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Saga - OT Heart's Destiny - L/M etc WIP.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by WarmNyota_SweetAyesha, Dec 23, 2019.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Title: Heart's Destiny
    Collaboration of Jâd Sphera & WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    Genre: Romance & Drama

    Summary: Luke Skywalker & Mara Jade meet during the height of the Rebellion & instant irresistible chemistry occurs.
    Their conflicting loyalties and allegiances will be upset by the genuine bond that forms between them, leading to what choices?

    ---


    Heart’s Destiny
    Chapter 1


    This whole deal had definitely gone wrong.

    This was supposed to be a simple pick up mission, but what he’d come for was gone. The cargo had gone missing and no one seemed to know where or even care about it, some of the many downfalls of acquiring goods in the black market.

    The Rebel Alliance was in desperate need for these supplies. Hoping around planets, flying hit and run missions, stealing intel, making new allies, being betrayed by others, had turned into his new way of life... It’d been two years of this, and counting. The whole operation of their next assault mission relied on the successful retrieval of these repair parts for the fleet’s ships! He could not just turn around and go back! Mon Mothma had entrusted this to him, Leia had trusted him… He could not fail them! Hence his insistence in remaining on Nar Shaadda, the Smuggler’s Moon; his appointed mission could just not end like this, there always was something that could be done and his plan was to do whatever it took to make it successful, or the whole deal could turn into something that could cost the Rebel fight dearly.

    A little bit of snooping around, a little bribing “a la Solo” here and there, had sprung enough information to get him close to the whereabouts of the precious lost cargo. The directions he’d been given had brought him to a poorly lit, grungy place, not different from those many other low-end cantinas he was now used to visiting while going undercover.

    Luke Skywalker, Jedi-to-be and shining hero of the Battle of Yavin, mused on his bad luck, while pretending to be immersed in a drink he wasn’t even enjoying. His contact should show up any time, he just had to remain alert, and be patient. Although, truth to be told, he wasn’t even sure if this contact of his would even show up.

    A faint flicker, more of a gut feeling really, made him turn around and look towards the entrance… It was true that the Force had been whispering to him more and more intently by the day since his face down with the Death Star, but without the proper guidance of a teacher, Luke most times felt pretty lost at recognizing the evasive, subtle energy; so he did what he could: teach himself by trial and error. The brightness of daylight that crawled inside the darkened interior of the cantina while the entrance door remained open did not help at giving a clear sight of whomever had just entered, just a dark silhouette against the bright background at the door gave away the slender frame of a woman.

    Something irresistible kept Luke from looking away and turning back to his drink… Even with his rudimentary Force sense, the young pilot could distinguish a distinct presence in the Force radiating from this new visitor. After making her entrance, the female silhouette moved with the gracile gait of a feline towards the central bar of the establishment, right towards where he was seated. The new visitor did not resemble the description he’d been given of his contact, so she couldn’t be it; nevertheless Luke found himself unable to take his eyes off the mysterious woman.

    The young woman wore dark, well-fitted, all-purpose clothing, accompanied by a well-supplied utility belt and a blaster at her thigh, her fit body denoted someone absolutely ready for action. Her long hair was back, made up in a thick braid, revealing exquisite, sharp features… She had large, pretty eyes of a shade Luke could not distinguish in the dim lighting, framed by perfectly lined eyebrows. There was a faint furrow on her brow, that brought some severity to her expression, and there was a certain tightness on her well-defined lips that made him think that surely she did not smile much. The young woman looked around his own age, surely in her early twenties, and was stunningly beautiful. But despite all that beautiful exterior, she definitely looked like someone one should not mess around with.

    Luke heard her order a drink to the bartender, her husky voice sounding exactly as he would have expected, as he tried to remain inconspicuous of her presence and go back to the lookout for his contact… But how to ignore such a woman? She was like no one he’d ever seen before! Now that she was close, he felt hypnotized by the redness of her mane.

    "Can you just stop with the gawking? It makes you look like a farm boy," Mara Jade said, exasperatedly. Being on Nar Shadda put her understandably on edge, and she didn't want to attract more attention than was warranted.

    The husky voice was addressing him and it took Luke a moment to recover. Had he been that obvious? There was a certain threat in her tone, but he could not just sit there and say nothing! “Well, it is mid-afternoon and I’m just shocked at the type of drink that you just ordered… Are you having a rough day?”

    Luke could tell she was not expecting such an answer, perhaps she had been expecting him to recoil or even apologize, but he’d given her something different and she was surprised… After a few seconds he noticed a faint smile appear on her lips, and this pleased him. Soon an open smile formed on his own, “Are you?” he pressed with natural warmness, inviting her to talk to him.

    Well, this undeniably handsome guy with the sky-blue eyes and warm smile could snark back better than Mara had expected.

    "My navcomputer is acting up, so I had to recalibrate and wound up here. Until it's fixed, I'm left cooling my heels." Mara answered, surprised at giving so much information to a total stranger. "And you?" She found herself asking. No one came here unless they had to.

    “I’m just doing some business and should be off planet soon,” he ambiguously answered her question. He knew he needed to learn to be a better liar. When he was about to pop his next question to her, the feel of someone taking a seat on the other end next to him made him drop the attempt and turn his attention to this recent arrival. A big, sturdy looking man had taken the empty seat next to him. Wearing a dark blue jacket with a small badge of a golden and blue symbol of an Edan Tiger… This was his contact.

    “I was told that nerf-steaks in this place are the best in town,” the stranger told him.

    Luke recognized the cue; this was definitely his contact. “I prefer Bantha steak soup, Gubba’s Place specialty,” Luke spoke his own part of the code.

    Having checked each other’s identities, the other felt confident enough to continue the conversation. “What you’re looking for is at the east docks,” he quietly revealed, still looking up front, “That’s the territory of a Rodian gang, they answer to Greeato. They’re a nasty bunch, robbers, traffickers… I wouldn’t dare to mess with them if I were you…. The place is very well guarded, you’d need an army to breach their first line of sentinels,” the man warned.

    “Well, I think that’s something I’ll be able to figure out if you give me the blueprints that I was promised,” Luke pressed, his voice low too, his eyesight also up front as he casually took a sip of his drink, then put his glass back on the slab of the bar.

    The man slid a small datacard underneath his arms towards the younger man, pushing it underneath the napkin placed next to Luke’s drink, “Everything you’ll need is in there… Payment upon delivery,” he added.

    Very discreetly, Luke pushed a small, metallic card towards the man, “All the credits are here… Non traceable transaction code as you requested.”

    The man seemed to check the card for a brief moment, when feeling satisfied he spoke again, “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” then left without any more preamble.

    So this was it! He now knew where the stuff he’d come for was, and he was planning on getting all of it back. How he was going to achieve that? Well… he’d think of something.

    "Guess your business deal went allright?" Mara said, her vibrant green eyes not missing any of the surreptitious activity on the other end of the bar. "Probably you'll be out of here before I am, Mr. ...?"

    Her question snapped Luke out of his musings. He would have expected her to be already gone, but she was still there… sitting in the exact same spot. He felt glad for it, but conflicted all the same… The beautiful young woman had remained there for the whole time… How much of everything had she witnessed or heard? Well, it wasn’t like he and his contact had been openly discussing the issue, so probably she had not picked up anything at all.

    “Whitesun…” he answered, “I’m Bren Whitesun.”

    "Celina Marniss," Mara supplied, mystified at herself for providing a name, even an alias.

    Somehow he knew this was not her real name, and knew she knew the same thing about him too… but it was all right. There was a spark there, something that he could not quite identify, and it somehow felt like if names were not important. Luke had the feeling that this would not be the last time he’d encounter this enigmatic woman. “See you around… Celina Marniss.”

    Mara watched him leave and on an impulse, threw down a credchit and followed him out. She had heard snatches of their low conversation, seemingly casual but with the exchange of datachips of some kind meant a transaction of some sort. She had a strong intuition that Bren Whitesun would not be involved in something illegal for the sake of profit only... Something undefined urged her to keep an eye on him in this unsavoury place.

    *****

    After a pit stop to his ship when he’d quickly studied the information in the datacard his contact had provided, Luke decided he was ready to act. The sooner, the better; he did not want to risk his contact’s change of heart who might then decide to rat him out to the other party for money. It was true that the warehouse he was headed to was tightly guarded, but he’d find a way in, of that he was sure. He’d learnt a few tricks from Han and Chewie, and he had the Force on his side. Although limited, his rough-around-the-edges abilities had proved to be extremely useful and had always given him an edge. He sure lacked finesse when using his powers, but he’d make it work.

    It was already dark by the time he parked his rented landspeeder behind a large pile of rubble ditched on the side of the path he was following, this was as far as he could go on his ride, the rest of the trail he must take on foot. Luke checked his weapons; the power pack of his blaster was fully charged and his lightsaber hung securely from his utility belt and against his hip. Carefully, silently, he made his way to a closer spot to the large set of structures. There were several large warehouses, all lined up one next to the other, surely containing stolen cargo just like the one he was here to retrieve. He’d have to find a way to get all the crates with the Alliance’s supplies, hopefully these had not yet been unloaded… or he’d have another problem to worry about.

    With a few distracting tricks aided by the Force, a small click here and another hiss there, Luke managed to get past the first group of sentries, and slowly made his way closer to the warehouse marked in the map. The large main door was kept in custody by mean looking thugs carrying hi-powered guns… So this should be it, the place he came here to visit. There were at least fifty of them going around… and these were the ones he could see, there’ would certainly be a lot more inside.

    Hidden in the shadows, Luke observed what went around… If one of those thugs spotted him, the whole house would come falling on him. These types were hired guns not because of their brains, but because of their toughness and brutality, and he had to avoid any type of confrontation if he wanted to make it out of there alive and with his cargo, there was no way he could take those many out on his own, so this gave him enough reason to rethink his strategy… It all had looked so simple when he’d first considered the options back on his ship, now he was not that sure. Leia would definitely accuse him of brashness, and probably she’d be right. He knew he’d been brash, too desperate to retrieve what had been stolen and with this prove himself to the Alliance… Why did he always do that? All right, no time to panic… He’d think of something just as he always did.

    Maybe if he used the Force…

    Luke closed his eyes and blocked every distraction out, calling in the subtle energy he then set his intention on reading his surroundings, to try to catch on the life signatures around him… There they were, the fifty or so thugs outside the warehouse… He reached farther, inside the premises… To his surprise the place felt pretty empty, maybe two or three life forms inside… So perhaps this was not so bad after all. All he had to do was to find a way to get inside without being spotted and then secure a vehicle with his cargo on it and break away as fast as he got his hands on the controls. It all looked pretty simple in his mind, pulling the trick out was a whole different matter.

    He made his way to one of the long sides of the warehouse’s walls. The place was very well guarded at ground level and there was no way he would go through, this meant he had to go up. Looking up, he looked for a good landing spot on the roof. Once he located what seemed a good place with safe footing, he summoned the Force and then jumped.

    The jump took him a good meter past the roof, landing on it with a painful thud, he definitely needed to work on that; at least he hadn’t been short in altitude or it would be a whole different story. He was on top of the roof now and it was time to find his way in. Keeping his body low, Luke walked on the roof along a line of ventilation racks… There it was! One large enough to fit him though. Taking a hold of his lightsaber, he pressed the switch on the handle and the white-blue blade came into existence. With great care, he cut through the slick piece of metal, just enough to make the grille come lose. Switching off his weapon, he then proceeded to retrieve the piece with his hands. He poked his head through the newly opened hole first, it was a long way down, but it was something he could manage.

    Soon he was inside the warehouse, moving about at ground level amongst stacks of crates and large cargo containers, and he had not been spotted, Good!

    Luke reached into his utility belt and retrieved a small electronic gadget, and pressed a button. Soon a signal came back, that was it! He’d found his cargo.

    Carefully and being absolutely silent, he approached a large cargo container… The readings on his gadget had led him to it. The cargo container had not yet been unloaded, just as he’d hoped for, maybe the Force was on his side on this one. The locks on the container’s doors were secured and didn’t look tampered with, so all the spare parts and technical supplies must be still inside. Now it was a matter of hooking the container to a speeder truck and getting the hell out of there.

    Luke got busy quietly looking for viable transportation. No one seemed to be around, so this would work on his favour. He found the vehicle. It would be kind of noisy once he started the engine. The moment he turned on the engine, Luke wasn’t sure if what he heard was the engine itself or the thudding of his own heart. Although the sound of the ventilation systems in the warehouse would help muffle some of the noise he was making, still he’d have to be quick. He led the speeder truck to the cargo container and aligned it to the grapple at one end. The automatic systems were not responding so he’d have to do the coupling manually. Quickly he got off the vehicle and reached the controls at the back. Then, something that he’d come to recognize as some sort of “danger sense” prickled on the back of his mind. When he turned, a mean blaster was being pointed right at his face.

    A small group of thugs stood right in front of him. He counted four of them, and four were enough.

    “Well, well…. Aren’t you a nosy one?” The one who looked like the leader spoke. A large, muscly Trandoshan with a thick accent.

    A second thug, a masked Gand, quickly went around Luke and took the blaster he carried out of its holster, disarming him. For some reason the alien didn’t take notice of the lightsaber. Well, the weapon was so rare that many couldn’t have recognized one when seeing it.

    “I say we warm him up a little,” another of the thugs proposed, too eager at the prospect. This was a lean, jittery Rodian.

    The young Jedi apprentice knew perfectly what “warming someone up” meant, it was something that involved broken bones and bruises. “I’m just here to retrieve what is mine,” Luke challenged, his voice even despite the precariousness of his situation.

    “What is yours?” The chief thug sneered, “Everything in here belongs to Greeato. What makes you think that claiming any property on anything in here will do you any good? Greeato does no good to anyone.”

    Luke frowned at those last words, something in his sense had picked up an emotion coming from the lead thug… Was that resentment? Yes, it was resentment towards this Greeato character. Perhaps… “Maybe we can make a deal,” Luke pressed.

    “What kind of deal a little skunk like you could offer?” the leader of the group mocked the young human.

    “I don’t have to report this… I’ll stick to the story that all of it was robbed and the company I work for will get the insurance money and leave this alone,” Luke stated matter-of-factly, managing to sound convincing. “I was planning on selling this on my own anyways. I can offer you one third of whatever comes of it.” He was lying and he was not sure if Jedi were supposed to be lying like this, even if these lies were told to criminals, but right now it looked like it was his only way out of this mess. Perhaps too much of Solo had already rubbed on him.

    The offer seemed to catch the thugs' interest; credits always did.

    “Come on, you know it's a good deal…” Luke insisted “I don’t think Greeato will ever give you that many credits…” The leader seemed to consider it, and this gave Luke some hope.

    “Make it half,” the Trandoshan demanded, “And Chigo here will come with you… As a security measure,” he added nodding towards the Rodian.

    “All right, half,” Luke agreed, sounding resigned. It would be a lot easier to get rid of just one guard.

    The thugs let out grunts of satisfaction; this just was too much of a sweet deal. They let the human finish levelling the cargo container to the speeder truck, a task that took only a few minutes.

    “I’m ready to go,” Luke announced when he was finished, “Who’s going to take care of the men outside?” he was all business.

    “You know what human… We here have made a general consensus,” the lead thug said, using words he didn’t quite understand but that in his own opinion made him sound important. “We want all of the money after all, and your dead body will be proof that we caught you and killed you after you made the sale.”

    Luke let out a small sigh. Of course they would turn on him, these were ruthless criminals after all. They had been toying with him all along, and he’d given them the wrap-up element. They would fake the robbery from the warehouse, and then use his corpse as the perfect alibi.

    “On your knees!” The fourth thug ordered, “Hands on top of your head!” He sneered.

    Luke did as he was told, his mind racing. He wondered if he could summon enough Force power to push the four aliens away from him and buy himself some time to escape… Or maybe he could use the Force to jam the trigger of his assailants weapons, but that would need an accuracy in the Force he did not possess… Whatever he decided to do he needed to do it now!

    Summoning the Force once more, Luke opted for trying a Force push to disband the group of thugs surrounding him. The Force came and he pushed with his mind… The four thugs lost their balance and fell on the ground. ‘Shav it!’ This time the amount of Force power he’d summoned had not been enough, but it gave him the distraction he needed. In a quick roll he took cover behind the large vehicle he’d just attached to the container, if he could only locate his blaster… Instead he located a large pile of boxes that seemed to contain some sort of tools. Using the Force once more, the novice Jedi threw a number of boxes at his attackers, the makeshift projectiles keeping them at bay.

    Then, out of nowhere, blaster fire came from behind him. Reinforcements had arrived! All was lost now.

    While trying to locate the source of the new incoming fire, Luke realized that the shots were not aimed at him, instead the first shot took out the Rodian, then the Gand fell, immediately followed by the second Rodian and finally the Trandoshan. Soon, four steaming corpses lay before his eyes. And then the presence…

    A young, female human, of red mane and dark, well-fitted clothes made her appearance from behind a set of crates. “What are you doing here?” Luke asked as he approached his unexpected ally, his blue eyes wide, not being able to hide his surprise. It was obvious that she had followed him and he felt glad, but…

    Mara had sneaked in a side entrance that was currently unguarded, using infiltration keys she had in her waist pouch.

    She had arrived to see her recent acquaintance from the cantina 'negotiating' with four thugs who obviously had no intention of playing fair.

    She took advantage of the distraction he provided to take down the goons in quick succession, since they didn't know she was there, and she was quicker than they would ever be.

    "Saving your hide, it looks like," Mara retorted.

    “You’ll get no arguing from me!” Luke agreed, getting busy. Moments later both were on board the speeder truck, ready to make a run for it.

    Luke set the vehicle on full speed and let it run.

    When the vehicle broke spectacularly through the main door, all the guards outside were absolutely taken aback; they would have expected trouble to come from the outside, never from the inside. Once recovered, they reacted quickly. Blaster fire rained on Luke and Mara as they made their escape, he only hoped these didn’t hit any vital parts of their vehicle or the ride would be short. Then, the sound of an explosion… and then another, and another… As the vehicle run past different groups of guards, it left explosive mayhem behind. In no time the place looked like a war zone.

    "Now, let's not stick around," Mara said, looking with satisfaction at the general disarray of the warehouse. Those small, inconspicuous, low-grade, portable explosives she always carried proved to be very efficient if one knew how to handle them, and she was an expert at handling dangerous materials.

    “That should keep them busy,” Luke declared as he watched the fire left by the explosions in the rear-view mirror of the vehicle, “I don’t think they’ll be coming after me for a while,” and when they did, he’d be off planet by then. “Thank you.”

    "Think nothing of it," Mara answered casually. "But I hate to think where you'd be if I hadn't shown up! Did your bosses hire you for your recklessness?"

    Luke couldn’t take the look of disapproval on that pretty face of hers, and knew he deserved the scolding, even if it came from a stranger. “Lesson learned,” he uttered in a mix of sheepishness and hurt pride.

    By the time they had reached the hangar and landing platform where Luke’s ship awaited and the cargo had been transferred to the cargo hold of the ship, a good two hours had passed. This had given Luke some time to sit with Mara and have a small conversation.

    “Thank you for all your help,” Luke sincerely said, “If you hadn’t been there probably I’d be dead,” he admitted, giving her a sheepish smile.

