This is a work of fan fiction. No monetary profit has been gained from its production and no copyright infringement is intended. The Star Wars characters and events used in this fan fiction are the property of George Lucas. Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston invented or shaped most of the characters with whom I'm playing, so my special thanks go to them for writing such great novels and comics. If you would like to republish the fanfic, please ask me. Any comments are very welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hallway was deserted. Lahika stopped, unsure what to do. She'd called several times that afternoon, but hadn't reached anyone. Maybe her parents and brother were away on a weekend trip, though that would be very unusual.
A noise made her turn around. One of her parents' droids had entered the hallway, apparently on its way to the kitchen, and stopped to look at her, surprised. Well, it would if droids could look surprised.
"Miss Lahika! I wasn't informed that you would visit today, otherwise I would have welcomed you immediately. I'm very sorry." Somehow he managed to sound regretful.
Lahika smiled. "It's okay, 5-PD. No one knew that I was coming. I hadn't planned to, actually, but I'm concerned. Kolya wanted to visit me and my family today, but he didn't show up. Did something happen?"
"Master Kolya isn't feeling well." The droid fell silent, which caused Lahika to raise her eyebrows. It was very unusual for 5-PD to be so brief.
"Not feeling well? Is he ill?"
5-PD almost fidgeted under her stare. "Not exactly. He's just not feeling very well. I don't know the reason, but your father called for him yesterday evening, and apparently they had a rather painful... discussion."
*Oh no.* Lahika whirled around and stormed toward the stairs. Already halfway up she turned around for a quick "Thanks, 5-PD!" then rushed to her brother's room.
She found Kolya coiled up on his bed, the blanket pulled over his head. Lahika sat down on the edge of the bed and gently touched her brother's shoulder. She was shocked to find him trembling under her hand.
"Kolya. It's me, Lahika. Are you okay?"
First there was no reaction, but eventually Kolya slowly rolled onto his stomach and then half-turned to his sister. When he looked up at her, she almost jumped back in horror. A nasty bruise ran over his face, from his right cheek down to the left side of his chin. His right eye was black, and his lips were swollen.
"What... Kolya, what has happened?" She stared at him in complete disbelief.
The boy opened his mouth, but he didn't bring out any words. Instead, tears began to stream down his face. Still frozen stiff, Lahika looked at him for a few more seconds, then she awoke from her shock and enfolded her brother in a gentle embrace. The boy's body trembled, and he buried his face in her tunic, crying bitterly. She didn't know what to do beside hold him tight and whisper soothing words.
After several minutes Lahika asked gently, "What has happened, Kol? Please tell me."
He looked up, sniffing, his face wet with tears. "I... Father... Hobbie..." He started to cry again.
*Hobbie?* Lahika's stomach contracted into a knot. *If Father found out that he has been on Ralltiir...* "Kolya, please tell me. What about Hobbie? Did you meet him, too?"
Surprise made him look up again. "You know that he was here, Lal? I met him last week. And Father, Father found out about it. He was so mad. He said that he would catch the Rebels and bring them to justice." He sniffed. "It's all my fault. If Hobbie gets executed it is my fault. Oh Lal, he is a Rebel, but I love him and I don't want him to die. But I brought down security on him." He held Lahika so tight that it hurt, and his body shook with sobs.
Lahika gently patted his back, thinking furiously. "Calm down, Kolya. As far as I know, Hobbie has already left the planet again." At least Fenja had showed up at her neighbor's house more than a week ago. And she desperately hoped that it meant the Rebels were gone. "They won't catch him. He'll be okay, I'm sure. You didn't do anything wrong. How did you meet Hobbie, anyway?"
The boy wiped away tears with the back of his hand and tried a small smile, but without much success. "He contacted me early last week, one evening after the troops meeting. I was so surprised at first that I ran away. But I followed him secretly to his hotel, and the next morning I went there and talked with him, briefly. They were about to leave."
"Then he has already left the planet for sure. Don't worry. And Father will calm down again, too."
Still sniffing, Kolya shook his head vehemently. "No. He was so mad at me. I... I mean, I can understand it, I shouldn't have met with Hobbie secretly, he's a Rebel and all, but he's my brother, and I miss him so much, but Father doesn't understand. He thinks that I'm a Rebel too, but I'm not, I'm really not, I love the Empire and would never betray it, but he doesn't believe me. He should know. I thought he knew. I always obey, Lahika, really, but he told me that I'm a criminal and should be sent to jail for a long time."
The despair in her brother's eyes made Lahika's heart ache. Kolya always took the things his father said to him to heart, and it was hard to convince him that they were often said in the heat of the moment. "He wasn't serious about it, Kol. He never showed it, but he took Hobbie's defection very hard. I'm sure he was shocked when he learned that you met him, and overreacted. He didn't mean the things he did and said, I'm certain of it."
