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John Medkeff and Rebecca Miller

Mikala shifted and felt the softness of satin sheets under her. She rolled over on her left side and hissed as her arm made itself known. She rolled back onto her back. Sith, where was she?

Her head felt like it was stuffed with packing foam. She reached up to brush a hand through her hair and felt something attached to her temple. She frowned deeply and pulled it off, a sensor. There was a buzzing that began as she pulled the sensor off. She found another stuck against her other temple and pulled it off too.

She heard a door open, and felt the lights come on. She looked up and her hand went automatically under her pillow to where she normally kept a small hold out pistol when she slept, but of course there was nothing.

"Are you feeling better this morning, m'lady." The speaker was a young woman in a nurse's uniform. "Do you feel up to some food?"

"Where am I?" she asked.

The nurse hesitated.

Mikala was aware of Zeruah standing up from a chair next to the bed.

"You are at Steele Manor." a voice behind her answered.

Mikala looked behind the woman to the new speaker.

There were two teenage girls standing by the door. One of them stepped forward. "Hello, I'm Tirna, but everyone calls me Tiri."

"Hello," Mikala answered, moving to get up, pulling off more sensors as she did. "I'm on Zoron? How did I get here and where are my clothes?"

"You were sick." Zeruah replied. "You collapsed and were brought here, Madam."

"You've been out for two days. You were brought here while you slept. You're very lucky, I've seen first hand what Mira's poison can do." The girl continued.

Mikala glared at Zeruah. *You let them bring me here?* she said with a subtle gesture.

Zeruah nodded. *They had the medical advances necessary to help you and they desired to assist you.*

Mikala took a slow breath. "Why was I brought here?" she asked the girls. At least they hadn't killed her yet.

"How are her readings?" Tiri asked the nurse.

Mikala continued to glare at Zeruah. *I told you I wanted to take care of this myself.*

"Better, m'lady." the nurse replied.

*There are some things that require help whether you like it or not madam.*

*We will discuss this later.*

"I'm not sure, why you are here. My parents are holding out on all of us." Tiri answered Mikala. "They even did a bug sweep of this room." She turned to the other girl. Have you managed to get anything, Jan."

"No, they're serious about keeping this secret."

Zeruah nodded.

Mikala frowned at her. "What are you talking about?"

"My parents brought you here two days ago. They haven't explained why. But then they hardly ever do. And they had the signal corps guys in hunting for our listening devices. That's always a sure sign they are up to something."

Her parents...that would be...then she was her...sister? Half-sister, actually. The enormity of the whole situations settled down on her and she leaned back against the sleep couch.

"They did say we'd find out when you woke up." Jan added.

She looked at both girls. Were they, what, sisters? Her--? She shook her head. "Would you please excuse me so I can dress?" she asked them, trying to remember her manners.

"Of course." Tiri answered. Then she and Jan withdrew, followed by the nurse.

"Where are my things?" Mikala asked Zeruah.

Zeruah stood and went to the closet to retrieve them. "Are you sure you should be getting up so soon after waking up?"

"I'm fine," she snapped.

She dressed quickly. She found more sensors, which she summarily removed as she dressed.

Zeruah shrugged watching her dress. "You should at least eat before you venture out. You've been asleep for a while."

"I will. Once I find out what kind of situation you've gotten me into."

"I believe you got yourself in the situation, Madam. Whether or not I'd been present, you would be here. It was your choice to search out your father, and you've found him now and this is where it has gotten you a safe place."

Mikala glared at her, her dark eyes smoldering. She turned her back on the other woman and headed into the fresher. She shut the door and leaned back against it heavily. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

She did feel much better than she had, but she still didn't have all her strength back. She sighed deeply. Sith, what had she gotten herself into? She ran her hands through her long hair.

Steele was her Father, that much she remembered, but what did that mean? Why had he brought her here to Zoron? Why hadn't he killed her? What about his wife, would she see her as a challenge to her own children? That had been more than enough reason for thousands of years for getting rid of unwanted beings.

Mikala steeled her nerves and stood back up. She would never find out hiding in here. She drew the Force around her to hide her fatigue and nervousness and headed back into the other room. She crossed it and opened the door to the hall, waiting for Zeruah to join her.

