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, Someone is trying to kill Mara....
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
I decided I'm giving you guys too much at once (plus i'm tweaking the end of this chapter still) So here is a teensy bit more..
Hanger bays were usually places of familiarity, the same individuals coming back day in and day out to work on ships of various shapes and sizes. The smells were equally recognizable - like the sterile environment of a hospital, a hanger bay has a mix of fuel and burning from soldering along with the slightest hint of sweat. Private bays were quiet, the fixing of ships an individual act limited to the private owners and his chosen company.
None of these applied to the hanger bay belonging to the New Republic Military and Intelligence divisions. There were dozens of ships side by side—and over a dozen X-wing's. Most of the X-wings were marked with the familiar insignia of Rogue Squadron, but interspersed were more unique ships. These X-wings ran between basic white, being worked on by a small Thakwaash, and another in bright colors being gleefully splattered by a rather handsome human male. Instead of the quiet, static sounds of the private hanger bays filled by strangers these were filled with camaraderie and a sense of purpose.
“They look like they could use a few Corellians.”
Corran rocked back on his heels and surveyed the group before him before replying. “I would say so, sir.”
Turning to face Corran, Wedge crossed his arms, “How are things with Tycho?”
The other man bared his teeth, “He's better than the last commander.”
Wedge rolled his eyes, “Really.”
“Yup—who knew that Alderaanians could be so normal. Not once has he asked us to participate in some outlandish pirate scheme and we all manage to keep our boots on”
The other man smirked, “I'm surprised that particular story got out.”
Corran laughed, “Well, like many of us, Donos was drunk at your promotion party.”
Together they watched as Commander Loran motioned to another figure working on the far side of his ship. As they watched Loran dropped his paintbrush and strolled over the length of the ship pointing to his right leg and making gestures with the palm of his hand that seemed to indicate foot angles.
Wedge squinted, “Who is that?”
“New recruit. Slicer, I think—a Wraith.”
“That must be Syliria Doone. Tycho mentioned that she went toe to toe with Ghent and almost won.” Wedge turned to the shorter man, “Why are the Wraiths here anyway, shouldn’t they be in their own hanger?”
At that Corran frowned, “I got notice that the rear hanger bays had to be shut down--something about fumigation. Iella should have told you, since it was largely NRI ships that were affected.”
A casual voice piped up behind them, filled with its usual nascent joviality. “Hate to break it to you Horn, but you have it wrong. It was actually a Tainer attack. He was working on a small explosive project that would emit sparks when feral rodents would try to eat the wiring on his ship.”
Corran’s eyes narrowed at the new comer whose easygoing stance mirrored his demeanor. “Let me guess, Janson--there were no rodents.”
Janson grinned and raised his left wrist which was wrapped in a bandage, “Some people,” he sighed to add melodrama, “can’t take a joke.” He poked Corran in the side, “Yub yub, Horn.” Smirking he shrugged, “I accidentally activated the trigger which sparked an electrical malfunction—hey!” The man had turned toward the activity on the floor,“It looks like they started without me.”
His former commander raised an eyebrow, “Started what?”
“We have a top-secret-mission, though Corran just ruined it by bringing you.”
Rolling his green eyes, the former Corsec officer shrugged, “We couldn’t help it. Luke just commed. He and Mara Jade are on their way in and Iella wanted them to dock here for some reason.”
At that Wes snapped his feet together. It was a known fact that Janson was intrigued by Mara Jade and took every opportunity to have a little fun at her expense whenever she was in town. He claimed it was something about her overt seriousness, but Corran suspected that it had more to do with her arsenal of sneaky and underhanded Imperial tactics. He looked on curiously as the other man spoke, “Well I better announce the General’s presence. “
“ATTENNNN-SHUN. GENERAL WEDGE ANTILLES, DEFENDER OF LIEUTENANT KETTCH, CORUSCANT'S SECRET WEAPON, AND MAY I EMPHASIZE FORMER COMMANDER OF ROGUE AND WRAITH SQUADRON IS ON DECK. COME FORTH WITH YOUR COMPLIMENTS AND OBESIENCE, OR BE PRANKED!”
Wedge dropped his head into his hands as the group before them suddenly dropped what they were doing and proceeded to fall into formation before them, bowing in unison. After waiting a beat, one by one each pilot brandished a paintbrush, performing some movement in a wave like pattern. Puzzled he turned to his friend, “Wes, what’s going on here? Why are my pilots acting like they are the latest act on the New Republic Stage?”
“What do you think? Obviously we'll be more organized—and there may be a skit. Can we do the entertainment at your wedding? At his friend’s face Wes’ smile dropped, “You don’t trust me? Did you think we'll be bad?”
“If you do the entertainment, there may not be a wedding. Iella is still smarting after what you did to our car. Installing those seat massager's may not have been the best thing.”
“It’s not my fault they came with extra spring!”
Corran answered for Wedge, who was turning bright red with laughter at the recollection of his engagement, “She almost flew out of the speeder when they were going back to her place!” It had been quite humorous to watch, he added silently.
Garick Loran spoke up, “Wedge, I promise to reel him in. It will be painless--on my honor as a….” he stopped and bit his lip.”
Wes coaxed him, “as a former Imperial child star?”
Loran shook his head and Dia Passik, standing next to him looking beautiful in a orange jumper that offset the green in her skin, interjected her guess “…as a man who had plastic surgery and will admit it?”
Tyria Tainer jumped in, “but he won’t admit it--he only told us when you discovered it on accident. So that isn’t a good thing to base his honor on.”
Garick frowned pretending to take offense.
The other Tainer half strolled up to Loran and finished up the sentence, “On his honor as a master of disguise who has no qualms about sticking things up his or anyone else’s nose for the sake of acting the pirate.”
