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, Someone is trying to kill Mara....
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
So I've been writing this story for eons. Since November of last year. I hate however posting before its done so I thought i'd try it on you hoping that it will spur on commentary and get me some feedback. I'm almost at the halfway point and have everything mapped out, but am having difficulty with the bad guys (as usual. In my effort ot not make them 2D and boring, they're turning out to be 2D and boring. When we get to them i'll explain my mindset.
The vision broke away and she could once again hear her master again. That smooth caress against the back of her subconscious. The echo of his last command, You will kill Luke Skywalker...
No! The voice stopped.
She could remember the rules. Do not speak to your mark. Do not show weakness. Do not hesitate. Those rules had been second nature to Mara Jade. She had always been content to remain detached, content to never feel any emotion from those she had murdered.
Murdered. A muffled yell from the corridor broke padded silence and Mara opened her eyes, winced at the blinding white walls and furnishings before refocusing on the woman who had given her what she had asked for.
“Do you remember everything now?” Her dark eyes were fearless, as if she had been waiting for this moment for a long time.
Mara closed her eyes again before answering. “Yes.”
“Are you going to let them kill me? Or are you going to finish the job yourself?” She asked the question as if it mattered no more than what she was going to have for dinner.
“No.” You are not that person anymore. Mara tried to add bite to her words, but knew the prisoner could see through her bluster. “I’m going to give you what you deserve.” She jumped at the sudden clank on the metal doorway, conscious that her hands were shaking. They were trying to get in—and time had suddenly run out.
When Mara glanced back at the woman behind her she was smirking, leaning casually against the wall as if blessed with all the time in the world, “they are going to come after you again. Traitors don’t live forever.”
Chilled, and then hot with a flush of anger of being hunted Mara relaxed her arms so that the vibroblade slipped out of its arm sheath and comfortably into her hand.
Mara? She slammed down her barriers, a sudden heaviness on her chest. Part of her wanted to reach out and tell him that she was alright, but knew it was no longer an option. She no longer had the right. Another clank at the door, which creaked against the strain.
Her captor was coy now, “So you prefer to see my blood, I had rather hoped that I would die by your lightsaber.” Surprised, Mara blinked realizing that her other hand had dropped to where Skywalker’s lightsaber attached to her belt.
Snatching it away Mara hissed, “Shut up,” Just one second and she could be dead. One second and you can pretend that it never happened that ....The door burst open and her danger sense flared with hostility, and in accordance with Luke’s lessons she fell into the Force.
Even when she served the Emperor, hand to hand combat had always been a forte of Mara’s. Before the first man had even cleared the door he was on the floor, an extra obstacle for his friends to wade through. Two seconds after that the next three were lying on top. As the last four leapt over their comrades she was ready and without so much as a whimper, they collapsed—dispatched by several roundhouse kicks and well placed stab wounds.
Realizing the danger had passed, she released her hold on the Force, and with a wrench of pain, something she had gotten used to in the last few months, the room snapped back into focus. The adrenaline remained behind and Mara’s ears pulsed with the sound of her own ragged breathing.
Still feeling numb, Mara looked down at her hands and stared at the crimson that stained them. Her head wrenched up as a gurgle behind her broke the silence and then she backed away, gasping for air. She was still leaning against the wall, but now his hands clenched his stomach, just above the waistband with his nose bent and bleeding flat against her face. Slowly she looked at the woman's midsection and saw the hilt of her blade sticking out from between steady hands.
Spots danced before her, and Mara groped the walls for purchase, instead finding sudden strength from a trickle of the Force. Stay out of my mind Farmboy! But it steadied her nerves, made her see what she had to do next. With the utmost precision she wiped her hands against the dark of her pants then stepped toward the dying man and wrenched out her weapon. No hesitation. Mara felt as if a hundred pounds of steel had been dropped onto her chest.
Once again, Luke’s voice brought her to her senses. Hold it together.
And an afterthought, We’re almost there.
Do not show weakness. Her head snapped to the door. There wasn’t anyway to explain without telling Skywalker the truth and after he had tried to help her—in the end she could only save herself. Mara knew it was time to get away. Releasing her grip on the man’s shirt she sprinted out the door and down six flights of stairs toward one of the entryways at the 250th floor where her speeder had been docked. Coming around the corner she ducked as a shot was fired, and stumbled back to safety where she could listen to the clipped Imperial voices.
“Secondary target has been spotted. New Republic Security Forces have blocked us in. Completing priority mission and then enacting protocol B.”
Clearing her mind she switched out the blade for her handheld blaster, then slapped in a new power pack. Having gotten used to not trusting her Force abilities, Mara peered around to establish targets only to duck quickly back as another shot missed her head. Shavit. With a slow deep breath she stared at the far end of the wall where the other set of stairs were and assessed her options. There. Next to the stairwell, a sign in basic marked it as one with balcony access. Without thinking she burst out from her refuge and began sprinting up the 30 flights of stairs to her final sanctuary. As she ran, and with as much determination as she could muster, Mara Jade began re-closing off her connection to the Force. She knew that maybe just maybe, if Skywalker couldn’t sense her, he wouldn’t find for her, it had almost worked the last time. Mara Jade, Luke Skywalker’s friend, knew it was futile to think that the earnest fool wouldn’t at least enact a search.
Mara stepped out into open air and tried not to think about how the two of them seemed to find themselves on rooftops or balconies at important moments in her life. Though she was aware of the biting winds, she barely felt the sting as her suddenly loose hair slapped against her face. Leaning forward against the low rail to ease the heaviness in her chest, the former Emperor’s Hand stared down pale glittering flashes of gold intersecting and dissecting below her as thousands upon thousands of beings lived their daily lives.
Ironically, in all her time on the city planet, Coruscant had never seemed so beautiful. Maybe it was because once again her entire world had changed—leaving her bereft of resources and contacts, and no home to run to but somewhere far, far away from the people and places she had built her life around.
Reluctantly she pulled away and turned around to face Luke and Corran, then began groping at her side for Anakin’s lightsaber. Already she could see the pity in Luke’s blue eyes. Do not speak to your mark. For a moment she fingered the weapon she had begun to consider as her own, and then tossed it towards the Jedi Master. She had meant to say goodbye, but her words showed no hint of farewell, rather she was brusque, impersonal. “This belongs to you....”
Then the Force betrayed her once again, and somehow another admission for him got through, something she had never admitted even to herself.
I love you.
His eyes widened and she winced at the quick step he took forward. You will kill Luke Skywalker! Without waiting to hear what he would say, her eyes burning with resistance, Mara spun around, and using the railing for support vaulted over the edge of the building and into oblivion.
This post has been edited by jade51999 on Apr 28 2008, 06:44 PM
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
Chapter 1: Memories Long Forgotten
Six months earlier
“Hey, I think the scum ball is about to pull his blaster on the captain.”
Aves glanced over to the far side of the balcony where Crenshaw was covering Mara’s flank. ”What makes you think that?”
“Same Rodian, similar situation but with Gillispee.”
“Shavit.” Aves glanced down at the conversation going below readied his blaster. Years of working with Jade told him that she would sense a double cross, but it didn’t hurt to be ready. He strained his ears and refocused on the conversation below just in time to see the little green urchin pull a quick draw with his sidearm.
He winced, knowing that like so many other meetings lately, Mara was now staring at the wrong end of a blaster. He watched as her face grew cold, hiding the irritation that he also was feeling as she slowly moved her hands away from her own holster and opened them, palms up to show that they were empty. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” When that didn’t get a response, she sighed. “Listen—as a representative of the Smuggler’s Alliance, I have to tell you that if you shoot me, you won’t get any deals out of any of our member organizations. It is really in your best interest to take the deal.”
The Rodian chattered angrily, “You are cheating me.”
Aves frowned as Mara’s eyes flicked towards him. It was almost as if she didn’t think he was there.
Her voice was smooth and cajoling, “I promise, those numbers represent the current market value...”
He cut her off. “No—you work for the Republic. Their numbers lie. “
Crenshaw whistled angrily in his earpiece, “Boss, she’s not going to be happy later.” Aves had to agree, the Rodian’s words were essentially the same argument they had been hearing for months. Another voice broke into the comms—“I think Crenshaw is right, it is the same Rodian from Imfall, and I think we need to teach him a lesson. Do you have a clear angle Aves?”
“I think so, Boss.”
“Then take it.”
Aves leaned forward and pulled the trigger only to jerk the piece away when he saw Mara leap into action. He winced as his shot slammed into the wall inches away from Jade’s head. What is she doing! Within seconds Mara Jade had just taken care of the problem herself with Aves almost killing her in the process.
A small bead of sweat trickled down his face.
He was toast.
Where did my backup go? Groaning inwardly as she sensed four enemies up in the balcony and no friendlies, Mara tried to calm her assailant down. “I promise, those numbers represent the current market value...”
“No—you work for the Republic. Their numbers lie. “
And there you had it, the smugglers not wanting to work with her because she supposedly worked for the New Republic, and the New Republic looking at her like she was bantha poodoo for associating with smugglers. As if both sides didn’t benefit from the others existence anyway. Suddenly she was sick of it. Tired of arguing, tired of waiting for her backup, and tired of listening to everyone around her talk about Skywalker’s love life....
Reaching out with the Force Mara yanked the Rodian’s blaster out of his hand and caught it with her own, swiftly pushing it against the base of his skull. “Listen, you two-faced rat. We had a deal. Either you own up to it, or I’ll make sure you never think again—permanently. And tell your men on the balcony to stand down Now.”
He squeaked and struggled beneath her grip. “I have no men on the balcony...” Mara tightened her grip, and his pitch grew higher, “Stand down! We accept, we accept.”
In the old days she could have just shot him, but now there were other things that needed to be done. “Lets sit down then, there are papers to be signed.”
Three hours later she walked into Karrde’s office and dropped the contracts onto his desk. Folding her hands across her chest she looked at him expectantly.
Leaning back in his chair, Karrde looked up at her with a concerned expression. “I understand you had a little trouble.”
Mara raised a slim eyebrow, “No trouble, nothing I couldn’t handle by myself.”
Karrde’s expression remained mild, “You had backup. Aves, Chin, Horkin, and Crenshaw, They were on the balcony.”
“Are they alright? All I could sense were unfriendlies.”
He looked at her curiously. “There was no one else up there but us.”
Karrde watched as Mara deliberately took a seat before him and stared at the wall behind him. Then he watched as she pressed her lips together, a manner he had recently come to associate with her attempts to touch the Force. Moments later she exhaled angrily before leaning back into her chair.
Her associate stood up and moved around the desk so he was standing before her. “Mara, what’s going on? This is the second time that you thought the operation wasn’t secure. You nearly got killed tonight, breaking protocol.”
Mara tried to play back the events of the afternoon and was able to confirm that her backup had been in place before the Force slithered away. They had been there. Her expression became uncertain, “I couldn’t sense them.”
Karrde frowned, and took in her drawn face, the slightly wrinkled forehead. “Are your headaches back?”
Mara nodded curtly.
Knowing he was treading on dangerous ground, Karrde continued, “It has been a few years since Katana. I know they said it was a result of the neural reconstruction, and that meds.....”
She cut him off, “They’ve been working. I get a headache, I take the pills, the headache goes away.” Mara could tell where this was going—“Look, I had myself checked out last year when they resumed. But the doctor on Coruscant said it was a side effect, and that the length of time I had been EV made it more likely that I would have this problem for a long time.”
Karrde nodded cautiously, “Has it ever affected your ability to touch the Force?”
Mara lied, “No.” There was no reason he had to know about the pain. She stood swiftly, then snapped—“It was a mistake, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again, if you don’t need anything else? I made sure he stood by our pre-negotiated agreement.”
Karrde followed her to the door, “No—Listen Mara.”
“Don’t say it Karrde.”
“Maybe you should go see Skywalker.” The only response he got was a door in his face.
