A Lost Ally
Dana Terry, Ginna Wilcoxen



Octavia had to admit she liked being back on Yavin.  The trees and the peace and normal  nose from the students were welcome sights and sounds.  She couldn't help but smile when Medenna saw her and came over to her.

"I was beginning to think you had left for good."

"Not yet, but there could come a time that I will.  The will of the Force dictates what we must do and where we go."

"Now you're starting to sound like one of the lost Jedi."  Medenna teased. "Is everything okay, we saw Master Skywalker heading for medical."

"There was an accident, but everything is fine." Octavia replied thinking back to the disagreement that had happened.  "So how are your studies?"

"I'm doing fine.  And I'm improving in all of them."

"Good."  Octavia smiled thinking how much Medenna seemed to have grown in her absence. "You should get going if I remember you'll miss your history lesson."

"You're right!"  Medenna turned to go. "I'll see you later for meditation or perhaps swimming?"

"Both."  Octavia replied with a chuckle.

Alida D'med finished a flip landing on her feet and glanced over in Octavia's and Medenna's direction they seemed to be so natural together.  Walking slowly in their direction Alida decided to wait until they were done with their talk. Patiently putting her hands inside her robes she waited to all who would look at her they would see she was just content to be.

Octavia turned and noticed Alida standing there. "Greetings."  Alida stated.

"Greetings Master."

"How are you this morning Octavia?"  Alida asked pleasantly.

"I'm fine, you?"

"Also well."  Alida motioned for Octavia to follow her. "Walk with me?"

"Of course."  Octavia couldn't help but study the Jedi Master. "Is something wrong?"

"No." Alida replied. "Tell me, how are you doing in your studies?"  Alida questioned as they walked.  She noticed that Octavia seemed more at ease, but that could be because she had just so recently returned.

"Very well, it seems the last trip to Tatooine has opened a lot of my memories of my father's earlier training.  And Master Skywalker has added to it."

Alida nodded, "Do you feel ready to leave Yavin for a short time?"

Looking at the scenery around her Octavia wasn't sure how to answer that question, she had planned to remain on Yavin for a while and let her mind relax and take in all she had experienced on Tatooine.  Yet she also felt drawn to Alida at this time. "Yes, I do." She answered at last. "May I ask why you are asking Master D'med?"

"I have come across information that leads me to believe that there is another Jedi from the Temple who may yet still live," she said.  "Rare descriptions of a businessman, one who keeps to himself, yet seems to have an unlikely knack for timing.  The physical description would fit a Jedi named Zuren, one who was in my initiate group at the Temple."  Alida looked off into the distance.  "Greyer, perhaps," she said, a small smile lighting her lips.  "But there  are too many similarities to the Knight Zuren was."

"You are planning on leaving to find the truth of this ... information?"  Octavia asked concerned, she somehow felt danger for Jedi Master if she left alone.

Alida nodded.  

"Then you need someone to go with you.  Have you thought of asking Kali ... I know she is ready to take what you call trials ..."  Octavia's voice trailed off.

"Kaliandra has already left Yavin," Alida informed her.  "Now she is in the hands of the Force and her ability to listen to it."

Octavia thought of her reply.  She knew that both Kali and Alida believed in the old trials and knew that her own father had spoke of them before his death. "She's been trained well. I'm sure she will succeed.  I would be honored to go with you, if you think I could be of any assistance."

"I feel it is important that you go," Alida told her.  "And I learned long ago to recognize a nudge from the Force before it needed to slap you with it's wisdom."

Octavia let out a short chuckle. "The Force is willing to slap you, if it needs to in order to get your attention."

Alida smiled easily.  "Which is why I prefer to stop it at the nudging."

Octavia nodded. "Yes, nudging is always better." she said with a smile

"Will you have to clear this with Master Skywalker?" Alida questioned.

"No, but we should at least let the council know where we are possibly going." She smiled "Just in case."

"A wise precaution," Alida agreed.  "Barring delays, we should leave tomorrow."

"Then I will be ready."

Alida stopped.  "We leave at daybreak.  Thank you for agreeing to accompany me."

Octavia nodded. "I too feel that I should be with you, and if this person is indeed from your past he should be found by us before the Empire discovers him."

"I will send out the proper notifications," Alida said.  "And I will see you in the morning."

Octavia nodded. "Until then." she bowed then turned to leave.