At that everyone groaned before clapping in agreement.
Wedge shook his head, stared at the floor, before sighing. “Bring your proposal to me. I’ll ask her--but if she so much as hears anything about smoke, massage chairs or paint, you’re out.”
He never heard the response as the telltale sound of the magcon field deactivating swept over the hanger bay, letting in the elegant Jade's Fire. There was a choking sound behind him and Wedge turned and saw Janson's envious expression. Chuckling, he patted his friend on the shoulder. “I bet if you ask Mara in a few days she just might give you a tour.”
Behind them, the other fighter pilots had gone back to their work. Wedge was surprised to see Corran standing by himself, gazing thoughtfully at the ship that had ever so quietly settled into its berth. “Is something wrong?”
The shorter man shook his head, “Nope—in fact she is open to the Force. Whatever was wrong, it looks like Cilghal figured out how to control it.”
As they waited Wes Janson seemed unable to stand still, and he let out yet another soft exhale as the ramp slipped down in one smooth motion sending twin plumes of steam into the air as the engine cooled itself down. “New ships are like blank canvases. Nothing has gone wrong yet, but there is always something lurking beneath the surface that is potentially going to give you the ride of your life.”
Amused, Wedge rolled his eyes, “Have you been talking to Cubber Dane again?”
“I'm not going to satisfy that question with a response.” Wes crossed his arms and turned back to the Jade's Fire. As they watched, Luke jogged down the ramp followed by a slower, more careful Mara Jade who held an almost distant visage. The group watched as Luke waved to them before he turned to the red haired woman behind him and called something out to her. Whatever he said was inaudible over the hanger noise, but caused Mara to stop on the ramp and peer back into the interior of her ship, frowning hard. There was a moment of stillness before she turned ever-so-slowly back to the Jedi Master throwing her hands up in a frustrated gesture. From his vantage point Corran caught the small smile that flashed across her face; something which almost as quickly faded away as it returned to blend into the harsh reality that Mara set up as her facade.
An idea shot through his mind that he quickly shelved away. He stepped forward to greet the pair. “Luke, Mara welcome back.”
Luke's blue eyes sparkled at Corran,“Thanks, what's going on over here?” He indicated the strange tableau before them.
Loran was demonstrating some move and Wedge realized that the gait that Garick had been teaching the new Wraith was basically how he walked.
Janson chortled, “It’s for the wedding. Wedge is going to let us be the entertainment.”
“Only after Iella agrees.”
“Whatever.” He stepped forward and extended his hand to Mara who had paused to stare at something behind her. “Jade. It’s good to see you again,”
As she focused on him her eyes narrowed. “What do you want?” It was the same tone that they had all grown to expect from her, but Corran's eyes flickered over to Luke who was watching the woman with a careful countenance.
Janson looked at her alarmed, “Nothing.”
“Sure. It'll be better if you tell me now so I can turn you down before you spend too much time thinking about it.” She smirked weakly, “I know you hate any time that takes you away from that tapcafe you love so much.”
“Hey, the Rancor's Breath was not my fault. I didn't know it was you.” The pilot thumped his chest in an attempt to assert himself.
At that the other three returned their attention to Mara and Wes. It was Luke who spoke up first, “What were you doing at the Rancor's Breath? If I remember correctly, your tapcafe of choice was the Three Pilots”
Wes shrugged, “I was trying something different.”
She seemed rueful, almost apologetically distant, “Come on, admit it. You were on a blind date.”
Luke covered his smile with his hand, “A blind date.” He could sense where this was going.
Wes growled, “Let me tell the story. It’s less humiliating that way.” He took a deep breath. “Hobbie had set me up with a girl from a speeder store. She was pretty hot, but for some reason refused to come to the Three Pilots. Something about the Rancor's Breath having better lominale. We drank for a while, and then she left for the 'fresher. When she didn't come back I went looking for her and spotted her by the bar.” He grimaced, “In my defense, it was dark, my date did have red hair and was roughly the same height.”
The Jedi Master raised his eyebrows. “You hit on Mara?”
Both Wedge and Corran echoed his incredulous question. Corran managed to ask Wes, “How did you make it out alive?”
Wes glared at him, “She was nice about it at the time. I mean, I realized I had just been ditched, and so she talked to me - after she threw me to the ground for trying to touch her.”
Luke turned to speak to Mara, “I'm surprised that you didn't break any---” He stopped short, Mara was nowhere to be found. In an uncharacteristic manner he swore under his breath, “Shavit, you were supposed to wait.”
Corran could feel him reaching for the woman, then watched as Luke stepped away and murmured into his commlink.
When the Jedi Master turned back Wedge and Wes were standing frozen in place, “How did she disappear so fast?” Wes was aghast.
Luke sighed, “She's been practicing that move for a year and a half. Cutting herself from the Force, then rejoining the living when she felt safe.” He abruptly changed the subject and pulled Corran to the side, “I know where she's going. You better come with me as Han is already on his way with Chewie as backup.” He shrugged his cloak off over his shoulder and addressed Wedge and Wes--”I'd ask for more help but I don't think its a good idea for an entire squadron of New Republic's finest to be storming an Intelligence building.”
The two nodded, and Luke's blue eyes met Corran's green, “Let's go, I'll explain along the way.”
Edit: Some issues that I missed last night
This post has been edited by jade51999 on Jul 31 2008, 07:48 AM
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
Some Villainous action Still post VI--the last part of this section will probably be all at once..
He sat at his desk amidst the blue gilt and navy draping. The venting of air shifted the chandelier above him and flashes of light danced around and around as the glass beads reflected through the dim vestibule. Each breeze shifted and lifted the top sheets of numerous even organized stacks on his desk. These papers needed hours of personal attention, hours of doing the job that Dac had let slack. The midget who watched his doors, and kept his identity as the hidden leader a secret had grown entranced by his obsession with Mara Jade and neglected his central duties as co-conspirator of the cell.