Zeruah stood and joined her, following her out into the hall.

A small monkey like alien was waiting in the hall. He wore a footman's uniform. "If m'lady will follow me."

Mikala followed him, missing the familiar weight of her vibroshiv against her calf.

He led her down the hall to a back staircase and down two flights to the ground floor. As they approached the door at the bottom, Mikala felt as if she were being watched. The door opened onto a small hall. Directly across from the door was a window seat. A leopard was lying on the seat, washing a paw, and pretending they weren't there. Mikala tensed a bit, but the servant didn't seem worried. She stilled her reaction and kept with him, keeping an eye on the big cat.

Zeruah studied the animal as she continued to follow.

The footman ignored the cat and turned right and led her to back door and out onto the back patio. The cat watched them leave and then rolled off the seat and followed.

Mikala could feel the animal after them and glanced back to see where it was. Mikala paused a moment, taking a deep breath of the fresh air.

"I'm glad to see you walking properly again." Her father was sitting in a lawn chair. "Tiri, go round up you're siblings."

Zeruah followed behind not concerned with the cat.

"Yes, Daddy." Tiri got up and headed off across the yard.

Mikala looked at him. "Why did you bring me here?" she asked.

"You needed more medical attention than we could conveniently give you on Torion. And I want you to meet your siblings."

"Why?" She asked.

"You are my daughter. And I take family very seriously."

"But you don't know me," she said softly. "You don't know who I am."

Zeruah grinned behind her.

"I will find out soon enough. Can you think of a better way?"

She had to admit he had a point. "And if you don't like what you learn?" she asked.

"We will deal with that when it comes up."

A small horde of children was gathering around them.

She looked around her astonishment growing. Sith, these couldn't all be his.

Cassandra appeared and took a seat beside him.

Taras scanned the crowd. "Everyone is here. This is Mikala Volaris, she is my daughter, your half-sister."

The kids all started talking at once. "Where did she come from? Who's her mother? Why didn't we know about her?"

Mikala didn't know how to react. The very air hummed with the Force and she felt several minds brush against hers setting off a chain reaction of memories she couldn't even begin to cope with. Memories of the attack by the Jedi, the pain and violation inflicted by the mind trying to rip her very soul apart. Mikala screamed, clamping hands over her ears, trying to block them out. Things started exploding around her. Flower pots, glasses, a small glass top table shattered.

"All of you out of her mind now." Taras commanded. "She doesn't have our experience dealing with the Force."

Zeruah watched Mikala with concern knowing she was feeling very stressed.

The kids backed off, giving her breathing room.

Mikala sank to her knees, sobbing. She struggled to push the memories away. Back into the small part of her mind she had been shoving them into. She struggled to regain her composure.

"Sorry about that. I should have warned them to stay back."

She nodded mutely, swallowing harshly. She took a deep breath, trying to get herself under control again.

Cassandra stood, walked over to Mikala and used her medical scanner. "She's overloading."

"Kids, go back to what you were doing." Sandy commanded.

Mikala brushed a few traitorous tears from her face. "I'm alright," she said in a hoarse voice.

"You haven't fully recovered yet."

Mikala nodded.

"She should probably try and eat as well. She's not yet had anything to eat since awakening." Zeruah added.

"Really?" Cassandra turned to the footman. "Lunch."

The footman bowed, and left.

Mikala slowly pushed herself to her feet. She felt a little wobbly, but she drew the Force close to keep her steady.

Zeruah pulled a chair out for her if she wished to sit.

Mikala glanced over at Taras and Sandy before she sat.

Sandy started shooing the kids away.

"Yes, sit down," Taras said. "And you don't need to keep following protocol. We don't bother with that here."

"Yes, sir," she said wearily. She rubbed her forehead. Her head was throbbing now. She looked around at the shattered table and flowerpots and grimaced. "I'm sorry about that."

"It happens. The Force is now fully awake in you. Until you become its master that will continue."

"I haven't had very good control since--" she sighed. "Since I was attacked."

"We will have to teach you." Her father answered.

She sighed, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

Taras sat back and studied her for a moment. "You've never had a real home, have you, at least not for a long time?"