Kolya nodded slightly, but he didn't look convinced. When Lahika gently let her fingers slide along the nasty bruise on his face, he flinched. "Lay down again and let me have a look at your bruises, please."
He did so without protest, which concerned Lahika even more. Usually Kolya was very reserved about letting anyone, even his siblings, attend to his bruises.
She removed the blanket and gently touched his backside with her left hand. The touch caused Kolya to wince. Not good. As carefully as possible she pushed down the pants of his pyjamas, but despite her efforts her brother whimpered in pain. As she could finally see why, her mouth became dry, and for a moment she just stared at the bruises, not feeling anything.
Then rage built up in her, paired with disbelief. How could he beat him like this? The bruise on Kolya's face had already shocked her, never had she imagined that her father would hit anyone in the face with a stick as he apparently had, but the bruises on Kolya's backside and thighs made clear that he had lost control for more than a moment.
Never had something like this happened before, not that she could remember. Sure, her father was a very strict disciplinarian, and all five children had tasted the cane from time to time. His punishments were severe, often too severe in Lahika's opinion, but he wasn't brutal. Dealing with Sid he had been close to the line two or three times, when her brave and stubborn brother had refused to obey, no matter the punishment. She clearly remembered those nights when the four siblings had to comfort their oldest brother, while it usually had been the other way around.
But what he'd done to Kolya was worse, and Kolya wasn't Sid, to boot. On the contrary. Kolya was so quiet and obedient, and he would never even think about opposing his parents. He didn't deserve to be treated like this, even less so than anyone else, and he wouldn't be able to shake it off as Sid had done.
She patted Kolya's back tenderly, trying to comfort him at least a little bit. Then she carefully covered him with the blanket again. "I'll go down and get you some bacta patches."
"No." There was panic in her brother's voice, and he reached for her arm as she stood up. "Don't. He doesn't allow it, you know that. He'll punish both of us."
"I won't do anything that will get you punished, Kolya, I promise." She had to try hard to keep her anger out of her voice.
Exhaling deeply, she stopped at the foot of the stairs to think. Kolya was right, it would be a bad idea to tend to his bruises without permission.*I'd best talk to Mother.* Though her mother had never beaten any of the children, she usually supported her father, and didn't interfere with his punishments. But a few times she had asked her husband to moderate the thrashing, and she might allow Lahika to at least ease Kolya's pain.
5-PD came shuffling into the hallway. "Are you already leaving again, Miss Lahika?"
"No, I'm not. Is Mother home?"
"No, unfortunately she is not. She is meeting with some friends, and told me that she won't be back for dinner. But your father has just returned."
"Father is here?" Lahika was momentarily surprised, but anger and determination prevailed. "In his office?" Not waiting for an answer, she started toward the office door.
"Yes. Do you want me to announce you to him?"
"Not necessary." She'd almost reached the door.
"But Miss Lahika, I don't think--"
But Lahika wasn't listening anymore. Fuming with anger, she stormed into her father's office. He looked up from his work and stared at her, surprised. Never before had she dared to enter his office without his permission, without even knocking. But she was so furious that she barely noticed how improper her behavior was. "How could you beat Kolya like that?"
Unimpressed, her father leaned back in his chair. "He deserved punishment."
"Punishment?" she shouted at him. "That's not punishment. You beat him brutally!"
Slowly he stood and rested his hands on the desk. "He deserved every single hit." His voice was sharp. He wasn't used to any of his children talking with him this disrespectfully. "He can thank the Emperor that I punished him as my son, not as a criminal."
Lahika stared at him in disbelief. "Kolya is no criminal."
"He had contact with Rebels. That's a serious crime."
"He talked with his brother. There's a difference."
"Not for the law." He crossed his arms before his chest. "And not for me. I won't sit back and watch while I lose my third son to the Rebellion, too. Never again. I won't tolerate any rebellious behavior anymore, for whatever reason. I have been far too indulgent. Kolya will obey, period. And if it takes frequent use of the cane to make him, so be it. One day he will thank me for it."
"You can't be serious, Father. Kolya is obedient, has always been. He just longed to see his brother again. Can't you understand that? Derek is your son!"
"Derek forfeited his life when he left Imperial service and joined these terrorists. There is nothing I can do for him anymore. But I can still prevent Kolya from this fate."
Lahika shook her head. "But not by force. Father, you can't keep anyone in line with violence. Talk with Kolya. Explain your thoughts to him, convince him. He will understand."
"There is nothing to explain. These so-called Rebels are terrorists and criminals. And if I find out that one of my children has been in contact with them, he's in big trouble. That's all."