His feet lay solidly on the ground, his back straight. Three successful assassinations.. Four missed opportunities, botched jobs that had resulted in the capture or deaths of agents. All of these reports gave him information—information he himself had already known.
"Incompetent Fools." The words bounced harmlessly around the room, though the venom in them were real enough.
The door at the end of the room remained closed. His eye twitched. If the malformed guard was not keeping his place outside, he was undoubtedly out messing with the plan, trying to cause pain to one girl. That girl was proving to be troublesome. He placed Mara Jade on the list because of the way that mewling waste of life had begged for her to be included—for some slight against him, for causing his disgusting handicap—or just for fun. It had been a pity because of the efficient student she had been. She had learned fast, and had held much promise, but he needed the half-man to focus on their primary goal.
Those privy enough to see his face understood the necessity of the secrecy and it was essential enough he kept his operation in line through Dac, whose knowledge of discipline and fear held counter to their mutual knowledge of brainwashing and torture which had become useful in maintaining confidentiality. He needed their attacks to be successful or he would not be useful to the Empire that remained. If his identity became known.....no one would take his threats seriously. Like Mara Jade, his public persona was very different from the high esteem of the Emperor.
Standing, he pulled out a longer sheaf of paper and spread it out on the table top. He casually leaned forward to brush his fingers on the edges, tracing the planetary schematics. Opening a drawer on his left, he pulled out the model: a small base no bigger than the palm of his hand. Masked as a decorative element in public gardens across the galaxy, it had a small modified slit at the top where a gas vial could be placed. To outsiders, it served as an automatic feeder of nutrients to the vibrant menageries. To those privy to the plan, the gas had a different purpose and would kill any being for hundreds of yards.
Coruscant. Kuat. Commenor. Chandrila. Kashyykk. Bothu'wai. Millions of people destroyed. Infrastructure collapsing. Nothing could be more satisfying. Therefore, vengeance needed to be shelved so that they could focus on weakening the self-involved New Republic.
He pushed back from the desk and moved slowly across the room towards one of the mirrors. Striding past the lavish ornamentation, he blinked away the fractured beams of light. His eyes remained tight and his blackened hair remained the sleek onyx of youth. I look like a leader. Peering closer at his reflection he noticed that one of his military lapel pins was askew and reached up to untwist it. Marking him as a Lieutenant General, they brightened the din, and he straightened evermore. In public he served as just another in the Emperor's military; in private he held a wealth of knowledge that manipulated the Empire's hidden underbelly.
Movement broke his grooming and with control gazed down at the reflection of his partner, whose fully formed torso bounced on short prosthetic legs. He sneered,"Well? Is she dead?"
Dac shook his head, looking ever more like half a man. "Simel has activated the control. Everything is going according to plan."
I know you Dac, you have other plans in mind. And so this will also fail. His eye twitched again, and he clenched his fists. "You better be ready. We have work to do."
The shorter man's eyes glinted maliciously, mad with anticipation as his reflection seemed to grow, dwarfing his own shadow, "Yes, Lieutenant. We do.”
This post has been edited by jade51999 on Aug 8 2008, 10:25 AM
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
So this is a doozey and will be it for a week and half (probably) so enjoy! It also brings us back to the first post...
Edit: Oh, As for the title. Just think of the moment in ROTJ when Luke says that. Its pretty much the moment when he realizes his hope for his father is gone...and that is sort of the sentiment i'm going for...its the most abstract of the chapter titles..
“So Hobbie set me up with this girl from the speeder store...”
Mara stopped paying attention to Jansen's emasculation, unsure about the order.
...”We drank for awhile and then she excused herself to use the refresher...”
Never before had the intense compulsions of the Force seemed so much like spoken words. They were very different than her visions, but Force compulsions nonetheless.
Glancing back at the men she quietly slipped away, following the signals. Just as she turned the corner she felt Luke reach out for her with concern and a little astonishment.
Mara hesitated. On the return trip from Wayland, she and the Jedi Master had reached a sort of mutual agreement, and her taking off without telling him wasn't the biggest sign of faith. Sighing, she switched on her commlink and reached back to tell him she was going to call. “Listen, the Force is telling me to go now. It would have taken too long to explain, just meet me with backup, I'm pretty sure we'll need it.”
Luke sounded resigned and answered frankly, “We'll be there, try to wait. And Mara--”
“May the Force Be With You.”
Snapping the commlink shut, Mara stepped onto one of the lighted walkways leading to Imperial Center. She may have been an assassin, but Mara knew when backup was necessary. Even though she was still minutes away from interrogation facility, amongst Coruscant’s millions of people, she could already sense the Imperial-trained infiltration squad in wait around the corner. Mara wasn't Corellian, but she knew what the odds were. This group was there to kill Danika Prilet, the woman from her vision - the woman who had the answers.
The lighted white numbers on the side of the building flickered ethereally and Mara felt her heart jump. Little about the interrogation facility had changed, masquerading as a senate building on the lower levels, while the top floors were wide, open rooms filled with tools of torture devised by the minds of Ysanne Isrard and her father. She refused to acknowledge the sense of déjà vu closing in around her and took her time crossing the street before slipping through one of the many entrances.
It was clear that the former senate offices were being rehabbed, but the amount of dust on the scaffolding suggested the project had been stalled, and Mara found herself trying to stifle a sneeze. Slipping through the left corridor she glanced briefly at the elevator bank, making certain that they weren't in service before beginning the twenty floor climb. She knew that the NRI still used the upper floors as holding cells for political prisoners.