Go see Luke Skywalker. Mara slapped her door control and then stalked into the fresher for her meds. After swallowing two she stripped down to change into something more suitable for a workout. She needed to clear her head.
Mara tried, over a year ago, to talk to the Jedi Master, but she had ended up sharing a meal with Callista Ming. Now she was gone, and he had run off on some wild goose chase to find her. Skywalker had his own problems and Mara was not about to add hers to the mix.
Sighing, Mara stood up, closing her eyes as a lance of pain went through her eyeball. Grasping the back of the chair she exhaled then reached out into the Force to sustain her but gasped as the pain worsened. She had not really been lying earlier. Mara did not have trouble accessing the Force rather it was more like the Force was having problems accessing her. Her danger sense wouldn’t work properly, and there were times where she could no longer sense individual beings in a crowd. When she pulled on it for strength, or for help it felt like sharp pins and needles were racing along her body.
Then there were the visions—not of the future, but rather visions of frightened faces, their life leaking away. Those she understood, she had had those visions since the death of the Emperor.
Slapping the control to her door she stepped out of her quarters only run full into Aves. He steadied her then quickly stepped away, a look of consternation falling across his face.
“Mara—I wanted to make sure you are all right.”
She looked at him curiously “I’m fine.”
“Right.” He hesitated, and Mara flashed an understanding look.
“Listen, I realize I broke protocol. That shot was not your fault. Don’t worry about it.” She shouldered passed him as another twinge caused her eyes to water. One more step and her stomach lurched and she stumbled. “Aves—I think I...”
She felt him catching her as the vision took over.
“You know why you are here?” The man was a little older than her, but his hair and beard were pure white accentuating hard dark eyes.
Mara stood at attention—she had been drawn to Chandrila. “I have come to serve at the behest of my Emperor.”
She opened her eyes and saw Aves staring down at her, his commlink held up to his mouth. Sucking in some air she began coughing then arched her back as the darkness pulled her in again.
She couldn’t breathe. The water was filling her lungs, and electricity crackled everywhere. The edges of her vision were blackening, and she screamed mentally against the pain.
“Are you prepared—“ Mara recoiled inwardly as she recognized the Emperor’s voice, waiting for him to finish his request, but then another voice a, frightened, breathy voice whispered across her subconscious.
“Why are you doing this?” Before she could find out more a bright light brought her back.
“Hey I think she’s coming to.”
“Ghent, stop staring at her, and open the door. We’re at the medbay.”
The bright line shone through her eyelids again and Mara realized that Ghent was shining his penlight into her face. Wrenching them open Mara growled “Zakarias Ghent, if you shine that thing in my eyes one more time I’m going to destroy your I4242 G3 with my lightsaber.”
The light switched off and the blue haired man swore. “You wouldn’t”
Mara sat up hopped off the now stopped stretcher. “Oh I would.”
“But its one of a kind. Do you know how long it took me to find it?”
Mara rolled her eyes, “I do, I’m the one who asked Mirax Horn to put out the requisition order remember?”
Ghent looked embarrassed, “I forgot.”
“Excuse Me, Trader Jade?” Mara turned to the medic that stood patiently waiting, a scanner in her hand.
Mara shook her head. “I’m fine. I just had a Force vision.”
Aves coughed behind her, “That wasn’t a Force vision, you were in pain, and we thought you were going to choke to death.”
Grimacing at the rare assertive tone in Aves’ voice, Mara reluctantly entered the small medical bay, and sat still while the tech checked her vitals with a scanner.
Fifteen minutes later she frowned watching as the tech reset the machine for the third time. “What’s going on?”
Medic Linzero, who also served on the Wilde Karrde as a navigation technician, glanced up at the tension in her face. “You have an elevated heart rate. Your blood pressure is through the roof, and I can tell that you are about to start nursing another one of your migraines.”
Mara tilted her head expectantly, “But?”
“The scanner says there is nothing physically wrong with you.” She hesitated again, before continuing after a look from her patient. “Is it possible that when you passed out, even if it was for quarter of an hour, that you entered one of your healing trances?”
Mara shook her head. “No I was experiencing a Force vision, something that generally does not occur when a Force user goes into a healing trance.”
“Oh.” She blinked. “When was the last time you talked to a neurologist?”
Glad that Karrde was not there to catch her in another lie Mara answered slowly, “Two years.”
Linzero paused before chiding her, “Well, I’m going increase the dosage on the migraine pills they gave you. Next time we stop on Coruscant you should get everything checked out with the proper equipment.”
Mara shook her head, knowing that it wouldn’t make a difference. ”They won’t find anything. These visions were trying to tell me something. As soon as the Force is ready, all of this will go away.”
“But not the headaches.”
Mara frowned then stood up. “Are we done?”
“Take these,“ the medic handed her another bottle of pills, “and come back if things get worse.”
Mara didn’t have the heart to tell her that there wasn’t a chance in hell she would willingly come back. She had withstood these visions and the memories since the death of the Emperor almost ten years earlier.
Nothing had changed. She would keep on living her life, taking what was due, acknowledging that this was the natural result of what she had done as the Emperor’s Hand. Knowing that she never had a choice didn’t change her actions, rather it made her want to remember every loss of life, every victim as evidence that how she lived her life now mattered.
Nodding to the medic, she grabbed her lightsaber off the counter and pushed her way through the door. The only way she would return to the medward was if she had been shot, not over some headaches and memories of a life that she did not deserve to forget.
A sudden shadow in the far corner of the hall caused Danika to pause before she scurried to the dark outline of a door at the end of the hallway. Her hand shook as she reached for the door, making her knock into a a stuttering announcement of her presence, and despite her attempts at reaching some composure the loud groan of the aged door sliding into the warped paneling caused her hands to shake some more.
The Lieutenant had called for her. The Lieutenant had summoned her and she was late.
The austere room she stepped into had a lone desk beside another door, which she knew from hersay led into the Lieutenant's sactom sanctorum. Only five people had seen the inside of that room, and the face of her leader. Of those five three were dead, one stood behind the desk, while the final member of that honored club, was obviously, the Lieutenant himself.
"Do you not understand a direct order Prilet?" The hunchbacked human male slid off the white stool, circumventing the broad augure wood desk before stopping in front of her.
"Yes, Sir." She couldn't drop her head to meet his eyes, Gradin Mirdac viewed that as insubordination, placation of the worst order.
"The Lieutenant is disappointed. He was sure that you were ready for a special assignment."
She exhaled, her body relaxing as a swift feeling of warm pride suffused her limbs "I am." Her voice was pleading, so she tried again straightening back into military stiffness. "I am, sir."
He leaned forwad and she could feel his breath against the top of her arm. "Good. He will see you now. Need I remind you of the rules?"
Danika shook her head, "No, you do not." She was honored. I am honored. This was what she was here to do. This was her job.
Numb, she moved forward, marched rather.
She turned and found herself staring down at the Lieutenant's right hand mind, his thin speckled hair, pulled back into a neat knot, his frighteing dark eyes causing her eyes to water in their directness.
"Remember our mission has changed. It is time for vengeance. Time to avenge our losses. Show any ounce of hesitation and it will be your death, at my hands."
She shivered, then nodded sharply before spinning on one heal to face the entryway again. In stark contrast to the door behind her this one opened like lace in the wind, a ghost of sound. Pulling up her pride, her dillegence Danika Prilet set her chin and marched into the den of the devil.
In the din, the smell hit her first--a musky oder marked by a fringe of burnt wood and electricity. The solitary illumination coming from four single bulbs on each of the four walls highlighted indistinct furniture cluttered and covered with draped fabric in what looked like a working office. As her eyes adjusted a panel on the far side of the room slid open. She could hear shuffling as a hunched figure wrapped in a marroon cloak stepped through, and Danika took an involuntary step back as he moved into the dim lighting. A rush of disgusted familiarity seeped across her consciousness and the inital stab of warmth and exultation at finally meeting her leader, quickly turned into terror as he drew near.
The fabric pooled to the floor and when he reached down to touch her face it took all Danika's willpower to fight the rising bile in her throat. She wanted to run, but it was too late; there was no way out--she was trapped.
The he whispered her mission, and she entered hell.
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
Hey, so once again-self beta'd...trying to figure out villians....
Post II: Old Friends Long Gone
It may have felt a little like déjà vu, but this time everything went smoothly. Standing up abruptly, Mara extended her hand to the woman sitting across from her. “Thank you. I or another representative of the alliance will be in touch. We expect to fix the timetable for the import/export ratio’s by the end of the fiscal year, with a margin for adjustments as needed.”
Nadalia Ditai, a trader based out of the capital city of Nilofar blinked with her wide brown eyes. “I certainly look forward to this relationship. Moving into legitimate work will be good for my reputation.” She snapped her fingers and her entourage followed her out of the venue.
Placing the contract between two sheets of protective glasteel she gathered up the rest of her materials, flipping open her comm in the process. “Aves, Chin—all clear. I don’t sense any additional backup save the standard fare.”
Chin answered, “All clear up here as well, we’ll meet you out front.”
Wrinkling her brow she made her way through the warehouse and out into the crystal clear air of Chandrila’s capital city. Wide avenues were punctuated by small gardens each with its own tapcafe or business park. It evoked a feeling of contentment, and freedom. Feeling lighter than she had in months, Mara handed over the documents to Aves and Chin to take back to the shuttle. She wanted to take one more walk through the city.
Her lightsaber swinging at her side, she took a deep breath and reached for the Force, surprised, once again at how easily it came to her. For some reason it appeared as if the crisis had passed, and while the headaches still came and went, their repercussions within her Force powers had all but disappeared. Two weeks doesn’t mean you’re free.
With a grim set of her chin, she crossed over the main thoroughfare so that she could circle back around toward the docks. From where she stood she could see the shuttle—Gamble Lore
warming up. The clanging of the engines caused her to wince inwardly.
She hated the shuttle. It was bulky and moved like a stormtrooper wearing armor that was far too big. She couldn’t wait to get something of her own, and any day now she would get the design specs for the refitting of her new ship—the Jade’s Fire
. A gift from a client, she was like nothing Mara had ever owned before. Sleek, strong and with a heat that could only be coaxed to its fullest potential it had a heart and warmth that Mara knew would serve her well.
At peace, she made her way through a gabled stone archway and into one of the many free-form parks. Lush emerald brushes, with opaque lavendar flora dotted the three mirroring arches, a pentagonal keystone indicating the direction of the exit. The sweet smelling vidantik seeped into her pores, teaming with life.
This was the sort of place that would feel brilliant through the Force, and instinctively Mara reached out and turned her face toward the sunlight streaming in through the transpirasteel cieling covering the greenhouse. Someting sparkled at the edge of the roof and she froze.
“Mara!” She turned to see Aves and Chin coming up the walkway behind her.
Holding her finger up to her lips she continued to scrutinize the strange flashing on the roof, then peered into the shadows inhabiting the mirroring archway on the far side of the circular paddock. The Force was quiet, and everything in the park was still.Everything
, even the birds, and the bugs except the telltale whir and whoosh of a blaster bolt.
“Son of Sith!” Once again her danger sense had failed to warn her, but this time Mara had been prepared, stalking forward with her lightsaber in her hand; so when the single bolt turned into a rain shower of sparks, she could use the Force to deflect them before they made physical contact.
Above the snap and crackle she could hear Aves and Chin swearing as they retaliated, but she knew that the sharpshooters claimed an advantage. Parry. Thrust. Twist. Duck.
Glancing to her left to duck another shot her eyes widened. Standing to her side, not more than a 100 yards away was the man from her dream. He was almost twenty years older, but his eyes were something she could never forget. Gradin Mirdac. He had taught her infiltration techniques along with ways to close her mind if she were to ever get captured and tortured for information. He had been the one to teach her some of the most important skills she had ever needed.
But she had seen
him die, watched with fear as the Emperor tore him apart. She deflected another shot, hissing breaths as she struggled to figure out what was going on.