The determination in his voice made Lahika shiver. She took a deep breath to muster up all her courage. "Then you can punish me, too. I also talked with Derek."
Her father's jaw dropped, and for a moment he just stared at her disbelievingly. Then, suddenly, he moved around the desk and approached her. Lahika had to summon all her strength not to step back before his fury. She flinched involuntarily as he raised his hand, and reflexively closed her eyes. But the blow didn't come. When she opened her eyes again, her father lowered his hand.
"I don't believe it, I really don't believe it. There are Rebels running loose in my town, +Rebels+, and my own children don't inform me about it. What were you thinking, Lahika? These are terrorists. They could have planned an attack, many people could have died. Your actions are completely incomprehensible, and not excusable at all. With Kolya I blamed it on his youth, but you are old enough to be responsible for your actions. I should put you on trial, I really should."
Cold fear crept up through Lahika's body. What if her father made true of his threat? What about her family then? But she couldn't step back now. She had to see it through. "Derek is my brother," she said as calmly as possible. "I love him. I don't approve of his choices, I really don't, but you can't expect me to report him. He defected. If he were arrested, there would be no mercy. He would be executed immediately. I won't be responsible for his death."
Wordlessly, her father stared at her for a while. She held his eyes, not flinching under the stare. "Derek doomed himself. The moment he joined the Rebellion, he was lost. He will die, Lahika, there is no way to prevent it. This so-called Rebellion is doomed to failure, we both know it. And the Empire can't afford to show mercy. Every single Rebel will be hunted down and brought to justice. Your brother is dead, it is only a question of time."
Lahika gulped down the lump in her throat. "And you don't care? He is your son."
To her surprise, her father hesitated to answer and thoughtfully stared out of the window for a moment. "I do care. But it is too late now. I should have acted much earlier, should have been more strict with him, kept him away from bad influences. Like Yegori and his family."
The mentioning of poor Yegori infuriated Lahika again. "Don't blame Yegori. He never was a Rebel, and he paid a terrible price for his independence."
"He put his nose into things he didn't understand, and he paid a horrible price for it, yes. If only I had acted. I had toyed with the idea of sending him to an education camp, where young people who don't learn it at home are taught discipline and obedience. If only I had done it. That would have prevented him from getting into trouble, and he would have never incited Derek to rebellion."
"Derek is convinced of what he is doing." Lahika sighed. "Maybe Yegori put some troublesome ideas into his mind, but he isn't responsible. A lot more must have happened, and I wish I knew what. I wish I could understand Derek's motives."
"He is blind." With a snort, her father sat down on his chair again. "There is nothing to understand." He scrutinized his daughter for a moment. "What did Derek tell you? Why was he here, and was he alone when you met him?"
Lahika clenched her teeth. She wouldn't report her brother. *Why can't Father accept it?*
Impatiently, he drummed his fingers on the desk. "There is no need to hide anything from me. I already know how many Rebels were in Nitanlo, who they were, and what they wanted." He leaned forward and pushed a button. Four holos appeared, floating in the air above the desk.
Lahika stepped closer. The left-most holo she recognized immediately. Hobbie, still in Imperial uniform and with a military hair-cut. The holo had probably been taken at the military academy on Prefsbelt IV. There wasn't much more information; race, homeplanet, current assignment, that was all. Current assignment said 'Rogue Squadron', whatever that meant. She noticed that it was given on all four holos.
The next holo was of the man who had been with Hobbie. Lahika had to check his name to be sure. It was also a military holo, and she had trouble connecting the proud Imperial officer with a shaven head to the man she'd met in town. How was it possible that so many officers defected? Her father had told her that Hobbie had been one of a number of mutineers who had kidnapped their own ship and handed it over to the Alliance. Maybe this Tycho had been one of them, too. And perhaps at that time he and Hobbie hadn't known what they'd gotten themselves into. She looked for his homeplanet, but none was given. Strange. If he'd been in Imperial service, they should know where he was from.
The men on the next two holos she'd never seen before. Both were dark-haired and very young. On the pictures they couldn't be much older than eighteen. One said Wes Janson, from Tanaab, wherever Tanaab was. The other man was called Wedge Antilles, from Corellia. There was an additional line to his description that said 'Reward: 10,000 credits.' Surprised, she looked at her father. "This one has a reward on his head. What did he do?"
"He was involved in the destruction of our great space station which was called 'Death Star' by the Rebels, to hide their atrocity." He snorted. "The station was meant to protect the planets of the Empire, not to destroy them as the Rebels claim."