    "You're welcome," Mara said, a rare smile coming to her lips.

    “I have to go, can’t stay here for much longer…” He said, with certain disappointment in his voice. “Will I see you again?” These last words coming out of his mouth too eager, quite uncensored.

    "I doubt we run in the same circles," Mara answered with a wry humour, "But you never know." It surprised her that she wouldn't mind running into him again, and not too far off in the future.

    That small, almost impossible to detect smile of hers made Luke’s heart skip a beat. He did want to see her again. “How can I find you?” he asked.

    Mara gave him her public comm-contact code, tied to her alias Celina Marniss and the transport she most often used.

    As she did, Luke looked at her, locking eyes, mesmerized at the beauty of those green eyes.

    "Call me the next time you're in a jam," Mara said, half-teasingly.

    He gave her one last nod, then turned around and headed toward the landing platform where his ship awaited for him. Luke could feel his heart thudding in his chest, but this time for an all too different reason.

    This woman definitely affected him.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
  2. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
  3. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Nice start. I look forward to reading more.
     
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Chapter 2

    Mara completed her account to the Emperor of her successful mission of extracting important information from a recalcitrant Moff. His praise and approval made her feel gratified.

    She exited the Throne Room, giving the Dark Lord, Darth Vader, a wide berth. He gave her an eerie sense of continual menace so she tried to be as unnoticeable as possible when he was around.

    It had been four weeks since her encounter with the oh-so-mystifying Bren Whitesun on Nar Shadda, and yet, her mind still turned to that brief encounter. If she let her mind drift, it always seemed to recall a vibrantly admiring pair of blue eyes and a not-unattractive smile complete with cleft.

    Mara was distinctively not given to reveries of any kind. So why couldn't she shake this strange preoccupation?

    The Emperor's Hand mused about this as she made her way to the main Imperial Intel Room. When she realized what her mind was doing she shook her head with irritation, she had a mission to plan for and could not afford to be distracted! Specially not by this Whitesun guy.


    *****


    Luke worked diligently on his X-Wing. Four busy weeks had gone by. Matters with the Rebellion had kept him very busy, barely having time on his own to do some of his self-taught Jedi training, even less to do anything else. For the moment, right in the middle of all the bustle in the main hangar, Luke was busy with Artoo calibrating his X-Wing’s navcomputer. Han Solo had joined in to offer moral support, he very well knew how bad things could get when a ship’s navcomputer acted up.

    In the midst of their conversation, See Threepio made his entrance, “Captain Solo! Princess Leia is in need of having a word with you. Can you please accompany me to the command quarters?”

    “Yes, Threepio… I’m on my way,” Han answered with a hint of exasperation, but not giving any sign of leaving any time soon.

    “She specifically asked me to escort you…” the droid added doubtfully.

    “All right! I’ll be right there!” Han interrupted, this time clearly showing his exasperation. Then he turned to Luke, a mocking look on his face, “Her Excellency is summoning me,” Han let out with his trademark sarcasm, “Better go and see what she needs or she’ll give me hell if I don’t.”

    Luke just gave his friend a nod.

    As he followed the tall Captain with his gaze and saw him disappear through a threshold that led to the command quarters, Luke wondered about his two friends. He’d noticed Han and Leia had started to spend more and more time together. Although their interactions always ended in heated discussions practically ninety percent of times, the young Jedi apprentice could tell there was something going on… Han and Leia had grown close, and he could tell this went beyond just friendship, even if the stubborn pair fail to admit it. To his surprise this didn’t bother him at all. It was true that in the beginning he’d felt drawn towards the Princess’ beauty and then towards her character, but after a bit of soul searching he’d come to understand that what he felt towards her was just great affinity and affection, kind of a brother’s love – even though they were not blood related. In some way, Leia, Han and Chewie were his family now. Peril and misfortune had bonded them in ways he could not explain, but knew these were ties that had formed to stay forever and grow even stronger.

    Now that Han was not there to keep him distracted, his mind wandered off… To a certain red head he could not put out of his mind since the day he met her. He could not wait to have a chance to call her o send her a comm message… He wanted to see her so bad! Know more about her, lose himself in those beautiful green eyes of hers.

    The opportunity seemed to be close. Just the day before, General Rieekan had spoken of another mission and Luke had jumped forward as a volunteer immediately. This meant a chance to see Celina again, and he would not waste it; he didn’t know when he’d have a chance to see her again after that. Fortunately Rieekan had seemed pleased and had agreed to it. Leia had given him a suspicious look, of course she knew he was hiding something, she always did! The princess could read he and Han just like an open datafile. So he’d been avoiding her for the following hours, he didn’t want to talk about Celina with her! Nor lie in order to keep his interest on her a secret. He didn’t know why, but he had this feeling that he had to keep this private, at least for now.

    So he’d be off soon and he’d contact Celina as soon as he reached safe territory. And then this notion brought another set of concerns to his mind. Would she even answer? Would she somehow be in a nearby star system so they could arrange a meeting? What was he going to tell her? ‘Hey, Celina! It’s Bren. I know its been a month, but I’m dying to see you! Would you like to have some caf?’ This sounded so lame! And he hated to have to lie about his real name, but he knew better than that. Coming forth with his true identity was out of the question, he’d have to suck it up if he wanted to see her again, and he did want to… So desperately that it surprised him. Why was he so into this mysterious woman?

    Artoo’s chirps brought him back and out of his rampant musings. It looked like the X-Wing’s navcomputer had responded and was back online.

    Two more days and he’d be off. Well, the wait time would represent a very good exercise to practice Jedi patience.


    *****

    “Hi, Celina! This is Bren… Whitesun… from that Nar Shaadda thing?… We met there… I hope you remember me. Humm… Listen, I’ll be in the Sarto System in two standard days from the moment you get this message… I hope it reaches you on time… Humm… I was wondering if you’d might be anywhere near… Maybe we can meet? If you’d like… I can come and find you where you are, if that’s easier. This is my personal comm-contact code so you can reach me here anytime… Humm… Well, hope to see you soon! Bye.”

    Luke listened to the replay of the message he’d just left in Celina’s comm… It sounded so lame that he could feel his face blushing.

    If everything went according to plan and he was able to rush the delivery and pick up of intel he was intended for, he’d have and extra day he could use to meet with her, maybe even steal a few hours of the next day and still make it back to the Base on schedule, so no one would freak out about he being back late. He’d never put the mission at risk though, this was clear to him. It was a big deal that he’d been trusted with this specific intel gathering mission, that the higher ranking members of the Alliance trusted him; after all, he was only a twenty-one-year-old farm boy from Tatooine trying to find his place in the Galaxy, in the Rebel Forces and in the fight for freedom. Luke knew he’d be pushing it, but it was the only way he’d be able to meet with Celina… If she answered to his message, that was.

    Luke let out a deep sigh of nervousness and longing.

    All that was left for him to do was to hope and wait.


    *****

    Mara concluded perusing the datafiles for her next mission, dealing with a rogue Inquisitor, always a pesky thing. They were adept in the Force; their arrogance led them to go off on tangents and not follow orders. She could handle them in her sleep.

    Suddenly, a ping alerted her to an incoming or recently arrived message. She played it, noticing who had sent it. She had wondered if she would ever hear from Bren Whitesun again, or if their paths could ever have the chance to cross.

    What was the likelihood, she thought? Did she even want to? If her preoccupation was anything to go by, more than she ought to.

    Before she could gainsay her own better judgment, she sent a crisp reply: "I have a so-called colleague to set straight. It shouldn't take me long. I'll meet you at the Dancing Ronto on Sarto II."

    ***

    Luke was bursting with anticipation and apprehension when her reply came through in that melodious husky voice. He could almost see the teasing glint in her jade eyes.

    He grinned and started the preflight sequence. The sooner he took off, the faster he'd see Celina.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    First off, what a great combination of writers! I knew it was going to be aces just from that alone. This is such a fun, interesting concept - of Luke and Mara meeting during the events of the OT - and so far I am loving your execution. :D

    Ha! A la Solo! That part cracked me up. :p

    In all seriousness, though, I appreciated seeing Luke trusted with such a sensitive mission, and on a place like Nar Shaddaa, no less! He has come such a long way from the teenager from Tatooine, and he's a force to be reckoned with. I was so proud of him here. [face_love]

    Ha! Mara has good taste and it shows. [face_tee_hee] I love that while Luke is warm hearted and compassionate, he has the snark and strength that match up so perfectly with Mara. Of course she already realizes his complementing personality and is attracted to him here. [face_love]

    The action that followed with the supplies more than showed how compatible they are. In more ways than one!

    I LOVE that he adopted Beru's name. [face_love]

    [face_laugh] I bet he does!! [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    A brother's love, of course. [face_love] I loved this reflection on Luke and Leia's relationship!

    [face_laugh] Yep! There's nothing they can hide from her. [face_mischief]

    But oh so endearing! [face_love]

    I love this bit of intrigue between Luke and Mara! It almost has a Bond or a spy-story feel to it that I just adore. It's really unique, and like nothing I can remember reading in recent memory. Already the bond between Luke and Mara - or Bern and Celina [face_mischief] - just sizzles. I can't wait to read more!

    =D= [:D]
     
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    :D Time for the weekendish update.

    ~

    Chapter 3

    Mara had dispatched the recalcitrant Inquisitor with a deft wielding of her silver bladed light-saber. It wasn't red like the Emperor's or Vader's; she hadn't had to bleed or squeeze the Kyber crystal. It had attuned itself to her without any difficulty. She also liked the fact that there was a feature which made the blade extra long at need.

    Now she was headed toward the whatever-it-was with Bren Whitesun.

    Every other minute she wondered what had made her agree, and then she felt glad she had. What was it about him that caused her to have such a sequence of conflicting emotions? Well, as soon as they spent a few minutes over drinks, they would doubtless part ways again, and they could get back to their own, separate lives, which was just how she liked it. Or, if liked wasn't exactly the word, perhaps comfortable was a more apt description.

    **

    At his arrival to the mapped planet, Luke had had to shake off a tail – probably some sort of intel burglar that had wanted to take advantage of a young outsider, but he’d been able to shake him off with ease. Despite his age, in the last two years Luke had matured enormously and had grown up real fast… compliments from being involved in a war. This time round, the delivery and pick up mission he’d been assigned by General Rieekan had gone without any problems. With the gathered intel secured, he had now reached the rendezvous coordinates in uncharted space to deliver the information to a group of Bothans whom in exchange would give him other type of precious information. Quietly, Luke’s ship sat in the middle of space at the assigned coordinates… A lone small merchant ship in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he had arrived early.

    With the mission running this smoothly, Luke knew he’d gained time… Time he intended to use for this other personal matter he eagerly had been waiting for: his meeting with Celina.

    There had not been a day he hadn’t thought of her. Those enigmatic green eyes were burned in his memory… The redhead was so beautiful. He wanted to know her, there was something about her he’d never seen in another girl before. Had it been love at first sight? Luke chuckled at the occurrence… Love at first sight… If he confessed any of this to Han he’d never hear the end of it! Speaking of which… Where was Han? He and Chewie where supposed to have arrived already! They were his backup.

    Luke took a quick look at the controls… Nothing. The ship’s sensors picked up no sign of Han, nor the Bothans. Where was everybody?

    All right… He’d wait. There was nothing else to do.

    Waiting was something that didn’t sit well with him. He’d often been accused of being impatient, and there was some truth to that. But he’d wait, and he’d done everything exactly as he was supposed to, deliver the gathered intel to the Bothans, get whatever the furry aliens had gathered for the Alliance, he’d say hello and see you later to Han, and he’d be off soon. Once in safe space he’d check his comm for any messages, hopefully Celina’s response would come through.

    The beeping of a proximity alarm on the ship’s panels caught his attention… An incoming ship, with all the proper markings. When recognizing the markings the young Jedi-to-be hit the communications switch.

    “Hello there, Kid!” Luke heard a familiar voice in the ship’s comm channel.

    “You’re late!” He reprimanded his Captain friend.

    “We had to take a small detour…” Han’s voice crackled in the comm systems.

    “Problems?” The younger pilot asked in concern.

    “And not of the mild kind,” Han sounded serious, “So we better do this quick and get the hell out of here! Where are the Bothans?”

    “Not here yet…” Luke could feel a tightness creeping up from the bottom of his stomach. If the Bothans hadn’t been as lucky as Han… Or worse: if the Bothans were followed… In one quick move Luke turned all the defence systems of his ship on, better to be safe than sorry. “Let’s hope they don’t bring us any other company,” Luke’s voice sounded worried.

    “You got that right… We better be prepared.” The Corellian Captain was always prepared.

    Soon, the ship’s sensors picked up the presence of a third ship of small size. A hailing came through in a coded signal. Luke quickly passed the signal through the decoder… Those were the Bothans indeed, and didn’t seem to have brought any more company, which could mean either of two things: the Bothans had not been followed, or whoever was following them had decided to wait and see how this meeting went and come up to conclusions. Luke just hoped that whoever might be out there was not of Imperial nature.

    “Are we clear?” Han asked, his voice full of tension.

    “Yes… They check out. It is our contact,” Luke confirmed.

    The good thing about intel transactions of this kind was that everything could be exchanged through encrypted signals run through sophisticated computer devices. All Luke had to do was to confirm passwords and credentials, wirelessly connect his ship’s terminal to the Bothan’s, and the computers would do the rest. The trick for this kind of transaction was proximity, thus the need for the rendezvous point. Luke was happy to have Han watching his back while he busied himself running the security codes and transmitting, soon the other side began their own transmission and the intel exchange was underway.

    Minutes later, the back engines of the Bothan ship, as it manoeuvred towards a hyperspace jump spot, was all Luke could see, and in a flash the ship was gone. With the new intel in their possession, now it was time for he and Han to leave.

    “That went on smoothly,” Han spoke through the loudspeakers in the ship’s cabin.

    “Very… We better be quick and don’t sit here for too long,” Luke stressed.

    “We better… See you at the Base, Kid,” Han got ready to make his jump to hyperspace.

    “Humm… I’m not coming back now. I have some days of leave… There’s this other matter that I have to see to…” Luke told his friend.

    The Kid’s voice sounded too evasive, too careful… Han knew his friend like the palm of his own hand, there was only one reason for that on guard behaviour, “Is there a girl involved?” The Corellian asked, a lecherous tint to his words.

    Luke felt his face blush. He was not ready to speak of Celina to anyone yet, not even to Han, but he would not lie to his friend, “Something like that…” he sheepishly admitted.

    “Well… What are you waiting for? Scram!” Han urged, “And make sure you get laid or something!”

    Half amused, half embarrassed, Luke chuckled at his friend’s remarks, “I’ll be back to the Base as scheduled… Say hi to Leia for me, and don’t annoy her too much!”

    A mischievous laugh was all the Corellian gave back.

    Luke watched his friend make his own jump into hyperspace and soon followed.

    Now all he had to do was for the counter to count all the way down and he’d be there. He’d meet Celina at the agreed coordinates on Sarto II, at the Dancing Ronto.

    Luke’s heart pounded hard in his chest with excitement.

    **

    Mara arrived at the Dancing Ronto. She ordered a Bakuran Bomb, which had more than a dollop of a creamy, light-flavoured liqueur.

    She sat at the bar, keeping a keen eye out for Whitesun's arrival.

    When he entered, looking warily around, Mara caught his eye and waved him over. She saw a fleeting look of relief cross his face, before it disappeared in a wide grin.

    "Guess you thought I might not show up?" She snarked. "One thing anyone who knows me will tell you, I keep my word."

    “I like people who keep their word,” Luke told her, secretly all too excited about finding her there, unable to get rid of the big grin that had taken hold of his face. He took the seat next to her at the table and ordered some sort of Corellian liquor Han had taught him to drink. Celina looked amazing! Better than he remembered. She had this way of looking stunning even when wearing simple utilitarian clothing. Her hair shone red against the soft lights of the establishment and her bright green eyes were hypnotizing. Luke took a sip of his drink while he listened to her giving him the details of the place and how she had come to find it. “Is the food any good in here?” He asked.

    "I haven't heard that there isn't, and the fact that it's full of customers is reassuring," Mara replied wryly.

    “Let’s order then! I’m starving!” If something was well-known about Luke, was that he had a healthy appetite. Too many hours of space travel and the normal stress of the missions he ran always left him starved.

    Mara nodded and waved the server over.

    “Anything you recommend?” He asked while he read through the menu the waiter had just dropped at their table.

    "I like the nerf sliders with sauted vegetables and toasted bread," Mara said. "And their fruit tarts are fine for dessert."

    The food in the place was really good and Luke felt glad Celina had decided to bring them here. As they ate, they conversed about different things. From the mentioning of the new trade routes the Empire was opening and how these would connect different new systems to topics on trade and far away planets.

    “Being out there gives you a whole new perspective about how things really work,” Luke let out in a pensive manner. Things in the Galaxy were changing, and were changing fast… Two years ago all he was worried about was to complete his chores and go to Tosche Station. When Celina gave him a questioning look, Luke felt he owed her an explanation, “I grew up in a farm, raised by my aunt and uncle, pretty much out of contact with everything,” he shared with his usual naïve openness, it was so easy to talk to her.

    Mara's smile was genuine. That explained his demeanor all right, and rather surprisingly it did not detract in the slightest from his appeal; on the contrary, it added to it, knowing his background.

    “You know… I wasn’t sure you would show up…” he sheepishly confessed, “And I am really glad that you did.” There was true honesty in his words, something he noticed didn’t bother her.

    Mara laughed softly, taking a final bite of the flaky, warm pastry. "I find that I generally have a good and accurate read of people." Mara confided. It came from her work and also an inner sense of what lay under the surface. "I wouldn't have agreed to come if I thought you were a Gundark's rear or a deaddly bore."

    Luke gave a little snort of satisfaction, then something occurred to him, “How long are you staying on planet, Celina?” Luke asked Mara, trying to sound casual about it, he didn’t want to overwhelm her.

    Mara considered. "Well, I'm in between jobs at the moment. My ... boss will comm me when he wants me for a meet-up or a new assignment."

    “I have to wait for my next work round, what I picked up is still a few days away so I have some free time…” He was starting to feel a bit insecure about asking, but he’d ask anyways, “If you’re not too busy, humm… If you’re staying on planet… Maybe we could hang out or something? Do some sightseeing? I mean… If you want to…” Oh, blast it! Why was he so clumsy? Luke could feel perspiration forming on the back of his neck and his stomach tighten. Had he sounded too desperate? Maybe he had, or maybe not? Had he been too straightforward? Celina looked like the type of girl who could handle straightforwardness, didn’t she? He didn’t know what to think; he’d said it now and could not take it back. He was nervous, unsure. The way she was looking at him now didn’t help at all.

    Mara replied, "Yeah, I guess that would be fine. Nothing worse than sitting idle in a strange place." Being with Whitesun would keep the low-lifes from bugging her, more than likely. And if she got restless and wanted to bust out of orbit early, she could always say business beckoned.

    Luke’s lips tightened, suppressing an utterly wide grin of joy, showing only a smile. He’d asked and she’d said yes! He felt like dancing on top of the table! He only did an imaginary dance.

    To Be Continued....

