Title: Betrayal Author: Jedi_Lover _____________________ ‘I should kill him.’ She unholstered her blaster and pointed it toward at the unconscious man lying supine on the bunk. She glared at him for a very long time, her index finger brushing against the trigger, incrementally increasing the pressure, taking out the slack, almost hoping it would go off by accident, before, reluctantly, easing up on the trigger. She hated that she now hesitated to kill. She was Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand. She spent her whole life learning the skills of an assassin and one of those skills was the ability to kill readily, and without pity or remorse. But those days were gone. Her hesitation didn’t come from any empathy she had for the blond man under her custody. No, she hated Luke Skywalker with an undying passion. Her reluctance was due to her allegiance to her current employer, Talon Karrde. Talon was a smuggler and information broker that gave her a good job with a fair wage after Skywalker killed her master and destroyed her life in the process. Talon wanted Skywalker alive, and, although she knew he probably would forgive her if her blaster accidentally misfired and snuffed out Skywalker’s miserable life…her sense of pride and loyalty prevented her from doing so. She respected Talon Karrde and did not wish to disappoint the man…especially since she had to argue hard and long to convince her boss to capture Skywalker in the first place. Yesterday, the Wild Karrde crew found Skywalker stranded in space over a light year from civilization and far from any well-traveled hyperspace lanes. His starfighter’s hyperdrive motivators were fried and his long-range subspace radio disabled. Although his radio was broken, he was calling out through the Force for help. Unfortunately for him, she was the person that heard his plea. She dropped Karrde’s freighter out of hyperspace under the pretense of doing a navigation reading and found Skywalker’s ship floating damaged and helpless. She thought her employer would gladly jump at the chance to capture and ransom the hapless castaway, but he didn’t, thinking Skywalker was too much trouble. No amount of money could would be worth the risk of capturing such an important and dangerous Force-user. Mara secretly agreed with Karrde’s thinking, but the urge to look Skywalker in the face as she sold him to the highest bidder was just too much of a temptation to pass. Still, the urge to murder Skywalker was another competing temptation that she was struggling with. She walked over to the bed and leaned forward and placing the barrel of the weapon against the man’s head. She stood there, fantasizing about pulling the trigger and splatting brain mater across the back wall. Instead she pushed the barrel against his skull hard enough that it would leave a mark. “Do I need to get Aves or Chin to guard him?” Mara jumped at the sound of Karrde’s voice, silently cursing the planet Myrkr’s Force hindering abilities that allowed him to sneak up on her. She returned the blaster to its holster and turned to her boss who was leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded across his chest, his expression stern. “No.” She glanced back to Skywalker. “I was just checking to see if he was coming around.” Karrde gave her a knowing look. “Don’t check too hard, you might leave a bruise. I don’t want to deliver damaged merchandise.” She walked over to a chair next to the bed and dropped down in the seat. “Did you find a buyer?” He chuckled. “I’m sure there are plenty of people who want him. The Empire, the Rebels, the Hutts to name a few. The question is, who can we offer him up to without endangering ourselves? His allies will pay the price, but then we’ll become a target of their aggression.” She scoffed. “I think you answered your own question. Only one of those organizations wants him alive. The others can care less if we delivered his dead body and they won’t come after us for putting him in that condition. Ransoming him back to his people is dangerous. If he lives, he can return and hunt us down.” Karrde looked up to the ceiling in thought before nodding and turning to leave. “You’re right…but don’t kill him. Bringing a bounty in alive always demands a higher price. I’ll make some calls.” . . . As Luke slowly regained consciousness he was immediately assaulted by a pounding headache and his body didn’t feel much better. He was on his back lying on an uncomfortable surface. As he struggled to move, he heard the tell-tale squeak of old mattress springs. He was fairly certain he was lying on a worn-out bed ubiquitous to old military bases or seedy hotels. He opened his eyes, but his vision was too blurry to readily make out where he was. He snapped his eyes closed and concentrated, trying to remember what happened. He recalled having trouble with his ship and after spending hours trying to make repairs to the long-range radio and then the hyperdrive he quit in frustration and opened up through the force, calling out for help. It appears that he was rescued, but not by the person he hoped for. He reached back in his murky memory and remembered a large cargo ship identified as the Wild Karrde arriving to his location and an offer of a ride. He transferred to the ship via a force cylinder, had a short conversation with the captain of the ship who mentioned a woman named Mara Jade had found him…and then nothing. He must have been stunned at that time, but how that