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Beyond - Legends Saga - Legends Overplayed Hands | Drama, Mara-centric, pre-ANH to post-TTT | Short story

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Title: Overplayed Hands

    Characters: Mara Jade, Palpatine, Vader and more

    Genre: Character study (?)

    Timeline: 0 BBY - 9 ABY

    Summary: A series of situations where the Empire overreached and failed.

    How this fic came to be:

    The culprit for the existence of this story is Nyota's Heart. I had vague plans, at some point in the past, for a scene involving Mara Jade during the inauguration of a meeting room of the Imperial Palace in chapter 10 of my OC-centric epic, Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond sway. I ended up dropping the idea and I had completely forgotten about it, until Ny wrote a vignette called A New Perspective, in which she had Mara mention that she was present for the inauguration. The cogs started whirring, I started wondering why Mara could be there after all and why she would go unnoticed, and in the end the story ran away from me and became what you are about to read.

    Sources:

    Timothy Zahn is virtually the only profic author to have written Mara Jade during her days as the Emperor's Hand, and this story borrows heavily from his novels Allegiance, Choices of One and The Thrawn Trilogy, his comic books Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand (co-written with M. Stackpole) and Mara Jade: A Night on the Town, and his short stories Sleight of Hand, Handoff and First Contact.

    I also found inspiration for the characterisation of a younger Mara Jade in a few fanfics posted on these boards, which I most highly recommend: Assassin by Darth_Suzi, Alliance of Heroes by JediMara77, The House of Bacaard by Jedi Trace, Never The Whys by madman007 and Distractions by mavjade.

    Updates: This fic should be updated once a week until it's finished. I'm not quite sure how long it will be yet, but I know that it will come in short chapters of approx. 1,000 words each.

    Special thanks to JadeLotus for beta-reading this, providing expert Mara advice and suggesting the title [:D]
     
  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: Gemma
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.

    ---------------------------

    One

    Twenty-five days before the Battle of Yavin

    The teenage courtesan broke off her conversation and took a step back towards the wall as the Emperor made his entrance and headed for the podium, while the officers in attendance organised in neat rows and stood to attention with military precision before the speeches began. This was a moment of what she had dubbed casual Imperial pomp, a late afternoon or early evening event where men wore their service uniforms, women were elegant but informal – Lianna herself was wearing a stern-looking dress of smooth, deep blue fabric with a high neckline, whose cut discreetly emphasised her svelte dancer figure – and a simple round of refreshments would follow the ceremony. She wouldn’t have much time to accomplish her mission tonight.

    The Emperor was now explaining that the High Command meeting hall would henceforth be known as the Northern Lights room. Lianna peeked at the wall panel behind the drape at her side. It was decorated with a lightning pattern carved out of what seemed to be shiny clay the colour of moonlight and encrusted with glimmering threads – a work of quality, as far as she could tell, although art never awakened any particular emotion in her that she deemed worth mentioning. Her eyes travelled back to the little artist who was standing behind the podium, waiting for her turn to speak, an olive-skinned, slightly chubby woman with a yellow marking under her left eye. She’d caught a glimpse of her before, hadn’t she? Ah, yes, the dance recital in the Emperor’s private auditorium. The woman had left hastily when Lianna finally emerged from the changing room with her fellow dancers, but she hadn’t been alone. It took only a moment’s concentration to recall that she was accompanied by that blue-skinned officer, the only alien in the Imperial Navy. Lianna shook her head inwardly, filing the information away for later. Artists weren’t her target today – not that they would ever be, she thought with a silent sneer. She had a far bigger kettle of Giju on the fire right now.

    She took in the room once more. The artist was addressing the assembly now, going through the banalities required in such circumstances – she was doing it well though, she almost seemed to be sincere. The officers all pretended to listen attentively, but Lianna’s hidden sense told her that the dominant feeling in the room was mild indifference. There were other thoughts mixed in there, but she could catch them only fleetingly – there were simply too many minds at work in this room for her to sift through each and every one. But she knew for a fact that one of them was a traitor.

    She was so deep in thought that the polite round of applause that began once the drapes fell off to reveal the wall panels caught her by surprise, and she almost gave a start. She would have to work on that, she thought – focusing on the mission wasn’t a valid reason to let go of her courtesan persona – but before she could go on scolding herself, the panel next to her seemed to catch fire. The shimmering threads embedded in the clay exploded in blue-green sparks, the glow expanded to the rest of the walls, as if skyfire were washing over the room, and the applause swelled to a deafening roar. She maintained the haughty composure that befitted the Emperor’s favoured dancer, but the faintest of smiles graced her lips as she looked at the artist, who was now bowing and directing her guests towards the buffet in the hallway.

    She lingered at little to observe the Navy officers file past her and out of the room, trying once more to catch individual thoughts, but the little artist kept distracting her. She had to suppress a snort when the other woman stepped off the podium and sidestepped that sleazy barve Zaarin, who was clearly trying to corner her, but the artist’s next move startled her. She walked up to Darth Vader and engaged him in conversation, causing Zaarin to stop dead in his tracks. This time, Lianna allowed herself an ironic smile. The woman had guts, she had to hand it to her – a shame that she would probably end up Force-choked if she kept it up for too long.

