This story is for the MOD Time Trial Challenge. I am given five prompts and I have 48 hours to write a story that includes the following: Spoiler 1. Your TV Tropes is: Non-Malicious Monster 2. Your weather forecast is: A light sprinkle 3. Your random word is: Garniture - def: embellishment, trimming; or a set of decorative objects 4. Your recycled challenge quote is: “One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.” (Mulan) from the Disney Animated Movie Quote Challenge 5. Photo prompt: Title: Giant Opportunity “Thanks for coming to Coruscant to help with the search, Mara.” Luke Skywalker smiled, thankful and secretly thrilled that the former Emperor’s Hand had agreed to meet with him. He didn’t know why Mara Jade had made herself scarce since his return from the Eye of Palpatine, but until today he suspected she had been actively avoiding him. He hoped her change of heart wasn’t done out of pity. After his girlfriend Callista left him the media hounded his every move and portrayed him as a lovesick Jedi who was heartbroken and floundering in the depths of depression. Did morbid curiosity or sympathy pay a part in her return? He wasn’t sure and he wasn’t going to ask. He was just happy to see her. “I still don’t know how I can help. You’re a Jedi Master. Shouldn’t you be able to find a missing teenager on your own?” She looked up and frowned at the sky as a light sprinkle started to fall. “I thought on Coruscant the WeatherNet never lets it rain until after sundown?” Luke grinned as he pulled the hood of his Jedi cloak over his head to shield him from the weather. “And by eight in the morning the fog must disappear. That’s what is supposed to happen, but it doesn’t always work that way.” He handed Mara a datapad. “I need your expertise when it comes to the lower levels of Coruscant.” He sidled up next to her so he could view the screen images with her. He pointed to a photo of a vehicle key with a chain attaching it to a small stuffed monkey-lizard doll. “Senator Kokkle’s teenage daughter, Mokea, snuck out of her house two nights ago, took her older sister’s swoopbike, and disappeared. Down on level 1313 searchers found the swoop crashed into a wall. One level down they found the keychain, but no Mokea.” Mara groaned knowing that was no place for a teenager and the chances of finding her alive where probably zero to none. “Still don’t know why I’m here,” Mara said a bit impatiently. Luke reached over and advanced through a few photos before stopping at an image of a very old and ornate blast door. Its metallic surface was covered with engravings and some ancient text. Mara gasped in surprise. “This wasn’t found on level 1313.” Luke gave her a knowing look. “Your right it was two levels below…and I guess I was correct in contacting you. You recognize this place?” She swallowed a lump in her throat. “Yes, I was there a number of times…with Emperor Palpatine. It was a secret laboratory and also warehouse.” She pressed a button on the datapad increasing magnification so she could inspect the writing. She stared at the datapad for a long moment, her expression unreadable. Luke gestured to the device. “Our translator droids didn’t know what to make of the inscriptions.” Mara nodded before drawing in a deep breath. “It’s a variation of the Sith language.” She pointed to the writing at the top of the door. “This says ‘The harder the battle, the sweeter the Victory’.” She pointed to the lower writing on the door. “And this says, ‘One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.’” She handed the datapad back to the Jedi. “You can’t possibly think a teenage girl sliced her way through Palpatine’s defenses?” He clicked onto another image and handed the device back to her. “Somebody did. There are footprints and drag marks in the floor’s dust and dirt indicating the doors were opened and somebody pulled inside.” She looked at the image and had to admit it did look like somebody was pulled in. She pointed to boot prints that were probably twice the size of an average human's. “There is one set of giant boot prints, a smaller size that was probably your missing girl and some other boot marks that ran up to the door and then appeared to make an about face.” Luke nodded. “We think the girl was being chased and when she ran by the door it opened and somebody dragged her inside. Either the door closed preventing her pursuer from entering or the person chasing her decided he didn’t want to deal with whatever grabbed her.” She gazed at him with unflinching directness. “And you want me to go down there with you, slice my way into Palpatine’s old lair full of booby traps and who knows what else and take on what is probably is a monstrous giant?” “An innocent girl may still be alive,” he said in a pleading tone. “Our slicers couldn’t open the locks and our engineers tried drilling, but the drill bits just broke off. My lightsaber can’t even penetrate the metal.” “That's probably because the metal is made out of Beskar or Phrik. Those are lightsaber resistant metals.” “That’s why I need you Mara. You know about these things.” He gazed at her somberly…hopefully. “Will you help?” She pushed his datapad back into his hands before she forced a casual shrug. “Why not. If I don’t you will just get in trouble down there and I will have to go down and save you anyway.” Despite the gravity of the situation, a broad grin split his face. “Thank you, Mara. I owe you one.” . . . In Mara’s opinion, it was taking forever to traverse through the multiple turbolifts and catwalks to get to Palpatine’s laboratory. She turned to Luke as they led a squad of New Republic Special Operations troopers to the site. “Why would a girl come down to this level?” Luke shook his head. “It