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Saga - OT A Diamond in the Rough (AU Ezra/Mara): OTP Fairy Tale Challenge, Ch. 4 11/21/17

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Title: A Diamond in the Rough
    Author: Raissa Baiard
    Era: Saga OT, 3 BBY
    Characters: Ezra Bridger, Maul, Mara Jade Blayne (AU Mara)
    Genre: AU (or possibly an AU of an AU)
    Summary: Set in an alternate universe where Ezra has never met the Ghost’s crew. Sixteen-year-old street-rat Ezra is approached by a mysterious stranger who needs his help to retrieve an ancient artifact from the Jedi temple on Lothal.
    Notes: written for the Fall 2017 OTP Fairy Tale Challenge.

    Very special thanks to Findswoman, not only for beta reading, but for trading stories with me [:D] As soon as I saw Aladdin on the list of fairy tales, I knew I wanted to write a story featuring Space!Aladdin himself. :ezra:

    ———————

    Prologue

    Darkness cloaked the plains of Lothal.

    Both of the moons had waned to mere slivers; ragged snatches of clouds obscured even those thin crescents. A restless wind stirred the tall grass, whipping it into roiling waves. If anyone had been there, they might complained that a sense of foreboding and unease blanketed the grasslands as thoroughly as the darkness. As it was, the only creature around was a solitary white Loth-cat prowling the tall grass in search of his next meal.

    The piercing whine of a speeder bike rent the eerie silence, and the cat yowled and leapt aside just before the vehicle shrieked to a stop. It crouched in the shelter of one of the rounded rock formations that dotted the plains and hissed, every hair on its body standing on end, as one of the vehicle’s riders dismounted the bike.

    “This is it!” The hunched figure leaned forward on his crooked staff as if scenting the air. His yellow eyes, the only part of him visible beneath a dark, heavy cloak, gleamed eagerly in the fitful moonlight. He hobbled a few steps forward. “I can feel it! I can taste it!”

    The second rider, a Twi’lek with sickly blue skin and scarred lekku vaulted off the bike and surveyed the empty expanse derisively. “Here? Are you sure, old man? I don’t see any temple. Not even a ruin of one!”

    “You doubt me?” The voice that emerged from the shadows of the cloak was contemptuous, unused to being questioned. The dark man raised one hand to point at the nearest hill. “This is the place. The Temple won’t appear until it is summoned by one who is strong in the Force.”

    “Then summon it, old one. What are you waiting for?”

    “Ah, no….” The man’s hood shifted as he shook his head. “This is your task. The reason I brought you here. The temple is dedicated to the Light Side. It will only appear for someone who, well...let us say, someone with cleaner hands than mine.”

    The Twi’lek snorted disdainfully at the old man and took a step towards the indicated mound. He closed his eyes and stretched out a hand.

    A silent moment stretched out, and suddenly there came a rumble louder than any thunderstorm. The dome of the rocky knoll stretched upward into a hill, then beginning of a mountain. The Loth-cat yowled and flattened itself to the ground as the grasslands trembled and quaked.

    “Yes! Yes!” The cloaked figure exulted. “I will have it at last! I will have my…”

    And then, with a grinding shriek, the temple’s upward movement stopped. It shuddered and slowly began to recede, sinking into the waves of grass like a foundering ship.

    “No!!!” The cloaked man lunged forward as the mountain dwindled back into a hill, back into nothing more than another hummock on the plains. He scrabbled uselessly at the mound’s rocky surface, pounding it impotently with his fists. “No!” he shrieked again, rounding on the other with a speed that belied the hunched posture he’d initially affected. “What have you done, you idiot!”

    “I summoned it just like you said!” the Twi’lek whined, cringing away from him. “It came! But then..it...pushed me back! It’s not my fault, you stupid old codger!”

    “I chose poorly, it seems.” The hood of the man’s cloak fell back as he advanced on his companion. In the darkness, his red and black tattoos and crown of horns made him seem like a demon from the darkest corners of imagination. His eyes glittered coldly as he surveyed the young Twi’lek. “You’ve traveled farther down the Dark path than I realized. I admit, it was helpful on Malachor, and while it might have made you an excellent apprentice for me at another time, right now it makes you...useless.” With the lethal speed and grace of a striking serpent, he pulled the hilt of a lightsaber from his twisted staff, ignited its crimson blade, and plunged it into the Twi’lek’s chest.

    He was already speeding into the night as his erstwhile apprentice crumpled to the ground.

    But no one saw him go except the Loth-cat.

    ----------------------------------
    Chapter One

    The Jolly Lothali Cantina’s name was obviously intended as irony; Cikatro Vizago had seldom seen a more miserable clientele anywhere in the Broken Horn syndicate’s territory. The miners who worked in the Empire’s ever-expanding operations were haggard and bedraggled, covered with dust and sweat after their long shifts. The displaced farmers whose land the strip mines now occupied were ragged and destitute, dispirited from watching their orchards and fields chewed up by the mines. Both sides hated each other for offenses real and imagined. There was a constant undercurrent of simmering unease and resentment in the dingy, dimly-lit cantina, which was in fact little more than a pre-fab outbuilding that some opportunist had hastily cobbled together after realizing that the misery spreading across Lothal’s Westhills created an ideal market for cheap, strong drinks.

    Vizago approved of opportunists; he was one himself. In fact, he had taken the opportunity to offer the Jolly Lothali the Broken Horn’s services for protection—mostly from the syndicate itself—in exchange for the proprietor’s best liquor.

    “I’ve been told you’re the one to speak to if one is seeking something here on Lothal.”

    The green-skinned Devaronian looked up from his tankard. It was excellent lomin ale, and Vizago was loath to interrupt his enjoyment of it, but credits took precedence over pleasure. He ran a finger over the chipped stub of his left horn—a habit he wished he could rid himself of—as he assessed the figure standing next to his table. The being, shrouded in a tatty black cloak, was hunched over a gnarled walking stick. He gave the impression of being a harmless, poor old beggar, but Vizago had been in this business long enough to spot a con when he saw one. Though the supposed beggar’s face was hardly visible, his voice betrayed none of the tremulousness of age, and the hands that clutched his staff—made of ebon wood no beggar could afford—were wiry but not gnarled. “I might be,” Vizago allowed. He set down his mug and gestured the chair across from him. “What is it you’re looking for?”

    The cloaked man sat, and Vizago caught a glimpse of his face beneath the shadow of his hood. Humanoid, with red skin and black facial tattoos. Probably a Zabrak, Vizago decided, but his eyes… he’d never seen anyone of any species with eyes like like those red-ringed yellow eyes.

    “I’m seeking a being,” the Zabrak began.

    “His name?” Vizago asked, taking a drink of his ale. No particular challenge here; the Broken Horn had eyes and ears all over Lothal. His price for the service of locating this being would only depend on who it was; if they owed any loyalty to Vizago, it would be somewhat higher.

    The cloaked figure waved a black-gloved hand equivocally. “Not a specific being, but a type…”

    “Ah, I see.” Vizago’s lip curled. He didn’t usually deal in those kind of transactions—live merchandise was always difficult—but business was business, and credits were credits. “What kind of female are you interested in? Or male…I don’t judge.”

    The Zabrak’s lips, tattooed with dark serpent fangs, curled back in a sneer. “I'm not looking for an assignation, you back-rocket clod. I’m looking for someone with certain abilities—someone who seems a little too lucky, perhaps.” He leaned forward, his uncanny eyes boring into Vizago’s, his voice turned smooth and wheedling. “Perhaps their reflexes are a bit too quick, as if they can read minds or tell the future. They might be able to talk other beings into doing what they want or out of trouble.”

    Something in the back of Vizago’s mind insisted it would be a good idea to run away from that eerie gaze as quickly as possible, probably while screaming like a youngling. He made himself stop being such a superstitious ninny. He hadn’t gotten to be the leader of the largest criminal syndicate in the sector by being squeamish. “I think I know the type you’re looking for but…” But the one Vizago was thinking of was hardly more than a boy. True, he was a singularly annoying and precocious boy, who was becoming more of a thorn in Vizago’s side all the time, but could he really turn the lad over to whatever tender mercies the dark-shrouded stranger possessed? “You’ll forgive me for saying, but those seem like the kind of abilities an Inquisitor might be interested in.”

    “And you’re concerned for a friend’s well-being? Or perhaps your own.” There was a flash of teeth, blackened and broken, in the Zabrak’s grin. “I can assure you I have no love for the Inquisitorius, nor any wish to aid them. I merely have a business proposition for the individual.” He drew a credit stick from the folds of his cloak and slid it across the table. “You’ll be well compensated for the information you give me now...and a bonus if the business is successful.”

    Vizago’s hand wavered above the credit stick for a second, but this was business, after all, and there was no place for sentimentality here. The stranger’s proposition was quite reasonable, and...perhaps it was wiser to get the boy out of the way before he truly became a nuisance. “Ezra Bridger….a sixteen-year-old street rat, pickpocket and small-time con artist. Been on his own since he was seven and somehow managed not to get snagged by the Imps in all that time. Has a story for everything and somehow makes them seem plausible.”

    The Zabrak’s yellow eyes seemed to glow. “Where can I find this Ezra Bridger?”

    Vizago chuckled as he pocketed the stranger’s credit stick. “Just go to the Capital City bazaar with a pocket full of credits. He’ll find you.”
     
    Sith-I-5, Kahara, AzureAngel2 and 3 others like this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] [face_dancing] Cool stuff. =D= I do love the Aladin-ish feel. @};- Looking forward to how events unfold when he encounters Mara [face_love]
     
  3. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    An AU to an AU, with a very plausible connection. Maul is an interesting opponent, he was a good foil to Ezra. So far, very true to the flavor of the fairy tale!
     
  4. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    This is awesome. You're paralleling the movie beautifully, with a great GFFA twist going on. Maul as the antagonist is inspired! I love that you've got Aladdin - what a fantastic complement to your Marakesh universe! Looking forward to more.
     
  5. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Not only your landscape descriptions are hauntingly beautiful:

    Darkness cloaked the plains of Lothal.

    Both of the moons had waned to mere slivers; ragged snatches of clouds obscured even those thin crescents. A restless wind stirred the tall grass, whipping it into roiling waves. If anyone had been there, they might complained that a sense of foreboding and unease blanketed the grasslands as thoroughly as the darkness. As it was, the only creature around was a solitary white Loth-cat prowling the tall grass in search of his next meal.

    You transform Maul, Ezra and a Jedi temple of old rather easily into an evil wizzard, a street rat and a magical cave.

    True magic at work here!
     
    Ewok Poet, Kahara, Findswoman and 2 others like this.
  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    First of all, I'll say you're very welcome, and that I'm glad our little trade of stories worked out so well. :)

    Very glad indeed, because what you have started here is pretty much an absolute perfect match for not only the Aladdin story but also the characters and the setting. And for you, with your finely tuned understandings of both the Rebelsverse and the Disneyverse that I can see are going to come together in some amazing ways. :ezra: @};-

    Yes, Ezra is most definitely Space!Aladdin: not only in his looks and general personality but also the fact that he's got that special, hidden "diamond in the rough" quality that villainous types could wish to harness for his own purposes. And apropos villains... now that I've fiiiinally gotten to Rebels season three, ohmigosh, I see what a perfect match the series's version of Maul is for Disney's Jafar! :eek: They're both supremely manipulative creeps with dark powers at their disposal that they use to facilitate the manipulation. And now that I've seen "The Holocrons of Fate," I better understand the magnitude of what Maul is trying to do. (And I'm watching you, white kitty...)

    You've set up a very immersive and interesting AU of an AU here, and as always you do a fabulous job setting the scene and describing both the characters and places—I can see immediately just what sort of place the Jolly Lothali is (and the name is priceless too [face_laugh] ). This is definitely the Lothal we know and love from the early Rebels seasons, but with a slightly darker tinge, by virtue of Maul's presence. It's fun to see Vizago here, and the juxtaposition of him and Maul is very intriguing. We know he's a sleazebaggaceous, used-speeder-salesman type, but even so he's clearly much less evil than Maul and seems able to sense that Maul's up to no good in his little Sith!Diogenes-like quest for "a being." Even as he tells Maul all he knows about Ezra, he stops short of telling him exactly where to find him—it's like he's trying to shield Ezra in the only small way remaining to him, and I wonder what role he might play later on in the story.