    The room was now nearly empty, and the blue-skinned officer wandered back in and headed for the balcony with a glass of wine in each hand, a discreet invitation for the artist to join him. Vader’s cape billowed out the door, and Lianna stepped forward to offer her compliments to the artist, as etiquette required, before she followed suit. She stopped briefly by the plaque and touched it to bring it to life. Ayesha Eskari, was the artist’s name. She’d keep it in mind.

    She helped herself to a glass of R’alla water and worked her way through the crowd, chatting indifferently until she reached the end of the hallway. A younger officer tried to follow her, but she send him back towards the Northern Lights room with a casual push of her mind and turned the corner into a deserted corridor. Her hand found the right spot in the woodwork decorating the wall, causing a panel to slide open, and she slipped inside discreetly, tucking her glass in a corner to collect it on her way back. A few deft moves to adjust zips and clasps transformed her dress into a plain, skin-tight bodysuit, the elegant jewel ornamenting her red-gold hair turned out to be a sharp Zenji needle, and as she slipped on the soft leather boots that had been waiting for her, she shed her dancer-courtesan outlook for something far more determined, more focused and more lethal. She was now Mara Jade, the young Emperor’s Hand, the secret servant of the Empire, and she would complete the investigation that her master had assigned to her tonight.
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Loud, unabashed SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! Oh oh oh! Terrific! I love the description of the Northern Lights room and you have Mara down-pat! =D= Her contemptuous hauteur gives way to grudging admiration and then to mission-focus! :cool: [:D]
     
  4. whiskers

    whiskers Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 19, 2005
    I've always been a fan of spy Mara and it's great to see more of this point in her life. Keep up the good work!
     
  5. K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku

    K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Jedi Grand Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 18, 2000
    What a wonderful start! I'm looking forward to more. Add me to the tags list please!
     
  6. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Loving this! You wrote a really good Mara! Aloof, efficient, and running just enough under the radar to be lethal to those who underestimate her. Love the look at this scene from a completely new angle.
     
  7. Exeter

    Exeter Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2005
    I'm excited to be in on a Chyntuck original from day one (still lazily making my way through Ἀνάγκη). I've heard nothing but good things about your work and from what I've read so far, for once reality lived up to the hype.

    Like the title. I overplay my hand all the time and I don't even have a fun double-meaning to excuse it.

    Works as a summary of the story and a summary of the Empire itself.

    Ooh! I just found the title for my First Sentence Challenge entry :p


    Wait, no, maybe this will be the title.


    You gotta figure that naming stuff is one of the top-ten reasons to become emperor in the first place.

    (after the Battle of Yavin)
    PALPS: Henceforth, UNLIMITED POWAHHH foyer shall be known as Damnit Tarkin, You Had One Job lobby.

    This didn't sound right to me and I started thinking about it: well, surely he's the only officer, but obviously he can't be the only alien. Obviously. "Well, I mean, there's...that one guy...who...uh...whoa."

    I felt like an Imperial Director of Diversity his first day on the job, going over the latest personnel pie charts, doing an awkward double-take, going "oh my, this can't be right."

    No wonder they lost the war.

    I'm with Mara—this woman's got guts. Though I do wonder what you'd talk to Vader about. "Loved your work in the Jedi Temple, Darth. Remember when that cute youngling came from behind the chair and was all like 'wat are we gonta do?" Classic."

    Looking forward to finding out in Chapter 10 of Ἀνάγκη :D

    Thrawn, you baller. I'm sure Mara wasn't the only one impressed by her socializing with Sith.


    And, you know, her absolutely amazing aurora art.

    Suddenly, I'm feeling as sleazy as Zaarin.




    This was a fantastic start, Chyntuck. I really feel like you've got a great grasp on early-era Mara. She's confident and cunning, sure, but she's also not as good as she could be (yet)—and she knows it. Always searching herself for weakness, for mistakes, for anything that turn the tide from target to targeted. Because the value of an Emperor's Hand is being seen but not being seen, able to look like she belongs anywhere when she essentially belongs nowhere. That really came out in the bit where you mentioned her general feelings on art (nice contrast with Thrawn, too), even while attending an art exhibition and masquerading as someone whose profession is basically physical art in motion.

    I like how you're painting her as someone easily amused, even if it's a cynic's humor coming mostly at the expense of others. There's certainly going to be no shortage of scorn and snickers when you get a group of Imperials like this together in the same room. It'd be downright silly if it wasn't so serious.

    In an oblique way, you made me think of what an odd mix of patience and impetuousness Mara must have in situations like this. On one hand, she seems to crave challenges and defaults to direct action, and you can almost feel her relief when she can drop the cover, beat the boredom, and slip back into her assassin attire. But at the same time her job demands insane patience. I have a feeling that Mara could outlast the heat death of the universe as long as there was a target to wipe the floor with at the end of it.

    Looking forward to seeing her progress over the course of nine years.

    By the look of it, this story is gonna have it all—spy sleuthing, traitors(!), Imperial politicking and hobnobbing, Palps & Vader, and of course the most interesting woman in the world, Mara Jade.

    Great start, Chyn! =D=
     
  8. KELIA

    KELIA Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 26, 2005
    Ohhhh very nice start.
    With Mara Jade on the case someone in Jar Jar Binks’ words is “in deep doo-doo”
    Looking forward to more
    _ _ _ _ _
     
  9. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    Fantastic start! =D=

    Your characterization of Mara is spot on! She's very aware and really hard on herself.

