Andriya sighed. Mirnka looked to be in pretty good condition--especially for a planet that had been waging a war for . . . no one was exactly sure, but it was a very long time. Even in orbit, she could sense the hostility toward the Jedi. That was, to say the least, uncommon in peace treaty negotiations. Of course, the senators felt fear as well--fear that they would fail, that they would some how be shafted in the drafting of a treaty. The pride of those two particular men was astronomically high.
"Hadnít we better get landing clearance?"
"Weíll do that when itís necessary, Mistress."
She ignored the fact that he got her title wrong. Even Jedi made that mistake on occasion. "Please do it now. I sense that if we donít act quickly, the senators may change their minds about the help of the Jedi--and peace."
The pilot clenched his fists, refusing to show the anger and impatience rising within him. But Andriya and the other two Jedi with standing with her didnít need a visual display to tell that he had a short temper. Andriya silently wished that her regular pilot hadnít been busy. Behind her, her brother, Myndex, echoed the thought. The third and last Jedi with the Delvees was Halsten Tuurku. His mind was elsewhere, not focused on the descent to the planet. Perhaps he senses the hostility, too, Andriya thought.
As the pilot asked for landing clearance, Andriya received another unpleasant sensation through the Force. It was the awful, nebulous feeling that plagues those about to embark upon a venture that will, ultimately, fail. She turned toward Myndex. "I have a bad feeling about this," she whispered.
Myndex shifted uncomfortably. Not only did he dislike standing for long periods of time, he knew that any bad feeling his older sister received was inspiration from the Force, and not to be taken lightly. "Whatís wrong?"
"Iím not sure. But itís not just those squabbling politicians."
Myndex ran through every Jedi calming technique he knew. His panic would not help their situation any. He knew the real reason he was traveling with his sister--Master Yoda had made sure of that. Love your sister, you do. Show it now, you must. Her protector, you must be. Power matters not; too great for one, the danger is.
The pilot turned to Andriya. Before he spoke, she realized that no clearance had been granted yet. "Looks like you might have been right about that change of heart," he commented wryly.
Andriya didnít look too concerned. Actually, she didnít appear to be listening, either. Disgusted, the pilot turned back to the controls.
The comm-unit crackled to life. "J-683, diplomatic vessel, landing clearance is . . . granted. Proceed to Docking Bay 102."
"Thank you," the co-pilot replied. As they continued their descent to the surface of Mirnka, Andriya left the cockpit, followed by Myndex and, at length, Halsten.
"Guess whoís training his Padawan here," Myndex challenged Andriya eagerly.
Andriya rolled her eyes. This would be the fourth time heíd done this routine on the flight. "Obi-Wan Kenobi," she mumbled without enthusiasm.
"Right! Maybe you two could go out while weíre here--"
"Myndi," Andriya attempted to interrupt, but Myndex, or Myndi, as she called him, would have none of it.
"Yíknow, really paint the town. Iíd watch his Padawan."
"Myndi," she tried again.
"You could even get married. I know a great planet for a honeymoon, you two would just love it there." Andriya gave up trying to stop her brotherís babbling, and covered her face so she could laugh in peace.
"Youíd have to live on Coruscant, of course, because you need to be there. But you two would fit quite nicely in your quarters, Andi, and in a few short years, youíd be all settled with a couple dozen kids. You see, Andi, Iíve got your life planned to the minute so you donít have to. You could even dismiss old Hallís-breath over there--"
"Halsten," he corrected from the corner.
"Yeah, him, and hire me instead. Iíd do a really good job."
"Iím sure you would, Myndi," Andriya said, lifting her face to look at her brother. "Youíve already given me more children than I can count, let alone handle, and married me off--at least in your head. But you forgot a few things."
"Yes. For example, Obi-Wan is ten years older than I am and is busy with his Padawan right now. And, speaking of Obi-Wan, did you ever ask him about your little plan?"
Myndex laughed triumphantly. "But you didnít say youíd be opposed to it! Oh, I knew you liked him, from the moment you breezed back into your office four days early. Admit it! Come on, just say you like him. You know you--"
"Myndex," Andriya said, taking a reproving tone, "that type of behavior is inappropriate for a Jedi."