    +++
     
  7. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh! I really adored every word of this update, I have to tell you! The attraction between Luke and Mara is so wonderfully palpable, and there's such a sweetness that's at odds with everything else they have going on with their involvement in the war that I bet they find just as liberating. I constantly have a smile on my face for reading this story, in the best of ways.[face_love]

    Ha! I can imagine! [face_laugh]

    As great as Han teasing Luke ever is, I appreciated that Luke is still Luke underneath it all. He's still that wide eyed kid with his head in the clouds. He has a big heart that he wears on his sleeve, even with what he's seen in the war and all the way he's matured and grown through fighting against the Empire otherwise. There is still such a purity of spirit to him that is beautiful and endearing, as always!

    And of course Mara sees and appreciates that too! It's what attracts her most to him. He's a breath of fresh air to her, and he lets her be more like her true self than the Emperor ever allowed her otherwise. Funny, isn't it, how AUs tend to follow canon like that no matter the 'verse, sometimes? [face_mischief] [face_love]

    This part made me snort. :p [face_tee_hee] Oh, if only she knew! But, she does have a good and accurate read on Luke, just not at all in the way she may think!

    I can't wait to see where the rest of their time together goes. Thanks for sharing this gem of a story with the rest of us. =D= [:D]
     
  8. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Very nice updates. I like Han teasing Luke. I know he is going to tease him for "details" when he gets back to base. Mara seems a little calmer in this story than in the EU, but she is just as professional and probably deadly. I like that.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Chapter 4

    Luke stood in the promenade looking out to the ocean and savouring the sea breeze and salty smell of the water. Luke loved water. He appreciated it in ways not many sentient beings would, unless they had grown up in a desert planet like he did.

    He’d arrived early and waited patiently for his date’s arrival. Could this be considered a date? He wondered. As the well raised young man he was, he would have loved to pick Celina up at her hotel, but she’d kept cryptic all about it. Having failed at knowing where she was staying, he’d had to content himself with meeting with her at the agreed spot in this promenade.

    Mara approached the promenade, enjoying the ocean view. It was utterly different from the vast city-world of Imperial Center or Coruscant.

    "Hello," Mara greeted, giving Luke a small smile. "Been here long?"

    Luke returned a big grin and a hello, “Not really. Any particular places you’d like to visit?”

    "Nothing in particular. Let's take a stroll, see if there's anything interesting."

    “Well… Maybe we could start at that market over there?” He suggested as he pointed towards an agglomeration of colourful market stalls and tents along the far end of the promenade with one finger.

    "Sure. But we need to be careful. Don't buy any old fancy overpriced trinket." Mara advised.

    They made their way to the market. The place was not really busy since it was still early, but Luke bet that it would get busier as the hours passed by. Just as expected for a market set up in a planet of such disputable reputation like Sarto II had, the market carried all sort of goods imaginable.

    Mara looked at carry bags and side pouches in a nearby stall.

    Luke checked out one offering fresh produce. After making his purchase he came back triumphantly to where Celina was.

    “I loved these when I was a kid!” he explained as he waved a bag full of some small, peach-like, yellow fruit.

    "What are those?' Mara asked. They looked fresh and inviting, fortunately, not over-ripe.

    “These are pallies,” Luke said, “Want one?”

    "I'll try one." Mara replied. She took a bite and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet tang. "Delicious!"

    “I told you!” He countered, feeling gleeful about his findings.

    They walked along the aisles between stalls, Luke happily eating his fruit. Just rubbing it against his jacket to clean it a little and biting into it afterwards.

    “You know… My aunt used to treat me with these…” Luke revealed, a tinge of melancholy in his voice. “My aunt taught me manners and to be considerate to other people. My uncle taught me everything I know about hard work and responsibility,” He paused for a moment, the memories weighing on his mind. He stopped to think on how much he appreciated his aunt and uncle now, after they were dead. If Luke had one regret, it was that he had never actually told them how he felt when he had the chance.

    Mara noticed the sad note and frowned in sympathy, although she had no memories of her family, good or bad. She couldn't miss what she'd never known, but there were times when she felt a pang of wondering, what if?

    A street vendor caught Luke’s attention. When noticing his interest, the vendor quickly approached them.

    “Tickets for tonight’s smashball game. The Rontos will try to beat the Guarnaks! You can’t miss this one!” The vendor waved a pair of tickets in front of Luke’s face.

    But Luke was not looking at them; he was more interested in the other set of tickets the man was carrying, “What are these for?” he asked.

    “Oh! Pod races,” the vendor informed, “For this afternoon! Very good seats these are!” He presented the tickets to the potential buyer.

    Luke turned to Celina, “What you say?... Smashball or pod race?” ‘Please say pod race’, he wished internally. Not that a game of smashball was bad, but he loved the excitement, the speed of pod races, and he’d never seen one live.

    "I prefer pod races," Mara said, without hesitation.

    Luke’s eyes brightened, “You’re definitely my kind of girl!” He spontaneously said when hearing Mara’s selection. He paid for the tickets and the vendor was off.

    "Let's head to the race site now, then." Mara suggested.

    When they arrived to the Pod race Arena of Sarto II, Luke and Celina were very impressed. The place was huge and very well set up, it looked like the races here were a big thing and for the looks of it, bets were great business too. The tickets they had been sold ended up being for excellent seats. An unexpected treat that gave them an incredible view of the tracks.

    Luke felt jittery and excited like if he were a little kid, although he tried to hide it as well as he could. There were a number of races lined up, and the ones for last featured the champions of the latest season. This was going to be awesome!

    "This setup is a lot better than I might have supposed," Mara remarked, echoing Luke's own opinion.

    The afternoon went by between cheers and boos, good laughs and eating stadium food. The Tatooine farm boy followed the races with great interest.

    “That red pod is gonna cut them off!” Luke exclaimed in a mix of thrill and alarm. Seconds later the red pod in question did exactly that. Luke turned around to see Celina, who was giving him an odd look. “Lucky guess!” He innocently shrugged and turned back to the race. The hunch had been so certain, and he really didn’t know where it had come from. Had it had to do with the Force? Probably. He’d better keep himself in check, he didn’t want to give Celina the impression that he was some kind of weirdo.

    They stayed until the last race and soon it was all over.

    As they conversed, they ended up walking back to the promenade where their day had started. The day was now dying out, the sun was low over the water, announcing an incredibly orange and violet sunset.

    Walking by her side, Luke felt the urge of taking her hand in his, but he restrained himself. Celina was amazing and he wanted so much more of her than an afternoon out.

    "Well, you certainly made this an entertaining day," Mara said.

    “I had a great day,” Luke confessed. He wanted to be truthful to Celina, let her know that he really liked her.

    His blue eyes were so warm and his entire demeanour throughout the day had been so thoughtful and enthusiastic, so different from the phony and self-serving attitudes Mara was surrounded by - it was so refreshing - that impulsively, she gave him a brief kiss as if to say: Please don't change.

    That took Luke completely by surprise. When he recovered, Luke pressed his palm softly against the side of her cheek, returning the exchange with tenderness. The kiss was soft and sweet. Her lips felt like a balm, and the scent of her hair was exquisite… She smelled of orchids.

    They parted. Luke opened his eyes and he saw her smile. A genuine smile that was. He smiled back, unable to utter anything, still feeling electrified by the touch of her lips.

    Then she tensed. Like if a sudden chill had taken hold of her.

    “Are you all right?” Luke asked, concerned. He’d felt Celina relaxed and happy, he could even dare say: blissful… and suddenly her demeanour had changed, like if she’d just closed down inside a thick shell.

    "I'm fine, just got a brief chill." Mara answered, distracted.

    Shavit! She had felt the Emperor's unmistakable mind-touch. What kind of unusual timing was that? Could it be a coincidence? With the Emperor, was there ever such a thing? She sighed. Mara had been just a lady out with a handsome, genuine actual gentleman and now ... the respite was regretfully over.

    “Are you sure you’re okay?” he insisted.

    "Yeah, I'll be fine." Mara made to insist. "I just remembered I have to leave sooner than expected. The good time I had today put it right out of my mind."

    “I want to see you again,” he stressed, not wanting to part without making some sort of overture.

    "I'd like that." Mara agreed readily. If only she could guarantee no 'interruptions', she thought wryly. No chance of that!

    Luke felt relieved, but knew there was something wrong.

    "I guess I'd better head back and get ready for an early start tomorrow," Mara told him, already feeling more settled. There was nothing she could do until she was in a place with secure communication.

    “Take care, Celina,” he said and saw her leave. At least she’d agreed they’d meet again, and he had her number, so he should not worry, he ought to trust what he’d just felt. And what he’d felt was that Celina really liked him, just as much as he liked her.

    She nodded and walked away briskly, but casually.

    A few days had passed since Sarto II and Luke was back in his routine at the Rebel Base, waiting for an opportunity to get out. But it looked like things were slow for now and that the high ranks in the Alliance didn’t need anything but to keep the troops and personnel out of Empire’s reach. So they’d been in hiding.

    Luke thought of Celina every day at every hour. He didn’t even recognize himself! All he could think of was of that incredible kiss! He’d never get over that! He could feel his heart beating rapidly at the memory. And he felt worried too, worried for Celina… There was something going on with her… That moment before they said their goodbyes, right after their kiss, something hadn’t felt right… Something had felt dark somehow. Not coming from her, but around her. It was silly, he knew. But it was hard to tell, and the Force wasn’t helping much. He’d had to wait until their next encounter and hope that everything would be all right with her.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
  10. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    The Emperor has the worst timing! Lol! Nice update.
     
  11. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Eugh! Of course Palpatine has the worst time to call. It's part of his evil Sithiness. :p [face_devil] [face_bleh] But before that I loved this update! It was great seeing Luke and Mara spend the day together as just any ordinary couple on a date - or, kinda, at least! The ocean and the market and the pod races! Of course they enjoyed the race together! Even if Luke had a close call with his precognition there. :p [face_mischief]

    There's such a sweet, earnest tone to this AU that I am enjoying more than words can say! Thanks ever so much for sharing this story with us! I look forward to more! [face_love] =D=
     
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Thanks all!! Writing Luke and Mara just being a couple on a date was delightful!

    ~
    Heart’s Destiny
    Chapter 5


    Mara was intrigued when she finally found out the urgency behind the Emperor's summons. She met with Grand Admiral Thrawn who wanted to ask about her familiarity with Kuat. It appeared there had been some incursions by Rebels in the vicinity of the Kuat Drive Yards. Mara related what she knew of the efficient and business-like Kuati.

    "If something is occurring that is traitorous, the Kuati are either not involved directly (the activity is successfully carried out without their knowledge), or it is a fringe criminal element, which I am inclined to think is the actual situation."

    She knew of Thrawn's ability to strategize given the artistic penchant of a culture, and she was not able to provide any insights on that, unfortunately.

    He thanked her for her input, and Mara thought no more about it until she herself was tasked to go to Kuat and try to uncover the mastermind and deal with them in such a manner as to send a clear message.

    All of this should have left her little or no time to think about Bren Whitesun, but to her annoyance, he still crept into her thoughts at the most unusual moments, usually when she had a few brief moments of idleness. Mara tried to squelch the image of those sky-blue, earnest eyes and that infectious, sincere smile of his, but it seemed like the more she tried, the more persistently he stayed on her mind.

    ***

    A little over a month had gone by and it had been a busy time for the Alliance. Hopping from one system to another, without finding a safe spot where to set up a base, running low on cash and supplies getting harder and harder to get… Everyone’s nerves were on edge. Only a miracle could save the Rebels, before everything started to come apart.

    And then it happened that an encrypted message had reached the Rebel hidden convoy, a message from a source who claimed sponsors had been found. This were most welcome news, but in times of war like this, one ought to be cautious. The intel had to be checked and confirmed first, before any further decisions were made.

    Luke had to carry out this vital mission for the Alliance. A secret meeting with a mediator called Fulcrum in order to recover this precious intel was now in his hands.

    Travelling in a small, merchant vessel with modified ID, Luke reached the Morngol System. He was to meet this mysterious informant in the shipyards of Yalorum. As months had passed by, Vader had gotten more and more desperate to find the young Rebel pilot who had destroyed the Death Star, and bounties were hitting six figures now. With his name now in the most wanted list, he had to be extremely careful.

    Luke opted for leaving his ship parked in a public hangar some blocks away from his meeting point. He’d walk there and look inconspicuous. His cover consisted on posing as a ship buyer, his contact would be the seller. All he had to do was to reach the agreed hangar and look for a green star skiff with Tangorian markings.

    When he entered the hangar, it didn’t take him long to spot the ship he was looking for at the far end of the area. When he approached, somebody was waiting by the ship’s ramp. That must be the seller.

    “I hear skiffs are becoming the newest trend in Bandor,” Luke said when he was near enough, his senses in full alert.

    “Only if you get one from Nugata and take it for a spin to Coruscant,” the seller answered.

    The code exchange had gone without any problems, so this was indeed his contact… This was Fulcrum.

    Fulcrum was a slender female Togruta of copper skin, long white and blue head-tails and montrals, delicate white marks on her face, and deep blue, firey but wise eyes.

    “I’m Bren Whitesun,” Luke introduced himself, “I’m here for the ship you have for sale?”

    “Fulcrum,” she extended her hand and shook his. “Shall we?” She signalled the way.

    They walked alongside the ship, taking a few stops here and there, pointing at the main features on the ship’s hull and exchanging related questions and answers, both doing the whole drill as if this were a simple commercial rendezvous.

    They stopped at one point and the Togruta pointed at a small grid on the bottom part of the hull. Luke took the hint and placed his hand on top of the signalled spot and passed his fingers along the grid… Inside it, there it was! A small datacard. He took it and casually placed it in the pocket in his pants, while he asked something about the fuel efficiency of the ship.

    Next they went aboard the ship, and into the cockpit. In there it would be safer to talk.

    “Whitesun, you say?” Fulcrum gave a small chuckle, “You look more like a Skywalker to me.”

    Luke froze. He looked into those cerulean eyes of hers and panicked. His cover was blown! How could he’d be so careless! He expected Imperials to rain on him any minute.

    “Relax,” she said when noticing him tensing, “I’m not here to turn you in. As a matter of fact, I didn’t expect to find you here. Your name is all over Imperial announcements and in their most wanted list. I never expected you to be out in the open.”

    Luke relaxed, for some strange reason he believed her.

    Fulcrum looked at the boy, measuring him up. To insert himself in Imperial territory like this, with a bounty on his head… The boy was reckless! “Is this a strategy of your choice?” she asked.

    “More of a last resort choice, really,” Luke snorted.

    Fulcrum smiled, “Somehow you remind me of my young self.” With great care, Fulcrum inspected the young pilot before her with her gaze. When she’d heard the name at first, popping in every piece of Imperial intel she’d gathered, ‘Skywalker’, when hearing of someone named like that, she’d wondered… but now that she had the boy right in front of her there was no doubt. Although yet untrained, the boy was strong in the Force… His energy, the blue eyes, the cut of the chin, the sandy blond hair… “You look like your father,” she finally said.

    Luke's eyes opened wide. She knew his father?

    “I served alongside him during the Clone Wars,” she answered his unspoken question.

    “Are you a Jedi?” He asked unable to hide his befuddlement.

    Fulcrum didn’t say yes or no, just pressed her lips, as if these were about to betray her.

    This didn’t go unnoticed. “Teach me!” Luke begged.

    “I don’t take apprentices… I stopped being a Jedi long ago.” This memory brought back acute pain. The Jedi had betrayed her, doubted her… and she’d left. Their bows meant nothing to her anymore, as well as their Code. She’d lived by her own rules since, by the guidance of her heart and conscience. “I just do what I can… And giving you this intel is all I can do now.”

    Luke was about to protest, but her furrowed brow made him stop. He turned to look at what she was so attentive of… Through the cockpit’s transparisteel window movement in the far entrance of the hangar caught their eye. Stormtroopers entering the hangar!

    “Don’t panic…” she soothed her young companion, “They’re here for me. Time to run! And you better do the same,” she warned. “Come! I’ll show you a secure exit point. We’ll leave the ship behind and will part ways as soon as we’re clear.”

    Luke followed her past the main entrance, down the main aisle of the ship, his mind rumbling in thoughts, his heart tight in his chest. No! She could not leave just like this! He had so many questions! And she had answers. But the imminent Stormtrooper raid gave them no time for any of that, and with deep heaviness Luke admitted that he’d have to leave and perhaps never see her again.

    He followed her without hesitation. Fulcrum led them through a secret exit in the ship that led them further back in the hangar area, allowing them to take the back exit without being noticed.

    They stepped outside in a street full of pedestrians and vehicles. Once out in the open they mixed with the crowd in the streets.

    After a few blocks, Fulcrum stopped, already sure they were not being followed. “Now, we part ways,” she told him under the hood she’d pulled over her head.

    Luke nodded, there was no time to argue, much depended on him making it out of there safe. The mere existence of the Alliance depended on this. “At least… What is your name?” he asked.

    “Tano… Ahsoka Tano,” she provided.

    Luke would remember that name for the rest of his life.

    Tano turned around to leave, but two steps ahead she stopped and looked back to see him one last time, giving him a warm smile, “Goodbye… Skyboy.”

    ***

    A name had tantalizingly come up for Mara in her investigations ... one that had been a bother for more months than she and Palpatine would ever admit-- Fulcrum. She traced the activity of Fulcrum to a planet named Yalorum.
    Mara felt a surge of elation at the thought that finally this enigmatic spy named Fulcrum would fall into their hands. The Emperor would be exceedingly pleased if she brought about this desired outcome.

    Encrypted messages led to a squad of storm troopers being planet side, and Mara surveyed their progress from her ship. She scowled as her displays showed the storm troopers scattering in every direction, apparently having lost their quarry.

    "If you want something done, you have to do it yourself," Mara thought with disdain and debarked to begin her own search.

    Meanwhile, Luke walked on the sidewalks in busy streets, his mind too preoccupied with what had just happened, with whom he’d just met. There was a Jedi still alive! And he’d just let her go. His one chance to find a proper teacher was long past. He’d have to find Ahsoka Tano, somehow he had to! But something told him that she was someone who didn’t want to be found, and being a Jedi made this even more effective. He knew in his heart, with the certainty that his rudimentary Force sense allowed him to, that he’d never see her or hear of her ever again.

    Small groups of Stormtroopers went hurriedly past him in the direction of the hangar he had just left behind. They didn’t look like they had caught Tano, and he felt glad; and they had just run past him, so his cover hadn’t been blown. Now he had to make way to his ship and leave. Luke tried to walk fast but as casually as he could, he didn’t want any eyes on him. There was just too much adrenaline in his body, boosted by his discovery and the urgency of getting off planet without being recognized. This time things had been close, too close. He didn’t know for how long his Bren Whitesun façade would work.

    "Whitesun, hello!" Came an all-too familiar and welcome voice. Seeing him again almost made Mara lose her composure, he had been so much on her mind of late, but she was too well trained to let it show except for a smile she couldn't prevent.

    Luke turned at the sound of the name of his current alter ego, “Celina!” This was really a surprise!

    "What are you doing on Yalorum?" She questioned.