    As you learned, there isn't enough Hand Mara, I'm so excited you are writing one!

    I'm eager for more!!

    Also, Can I go to this Northern Lights room?? :D
     
  10. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Interesting! I'm glad to catch one of your fics from the get go! (as much as I really want to read Ἀνάγκη, my insane life just hasn't allowed me to!) I really like your descriptions, this line in particular was great:


    You really captured the "mask" Mara puts on for her roles and that she has a purpose.

    Great start. Please tag me when there's more!
     
  11. madman007

    madman007 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 22, 2007
    From a fellow fan fic author who writes Mara Jade fairly often (yes, I'm into alliteration :D) , I will say that you captured her complex combination of anticipation with patience very well. You showed how bored she is at mundane events such as an art exhibit, yet she understands they are needed in order to complete the mission properly. You could almost feel her relief when she changed out of the elegant dress and into her stealth mode outfit.

    I've seen others write Mara with direct passages about her attitude that literally tell the reader what she's thinking. Mara is more complex than that. Because she does not divulge her feelings well, if at all, during this phase of her life, I tend to use a more subtle approach in describing what she's thinking. It's the old writing adage, show, don't tell. Reading between the lines is essential to understanding Mara Jade.

    And you accomplished that in this chapter. Well done. =D= Please add me to the tag list.





    *And thanks for the shout out to Never The Whys
     
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  12. Annia Piet

    Annia Piet Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 7, 2015
    This is great, really interesting part of Mara's life to explore, and you have me intrigued already! Please tag me in :)
     
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  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing!

    I know that I should do replies before I update the story, but it's 8:30 am and this is already shaping up to be a crazy day, so I'll post now and do replies later this week [face_blush]

    Tags: Annia Piet Briannakin Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku madman007 (I hope I'm not forgetting anyone, if I did it wasn't on purpose.)
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.

    --------------------------------------

    Two

    The network of secret passages that crisscrossed the walls of the Imperial Palace enabled those in the know to travel from one end of the immense complex to the other entirely unseen, but precious few were aware of its existence, let alone of its full extent. Mara was cautious however not to make any noise as she climbed the ladder in the narrow shaft that led her to the senior officers’ quarters – the Palace was bustling with activity at all times, and the area she was heading for should be deserted, but there was no need to attract unwanted attention to herself or to the passage itself. The sensor kit she had positioned in a corner near her exit point was waiting for her, and the strand of her red-gold hair she had tied to the hinge of the rotating panel was unbroken, proving that no one had entered the tunnel – from this end at least – since her last visit. She reached out with the Force, and, once the housekeeping droid vacuum-cleaning the hallway had completed its task and left, she collected her equipment, activated the wall panel and stepped outside.

    There had been increasingly loud grumbles of discontent among the senior ranks of the Imperial Navy over the past several weeks, after it was announced that the Empire’s new battle station would soon be operational. The Death Star was something of a pet project for the Emperor. Construction had begun nearly two decades ago, possibly before Mara was even born; the best and brightest scientists had been appointed to the endeavour to overcome the many technical hurdles that an enterprise of such magnitude entailed; and oversight had been assigned to none other than the ambitious Grand Moff Tarkin, who had run the venture with an iron fist. The reluctance of lesser admirals and Moffs to accept this work of technological prowess as something that would reinforce the sway of the Empire puzzled Mara – the equivalent of an entire fleet of Star Destroyers in a single battle station was surely a force to reckon with and would put an end to the activities of rebel terrorists who were causing ever more trouble throughout the Galaxy – but then Navy politics were of no concern to her, her master had said. What truly mattered was that someone had been leaking information about the Death Star to the Rebellion, and that the leaks came from right here, from the Imperial Palace.

    A project on the scale of the Death Star could obviously not be kept a secret forever, and the Rebels were bound to try and get their grubby hands on every little bit of data they could get hold of the moment they found out about it. The file Mara had been given pointed out however that there had been blunders. She noticed that it was conveniently fuzzy about the details of the escape of three traitorous senators from the battle station two years prior, and had taken it as a cue not to ask any questions, but even if Bel Iblis were dead, as it was widely assumed, and even if Bail Organa had been misled and captured by chance – a far-fetched tale for sure, but one she hadn’t been tasked with investigating, and she kept her counsel – it was a fact that Mon Mothma was out there and that she must have told the Rebellion everything she knew. And then there was the unfortunate business of that prisoner uprising on the Death Star, that had resulted in an improvised commando of insurgents taking control of a communications console and beaming out a transmission – they were obviously not asking their friends to join them for lunch, and the Imperials who had allowed such a thing to happen were suitably punished. Unfortunately, Tarkin’s heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the situation meant that none were left to interrogate, and she hadn’t been able to ascertain if there had been treason.