Then, just as soon as it had started, it stopped. In the silence Mara could hear only the hum of her lightsaber as she turned in a furious circle. What just happened? When no other shots came she sprinted to the far archway where Mirdac had gone. In front there were a set of stairs, obviously leading up to the roof where the sharpshooters had been, with two sets of hallways on either side. Shavit. Running up to the roof, with both of her coworkers steps behind her she unlatched her blaster, moving it to stun. If I can get one of them alive...
When they got to the top of the roof, there was no one save three smoldering droids. Experience told her that whomever had been the fourth had been the one to set off the self-destruct and had somehow managed to escape without her sensing or seeing them. Mara felt chilled as she realized what that meant. I never believed that my problems had just disappeared. Standing still she winced as a sudden jolt of pain went through her head. Not now.
“Mara.” She turned to Aves’ voice, unsure why the pain seemed to be spreading down her arm.
“Mara, you’ve been hit.”
An hour later Mara fingered the bacta patch on her shoulder, feeling the numbness radiate out as the gel integrated itself with her injured skin. The pounding of her head had dimmed with the pain killers from the medical personnel that had responded to the scene. It would suffice until she got back to the Wilde Karrde.
Slowly she left the docking berth and made her way back through the circular courtyard whose white and green iridescence would have, on any other day, provided a measure of solitude and comfort. Taking her time up the stairs, she stretched out looking for answers in her force sense—but wasn’t surprised to feel a small twinge as the flow poured through her.
In the time she had been with the medic’s the authorities seemed to have made a decision to not take apart the crime scene. Instead they had begun comprehensively cataloging the parts that ended up being spread out over a third of the rooftop terrace surrounding the courtyard.
Seeing her arrive, Talon Karrde walked over and gestured to the metallic carnage behind him. “Any ideas on what this was about?”
Mara shook her head, “None.”
Stroking his mustache Karde nodded, “New Republic Intelligence is coming soon. Apparently these droids are pre-Yavin but with some clear modifications.”
She pursed her lips, ignoring the pointed look he gave to her bacta patched arm. “They were programmed to originally shoot on a repeating arc. Whoever developed these had them tighten their beams in a more directed manner. Also, while not a modification, the earlier versions of the probe droid were supposed to explode by breaking into pieces, while now they do what we see here—actually fry their own mother board.”
Karrde stared at her litany, a response disappearing from his lips. He had long since ceased to become surprised by his former second-in-command’s knowledge of weaponry. “I’ve already sent out some feelers. It is entirely possible you walked into a turf war. While Chandrila is relatively peaceful, certain neighborhoods have become marked territories.
Again she gave her head short shake. “No. This feels….” She trailed off, feeling the twinge as she felt through the Force. “Personal.” More subdued she looked down at the courtyard.
“Mara,” She turned.
“We think we may still be able to get some information from the droids, Ghent is already processing it. We should have something by this afternoon. “
A sense of relief washed over her and Mara glanced at her chrono. “If there is any information on those boards, he’ll find it.”
The two of them made their way down to the shuttle and took the quick hop over to the larger ship, currently waiting in orbit.
She was nearly to her quarters when the throbbing began again a low hum at the base of her temple. Shavit
. Instead of going back to the room, and refusing to accept this change in schedule she scooped up the lightsaber, jogged down to the gym and then locked the door. She had too much adrenaline in her system to lie down, and there was no sense in a wayward crewmember walking into her personal firefight.
Setting up the remote, she raised her blade to a guarded position and began to deflect the shots. Without touching the Force the remote provided a challenge of instinct and reflexes, but when a bolt came dangerously close to her chest she, out of habit, reached for guidance. The resulting stab of pain caused her eyes to water, and Mara was barely aware of her lightsaber clattering to the floor. Automatically pressing her hands against her eyes she gasped as another jolt of pain caused her to collapse, her knees slamming to the ground. Still, she held back from losing consciousness only to lose her grip when the sound of screaming pushed her head first into the specter of the past.“You know why you are here?” The man was a little older than her, but his hair and beard were pure white accentuating hard dark eyes.
Mara stood at attention—she had been drawn to Chandrila. “I have come to serve at the behest of my Emperor.”
“You come here freely, with full knowledge of the tasks you shall undertake, the training you shall undergo.”
“Very well—“ The man gestured to a datapad on the table. “Your first assignment, to prove your loyalty.”
The image dissolved and she heard voices coming from inside the locked room. Then the room darkened again. “Why are you doing this?” The woman’s eyes were wide with fear.
Mara stood in front of her, ignoring the blinking lights of the city through the glasteel windows. The rush of adrenaline filled her veins.
She had been made for this.
The woman was pleading now, her face featureless—begging for her life, as if she had done nothing wrong.
Mara shot her. The blue stun bolts reverberated and spiraled slowly and the woman crumpled to the grown a whimper escaping her lips.
Frowning Mara looked down at her blaster, then flipped the switch from ‘stun’ to ‘kill’. Moving so that she was standing before the prone figure she pointed the blaster and pulled the trigger again.
The image swirled out again, and Mara opened her eyes to see the concerned figure of Shirlee Faughn peering over her. She began to rise, and fell back again when another flash of pain hit her. She couldn’t breathe. The water was filling her lungs, and electricity crackled everywhere. The edges of her vision were blackening, and she screamed mentally against the pain.
Suddenly the pressure holding her down was removed and she fell to the side of the trough.
“You have done well my child.”
At the sound of his voice she rolled to her feet and went into a kneeling position, still trying to catch her breath. “I have done everything you asked.”
“Are you ready to take your place by my side? Are you ready to fulfill your destiny?”
She gasped as an eddy of warmth suffused her skin, drying her skin. “My master, I am ready to serve.”
“Then look at me.”
Mara lifted her eyes to look at the red rimmed wrinkled eyes of her Master, Emperor Palpatine. The warmth inside her shifted and she could feel his presence in her head—she could sense his wants, desires—she could tell what he wanted from her. Then his sense tightened and became more focused, and everything clicked into place.
This time the words were not spoken aloud, rather they vibrated inside her head, oozing with his presence and command.
Welcome, my Hand—there is much work to be done.
Talon Karrde watched as members of his crew offloaded the shuttle with goods they had picked up from Chandrila. While he was standing on the deck of his flagship, his thoughts were far away, thinking about the events of the day. Mara obviously was in ignorance to the danger she was in, but this was the second job in under a month where she had been injured. As much as he would like to hope that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, part of him knew that something bigger was going on.
Flicking open his commlink he spoke to Control. “This is Karrde. I need to locate Luke Skywalker. Send the information to my terminal as well as Mara’s.” He snapped it shut.
Walking to a terminal, he also sent Mara a list of instructions for the upcoming trade meetings on Coruscant. There were a number of people she needed to meet, but he had recently learned of some receptions that she needed to drop by. Generally Mara had been performing her duties as the head of the Smuggler’s Alliance from her offices on Coruscant. It was only the most recent set of runs, where the smugglers in question required some hand holding from Karrde that caused Mara to move back into her old berth on the Wild Karrde.
His comm beeped, “Karrde here.”
Faughn’s breathless voice came over the receptor, “Its Mara. I saw her go into the practice room and we were watching through the two-way vid in security when she suddenly went into convulsions.”
Karrde’s heart dropped. “Is she secure?”
“We’re waiting for the gurney, but she’s fighting us pretty hard.”
He could feel concern, “No. She’s in some sort of---trance, not like any of the others I’ve seen her go into.”
As they talked Talon had started to make his way to the medward, but at this began shifting toward the gym capsule—“I’m nearly there.” As he rounded the corner he noticed that Mara was on the floor, but attempting to get up.
At the sound of her name, his former second in command jerked her head up. Her eyes were closed, and her hands were seeking something. Looking down at his feet Karrde saw her lightsaber, and picked it up. She doesn’t look like she’s awake, but she responds to external stimuli.
Frowning, he began making his way towards her, and was surprised when she jerked away from Aves and Ghent’s grasp. In one swift motion she had removed her blaster from her forearm holster and pointed it at Karrde.
Sensing his crew’s consternation Karrde began to walk towards the petite woman, aware that she could single handedly dispatch everyone in the room without drawing a second breath. He called her name again, “Mara.”
No response. “Mara—“ He couldn’t say anything else, but watched with horror as she pulled the trigger. He had just enough time to feel relief when the stun bolts slammed into him. As he lay, fighting unconsciousness, he saw a shadow move in above him. Mara Jade wake up!
She obviously couldn’t hear him, and with a sense of morbid fascination he watched as she shifted the blaster to kill before the darkness closed in.
Mara jerked up then fell back as her body met resistance. For a moment she struggled against her bonds then, with her eyes fighting the blinding overhead lights—she lay back against the pillows, breathing heavily as she tried to assess her predicament. The Emperor needed her—The Emperor? He’s dead.
As the room became clear, she sensed Faughn fumbling at the buckles. “Thank the Force. Mara—relax, I’m undoing your restraints.” As part instinct, and part survival, and maybe with some of the rush from her vision still pumping through her veins, the second she was free Mara leapt out of the bed and into a defensible position.
“Mara” Faughn’s face was full of aprehension. “You’ve been out for seven hours.”
“Seven hours.” Incredulous she slumped back onto the bed, repeating herself “Seven hours.”
The sound of running footsteps prevented Faughn from answering. Both of them looked to the door as Ghent ran in absently staring down at a datapad in his hand.—“I heard a noise. I thought you might need help again.”
Mara turned back and looked at her friend with a raised eyebrow. She had made noise enough to break through Ghent’s haze. Emperor’s Black Bones!
Faughn shrugged, displaying a nonchalance though Mara could tell her from her expression that her thoughts were etched with worry. “We had to restrain you, and there were a few moments when we thought you were choking.”
Ghent glanced down at an electronic device in his hand. “You stunned the captain.”
Remembering the second part of her vision, where she killed Verinta Doklit. “Son of Sith. I didn’t....” She trailed off.
Faughn glared at Ghent reproachfully, “You were in a trance. We were carrying you here so that the medic’s could take a look, and you broke free grabbed your blaster and shot Karrde point blank. It was minimally charged, so he was barely knocked unconscious.”
Mara was horrified, knowing that the events form her memory had been taking place in reality. For the first time in a long time she could feel the Force surrounding her, comforting her. Her head was clear—and painless, but she still felt a pang of fear.
It had started over four years ago when she first stumbled upon Luke Skywalker’s ship in the middle of nowhere. At first it had been only the Last Command, but following her ejection above the Katana fleet—other splashes of the past broke through her dreams. The headaches began after the death of Luuke on Wayland.
Mara had worked long and hard to keep her headaches and their result from affecting her work, but now she had shot her boss, her friend.
“Where’s Karrde now?” She winced at the glance that Faughn and Aves, who had come in behind Ghent, exchanged.
Aves was the one who spoke up, “He’s in bacta.”
Mara shot to her feet. “You said I stunned him.”
Faughn ran back to her side, and gently pushed her back into the bed. “You did. But then you switched the power pack to kill, and Ghent barely had time to push you away. Unluckily the bolt still hit Talon, but in the lower leg.”
Conscious to the fact that everyone was staring at her, Mara gripped the sheets on the bed, clenching her fists angrily. Her face remained non-committal, hiding the sinking feeling of disgust in the pit of her stomach.
Answering her unspoken question Aves cleared his throat, “He’ll be out in less then half a day.”
“What did the medic’s give me to break me out of the trance?” Faughn looked at her a little guiltily. “We couldn’t give you anything, your veins wouldn’t allow it.” She bit her lip, “Instead we brought in some Ysalmiri.”
Mara stared at her, realizing that even though she was used to it, the Force was virtually absent from the room. “Smart thinking.” She looked back down at her hands, willing herself to make a decision.
As if he was reading her mind Aves spoke softly. “Karrde was conscious before they put him into bacta. He knew you would have to leave for Coruscant before he left, if you awoke, that you wouldn’t let someone else go in your place.”
Mara nodded, waiting for him to finish.