    “I’m here checking on a purchase… I’ve been thinking about buying a new ship,” Luke quickly delivered feeling acutely self-conscious, he had to stick to his story although he hated lying to her, “And you?”

    "Oh? I was trying to run some rumours to ground for my 'employer', and not having too much luck." Mara admitted, an edge of frustration creeping into her tone. "You heading out?" She asked, since he seemed to be going in the direction of the hangars.

    “My business here is done, actually. I’m about to leave!” This wasn’t a lie.

    "I shouldn't keep you, and I have a report to file." Mara hated reporting a lack of success, but it couldn't be put off indefinitely.

    “Are you staying long?” Luke asked, maybe Celina could come with him. It would certainly help to have her around to diverge attention, but mainly this would give him a chance to be with her. It was crazy! Here he was, his own hide at stake, but thinking about how much he wanted to have Celina by his side. Luke shook his head in self-reprimand.

    "I will probably be leaving within the next few hours. No sense hanging around." Mara answered.

    What happened next, happened way too fast.

    Luke felt Celina push him out of the way, putting them both behind the protection of a wall in a nearby alley. Seconds later a flourish of blaster bolts vaped everything in the spot they’d been just occupying. ‘How did she?’ Luke wondered; it was just like if Celina had known the blaster bolts were coming.

    Soon, the perpetrator came in sight, no Stormtroopers amongst them so this proved these people were not here for him. Why were these thugs here? Blaster already in hand, Luke prepared to fight their way out of there, “Are these friends of yours?” he asked.

    "In my line of work, sometimes I tend to antagonize the wrong people. An occupational hazard." Mara quipped.

    Wielding their blasters, both kept the thugs from entering the alley they had found protection in, then a blaster bolt came right from behind them. The thugs -- even more it seemed than originally - had found their way around and were coming in from the other end. They were surrounded.

    “This doesn’t look good,” Luke mumbled, as he pulled Celina close and into a small nook on one of the walls taking cover from the incoming fire, a space large enough to fit them both very tightly.

    "You can say that again," Mara re-joined, continuing a volley of bolts aimed at the would-be attackers.

    They were stuck, with nowhere to go. Celina was certainly a great shot, but they would not be able to hold off a dozen enemies for long. From the limited vison angle he had, Luke looked around, searching for an opportunity… and he found it. Up the high walls of the buildings that made out the alley, there were flowerpots and lines full of clothing hung to dry in the early afternoon’s sun; if he could call in the Force and use that as a diversion…

    “When I tell you so, just run towards the end of the alley!” Luke told Celina; his voice muffled by the raging sound of blasters firing. He saw uncertainty on her face, but this was not the moment to try to convince her, “Just do it!”

    Luke closed his eyes for brief moments and tried to connect to the flow of the Force. ‘Darn!’ It was hard! The results were not elegant, but were effective. Dozens of heavy flowerpots started raining on the thugs, knocking them out, and pieces of clothing falling like large leaves blocking everyone’s angle of vision.

    “Now!” Luke yelled.

    Both ran, jumping over knocked out thugs and missing random bolts that came from the opposite direction, aimless shots now that their owners couldn’t see where they were firing. Luke and Mara made it to the main street, making their way through the crowd with difficulty. As he pushed through the crowd, at one point Luke lost sight of Celina. The mass of people was so thick that inevitably got them separated.

    Luke could feel his throat tightening in anguish. He had to find her! They both needed to get to safety and he was not leaving without her.

    Frantically, he started his search of her.

    ***

    Where had Whitesun disappeared to? And that trick with the flowerpots and laundry... if she didn't know better, Mara would have to think he was Force-sensitive to some degree. That was a tantalizing thought but one that would have to wait.

    Four armed thugs suddenly arrived and all her attention was taken fending them off until one of them fired a nasty projectile dart which landed in her shoulder.

    Mara suddenly felt woozy. What was in that thing? Some kind of narcotic or some such to slow down your defences.

    While Mara was feeling disoriented, two goons bound her wrists and dragged her into a building.

    A tall, nasty looking man levelled his blaster pointing at her face, “Wardell sends his regards.”

    Wardell? That was the Moff she’d just exposed some short time ago. So this was his doing.

    "You can tell your boss to go vape himself," Mara said with difficulty but with cold fury.

    Without showing any sort of remorse, the chief thug pulled the trigger.

    Then, a yelp as the man was sent flying, the blaster bolt ricocheting on a wall nearby.

    Luke had made it just in time. With the help of the Force he’d tracked her energy signature. Using the Force once more, he pushed all three remaining thugs with power, making them hit the walls hard, rendering them unconscious, just like their first companion had done seconds before.

    Hurriedly, Luke approached Celina who lay on the floor. “Are you all right?” A deeply concerned Luke asked, his breath short. She gave evidence of making a big effort to keep herself coherent, just as if she’d been drugged… She didn’t look good, the gut wound she sported and the red puddle underneath her told him everything he needed to know, she didn’t have much time, “We have to get you some medical help!” He’d not been fast enough! The blaster bolt had missed her head, but not her abdomen.

    "Got any bacta bandages?"

    “I’ll do what I can now,” Luke offered as he retrieved his emergency kit from his utility belt. “You’ll be all right! I promise!” She looked pale and had started to shiver, she was going into shock! “Here! Swallow this… It’s a pain killer,” he placed the small pill in her mouth. Quickly he ripped her scorched clothes and inspected the wound.

    Mara felt some relief as the painkiller started to kick in, but the continued loss of blood was worrying!

    Celina was in a lot of pain and the wound was bad, she’d already lost so much blood! What to do? He’d seen these sorts of wounds before, in the battlefield… and none who’d had them had survived. Luke’s hands shook as he worked, what was he supposed to do with something like this? He was not a medic! Well, he was not a medic, but he was a Jedi… or at least one in the making. Maybe the Force could help him. Instinctively Luke placed the tips of his fingers on her temples; closing his eyes, he drew in energy from the Force… Willing it to heal, to mend, to bring life.

    Moments later, her panting stopped, she stopped shivering and felt limp… When sensing her change Luke opened his eyes and for a moment he panicked. Had he killed her? Quickly he checked her pulse… She was still breathing, and to his surprise she looked peaceful, like if only asleep. He checked her wound once more and to his surprise the bleeding had stopped. Had he done this? Never mind! It was not the time to hesitate or wonder. Now that the bleeding had stopped he could administer some first aid.

    He finished patching her up and she was still asleep; Luke wondered for how long. He now needed to take her out of there and bring her to some place safe. It was evident that Yalorum was not safe for her or for him, so they should leave. But he could not just show up to the Base with a stranger.

    “Artoo! I need you to come and find me!” Luke used his commlink to call the little droid, “I need your help to carry out a last-minute plan.”

    To be continued…

    +++
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Now, things take a wonderful turn ...
    Heart’s Destiny
    Chapter 6



    Mara stirred, feeling surprisingly more in one piece than she might have expected. This Bren Whitesun just kept coming up with surprises! He definitely had Force abilities!

    She heard the thrum of engines and realized they must be away from Yalorum. She resolved to take care of that Gundark butt of a Moff when she had the chance. She had more than a score to settle with him.

    She opened her eyes with effort and noticed Luke watching her with concern. "Thanks for getting us out of there," she said in a ragged whisper. "Where're we headed, anyhow?"

    “Hey! You’re awake,” he told her with softness, unable to hide his relief. He’d been able to pull them out of Yalorum without any more incidents. If he had not arrived when he did… Celina would be dead. Luke found that thought unbearable, and felt glad things turned out the way they did. By now those thugs must have desisted in their search and probably moved out to another system. Celina was safe for now.

    “I found this small moon and I think we’ll be safe there.” At not being able to bring Celina back to the Rebel base with him, Luke had found a small moon with remote, rustic areas where they could go into hiding. “Your wound is healing, but it’ll need a lot more rest to heal completely.” She’d been submerged in that sort of healing trance he’d put her under, or at least this is how he’d decided to call whatever it was he’d done.

    Mara said, "A convenient find, that's for sure. Now my unpleasant report can be delayed for legitimate reasons. That was quite the display you put on back there in the alley when those mercs showed up."

    “About what you saw back in the alley… I don’t know how to explain…” he sheepishly said, “It is something I recently learnt about myself, I can do things with my mind, with the power of my will… I’m very bad at it though,” he snorted.

    "Yeah, well, it worked well enough," Mara remarked. "Have you always been able to do such things?"

    “The more I think about it I’ve come to realize that I’ve been able to do strange things since I was a child… Sometimes my aunt and uncle would freak out! Although they tried to hide it I could see it in their faces.” Luke searched his memory, going back to those specific times, “It was never discussed at home, so I just suppressed it I guess, and forgot all about it… Until…” Luke stopped, not wanting to bring the name Obi-Wan Kenobi up.

    "That must've been more than a little awkward and confusing," Mara said in sympathy. Growing up in a simple rural community as he had described but with a talent that was uncommon and inexplicable must have imposed an unwanted isolation and sense of differentness.

    “How did you know they were going to hit us?” Luke then asked. Celina had known exactly when the shots were going to rain on them and he also had his suspicions about her.

    "Just lucky, I guess." Mara said and stifled a yawn. Her energy reserves weren't up to full quite yet.

    “You go back to sleep; I’m taking care of everything,” he reassured.

    Mara wasn't used to leaving the details to someone else, but besides the literal fact she wasn't up to handling them at the moment, surprisingly it felt good doing so in this situation (and what was even more startling) with Bren Whitesun who was becoming more interesting with each encounter!

    Luke left Celina in the sleeping cabin resting and took his place in the ship’s cockpit. Despite the little droid’s complaints, he instructed R2-D2 to drop them off on the moon and immediately fly back to the Rebel Base to deliver the intel he’d gotten from Fulcrum, not without making a note to him to wait for his encrypted signal to come back and get him.

    With this out of the way, Luke could use the rest of his time to make sure Celina healed.


    ***

    The small, rustic house where they were staying was located outside a tiny village in a secluded area in the mountains. Luke didn’t know for how long they would stay there, but he’d paid for the rent of the small place for two weeks in advance, the owner didn’t seem to want to ask any questions and looked very eager to get all that money all at once. The locals didn’t seem to be interested in their visitors either. This suited Luke perfectly.

    While Celina slept, Luke had gone into the village to get provisions and some new clothing for her so she could have a fresh change and ditch the bloodied apparel.

    As soon as he was back from the village he got himself busy prepping some food in the small kitchen. He was just about done when Celina made her appearance, clad in the new set of clothes he’d gotten for her and had left by her bed.

    After a full night's sleep and more, Mara felt more like herself. She found a new set of clothing by her bed and put them on: an outfit in shades of pale blue and silver.

    "How do you feel?" Luke greeted.

    "I feel much better, a little sore still."

    Luke noticed the wound on her belly was mostly healed; he must have done something right. He didn’t know exactly what he’d done, or if Jedi were able to heal others, but this was the Force and if the Force was the energy that flowed through all living things and bound everything together, it would not be a surprise that it also could restore someone’s health.

    "Something smells good in here." Mara commented.

    “I hope you like my cooking!” He cheerfully offered, carrying a set of plates full of food and placing them on the small table in the dining area.

    "I'm famished!" Mara admitted. Nothing would help her on the road to recovery more than a hearty meal.

    The food was actually really good. Luke was really surprised with the results of cooking with unfamiliar ingredients.

    Mara was frankly all too glad to be away from Imperial Centre for more than one reason. But she couldn't help but think that she was imposing upon Bren Whitesun, taking him away from vital professional, if not personal matters.

    Not one to hesitate, she voiced her concern.

    "I hate to think I'm keeping you away from something you should be doing. You don't owe my anything. I am grateful you saved me back there and brought me to this safe location, but really, if you need to leave, I can more than likely find transport off-world in a week or so. I'm not without ... contacts."

    She held Luke's gaze, waiting for his expression if not his words to clue her in to his genuine feelings about the situation.

    Luke gazed back at her and with his usual candid honesty he just answered, “I made every arrangement so I could stay with you.” When Celina didn’t say anything, then he realized that had come out too straightforwardly, “I was worried about you! And I’ve been wanting to spend some time with you… I want to know you,” he admitted.

    "No one's ever put themselves out for me that way," Mara mused out loud. She didn't like the idea of being under obligation to anyone, but somehow, with Whitesun, it was different.

    “If you want me to leave, I can leave,” he offered. Luke didn’t want to impose his presence upon Celina, if she needed some space he’d give it to her.

    She flashed one of her rare smiles. "No, I wouldn't want to put a crimp in your plans."

    Luke just smiled and continued eating. The next following days would surely be interesting and he was looking forward to every minute of it.

    ***

    A magnetic storm had every ship grounded. No incoming or outgoing traffic would ever make it through the powerful storm the sun in the system was raging on the small moon and planets below. This was a common phenomenon in the area and locals were all too used to it. When Mara asked how long it would last, the vendor at the small general store in town just stifled a laugh. From the looks of it, this would last a while. There was not much to do around, so Luke and Mara had contented themselves with taking long hikes around the area and having long conversations.

    These conversations had turned more and more personal to Mara’s surprise, but this didn’t bother her. Luke felt glad he could talk about things he hadn’t told to anyone, with the exception of Han and Leia perhaps.

    Luke felt thrilled at having this beautiful woman by his side. From the small things she’d revealed about herself, he could tell she was strong, independent and incredibly loyal. He also felt this unique connection, as if there were ties between them that joined them in ways he could not explain, in ways that felt right for unknown reasons. But amongst all these things he could pick up, he could tell she was keeping something from him… But his natural optimism told him that surely she’d come forward with it when she felt comfortable; in their short time together, he’d come to understand that Celina was someone who always did things on her own terms.

    Mara had grown to like Bren Whitesun. She could tell he was a good man, kind, generous, brave, too idealistic for her taste. Still, something told her he was hiding vital information from her, something important, and this kept her on her toes. Yet, she liked to have him around.

    And here they were tonight, sitting outside in the porch of the small cottage; looking up to the heavens, watching magnetic waves wash over against a black sky covered with countless tiny bright dots of stars. They had found a good lookout spot sitting next to each other on the steps of the entry.

    “The power of the cosmos never fails to amaze me!” Luke said, taking another sip of the hot beverage he held in his hands. A few years back he would have never imagined he’d have the chance to witness other displays of natural marvels other than the double sunrises and sunsets of Tatooine and the beauty of its desert, isolated landscape, to which he’d had grown so accustomed to that he’d stopped wondering.

    Mara had to agreethe view was majestic and lovely.

    He noticed her shiver slightly and asked, “Are you cold?”

    Mara shook her head. The air wasn't particularly chilly, either. So, what was behind her sudden tremulousness?

    Luke set the mug he held in his hand next to him on the steps and moved closer, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

    Even though she wasn't cold, Whitesun's arm around her did feel cozy.

    He didn’t say anything. With soft eyes he admired her beautiful features… her mouth inviting. Bewitched, slowly he came closer and kissed her softly.

    Mara wasn't one for spontaneous impulses, but she was caught up in a maelstrom of emotion.

    There was nothing more than Celina in that moment. Luke felt submerged in the feel of her lips, on her returning his kiss. The feel of her fingers digging softly into his hair, the palms of her hands sliding down his chest and going around his waist… In return, he held her in a tight embrace, pressing his body against hers. Soon their exchange became more desperate, passionate. It was evident they were both aroused.

    They broke their kiss, both breathing deeply. Should they stop?

    Something pressed in the back of Luke’s mind. He didn’t want to listen to that nudge, this time he wouldn’t let his insecurities make him hesitate. Ignoring it he kissed her again and as he did, he noticed her opening to him; in her kiss, he could feel she had reached the same resolution.

    Mara liked to believe that this was just going to be sex with a very hot man, but deep down she knew thinking like this was just fooling herself… Bren was different, she could feel it in her bones; her danger sense didn’t flare up when near him, on the contrary, he made her feel safe, calm… Her sense told her that this was crazy, but she didn’t care, she’d live in the moment for once.

    Breaking their passionate exchange, they looked at each other. A silent agreement had been made.

    Luke stood up and offered her his hand.

    Mara took the hand he offered and let herself be pulled up towards him, losing herself in the ardent gaze of his blue eyes.

    Both walked inside the house, this time resolute to put their fears aside and let themselves follow the command of their desire.

    ***

    Days had passed and these together had turned into a full a week. The storm was breaking havoc with comm signals too, so they’d been uncommunicative.

    Celina was more than recovered now, and although Luke could tell she was enjoying their time together just as much as he was, he noticed she’d turned restless. For this reason Luke had decided they should spend their day by the lake just down the hill.

    They swam in the lake, ate their homemade lunch, conversed about many trivial and not so trivial things, passionately made love under the trees. It was a perfect day.

    Luke watched Celina put her clothes back on. “I wish for this to never end,” he told her, “I wish we could just… go.”

    "Speak for yourself." She rejoined with a laugh. "Part of the appeal lies in knowing it cannot last."

    He caught the piece of clothing she tossed at him, meaning “get dressed and stop being silly.” Luke obediently got dressed too.

    "As nice as this has been," Mara continued, "There's no reason for us to stay much longer."

    When Celina sat back by his side, Luke reached out and kissed her deeply, showing just how much he felt for her. “You’re amazing!” He told her, “I want you in my life forever!”

    Both knew they had to go back to their lives, to their duties. For a moment Luke wished he could leave everything behind and stay with her, and he wished she could do the same too… but he was fooling himself, that could not be, at least not until the Empire was defeated and the war was over.

    "Forever? That's quite the shift from a couple weeks isn't it? Especially since our lives take us in completely different directions," Mara echoed his thoughts.

    The rest of their afternoon went by relaxed and quiet. Hand in hand, they took a walk around the lake. On the way back, a pile of sandy brown branches and long lines of dried grass caught Luke’s attention.

    He inspected the materials, “This gives me an idea!” Luke said with a spark in his eyes.

    Once back to their spot by the lake just down the house, Mara watched Luke work on some rudimentary set of traps to be placed in the water of the lake and left overnight to catch some fish. She felt delighted at his resourcefulness, growing up in a farm had really taught him ingenious things.

    The afternoon was dying out and it was getting chilly.

    "I'm heading back," Mara said, feeling a nice blend of relaxed and energized.

    “I’ll join you in a few minutes,” he told her.

    Luke accepted the kiss she gifted him and watched her walk towards the cabin, staying behind to finish with his traps.

    By the time Luke finished his handiwork the sun had set down and the light was dying out. He felt happy thinking that surely the next morning the traps he’d just set would be filled with fish, and he’d be able to prepare a good meal out of them. He knew his time with Celina on that moon was soon coming to an end, it was just a matter of a few days, so he’d make the most out of it while it lasted.

    Contented, he walked back to the cottage. When coming near, Luke frowned at the look of the house from the outside. All the lights were out... Strange. Were the automatic systems in the small cottage malfunctioning? He’d have to speak to the owner about it. He crossed the entrance threshold.

    Luke came inside the house to find himself staring to the barrel of his own blaster.

    “Celina?” he uttered when recognizing who was holding the weapon, “What’s this?”

    “Shut up! And put your hands were I can see them,” Mara commanded.

    Slowly Luke did as he was told. Raising his hands at shoulder level, he watched her carefully, looking for an opportunity.