What floor...what floor. I know it was the North Tower....
Mara unsheathed her blaster making sure to check her flank and her front sight lines before stepping out into the hallway on the 375th floor. It was eerily quiet, and Mara was sure that there should be at least some security for her to knock out before reaching Danika's cell. Something wasn't right—
Suddenly she realized what room Prilet had to be in. For a second Mara could feel the water gushing down her lungs, feel herself struggling to stay awake as the fingers of darkness crawled through her consciousness. Increasing her pace, she threw herself flat against the wall when a man stepped out of the prisoner's room and jogged around the corner. The sound of his feet slapping against the floor were uneven, as if he had a wound on his leg that prevented him from making his steps of equal length. Regardless, he was moving away from the room—and it was pretty clear he would not be coming back. They hadn't had a chance to confirm with Iella about Danika Prilet's whereabouts, but Mara was certain she would be found here.
Easing her way forward she tapped open the door and briefly scanned around for the guards again. This meeting felt more and more like a set up, but the question remained as to whether the New Republic or Gradin Mirdac's mysterious boss were the one's pulling the strings. One thing was sure—she wanted to make sure no one caught on to what was said in this room, and she certainly didn't want to drop into a vision in the middle of her conversation. Carefully, with more precision than ever before, she made her presence smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter until she barely registered within the Force.
At first Mara thought the room was empty. It took a few minutes but her eyes adjusted to the bright fluorescent lights bouncing off the all white paneling which created an ambiance of surrealism. There, crouched in a corner in a half fetal position was the woman, dressed in tan slacks.
The woman looked up with so much hatred in her eyes that Mara found herself taking a step back. Within another step her blaster was in her hand and trained steadily at the corner.
It was if the blaster didn't exist. Without fear Danika's stood up, her limbs jerking around of their own volition. Letting out a feral growl the movements became more smooth and realistic and her posture became unnaturally military.
Mara understood from Iella's last communique that Danika Prilet was brainwashed but Mara wasn't convinced of her trustworthiness. She refused to mince words, “You know something, Prilet. I don't know if you've told anything to the New Republic and I don't care - you need to tell me what you know now. Or I will do things to you that would make you wish you had.”
There was no reaction, no facial twitches nothing but the sudden opening of her mouth. How it was possible, Mara could name many reasons but the deep, male voice that came filled the room haunted her—
“Do you remember, Mara Jade?”
Mara shook her head, uncertain. It was a woman before her, but the voice, that voice was of Gradin Mirdac - the smooth, polished and charismatic man in charge of teaching her about infiltration and disguise. The voice of the man she had seen twitching and flaying on the ground after the Emperor decided he had failed him.
She had watched him grow still, and then had accompanied his still smoldering body through the med center to be disposed of.
She had seen it all.
“Speechless, Emperor's Hand? You weren't so speechless when I taught you. Countess Claria, Nigina Relinka, Meri Dovan. All my creations. How did you repay me?”
Mara's voice was hoarse when she answered, “Where are you? Who are you? Gradin Mirdac is dead.” Those names—all deaths in operations gone wrong, operations that had required her to.... She focused again--
“What do you want?”
Danika's lips curled up in an almost resigned expression, her eyes were wide and manic, larger than life—and then spoke again, “You failed, Mara Jade. You failed to kill me, and you failed at his last command. Now my former apprentice, you will pay for those mistakes.”
Something niggled at the back of her mind, and Mara knew she was undoing any progress she and Cilghal and Skywalker had achieved--but she pushed it back. “Why should I listen to you? You died—died. Right now you're nothing but a voice coming from someone you've manipulated and brainwashed.”
Mirdac laughed—or rather Prilet laughed since it was her head that was thrown back with her arms splayed. “Oh Mara, so sanctimonious. Why are we in this room—do you remember?”
As he spoke, the telltale pinch in her psyche became more indignant and for a second her control slipped. All of a sudden she was hearing Mirdac's voice through the water, stroking her mind.
“Mara Jade. You were born with parents who didn't want you to go. You met the Emperor when you were young....and he has taken care of you....”
“No. You're lying. I was being prepared to resist interrogation.” Mara wrenched her eyes back open.
“Of course it was to prepare you for interrogation, but it was also his insurance policy. The Emperor loved his plans, his complex ways of destroying those who strayed from loyalty.”
Strayed from his loyalty. Gradin Mirdac had done that, he had fallen and Mara had betrayed him.
“You do remember, don't you? You remember that day on the Endymion? The day you volunteered to serve?”
Her mouth grew dry, her hand went limp and the clatter of her blaster to the floor was startling. The Endymion. Another memory, another time, another place. Things shoved in corners and crevices meant to be hidden and never touched. Knowledge of decisions of youth, the need to impress, of intentions and guile, of initiative and naiveté. Of misplaced earnestness and power.
Of seduction, and temptation. Her nails were biting into the back of her hands, breaking the skin and pulling blood from the infinitesimal wounds. She had craved so much, so long ago. She had at once begged for mercy, while basking in her master's praise.
“Nothing happened the way you remember, Mara Jade. Your life, my life we were ever nothing but pawns—but you cannot move on without fully understanding your crimes, without knowing what you have done affects others.”
There was a brief pause, and Mara struggled to keep her focus, fought to push back the burgeoning flashes of light, the striations of youth as she was transported back. But I know what I did caused pain, I know what I did destroyed families, live. I know!
And then he spoke again; a sly whisper of malignancy. Gradin Mirdac may not have been in the room, he even may not have been the one calling the shots but he spoke like a man already assured of success. It was no longer the voice of a manipulator, but the voice of a man you wanted to believe, someone she knew she must believe. “Oh, my young student. Now our time together is over and you must bring this to a suitable end. The Emperor has left you instructions, and I expect we will be seeing you soon—one way or another. In this life, or .....” There was a loud screech and Danika Prilet's eyes rolled back her ear suddenly bleeding.
