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Saga - Legends "Provenance" - Luke Skywalker / Mara Jade - A powerful foe from Mara’s past reappears.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Jâd Sphera, Dec 16, 2018.

  1. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    "Provenance"
    A Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade story.
    Several Chapters.
    Anchored in the Legends Universe, but goes kind of AU.



    "Provenance"

    by JâdSphera

    Summary:

    A powerful foe from Mara’s past reappears and a certain Jedi can help her. Unbeknownst to both, Luke and Mara set themselves in a journey of self-discovery while unexpected origins arise.
    Sometime between 18 and 19 ABY, before “Spectre of the Past.”
    A lot of events go AU from here.

    Notes:
    Hello!

    This is the first chapter of a story that will explore Mara's origins, as well as Luke's; and it will go pretty much AU as the story progresses and I will take A LOT of writing liberties concerning Canon. It all indicates that it will become a story of various chapters, perhaps up to twenty or more… So please if you like the story and would like to know more, leave a comment and be patient with me. I write on my free time - of which I do not have that much, but I LOVE writing, so I will do my best to be as quick as I can with the updates.
    If everything goes according to plan, I will be posting a new chapter every weekend until it's done.

    English is not my first language. I write in English to become more proficient in it.

    I would like to thank my wonderful Beta Reader @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha at the Jedi Council Forums for the generous and priceless help with proof-reading this story. Thank you Ny!

    And thank you for reading! It would be nice if you take the time to leave a comment ;)
    I hope you enjoy this story.




    Chapter 1


    Sometime between 18 and 19 ABY, before “Spectre of the Past.”
    A lot of events go AU from here.



    Coruscant upheld its title of Centre of the New Government. A huge metropolis, an entire planet that had evolved into one massive city. Strategically located in the Galactic Core, it had maintained its political importance and influence over the ages. A world plagued with colossal infrastructure of numerous levels, rising from ground level and roaring into the sky. The high, magnificent Coruscanti skyscrapers were the protagonists of Coruscant’s landscape. Impressive structures of metal and transparisteel glittered under the mid-afternoon’s sun.

    Amongst all these hyper-high structures, the omnipresent Imperial Palace stood out, indisputably the king of kings of Coruscanti architecture. Seventy-eight towers rose from the face of the palace, all of them filled with dozens of chambers and rooms serving various functions. Some of these spires were destined to safekeep vital records from across the Galaxy. A number of fifty other impressive buildings surrounded the Palace, making up the full Complex, located in the Senate District of Coruscant. The Palace Complex housed numerous Government Institutions, offices and services provided to the civilian population; the main buildings were surrounded by libraries, hotels servicing the off-planet visitors, airspeederparking spaces, broad squares, wide pedestrian pathways and lush gardens, plus service establishments and living quarters for those who dwelled in the area, tending to their governmental duties.

    In one of the highest floors in the building that accommodated the Senate Chamber and its numerous offices, Luke Skywalker sat at a large table in the conference room that had been reserved for him for the day. With Yavin IV left behind for a few weeks, he had come to Coruscant to attend some business with the Senate regarding the Academy and the involvement of the Jedi in the peacekeeping efforts in the worlds under the protective umbrella of the New Republic. Clad in his usual blacks under his dark Jedi Master robes, Luke had been having meetings all day with different representatives in the Senate. Some of these meetings proved to be productive and accomplished their intended goals, others had just been plain frustrating.

    The relationship between the ruling Government and the Jedi consisted of collaborative work. The Jedi Academy did not depend on New Republic funds, so this fact was a leverage that gave Luke the liberty to make his own decisions. It was a huge benefit to have complete freedom when deciding where the Jedi efforts should be placed. No one could coerce the Jedi Praxeum into action or force them to support any individual agendas that worked to the detriment of the values the Jedi stood for. Of course, he did not take these decisions unilaterally. The Jedi Master always took into consideration the advice of his closest fellow Jedi, the needs of the affiliated worlds, the issues at stake, the resources at hand, and President Leia Organa-Solo’s advice in the matter. It was important for Luke to support his sister. Being the Chief of State was not easy on her, and he knew that both took to heart their duty to safeguard the best interests and the wellbeing of the Galaxy at large.

    And in truth, that was why he was here today. Leia had asked him so.

    In between meetings, Luke had kept going through a refreshing Jedi technique, so he could stay alert and calm. The demands presented to him by the different dignitaries were all important to their interlocutors; some were reasonable and attainable, but many proved to be absolutely insane. These were giving him a headache!

    Rubbing his temples, Luke patiently waited for the next dignitary to make his or her entrance. The programme in his datapad only read: Outer Rim Worlds Commerce Representative. Did that position even exist? ‘Never heard of it.’ He muzzily wondered. When he looked up from his datapad he was pleasantly relieved by his visitor’s presence. Wearing a tight-fitting navy-blue outfit and taupe jacket, fierce red hair framing her beautiful face, Mara Jade entered the room.

    “Mara! What are you doing here?” he stood up clearly surprised. No sign of her faithful blaster or the lightsaber she routinely kept at her hip. ‘Surely left behind at the security check-point before entering the building.’ Luke thought.

    “Good to see you too Jedi.” She answered dryly.

    “Sorry… that came out wrong.” He apologized to his friend, still unable to conceal his delight.

    “I’m your next appointment.” She declared easily. Luke looked puzzled, so she continued, “You didn’t pick up your commlink, I needed to see you in person… and it seemed that the only way to do it was through the formal channels,” she continued matter-of-factly, “So here I am.”

    Yes, he’d been up to his neck with meetings and Senate sessions, buried under an excruciating amount of executive work, attending official dinner parties and the like, with no time to pay attention to anything else. Luke was a man of action and found these types of duties very challenging, very draining and at times boring. Even a few moments ago he’d been so absorbed by these negotiations that he hadn’t even sensed Mara outside the room! Although, surely, she’d been shielding in the Force too, trying to sneak up on him and surprise him… and she had accomplished it beautifully. These days he’d been so busy that he had not had the time to inquire about her whereabouts.

    Luke snorted in amusement, “Outer Rim Worlds Commerce Representative?” he mockingly accused, “Couldn’t you come up with a better name?”

    “That’s Ghent’s fault!” Mara said defensively, “He’s a genius slicer, but sometimes he’s got the creativity of a bantha.” She conceded.

    Luke smiled openly. Despite the implications of what Ghent’s hacking of his programme meant, it was good to see her. It’d been a while since they had last seen each other and enjoying Mara’s company was something he always looked forward to. But if she had gone to these lengths only to see him, then whatever it was the Master Trader was here to discuss was surely important. They’d make time for catching up later. He gestured to her to take a seat at the table. Mara sat down taking the chair next to his.

    “Ok. Then let’s make time count. What’s this urgent matter you want us to discuss?” Interest and curiosity seeped into his voice.

    Mara’s voice turned stern, “This is serious Skywalker, that’s why I had to see you. No one else can know about this. So, I’m counting on your discretion.”

    Luke nodded in silence. The graveness of her demeanour made him worry. Now that he was paying attention, she had dropped her shields a little bit and he could sense acute uneasiness radiating from his green-eyed friend. No, Mara was not uneasy… She was frightened! And if this matter was enough to spook Mara Jade, then he now felt genuinely and utterly terrified! What was all this about? What had Mara so rattled? He looked at her, intently.

    “Are you recording your day’s sessions?” asked Mara in wariness.

    When Luke gave a negative reply, she continued, “I need your help.”

    “Anything.” Luke immediately reassured.

    “I need access to the old files in Palpatine’s library, the ones held here at the Imperial Palace.” She revealed. These files were classified information, their existence only known to a few and the access to them even more restricted. Luke knew that Mara, as the former Emperor’s Hand, knew everything about them, and that probably she could access the files on her own since she had a very specific skill-set in slicing, but it was clear that she did not want to put at risk her brittle relationship with the New Republic, so she needed him for this. “And I mean: full access.” The former Imperial agent stressed.

    “You can count on it.” Luke affirmed. “I’ll call Leia and make the arrangements. Give me a day. And I won’t mention it is for you.”

    Mara shook her head in acknowledgement, relief and gratitude in her eyes. “Thank you.”

    “What is it Mara? Tell me.” Luke invited, his tone concerned.

    Mara let out a sigh, and Luke could tell she was struggling to put her thoughts together… as if there were a lot of things to say and she were trying to find the best way to come about it.

    She finally started, “Many years ago… When I was only a teen and still training to become what Palpatine planned for me: his Hand… In Court I started hearing rumours about an entity thousands of years old. It was said that such entity regularly came to see the Emperor. Rumour had it that it presented itself as a woman with mystical powers, beyond anything the Force could accomplish. No one ever noticed her coming in or out of Palpatine’s chambers, no one ever saw her. Not the Emperor’s advisors or his royal guards, nor his acolytes… Not even Vader. But the stories prevailed. It seemed that Palpatine always asked to be left alone whenever he summoned her. The nature of these meetings remained a secret and over time many assumed that this mysterious woman was only one more of Palpatine’s lovers. These secretive visits were sporadic, but went on for numerous years, and always these happened when Vader and I were away on missions. Many times, I came back to only find more rumours. The Emperor never spoke about this to me, and I knew better than ask. To be honest, I even started believing that all was just gossip made up by airheaded, bored concubines.” Mara shook her head in disgust.

    “But these ended up not just being rumours…” Luke encouraged.

    “Years passed by…” The former Emperor’s Hand continued, “One night I came back from a mission in the Terroc System… and found Palpatine alone in his chambers, gravely injured. He’d been attacked and wounded by his visitor. He lay in a puddle of blood, weak and, at that time, I thought done for. The room was a mess, the walls were scorched by something I could not identify, and I found a very strange symbol at Palpatine’s feet that he’d managed to draw with his own blood. Once he was taken to the infirmary I came back to his chambers and inspected every inch of them…” Mara looked away, searching her memory, “All I could find were more scorches and more weird symbols, different from what he had drawn though…all burned into the surfaces.”

    “Some sort of ritual?” The Jedi inquired.

    Mara assented, “I immediately thought so…”

    “And this female entity injured the Emperor?” Luke asked, a hint of surprise and awe in his tone, “I mean… What kind of power did she wield to accomplish that?” Luke had faced the Emperor himself, and certainly knew first-hand about the dark power the old Sith wielded. In their first encounter Luke almost lost his life, if it hadn’t been for his father’s intervention… and Vader hadn’t survived that encounter. In their second face-off, Luke was able to defeat Palpatine for good, but only when he and Leia combined their Jedi powers to break free of his dark influence.

    “During his convalescence I asked him about it…” Mara continued, “…and then he let me in in this little secret of his.” Something in her gaze made Luke’s skin crawl. He fixed his own on her, urging her to continue. “He revealed to me that this visitor of his was indeed an entity – an ancient witchin fact, and that she came to see him from another plane.”

    “Another… plane?” Luke asked with befuddlement, without diverging his attention from his friend.

    Mara nodded and then continued, “He then confided to me that he was gravely ill, that this rare illness affected his connection to the Force. Palpatine told me that his ailment was a side effect of the vile attack he’d suffer from the Jedi during the “Jedi Rebellion” many years before, an attack that had deformed him and weakened him,” Mara snorted with a sarcastic mock, “A wound suffered in the service of the people, he’d dubbed it.”

    When hearing this, Luke couldn’t help but to feel sheer indignation boiling within. To think that Palpatine had achieved supreme power by appearing weak and defeated, and that he had won Mara’s trust and allegiance using that same trick. The Emperor’s treachery hadn’t known any limits.

    Mara continued her story, “He also told me that this witch had been helping him to strengthen his body, helping him to conjure energy from other planes so he could wield power enough to heal and to keep himself alive.” The red-head made a small pause, “In return, he was helping her to rebuild her home world. He paid her by facilitating human candidates, people who voluntarily had decided to go with her and start anew… or so he told me. She needed them, to repopulate and restore her civilization.”

    “What was going on in her world?” he inquired.

    “I never knew,” the Trader answered. “But Palpatine was no fool and he had done some investigating on his own. He found out that this entity was in fact the ancient Zaferath Witch, mentioned in very old legends… Sith legends.”

    The mention of Sith unnerved Luke. When Dark Lords were involved, it was never good. “I’ve never heard of her,” He mumbled, while recalling what he knew about Sith lore.

    “Neither had I,” Mara added. “The legend tells that, in the beginning of time, there was a maiden of unparalleled beauty named Gaethel, who possessed exceptional spiritual powers. Being blessed with these unique gifts, she’d pledged herself to priesthood, and wanted to dedicate her life to becoming a high priestess. Being so beautiful, she was desired by many men, but she blatantly rejected every proposition. Until Ialinh came into the picture. He courted her gallantly, insistently… and eventually she fell in love and accepted him. Unbeknownst to her, as beautiful as he was in the outside, Ialinh was truly a heartless, egoistical, vain man; who had pursued her affections because of a bet he’d made with his friends. He saw her as a prize to be won, and once he’d won it, he got tired of her, and the urge to pursue new challenges willed him to the next thing. Ruthlessly, he betrayed her; he mocked her naiveté and humiliated her. Gaethel became consumed by shame and sorrow, but soon enough she harboured a seething rage towards Ialinh and started thinking of nothing but revenge. She then turned to her spiritual attainment and conjured very dark energy to increase her power; she let herself become one with it. Using this newfound power, she hunted down every man involved in the treachery until she found Ialinh, and utterly destroyed her former lover.”

    Luke was listening very carefully to every word his friend spoke. Her natural posh accent – acquired from her Imperial nexus, adding a fairy-tale vibe to the whole story. He felt hesitant to ask, but he did anyways, “How did she destroy him?”

    “Using her dark powers, she tortured him, fed upon his energy, and once there was no life left in his body… she consumed it.” Mara ominously stated. “And Zaferath came to be. A dark witch with enormous power, and a personal vendetta towards men.”

    Somehow, this last statement made Luke feel very uncomfortable.

    Mara continued, “You know me Farmboy, I could have easily dismissed this as a nonsensical, sappy story… but hearing it directly from Palpatine’s mouth… and the state he was in… That was the first and only time that I ever saw him vulnerable, you could say that even frail… All of it gave me a whole new perspective about this tale of his.”

    “It made it real to you.” The Jedi added.

    Mara snorted, “Real enough to make me begin my own investigation. I came to my own conclusions, which have become clearer and clearer as time has gone by.” She made a pause. Luke felt her struggle with the anger and disappointment that dwelled while recalling those memories, Palpatine had made a mess of her. All those years under his service, she had lived a distorted, wicked lie. When recovering, she continued, “Surely enough these “volunteers” were humans the Emperor had enslaved and was simply using as currency to pay for the Witch’s favours,” the trader shook her head with disgust. “I’m also sure the Witch was simply energetically fattening Palpatine up, so she could feed on him too, when the time was right. The old sag was so blinded by what he was being offered that he became sloppy… It almost cost him his life.” Mara finished, narrowing her eyes, thinking about the implications of THAT happening. Maybe without meaning it the Witch would have saved the Galaxy a lot of trouble… but they hadn’t been that lucky. “When Palpatine found out about my investigation he summoned me and ordered me to drop it, and to not go after her. I obeyed.” Mara had always been a devoted soldier, and soldiers always obeyed orders. “I still find that very odd. I’ve always wondered why he stopped me.”

    They both were silent for a while, processing everything that had just been revealed. Veiled mystical powers, darkness of a different kind, slavery, the consumption of human flesh… and to think that Palpatine had allowed such power to cross to this plane and that he’d been attacked and almost killed by it… It was all worrisome… and too ominous for Luke’s taste.

    “I’d think that Palpatine must have done a very thorough job at getting rid of her.” Luke added with a hint of hope.

    “Maybe…” Mara sounded unconvinced. “Still, he taught me how to vanquish her, so I don’t think he was sure about having gotten rid of her for good. I trained without objections. It was my sworn duty to protect him, so I never doubted his motives.”

    “There is a specific way to fight and defeat her?”

    Vanquish her,” Mara corrected, “Yes.”

    ‘Vanquish…’ Luke formed the word in his mind.

    “As mentioned before: it is kind of a ritual.” The red-head continued. “There are certain artefacts involved, symbols and incantations in a very ancient and strange language… and only females can do it. Males, particularly human males, are helpless against her power.”

    Luke thought that, somehow, it all sounded like something any Dathomir Witch would do… to the way they connected to the Force… but Dathomirwitches were not powerful enough to defeat a Sith on their own… perhaps not even with all their powers combined. Dathomir society established the dominance of females over males, but the witches did not hate their men. They protected them and provided for them… raised families with them. This Zaferath Witch did not sound anything like the witches he’d known.

    “Could Zaferath use the Force?” he asked, trying to understand this power.

    “I don’t think so…” Mara reflected on it for a moment, “No, I’m sure she couldn’t,” she then affirmed. “I’m sure she wouldn’t need it though, I would think her powers come from another source. She’s from another plane, remember?”

    “So Palpatine couldn’t use the Force against her then, not the dark side anyways…” Luke put in.

    “And I wouldn’t bet on trying to use the light side against her either,” Mara warned, “Everything I learnt about how to fight her has nothing to do with anything related to the Force.”

    So, the Force would be ineffective… and men were helpless against her… All this just kept making Luke feel more and more uncomfortable. He was not used to feeling helpless, and this situation somehow made him feel that. It was silly of course, he rationalized that he was jumping at shadows and that there was always a way to defeat an enemy… but the feeling lingered. He had to admit that it was Mara’s jitteriness what was fuelling his unease. So, he needed to stop letting his own mind play tricks on him and to start being objective. “Couldn’t have Palpatine just been lying to you?” Luke wondered.

    “No, I’m sure he wasn’t. He feared her. No doubt about that.” Mara countered.

    “The Emperor, Darth Sidious was afraid of this… Witch.” Luke let out, feeling a shiver going down his spine.

    “Really and genuinely afraid of her,” Mara stressed. “And the Palpatine I knew was afraid of nothing!” After a little while she again broke the silence, “Of course, now I know that this illness of his was just a charade to conceal from me the truth of his dealings with this woman. After he ordered me to stop my inquiries, Palpatine went to great lengths to make sure that no-one but me could ever know about her identity.” She remembered how elements of the Royal Guard had been called off duty and replaced, as well as butlers, maids and other service personnel… people she’d never heard of again.

    “So, you think the rest of the information you need is in those files?” the Jedi asked.

    “I know it’s there.” Mara firmly stated. Palpatine kept everything in those personal files of his. Information he could rely on to be used with every ounce of malice he only knew how.

    Luke knew better than to question Mara’s knowledge on Imperial intel. She’d been a high rank member of Palpatine’s elite forces, second only to Darth Vader. So, if she said she was sure the files would be there, these would be.

    “Why would you want to go after her now?” the Jedi resumed their conversation, “After all these years, she must be probably gone. If Palpatine vanquished her, then there’s no way she could have come back.”

    “You would think that… I’ve even thought she’d be dead by now, but...” She hesitated for a moment and then continued, “I had this lead that ran cold many years ago, it just went dead… then a few weeks ago, I picked up the trail again. I got this information about smugglers gone missing. I got my hands on some holos from what was left after the attacks… and I immediately recognized the markings.”

    “The same scorch marks and symbols.” Luke filled in.

    Mara nodded an affirmative. “I went on board the last vessel that was affected and saw the evidence with my own eyes… No finger prints, no DNA, no recognizable energy left behind… Just the scorched symbols, blood splattered everywhere with a positive correlation to the victims, but no bodies… Everything matches what I saw in Palpatine’s chambers years ago!”

    “Couldn’t it be a copycat?” He offered.

    “Impossible. Remember that nobody outside Palpatine’s Court knew about this… and everyone but me is now gone.” She pointed out, her mind racing, “All the casualties in the smuggler circle have been human males… And the surviving women speak of purple energy, surges of heat and cold, haziness, whispered words and chants… All coming in and out like nothing! Every smuggler in the area is spooked!”

    “Jade, you know how smugglers can be… they tend to overstate their tales exponentially.” Luke added dryly, while running a hand through his unruly dirty-blond hair.

    She gave him an annoyed look, “Everything is too suspicious to leave it alone… and if the legend is true…” her emerald eyes narrowing in concentration. “This is bad Skywalker, REALLY bad!” Mara muttered. “She’s leaving a lot of bodies behind and I’m not going to sit and watch her get away with it!” She finished, a hunter gleam in her eyes.

    Cautiously Luke took her out of her ruminations, “Mara, it sounds more like a horror story…” A flicker of annoyance crossed her eyes and he rushed, “I mean… I don’t doubt you, but… this sounds so far-fetched.”

    “That’s why I’m here talking to you Farmboy!” she admonished him a bit irritated, “I cannot just blab about this with anyone else! You’re the only one I can trust with this. You of all people would know better… with all the crazy shavit you’ve encountered in all your little escapades!” She stopped herself, her words had just come out too fast. Mara took a slow breath, “You’ve got to help me. We cannot let her be!”