Alida returned to her room and sent out the notification of her and Octavia's trip. Upon receiving the approval she then made arrangements for a transport that she could pilot with Octavia as her co-pilot.

~*~*~*~

In the morning Alida arrived to find Octavia was already waiting on her.  "Good morning." Alida greeted bowing slightly.

"Good morning master D'med did you sleep well?"

"Yes, yourself?" Alida hefts her pack over her shoulder and leads the way onboard.

"Yes, sleep is peaceful now that I block any interference." Octavia picks up her back and follows Alida on board. 

"Interference?"

Octavia nodded. "Yes, for a time the Emperor had found a way to enter my dreams." Octavia was surprised at how those memories no longer made her doubt but only filled her with a resolve to succeed.

"The Dark Side is powerful," Alida commented, sliding into the pilot's seat.  

"Yes, but not all powerful."  Octavia commented taking the seat next to Alida. "One must be mindful of the present ... the future will take care of itself when the time comes."

"You are more settled," Alida noted.

Octavia nodded. "I'm ... working on it.  At least I no longer fear the future or what the Force holds for me."

Alida began running through a pre-flight check.  "It is something all of us must work on, every day of our lives, Octavia."

"Some find it easier than others."

"Sometimes it is easier, sometimes it is more difficult."

"Have you thought what you will do if ... this person you are seeking is no longer what he once was?"

Alida's hands stilled for the briefest of moments.  "If he is somehow involved in something, we will take him prisoner."

Octavia nodded. "So where are we headed?"

"Arridor," Alida replied.  "A small, inconspicous planet in the Outer Rim."

Octavia shook her head. "Arridor?" she questioned. "It sounds familiar, even though I've never been there."

Alida frowned.  "It's not a planet you would normally be expected to be familiar with. "

"It doesn't make sense that I would know of it, perhaps it's just a name I've heard of." Octavia mused.

"And perhaps that has something to do with why I felt to ask you to come with me."  Alida turned back to the controls.  "All systems are cleared."

"Perhaps. ... We have clearance to depart."

~*~*~*~

Octavia and Alida were quiet for a good part of their journey, small conversations popped up but mainly each was lost in their own thoughts.

Octavia turned to look at Alida. "Master D'med, can I ask you a question?"

"Certainly, Octavia," Alida said, glancing over.

"How different is the Academy on Yavin to the Temple you were part of?"

Alida seemed to consider this for a long moment. "It was very different, Octavia."

Octavia seemed to look past Alida. "How?" Octavia wasn't sure why, but she needed to know as if the information would give her some idea of where she belonged.

"The method of training Master Skywalker embraces may trace its roots to a much older form of discipline than the one I was raised in," she said. "The idea of an 'Academy' is rather different. There was an Academy on Almas, but it was something Masters would send their Padawans to temporarily, for training in subjects that they themselves might not be well versed in."

"You aren't comfortable with it, are you? I mean his method of training?" Octavia asked, then quickly turning away. "I'm sorry. I was rude."

"No, Octavia, that's quite all right. Curiosity is never wrong." Alida smiled slightly. "No, I'm not very comfortable with it, but Master Skywalker is doing his best in a very difficult time and with very little to guide him in the way of formal training or structure."

"Have you spoken to him or the council about adding what you know and remember of previous training to the Academy? I notice many of the students have taken up wearing robes like yours." She looked down at her own robe. "My grandfather wore one like yours, like this one I'm wearing now. Perhaps there is a way to meld the two."

Alida nodded. "These robes were an indication of who and what we were. What we are. Today, it is much more dangerous a thing to do, but it is still very important. We are Jedi."

"Something the Empire still has a desire to stomp out."

"They tried," Alida said. The woman looked away for a moment. "When they killed even the children, Octavia, it did not look as if the Order would survive."

"Yet, the Force insured that some escaped. Master Skywalker, you, and even my father and grandmother are proof of that."

"Incorporating the way we were trained may take some time," Alida said. "It is very different from what is being done today."

Octavia smiled. "True and I'm sure there are many who will not wish to learn the old ways, but I feel there is a balance that is needed. One cannot discard what the past has to offer."

"You're very wise, Octavia."

Octavia shook her head slowly. "I only speak what seems to make sense; there are those much wiser than I that have to make that decision." Octavia turned to look at the controls. "Has your research turned up anything on your friend?"