was accomplished he was unsure. He didn’t sense a trap or anybody sneaking up on him. Perhaps a droid stunned him. After a few more minutes he flickered his eyes open and was relieved that his vision was clearing. He was in a small room dimly lit by sunlight streaming in through an open window. The air was humid, and he could make out what he thought was the smell of coniferous trees and some aromatic flowers. When he went to sit up, he noticed his arms and legs were shackled in stun cuffs. He smiled slightly, knowing he could easily get out of his bindings using the Force. He raised his hands and stared at the cuffs, concentrating, willing them to open. His brow went up in astonishment when nothing happened. It was then he realized he couldn't touch the Force. “Don’t like it, do you?” He startled by the sound of a woman’s voice to his side. “This planet has the unique ability to disrupt the flow of the Force...so welcome to the world of mere mortals.” He turned to see a beautiful woman, probably in her mid or late twenties sitting in a chair with a blaster resting in her lap. She had shoulder length reddish gold hair and intense emerald eyes that glared at him murderously. She slowly stood, revealing not only luscious curves wrapped snuggly in a skintight bodysuit, but his lightsaber clipped to her waist belt. He was immediately enthralled by the possibility that she was a Force user. The ship’s captain, Talon Karrde, said a member of his crew found him, but didn’t mention how. Did this woman hear him call out through the Force? “You must be Mara Jade,” he ventured. She smirked. “If you are trying to impress me with your Force abilities, forget it. Karrde told me he mentioned my name before he had your gullible rimworld ass stunned and drugged.” He ignored the insult. “He also told me you were the one who found my ship. Thank you.” “Save your gratitude,” she bit out. “As far as I’m concerned, the only question left is whether to kill you or sell you to the highest bidder.” “Neither of those options sound very appealing,” he said quietly. “Which possibility are you hoping for?” His question prompted an evil grin to slide across her face. “I personally want to kill you.” He forced himself to remain calm. Captain Karrde was obviously a smuggler or pirate and his crew went to the effort to keep him alive. They clearly planned to either collect a bounty or call in a ransom for his return. What he didn’t understand was why this captivating woman in front of him wanted him dead? He had never met her before; so why did this look like a personal vendetta? He figured he had nothing to lose by asking. “What have I done to you to warrant such hatred?” Her jaw dropped apparently shocked by his question. “What have you done? What haven’t you done? You murdered the Emperor and destroyed my life in the process.” That answered his question. She was probably a former imperial, possibly an Inquisitor, whose career was derailed by the death of her Sith Master. “First of all, I didn’t kill the Emperor, Darth Vader did.” He ran his cuffed hands through his hair as he struggled to a sitting position. “I was more of a hindrance than help in that matter. I had little training as a Jedi and Palpatine nearly fried me with Force lightning before Vader stopped him.” He gave her a long, searching look and noticed that the fire in her eyes dimmed slightly. He was hopeful he could turn this situation around. “If your anger is over losing a prestigious job within the Empire, perhaps I can help. I have important friends…” “Shut up!” She punctuated that sentence by drawing her blaster and aiming it at his head. “Another word and I’ll blast you!” “You’re making a mistake. You’d be better off…” All conversation ended when a stunbolt impacted the side of his head, making his world go black. . . . Two days later, it was time to move Skywalker. Jade went to the room where he was held and found him sitting on his bed looking far more tranquil than he had any right to be. In fact, he looked up and actually smiled. “Does your arrival indicate a ransom was paid for me?” She smirked knowingly. “In a way.” She stepped in and pulled out her blaster before glancing over to the door. “You can come in now. I have him secured.” A broad grin spread across her face as Skywalker’s smug little smile slipped from his. Entering the room was Princess Leia Organa and her companion Han Solo. Skywalker’s eyes went wide. “Leia,” he managed to choke out in a strangled whisper. The former princess had tears in her eyes as she gazed at him sadly. Skywalker started to stand, but Mara stepped forward and pressed a blaster against his head halting his movement. “Don’t hurt him,” Leia said softly. Solo said nothing, but his angry gaze let everybody in the room know what he thought about the situation. “Princess Leia, Captain Solo,” Talon Karrde said as he came up behind them in the corridor. “You have proof of life. Let’s go to my office and discuss the details.” When the two rebels departed, Skywalker let out a ragged breath. “It is time to get you ready for transport.” She switched her blaster from kill to stun and without any hesitation, shot him in the chest. . . . When Skywalker finally woke he found himself lying on his back in a transparisteel coffin-sized cylinder. He pushed and pounded at the door trying to escape, but without the Force he was trapped. In his peripheral vision he saw moment. He turned to see Mara Jade walking over to his position. She