    Calmly, Luke let everything he’d just learned sink in, then he inquired, “How can you be sure that these two things are connected?”

    “I just know!” She declared, abruptly standing up and grabbing her head with both hands, visibly agitated. Without adding more words, she turned towards the transparisteel window, looking out into the city’s bustle.

    The chime in the meeting room’s table beeped softly. Luke pressed the blinking button and Threepio’s prim voice came through, “Master Luke, this was your last appointment for the day, and just to remind you that tonight you have dinner with the Gotal dignitaries.”

    “Thanks, Threepio, I’ll take a few more minutes here, something very important has come up. Please send word to Leia that I will be delayed.” The Jedi requested. It was important to him to help Mara, in any way he could.

    Luke sat quietly, his blue gaze slowly studying her. Mara was too troubled by all this matter and she needed to calm down. This was so uncharacteristic of her. For once, he found himself on the other side of things: being the one calling for caution, and it felt a bit awkward; usually Mara was the cool-headed one. “I don’t doubt you Mara.” He reassured her, “But it’s just clear to me that you are obviously too invested in this matter, and I can’t help to wonder if it might be getting in the way of your objectiveness.”

    Mara turned around to face him. ‘I can’t believe you’re questioning me!’ She countered angrily through their Force bond.

    “I believe you!” Luke replied out loud, while holding up his palms defensively, trying to stop her ranting before she got going, “I’m just saying I know how it is to be too far into something… I’m not the best example in forethought myself.”

    This last comment seemed to appease her outrage. She could understand where Luke was coming from. Too many times he’d been accused of jumping head-first into any situation, and obviously he was just trying to keep her from making a similar mistake. And she knew she was rushing, and she never rushed. Evidently, the Jedi had picked up on this too. He really knew her well.

    “You never saw her then?” the Jedi wondered.

    Mara shook her head in a negative.

    “Then you don’t know what she looks like?” he stated.

    “I know how to track her energy signature and how to destroy her…” she clarified, “But the whereabouts of what I need in order to do it is in those files! And I would rather follow this lead wherever it takes me and find nothing, than to leave things to chance!” the Trader declared.

    Luke nodded in understanding.

    Mara pressed a hand against her forehead, grunting in annoyance. “Listen… I know you are busy, but if you only get me access to those files… it’s all you’ll have to do.”

    That felt like a slap in the face! An expression of shock appeared on Luke’s features, “I’m coming with you!” he protested. “Wherever this leads you…”

    She interrupted, “Farmboy, you don’t have the time...”

    “I’ll make time!” Luke stated. “Mara, this matter’s got you very upset, and it’s not like you! I’m worried! I’m not letting you do this alone.”

    The Trader gave back an annoyed look to her friend. That Jedi protectiveness really got on her nerves. She did not need Luke to babysit! But she’d let it slip, for now. “First get me into those files! We can argue later.” She bluntly stated.



    oOo



    Before leaving the meeting room he’d been occupying for the whole day, Threepio had given Luke the highlights of the next day’s activities. He had another day full of appointments with different dignitaries. It seemed that the Senate had run out of things to argue about and had decided on an early morning’s full session on lightsaber licensing and regulation. Some nonsense to which of course he would strongly oppose. He would give every valid argument as to why these weapons should remain under Jedi tutelage and craftmanship, and was confident that he would be able to knock down any opposition. Only Jedi could craft these legendary weapons, and this had been the case for over a millennia. Embedding the power crystals with the Force was a critical step of construction. Non-Force sensitive beings could not construct a workable lightsaber, let alone machines. To think that members in the Senate thought that lighsabers could be mass produced and wielded in a carefree fashion gave Luke every knowledge he needed to confirm that still the Senate didn’t understand what the Jedi were about. So, he’d have to make sure they’d remember.

    It was already dark by the time he left the building. The Jedi Master walked with his customary aplomb through the lush gardens and polished stone walkways of the Palace Complex, his long dark cloak flowing in the soft breeze. He reached an elegant restaurant located in the Main Square, arriving just in time to start the first course of an elaborate dinner prepared and displayed in Antar 4’s style, the home world of the Gotal. Leia greeted her twin brother with veiled relief, it was obvious to him that she didn’t want to go through the evening on her own. After giving his apologies for his delay, the Jedi took his place next to the Gotal Minister of Education. For a moment, Luke regretted not bringing C-3P0 with him; it had slipped his mind that the Protocol droid would have come in handy. Luke was proficient in a dozen languages, but Gotaleese was not one of them, so he felt relieved when the Minister spoke to him in fluent Basic.

    Dinner with the Gotal dignitaries turned out to be quiet and uneventful. Leia displayed her well-practiced diplomatic skills and etiquette while interacting and exchanging impressions with their guests. The former Tatooine farm boy had learned a lot from the Alderaanian Princess, and he followed suit with propriety. For a while he discussed and exchanged experiences on the processes of teaching with the Minister he’d sat next to, but as dinner progressed and headed towards its ending, Luke became quieter and withdrawn in his interactions, he had other things on his mind. He had Mara in his thoughts.

    Luke had dealt with numerous dangerous challenges and peril throughout his adult life as a Jedi, but this matter with Mara really disturbed him. He’d sensed his friend’s apprehensiveness, and this time for once she’d really showed it. She was so out of character, in such a hurry… Her Jedi abilities weren’t fully trained, but her danger sense was infallible, it was even better than his! If Mara’s suspicions turned out to be right… To think that they’d have to face whatever Sith-related menace that had Mara on edge gave him the creeps. He had to admit that his own Jedi intuition confirmed Mara’s fears, this matter didn’t feel good. The more he thought about it, the more he felt unsettled. He’d been trying to probe the issue with the Force, trying to look further into it, to sense the presence of this entity in the energy spectrum of the Force, but he couldn’t find it… A blank wall of uncertainty was all he was able to meet. Luke didn’t want Mara to face this alone. The loyalty he felt towards his resolute friend was strong, it was unbreakable, unconditional… and he would use whatever power he had to help her. He knew Mara would go after this witch with or without him, so he’d make sure he would be by her side.

    Come what may.



    To be continued…
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    @Jâd Sphera -- a definitely compelling beginning full of mystery and urgency fromMara and a determination to stick by her side through anything that comes from Luke [face_love] I have no words to express how thrilled I am to have a fellow L/M lover posting stuff on these boards.

    I've read some of your stuff on AO3 and it's YUMMY! L/M will always be among my favorite SW true-love pairings. :D
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
    Jâd Sphera and Mira_Jade like this.
  3. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Huh, what a fascinating tale so far! [face_thinking] :eek:

    Honestly, you had me at Luke/Mara - my shipper's heart skipped a beat something fierce for that, and knowing the predicted length just sealed the deal! I'm so excited to see this through from the beginning. :D [face_dancing]

    But, that said, I have to say how very intrigued I am now after reading! This entity doesn't seem like any ol' villian of the day to confront and defeat. Her story and motives and power all have a real fantasy edge to it that I find fascinating - especially seeing as how she operates outside of the Force, apparently. And her connection to Palpatine! That makes perfect sense, and even fills in a few canon holes. He always has been obsessed with immortality and power, and this witch really sounds like a real nasty sort. Right up his alley. :p

    But the real disturbing thing is just how worried Mara is here. She's not one to take to fear and panic easily, and this witch certainly has her hackles up. Luke is right to share her misgivings! I love how strong their friendship already is, with him so earnestly wanting to help. They have quite the adventure waiting for them, it looks like!

    Then:
    [face_laugh] I loved the little moments like this that crept in! That one had me laughing out loud. Oh, this fic is just like old times . . . [face_love]

    This is off to a great start! I look forward to more. =D=
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
  4. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Hi Mira_Jade!

    Thank you for reading. I’m glad that you are liking this story so far.
    This story has been badgering me for so long… and I finally gathered the resolve to put in down on paper and get done with it!

    I’m happy to hear that you find it fascinating and are intrigued. This tells me that I’m heading in the right direction. :D Always comments from readers are SO helpful!

    I will be posting chapter number two shortly. Things might get a bit slow with the holiday season, but after New Years I will be posting a new chapter every Sunday until it’s done. So, stay put!

    Thanks again for taking the time to read and to comment.
    Jâd.
     
  5. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance - Chapter 2
    by JâdSphera


    Notes:
    English is not my first language. I write in English to become more proficient in the language.

    I would like to agian thank my great Beta Reader @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the generous and priceless help with proof reading this chapter. Thank you Ny!

    And thank you all for reading!
    I hope you enjoy this second chapter.

    If you are kind enough to leave a comment it will be much appreciated ;) We writers love to know what readers think and like to know if we are on the right track!
    Thank you!


    Chapter 2



    Debunking the reasonings of the Senate to try to regulate lightsabers was easier than Luke had expected. The Jedi were to carry on in full autonomy and would live and operate under New Republic law like any other civilian organization. The Jedi Master was reassured that the Jedi would continue to act as peacekeepers throughout the Galaxy, adhering to NR Law as long as these laws respected the fundamental rights of every sentient being and did not engage in actions that conflicted with the Jedi Code. The Jedi Code was the core statute that sustained the values of Jedi philosophy and way of life, a code that had survived and served as the moral and spiritual compass for generation after generation of Jedi. The New Order would support the New Republic and would abide by its laws just as their ancestors had: through cooperation. The hearings had lasted much less than he’d expected, giving him some free time before starting with his day’s appointments.

    Following Leia’s advice, Luke kept an office and an apartment in Coruscant. To “have planetary presence” she’d said. It was also true that, besides the PR aspects of it, having his own dwelling grounds was convenient and gave him the privacy he always sought. When he reached his private office in the Senate Complex – that only functioned when he was on planet, C-3P0 was already waiting for him and after an enthusiastic greeting, immediately started to recite the long list of appointments and activities for the day. ‘It is going to be another long day,’ Luke thought with resignation; but he had a few minutes on his own before starting.

    When Luke reached his desk, the Grade One security clearance to access Palpatine’s Library was already expecting him in his datapad. The night before Luke had had the forethought to speak about it to Leia, just before parting after their dinner with the Gotals. She’d told him he could count on it without asking too many questions, and promised she’d sent the proper clearance first thing in the morning. As always, Leia had kept her word.

    Amongst other high members of the Government like former President Mon Mothma, and active members like Admiral Gial Ackbar, General Carlist Rieekan and Hiram Drayson, Luke possessed one of the highest security clearances in the Government, only one rank below the Chief of State of the New Republic, Leia Organa-Solo. This was a privilege he had been given as founder of the New Jedi Order and as courtesy for being one of the influential founding members of the new Government, a privilege he rarely used.

    Han Solo had had this same security clearance, but just a few years ago he’d left it all behind when he resigned – this time permanently, to his rank as a General in the Military, right after the Black Fleet Crisis. He felt content with just being a normal civilian and Captain of the Millennium Falcon, spending as much time as he could with his children, “before they grow up” had been his words. And Luke couldn’t blame him for it, in his opinion it had been the right choice, and it had been a good call for Han to make. Things within the Government had gotten more and more complex, and perhaps it had to do with the natural progress of all these things. More members had joined, new positions had been created in order to fulfil the needs of a fast-growing administration, too far from the tight group of well-known and trusted allies they were in the beginning of it all.

    Luke possessed digital keys to most of the New Republic’s real treasures: The Central Data Libraries maintained by the Ministry of Intelligence. Thanks to Admiral Ackbar’s intervention, Luke also carried the highest-grade security clearance held by any civilian. Between the two, Luke had a great deal of information at his fingertips. Still, access to Palpatine’s secret files could only be granted by the Chief of State of the New Republic. Palpatine’s Library was not just a bunch of information stored in some sophisticated computing system, it was a physical place, and the files could be only accessed on site. Which meant that he had to be physically in the vaults that safekept that information and use the computer terminals there.

    Luke had never found enough reason to make much use of the favours extended to him. But he found himself with reason now. He’d pull rank this time, to help his friend.

    There was a second heavily encrypted message waiting for him in his datapad… this one from Ghent, referring to the envelop left on the top of his desk. Luke reached into the contents of the envelope and what he found made him smile with a certain smugness.

    Before leaving his office, Luke sent an encrypted message to Mara’s private line.

    It only read: ‘I’ve got access. Meet you at my office at 400 CST’


    oOo


    After five appointments and one skipped lunch, Luke was ready to go home. But as much as he wanted to call it a day, he still had one more appointment to attend, and after that his meeting with Mara… The thought of Mara cheered him up, one more hour and he’d see her. Luke studied the file that Threepio had provided with the generals of his next appointment. Varldavinnor was the name of the planet. It was a small planet he’d never heard of before, nested in the Sacaar System, way out in the faraway Tingel Arm. The Galaxy was a vast place, and there were so many isolated, unexplored territories, he was not surprised he had to look up the location of this planet in the digital internal net. As years had gone by, more and more planets had asked to join the New Republic and to start living by its law and protection. This was of course a good thing, but as the list grew longer, his memory grew shorter. The small, prosperous planet, supported itself economically through the trading of rare medicinal herbs, spices and aromatic grains; and the functioning of its social structure rested on the ruling of the Royal House of Rullian. ‘One more monarchic society.’ Luke wondered if this House had any links with the Ancient Ruling Houses, he’d have to ask Leia about it. Today Varldavinnor’s representative was Ambassador Ratvissa Haxa of the House of Rullian, placed hierarchically in the second bloodline to the throne. ‘A member of the Royal family?’ Luke realized. He would not just be dealing with an Ambassador, but with a member of a Royal House too. What dealings would royalty like to have with the Jedi? Through the comm panel embedded in the conference room’s table, Threepio announced that his next appointment had arrived, the Ambassador of Varldavinnor.

    When the door slid open, a petite, maidenly figure stepped in. Robed in a long, electric blue velvet, hooded cloak, the woman walked with grace and natural poise towards the Jedi. Luke already stood tall in front of the large table when the Ambassador approached him and extended a pale hand towards him.

    The Jedi did a polite neck bow and then gently took the creamy skinned hand, just as royal etiquette indicated. He then formally introduced himself, “I’m Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. It’s an honour to have you here, Your Royal Highness.”

    Under the hood of her cloak the Ambassador´s lips curved in a little pleased smile. “It’s nice to find someone who still adheres to well-established protocol.”

    That in return brought a smile to Luke’s face. “In fact, you must give the credit of that to my sister, President Leia-Organa Solo. She’s the one who’s crammed protocol into me.” He sheepishly confessed.

    The Ambassador gave a soft chuckle, she seemed amused by Luke’s unexpected honesty. “Oh, yes. Princess Leia of the House of Organa. I am really looking forward to meeting with her.”

    “I’m sure she will be very pleased.” Luke countered, gesturing her towards the chairs at the table. When the Ambassador reached her seat, Luke gallantly pulled the chair back, just enough for her to slip into it, and then took his seat at the other side of the table.

    Once seated, she elegantly pulled back the hood of her cloak, revealing silky, long, raven hair, adorned with a delicate circlet of tiny pearls. “For this trip I have come as an Ambassador to my people,” she clarified, “As Ambassador Ratvissa Haxa, of the House of Rullian.”

    Luke nodded in understanding. “How may the Jedi be of service, Madam Ambassador?”

    “It must seem odd to you that a member of a Royal House comes to see the Jedi before seeking an audience with a member of the Ruling Galactic Government,” she offered.

    “As a matter of fact, it does. It seems odd.” Luke admitted.

    “Well, you see... What we need is something that we can only trust the Jedi with,” the black-haired woman revealed, “Your reputation precedes you Master Skywalker, so we decided to come to you directly.”

    “And what is this matter that only the Jedi can help you with?” Luke inquired.

    “It is a most unfortunate situation, Master Jedi,” she started. “As you probably know, my cousin, the ruling Prince Rinda, succumbed to a terrible illness one year ago… Purple Haze it’s been called.” She made a pause, her eyes visibly saddening.

    Luke felt bad, and embarrassed, he didn’t know anything about the incident, and he hadn’t been careful enough to look into that prior to their meeting, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Was all he managed to say, his words sincere.

    The Ambassador noticed the sincerity in his words, “Thank you.” Then a hint of regret permeated her words, “Something so ironic for a world that takes pride in offering the rarest and most sought medicinal herbs in the whole cosmic system.” Ratvissa then explained, “You know, the chemicals in the herbs we trade have very particular and unique properties, these are processed and used in the production of very advanced pharmaceutical products that are distributed to the general population throughout the Galaxy. But we have failed to find a viable cure… and containment suits are of no use… This disease seems to be targeting only men and the elderly. A third of our male population is either bedridden or death, not a single child or young woman has fallen ill...” She made a pause and smiled ruefully, “But I’m trailing off, excuse me…”

    “Have you sought aid with the Ministry of Health?” Luke worriedly asked.

    “We didn’t have to.” The Ambassador then clarified, “One of our biggest buyers, Kasthar Pharmaceutical, came in our aid; and they have helped wonderfully.” This pharma company was one of the largest producers of medical drugs and equipment under New Republic territory, “They are doing everything they can to find a cure. The whole planet was put into quarantine for a while, I would have not been able to make this trip without their clearance. It’s been confirmed that children and women under fifty standard years are immune to the disease and cannot carry the virus, so it’s safe for some of us to travel and have contact with other sentients.”

    Despite the worrisome storyline, as Luke listened to her story, several times he found himself lost in those eyes of hers. The violet of her eyes was mesmerizing. The light coming inside through the large windows behind him added a hypnotic sparkle to her gaze. The woman was beautiful, her looks elegantly striking, her demeanour regal, the way of her speech denoted great intellect and self-assurance… She was around Luke’s own age… and her energy felt like… But he shouldn’t distract himself with such things! Not in moments like this. What was wrong with him?

    Calling back his attention, he inquired a bit more. It was not yet clear to Luke what the Ambassador wanted from him. “So, you’re covered with medical assistance…”

    “Yes, fortunately we are,” the Ambassador confirmed. “But we are facing misfortune with another matter, the one that pressed me to come here to ask for your aid.”

    Luke just nodded slightly, inviting her to continue.

    “It seems that the fact that we find ourselves stricken by this terrible outbreak, has turned us into a soft an easy target for a different type of traders. We are way out in the Galaxy, far away from the Core Worlds, and in space like this, were there is not a lot of New Republic presence, there is plenty of illegal trade... The type of trade that deals with slavery, children and women abduction, and other horrible things.” She hesitated for a moment, and then she spoke with a voice soaked in dread, “Our women are… disappearing.”

    “Are they being abducted?” Luke risked guessing.

    Ratvissa confirmed his guess with a positive nod. “Although we are not completely sure, we believe the Chiriigu are responsible. Do you know who they are?”

    “I’ve heard of them, yes.” The Chiriigu were a vile gang of slavers formed of scum of various backgrounds and races. Hard to track and hard to find. These were very well organized and well-armed. Were smart and very dangerous. They usually operated in the Systems were there was not much New Republic involvement, and it seemed they had targeted Varldavinnor this time. Just to think of any planet falling to scum like that made Luke’s blood boil.

    “We are a small, peaceful planet, scarcely populated. We don’t have a large guard, at least not large enough to defend ourselves from the Chiriigu or whatever threat we are facing.” The Ambassador explained.

    “I can intercede on your behalf and ask the Senate to provide protection for your planet. That can be done by tomorrow,” Luke offered immediately. “At least this way we will prevent the Chiriigu or whoever is targeting you from any more abduction attempts.”

    “That is a very generous offer Master Skywalker, and on behalf of the Ruling House I accept it.” Ratvissa made a graceful bow with her head.

    “We would still have to find the women that have been abducted, and it is my guess that here is where you want us in.” Luke suggested.

    “That’s right, we will need your help for that.” The Ambassador confirmed. “If we had gone through the proper Governmental channels it is very likely that they would have put our request last, because we are so small and our numbers so little. We do not have much Political influence.” She conceded with a subtle hint of indignation.

    “No life is more important than any other.” Luke let out instinctively.

    “None is.” Ratvissa concurred.

    Luke knew that there were many good things about the new Government, but he also knew that there were aspects of it that were at fault, and the way sometimes things were prioritized was not always the best way to come about them.

    “Also, please do not think that we are being inconsiderate by putting you at such risk,” the Ambassador politely pointed out. “We’ve heard that Jedi have impressive stamina and resilience, that you can resist illness like others can’t. So, we risk asking for your aid because we know that at least you’d be less affected.”

    Luke gave a soft chuckle, “Don’t believe everything you hear Your Excellency, most of what is said about Jedi is exponentially exaggerated. Jedi bruise and bleed like any other sentient being, but we do have enhanced resistance to injury and illness.” He admitted.

    “We are also willing to pay for your services.” The Ambassador firmly stated.

    “That won’t be necessary,” Luke politely pointed out. When looking at Ratvissa’s surprised expression, he added, “We are fortunate enough to count upon a very generous sponsor who’s relinquish all of his assets to support the Order,” he clarified with a slightly bashful expression on his face, “So we can put our minds in what is most important and aid those in need regardless their economical situation. Let’s say that peace in the Galaxy is our greatest reward.”