"But you are open to the idea; you have not closed yourself off from it." Alida gave a small huff. "Perhaps that was one of our downfalls, all those years ago. Not being open." She shook her head in response to Octaviaís question. "Nothing I hadn't already found."

"From the way my father spoke, I believe he thought so, and my grandmother compared my stubbornness to him, though she accused my father of having the same stubborn streak."

The other woman chuckled. "Your grandfather was a very stubborn man."

Octavia's voice seemed to take on a hint of sadness. "I wish I knew him, it's very hard to get use to a ghost visiting from time to time. Maybe he would have found a way to have prevented ...." she stopped as her thoughts went to Victoria. Her niece would have to take responsibility for her actions that was something that Octavia could not hold herself accountable for.

"Prevented what?" Alida asked.

"Last year at Port Lansing, I discovered I have a niece, a 14 year-old niece. I was unable to prevent her.... to prevent the death of my brother at her hands."

"My sympathies," Alida said, sounding sincere.

Octavia shook the memories off. "She acted out of anger, and one day she will have to come to terms with it. She has chosen her path and though I don't agree with it, she is among one who cares for her." Octavia looked at Alida. "Is it hard to let Kali go on her own?"

"She is my second Padawan," the woman said. "Yet it is no easier this time than it was the last."

"In the Temple what happened if a ... Padawan never found or was chosen by a Jedi Master. Were they still considered Jedi?"

"They weren't Padawans until they were chosen," Alida said. "They were considered Initiates before that. If they were not chosen, there were other options available to them. There was the Pilots Corps or Agricorps. Some returned to their birth families, but most chose some form of service, whether it was through the corps or in some other capacity."

"The ones who did not make it Ö there were never any harsh words?" Octavia looked puzzled. "I'm sorry for so many questions, but I cannot see someone being at peace over their failure of achieving their dreams or goals." In her observance of natural actions between different races each had their way of dealing with things differently.

"Sometimes there were harsh words," Alida said. "Competition between the initiates nearing the cutoff age could be quite fierce. The system was not perfect, but it worked for many centuries."

Octavia nodded agreement in silence. "It seems from what you've told me a good way to achieve things and decide on difficult subjects. Yet how would a Master know they've made the right choice for a Padawan?

"The Force, Octavia. Yet, sometimes, there were instances where pairings were not good. Master Jinn's Padawan, Xanatos, for example."

"Xanatos?" Octavia questioned. "They didn't get along?"

"Xanatos fell to the Dark Side, Octavia."

Octavia thought on Alida's words. "That is a constant threat all through our life isn't it. Falling to the dark side, giving in to the easiness of it."

"The power it seems to hold is very attractive," Alida said. "But you've seen the Emperor. You've seen others in the Empire. You know what kind of price that so-called power extracts."

"It twists one very judgment. I fell sorry for them, to only have hatred to motivate you."

"That hatred has killed more beings than either one of us can ever imagine."

"Then it is good you're no longer in hiding. I feel the Jedi needs wise ones like you." Octavia gave Alida a smile. "I know I appreciate your wisdom."

Alida ducked her head. "Only through the Force, Octavia," she said. "Though I thank you for the kind words."

Octavia sat up straight. "Arridor!" she said as if she had heard the word for the first time. "I now know where I've heard that name before."

Alida frowned. "Where?"

"Master Skywalker and I met some pirates one mentioned Arridor and the opening of a new lab." Octavia turned to face Alida once again. "Xanatos labs."

The older Jedi went absolutely still. "He lives?"

Octavia shook her head. "I don't know, but I know that the labs main home is on Telos. I passed them when my father took me there to visit my grandmother Tahl." Octavia leaned back in her seat. "As an eight year old I could never understand why my father would never go pass it."

"Telos was Xanatos' home planet," Alida said. "But he was much older than I." She closed her eyes for a moment. "Force."

"Was he supposed to be dead?"

She nodded. "Yes. He died in a battle with Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi."

"Perhaps his family named the labs in his memory."

"In memory of someone that like?" Alida sighed. "Incredible."

"Perhaps his family didn't know of his fall to the dark side." Octavia offered, though in her heart she didn't think that was the case.

"Perhaps," she allowed. How they would not have known was beyond her, but it was a possibility.

Octavia leaned forward and punched in a few things. "Perhaps we can find out what Xanatos labs are involved in."

"A good idea. See if you can trace the owner, as well. Someone has to be behind the company."