    “Now step back very slowly,” she instructed, he was standing just too close to her.

    Luke made the gesture of giving a small step back, but then in one quick move sprang towards Celina and got a hold of the blaster. During the wrestle the weapon fired, the shot hitting the ceiling without doing any harm. He managed to pull the weapon off her hands but losing it seconds later when she turned and kicked it off his hands.

    Weaponless, both wrestled with one another. The small space inside the cottage soon turned into a wreckage.

    The young pilot used his own strength with measure, just enough to block her attacks, enough to hold her down, he didn’t want to hurt her. Luke felt confused, he didn’t understand! What was going on? Although he was bigger than her and physically stronger, Celina was an extremely good fighter and excellently trained by the looks of it. Every time he pinned her down, she found a way to break his lock and counterattack with viciousness and precision.

    Luke didn’t exactly realize how he got to the moment when he was on his knees, struggling to get air into his lungs. Celina had some sort of bar pressed against his throat, her full weight on top of him. He had his fingers wrapped around the ends of the bar, trying to release the pressure, but she had such a good hold of the weapon that his efforts didn’t help much. He couldn’t see her, but could hear her ragged breath behind him as she exerted all of her strength on her hold of him. Luke struggled to breathe, the pressure kept steady at his throat, he was starting to see black and soon he’d pass out, or worse.

    Then the pressure subsided completely.

    Mara had come to the cottage to find that the magnetic storm had passed and used that moment alone to check on her comm and report back. The update she got turned out to be the most upsetting news she’d ever get. These involved news on the status of the Rebellion, with several images attached. The main piece of information was the disclosure of an image of the face of the Rebel Pilot who destroyed the Death Star in the Battle of Yavin. A face accompanied by a name. The information was disclosed with an incredibly high sum as a reward for his head, preferably alive. Mara’s heart stop beating… She could not believe her eyes when looking at the profile! The shock she felt was soon replaced by cold fury, her unmovable loyalty towards the Empire kicking in automatically. And she knew what she had to do.

    While holding her enemy in her deadly grip, Mara’s mind rushed with mixed emotions and thoughts. She had him, it was just a matter of keeping the pressure and he’d be done for. The most wanted enemy of the Empire gone… forever.

    And she released him.

    Luke fell to the floor coughing. At being released from the deadly hold, he fell forward on his hands; too weak to hold himself up, he rolled on his back, lying on the floor desperately gasping for air… Unable to stand up, he pushed himself away from Celina, just enough to get a good look at her. As his breathing steadied, he just looked at her in befuddlement. There she was, standing high in front of him. One hand holding the deadly object she’d used as a choking weapon, her other hand free, loose at her side.

    “You’re him!” She was panting heavily, an expression of shock and disgust on her face, her eyes sparkly with tears she did not dare to shed, “You’re Luke Skywalker!”

    Luke felt a pang of pain, the look in her eyes was unbearable to watch. Somehow she’d found out about who he really was… but this was not reason enough for her to have tried to kill him! Unless… and suddenly it all clicked, “You’re with the Empire!” He told her in a raspy voice.

    “I’m not just with the Empire!” She spat, “I am with the Emperor!” Mara showed pride in her stance, “I am the Emperor’s Hand.”

    Luke had never heard that title before, but the way she’d said it denoted rank, power, allegiance… Slowly Luke got up and sat on the nearest piece of furniture, his hand still on his sore neck, “So all this time… You’ve only been hunting me down?” He said, honest hurt showing in his eyes. Their kisses, their intimacy… Was it all a lie?

    “No,” Mara interrupted his line of thought, “All this time I thought you were Bren Whitesun,” she just said.

    Despite the seriousness of the situation, a wave of relief washed over Luke. So, concerning what they’d shared… She’d been honest with him all this time! “Celina is not your real name, is it?” Luke asked.

    “Mara Jade,” she revealed. For some silly reason she felt she owed him that.

    Luke would never forget that name, “Mara… Everything I’ve told you… About what I feel… It’s true.”

    Despite everything, Mara believed him, infuriatingly so. Her professional detachment was severely lacking. "You've put me in a terrible bind, Skywalker." She confessed. "I cannot pretend none of this happened." Her gesture took in their surroundings, implying all that had happened between them.

    “I don’t care! We’ll find a way around this!” he told her with the firmness the truth in his heart commanded, “You’re not my enemy! You’re the woman I love.”

    Love? Mara thought. There he went, being flamboyantly effusive with his turn of phrase. Did he even know what love was? She was certain she didn't. But she could not deny she was unaccountably moved.

    When sensing her letting down her defences, Luke moved towards her and held her tightly. He felt her melt in his embrace and return it, this made him breathe out in relief. For as long as she’d be willing to make things work, together they’d find a way. He’d lost so much to the Empire already, his family, his friends… He would not let it take her away. He was not sure on the how, but he was certain they’d be all right.

    Mara could not suppress a smirk as she caught the tendrils of Luke's thoughts and the upsurge of his mood. "Ever the optimist," she teased but without rancor. She didn't have the heart to squelch his hopes and never would she admit she shared them.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020
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  14. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Nice. I can see those two sneaking around behind everybody’s back for romantic rendezvous after rendezvous. I like it.
     
  15. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    I can't say enough how much I am enjoying this story, again! Everything is beyond fantastic: the OT timeframe, the wonderfully frank emotions and the intrigue behind it all! This is the stuff the best fics are made of. [face_love] =D=


    I LOST IT HERE YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!! I was ecstatic to see Ahsoka back doing what she does best: taking down badguys, in the Fulcrum role that she originated. [face_love] For her to connect the dots between her Skyguy and this Skywalker brought me all sorts of joy. I look forward to seeing what the Force has in store for both of them together in the future.

    Ha! I would say what a coincidence, but the Force works in mysterious ways, and it knows what's what here. [face_thinking] [face_mischief]

    Mara is too observant for her own good, isn't she? :p Of course she and Luke are bound in more ways than one. Thankfully having Luke at her back with the backstabbing moff was all sorts of good fortune here too . . . [face_worried]

    And this really is the crux of it, isn't it? Mara has lived her whole life in service to an undeserving master. Luke, however, sees and loves her for her. [face_love] Their entire idle together just brought me all sorts of joy, watching them grow closer together and enjoy learning more about each other and exploring their relationship as a couple - even if only in the short amount of time they think they have here.

    Gah! I knew that the floor would fall out from underneath them, but whew here we are! A part of me is glad - we can get these secrets out of the way and start growing on a relationship built on trust. But dear goodness was my heart in my throat reading this exchange!

    And here Luke's frank honesty wins the day again! Is there anyone more endearingly sweeter! I appreciated Mara's outlook; even if she doesn't know what love is, and she questions whether or not Luke understands just what he's claiming to feel, she does feel something. And she's not ready to let this opportunity go just yet. [face_love]


    A wonderful pair of updates! I can't wait to read more. [face_love] =D=
     
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Heart's Destiny
    Chapter 7


    Luke could not sleep.

    Lying on his bunk, he blankly stared at the metal ceiling of the dark, confined space of his sleeping quarters.

    Things with the Empire had gone more and more sour. After several Rebel hit and run attacks on strategic Imperial targets, the rage of the Empire had become very evident. The prize for his and other Rebel leaders heads had risen considerably, and it did look like Darth Vader had become obsessed with finding him in particular – this definitely gave Luke the creeps, it was never a good idea to become a Sith Lord’s fixation. And for this and many other reasons, there had been enormous Imperial retaliation, way too many on sight executions of Rebel supporters, and everyone was scared. But instead of bending into submission, more and more systems were starting to raise their voice, feeling hopeful and endorsed by the Rebel efforts.

    Despite the growing support, the Alliance was not yet ready for a final show down. A new secret planet had been found, suitable to lay dormant while things came all together. This meant they’d go into hiding now, for and undetermined length of time. And this also meant that once they’d established the base in this new location, only the Force knew when he’d be able to see Mara again.

    In his mind, Luke pictured the night their true identities had come out in the open. After the waves of emotional shock had washed over, they had had the chance to set a few things straight.

    “What now?” Had been Mara’s outspoken question.

    “We go on,” Luke had stated, “Just like before… You’re not an Imperial, I’m not a Rebel… We’re just two people who’ve met and are crazy about each other. When we’re together lets just be us!”


    Mara had rolled her eyes, but had said nothing; in his sense, Luke could feel that she was in with his proposal.

    Eight months had passed after that reveal. They had managed to find each other for several brief encounters after that. His birthday had passed too, without Mara in it. It was a bit over a year since they first met and Luke had made a big fuss about it, taking the opportunity they were together around that anniversary to do something special. But as time went by, their times of reunion had grown even more scarce, just as his own relevance as one of the Empire’s most wanted had grown exponentially, making these encounters more and more dangerous.

    It had been two months since their last time together, and Luke wondered what Mara might have been doing, if she was safe. He’d know if she wasn’t, wouldn’t he? They had this inexplicable connection… a bond in the Force. It was strange and surprising and had been quite exhilarating to discover it. They had managed to keep their relationship a secret and somehow keep it as simple and neutral as possible.

    Luke wondered what kind of harm their predicament would do to their relationship, or even to each of them individually. What if the leaders in the Alliance found out? What would this bring down on him? Could his relationship to Mara be considered as traitorous? But his own safety was not what really worried him. It was Mara’s. What if the Imperials found out? What would this bring down on her? Imperials weren’t known for being merciful. One thing he was sure of though: he’d never, ever, do anything that would hurt Mara and would certainly go to great lengths to protect her.

    After two months of carrying out flying missions, a last-minute on-planet mission had come up, and he’d been assigned to it. And this time Han and Leia were also on this mission. If he could only squeeze some time to send Mara a message and see her one more time before going underground.

    So his mind had kept him busy and the chance for sleep soon went out the window. The soft chirping of R2-D2 coming out of his charge up mode gave Luke the signal that it was time to leave to Ord Mantell.

    ***

    Mara had returned to Imperial Centre and told the Emperor she had had a run in with Moff Wardell's goons. "He won't get off lightly. I gave him a warning the last time we met; this time, his luck has run out."

    It was a matter of professional and personal pride to Mara to take care of the recalcitrant Moff.

    She had been busily scouring the Mid Rim and Core systems for any Rebel activity of note. She kept asking herself what she'd do if Luke surfaced in any of the hot-spots.

    It was a question she still didn't have an answer for.

    She had amazed herself, to be sure, agreeing with his plan to continue meeting one another and to put their professional selves and duties aside.

    If someone had ever told her even a scant few months ago that she would do such a thing, she'd have laughed them into Wild Space!

    ***

    Han hated to admit it, but he was torn between more than one unexplainable emotion. On the one hand, he was glad to have Leia along. She was fierce and more than capable in a battle, even when the odds seemed stacked. She kept a cool head and a steady hand. But (and this was the frustrating part) he had this urge to protect her, to keep her safe. This fact he dared not admit to the lady in question. She'd freeze him with a glower or cut him with her laser-sharp wit. Not that he didn't enjoy their verbal spars.

    Leia's sudden, thoughtful comment drew him out of his musings. "Luke seems distracted lately, ever since he came back from Yalorum, as a matter of fact. He won't tell me, even though I've asked if something's wrong."

    Han could tell she was genuinely concerned.

    "Yeah, I've noticed that too," he replied. Han would've thought that Luke was crushing on Leia if pressed at one point in time, yet when he studied the nature of Luke's interactions with Leia, there didn't seem to be anything of the romantic about it, but it did appear Luke was mooka-eyed dreamy over someone. Who could it be?

    "His work and loyalty haven't suffered actually," Leia continued, "But I've noticed he's not completely focused."

    "Maybe it's the uncertainty and the rushing from one mission to the next with a bounty on your head with no time to breathe. Don't forget he went from backwater to neck deep in adventure in under a minute."

    Leia considered. "You might be right." She herself had literally had no room to properly mourn her devastating losses.

    It was at that juncture that they reverted to real space at Ord Mantell and the object of their discussion joined them.

    "Well, it's show time," Han quipped in typical fashion.

    He'd keep an eye on Luke and a second eye on Leia, whether she needed it or not.

    The moment he entered the cockpit, Luke noticed Han and Leia were in a certain mood, a feel he always got when his friends were worried about him. Maybe they were picking up on more of what he’d thought of at first. “Are we all set?” He asked. He knew they all were, but asking this helped him to put his mind back on their mission.

    Leia answered, "Things are all arranged, as we discussed. We each do our part as quickly as possible and get out of here before anything can possibly go amiss."

    “I’m fine with that,” Luke agreed.

    Leia glanced at Luke keenly, her prior exchange with Han uppermost in mind. "How are you Luke? You have seemed a bit preoccupied lately?"

    Her question confirmed Luke’s suspicions. Leia was worried, and surely Han was too; he’d been distracted, pensive, unable to hide his concerns about Mara, his longing for her. There was no way his friends would know the real reasons for his behaviour, and probably they were imagining all kinds of wrong scenarios, but clarifying that would mean he’d have to reveal his relationship with the precious redhead, and he was just not ready yet to do that; too much depended on it, primarily Mara’s safety, so he’ll keep this relationship hidden for as long as needed, even if this meant keeping things from Han and Leia.

    He gave them both a reassuring smile. "I'm fine. Just nerves."

    That seemed as good an explanation as any, and understandable given the crucial nature of the mission.

    Chewbacca eased the Millennium Falcon on the assigned platform to their fake ship’s ID and markings.

    Rebel intel had got to know of an obscene amount of credits in aurodium ingots the Empire was physically moving to a more secured facility. This had been utterly welcomed news since the Alliance had been suffering for funding for a time now and immediately a plan for action was concocted. The most notable thing about this particular shipment was that these were credits that had formerly belonged to the Alderaanian principality, assets that had been seized by the Empire once Alderaan was gone. Thus Leia was key for their retrieval.

    The mission was simple. Leia and Han would have access to the main vault, safe passage would be granted courtesy of a Rebel infiltrate. Once in the vault, Leia would use her biometric registries to code green access and R2-D2 would change the previously assigned shipping codes to ones that would give them possession of the automated air-cart. Luke’s job was to take possession of this cart holding the credits and fly it to the Millennium Falcon.

    The plan was short and simple; the challenge was on keeping it that way.

    ***

    Han should have known that things were going too smoothly. The tech end of the situation went without a glitch. They were about to make their expeditious way back to the Falcon when a smoothly satisfied and sarcastic voice stopped them.

    "Well, if it isn't the ever-elusive Solo! This is my lucky day! I'm going to be ridiculously rich after this bounty..."

    "In your dreams, Skorr," Han retorted.

    Leia gasped. She had never doubted Han's claims that he had a ridiculously high bounty on him, but to actually have someone show up to claim it... She was astonished to find that the snaffu in the mission didn't worry her half as much as Han's safety.

    Artoo was unobserved as Han and Skorr traded glowers. Artoo sent a high voltage shock into the bounty hunter's thigh which made him yelp and drop his disguised weapon, which Han snatched up and stunned him with.

    "He'll be out for a few hours. We'd better make tracks while we can." Han said urgently.

    Leia remarked, "I'm glad we were able to switch codes before he showed up. There was a time lock-out. If the proper authorization wasn't provided in that interval, the computer access would lock down and set off all kinds of alarms."

    Han hurried Leia through corridors and doors, making haste towards the Millennium Falcon, he had a feeling that Skorr might have had a backup plan of some sorts and the savvy bounty hunter might have just sent in the Empire an invite to join in.

    ***

    Luke paced the platform, looking just like one more pilot waiting for their flight to be loaded and lined up for delivery; trying to blend in amongst tired out cargo pilots, too bored and too submerged in their own affairs to notice the presence of the newcomer. Luke had a fake ID and paperwork on him that had allowed him to enter the premises and to be used again when his cargo arrived. It was taking longer than expected to hear back from Han and Leia, and Luke started to worry. What was going on? This didn’t feel all right. “Threepio! Get ready to move when I tell you,” Luke advised his companion, a sense of urgency already getting under his skin. Once Han gave him the signal, they’d have to move fast.

    “Han! Do you copy?” Luke’s voice cracked in the commlink, “I’m in position.”

    There was an ominous silence. Had the code-substitution gone awry somehow? Well, he’d have to trust the legendary Solo’s Luck.

    Han and Leia made it back to the Falcon in record time. As soon they were aboard, Han answered Luke's urgent call.

    "We ran into some unwelcome company," was his cryptic reply. "Send a signal when you have the cart secured."

    Things on the platform seemed to be working normally and soon Luke had his target located. The unpiloted cart containing their bounty slid out of the cargo facility led by the automatic rail it was attached to. It was left alone, no pilot seemed to care about the new arrival, which meant that Han and Leia had been successful at changing the cart’s credentials and it was now free for him to take it.

    Luke felt a Force nudge that intuitively told him there was no time to waste. “Get on the cart now and start the engines!” He ordered Threepio.

    “But Master Luke! The shackle has not detached yet!” Threepio observed in worry. The shackle kept the flight-cart attached to the rail, and the vehicle would not go anywhere if it was not off.

    “Do as I tell you! I’ll take care of it,” Luke reassured, lightsaber already in hand. He’d had to enter the facility unarmed, but lightsabers were already forgotten, unknown weapons, and he’d been able to smuggle it in with him. Then, a sudden internal alarm made his body tense, the threat confirmed seconds later by Threepio’s screeching voice.

    “Stormtroopers!” The droid shouted in alarm, already sitting at the cart’s controls.

    Luke searched his surroundings. There were six of them, at the far end of the platform. Blasters in hand and already shooting. On reflex, he ignited his weapon just in time to see blaster bolts bouncing from the white-blue blade, his movements guided by the surge of Force energy he felt running through his entire being, amazed at how fast his hands and arms had moved; his hours and hours of practice with a remote were really paying off.

    Everyone on the platform ran for cover, the ricocheting bolts forcing the Stormtroopers to take cover too. This gave Luke extra precious time he needed.

    Without hesitation, he raised his weapon high with both hands and in one powerful move he landed the blade on top of the rail’s shackle, cutting cleanly through it and freeing the cart from it.

    “Get us out of here, Threepio!” He yelled to the droid, “Lift her off!”

    A bit too clumsily, the droid hit the thrusters and the cart lifted off; this made Luke lose some balance, forcing him to hold on to the small ship’s landing skid for heart-stopping moments. Once in the air, awkwardly he made his way inside the confined cockpit. In there, he took control of the vehicle to Threepio’s relief.

    The cart was Luke’s, all he had to do now was to get to the Millennium Falcon fast, wherever it might be, and in one piece.

    Ah! There it was... Luke found the Falcon's unique signature and Han's and Leia's Force presences, and used both strategies to reach the freighter in good time.

    ***

    The Executor had followed a circuitous trail to Ord Mantell. Bounty Hunters were scattered all over the Galaxy looking for precious Rebel targets. One of them had led the Empire here. Standing in the main bridge of his flag ship, Darth Vader oversaw his crew’s manoeuvres, he was pleased that soon his quarry would be his. This time, the Emperor’s Hand was with him, sent to accompany him by the Emperor himself. Although he disliked the woman, under such orders there was no way he could have objected to her presence.

    Mara felt Luke's presence as soon as they arrived in-system. She cloaked hers hastily before it could give her away.