    This is off to a fabulous start—your enthusiasm for the characters, situation, and setting very much shine through, and stories like that make me particularly eager for more! :ezra:
     
  7. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thank you! Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies (yes, I have a lot of favorites), and I’ve seen it more than a few times. :D It’s a lot of fun meshing one of my old faves with a new one, and it should be interesting when our Loth-rat meets his Jedi princess (Mara objects to being called a princess, of course, even metaphorically.)
    Thanks! Maul really fits perfectly in the role, as perfectly as Ezra fits as Aladdin. He’s so darn manipulative and he knows how to exploit weaknesses. Maul’s really got that “love-to-hate-him” quality that makes a good villain.
    I have to thank Findswoman again for letting me trade with her so I could do this story. The parallels between the characters and even the situations in Aladdin and Rebels were too strong to pass up on—the way Jafar uses Aladdin to get the lamp from the Cave of Wonders is so similar to [hl=black]the way Maul uses Ezra to get the Sith holocron on Malachor.[/hl] It’s a little darker spin on the Raissa-verse, and a little bit different (and younger) Ezra and Mara, but I hope it will keep some of the fun of all of its inspirations.
    [face_blush] Thank you very much for the lovely compliments! [face_love] If there’s magic, I think it must come from loving the stories and their “diamond-in-the-rough” protagonists.
    Well, I will say thank you again, anyway ;) I’ve heard Ezra compared to Aladdin many times—with good reason—but the more I thought about it, the more similarities I saw between the characters and situations, particularly from “Twilight of the Apprentice”.(though this being the fairy tale challenge, Annina would never forgive me if the ending was as...intense... as “Twilight”’s :eek:)
    He totally is, in so many ways! They’re both a couple of wise-cracking, trouble-making, thieves by necessity, but underneath they have hearts of gold and have never lost their compassion. Maul and Jafar are two of a kind, too, right down to their red and black color schemes and serpent motifs (in Maul’s tattoos and Jafar’s scepter). Yes, they’re a pair of master manipulators who don’t care who they have to use to get the power that they crave. And well you should keep an eye on the kitty...#followthewhitelothcat ;)

    Glad you liked the Jolly Lothali’s name. It probably has an electronic signboard outside picturing a drunk miner or evicted farmer sobbing quietly into his ale. Or maybe not—maybe whoever threw the tavern together for a quick buck just liked the rhyme. :p Vizago seemed like the obvious choice for guy who knows where everything can be bought and sold on Lothal. He’s merely amoral to Maul’s immoral. Vizago would sell his grandmother to the Jawas, but hey, Gran, nothing personal, just business. Maul, on the other hand, has some intensely personal reasons for doing what he does; he’ll get his vengeance, no matter how cold it must be served. Even a guy like Vizago has to feel a bit uneasy in the face of that simmering hatred.

    Thank you again. And more coming up right now!
     
  8. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thanks to Findswoman for beta reading! You’re a true gem [:D]

    Chapter 2

    The sun was setting over Capital City, creating a glorious rosy glow on the rounded domes and climbing spires of the government buildings and luxury residences. Down in the Trade Bazaar, however, sunset only made the narrow, shadowy streets seem bleaker and more forbidding.

    After a full day of working in the bazaar, Ezra Bridger was eager to get home—if you could call an abandoned comm-tower home—before it got dark and things and beings even a street-rat like him didn’t want to meet came out. He dashed past the row of market stalls—fruit, textiles, fruit, electronics, more fruit. Why so much fruit?—where the vendors were starting to pack up their wares for the night. He pushed his way against the current of shoppers straggling home, and slammed into an overweight Pantoran, who was juggling an armload of packages, so forcefully that he knocked the portly blue being flat onto his ample posterior. The packages scattered widely over the street.

    “Here now!” The Pantoran huffed at Ezra, his cheeks flushing a dark indigo, as he struggled to stand. “Watch where you’re going, you hooligan!”

    “Oh, I am so sorry, sir!” Ezra exclaimed, ducking his head sheepishly as he scrambled to his own feet. “Are you all right? Let me help you up!” He extended a hand to the Pantoran, who took it reluctantly. Ezra pulled him up, patting him on the back as he regained his feet. He straightened the man’s rumpled tunic and stood back to inspect him with a solicitous expression. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

    “Er, yes, yes. Quite all right.” The Pantoran waved away Ezra’s concern, his scowl fading into a flustered frown as he surveyed the litter of packages strewn around him.

    Ezra darted forward to gather the fallen bags and boxes before the Pantoran could even bend down to pick up the one closest to his feet. “Let me get those for you, sir! I insist. It’s my fault for being so clumsy, after all. Mom always says I need to slow down and watch where I’m going. Guess I should have listened to her, huh? There you go.” Ezra retrieved the last packet from beneath the awning of a nearby fruit stand and returned it to their owner’s arms. The eager Imperial Youth Scout act worked like a charm, as always; the Pantoran didn’t bother to count his packages. Ezra had one more trick up his sleeve to keep his mark from being suspicious.“Oh wait, sir!” he called as the befuddled man turned to go. “Looks like you dropped your wallet, too! You’ll be wanting that, I’m sure.” He handed the man the embossed nerf-hide wallet with a grin and a cheery wave. “Really, really sorry for bumping into you, sir.”

    “No harm done,” the Pantoran assured him, tucking his wallet back into his tunic pocket. He shifted his packages into a more manageable stack and smiled at Ezra. “Have a good evening, son.”

    “You too, sir! Thank you, sir!” Ezra smiled back, and dipped his head, touching his fingertips to the untidy shock of blue-black hair that hung over his right eye. He continued down the street just far enough to slip around the corner, where he ducked into closest alley to inspect his take. He’d tucked two of the Pantoran’s flimsi wrapped packages into his tattered canvas vest while he was picking them up up, and he’d lifted the Pantoran’s wallet when he’d straightened his tunic so politely. Ezra carefully undid the wrapping on the first package—half a kilo of carob-drizzled candied jogan fruit. The second package was even more disappointing: two dozen packets of Mama Odie’s Hot ’n’ Spicy Boontaspice flavor Bantha BBQ Rub. Seriously? What was he supposed to do with that? Not like he was ever going to barbecue anything, not unless he got desperate enough to start hunting Loth-rats. At least he could eat the jogan fruit. To top it all off, all he’d gotten from the wallet was the measly sum of fifteen credits. Apparently the Pantoran had already spent all his credits on junk food.

    Ezra sighed in disgust and tossed the spice packets onto the ground. It hadn’t been a particularly good day today. Lately, it was never a good day. Tourists and shoppers who would trust an earnest, if scruffy-looking twelve- or fourteen-year-old to give them directions or carry packages were leery of a gangly sixteen-year-old in worn coveralls and scavenged shin guards. There were fewer tourists all the time, too, as the scenic countryside and quaint farms were gradually being marred by the ugly pock marks of strip mines. Fewer farms meant a smaller harvest and less food at the market stalls—and fewer stalls, too. The only thing there seemed to be more of in the Trade Bazaar lately was stormtroopers.

    After Commandant Aresko’s continued failure to stamp out the growing resistance movement in and around Capital City, the Sector Moff had relieved him of his duties overseeing the Imperial Constabulary and brought in a new prefect from some world Ezra had never heard of that was supposed to be a model of Imperial peace and prosperity—like there really was such a thing. And while Ezra felt that the demotion couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy, Governor Pryce had insisted that Aresko retain control of military operations, including the Academy. Suddenly, everything from patrolling the streets to sanitation inspections were classified as a military operation as Aresko conducted a campaign of petty offenses against the new prefect.

    “There it goes!”

    The shout was followed by the sizzle of blaster fire and shrieks from the Rodian fruit vendor whose stand the shot hit. Ezra peered cautiously out of the alleyway to see a pair of Imperial Academy cadets charging down the street in pursuit of something. A small, white creature darted between the legs of the panicky shoppers. It was a Loth-cat, one of the rare pure white ones, Ezra realized. It fled into the alleyway where he stood and scrabbled to stop at his feet, staring up at him, its startlingly blue eyes wide in terror.

    “Don’t let it get away!” one of the cadets yelled, gesturing towards the alley with his E-11 rifle.

    Later, Ezra wondered why exactly he risked his neck for a Loth-cat, but at that moment, something about the sight of the heedless cadets shoving their way through the shoppers in pursuit of the terrified cat just made him angry. Feral Loth-cats were everywhere on the plains, and more than a few of them had made their way to Capital City’s twisting maze of alleyways. For the most part, they were harmless, living on scraps and refuse, and they kept down the population of Loth-rats. But obviously “harmless” wasn’t enough for these two stormtrooper wannabes. If this was what the Academy taught its students, no wonder they grew up to the kind of bucket-headed brutes who thought nothing of roughing up or shooting anyone who breathed even a word of criticism against the Empire. “Don’t worry,” Ezra told the quivering Loth-cat, reaching down to pat its head. “I’m not gonna let them hurt you.”

    The cadets burst into the alley a second later. “There it is!”

    “Hey, it’s a couple of the Empire’s finest, keeping Lothal safe from vicious kittens.” Ezra sized up the cadets with an insolent grin. “Gotta hand it to you, you’re a couple of real tough guys.”

    One of them snorted. “Look, it’s the Loth-cat and a Loth-rat. This isn’t any of your business, rat.” His helmet vocoder flattened his voice into a regulation monotone, but it couldn’t disguise the clipped tones of Core Worlds accent. Another one of the wave of newcomers who had come to do the Empire’s dirty work. The cadet motioned his blaster towards the mouth of the alley. “Get out of here, or I might use you for target practice instead of the freaky cat.”

    Ezra shrugged. “Okay, whatever. No need to get your Imperial-issue micro garments in a bunch. It’s just that...well, every Lothali knows it’s bad luck to hurt a white Loth-cat. They say the white ones are the spirits of our ancestors and anyone who hurts one will bring their wrath down upon him.” He gave a theatrical shudder. “Yeah, you should hear some of the stories about the ghost cats… Stormtrooper armor’s no match for their claws, and they’ll chew open your helmets and suck out your eyeballs.”

    The cadets exchanged blank, helmeted glances. Ezra could tell they didn’t believe him, not surprising since he was making it all up as he went along. “Like we care about your stupid Outer Rim superstitions, Loth-rat,” the first cadet scoffed. “Now get lost.”

    Ezra shrugged again, taking half a step toward the alley. “Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re cursed by the spirits so your own rifles backfire in your hands and your rebreathers fill with blood mites.” He nudged the Loth-cat gently with a toe. You could help me sell this, you know, if you would growl or something.

    The cat stopped cowering at Ezra’s feet and looked up at him, the fear gone from its eyes. It leapt up onto the stack of empty jogan fruit crates behind him and arched its back. Its white fur stood out in a nimbus around it, making it look twice as large and three times as fierce, and its eyes seemed to take on an eerie blue light. “NnnnnrrrRRRRRRROOOW!” The cat’s cry rose from a low, throaty growl to a blood curdling yowl.

    Okay...that’ll work! Ezra feigned a look of panic. “Aw, man, you’re making it mad! You guys better run before it unleashes the ancestors’ curse on you!” If only he could make the packing crates shake a little, like an angry spirit was moving them, Ezra bet the cadets would wet their pants. He could just picture it…

    And suddenly the crates did rattle, as the cat’s howl increased in pitch and intensity. Ezra hid both his own surprise—had the cat really…? Nah! Get serious; he’d just made up all that spirit of the ancestors poodoo—and a satisfied smirk as the second cadet, who’d been silent until now, let out a startled shriek.

    “Let’s get out of here! I don’t want some freaky ghost cat clawing through my helmet!” Even the helmet’s vocoder couldn’t erase the panic in the cadet’s voice as he tugged frantically at his fellow’s arm.

    “You idiot! The Loth-rat’s the one doing this! There’s no such thing as ghost cats.”

    “I’m not taking any chances!”

    “Don’t be such a youngling! How are you going convince Aresko you belong in the officer track if you’re scared of a cat and a dumb Loth-rat?”

    While the cadets argued, Ezra pulled back his electro-slingshot. It wasn’t a well aimed shot, but at that close a range, he could hardly miss. The scared cadet never knew what hit him. The other cadet whirled, raising his E-11, but Ezra grinned and snapped off another shot before he had a chance to pull the trigger. “Yeah, you really shouldn’t underestimate us dumb Loth-rats.”

    The Loth-cat hopped down from its perch on the crates as Ezra rifled through the cadets’ belt pouches. It sniffed at one of the cadets, sneezed and shook its head. Ezra shared its assessment. Their pouches’ contents weren’t anything great, just standard issue multi-tools, comlinks and field rations—he tossed a stick of leathermeat to the cat, who caught it appreciatively—but the cadets’ rifles… Vizago would pay decent credits for those. Ezra stripped them down to their component parts with a rapidity any cadet would have envied and stuffed the pieces into his backpack. Not a bad reward just for saving a Loth-cat.

    He considered taking the cadets’ helmets, too, but he he already had a couple of them in his collection. They were about as worthless as the cretins wearing them. Still, these guys deserved a little embarrassment for hunting helpless cats… With a sudden wicked inspiration, he grabbed some of the packets of Mama Odie’s Hot ’n’ Spicy Boontaspice flavor Bantha BBQ Rub and emptied a couple into each of the helmets’ air intakes. The cadets were going to be in for a hot time when they woke up. Ezra stood and saluted the unconscious cadets. “Thanks, guys! Hope you’ll think twice before upsetting the spirits of the ancestors again. And you,” he added, raising an eyebrow at the white cat, who was rubbing against his legs, “try to avoid the bucket-brains from now on, okay? I’m not always going to be around to save your fuzzy butt.”

    He felt somewhat more cheerful as he made his way from the Bazaar to the spaceport, and from there to the edge of the city.

    “Mrow?”