Octavia nodded and proceeded with her search.

~*~*~

Hours later, Alida stretched. "Well, so far. . . nothing. Lots of good press."

Octavia watched as the screen seemed to continue its search. "Too much good press, it's almost as it it's all set and manufactured."

"Yes, so it seems. It's not uncommon for companies to pay for such, but this is over and above what I would consider normal."

"I agree, though I haven't figured out what OWPR means."

"OWPR?" Alida repeated. "Where do you find that?"

"On this press release." Octavia turns the console so Alida could read it. "Mr. Beck, a representative of OWPR, states this newest opening of Xanatos labs will be very beneficial to all concerned." Octavia read the brief article.

Alida frowned. "We will have to look into that."

"I really hate abbreviations," Octavia complained as she sat back and stared at the screen "OWPR ... what in the world could that stand for?" she whispered to herself.

Alida laughed. "It's never been something I've enjoyed, but something about that rings a bell."

"Master D'med, I have a bad feeling about this." Why she had that feeling she didn't know, yet all was not as it seemed.

Alida frowned. "We will have to look into that. What, exactly, gives you a bad feeling, Octavia?"

Octavia shook her head. "I don't know, it's just a feeling."

"Focus yourself, Octavia," she said.

Octavia focused on the feeling and what was causing it. Alida backed away, letting the young woman discover what it was that bothered her.

"From all the reports, this new lab should be everything anyone would want. Yet ... " Octavia paused. "I see a broken seal something like a crescent moon."

Alida closed her eyes. "Force. OW -- Off World."

"Off World?" Octavia questions confused.

"Xanatos' company."

Octavia stared at the woman. "I don't see why that bothers you, after all, the labs are named after him."

"I'm not sure, either, Octavia." Alida shook her head. "That happened when I was still an initiate."

"It seems they will have a big gathering for their opening ceremonies. Do you think we should attend?"

"I think that would be advisable," Alida said, looking down at her robes. "However, we might wish to change."

"What do you suggest?"

"I doubt that anyone associated with anything Xanatos might have touched would be open to Jedi attending, Octavia. Something a bit more -- civilian."

Octavia nodded. "I knew I brought some extra clothes for that reason." she gave the Jedi Master a grin.

"And just what did you bring?"

"A pair of pants, and shirt and a couple of jumpsuits that I use to wear on the Electra... I used them mainly when I bartered for parts for Roc, the Captain. I also have a cloak I use to wear as well." Octavia thought back to the first time she left the Electra and went to Port Lansing to discover her future. "Simple and plain clothes."

"That might work," Alida said. "Or we may need to find a planet to purchase something a bit more elaborate."

Octavia nodded. "Perhaps."

"If his family is anything like Xanatos, they respect wealth and power."

"Could it be that this Xanatos is still alive?"

"He would be nearly one hundred by now," Alida said. "But it's possible."

Octavia shook her head. "I can't understand how one can have so much hatred."

"That is the Dark Side, Octavia. I'm sure Xanatos did not set out to fall."

"But if he married, he could have passed down his resentment of failing.

"Marriage, offspring -- any of that is possible. I don't know if he had siblings or not."

"I hope we're wrong. I really hope we're wrong."

"So do I, Octavia." Alida stared ahead. "But I don't think we are."

"What was this Off ...World like in your time?"

"Actually, it was a bit before my time, but it was involved in many shady things."

"Wonderful."

"Well said." Alida leaned her head back. "What do you know of this opening?"

Octavia sighed. "Some of the top scientists from the lab from Telos are supposed to be there. And there will be a tour of the new one."

"Then that's where we should be." Alida made some corrections to their flight plan.

Octavia re-read what she had found. "There's also suppose food and drinks provided too. Seems they are going all out for this."

"It's all about appearances, Octavia."

"But why such a show?" Octavia questioned. "The lab is already there, and there's no way to remove it."

Octavia couldn't see any reason to do what the labs were doing.

"I don't know," Alida said thoughtfully. "But Xanatos often had an interesting way of doing business."

"I have a feeling we're going to see first hand how the business has carried on."

Alida nodded. "Feed the coordinates into the computer."

Octavia nodded and began to feed the coordinates in. "Done, we should be arriving within two days, if we proceed on this course."

"Is there any reason we shouldn't?"

"None that I can think of." Octavia replied. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said it that way."

"Very good," she said, sitting back.