"I have a house on Nar Shaadda and an apartment on Coruscant," she said a bit defiantly.

"I said a home, not a house."

"House, home, same difference," she shrugged.

"No, a house is just a building, a place. A home is much more."

"I've always had to keep on the go with my line of business."

"When did you leave your mother?"

Mikala frowned wondering how he knew that. "I was thirteen."

"Far too young. Why did you leave."

"Because I got sick of doing her dirty work."

"What was she like? I remember that she wasn't all that pleasant, but I only knew her for a week."

Mikala sat back and closed her eyes tipping her face toward the sun. It was so rare she actually got on a planet with such a pure atmosphere. "She wasn't 'all that pleasant' as you put it. She was cold, calculating, and manipulative. She was always looking for the fact credit and was willing to use anyone or anything to get it. Children are a very good tools to use in a lot of cons."

"Did she ever let you be a child?"

"Sure," she said. "We did a couple of cons and I posed as little rich brat and she as my governess. Bilked quite a few dumb nobles, begging your pardon, out of their credits."

"I know it's too little, too late but I am offering you a real home here. You won't have to face the universe alone."

Mikala pulled herself up. "I don't want you offering that out of some misplaced sense of pity or guilt. I've taken care of myself pretty well so far."

"No pity, we've checked on what you've built. Its impressive." He smiled. "And only a little guilt."

She relaxed a bit. "Thank you." She watched him and nodded.

"Let me ask you this. Why did you come looking for me?"

Mikala sighed and leaned back again. "I don't know, really. I just--" she sighed. "Things haven't gone well recently and I've started thinking about the past. I guess some part of me has always been curious to who you were." She smiled a little. "My Grandmother used to tell me stories when I was little about my father. I guess they weren't fairy tales after all."

"What did she say about me? I don't believe I ever met her."

Mikala closed her eyes a moment and a small, but genuine smile softened her features. "She used to tell me stories that about how my Father was a great Lord and someday he would come and take me away and--" She opened her eyes and cheeks flushed a bit. "You know, your typical fairy tale ending."

"What did your mother say about me?"

"What I told you before, that you were a some poor farm kid from a backwater planet and that you were dead."

"She probably honestly thought I was dead. I last saw her two or three weeks before my parents were killed." He nodded. "If she came back anytime after she knew she was pregnant, she would have found the whole family dead."

Mikala nodded.

"But farm boy. That was pure fiction."

"That was my mother. You could rarely believe anything she said," Mikala said darkly.

"That was my impression of her too."

"How did you meet her?" Mikala asked him.

"Do you feel better now," Sandy interrupted. "Blood pressure and heart rate are dropping."

She nodded. "Yes." And then a bit belatedly added. "Thank you."


"She was on Torion, hired by the Rebels for a mission of some kind. I'm not sure what. Father was her local contact.

She nodded. "She told me when I was little that she didn't pick sides any more with the Rebellion and Empire. She did once and it ended badly."

"I suppose we could go digging in the archives and figure out what the mission was."

Mikala shrugged. "It doesn't matter."

"Well, something minor went wrong. I don't know what and she ended up hiding at a hunting lodge we have up in the Drasin Forrest, north of Loradon. I'll show it to you some day if you like."

"Father sent me to show her the way."

"And that's where you two...became involved?"

"Yes. We were out there for three days. She got bored."

She snorted. "Sounds like her."

"And I was twenty and unattached. Once she decided I'd be amusing I didn't resist long."

Mikala nodded.

A door off to Mikala's right opened and half a dozen servants appeared and started to set up a table for lunch.

She watched them a bit distractedly. Stars, she was thirsty.

"I think we should move over to the table." Sandy suggested.

Mikala got slowly to her feet and stood there a moment. Those stupid outbursts with the Force always drained her so much.

Zeruah stepped forward to assist her if needed.

Taras and Cassandra stood up and walked over to the table.

Mikala took a deep breath and drew the Force close and headed over to the table.

Zeruah followed her.

"Would you prefer wine, kaff or tea?" Sandy asked.

"Kaff, please," Mikala said with slightly formal politeness. Wine would be a bad idea with how lightheaded she felt.

A footman placed cup in front of her and filled it.