“He said that before the incident he had sent some instructions.” Aves paused, as if he was afraid of what Mara would do if he said anything. “He also sent me to get this from Control.” He handed her a small piece of flimsy.
On it were a list of planets, a travel itinerary to some extent followed by a name and a Coruscanti voicestorage box. Luke Skywalker, relay
Mara dropped her chin to her chest, exhaled and then stood up. “I’ll take it from here.”
Danika chose her words carefully, but forcefully. "No sir, I did not."
He ignored her, his eyes manic. "I warned you, that if you did not complete your mission, what the consequences would be."
"I did not fail, something spooked her before the droids could get off thier shots."
The scar near his eye twitched. "Is she dead?"
"No." She breathed the word, the desperation leaking out.
She shook her head, pale hair slapping the sides of her face. It had taken all her courage to speak up a moment ago; now with the rage suffusing the Lieutenants features she didn't dare to beg for mercy.
"Then there can be no resolution." He moved behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders and squeezing tightly. "Your one task to prove yourself, to become one of us was to complete your mission."
Shaking, Danika bit her tounge to keep herself from crying out, the bitter taste of blood trickling down her throat. The words struggled to get out, "I...did not fail. I promise I will do my duty." Just as soon as the pressure started, it was gone, and her head was yanked up so she was looking directly into his blue eyes.
"Make sure you do so. The Emperor's Hand failed at her primary mission--she must
die, and if that does not happen--you will suffer the consequences." His hands moved to hold the side of her head and for a moment she felt a brief snatch of pain.
Then he was gone--and it was a long time before Danika could summon the energy to go back to her quarters. Mara Jade will pay for her past, one way, or another.
It was hard for Mara to keep the bile from rising in her throat as she watched Karrde bob in the vat of pink goo. His eyes were closed which gave her the luxury of avoiding his stare that she knew would communicate pity and understanding.
She never wanted to see the pity; and would never be ready for the understanding. For now though, she would sit-reveling in the solitude; the only sounds coming from the bacta tank both predictable and soothing.
Catapulted away from the glittering glory and the confidence that had surrounded her service to the Empire, Mara had learned to live without her Force abilities. At the time she assumed it was her special connection which had made her strong, and that with her master's death, she was nothing. But then slowly, in cycles, the power, premonitions and then compulsions returned--only to disappear again as she fled the newest
life she had created. Until Karrde.
He had trusted her, and asked her to be someone who could be trusted, and with her vindication over the Emperor's Last Command she had realized just how much she valued that unconditional approval.
Now she couldn't trust herself. These visions, they were changing. Everything that she had seen had
happened, but not quite in the way she had dreamed, and certainly not with a feeling certainty that permeated the actions of her dream self. She sighed, then pushed herself off the bed, trying not to think about them. What she really needed was information—and that involved the long avoided conversation with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.
Upon her arrival back at her quarters Mara slid into the seat in front of the holocomm. Taking a moment she forged ahead, quickly keying in Luke’s relay—sure that he was not back yet from his search. It was quick, and Mara kept her message short and in hindsight, uncharacteristically apologetic. She exhaled, and knowing she could not do anything about her problems, went ahead and keyed up her other messages. Reaching for her datapad she began making notes for her schedule on Coruscant. Her hand stilled as she came across the last message Karrde had sent before she had shot him.
It was then that Mara knew that she was terrified. Terrified that--like it or not-- Karrde, Dankin, Aves, Chin, Crenshaw, Faughn and the others had become family, and that without them she would once again be adrift, lost with only her loneliness and bitter memories. Biting her lip Mara berated herself and tried to regain some semblance of control before glancing again at the last meeting on the agenda. Send congratulations to the engagement of General Wedge Antilles and New Republic Intelligence liaison Iella Wessiri.
Making a notation she moved on to the next message where a small sense of wistfulness stole across her features. Maybe there was something else to look forward to. The final datapacket on her desktop were the final tech specs for her new ship, from Skoya. Aside from the enhanced detailing, which was merely cosmetic, Mara had asked for an upgrade on all weaponry, as well as a boost on the sublight drive. Scanning to make sure the changes were what she had asked for, she sent back her approval--if she was lucky her new ship would be ready by the end of the conference.
Which left her only one thing to do. With three hours left before her transport was scheduled to leave Mara settled herself crosslegged on her bed. The only way she could think of to protect herself and those around her was to reign in her emotions, to stop herself from actively reaching out for the Force. Centering herself the way Luke had taught her during her brief stint at the Academy, she began to lay out her plan.
Talk to Skywalker, pick up the Jade's Fire
, and then.....find Gradin Mirdac and figure out how he had surivived.
Then, no matter what the cost, no matter what she would lose, she had to figure out a way to wipe the blood from her hands. This post has been edited by jade51999 on May 12 2008, 09:03 PM
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
Mara goes through the ringer in this post as well..Obviously, I would post these in shorter segments but here you go with all of part iii
Post III: A Certain Point of View
It had been eight months and three days since he had last been in his apartment on Coruscant. eight months and three days since he had checked his messages, glanced around the room and then left for the Meredian sector.
He didn’t need much, but already Luke Skywalker felt like he was home. Corran Horn had once told him that the apartment was soothing, that at his first meeting with ‘Master Skywalker’ this space had helped him heal from the wounds of having Mirax suddenly ripped from him. At this moment, three months after finally accepting what he should have when she had first said goodbye, the uncluttered life Luke Skywalker had been steadily building before that fateful mission on the Eye of Palpatine now felt like it was all he needed.
Dropping his bag on the couch and removing his cloak, Luke checked the cooling unit and smiled to himself before striding over to the communications unit. A few moments later his sisters face pixilated in front of him.
“Good Morning, Leia”
He felt her reach for him while glancing down at the relay before her face broke into a radiant grin, “You’re on Coruscant? Welcome back!”
“Thanks, “He tilted his head towards the kitchen, “and thanks for restocking the cooling unit.”
She looked puzzled, and then comprehension dawned. “Tell that Threepio. I think R2 sent him a message from wherever you were last. Han and I wondered at what all the extra groceries were for.”
Luke chuckled, feeling light, “What would we do without those droids.”
His sister shook her head ruefully before her face brightened. “Are you in for a while?”
“I think so, I have some messages to catch up on. Kam and Tionne needed some reports looked over—“ He raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“There is some news—from Wedge, but I’m sure he’ll want to tell you personally.” Leia flashed him a smile—then looked behind her. “Sorry, the kids are up and I have to go into the office—but I’ll see you tonight.”
Luke nodded, “Dinner?”
She winked at him, “Something like that. Let us just say it has been a long time coming.” As her image faded away he leaned forward and switched over to his inbox to listen to his messages.
The first few were requests from NRI to be debriefed about the events in the Meredian sector. Those Luke immediately answered, making an appointment to talk to Cracken’s agents later in the week. Then there were the reports from Kam and Tionne which he, transferred to his datapad and left for later in the day. There was a strange message from Wedge asking Luke to call him when he got in, and one from the Wild Karrde.
He frowned, the file was awfully small, he glanced down saw it was voice only and adjusted the volume control to listen.
In typical Mara Jade fashion the message was short and succinct. “Skywalker, I need to talk to you,“ There was silence for a few seconds and Luke had to check and see if the message was over before hearing her voice again, softer than before--“I know this isn’t the best time for you, but just contact me when you get back. Jade out.”
Frowning, Luke began entering the relay for the Wilde Karrde’s message system when an incoming call came through—
“Skywalker here—Wedge!” Luke smiled at the harried features of one of his oldest friends. “Is everything alright? I thought I would wait until a decent hour to call you—I didn’t want to wake you up.”
Wedge laughed, his face breaking into a wide grin. “Everything is great—I wouldn’t call it a vacation, I actually just got back from Adumar.”
“Something about helping to form a planetary government?”
Wedge glanced to his side, “And a few other things, least of all involving me getting Tycho, Hobbie and Janson into women’s clothing.”
Luke let out a short laugh. “You’ll have to tell me about that.” There was something in Wedge’s demeanor that seemed relaxed, as if something had finally settled. “What happened to the vacation?“
His friend grimaced, “Cracken happened, but that is all part of a larger story.“ Someone next to him said something—“There’s someone here who wants to say hello,“ Wedge reached over and pulled a petite blonde woman into view.
It had been a long time since he had spoken to Iella Wessiri face to face. They had met a few times when Luke had to drop off intelligence to NRI headquarters or at a get together at Corran and Mirax Horn’s place. He had known that at one point Wedge had been interested in her, but had thought all of that had faded away when his friend started dating Qwi Xux. He remembered Wedge’s message saying he was headed out for a few weeks, and that Qwi and he were over---
Suddenly it all made sense, “Iella, Wedge--am I sensing that congratulations are in order?”
The NRI agent smiled, “Yes, actually Wedge and I would like to invite you to our engagement party tonight. Leia didn’t think you would be back in time, and if it is too short notice we completely understand, especially since you have not been on Coruscant in so long, but we would be incredibly happy if you could come.”
Pushing away the small twinge of emotion, Luke embraced the couple’s infectious joy. “Not short notice at all, I’ll be there.”
She smiled again, then glanced down at an audible beep from a personal commlink. Shrugging she sighed, then flashed another brilliant grin. “I’ll leave Wedge to fill you in on the gory details. I have to finish up some work before tonight, but we’ll talk later.”
Luke watched his friend watch his fiancé leave the screen before turning back to him. He raised his eyebrows, “So?”
Wedge let out a short laugh, “Lets just say we finally got it together. “ He elaborated for a minute explaining that the reception was semi-formal and who else was going to be there. “I’m going to need your help keeping Janson in line. He’s determined to get back at me.”
Laughing at his predicament Luke nodded sagely, “I’ll do my best.”
At the Jedi’s attempt at seriousness Wedge Antilles, General in the New Republic, former commander of Rogue Squadron actually looked at his friend for the first time, “How are things with you? “
Keeping his emotions in check Luke responded with a note of caution. “I’m better. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ll be fine.”
Wedge gave him an understanding glance, “Good. I’ll see you tonight?”
“Sure, is there anything you need help with?”
“Just bring yourself. The Rogues will take care of the fun. Antilles out”
Slumping back into his seat, Luke ran his fingers through his hair. For three months he had worked on getting Callista out of his system, running around on various missions for Leia and recruiting new students. A night out was just what he needed.
Smoothing her dress, Iella Wessiri dropped down into the empty board room while she waited for her last appointment of the day. Pulling out her datapad she flipped through the information reminding herself of the disturbing intel that had been filtering through an Imperial resource in recent hours.
A small tap on the door brought her head up to see her fiancé at the door, his jacket swung over his shoulder.
She shook her head, “I am ready though, and luckily my next appointment is attending the trade reception next door—so it all works out.”
“Ah, “ He glanced down at his feet for a second, “You look great.”
“Oh Wedge,” Iella let out a short laugh—then paused as someone hovered behind him. She raised her voice “Mara, in here.”
Wedge glanced behind him at the trader and moved to the side to let her in. “Hello Mara, its good to see you. How’s the organization running?”
Mara tilted her head in greeting, “Not bad, considering.” She handed him a small box, “Karrde wanted me to send his congratulations—this is from me, and there are some flowers down in the reception room from his organization.“
Iella’s eyes narrowed, “How the man gets his information is something of a mystery." She brightened and nodded her head in thanks before adding jokingly, "I’ll check to make sure they’re not bugged.” She noted a slight twitch in the trader’s otherwise stoic face.
Clearing his throat Wedge gave them a little wave, “I’m going to go down to catch any early arrivals.”
Iella nodded and gestured to the seat in front of her taking in the cream pantsuit Mara wore. It was a little more business then she was used to seeing Jade in, but then again the Trade conference was a networking event, and Iella supposed that one couldn’t wear catsuits everywhere. “First off, I just wanted to let you know that we just received this information a little after the shooting occurred on Chandrila. I wish we had known earlier, so you could have been on your guard.”