    Ezra looked back to see the white Loth-cat following him. He swore it was grinning up at him—even more than the usual Loth-cat smile. It twined itself around his legs, purring so loudly it sounded like a speeder bike with a broken muffler. “No, I haven’t got anything else for you. Go on.” Ezra gave it a nudge and started out across the strip of grassland between Capital City and LothalNet Comm Tower E-272, also known as Fort Ezra, if only to Ezra himself, who had named it that in a moment of boyish conceit.

    The cat bounced after him.

    “Look, it’s no good following me,” he told it. “I’m doing good to keep myself fed most days.” And why am I talking to a cat?

    The cat, being a cat, was undeterred by this logic. It prowled along beside him, sometimes wandering off to pounce on crickets in the tall grass or swat at a moth, but always returning to Ezra’s side. When they reached the tower, it sat by the door and stared up at Ezra expectantly. “Mrrrrow!”

    “Okay, fine, whatever,” Ezra sighed. Clearly there was no arguing with it. He guessed he could respect its tenacity; you had to be a little stubborn—and a little crazy—if you were going to survive on Lothal. “Welcome to Fort Ezra. You can stay if you really want. I guess you can catch some of the rats, anyway. We’ve got plenty of them.”

    That night the white cat slept curled up next to Ezra. He had to admit it was nice not to be alone for once.

    Notes:
    White Loth-cats: Ezra’s story about white cats being the spirits of the ancestors is pure fanon. However, if you watch Rebels, you probably recognize this particular kitty.

    Mama Odie’s Hot ‘n’ Spicy Boontaspice flavor BBQ Bantha Rub: another fanon product, named for a character in another Disney fairy tale:Mama Odie the voodoo priestess/fairy godmother from The Princess and the Frog, who makes a spicy gumbo!

    LothalNet Comm Tower E-272, a.k.a. Fort Ezra: the abandoned comm tower where Ezra lives. Both names come from Ezra’s Rebel Journal by Daniel Wallace.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    LOL all that stuff Ezra was making up [face_mischief] -- then the crates actually moved! He was more surprised than the cadets I'll bet. Nice Ezra has a furry ally now. ;)

    [face_laugh] -- BBQ spices in the helmets! Clever bit of payback there.

    I enjoyed the details also of how tourism is down and how that spirals into it making hard to make enough credits because of the Imperial presence and the strip mining. [face_thinking]
     
  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    The street rat diamond in the rough himself! I mentioned in the last view how the Lothal of this AU seemed just a tinge darker, and now that we’ve met this story’s version of Ezra, it’s especially interesting to note what’s different about him. On one hand, this is still clearly the same happy-go-lucky young pickpocket whom we first got to meet in “Sparks of Rebellion” and the “Property of Ezra Bridger” short, and the scene of the boosting of the pudgy Pantoran very much brings me back to those. (And I will admit that when I first read through this I guffawed audibly over Mama Odie’s Hot ’n’ Spicy BBQ Bantha Rub. :D ) On the other hand, there are some subtle but important differences: you point one out yourself when you write that "Tourists and shoppers who would trust an earnest, if scruffy-looking twelve- or fourteen-year-old to give them directions or carry packages were leery of a gangly sixteen-year-old in worn coveralls and scavenged shin guards.” Yes, a few years make a huge difference: there is definitely something a little more sinister about a 16-year-old doing what Ezra is doing than a 14-year-old, especially when combined with the bleaker, dingier, more hopeless atmosphere that pervades this version of Lothal. (We’re seeing what the place might have ended up looking like if A Certain VCX-100 Corellian Freighter and its Motley Crew had not shown up there, aren’t we?)

    The whole sequence with the cadets and the white cat is golden. We see the familiar Ezra blarney and resourcefulness at work, and I love the yarn he spins about the white cat and its meaning. Not just because it’s a good tall tale, but because it’s got a certain amount of symbolic import too: between the way this kitty unexpectedly responds to his promptings in this scene and the way it follows him home and curls up next to him, it’s on its way to being his own “spirit animal” or familiar of sorts. It’s almost as though this cat a “personwarden” the way Ezra is a beastwarden. (And as for the spirit element: well, what’s a word synonymous with “spirit”? ;) ) Our young hero’s Force abilities, and especially his beastwarden abilities, are manifesting themselves in a very spontaneous and intriguing way here. I have a feeling Ezra will not regret his kindness toward Kitty; this beastie may well end up saving Ezra not-so-fuzzy butt somewhere along the line, too. [face_thinking]

    And finally—Mama Odie’s spice mix in the cadets’ helmet rebreathers—absolutely priceless! [face_laugh] Revenge is definitely a dish best served with a liberal helping of GFFA!Cajun spice! :p
     
  11. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    I’m sure he was, but being Ezra, he’s not going to let them see that! And every good Disney hero needs a sidekick, right? The Loth-cat will be more than happy to fill that role for Ezra.

    I have to credit Ezra’s Rebel Journal by Daniel Wallace and Ezra’s Gamble And the Servant of the Empire Series by Ryder Wyndham for helping me flesh out the world building. They may be geared towards kids, but they’re pretty good reads and are some of the most interesting and complete pictures of Ezra’s life on the street and Lothal society in general. I’d recommend them for anyone who is interested in writing fanfic set on Lothal.

    Ezra, like Aladdin, still has a good heart even after all the time he’s spent on the street looking out for number one. He’s got the same irreverent sense of humor and fine disrespect for authority, but it’s probably been a downward spiral for him in more ways than one. He can’t have had much in the way of formal education since he was a boy and has no marketable skills, so finding honest work would be nearly impossible for him. My theory is that if the Ghost’s crew had never come to Lothal (and your assumption that’s the case in this timeline is correct), Ezra would have eventually moved in on Vizago’s territory, perhaps even have become the next Vizago (there’s a plot bunny there....)

    Showing kindness to animals, who are often more than they seem, is kind of a recurring motif in fairy tales and a mark of a true hero. Often that kindness is rewarded in unexpected ways.

    I wonder if the Force is reading lines to Ezra, in a manner of speaking, because his story does have more resonance than he realizes. The white cat in Rebels canon is certainly a kind of spirit animal for Ezra; and this one...well, if you consider where and when the kitty showed up earlier in the story, perhaps it’s no coincidence that he showed up in that Trade Bazaar;) I love the idea of a “personwarden” talent for critters, because the influence does seem to flow both ways. (Frugly and Raissa certainly have that kind of reciprocal relationship). And as for the bolded part: :D [face_batting]

    I shudder to think how those cadets are going to feel when they wake up. Perhaps they’ll think the ancestors’ spirits have filled their rebreathers with blood mites. At the very least, it should make them reconsider the intelligence of Loth-rats. :ezra:
     
  12. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Many thanks to Findswoman for beta-reading. @};-

    Chapter Three

    Mara hated Lothal.

    Well, not the actual planet itself. After growing up on the arid world of Merkesh, where the native flora amounted to sparse scrub grass and the odd fig or eucalyptus tree, she found the abundant plant life on Lothal strange but attractive. The patio of their first floor apartment had a great view of the lush prairie around Capital City, and Mara liked to sit there in the evenings when the breeze stirred the tall grass into fascinating patterns.

    Unfortunately, that same wind also carried foul-smelling smoke from the Empire’s factories and choking dust from the mines that were just visible on the horizon, too. The pollutants seeped into the glossy modern—and in Mara’s opinion, soulless—apartment even when the patio door and all the windows were shut. Mara was always cleaning the grime out of her tiny closet of a bedroom. It was a constant reminder of all the things that were awful about Lothal and all the ways it was not Merkesh.

    Merkesh was tiny speck on the Galactic Map, even more back-rocket than Lothal. Its major exports were textiles, decorative tiles and Eclessis figs; it was of no strategic value except as a stopover on the way to the Corporate Sector. From what Mara had learned, Lothal used to be much the same, a sleepy agricultural world no one cared much about, until the Empire discovered that it was rich with the minerals and ores it need to make armored walkers and TIE-fighters. And it immediately set about stripping Lothal’s resources without caring what happened to the people who lived there. It should have come as no surprise to anyone when the Lothalis objected, peacefully at first, but with increasingly forceful methods.

    The sector’s Grand Moff—one Caius Cassius, a tall gaunt man with a perpetually hungry expression—had decided that the perfect candidate to deal with the growing rebellion was Mara’s mother, Prefect Raissa Blayne, who’d dramatically cut the crime rate on Merkesh over the last fifteen years, and who, he believed, had once saved his life. What he didn’t know was that she and her entire family were Force-sensitive—indeed, her husband was a fugitive Jedi—and they operated a Rebel cell called the Idiot’s Array. The reason Merkesh was so peaceful was that she’d consistently ignored the Empire’s unjust policies.

    Mom and Dad had argued long and hard about leaving Merkesh, about what would happen to the Idiot’s Array and the Café Alderaan without them, and whether it would be wise to refuse the Grand Moff’s order. In the end, they’d decided that the people of Lothal deserved the same opportunity for justice that Mom had brought to Merkesh, and that their family would be able to build on what they’d created with the Array.

    It hadn’t worked that way.

    On Merkesh, Prefect Raissa Blayne was the Empire; on Lothal, she was a smallish piece in the Imperial machinery. Here the real power belonged to the perpetually absent Governor Price, and her representatives, the hatchet-faced Commandant Aresko and shrewish Minister Maketh Tua.

    Snooty, snippy, self-important Minister Tua, who thought nothing of bringing her ever-expanding list of complaints to the Blaynes’ apartment to harangue Mom on her day off.

    Mara sat on the sleek but not very comfortable nauga hide sofa in their conversation circle, pretending to read her Galactic History homework—a highly edited and Imperially biased version of the Clone Wars—as she used Force-enhanced hearing to eavesdrop on her mother and the minister in the study.

    “...and there’s been another break-in at the Sienar factory. That’s the third time this month! Really, Prefect Blayne, given Grand Moff Cassius’ glowing assessment of your success in reducing crime on Merkesh, I expected better of you, as did Governor Price.”

    “I understand, Minister.” Mara could hear the tightly controlled frustration in her mother’s voice and could picture her trying not to drum her fingers against the desk, as she often did when she was annoyed or frustrated. “But much of that success was built on convincing the citizens that the Empire treated them fairly, that justice was available to everyone and not just a few. It’s impossible for me to do that when Commandant Aresko is still threatening and, worse, assaulting anyone who disagrees with Imperial policy.”

    “He feels that these dangerous ideas need to be suppressed before they lead to open rebellion. I’m not sure I disagree.”

    “The people don’t feel safe. They’re afraid and unhappy.” Mom didn’t quite sigh—she was too professional to express the depths of her displeasure to her superior—but it was a near thing. Her tension vibrated through the Force; Mara could have sensed it from where she was sitting even if she hadn’t already been listening in.

    Tua sniffed. “The Empire can’t be bothered with making every single citizen happy. We must be concerned with the greater good.”

    Mom’s Force-sense shifted as she tried a new tactic, her voice smooth and reasonable with just a touch of persuasion behind it. “But a happy citizen is a productive citizen, and surely that benefits everyone.”

    Minister Tua wasn’t strong-willed enough to resist even that subtle tendril of the Force. She already thought of herself as some kind of champion for her native Lothali people, bringing the Outer Rim planet into the order and civilization of the Empire. If they could be happy and productive, too… “Well, you may have a point there,” she said, her voice dripping with condescension. “I will speak with Commandant Aresko about being more.. tolerant...of small infractions.”

    “Thank you, Minister. I do appreciate your concern.” The door to the study swished open and Mom followed Minister Tua out. Mara hastily picked up her datapad, so that she looked like a dutiful Imperial student and not the scheming eavesdropper she really was.

    “Hmm.” Tua looked as self-satisfied as a tooka who’d caught a plump avian. Mara’s fingers twitched on the edge of the datapad when Minister Tua spotted her sitting there, and she clenched her teeth waiting for some snide comment. However, the minister’s catty smile turned beaming. “Oh, and this must be your daughter, Mara” How lovely to meet you. I was so pleased to see that the Lothal Imperial Academy will be getting such a talented young woman as yourself. With scores like yours, of course you were accepted immediately!”

    Mara refrained from mentioning that Tua had met her already, several times in fact, and never seemed particularly pleased about it before. She plastered on a smile that was just as insincere as any the minister had ever given her. “Why thank you, Minister Tua and how lovely of you… Wait, what?” Accepted into the Imperial Academy? That was impossible. She was a Jedi; she was a Rebel and a slicer. She wasn’t going to the Academy. She’d rather herd nerfs, process bantha fodder, or even dance for some sleazy Hutt lord than be an Imperial cadet. She’d never even applied to the Academy, so how could she have been accepted? Unless… Mara shot an accusing look at her mother. *The Academy?*

    *Later.* Mom’s voice broke into Mara’s thoughts, in a tone that brooked no discussion. *We’ll talk about this later.

    “I mean, thank you, Minister. You’re...um, too kind.” Mara winced. Ugh...how lame did that sound? Not that she cared what Minister Tua thought of her, of course, but she hated the way that woman looked down her nose at everyone. Someday, Mara was going to do something that would wipe the supercilious smile right off her face.

    Mom ushered Minister Tua to the door with a few last pleasantries. “I swear that woman is going to drive me to drink,” she muttered, as the door slid shut behind Tua.