Mikala reached to for the cup when a small chime sounded from her belt. She looked down at it and pulled her comm free. She glanced to the others.

Zeruah watched the servants carefully. They may work for the Steeles, and she trusted the Steeles, but she'd long learned that servants could rarely be trusted when dealing with guests.

He filled Taras and Cassandra's cups, then offered one to Zeruah.

Mikala glanced at him. "If you'll excuse me. I need to take this."

Zeruah passed on the drink.

Another servant began placing bowls of soup on the table.

Zeruah watched Mikala wondering what the transmission was about.

"Go ahead."

She nodded and got up slowly, heading back toward the doorway she had come in. Once she was out of earshot she answered it. She listened to one of her men quickly explain that there was a problem with the funds transferred from the Offworld accounts she'd acquired. She sighed. This needed to be taken care of, but she wasn't sure it would be such a good idea if she just left or even if they would let her leave just yet. "Xeven, shut up. Zeruah will take care of it. She'll be coming back on my ship." She closed the call and headed back toward the table. She caught Zeruah's eye and motioned her over.

Zeruah looked over from the table and bowed slightly to the Steeles before moving to Mikala. "Yes Madam?"

"That was Xeven. There's a transfer problem with some of the funds acquired from Offworld. It need straightened out, now. Xeven said there's some kind of problem with one of the holding companies and if it isn't straightened out, there could be war or famine of something like that."

"Do you wish me to take care of it then? Xeven is not the most competent."

Mikala nodded. "I told him you'd be on your way. You can take my ship. If I get in trouble here, the emergency beacon is already programmed in the map room."

"I understand. I will leave my comm on at all times should you need to contact me and once I reassess and deal with the situation I shall send you a report."

She nodded and then paused. "Thank you and thank you for coming with me."

Zeruah looked, raising an eyebrow. She wasn't quite sure what to say. She'd never truly been thanked for doing her job. She just nodded. "I will leave and report once I arrive."

Mikala nodded. "I am assuming my ship is here, right?"

"It is, Madam. I took the liberty of bringing it with your things. If you should need anything else, please do not hesitate to call on me. I will see its done and taken care of immediately."

She nodded and then paused. "Have you seen my vibroshiv?"

"I will see that you receive a new one soon. Your old one, was disposed of considering what it contained on its blade." Zeruah bowed slightly, "I should go before Xeven makes more of a mess of things."

She nodded. "Let me know what's going on."

"I shall." Turning to the Steeles. "Thank you for your hospitality."

"Business always needs to be taken care of." Taras answered.

Mikala nodded to Zeruah and then headed back to the table.

Zeruah nodded and then takes her leave to pack her few things and prepare the ship and leave.

Mikala sat back down at the table as Zeruah left. She reached for the cup of kaff and her hands shook a bit as she picked it up. She drew on the Force to steady them with mixed results. Her hands stilled, but the kaff spilt.

She shook off her hand. "Sorry." She grimaced. She was not making a good impression here.

Mikala glanced over at Taras. "Are they all yours and Lady Steeles'?"

"The Kids? No not all, four are ours, five are adopted, one is mine. Three belong to Tre and Cindy and the last too are," he hesitated for moment, "Padawans."

Mikala looked at him curiously. "Padawans, as in Jedi?"

"As in apprentices."

She nodded.

"Have you trained many...apprentices?"

"A few. Most are here now. I've had two who completed their training."

She nodded. "My grandmother trained me for a while. She had once been a Jedi."

"I wonder if my father knew her." Sandy added.

"Probably not," Mikala said. "She was just a small child when they kicked her out of the Order."

"No, probably not. My father says he was a teenager when he joined."

"Her name was Lesha Volaris. She told me they put her out of the Order when she was something like seven or eight. They just turned her out into the street and she had to fend for herself."

"That doesn't sound like the way the Jedi would treat one of their own." Taras said.

Mikala shrugged. "I can only tell you what my Grandmother told me." Her expression hardened. "It's not that hard for me to believe after that Jedi attacked me and tried to destroy me."

"And I can only speak from general knowledge of the Jedi. I know nothing of your grandmothers case."

She nodded and sipped her kaff.