    “That’s most generous of you.” Ratvissa conceded, noticing Luke’s modest sentiment behind his words.

    “We only do what we believe is right.” The Jedi answered, then stated with resolve, “You and your people will have our help.”

    “Thank you, Master Skywalker,” she solemnly addressed the Jedi. “My people and I will be always in your debt.”

    “There’s never a debt to be kept towards the Jedi, Ambassador. We do what we do because we believe in protecting others without distinction.” Luke firmly stated.

    The Ambassador looked at the Jedi with grateful eyes. It was evident that she was deeply relieved. Perhaps in her desperation, the thought that the Jedi would refuse to help had crossed her mind. “In this you’ll find all the information concerning the victims.” She said while handing him a small datacard. “It also contains detailed information about our world and an itemized map of the planet itself and the surrounding systems… Information we think might help you with your search.”

    Luke accepted the valuable information he was being handed, “This will be of much help. Thank you, Ambassador.”

    Giving a little nod, the foreign representative stood up and stepped away from the conference table towards the door. Luke followed closely behind her, carefully matching the fluid, easy way of her small footsteps. Almost at the door, the Ambassador turned around unexpectedly, the Jedi nearly bumping into her. ‘Thank the Force for Jedi reflexes,’ Luke thought with relief.

    “You’ll find my contact details in there too.” She specified.

    “Very well Ambassador.” A hint of perplexity in his voice.

    “Please, call me Vissa.” She asked of him, her lips showing a soft, charming smile.

    Luke felt a bit caught off guard, it was obvious that she was bluntly ignoring protocol. “Vissa.” He carefully uttered, then felt compelled to say, “I’m Luke.”

    “Thank you… Luke. For your time and for all your help. It means a lot to me.” She again smiled, slightly this time, a sheepish smile. She pulled the hood over her head, turned around and left.

    Luke’s gaze followed her until the door gently slid shut. Looking at the datacard still in his hand he wondered… First Mara, now the Varldavinnorian Ambassador… What was it with this missing people scene? He should reach out to Corran Horn and ask for his help with the investigations. Corran was a former CorSec, he’d know what to do.


    oOo


    Mara had been impatiently waiting for the 400 hours of Coruscant Standard Time. Since Luke’s message had reached her, time had gone by painfully slow. But that time was approaching now. As she walked towards the building that housed the Jedi Master’s office in the Senate Complex, Mara felt certain tightness at the pit of her stomach. She could very well use one of those Jedi calming techniques… but she wouldn’t know where to start. If she’d only let Skywalker formally teach her!

    It was true that her Jedi training was less than complete, whatever Palpatine had trained her in had been just morsels of a wider set of skills and access to the Force. However, her strong military training had compensated in everything she lacked in her training in the Force, and even with this apparent lack, she’d become the deadliest Imperial secret agent ever known. Still, there were a lot of things that she sometimes wished she’d let the Farmboy teach her… to let him help her to finish her training… perhaps agree to become a fully trained Jedi. But he was so infuriatingly insistent about it! It was beyond herself to yield to his insistence! She knew she was being stubborn… and proud… and maybe paying a very high price for it.

    In a way she did not understand where her resistance came from. But she had to be fair with herself and admit that she was also very busy… Building a business of her own and making a life for herself, as far away from her former life as she could manage. When the war against the Empire had ended, she’d lost everything with it and had had to start from scratch. She had harboured intense hatred towards the Rebel Alliance, and particularly its golden boy Skywalker, for it. Perhaps becoming a Jedi would only be another disappointment and could turn into something that would bring her back to what she dreaded the most: her past.

    Absorbed in her thoughts, Mara barely noticed going up the long and wide outdoors staircase at the foot of the building. When reaching the mid-section of the staircase, she suddenly felt some familiarity towards a cloaked female figure that brushed past her in the opposite direction. Mara abruptly stopped and turned around, to only see an electric blue, velvet cloak gliding away. She remembered briefly spotting a pair of violet eyes underneath the blue hood... That woman had seemed familiar to her somehow. Maybe an old mark or surveillance objective?... But she would have not forgotten… The Emperor’s Hand never forgot her targets… And all her former targets no longer breathed… Except one: Luke Skywalker.

    Mara reached the New Jedi Order post and when entering, bluntly announced that she was going in, walking right past Threepio, who called after her complaining about why he was never let to do his job properly. When Luke’s office’s door slid open, she just stood at the door, pressing her side on the door’s frame.

    She found him standing behind his desk, putting his datapad away in one of the drawers and gathering a few other things. As usual, the Jedi was wearing his well-pressed blacks, this time under a black tabard. A dark outfit that made a dramatic contrast with his blonde hair and blue eyes. Mara always thought that his looks made others forget that he was a deadly Jedi Master.

    When he looked up, the Jedi greeted the Trader with a bright, wide smile. “Hi, Mara!”

    She had to admit that smile was really cute, and it did look nice on him. Why did he smile at her this much? Involuntarily, a soft smile of her own slipped her lips. And why did she smile that much back?! She’d become soft after a decade of hanging around with him, that’s what it was! Skywalker was really a very bad influence. “Hello, Farmboy.” She greeted back, resigned at the clear realization that the former Tatooine farm boy had really rubbed off on her without even noticing it.

    Feeling very pleased at the sight of his friend, Luke hurriedly finished what he was doing. Mara carried a small satchel over her shoulder of whose contents the Jedi didn’t inquire about. Luke grabbed his cloak and put it on, keeping the hood back, over his shoulders. Then grabbed another piece of fabric and extended it to Mara. “Here…” Luke handed her a classic brown Jedi cloak. “Put it on,” he instructed.

    Mara followed suit without saying anything, quickly putting the cloak on and pulling the hood over her braided red hair, a faint soapy sent reaching her nostrils.

    “And take this too.” Luke handed her an ID card with the markings of the Jedi Academy. “After hacking my Programme, Ghent owed me a little favour.” He dryly declared, sounding half serious and half amused, and brushing past her he walked towards the door. “Let’s go.”

    Mara followed without any arguments, matching his pace, studying the small, flat rectangle in her hand, and imagining Ghent’s face – all full of guilt and fear, at the sight of Skywalker popping in his office. “Now I’m going to owe Ghent one.” She murmured.

    “You’re Dasa Tasglan, a Jedi Archivist. You are part of Tionne’s staff, you’re with me as part of my research team. I sent out word in advance, so we shouldn’t have any problems.” Luke updated her as they walked.

    Mara made a rueful face. She’d never stopped to think about the kind of risk she would put Skywalker into by asking him to do this for her, and now she regretted it.

    “What? You were an elite spy… You’re used to con-names and posing for someone else…” he stated when sensing her hesitation, “This should be as easy as a Blue Milk Run for you.”

    He was right, this should be only routine work for her. “Yes, yes… It’s been a long time though.” She knew that was a lame answer, but she felt more worried about trying to hide the guilt she felt. If someone ever knew that it had been she the one accessing those files… It would create a gruesome political incident, and the Farmboy would be at the centre of it all.

    “Got everything you need?” Luke asked as they walked, snapping her out of her guilty ruminations.

    “Of course, Farmboy. Who do you take me for?” she teased, going back to her cool, composed self.

    The building they needed to go to was within the Palace Complex grounds, so it only took a few minutes’ walk to get there. In a short while, they reached the entrance to the Imperial Library. The tall spires of the Library hovering above their heads. The athenaeum was huge and beautiful, it kept its original architecture, reminiscent of old times, a part of Coruscant history over the centuries, and now the keeper of Galactic history and culture. The building was outfitted with the latest technology for holo-digital data storage, welcoming all types of sentient beings interested in knowledge and learning. In here researchers, attorneys, professors, scientists and the like had access to millions of volumes with specialized information. Not all visitors could have access to all the chambers and materials; most information of common interest could be found on the Holo Net throughout the Galaxy, so a visit to the Imperial Library was usually impelled by academic reasons.

    Mara admired the numerous tall towers, placing a hand over her eyes to dim the afternoon sun. Those were 78 storeys a piece, and at the very top of one of those spires, lay what she was looking for. Due to the nature of the information that was preserved in that building, particularly in the spire were Luke and Mara were headed, the safety and security protocols were of the highest level.

    Jedi and Trader entered the Library. After following several long aisles and a couple of electric staircases, they reached the entrance of the intended spire. Without hesitation, they approached the access security checkpoint, where an armed military security officer and a military grade droid greeted their visitors. Maybe this was not going to be as easy as Luke had thought at first.

    Mara tensed at the sight before them, ‘Farmboy, that’s military grade security,’ she sent out through their Force bond.

    ‘Relax, I’ve got everything covered.’ He sent back in reassurance.

    The Jedi approached the post without giving out any sign of hesitation. With his usual security clearance, Luke could enter the Imperial Library and access everything in it, except for a few of the vaults guarded in the spires. To access those restricted vaults, he needed the Chief of State’s authorization, which was exactly what Leia had granted him for this one time. “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to access Information Vault 969.”

    The Security Officer looked back at the Jedi with some surprise, those were the Emperor’s Archives, and only a few had requested access before, but when recognizing the bearer of such request the officer seemed to ease out.

    “I’ve got an Aurek Besh 1 Security Clearance plus a special Double Aurek 1 authorization code from President Organa-Solo.” Luke said, handing a small cylindrical gadget to the Officer, “And this is Jedi Archivist Dasa Tasglan. She’s here to assist me with my research.” Luke nodded to Mara who handed the ID card he’d given her.

    The Security Officer took both identifications, passing them through a scanning pad on his console, “What’s in the bag?” he formally inquired.

    Datapads… containing notes and translation software.” Mara jumped in and clarified.

    “Very well. Please hand it to the droid for scanning.” Mara did what she was asked. Everything went green. “Master Jedi Skywalker.” The Officer ceremoniously addressed the Jedi, “Both ID’s are clear and your Code Key works. You’ve got the proper security clearances. Please, allow the droid to scan your anatomy, we just need final confirmation of your biometrics.”

    Luke stepped towards the droid, sensing an orange light sweep at him from head to toe. Consciously he retracted his own natural energy field, he did not want to unintendedly make the droid to malfunction.

    The Officer handed the satchel back to Mara, then turned to Luke, “According to your Code Key and your clearance level, you may bring your lightsaber into the precinct.” The grade on Luke’s security clearance also allowed him to take his lightsaber everywhere. “And you have four hours inside the spire,” the Officer confirmed. “And your Archivist…”

    This time Luke jumped in, “She’s unarmed, and I do not think you need anything more from her. She’s here under my responsibility.” The Jedi firmly said.

    Luke didn’t want to risk running into the possibility of Mara’s biometrics not being registered anywhere at all. She’d been the Emperor’s Hand after all, and only a few of the highest-ranking Imperial Officers had known about her existence; and so far, none of her most fierce enemies within the New Republic Government had found evidence of her involvement with the Empire or any other type of involvement whatsoever. Luke didn’t want to use any Force Suggestion techniques, but he’d use one if he had to.

    Fortunately, being under Luke’s scope of responsibility was good enough reason for the Security Officer to let Mara be, “Of course, Master Skywalker.” He agreed, “You may proceed.”

    Luke and Mara walked past the security station into the small vestibule that lay before the turbolift doors.

    “Master Skywalker,” the Officer called out after them. Mara’s heart stopped. “It is an honour to be at your service, you may stay for as long as you need.”


    oOo


    A quick ride in the turbolift and a walk through a long and narrow alley, brought Luke and Mara to Vault 969. Luke inserted his Code Key in the appropriate outlet. Without any preamble, the door silently slid open uncovering a huge high-ceilinged space. Both stepped in, feeling a bit apprehensive for different reasons: the dim lights, low temperature and axenic odour generating an eerie feeling. Neither of them had ever set foot in that vault, but just knowing that all that was in there had once belonged to the Emperor… Without a doubt, the fact of being there brought back grim memories.

    They both remained quiet, separately searching in silence for the main terminal amongst the massive servers that, in neat arranged alleys, covered the entire vault. The formal name for this collective of information was the Emperor’s Archives, but it was colloquially dubbed as Palpatine’s Library. Back in the day, just few in the Empire had known of their existence, and as far as she knew, only Mara had had access to them, not on site, but from her own private encrypted terminal in her Imperial quarters.

    She would only use her access for intel purposes when planning her missions and researching her targets. She’d never felt curiosity to browse through the host of information that had lain there before her, at full reach. Back then, she’d thought she’d known everything she needed to know… and that had been her greatest mistake.

    After a few moments, Mara found the main terminal. The terminal presented four computer consoles arranged in a circle. “I’ve found it!” she called out, while taking a seat in front of one of the consoles.

    Luke rushed towards where Mara sat. He stood behind her, looking over her shoulder.

    “Let’s see if my old codes still work…” She mumbled hopefully. With expertise, her fingers rapidly moved as the correct keys were pressed down. On the screen the lights blinked briefly, and a second view panel opened. A smug smile appeared on Mara’s lips, “No one will ever know that I was here.” She declared with a certain pride.

    Unrecognizable schematics popped on. Luke watched intently, full of intrigue, ‘What is all this?’ he wondered. The Jedi was certain no one in the New Republic had ever seen this information. It all looked like programming within the programming… Files within the files… Placed underneath the main line of programming, where these would never be found! It was evident that the former Emperor’s Hand was using some sort of back door to enter the main encoding and at the same time erasing any trace of her activities, leaving no trail. Mara quickly scrolled down the menus, selecting a number of files. These had encryption like Luke had never seen before, very rare and very high-tech. And to think that only Mara knew how to access these hidden files.

    “What’s in those files Mara?” he inquired, feeling acutely uneasy.

    “Believe me, it is best if all these files remain hidden. They can be trusted to no one!” She firmly stated. “And don’t worry. Nobody will know I cracked into these files, my Emperor’s Hand codes are untraceable.”

    “I don’t think anyone will ever be able to get into those files,” Luke dryly let out. “I am sure they don’t even know they exist!”

    “That’s good!” She plainly answered.

    Luke didn’t like to see Mara this apprehensive, it really unsettled him. For a moment he felt tempted to ask her to pull out everything that was in there, maybe the information contained in those files could be put to good use… but a tingle in the back of his neck prevented him from doing so. Maybe Mara was right, leaving that information untouched probably was for the best.

    “Sit tight, Farmboy. This will take a while.” Mara advised. “You’ve done your part, now it’s time I do mine.”




    To Be Continued…
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I do not believe in coincidences. LOL I think this exotic visitor is connected to Mara's quest either in innocent (as a victim" way or :oops: as a participant. Luke does not seem oblivious to her "charms", although I hope it's no more than reacting to an attractive and eloquent lady.

    I absolutely enjoyed Mara's sleuthing. :cool:

    Eager to find out what she discovers.
     
    AzureAngel2 and Jâd Sphera like this.
  7. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance - Chapter 3
    by Jâd Sphera


    Notes:
    And the story continues.

    Thank you to my awesome Beta Reader @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the wonderful support with proof-reading this story.

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to read and leave a comment ;)
    Hope you enjoy this Chapter!


    Chapter 3

    The soft, dimmed lights in the room created an atmosphere that avoided distractions. No sounds from the exterior would ever go through the thick armoured walls. There were no windows or wall chronos… Definitely it would be easy to lose track of time while being in a space like this. The only sounds were the soft, almost inaudible hisses and beeps of the servers. The brightest lights were produced by the computer terminal where Mara sat at, casting a soft blueish light on her face. The red-head looked at the screen intently, completely focused.

    Mara worked diligently at the computer terminal. She was not a genius with computers like Ghent was, but she knew her stuff; and once at the right terminal, she certainly knew how to work her magic. She kept her satchel open by her side. Inside of it there were a few tech items she’d brought with her, a couple of datapads, some connecting cables, a number of datacards and a couple of the more capacity able datacubes. These were indeed datapads and translation software as she had declared at the security check point, but not the kind most were used to deal with; these devices were high-tech Imperial coders, identified by any scanner as an ordinary piece of tech. Among these pieces of high technology, there was definitely one that not many sentient beings would have ever seen before. This was a tech piece that resembled a thin transparisteel rectangle, the size of a large envelope; it looked harmless and of no apparent use. But this specific piece was the most important of them all: this was Mara’s personal portable coder. A very mean gadget that only responded to the former Emperor’s Hand’s DNA signature. At first sight it would only look like a thin pad made of transparisteel, giving no indication of its nature whatsoever, but when switched on it turned into a select military grade piece of equipment, capable of performing multiple high intel tasks, such as decrypting the most sophisticated encryption coding, like the one that concealed what was really important in Vault 969.

    It had been a lucky coincidence that Mara had had her coder with her at the time of the battle of Endor, when everything had gone to hell. After the fall of the Empire, the gadget had helped her to be ahead of things, and to find her way around the chaos, particularly when covering her own tracks so she would remain non-existent.

    Mara had her coder connected to the main port of the computer terminal. As she worked through the files, every time she keyed search codes, she found unbelievably large amounts of information. It would take her forever to sort everything out! But it was this or nothing. She might as well single out everything she deemed useful.

    Growing up, Mara had had a very strict training that included not only military disciplines like intelligence, strategy, weaponry, piloting, stealth, infiltration, combat and assassination, and the likes, but it had also expanded into the formal areas of Science and the wide variety of Astronomical and Technological Sciences too. Her skillset was augmented by disciplines like DNA manipulation, robotics, bio-weaponry, explosives, and computer programming and hacking. Also, the more innocuous Social Sciences had been a part of her study template, disciplines like Psychological Profiling, Historical Interpretation, Geographical Assessment and Strategy, Cartographic Analysis, and a variety of Political Studies, had been part of it all. Even some studies related to the fine arts had been thrown in there. Secretly this last area of study was Mara’s favourite, so she was careful about not showing the pleasure it brought her, or Palpatine might deem it unnecessary.

    As the future Emperor’s Hand, she’d had a very select education, with a very particular edge to it, tailored to suit the plans Palpatine had had for her. Yes, training was all she had done her whole childhood and early teen years, and this had turned her into a very cultured, very capable and very dangerous woman. And those who had feared her, had had a good reason to do so. Even today, not many dared to mess up with Mara Jade.

    The ex-Imperial agent was also fluent in a great number of languages and she was putting this particular skill to good use this time. The files displayed on the screen where written in over a dozen languages and Mara was able to read and understand everything that showed up. She was particularly interested in finding files in Rakata, an ancient tongue, long time dead, no longer spoken by any sentient being, with the exception of Mara herself, and at the time by Emperor Palpatine. She’d been taught the ancient language at a very young age by the Emperor himself, and it had been their ways of communication for the duration of their association. Everything that was deemed important and for Mara’s knowledge, written or by word, was exchanged between them only in this particular tongue.

    As Mara browsed through the numerous files, she knew that everything Palpatine would have left for her would be in Rakata, particularly everything related to Zaferath. The Emperor hadn’t shown her how to vanquish her for no reason. Meticulously she separated those files, she’d worry about their decryption later. Mara determined that everything she was looking for would be in the extinct dialect. Her call seemed to pay off, since her search produced a large amount of information, a lot more of what she’d expected. As she worked through the files, she ran into a set of them in a language she didn’t recognize at all… ‘This is weird…’ And in her experience weird always meant trouble. Something about these files unnerved her… This was a small set, they didn’t seem to contain much information, but felt important somehow… Probably their encoding would be different to the rest of the other files and she would have to find a way to crack their particular encryption code… And the words of their names felt familiar somehow… Following a hunch, Mara marked those files to be added to her selection and continued her search.

    Luke had taken a seat at the console next to Mara’s. While she worked, it was evident that there was not much for him to do... So he decided to put his time to good use. For a long while, Luke tinkered with one of the terminals, perhaps a search of his own would come up with some useful information. And as a bonus, his search would be traceable and would be registered in the record of logged sessions, helping to justify his visit if anyone cared to do a security log check.

    Most of what Luke was able to find were weapons prototypes, which wasn’t really a surprise… Some mechanical, some chemical… Deadly inventions that shouldn’t be in anyone’s hands. He felt aghast indignation when prototypes for population surveillance purposes were displayed… As he continued with his search, all he could find was abomination after abomination of Imperial cruelty and totalitarianism. Everything he found went against what he’d dedicated his whole life to serve and to defend. Display after display of inventions and measures that ran on a very different track than that of peace and freedom passed before his eyes. ‘Are these schematics of the Death Star?’ Mara was right: this information should not reach anyone’s hands. No wonder the terminals were engineered in such a way that any access could only be done on site and copies of these files could not be made. It was for the best that this information stayed there, hidden. Maybe it should even be destroyed! He’d have to talk to Leia about his findings, decisions needed to be made about them.

    And then a realization hit him… If all this incredibly dangerous information was right there before his eyes, at his reach… Then what was Mara retrieving? He felt greatly curious about it, and he was sure that whatever it was, it was utterly necessary. He’d had to trust her as he’d always had. Mara was on their side now… Well, not really on their side. In reality, Mara was not on the side of the New Republic, she was on the side of what was right… and that was more than enough reason for him to follow her till the end of the Galaxy.