    But recently intercepted communications on the HoloNet indicated that treason was indeed an issue – and she wasn’t thinking of that lowlife officer on Danuta who appeared to have helped a pair of Rebels steal partial plans of the Death Star. The man had been found beheaded in his bunk, and, although the briefing file didn’t go into specifics, Mara knew that this had to be the work of Darth Vader’s Noghri assassins. No, the intercepted communications included top priority Imperial codes, and only a high-ranking officer would have access to such data. What was more, the Imperial Security Bureau’s slicers had traced the source of the transmission to Coruscant, to the Imperial Palace itself. Mara had been waiting in the Emperor’s antechamber while Ysanne Isard briefed him, and she could sense the other woman’s fury but also her humiliation when their master announced that the investigation would be removed from the authority of the ISB and entrusted to a very special agent. Isard was seething when she left the throne room, and she had merely thrown Mara – Lianna – a sour look as the chamberlain summoned her inside to ‘dance’ for His Majesty.

    Mara activated her sensor kit and moved slowly along the hallway, scanning the rooms beyond the walls for unregistered communication devices. She reached the last door and walked back to her starting point, scanning this time the rooms on the other side, then keyed a few commands to run a diagnostic. The handheld device whirred a little and beeped as it displayed its conclusions on the tiny monitor, and Mara’s heart leapt in her chest at the sight of the list of names.

    There was not only one traitor. There were several.
     
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating and seamlessly fits in with ANH events. :cool: =D= Mara's efficiency and contemplations very much in character and rare form!
     
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  15. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Interesting prelude to the circumstances of ANH! I just love the last line. Perfect 'guiltly until proven innocent' mindset.
     
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  16. whiskers

    whiskers Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 19, 2005
    Loved the little telltale sign that Mara put up to tell if anyone but her had entered the passages. Loved the passages as well as it really gives the Imperial Palace an "eccentric" feel to it as befits its owner.

    I also loved all of the little continuity nods throughout in regards to the Death Star itself, from Force Unleashed to Jedi Academy Trilogy and Battlefront II.

    And then there's this:

    Poor Meck...

    Interesting about the higher ranking officer. I'm sure that Mara will crack this case--and tick off Isard some more! And how deep does this conspiracy go!

    Good work as always.
     
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  17. Exeter

    Exeter Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2005
    I see Mara & I have a lot in common. For example, I randomly think about the Death Star when I'm out and about.

    Though now that I think of it, that's the only thing we have in common :(

    Fastidious to a fault! Even while stealthing about secret passages, her dedication to a tidy Empire never wavers. Cleanliness is next to Forceliness, they say. Killing traitors is only one way to clean house. She probably only missed offing Luke at the sail barge because she was worried about the mess it'd cause.

    You answered your own question, Mara. Who needs so many captains, fleet admirals, and Grand Admirals when you can replace the starfleet with a big honkin' no-moon? To quote the boss man, "All those who gain power are afraid to lose it."

    I'm sure most of them are loyalists and proper patriots, but seeing so much materiel and credits being diverted in support of the Death Star would concern even the most ardent of Palp polyps in the Navy. It'd be interesting hearing Thrawn's opinion on the whole thing.

    That paragraph reminded me of the decision to divest the aviation wing of the United States Army to create the United States Air Force. As you can imagine, there were a lot of top brass in the Army who were pretty resistant to the idea, even if it would make the armed services a more effective fighting force.

    And so, just like that—Navy politics are of no concern to her. You gotta admire how focused and single-minded she can be when she's got a job to do. In the same way I'm glad that Nazi Germany only had one Rommel and one Dönitz, I'm glad the Empire only had one Thrawn and one Mara.

    Excepting the secret clone of her that Joruus C'baoth had created, of course. If I recall correctly, Maara joined forces with Luuke and together they killed off their counterparts, stole their identities, and went on to become heroes in the New Republic.

    Loved you detailing all the canon goings-on and shenanigans with the Death Star. I feel like those plans have been stolen fifty times in various novels, comic books, and video games. Just imagine how much fun the scene in ANH when Dodonna's going over the plans and their attack plans would've been if those plans had conflicting information,

    DODONNA: The approach will not be easy. You will be required to maneuver down this trench and skim the surface to this point, where...erm...it seems...uh...you will be required to...hrm...it says here you will be required to sing the Max Rebo Band's "(That Joyous Night) I Ate My Mate". The target area is only two octaves wide. The precise note will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station.
    WEDGE: That's impossible, even for a computer.
    LUKE: It's not impossible. I used to hit notes from Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes on karaoke night in Mos Eisley back home, and they're not much lower than Max Rebo.

    I always felt like that bit in TFU was kinda hard to swallow, that Palpatine would just let avowed traitors like Mothma and Organa hang around after they so willfully opposed him. That next senate session had to be the most awkward thing ever.

    So I'm gonna go with Mara here and just pretend it was silly rumors that don't have any bearing on anything and can be safely ignored.

    PALPS: I thought we agreed, Wilhuff, that your doctrine involves the fear of force, rather than force itself.
    TARKIN: I fear they've forced my hand.
    PALPS: *sigh*

    Oh, come on! Did that guy's bunkmate and the custodial staff really deserve that? Couldn't you just airlock the guy or something, Vader? See, this would never have happened if Mara was in charge. Too messy.

    Reminds me of the scene from AOTC.

    OBI-WAN: But Master Yoda, who could empty information from the archives? That's impossible, isn't it?
    YODA: Only a Jedi could've erased those files.
    YOUNGLING: Or, you know, a slicer who actually understands how any of this technology works.
    JOCASTA NU: If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist!
    YOUNGLING: Master Nu, do you have any Cisco certifications? How did you even get this job?

