Even at this time of day, when the varied forms of entertainment available on Coruscant, legal or otherwise, ensured that airspeeder traffic across the planet wide city was at its peak, it was always easy to get where you wanted to go. For while the majority of that traffic sped across predetermined lanes, air taxis that were smaller than the average transport and could easily bypass the better established travel routes were available to those who wished speed in reaching their destination.
It was onboard one such craft that Tara found herself now, having departed the Jedi Temple and en route to Cantham House, the residence of Senator Bail Organa, one of the few people outside of the Jedi Order that, over the past ten years, she had come to know rather well, becoming as much a father figure to her as Master Halcyon had been.
And in some ways, becoming much more of a father figure than Master Halcyon could hope to be.
Stepping out of the taxi as it arrived outside the building, Tara walked up to the entrance and stepped inside. Blinking, she took a look around the room and smiled. The walls of the atrium were, as always, surrounded on all sides by opulent works of art, the ceiling extending high into the air, each of the succeeding floors crisscrossed with walkways that allowed people to cross between each side of the building with enough space to gaze onto the ground floor.
Tara found herself now, as she had the dozens of times she had been her previously, enjoying the sight. Having been raised in the Jedi Temple, a building whose rooms, though as expansive, often eschewed opulence for functionality, it was rare for her to see this side of the planet, and so she took every opportunity she could to which represented a lifestyle that she had been taught from birth to protect, but not become a part of.
Knowing her intended destination, Tara didn't bother to give the droid stationed at the reception desk a second thought as she made her way to the turbolift. After boarding it and pressing her destination on the keypad, Tara allowed herself to relax, the first time in the past few hours when she truly felt that she had the right to do so.
The turbolift door opened several minutes later, and Tara moved to leave, pausing slightly as she noticed three other senators moving to board, each of them giving her a disgusted glance as she made her way out.
Tara wasn't at all surprised by the reaction they gave her. Anti-Jediism had always been present in the public consciousness, but only in recent times had it become so obvious that it had begun to be publicly displayed. Tara couldn't help but agree with some of the arguments brought up by the Jedi's more vocal opponents, but she also knew that she could never bring herself to openly voice what she truly thought to anyone else. As one of the more prominent faces among the Jedi, particularly since her appointment on the Council, her voice carried a great deal of weight, which could easily be misused if she dared to say anything that would try to convince others, who most likely would see such an attempt as a means by her to believe a scenario that simply wasn't true.
There was only one person she could talk to that could possibly help to put her conflicting emotions into check. If nothing else, he would be able to provide Tara with the sense of calm that she desperately needed to find and cling to at the moment.
Walking down the corridor, Tara stopped in front of one of the doors, pressed the call button and waited. The door opened a few moments later to reveal a tall human with black hair and brown eyes clad in the finest Republic Classic clothing, who smiled broadly at seeing his guest. "Tara, I hadn't expected to see you here."
"It...It was kind of a last minute decision on my part, Senator Organa."
Bail smiled. "Please - Bail. We've known each other for years." Stepping aside, he continued, "Come on in."
Tara stepped inside the room and moved to sit down on one of the couches near the window, which offered her an expansive and rather spectacular view of the Coruscant skyline. Bail came over a few moments later and sat across from her, a BD-3000 luxury droid following behind and holding onto a tray upon which rested two glasses. Reaching for one, Tara took a sip of its contents as the droid walked over to Bail, who took the other glass and set it down on the table.
"Is there anything I can do for you, Tara?" Bail asked.
Setting her drink down, Tara looked out the window. "I...I wanted to talk to you about something, Bail."
Reaching for her drink again, Tara swallowed, wondering why she was finding it difficult to talk to Bail about this. She always seemed to be able to talk to him about everything else that bothered her. Maybe it was because of the fact that they shared the same home world. Or maybe it was the fact that they shared similar views of the Republic and how it should truly act in the current crisis despite their widely divergent backgrounds.
Either way, Bail was the only one whom Tara could seek reassurance from when she felt troubled, especially on things that concerned Willow. There had been times during the redhead's apprenticeship when Tara had felt troubled whether or not she was doing a good enough job at teaching Willow all that she needed to know in order to become a Jedi, fears that were allayed after talking to Bail, who seemed to understand and sympathize with her in matters such as that.