was a dare…a holonet game that the kids are doing nowadays. They see who can go to the lowest levels. They take a holoimage of the level they achieve and then post it online. It is called the Coruscant Lowest Level Challenge.” Mara gave a snort of disbelief. “Why do all these holonet challenges have to be dangerous and stupid? Why can’t kids nowadays do a ‘Get Good Grades in School Challenge’ or better yet, ‘Get a Job Challenge’?” Luke chuckled. “I’m sure every generation did foolish things. My friends and I would do Krayt Dragon hunting. We’d go into old sandstone caverns where the dragons are supposed to live and see who can find a dragon tooth.” He turned to his friend. “You can’t tell me that you didn’t do dangerous things as a child.” She looked at him in disbelief. “Like assassinating one of Palpatine’s enemies when I was eight years old?” Luke’s grin slipped from his face as he cleared his throat. “Sorry, I sometimes forget.” “Yeah, I sometimes wish I could forget.” They walked the remainder of the way in an awkward silence. Eventually the group arrived and crowded around the blast doors. “Okay, back up.” She shooed away the troopers. “I need room to work.” The doors had an entry panel with a keypad and a retinal recognition scanner. She went to pull her slicing tools out of her side pouch but then hesitated and instead put her eye to the scanner. A light flashed over her iris before the door slid open. The soldiers positioned themselves to enter, but once again Mara stopped them. “There may be active traps. Let me and Skywalker go inside first.” Reluctantly the men fell back and let Skywalker and her enter. She pointed down to the floor. “The drag marks go to the backroom.” As they moved further into the chamber the doors slid shut behind them. Luke turned but Mara signaled for him to follow her. “We should be able to get out the same way we got in.” She walked up to a large transparisteel cylinder standing in the corner of the room. “This is a stasis cylinder…a big stasis cylinder and it has power. I think the owner of the large footprints might have been stored in there until your teenager came near the lab.” She pointed to large holoprojectors that were fully functional and projected images of the corridor outside the lab. Mara and Luke could see the squad of soldiers they left behind currently trying to open the blast doors to gain entry. “Her presence outside must have released a guard from stasis and he went out and grabbed the girl.” Luke looked puzzled. “If she's outside, why bring her in?” She shrugged, palms up. “I have no idea.” She pulled her blaster when she heard a noise coming from a back room. “I sense the girl…and something else.” They slowly moved down a corridor with built-in shelfs holding various pieces of art and assorted garniture. Eventually it led to a second chamber. Luke unclipped his lightsaber as Mara positioned herself at the edge of the entrance. “I’ll go in first,” Luke whispered. “In case there’s blaster fire…I can deflect it.” She reluctantly nodded her approval and Luke rushed through the entryway while activating his lightsaber. Mara followed behind him and was startled by the sight of a huge creature. It was a three-meter-tall biped of unknown species. The creature was covered with a full-face metallic helmet, crimson robes and red gauntlets. It was so huge that the top of his helmet almost touched the ceiling. Luke stopped in his tracks, gaping at the creature. “It’s an Imperial Sentinel.” Mara had heard of them but had never seen one. “How do you know?” His face blanched before answering. “I once had some…when I was on Byss.” “Oh,” Mara muttered remembering that dark chapter in Luke’s life when he fell under the control of the Emperor Reborn. The Jedi had travelled to the Imperial planet of Byss and for a short time joined the Emperor’s clone. If it wasn’t for Han and Leia, he probably would still be there. It was a low point in Luke’s life, but also Mara’s. She regretted not going to Byss to help her friend, but she feared she would once again become a servant of evil. She didn’t think she could resist the pull of Emperor Palpatine…so she stayed away. She looked up at the towering guardsman warily. He stood with a long-handled halberd, an ancient weapon that was a cross between a spear and an axe. The creature focused his attention on the two but did not attack. Mara was not the type of woman who allowed the enemy to make the first move. When it came to fights, she was the ‘shoot first’ type of person. She raised her blaster and took aim, but Luke’s voice stopped her. “Don’t shoot.” She lowered her weapon and looked to the Jedi expectantly. “And why not?” Luke deactivated his saber and gazed at the giant. “Imperial Sentinels are muted and chemically lobotomized. They don’t have higher brain functions. They have to be controlled by their darkside adepts and, as far as I know, they are all dead. Without them controlling his actions he has the mental capacity of a child. He is an innocent…a creature without malice.” “Even children can be dangerous. If I recall, Jedi younglings trained with real lightsabers.” Luke clipped his lightsaber to his belt and walked toward the guard with arms out, palms up. “Nobody is going to hurt you. We are looking for a girl.” The giant twisted the halberd in his hands until it was pointing toward Luke. “And there goes your 'no malice' theory,” Mara muttered sarcastically as she raised her blaster. Before she could fire there was movement behind the guard and a young teenage girl rushed out from behind his robes while waving her arms. “Don’t shoot him.” She turned back to the guard and to Mara’s surprise the large sentinel knelt down and hugged the girl. She turned to Mara and