    That, and the shuttle Tydirium scene in Jedi...

    PIETT: It's an older code, sir, but it checks out. I was about to clear them.
    VADER: An older code? Like how old are we talking? Hoth? Yavin? The Clone Wars?! I mean, they checked out, right? Why even have codes? Let's just let everyone through!
    PIETT: ...so, that's a no, then?

    I'm not saying Mara's wrong, I'm just saying I'm super paranoid about assumptions. Only the Sith deal in assumptions!

    It does make you wonder who's dumb enough to transmit eyes-only Imperial codes from inside the Imperial Palace. One name comes immediately to mind:

    MARA: What were you thinking? Why wouldn't you just wait and send it from somewhere less obvious?
    OZZEL: I felt surprise was wiser...

    And now that I think of it, I remember Ozzel actually trying to take Mara out in Allegiance...

    And others? Motti? Zaarin?! The list of ambitious incompetents can go on forever when the Empire's involved.

    Never mind! Clearly it's a false flag operation if ISB's involved. I blame DS proponents trying to disgrace high-ranking Navy bigwigs, further marginalizing their influence and discrediting their opinions!

    It seems like none the high-ranking women in the Empire like Mara much (even without knowing what her actual role is). I remember Lumiya disliking her on sight, and Isard of course later has something of a vendetta against her. I guess when you're dealing with a dude-dominant bureaucracy like the Empire, you're naturally suspicious of any potential female rivals that can erode the niche you've carefully carved out.

    Then again, Isard probably has one helluva resting bitch face, so maybe Mara just misinterpreted that look :p

    Or, said another way: "Now dere are two (or more) of dem!"


    Fun chapter, Chyn. It all feels so cloak-and-dagger, with conspiracies around every corner. I know I said it last time, but Mara's just plain interesting whether she's recounting DS history or playing hide-and-seek in the Palace passages. Looking forward to seeing how she'll handle the traitors. Hopefully she won't overplay her hand.

    Also, my review ended up being longer than your chapter, and for that I apologize. I have a problem. I know I have a problem. And knowing is half the battle. The more you know...
     
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  18. madman007

    madman007 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 22, 2007
    Nice detailed history into the Death Star's background pre-ANH. The direction that you're steering Tarkin into is right on point. One piece of advice I will share is that you can research the exact history of anything [in this case the EU]. Don't feel that you have to adhere to it exactly. What makes a story with history less predictable is to find the gaps between the history and create your own.

    That homemade indicator to check if anyone had been in the entrance is a very spy thing to do. We have our own version by placing a small piece of paper in an obscure corner of a door or drawer.

    I can really see the Mara Jade: Emperor's Hand influence in this, especially with Isard's dislike of Mara, AKA Liana.

    One thing in both of these chapters that I'm really impressed with - no dialogue. I said earlier in my first reply that it's hard to express how Mara Jade is thinking. It's even harder without her saying a word. And I totally believe that in this era of her life, she said very little. She didn't have to speak unless spoken to.

    Can't wait to see how Mara treats the traitors. (there I go with alliteration, again)

    Loving it so far! Keep it up!
     
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  19. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! A few replies before we move on to part 3.

    Nyota's Heart Thank you! A story that earned me 12 Es in "squee" must be doing something right :D

    whiskers Thanks! From your comments I sense that you are a kindred spirit with regard to spy stories and data-mining on the Wook (although I believe you played the video games, which I haven't [face_blush]) It was good fun putting all the bits of DS leaks together, even though, like Exeter and madman007 said, there are endless overlaps and contradictions in Legends-canon. And yes, poor Meck... But then, how could he reasonably expect to get away with it?

    K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Thanks! I'll be tagging you and I hope you continue enjoying this story.

    divapilot Thank you! I had a good time re-writing my own scene from a different POV. I actually realised that it's something I should do more often, it helps point out the inconsistencies in the writing [face_shhh]

    Exeter Wow, those were two reviews so impressive they're almost intimidating. Thank you! I'm going to have to step up my game with you on board.
    And of course I forgot to mention that the title was suggested by JadeLotus as well. That has now been corrected.
    [face_rofl]

    About the fact that Thrawn is the only alien or the only alien officer in the Imperial Navy, and more generally about the Empire's racism against aliens -- I know that this is a hotly-debated topic among SW fans (there are some crazy arguments going on in Lit) but I'm on the "the Empire was racist" side. I just can't make sense of the OT without it :p Similarly, I'm on the "the Empire was sexist" side because an all-white, all-male colonial-type army with British accents has to be sexist.

    One of the aspects I find interesting in writing Mara during her days as the Emperor's Hand is that her position, but also the way the Emperor manipulated her, place so many limits on her. She is someone who could appreciate art for its intrinsic value, but she doesn't, because she has learned to think of it as part of her cover. She is someone who could reflect on court or Navy politics and propose changes and improvements, but she doesn't, because it's not within her remit. In many ways, she has been fashioned to be single-minded, yet smart enough to be aware of the context in which she operates. This is also a reason why she has little respect for the Noghri -- she believes that, as opposed to her, they are mere tools who only execute orders, which is true up to a point, but she doesn't quite realise that she has been manipulated into operating within very strict parameters.
    Hey, this is the Imperial Palace we're talking about :p I always imagined the place to be rife with all sorts of intrigue and backstabbing. As to if Mara will overplay her hand, well, what do you think?