A part of Mara's mind registered that this was the transmitter shorting out, that its ability to work lasted only a specific time and that Mirdac had run out of time to taunt her....but the other part suddenly flared at the words, at the thought of the Endymion. She lost control completely and sank to the floor grasping her head as the memory came roaring back.
There were stormtroopers everywhere. Rows upon rows of gleaming straight-backed stormtroopers. They were intimidating, but the Mara of the present suddenly knew that they didn't intimidate her then just as they didn't intimidate her now. The sudden knowledge made her limbs feel weak, and she turned slowly to stare at the on ramp to watch a young girl—she had just turned fourteen—move slowly up the enormous gangplank that belonged to the Star Destroyer Endymion.
No one noticed as her younger self sashaying through the crowd as if she was invisible—but she knew exactly where to go. There was an irrevocable confidence and Mara remembered braiding her hair, doing her makeup and slipping into what she had thought in her young mind would be appropriate to approach the most powerful man in the galaxy.
Mara laughed to herself—she had been so naive, so sure of herself. As she stood the world turned as the room began to spin so that she was now within herself, feeling the youth, the certainty that this was her path—that she was ready to serve the Emperor to the best of her abilities.
She had been called.
Young Mara shivered and stared awestruck at the shuttle before her. She could feel him, the power the awesome magnificent power that worked to save the galaxy every day. Then he walked down the ramp. Then he was four feet away, the cowl of his black cloak hiding all except the mottled waxiness of his jawline, a souvenir of an attack during the Old Republic's corruption.
“My child, why are you here?”
Kneeling, Mara reached for him with her mind, with the power she had recently mastered. “I come to serve. I can do whatever you ask, whenever you ask, however you ask.”
“Will you kill for me?”
She was ready, She had known this might be a possibility and the fragment of the present Mara winced, “I am ready to kill in the name of the Empire. Those who betray, deserve that judgment.”
She had rehearsed them in the mirror, the older Mara remembered. She had practiced, waiting for this moment to prove her worth and what came next was the start of a very long line of unjust deaths.
The Emperor removed the cowl covering his head and the weight of his eyes upon her caused the older Mara to suppress a vague sense of fear that was not yet evident to her past self.
“Very well. Mr. Mirdac. Can you provide us with a prisoner?”
A tall man, with dark hair that was pulled sharply away to reveal his chiseled features bowed to the Emperor and snapped to a group of stormtroopers waiting inside the ship. They brought forward a young woman in green fatigues with bruises under her eyes and a lip that had been split.
The Mara of now saw those details, but at fourteen all she had seen was an opportunity. Without thinking, she held out her hand for a blaster, coldly changed the setting to kill and pulled the trigger.
The last thing she heard before she was wrenched from the vision was the Emperor's cackle and those fateful words: “Mara Jade, you will be a great asset to the Empire.”
Suddenly, another vision pushed through, one that sent a spark of refreshment through Mara's body. It was almost as if the Force was battling itself, trying to strong arm information into Mara's brain. As these new images became clear she realized, with a sinking heart, exactly what was going on. She had volunteered, she had made the decision to kill willingly and to step into the Emperor's service, somehow her heart had always known. These visions weren't meant to torture her, but to make her accept the truth. She had made her choice, but she had to wonder was her life ever really hers to control in the first place?
Cilghal's voice floated through her mind, Jedi Jade. It wasn't a title that she had ever wanted, but it was something that had always been there—the trust, the honor, the sense of belonging if she ever accepted Luke's offer.
But Mara Jade knew now that it was something that could never be.
Using this newfound knowledge to return to the present, Mara pulled herself up. As the vision broke away she could once again hear her former master again. A 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.
She had come here for the truth, and this poor girl had told her exactly what she had wanted to hear, even from Gradin Mirdac. That she, Mara Jade, had volunteered to kill in the name of the Emperor.
“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.” Gradin Mirdac may not have been controlling her from afar, but Mara suspected the man who had left the room and been the one to instigate this current personality and allow the original transmission to begin.
“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 Danika only to find that 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. No matter how much she was brainwashed. This woman had tried to kill me.
Mara? She slammed down her barriers completely, 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. The door creaked against the strain, as another clank fell against it.
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. 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 the familiar wrench of pain, something Cilghal had yet to find a solution for, the room snapped back into focus. The adrenaline remained and Mara’s ears pulsed with the sound of her own ragged breathing.
Still feeling numb, Mara started at the crimson that stained her hands. As a gurgle behind her broke the silence, Mara gasped for air and turned using the wall for support. Danika Prilet was at the far side of the room, but now her hands clenched her stomach, just above the waistband, with her nose bent and bleeding flat against her face. Slowly Mara looked at the woman's midsection and saw the hilt of her own blade sticking out from between steady hands.
Spots danced before her, as 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 and 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 woman 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.
Leaping out of the speeder, Luke called back to Corran, “What did Iella tell you?”
Corran's green eyes flashed, “It's a sting. They're hoping to get some kind of information about the mysterious leader, so they let the plan go forward. Apparently getting caught was part of it. “
Luke stopped and turned to face him, ignoring the sudden emptiness where Mara had just been. She had just cut him off from contacting her directly. “Mara?”
“Cracken's idea apparently. Iella said she wanted to give her a heads up, but he wouldn't let her.”
Airen Cracken, the head of New Republic Intelligence, was ruthless, but good at his job. Luke couldn't begrudge him that. “Why is she saying anything now?”
