Title: Forests of Innocence Author: Briannakin Timeframe: 34 ABY - AU Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade, Ben Skywalker, OCs Genre: AU, Mystery, Angst, Romance Notes: I originally wrote this for the SJRS May/June 2014 Episode 7 Challenge (under the title Dark Mysteries, but I hated the title). People begged me to continue it, so I did, but under a different title (and I stripped the EP 7 part). I tried to write an epic, but I just could not flesh out the story. But I hope you enjoy none-the-less. ALSO, I’ve pulled a “Disney” and wiped most of the EU. I’ll fill in the new relevant details in the story and there will be plenty of flash-back chapters, so keep an eye on the timeframe on the top of each chapter. FORESTS OF INNOCENCE PEACE! For the past 30 years, Luke Skywalker and the former Rebel Alliance have restored and maintained peace in the galaxy. Under the banner of the New Republic, with help from the New Jedi Order, the galaxy has seen prosperous times. The New Jedi Order, under the leadership of Grand Master Skywalker, has erased the ideas of attachment leading to the dark side and have embraced the concepts of love, marriage and children. The New Republic has modelled itself after the Republic of Old. However, not all remains of the vile Empire have been buried. Something still lurks in the shadows. Darkness will soon descend… 34 ABY Luke Skywalker felt the calm, soothing presence of someone who loved him very much - or who had once loved him. He opened his eyes and as they adjusted to the dim light of early morning on Yavin IV, he stretched out to find an empty bed. He was disappointed, but not surprised. He longed to hold his wife, just once more. But the last time she had been in his arms, she had died. That was almost two years ago. Luke felt another presence - a cold, calculating, annoying one. With a grunt, he got up and slipped on a black robe. He walked down the hallway, stopping at his daughter’s door. He looked in to make sure she was alright. Elianda was the one proof that his wife, Jasmay, had lived and loved. The nine-year-old slept fitfully since the day her mother died. Luke allowed himself a small smile. Elia was sleeping all right tonight. Her dark brown curls cascaded across her face, covering the mangled scars she got the day her mother died. His next stop was his son’s room. Ben was twenty-two and a Jedi Knight, like his father. Ben had been a product of an earlier relationship. Luke had loved Ben’s mother, but the relationship never worked out, and they had known that from the start. With a sigh, Luke entered the living room to find Ben’s mother crashed out on his couch. “Jade?” he grunted, poking her foot. Sadly, this wasn’t an odd sight for him. Mara Jade and Jasmay Kalan Skywalker had been best friends - Luke and Jasmay had met through Mara - and Mara had often crashed on the Skywalker couch. Luke had an odd relationship with Mara, but it worked. Yet he hadn’t seen her since the funeral. Mara grunted and kicked him. “What, Skywalker?” she groaned, opening her green eyes. “Why are you on my couch?” “Because getting in bed with you would have been a little odd,” she said, sitting up. Her greying red hair was pulled back into a tight braid. He rolled his eyes. “Why are you on Yavin IV? Are you in some kind of trouble with the government?” “Don’t you want some kind of deniability when they come looking for me?” “Mara!” He was frustrated. “Relax. My stars, Leia was right, you’ve gotten so uptight,” she said, putting her arms behind her head. “I’m just here because I need to talk to you and Ben. There are children going missing in the Imperial Remnant.” He gave her an odd look. “Isn’t that something for the authorities? I thought you hated the Remnant.” “I do, but, Luke,” she was serious when she used his first name. “They are going missing by the dozens. They just vanish in the night, from their beds. Emperor Relan is trying to cover it up. Leia was contacted by private citizens and she asked me to investigate. They want answers. I know it isn’t Jedi jurisdiction, and I’m not a Jedi in name, but I need Jedi help.” He pursed his lips and nodded. “Ask Ben, and perhaps Jaina and some of their friends can help.” “What about you?” He shook his head. “I’m needed here. Elia…” Mara nodded, in a sad, yet knowing way. “How is she?” “She’s doing well most days.” “And you?” She reached out to touch his hand. “I’m fine,” he said, all too quickly. “Luke, I know when you are lying. You aren’t the only one that lost Jas.” “I know,” he said, getting up. “But I’m the only one with her blood on my hands.” He walked back into the darkness of the hallway. * * * Mara sighed slightly as she watched Luke walk away from her. He did not look healthy. He was looking older, and rather scruffy looking with the stubble on his face. They never had a real relationship, so there had been no hard feelings between the two, so she often saw him as a friend and worried as one. She laid back down and tried to get a few more minutes of sleep, but as soon as the sun peered through the large window, she heard small footsteps clomp towards her. She opened her eyes to see Elianda stumbling towards her. The girl was so small for her age and much of her right side was damaged. She limped and her right hand was in a permanent fist that she held to her chest. Her dark curls covered most of the right side of her face. Mara couldn’t help but smile as Elia tried to hurry in her pink nightgown. “Mara!” she said, practically jumping into Mara’s outstretched arms. “Hey there Elia-bug.” Mara set