    KELIA Thanks!
    [face_laugh] I may not be the person(s) you're thinking of though... [face_whistling]

    mavjade Thank you! There definitely isn't enough Hand-Mara in fanfic, or in profic for that matter -- being a sucker for espionage stories, I really wish there were more -- but as we discussed in the L/M thread when I came around looking for advice, she's a difficult character to write. It's a fine balance to portray her as an assassin yet as a young woman who can credibly grow up to be the Mara we all know and love (which is why I liked your story so much!)
    Ah, it's kind of the room I wish I had at home too... I'm hoping at some point, when DRL gives me a break, to write a fanon post about the Imperial Palace, so at least you'll be able to visit it there :)

    Briannakin Thanks! I loved your comment about the "'guilty until proven innocent' mindset". Very young Mara indeed (and a little bit older Mara too!)

    Oh, and don't bother with Ἀνάγκη. That's the typical example of the fic that runs away from you so badly that you can't even remember what you wrote in the beginning ;)

    @madman007 And now for an alliterative answer to your very kind alliterative comments...

    I presume that one point that helped me pen Mara's personality in this period is that I'm much of an introspection writer in the first place, so having her ponder her impulses and purposes isn't one of my prevailing practices :p . I'm actually impressed by the number of very, very good Mara-introspection fics out there (admittedly focusing on her post-Empire days) because you really have to go into the character's head to do that properly.

    I agree with you that she wouldn't be a very talkative person during her days as a Hand -- it's a job requirement, isn't it? And it's one of the things she kept even later in life. I always found that the good Mara stories (whether fanfic or profic) are those where her words are sparse.

    Lastly, about how she will treat the traitors, Mara isn't someone who takes tenderly to treason, so her tendency would be to trash and terminate them :D

    Thanks, and I hope you like the rest of this story too!

    Annia Piet Thank you! You're tagged already, and I hope this story lives up to your expectations :)
     
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  20. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: Annia Piet Briannakin Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku madman007
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.

    --------------------------------

    Three

    By the time she reached the door of the fifth apartment she was to investigate, Mara’s blood was boiling with anger. One of her suspects – the tenant of the third flat – had turned out to have an unregistered comlink only to communicate with his lover on Corellia, a Twi’lek or a Togruta, if some of the saucier comments about the possible uses of lekku were any indication, but the fantasies of Navy officers were none of her business, even if relationships with aliens were frowned upon. The remaining three however were an entirely different matter. In the first flat, she had found a holocomm whose records had been carefully wiped. She took the memory card and replaced it with a clean one – the officer wouldn’t know the difference, and the ISB’s slicers would probably manage to recover some of the deleted data before he was brought in for questioning. The tenant of the second flat hadn’t been as cautious. His comm was protected with the simplest of passwords and all she had to do was pull a copy of the entire hard drive, with details of all the messages he’d been exchanging with fellow officers who were displeased with Tarkin’s newfound clout and sought ways to sideline him. While such machinations were not treason per se, they were also not in the best interest of the Empire, and this little coterie would have to be disbanded.

    The discovery she had made in the fourth flat had been the most disturbing so far. Kalast was a Moff, a full-fledged Imperial Moff, and one who was being considered for promotion at that! The encrypted comm hidden in a secret compartment under the cooking unit was programmed to go dormant in the proximity of any type of sensor, but the traitor had underestimated the technology available to the Emperor’s Hand. However, spotting the device wasn’t enough – she hadn’t been able to slice it or to download the data, and she feared that her sensor scan might have triggered a warning that would appear next time Kalast activated his little toy. She stifled her anger and checked her chronometer. There was time to search the last flat before she returned to the Northern Lights room – it went against the rules of etiquette to leave a reception while the Emperor was still there, and her master had given her until twenty-two hundred hours. She would approach Kalast under the guise of Lianna before he could return to his quarters; the man would fall victim, like so many others before him, to the false sense of security and self-aggrandisement that came from escorting the Emperor’s favoured dancer. She would subdue him in some deserted corridor of the Palace, she would extract the code from him – oh yes, she had foolproof methods to obtain such information – and then the ISB would take over.

    Mara flipped over the Zenji needle she was holding and pressed the golden, fan-shaped piece ornamenting it to the lock pad. The magnetic master key hidden within it overrode the entry code, and she stepped inside the fifth apartment. These were the quarters of Rachma Pelegard, a rather nondescript Admiral who had a reputation for being a fanatical Palpatinist. The only reason she – and anyone else, really, at the Imperial court – bothered remembering his name was the trust that the Emperor seemed to place in him. The man was often seen at events where only members of His Majesty’s inner circle were otherwise invited, and it was rumoured that, despite his bland appearance, he was a skilled strategist and had conducted several missions of the highest importance. Well, appearances could be deceiving, she thought with a surge of bitterness. The unregistered holocomm stood bang in the middle of the table, it wasn't even password-protected and the handwritten, unencrypted draft on the sheet of flimsi by its side revealed that, before the first Death Star was even operational, Admiral Pelegard had already leaked the Emperor’s orders for the construction of a second, more powerful Death Star to the Bothan Spynet.