The Corellian stepped forward and put a hand on Luke's shoulder, dropping his voice. “To stop us from interfering. They're monitoring the room and apparently, Mirdac just made contact. We have to think about this rationally and wait for her to make her move.”
“Mara isn't rational right now. She wants answers, and I think she'll get them.”
“What aren't you saying Luke?”
Luke stared past his friend's shoulder at the multicolored lights on the building behind them, hiding the oblong shaped senate building from view. “I think what she's really looking for is the truth—and Mirdac or Prilet aren't going to be able to give her that. This Lieutenant guy has something bigger in mind.”
“Luke!” The two men turned around at the sound of Han Solo's voice. “Chewbacca is inside and just spotted a group of Imperial types—you know stuffy, good posture, drone voices, moving up the building. Are we making a move or not?”
Opening his mouth, Luke frowned as the vista before him was transformed into the open bay of a Star Destroyer.
Standing no more than a few steps before him was Mara as he had seen her this morning, dressed in dark slacks and a short jacket that hid the various bits of weaponry she kept on her person. She was staring off to the side at a young woman who was holding her hand out. Knowing there was a reason he was witnessing this tableau, Luke squinted at those around him, recognizing the all too familiar hunched form of the Emperor and his menacing royal guards. Standing next to them was a man of middling height, and long dark hair which was pulled back with a band. His brown eyes seemed to be focused on the girl before him as he handed her the object in his hand.
He refocused on the object that the girl had been given. A blaster. Luke saw the rebel on the floor, and winced at the condition of her face. He heard the soft click of the shot and the woman crumpled slowly to the ground. Without expression the girl spun the blaster around to hand it back then turned to bow to the Emperor. He felt a chill.
It was Mara, a much younger Mara her face barely recognizable from the more mature, adult woman he had known for years. Instinctively he turned to look at the Mara he knew standing near him. Covered in sweat, her eyes wide and in a panic, this Mara had a sense of understanding, of resignation. He stepped forward, feeling that he had to help in some way, but instead the whole scene faded away....
“Luke--?” Blinking, he turned to his brother-in-law, who was waiting impatiently for an answer.
He kept his answer short, “Let's move up. She said she'd need backup, so that's what we'll be.” Mara you don't have to do this alone. Together the three of them moved into the building. Corran pulled out a datapad. “We're coming in on the southwest corner of the floor. Mara and Prilet are in this room here, “ he said as he tapped the diagram with his stylus.
Han had his commlink to his ear, “Chewbacca reports two groups of infiltrators: one is moving towards the holding cell, while the others are a few floors below.” After translating this Han rolled his eyes, “Kid, does that girl have a death wish?”
Luke tossed a grim look in Han’s direction. “I’m beginning to think so.” I thought she had felt comfortable enough, trusted me enough to let me help her through this latest vision but....
On his other side, Corran Horn snorted, “Beginning—“
He stopped short feeling the wave of shock and fear rising from Mara through the Force. He and Luke glanced at each other and without another word they sped down towards the interrogation room, with Han right on their heels.
Despite her sudden reemergence in the Force she didn’t answer. Something was terribly wrong.
There was a sudden roar as Chewbacca came sprinting down the opposite hall, followed closely by some loose blaster bolts. Flipping out his lightsaber, Luke jumped forward, knocking them out of harm’s way. Dimly he could tell that some of the team had made it into the cell where Mara and the prisoner were, as Mara embraced the Force to fight them off.
Come on Mara. Hold it together. He barely registered the cloned white tiled halls of the former Imperial facility. Tunneling his Force perception, he let Corran fight off the stray bolts coming from the few remaining defenses. We're almost there.
As they turned the corner, Luke skidded to a stop and flung his arm out. “Wait. She’s heading toward the roof.”
Corran nodded, “What about Prilet?”
Han raised his eyebrows, “Who?”
Luke shot off an explanation, widening his examination of the floor and identifying the other presence. “The prisoner that was in the room Mara just came from. She’s in pain. I think....I think Mara stabbed her. Do you think you can handle it?”
“Can I handle it? With a good blaster at my side? Of course.” Han thumbed on his commlink, gesturing to Chewbacca to come back towards him. “We’re going to need a medic in here. No, we’re alright… it’s someone else.”
Corran could sense Luke's intentions before Han finished his sentence, and he moved with the Jedi Master toward the stairwell. Taking the steps in leaps, the two of them burst through the metal door at the top of the dilapidated Coruscant highrise, lightsabers in hand.
He saw her before he felt her. She had minimized her connection to the Force again so that he could barely pinpoint her location on the broad roof.
Near the edge, her red hair was flying around her shoulders, buffeted by the wild winds slamming into the building. She was hunched over, her back towards them, seemingly engrossed in the movement of Coruscant citizenry below.
Corran took a step forward and was stayed by Luke gripping his forearm. He looked quizzically at the Jedi Master’s blue eyes.
In response, Luke’s voice was soft, but carried over the roar. “Mara.”
She turned, and Corran realized he could barely see her face in the dim lighting. Her green eyes were dark, and her chest was heaving from exertion. She made a small movement and something clattered at Luke’s feet. Corran resisted the urge to look down, choosing to maintain eye contact. He saw her lips move in a whisper, before she shook imperceptibly.
It was faint, but Corran heard it—“This belongs to you.”
Beside him Luke started—and Corran glanced at him suddenly worried and feeling as if he was interfering in a private conversation. Luke’s face was filled with concern, more than a moment earlier so Corran prepared himself for sudden movement. Mara must have said something through the Force, he thought. Luke reached his hand out towards her. “Mara, we can help. Whatever it is---“
He never had a chance to finish. In one sweeping motion, Mara Jade reached behind her and vaulted over the edge of the building.