    “What did she mean I’ve been accepted to the Imperial Academy?” Mara demanded. “I didn’t apply to the Academy.”

    “Mara…”

    She didn’t wait for her mother to offer any excuses. “Did you enroll me?!?” Mom couldn’t have done this to her. She wouldn’t! All right, Mom had gone to the Academy when she was a young woman, but she wasn’t really an Imperial! She was a Jedi, and she was working the system from the inside, gathering information, using her position to help people and make changes. Mom would never make her children follow the same path she had, now that she knew the truth about the Emperor. And even if, for some bizarre reason, Mom thought sending Mara to the Academy was a good idea, Dad would never have agreed to it!

    “No, but…” Mom sighed, looking tired—she looked tired a lot since they’d moved to Lothal—and rubbed her temples as if she had a headache coming on. “Your scores on the IAFE’s were so high you were automatically flagged for enrollment.”

    Every student on Lothal was required to take the battery of tests known as the Imperial Aptitude and Fitness Exams before they could enter secondary school. Theoretically, the exams were supposed to help students decide which of the vocational and preparatory schools was best for them, but everyone knew they were really meant for the Empire to spot potential candidates for the Academy. Mara knew she she should have tanked that her IAFE’s, but it wasn’t in her nature to do less than her best, even on a stupid Imperially mandated aptitude test.

    “We discussed this,” Mara reminded her. “We decided I was going to V-SIS.” Not like the Vocational School for Information Security was going to be a challenge for someone who’d been slicing since she was ten, but maybe at V-SIS she could have met someone on this planet she had something in common with; the Force knew she didn’t have any friends now. “I’ll go there. I’ll go to AppSci, I’ll go to Loth-Ag, I’ll even go to that snooty Phelarion Prep. But I am not going to the Academy. You promised me.”

    “I know, and I’m sorry, but…Mara, there’s no easy way to get you out of this. You’ve already been tagged as a potential officer-track candidate. Minister Tua brought the results to me personally; she told me how thrilled she was to see your name at the top of the list.” Mom shook her head, her eyes closed. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you may have to go there for a while until your father and I can come up with some plausible reason…”

    “Go there for a while?” No. No way in Dad’s nine Corellian hells! “So they can flag me as officer material and ship me off to Carida?” Mara’s hands balled up into fists at her side. She could feel the hot rush of anger building inside her, and she pulled up her shields, walling the feelings inside before they could spill over. A Jedi controls her emotions. She is not led by her… Oh, bork that! There was no peace in her. There was emotion, and lots of it. “I'm not going to spend my life pretending to be a good little Imp!” Mara shouted. “I’m not you! I want to do something with my life!”

    Mom’s amber eyes glinted dangerously, the Look that was part Imperial prefect, part Jedi master, and all you’re-on the-edge-of-the-sarlacc-pit-here-young-lady. “Mara Jade, do not take that tone with me. I don’t like this any better than you do.”

    Normally, the Look would have given Mara at least a moment’s pause, but this… this was her future they were talking about! Her life! A life she didn’t plan to spend wearing a white plasteel bucket on her head. “Then don’t make me do it!” She scowled, throwing up her hands. “I don’t know why we ever left Merkesh!”

    “Because I have a job to do!” Her mother’s voice rose to match Mara’s shout.

    “What, for the Empire?”

    “No, making life better for the people who live here! They deserve to have someone make sure that the promises of peace and prosperity the Empire made to them are kept.”

    “Oh, right,” Mara shot back. “So they can be happy and productive Imperial citizens and make more TIE-fighters and walkers for the Empire. We’re Jedi! We shouldn’t be doing this. You shouldn’t be doing this! You shouldn’t be keeping the peace so the farmers the Empire kicked off their land don’t protest. We should all be out there protesting with them, fighting with them!”

    “Mara. Jade. Blayne…” And there it was: the Full Name of Doom, delivered in the Voice of Doom. Oh yes, she knew what was coming next…

    “Go to my room? With pleasure!” Mara stalked out of the conversation circle. Her shields were faltering, and she knew she was trailing a roiling Force-storm of emotion after her, but she couldn’t bring herself to care whether Mom could sense the fury of her anger. At that moment, Mara hated her mother and every being in a fifty-kilometer radius. She burst into the room she shared with her little sister, Annina, who was playing some inane game with her stuffed pittins. She took one look at Mara and scurried from the room, leaving her pittins behind.

    Mara kicked the plush animals out of the way and threw herself on her her narrow bunk. Tears pricked at her eyes; she swiped them away fiercely. She was fourteen, too old cry like a youngling. She buried her face in her pillow and wished, not for the first time, that they’d never come to Lothal. What was so great, so important about this planet that the Force wanted them to come here? She’d had to leave everything thing she loved—her home, the Café Alderaan, Uncle Dev—and for what? A year later, and Dad was still trying to establish contacts to build a second Rebel cell. A year later, and Mom had made little headway into improving conditions for the Lothalis. A year later, and Mara still had no friends at school, because she was too back-rocket for the kids who’d immigrated from the Core Worlds but too Imperial for the Lothali students.

    A year later, and they were still living in this horrible, cramped apartment with its too-glossy, mass-produced, plasti-formed Imperial modern furniture. Mara longed to go back to their white stuccoed house in Merkesh City. She missed its worn and mismatched furnishings. She missed being able to practice her lightsaber katas downstairs with her younger brother, Nick, and Annina. She missed going up to the roof garden to look at the stars. She missed having the entire Idiot’s Array meeting in the conversation circle over sweet mint tea and strong dark caf. If only she was still there… If only she could go back…

    And now, the syrup on the ryshcate—they were going to force Mara to attend the Academy, where she would be molded and shaped and bullied into a proper servant of the Empire by that hatchet-faced, blaster-brained Aresko and all his toadies. Well, she wasn’t going to do it.

    Why were her parents letting this happen? Why weren’t they working harder to find a way out? Because there had to be one, and Mara was going to find it, even if she had to take drastic measures.

    Even if it meant leaving home.

    Notes:
    For more background on Mara’s family, see Everyone Comes to Doran’s Place, In the Cards, and the “original version” AU Star Crossed.

    Re Lothal’s education system: the IAFE test is fanon, but modeled after the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The schools named here— V-SIS, AppSci, and Phelarion Prep—and the idea that Lothali students apply to various technical, vocational and preparatory schools when they are age 14 or 15 are described in Ryder Wyndham’s Servant of the Empire books.
     
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  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Yay the Blaines appear! Raissa is definitely caught in the middle. She made a decision out of altruism to help the Lothalis but Mara has valid points. They're more like making things cushy for the Empire :eek: :rolleyes:
    I absolutely agree with Mara about going to the Academy. Yikes! Her talents would be well-served i.e., slicing, etc., but then she'd be stuck on an Officer track which is naturally the very last thing she wants!
    Hmmm. Mara is thinking of leaving home. That is very much a drastic solution. [face_thinking]
     
  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    The one, the only, the inimitable Mara Jade Blayne appears on the scene—hooray! Along with her equally inimitable maternal unit, the original Raissa. And they are definitely the Mara and Raissa we know and love: the resourceful, outspoken Mara, the Raissa who speaks up for what’s right and holds her own against insufferable government mucketymucks like Minister Tua. Heck, I too was nearly driven to drink by her in the first season of Rebels myself—what a smug, uptight old biddy! :p

    And as if Tua’s uncalled for intrusion on Raissa’s day off weren’t enough... wow, just really, Empire?! :eek: This business with accepting Mara to a school SHE NEVER APPLIED FOR and HAS NO INTEREST IN is downright... Sacorrian! :eek: It did very much put me in mind of the scenes in Ewok Poet ’s Doaba ke’demii where Doria find out she’s been [hl=black]rejected from a school she didn’t even apply to[/hl]. Mara’s in kind of the opposite difficulty here, but it comes out of the exact same totalitarian impulse.

    And I have to say, it is almost painful to see Raissa, who just a moment ago spoke up to Tua and convinced her (with the help of a little Affect Mind) to tell Aresko to shape up... it is almost painful to see her take this “I’m sorry we have to because politics” attitude to something as important as HER OWN DAUGHTER’S SCHOOLING. Especially given that they discussed it before—but even if they hadn’t... I kind of don’t blame Mara for blowing up at her in such harsh terms and even for wanting to leave home; “we shouldn’t be doing this” is, in its way, a very valid point. And I shouldn’t wonder if, deep down inside, Raissa knows that her daughter has somewhat of a point there. [face_thinking] (I totally believe that she “doesn’t like it any more than you do,” though, because after all she’s not made of marble. I also believe that she really would do her best to find some other situation for Mara if it came down to it, but of course like Mara I’d rather it not come down to it!)

    A few other scattered thoughts. Mara’s double bind of being “too back-rocket for the kids who’d immigrated from the Core Worlds but too Imperial for the Lothali students” really struck me; it makes perfect sense with the setting and with Mara’s background, I can see where a sensitive, perceptive person like her would feel that tension especially strongly. As to why the Force did send them to this place to begin with... well, I do have a guess or two. ;) (Hint: :ezra: )

    This is shaping up to be a very intriguing AU, featuring the same wonderfully crafted characterization we know and love from your “prime” Raissaverse. Do keep it coming! =D=
     
  15. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    I thought I had replied to the prologue and chapter one, but it looks like I have experienced what Findswoman calls "the beta who already read it syndrome"...or some such. D'oh! I owe you the most sincere apology, my friend. @};- And sorry that I dropped out of beta'ing further. Too.many.things.to.ketchup.with. [face_blush]

    And, while I feel a bit guilty from effectively eliminating both of you from the challenge, at the same time, I'm not. Because because...

    1) You got to write Ezra! The space!Aladdin himself. [face_love]

    2) It's about time for someone other than you to win You are the reigning queen of the OTP thread, but let's see what happens when you're out of the race. I expect the voting to be unpredictable to the very last day!

    Prologue

    Well, that's some in medias res, all right! It begins with a bang, a splash and you're immediately getting onto action. Whoa. It starts out quite innocently with the kitty messing around, but one can tell that something ugly this way comes solely from the masterfully depicted atmosphere. Eerie. Creepy! Awesome!

    Old!Maul is still the same ruthless villain that he used to be. And while he sort of redeems himself with his very last words in the original New Canon, I doubt that he will redeem himself here. In fact, while it was expected of him to kill the Twi'lek who had become too powerful and possibly a rival to him, and using other beings is something he would've done anyway, he seems even more evil than he does in the official lore. Like a true, true fairy-tale bad guy. =D=

    The idea of summoning the Temple is amazing. Is that something from the series, or a creation of your own?

    That kitty is now a witness. Eeep!


    Chapter one

    While I - sadly - never saw Disney's take on Aladdin, nor have I caught up with Rebels to this point, I can see that this is going to lead to a sinister turn of events. Maul is, as I said above, absolutely ruthless and truly, truly evil.

    Vizago's inclusion here is a great tie-in. You have transformed the Rebels-verse into a completely believable Agrabah. And the idea of two "devil" characters working with each other is...well, devious. I don't even have to ask whom Maul is seeking and what for...this is going to be a wild, wild ride.

    The dynamics mirrors the Sith-ness and the Rule of Two perfectly. I know that Maul's view on it is kind of loose, but still.

    Chapter two

    You mentioned Mama Odie in a private chat the other day and I was afraid to ask about her, because I had no flippin' idea who she was. Now it all makes sense...I think. :)

    And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Ezra! Doing what he does best, that little Loth-rat, he. I loved the tactic he employed in order to get the booty, reminds me of the very first episode of Rebels, but that's a given. Methinks that he's not a good commercial for Lothal as a tourist destination, but NEITHER ARE THE IMPERIALS EXPLOITING THE PLANET.

    The action sequence was masterful. :)

    I have no idea about the significance of the white kitty, but the way Ezra saved it and the moment where they curl up in the bunk is d'awww!

    Chapter three

    Mara's view of Lothal hits you in the face from the very first moment. Merkesh just has no conditions for a more friendly ecosystem. Lothal does, but the Empire is ruining it. Of course that there is no soul, when a great evil is sucking it out of everything!

    Raissa FTW! Glad that that doesn't change in this AU of the AU. Hope it wouldn't be different in, say, an AU of the AU's AU, either. :D She has to remain badass!

    The further you reach, the world is bigger and you are smaller. Hope that makes sense?!

    Just noticed the same thing Findswoman pointed out, the reverse of what happens in my DDC. This Lothal may be differently packaged, but it comes down to the same kind of authoritarian tyrrany that is Sacorria. Just outright bizarre.


    Mara, follow your Force impulse! EVEN IF IT GETS YOU IN TROUBLE.
     
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  16. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Yes, the Blaynes are all here (Doran will put in an appearance a little later). Yes, Raissa and family came to Lothal with all the best intentions, but it hasn’t worked out the way they planned, and unfortunately it does seem like the Empire’s the only one benefitting from her efforts. Mara does have all the skills to excel at the Academy, but...yikes is right! Sooner or later something would have to give in that situation, whether she snapped at her superiors or her Force talents were discovered, and it wouldn’t end well for her.
    The Blayne women have indeed arrived! It’s a good thing Doran wasn’t around to hear Raissa’s comment about Minister Tua—she’d never hear the end of it! ;)

    The Empire owns its citizens—or at least acts like it does. Why shouldn’t it be able to select the best students to fill its ranks? Because they don’t want to? Ha, what kind of lame reasoning is that? Uncle Palpy knows better! :p Definitely the same impulse for “progress” and “unity” at the expense of the individual that drives Sacorria.