"I must apologize for asking so many questions."

Alida turned and pinned her with a look. "Never, ever apologize for asking questions, Octavia."

"I feel like that's all I've done these past two years." Octavia smiled slightly. "At times I feel like I'm ... so naive."

"You are not naive," Alida assured her. "May you never stop asking questions, Octavia. The being that stops questioning, stops living."

Octavia chuckled. "I plan to live a long while. Force allowing."

"Then plan on questioning for a long while to come."

"I will." Octavia replied.

"Go take a rest period," Alida urged. "We have many hours yet."

Octavia nodded. "You should rest too, so don't let me rest too long."

"Very well," the older woman said.

~*~

Alida went into the small crew quarters. "Octavia, it's time to get up."

Octavia's eyes open. "I will monitor our progress while you sleep Master D'med." Octavia rose to stand. "How far out are we?"

"At least five or six hours," she said.

Octavia nodded. "I'll wake you before we are to land. Get some rest Master D'med."

Alida shook her head. "Please, Octavia -- 'Alida' is fine."

Octavia smiled at the woman. "Goodnight, Alida." It was difficult to say the woman's name, she was use to using proper titles. But if they were to pass as normal civilians then they should be using first names. "Rest well."

"Octavia," Alida stopped her. "After what we went through together before. . . It was not unheard of before to drop the formalities."

Octavia crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame. "You're right, of course. I just didn't want to show any disrespect for you."

Alida sat on the sleep couch. "I'm too old to worry about disrespect, Octavia."

"No one is too old for proper respect." Octavia replied, shutting the door. "Especially a Jedi Master."

Alida chuckled quietly to herself and closed her eyes to sleep.

Octavia took the pilotís seat and began to study the press releases of the new labs as well as the culture of the planet they were going to. Rising slowly from her seat she made her way back to where Alida was resting. "Mas ... Alida we will be landing in one hour."

Alida opened her eyes and sat up. "Very good, Octavia. Has all been quiet?"

"Yes, I've done more studies on our location."

"What have you discovered?" Alida asked as she got to her feet.

"The local population is divided into two sects. One is a working/servant class. The upper class are the more prosperous ones and there has been an epidemic that has destroyed many of their plants and animals."

"Interesting," the older woman mused. "Perhaps our goals would be best served if we split up."

"Do you think that is wise not knowing what we are fully walking into?"

"Servant and upper class, you said?" Alida asked.

Octavia nodded. "Yes, from what I've read." retaking her seat Octavia showed some holograms to Alida. "As you can see from I've been able to gather."

"Separate by class, perhaps," she said. "One of us in each social level, but not actually separating."

Octavia nodded. "I will do what you seem is best."

"I am asking for your input."

Octavia became silent. "Then one of us should be of the lower while the other is of the high class." Looking at Alida, she asked, "Do you think you can portray upper class?"

She nodded slowly. "It has been awhile, however. Perhaps you would be able to handle that somewhat better."

Octavia looked at her. "Me?"

"Do you not believe you can do it?"

"I believe I can, yes."

"Very good," Alida said. "We'll need to be suitably attired." With a glance down at her tunics and robes, she nodded to herself. "A few minor adjustments will work for me, but you. . ." She narrowed her eyes and looked at the holograms again. "Tunics and robes will not do."

Octavia looked at the holograms. "I don't think that what I brought will be that suitable for long either."

Alida glanced at the monitors. "A quick stop may be in order to get you ready."

Octavia rolled her eyes. "I was afraid that would be the answer." she gave a half grin.

"Not much for shopping, either, are you?"

"Unless it was engine parts, no." Octavia shook her head. "I kept to myself and stayed with the Engines."

Alida smiled. "Not much cause for dressing up in the engine room."

"None at all."

"It shouldn't take long," Alida assured her. "We'll get it done quickly."

"Good."

Octavia glanced at the instruments. "We're being hailed."

Alida frowned and toggled the comm. "This is the Wayward Wind."

"State your mission and direction." the voice demanded.

Alida's frown deepened. She'd thought they were too far out to have to worry about this. "Arridor," she said. "Transporting passengers for a pleasure trip."

"Be prepared to show proper papers upon landing. Follow signal for landing."

"Freshen up," Alida said to Octavia. "Put on whatever you have that will come closest to travel clothes for a well-to-do woman."

Octavia nodded. "I'll see what I can come up with."