The trader’s green eyed stare was a little unnerving, “It wasn’t anything we couldn’t have handled.”
Iella nodded, “I’m sure.” She pushed the datapad forward, before beginning, “For the last six months NRI has been tracking a group of Imperial renegade splinter cells. Ones that do not seem to be working in concert with the current Imperial hierarchy.”
Mara took the datapad and began sifting through the material, suddenly looking up sharply. “This is a hit list.”
Iella was surprised to see shock in Jade’s eyes, “You haven’t heard anything about this?”
The red head shook her head, “I know we’ve been keeping track but this is new to me, but then again since I’ve been running the Smuggler’s Alliance I haven’t been privy to much of the intelligence I used to have access to. “ Her green eyes narrowed, “What does this have to do with me?”
Iella cocked her head toward the datapad, “you see the pattern.”
“They’re all former Imperials, who now have close ties to the New Republic.” Mara hissed, the slapped her open palm on the table realizing what the meeting actually was about. “This isn’t the full list.”
Iella tilted her head and nodded, “This afternoon our sources sent us some new information, it’s the second file.” She waited patiently as Mara read the information. “I’m fairly certain that Karrde will have the same intel if he doesn’t have it already, but since you were currently on Coruscant anyway...” Iella trailed off as a flash of anguish made its way across Mara Jade’s face. “Is there something I need to know?”
Mara shook her head, her face returning to the stoniness that Iella Wessiri had long associated with the former Emperor’s Hand. “No, Karrde has been unavailable for the last few weeks, and I’ve been running around for these trade meetings. There hasn’t been time to touch base.”
It was a curious feeling, knowing that someone was lying to your face. If it were any other day Iella would have called the trader on it, but at that moment her chrono pinged reminding her of the time. Leaning forward she rapped her knuckles on the table—“I’m sure you’re well aware that the New Republic can’t do anything specific to protect you. That being said we have some plans in motion to bring down this cell, but it will take time. You may want to make sure to have an extra bodyguard or two.”
Mara shrugged, “It isn’t everyday someone tells you that you’re the number one target for assassination. “ Her voice was bitter, “Don’t worry about me Iella. I’m used to taking care of myself.” Standing she made her way to the door then turned around hesitating before she added, “thanks, and congratulations again.”
For a moment Iella sat back in her seat staring at the place where moments ago, Mara Jade had sat. What a strange sad woman. Her commlink chirped, and she slid it open. “I’ll be right there.”
Situated near the Senate Chambers, the Remart Towers boasted numerous dining establishments and reception rooms for dignitaries and private parties. The upper floors included state of the art rooms, available for rent as well as apartments for those constantly concerned with security. On any given day holoreporters could be seen camping out to catch a glimpse of a Senator or celebrity attending one of the functions. Today was no different.
Mara scowled as she nearly ran into a reporter skulking their way up the hallway where Wedge Antilles and Iella Wessiri’s engagement reception was taking place. Turning the corner, she pointed the man out to the nearest guard, and smirked with a measure of satisfaction at the protests of the young humanoid as he was dragged out of the hallway. The smirk soon faded away as her commlink chirped for the fifth time. Without picking it up she walked into the nearest turbolift and punched the button for her temporary quarters.
Talon would be out of bacta by now. She knew he would have looked over his backlog of intel reports, seen the same data and come to the same conclusions as Wessiri. That being said, Mara wasn’t under any illusions about the NRI’s tipoff. She was sure that the intel had been passed on owing probably to her relationship with Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa Solo rather than any concern for her well being. Mara couldn’t face her friend and former employer just yet, not until she understood exactly what was going on with her Force abilities.
For the first time since hearing the information, Mara let herself feel the danger she was in. The shootout on Chandrila had not been random, that had been clear enough. What had remained murky though was the motivation behind the attack—something Mara still was having trouble grasping. Taking a quick look down the hallway, she let herself into her room. Her current apartments on Coruscant were in the process of renovation, and practicality had dictated she stay as close to the reception site as possible. Methodically Mara began to dress herself, pulling a long deep purple gown from the rack.
The Rodian. Was that a coincidence as well, or was he part of the plan? Her hand stilled zipping up the dress as she contemplated that particular disruption to her job.
“Shavit.” She glanced at the time, replaced her jewelry, and began the process of unwinding her hair, leaving it draped into loose waves past her shoulder. The reception tonight would afford her many contacts for the Alliance, some semi-respectable smugglers who spent much of their time keeping up their fronts as legitimate businessman and women.
Opening the closet she stared at her profile in the floor length mirror. Made of silk it was fitted to her form and came down to mid back. The neck in front was subtle while the sleeves came down to her elbow with slits that were punctuated with a purple diadem at the shoulder and elbow. As with all of her gowns though, Mara had an added bonus, a matching forearm band that allowed her to clip in ID and her commlink on one side. Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear she checked her datapad for messages, unsurprised to see one from Karrde as well as a brief line from Luke intimating that he had returned to Coruscant and would be willing to meet her for a discussion. As she entered the turbolift she realized that Luke would probably be attending the engagement.
Mara squelched that thought from going forward. There was absolutely no way she was going to search out Skywalker and pull him away from his family and friends, just when he got back. What right do I have....
“Well look who we have here.”
Sithspit. Always, when she least expected it. She turned and glared without any real malice at the speaker.
“Mara Jade, you certainly are a vision tonight.” Lando Calrissian swept up her hand and pressed his lips to her hand in greeting.
“Lando.” A warning flashed through her eyes. They had been working on a project of Karrde that had recently been shelved. Unfortunately he had taken their cover story much too seriously—and insisted on romancing her at every possible public event.
“Will you allow me to escort you into the reception?”
“Do you want me to take my knife to your cloak again?”
He raised his hands in mock surrender, “Alright, Alright. After you—“ He gestured to the turbolift door that had slid open.
Relenting a little, Mara offered him her arm, “Come on—what is it that Solo calls you? Ah yes, Come on, you old smoothie.”
Lando laughed, accepted the offer and they made their way into the bustle of people inside where, each spotting contacts they needed to cultivate, they parted company.
Two hours later, He was tapping her on the shoulder, a puzzled expression on his face. He held out his commlink—“Karrde, he said that he couldn’t reach you on yours...”
Keeping her face free of emotion Mara turned back to her contacts, excused herself then plucked the commlink from Lando’s hand briskly walking out to the open air terrace adjoining the reception room.
“Mara, listen to me—“
“Talon, I’m—“But the tone in his voice, one that Talon rarely used with his subordinates stopped her from continuing.
“Mara Jade. I am ordering you to listen. I don’t know what’s going on. I respect your need to figure out what is happening to your Force abilities, but I am telling you, as your former employer that you do not get to decide when to ignore your comms. I’ve been out of bacta for two weeks and we just received some intel—“
At this Mara interrupted. “I know. Iella Wessiri warned me.”
There was silence at the other end, “I wonder what she wants in return.”
Mara was silent, waiting for a reprimand that never came.
“You never need to apologize for an accident. You have saved me more then enough times because of your Force abilities, so if it backfires once in a while, it is fine. No lasting injury.”
She coughed, not sure where the sudden flush of emotion was coming from, “Thank you.”
His voice still filled with mild reproach “May the Force be with You, be careful. Now get back to the reception.”
“Yes, sir.” Mara snapped the comm. off, and walked out to find Lando. As she made her way out a waitress approached and handed her a drink, “Compliments of Mr. Calrissian.”
Mara allowed herself a small smile, then taking the crystal flute, threaded her way through the attendees looking for Lando. She eventually found him outside the hall talking to a tall man wearing a suit vest, and a jacket swung over his shoulder.
Using the hand holding the comm., Mara lifted her dress and gracefully navigated some steps and traders to approach the pair. “Are you two planning your next Saabac match? If so, I want front row seats.” She glanced back at the second man, “Hello Solo, playing hookey from the engagement party?”
Han shook his head, “Something came up at the office involving tomorrow’s legislative session. I told Leia I would meet her here.” His eyes flickered between Lando and Mara.
Crossing her arms, idly swirling the amber liquid in her glass Mara tilted her head towards Calrissian before using her now free hand to hand him his comm.. “Thanks, Karrde was just letting me know some intel, but NRI had already beaten him to it.”
Lando looked at her curiously, it wasn’t normally in Mara’s nature to explain
Grimacing, Mara knew she was acting out of character, but with Solo there she was fighting a urge to bring up his brother-in-law. Slowly she lifted the drink to her lips but paused mid way as she saw the guards at the end of the hall suddenly stand tall. “Solo. I think Madame Chief of State has arrived.” She watched as Han glanced back behind him, before turning fully to watch his wife’s progress up the stairs. It was strange, even though Mara was not actively touching the Force, she could feel the warmth emanating from Luke’s brother in law. His love for his wife was apparent by the way his face shifted as she made her approach, in the way his eyes traced the outline of her face with every step she took. Her black lace gown a picture of elegance, and Mara squelched a sudden feeling of envy.
Unsure of why this made her so uncomfortable Mara jiggled the glass in her hand, before turning back to Calrissian. “I think I’m heading out for the evening, Karrde just ordered a few more reports in the morning.” She paused, then added a short bow with her head. “As usual, Lando, it has been interesting.”
Saying goodbye to Solo she began looking for a place to put down the drink when someone tapped her on her arm. “Mara Jade.” Recognizing the voice she swung around and found herself staring at the laughing face of Mirax Horn.
“Mirax” The woman’s long black hair had been pinned up and she wore a green dress that reminded Mara of Corran’s eyes.
“Is your commlink broken?”
Mara blinked, “No.”
“Corran had heard you were on planet and was trying to set up a sparring match.”
Feeling a little embarrassed that in her haste to screen calls from Karrde she had missed a few others, “I’m only here until the morning. I’m picking up my new ship from the Skoya shipyards in two days.”
The petite woman shrugged her shoulders, “That’s alright. He’ll be disappointed, but maybe he can convince Luke to spar with him.” She smiled, “Anyway, I was also looking for you because I think I found some contacts for you—for those lasers you were looking for.”
Mara took a minute before answering, “Thanks, I think I found a temporary solution, but having the L1’s will go a long way to making the ship perfect.” Realizing she was still holding the drink Mara lifted it up, licking her lips as she realized that Lando had gotten her a ’52 Zendil--her favorite. That man is too smooth. The thought had barely flittered across her consciousness when a shout and a woman’s hand smashed the glass from her, slicing her hand open as it crashed to the floor.
Leia could feel his eyes on her as she traversed the stairs leading up to the first floor reception room. Feeling mischievous, she stared back not bothering to hide her own admiring glace. After all these years her scoundrel cut a pretty clean figure, even though he hated dressing up. At the top landing she spotted Lando next to Han and Mirax Horn walking briskly across the floor in a flowing green gown that Leia thought might be an original Vanar.
As she stood there, something prickled across her senses, pulling her steps toward Mirax and the woman she was talking to. The sense of danger was mounting, but she could tell that it had nothing to do with her own personal safety, rather it was explicitly telling her that something terrible was about to happen—something that she needed to stop.
Gripping both sides of her dress she jogged lightly, realizing as she went halfway across the foyer that the tall red-haired woman was Mara Jade. I can not sense her at all. Frowning she watched as Jade lifted her flute of wine to her lips, about to take a sip—and felt herself physically being pushed by the Force to knock it out of the smuggler’s hands. “Don’t drink that!”
The glass crashed to the floor and within seconds Leia felt herself being slammed against the wall with a vibroblade to her throat. It was only for a moment but as Leia stared into Mara’s green eyes, she could sense a level of fear and anguish that quickly changed to horror when she realized who she had attacked.
“Stars of Alderaan,” Mara breathed, instantly removing her hand from the Chief of Staff’s neck and opening her palm to let the blade drop to the floor. Without answering, Leia turned to her Noghri who had silently come to her aid, “Ekihman, Arikak stand down. Mara Jade is on the safe list”
“As you wish, Lady Vader.” As they melted against the wall, Leia sighed. She was about to turn back to Mara to explain when she realized that Han and Lando must have seen everything, and sure enough even though his blaster was reholstered his fingers still hovered around it. Meeting his brown eyes she shook her head to warn him to stay back then spun around to face the Trader.