    If he was apprehended, what could, should, she do?

    That was a question, a quandary, she had dreaded the entire time their clandestine relationship had been going on, but the ever-optimistic Luke had never given it a second's thought!

    Feeling the Dark Lord standing next to her, she strengthened her shields in the Force so he would not pick up on her rambling mind. It seemed that as used as she was at keeping a cool head under any circumstance, Luke Skywalker succeeded at making trash of all of her composure.

    A Bridge Officer approached Admiral Sandar and murmured something to his ear. When the exchange was done, sharply the Admiral approached the Sith, “My Lord, we’ve got an incoming ship with altered markings, it fits the description of that of the Millennium Falcon.”

    “Very well, lock on that target and bring it in intact. Do not disappoint me, Admiral.” Vader’s menacing voice warned.

    ***

    Chewbacca roared an acknowledgement after listening to Han’s rant.

    Luke had successfully landed the cart with their bounty inside the Falcon’s cargo hold in mid-flight. How the Kid had pulled that one out was something Han would have to ask him, later. For now they had to get away from the menacing and imminent approach of the Executor, Vader’s personal ship. There was no doubt that their party had certainly turned into high priority targets for that son of a slorth of a Sith to have bothered to come down here himself. Too busy to panic, Han executed his most clever escape manoeuvres, while Luke and Leia had taken places in the Falcon’s turrets.

    "Watch out ... there's a shot coming at the aft turret!" Han warned.

    Leia retorted, "Don't bother telling me the obvious, just concentrate on plotting a successful jump out of here." ‘And hope the hyperdrive cooperates’, she added silently. Avoiding tractor beams and a swarm of TIE fighters was already taking a toll on the Falcon’s deflector shields and scarce crew. And then, there it was! Their clearance.

    Without any second thoughts, Han pressed the hyperdrive switch.

    ***

    Without any warning, the dish-like Corellian freighter, making an act of disappearance, slid behind the curtain of hyperspace.

    There was absolute silence on the bridge of the Executor. All the crew minimizing themselves as tiny mice trying to hide from their predator.

    The Sith Lord stood still, the mechanical breathing of his mask the only sound. Abruptly he turned, his long cape swirling behind him.

    Mara followed the dark Force user with her gaze. No doubt Vader was extremely irritated at having her witness this failure.

    ***

    “Yahoo!” Was Han’s cry of victory as the Falcon slipped through the Executor’s defences and made it into hyperspace.

    "Great bit of timing," Luke commented as he and Leia joined Han and Chewy in the cockpit.

    Leia smirked, wondering not for the first time if Han liked pulling it that close on purpose.

    "What, nothing to say, I'm surprised?" Han commented, casting a look Leia's way.

    "I do not want to inflate your ego with a show of gratitude," she re-joined, and he laughed, feeling inexplicably rejuvenated by her remark.

    “Let’s take this back to Hoth!” Luke cheered. "We actually got the much-needed funds!"

    "And stuck another one to the Empire," Han added.

    As the Falcon slipped out of the system leaving the Imperials behind, Luke felt a surge of relief. There had been a moment when he'd sensed something, someone, Mara specifically but even as he had reached for her, the sensation had vanished. It must've been his imagination, he thought.

    Or had Mara been aboard the Executor with Vader? This thought made a chill run down his spine.

    He truly wished she hadn’t been there. If she had been, how would this affect their next encounter? He wondered. Would she even want one, or feel it advisable to continue even in the deepest secrecy? The thought of never seeing her again made his gut twist.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
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  17. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Very nice. I assume Vader already knows or suspects Skywalker is his son (I read so many stories I can't keep them straight). It will be interesting to see if Vader and Mara both try to save Luke at the same time making them realize they both care for the blue-eyed rebel for different reasons.
     
  18. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Now that would be an interesting fic all on its own!
     
  19. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    One worth to be written by the great @Jedi_Lover ;)[face_love]
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    MEGA SQUEEAGE! [face_batting]
     
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  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Heart's Destiny
    Chapter 8


    Living on that “ice ball” – just like Solo liked to call Hoth, brought tremendous hardship and disadvantages. There was not much hope any of the inhabitants of the Rebel Base would ever get used to the harsh cold.

    The young, recently appointed Commander of Rogue Squadron made a round in the hangar, checking on the status of the airspeeders assigned to the Rogues. It was the end of the day and the Base was pretty much getting ready for the habitual night’s lock down. The lights in the hangar were already dimmed, and apart from a few repairs droids, the place was let pretty much empty.

    Luke paced around the last airspeeder, parked next to a set of large crates containing spare parts and equipment. He thoroughly followed the established protocols for ship inspection, his mind focused on the task at hand. Then, a warm wave of Force energy soaked his entire being… Just like if a curtain had been pulled, a familiar presence invaded his senses.

    “Mara!” He whispered.

    There she was, standing between the large crates. Dressed in the creamy-white uniform of the Base personnel.

    Stepping towards her hiding spot without hesitation, he met her. Enthralled by the surprise of finding her there, Luke reached out, both hands on her cheeks, bringing them into a passionate kiss.

    In return, she wrapped him in a tight embrace, answering his kiss with her own strength of passion.

    Luke could not believe she was there! It had been three months since they’d last seen each other. Had something gone wrong? Luke asked, as the cold air created vapor with his words, “Are you all right? I’ve been so worried about you!”

    “I’m fine,” she just said. It was surprising and oddly gratifying that he was more concerned about her safety than of the fact that she’d found the Rebel Base and infiltrated it. Then she noticed something, “Your face!” She said in worry as she passed her fingers across a visible scar on his left cheek.

    “I had a run with a wampa,” Luke shrugged, “It’s nothing.”

    Although she’d never seen one in the flesh, Mara knew how big and vicious those creatures were, so this certainly hadn’t been just nothing. Then her mind focused back on what she was here for, “I had to warn you!”

    “We already know, we found the probe,” Luke interrupted, trying to reassure her. The Rebel Base was already getting ready for a defensive assault and evacuation. They couldn’t know when the Empire would make its move, so things had to be decided and done quickly. They would evacuate as soon as the weather permitted it.

    But for now, Luke felt elated. Mara being here to warn him told him more than anything she could have ever uttered about what she felt for him. Then, he remembered, “Where you at Ord Mantell?” He asked.

    She nodded.

    “For brief moments… I felt you!” He revealed in amazement.

    “This is how I found you… That feeling led me here,” Mara referred to that inexplicable connection they shared, a connection that appeared to be growing stronger with time.

    Luke felt even more happiness at this admission. "Where's your ship?"

    “My ship is hidden on the other side of the mountain riff. I just joined the latest group of enlistees that arrived on planet and have been here for two days,” Mara explained, “Waiting for the right moment to approach you.”

    To think that Mara had been at the Base for the past two days, working like a regular new recruit, being patient to find her opportunity… It only told him of how determined, focused and well-trained Mara was. And in all that time, she had not turned them in. Her feat also told him how good Mara was at cloaking her presence in the Force from him.

    “I have warned you, now I must go,” Mara stated.

    “What?! You can’t go back to your ship at night!” Luke warned her. There were just a few hours left of daylight and the mountain riff was hundreds of klicks away. “You’ll have to wait till morning,” he severely stated.

    He was right, daylight was pretty much gone and she’d never make it back to her cloaked ship on time.

    “Stay with me!” Luke insisted. Wedge Antillies and a team of engineers had gone out in an insulated mobile lab to get samples of the terrain, so Luke had the sleeping cabin all to himself, “My roommate is out on an assignment and he won’t be back until tomorrow.”

    Mara smiled, the idea of spending time with Luke sounded very appealing… But she’d done what she’d come for and her presence was a danger for him.

    “Please?” He implored.

    The Imperial assassin sighed in defeat. How to say no to those earnest blue eyes?

    ***


    Mara felt glad of being in a smaller, more confined, thus warmer space. She was left alone; Luke had gone out to get them something to eat. His new position as an Official of the Alliance gave him a few privileges he never used, he liked to continue thinking of himself as one more of the boys; but tonight one of these privileges meant that he could take food to his quarters.

    The cabin’s narrow door slid open, to reveal a happy looking Luke carrying a couple of metallic boxes, surely containing the day’s menu.

    “It’s nothing fancy, but we’re lucky to have a good cook at the Base,” he extended one of the boxes to Mara.

    Mara sat on his bed, and Luke took the one across from it.

    They chatted while they ate.

    Suddenly, Mara tensed. Soon, Luke knew the reason for her tension, someone was approaching the cabin’s door.

    In one quick move, Mara ran towards the ‘fresher unit and locked the door behind her.

    The cabin’s door slid open to reveal a dark haired, grinning young man. “Hello, Luke!”

    “Wedge!” Luke greeted; a bit stupefied. Antillies and the engineering team had come back early. “Everything went fine?”

    “Sure! We got everything we needed in record time and decided it would be best to get back to the Base as soon as possible after General Rieekan announced the preparations for our evacuation,” Wedge offered his explanation.

    “Yeah! That’s… sensible,” Luke lamely added, he was getting nervous.

    “I desperately need to get cleaned up!” The young Corellian pilot added.

    In one desperate move, Luke stepped right in front of Wedge, blocking the way to the ‘fresher.

    Wedge looked back at Luke with an appalled look on his face, “And what is up with you?!” The dark-haired man questioned his friend when picking up on his nervousness.

    “Nothing! I’m fine,” Luke quickly answered, “It’s just that… Would you mind sleeping with Hobbie?” He sheepishly asked his friend, keeping his voice low.

    What?! Suddenly a knowing look appeared on Wedges face. Of course! Luke had a girl in there with him! Wedge laughed. “You rascal!” He said, just loud enough so Luke could hear him. He was delighted with his friend’s boldness. In his opinion, this was just exactly what Luke needed to get out of his gloomy funk. “No problem! The cabin is all yours!” Quickly, Wedge sorted out a few things out of his side of the room, “I’ll just take this… and this… Ready!” He headed to the door and it slid open. Before crossing the threshold Wedge turned around and making a gesture with a finger across his lips he told Luke, “And my lips are sealed.”

    “Thanks, Wedge,” Luke smiled. He really had good friends.

    Inside the cramped ‘fresher room, Mara could only hear whispers. What was going on?

    "Okay," came Luke's relieved voice from the other side of the door, "you can come out now."

    She emerged and smirked. "What was that?"

    "Wedge came back early but he's going to bunk with another pilot."

    This left them alone once more, free to enjoy their meal without any more interruptions.

    ***

    That night, as they fell asleep, both laying next to each other in the same bunk, Luke held Mara in his arms with protectiveness, almost feeling possessive… He kept her close, his face dug in her hair. In the dark of the small cabin, he could feel her breathing evenly, sleeping peacefully and not recoiling from his embrace.

    Luke felt troubled. As the recently named Commander of Rogue Squadron, he’d lead the air defence against the Empire while the Rebels evacuated any time now. And what of Mara? Would she make it safe out of there? What if she was discovered? He should ask her to stay, to join them, to request asylum… But something deeply told him that this was not a question for him to ask to or for her. She’d have to make her own decision, in her own terms. And what if she decided to stay with the Empire?

    This would only add to all the things the Empire had already taken from him.

    ***

    Mara woke up at the feel of a tender kiss on her temple.

    "It is morning already?" She asked sleepily, with unspoken regret.

    In the dimness of the room, Luke held her close to him, stuck in the moment of the feel of the warmth of her body. Too many emotions welling inside, feeling them almost choke him.

    "I had better leave while the coast is clear,” she said.

    He didn’t want to let her go! If things could only be different… but he was just fooling himself and avoiding the inevitable. “I know,” Luke finally acknowledged, a tinge of unease in his voice.

    They both got ready, jumping back in their snow clothes.

    It was time.

    “I love you, Mara,” Luke said looking into her eyes, “Just know that.”

    Mara said nothing, but stepped forward and held him in a fierce embrace.

    They held each other, feeling built-up apprehension. Would they see each other again?

    Knowing that they should not be seen together, following her far behind, Luke escorted Mara to the west entrance of the Base. This pointed towards the mountains and was the least used, Luke was sure it would avoid any undesired witnesses. Once at the threshold of the large door, he watched her silhouette blend in with the white snow of the landscape, until she disappeared from his sight. The sun was just coming up behind the riff, and the first bright rays of light shone against the white snow. It would be a sunny clear morning, and this would help Mara cover her trail faster. Still connected through their Force bond, he followed her presence into the mountains as he made his way back inside the Base.

    Once Mara reached her hidden survival pack and automated snow-slider, it took her a bit over three hours to reach her ship, a slick Imperial Phantom class starfighter, heavily modified and equipped with the most sophisticated equipment and cloaking devices ever made.

    A soft and warm mental farewell came from Mara.

    Skywalker kept his side of their Force bond open. He was at the briefing room when he felt her presence disappear, knowing she’d made the jump into hyperspace.

    Mara was safe.

    Now Luke had to get ready for a perilous mission of his own, to defend the Base and cover his Rebel comrades as they made their escape from Imperial troops, if these showed up before expected.

    Something told him this was exactly how things were going to play out. As soon as the weather made it possible, the Empire would certainly show at their door.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
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  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Heart’s Destiny
    Chapter 9


    The Emperor’s Hand had been extremely busy after coming back from her secret escapade to the Hoth System.

    Mara’s summons from the Emperor had increased considerably. Not he only charged her with the usual missions of “persuading” and straightening back Imperial Officer’s and Moffs, dispatch anti-government spies and tax evading Landlords; lately she’d been assigned missions in civilian territories, dealing with civilian targets.

    What was she even doing there? Why were Imperial resources wasted on this? This was a job for the local law enforcement organizations, not the Imperial Army!

    On one occasion, almost a mass execution took place right before her eyes. In the nick of time, she had stopped the senior officer of a Stormtrooper platoon from giving the order. The inhabitants of a small town had been rounded up in the main plaza, children and the elderly included. Captain Zabris had gone mad! Why would they go after civilians when it was obvious that they knew nothing about what they were asked about? It was basic interrogation training! And this had not been an isolated incident either. Talking to different Officers, she soon learned of other similar events that had not been stopped.

    As soon as she’d come back from this mission, she’d gone to the Emperor with this, telling him about the extreme measures that some of his Senior Officers in the Military Forces were taking against the civilian population. The Emperor hadn’t seemed affected by the report of her findings, and he hadn’t assigned her with putting those Officers back in line, even though she’d expected it. The Emperor’s apparent lack of interest on this matter had made Mara feel as if she’d been kicked in the gut.

    The things that Mara had discovered while mingling with the general population, what went around in casual conversations, the information she got by simply asking around while posing as one more civilian. It didn’t take long for Mara to put two and two together.

    The Empire had turned against its own people.

    This saddened her deeply, made her feel her life had been invested in the wrong side of things. How would she ever atone for something like that? But she must carry on, she was a trained soldier and had a duty to fulfil.

    Today, Mara Jade found herself aboard the Chimaera, Admiral Thrawn’s Imperial I-class Star Destroyer. She’d just finished one more mission in a never-ending list of assignments, and since the ship was in the system she’d been kindly invited by its Senior Officer to stay with them while her ship was resupplied and readied for her next mission.

    Thrawn never did anything out of altruism, Mara knew.

    That evening, while accepting a dinner invitation in the Senior Officer’s dining hall, Grand Admiral Thrawn accosted Mara and said, "Darth Vader and now you have been acting most inexplicably. Ever since the failed assault on Hoth and its immediate aftermath, as a matter of fact."

    Mara scowled. "As to the Dark Lord's motivations for his darker moods, I am not his therapist or confidante. You'll have to ask him yourself. As for my own, I'm not in the habit of spilling all. If there's an official need to know, fine. But just to satisfy some nagging bit of curiosity ..."

    "I merely hope your efficiency is not going to suffer," Thrawn interjected.

    "It would take a great deal for that to happen!" Mara retorted.

    “After being around them all these years, I’ve come to learn a lot of things about human behaviour,” Thrawn offered in his calm voice, “I have learnt that for humans, love is a great deal. It is most interesting what love makes men and women alike do, they tend to deviate towards very foolish things.”

    For a moment, Mara felt her heart thud in her chest. How could he know she had feelings for someone? That was impossible! She had not told a soul! Mara held the Chiss’s icy gaze, unmoved; only offering back a tight smile. She’d heard of Thrawn’s exceptional ability to read other’s behaviour and come to accurate conclusions; she did her best to offer him with nothing, just as she’d been trained to do.

    “You shouldn’t worry, Admiral, I don’t believe Darth Vader’s actions are spurred by love,” she added sarcastically, aiming the conversation towards the Dark Lord. “It is of general knowledge that Lord Vader is in pursuit of some important Rebel targets as we speak,” Mara said matter-of-factly, “And I’m sure that he’ll know how to deal with that with his usual efficiency.”

    Mitth'raw'nuruodo’s red eyes narrowed. “Of course,” he politely said, “We all know how effective the Lord Darth Vader is with his methods.”

    Dinner continued without any more uncomfortable exchanges.

    When she excused herself, Mara occupied one of the chambers destined to provide accommodation to first rank Imperial Officers, just as it ought to be provided for the Emperor’s Hand, and Thrawn knew better than to forget that. Housed in the safeness of her sleeping quarters, Mara felt glad that she’d be gone in the morning.

    That night, Mara dreamt. She dreamt of Luke. She saw him training in a swamp, beside a tiny green creature. The demands of such training were strenuous. Suddenly she felt him in distress, desperate, in emotional suffering.

    Mara woke and sat up; her brow was wet with perspiration. That’d been an extremely vivid dream! The certainty that it hadn’t been just a dream but a warning rang in her mind. She’d come to accept and trust the strong connection she and Luke shared. This made Mara decide to act immediately. Luke needed help, and she would provide it.

    She’d leave the Chimaera, now!

    ***

    The hyperspace travel counter reached zero, and Mara pulled the lever. That nasty dream with Luke in it was what had brought her here.

    In her dream, he’d been in distress, desperate, in emotional suffering. The certainty that it hadn’t been just a dream but a warning, enhanced by the strong connection they shared, led Mara to act immediately. Luke needed help, and she would provide it.

    Mara was able to justify keeping "tabs" on Vader. The Emperor was more than a little frustrated with the Dark Lord's resounding lack of success. She’d left the Chimaera under the basis of monitoring Vader’s activities.

    In doing so, Mara was able to follow the trail to Dagobah.

    Mara had kept her destination a secret. Before making the final hyper jump in Dagobah’s direction, she’d checked her ship for bugs or trackers thrice!

    Before her, she saw a greyish-green ball of mud of a planet; it was such a small world that she could not find marked in regular Imperial navigational charts. She’d had to use all of her connection to the Force to find Luke’s Force signature in this place, to program the hyperspace jump and hope for the best.

    With great care and expertise, Mara made her landing without any incidents. After doing a quick reconnaissance flight, she’d been able to find a solid enough patch to land her ship safely amongst the swampy terrain of the planet. She’d just followed her Force intuition and hoped she’d landed on the right place.

    Mara climbed down the service ladder of her Phantom class starfighter with determination, ready for anything. When reaching out using the Force, she only felt the residuals of Luke's presence; he’d been there all right, but it was obvious that she had barely missed him. That was a disappointment. Together with Luke’s residual energy, she also sensed a cloaked presence... It wasn't malevolent. She knew very well what malevolence felt like. This was more the sense of someone wanting to stay concealed.