"Good," she said. "Our papers are in order," Alida said with a small smile. "We shouldn't have any difficulty."

"Force." Octavia whispered as she left.

It only took Alida a few moments to adjust her own clothing. She removed her robe and belt, then took off her tabard and outer tunic, leaving her in a very simple "outfit" of a tunic and trousers. She slipped her lightsaber into a deep pocket on her trousers and nodded to herself. It would do.

Octavia stepped back and eyed what she had brought with her. A well to do woman, how was she to pull this off.

'Give the appearance and others will believe what they want. Be sure of yourself and others will not question.' Her father's words came to her as she made a few adjustments to her jumpsuit adding a few ornaments. The problem was what to do with her Ďsaber. Placing it inside the dark cloak she walked out to meet Alida "Best I can do."

Alida turned in her seat and nodded approvingly as the younger women entered the cockpit once more. "We'll be landing shortly, MíLady," she said.

Octavia nodded and took her seat.

"I will handle the paperwork," Alida said. "You won't be expected to deal with such trivialities."

"You have the easier part, I think."

Alida nodded. "True. Prepare for landing."

"As prepared as I can be."

They set the ship down and gathered their things.

When they disembarked Alida noticed guards standing there waiting for them. "Your papers?"

She presented him with an envelope that had been prepared before they had left Yavin. "This contains all you need," she said.

The guard grabbed the papers and studied them. "Everything seems to be in order. There are only two of you traveling?" he asked ignoring Octavia and staring at Alida.

"Yes," the woman said. "Just MíLady Octavia and myself."

"Do you have lodging yet?"

"No, MíLady did not want to book reservations sight unseen." Alida leaned close. "I'm sure you understand."

"Of course, there are a few available lodgings left. I will have my lieutenant show you."

"Thank you," Alida said with a nod.

"Very well." he turned to look at Octavia for the first time. "Do not concern yourself with the extra security precautions. We have some visiting dignitaries and with the opening of Xanatos Labs newest addition, we have to be careful."

"Of course." Octavia replied. "I must say I feel safer knowing you are alert and doing your job."

He smiled broadly. "Thank you, ma'am."

Alida picked up the small bags they had with them and followed The lieutenant

The lieutenant led the way through the streets and the growing crowds. "Tell me, Lieutenant, will the labs do all that is promised?"

"I suppose, MíLady. They've made some big boasts, and I've seen trees take root and flourish where nothing would grow."

Alida glanced at Octavia.

"That is quite an accomplishment." she agreed, sharing Alida's glance.

"Here you are." the lieutenant stated. "If you run into any type of trouble, or difficulty, let us know. Some of the lower classes don't agree with the lab's presence."

Alida stepped closer to the Lieutenant "Do you supposed it would be possible to obtain an invitation to the opening for MíLady?" she asked in a near whisper. "She has a fascination for such subjects. And parties."

The lieutenant smiled "I can see what I can arrange, it might be possible."

Alida gave him a warm, intimate smile and placed her hand on his arm briefly. "She would greatly appreciate it. As would I."

"I will do my best for her and you." The lieutenant bowed, then left.

Alida led Octavia into the lodging. Octavia moved closer to Alida and slipped a data chip into her hand. "You might need it." she whispered. Alida nodded and accepted the chip.

"May I help you?" the clerk bellowed from behind the desk in a friendly tone.

"We are in need of lodging for the week."

He looked at the two of them. "I will need your credit chip to check."

Alida handed over the chip Octavia had slipped to her. "MíLady requires a comfortable room," she said.

After checking it he nodded and handed it back to them. "Of course. I think we have just what you need ... Anton! Show the ladies to room 4388."

Anton picked up the small bags and led the way to the room in silence.

Alida and Anton waited as Octavia examined the room.

"It is suitable." she announced after making a quick sweep of it.

Alida slipped a number of credits to Anton, who took them silently and stepped back out of the room. As soon as he left, she took out her scanner and began to check their rooms.

Octavia watched as Alida took all the precautions. The room was well furnished and it would house at least four more people if the need arose.

"It's clean," she said finally. "We can talk."

"There is tension under all this festival atmosphere. Even the guards are tense, did you feel it?"

She nodded. "I hadn't expected to be hailed so far out from the planet, either. It's almost as if they are just waiting for something to happen."

"The Lieutenant did say the lower class opposed the lab."