Myndex composed himself. "Sorry. Guess I got a little carried away."
"Just restrain yourself in the future."
From his post in the corner, Halsten sighed and frowned.
"Whatís wrong, Tuurku?" Andriya called.
"Nothing, Master Andriya." Why canít she reprimand me like that? he thought, hopefully softly enough that Andriya couldnít hear. If she did, the only acknowledgment she gave was a thoughtful look.
A sudden jolt rocked the ship. Halsten hoped it only indicated that theyíd landed, and not that the senators had decided to open fire on them.
"Donít worry, Halsten," Andriya said, trying to sound comforting. "Itís only the landing."
"Are you sure?" Halsten asked meekly.
Andriya nodded, smiling slightly. Intelligence was not exactly Halstenís strength. But heís extraordinarily empathetic, she reminded herself, trying to balance her unkind thought with a kind one.
The gold protocol droid sent to receive the Jedi led them to the main hall of the Mirnka Superior Conference Center. In Andriyaís opinion that was the first mistake--holding negotiations on one of the planets involved in the conflict. As a rule, a neutral site was always chosen, but both senators had rejected the proposed meeting on Coruscant. Instead, the senator from the Paqua III system had agreed to come to the enemy system of Mirnka Superior to discuss peace between the systems.
Myndex frowned and tried not to sigh with dissatisfaction--the other two were doing enough moody exhaling for the group. From what heíd heard, these two senators were among the most stubborn in the galaxy. Of course, at least the Mirnka Superior one had to be, considering that most of his constituents didnít consider themselves, or their planet, under the jurisdiction of the Empire. Strange that theyíd send a representative to the Imperial Senate, yet withhold taxes as long as the Emperor would allow. Perhaps the stubbornness is a Mirnkian trait.
Halsten was extremely preoccupied by the irrational hostility directed toward the three Jedi. He knew these men should have nothing to fear. Of course, he didnít know or understand why the two systems were fighting--the entire concept of war seemed pointless to him.
The droid, after a few moments of awkward silence, began introductions. "Senators, these are the Jedi sent from the Empire--Jedi Master Andriya Delvee, a member of the Jedi Council, Jedi Knight Myndex Delvee and Jedi Knight Halsten Tuurku. Jedi, these are the honorable Imperial Senators--Turmast Junst from the Paqua III system, and Ruberk Nezwish from the Mirnka Superior system."
"Mind you, superior is just the name of the star," Junst said curtly. He did not look at any of the Jedi. He and Nezwish were seated at opposite ends of a table that almost filled the room, and refused to look away from one another, as if the other could not be trusted for a nanosecond. The only sound for more awkward time was the tapping of something in Nezwishís hand.
"Senators, for some reason I donít believe youíre prepared to negotiate the terms of a peace treaty," Andriya said.
"Oh, I believe it," Nezwish said dryly.
"Yes," Junst agreed in a similarly sardonic tone. "Iím a believer."
"So am I," Halsten seconded. He believed that one of the Jedi had better advocate accomplishing the mission or it really would fail.
"Well," Myndex said, addressing only the other two Jedi, "I guess weíd better get to work."
"You neednít try to understand the conflict," Junst called to them.
"Itís beyond outsiders like yourself. Outlanders never understand the Paqua/Mirnka problem," Nezwish continued.
"Thatís really the only thing we are currently in agreement on: outlanders are not to be trusted."
"That doesnít leave many shades of grey," Andriya murmured.
Nodding in agreement, Myndex began to wander away from the other two Jedi.
"Donít get lost," she counseled.
Andriya turned to Halsten. "You said it would work."
"I said I believed it would work. It might not."
"Letís say it will. How?"
"I donít know how."
"Then why did you say it?"
"Well, one of us had to support the peace process, or we might as well go home."
"I think you have the right idea about the going home bit."
"Master Andriya, we must get a treaty signed for these systems."
"If theyíre not ready for it, any compromise reached here will have no affect on the political situation. Iím not sure--Myndi, duck!" she suddenly yelled. As she said it, Myndex was already obeying. Something sailed through the air where his head had been seconds before. Offhand, Andriya guessed it was whatever Nezwish had been tapping on the table.
"And I donít think theyíre ready for peace," Andriya continued. "We have our work cut out for us."