    Then Luke turned his interest to other kind of information. ‘Perhaps…’ Keying a few words, he did a search under Jedi… nothing. He felt deep disappointment, of all places maybe this would have been the best chance to find information about the ancient Order, but it had come out empty. He gave a deep sigh; they’ve been in there a bit over six hours, and Mara didn’t show any signs of tiredness or of being finished any time soon.

    The Jedi watched his friend work. In silence he admired her profile. Mara was a very beautiful woman and he did feel very attracted to her… and in some level he knew that she was attracted to him too. This was something that both were aware of, but the aloof ex-assassin had never shown sign of harbouring any sort of romantic feelings towards the Jedi, nor of taking things further. Despite this, he considered himself lucky that their relationship had developed this far. Ten years ago, everything between them had started catastrophically: Mara had only wanted to kill him, literally. Terminating the son of Vader was the Emperor’s last command to his Hand, and as the committed soldier Mara was, she had sought intently to fulfil her master’s final order. In the end the truth had come out to the light, and Mara had understood the reality behind that last order.

    The release of the hold this last order had had on her allowed them to start a relationship free of external influences. Their relationship developed feelings of mutual respect and admiration, and although it had come grudgingly on her part, over time that relationship turned into a deep, true friendship, permeated by the undeniable trust they now had in each other. But beyond their friendship and their blind trust, Luke wanted her… he wanted her for himself… he wanted more!

    Luke had always liked Mara, right from the beginning. When they first met, if she hadn’t shown such hatred and hadn’t warned him about her murderous intentions, he surely would have tried to win her affections, he would have even asked her to go on a date with him. Even Han Solo had noticed their chemistry and had brought it up, but Luke had appeased his friend’s enthusiasm by explaining that she was an Imperial assassin and that he was her mark. And then to make things even worse, Mara had directly told Leia about her nasty intentions herself! Fortunately, over time things had been straightened up, and now both Leia and Han, counted Mara as one of their most trusted allies.

    The prospect of a romantic relationship with Mara thrilled and frightened Luke at the same time… but he didn’t want to ruin their friendship, and if he was honest with himself, the final tally showed that all his previous romantic relationships had always ended in disaster. Even at this point, he was just recovering from the last blow! Would he risk following this same pattern with Mara? Perhaps it was best for him, and for her, to not get involved romantically.

    But… By the Force he was sure it was her who he wanted!

    “I’m done!” Mara announced.

    That declaration snapped Luke out of his ruminations.

    After finishing her selection, Mara turned to the Jedi, “I have to make copies of these…” she told him, waiting for his response.

    Technically, being Mara the only sentient being capable of digging underneath the programming and cracking open the system in order to extract the files in question, these decidedly belonged to her. So, she really didn’t need his permission. But Luke knew she was not asking his permission, she was only being considerate.

    ‘Copies?’ Luke wondered in confusion, “I thought these files could not be…” he hesitantly mumbled, but this was Mara he was talking to, and she had her particularly high-tech gadget with her, “Never mind. Go ahead.” He encouraged.

    Reaching into her satchel, Mara fetched a couple of datacubes. Hastily, she inserted one of them in the appropriate slot in her coder and waited. Some minutes passed by and she retrieved the datacube and inserted a second one. After a few more minutes this too got filled with precious information.

    “We’re done here.” Mara announced. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”


    oOo


    Having left the Vault, Mara sat alone at a small table in the lounge area of the Imperial Library, located on the ground level of the building. These areas were designed to provide a resting space for visitors, who mostly were there for research purposes and who usually stayed for very long hours. She had chosen a table in a faraway corner, where she’d have more privacy. The initial four hours granted to them for their research inside the Vault, had turned into almost seven hours of investigative work. It was already very late, and the place was very quiet. The Library remained always open, but the night shift was always the least busy.

    The red-head studied one of the datapads she’d brought with her, her coder attached to it, sporting one of the datacubes in which, just moments before, she had stored priceless information that had remained untouched in Palpatine’s Vault during the last fifteen years. She was busy decrypting and transferring some of that information into a datacard. Mara had deemed appropriate to transfer some of such information to a smaller, more manageable device. Datacards had less storage capacity than datacubes but were just as trustworthy.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she vaguely noticed Luke approach the table. Ceremoniously, he placed something she didn’t pay much attention to on top of the smooth slab… A tray filled with simple food and drinks he’d purchased at the lounge canteen. When Mara looked up to discover the contents in the tray, she gave him a look of annoyance.

    “No more ration bars under my watch, Jade.” Luke warned.

    Mara glared at him in protest. But he had a point though, it was true that ration bars were her primary source of food supply. Ration bars were a reliable and balanced source of nutrients, suitable for very occupied people like her. She was always busy or travelling around the Galaxy, spending long and tedious hours in hyperspace that she allocated to work… And yes, she knew she couldn’t cook! She didn’t even like to do it. And she was not going to explain herself about that!

    Luke tried to reason with her, “Come on. Can’t that wait a little?” he suggested, “Let it run by itself for a little while and eat something. It’s been a long day.” He finished while taking his seat and unwrapping one of the appetizing grinders he’d brought.

    The smell of food made Mara realize that she was indeed very hungry. Begrudgingly the Trader set the datapad aside and grabbed the grinder closest to her and began to eat.

    “Have you found what you needed?” Luke started.

    “It looks very promising.” She conceded.

    “Good.” He sounded pleased.

    “Thank you for taking this risk for me, Luke.” Mara expressed with sincerity.

    “Don’t mention it.” Luke noticed she’d called him by his first name, something she rarely did. “I trust you. And you’d do the same for me.”

    Luke chewed his food, thinking… Swallowing his bite and taking a sip of his drink he then offered, “You know… Just to think about all that information falling in the wrong hands… I mean, it is well guarded and all, but you and I know that well-guarded places can be broken into. We’ve done that ourselves so many times!”

    “You’re absolutely right.” Mara plainly answered and just stared at him, with some sort of a twinkle in her emerald eyes that Luke noticed and recognized.

    “Mara… What did you do?” he carefully inquired.

    With ceremony, Mara looked at her wrist chrono, “Exactly twenty-two minutes ago I sent those files down to “trash and delete” land.” She boastfully declared.

    “You did what?” Luke asked in shocked incredulousness.

    “I left them a little present.” Mara casually shrugged one shoulder.

    Luke could guess what was coming next, “What kind of present?”, he inquired with a little, amused smile on his lips.

    “The kind of present that strikes at midnight and unleashes a very sophisticated and intelligent virus that deletes and rewrites everything,” she innocently explained. “And that goes for the visible and “invisible” information,” she clarified. “Let’s put it this way: if anyone ever tries to access those files again, all they’ll find will be children’s rhymes and pettin pups’ pictures,” she declared with certain amusement. “And don’t worry, they won’t even know what hit them!”

    Luke couldn’t help but to suppress a laugh mixed with surprise and delight, he was in a Library after all. And yes, they were free of any accusation, his own search would be registered leaving no doubt that he’d been working on his research and nothing more… He felt somehow relieved, he’d been spared of having that conversation with Leia, and those files were better off destroyed. Only Mara would have dared! The only person he knew with the expertise, and the boldness, to do something like that! Maybe her measures had been completely unorthodox, but these had achieved a noble goal. Something that would benefit the entire Galaxy in the long run. Luke felt proud of his friend. Deciding on her own, she’d made her call… and it had been the right thing to do.

    “Mara Jade, you are my hero!” he warmly declared.

    She gave a snort, “Coming from an over appreciated New Republic figure that’s quite a compliment.” She countered with open sarcasm and a smile in her lips.

    But Luke knew how to read between the lines and understood what she really meant: ‘My pleasure, Farmboy.’


    oOo


    Distracted in effortless conversation, Mara and Luke ate. It was a welcomed break after their endeavour. It felt like if a big step had already been taken, and that eased Mara’s mind a little bit… at least for now.

    “And how’s Coruscant treating you?” Mara knew the Jedi hated it when he had to stay on planet for long periods of time.

    “Well… It’s been busy. The Senate is always trying to find ways to rattle the cage, but fortunately that’s been settled…”

    “Charming little bastards, aren’t they?” Mara put in rhetorically.

    “…and...” Luke hesitated for a while, he wasn’t sure if he should tell Mara, he didn’t want to give her more to think about… but this case in some way felt similar to what she had been looking into with those smugglers gone missing.

    “Trouble?” she asked.

    “Just routine stuff.” Well, that was not really true, so he clarified, “It’s a missing person case.”

    Mara gave him an amused look. “Are you adding Private Investigator to your resume?”

    “Of course not!” he snorted. “I will talk to Corran about it and ask for his help, I’ll leave this to the experts.” He then decided he would tell her, “And… somehow it feels connected to your case.”

    He had Mara’s attention, ‘Her case? Why would Skywalker stumble into something related to that? It would be impossible for him to have a connection to it…’

    “But don’t take me too seriously… It’s more of a feeble hunch than anything and probably I’m getting ahead of myself.” He dismissed, and with this seemed to appease Mara’s shocked curiosity. “I got the Diplomatic request this morning, directly addressed to me, and I’d like to look into it. I promised I would help.”

    “You and your promises Farmboy…” If there was something she knew about Skywalker, it was that he was a man of his word. “I know you do your best, but someday you’ll reach a point where you won’t be able to keep that many of them.”

    “So far I have managed… I think.”

    Mara just looked at him and shook her head. One thing she was sure of, was that somehow the Jedi always managed to get his hands full.

    As they finished eating, the soft beep of her personal coder took away Mara’s attention from their conversation. She grabbed the gadget and checked the messages, then detached the datacard with the transferred files.

    “Here, this is for you,” Mara extended the small datacard towards her unexpecting friend. “I stumbled into some information with key words like Jedi, the Force, Holocron and Sith… I pulled everything out.” She hesitated for a short moment, then continued, “I also found files under Vader’s name… and under Skywalker.” She almost missed Luke’s veiled tension. Within the immensity of information that the Vault kept, it would have been impossible for Mara to ever know about everything that was in there. “I didn’t even expect this information would be there! I pulled out everything I found. It’s yours now.” She cautiously eyed the Jedi, searching for a glimpse of reaction.

    Without uttering a word, Luke slowly extended one hand and took the datacard. Carefully shielding from Mara his mixed feelings of apprehension. Luke gazed at the card in his hand, a blank expression on his face. Suddenly a thousand possibilities rumbled in his mind. In his hand lay information about the Jedi… and about his father… What would he really find there?

    Mara knew what this meant for Luke and she gave her friend some time to recover. “It’s already decrypted, so you’ll be able to read it in your own datapad when you feel ready, Farmboy.” Her voice soft, soaked in solidarity.

    The Jedi looked up fixing his gaze on the Trader, all he could manage was to give her a nod. Carefully, he placed the priceless gadget in the pocket of his utility belt.

    Mara filled in the silence, “Everything else will have to wait. I must decrypt and organize all this information… study it… pick what’s useful. Then start putting the pieces together and come up with a plan.”

    Finally finding his voice, Luke earnestly offered, “And whatever plan you come up with, count me in!”

    Mara didn’t answer. It was obvious she was still not convinced of letting the Jedi to tag along. But Luke didn’t care.

    “Mara, promise me you won’t do anything brash,” he insisted, “And that you won’t leave without me. This is something you shouldn’t be doing alone. I still have several more days of dealings with the Senate, but I think it will closely match the time you’ll be taking to sort something out.”

    Skywalker had a point, and Mara reluctantly agreed, “I do have some things to finish up here anyways, before I can leave. Some business for the Smugglers’ Alliance, a few New Republic events… That’ll give me lots to do… Plus, I have to sort through all this information and such… and it’ll be a lot of work. You’re right, it’ll take me more than a few days to wrap up everything.”

    She hated to admit it, but it would take time to come up with a sound plan. She couldn’t risk making a mistake, one single mistake would only consume more of that time she was so reluctant to waste. And waiting didn’t always mean that time was being wasted. So, she would go down a gear and would do things in the proper manner, just as she was trained to do.

    “I know how important this is for you Mara, but it’s just a little over a week. And I’ll come with you, on your terms.” Luke offered.

    This seemed to close the deal for Mara. “All right.” She finally gave in.

    “Promise?” he insisted.

    “I promise.” He had certainly gotten away with it. “I’ll wait for you.”

    Luke sported a triumphal grin.

    Mara just rolled her eyes, “I’m tired, I want to go.”

    They left the Library and headed home. Luke walked Mara to her apartment which was located in a high-end area of the city, only a few blocks away from his own place in the Imperial Complex.

    The walk seemed to lift Luke’s spirits as he seemed to have left his apprehensiveness of moments ago behind. Now he chatted away, Mara only listened and provided the appropriate interjection when required. Between the two of them, Luke was definitely the talkative one. When she once complained to him about it, Mara remembered he’d told her an anecdote about his childhood in Tatooine.

    Luke had told her that when he was a little boy, he was the chattiest thing and his aunt Beru would pay him to keep quiet. She would pay him one pallie – a small, juicy, sweet fruit he enjoyed very much, for every ten minutes he managed to remain silent… He never managed to get more than two pallies! Mara remembered Luke laughing as he told the tale, radiating immense joy, and then making the note that probably aunt Beru was also relieved that he didn’t restrain himself longer than that. Of course, Mara could understand why; life in Tatooine was harsh and full of privations, most farmers would never make enough money to keep a steady supply of pleasantries like fruit. Surely his aunt got the fruit specially for him when they could afford it, and only made a game out of it by making him earn it; and in a sense it was also an educational game, teaching Luke about making an effort in order to get what he wanted.

    The rest of the story ended with Luke telling her how he would treasure those two pieces of fruit like if they were valuable nuggets of aurodium, and how he would eat them at the end of his day, sitting outside the homestead, while watching Tatooine’s double sunset. Mara chuckled at that imagery, it seemed that since a very young age, Luke had been an irredeemable optimistic. Mara enjoyed listening to Luke’s childhood tales and she knew the Farmboy appreciated it. The Jedi had grown up with a lot of privations, but he’d been loved.

    An unexpected pang of loneliness sat in her core at this realization… She’d never been loved like that. She consciously shielded that emotion from Luke, she didn’t want to alarm him. Mara didn’t speak much about herself or her past, least about her childhood; but when she did, Luke in return knew how to keep quiet and always listened attentively. She’d confided to him so many times and was even amazed she’d done it willingly. Mara also knew Luke would never speak a word about it, not even to Han or Leia.

    They reached Mara’s tower. She lived in the highest floor of the building, in a penthouse with an amazing view of the city’s area. Yes, the Trader owned a nice, luxurious home in Coruscant. Well, she didn’t labour herself to death to live like a dianoga inside a garbage compactor. With her job as second in command in Karrde’s organization, after years of hard work, she’d managed to make a small fortune for herself, allowing her to first purchase her most valuable possession: The Jade’s Fire – her own customized star ship; and later to acquire her Coruscanti home.

    Mara had grown up in Coruscant and had once called this planet home. She had lived in the Imperial Palace, surrounded by the opulence of the Court. She was used to grandeur and beauty, and she liked fine things. Then, the Rebellion happened to her… but that was in her past. Now these were promising times for her, Mara was starting her own trading company under Karrde’s tutelage, as the Smuggler’s Alliance Liaison. She could now afford a comfortable lifestyle after so many years in dearth.

    Nevertheless, Mara was a level-headed person, and she was far from frivolous. She never put value on how expensive things were, but did so on their beauty, quality and practicality. Whatever she owned had a practical sense to it. She had purchased her apartment more for practical reasons than anything. Because of her dealings with the Smuggler’s Alliance, she was spending a lot of time in Coruscant lately and, apart from the aesthetical side of it, living on the top floor of a very tall building like this, would provide an edge in an emergency, when she would be able to call in her ship for an onsite pick-up.

    The tower had a lavishly gardened entrance area. Luke and Mara walked on the pathway that led to the building’s main entrance and stopped at the bottom of the few steps that led to the foyer’s door.

    “You shouldn’t have come all this way down Farmboy.” Said Mara turning around to face her friend.

    “I know,” he conceded, “I like to walk though… helps me clear my mind.” Then he looked at her.

    Mara sensed a shift in Luke’s energy, a dimmed sparkle in his blue eyes, barely noticeable under the artificial lighting mixed with the darkness of the night… He then leaned slightly forward and wrapped Mara with his arms, pulling her gently towards him, giving her a firm but soft hug.

    The Trader instinctively tensed at his spontaneous effusiveness…. She was not used to demonstrations of affection… but this was Luke…. Slowly she then relaxed letting herself ease into his embrace.

    “Thank you…” he whispered, “…for caring.”

    Mara remained wordless, not knowing exactly what to do… She could sense sincere affection in his embrace… and it felt nice to be in his arms. She knew it was an innocent gesture on his part, Luke had always been a softy. After a very short while, he let go. To Mara’s surprise she was left wishing to have remained in his embrace for a little longer.

    Luke said his goodbyes, waited until Mara went up the steps and inside, then turned around and left.

    Behind the door, looking out through the transparisteel sections of it, Mara watched Luke walk away. What was happening? Why did she feel this flustered? She was not a schoolgirl for Sith’s sake!

    Perhaps agreeing to let the Jedi to tag along in this mission had not been one of her brightest ideas… And she was sure she’d pay for it.



    To be continued…

     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Great progress on possibly connecting the kidnapping case with what Mara is looking into. Love their friendship and what she gave him, a true treasure personally and otherwise. Absolutely adored the spontaneous hug and especially that Mara liked it too. ;)
     
    AzureAngel2 and Jâd Sphera like this.
  9. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    I loved writing the part of the hug [:D], that information means so much to Luke.
    Will see what’s in those files and what path these might put them on. ;)
     
  10. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance - Chapter 4
    by JâdSphera


    Notes:
    And the story keeps growing.

    Thank you to my awesome Beta Reader @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the wonderful support with proof-reading this story. You’re the best!

    Davik Oligard appears courtesy of mooseman13579 .
    Please check out his wonderful gold nugget of a story here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/4030222
    More on this character to come.

    And to everyone reading, thanks a lot for taking the time to read and leave a comment ;)
    Hope you enjoy this Chapter!



    Chapter 4


    In the early light of morning, the New Republic Armed Forces Hangar was an impressive sight to behold. A seamless arrangement of expansive areas, filled with a great number of air and space military craft, proudly displaying the fire power of the current Government. It was a busy place, with numerous crews tending to the outcoming and incoming crafts dispatched in official, off-planet errands and missions.

    After presenting the appropriate security clearance, the Jedi Master walked freely around the compound. Luke had never been stationed here and was not really familiar with the place. His military career had been lived in makeshift bases, during his days with the Rebel Alliance; hastily set up facilities in remote places, conceived while running away from Imperial persecution. But he knew exactly where he needed to go today, to the Head Quarters of the elite Rogue Squadron.

    As Luke entered the huge spacious building, he appreciated the lines of X-Wings that parked by the numbers on both sides; the aircrafts being tended to by specialized mechanics, either for repairs or routine maintenance. These T-65 X-Wing starfighters were sleek, swift, deadly aircrafts, and had a sure place as the emblematic craft of the Squadron. As he walked by, Luke thought of his own X-Wing, resting now in a civilian sector of Coruscant’s main Hangar. He was not part of the Armed Forces anymore but had kept his fighter after his resignation. He liked the versatility and manoeuvrability of this particular aircraft, very convenient qualities when traveling alone. Inside his fighter, he was able to sleep through long legs of hyperspace travel when immersed in a Jedi trance, barely consuming resources from the in-flight life support systems, while covering distances that regular pilots could have never managed in a single person aircraft. This capability had also always given him an edge when urgent missions emerged. He’d just jump in his craft and go!

    Memories flooded Luke’s mind… He’d been Rogue Squadron’s first Commander. Luke had resigned to his military commission shortly after the Bakura incident with the Ssi-ruuk invasion, when he made the decision to fully commit to his Jedi duties. But the legendary Rogue Squadron had lived on, first under the steady leadership of Wedge Antillies, and now under Tycho Celchu’s command.

    The Jedi walked up a long set of stairs, that led to the office section high above the hangar, following the long side corridor until he reached his intended destination. The sign at the door before him read in High Galactic writing: “General Wedge Antillies”. Luke opened the door and went in the vestibule where a polite male Caamasi aide greeted him. Just a few moments later, the main office’s door slid open and a grinning Wedge emerged.

    “Hello Boss!” greeted Wedge cheerfully.

    “Hi Wedge!” Luke replied approaching his friend.

    Both men shook hands and embraced each other with an effusive slap on their backs.

    “I’ve come to see Corran but wanted to drop in quickly and say hi.” Luke explained.

    “Just to say hi?” Wedge asked in a worrisome tone.

    Luke was a bit taken aback by his friend’s worry and he just nodded a yes.

    “That’s a relief!” the General exclaimed with an over-exaggerated relieved sigh.

    Luke was a bit puzzled, “Why?”