“No!” The two men raced to where she had stood moments before and stared at the miles of lights below. Her body was graceful, arched with her hair a fleeting glimpse of red against the harsh neon lights.
Then she was gone.
“Shavit.” Luke slammed his fist against the edge of the building and then turned around calling the object Mara had thrown at them to his hand. She loves me?
It was his father’s lightsaber.
Turning the hilt in his hands with practiced familiarity he sensed Corran's question before it was spoken aloud, “Why?
Avoiding his eyes, Luke’s felt the weariness in his voice. “I don’t know.” He remembered the injured woman downstairs. “But I know who does.”
End Post VI
This post has been edited by jade51999 on Aug 11 2008, 09:06 PM
Siren: Wraiths songstress
Member No.: 17
Joined: 23-November 05
Post VII: Once you start down the dark path...
Leia switched off the comm and swiveled around to where Han leaned against the wall. His hair slightly mussed from the shower, he held a glass of his favorite brandy, liquid amber, in the late evening light.
“So, Princess. What's the verdict?”
“Prilet will survive. Her stab wounds did cause some organ damage, but the surgeons were able to get through it.”
At that Han swirled his drink, the ice tinkling as it hit the sides of the thick glass. “When are they going to question her?”
“A few days.” She watched his eyes go to the balcony as she stood to pour herself a glass of wine. “Why don't you go talk to him, Han? I don't think he wants his sister right now.”
“Sweetheart, I don't think he even knows what he wants.” Pulling his lanky frame up, he moved towards the prep unit and pushed a button. Spotting the expression on his wife's face, Han gave her an impatient grin, “Leia, just ask.”
“Did he say anything about what happened on the roof?”
His forehead furrowed, “No. But I know he came back with his old lightsaber, the one he gave Mara.” He watched as Leia's face grew thoughtful. “Don't go there, Princess. The man just got out of one relationship where the girl barely looked back before running far, far away.”
Leia sighed, “That was over a two years ago. I liked Callista, and wanted her to be a part of our family, but she had another path. A path that did not include my brother or the Jedi Order. After being stuck in warship for so long, I think she had a unique perspective, and knew before we did that she was not right for Luke.” Her brown eyes seemed to be mulling something over, “I think there has been a connection between Luke and Mara for a while, and I'm not sure either of them are in a place to acknowledge it. I mean, did you notice how she disappeared completely from society in the past two years? Granted, she was building up the Alliance and doing work for Karrde on the side but.... ”
Her husband nodded. “Lando was the first to notice. She stopped coming to many of the New Republic functions unless they had specifically to do with representing the Smugglers Alliance.”
Leia frowned, then took another sip of her drink and walked to the prep unit just as it finished its cycle. “I hope Mara is all right, wherever she is.” She thought about the conversation she and Mara had a few months earlier, in fact the last time she had seen the trader in person. To be bombarded with your mistakes, your regrets, on a daily basis, unable to move past that time and without anyone to support you—it was who she would have been had it not been for the Alliance, Han and for Luke after the destruction of Alderaan. Pouring some of the hot chocolate Han had been making into a mug she handed it over, “I love you, Nerfherder. Now go talk to him, and if you can, ask him what he wants to do with Mara's ship, since the Jade's Fire is still at the NRI dock. Iella said they still don't know what transport Mara took to get off planet, but once they do they'll let him know.”
“Shouldn't Karrde make that decision?”
Leia shrugged, “Talon doesn't have the access codes, but she gave Luke full access.” She mimicked her husband's expression from earlier, as Han stopped in his tracks. “Now who is thinking that there's more to Mara Jade than meets the eye.” She gave him a half smirk, “Tell me again when I got the access codes to the Falcon?”
Han turned bright red remembering the night that had followed that conversation. He had been about to leave for the search for Warlord Zinj and had realized unconsciously that he could only leave the Falcon on Leia's flagship—just in case.
Leia let out a soft laugh, “Pilots and their ships.” She leaned up to kiss him, then put her drink down as she felt Anakin stirring in the other room, “I'm going to go check in on the kids. Food should be ready in a half hour.”
Giving her a wink, Han carried the steaming liquid in one hand and his refill in the other striding across the wide living room to the balcony entrance. As he approached, he caught the familiar electronic sounds of Artoo, followed by Luke's even voice.
“I don't know how long you'll have to store it for me, Artoo. But I figure you're the best person to keep it safe. Like old times.” He watched as his brother-in-law placed a cylindrical object inside of one of R2-D2's hidden compartments. “Its Mara's now, but she couldn't take it where she was going.” Luke paused, then knelt down beside the droid, his cape spreading out on the balcony floor in a light wave. “Artoo, what do you think of her?”
When the droid answered with his typical raspberry, Han choked back a chuckle. Artoo had always held a grudge against Mara Jade and had never really been quiet about it.
Luke patted the droid on the head, “True, she did want to take you apart on Myrkr, but she wouldn't do that anymore.” Artoo's following bleep's sounded skeptical. Then he let out a huge string of questions. A small smile graced his owner's face, “Yes, I suppose she could find you some replacement parts if you asked. Or we could ask Mirax Terrik, since Mara won't be back for a while.”
At that Han stepped through the doorway into the cool late evening air, “Luke, how can you be sure she'll even come back?” Luke stood and accepted the drink from Han, using it to warm his palms before answering.
“Because she decided to fight.”
“When? On the roof? Was this before or after she decided to exit with style?”
Luke shook his head, “No, on our way back from Wayland. We had an argument...” He hesitated before sharing, “One of the reoccurring visions involves killing me, and we had a little incident on Wayland which frightened her into actually leaning on someone else for once.”
The two of them turned to look out away from the Maranari Mountains, watching the lights sparkle from one of the orbital platforms far above the city planet. After a few moments, Han regarded the man beside him. “So what happened inside the interrogation facility?”
