Title: Chasing Whisperkits Author: Tarsier Timeframe: LOTF (sometime after Sacrifice) Characters: Callista, Mara (ghost), Caedus/Jacen, Tahiri, Luke, Ben Genre: drama/angst, short story Keywords: Callista, Mara, Jacen, redemption, ghost, whisperkits Summary: Jacen captures Callista to lure Luke and Ben to him. Callista and Force-ghost Mara race to save Jacen before he can corrupt Ben. Notes: This is something of a companion story to Worth Fighting For - they do not need to be read together, but I think of them as occurring in parallel universes. Any comments/critiques/criticisms are much appreciated. For a little background on Callista and the two unnamed characters, check out You Found Me. For a snippet about Ben taking place after this story, check out Not the Beginning. Dedicated to Ambassador Cara Jade. You never knew it, but I couldn't have finished this story without you. Prologue It was the kind of tapcafe that reminded Luke Skywalker of Mos Eisley. And Obi-Wan’s comment about scum and villainy. It was hard to believe he was bringing his son here to keep him safe. Though their disguises were thin, Luke wasn’t too worried about being recognized—he didn’t think the scum and villainy crowd was likely to be on the lookout for Jedi. Luke found an empty table in a relatively quiet corner of the cantina and sat down. Ben slid into the seat across from him, looking as shattered and miserable as Luke felt. He wanted to comfort Ben, but he could think of nothing positive to say. He was lost without Mara. He didn’t know what to do without her, so he decided he would do nothing. Would be nothing. He wouldn’t be a solider, he wouldn’t be a Grand Master, he wouldn’t be a Jedi. If it wasn’t for Ben sitting across the table from him, Luke would have screamed in frustration. He’d given everything trying to reestablish the Jedi Order and protect the Republic, and what did he have to show for it? His wife had been killed, his son traumatized, and his sister’s family torn to pieces. Now Luke had only one goal, only one thought: He would protect his son. If only he could figure out how. Fighting back had led his nephew into darkness. A preemptive strike had cost Mara her life. If he couldn’t longer fight, he could think of only one other option—running. So that’s what Luke had been doing for the last several weeks. Running from one obscure planet to the next. Hiding in the fringe. Disappearing into the crowd of smugglers and mercenaries and bounty hunters where no one would notice him. Luke knew he couldn’t run forever, but at the moment it seemed the best option. Maybe things would settle down on their own. Maybe it was time for someone else to take the reins for a while. As Luke’s mind wandered, he noticed an intense conversation going on at a nearby table. “We have to go after her!” “No, we don’t.” “Callista was our friend. We can’t just abandon her to a Sith Lord!” “That’s exactly why we aren’t going after her. We can’t take on a Sith Lord.” “We have to try.” “She’s probably already dead.” “It doesn’t matter. Someone has to face him.” “Not us.” The conversation broke off and Luke realized it was because they were both staring at him, as he had moved to stand right next to their table without being aware of it. “What do you know about Sith Lords?” There was a man and a woman, each perhaps a few years younger than himself. From their grimy flightsuits and the weary yet suspicious look in their eyes, he guessed they were smugglers. “What’s it to you?” the woman asked. “Maybe you haven’t heard. Luminya is dead. There are no more Sith Lords,” Luke replied. “Maybe. Maybe not,” the man said, his pale green eyes scanning the room. “What do you mean?” Ben appeared beside Luke and he put his arm protectively around his son’s shoulders, not sure he wanted Ben to hear the conversation, but not knowing how to keep him safely away. The smuggler seemed reluctant to continue and Luke wondered if he was looking for credits. Luke didn’t have much on him and was trying to think of something to barter with when the man continued. “A friend of ours, Callista, claimed another carried the mark of the Sith—he had yellow eyes. She could see it on the Holonet feeds. They looked brown to me and everybody else, but she said it was a trick of the Force. Only she could see because she was immune to the Force. And now she’s gone.” Callista? Immune to the Force? Could it be? Callista, the Callista who had broken his heart so long ago, still alive after all these years? “What happened to her?” Luke asked. “She was taken. By the Sith Lord’s minions.” Luke swallowed hard. He knew he didn’t want to know the answer, but he had to ask. “Who is this Sith Lord?” The man didn’t answer right away. Holding out for credits? Or unsure how Luke would react? Finally, he replied “Jacen Solo.” The words fell softly from the smuggler’s lips, but they hit Luke like a dreadnaught. “No!” Ben cried from Luke’s side, taking a step toward the smuggler. Luke pulled Ben closer to him. Ben stopped and looked at his father. He shook his head defiantly. “No, it can’t be.” Luke looked sadly back at Ben. “Not Jacen,” he whimpered, then shuddered and collapsed into Luke. “Not Jacen,” Ben cried again, his face buried in Luke’s tunic. It was Jacen, Luke could feel it. Jacen was a Sith Lord and Jacen had Callista. For the first time in a long while, Luke knew what he had to do. He had to protect Callista.