    Wedge’s mouth crooked into a devilish grin, “I don’t know… maybe because every time you come see me is for something “routine” and in no time it usually develops into an intergalactic incident,” he was half-serious and half-amused about it. “Not that I’m complaining, we could sure use a bit of action around here, but Luke… you sure are a magnet for serious trouble.”

    “Well, couldn’t you just say that maybe I make your life interesting?” Luke added dryly but catching on the joke.

    “That too!” said Wedge with a wholeheartedly soft laugh.

    It was good to see Wedge. They had both been through so much together and survived! When they first met, they’ve bonded immediately, and had remained close friends since. It’d been Wedge who had welcomed and showed Luke around when he first joined Red Squadron, right before the Battle of Yavin.

    “I heard you put in a request to send ships down to Tingel Arm.” The Corellian General let out.

    “Yes, I did.” The Jedi confirmed. “Varldavinnor is a small world, in the farthest corner of NR jurisdiction, they’re going through a very complicated situation right now. They need our support.”

    “Well, your request was approved and passed by Admiral Ackbar just moments ago and the air crafts will be deployed by the end of the day.” Wedge happily gave the news. “Two Capital ships and several patrol crafts. That should do the trick!”

    “I’m glad.” Luke felt pleased, at least that part of the problem was solved.

    Both friends did a quick catch up talk. So, it happened that later that day Wedge had an appointment in the Senate for some sort of hearing.

    “I have this thing with the Senate…” Wedge showed a hint of irritation in his voice, “You sure you don’t need me for anything?” he asked in hope.

    Luke chuckled at his friend, “Sorry pal, can’t help you today.”

    “You’re no fun,” Wedge complained. “And they say friends are always there to support you!” he added with sarcastic resignation.

    Senators really loved their hearings and when knowing of what Wedge was about to get into, for a moment Luke felt sorry for his friend. They both had become very busy people and in their busy schedules they always had to make time for the Senate. As much as they hated it, they both understood that having presence in such institution was important and beneficial for their own roles and involvement in the Government.

    “Do you know where to find Horn?” Wedge offered.

    Luke waved his hand with casual dismissal, “It won’t be a problem, I can find him.”

    But Wedge had already turned to signal his aide, who immediately pulled out the location from his terminal.

    “It’s Bay 34, General Antillies.” The Caamasi efficiently provided.

    Wedge turned to Luke, “There you have it!”

    “Thanks Wedge, it’s been good to see you.”

    “Take care Boss. It’s been good to see you too.”

    The Jedi politely gave his thanks to the aide and turned towards the exit door.

    "Hey Luke!” Wedge called after his friend. “My promise stands. If you ever need us… We’ll come running!”

    “Thank you General.” Luke answered, casually placing his hand next to his brow, in a military salute.

    The Caamasi followed the Jedi with interest in his gaze, and turning to his superior officer discretely asked, “General Antillies… Was that the Luke Skywalker?”

    With a soft grin on his face, Wedge appeased his aide’s curiosity, “The one and only.”


    oOo


    Luke headed to Bay 34. Under inexpert eyes, every lined-up X-Wing fighter looked exactly the same as the next one. But a pilot’s trained eye was able to pinpoint the subtle differences and markings immediately. A short, insectoid looking alien, dressed in the characteristic orange flight suit, stood by one of the lined-up X-Wing fighters. Luke recognized Ooryl Qrygg, Corran’s faithful and trustworthy wingman.

    “Hi Ooryl!” Luke greeted the Gand pilot as he approached.

    “Hello! It’s been a long time!” The polite Gand greeted back. “Ooryl is so happy to see you Master Skywalker.”

    Ooryl had a calm, gentle personality, permeated by his wise energy. He was not a Findsman of his people for nothing! Gand culture dictated that an individual’s identity should be earned and being granted the honour of becoming a Findsman was no small deed. Nevertheless, Gands were also a very humble species and you would never hear Ooryl bragging about his remarkable divination skills, and he would only make use of his gift when it meant to put it to the service of others. It was in such fashion that Luke and Ooryl had met, when the Gand pilot had asked the Jedi’s aid to track down Corran Horn and save him from an ambush.

    “We have just come back from a combat manoeuvres practice.” The alien pilot informed.

    “And where’s your partner Ooryl?” Luke asked, but Ooryl didn’t need to answer.

    “Hey there!” said Corran coming down the service ladder of his fighter. The pilot approached the former Commander and gave him an enthusiastic hand shake. “Looking young, Luke!”

    “The wonders of Jedi Meditation,” Luke jokingly offered. “You should try it!”

    Corran just made a face.

    There was some truth to it though, Jedi did age slowly. Some Jedi techniques – like meditation, naturally delayed aging. Master Yoda had lived nine hundred years, and from information that Luke had managed to retrieve during his searches of Jedi lore, he’d found that it was known of many Jedi Masters who had lived very long years. Although Corran was a year younger than the Jedi, he had started to grey; Luke looked pretty much the same as he did eight years back when they first met. A time when the fighter pilot had gone to Yavin IV to receive Jedi training. Technically, Luke was Corran’s Master, but their relationship was extremely casual.

    “To be a full time Jedi is not for me!” Corran stressed. He’d made his choice way back, when he decided that being a pilot in the Military was where he could do the most good. Corran came from a long lineage of Corellian Jedi and he had inherited his grandfather’s unique abilities with the Force.

    “It will come with time. It’s in your blood.” Luke casually stated.

    “No, no, no… Don’t use divination on me Luke.” The other complained.

    “I’d never do such thing to you Horn. I’m just stating the obvious.” Luke countered. “Ooryl is the Findsman here.” He added looking back at the Gand.

    The Gand just gave a deep raspy chuckle and went about his business.

    Luke liked Corran and Corran liked Luke. Their relationship hadn’t always been harmonious, they hadn’t always seen eye to eye in many matters, but they concurred in what was really important. In the beginning, the former CorSec agent had been a harsh critic of the Jedi Master’s teaching methods, until he’d experienced in his own flesh the effective results of such teachings. Luke always took into consideration Corran Horn’s point of view. Yes, sometimes his opinion could be harsh, but it was always analytically thought and logical.

    “I know why you’re here. But I need to hear it from you!” The fighter pilot boastfully requested.

    “I need your advice and expertise.” Luke played along.

    Corran made a face full of smug pleasure, “Shoot away!”

    “Did you have time to look into the information I sent you?” Luke inquired. “About what’s going on in Varldavinnor…”

    “That small, remote place? Yes, I did.” Horn confirmed, now turning serious, “A terrible illness that is.”

    “Too aimed, too specific.” Luke pinpointed.

    “Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?” the former CorSec agent asked the Jedi.

    “A weaponized virus.” Luke declared with certainty.

    “You’re damn right.” Corran sombrely confirmed. “And here I am thinking you didn’t have investigative talent.”

    “And there’s the second part of this case,” the Jedi added, “The missing women… Probably slavers took them… at least that’s what people in Varldavinnor think. They spoke of the Chiriigu, but their crew could get infected with that Purple Haze… and I don’t think they would risk it.” Luke knew he was missing out on something.

    “No, it doesn’t seem to fit in with everything else…” Corran concurred.

    “When the illness broke out, they never requested aid from the New Republic, they got immediate aid from this Pharma Corporation.” Luke added.

    “Companies that big never get involved where there’s no profit.” Corran cynically added. He deliberated for a few moments, then his eyes opened wide when a realization hit him, “Subjects for drug trial tests!”

    Luke’s blood froze. Could Horn be right? If he was, then this matter would be a lot bigger than it seemed. “I haven’t mention any of this to anyone else yet.”

    “And you shouldn’t,” Corran warned. “At this scale, one can never know who is involved. It’s better to keep the circle tight.” He recommended.

    There was truth in the fighter pilot’s words. If this turned out to be what they were thinking it was, how far up could this reach? It all seemed a part of a very large scheme.

    “We need to prove it,” Luke urged. “Can we investigate Kasthar Pharmaceutical?”

    “Too big, too powerful,” Corran warned. You’ll have to go to Drayson for that.”

    Luke made a face of displeasure, “You’re right.” He didn’t like that idea. He didn’t want to owe Hiram Drayson. But he couldn’t let personal feelings influence his decisions. “I’ll go to him only if we must.”

    Luke’s relationship with the Head of Intelligence was plain civil. Years back, he’d caught Drayson’s team trying to bug the Academy and had confronted the Intelligence Administrator about it. Drayson had given him a lecture about galactic security and that it was only his job to secure every area, that the Jedi shouldn’t take it personal. It was not personal, all right, but that didn’t mean Luke had to like it. He knew Drayson was one of the good guys, and that made him tolerate the other’s stepping over the line. Of course it had been naïve of him to think that the Jedi would be left alone to romp around the Galaxy without being monitored, and it seemed he had learnt it the hard way… and he was certainly a man who learnt from his mistakes. So, after the incident Luke had taken his own measures, and a contra-monitoring system had been put in place in the Academy’s grounds and in the whole of Yavin IV for that matter; a sophisticated work of high-tech born out of Zakarisz Ghent’s brilliant mind, for which the slicer had received a handsome sum of credits. Although Ghent didn’t really care about the credits, he tended to ignore most things, he only cared about binary scripting and code cracking, and was never aware of outside quarrels.

    Luke brought back his mind to present matters. “And then there’s the missing smugglers case…” He had sent only the generals to the other man, without connecting them to Mara.

    “Yes, I read what you sent me about that too.” Corran thoughtfully added.

    “I don’t know, it doesn’t look it, but somehow I think these two things are connected.” Luke confided in a grave, concerned tone.

    “How?” Corran asked in puzzlement.

    “It’s just a hunch.” Luke confessed.

    “A hunch or a Jedi hunch?” Corran carefully inquired.

    “I think the latter.” Luke decidedly answered.

    “Then we must take it seriously.” One thing Corran knew for sure, was that the Jedi Master’s connection to the Force was unparalleled.

    The Jedi showed a determined look, “I think so too.”

    There was something that kept unnerving Luke about the whole situation. He was sure his hunch was being nursed by the Force, but everything was so veiled, it seemed so distant… The truth lay hidden, out of his reach, behind a thick screen of heavy fog he could not see past.

    “So how do you think we should go about this then?” Luke continued.

    “Give me a few days to reach out to contacts I’ve still got in the Corellian Security force and in some other underground places,” the ex-CorSec proposed. “If you’re okay with it.”

    “Yes, do that.” The Jedi confirmed. He didn’t need to ask Corran to be discrete, the now pilot had been a professional law enforcer back in Corellia, one of the best in fact. “What do you want me to do in the mean time? Just wait?” Luke didn’t seem too pleased with that option. He could now understand how Mara felt about waiting.

    "Maybe you can work on getting funds? If this is a go, we'll need the credits." Corran stated.

    The fighter pilot had a point, missions didn’t come cheap. And if Corran decided to go on his own search apart from whatever Luke might do through the Order, he’d need transportation and gear… and plenty of credits in cash for food and any extras, bribes included. "All right. Count on it." The Jedi assured. “I will also speak to Kam Solusar today, and have him assemble a Jedi Team to be at the ready. We need to move quickly.”

    “That’s a sound plan. And yes, we must be quick.” Horn agreed.

    “Are you sure you don’t want me on anything else?” Luke insisted.

    “ ’Sokay, remember that I know enough for both of us.” The pilot gave the Jedi a wink, “Like old times, just follow my lead!”

    Luke knew that whatever Horn’s investigations produced would be trustworthy information. So that was it. He had to make sure the mission could be funded and then simply wait for any revelation the Cor-Sec could come up with, so his team of Jedi could act.

    Corran snapped Luke out of his musings, “Gotta go, I don’t want Tycho bitchin’ about how I make use of my time.” He joked, referring to his Squadron Commander.

    “And how’s Tycho doing?”

    “Meh, you know… All head over heels about Winter,” Corran nonchalantly informed. “I smell wedding on the horizon if you ask me.”

    Both men let out an amused laugh. Tycho had never seemed to be like the type to get married… and there he was now, giving every signal of soon tying the knot.

    Luke thought about it for a second, it seemed like everyone around him was settling down, or had already settled down. He then addressed Horn again, “Give Mirax and the kids my regards.”

    “Will do, Master.”


    oOo


    Having settled the next steps of the Varldavinnor case, it was time for Luke to head back to his Coruscant office. On his way back to the Senate Complex, he decided that he’d pick up a few things at the Market in Coruscant’s Main Plaza. It was still early, so he’d have plenty of time. A visit to the Market would do him good before locking himself indoors. To remain physically inactive and indoors was something that he didn’t manage well, spending that much time motionless and inside was at times suffocating. He’d grown up experiencing the outdoors! Spending his entire childhood and teenage years living in a farm, where there was always something to do outside. Roaming the vast expanses of desertic Tatooine… Admiring double sunrises and sunsets… and skies pregnant with stars at night…. Looking out into the horizon as far away as to where his sight could reach.

    To Luke, the Market was a magnificent place! To him it was a symbol of New Republic prosperity. The place was vast and well organized. Merchants of all species displayed their merchandise in numerous stalls and tents, offering various specialty, native goods and crates full of fresh produce brought to Coruscant from every corner in the Galaxy. Although it was early morning, the place was already busy.

    Luke headed to where fresh produce was sold. He loved fruit, and in here he could find some of his favourite types, pallies included. Threepio could have done the errand for him, but these were the kind of menial things that brought him joy, so he tried to do them himself whenever possible. Luke was fluent in a dozen languages, and when visiting a place as multicultural as the Market, speaking different tongues was very useful. He firstly stopped at a stall tended by a gentle looking Ithorian and exchanged a few inquiries. The Ithorian gave Luke an empty algae-membrane bag, destined to contain perishable merchandises. Once sealed, these bags would keep perishable produce unharmed and unspoiled for several months if necessary, until the produce could be put in a refrigeration unit. As he made his selection among the plentiful varieties of fruit in the crates, Luke got utterly distracted.

    “Good morning, Master Skywalker.” A smooth feminine voice greeted the Jedi.

    Luke turned to the voice and found a pair of deep violet eyes warmly gazing back at him.

    “Oh! Hello Your Excellency.” That was a surprise! Luke really didn’t know if he should bow or shake her hand or do anything at all. This was a kind of setting for which Leia had never given him any protocol advice, so he simply froze and tried to look as nonchalant as possible.

    Varldavinnorians sure knew how to dress elegantly. Ratvissa Haxa looked radiant in a delicately elaborated, flowy burgundy gown; wearing a long, deep purple cloak over her shoulders with the hood pulled back, her long, smooth raven hair falling flatly behind. The Ambassador was accompanied by two female aides; their long, feminine dresses a lot simpler and more discrete, but similarly elegant. Surely these two aides also performed the duties of bodyguards, as it was accustomed for members of a Royal family.

    “I’d never expect to find you in a place like this!” Luke bafflingly expressed.

    “I’m not much of a tourist attraction’s attendee myself. I prefer visiting the places locals tend to go to. One can learn so much about a planet’s culture this way.” Ratvissa casually explained while offering him a smile on her lips.

    “You couldn’t be more right about that.” The Jedi smiled back.

    “Has your Jedi Order started with the search for our missing people?” an open inquiry from the Ambassador.

    Luke was not surprised by the question, it was only natural for an Ambassador to be interested in such information. Still, he didn’t want to talk about a delicate subject with someone outside the mission team, and Ratvissas’s question made him feel somehow uncomfortable. He didn’t want to lie to her, but neither did he want to give away sensible information. Details on missions were not to be spoken of casually with unintended recipients. “I’m afraid I don’t have much I can tell you about that, but I can assure you that we’re moving things forward.”

    Ratvissa seemed to have picked up on his discomfort, “Forgive me! I shouldn’t be asking that… not in a setting like this.” She looked contrite when realizing her slip.

    “You have every right to, and I understand. You must be very eager to hear news about this issue,” Luke considerately offered. “All I can tell you is that we are working as fast as we can and that we are making progress.”

    “Yes, I’m sure you are.” She seemed to cheer up at the Jedi’s statement. “I have received notice that a group of New Republic star ships have been assigned to station in orbit around Varldavinnor, and that our planet will be safely guarded within a few days,” Haxa announced, “Thanks to you. I can see that you are a man who keeps his promises.” There was sincere gratitude in her words.

    “I do what I can, Your Excellency. I’m glad that your planet will have the protection it needs.” Luke unassumingly offered.

    She gave him an amused smile. “I thought that we were under first name basis?”

    Luke felt a bit embarrassed and just chuckled softly. Indeed, she had asked him to call her by her first name… but Luke didn’t really feel that comfortable about doing it… He didn’t know her! Although somehow, he felt that he wanted to know her… And that felt strange too. He didn’t know what he was feeling really… And her energy felt like…

    “Are those druvas?” Vissa excitedly asked when noticing the crates and approaching one filled with small, spherical, blue fruit.

    The Ithorian seemed clueless about what the lady in burgundy was asking and turned to Luke for translation. He caught the hint immediately and proceeded to translate Vissa’s question to the perplexed merchant.

    “Yes, he tells me those are druvas.” He confirmed.

    Vissa seemed even more excited. “Oh, my! I hadn’t seen those since I was an eight-year-old child! These were my father’s favourites when we travelled to Vitstrand every summer.”

    Luke knew that childhood memories were precious, and he could relate to her sentiment. “Allow me.” He offered, getting a second bag and placing a number of the blue pieces inside.

    The Jedi extended the bag to the Ambassador, who took it carefully in her hands, cherishing the precious cargo, looking back at him with amazement, which in return brought a pleased smile to his lips.

    Luke took his own filled bag and paid a sum of credits to the Ithorian. “I still have a couple of small errands to run while I’m here. Perhaps you’d like to join me?” He asked doubtfully.

    “That would be very nice! Thank you.” She gladly accepted.

    They both walked through the crowd, both aides following closely behind. As they walked, Luke didn’t miss the opportunity to pinpoint the interesting parts of the Market, giving details on why those particular parts were special and what could be found in there. Vissa listened with interest, adding more questions to appease her curiosity, it seemed that to her this place also seemed like a wonderland. As Luke purchased Haruun Kal cheese, muja fresh juice, Mākhana freshly made pastries and other delicacies, he made sure to provide samples of everything to Vissa, just because he thought she shouldn’t miss on them. Soon enough the Ambassador’s aides had their hands full with small bags containing these highly regarded portions. For a moment Luke felt the impulse of buying something for the Ambassador’s aides too, but he suspected that maybe such action would represent pushing away Protocol too much, and that he might even offend them, so he resolved to quit on that idea. After a few more stops, Luke quickly went through the small packages in the bags he carried… it seemed that he’d gotten everything he needed.

    Little after Luke had finished his last errand, Vissa stopped at a flower stand and admired the various types of blooms and foliage artistically displayed. Luke waited patiently, giving her time to enjoy the beautiful arrangement. As he waited, he noticed an errant merchant approaching, carrying what seemed to be an array of stones, quartzes and crystals, assembled as necklaces and pendants. A particularly vividly orange stone caught his eye, ‘I wonder if…’ The Jedi made the merchant stop and exchanged a few words with him. The piece in question was a rough piece of crystal of a deep tangerine colour, which would certainly intensify when faceted and polished. It was mounted on a chain and it made a very pretty single-stoned long pendant. But Luke wasn’t really interested in the aesthetics of the piece, but in the piece itself: it was an ancient Kaiburr crystal shard! He could feel the Force energy flowing within the gem…‘How did this piece end up here?’ One really could never know what one could find in the Market! The crystal of a lightsaber was the weapon’s heart…. A Kaiburr crystal was extremely rare and incredibly powerful… And he knew exactly who would be able to handle the power of such a crystal when the time came.

    The merchant settled the price and Luke acquired the piece. He felt really excited about his acquisition and even more thrilled about the recipient of such finding.

    Vissa noticed the purchase. It was obvious that those items were intended for a woman. She tried not to mention anything about it, but she couldn’t help it, “That’s a very pretty piece of jewellery, for a very lucky lady.”

    “She’s my best friend!” Luke let out offhandedly while admiring the pendant.

    Despite his words, Vissa noticed a particular twinkle in the Jedi’s eyes, the kind of twinkle that only a woman can recognize, when the heart of a man is invested in a woman that is not herself. That was a pity… It was disappointing, but she didn’t feel bad about it. All was fair in love and war.

    They started their way out of the market. The place was big, so it took a while until they reached the stalls in the perimeter. They talked about Coruscant, Luke recommended other significant places Vissa could visit during her stay in the planet.

    When their conversation wound down, Vissa placidly gazed back at the Jedi for a brief moment, she was really enjoying herself… Then a realization made its way in her awareness, “Oh! But I’m keeping you away from your duties!” Ratvissa apologized. “You must be very busy, and I should leave now.” She made a small gesture with her head, both aides promptly reacted and called their landspeeder.

    “It’s all right. I can walk you to your vehicle.” Luke politely offered.

    The Jedi accompanied the lovely Ambassador to her awaiting vehicle. One of the aides was already there, holding the door open for her.