Inhaling the rich aroma, Luke felt his uncertainty eke away, “I think Mara finally had to face her past---and that she remains convinced that her only hope of survival lies in fixing this by herself.”
Artoo moved forward and extended a pincher to pull at Luke's tunic. Then let out a string of tones that sent Luke back down to his knees to look at the translator. “How did you get that? NRI?”
Han glanced down at the droid quizzically, “What is it, squirt?” When the droid ignored him, he looked at the Jedi Master. ”Kid?”
Luke breathed out his answer, “He hacked into NRI mainframe and pulled the video from the cell.”
The taller man whistled, “Well done, Artoo.”
The droid squealed and Luke nodded, “It looks like someone sent him instructions. I'm guessing Iella, wanting us to be prepared.”
Han nodded, “We just heard. Danika Prilet made it out of surgery. You can go talk to her in a few days.”
“Great.” Luke stood again and moved back to where his drink was sitting on the railing.
“Don't sound so excited, Skywalker.” He lightly punched the younger man in the shoulder, “This woman will be able to tell us what happened—what we can't tell from the vid.”
Han leaned forwad to peer into the Jedi's face, “W hat's going on, Luke? Are you worried about Jade? She's a big girl; she knew what she was doing.”
Luke started pulling out of his thoughts flexing his hands unconsciously. “Yes....No.”
“Well that certainly clears things up.” In the silence that followed, Han studied his friend. Short like his sister, Luke Skywalker was meticulous. Those who saw only the Jedi Master, saw a man who was always in control, his short cropped hair implying a discipline that a younger Luke would have shunned. But something was bothering this man who was a brother to him—and Han had a feeling that the gentle speculation of his and Leia's wasn't all that far from the truth.
Finally he tried again, “Listen, I don't know what’s bothering you but I can guess, cause while I may not have worked for Corsec, I do have some deductive reasoning skills. Whatever Red said to you, she couldn't have been prepared for it either and I think that might have been the reason she took a panicked flying leap off a Coruscant highrise. The Mara Jade I know would have acted as if everything was alright and then spring away in her own ship in the night. This action was a bit too dramatic, and certainly not characteristic of anyone who used to work for Talon Karrde.”
Luke turned to stare at Han, the worry lines on his forehead becoming more pronounced. Closing his eyes briefly, he seemed to center himself, a move Han had seen him pull for years. Luke was pushing his feelings to the side so that he could tackle the more important obstacle. Exhaling, he clasped Han's shoulder. “Thanks, Han. I think we better watch this holo now.”
As they sat down on the couch, Artoo whirred over to plug in and the holo flooded into motion.
Slipping quietly into the room, Leia held her breath, watching her brother as Mara took a stand against the judgment that Gradin Mirdac seemed desperate to dole out to her.
Luke's voice was low--”Right here, she's about to go into her vision.”
Leia and Han exchanged glances and then observed as Mara's body went rigid, her head slumped back, almost falling, but somehow remaining upright. While she was unconscious, Danika Prilet seemed to be struggling herself. Her ear had started bleeding, and there seemed to be some question as to whether she could stay on her own feet. As Mara regained her senses, the other woman seemed to receive a surge of energy and continued the verbal abuse that Mirdac had begun.
Han winced as Mara quickly dispatched the imperials bursting into the room, then grimaced as one of those men wrenched Mara's vibroblade from his own stomach and threw it over to the prisoner, who remained expressionless despite the mayhem surrounding her.
“Oh, no.” Leia's hand clapped over her mouth, stunned when Danika took the blade and plunged it into her own abdomen, falling back against the wall with labored breaths.
Luke could only stare at Mara, whose shocked expression seemed set and determined at the same time. She didn't seem as desperate as she did on the roof just moments later, rather she seemed like a woman about to do something she didn't want to do.
The holo whirred to a stop and the three of them glanced at one another. Han was the first to speak, “I think that Mara left believing she had stabbed Danika Prilet, and whatever that vision was meant to do to her was obviously not the reaction she seemed to have.”
Leia's eyes narrowed, “What do you mean?”
Han angled back to look at his wife. “I think that Mirdac wanted to scare her into doing something drastic—listen to his taunts. From my perspective though, Mara looked like she had a plan, and that she already knew how to accomplish it.”
Sensing that her brother was ready to talk, Leia moved around to sit next to him on the couch, giving Han a silent warning. In a moment, Luke grimaced then sighed. “I think you're right about everything except one thing.”
“I think that she was running, but this time not away from her problems—rather I think she's running towards them. She can't control the visions and she believes that she will inadvertently murder me, so the only problem she can fight are the attempts on her life—“
Leia nodded in agreement, “Mara's gone to find Gradin Mirdac, which won't be easy since Iella implied that the cell has gone underground again.”
Luke was contemplative and he met his sister's eyes as she slipped her fingers into his. “Did you know that after Callista disappeared, Mara was one of the first ones to send me a message offering aid in finding her? She sent sightings and possible star charts from Karrde, but all the while refused to talk to me in person.”
He squeezed Leia's hand, “Mara fled to work out her problems on her own, without endangering my life. She says it’s because I'm one of her only friends, that she can't be selfish and pull me away from my work. What she doesn't understand is that I want to help her, and not because it’s my duty as a Jedi, or my duty as a friend. I don't think she realizes how much I value her as a part of my life.”
Realizing he needed to tell someone, Luke looked at his sister, “Before she jumped, Mara told me that she loved me.” His gaze was a mix of confusion and newfound certainty-”and the thing is, I think I love her too.”
Han reached over and patted the younger man's knee, “Kid, I hate to break this to you, but we know.” He winked at him, “We know.”
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