    As is so often the case, both of them have points—from a certain point of view. Raissa feels stuck because her superiors have already taken an interest in Mara’s case, and there’s no way to politely decline. Heck, there’s no way to decline, period, without doing more explaining than anyone wants. And, indeed, Raissa’s not made of marble and knows this isn’t just some teenager’s hissy fit. Mara has good reasons not to want to attend the Academy, and Raissa doesn’t want her there for exactly the same reasons. Mara, on the other hand, has some very good points, too. As good as Raissa’s intentions are, she’s only making it easier for the Empire to keep doing what it’s doing, and because she’s neither stupid nor made of marble, Raissa has to feel this irony keenly.

    Raissa’s not the only one caught in the middle. Mara’s neither fish nor fowl as far as her classmates are concerned. While she didn’t have the greatest of friends back on Merkesh, she at least had a defined place, and she had the support of the other members of the Idiot’s Array to make up for the lack of friends. On Lothal... well, there’s someone out there she has something in common with, they just haven’t found each other yet. :ezra:

    Thank you so much! More is coming very soon.
    Thank you@};- I am glad to see you here, no matter how long it took. And I don’t mind not being in competition because I get to write Space!Aladdin :ezra: You may have noticed I have a certain fondness for him. :D (Honestly, I had planned to make my entry non-competitive anyway)

    Thank you...the prologue owes a lot to the opening sequence of Disney’s Aladdin, where...essentially the same thing happens (except with more sand): the villain brings his apprentice to the middle of nowhere, and summons the Cave of Wonders. Summoning the Temple is indeed from the series; not sure of the exact mechanism, but it doesn’t appear unless there’s a Jedi around.

    Maul gets even creepier and more manipulative in Rebels and would no doubt have very little compunction about killing off his “apprentice” the moment he could no longer make use of him. And the kitty is...more than he seems. Follow the white Loth-cat, or at least keep a close eye on him.


    I wholeheartedly recommend watching both if you have the chance. (This is where I sheepishly admit having a toon crush on Aladdin, back in the day. And as you know, toon crushes are the best crushes :D) Vizago turned out to be unexpectedly fun to write; he’s not so much evil as extremely morally flexible, but even he can see Maul is bad news. Maul likes to claim he’s not a Sith any longer, but if looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it can say it’s not a duck all it likes and still be an evil, evil duck. (To mangle the metaphor completely).

    Mama Odie makes sense now? :p You mean besides me mixing up Disney fairy tales?

    Yes, it’s Spaaaaaaace!Aladdin himself, one step ahead of everyone else, as usual! He’s a lot the same as that very early Ezra—a little older, a little more cynical, perhaps, but still essentially the same Loth-rat (and I’m imagining the tourist spot now: Visit Lothal and meet our friendly locals!) Hopefully, the Loth-cat’s significance should become more apparent as the story continues, but for now, every Disney prince needs a quirky animal sidekick, and Ezra’s just found his...or maybe it found him. [face_thinking]

    Love your description of the Empire sucking out Lothal’s soul...that’s exactly what they’re doing, taking everything that makes the planet (and its people) beautiful and special and crushing it to get what it wants in the short term. Of course Raissa is badass in this and every universe (ok, maybe there’s one out there where she decided to become a droid programmer like her older sister, but we’re not going there. At least I wasn’t.... Darn you for giving me bunnies :p) Being a small fish in a bigger pond is not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s always a bigger fish.:qui:

    You know she will...on both counts!
     
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  17. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Today is Mara and Ezra’s anniversary [face_love] or at least, the one year anniversary of the first post of Star Crossed, the story that started it all. It’s probably weird to celebrate a fictional couple’s anniversary, but these two have been unexpectedly inspiring, and they really have become my OTP! So in honor of their day, they get to meet again for the first time in another universe:

    Thanks as always to Findswoman for beta-reading@};-

    Chapter 4

    The white Loth-cat wasted no time making itself at home at Fort Ezra.

    Every morning Ezra would wake up to find the cat sitting on his chest, and it would peer into his face and grinning its wide Loth-cat grin until he finally shoved it off and got up. Then it would frisk around the tower like it owned the place, getting under his feet when he was trying to get dressed, until he left for the city. The cat had an annoying habit of getting into his cache of scavenged and stolen goods, batting small objects—two or three commlinks nicked from stormtroopers, a mini datapad he’d almost fixed, and a really nice wrist chronometer lifted from an off-world produce supplier— out of his carefully sorted piles and losing them while he was gone. It was always sitting at the tower’s base when Ezra came back from Capital City, and he’d kind of started looking forward to seeing it there, waiting for him. And for some reason, Ezra found himself talking to the cat more and more often, telling it about his day while it sat on his lap, purring, after they’d eaten whatever Ezra’d managed to buy—or more often, scavenge—for dinner. Every night, it would curl up next to him as he slept. Sometimes, Ezra would wake up and hear the cat prowling after Loth-rats, but it returned in time to wake him up in the morning.

    Somehow, Ezra knew something was up the Primeday morning the cat followed him into the city.

    He was halfway from Fort Ezra to Capital City when he heard a cheerful “mrrrup!” and looked back to see the white Loth-cat bounding through the tall grass after him. “What are you doing here? Go on back to the tower.” Ezra shooed the cat; it refused to be shooed. “Go on, go back and—I don’t know, take a nap or chase the rats or whatever it is you do while I’m gone.” He nudged the cat more firmly this time, but it only sat down and licked one forepaw, looking up at him as if to say “Are you done now?”

    Ezra sighed. Cats… “Okay, you can come, just don’t get in my way. If I don’t get any work done, we don’t get any food and I have to grill one of your rats. I don’t think either of us wants that.”

    “Mrrrup!” the cat replied. It tagged along at his heels into town and through the spaceport, earning Ezra more than a few amused glances. How was he supposed to keep a low profile with the cat following him? Its pristine white fur stood out against the dingy, rundown streets of the Trade Bazaar, only slightly less conspicuous than a bantha galumphing through the streets would have been. Ezra wondered if there was a way to sidetrack the cat; maybe he could filch some leathermeat from a vendor or, better yet, some unsuspecting stormtrooper’s rations, and ditch the Loth-cat in an alley for a while.

    He was surprised when the cat stopped in its tracks with one paw raised, its ears swiveling and nostrils twitching. It uttered an excited “mmmrow!” and bounded off into the bazaar without a backwards glance. Ezra was even more surprised to realize he was disappointed to see it go. Looked like even a Loth-cat had better things to do than stick with him. He hoped it at least had the sense to stay out of the way of the junior bucket head brigade this time.

    Despite the cat abandoning him, the morning got off to fairly good start. Primeday meant restocking and deliveries; Ezra snagged a piece of jogan fruit for breakfast and a couple more for lunch while the bleary-eyed Rodian vendor was busy drinking her caf. He found a repulsor cart still laden with packages parked outside an electronics shop and tucked one of the smaller boxes into his backpack. He was pretending to check the messages on a broken commlink while he scoped the area for his next mark when he heard a familiar “mrow!” He looked up and saw the white Loth-cat sitting on a packing crate, grinning at him.

    The cat had found a friend. A girl knelt by the crate and was petting him.

    Ezra knew in one glance that she didn’t belong here in the narrow, dirty streets of the Trade Bazaar. Her hair was flame red, cut into the bobbed hairstyle that female cadets seemed to favor, but she wore a blue-gray tunic and leggings instead of a uniform. At first, she reminded Ezra of the well-dressed prep school girls who sometimes came to the Bazaar, thinking they were so daring for slumming it in this part of town. But those girls came in giggling groups, and this girl didn’t seem to be fazed by or even interested in her grimy surroundings. Her attention was focused on the cat; she definitely wasn’t minding the backpack that was sat on the ground next to her.

    Now there was an idea Ezra hadn’t considered—using the cat as a distraction. He sized up the girl’s pack. Like her clothes, it was plain, but of good quality, and it seemed pretty full. There was probably something good in there—a commlink at least, maybe even a datapad. He casually made his way over to her.

    She looked up just as Ezra was about to go for her pack, and all thoughts of her as a prospective mark fled instantly. The girl was his age or maybe a bit younger, and pretty--stang! beautiful! Her short, sleek red-gold hair framed the perfect oval of her face, and a smattering of freckles was sprinkled across her nose. Her eyes were as startlingly green as the Loth-cat’s were blue. But the most amazing thing was that she smiled at him as if she saw him and not just a Loth-rat with scruffy hair and worn coveralls. “He’s cute,” she said, as the Loth-cat leapt down from the crate and greeted Ezra by winding itself around his legs. “Is he yours?”

    Ezra snorted. “More like I’m his.” Oh, wow, how lame was that as an opening line? Where was the old Ezra charm when he needed it?

    It seemed to work as an opening anyway. The girl laughed, her green eyes dancing, as she stood up. “What’s his name?”

    Name? Ezra hadn’t really thought about it. The cat was just...well, the cat. But he guessed the cat could probably use a name, since he seemed to have become a fixture at Fort Ezra. “It’s, um….Ghost,” he said, remembering the story he’d spun for the cadets about white Loth-cats being the spirits of his ancestors. And, somehow, the name felt right the minute he said it. The cat—Ghost—seemed to agree; he purred and butted his head against Ezra’s leg.

    “I’m Ezra, by the way.” He held out his hand to her, giving her his best, most charming smile.

    The girl hesitated for moment, not much, but enough that Ezra noticed. “Ace,” she replied as she shook his hand. Not her real name, then. She might be friendly enough to speak to him, but she wasn’t quite ready to trust him. It looked like she was as savvy as she was pretty; Ezra’s estimation of her rose several notches.

    “So, Ace, I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before.” I would definitely remember seeing you around here before. “Need some help getting where you’re going?” Offering his services as guide was usually just a way to earn a few easy credits, but for a girl like Ace—or whatever her real name was—he’d skip the credits just for the chance to spend some time with her and find out a bit more about her. There was something intriguing about her he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

    Wariness won out over her friendliness. Ace’s smile slipped a bit, and she stepped back, slinging her backpack over one shoulder. “Thanks, I’m fine.”

    No, don’t go; not yet… “You sure?” Ezra asked, and he had to stop himself from reaching out to her like some kind of moof-milker. “I mean, I know my way around the whole city. It’s no problem.” Ghost seemed equally reluctant to have her leave; he bounded back to Ace and wove back and forth between her feet, nearly tripping her when she took a step.

    “I said I’m fine,” Ace snapped, scowling, as she tried to extricate herself from the feline hobbling her feet.

    Ghost declined to let her go; no matter how she maneuvered, he wound up in front of her. He redoubled his efforts to charm Ace, rubbing his head against her legs enthusiastically and affectionately. Suddenly, the cat stopped making overtures to her, and froze, his hackles rising. “Nnnnrrrrow!”

    At the same moment, a feeling of foreboding washed over Ezra. He had these premonitions of danger from time to time; after a few narrow escapes from the bucket heads and street gangs, he’d learned to pay attention to them. A second later, he heard the familiar sound of plasteel boots against the pavement. Oh, stang! He’d gotten so distracted by a those green eyes and that bewitching smile that he’d forgotten about the morning patrol! The first trooper rounded the corner just as Ghost let out his eerie growl. Ezra shot a glance down the street, gauging his escape route, only to see another band of troopers coming from the opposite direction. The captain unslung his rifle from his back and pointed it at Ezra and Ace. “You kids, stay right there!”

    “Shavit!” Ezra yelped...

    … At the same time as Ace, who swore with feeling. Her green eyes flashed as they met his. “You know the whole city, huh? Can you get me out of here?”

    Not exactly the way he would have preferred to spend more time with her, but he’d take it. “Yeah. Come on!” He took Ace’s hand and ran for the nearest alley, Ghost bounding at their heels. Ezra spotted what he was looking for at the back of the alley—a stack of the ubiquitous jogan fruit crates piled up almost to the roof. “The bucket brains can’t climb in armor,” he said as he clambered up the stack, grabbed the roof ledge and swung himself up. “Can you climb up the crates? Then I can pull you up to the roof… Or not…” he trailed off as Ace scaled up the crates and sprang up to the rooftop next to him. “Uh, yeah...this way.” He steered her behind a large vaporator assembly and motioned for her to duck down. “Stormtroopers don’t notice anything that’s not right in front of them, and they won’t go outside of their assigned patrol range. All we have to do is stay low so they can’t see us from the ground until we get out of the Bazaar.”

    Ace crept along behind him down the long row of buildings, ducking behind vents and chimneys as the went. The stores here were built cheek-to-jowl next to each other, with only minor variations in height. As long as you watched your feet, traveling this way was almost as easy as walking down the street. Ghost scampered along ahead of Ezra, glancing back every now and then. “Aren’t you silly Humans coming?” his quizzical expression seemed to say.