"Perhaps violently so, although our research hadn't indicated that as a potential problem." Alida thought to herself a moment. "The marketplace would be a good place to listen."

"Sounds like a good place to start." Octavia looked out the window. "And how could I refuse the opportunity to see the market place and shop?" she said wistfully.

"I'll accompany you to a dress shop," she said. "Once there, we'll separate. You need to obtain suitable clothing. I can head toward where the so-called 'lower classes' gather." She pulled something from her pouch and handed it to Octavia. "This should be more than adequate to cover your needs."

Octavia smiled. "Between what I saved and what you have we will do well. Never thought I would put to use what Roc set aside for me."

"I'd rather you didn't use that," Alida said. "What I have will more than keep us going for quite some time."

Octavia nodded. "It's there if we need it. Perhaps you will find your friend in all of this celebration."

"Force willing," Alida said.

Octavia nodded. "Shall we venture forth and see what awaits?"

"Be careful," Alida cautioned. A small smile graced her lips. "Dressmaker's pins have been known to draw blood."

Octavia rolled her eyes. "Dress'." she looked at Alida. "Did you have to do anything like this before the purge?"

"Undercover work?" She nodded. "All of the time."

"Did you ever find it easy?"

"It was rarely easy and often uncomfortable." Alida sighed.

"Nice to know I'm not alone."

"It's outside of what we would normally consider our 'comfort zone'," Alida said. "But it was Ė and is -- necessary."

Octavia took a deep breath. "I'm ready to face the dressmakers." she stated heading for the door. "May we each find what we need." she said looking at Alida.

"Which is usually different from what we want," the woman said wryly. "As the Force wills."

Alida led the younger woman from the room. "There is a shop not far that will be able to accommodate you," she said.

"I hope so."

"Listen to the dressmakers," she said, "and to the other clients."

Octavia nodded. "Easy for you to say." she whispered.

Alida looked back at her. "What do you mean?"

"I don't know, somehow I think you have the easier task."

Alida shook her head. "Why do you say that?"

"It's easier to mingle and not be noticed and in that way pick up all the information you need. Where I will be listening to people ....." Octavia took a breath the stopped to look around their surroundings. She felt that they were being watched, yet it was uncertain by whom. Turning she looked back to Alida. "You know how I hate listening to people who think they know everything." Octavia said matter-of-factly.

Alida smiled slightly. "Yes, ma'am."

Octavia nodded as they stopped at the shop. "I shouldn't be too long. Shall we meet back at the hotel?"

"If that's what you'd like, MíLady," Alida said. "I'll gather the other items on your list at the market."

Octavia nodded took a breath and entered the shop.

"Good day," the young woman at the desk greeted her. "Do you have an appointment?"

"Unfortunately not." Octavia answered. "Do I need one?"

"I'll see if we can squeeze you in. Your name?"

"Octavia Syn."

The girl looked down. "Oh. Lady Syn. You do have an appointment."

She glanced around the shop. "Indeed." she replied in mild surprise.

"If you'll have a seat, Chalis will be with you in a few moments." The girl stood and waved a well-manicured hand toward a grouping of comfortable chairs.

Octavia took a seat wondering who had made the appointment for her. She sat straight and let her eyes roam quickly taking in all she could.

In the far corner of the shop, two young women sat, sewing on beads by hand and talking quietly. They glanced her way every so often.

Octavia reached out with the Force to check for danger, relaxing somewhat when she found none. From what she could see and feel, this was nothing more than what it appeared to be: a shop catering to the sartorial whims of the upper class.

Soon, a tall, elegant woman came to stand in front of her. "Lady Syn, I am Chalis." The woman wrinkled her nose. "Oh, darling. Whoever your designer is, he, she or it knows nothing of what colors work for you."

Octavia smiled slightly. "That's an understatement. Not to mention I have nothing suitable for the festivities."

Chalis clucked. "You young people today. When I was your age, we never traveled without a full wardrobe. But you. . . you trust that you'll find someone to clothe you. Such faith."

"I've just been lucky." Octavia looked at the woman. "Can you help me?"

"Of course I can," she said. "Come with me and we'll take good care of you."

Octavia rose. "I was hoping you'd say that."

"Lena, take the lady to the first dressing area," Chalis called.

Octavia followed the woman listening to the chatter that was going on around her. Sighing to herself, the inane chatter was almost unbearable. Who was wearing what, who was seeing whom. Talk of the new lab and the guards that were stationed around it caused her to pay close attention to the details.