    “I hope we can see more of each other while I’m in Coruscant.” The Ambassador expressed to the Jedi after her petite frame entered the landspeeder.

    “That’s nice of you, I’m afraid I’m a bit caught up at the moment… and we need to make progress on your request,” Luke apologized. “But I will keep you informed on any relevant issues concerning your case.”

    Ratvissa gave a graceful nod. “Thank you for the druvas, and the rest. It was a nice stroll.” She charmingly expressed her gratitude. The landspeeder’s door closed and it departed.

    Luke headed to his office in the Senate Complex. By the time he arrived, Threepio was already making a fuss about his delay. He’d been frantically wondering whether his master had been attacked, kidnapped or the worst: killed. Luke made sure to calm Threepio down and sent him away to get some hot chocolate for him. That should help the droid to come back to his normal state of programming. He’d been only twenty minutes late! Why everyone was always so sure that every time he was out of sight for a little while it was because he’d run into some kind of mess? Perhaps it had something to do with what Wedge had told him earlier… Was he really a magnet for serious trouble?

    The day progressed and Luke remembered about Corran’s request for funding. He’d need to talk to Davik Oligard – the Academy’s Comptroller, later that day. As he went about his day, he couldn’t help but to think of his encounter with the enchanting Varldavinnorian Ambassador. She seemed to enjoy the simple things in life, although it was highly likely that her upbringing had given her the opportunity to experience luxury and wealth in ways that not many sentient beings had the chance to do. Still she seemed very down to earth. She was a very nice lady, intelligent, and very beautiful too…

    Why did he feel so intrigued by this woman?


    To be continued…




     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb! I like Ooryl, a Findsman pilot. Something our very talented @Findswoman ;) would appreciate.

    Luke's friendships with Wedge and with Corran shine through wonderfully here. Great details on the pieces that need to be in place for a complicated mission with so many facets to cover.

    Ratvissa knows that Luke's "best friend" is more than that to him, [face_mischief] but does Luke, yet? He seems fascinated and enthralled by the lovely, intelligent Ambassador. [face_thinking]
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
    Jâd Sphera and Findswoman like this.
  12. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Hi Ny!

    Something I like about the Star Wars Universe is the variety of characters there is, not only human but of so many other spices :yoda:.

    I liked Ooryl when I got to meet him in Michael A. Stackpole’s novel “I, Jedi.” So I thought I should invite him to this Fic ;). And I like exploring Luke’s friendships, he’s got so many good friends over the years!

    I’m glad you enjoyed this chapter :D.

    Thank you for leaving a comment. @};-
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2019
  13. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance
    by Jâd Sphera


    Notes:

    Again heartfelt thanks to @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the awesome support with proof-reading this story. You’re helping me to get better!

    And once more, to everyone reading, thanks a lot for taking the time to read and leave a comment ;)
    Hope you enjoy this new Chapter!



    Chapter 5


    The day discreetly broke out behind the Manarai mountains. The lavish penthouse remained quiet and dimly lit by the first rays of sunlight that slowly crept in through the high ceiled windows. Barefoot and clad in a thin, flowy, silky robe, Mara Jade sat at her home computer terminal. Her fiery red hair loose and messy, dried on its own by the hours passed since the shower she’d taken the night before. It’d been two days since that little infiltration with Skywalker into Vault 969. For the last couple of days, Mara had been using all of her free time to work on the information she had retrieved from Palpatine’s Library.

    Tending to her obligations with the Smuggler’s Alliance kept her very busy, but she’d stretched time as far as she could; this meant that she’d slept very few hours – In fact she’d just been up all night, and inevitably had gone back to ration bars. The Farmboy would have a flip if he caught her with one of those bars in her mouth! But he was not there and if he were, she wouldn’t even care anyways.

    Today she planned to station herself in her Coruscanti home, away from distractions. There was only one holoconference she would have with Talon Karrde later in the day and this meant that she could allocate all of her remaining time to continue putting the puzzle together. It was true that her obsession with this matter really baffled her. Why was she so invested in this? Skywalker was right, she needed to be cautious. It would take several more days before she and the Jedi could leave the planet. She was using her time productively, but the itch of moving forward with her investigations on this Zaferath matter was eating at her. She needed to see things through, this mixed feeling of urgency and dread was driving her crazy!

    So far Mara had been able to put together a few things about the Zaferath Witch, and from what Mara knew about Physics treatises, she could make sense out of all that data. It seemed that she was indeed an interdimensional being, she existed in another plane, parallel to the one the Galaxy existed in… A different location in time and space… It seemed that Palpatine always made the Witch come out of her dimension and visit him, he’d never gone to her plane to visit her, she always came. According to what she’d been able to piece up together, it all indicated that by doing this the Sith would ensure that the Witch would leave her power behind. Entering this plane would seal the Witch’s powers to some extent, so she’d be more manageable. The entity would not be powerless, but her powers would be greatly diminished this way. Mara had always known that the Emperor liked to play with fire, because he thought he was absolutely able to control anything that came his way. The insidious bastard really thought too highly of himself, but that time he’d taken it too far… and it had back fired on him.

    Among the extensive files, Mara found documentation concerning all the sentients, human males most of them, who’d been sent to “repopulate” Zaferath’s realm. It was really morbid that Palpatine kept all this information, probably he did it just to gloat over it whenever he had the chance. Name after name of people appeared in long lists… Some were slaves retrieved from the Kessel mines, others had been Palpatine’s enemies, and some others Imperial Officials who had gotten themselves on the Emperor’s bad side… Hundreds of people! Maybe thousands if she dug any further. So this was in fact how he paid for the entity’s services. It was strange though, that there were no females listed.

    In some references to ancient texts, she found a quote that stated that ‘Men did not have any power over the Zaferath Witch’. What would this really mean? And to what extent? To what power were they referring to?

    Mara also found written samples of the spells Palpatine had thought her, incantations that were part of the ritual to vanquish Zaferath. References to the artefacts and weapons designed with this ultimate purpose were also there. She even found copies of the images she had taken of the markings she’d discovered in the Emperor’s chambers. How these had ended in here, she didn’t know. The fraggin Sith slime! But she calmed down a little when she made the note that all of this information had been intended for her anyways, so it was only natural that Palpatine would make sure that everything concerning the issue would be in there. An amused thought crossed Mara’s mind, the bugslut would have never, ever imagined, that she would end up making peace with his most staunch enemies, particularly that she’d end up being close to Luke Skywalker. If the Emperor had been put to rest in a grave, he’d be revolting in it! Sometimes Mara wondered if some sort of essence of the old Sith still remained, and if he could watch back to her from wherever he may be… She wished he could, so he could see how she was putting her life back together. Rebuilding her life felt like an act of defiance, and it made her feel good!

    Digging a bit further, she then found original scriptures that represented the images of the strange symbols she had come to know and relate to the Witch, but there was no attached explanation. It seemed like Palpatine had never figured out what those symbols meant. There were two sets of them, the ones that Zaferath created, and the other set containing the symbol Palpatine had used to protect himself from the Witch the night of her attack, and with it to exile her who knew where… A temporary place for the looks of it, a place from where she’d just come back! Mara closed her fists in anger. The Witch had already been doing so much damage.

    The two sets of symbols were quite contrasting from one another. The first set was composed of symbols with sharp lines and angles, with heavy calligraphy; when put together these symbols seemed to oppose and cancel each other out, like if these were constantly wrestling with one another. The second set of symbols was delicate and flowy, organic in nature, full of light, soft, curvy lines; it felt and looked harmonious. Mara felt deeply drawn to the second set, it inspired some sort of awe in her. These last symbols felt somehow close and beautiful, too bad she couldn’t understand them. But somehow, she had to learn how to use them, if she wanted to get rid of Zaferath for good.

    This was a good start, but there was so much more to go through and find out. She kept looking, reading, matching, analysing and coming to conclusions. She needed to prepare herself, to know and understand her enemy. She’d take into consideration any piece of information that could help her achieve what she wanted: to find and defeat this mighty threat.

    Mara snapped out of her ruminations when the chime of the doorbell called for her. She switched on the close circuit viewer in her terminal and realized who was at the door. A small lanky figure with oversized clothing and a mass of long, blue hair stood at the door; carrying a heavy, bulky bag over his shoulder. Zakarisz Ghent.

    “Hello, Ghent!” she greeted the young man at the door.

    Startled, the visitor gave a little jump, “Uh! Oh! Hello Mara!” and exaggeratedly waved at the door’s camera.

    The Slicer’s behaviour made Mara smile, Ghent had always been a jittery little thing, “Come on in.”

    Mara had asked Ghent to pay her a visit. She wanted him to work on the isolated set of files she had retrieved from the Vault’s servers. The specific odd set in that strange language, the one that she felt familiar but couldn’t recognize. The Trader had asked the Slicer to come to her place since she didn’t want to make copies of any of those files. That information needed to be kept in absolute secrecy.

    “Wooow! What’s that, Mara?” Ghent approached in awe to the blinking, slick piece of transparisteel that lay on Mara’s desk.

    “No!” She bluntly answered and quickly removed the gadget just before the young slicer touched it.

    “Come on! Let me take a look! I beg you!” The Slicer dramatically let out.

    “Not in a trillion light-years, Ghent.” She seriously stated. “Come on, get to work!”

    No matter how much he begged, Mara would never, ever, leave Ghent put his hands on her coder. Who knew what he would come up with! Ghent was a genius, but he was completely oblivious to ill intentions. Inspired by the gadget probably he would innocently create something astonishingly revolutionary, but with potentially catastrophic results in the long run. This sort of device could not fall in the wrong hands! Plus, the Emperor’s Hand coder was designed to respond to her DNA signature only. If anyone else tried to use it… it would self-destruct. If Mara left the thing unattended for a certain period of time… it would also self-destruct. In order to keep it running, she needed to tap into it regularly. So there was no way Ghent or anyone else would ever get near it!

    Mara dragged a second chair for him. Already resigned and without saying anything more, Ghent sat down and let the heavy bag fall next to his feet. Digging into it, he extracted a few pieces of tech he placed on his empty side of the desk.

    They sat side by side, both working on their own information. In no time the two were completely submerged in their tasks.

    After a couple of hours, Mara opened one of the drawers, and when not finding what she wanted, she stood up and walked outside the area to soon return with a box filled with something that seemed edible in her hands. She sat on her seat and opened the box, extracting some precious wrapped pieces of ration bars, the box went inside the drawer. Mara offered a bar to Ghent. When he didn’t react, she tried placing the slick rectangular meal right in front of the young man’s field of vision.

    “Oh, thanks!” The young man finally gave sign of being in this side of the Galaxy. “Can you open it for me?” he requested without taking his eyes off the screen.

    Mara made a face. ‘Little punk!’ Nevertheless she ripped the wrapping and again offered the bar to the unaware Slicer.

    He just grabbed the ration bar and started munching on it absentmindedly, while continuing working.

    Mara rolled her eyes and stood up. She needed to stretch her legs a little. The Trader paced around her apartment for a while. Thinking hard on the pieces of information she’d already gotten and how else these could fit together… Where to start? What to do and when? At this rate it would take her months before being ready to do anything! What she’d managed to get so far were crumbs that definitely led somewhere, but that was the real trick: to where? And she also knew that she’d been working on this only for two miserable days, so she shouldn’t despair!

    Suddenly Ghent let out a gasp of deep surprise! Almost a squeak, really.

    Mara hurriedly returned to where Ghent sat at. She looked at him in bewilderment. The young man looked back at her in utter anguish.

    Finally he found his voice, “I’m afraid I broke your file, Mara.”

    “What?!” Mara’s blood dropped right down to her feet. “What did you do, Ghent?” she questioned, trying to recompose and to not get exasperated.

    “Nothing!” A frightened Slicer looked back at the Trader with great apprehension, “I just ran the regular code protocols, then tweaked the coding a little bit and then… this!” he turned the screen to show her what had appeared on it, “It just produced gibberish!”

    The Trader could feel the Slicer’s misery and disappointment, and she felt deep disappointment too. She put a hand over her eyes and remained unnervingly silent.

    For a moment the Slicer felt extremely nervous. Ghent knew what Mara was capable of when angry. When she had first joined the Wild Karrde’s crew, he’d witnessed how she’d beaten the crap out – broken bones an all, of a fellow smuggler who had tried to get smart on her. It was true though, that because she was the newest addition to the crew, the smuggler in question had behaved like the ultimate dick with her. The Slicer still remembered Mara’s last words to her beaten enemy: ‘And feel lucky that today I’m not in the mood to kill you!’ she’d softly, coldly told the battered man. After that incident not one member of the crew had dared upset Mara ever again.

    It was also true that, despite the fear she initially infused in everyone around her, Mara’s competence had gained her credibility and respect among the more seasoned members of the crew. Also Mara had become a little more amicable over the years, nowadays she had the friendship and loyalty of the whole team, including Karrde. As for the jackass… Well, he had doomed himself with his incompetence and was soon fired. Something that had made Ghent very happy. But right now, he couldn’t feel happy at all!

    When she felt calmed enough, Mara addressed the Slicer again, “It’s okay, Ghent. You did what you could.”

    Ghent felt relieved and surprised at the same time. He’d just destroyed Mara Jade’s property and he’d live to tell it… ‘or better not tell it’, he second-thought about it. “I can try and find a way to fix it…” the Slicer timidly offered.

    “Just go. Thank you for coming Ghent, I appreciate it.”

    The Slicer didn’t wait to be told a second time. He left the datacard containing the “gibberish” on top of the desk. He then quickly gathered his things, slithered out the exit route uttering more apologies and good wishes and vanished behind the main door.

    As soon as the door slid shut, Mara felt free to express her anger and frustration. What in a thousand worlds had just happened? She could have expected something like this to happen to anyone else! But Ghent? She felt really, really mad… and really, really frustrated and disappointed. After some well needed ranting, she finally let herself collapse in her chair.

    Slowly she calmed down… a few moments later she then felt a bit of embarrassed remorse… She shouldn’t lose it like this!… What was wrong with her?... There was always risk! And she’d always been able to handle that!

    She sat quietly for a moment, staring at the blank screen of her personal terminal… The screen was on stand by and had turned black, but Mara realized that behind that blackness the files she’d been working on lay awaiting for her to continue… A blank screen and behind it some real information… And then a realization hit her! ‘Perhaps…’

    Hurriedly Mara took the datacard Ghent had left and run it through her device… The gibberish appeared on screen… She then keyed in the codes to activate her coder and… There it was! A display of beautiful full resolution holographic images of the Galaxy. It happened that when Mara run that gibberish through her coder it had completed itself. The gibberish was just a hidden encryption within the initial one!

    Poor Ghent, he hadn’t even realized that he had cracked the code in his first try! But it was for the best that he didn’t know that. She’d make it up to him somehow. Mara felt really happy that the files in question had had a second encryption that could only be run in her coder. This meant that all the information remained safely guarded.

    As Mara studied the displayed information, she realized these were images of extremely old navigational maps of the Galaxy… Maps of uncharted territory… It occurred to her to juxtapose those old maps upon recent maps, and the findings were unbelievable! ‘Hide the truth were everyone can see it so no one can find it.’ The points marked in the old maps remained non-existent in the new cartographic charts. In the new maps, those areas showed non-navigational areas in space, marked with existent Super Novas or Black Holes. Places in space where no ship would ever dare to go near to! So this was another of Palpatine’s doings... ‘The clever old sag’… Mara couldn’t help but to feel a hint of admiration for her former Master’s keen intellect and tenacity. Palpatine had made sure those locations remained hidden by simply manipulating the way the map updates were performed. And this only meant one thing: no one knew about those locations.

    Seven marked spots lay before Mara’s eyes… inviting.

    One by one, she studied the marked areas… Mara noticed that everything was written in that language she could not identify. She tried every possible translator, and these came out with nothing! This was really the next level of frustrating… But then, there it was! Something she could read and understand… A planet… And its name was written in Rakata. The ancient, extinct language that only she and Palpatine knew. Something told her that she must start her search there.

    It was time to start hunting down Palpatine’s old foe.


    oOo


    Mara’s day went by without her even noticing it. She’d been submerged in the large amount of information she’d been studying. Between the fright Ghent had given her and her surprisingly auspicious later findings, she hadn’t paid much attention to time. The soft beeping of a chrono alarm broke her out of her concentrated state, striking the time of her next endeavour. She had to get dressed for her holoconference!

    She headed to her bedroom and entered her walk-in closet. Quickly she grabbed a one-piece jumper and put it on, then tied her abundant red hair in a low ponytail. Mara didn’t spend much time in her appearance, she was a natural beauty. Her bright green eyes, her thick, long eyelashes, naturally well-defined eyebrows and rosy plump lips, beautifully accentuated her classy, chiselled features. She didn’t need the use of much makeup. The former Imperial agent had excellent taste in clothing, choosing classy styles that favoured her womanly figure, she was always well dressed for any occasion. For her everyday activities she usually wore casual, high quality outfits, suited for her life as a top-notch trader. She also favoured simple, discrete jewellery, nothing big or clunky, and never wore rings.… One didn’t want to cut off one’s own fingers when punching a sturdy smuggler on the face! But as tough as Mara was, she was also very effortlessly feminine.

    As she got ready, mentally she went through the highlights of the information she would discuss with her employer. All in all, the Trader was tired but felt content. So far, every trade negotiation had gone well, very well indeed. The results of these negotiations would turn into a very good amount of credits for everyone involved, she included. Karrde would be happy too. When negotiations turned out as good as these ones had, she loved doing business! And it was a welcomed sensation. She’d been so tense lately, courtesy of that blasted witch!

    Mara sat at her desk and waited. At the strike of the intended hour, the chime of an incoming holocall marked the beginning of her conversation.

    “Hello, Mara!” On the other side of the holoprojector, a collected and seasoned male trader greeted her.

    “Hello, Talon.” She greeted back with her usual coolness.

    “How are things on that side of the Galaxy?” Talon Karrde politely inquired.

    “Everything is going smoothly and as planned.” She confidently informed. “I have sent you the figures and the information on the closed deals.”

    “Yes, I have gone through all that, and I must say Mara, those were impressive results and I am very pleased.” He gave her a heartfelt smile, “You’ve done wonderfully.”

    “Thanks.” She answered unaffectedly, “But it’s not like I’m doing this for free, you know. So don’t put me on a pedestal.”

    “You’re right about that!” Karrde chuckled at her on-the-point remark. “If you continue with this success streak Mara, you’ll turn yourself into a very wealthy young woman.” He extended, unable to hide the pride he felt.

    “Then I’ll retire early.” She simply said.

    “Well, I don’t know about that.” She was Karrde’s second in command, and he’d hate to lose her. “I believe you still have a lot more accomplishments ahead of you, Mara.”

    “Time will tell, I guess.” She answered, giving him a tiny smile.

    They discussed a few things about the recent developments in Karrde’s organization. Mara listened attentively while Talon shared the new plans and projections. He had ambitious plans and she liked that, it meant great growth opportunities for everyone within the organization, her included.

    Karrde was an honest, savvy businessman who always knew how to turn things in his favour. He was in his early fifties and was an extremely charismatic, well presented man. Tall and slender, his temples heavily streaked with silvery grey hair and sporting a very well-kept goatee. He was a highly intelligent and sophisticated individual who held a strict code of honour and always kept his word. He was fair and cared about his people. A man who inspired fierce loyalty and devotion among the people who worked for him, and in return he’d be as fiercely loyal to them too. If anyone dared to mess with him or with any member of his crew, they would know the full extent of his wrath, and his retribution was very much feared. Mara enjoyed working for Talon and had remained by his side for all those years because she respected and trusted him.

    Although Talon Karrde was the most powerful and important broker of information in the entire Galaxy, still he lay low. He did not believe in displays of wealth and power, and he preferred to remain unnoticed. But most of all, he loved to remain neutral. Until Luke Skywalker had showed up in his life.

    It seemed that Skywalker had influenced the lives of so many people, Mara realized, including hers.

    “I think we’re done here, Mara.” Karrde wrapped up. “Or do you have anything else you wish to discuss?”

    “Nothing more.” Mara loved that Talon was a real businessman. He was direct and concrete, and utterly understood the value of time.

    Right before finishing their call, Karrde thought of something, “Remember that we have this event in Coruscant next Pentaday with those NR dignitaries.”

    “How can I forget?” Mara replied dryly.

    “And you’re my date for the night!” Karrde carefreely let out.

    Business date.” Mara stressed, and later regretted to have said it.

    Mara knew that Talon knew that. Their relationship was close, but only as business associates, as mentor and protegee. They cared about each other in a completely platonic way. Talon Karrde had cared for her even before Luke Skywalker came into the picture.

    “Of course Mara, it’s always business between you and I, and nothing more.” Karrde amusingly clarified.

