Takes place about a week after Luke's return from Port Lansing (May 2001): ~~~~~~~ The exercise room was occupied when Jerella got there for an early morning session with Luke. She stood inside the open door and watched as a young boy, perhaps ten years old, moved serenely through a defensive routine with a practice saber and a trio of remotes. He appeared to be oblivious of her presence, his eyes half closed as he deflected four quick, amber bolts one after another. She picked up a sense of joy in the boy, through both his Force aura and in the way he moved and stood. Absorbed in watching him, she didn't notice Luke come up behind her until he spoke aloud, making her start. "Jeren, you can stop now." The child didn't jump, continuing to deflect two more amber bolts before responding, "Yes, Master Skywalker." He closed down the practice blade and waved his hand to deactivate the floating spheres. They floated over to a shelf on the far side of the room and ceased their humming. "When can I add another drone? This is getting too easy." He grinned engagingly up at the Jedi Master. Luke nudged Jerella to move into the room proper. "After your next birthday, Jeren--as we've already discussed. Now, I'd like you to meet another student here. Jerella, this is Jeren Lightdancer." "Jeren Lightdancer, _Jr._," he corrected. "I'm named after my dad." He sounded proud as he bowed politely to her. She bowed gravely back in response. Although she'd lived on Yavin for more than a year, she really had little, if any, contact with the younger pupils, concentrating on her studies with a small circle of friends. Jeren's direct green gaze was disconcerting. "You look like Princess Leia, but you're not her--and--yet you are." Jerella glanced at Luke uncertainly. Although honesty was a prime trait for a Jedi, revelation of her origins to others terrified the young woman. Only a handful knew about her "birth' in Palpatine's clone labs. *It's all right, Jerella,* Luke reassured her. *Jeren knows how to keep secrets.* She took a deep breath and nodded. "I was her for a while, until I learned the truth. I'm a clone of her highness." Jeren's face lit up with interest. "So you know everything the princess does?" "No, it doesn't work that way." She dropped to sit on the floor mat and patted the floor beside her, inviting him to sit down with her. He immediately flopped down, resting his chin on his hands and gave her his undivided attention. "The way it was explained to me, I'm genetically identical to her, but if I'd just been allowed to wake up, I'd have had no background memories. They used the Force to copy her memories into me, and told me that I was her. I'm really an entirely different person with all my own memories from when I was first aware of anything, even though it took time for me to find that out." "So you were all grown up when you woke up?" His tone was of nothing but curiosity. Jerella looked at Luke, surprised at the child's reaction. *He's too young to have learned the distrust of cloning our parents had and instilled in my generation.* Luke's mental tone took on shades of regret. *I learned the hard way that it's not how you are born that matters, but how you live.* To Jeren, Jerella responded, "Well, Yes, I guess that'a right. I mean, I have all of Leia's childhood memories but I never actually experienced them." "So you've NEVER played murderball or mendith-in-the-middle?" "No." Jeren scrambled to his feet and held out his hand. "Want to learn?" Jerella was stunned. Tears rose in her eyes and she wasn't sure why. Aloud, Luke said softly, "You were robbed of a childhood through no fault of your own. Your entire life has been one of seriousness and strife, being manipulated and treated as a pawn. Let Jeren and his friends give you some of that which you were cheated out of. You deserve a happy childhood."
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