    I know you're out there,’ Mara sent through the Force. ‘You know I'm not your enemy, whoever you are. But I urgently need vital information.’

    Nothing.

    Mara started to think she’d come all that way for nothing.

    “Strong in the Force you are,” a voice behind her stated.

    In one quick move, Mara turned around, her blaster already in her hand. She turned to find herself face to face with a small creature of a species she could not recall. Green skinned, pointy eared, large eyed, small and hunched. It didn’t look threatening, but one could never know.

    “A rare talent, your skill for communication is,” the stranger stated. “This gift, not many before you had it.”

    What was this creature talking about? She possessed a gift for communication? She’d always thought it was the Emperor’s power which allowed her to hear his voice throughout the reaches of the Galaxy… But now that she stopped to think about it, she was able to do the same with Luke… So it was really her who could do that?

    “A deep connection you have… to the one just gone,” the newcomer continued unabashed.

    Mara knew who he was referring to, and also intuitively knew there was no point on denying it. “We’re good friends,” she answered, putting away her weapon.

    “Friends you say?” The other laughed in the crackly voice of his, “Mmh! I think the power of your feelings you underestimate!” He finished pointing at Mara with his cane.

    She didn’t like that this green creature seemed to read right through her.

    “A long way you’ve come,” the creature told her, “Return you must now.”

    Was this green gnome dismissing her? “How should I call you?” She asked trying to keep the conversation going.

    “Yoda, my name is,” he answered.

    “I’m Mara Jade,” she offered in return. She didn't stop to puzzle how she gave her name so easily.

    “A pleasure it is to meet you.” The creature’s eyes twinkled, as if it knew something Mara didn’t.

    This Yoda didn’t carry a lightsaber, still his ragged clothes closely resembled Jedi robes, worn out by the passing of time. If this was a Jedi as she suspected, he must have gone in hiding over forty years ago, during the Jedi Rebellion. To have survived all this time in such a hostile environment was something to praise. But what amazed Mara the most about her new acquaintance was the overwhelming Force power he irradiated; way too different of that of the Emperor. She should better just ask, “Are you a Jedi?”

    Yoda just nodded.

    “I didn’t think there were any of you left,” she carefully added.

    “Survive, some of us did,” Yoda countered.

    “Are you a Jedi Master?” Was Mara’s next obvious question, her demeanour remained all business, military like.

    “That… I am.”

    So Luke had come to train, to learn from this strange alien creature.

    “And the first one of the new Jedi, your friend is,” Yoda revealed.

    The first of the new… Mara thought about that for a moment. Although they had not spoken openly about it, Mara very well knew that Luke trained in the Force… But if Luke became a full-fledged Jedi, would this turn them into natural enemies? Would that make their life together even more difficult? “Well, he’s gone… So there’s not much point in me staying any longer.”

    “Strong in the Force you too are,” Yoda stressed.

    “Don’t try to recruit me, I’ve already had enough of that,” Mara dismissed.

    “Careful you must be,” Yoda warned, “Of meddling not with events that are not yours to change.”

    What was this Yoda saying? Was he implying that she should leave Luke to face whatever lay ahead on his own?

    Yoda nodded to her when sensing her conclusions.

    There was no way she was going to leave Luke alone!

    “A choice you will make… and in doing so, destiny served will be,” Yoda told Mara.

    Mara looked back at Yoda, an inquisitive look on her face. What was this presumed Jedi saying? One single choice of hers could or would change fate? “What are you talking about?”

    “In time, you will know,” he cryptically answered.

    “Can you see the future?”

    “The future, the past, the present… Relative they all are,” Yoda cryptically rumbled, “Always only now there is.”

    This Yoda had a point. The only time one could make any choices was in the present, and these always shaped ones future, for better or worse. “Well, on that we both agree.”

    “Mmh…” Yoda nodded. “There’s a strong light inside you, that you must know.”

    Mara stared back at Yoda with suspicion. He seemed to very well understand the inner struggle she was currently fighting with. All the things she’d come to learn about the Emperor, about the truths of his Empire… And she’d been a fool. Too invested, too immersed in the Emperor’s game to look up and around, and notice. Where did that leave her? What did that make her? “You’re just as optimistic as he is,” she snorted as she recalled Luke’s unabashed positivity.

    “What it is in plain sight, I only state,” Yoda answered back, kindness in his words.

    "I don't believe in coincidences... so it cannot be one that we've crossed paths." Mara said. "Maybe we will again?"

    “Again, we shall never meet…” Yoda declared, “The Force, may be with you, Mara Jade.”

    This said, the small Jedi Master turned around and walked away with short, uneven steps, assisting himself with his cane, leaving Mara standing alone in the middle of the swamp.

    "Cryptic, yet somehow profound," Mara observed.

    Back in her craft, Mara puzzled over the details of her dream and pulled out all the data about cities around clouds. Soon, the information popped up on her screen: Bespin. That was where Luke had gone to.

    Huge urgency took hold of her, Luke needed help and she should rush to his encounter… Then Yoda’s words came floating back into her mind. He’d warned her about not interfering, to let things be. She felt wary of the creatures words, but perhaps she should trust them.

    The Emperor’s Hand also recalled her latest conversations with Grand Admiral Thrawn. The Chiss Admiral was suspicious already. So perhaps she shouldn’t risk it!

    With a deep pang in her heart, she decided to leave Bespin alone. She’d trust the Force and most of all, she’d trust Luke.

    In that moment, she decided she’d also keep her encounter on Dagobah a secret from everyone; something told her that a great deal depended on that. Bracing herself, she started the engines of her craft and levelled it towards the skies.

    It was time to go back to her Imperial duties.

    ***

    Months had passed.

    Mara had continued carrying out missions directly assigned to her by the Emperor. She was back tracking traitors and rogues within Imperial ranks. It appeared that after her report of abuse of power by several Imperial Officers, she’d been pulled out from every mission that involved civilians. Mara was no fool, and had come to the conclusion that the Emperor needed her alive, and would not risk having to order her execution for not abiding orders if she refused to strike down a civilian target. The Emperor was no fool either.

    Nevertheless, Mara had kept her own account of events outside “Imperial-land”. Using her prolific net of contacts, she’d come to learn that more and more systems were ready to leave Imperial rule. In was obvious that Luke and his Rebel Alliance’s actions were weakening the powerful Empire. Many times the idea of defecting and joining the Rebels had come to her mind, but then she had second thoughts, telling herself that she could help more from the inside. Mara consoled herself thinking that at least by keeping herself working within Imperial matters, she was able to stop crooked Imperials from doing any more harm.

    Mara had also noticed that since that abuse of power incident, she’d been kept out of the loop by the Emperor on purpose. She could tell Palpatine and Vader were preparing for something, but what? She’d searched within Imperial intel on any new projects to find that she’d been denied access; and this only meant one thing: this new project of theirs consisted on something the Emperor very well knew she would oppose.

    Around the Emperor, Mara had kept acting as the ever-faithful Emperor’s Hand. Carrying out his orders without objection. Yet, she avoided Grand Admiral Thrawn as much as possible. It was easier for her to pretend around the two dark Sith by shutting down her Force sense, but it was an all too different matter when being around the Mitth'raw'nuruodo. No Force power could shield her from his inquisitive gaze and sharp intellect. Although she’d managed to keep her cover so far, she very well knew that Thrawn’s suspicions of her grew with each encounter.

    News about an imminent Rebel incursion in the Kuat Imperial shipyards reached the Emperor and everyone within the Imperial Forces were on edge.

    When the Emperor summoned her for a private audience, Mara little guessed what the mission would be. It took all her control not to react when he said coolly, with no room for question or protest:

    “You will kill Luke Skywalker!”

    Mara kept her shields in place. She knew the Emperor could tell she was doing it but not why. She merely gave a subservient nod and departed.

    She had to find Luke and warn him.

    In her quarters, she did a data search in the open to track the whereabouts of the Rebels and Luke in particular. Not much came back. She’d had to try harder and design a detailed plan. Mara then tried using her Force sense… Reaching out to Luke, she found his location, her green eyes glowed. She would go to wherever Luke was but as to carrying out the Emperor's mandate, for the first time in her career, she was determined not to succeed in the specifics.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
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  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Heart’s Destiny
    Chapter 10


    The double sunset of Tatooine made its waning dance, undisturbed as it had done over millennia. A lone figure stood still before two sets of unmarked, makeshift gravestones. One placed next to the other, their bases buried in desert sand.

    Luke Skywalker stood before the graves of his aunt and uncle.

    Following the whispers in the Force, he’d come back to Tatooine, to old Ben’s abandoned desert hut, searching for something not really clear to him. In there, he’d found some books containing information on the Jedi, and to his surprise, detailed diagrams on lightsaber construction.

    The Force had definitely led him back there.

    The Jedi in training had followed those diagrams to the dot and had successfully built a brand new lightsaber, attuned to his own energy after hours and hours of meditating over the synthetically manufactured green crystal, one that had produced a pristine white-emerald coloured blade.

    Today, he’d taken time to go back to the Lars farm, his former home. The place where he’d grown up. He visited the graveyards of his aunt and uncle, the resting place where he’d put their charring bodies to rest almost four years back. He vividly remembered that moment… His silent crying, his utter rage, while he dragged the remains of his aunt and uncle over the sandy ground; his eyes clouded by smoke, grief and tears. Luke could still smell charred skin and he was not sure he’d ever forget that scent. He was here to pay his respects to the people who had cared for him.

    Moments before, Luke had ventured inside the ruins of his former home, following the echoes of embedded energy of his life there. He’d touched the walls of crumbling clay, walked through deserted narrow corridors and small vaulted rooms, stepped on worn down steps… It had been comforting somehow. He’d been loved in this place.

    After his fateful encounter with Darth Vader at Bespin several months back, his life felt in turmoil.

    On that tragic day he’d lost his dear friend Han, his hand, his lightsaber, his dreams about his father, his identity, his peace. He wondered if he’d ever recover.

    Now he understood his aunt and uncle’s reluctance to talk to him about his father. They knew who Anakin Skywalker had become.

    Beru, Owen, Ben, Yoda… They all had been lying to him his whole life. Perhaps trying to protect him from the abominable truth. But how had that helped? There was no way to soften a blow like the one he’d been given by his father himself.

    Luke still held to the hope the dark Sith had lied, but the more he searched into his feelings the more the cruel confirmation came ringing back: Darth Vader was indeed his father.

    After being rescued by Leia, Chewie and Lando in Bespin, he’d spent most of his time on rehab, adapting to his new cybernetic right limb, and had dedicated all of his free time to training himself in the arts of the Jedi. Following everything Yoda had taught him back in Dagobah, Luke was determined to be ready for an imminent encounter he dreaded. Facing Darth Vader again was inevitable, just like the sunrise and sunsets of Tatooine’s suns were. He knew it in his soul it would come to that, sooner or later.

    Knowing this fate had marked him forever.

    Of late, he spoke less and listened more. He mostly kept to himself, busy with his self-training. Without even noticing it, his choice of clothes had changed too, perhaps mirroring his internal state, mourning the loss of his old self. Dressed in all-black garments he’d attended Alliance briefings and walked Rebel dreadnought’s corridors, people recoiling from his presence.

    He’d been thinking about Mara too. Everything between them had been silent, laying dormant. He had not seen her since Hoth, and he wondered… It’d been almost a year. The way things were, he’d not even made the effort to actively arrange a meeting, it would be just too risky. And if they met… What would he tell her? Their relationship was complicated as it was. What would happen if she knew he was Vader’s son? Mara was an Imperial. She would accept him, wouldn’t she? But then, what did this make of them both?

    At times, Luke could feel the echoes of Mara’s mind across the Galaxy, but he’d kept his side of their bond closed and would open it now and then just enough for her to know he was still alive. He would feel the warmth of her thoughts floating back into his mind, but was careful of not letting anything of his current emotional state seep back, he didn’t want to burden her. He even wondered if he’d ever dare to fully open his side of their bond to her again. And if when he ever did, it wouldn’t be too late. He wanted so desperately to see her, but dreaded it at the same time. Would she even like what he’d become? And this was something he knew he’d have to face too. Telling Mara the truth, and telling everyone else in his life the truth about his origins, was something that needed to be done.

    Luke shook his head, that could wait; for now all his efforts must concentrate on getting Han back. Leia was suffering, he knew; and he didn’t like that. Lando had come back with reliable intel pinpointing Han’s location at Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, here on Tatooine. He’d only had to wait for Leia and Lando’s arrival and they would put their rescue plan into motion. Safely retrieving his friend and making Leia happy was all that mattered now.

    And after that, he’d go and find Mara.


    ***


    Luke was nowhere to be found. Mara had only felt brief brushes of his Force sense too sporadically, as if he only wanted to let her know that he was all right, but not staying open enough to give her a chance to follow his trail. When she’d come to learn of the events at Bespin, it was obvious that Luke would try to get his friend, Solo, back. Since she could not track Luke, then all she had to do was to track the whereabouts of the mercenary Boba Fett. The Mandalorian scum had delivered the carbonite frozen body of Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, the main underground landlord of Tatooine and the surrounding systems.

    After carrying out intense intel searches, bribing contacts and paying attention to what was going around concerning the Rebels, Mara had finally pinpointed the time frame of Luke’s next move.

    Planning way ahead of Luke’s arrival, Mara had infiltrated Jabba’s Palace by taking a position as one of his dancers. Being there earlier would give her the advantage of getting to know the facilities and her surroundings, also the opportunity to make acquaintances with key staff and learn that place’s daily routine and how it was run. The thing with sentient beings was that they always established routines, even without noticing it; and Mara knew very well how to use these patterns of behaviour to her advantage.

    Mara was a professional. Just like with everything else she did, her dancing skills were top of the line and this had won her Jabba’s favour. The Hutt kept asking her back in his Throne Room to perform regular routines, so her days had passed posing as one of the stellar dancers. Being stellar also meant that she was left alone and was granted a few privileges, like sleeping quarters of her own. Too scared of enticing Jabba’s wrath, nobody would ever think of messing with her. This had worked perfectly for Mara’s true intentions, leaving her enough time alone to study the premises, make preparations and trace her escape route to be used when the time came.

    As far as the Emperor was concerned, the reasons for her being there were to execute his last order: to kill Luke Skywalker. What Palpatine didn’t know was that Mara’s plan was a very different thing all together.

    Just as Master Yoda had warned her, she’d remain nonintrusive. She’d monitor Luke’s actions and would have minimum intervention; she would only act if the young Jedi’s plans failed. For that she already had everything in place, and if it came down to that, no one in the Palace would ever know what hit them.

    While following her everyday schedule as a favoured dancer, she interacted with the dwellers of the palace, gathering information with exquisitely trained subtlety. She familiarized with everyone’s faces and duties, so it was not hard for her to spot the arrival of the newcomer.

    “And who’s that, Tabeka?” She asked the Cerean bartender while nodding towards a man wearing an animal hide armour and a mask of gondar tusks that partially hid his face.

    “That’s Tamtel Skreej,” Tabeka provided. “ He’s come to work as one of Jabba’s bodyguards. He survived the trials and all!”

    Mara was impressed; she’d heard of those trials. And felt even more impressed because she exactly knew who was underneath that mask: Lando Calrissian; doing infiltration work as she was.

    The Emperor’s Hand smiled; if Calrissian succeeded at remaining undetected, he’d be the wild card in the game, the one who would be in a position to change the odds in the blink of an eye. His presence only meant that it wouldn’t be long for things to start moving. The rescue of Han Solo was a foot.

    Days later, one event sprang things into motion. Through the gossip going around in the palace, Mara got to know about the Wookie Chewbacca who’d been brought in by a mercenary named Boushh. This all had ended up in giving Jabba an addition to his slave harem. The redhead knew who this new slave girl was, Leia Organa, former Princess of Alderaan, and one of Luke’s closest friends. Their attempt of rescue had failed; Solo had been thrown in the dungeons with the Wookie, and the Princess was now forced to lay in chains on Jabba’s throne. But Luke had not made his appearance, and Mara instantly deducted that his intervention was key to the hole plan.

    It wouldn’t be long until the Jedi knocked at Jabba’s door; in the meantime, she better keep an eye on Leia.


    oOo



    Since the day she’d been made a slave, Leia spent her days sitting on Jabbas throne chained by the neck to it, or isolated in a small stinky room.

    The Princess had endured awful things before, the highlight had been being interrogated by Darth Vader himself, but being forced to wear a skimpy slave girl outfit was really humiliating, not to mention the wreckage the cold and the dampness of the Hutt’s palace were doing to her body; humans were definitely not fit for this kind of environment. But Leia was determined to endure this too, and get Han back no matter the cost, and then she would make Jabba the Hutt pay.

    Without warning, the door of her cell opened and a pair Weequay guards entered her tiny room and bound her wrists, then urged her to go outside. Walking one in front and one behind her, the guards led Leia down a set of darkened corridors she didn’t recognize, this was not the way to Jabba’s Throne room, she was sure of it. This made the Princess feel restless… Something felt really wrong.

    “Where are you taking me?” She asked, her regal composure making her words sounding more like a command.

    The Weaquay didn’t answer, whether they didn’t understand Basic or they simply didn’t care. Moments later, the guards stopped before a rusty door and knocked.

    The door slid open to reveal a large disarranged room that served as some sort of barracks, sleeping quarters for palace personnel. The stench in the room made the Princess wrinkle her nose. The guards led Leia to the far end of the room, where another door awaited. The second door slid open and Leia entered.

    The smaller room was occupied by at least six goons of different species, a couple of filthy humans were distinguishable amongst them. Leia noted that those were the same group of thugs that had been eyeing her since she’d been taken prisoner. The goons had been eyeing Leia for days now, and every time this happened, it had made her feel awfully uncomfortable. It looked like they had finally decided to act on their lust.

    “Our date has arrived!” One mockingly announced.

    “Come here slave girl, you are going to show us a good time,” a second goon told her with a lecherous look on his face. “I think we can take this off you,” he gestured as he removed Leia’s bindings.

    Without any weapons, Leia was completely vulnerable, she knew. Quickly she looked for options… It was an enclosed space, so there were no routes for escape; handling eight armed enemies, larger and meaner than she was, was an impossible task without a weapon. There might be no way out of this, but she would not go down without a fight.

    Brashly, one of the goons approached Leia and tried to grab her by the arm. Leia stepped back and instinctively hit him hard on the face with her right fist. The hit was unexpected, and the goon’s face turned to the left with the impact, making him yelp in pain. The rest around him laughed.

    Leia felt she had communicated a clear message, but she knew they would be even more determined.

    On their second try, two of the thugs grabbed Leia’s arms. She could not break free from their hold, but this time, with great agility she levelled herself on their hold and kicked the approaching goon in the groin, making him fall squirming in pain. The rest didn’t laugh this time, instead they bellowed in anger, it was obvious their prey was just too feisty.

    In the meantime, having heard rumours of what was being surreptitiously planned from whispers among the staff, Mara stealthily approached. She watched approvingly as Leia proved she wasn't easy pickings.