Luke, her gaze pleading. “He saved me from a man who was going to kill me…or worse. He showed me where dehydrated rations and water were located. I was trying to find a map to get back to the top levels and we were going to go together.” She turned to the guard. “Take off your helmet. Show them you’re not a monster.” He put his weapon on the ground and reached up and removed his full-face mask. Mara didn’t know what to anticipate, but she definitely didn’t expect to see the face of a handsome human male with dark grey eyes and wavy black hair…and she really didn’t expect him to smile warmly at her. “See,” Luke whispered. “Without an adept controlling him he is as dangerous as a six-year-old boy.” “What are we going to do with him?” she whispered back. “I guess that is up to him. I’m sure we can find a place for him if he wants to go topside.” . . . ~Four Months Later~ Mara maneuvered her ship through the ionosphere of Yavin IV, angling her ship toward Skywalker’s Jedi Academy. Three months ago, she resumed delivering the Academy’s supplies after a yearlong hiatus. During that year Luke was living with his self-described soulmate, Callista (or as Mara referred to her: the body snatcher, the soulless slattern, or the undead paramour). Mara just couldn’t stand being around the woman. Callista was the soul of a long dead Jedi possessing the body of a young woman named Cray Mingla. Cray was one of Luke’s young, perky and very suicidal students who wanted to die so she could be with her deceased lover. She willingly gave her body to Luke’s Force-ghost girlfriend so the Luke and Callista could be together and have their happily-ever-after. Mara never liked the woman. Body possession was a Sith technique and nothing good could come from such situation. Luke never saw the red flags in the relationship, probably because he was so blinded by love…but Mara could tell, and she didn’t want to be around when the inevitable break up occurred. She couldn’t stand seeing Luke hurt. In hindsight, her absence probably upset Luke more than if she was there to tell him ‘I told you so’. She returned to Yavin IV under the pretense of wanting to see how things were going with the Imperial Sentinel she and Luke had found. Luke brought him back to the jungle moon and the Academy’s Jedi Healer, Cilghal, treated the giant, doing neural repairs. She was only partially successful. Instead of a man having a mind of a six-year-old, his cognitive abilities increased to a preteen level. The end result was an innocent, gentle giant that Luke nicknamed ‘Max’', because what else do you call a man of that size. She landed her shuttle and performed the post-flight checks before lowering the ship ramp and exiting the craft. As usual, Luke and Max were there to meet her. Before she could say anything, Max bounded toward her and gave her a fierce hug that lifted her off her feet. To her surprise he said, “Mara!” As he gently lowered her to the ground, she glanced over to Luke in shock. “He said Mara.” Luke was as surprised as her. “Cighal was trying to teach him to speak but wasn’t successful. Are you sure he said, Mara?” “Mara!” the giant repeated before grabbing Mara back up in his arms and hugging her affectionately. “I think he likes you,” Luke said with a smirk before reaching up and touching Max’s arm. “Let her down big guy.” Max smiled widely and placed Mara on her feet, before pushing her into Luke’s arms. “Mara, Luke.” He gave a boisterous laugh before walking up the boarding ramp and started unloading supplies. Luke blushed brightly as he untangled himself from his friend's arms. Mara looked back to Max, her lips twitching in amusement. “Could he see us as his parents?” Luke gave a sheepish grin. “He might.” He motioned toward the Academy buildings. “Would you like to have lunch with me…we could talk.” “Do you want to discuss child support or joint custody?” she joked. Luke glanced down at the ground nervously. “No, I wanted to ask you…” He hesitated seemingly at a loss for words. “I wanted to ask you…” “Luke,” Mara said tersely. “If you are asking me to train as a Jedi, the answer is no.” He cleared his throat before giving her a nervous smile. “I wanted to ask you…on a date.” Her brow went up in surprise. They had been getting along well since their time on Coruscant, but she never expected the Farmboy to screw up the courage to ask her out. She was caught totally by surprise. “Well, in that case,” she said slowly. “The answer is yes.” He gave her a devastating smile that made her knees weak and her pulse quicken. “Good it’s a date…I mean a lunch to discuss a date.” His stumbled over his words nervously. “Mara and Luke!” Max yelled down excitedly from the interior of her ship. Luke looked mortified. “I don’t know why his first words involve us.” She wrapped her arm through his and guided him toward the cafeteria. “I have a theory. He is a Sentinel. His brain was programed to pick up the thoughts of a powerful Force-user.” He turned to her in shock. “Are you suggesting that…” Her smile held a hint of smugness. “Suggesting what?” she said with mock innocence. “Are you suggesting that he is picking up impure thoughts from you concerning me? After all, he didn’t say a word until today, when you showed up.” Luke smirked while trying to choke down his laughter. “Mara, I didn’t know you felt that way about me.” Her jaw dropped. “Me thinking about you! Please.” She protested, but Luke noticed she didn’t pull away from him. “Maybe it is just wishful thinking on his part.” She glanced over to him, green eyes meeting blue. “That must be it.” “Yeah, that has to be it,” Luke said softly, realizing he would have to guard his thoughts around Max from now on…because Mara was spot on with her theory.