"You've...you've heard about my...about my father?"
Bail's face grew stern. "Yes, Tara. And I can assure you that I completely sympathize with you in your current situation." At Tara's curious look, he continued, "To have to deal with a personal situation that you're ill equipped to handle at a time when the rest of the galaxy is falling apart."
Tara nodded. "That's...That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Bail. The Council has decided to...send my former Master...to capture him."
"And...he took Willow with him."
Bail's eyes widened slightly at hearing that, though otherwise he remained composed. A realization dawned on him at that moment. Tara had visited him quite often in the past several years, and it was, more often than not, about only one subject.
"Is that why you've come here, Tara? Are you having more problems with Willow that you can't seem to deal with?"
Tara's uneasiness about confronting Bail with her problem grew deeper with that question. She never would have thought him to be this accusatory towards her on any subject. But she could understand, on some fundamental level that she truly didn't want to admit, where he was coming from. She was acting very much like an overprotective mother who, although well meaning, truly did not know when to back away and look at the big picture.
Reminding herself that this was exactly why she had come, Tara explained, "Bail, you don't understand. I...I'm not sure what I should do. I mean, I trust them to do the right thing. To...to not get hurt...or...or...But we're talking about my father. I know that he would stop at nothing to kill me from that moment on. I don't know how I know, I just...I just do. And..."
"You're afraid that, despite the fact that you trust her, Willow will get hurt?" Bail prompted, his features softening and his voice sounding more sympathetic than it did a few moments earlier.
Tara nodded, ashamed to admit that, even to him. Her love for Willow had done a great deal towards strengthening her and helping to melt away the shreds of her introverted personality. It was somewhat disconcerting for her to realize that one simple thing could do a lot towards undoing nearly ten years of hard work. But on the other hand, it had also made her overprotective, fearing for Willow's safety at a time when she should be letting go of her. It was tough to balance those two sides of her being: the one that wanted Willow to succeed yet wanted her to fail so that they could remain together.
Taking up his drink, Bail looked out the window. Getting to his feet, he walked over to it and looked out. "Tara, I can't talk to you as if I was your own father about this. You need to make this decision on your own. All I can tell you is this. Your father is a very dangerous man, and a threat to the already shaky peace and stability that this Republic has enjoyed for a thousand years. Not a threat on as grand a scale as the Separatists are, perhaps, but a threat nonetheless. Who knows what could happen if he were to decide to join them. And even if he were not, he could still do a lot of damage to the Republic's image."
Pausing for a moment, he gestured with his hand at the window. "Look out there, Tara,"
Tara got up and looked out the window, seeing the expanse of Galactic City beyond, the home and workplace of billions upon billions of individuals.
"Every single person down there is scared right now," Bail continued. "Afraid for what the future might bring down upon them." He turned to look at Tara. "The Senate feels that the creation of an army is the only way to stem the tide of the approaching darkness."
"Perhaps they're right," Tara found herself saying. "The Jedi don't seem able to handle the situation." She was somewhat shocked to find that she believed this far more than she would normally have allowed herself to, but if the alternative meant letting Willow be seriously harmed, then it suddenly didn't sound that crazy after all.
"I don't think you're thinking about how much of a difference you and the Jedi make in the galaxy, Tara," Bail reassured her, moving to put his glass on the table before taking Tara's hands into his own. "For all the negativity the general public have towards the Order, you do serve a useful purpose to them. At least, I and others I know believe you do. Those who support the Military Creation Act seem to think that the only way to deal with force is with force. But I believe that sometimes it is the gentlest touch that causes the greatest difference."
Tara gave Bail a comforting glance, letting him know that his words had affected her, and smiled faintly. "Thank you, Bail. You've...You've given me a lot to think about. I'd...I'd better be going."
Moving to the door, she stepped through it and into the hallway, pausing as the door closed behind her. It was true that Bail had given her a lot to think about, and the picture that her thoughts were forming was one she did not like. As much as she cared for Willow and wanted to protect her from the dangers the galaxy offered, the redhead was more than capable of defending herself.
She didn't feel any animosity towards her for deciding to go, nor did she towards Nejaa for giving her the option. The man had treated her in every way like a daughter, and it was hard for her to have strong feelings of anger towards him.
