Truncation Fixed - 2/5/15 Title: Distractions Author: mavjade Characters: Mara Jade, The Emperor Genre: Angst, kinda AU Timeline: ~ 4 years BBY Notes: Hmm... I think this is the first time I've done a story in Saga and I know I've never written the Emperor. I hope I do him justice (and the young Mara too! ) . Thanks so much to my beta Jace84z, without whom I would never have been able to write the Emperor. This fic was written for the Holiday Fic-gift Exchange. The fic-gift is for madman007 who wanted: 1. There is a setback or a mistake made by a young Mara Jade during her training as the Emperor's Hand. 2. Palpatine hints at Mara's origin planet (whether she figures it out or not is up to you, but just don't reveal it. We still want to keep it a mystery.) 3. At some point there should be a connection or brush with her future husband (this does not have to be physical like they run into each other or something. It can be mental. But, you can choose.) I don't want: Mush, so don't get too sentimental. I hope you enjoy! <^><^><^><^><^> Fourteen year old Mara Jade was livid. She was confined to her quarters after a small mishap on a mission. The worst part, other than showing her ineptitude, was that she knew a worse punishment was coming. She had been given much more for a lot less. One such punishment involved being given no food for days just for being late to a meal. She was to be eating with an instructor who thought he was teaching the young daughter of an officer how to behave at court and please the Emperor. He, like most of her instructors, had no idea of who or what she really was. On another such occasion, she had been left in a freeze-chamber designed for the storage of foodstuffs with very little by way of clothing. Her offense: an idle comment made about the temperature in Sidius' private sanctum. After a few hours, young Jade had decided that any such minor temperature change would forever remain beneath her notice. Various offenses had often earned her punishment of one kind or another at the hand of an instructor. She had been lashed, burned, and otherwise tortured many times, but none of those infractions had been as major as this most recent. She knew this punishment would be severe, just waiting was almost punishment enough. It had been her first entirely solo mission, where previously she had been with an instructor or in contact with someone at all times. This mission was of particularly sensitive nature and she knew that no one, other than the Emperor himself, knew where she was or what she was doing. There had been rumors of political uprising on some planet in the Outer Rim, and while it was not a major threat at the time it was gaining popularity and the Emperor wanted it taken care of before it gained any more momentum. She was to infiltrate the group's base of operations, find and recover any information they had on the Empire, and recover it. She was then to make sure the leader of this group met with an unfortunate accident, and all without being seen. She was the Emperor's secret weapon, and he intended for her to remain that way. <^><^><^><^><^> She arrived on planet and immediately blended in. Having done her research before going to the desert planet she knew what the locals looked like, what they wore, and how they dressed. She made sure she would blend in and not be noticed. In her studies, this was one of the things she was the best at: disguising herself and blending in. She could adapt her mannerisms and accents very easily. She didn't even need the Force to do this, though it could enhance her abilities. The first thing she did was to go to the local cantina and see if she could find some information. She did this first because once the leader met his end, she would want to make a quick exit from the planet. It was amazing the things you could find out just by listening in public: "... organizing people to fight. It's pretty much a suicide mission, but completely worth it," one man was whispering. "But you would have to be in danger for a long time before you could get any information," the other man said. "Exactly, which is why we want people with homeworld military experience. They are more likely to start out in positions of authority." Mara stifled a chuckle. It seemed they were looking for people to work for the Empire and bring information back to this little uprising. They were right that it was a suicide mission. They would certainly be found and killed. After listening for quite some time, Mara left to find the headquarters. She had gotten quite a few clues from the two men who were speaking, and a few more from others, but it was clear to her that no one here had all that much information. Finding and infiltrating the building had been easy, a little too easy in fact, and Mara hoped she had not missed anything. Their security system could be sliced by a youngling with a random guess and their guards were easily distracted. She found the office of the leader and sliced into his computer terminal. This was a little more difficult, but she managed to do so without triggering any security measures. She loaded all of the information onto her datapad to be unencrypted later and then erased the entire hard drive. She hid and waited for the leader to arrive. The room had surprisingly few places to hide, so she ended up crammed into a space where she could not see at all. She had to rely on the Force to find his presence and to make sure he was alone. Reaching out, she felt someone coming her way. There were two minds standing right outside the door, and she hoped they would stay where they were. She didn't have a problem keeping quiet, but it was always easier to make it look like an accident if only one person ended up dead. When she finally felt that someone was in the room, she gave them a few minutes to get situated and moved to strike. She kept her senses aware so that she would know if anyone was coming. As she was finishing this part of her mission she felt another mind brush with hers. It was a completely untrained young mind, but it was definitely strong in the Force. There was something familiar about the mind, like someone she knew, though she was certain it was not. She had been told this could happen when two Force users were related, but knew that could not be the case in her situation. Momentarily distracted, Mara missed the person who was about to enter until it was too late and another being walked into the office. Noticing foul play was afoot, he yelled for the guards and drew his blaster. "Kriff," Mara swore as she realized she had messed up big time. She wasn't worried about the man or the guards--she could take care of them easily--but more that she had not done what her master had ordered her to do: kill only the leader and make it look like an accident. All that was about to happen was because she let her concentration slip. She took care of the leader, the man who had just entered, and the two guards quickly and made her exit. Hoping to find the Force user to take him to her Master, Mara went looking for him. She searched the entire area, expanding her senses as far as they would go. She had hoped to find this mysterious being and take him back to the Emperor, which might make him overlook her transgression, but it was as though he had disappeared, or had never existed at all. After she had spent as much time as she thought possible, she headed back, knowing her master was not going to be pleased. <^><^><^><^><^><^><^> After having waited for hours locked in her quarters, Mara was even more agitated and were she to really look inside herself, she would find herself to be nervous. She wondered if the Emperor would just take care of her and be done with it; she had seen it happen before when his servants defied his orders. Finally, she was summoned to his inner sanctum. She tried to push down all the feelings that were raging through her, but it was practically impossible. As she entered, she saw her Master sitting in his usual seat, just staring at her and none of the royal guards were present, which made her heart race. "Do not suppress your feelings, child. They make you stronger." "Master," Mara said as she bowed at his feet. "I am sorry--" "Silence. You did not obey my orders and for that I am very displeased, but you did complete your mission. Tell me, why did you fail?" She told him of the feeling she had gotten, how the untrained mind had brushed against hers and distracted her. She also told him of attempting to find the being, but to no avail. A strange look crossed his face as she spoke of how it felt somehow familiar, but the look was so quick Mara did not know if it was just her imagination. "I should have known you would be impulsive and rash. I see that a lifetime of training has not yet overcome your heritage. You will work harder." Mara felt sure he was not speaking of the planet from which she had just come. She filed it away to think about later. Right now, she needed to worry about where she was going and what her punishment would be, not where she came from. The Emperor really did not care that she had killed three others, she could have blown up the entire building and he would not have minded. Anything was justified to rid the galaxy of that scum. He knew from watching her training that she would never make the same mistake again; she had learned her lesson. But of course he had to punish her somehow. "I am disappointed," he continued, "But letting you dwell on your mistake for the past 4 hours has granted you clarity. I trust you have learned your lesson?" "Yes, Master." "Good. I am doubling your training regimen, and you will remain here with me until I am satisfied you will not fail me again." With this, her lightsaber flew free of her hip and landed in the outstretched hand of her Emperor. "You may leave." Mara bowed again and backed out of the room. She knew the training would be hard, but she enjoyed it so it would not be much of a punishment. She vowed to never be caught off guard on a mission again. She was the Emperor's Hand.