    When they came to the end of the row, Ezra scowled in frustration. He’d forgotten that there was a good two and a half meters between the long rows of shops, no problem for him since he’d been scrambling over the rooftops since he was a kid, but for Ace…? “Okay, I’m gonna go on across. Maybe there’s board or something I can I lay across this to make a bridge…”

    The corners of Ace’s mouth twitched into a smile. “No need.” She took a running leap as Ghost sprang across, and they both seemed to fly over the gap. She landed on the other side as neatly as the cat, and turned with a grin. “Come on!”

    Ezra gaped. Before today, he would have said he was as nimble as any Loth-cat, but Ace’s agility put his to shame. He jumped, landing along side her in an ungainly heap. Oh yeah, that was really gonna impress her… “Just three more blocks north and we’ll be out of this patrol’s territory,” he said, as he straightened, trying to catch his breath…and his dignity.

    “You know an awful lot about getting away from stormtroopers,” Ace commented as they made their way down the block.

    “Heh.” Ezra ran a hand through his hair. There was another surefire way to impress a nice girl like Ace. Yeah, that’s because I’m a thief and my continued existence depends on being able to elude them. Fortunately, being able to come up with good cover stories was another skill you picked up when dealing with Imperials. “Ah, well...I, uh, did a school project on the inefficiency of the bucket—uh, of the Imperial patrols in the Trade Bazaar and why they’re a waste of resources.”

    Ace raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Uh-huh. Which school let you do that without turning you over to Aresko?” she asked as they approached the edge of the last store. “Because I want to go there.”

    This time Ezra’s jump was cleaner, his landing less like an eopie tripping over its own feet. Still not as good as Ace’s leap, though. He took a moment to appreciate her form—purely on aesthetic and athletic merits, of course!—and felt his face getting warm. “So, uh, why do you need to get away from them?”

    She looked over her shoulder at him, studying his face, and Ezra started to put on his most innocent “who me? I didn’t touch your wallet” expression, but that just didn’t feel right. He wanted Ace to trust him but because she really could trust him. He’d never sell anyone out to the Imps, especially not someone like her. So instead, he returned her gaze and hoped somehow she could see the part of him that wasn’t just a thieving Loth-rat. He was pretty sure it was still there, somewhere.

    At last, Ace sighed and looked away. “Because I’m being forced to enroll in the Imperial Academy.”

    “Forced?”

    “Yeah, I scored too high on their stupid aptitude test, and they won’t let me decline the honor.” She knelt down to pet Ghost, who was rubbing insistently against her legs to protest that no one had rubbed his ears in a good ten minutes now. “My parents tried to get me out of it, but there’s nothing they can do. If Tua and Aresko hadn’t already seen my scores, I could have sliced the database and scrubbed them, but it’s too late now. All I can do is run.”

    “Whoa…” Ezra wan’t sure what else to say. On the one hand, he had to admire her resolve; too many people on Lothal just gave up to the Empire without even trying to fight back. Too many of them joined up willingly. They didn’t see that the Empire had broken every promise it had ever made to the Lothali. On the other hand, leaving your home—a real home—and your parents for any reason? “So where are you running to?”

    Ace looked up from petting the cat, her expression turning wary again, and Ezra felt like a wall had slammed down between them. “You don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself,” she said. Ghost gave a yowl of protest as she stopped rubbing his ears him and stood up, a little too quickly.

    As she did, her backpack snagged against the vanes of the nearest vaporator. The flap tugged loose, spilling most of its contents out onto the rooftop—several tunics, a monogrammed travel kit with the initials MJB, a data tablet and a slicer’s kit and a strange metallic object. Ghost mrowed excitedly and pounced on it, batting over to Ezra’s feet just as Ace reached out for it.

    Ezra picked it up. It was a silver cylinder about half a meter long.The top was tapered into a kind of bowl, plated with some golden metal, with an opening about 5 centimeters in diameter. Ezra couldn’t tell what was supposed to go in or come out of it, though. About a third of the way down, there was a pair of green buttons; most of the bottom two-thirds of cylinder was etched with a series of parallel grooves. There was another gold ring around the bottom, just above a sort of belt clip. Ezra turned it over in his hands and suddenly he realized where he’d seen something like this before—in the action holos he used to get at the underground markets. “This is one of those Jedi lightsaber things! Where’d you get this?”

    Panic flickered across Ace’s face, quickly replaced by anger. “Give it back to me!”

    Ezra felt a weird sort of tug at his thoughts, and he nearly handed it to her, but… “No, really, who’d you steal this from?” It had to be worth a fortune! Supposedly there were Imperial bounties on this sort of stuff, but he bet Vizago would know someone who would pay top credit—some off-world collector maybe.

    “I didn’t steal it! It’s mine.” Her voice was tight and a little high as she grabbed for it, only to have him twitch it out of her way at the last second.

    “Sure. You’re a Jedi.” Ezra scoffed. A girl who wasn’t even as old as him, a Jedi? Right. Everyone knew that the Jedi had been killed when at the beginning of the Empire, the same year he was born, so no way Ace was really one. She needed to learn to come up with better stories if she was going to make it on her own. Ezra started to tell her that, but then he saw the look on her face. There was a strange gleam in Ace’s green eyes that reminded him of Ghost’s when the cat had done his angry spirit act for the cadets. And somehow, Ezra knew… “You are a Jedi!” No wonder Ace would do anything rather than go to the Academy! He’d heard about the Empire’s Jedi hunters, the Inquisitors, and they made his tale of the ancestors’ curse look like a bedtime story. She’d be better off walking straight into a sarlacc pit than putting herself into Imperial hands like that. He handed the lightsaber back to her. “You’re going to need a really good place to hide. I know someplace you’ll be safe…”

    Wait, what are you doing? a voice in the back of Ezra’s mind protested. You’re not seriously thinking of bringing her to the comm-tower?! First off, if you’re trying to impress her, do you really think that’s going to do it? Welcome to my rundown tower. Sit anywhere, don’t mind the rats. Yeah, that’s a great idea…Second, why are you putting yourself out for her? If you don’t work the bazaar, you don’t eat, remember? Are you gonna scrounge through restaurant dumpsters for her, too? You’d be better off swiping the lightsaber and making a run for it.

    Shut up, Ezra told the voice. We’re doing this my way. For once, I’m gonna do the right thing. For once, I’m not going to be just another Loth-rat.

    Ace shifted uneasily, turning the lightsaber handle over and over in her hands. She finally tucked it into her bag and started picking up the rest of her scattered belongings. She wasn’t looking at him when she asked, so quietly Ezra almost didn’t hear her, “Why do you keep trying to help me? Don’t you know what happens to people who help Jedi?”

    There were so many reasons, Ezra didn’t know where to start. Because you’re the prettiest girl to talk to me in a long time; you’re the only girl who’s talked to me in a long time. Because this is the closest I’ve come to having an actual friend in a long time. Because there’s something about you I don’t understand, but I want to. Because Mom and Dad said we had to stand up for people in need, especially those in trouble with the Empire, and who’s in more trouble with the Empire than a Jedi?

    He couldn’t tell her any of that, though, so he shrugged with forced casualness. “Hey, anything I can do to mess with Empire is good. Anyway, Ghost likes you, and he’d be mad at me if didn’t.”

    She looked up at Ezra, and he had that feeling again that she wasn’t just looking at at him but really seeing him. Slowly, her mouth curved into a smile. “Right. Ghost…” Ace finished shoving her things into her backpack, shooing the inquisitive Loth-cat away as he tried to fish the lightsaber out with his paw. She slung the pack over her shoulder and held out a hand to Ezra. “Okay, I’m with you.”

    Something almost electric shivered through Ezra when he took her hand, and not just chills from holding a pretty girl’s hand. More like something huge had just happened, like the whole Galaxy had shifted a little bit. Get a grip Ezra told himself, as he shook Ace’s hand. What, are you starting to believe your own stories? He shook his head a bit to clear the lingering sense of giddiness. “Right. Let’s get moving, then.”
     
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Happy "anniversary" to Marzra ;)

    LOL Love how the cat has become part of Ezra's routine of an evening and morning. And woot, woot! He meets Mara, and thinks of filching something from her backpack? [face_laugh]

    And Ezra's wow! reaction to her loveliness. :D :D

    Whew, from getting away from the patrol and then her telling Ezra about the Academy, him discovering her lightsaber & offering to help her. :) =D=

    Yeah, Ezra is gonna do the right thing for once, for all the reasons he said and didn't [face_laugh]

    Something huge shifted, did it? SQUEE! ;)
     
  19. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Ezra and the kitty are forming a beautiful, beautiful bond. As an animal owner (or, well, somebody owned by an animal), I loved the whole of the first paragraph. You described the way it goes, completely. <3

    AND OMG, THE KITTY LED HIM STRAIGHT TO MARA. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE! For some reason, being the nutter that I am, I expected trouble, not an ultimate OTP meet-cute in this AU of an AU.

    Not sure if I got this one little moment right, but the kitty also warned both Ezra and Mara - pardon, Ace - of imminent danger?

    It's interesting to compare this to the original Marzra first meeting in Star Crossed. There are both similarities and differences, there's a chase scene in both cases, but this one is, so far, less complicated.

    He-he. ;)

    Mara could lead a whole revolution here...perhaps?! Or is that too far off?

    Love Ezra's internal monologue, the argument with himself. Darn, those kiddos. :D And, of course, how he changed his mind about Mara being a Jedi - now, that was FAST.

    And I finally got that Ghost is...well, the Ghost from the original magic lamp. WELL, KRIFF ME STUPID for not having guessed it earlier.
     
  20. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    First of all, a very happy (by now belated) Marzraversary! [face_love] Ever since you first introduced this couple a little over a year ago, it’s just been one triumph after another, and their Best Relationship win at the last awards was immensely well deserved. Your stories about them are real models of romantic fanfic writing, and we’re blessed to have them here. @};-

    Appropriately enough, in celebration of this momentous ’versary, we have this AU-of-an-AU's Boy Meets Girl chapter! As Ewok Poet points out, there are definitely some notable parallels with the analogous scene in Star Crossed: the moniker “Ace” (and it shows how streetsmart Ezra is that he can tell immediately that that’s a pseudonym), the run from the stormtroopers across the rooftops and through the alleys, the sparkling, Force-infused chemistry (though in this case Ezra doesn’t know that’s what it is).

    Also as in SC, there is a wonderful moment where Mara’s true nature as a Force user is revealed, though here that happens in a much different way: Ezra, who doesn’t yet really know from the Force, sees her lightsaber as a potential source of income, but also as an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. This all makes me wonder what path he’ll take in this AU toward realizing his own powers. [face_thinking]

    But there’s much that’s different here, too—and one of the biggest differences, of course, is the role played by Ghost. Yes, Ghost—the CATalyst of the story—where even to start? Well, it is of course the perfect name on so many levels: for the connection to the ship of the same name familiar to us from Rebels, for the connection to Ezra’s tall tale about ancestral spirits in the previous chapter, and for the way it seems to be embodying the Force, the spirit of the universe. It is no surprise that the name just feels right in the Force when Ezra comes up with it on the fly—of course, he is more gifted than most at coming up with things on the fly, and that’s precisely because of the Force. ;) As EP said, the way you describe Ezra’s growing bond with Ghost at the start of this chapter is absolutely gorgeous—it’s so full of warmth and sincerity, even when Ezra is peeved with the li’l furball for not being in quite the right place at the right time. (Ain’t that the truth with cats in our own galaxy too?) Plus, it is so beautifully consistent with the Beastwarden!Ezra we know and love from the show. :ezra:

    So yes, echoing WarmNyota_SweetAyesha, I’d agree that a pretty big shift in the universe is in the offing, even though Mara and Ez are barely aware of it. And that’s another motif that continues from your main Marzra AU: underlying all the (stupendously written and super cute) sweet, awkward teenage infatuation is always a (just as stupendously written) larger, more momentous Force. <3 Mighty fine work, and I eagerly await more! =D=
     
  21. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Cats will do that to you. They just sneak in and take over so smoothly you hardly know it’s happening. With Ezra, he’s been alone for so long that the kitty fills a need he’d deny he had. And then the cat leads him to find another missing piece in his life...even if his first instinct is purely mercenary. Mara at any age, in any universe is quite striking, can you blame Ez for being a little wowed? :D

    His better self kicks in quickly, though—or at least his ordinary self, since his second instinct is to flirt with Mara ;) But he does the right thing, for good reasons in the end. His reaction when he takes her hand is the same as [hl=black]Raissa experiences when she takes Doran’s hand at the end of “Everyone Comes to Doran’s Place”.[/hl]
    I had a cat (or she had me or we had each other) for seventeen years[face_love] So I can appreciate the way our fuzzy friends subtly work their way into our lives and become part of the family. Thanks to his latent Force sensitivity and Ghost’s own special qualities, the two of them are developing an especially close bond. And Ghost does have some strong Feline ESP, leading Ezra to Mara, and, yes, he does warn them of the approaching stormtroopers.