"Did she name any Jedi who was involved?"

"Someone called Alidar. He turned her in and turned them against her. It's his fault they did what they did to her."

"The Jedi attacked you?" Cassandra asked. "When and why?"

She sighed, looking down into the murky depth of her kaff. "Why, I'm not sure. When, it would have been close to a month go. I was working with the employee of an associate. My associate had gotten himself into some trouble. We were attempting to his extraction from that trouble and his employee came up with the bright idea of capturing someone to bargain for my associate's freedom. Things did not go well. We obtained the individual we were detaining and the next thing I knew I had a Jedi in my head trying to rip my mind apart."

"Not really surprising," Taras responded. "Who was your associate?"

Mikala paused a moment and then answered. "Xanatos DuCruet

"Xanatos." Sandy repeated. "My father knew him long ago. Did you get the poison from him?"

She looked at her and then nodded.

"Any luck rescuing him?"

"No, but he found a way out. With Tara Alderson. He is under her protection now," she said stiffly.

"You seem quite angry about that." Taras asked.

Mikala swallowed down her rage. "There are...issues, between Lord DuCruet and myself. Issues concerning...things in Lady Alderson's court."

"What kind of issues, if I may ask?"

"Personal issues," she said softly. "We had been...involved."

"Oh." Cassandra said. "That kind of issue. How'd you come to be involved with him."

"Things did not end well." She smiled a little. "And he paid for that."

"So you had a bad affair with him?" Sandy asked.

Mikala felt her stomach clench. "Yes."

"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to." Taras interrupted. "Of course your sisters will want all the details but feel free to blow them off."

She nodded. "It's--" she searched for the right word, trying to push down all the emotions that discussing...him brought out. "It's difficult." Sith take Suragar and what she had done to her when she healed her mind. She closed her eyes and sat back rubbing her temple. "A Jedi Master helped heal the damage the other Jedi did and things have been difficult since than."

"I don't think I followed that?" Taras asked. "A Jedi healed you and that caused new problems?"

She frowned. Sith. "Emotions. I've always been able to control them. She did something to me. I felt things I hadn't since I was a child. Things I thought were dead inside me. I--" Why was she telling him this? She felt her heart pounding in her chest. The cup of kaff in front of her started to shake. "I don't know what to do with them. I don't know how to control them."

"We will teach you to control them if you want." Taras said. "Under proper control they will give you strength?

"Why do you care?"

"You are my daughter." Taras answered. "Should I abandon you?"

Mikala frowned at him. "You have no obligation to me. My own Mother was glad to get rid of me."

"Well, I'm not like her. I am unhappy to have missed so much of your life."

Mikala cocked her head. "You're serious."

"Yes. I care about my whole family." He stood up. "Follow me."

Mikala got up to follow him.

He led her across the yard to a low stone wall enclosing an area about ten by twenty feet. He went through a small entrance and stood just inside.

She followed him through and then crossed her arms tightly across her chest.

Opposite them were four tombstones, inscribed, Logan Stellas, Maia Stellas, Willa Stellas and Lyric Stellas.

"It was just after I last saw your mother that Governor Arricar sent stormtroopers to kill my family. I was ordered by my father to take Tarna and run."

She nodded, looking at the stones. "The rest of your family?"

"Yes, your grandparents, uncle and aunt." He paused. "I couldn't save them. I will not let that happen again."

Mikala stepped forward a little. Her Grandparents, she had never thought about them. She wondered vaguely what it would have been like to actually know them, but that would never happen. They died before she was born. She brushed the top of the one stone and frowned at the chip in it.

"Now do you understand where I'm coming from?" He asked.

"Family is important to you," she said softly. "The only family I've ever had was my Grandmother and my Mother killed her because of me."

"My father died trying to save by mother and siblings. Maybe if I'd stayed with him together we'd have won, but we had Tarna with us. She was only five. I think father decided to hedge his bets. He ordered me to take Tarna and run. As it was I killed fifteen men that day."

She nodded. "I never tried to stop my mother. I was too scared. Too weak to help her." She shook her head. "Fifteen, that's impressive."

"I thought so." Sandy said, putting an arm around Taras. "And he had no training then. Nice clean shots to the heart."