In the seconds that had passed, Mara had replaced her vibroblade from wherever she had retrieved it. Even though Mirax was standing next to her, talking to her softly—she had an expression that Leia could only describe as a Ronto in speeder lights. Finally the former Imperial exhaled, seeming to pull herself out of whatever daze she had been in—“Are you going to explain to me Organa Solo what just happened?”
As Chief of State, Leia was accustomed to hostility, but the venom in Mara’s voice was something she had not heard from the woman since the day she had declared her wish to kill Luke. “The Force told me that if you sipped that wine, something terrible was going to happen.”
Raising her eyebrows and then pressing her lips together Mara squatted to where the liquid had absorbed into the carpet touching it lightly and then smelling her fingers. Her nose wrinkled and the hostility melted away into a look of comprehension.
“Poison?” Mirax ventured to guess, and Jade nodded. “It smells like zida fruit, even though the wine supposedly was based in grenche currant.”
Keeping her voice steady, Leia looked Mara in the eye, “Your drink was laced with zidanine? Why?”
Mara shook her head, refraining from answering, ignoring Mirax’s alarmed query, “Is someone trying to kill you?”
Almost to herself Mara responded, “This is the second time they’ve gotten close.” Abruptly she stalked towards Lando and Han who were watching her warily. Leia and Mirax quickly followed, “Lando, did you send me a drink?”
Tossing his cape behind him he flashed his teeth, “No, but would you like one?” Frowning he reached for her hand, but she jerked him away. “You’re bleeding.”
Once again when Mara finally spoke she seemed distracted, “Of course you didn’t. The waitress must have been watching me, she knew...” She trailed off.
Frowning, Leia turned to her and then gestured to some guards, “We need you to find a waitress—Mara, describe her.” She glanced around for something to compress against Mara’s wound and snagged a cloth napkin from one of the freestanding tables.
Taking it and pressing it to the wound the smuggler’s mouth grew tight, finally focusing on the group surrounding her. “You won’t find her. She probably left as soon as the glass fell.” She paused for a moment then swore.
“Mara, we have to try. Tell them what they need to know.” As Mara did that, Leia quickly filled in Han and Lando.
Han seemed skeptical, “Wait. If Leia was able to sense the danger, why didn’t you sense it? As far as I’ve seen you seem to have a pretty good danger sense, right?”
Jade appeared to steel herself before admitting reluctantly, “It has not been much of any use lately.”
“Have you talked to Luke about it?”
Mara looked at him in consternation, then shot him a look said it was none of his business. But she answered anyway, her voice hoarse, “No. I know what he just went through, and I wasn’t about to burden him with something so....trivial. He can’t solve everything.”
Han growled, “He’s your friend Mara. After what he just went through, what use is it to him if you get killed? “ He stopped short, seeing another of his wife’s warning glances.
Leia winced inwardly as Mara’s shoulders drew in, her green eyes narrowing. Without acknowledging Han’s comment, she gave her excuses and spun toward the turbolifts. Watching her Leia couldn’t put together the woman’s stubbornness with the brief flash of pain she felt through the Force. Han’s words had touched a nerve, and it had been strong enough to drop those tightly woven shields.
Next to her, Lando and Han exchanged glances and when he made eye contact with his wife he grimaced, “Shouldn’t someone go after her? Her hand was still bleeding.”
Lando shook his head, “Trust me. When she’s like this, no one should get in her way. Mara Jade takes care of herself.”
Mirax tilted her head, deep in thought. “I don’t know. There’s something funny going on—she hasn’t been the easiest person to get a hold of. Did you notice that she barely talked to us just now?”
Lando flicking his cape over his shoulder then added thoughtfully, “Karrde called me to talk to Jade; I didn’t think it was that strange at the time, since she said her commlink was broken, but now…”
At that Leia made up her mind, “No. Han is right. Someone should go—and it should be me. I’m the one who nearly frightened her into killing me.”
Lando snorted, “Scared? Mara Jade doesn’t scare easily.”
She shook her head, “She was just now. When she realized she had a blade to my throat.” She glanced at her chrono, the crowd from the Trade reception was thinning out. “Look, the three of you go to Iella and Wedge’s reception. Tell them I’ll be there in a few minutes.” She turned to her husband, “You know what you need to do.”
Han nodded, “I’ll find him and send him your way.”
Mara remained under no illusions that for the first time in her life she was running away. The quick retreat was foolish, cowardly and foolish, but Solo’s words had cut her deeper than the still leaking cut on her hand. It had never occurred to her that anyone, least of all Skywalker would care. Unlocking her door she found herself rooted to the spot, staring with a sinking feeling at the throat. What am I doing here?
Slowly she unstrapped her blaster from her thigh and tossed the holster to the couch feeling the cool metal against her left hand, ignoring the tingling in her fingers, letting her mind wander to another time.
It was the moment she had first seen Lu—Skywalker up close. Knocked unconscious by Aves, lying in a decrepit toolshed on Myrkr he had looked so weak, harmless. Mara had stood sentry, waiting to see the smugness, the self-assurance that he had destroyed her life. She wanted the justification to kill him the moment he awoke.
But something had held her back. Commitment to Karrde, loyalty, promises….or maybe it was through her haze of bitterness and anger that she recognized that she just was not ready to kill again.
And now she needed his help. There was a hiss behind her as her unlocked door slid open, and she let the blaster crash to the floor. Still she didn’t move, even when the heat of a warm hand tapped her on her shoulder.
The quiet arrival of the turbolift broke into the pulsing silence on the nearly empty floor.
Gesturing to Arikak to stay behind Leia tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear while she approached Mara’s apartments. With the dim lighting in the hallway and the dark pre-imperial tones of maroon and yellow gilding the air seeped with history, dank, shadowy and oppressive.
She reached for the announcer, but her hand shifted halfway and to her surprise the unlocked door glided open. If it was possible, the flat was even darker then the hallway. “Mara?” She hesitated and then stepped through faltering just past the entryway.
Mara stood in the center of the room, her purple dress a deep onyx in the gloom. Lights flashed from the wide elegant windows and a steady glimmer highlighted the pale features of the trader.
Leia found herself shivering at the stark vulnerability evidenced in the way the woman stood. Her eyes were closed, head bent forward—her shallow breaths barely audible, and just like the open door, and Mara had left herself slightly exposed as she stood with her back to the entrance. Furrowing her brow, Leia shuttered away the sudden concern. She and Mara weren’t friends, by any means, but the woman had saved the life of her children—and for that she would be eternally grateful.
The clattering of Mara’s blaster to the floor broke the frozen tableau and with a more sedate motion then earlier in the day, Leia raised her hand hesitatingly and deliberately pressed her hand on the trader’s shoulder.
Mara inhaled suddenly, a long shuddering breath that to anyone else would have been mistaken for sobs. “Do you believe in destiny Organa-Solo?”
Leia shook her head, “I don’t know, but its possible that despite all that I have seen happen that we all have our paths to walk. “ She laughed lightly, trying to break the ominous mood of the conversation. “I suppose some of Han’s skepticism has influenced me.”
Mara whirled around and the other woman couldn’t help but notice the slight unsteadiness in her gait. As a diversion and mostly because she could tell that the napkin from the reception was soaked from the still bleeding cut, Leia walked to the small kitchenette and retrieved a hand towel. With the growing irrepressible silence, Leia watched as Mara accepted it and slowly began removing the soiled rag with quick mechanical motions. Not wanting to interrupt Leia retraced her steps and raised the illumination two steps
In the sudden brightness both women blinked, the comfort of the darkness replaced with a sudden wariness of exposure.
Dropping her green eyes to her palm, Mara sent a small trickle of healing to the wound. She blinked furiously as she now countered Leia’s thoughts her rhythmically clipped voice masking how she really felt. “I believe in destiny. That out of the Force filled orphans the Emperor picked me to be his Hand, to follow his bidding in service of a cause so true—that I believed it could not be false in its core.”
Not comprehending, Leia held her tongue.
Mara glanced up, and laughed sardonically at the expression on the Chief of State’s face; then she swung around and padded softly into the fresher. She reemerged a moment later with a roll of white bandage, a tube of ointment, and a third, clean rag. Silently she offered them to Leia, who followed her to the small settee, understanding that though the red haired woman could not verbalize the request she was capable of asking for help.
Mara continued watching the progress as her hand was bandaged. “I have had this feeling, for years, that I do not know the whole story.” Leia glanced up, and then looked back down after realizing that Mara’s face remained expressionless.
“These visions, they are of events and things I have done, visions of a past that I have always remembered, but it all feels so wrong. “
Securing the final edge of the wrapping, Leia sat back and asked questioningly,” Wrong? How?”
After a moment of silence, Mara stood up and walked a few steps away, her shoulders hunched. She turned around and took in Leia’s face before answering. “I don’t know, but with every painful step, I’m putting people in danger. First I shot Karrde, then I almost stabbed you—Skywalker’s sister and the Chief of State of the New Republic…”
She shot Karrde? Instead of asking the obvious, Leia ventured cautiously, “Is he alright?”
Mara nodded the first sign of unhappiness crossing her face. “He’s fine.” Then suddenly she drew a sharp breath and jerked away before glancing at the door behind her. “Listen, Organa-Solo. Its late, and I know you have Antilles reception to get to. I think I need to rest. “
Understanding the quick turn in behavior, Leia stood and made her way to the door, “Luke will be here in a moment. He'll want to talk to you before you go.”
Mara nodded, her eyes suddenly distant. “I’m going to go pick up my ship, but I’ll be back on Coruscant in a week.”
“All right, ” She triggered the mechanism then turned around, “Mara—“
“May the Force be With You.
With her eyebrow raised in irony Mara allowed a sad smile to lift her lips, “I only wish it were.”
Having long since discarded her disguise, Danika stumbled into her safehouse and collapsed onto the floor the minute the door had been secured. She had done everything right. She had used the wine he had suggested, slipped the drug in carefully and then waited for Jade to be alone.
He had said that Jade would not sense anything was amiss, that she was no longer in control of her Force abilities--but he had not counted on another Force user to be in the area. Leia Organa-Solo had ruined everything. Danika's hands shook.
What I owe....
Danika stood slowly, numbness raditing through her body--She had seen his face. She knew who he was, what he was, and there was no way he would let her stay out in the galaxy carrying that knowledge--at least not alive.
Her fingers shaking she plugged in her encryption package, then hesitatingly keyed in the frequency. For a moment her finger hovered above the last button, breathing heavily, her thoughts racing by and a hundred parsec's a minute.Then slowly she dropped to her knees before the holocomm and stared at the blinking red message light that she had almost missed a moment before. Danika had almost made a mistake that meant certain death, so she forced her mind to step backward beyond her present circumstances. Mission. Check. Kill Mara Jade. Check. All four limbs. Check. Still breathing. Check. Regroup. Recharge. Reasses. Check.
Feeling calmer than she had a moment ago, Danika slowly pressed down on the message indicator then leaned back into her haunches--nearly jumping out of her skin when Gradin Mirdac's sly cadence filled the room.
"You have failed again. Return to recive your punishment, or the Lieutenant will exact his fury in no uncertain terms. The clock is ticking, running may prolong the process, but in the end Danika Prilet--You will complete your task, or die."
Danika sat staring back at the mutilated image frozen on the comm. She was aware of the burning in her calves, but couldn't bring herself to shift, to move. The message would not lead them to this apartment, but you should move. She also had to track Mara Jade, whose flat would probably under great scrutiny. Security will be less around the Transport to Skoya.