knelt down next to the cylinder imprisoning him and touched a communication button on a metallic door panel. “Calm down. This is a stasis chamber. You will be safely tucked away inside. It’s a safety measure. We don’t want you trying to exact some revenge before you get to your destination.” “I’m not going to try anything.” “Empty words coming from a traitor.” He gave her a hard look. “It’s debatable whether calling me a traitor is the proper term when you are talking about a rebellion.” She scoffed lightly. “Maybe, but I can tell you, you are the most hated man in the galaxy. That is not in question.” “I think that’s an exaggeration,” he whispered, his voice miserable. “What I did was in the best interest of the galaxy.” She let out a scathing laugh. “You keep telling yourself that…anything that allows you sleep at night. I’m sure it helps you overcome a shipload of cognitive dissonance.” He frowned in confusion. “Cognitive what?” She sat down on the edge of the stasis cylinder. “Oh, I forgot. The Tatooine farm boy only has a secondary education. You were too busy killing Imperials to go to college.” She crossed her arms across her chest while glaring at Luke. “Cognitive dissonance is the psychological stress experienced when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs or values.” She stood and pointed down at him. “I’m sure when you look in the mirror at your uniform you wonder, ‘How the hell did I end up where I am?’” Luke averted his eyes. “It does sometimes seem unreal.” Mara’s eyes narrowed. “But it did happen. You betrayed your friends on Bespin and teamed up with Darth Vader. You and Vader then killed the Emperor and took over the Empire by force. Vader became Emperor and you became Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces before going off and cracking down on all sedition…which was really easy because you knew the location of all the rebel bases. You betrayed and hunted down your friends! And you question whether the galaxy hates you? Ha!” Frustration spilled out in a fiery sigh. “I may have hunted down my friends, but they weren’t harmed. They were given a chance to join the empire or face exile.” He shook his head in frustration. “There was no way for the rebellion to win. We were a rag tag group with a few hundred ships going against an Imperial force with hundreds of Star Destroyers and even more battleships, frigates, cruisers, corvettes, assault ships and at least thirty thousand Tie Fighters. I made a deal with Darth Vader. We would end the war and he would spare the lives of the rebels.” “And you murdered the Emperor,” she pointed out. “He was my Master!” He closed his eyes for a second, drawing in a calming breath. “The Emperor was insane with power and the Moffs were as cruel as they were corrupt. We had to purge the Empire of their kind.” “Hence the reason for my career change.” Skywalker reached up and undid the collar clasp of his grey Imperial uniform as his transparisteel prison started to get warm. "I doubt you were cruel or corrupt, otherwise I would be dead already.” He gave her a challenging gaze. “You have to admit, the galaxy is much better off now than under Palpatine…isn’t it?” Mara looked away in disgust…not because he was lying…but because she knew he was telling the truth. She didn’t know how he did it, but Skywalker was able to mellow out Darth Vader and curb most of his homicidal tendencies along with making improvements throughout the Imperial government. “The Rebellion began because of the Imperial military was oppressing the populace,” Luke explained to his captor. “But things have changed. Grand Admiral Thrawn, Vice Admiral Faro, Admiral Pellaeon and Commodore Vanto control our four main Imperial fleets and they have proven to be worthy commanders. They have ended the tyranny that the Empire was once known for. I have no idea why the rebels refuse to see the sweeping reformations that have been established over the last few years.” “The rebels don’t care that you made the Empire a kinder and gentler place to live,” she spat out. “You betrayed your friends. They might have been able to forgive you if you killed Vader, but you didn’t. The Rebels believed Vader and Palpatine were the personification of evil…and that now makes you evil by association.” “You worked for the Emperor,” he pointed out. “Do you consider yourself evil?” She shook her head adamantly. “No, but I was never part of the rebellion. That makes me patriotic and not a traitor to my friends.” “Vader and I are now the leaders of the Empire. If you are truly a patriot, you can go back to your old life. I can do that for you.” He paused waiting for an answer, when she remained silent, he continued. “Things are different now. We have wiped out most corruption. I have personally closed all Imperial labor camps. Slavery has been outlawed. We guarantee the rights of all sentients, not just humans. I am trying to make things right, but there was no way I could have gotten those laws passed as a rebel on the losing side.” She heaved a sigh, almost feeling bad for the man. He betrayed his comrades, but in the end, he accomplished most of their goals. “Maybe the rebels will come to their senses, but until then my job is to put you on ice so you can face whatever punishment the Princess and your former rebel friends decide to impose on you.” Luke talked frantically trying to dissuade Mara Jade from activating the cylinder, but he knew he failed when he lapsed into unconsciousness.