    Talon had a special talent when reading people and, in some level, knew Mara very well. He knew that she had a deep problem with close relationships, even more with romantic ones. She was plain hermetic about her private life. He’d never known or heard of her having a date, a friend with benefits, partner or boyfriend during their already long years of business partnership. Although she had good relationships with members of his crew, she always kept her distance. She never told stories or talked about anything personal. Most of what he knew about her were simple assumptions and deductions he’d put up together from their day to day employer-employee interactions. He knew she was highly intelligent, resourceful, competent, dependable, loyal, that you should never cross her, and that she never celebrated her birthdays. About her past he hardly knew anything. All he knew was that she’d been the Emperor’s Hand – a fact that had come out to the light forced by the circumstances during the Thrawn Campaign, not from her willingness to tell someone about it. Mara was Mara, and he respected her for that. Still he felt curious about the beautiful Trader’s interactions with the Jedi Master. Karrde felt that no one had ever gotten really close to Mara, with the exception of Skywalker.

    On her side of the holoprojector, Mara looked back at him, unmoved. Although she knew she’d been a bit harsh with someone who didn’t deserve it.

    “I’ll be there.” She seemed to have come to terms with the idea of attending the NR event. “And I’ll do my best to make the Smuggler’s Alliance proud.”

    “I know you will, Mara.” Talon responded in a soothing tone. “I’ll fly in the day before. Good night.”

    Mara turned off the holocall and looked towards the large windows, the sun was low, signalling the end of daylight. Sitting back in her chair, she put her feet up on the desk, rubbing her eyes with the fingers of one hand. She felt hungry. Reaching into one of the drawers of her desk she retrieved a small packet from the box that contained the ration bars she had retrieved from her kitchen earlier that day. It was a bad habit, she knew. But she didn’t want to invest her precious time on anything but her research. To prepare a meal for herself and eat it – or order it and eat it for that matter, would take her at least forty minutes, this would take her only five. She ripped the envelope and munched on the slick bar while continuing to stare at her terminal’s screen, as windows of information re-appeared.

    To be the Smuggler’s Alliance liaison with the New Republic was not a small thing. She had lots of responsibilities in making sure deals were fair but profitable, while everything run smoothly. She knew that Karrde was grooming her so she could take over his Organization one day. It was an exciting prospect, but somehow, she was not sure if she really wanted that. She’ll let it unfold and decide about it when the time came. In general she always was very practical about things, very unattached.

    Mara was not a person who dwelled in the past, but for some reason she noticed in surprise that she was feeling a bit nostalgic and melancholic that night. Probably she’d already spent too much time in Coruscant, the planet of her childhood. The place that once had felt like home to her… There were a lot of memories in that place…With the downfall of the Empire she’d lost everything, and memories were all that remained.

    Throughout her life, the ex-Emperor’s Hand had really never been close to that many people. All her previous relationships had had practical reasons. She tended not to get involved romantically. In her opinion, romantic relationships were a distraction, and in her former line of work it had been a luxury she couldn’t afford. Only one time she’d shown romantic interest in someone… She’d been very young, in her late teens, early twenties.

    Tarec Krigger was his name. He’d been the Weapons Master of the Imperial Royal Guard, a very feared highly-trained elite group of soldiers, specifically occupied with Emperor Palpatine’s protection. Mara had trained and sparred with this select group of soldiers, while brushing up her own soldiering skills. Back in the day Krigger was one of the most skilful warriors she’d ever met, respected by his peers and feared by his enemies. Even till this day, she continued to admire his great talent and strong persona.

    Day after day she had trained tirelessly under his tutelage, learning everything he would share with her. Krigger’s teachings had helped her become a true warrior. They’d shared a few missions and had accomplished great things together in the name of the Empire, against impossible odds. Soon they developed feelings for each other and started a relationship. But it was before too long that he was transferred to serve on board of an Executor-class Star Dreadnought, and shortly after the ship had gone down in battle and he'd been declared missing in action. Mara suspected that Palpatine had seen to that. It was a pang in her heart she couldn’t allow herself to really feel, because she had no proof.

    She remembered Tarec fondly, he’d been the first being to ever dare get close to her and show her sincere affection, and in her on way, she’d love him in return. He’d been her first love. Losing him had been acutely painful, her heart had felt… broken. After that experience she’d closed up to any other relationship, telling herself that these were only useless and distracting. People were distractions, that was all. She had never spoken about that old love to anyone, not even to Luke. The rest of the relationships in her life had been strictly professional, work related, non-important… Until Karrde came into the picture.

    It was until she joined Karrde’s Organization that she came to understand comradery and friendship in a whole different way. Karrde was a very generous and fair employer, a man who promoted loyalty and a sense of belonging. And to top that, then Luke Skywalker came into the rest of the picture…

    Things with Luke were so different from anything she’d ever experienced before. The Farmboy showed her such earnest trust and openness… In the beginning, she’d found that very annoying and irritating. He’d offered her his friendship right away, no expectations attached, no questions asked. She’d initially thought he was some kind of weird psycho. Reluctantly she’d forced herself to let him into her life and to slowly open up to him. She did not regret to have done that. She had never had friends really… Only business associates. And yes, Skywalker was her friend. In her own way, Mara cherished her friend. Luke accepted her.

    The Trader also felt deep respect and admiration for the Jedi’s skills and accomplishments, something he did not seem to pay much attention to. In his own opinion, he only did what he did because he had to and did it the best he could. But he was a man many sentient beings looked up to. He was respected by his peers and feared by his enemies. Just like Tarec had been.

    She also had to admit that the Farmboy was not hard to look at. Well, he was not the most celebrated bachelor in the Holo-Net for nothing! Something she would tease him about, because it annoyed him so much. But jokes apart, if she was honest with herself, she would say that she found him attractive, he was a very good-looking man… His boyish looks gave him a particular charm… And for all the stars in the Endorian sky! She knew that underneath those Jedi robes, Skywalker had a body to die for! Unintentionally she’d had an opportunity to take a peak once, in the Jade’s Fire shower unit, when she’d accidentally walked in the ‘fresher room while the Jedi was using it. She’d immediately shielded her presence when noticing her blunder and couldn’t help but to take a look. To her relief, he’d not been aware of anything at all.

    But in reality, it was not only these traits that appealed to Mara about the Jedi… Underneath all those good looks and all that Jedi glorification, there was a man she didn’t have to struggle to figure out. He kept no secrets, no hidden agendas, no veiled motives… So different from the people she’d been used to deal with while with the Empire and now when being around crafty smugglers. With him, what you saw was what you got. He was honest with her, and she found that incredibly refreshing, soothing… Luke centred her.

    Mara enjoyed having the Jedi around, although she would not openly admit it, just because she loved to make him sweat. But even under this dynamic of theirs, just a couple of days ago, he’d simply jumped on board with her. Selflessly he’d given his help and had gotten her what she needed… And by his own accord had decided to stick like a mynock for the remainder of the mission.

    Yes, she felt emotionally close to Luke. Now she wondered if the Emperor had seen that coming! Perhaps had he even foreseen it? Thus the reason why Palpatine was so set into making her kill the Jedi Knight?

    She didn’t really want to continue dwelling in suppositions, that never helped. She wanted to remain practical about things.

    It was a Pentaday night… She wondered about what the Farmboy would be doing tonight.




    To be continued…
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful characterization of not just Mara, but Ghent, and Karrde. =D= I am so relieved that the data wasn't lost but only doubly encrypted. Loved Mara's reflections on Luke. [face_dancing] Their friendship is a marvel indeed and always with an undercurrent of something more. ;)
     
    Jâd Sphera likes this.
  15. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    I'm happy to hear that the characterizations have done the honours. Your feedback means a lot ^:)^.
    I loved writing the scene of Mara and Ghent trying to crack the encryption. It was a lot of fun to write!
    And yes, there is always an undercurrent of something in Luke and Mara's friendship. I think this is what makes it so interesting to all of us! [face_love]

    Thank you for reading! @};-
     
  16. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance
    by Jâd Sphera


    Notes:

    I would like to thank mooseman13579, who was kind enough to let me use Davik Oligard, a character of his creation, in my current story. I hope I made him justice. In this Chapter I’m only elaborating on mooseman’s idea.
    I really recommend the reading of his wonderful one-shot "The Old Man's Gift". Here’s the link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/4030222
    I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did.

    And again, thank you @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the generous and priceless help with beta-reading this story :)

    Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy this new chapter.



    Chapter 6



    Luke let out a deep sigh of relief when he gave his goodbyes to the last appointment of his day. A full delegation of Bothan representatives had sat in his office for over an hour, it had felt very crowded in there.

    Politics was really not his strong suit… Leia was the politician in the family! So dealing with politicians always stressed him out. And Bothans were particularly good at stressing out anybody, he included! And he was supposed to be a calm Jedi Master… The irony in that! It was true though, that being a Jedi had its advantages. His Jedi insight always helped him to sense true intentions and changes in mood, so he could work this to his advantage and avoid any misunderstandings. But even with the Force working in his favour, dealing with politicians always felt to him like walking on the tightrope over a shiver of Firaxan sharks, waiting for him to take the slightest slip.

    The day had already taken its toll on him, and all he was thinking about was that he wanted to go home. Probably he wouldn’t have worked this late if he hadn’t used that time in the morning to visit the Market. But he’d found that Kaiburr crystal for Mara, and that alone made his delay worth it. He wondered about what Mara would think of the piece of crystal… It was true that the one thing that always made them argue was talking about her becoming a Jedi, so he’d have to find a way to bring the subject up delicately this time, to avoid a full blown up confrontation. Mara always got very defensive every time he’d bring up that subject… and they would endlessly argue and get annoyed at one another. Yes, there was times when not even all of his Jedi collectedness would help him to avoid getting utterly frustrated with her. Mara was the one person in the Galaxy that knew how to push his buttons, he had to admit… and he was always fool enough to let her do it. But she was so gifted… The Force flowed through her in such a powerful manner… If she only made up her mind and decided to commit to her Jedi training… He was so willing to train her himself!

    Training, that was something he felt comfortable with. Training on his own and training others was something that came naturally to him, something he really enjoyed doing. Becoming a Jedi was a demanding task, but these were demands he could deal with, demands that implied challenges he always looked forward to accomplishing. For a moment he felt happy he didn’t have an office job and that what he was doing in Coruscant was only temporary.

    Luke was very disciplined and orderly – Jedi needed to be, and he could stick to schedule. He’d had all of these characteristics pretty well ingrained in his behaviour since a very young age, courtesy of his uncle Owen who had taught him the importance of hard work and trustworthiness. Working in a farm like the one he’d grown up in – farming in a harsh environment like the one Tatooine offered, meant that you had to be very careful with everything you did in order to maximize results. That was the difference between a good harvest and a bad one, the difference between fortune and misery, and even at times the difference between life and death. The Lars homestead had taught him so much… He owed his uncle and aunt so much… They were the ones who had formed him and thanks to them he was the man he was now. Right now, he felt a bit amused though, ‘So much for that ingrained discipline…’, he thought. Here he was tonight! Running late and with still quite a few more things to deal with before calling it a night.

    He sat at his desk and for several minutes he reviewed some agreements and petitions, Jedi involvement was requested more and more often. The Academy had already produced a few healthy batches of Jedi, and there were more candidates in training… Their numbers were raising… Nevertheless there was still a long way to go before the number of Jedi could be considered enough to cover the demand of their interventions. Luke pondered on how many more years would it take to have an appropriate number of fully trained Force users when his office’s comm unit beeped, and Threepio announced the visit he’d been expecting with eagerness. There were some important matters to discuss.

    Luke stood up as soon as the door slid open and walked towards his visitor, “Davik, it is very nice to see you! Thank you for coming in such a short notice.” He cheerfully greeted, extending a hand to greet the other man, looking directly into the other’s eyes and providing him a welcoming smile.

    The man offered his hand in return and shook the Jedi’s extended one, “The pleasure is all mine Master Skywalker. I’m always gladly at your disposal.” He expressed with sincerity, a small frank smile of his own.

    By looking at their interaction, one could tell that the relationship between the two men was one of undeniable trust, mutual respect and professionalism. Luke had a great sense of gratitude towards the man that had just arrived and didn’t mind showing it. In return, this new visitor felt a huge sense of devotion and responsibility towards the Jedi, he was his employer after all.

    Davik Oligard was the Academy’s Comptroller.

    Oligard was a calm mannered, composed man, who spoke with precision in his speech. His sharp gaze denoted a bright intellect, a man who portrayed his thoughts and ideas in a forthright manner, never beating about the bush. He presented himself dressed soberly impeccable. He was inherently honest and took his job very seriously. The Comptroller lived completely devoted to his job and to transcendently fulfil what he deemed his duty. He was the man in charge of the Academy’s finances, the man behind everything that ensured that the Praxeum was financially supported and effectively solvent at all times.

    Davik Oligard had faithfully worked for the Imperial Bank of Coruscant, the most prestigious financial institution at the time of Imperial ruling, for most of his life. Over years of hard and unexceptionable work, Oligard had attained the position of Coruscant’s Branch President. To have been the Branch President of such organization was no small feat, only a highly qualified professional could have occupied such position. Oligard was a Finance Attorney, an expert in Finances and Financial Law, with several additional degrees in Economics, Commerce and Real Estate.

    Determined to fulfil his last duty as the Branch President of the Imperial Bank of Coruscant was how Luke had come to know Davik Oligard. Amongst the chaos during Coruscant’s fall into Rebel hands, the dutiful man had waited to complete the terms of the last will and testament of the Imperial Bank’s oldest and wealthiest client: the Lord Darth Vader. At the time, he hadn’t known about the relationship between the Dark Lord and his appointed heir, all he knew was that he had to find Luke Skywalker and make him aware of the late Imperial Supreme Commander’s last wish. The Dark Sith Lord had named the Rebel Commander as his one and only heir.

    This had resulted in an encounter that had beyond all bounds dragged the rug beneath Luke’s feet in a way he would have never, ever, expected. Surpassing anything he could have ever thought about his father and his intentions towards him.

    Among the assets Luke had inherited were an exorbitant amount of credits and an insane number of pieces of property that included several fortresses and a lavish mansion in Naboo that Luke had never visited yet. He’d also inherited stock from a couple of star ship manufacturing companies. The Jedi pretty much owned Incom Corporation, and this was actually the main reason why he’d been able to keep and run a T-65 X-Wing fighter as his personal space craft. A vessel that was destined to military pilots and not civilians, but the company had “gifted” him with such emblematic aircraft and would continue to do it for life. Also, included in Vader’s will, there had been an extensive list of several fully equipped Imperial capital ships – fighters and crews included. A whole fleet of warships with enough fire power to wage war upon whoever he’d deemed necessary. But the most priceless acquisition of it all, as far as Luke was concerned, were the six Holocrons and the three hundred tomes of Jedi and Sith lore.

    At the time, Luke had considered that half of his father’s inheritance belonged to Leia. When he’d made the proposition to her, she had bluntly refused to have anything to do with Darth Vader’s blood money. So Luke was left to decide on his own what he would do with such fortune.

    Under Oligard’s insistent advice, a percentage of the fortune had been separated for the Jedi’s personal expenses, and some for future endeavours such as ‘Supporting a family’ Davik had said, ‘Only ten percent’ he’d said, and Luke had agreed. Which in return had represented an obscene large amount of credits that Luke would not even care to inquire about. He just knew he had enough money to die a very rich man. Luke liked to live modestly, but his generous nature would lead him to, in some occasions, allow himself a few “excesses” which he’d always share with his family and friends.

    Of course, not many knew about Luke’s wealth. Only Leia, Han, Wedge, Davik and Mon Mothma knew about it. Luke had not even told Mara just yet! The Jedi had decided to keep this fact hidden for obvious reasons: the money of Darth Vader would have certainly been frowned upon and would generate an excruciatingly large amount of gossip and ill will he didn’t want to deal with. He already had enough of that with those who judged him and Leia because they were the offspring of the Dark Lord. He simply didn’t want his efforts in rebuilding the New Jedi Order be tainted by more of that. Instead, a new, secret persona had been created for him. With the help of Mon Mothma, a legalized alias had been granted to Luke.

    And Antelayas Udaar had come to exist. The reclusive, generous benefactor of the New Jedi Order.

    Udaar was quite a celebrity in the Holo-Net! And although no one had ever seen his face, or knew about his whereabouts, lots of fascinating speculations about the money and life of this mysterious trillionaire ran around the gossip pages of socialite holo-magazines and news.

    Once his anonymity was secured, Luke had put his father’s wealth to work in favour of the Jedi. In reality, he considered himself only the custodian of all these riches. Using this incredible wealth he then had all the means necessary to rebuild the Order. The very first thing he did was to properly equip the Massassi Temples in Yavin IV. These facilities would serve as the new grounds of the Jedi Academy, hosting a new growing generation of Jedi. He’d wanted them to be appropriately suited for the high demands of Jedi training. It was like this that the Jedi Praxeum had been running for the past years. The Jedi Master had allocated all of this wealth into funding the New Jedi Order, and the people and things Jedi protected. This had also secured a way in which the Jedi would not owe any favours or allegiance to no individual or organization. The Jedi would remain free of attachments and would only act and intervene following the dictates of their own code.

    It was in a way ironic, that Vader’s inheritance would be a key precursor in bringing back the one thing he had utterly destroyed: the Jedi. In a sense, Luke saw his own actions as a way of doing some atonement in his father’s name, a way to right his wrongs.

    He wasn’t really sure of what his father’s intentions had been when appointing him as his heir. Had Vader wanted to recognize him as his legitimate son and had tried to make amends? Or had Vader been so sure Luke would turn to the dark side that, in the event of his own decease, he’d ensure his son would have all the means to avenge him by overthrowing the Emperor? Or what other reasons must have Vader had? Luke guessed he’d never know the real answers to those questions.

    By now, most of the properties had been sold, the fleet had been dismantled and the ships recalled to serve the New Republic. The troops of those ships had been given the choice to freely start anew whether by joining the New Republic or by going back to Imperial occupied territory. And what had remained of the 501st Legion, had been disbanded under the son of Vader’s command, to never rise again.

    Besides his responsibilities with the Academy, Oligard was also responsible of running the Skywalker-Udaar estate. He was in charge of all the figures and numbers and of providing advice on where these assets would be best placed. His honesty and devotion to duty had been what had drawn Luke to hire him as his estate Administrator. As time had gone by, he had let the Comptroller to be more and more autonomous. Davik was Luke’s proxy and oversaw everything, so Mr. Udaar never had to make an appearance. It had been going like this for the last twelve years.

    Davik was around fifteen years Luke’s senior, but this had not been an impediment for the growth of a discreet friendship, permeated by the deep respect and admiration they both felt towards the other. Luke had insisted to Davik to call him just Luke, but Oligard’s formality would not allow him to give in to such abhorrent notion.

    “Davik, Kam Sollusar will be getting in touch with you concerning the funds for an upcoming mission,” Luke started, “And a man named Corran Horn, a pilot from Rogue Squadron, will also need our support with funding. Please authorize anything they may need, and I mean anything.”

    “Of course. I will allocate the funds immediately.” Oligard keyed in a few things in his datapad, “Will this be a standard operation?”

    “My guess is that it might go a little over the top this time… So just make sure that they don’t run out of credits.” The Jedi requested.

    “Very well. I’ll consider all the possible resources and will make sure these are at their disposal.”

    After so many years of working together, Davik knew his craft, so Luke didn’t have to worry about the specifics.

    “I am happy to announce to you that Incom Corp stock has again increased at the end of the term.” Oligard informed casually, without the thrill of someone already accustomed to deal with large figures.

    To Luke this only meant that they would be able to do more for the Jedi and for the organizations they sponsored.

    “I was wondering if you’d allow me to hire a specialist to run all the matters that have to do with the social aid programs that you support.” The Administrator requested.

    “Sure, do that.” What had started as a small operation had grown considerably as time had passed by, Luke trusted Davik’s reasons and surely he could use the help.

    “And if you would, please, sign this documentation.” The Comptroller extended a datapad containing the intended documents.

    “Of course.” The Jedi took the datapad and went through the documentation.

    “Please, remember to sign as your alter ego.” Oligard politely suggested.

    Luke couldn’t avoid an amused chuckle, “Yes! I’ll make sure I do that.” He’d already once made the mistake of signing under his real name.

    As Luke swiped through the documents contained in the datapad, he made an important inquiry, “Have you looked after yourself and your family as I told you?” he casually asked his Administrator.

    “Yes, Master Skywalker. I have.” Oligard promptly answered. “It’s been very generous of you.”

    “You deserve it Davik. You’ve done so much for me.” Luke addressed the other, meaning it.

    Davik and his family lived in Coruscant, while Luke lived in Yavin IV, so most of the interactions held by both men were accomplished over holoconference, and very seldom they saw each other in person. Every now and then Luke liked to review with Davik the details of his salary. Although he had instructed the Comptroller to do the appropriate adjustments on his own, matching whatever he felt was appropriate according to inflation rates. Oligard perceived a very generous salary, adequate to compensate the valuable skills of his know-how and multiple responsibilities, but the Jedi had found out that the banker’s oldest daughter was getting married and had made a special contribution to such happy event in the life of his trusted Administrator.