Nodding to herself, Danika stood up and to attention. She knew what she had to do next--the mission was all she had left, the mission was her life. One way or the other she would get back into thier good graces, and making sure the Emperor's hand got her due was a step in the right direction. The buzzer at her flat rang, and she twisted around to stare at the closed door. There was not a soul on Coruscant who knew of her whereabouts.
The door buzzed again. Smooth as a tuscat, Danika slid her blaster out of her holster and glanced through the viewer, then squelching her surprise keyed open the door.
"What are you doing here?"
The commander is getting hitched
His bachelor days may be missed
But lets raise up our glass
‘Cause Iella is a lovely lass
Oh! The commander is getting hitched
His bachelor days may be missed…
Leaning with his back against the bar, Luke laughed as Wes, Hobbie and Gavin Darklighter threw up their hands and continued to sing hoisting up their glasses of lominale at the end of each verse.
As they spun off into another ballad, one that he remembered hearing Wes sing during the Rebellion he noticed a short man making his way through the crowd. “Corran!”
“Luke!” The two men clasped hands. They turned to watch the spectacle that was the Rogues and Wraiths partying together. Corran shook his head, “Without fail—do you know how long they have been waiting for this day.”
Luke chuckled again, “I believe Janson mentioned various revenge schemes for some incidents going as far back as Hoth.”
The Corellian groaned, “I warned Iella that they should probably elope.” Glancing at Luke’s glass he raised his eyebrows. “Care for another?”
At Luke’s nod, Corran signaled the bartender, handed the Jedi Master one of the bottles, then pulled out a stool. He raised it a little, “To Wedge and Iella.”
Luke clinked his bottle, “To Wedge and Iella,“ He nodded, more subdued then a moment before, “To love.”
“To love,” Corran swallowed, “How are things at the academy”
“Good, things seem to have stayed pretty calm while I was gone. We’re about to start another group on saber training in a few weeks.” Luke’s blue eyes were brighter when he talked about his life’s work, and Corran could sense that something had shifted since the last time they had talked, more then half a year earlier. “Though, I have a meeting with Cracken and I suspect he wants to talk to me about more then just the events surrounding the Death Seed plague.”
“Ah.” Corran took another sip then dropped his hand to his side gripping the bottle loosely. “I can’t help with the latter but think I may have found some techniques in my grandfather’s files that might be of help with the training.”
“That would be great.” They paused as another raucous roar came from the center of the room.
Oh the X-wing pilot and his bonny maid
Went flying along the shores of Narkiade
And all they wanted was to get…
Luke raised his eyebrows, his lips twitching with mirth. “How’s Mirax doing? Valin will be close to a year by now right?”
Fatherly pride radiating out, Corran nodded briskly—“I’d have some new holo’s but Booster came over the other day and confiscated them. It’s funny, when the kid does something cute or clever he’s full of the Terrik blood, but when he’s fussy…”
“It is all Horn? I remember something like that with Jacen and Jaina.” Thinking of his niece and nephew prompted Luke to search for his sister and Han, but didn’t spot them in the room. Reaching out he felt her presence below him just as she projected out a feeling of mild surprise. “That’s odd.”
“Leia and Han were supposed to be here some time ago. She’s still downstairs in the Trade reception.”
“Mirax hasn't shown up either, but I don't sense anything. Is Mara there as well?”
At her name, Luke gazed searchingly at Corran, “Mara is on planet?”
“I spotted Aves and Chin the other day and they said she had become hard to reach since the start of the Mid-Rim conference. They actually seemed a bit uncertain as to how to contact her themselves.“ Corran shrugged, “I thought Mara would be interested in a sparring match, but she seems to not be getting any of our messages so Mirax decided to go down and talk to her.”
At that Luke felt a pique of something unsettled, and he was quiet as he replayed the message he had received that morning.
At the sudden silence Corran searched looks features for clues, falling easily into his old role as a Corsec detective, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
His blue eyes were somber, “Not really. She left me a message to contact her that seemed unusually reserved—even for Mara. Usually she likes to toss in a scathing remark about how she’s not calling about returning to the academy or something.” Luke shrugged, “It almost felt like a formal request.”
Corran’s eyes tracked to the front of the reception hall spotting his wife weaving her way through the crowd, followed by Han and Lando Calrissian. “We can ask them now.” Putting their empty bottles on the bar, the two of them met the group halfway. Though all three were doing a pretty good job of reigning in their emotions, both Luke and Corran could sense that something was amiss.
Han glanced around at the revelers and led the group to a quiet corner before speaking. “She’s with Mara. There was an incident downstairs, Leia saved her life.”
“Someone tried to poison Mara—“ Mirax supplied bluntly, “and she came very close to being executed by the Noghri when she attacked Leia.”
Luke turned to his brother-in-law, “Are they both alright?”
It was Lando who responded, flashing his teeth. “Mara cut herself when Leia knocked her wine from her hand, so your sister went to help Mara dress the wound.”
Han growled impatiently, “Not at Jade’s request, mind you. Leia was wondering if you wouldn’t mind meeting her up there, she said she could barely sense Mara and thought that you might be able to help.”
Flexing his gloved hand Luke nodded, “She did say she wanted to talk, in the message she sent.”
Han couldn't help himself, despite the seriousness of the situation. “Jade could use a good talking to.”
Excusing himself Luke began weaving through the crowd towards the turbolift. Following Leia’s presence he exited onto Mara’s floor, immediately understanding his sister’s concern. While Leia’s light in the Force was a warm memory to her brother, it was in stark contrast to the void in the rest of the apartments. Mara Jade was nowhere to be found.
Then suddenly, in the middle of a step she returned, but not the Mara he was used to feeling. That vibrant, fiery presence felt as if it were hidden behind layers of shielding.
The door slid open and Leia breezed out with a wary look taut across her features. She met Luke's eyes and gestured for him to follow her back down the hallway. Wait.
They were back in the turbolift when she spoke. "Han filled you in?" At her brother's affirmation, she tried to sort out her thoughts. "I don't think she's in any shape to talk to you tonight, she practically kicked me out when you arrived on the floor. Could you sense her?"
"No, well—sort of."
Leia sighed, "I barely recognized her in time--if the force had not propelled me forward, if I hadn't....."
"Mara would be dead." Luke's voice was soft, but still held the silent message he had been trying to instill in Leia for years. You need to have more faith in your abilities.
"She would be dead." At that echo Leia straightened, "She says she'll be back in a week, but I think you should talk to her before she goes to Skoya tomorrow. The Mara Jade we all know holds her sabaac cards close to the vest, but the woman I just left is under extreme emotional distress. She's more durasteel then anything else, and she bent enough tonight to tell me that she's been having strange dreams of her past, dreams that were directly connected to her shooting Talon over two weeks ago."
Luke frowned at that news, "We would have heard if it was serious."
Ignoring the laughter coming from the party, his sister lowered her voice ominously. "No, I think that there's more to what happened, but its all connected to the fact that neither of us could sense her when we were physically standing a mere few feet away from her."
Her words were still on his mind early the next morning when Luke strode into Karrde’s hanger bay, feeling Mara’s sudden panic through slipping shields. Stay out of my mind Skywalker!
Luke winced, but took notice of the sudden buffeting wind, realizing that the transport before him was hovering three feet off the ground. Through the viewport, her arms crossed in typical Jade defiance, was Mara. She was too far away for him to see her expression, but her fear was slowly diminishing as the ship moved further and further away from him.
So Luke did the only thing he could do: He waved goodbye.
This post has been edited by jade51999 on May 20 2008, 08:05 PM
Scrubs: Banner Artist
Member No.: 60
Joined: 14-February 06
Ooh! I'm looking forward to this, but it is
a long post!
I'll read in the morning.
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
Hey guys. So I felt like posting some more...its been a rough weekend, my dad had a small heart attack and ended up in the hospital getting another stent put in. Anyway I ended up putting a lot of stuff in order while waiting...and figured that I would put the next part up.
Edit: Right there is a line in here that is from Tim Zahn's Htte
POST IV: We will rule the galaxy together
"Corran, can you tighten the port cannon winch?"
"I heard that Chewie, but first the winch needs a quarter turn--ask Han about the turret--he's the one working on the reflectors."
Han's voice came over the din, "Hey, furball--I said sixty degrees not six degrees."
"Don't take that tone with me, I've been working on the Falcon far longer then you--"
"Rwerrooo. Urf Rwerrorwi."
"Huh. Were you at that table with Lando? I don't remember him telling you about the specifications of the Falcon, or moaning about how..."
Luke ducked out from under the shuttle cannon and stared up to where his brother-in-law was yelling at Chewbacca. "Are you two done, or can I get a word in here?"
Han clomped over to the edge of the shuttle's wing and propped his foot up on a crate. "Kid, if you've got something to say, please say it."
Corran emerged next to Luke. "I think that Master Skywalker is too nice to tell you you're wrong."
Han raised his eyebrows, "And I suppose you're not?"
"Of course, I'm Corellian, after all. "
"Spit it out, Horn."
"You said six degrees."
"Ow!" Behind Han Chewie had elbowed him across the head. "Cut it out."
"Urf. Urf. Urf." Chewbacca was laughing, and it didn't take someone who understood him to see that he was gloating.
Brushing some hair out of his eyes, Luke slipped past the Corellians toward his X-wing where he had left R2D2 running some diagnostics. A dark haired man was standing on the ladder, having connected a datapad to the droid for translation.
"How does it look Wedge?"
The dark haired man glanced down at his fellow X-wing pilot. "He says that the hyperdrive needed some tweaking, and that there was some loss of power on your secondary lasers during the skirmish on Lirandi." Wedge tilted his head, "What were you doing out by Lirandi? That's practically next door to Adumar."
"I volunteered to mediate a dispute--and the Psilni jumped the gun when I arrived in system. Once they realized their mistake, I was able to negotiate a resolution that ended up to their advantage."
Letting out a low whistle, Wedge hopped down the ladder. "Without backup. Luke, they say Corellians are crazy." He hitched, "How long do you think you'll be in system?" I imagine you'll be heading back to the Academy at some point."
Hesitating, Luke glanced to the next bay over, frowning. "I don't know. I'm waiting for Talon Karrde to arrive. Mara was supposed to be back almost two weeks ago, and I can't stay on Coruscant much longer, something is pulling me away."
Corran sidled up beside him, "Proddings from the Force?"
Luke nodded, "News?"
Horn grimaced, "Karrde just commed, the Wilde Karrde is coming through the shields in a few minutes. Lets hope he has some."
The heard him, or rather, they heard Karrde's pet vornskers twenty minutes later. His usually pleasant mask just a little bit more strained then usual. "Master Skywalker."
"Karrde," Glancinng behind him Luke did not mince words. "Where's Mara?"
Karrde hesitated, "I was hoping that you could help with that." Frowning, he handed the leashes to a blonde man behind him. "Frankly, Mara's disappeared and I was hoping she had spoken to you before she had."
"Honestly?" Luke's voice rose over the sudden roar of the shuttle behind him. "Mara didn't stick around long enough to talk to me. She told Leia she would be back within the week..." He trailed off feeling the sudden spike in Karrde's emotions.
"As far as we know she made it to Skoya, and parted ways with my shuttle crew. She planned on taking the Jade's Fire through her paces before filing a flight plan..."
Wedge who was still standing next to the X-wing spoke up, "She could have just forgotten."
Karrde shook his head, "We had an agreement, before she left we had agreed that she would let me know where she was....in case..." He coughed, and then continued, "In case she had another attack."
Corran took that as an opening, "Another attack. Like the one where she shot you?"
"Well, Well, Jedi Horn--I thought I had kept that one well under wraps. Your father-in-law is better then I give him credit for."
The Corellian snorted, "Booster. I'd hate to give him dues for something he had nothing to do with. "
Luke shot Corran a silencing look, "Mara told Leia after the assassination attempt."
"Ah." Karrde pulled a datacard out of his pocket. "She couldn't have made it far. Aves saw her nursing a headache before she took off. In the last two attacks the onset was within three-quarters of an hour." He tapped the card with his left knuckle, "This was the original flight plan she had submitted and it had her pulling out in the Felorian system within the Corporate Sector. Within forty-five minutes of that initial jump."
