughts about turning over a new leaf?"

"Ben!" Luke remonstrated as he followed his son into Caedus's field of vision. "Easy with the puns."

"I don't know, Master Skywalker," Tahiri had moved into view from his right and stood with her arms folded. "I don't think he's twigged that he's got a problem yet. I think he still believes that he can do whatever he likes to whomever he likes because he's in the right."

"That last sentence is probably the most sensible thing you've said in years," Caedus hissed between gritted teeth. It wasn't so much anger that made speech difficult as the fact that his lips felt stiff and wooden.

Mara sighed. "You realize you're rooted, don't you? In more ways than one."

Caedus snorted, although the spittle that emerged coalesced into droplets of what looked like sap. He reached out to his lightsaber intending to use the Force to hurl it at the self-satisfied faces of the Jedi junta who dared oppose him, but nothing happened — although he could feel it lying nearby.

Luke shook his head. "I don't think Sekot likes the idea of boras having lightsabers, Jacen. We don't want any more incidents like we had a few years ago with that rogue group." He suddenly looked sad. "Strange to think back to how you were then and how you were able to solve their problem, along with many others. What happened to you?"

Caedus's capacity for pain was unparalleled, but the invasion of nerves and organs by growing shoots was like being skewered by a million needles tipped with acid. "I realized you were a fool." It was becoming hard to catch his breath as his ribcage solidified. "You had no vision — just reactive, empty mantras."

"I had hoped you might be prepared to admit you've been wrong," said Mara-Sekot. "However I see that you're unrepentant, which is sad because it leaves me no choice but to allow this process to carry on to fruition." She paused, and her lips twitched. "No pun intended, of course."

With his last human breath Caedus fixed Tahiri with a look that bled venom into the Force, so much that she flinched. "Traitor!" he rasped.

"I've admitted my mistake to Master Luke and the others — and begged forgiveness," she replied. "I came to Zonama Sekot to sort myself out, and thanks to my friends here," she turned to Bava, who had sidled into view and was staring at Caedus with his one good eye in open fascination, "and Sekot, I did."

"I know you interpret our actions as a plot against you," continued Sekot through its projection of Mara. "But you have only yourself to blame. When I learned from Tahiri how you were using her, and about the other terrible things you have done in the name of the Force, I realized you had to be stopped. The Yuuzhan Vong were also aggrieved at your actions, especially as they are very fond of Tahiri, and they offered to help — hence the plant that has you tethered to the soil. They designed it especially for you. I simply masked its Force signature so you would think it was some kind of alien organism. Of course we didn't slip through any wormholes — we hid."

"I still believe there's good in you, Jacen," Luke said. "Somewhere inside is that nature-loving boy we all once loved. He just needs to be re-awoken — and who better to do that than Sekot?"

They watched as Darth Caedus's somber features morphed into patterns in the bark. His face was still vaguely recognizable in the placement of knothole eyes and mouth and a tiny twiglet nose.

"It is done," murmured Sekot.

"Well," Ben observed with the pragmatism of a teen, "He's certainly made his-tree, just not in the way he expected."

"Ben!"

"Okay, Dad. Sorry. So what are you going to tell Uncle Han and Aunt Leia?"

Luke had been pondering the question himself. At least he could tell them their son was still alive; he'd just developed a sudden aptitude for photosynthesis.

* * * * *

Han Solo sat for some time trying to take in what Luke had just told them. But the overwhelming thought that kept running through his head was relief that it was over. The fact that his son had gone from being out of his tree one minute to being part of the forest in the next was kind of a secondary consideration, although it was nonetheless valid. And it did give a certain integrity to the feeling he'd always had that Jacen was not a chip off the old block at all, but more of a blockhead.

"So what do you think we should do?" he asked Leia, who could usually be trusted to come up with a good plan.

His wife folded her arms and gazed pensively out the Falcon's viewport at the backdrop of stars set against the infinity of space. For the first time in years the feeling they evoked was peace.

Her eyes, warm and soulful, dropped to meet his, and she smiled. "I think we should call Jaina and tell her to join us because we need to make a visit ... to reacquaint ourselves with the family tree."


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