    Part of that is due to the difference between the challenges. I think fairy tales are a little simpler by their nature, but also the Rom-Com in Space challenge required me to work in the death of a friend and life threatening situation as well as the romantic element. Here, Ezra and Mara are only in danger of being nabbed by the stormtroopers—at least for now;)

    Probably not in the scope of this story, but I could see it :D Perhaps with a Certain Loth-rat at her side...?

    The Force is giving Ezra a nudge (or maybe a shove) there. And Ghost is a bit like the Genie, but there will be another character who takes that role... no spoilers, though ;)
    Aww, well thank you very much [face_blush] I’m honored by the reaction they’ve received, because I never expected that shipping Mara with anyone but Luke would be accepted! I’m humbled too, that you consider Marzra a model of romantic fanfic; I feel like I’ve kind of fumbled my way through the mush, and I thank you and Ewok Poet for your advice and support in that regard.[:D]

    I tried to have things be a bit the-same-but-different, if that makes sense. In “Star Crossed”, it’s Ezra who gives Mara the nickname “Ace” when she doesn’t immediately give him her real name. Here, she gives it to herself. Even Mara doesn’t realize at this point that the Force (in the form of a Loth-cat ;) ) is nudging her and Ezra together.

    Yes, Ghost is very much a cat-alyst (/rimshot) or the driving Force (/double rimshot) here. His name is certainly meant to invoke all the things you mentioned— the connection to the Canon Universe and the connection to the Force he doesn’t know he has. As I mentioned earlier, I think since Ezra has such a good heart underneath his Loth-rat exterior, he’s hungry for real companionship, and Ghost fills that need. Ezra’s moment of kindness to to the Loth-cat is already paying big dividends, and even more so when Ghost leads him to Mara.

    Things are definitely changing for both Ezra and Mara, though neither can see just how much at the moment. Thank you again for for the beautiful compliments @};-
     
  22. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    A big thank you to Findswoman and Ewok Poet for beta-reading. [:D]

    Chapter 5

    The logical part of Mara’s brain told her that following someone she’d just met out of Capital City and across the grasslands was a very bad idea. Ezra wasn’t exactly the kind of guy she met at school. His clothes were a little too worn, his hair a little too shaggy, his smile just a little too cocky. And speaking of school, why wasn’t he at school on a Primeday morning instead of hanging out in the city’s seedy Trade Bazaar? Mara was pretty certain she knew the answer to that, since he’d been going for her backpack when she first saw him—when your holdfather was a former pickpocket you learned a few things. If her mom could see her now, she’d be having several hundred litters of pittins.

    And yet, Mara’s heart told her she could trust Ezra.

    You just think he’s cute, sneered a little voice in the back of her mind. Well, okay, she had to admit that Ezra was kind of cute. His eyes were a gorgeous shade of blue. That cocky smile made her want to smile back, and her fingers just itched to straighten his messy hair. But that wasn’t all she liked about him. Ezra was the first guy—the first person—in a long time to really talk to her. Maybe he was just flirting with her (and she rather hoped he was), but at least he acted like she was a person and not just the Prefect’s daughter. There was something interesting about Ezra, too, something Mara couldn’t quite define, but when she looked at him in the Force, she knew he was more than he seemed.

    So despite the part of her that demanded, in her mother’s voice, to know what she thought she was doing, Mara followed him to an old, disused communication tower outside of the city. “Welcome to For—to LothalNet Tower 272, western quadrant,” Ezra announced. The door—more of an oval metal hatch, really— shrieked open on rusted hinges; inside, the central column was dim and claustrophobic. Cobwebs draped the support struts of the narrow spiral staircase that wound its way up the column, and Mara thought she saw something scurry into the shadows. “Watch your step,” Ezra cautioned her. “Some of the treads are a bit loose.” Indeed, the staircase creaked and shifted as they climbed, even as Ghost bounced blithely up ahead of them. “No one’s used this place in years, not since the Empire shut down LothalNet and took over the planet’s communications.”

    The staircase opened up onto a walkway that ringed the control center; from up here you could see forever across the open prairie on one side and gaze out at the skyline of Capital City on the other. Ezra opened another squeaky metal door and motioned for Mara to go inside. There was a small vestibule that opened into a crescent-shaped room that looked like it had once been the main comm center. A long bank of data terminals was on the far side of the room. Several of the access panels had been pried open, revealing the crisscrossed wires and components inside. Bins of assorted items, marked “sell”, “fix”, “parts” and “keep”, sat on the terminal along with a hodgepodge of tools. Three old swivel chairs, the holes in their cushions carefully patched with spacer’s tape, were arranged around a table built of two jogan fruit crates and a piece of chipped pressboard. The room was decorated with a few Imperial propaganda posters, one of which had been used for target practice, while the others were vandalized with red slashed circles and rude slogans. A few tattered rugs covered the worn floor.

    This was no simple hideout, Mara realized. This was a home. “You live here?”

    Ezra looked away, scrubbing a hand through his unruly hair. She thought for a moment he was going to deny it, but he shrugged with affected casualness and a forced grin. “Yeah, me and Ghost. It may not look like much, but it’s got a great view.”

    Mara sensed his unease rippling through the Force as he waited for her to scoff at his meager dwelling or, worse, pity him for having so little. I would never do that, she wanted to tell Ezra. Even the kids from Junior AppSci, who have perfectly nice little soulless apartments, never showed me this much of their lives! Instead, she took her backpack off her shoulder and set it on the comm terminal. “Well, thanks for letting me hide out here. I, um, have some supplies I can share, mostly IMMPs.” Mara rummaged through her pack until she found the plasti-foil sealed packets. The Imperial Military Meal Packets tasted horrible, but they were nutritionally balanced, easy to pack, and kept forever, perfect for stashing in a backpack—or maybe living in a comm tower. She eyed the terminal as she handed the IMMPs to Ezra. “I don’t suppose any of those data ports still work?”

    Gratitude—both for her words and for the food—shimmered through his Force presence as Ezra took the nerf-flavored textured protein patty with veg-cubes and freeze dried topato paste meals from her. He shrugged again, this time with genuine ease. “Nah, haven’t as long as I’ve been here. I stripped a lot of the parts out of them to fix other things, anyway.”

    “Hmm.” Mara pursed her lips. “If you know where I can get to a public terminal, I can withdraw some credits. I’m sure the garrison won’t notice if a bit’s missing from their general funds.” A bunch of disgusting packaged meals seemed like too small a thing to give to someone who was offering his home to her.

    Ezra’s eyes widened. “You’re a slicer? A Jedi slicer?”

    ...And this was where things usually went bad. She’d learned over the years that the other kids, whether on Merkesh or here on Lothal, hated an overachiever. Somehow, doing things well—and worse, enjoying doing them well—made you a snob. Mara shifted uncomfortably. “I’m a lot of things.” They hadn’t even gotten to dancer, k’tarra student, or Rebel spy.

    “Yeah, you are!” Ezra exclaimed, but not in the usual sneer. Mara’s heart leapt when his blue eyes lit up with admiration. He grinned for a second before he seemed to realize what he’d just said, and a flush crept over his tanned complexion. “I mean… yeah, Jedi slicer. That’s... cool. Hey, why don’t I give you the grand tour?” He turned away hastily, gesturing around them. “This is the central area, or the, uh, living room, or whatever you want to call it. This is just a storage room, but over here’s the bedroom.” Ezra indicated a pair of doors on the far side of the room. “You can put your stuff in there if you want.” He froze, looking like a pocket-hare that couldn’t find a burrow to hide in. The flush on his cheeks deepened. “Um, because you can sleep there…and I’ll be out here. Of course. Heh.” He smiled crookedly and pushed his hair back behind his ears, which were also rather flushed.

    Mara bit her lip, stifling a smile. She thought he was cute before, but that expression was priceless. The Force really did have a strange sense of humor, the way her dad always said, if she’d had to run away from home to meet someone like Ezra. Someone who might not have a lot, but was willing to help her anyway. Someone who’d seen who and what she really was and hadn’t run, had actually liked it! She’d finally found someone on Lothal worth being friends with—or maybe, Mara thought, sneaking another glance at his adorably awkward grin, just maybe something more.

    ————-

    Ezra wished he could stun himself with his electro-slingshot and put himself out of his misery. How much of a moof-milking idiot did he sound like? No wonder Ace was trying not to laugh at him, though he guessed that was better than having her think that he was thinking of—anything. Because he definitely wasn’t. Definitely.

    He was relieved when Ghost provided a distraction by jumping onto the comm terminal and knocking over her backpack. Its contents spilled with a crash. “Ghost!” Ezra shooed the rambunctious Loth-cat away, but not before he pounced on Ace’s lightsaber, batting it across the room. Ezra scrambled after it and grabbed it just before it rolled under the makeshift table. Ace reached for it at the same time, her hand closing over his.

    Ezra froze; he ought to let go, ought to let her take the lightsaber and step back, but he couldn’t seem to make himself move. Ace seemed equally incapable of letting go; if anything, her hand tightened slightly over his. Another ripple of electricity passed over him, but this time, Ezra thought it probably was from being near a pretty girl, because she was so close, almost nose to nose with him. So close he could see the same wonder he felt reflected in her eyes. So close that if he leaned forward just a little bit...

    A metallic clang echoed through the tower, and Ace sprang back, hastily stashing her lightsaber in her pack. “I thought you said no one came here!”

    “They don’t!” No one ever came here, unless Ezra brought them; the last time that happened had been two years ago. If he ever saw that rotten cheating Trandoshan bounty hunter again, he wasn’t going to know what hit him.

    Ace glanced around the room frantically as she struggled to cram her belongings back in her pack where they belonged. “How do we get out of here?”

    “We don’t. The only way down’s the same way they’re coming up!” Footsteps continued to thump their way up the staircase...one, two, three pairs, and from the sound of it, at least two of them were troopers. Seriously?!Ezra cursed the Empire anew. Five years no one’s bothered with this tower and you choose now to pay a visit?. Ezra knelt in the dubious cover offered by one of the patched up chairs, and aimed his energy slingshot at the entrance. “This is the only weapon I’ve got,” he told Ace. “And it’s not so great against stormtrooper armor.” Don’t ask how I know that. “I’m gonna try to at least stun the lead trooper a bit, You get ready to run.” She nodded tightly as she ducked behind another of the swivel chairs, her face pale but determined. Ghost crouched beside her, hackles raised and growling.

    The ominous footsteps grew louder and were followed by the sound of an armored fist banging on the door. “Open up, in the name of the Empire!”

    Ezra rolled his eyes—like that’s gonna happen—but didn’t waste his breath shouting back. A blaster bolt zinged into the door frame, kicking up a shower of sparks, and the door shuddered open. A red-eyed seeker droid buzzed inside like a giant, malevolent insect. It squealed excitedly, waving its pincered arms, and was followed by a trooper with his E-11 raised. You shot my door! It wasn’t even locked! Ezra fumed, pulling back the line on his slingshot to send a shock-burst crashing into the trooper’s knees, just at the gap in his armor. It was a good shot; the trooper’s knees buckled and he floundered and yelped, trying to regain control of his spasming muscles. Yeah, take that, you stupid bucket head!

    The seeker droid chattered angrily and swooped at Ezra, graspers outstretched. Before he could snap off another shot, the droid plummeted to the floor and bounced twice, each time hitting harder than before. It gave a sickly whine as its photo-receptor dimmed and died and its pincers fell limp to the floor.How…? Ezra shot an incredulous glance over his shoulder at Ace, who grinned back at him.

    “What’s going on in there?” came a petulant voice. The grub-weasel face of Commandant Aresko appeared in the doorway. “LR-271, can you not even handle a couple of childr—aaah!” He broke off with a startled screech as a blur of white launched itself at his legs. Ghost charged and sank his claws and teeth into the Imp’s scrawny ankles, kicking furiously with his hind legs. Aresko shrieked like a spooked eopie as he tried to shake the cat loose. Ezra lined up his next shot at Aresko’s head.

    “Don’t try it, kid.” LR-271 leveled his rifle at Ezra, even as his legs continued to twitch. “Maybe I can’t stand, but I can still shoot.”

    Aresko finally kicked Ghost free; the cat hit wall with a yowl and scurried under the chair next to Ezra. “LR-346, cuff the boy and then shoot…that...thing!” His voice quivered with fury as he barked orders at the stormtrooper who had come up behind him.

    “No! Leave him alone!” Ace stood up. Her green eyes flashed fire and her voice was compelling, commanding in a way Aresko’s caviling tones could never match. Ace’s right hand slashed a small, sharp semi-circle in the air, and Ezra felt a strange sensation like… well, like nothing he’d ever felt before, and yet something he’d known all along. Almost like a miniature whirlwind swirling through the room, only there was no wind and it wasn’t stirring the air, exactly. “I’m the one you’re looking for,” Ace challenged, glaring at Aresko.

    His thin lips curled into a sneer. “Well, well, well. Look what we have here. The Prefect’s daughter playing house with public nuisance number one. Your mother opposed the use of surveillance and seeker droids as an ‘invasion of privacy’ or some such nonsense. Now I see why.” He strode towards Ace, gesturing sharply for LR-346 to cuff her instead of Ezra. When he reached her, he put a hand on her shoulder and chucked Ace under the chin with the other as if she was a recalcitrant child. “Tsk, tsk, tsk… you’re not getting your career at the Imperial Academy off to a very good start, are you, Cadet Blayne?”