    Mara was so outraged that she paid no heed to the intangible tingle in the back of her mind warning her that someone was about the enter the room. The door swooshed open and she spun on her heel to find herself in Pelegard’s presence. The paunchy admiral sauntered in; he didn’t seem surprised in the least by this intrusion in his quarters. “Your mission tonight must have been successful for you to be already here, my dear,” he said. “Your master will be most pleased.”

    Mara wondered vaguely how Pelegard could have known that he would find her there, but her anger got the better of her. She simply couldn’t believe the man’s nerve. He had been caught red-handed committing treason at the highest level, like the sorry excuse for a spy he was, and yet he was addressing her as casually as if they were discussing the weather. “I assume that you found what you were looking for?” he continued. She remained outwardly calm and composed, but a tide of mindless fury was taking over her thoughts – the sort of overwhelming emotion that her master had always claimed would make her stronger. “My little scheme here is of course of no concern to you, but your finding it was part of –”

    His eyes widened in surprise as Mara flicked her hand expertly and the sharp Zenji needle zoomed towards his throat. All he could do was to let out a gurgle of protest when she stepped closer to extract it from his flesh and wipe it clean on his uniform, her face as impassive as ever. “In the name of the Emperor,” she said softly. She collected the holocomm from the table, stepped over the corpse and walked out of the room.
     
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent - superb and well-orchestrated unraveling of what doubtless seemed an airtight little group of conspiracy! Mara's skills are definitely well-honed: she has the know-how of unobtrusive discovery & not leaving tangible tracks of her gathering of incriminating evidence and/or wiping the data-files or replacing them with other info. Her emotional involvement is well-written also. =D= Her loyalty shows very clearly.
     
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  22. Annia Piet

    Annia Piet Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 7, 2015
    Really nice friction of her skills in action and her mindset during this era :)
     
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  23. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Oh, Mara. Perfect description of the 'unquestioning assassin' she was.
     
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  24. Exeter

    Exeter Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2005
    I see it the same as you.

    If it's all coincidental, how is that the Alliance is filled with Lando Calrissians, Ackbars and Nien Nunbs, Mon Mothmas and Leias, whereas the Empire seems mostly drawn from the ranks of the Royal Shakespeare Company circa 1950? The distinction between the two seems pretty intentionally clear and if you factor in the prequels and (from what we've seen) the sequels, it's so glaringly obvious that the New Order should be added to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch.

    Of course, Palps would deny it by digging out an old polaroid of Mas Amedda and Sly Moore, saying "I'm not speciest, I have alien friends!"

    My guess is most of the EU mentions on the subject (Human High Culture, repeal of the Rights of Sentience for nonhumans, etc) arose from folks like us trying to make out-of-universe sense of that aspect of the OT. And I'd guess that some of the Lit arguments against have their basis in out-of-universe reasonings, too...

    Hey, now! You're missing the practicality and efficiency of it all! You can't fit a Piett cap on an Ewok head and you can't have admirals losing the will to live every time their man kills a couple of kids. These ways are just more sensible, see. As Alec Guiness said in The Bridge on the River Kwai, "We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We'll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing!"

    Interesting chapter. We know who the traitors plural are now, but it ended up being less enlightening than I'd expected. Like any good spy thriller, I know less the more I learn.

    Had to look up Kalast as I wasn't familiar with him. Then did the same with Pelegard. One way you can spot a great fanficcer is by being unable to spot what's canon and what's not.

    I liked Mara's confidence in the technological illiteracy of her targets. Go back and watch the officer's meeting on the Death Star in ANH. Do any of those guys really look like they have a good grasp on IT? I bet most of 'em still have AOL email accounts.

    TAGGE: My datapad's running slow. I need a new one.
    TECHNICIAN: Well, sir, it seems you've got an infection. Looks like it was transmitted from a HoloNet site called HuttSmut and—
    TAGGE: Just get me a new one, okay?!

    Pelegard. Hmm. What's that about? A supposedly loyal Palpatinist (I prefer Palpitation, myself) apparently leaking DS II orders to Spynet, conveniently proved because he "accidentally" left the equivalent of a signed confession out in the open, right in the middle of the Imperial Palace? Hard to believe a moron of that magnitude would've been able to get so close to the Emperor...

    Of course, he certainly seemed to be expecting her, and was about to explain something important before Mara went all stabby-stabby. Part of her ongoing training, like when she broke into Tarkin's quarters? We know that the second Death Star was one big Rebel honey trap, but was Palpatine deliberately leaking information (through Pelegard?) about it this early? And what about Kalast, a known traitor? Is this also a scheme to expose real traitors by piping them useful information and seeing what leaks out the other side, then send Mara in to plug them?

    [face_thinking]


    This is flat-out fun and I'm really enjoying how you've set things up. Seeing Imperial shenanigans from her POV is rewarding because you know her tolerance for bull**** is precariously low (RIP Adm. Pelegard) and satisfying stabby-stabby is never far away.

    It also shows how criminally underused Mara Jade was. Imagine if they had sent her in to join the Alliance before Yavin? Remember how puppy-dog infatuated Luke was with Leia? Imagine how easy it would've been with a few wide-green-eyed stares and fiery-hair flips. As Mara herself pointed out:

    It's true; guys are rarely more predictable and boring than when they're in the presence of good-looking women¹.