    The leader of the group approached the Princess and hit her hard on the face, the blow making her fall. Before she could stand up, a second blow to the other side of her face made her fall on her back, she tried to get up to not succeed. Disoriented, Leia couldn’t get her bearings… Then, she felt the barrel of a blaster pressed against her temple… This was it then. Maybe it all had been planned to dispatch her without that many witnesses.

    The sound of someone barging in the room made everyone look up and for a moment keep their attention away from the Princess.

    This was the chance Leia needed. Sliding underneath and in between the legs of the thug that had been pointing at her with the blaster, Leia grabbed a nearby long rod. Once on her feet, Leia turned around and hit the goon on the head, knocking him out. ‘This is more like it!’ Seven more to go.

    Leia braced herself to continue fighting. Everything happened in a blur. A few un-aimed blaster shots sprawled on the walls, but the new arrival seemed to be taking care of everything and didn’t look like she needed any help. It was a woman dressed in an electric blue dancer’s outfit, her long silky red hair twirling with her speedy fighting sequences.

    Leia took note of the redhead’s precise, expert moves, using her smaller size as an advantage. Leia heard bones cracking and goons falling silent to the floor with a thud. One by one, each goon got took out. Just after a few moments, all that was left was silence and limp bodies on the floor.

    The Princess stood with the rod in her hands as defence, she wasn’t yet sure of the newcomer’s intentions.

    “Are you all right?” Mara asked, still panting. It looked like the Princess only had a small cut on her head.

    "Yes, thanks to you making short work of them," Leia answered.

    "Glad I got here before those Gundarks got busy."

    “That makes two of us,” Leia said, the adrenaline in her body making her shake a little. Everything had been so quick and violent.

    “I figured we girls have to stick together,” Mara delivered, her words infused with more meaning beyond what Leia could understand.

    “Can I have your name?” Leia asked.

    “Arica,” Mara just said, her senses still in full alert.

    “You’ll have to show me some of those moves sometime,” Leia tried to make conversation, this woman really intrigued her.

    Mara didn’t say anything and just eyed the Princess. Being a Rebel, Leia Organa was her natural enemy, but she was Luke’s dear friend; and beyond whatever this meant in the political and personal arena, she would never, ever, let a woman succumb to any male violence, not if she had a saying on it.

    Mara took note of Leia’s extremely skimpy outfit, a lot skimpier than hers. Jabba was definitely pushing the greatest humiliations he could think of upon the Alderaanian Princess. Maybe he had even orchestrated for this incident to happen.

    "Just watch and learn," Mara finally said. She had a feeling Leia would do just that if the situation arose again. Hopefully, it wouldn't before they were all long gone.

    Leia smiled, even more intrigued by this cryptic, lovely lady. She had moved with the elegant grace of a dancer and the agility of a warrior.

    The door in the room opened, and Bib Fortuna – Jabba’s marjordomo, appeared. The tall Twi’lek looked around with surprise. “What happened here?” He spat in Ryl, his mother tongue, while a look of disgust and clear disappointment plagued his alien face.

    “They’re just taking a nap,” Mara explained in sheer sarcasm. They were taking a nap, all right, a permanent one; those goons were dead, she’d made sure of that.

    Bib Fortuna gave the dance girl a suspicious look but said nothing. The two girls weren’t armed, and those goons very much could have killed each other in a brawl over anything. With just a nod he signalled to Leia to follow him. Without a word, the Princess followed the majordomo, her stance tall and proud.

    Before exiting, she turned to Mara, “See you around, Arica."

    Mara simply nodded.

    Two Gamorrean guards were already at the main door to escort Fortuna and the slave girl. Mara stayed behind, watching as Leia was taken to Jabba’s Throne Room and wondering how long it would take for Luke to arrive.


    ***

    Standing by the sail barge’s open deck, Mara held the rail tight with one hand. At the sight of him, she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Being extremely careful, she shielded her presence from him. Dressed in all black, he walked the plank with steady steps and stopped at the edge… and then he made a salute gesture with one hand.

    Then, the flight of a lightsaber desperately looking for his master’s hand.

    When realizing what was happening, Mara remembered Yoda’s words: “A choice you will make… and in doing so, destiny served will be.” If she wanted to complete the mission the Emperor had placed upon her, all she had to do was to use the Force to call in the flying weapon and grab it… It would be so easy! With this dooming Luke and his friends forever. Perhaps she could then go back and report a successful mission to her Master, and go back to her old life, leaving behind this ridiculous love story she’d been leaving for almost two years. She could just go back to being numb and to not caring for anyone anymore, reclaim a simpler life. But the feelings that dwelled within her being were larger than any practical thinking. Her heart was certain, she would never do anything to hurt Luke Skywalker. She loved him! Yes! As surprising this realization was for her, she finally openly admitted it: she was completely and absolutely in love with that man.

    Amongst the chaos that had been unleashed once the weapon reached the young Jedi’s hand, Mara watched him cut through dozens of enemies. He moved fast! Old Yoda had done a very good job with his student. Then, as if in a momentary daze, he stopped and turned to look to where she was standing… In the distance, his shock of surprise was very evident.

    ‘Mara?’ He sent out through their Force bond.

    ‘I’m here…’ She briefly answered back, ‘And I love you!’

    Their exchange was brief, seconds really, but full of meaning. Soon the attack of another wave of guards took all of his attention.

    There was nothing left for her to do there. Mara turned around. “Careful you must be, of meddling not with events that are not yours to change.” Yoda’s warning words rang in her mind as she followed her well-planned escape route.

    Now she had to go back to her Master and report her failure.

    To be continued…

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  24. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Nice update. Fits nicely into canon. I look forward to reading more.
     
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Heart’s Destiny
    Chapter 11


    After braving the sandstorm on foot for a quarter of the distance, Luke and the rescue party made it safely to their hidden ships. Han was back with them, blinded by the carbon freeze, but unharmed; he’d recover his eyesight in time. Great relief washed over Luke at the thought that their plan had worked. At least something had gone right for a change. To have his friend back, and seeing Leia and Han reunited, gave him much needed happiness.

    The storm continued to rage outside as Luke took shelter in a cave. The rest of the party had sheltered inside the Millennium Falcon, but Luke had stayed outside, waiting for the storm to wind down so he and Artoo could hop on his X-Wing.

    There was no way any ship could take off in that sandstorm, and although it was keeping them stranded, it also provided enough cover from anyone who could have venture to follow them. Luke doubted this, after mayhem had broken out, and with Jabba the Hutt out of the way, he was sure all of his minions would be busy quarrelling amongst themselves, trying to seize power over the others, and wouldn’t bother to follow them. Still, he kept his newly trained Jedi sense on alert.

    While the novice Jedi waited with patience, memories of the recent escape floated in his mind.

    Luke reminisced that, for a moment, while standing on the plank of the sail barge, he’d felt that all things could be lost. Seconds later he’d jumped towards the abyss that separated him from the Sarlacc’s jaws with blind faith, trusting completely in the Force and in the new skills he’d harboured while following its guidance. Everything had developed like clockwork after that… The feel of his brand new lightsaber in his hand had detonated everything. Soon the emerald blade had ploughed through enemy lines.

    Mara had been there! And she’d said she loved him!

    “Artoo, you better power down. There’s no need for you to keep watch,” Luke told the droid, his voice echoing oddly around the cave. The droid’s sensors would not help picking up much amongst the rumbling sand and it was best for it to save power.

    The droid let out a raspberry of displeasure.

    “I’ll keep watch for the both of us,” his human gently insisted.

    Not completely convinced, the droid did as he’d been told. Artoo stood quiet by Luke's side, powered down to standby mode.

    Luke drew his attention back to their surroundings. Then a blurred feel of a presence… Her presence? Was Mara there? Had she braved the storm on foot just like they just had? Or his need of seeing her was playing tricks with his mind? Feeling his body tense, he stood up and remained still.

    Through the narrow entrance of the small cave, a cloaked figure appeared.

    Luke’s hand was immediately on his bladed weapon. The figure of the recently arrived stranger stood still for a few moments. Then the familiar, distinct energy signature of its owner floated towards him without restriction. “Mara?!” He uttered with disbelief.

    When hearing her name, the visitor approached him without hesitation. He walked fast steadily towards her. Both met midway in a tight embrace.

    Luke looked at Mara, amazed at finding her there. She’d come looking for him after leaving Jabba’s doomed sail barge, and he was so glad. His fingers delicately trailed along her beautiful features; still afraid she could be just a vision.

    “I’m for real, Farmboy,” she greeted.

    He kissed her with passionate desperation as an answer.

    Their lips parted.

    “It’s been ages since I last saw you…” he said, catching his breath as he closed his eyes, placing his forehead on hers “… until Jabba’s sail barge.”

    Mara smiled softly. "I like to keep an eye on you, Farmboy," she teased, “So you don’t get into much trouble.”

    Luke opened his eyes and looked into hers, “Why are you here?” He could sense a specific reason.

    Mara knew she had to tell him the truth, she wanted to. “I came here to kill you,” was her blatant answer.

    Despite the weight of her words, to Luke these didn’t feel like a threat. He already knew her too well, and although she hadn’t been open about it, he also knew how deep her feelings for him ran. He could see it right now in her eyes. “I guess that mission was unsuccessful,” he gave her a tiny smile.

    “Very,” Mara confirmed.

    Both chuckled. The situation they found themselves in was insane!

    “I guess your superior officer is going to be quite upset when he finds out,” Luke added, trying to ease some of the tension in the seriousness of the situation. He perfectly knew who Mara’s superior was: the Emperor himself; but he could not bring himself to mention it. Mara’s fate under the cruelty of that man was an unbearable thought.

    “You don’t think I can handle it?” Mara countered, a challenge in her teasing.

    “Oh! I’d never doubt that,” Luke earnestly answered, “but I’m worried, deeply worried… about you.”

    "I'll deal with it, never fear."

    Luke nodded, and silence took him over. Something that happened to him a lot lately.

    In the dim, velvety light in the cave, Mara looked at the silent man standing in front of her with great care. Something had changed, she realized. Luke’s Force sense felt stronger, it was obvious that he’d exponentially grown in the Force. His training with that gnomish Jedi Master obviously had provided that, but there was more there. Somehow, he looked older. Only months had passed since they last had seen each other, and although he still looked young and handsome as ever in that dark outfit, funny enough he also looked as if a number of years had passed all at once over him. It was a strange dichotomy. The young farm boy looked more mature now.

    Luke’s posture had changed too. His somehow juvenile stance had completely disappeared; he now stood tall, strong, surely a result of all that training, but he also looked like if he were carrying the weight of the Galaxy on his shoulders. He had a deeply sad look in his eyes too, there was a shadow in them.

    Mara could feel him radiating his love for her unabashedly, but there were other feelings in the mix, feelings he was desperately trying to hide from her. When probing his presence in the Force, his Force signature felt… scarred. All too different from the shining ray of sunlight his presence had always been. His smile was still warm, sincere, kind… His demeanour gentle… but underneath it all Mara could sense acute sombreness. The spark of gleefulness had died.

    “What happened to you?” Mara asked in a whisper, her brow furrowed in worry. Showing calm, but almost screaming in pain inside.

    Luke kept quiet; he could not bring himself to speak the truth. To tell her his secret. For a moment he looked away, his lips pressed in a thin line.

    “You can tell me!” She encouraged, pulling Luke down by the hand, inviting him to sit next to her.

    Luke gave a deep sigh, looking for courage. “I… found out about something I was not expecting…” he started, “…or could have ever been prepared for.”

    Something unexpected? In war times unexpected things happened all the time! How bad could this be? Mara was really, utterly worried now.

    Mara’s intense stare urged Luke to continue.

    There was no way to soften things or tell them in an agreeable manner… He might as well just say it. Luke braced himself, “Darth Vader… Is my father!”

    It took Mara a few seconds to process his words. ‘What? Darth Vader had a son? And it was Luke?’ But she’d never heard of anything! The Emperor would have told her… Did the Emperor even know about it?

    “He told me…” Luke answered her unspoken question, “…Vader.”

    “He must be lying!” Mara spat in outrage.

    “I don’t think he is,” Luke said with calm resignation. He’d told himself the same words so many times already, to always get a strong confirmation that it was all true.

    "You'd better tell me the rest," Mara urged at last.

    Luke told her what had happened. How he’d faced the Sith Lord in a lightsaber duel. How he’d lost is hand… How he’d chosen death over being captured by darkness.

    As he told his tale, Mara could feel Luke’s struggle, and how he kept back tears of sorrow at bay, surely to show some dignity and, knowing him, to not worry her too much. And she deeply knew it all came down to this: he was devastated.

    “He asked me to join him,” Luke confessed, “So we could rule together,” he then snorted at such nonsense.

    Mara’s ingrained reaction was to flare with indignation, Vader was infringing into traitorous ground! Mara then soon realized that the Emperor wasn’t any better, and that she too was already involved in treason. Mara felt herself soften; her heart hurt for Luke. No doubt such revelation must have been painful to him. A few months back she could have even thought that this revelation could work on their favour, that Luke could have come home with her… But now, after everything she’d discovered about the falseness of the Emperor and his Empire, she could only feel sorry for Luke and perhaps even sorry for herself too. There was one thing she was sure of: whatever had happened with Vader, that one event had forged Luke into the man she was looking at now.

    "That's quite the world-shattering discovery," Mara admitted, "What're you going to do with it?"

    “I don’t know what to do…” Luke admitted, “I can’t follow him!” That was a preposterous notion!

    "You're still you despite it all," Mara observed, putting her conclusion about how Luke was still fundamentally himself into words. She hoped they would be encouraging.

    “I don’t even know if I can trust myself anymore,” he desperately added, his blue eyes full of doubt. The same darkness that resided in his father must reside inside him too.

    His words infused Mara with raw anger. “Listen to me Skywalker!” She warned. “I’ve been around Vader my whole life! And I can tell you this: you are nothing like him!” She said with firmness.

    Luke looked back at her with an odd look on his face. She was defending him! And could tell she was being absolutely honest about it. Mara still believed in him! He granted her a tiny smile; her words meant the Universe to him. “What now?” For the first time since they had started their relationship Luke didn’t know where things should head to.

    Mara knew what he was referring to and reached out to grasp his hand in silent promise.

    Taking her hand, Luke accepted her proposition. They would stick together, no matter what, wherever it may take them. For some moments they both sat in silence, processing their exchange and comforting in each other’s presence.

    "Why did you help me?" He suddenly asked, “Back there at the warehouse… When that deal went all rotten on me.” Luke had always wondered why Mara had followed him that night, when they had met, but hadn’t asked yet. He’d been so full of adrenaline after their narrow escape and the thrill of getting to know Mara better after that, that the questions about her intervention had got drowned in all the excitement.

    Mara shrugged, "It was like a Force nudge. I just went with it." That was all she could say, but when giving a second though to that impulse she was now starting to understand.

    “The Force?” Luke smiled. “Do you think it’s what brought us together? Regardless of our situation?”

    "Maybe Ashla has a romantic sense of humor," Mara quipped, using the Lasat name for the Force.

    In silence, she looked at him… her palm on her face, her thumb grazing his lips. She’d given up so much for this man, she was risking everything! But she didn’t regret it. Mara kissed Luke, giving herself completely in that kiss. That storm outside would rage on for a few more hours, giving her just more than enough time to show him how much she’d missed him, how much she cared about him, how much he loved him.

    In the dimmed light in the cave, love took over them both.

    ***

    As they lay holding each other, treasuring the moments of quiet peace, the sandstorm outside slowly wound down. The time to leave had come.

    “I have to visit someone,” Luke cryptically explained, “ I have a promise to keep…” he abruptly stopped.

    Mara didn’t ask more; she had a feeling that Luke would return to his atypical Master. She’d agreed to say nothing of her visit to Yoda, and she was one to keep her promises. Maybe someday down the line she’d be able to tell Luke all about it.

    “Where and when shall we meet again?” Luke urged before she could say anything. He knew he could not press Mara to stay with him, to leave the Empire behind, so he’d have whatever she wanted to give him.

    "I don't know," Mara said, "But we will."

    In the meantime, she’d go back to the Emperor. She could already hear his calling in the reverberations of the Force.

    Secretly, she planned to do some confirmation of her own, she still hadn’t bought all this “Daddy Vader” thing. So she would investigate whether Vader was telling the truth and the Emperor’s motives behind it. There was no way the Emperor didn’t know Vader had a son. This was one more piece of knowledge he’d kept hidden from her. Things continued to make more and more sense as she unveiled more lies. What was behind that order to kill Luke held now more layers of motive on the part of the Emperor. So she’d go back. She ought to find a way to help Luke.

    “I don’t like the idea of leaving you alone with them,” Luke stressed when thinking about Vader and the Emperor. He knew Mara was more than capable of dealing with them, but still he didn’t like it.

    "I know how to keep my true intentions veiled," Mara assured. "They won't discover anything I don't want them to."

    This time Luke didn’t hold back, “Don’t leave… Stay with me!” He felt sick with worry. “The Alliance will provide asylum; I’ll make sure of that!”

    Mara sighed. "It's not time, yet. Don't worry...When it's the right time for that, I'll know and there won't be any doubt."

    So Mara would leave once again and he’d just have to hope and wait for her return.

    "Whenever I see you again, I have a feeling everything will be different for both of us." Mara continued.

    Luke listened in silence. She was right, things were going to change. The next move of the Alliance was close, he could sense it in the flow of things… The final showdown was near.

    For now all was left for him to do was to trust Mara.

    ***

    Back in Imperial City, Mara had had to give the Emperor the bad news: Skywalker and his friends had managed to escape. Palpatine had not been happy, and she’d gotten a warning. And a warning from the Emperor was something that should never be taken lightly.

    Mara could get away with just a warning just because of how good she was at what she did, and Palpatine valued that about her. She was after all, the perfect tool. She was sure the Emperor had believed her, but she wondered for how much longer she’d be able to hide her true feelings in all this matter from the Sith Lord.

    To make things worse, she’d heard that Admiral Thrawn was on planet, and she very well knew that a visit to the Imperial Palace and a briefing with the Emperor was going to happen.

    That night, Mara had the reunion she had much dreaded.

    "I must admit to no little surprise that the vaunted Emperor's Hand let her prey slip away, unharmed?" Thrawn mused, with an air of keen amazement. "Either your reputation is much exaggerated, which I doubt, or you let them get away, intentionally."

    There was a heavy pause. Mara dared not answer or give anything away even with a twitch of an eyebrow.

    "Now, whatever reason for that could there be in all the worlds?" Thrawn asked rhetorically.

    Mara finally stirred. "You are jumping at shadows, Admiral." She was pleased to find her voice was steady, the tone coolly dismissive.

    “Tread carefully, Mara Jade,” Thrawn warned, “One wouldn’t want to mistakenly think that the Emperor’s Hand is involved in treason.” The Chiss’s glowing red eyes gave her a knowing look.

    Thrawn knew! There was no doubt.

    The following day, Mara had her new assignment.

    Mara had been assigned to track the Rebels in the Endor system. She’d follow orders just as she’d always had. She’d follow the Rebels to the end of the Galaxy if necessary, just as she’d been asked.

    And this time, she was not coming back to the Empire.

    To be continued…

    +++
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2020
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