The Council, on the other hand, was a different story. She knew it was foolish of her to think that way, but the way in which they had treated it made her think that they thought of it as little more than a casual assignment that would have little to no impact on anyone.
That wasn't true, naturally. The situation greatly affected her. It ironic thing was, of course, that she wasn't supposed to. This was, in her view, little more than the Council once again overstepping the bounds she had thought was necessary in order to prevent them from becoming a dictatorship. History had, after all, proven how much the honest intentions of the Jedi have proven disastrous, and it was all Tara could do to stop herself from wondering about the potential fallout that would result from their decision on this manner.
She also recalled the question that she had failed to answer when she was first appointed to the Jedi Council. At the time, she had wondered if she would be able to continue to feel the way she did for Willow given their new responsibilities. Now Tara found herself realizing that putting that question off may have been a critical mistake.
The situation currently being played out reminded her too much of an incident that happened on Taris years ago. She and Nejaa had gone to the planet in order to investigate some smuggling group operating out of the planet, supposedly in the employ of the Trade Federation. While they were waiting for their contact in one of the cantinas near the spaceport, however, an argument between two people had erupted, one of them pulling a blaster on the other.
The last thing she felt was a pain in her chest and a reverberating shock up her body as she collapsed to the floor. She didn't regain consciousness until days later, realizing that Willow, whom despite her objections, had accompanied them at Nejaa's insistence, had stayed in the hospital the entire time. Knowing that the redhead was obviously in a great deal of pain at seeing her like that, Tara put up a brave front, giving Willow the appearance of someone who knew that everything would be all right.
But in all honesty, she was scared, perhaps the most afraid she had been about anything in a long time. That experience had reaffirmed Tara's needed to protect Willow, no matter the danger. And even though things were substantially different now, the need for her to protect Willow had never really faded. And it was somewhat amusing to find that the boot was now on the other foot, with Willow going on a dangerous mission and she the one on the sidelines
It was that need to protect Willow that made Tara decide to find some way to accompany them. Of course, she wasn't about to let either Willow or Master Halcyon know that, and since Yoda had insisted that she spend some time to think about how to deal with her feelings, she felt no need to talk to the Council. And if anyone did ask, she was reasonably sure she could invent some reason for leaving. There were certainly enough brushfires going on in the galaxy that required stamping out which could serve as a possible cover story.
Tara found herself rather annoyed that, in order to protect the one she loved, she would have to do the one thing she vowed never to do. But in this instance, she managed to convince herself that if it meant Willow would be safe, then she would have to go against the principles she had worked so hard to maintain.
But if it meant protecting Willow, Tara would move the very stars themselves. Anything was important, as long as it meant Willow would be all right.
Standing amongst the crowd waiting to board the transport, Willow was beginning to get nervous. And when she got nervous, she tended to babble to anyone within listening distance. And unfortunately for him, Nejaa Halcyon happened to find himself the recipient of the redhead's latest babblefest.
"And so I was sitting by myself...well, not really by myself, but with over a dozen dignitaries, trying to figure out how I could diffuse the situation between them, and I suggested that we get the high ranking officials together in a room and have a dinner. And it was all going well until one of the younger aides suggested that we serve the body parts of the others. Of course, she meant it as a joke...at least, I think she did, but that was all it too for a full scale fight between the two to erupt..."
Nejaa paid the redhead's words only a cursory amount of his attention, looking down at his chronometer as Willow continued, "...and the cleaning droids took hours to restore the room to its former state. And I had to make a public apology to Tundra Dowmedia, promising that it wouldn't happen again..."
"That's nice, Willow," Nejaa interrupted, seeing the R5 droid that the redhead had brought along trundle between them and board the freighter, making its way towards one of the ramps.
As Willow prepared to follow him, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning, she looked into the eyes of Master Halcyon. "Don't worry about Tara, Willow. She'll be all right as soon as we capture her father. And the sooner we do, the sooner things between the two of you can get back to normal."
Nejaa hefted his own travel bag and moved to follow R5 onboard the freighter. Willow stood for a moment before joining them, a sudden thought sparking in the back of her mind.
What exactly did Nejaa mean by "things between the two of us?"
Shrugging that aside for the moment, she took up her own bag and moved to board the ship.