    “A career which doesn’t begin for two weeks yet. So I’ll thank you to take your hands off of her.”

    Caught up in the interplay between Ace and Aresko—wait...what? How could Ace be a Jedi if she was the Prefect’s daughter? Wasn’t that kind of impossible?—he hadn't noticed the stranger standing in the doorway. The man was middle-aged; there were lines at the corners of his eyes and his brown-gray hair was the color of the prairie in winter. He was dressed in a drab brown tunic, with pants a darker, duller shade of brown. He looked liked the kind of ordinary, forgettable person Ezra ran into everyday in the Bazaar, but something about him radiated authority. There was even an undercurrent of menace in his stony expression. Ordinary-looking or not, Ezra decided, the man was no one he’d want to mess with.

    Aresko quailed a bit under the man’s withering gaze, but kept his grip on Ace’s shoulder. “Master Blayne, as Commandant, I’m well within my rights to discipline any student…”

    The man pushed his way past the stormtroopers as if they weren’t there. Somehow he managed to loom over Aresko, though they were of a height. “She’s not your student yet. Right now she’s a civilian, a minor, and most importantly she’s my daughter. I’ll only tell you one more time. Get. Your. Hands. Off her.”

    This was Ace’s father? Yeah, Ezra could kind of see it in the way they both glared at Aresko, the set of their mouths, the way their eyes flashed. He watched as Master Blayne stared down Aresko. The Commandant paled beneath that unyielding gaze and yanked his hand off Ace’s shoulder spasmodically.

    The hint of a smile quirked the corner of Master Blayne’s lips. His hand swept in the same semicircular motion that Ace had used earlier, and as before, Ezra felt something stir the air-but-not-quite. “Now, Commandant,” Master Blayne said. “I don’t think you and your men should waste any more time in this empty tower. There’s nothing here. Your droid must be defective; it led you to the wrong place.”

    Ezra cringed. Whatever and whoever else this Blayne guy was, he was clearly not very good at running a scam. Empty tower? Defective droid? Oh man, that story wasn’t even remotely plausible! The defective droid part might have been worth a try—if Aresko and his bucket brains hadn’t already seen Ezra and Ace! Blayne couldn’t really think the Imps were going to swallow that load of poodoo… But then Aresko’s eyes seemed to go unfocused for a moment, and he shook his head. “Why are we wasting our time in an empty comm tower? There’s obviously nothing here.” he barked at the troopers. He aimed a vicious kick at the crumpled droid. “The droid must have been defective. I’m going to have a few words for that tech officer when we get back to base. Come on!” He turned with a brusque wave, and the two troopers followed him out, walking past Blayne as if he wasn’t there.

    What just happened here? Ezra watched the Imps go in disbelief. Their clanking footsteps receded down the stairs. How had Blayne done that? He shot a look of appeal at Ace, who just shrugged back, as if to say yeah, he does that sometimes. Ezra pulled his scattered wits together and pulled his jaw up off the floor. “Um, thanks.”

    “Hmm.” Blayne turned his attention to Ezra for the first time, a look that was neither friendly nor unfriendly, just measuring. One eyebrow crooked up as he considered Ezra and edged up a little farther as he spared a glance for Ghost, who was sniffing the man’s boots with great interest. He turned to Ace. “And who exactly is this?

    “I’m...uh, Ezra Bridger. Sir.” He thought it might be better if he spoke for himself. That was the kind of thing a respectful young man would do, right? The kind who lived...wherever it was Ace lived, wherever it was the Prefect lived. The kind who wasn’t just a Loth-rat hiding out in an old comm tower. Right now, Ezra really wished he was that kind of guy, because then maybe Ace’s dad wouldn’t be frowning at him like he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with him...or maybe to him.

    “Nice to meet you, Ezra.” Blayne’s mouth quirked into another half smile. “I’m sorry you’ll have to forget it.”

    “Huh?” Despite Blayne’s smile, that didn’t exactly sound reassuring. Instinctively, his right hand crept towards his energy slingshot.

    “Dad, no!” Ace stepped between them. She planted her hands on her hips, but though her expression was fierce, Ezra thought he saw the glimmer of tears in her green eyes. “This wasn’t Ezra’s fault! He was helping me after the stormtroopers spotted us...me…in the Bazaar. Nothing...happened!”

    “No. You’re in so much trouble right now, young lady. Do you have any idea what your mother would say if she found out...”

    “She doesn’t have to find out! Please, Dad?! Just once…” She looked up at her father in mute appeal, and it seemed to Ezra that something passed between them in that gaze.

    Blayne’s expression softened and he shook his head. “Ah, so that’s the way it is. Fine. But we’re leaving now, so say your goodbyes.”

    Ace turned to Ezra, and now he was sure that there were tears in her eyes. He fought the urge to wipe them away. For once in his life he found himself without anything clever to say. He held out a hand to her. “Hey, Ace, I…”

    She took his hand and squeezed it. “Thank you, Ezra, for trying to help me. For caring. I’m sorry this happened. I wish…” Her words trailed off and she shook her head. “Anyway, thanks.” Ace squeezed his hand again and let go slowly. She followed her father out the door with a last, sad smile.

    Ezra wanted to reach after her. He wanted to follow her down the stairs, and...what? Follow her home? Like a Loth-rat had any place in that world. Like her mother the Prefect would be any happier to find out where her daughter had been than her dad was. No, it was better if he stayed here, in his rundown tower alone as usual. At least he could remember that he’d tried to do the right thing, that for a moment a girl like Ace had seen him as something more than a thief.

    Absently, he picked up Ghost, who was rubbing insistently at his legs. Ezra carried the cat as he looked out over the railing. Below, he saw Ace’s flame-red hair as she and her father made their way across the grassland. She looked up, and Ezra imagined he could hear her voice faintly: I wish things could have been different…

    “Yeah, me too, Ace. Me too.”

    Notes:
    The Trandoshan bounty hunter Ezra mentioned is Bossk. The story of their encounter comes from Ezra’s Gamble.
     
    Findswoman and Ewok Poet like this.
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    :) :D for the way Mara reacted to Ezra's reaction to her.
    Her response to where he stayed was perfect.
    Their interaction was so full of acceptance and genuineness of their true selves; very refreshing experiences for both of them! They each are used and almost expect to be negatively judged. [face_thinking]

    That pesky Aresko :mad: had to show up, just when something nummy was about to happen and very worrisome for Mara too. Then her wonderful Dad had to show up.
    You can tell he's totally in sympathy with her, probably agrees with her about the Academy too! :p I can bet Raissa does too but their hands are tied. [face_frustrated]

    Of course Mara had to leave with Doran; but like Ezra, I wanted him to either follow her home [face_mischief] or reach out to stop her. I love how they both wished things could've been different.
    I eagerly await their next meeting because I'm sure there will be one and hopefully no pesky interruptions to their grand adventures.
    =D=
     
  24. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    This has been my favourite chapter so far! Betaing was a pleasure and so is commenting on it. :)

    What really, really stands out is Logical!Mara versus Emotional!Mara. Now, THAT WAS FUN. Left brain vs. right brain and all, with heeeeeeeeeeelarious results. :D And, of course, the left brain suggests that Ezra would've robbed her, despite everything that her right brain comes up with. Listen to your heart, Mara! You want to mess with his hair, don't question yourself about him having flirted - BECAUSE YOU BOTH HAVE. [face_devil]

    I can totally see that the said left brain stuff came from Raissa, wasn't even surprised to read it.

    The description of Ezra's place was awesome - you could have pulled a Pere Goriot and bored us to death, but you didn't. Not that I would've expected anything else.

    The food that Mara gives Ezra made me a bit sad - just how little and what does he eat in this cruel world? :( I totally get why she wants to pay him as well. Now, one thing that worries me is if any of the options - being paid for service OR being given money out of mercy - would actually offend him? [face_thinking] Then again, overachievers just overachieve, they don't think much about the consequences and implications - it's us underachievers that do! 8-}

    [face_love][face_love][face_love][face_love][face_love] SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

    I have an OC who does this kind of stuff to himself and I wouldn't recommend it. ;) Don't spoil your beautiful hair, Ezra! :ezra:

    The lightsaber moment was OMG. It was just...just that Ghost HAD to do it. It's the Chekhov's kitteh of this story, after all.

    Those Stormtrooper armours...never perfect. [face_rofl] That aaand...of course that a Force-sensitive street rat can do such a thing, aim that precisely.

    And then Ghost follows...wow, that kitteh is special, all right. Is there more to him than meets the eye? I mean, EVEN more? [face_thinking]

    Doran schooling Aresko is another priceless moment. Sure, Mara can do whatever she wants until the school year actually begins. It's called a "holiday", duh. In such a rule-abiding world as the one of the Galactic Empire, one has to understand such things and stick to 'em. And not only that. This is a mahvelous tie-in to the scene in Star Crossed where Raissa schools everybody's favourite Imp, Donal. [face_devil] Why would only the characters remain the same in an AU of an AU? The scenes can be nods to other scenes, too. A-m-a-z-i-n-g!

    And then the mind trick. YES, YES, YES. Gooooo, Doran, go! Even when Ezra's Force hasn't properly awakened in him, Ghost is there to drop subtle hints. THAT MAN SMELLS OF JEDI, MASTER EZRA. OH, MEOW, HE DOES!

    Perfect use of the "I'm no one" motif that became prominent with the canon reset. Even if you did not intend it to be so, that's what it ended up looking like. And another neat parallel with a future heroine.

    Glad that Mara doesn't allow Doran to pull a Men in Black type of a thing here. And the daddy's got a soft spot for his daughter, which the oh-so-pure Jedi of the Republic that failed would have not understood...but I darn well understand it and approve of it! [face_peace]

    More, more, more! Mara discovered that there was more to Ezra, Ezra discovered that there was more to this mysterious and seemingly perfect "Ace", but they're on a good way to discover that there's more inside of their own minds and souls, too. Now, THAT's what I call great character development! ^:)^
     
  25. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh ho! We see here that it isn’t just Ezra who felt a shift during that first fateful meeting, but Mara too—this diamond in the rough is clearly making an impression on her, just as she did on him, though they are still of course at that darling awkward stage where they CAHN’T CAHN’T CAHN’T let that on to each other. Just as it’s a big leap of trust for Mara to agree to go with Ezra to the place he calls home, it’s a big leap of trust on his part to open his home (such as it is) to someone else. The description of the place, its makeshift furnishings, all the tumbledown machinery and spare parts boxes, is fantastic and really drives home the kind of life Ezra leads right now. And a big SQUEE for the homage to Aladdin in a very apropos direct quote: "It may not look like much, but it’s got a great view.” :D

    Mara and Ezra's conversation is so sweet, even the parts of it that grow from teenage awkwardess—the whole bedroom business, with the afterthought of “you can sleep there and I can sleep here,” was just adorable. You’re really good at the awkward teen stuff, i have to say, and that’s a compliment! :D But in another way it is just very natural, beautiful, and sho’-nuff—what stands out for both teens in this conversation is the way they listen to each other and accept each other for who they are. To paraphrase Mara’s observation, they see what each other really is, but don’t run. Quite th econtrary: they see that the potential for a Beautiful Friendship™ is there, and perhaps something even more… oh, that one squeelicious moment where their hands touch. Oh yes, I TOTALLY and COMPLETELY WITHOUT a DOUBT believe that Ezra DEFINITELY wasn’t “thinking of—anything.” :p ;)

    Of course, that moment is brought to us by none other than Ghost, who of course would single out That One Specific Artifact in Mara’s bag. I love how he immediately springs into action when that nasty Aresko and his goons show up, as if he too can sense how wrong they are.

    And then… DORAN! [face_dancing] Aw, yeah! What a perfect entrance for him: with the true Blayne gumption he tells those insufferable Imperial thugs exactly where they get off, and with a nice helping of Affect Mind at that. I can tell Ezra is putting two and two together when he sees him making the same gesture as Mara did earlier, and when he sees Ghost sniffing the heck out of his boots (that kitty knows!). I cringed for a moment when he looked like he was about to mindwipe Ezra or similar—at least that’s how I took his “I’m sorry you’ll have to forget it” comment. :eek: But following the better nature we know he has, he thinks better of it. I like that he’s not the stereotypical Very Protective Dad; he puts his foot down that she has to say goodbye to him for now, but he has clearly listened to her and believes her (obviously telepathically communicated!) account of the story of how she ended up in Fort Ezra to begin with, and he lets the two of them say goodbye properly.

    What a goodbye, though! I love Ezra’s wistful reflections at the end. That one bright moment with the lovely Ace, where they understood each other, saw each other for what they really were… and now it’s back to the dingy old street-rat routine, once again. :( Of course, this is where I could quote John Greenleaf Whittier and say, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!’”—though I know that this is far from the end of the story, and there’s still time for a second chance for these two. @};- (It’s no accident, I suppose, that that thought puts me in mind of another story of yours, from the “prime” Marzraverse[face_batting]

    Keep on keeping up the wonderful work! =D=