Mikala nodded, leaning against the tombstone. "That is impressive."

"I met Sandy the next day. It was rather a busy weekend."

"Sounds like it," Mikala said, watching them.

"Tor was angry when he arrived here just like you are." Sandy continued. "My father taught him to use and control that anger."

"How?" she asked. She felt something stirring within her as she watched them...longing?

"There is no simple answer. But if you must have one it'd be Force training. The Jedi will tell you that their way, the Lightside is better, and I'm sure it is for most of them. But it's not for everyone." Taras answered.

She snorted. "I've had my fill of Jedi."

"I'm sure you have. I don't think the Lightside is right for you. Both are needed."

"Both?" Mikala asked.

"Not on the level of one person. Each must choose one way or the other." Cassandra answered. "Tor could have gone either way I think. You and I were both born to be Dark. Yet the darkness will not touch your brother Keiren."

"Keiren?" she asked. Sith, she was going to need to write down all these names to keep track of people.

"Yes, Kieren, your youngest brother. Well adopted really, but still your brother. He is as light as anyone." Sandy explained.

"Why do you have so many kids?"

"Well, for one thing she likes babies." Taras began.

Sandy shrugged.

Mikala looked at her. She could never understand why anyone would like those squirmy, squalling things.

"That explains Lonnie, Tiri, Kory and Tana." Sandy began. "Then Lin belongs to Tor and Alana. The five adoptions just sort of happened. Jay, Lar and Iri are the last survivors of a planetary royal family that another Sith Lord decided to punish. We slipped in and rescued them. Keri and Keiren were born here to a Jedi prisoner. She died four mouths later at Port Lansing, saving Palapatine's life. I couldn't very well turn them out into the street could I?"

"No child should have to live on the street," Mikala said softly.

"No, they shouldn't!" Sandy answered. "If I'd had know you were out there I would have come looking for you."

Mikala shrugged. "I survived."

"But you should not have had to fight to do so."

"I didn't have much choice. My mother didn't give me much choice."

"No she didn't."

"Attiles, Don and Kat are my best friend's kids."

"And finally Tor found Jan and Bert at a slave auction, but don't mention that if you can help it. We don't like to remind them." Sandy finished.

She nodded. "I don't like slavery. That's how I ended up with Zeruah. A customer gave her lieu of part of his payment. As I said, I don't like slavery and I gave her her freedom, but she ended up sticking around."

"I don't either." Taras said. "It's now Lady Janel Galthan and Lord Bertel Galthan."

She nodded.

"We would have adopted them too," Sandy continued. "Except that Tor bought their mother too. I'm afraid there is no convincing Berta that she's free. Humor her please."

"I bought them on Gathros." Taras added.

She raised her eyebrows. "Interesting." Mikala looked at Sandy. "All these women here and you said that Lin, I think, was--" She looked at Taras. "What should I call you? Lord Steele? Father?"

"The boys mostly call me Father. The girls tend toward Daddy. Given the circumstances perhaps Tor would be best."

She nodded. "Tor," she said and then frowned. She looked away for a moment. "Would you mind, Father?"

"No, whichever you're most comfortable with."

"I'd like, Father," she said sheepishly. She looked at him a long moment and cocked her head. "Maybe my Grandmother knew more than I thought she did with those stories."

"What stories?"

She smiled sheepishly and looked away. "She told me stories when I was very small about my Father being a great and generous Lord. About how he lived in a beautiful house and was very rich." She chuckled softly. "I guess she wasn't so far off on the part he would come someday and take me away to his splendid palace."

"No, she wasn't."

"Those stories were the only thing I had to hang onto when things got rough."

"Perhaps the Force was telling her about me. I saw Sandy's face in my dreams for a month before we net. And she saw mine."

Mikala shrugged, hugging herself tightly.

"Well welcome home." Sandy said, reaching out and pulling Mikala into a three-way hug.

Mikala hugged them back awkwardly, shocked and slightly embarrassed.

"I think that's enough soul bearing for one day." Sandy announced. "Let's find something lighter to talk about."

Mikala pulled back and bit her lower lip, smiling a bit. Things just felt...right. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to relax.

They walked back to the house and Mikala followed them.

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