    I notice Mon Mothma didn't mention either an Imperial admiral or a Moff during the "many Bothans died..." speech. Is it because they were human white dudes?! Who's the sexist racist now???

    I think she just did, to a degree. But you play the hand you're dealt and when your dealer is a Sith emperor, it's pretty much guaranteed the whole thing is rigged and the House always wins.


    ¹source: am a guy
     
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  25. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading! It's one of those days again, so replies will have to wait a bit, but I'm grateful for the reviews :)

    Tags: Annia Piet Briannakin Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku madman007
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.

    -------------------------------------------

    Four

    The bodysuit transformed into the dress, the Zenji needle found its place in Mara’s elaborate hairdo, she collected her glass of R’alla water and she stepped back into the world of Imperial social life, reverting effortlessly to her dancer persona. The reception was still in full swing and people were milling about the buffet and in the Northern Lights room. She noted with satisfaction that her fellow courtesans were working the crowd with such ease and grace that few, if any, of the officers who were ensconced in mindless chatter with the women would ever imagine that they could be anything but pretty baubles, eye-candy for the Imperial court. Her suspects were still there, of course – she couldn’t fathom where Pelegard had found the chutzpah to leave while the Emperor was still mingling with his guests. Moff Kalast was deep in discussion with Admiral Ozzel, which fit her plans perfectly; she would find her way to him as soon as she had reported to her master. The Emperor himself was on the balcony with the little artist, the blue-skinned officer and one Matthias Ruud, an up-and-coming young captain who served in the Outer Rim. As she opened herself to the Force, she sensed that he was greatly enjoying himself.

    The slightest of ripples brushed her mind and she saw the Emperor put an end to his conversation and begin making his way towards her, stopping every now and then to greet one of the officers in attendance. The pressure built up as she mimicked his movements – he had been teaching her how to engage in mental communication while in public, but the skill was new to her and she found it difficult to keep up with a verbal discussion, however insignificant, while transmitting information telepathically. The contact was kind and friendly, but persistent, like that of a mentor prodding his learner to expand her abilities, and she finally perceived a sentence. Were you successful, child?

    She nodded haughtily to the man she had been talking with and took a step aside. Yes, My Lord, she answered with an inner smile. The traitors have been uncovered.

    The faintest trace of anger seeped across the mental bond. Traitors, you say?

    Yes, My Lord. There were several. I took data dumps for two of them and will analyse the information before they are brought in for interrogation. As for the other two... She quickly stifled a spark of youthful satisfaction in her eyes. Admiral Pelegard has already been punished, and Moff Kalast will follow soon.

    The anger spiked. Pelegard?

    She bowed politely to Grand Moff Tarkin, praying to the Force that he wouldn’t stop to engage her in conversation. Fortunately he walked past her indifferently. He had already leaked information about the new Death Star project to the Bothans. He died, as he deserved.

    The unexpected wave of fury that crashed over Mara through the mental bond was such that her face blanched. “My dear young lady, are you feeling alright?” the Emperor was asking her aloud. He was standing before her now, perfect in the role of the elderly uncle addressing one of his wards. At the same time, the darkest of tendrils were crawling into her thoughts, stabbing at her mind. Tell me, child, did I task you with investigating the new Death Star project?

    She barely managed a deep curtsey. “I am grateful for your concern, Your Majesty, I am here to do as my Emperor desires...” But, My Lord –

    Did I task you with investigating anything related to the second Death Star? the silent voice repeated. “Let us walk together, my dear; it is time for this evening’s festivities to end, and you appear to need some rest.” Did I?

    No, My Lord, she conceded as she took his arm and walked to the door. You never mentioned the second Death Star. You tasked me with investigating leaks about the first, only the first. In the corner of her eye she glimpsed Kalast drifting away from Ozzel as the latter was approached by Ruud. Panic surged through her at the thought that her prey would escape.

    A sharp jab to her mind brought her attention back to the Emperor. Moff Kalast is of no concern to you, Mara Jade. You have failed, because you have overreached. The second Death Star was not within your mandate. Lord Vader will take over your mission, and you will resume more... menial duties until I am confident that you will execute my orders. No less, but also no more. Is that understood?

    She bowed her head in shame. Yes, My Lord, she thought submissively.

    Ysanne Isard’s mismatched eyes followed them as they crossed the hallway towards the turbolifts. Her gaze was mildly indifferent, but Mara knew that she was anything but. The woman had accused her own father of treason only months ago – it was rumoured that she had fired herself the shot that took his life when he was executed – and she was constantly on the outlook for opponents who could investigate her deeper motives. Mara straightened herself and plastered a courteous smile over her face, as befitted a dancer who was being honoured with her master’s private company, but she could feel the Intelligence director’s suspicion heavy in the air. Good, the silent voice said. I expect you at the very least to maintain your cover, despite today’s… sleight of hand.

    It was all Mara could do not to shudder. The Emperor’s presence had grown increasingly cold and feverish shivers were running down her spine. You will return to your quarters until I have need for your services, her master was now saying. You will ponder the causes and possible consequences of your mistake. His yellow eyes were still fixed on her as the turbolift doors closed, and suddenly the mental contact was gone.