"But it destroyed Alderaan, didn't it?" Lahika held her breath. She had never dared before to ask her father about it. There were rumors about Alderaan having been destroyed by the Empire, and Hobbie had claimed that, too. But Lahika couldn't imagine that the Empire would do anything this horrible.
Her father sighed. "Yes, it destroyed Alderaan. But not on Grand Moff Tarkin's or the Emperor's command. The Empire is hard on its enemies, but it protects innocents, it doesn't slaughter them as the Rebels do.
"Grand Moff Tarkin, who had just taken command of his new space station, went to Alderaan to arrest the senators Bail Organa and his daughter, who had been discovered to be traitors. Unknown to him, the Rebels had managed to smuggle saboteurs on board. They were most likely disguised as regular soldiers, moles among our faithful soldiers, waiting for months or years and then finally striking against their own comrades." His voice quivered with contempt.
"These terrorists tried to destroy the station, but apparently they caused a disastrous chain reaction which led to the firing of the main weapon and the destruction of Alderaan. It is horrible. And unfortunately we will never learn what exactly happened and who was responsible, as the Rebels, desperately trying to cover their atrocity, attacked the space station a second time, this time openly. And they were successful. Millions of people died on that day, Imperial soldiers and civilian employees, and the great Grand Moff Tarkin himself." He pointed angrily at the holo of Wedge Antilles. "This man is one of those responsible. He has the blood of millions on his hands. Never forget that, Lahika. These are not spoiled kids."
Lahika stared at the holo. The man looked so young, so harmless. Was he really a cold-blooded murderer? Or had he believed that destroying the space station was necessary? She wished she knew the answer. Hobbie was no murderer, that she knew for sure, but still he was with these men. And the other one, Tycho? He had appeared grim, yes, but he'd also cared for that chevruh. What kind of terrorists wasted time on saving an abused animal?
She was so lost in thought that she jumped as her father addressed her again. "Yes, think about it. Think about what kind of people you protected, Lahika. Cold-blooded terrorists. Many people could have died here on Ralltiir, only because you failed to acknowledge that your brother isn't the person you used to know anymore."
*Isn't he?* "I'm sorry." Lahika cast down her eyes. "Have they left Ralltiir again?"
"Yes." Her father shut off the holos. "As you and Kolya failed to inform me about their presence, I only learned about it after they'd already left again."
"How did you find out?"
"Kolya missed some classes last week. He said that he had wandered around in town that morning, but I didn't believe it. He knows his punishments, and he wouldn't play hookey without a reason. So I had the surveillance holos checked."
"What?" Lahika's jaw dropped. "You used your security people to spy on your son?"
"Watch out how you talk to your father. My patience isn't endless."
Lahika looked down. It was useless to discuss this matter now. "I'm sorry."
"Good. So, from the security holos I learned that Kolya had been to some run-down hotel in the western quarter. I tried to find out what he'd wanted there, and checked on four people leaving the hotel a few minutes before him. Turned out that one of them was Derek. From there, it was routine. But unfortunately it was too late to arrest them."
"What did they want on Ralltiir? Do you know?"
Her father smiled proudly. "Yes. There was a burglary in the Minglev factory, you might have heard about it. They produce parts essential for the navigation of starships. We are quite certain that these Rebels are responsible. It looks as if their theft was rather unsuccessful, at least the CEO claims that nothing very valuable has been stolen, but we're still checking on that."
He stood up and looked at his daughter sternly. "So, we were lucky. Not much harm has been caused. That's the only reason, I repeat, the only reason for me to let you get away with your actions. I hope you'll learn from your mistakes. The next time I won't be so lenient."
"Yes, sir. Thank you." Her gratitude was real. Lahika knew how close she'd come to ending up in prison. "Will you talk with Kolya?"
"No. Why should I?"
She sighed inwardly. Obviously he really didn't understand why he should talk with his son. "He is desperate, Father. Please explain to him why you punished him so severely."
Uncomprehendingly he shook his head. "Even to Kolya it should be apparent why he was punished. I might have lost my temper a little, but he'll survive it. Better to end this now, once and for all. He is easily influenced and needs my firm hand to stay out of trouble." He reached for his jacket. "I must go again now."
After opening the door he turned around one more time. "You have my permission to bring a few bacta patches to your brother." With that, he left the house.
Lahika remained standing in the office for a few minutes, trying to collect her thoughts. Eventually she slowly stepped out into the hallway, where 5-PD was waiting for her.
"Do you want me to get the bacta patches for Master Kolya?"
She smiled at the droid gratefully. Sometimes she couldn't help but get the impression that 5-PD cared more for the children than her parents. "Please do. Thank you very much."
When the droid came back, Lahika took the patches and, sighing inwardly, she slowly went upstairs to comfort her brother.