"Couldn't she have dropped out and recalculated a new set of coordinates?" Wedge was cautious, knowing that finding someone who didn't want to be found was like digging for a gundark in a maelstorm.
Karrde shook his head, "That's why I came to speak to Master Skywalker. I'd rather get some extrasensory help. I have men on the ground--"
Luke nodded, his decision made the second Karrde had spoken. "I can be up and running in thirty minutes. Where do I need to be?"
The smuggler's chief handed Luke the card, "Coordinates are here--I can set up payment for your help in this search, but I get the feeling you wouldn't accept it."
Luke stared at the man before him, his blue eyes narrowing with concern, "I wouldn’t. Mara is a friend; I care what happens to her."
"I'll see you at the rendezvous." Karrde’s expression was appraising before he strode away.
Turning back to his shuttle, Luke jogged over to where Han and Chewbacca were fiddling with a reflector. "Guys, we have to wrap it up, I need the shuttle."
"It'll be at least two hours before she's in good enough shape to jump" Han hopped down to the ground, "You going after her kid?"
Corran sidled up next to the Jedi Master, "We can take the Skate. Mirax doesn't have a run for a few weeks. Its ready to go."
"I'd like to help as well," Wedge offered, "I'm three weeks into a six week vacation. Iella has to work, mostly trying to figure out this Imperial Cell that's been killing former Imperials right and left—and we know Mara is at the top of that list."
“Luke?” Corran noticed that he had stopped in his tracks and was staring out the viewport, a distant expression on his face.
Shaking himself Luke inhaled sharply his face suddenly a shade paler then a moment before “I get the feeling finding her is not going to be as hard as we expect.”
Corran reached out trying to gauge what the Jedi Master sensed.
“Reach out towards the corporate sector, and try and feel for the elements of her sense that you use to distinguish her from others.”
Exhaling, Corran reached out searching for the unique aura through the Force that made up Mara Jade. He jerked back, his green eyes widening.
She had dropped her shields, and the waves of anguished pain, bled out with an unmitigated fury. His mouth dry, Corran’s hands curled up into fists looking for something to fight, consciously recognizing that there was no one to fight. Her pain was a constant throbbing counterpoint to the pulsing of the stars—and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
Somewhere in the middle of hyperspace, Luke lost contact. While Corran and Wedge worked with Han and Talon to find Mara's Jade's Fire through planetary records, he found himself a quiet corner to meditate.
Reaching deep within the Force he relaxed allowing wave upon waves of energy wash over him. The flows slowly crystalized into the far reaches of the galaxy as the Pulsar Skate swept along a short hyperspace route--one of many in the last week.
Upon leaving Coruscant, Luke and Corran had been able to pinpoint Mara's location to a particular quadrant of the Corporate Sector, but had found that instead of getting a stronger idea of where she was, the connection to her was diminishing exponentially. Pouring over the data that Talon had given him, along with written descriptions of Mara's episodes from her crewmates both Jedi found themselves at a loss to determine what was going on with the fierce redhead.
This close to the Force, Luke found himself sensing her every heartbeat, feeling the echoes from scarlet rivulets of pain tangled up with smatterings of anger that danced tantalizingly at the edge of his psyche. This steady outpouring was augmented by visions of violence with anger tempered by a grief so profound that he found himself gasping for breath. He could not, however narrow this unintentional emoting to a location--as it felt like her soul was spilling out of each twinkling star that rushed by him.
It was that grief that reminded him of his own personal heartbreak, and for an imperceptible moment he gave in and revisited the feelings that he had been working to resolve. There was still a small twinge of sadness, of unreality that the woman he loved had willingly left his side. Instead a wave of calm resignation swept through and he realized that he was ready to move on. He still loved the tall lithe woman from Chad, the woman who had rescued him from a swirling abyss of despair aboard the Eye of Palpatine. He missed her, but found that after months of searching, he had finally found himself again.
Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master was not all that different from Luke Skywalker, farmboy from Tatooine.
He felt a nudge from the Force her voice rang in his ear--it was sharp, angry and filled with the same vitriol as that day so long ago on Myrkr.
"You happened to me. You came out of a grubby sixth-rate farm on a tenth-rate planet, and destroyed my life."
And then he was there. The same forest, the same screaming of vornskr's hiding just out of site--silent, stalking and certain to attack at any moment.
But that was not the most pressing threat. The woman before him was dangerous, but he even though the ysalmiri prevented him from feeling her wrath, he knew it was there. It was evident in the tight braid of her hair, the smooth, squint of her eyes--so focused and sure. Her erect shoulders and steady hands convinced him that her threat was real--but for some reason he thought that he could trust her.
No--You can't trust me. Her voice, the Mara of now was pleading with him to leave her alone.
I'm not going anywhere. He modulated his thoughts so they seemed soothing, but knew immediately that it was a means of letting down his guard.
The cadence of her speech changed sharply, and suddenly she no longer pleaded, but seemd to revel in his foolish loyalty. So be it, Skywalker. Now, You--will die.
In the vision she lunged toward him, vibroblade in hand the tip plunging through Luke's abdomen. He watched with idle curiosity as drops of blood began soaking through his clothing, the scarlet barely seen through the blacks he customarily wore. Staring up at his killer where he should feel anger, he felt compassion.
That is, until she stabbed him again.
With the second wrench of excruciating pain Luke was thrown out of Mara's head. Despite the sudden phantom emotion, He struggled to keep a nominal connection, so as to not lose track of her physical presence. As his grip slipped he was aware of the opening door, of Corran lending his support to help Luke stay focused. Inhaling Luke dipped into the well of power reaching again through the Force latching onto her mind as he tried to impress his presence into the dreams that kept her unconscious. Mara Jade Wake Up. Mara Jade Wake Up. Mara Jade Wake Up. Again he almost lost contact, her presence slippery, oily. Something shoved angrily against his consciousness trying to push him out, and Luke automatically stabbed back with light side Force energy.
Wake Up Jade!
Without another thought she awoke. Her sense flooded his body, disoriented and limp with exhaustion, and then in the middle of a breath, he knew exactly where she was.
Sleek lines swept down into even planes the nooks and crannies casting complicated shadows on the silver deck. She was silent, locked down, untouched, still as death, though the glittering flames along her bow reached toward the hanger ceilings begging for liftoff.
“Wow.” Wedge shook his head, letting out a low whistle.
Corran took a step forward his green eyes darting over the counters of the yacht before them. “It’s definitely her ship.” He turned to where Luke was standing his eyes closed, senses stretched out. “Anything?”
They had found Mara—or at least her ship on Ferowyn, a planet just along the Hydian Way. A few parsec’s past Ord Radama, the mild planet was home of one of the many textile guilds. Luke was certain that she was still here, but there was nothing in the Force as to where he should start to look. Opening his eyes, it took a moment for him to focus on the Jade’s Fire, but once he did he couldn’t help the small smile that spread across his face. Strong.
Wedge, who had taken a quick step around the yacht returned to their side. “She’s got good engines.”
Corran nodded, “I can see why Mara want’s to replace the laser’s. The one’s she had mounted won’t amount to much in a real firefight.”
“If the three of you don’t get away from my ship right now, you’ll get much more than a firefight.”
The three men turned around to see Mara leaning casually against a pillar near an entrance to the berth, her blaster pointed at them. Luke watched her eyes widen with shock as she recognized them. “Horn, Antilles---“As her green eyes scanned his face they seemed morph into translucence as if her mind was elsewhere. “Skywalker, what are you doing here?”
Luke took a step forward, but stopped short when she held up her hand.
“It doesn’t matter –I have to go.”
Corran frowned, “Mara do you know how long you’ve been gone?”
She ignored him, straightened and stalked gingerly past the three men. Entering the code on the hatch she sucked in a breath of recycled air before going up the ramp. Crossing the boundary of the living space, and out of sight of the docking bay she grabbed the wall for support, aware that her legs were shaking from exertion. Three weeks, two days and four hours.
“Mara.” Her head jerked up and twisted around, Luke’s crystal clear eyes boring into her.
“Just go away, Farmboy.”
“Karrde’s worried, and you asked me for help. Remember?”
Mara bit her lip, “That was before…” I need to sit down to have this conversation. She was surprised a moment later when Luke slid his arm through his, offering support. Even more astounded that she didn’t feel the need to refuse.
“It’s a long story.”
He looked at her sharply, the way she had seen him look at students who were misbehaving, “I’ve got time.”
Corran and Wedge watched Luke follow Mara up the ramp and then glanced at one another.
Wedge broke the silence first, “Is it just me or…”
Corran rolled his eyes, “No, I’ve been sensing it since before he met Callista. There is something there.”
“What’s holding them back?”
“Says, the man who just got engaged to someone he’s been in love with since the Fall of Coruscant.”
“I know I can no longer hold rank over you, but I can still order you to give me your boots.”
The other man grinned broadly, “I’ll make sure to watch my back.” Sobering for a moment Corran glanced back to the open ship. “She didn’t look healthy.”
Wedge thought back to the tall woman’s fragile form. “She looks like someone who has been starving herself for three weeks.”
“If anyone can help her, Luke can. He understands her, and knows more of what she’s been through. It is why he’s forever trying to get her to become a Jedi.”
“Do you think he’s over Callista?”
Corran frowned thoughtfully, “I think he’s getting there, “ he paused as if something had just occurred to him, “Do you know what Jade would call her?”
Wedge shook his head, “No—“
“Body Snatcher, which is telling, don’t you think?”
“Jade was jealous?”
Horn opened his mouth to answer, but turned suddenly holding his hand low while sliding his blaster from its holster. “There’s someone here.”
Wedge followed suit, his senses alert using two fingers to point to the left. Corran nodded briskly and took the other side of the ship. A flash of white revealed the intruder, angled in the shadows against the arch of the ships hull. Aside from the woman’s hair, she was dressed in black, and upon a closer look, Wedge could tell that she was carrying one of the latest Blastech made from black carbon composite rather then the typical modulated steel.
When Corran appeared in front of him, the former Wraith Squadron commander eased forward placing the muzzle of his blaster against the woman’s neck.
Before either pilot could say anything she started laughing. It was a low brisk laugh, one that reflected neither the situation nor her motivation.
“It doesn’t matter. In my failure, she will finish the job herself—or find herself a willing sacrifice for her own betrayal.”
Corran and Wedge exchanged glances, and the latter took a step back covering Corran as he disarmed the woman. Once he was sure that Corran had her under control, Wedge lowered his weapon and pulled out his commlink to call Luke.
Moments later, the blonde man jogged down the gangplank of the Fire where Wedge quickly filled him in.
Luke kept his voice low, taking in the woman’s appearance. “What do you suggest we do?”
“Take her to a New Republic safe house and interrogate her before turning her over to NRI.”
“Do it. I’ll tell Mara about her when we’re en route.”
“Did she tell you anything?”
The Jedi Master shook his head, “She’s resisting, but I couldn’t push the issue. I got her to agree to see Cilghal on Yavin, and then insisted she get some rest before we took off.” He watched, feeling a stirring of anger at the blank face on the would-be assassin’s face.
Wedge frowned, “this was too easy, too amateur.”
Agreeing Luke made a motion with his hand, “Keep a close watch, this isn’t over.”
“Can you feel anything through the Force?” his former squadron mate’s voice was curious.
“No, but that’s not because he’s hiding anything particularly well.” He jerked his head back toward the ship, “Mara has the ship loaded with Ysalmiri. I have no idea how she got them without Karrde finding out, but it is creating a Force bubble over most of the Yacht. Corran must have sensed him right before stepping into the void.”
His voice was ominous as he turned to face his friend. “Whatever this is, they won’t stop until they see Mara destroyed, and I’m afraid that unless I can figure out how to help her, they just might succeed.”
This post has been edited by jade51999 on May 26 2008, 06:51 PM