the girl in her lap. “You keeping Ben out of trouble?” The girl scoffed. “I try, but it always seems to find him. Where have you been?” “You know, around, fighting monsters, making deals with pirates. Where have you been?” she asked, poking the girl’s nose. “You know, here, bored, dealing with Dad and Ben.” Luke then emerged, dressed in black Jedi robes, still sporting the stubble. “What’s with the whiskers, Dad?” Elia asked, smiling at her father. “I’m trying something new,” he replied. “I think I might try a beard.” Mara smiled slightly. Something new might be good for him. “Ben should be out of the sani-steam sometime this decade,” Luke said with a roll of his eyes. “Come on Elianda, lets get you ready for classes.” “Can Mara get me ready?” she asked. Mara answered before Luke could. “I certainly can.” She helped Elia get up. “Thanks, Mara,” the girl said. She babbled as she led Mara to her bedroom. “It’s been forever since I’ve had my hair done pretty. Aunt Leia tried to teach Dad, but he’s all thumbs.” Mara laughed. “I bet he is.” Mara wasn’t exactly the ‘girly’ type, being raised by pirates and then later becoming a smuggler, but she knew more than Luke. Elianda sat on a oversized foam-mold chair as Mara perused the closet. “What about this for today?” Mara asked, holding a long, medium blue tunic style dress with ruffles and long sleeves, and grey leggings. “Perfect!” she said smiling. Mara helped Elia get dressed, which was a slow process. Mara had seen all of Alia’s injuries when they had been fresh, Mara had been the one to carry the girl to the medi-speeder. Compared to that day, Mara could handle the scars and disfigurements. She then started Alia’s hair. “Do it up in braids, please. Just make sure my right eye is covered.” “Are you sure?” Mara asked. “You are such a pretty girl. There’s no need to cover the scars.” “I know, but they remind Dad of Mom and I don’t like seeing him sad. Besides, it’s not like I can see out of the eye anyways.” “Okay, but if you ever want to pull your hair back, do it.” Mara then went on to do Alia’s hair in braids, then pinning them into two low buns. She made sure a chunk of hair swooped down and covered Alia’s scared, dead eye. “There, beautiful.” “Thanks Mara. You won’t be here for long, will you?” Mara sat on the bed, next to Elia. “Sorry, Elia. I only came to see if your brother would help me with an investigation I’ve been asked to do in the Remnant. I’ll be gone before lunch. But after I’m going to try to visit more often. We don’t want your dad turning you into a boy now, do we?” “No, we don’t,” she giggled, getting up. She started hobbling towards the kitchen. Mara was following her down the hall when two strong, familiar arms wrapped around her. She laughed as they squeezed her and picked her up from behind. “Hey Mom! Long time, no see,” a deep voice said. “Yes, now let me down so I can see you!” He did, and she turned around and smiled at the sight. Ben was tall, but with his father’s face and her red hair. He looked healthy and strong. “Dad said you wanted to talk to me?” “Yes. Leia has given me a private mission from civilians in the Remnant. Children are going missing. Dozens have simply vanished. Do you think you can join me?” “Yeah, of course.” “Do you think Jaina and some of your guys’ friends might be able to join us, undercover of course.” “We can certainly ask them. But lets go have breakfast with Dad.” “How is your father doing?” Mara asked in a hushed tone. “There’s a reason I haven’t left Yavin in two years. He’s working himself to exhaustion with the Jedi and Elia. I think he just wanted to keep himself busy. But he’s beginning to move on, he actually takes his weekends now and just hangs out with me and her. It’s time that I stop holding his hand and get on with my own life.” Mara nodded and followed her son out to the kitchen where they both sat down at the table. Oddly, it wasn’t in the least awkward. They all ate as Mara recounted some of her tales from the past two years. Then she and Ben said their goodbyes as Luke and Elianda headed for their classes. “Now,” Ben said, “Let me call the gang.” Within a few minutes, four more Jedi knights in their twenties showed up and sat around the Skywalker living room. Jaina Solo was the first to arrive. “Aunt Mara!” the 25-year-old said with a smile as she hugged Mara. Jaina wasn’t Mara’s niece by blood, but Mara had grown up under Han Solo. He was practically her older brother. Jaina grew up under her father’s eye, and was a fine pilot, but a even finer Jedi, however she looked like a carbon copy of her mother. She had her hair pulled back in a braid and was wearing robes in cream and dark blue tones. Tiio and Riio Cegan were the next to arrive. They were Jedi twins; human with dark skin tones. Both wore traditional brown and tan Jedi robes. They had been born Abenchi warriors. Riio, the male twin, had short black hair and was a weapons master. His sister had her hair in elaborate braids. Tiio had expertise the computer skills, including some questionable skills. And then Mal’ahki Siboh showed up. He was a male Togruta with red and white skin with sharp, defined features and even sharper Montral. Mara gave them a quick debriefing, telling them the details she had told Luke. “This is not a Jedi operation. All actions can not be traced back to the Jedi. Because of this, we will all be undercover, including myself, just to be safe. If anyone does not want to partake for any reason, speak now or forever hold your piece.” No one spoke. “Then lets go then, fitches!” Mal’ahki exclaimed.