Using the Force to listen and remember what was said as samples and suggestions of clothing were made to her. The guards seemed to be young, based on what the girls were saying. She wondered if that could be used to their advantage as she nodded to a swatch of emerald green silk being held up for her inspection.

"That color of green is acceptable." Octavia answered watching as the woman placed it over a chair.

"You need to show a little more skin," Lena counseled. "Such a pretty young lady to be hiding yourself."

"What do you suggest?" Octavia questioned dreading the answer.

With a snap of her fingers, two portfolios were produced for Octavia's inspection. "This or this," Lena said, pointing. "Especially if you are going to attend the opening."

"Of course." Octavia studied the portfolios carefully after a while she handed one back to Lena. "This one will work. I like the bare shoulder and the leg reveals just enough."

"Very good. Xon will get your measurements and we'll be ready to go." Lena eyed her a moment. "Might I suggest a few items from our ready to wear collection? At least until your clothes are ready."

"I was hoping you had something that would be suitable until then." Octavia said sounding relieved. One outfit after another was paraded out for her until she was nearly dizzy from the colors and choices. By the Force people did this on a regular basis?

"I think the lady would look best in the silver and dark green," the Lieutenant said from the doorway.

Octavia turned, forcing a slight blush to her cheeks. "Are you also a clothier, Lieutenant?"

He gave a broad grin. "Not at all. I just know what I like to see, and they seem to suit you." he looked at Lena "Do you not agree?"

"A good choice," the woman agreed. "You are a man of exceptional taste."

"I was raised to be so madam." He looked at Octavia. "If you are done, I would appreciate the honor of seeing you back to your lodgings."

Octavia turned to Lena. "Can you see those are delivered as soon as possible?"

"We will have your order delivered to you this evening," Lena said. "With the exception of the gown, that will take a day or two."

"Thank you." Octavia turned. "Send the bill to my hotel."

Lena nodded. "It's been a pleasure, Lady Syn."

The lieutenant offered his arm and led her out of the shop. Taking it, Octavia looked at the Lieutenant. "Tell me, do you treat all visitors this way?"

He smiled down at her. "Just the special ones."

"Then I count myself fortunate to be one of the special." Octavia replied wondered what he considered special, she studied him briefly. "What brought you to the shop, Lieutenant?"

"I ran into your servant in the marketplace," he said, "and asked after you."

"She's very helpful."

"So it seems," he chuckled. He stopped, turning to look at her. "Lady Syn, are you free this evening?"

Octavia looked away briefly remembering what she had read about the society and the classes. "I am flattered, Lieutenant," she answered slowly.

"But?" he asked.

"I don't know you by anything but Lieutenant. Surely you can't expect me to go out with a ... stranger." Octavia hoped that sounded right.

He released her and gave her a deep, gallant bow. "Tor Kyrsk at your service, my lady."

"Well then, Tor Kyrsk, yes, I am free."

He smiled, showing gleaming, perfect teeth. "Early evening, perhaps?"

Octavia nodded. "That would be fine, I'm sure ... my servant will be thankful for some time alone." Octavia caught herself before she called Alida by her name.

He chuckled. "I'm sure she'll find something to occupy her time."

Octavia smiled. "I'm sure, she's quite .... inventive."

"Sometimes that's not a good trait for the hired help to have," he said.

"Really?" Octavia questioned. "She has never done anything out of the norm."

"You're not from here," he said.

"No," Octavia answered honestly. "If there is some rule or protocol that I or my servant may break, I hope you would inform me, Lieutenant ... Tor." She stated slightly squeezing his arm.

He shook his head. "I doubt you could, Lady Syn. It's just that the local riff-raff are not happy about certain things on the planet and have been causing no end of difficulty."

"Difficulty?" Octavia asked. "Surely nothing you and the other guards couldn't take care of."

"Don't worry," he said, patting her hand. "You're perfectly safe. We have things under control."

"That is refreshing to know." Octavia stopped outside the hotel. "I thank you for the escort Tor, but it would not be proper for you to see me to my room with my servant not present."

He lowered his lips to the back of her hand. "Until this evening, then."

"I look forward to it." Octavia turned and went to her quarters, wondering what Alida had discovered. One thing was clear: there had been trouble and there was the possibility of it being violent.


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