    “Please, give Pianna my congratulations.”

    “I will, on your behalf. But you’re coming back to attend the wedding, aren’t you?” Oligard inquired, slightly rising an eyebrow.

    “Yes, I will.” Luke promptly confirmed, appeasing any doubt.

    “Then you’ll have the opportunity to give her your good wishes yourself.” Davik warmly offered, then collected his datapad and sharply stood up, “It’s been a pleasure, Master Skywalker.” And with this took his leave.

    As soon as Davik Oligard was out of sight, Luke gathered his own things and did the same.

    It was time to head home.


    oOo


    Luke arrived to his Coruscanti apartment much later than he’d expected.

    R2-D2 greeted his master from his charge-up station with cheerful beeps. Luke’s living quarters in the Imperial Palace, although fancy and superbly located, weren’t really large. It was a bachelor’s space, wide and open, with large floor to ceiling windows on one of its long sides, and only two well defined sections destined to a kitchen unit and a ‘fresher room, which gave the option to try as many configurations of décor as one could wish. The Jedi didn’t own many things, and must of his stuff was back in Yavin IV, where his real home was. Whatever that was in his apartment in Coruscant had been put there by Leia and she’d done an excellent job with it. The place was decorated with elegance and sobriety, in cool neutral colours, but it really lacked a personal touch. The most personalized space in the place was the bedroom area, where Luke would keep whatever he’d bring with him for his stay… Mostly clothes in the closet, a few personal hygiene items in the ‘fresher room, and a pile of datacards, tech gadgets and a few other personal items on top of his work station. To him this was simply a place to touch ground every night while in Coruscant.

    The past three weeks were already taking a toll on him and he couldn’t wait to be done with his business in Coruscant. ‘Seven more days to go…’, he thought half-relieved, and he’ll be out of there. He knew he shouldn’t complain, all of that work was just another aspect of his responsibilities as the head of the Jedi Order, but he’d already had enough of hearings, and senators, and diplomats and the likes. Tonight, he felt tired, hungry and fed up. He’d done so many things during the day, had met with so many people… He could tell the stress of the week and his tiredness had already affected his mood… It was dark, and he had eaten almost nothing during the day. Threepio had brought to his desk some of the fruit he’d gotten at the Market that morning, but he hadn’t had time to eat it. He felt so out of focus that didn’t know what to do first: sleep, eat or take a shower. He’d already kicked off his boots when he first entered his place, and his tabard lay neatly folded on top of a stool by the kitchen’s bar. Absentmindedly he opened one of the bags of the produce he’d purchased and munched on a piece of fruit. As he passed by his couch, the inviting comfy piece of furniture convinced him of making a stop right there, and he let himself drop heavily on it.

    He lay on his back, face up, staring at the ceiling of his lounge area… His eyes felt so heavy… Slowly, he started to drift away... Until the beeping of an incoming call in his home holo-comm unit brought him back to the real world. He kept his eyes closed, trying to ignore the sound, ‘Hang up, already!’ He simply refused to get up and attend the call. It’d been a very busy and long day and all he wanted was to be left alone and undisturbed. The beeping persisted… He intended to let it beep until Mustafar froze! But then remembered he’d forgotten to revert the silence setting of his handheld comm… He stretched his senses with the Force so he could identify who might be on the other side of that annoying beeping… The caller held a very unmistakeable energy. Luke quickly got up and rushed to the comm unit… When taking the call, a familiar face sporting a huge roguish grin appeared on the comm’s holo-screen.

    “Hey Kid!” Han Solo gave his friend an enthusiastic greeting, then gave an appalled look, “What are you up to?” to him Luke kind of looked like bantha poodoo.

    “Hi Han!” the kid in question greeted back, “Nothing really…” he innocently shrugged. After all those years Han kept calling him Kid, but he didn’t mind.

    Luke doing nothin’ wasn’t news for Han. Seeing Luke half asleep and clad in his day garments really ground his gears. It seemed incredible to him that being ten years his junior, the Jedi behaved as a much older man than he! “Get some decent clothes on, make yourself presentable!” the man on the other side of the holo-comm ordered.

    “I’m presentable!” Luke complained.

    That won’t do,” Han chastised, “I’m taking you out tonight. Let’s have some good old-fashioned fun!”

    Luke winced at his brother-in-law’s statement. Good old-fashioned fun only meant one thing: getting wasted on Corellian rum and every other alcoholic beverage they could put their hands on, a feat almost impossible for him. He couldn’t get drunk even if he wanted to! This was a small side effect of his fast Jedi metabolic function. He’d even given up drinking a long time ago! But… on second thought, tonight he’d do anything for a distraction. He really needed a lift! So he’d be happy to accompany his Corellian friend and at least try.

    Immediately reenergizing his mood, Luke gave his friend a sparkling grin. “All right. Where are you taking me?”

    “It’s a surprise.” A hint of mystery in that answer.

    Luke’s stomach rumbled. “Can we eat?”

    Han casually dismissed his friend’s concern, “Sure! Plenty of food where we’re going!

    “All right. Just give me some time to get ready.” The Jedi requested.

    “I’ll be over in ten!” the older man warned, pointing a finger at his younger friend.

    Luke was about to switch the comm off when Han’s image reappeared, “Oh! Almost forgot: leave your Jedi costume behind. Tonight, we’re going incognito.” The older man warned.

    As he clicked off the holo-comm Luke wondered how they were going to manage that. There were basically no places in Coruscant were they wouldn’t be recognized. Maybe he could manage wearing normal civilian clothes and concealing his lightsaber… or use a Force Illusion technique to avoid recognition, although he didn’t care for it since he now avoided to use the Force when not really needed – The indiscriminate use of the Force came at a very high price for him… But, Han! The man couldn’t ever conceal his natural charisma and dashing appearance! Which despite the years, remained his best friend’s trademark. Han was once described by Corran Horn as “hard to forget”, and Luke couldn’t agree more. Back in the day, when he was only a wet-behind-the-ears teenage farm boy, the Corellian had made a deep impression on him. He’d wanted to be like Han! As Luke grew older, that first impression waned, as he matured and came into his own; then that blind admiration for his dear friend turned into deep respect and recognition.

    He took a quick sonic shower instead of the regular watery one, it was faster although less satisfying, but it accomplished the same goal: to leave him squeaky clean. Grabbing the first set of clothes that looked civilian enough to him, Luke got changed. He wasn’t sure about leaving his lightsaber behind… He then remembered a certain compact hard leather case that Mara had given him a few months back, that he’d been thoughtful enough to pack. She had spoken of its convenience to conceal a lightsaber from prying eyes, and that it would comfortably fit onto the back of any utility belt when attached horizontally, leaving the weapon handy, just in case. He got the case and fastened it to his belt just as Mara had told him, placing his weapon inside. With the hip-length dark-yellow jacket he put over his shirt, the case in question was unnoticeable. He turned and looked at himself in the mirror. For a short moment he gazed at his reflected self… and shrugged. That would have to do.

    It wasn’t long before Han was at Luke’s door. Their apartments were in the same complex, just a few storeys away. Although Han and Leia had their primary home at the Presidential Residence in the upper side of the city, on busy days they would stay at their apartment in the grounds of the Imperial Palace.

    Han wore his usual blues and browns and high boots, his light-brown hair combed back. Mara had once chided them for being the scruffiest heroes in the whole Galaxy. But they didn’t really care about being fashionable, they’ve always favoured practicality and comfort over anything else, and somehow, they always managed to look presentable.

    “I hope I look civilian enough to you!” Luke teased.

    “That’ll do.” The taller man frugally answered.

    Outside their building, they boarded a speeder-cab driven by a grim looking Defel. Han gave the driver a few instructions and were on their way. Their drive headed downwards, to the lower levels in the city. After some twenty minutes, the cab stopped in front of a set of elevators, Han paid the credits and gestured Luke to get off. Han then led them into the first turbolift, pushed in some codes and slapped a transparent card against the holographic reader on the lift’s panel. “Invitation only.” The Corellian casually clarified. The turbolift’s doors opened, and both men stepped inside.

    Luke felt the lift dropping several floors down and wondered what was this all about. His friend was certainly going through a lot of trouble to reach this place. What was he up to?

    Well, he’d just have to wait and find out.



    To be continued…
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful with Davik and very plausible that Vader would leave everything to Luke, for whatever motive :p And great irony that Luke took the benefaction of a Darth and turned it into funding the Jedi. Superb that the Jedi are thus free from having to be bound to any governmental restrictions, i.e., if they got funded primarily by the NR, the latter could make demands. [face_thinking]

    I do enjoy the Han and Luke friendship immensely. :cool: Their loyalty, genuine respect and affection is a treat.
     
    Jâd Sphera likes this.
  18. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Naturally Han would wait until Luke is totally wiped to call and tell him "Get yourself duded up because I'm taking you out to a bar, and no, I ain't gonna take no for an answer." [face_laugh]
     
  19. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Hi Nyota!
    I'm glad that you like this idea of Luke inheriting Vader's fortune. I like it that the Jedi can be completely independent.
    Han is an awesome friend and I think Luke brings out all the good in him. :)
    Thank you for reading! @};-


    Hi Cowgirl Jedi 1701!
    Yes! LOL! Han would definitely do that to Luke! That was exactly what I was thinking when writing this scene [face_laugh]
    Expect more things to happen with these two! ;)
    Thank you for reading!
     
  20. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance
    by Jâd Sphera



    Notes:
    Thank you to my wonderful Beta Reader @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the great support with proof-reading this story.

    Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy this new chapter.



    Chapter 7




    The turbolift ride down took only a couple of minutes. When the doors opened, both men stepped out into a festive, cacophonous environment. The streets were full of activity, exhilarated sentient beings of all species walked around the perimeter, plenty of street vendors offered their merchandise, and numerous establishments invited their clientele to enter in several languages. The ever-present bright artificial lights cast moving, active shadows around them. All sorts of entertainment seemed to be offered here. And all sorts of signs stating: “What Happens in Level 24, Stays in Level 24.”, showed everywhere.

    It was a Pentaday night, and it was common for inhabitants of Coruscant to largely indulge themselves over their weekends. Luke had been in the planet’s lower levels before, conducting critical intel searches and knew that places in these levels were dangerous and should be avoided… but this was his first visit to Level 24… and it was like nothing he’d ever seen before! More out of habit than anything else, he did a quick scan with the Force, sensing no danger. Every sentient being in the crowd had just one intent in their minds: to absolutely enjoy themselves. The level reminded him of some rough spots like Mos Eisley or Nar Shaddaa, but with a lot more excess and a lot more flair.

    Han and Luke walked through crowded streets, lined up by all kinds of nightclubs, spectacle centres, gambling parlours, eateries, cocktail lounges and the likes, opened 24/7. It seemed that every world in the Galaxy had some kind of representation. Several streets down, they finally stopped in front of an establishment bearing a big sign that read: “The Corellian Rover”. Luke couldn’t help but to notice the big grin plastered on Han’s face. The pub in the outside looked rustic and welcoming, but when they stepped inside, its prior agrestic appearance took a whole different level. The bar, the stools and chairs, were all made of dark Corellian hardwood. The small tables had thick, solid tops made of some type of granite, surely also Corellian. Wooden panels covered sections on the walls and ceilings. The colours were rich and dark. Every decoration had that distinctive craftsmanship of its proud origins. Even the floors were covered in rustic hardwood, splashed by the occasional poured-over drink, to which small, discrete cleaning-droids rushed to mop up, gliding swiftly amongst the patrons. The sound of song-based music and multiple conversations muffling one another hang in the air. The lights occasionally unveiling the thick smoke of cigarras. Large mirrors were placed on the wall behind the main bar. Against this wall a large number of bottles filled with colourful liquids covered the shelves, sparkling vividly when the soft lights shone against them. The establishment seemed to take pride in offering the best Corellian libations within the Core Worlds, and by the number of displayed bottles it seemed that they had taken their motto very seriously. Luke was certain that most items were surely smuggled onto the planet, but all the risks seemed worth it when the whole ambience invited patrons to relax, laugh and enjoy themselves; and most importantly: to spend their credits.

    The place was packed, but after some display of the infallible Solo Charm, soon enough the hostess showed them to their table. Han felt elated by the authentic atmosphere the place irradiated. Just before sitting down, he reflexively breathed in the smells of his home-world’s pub grub, tart ales and aromatic wines, feeling a bit nostalgic and homesick for Corellia. Luke picked up his friend’s sentiment through the Force and felt happy to be there with him tonight.

    “Is this the trendiest, hottest place in town?” Luke teased.

    “Wedge and Corran told me about this place.” Han answered with excitement, “I’ve wanted to come and check it out for a while. Remember I’m the black-nerf in the family!” He finished with a playful wink.

    ‘Leave it to the “Coruscanti Corellian Clan” to find the best places to go on a drinking binge’, was Luke’s amused thought.

    Han studied the menu thoroughly and ordered food and drinks for both, reassuring Luke that he’d like what he’d just asked for. When the order arrived, Luke promptly favoured solids over liquids. He was starving! His overdrive metabolism always urged him to consume many calories. Long ago he’d guessed it had something to do with the amount of energy he spent channelling the Force and his body needed to be nourished duly. Han regularly teased Luke about the amount of food he was able to consume, ’It would be cheaper to feed the whole 501st!’ Han would happily mock him.

    Both men made cheerful conversation over their meal, talking about inconsequential, every-day things. After a toothsome feast their empty plates were taken away and replaced by a unique arrangement of drinks. Han always favoured brands from his home planet, and if this was an establishment that alleged on being genuinely Corellian, then he was determined to validate the authenticity of those claims, as he deemed his duty to do a full tasting of their alcohol reserves. As they chatted on, movement towards their side of the room caught Han’s attention. Two attractive looking females approached their table. One long-legged blonde human and a beautiful turquoise-skinned Twi’lek stood squarely in front of Luke.

    The first girl alluringly asked, “Can I buy you a drink?”

    Han looked at the unaware Jedi with amusement. Even though he kept his signature boyish looks, with age the Kid had picked up a kind of sexiness that females found very attractive. If he’d only made up his mind!

    Luke turned and looked up at the lovely owner of that invitation. The awkwardness of interacting with members of the opposite sex had left him a long time ago. This was not the kind of distraction he was looking for tonight, casual flings were not part of his life anymore. Back in his day as a green rebel pilot he’d had his share. “Uhm… No… thank you.” His tone was kind and polite, but the meaning behind it leaving no room for negotiation.

    The other girl turned to Han. “What about you? Handsome flyboy.” She invited, while appraising the ex-smuggler’s good looks.

    “No, thanks sweetheart. I’m already taken.” He courtly refused. Han adored Leia and had always been faithful.

    Both girls looked at each other with a bewildered expression, it was apparent that they weren’t used to a negative. Then looked back and forth at the two men… bewilderment replaced by realization. Both giggled. Saying their goodbyes, the two happily walked away exchanging merry explanations.

    Surely, they had gotten the already taken part all wrong, Luke thought as he watched the two girls go, but he didn’t mind. Han must have picked up on his conclusions, when they looked back at each other both laughed wholeheartedly.

    Han took a swig of his drink, letting the cold, rich ale slid down his throat, then chided his brother-in-law, “You sure need to do a little bit more of flirting!”

    “Mmmh… I’m not into that right now.” Luke quickly stated, while taking a swig of his own drink.

    “Unless you’ve changed your mind and girls are not your type anymore…” Han offered, “We’d be cool with that, you know.” Referring to himself and Leia.

    Luke let out an uncomfortable little laugh and then answered carefully, “It’s not that… and I know it wouldn’t be a problem for you… or for me… It’s just…” he really hated this line of conversation, “I’ve got other things in my mind.”

    Han knew that Luke was dealing with a lot of things. “The Bakuran girl?” He asked.

    “Amongst other things…” Luke admitted, glad about changing the subject, but troubled about what his friend’s question now brought to his mind.

    “How old is she now?” Han tried to remember.

    “Five.”

    “That’s too young.” The Corellian sighed. “Wars leave a lot of orphans behind.” He knew of too many orphans… He’d been one himself, Luke and Leia too… He was now a father of three, and it pained him to think about something like that happening to his own beloved children.

    Luke nodded. “I’ve gone back only one time to see her, Han. I don’t want her to feel like I’ve abandoned her.” A hint of regret lingered in the younger man’s voice, “I wish I could do more.”

    Luke would never speak about it, but Han knew everything the Jedi had done for the little girl. Only he and Leia knew. After coming back from Bakura, Luke had told them everything. Following her mother’s wishes, Malinza had been legally put under Luke’s care. Gaeriel had wanted him to be her daughter’s tutor. That had come out as a shocking surprise to him. The Thanas family’s attorney had explained to him that, just before departing with the Bakuran Military Force, Gaeriel had made all the arrangements… ‘Just in case’, she had said. Sadly, her fears had come to realization. When faced with the prospect, Luke knew that he couldn’t properly care for a small child. Being the head of the New Jedi Order would have made that impossible, and the Academy certainly was not a place for Malinza. He only wanted to do what was best for the child. Then relatives who had loved her mother came forth, expressing their wishes to keep the girl. So, she had stayed with them, who would look after her until she reached adulthood. In the end everything had worked out for the child’s best interests. Malinza’s parents had been prominent figures in the Bakuran Government and the Military, and everything they had left behind had been put in a trust fund under her name. Luke had wanted to leave all that untouched until Malinza’s coming of age, so she could have a solid head start when she emancipated. In the meantime, as her legal tutor, he’d done arrangements for financial support, and Solo also knew that everything was coming out of Luke’s own pocket, which of course was something he could leisurely do but it did say lots about his generous nature. But the Kid, not feeling like that had been enough, had even taken things further. Knowing that his line of work was not very safe, he’d even gone as far as ensuring that, if something ever happened to him, Malinza would have everything she needed, and she’d been included in the Jedi’s will.

    “She knows she’s not alone.” Han interjected, “We do what we can, Kid. And you’ve done right.”

    Luke pressed his lips in a forced smile and nodded, but the sad look in his clear blue eyes gave away everything. Somehow it seemed the booze was having an undesired effect, he was feeling melancholic.

    “Your sister is worried about you.” The older man severely added. Although Luke tried to hide it, Han had picked up on those brief spasms of melancholy, and the Kid had been having a lot of those lately.

    Luke gave a sigh, “Isn’t she always?”

    Taking one more swig of his tart drink, after gulping it down Han continued, “She told me that you’re “shielding” too much. Those were her exact words. I know you have this Force-thing going on between the two of you, and she’s been feeling your weirdness… You know what I mean.”

    “I’ve already told her that she has nothing to be worried about. I’m fine!” Leia was always very protective of him. As the Chief of State of the New Republic she led a very busy life, full of stressful situations, so he tried not to give her any more things to be worried about. But to know that despite his efforts his sister was still worried about him made him feel double worried.

    “I’m worried about you too, Luke.” Han’s tone sounded concerned. He had used the other’s name this time, so this meant business. Over the past year the Kid had been mourning… but he couldn’t mourn forever, could he? “How are you really coping after Centerpoint?” he finally asked.

    Luke gave a snort, “As good as it can be…” He then let out a deep sigh, running the fingers of one hand through his sandy-blonde hair he sat back on his chair. The events during the battle at Centerpoint had certainly taken a hit at him. Gaeriel had died there, and it had been a painful blow… more painful than he would’ve ever expected. He was still recovering! She’d been a love from his past, but their re-encounter had stirred unacknowledged feelings they still had for each other, feelings that had remained despite the fourteen years passed. But the elation had lasted only too little, the aftermath of the battle had seen to that.

    “Mmmh,” Han asserted knowingly. “Tell me… As good as in: I’m getting over things and making myself ready to move on… Or as in: I’ve forsaken all love-relationships from my life, and I plan to live the rest of my existence being a loner.”

    Luke smiled timidly. It did not matter he was not Force sensitive, his brother-in-law could read him like an open book… and he couldn’t lie to Han, “I guess a little bit of the latter…” he admitted.

    “You’re really out of your mind Kid.” Han scolded the younger man.

    “Han, I don’t have time for romantic relationships!” the blonde man explained, while running a hand through his face in exasperation, “I don’t want to complicate my life… Is complicated enough as it is!” That was true, and somehow, right now, Mara felt like a part of those complications… He’d spent a lot of time thinking about her lately! “I’m up to my neck with Senate hearings every other month, always busy with the Academy, rebuilding the Jedi Order is more than a full-time job, and I already have enough people around to worry about for a lifetime!”

    The Corellian tried to be understanding towards his friend, still… “I know you’ve got a full load of responsibilities on your shoulders Luke, and that which was bestowed upon you by those crazy wizards is no small deal… And you’ve done great at it! Believe me,” Han made a pause. “Still, I cannot help but to think that a love interest, a partner, could give you something you’re missing, something to lighten the load. You’re human! Find a nice girl!” A devilish smirk crossed his face, “They’re obviously not running away from you!” he finished, gesturing towards the direction in which the two ladies who’d they’d just refused had left.

    “They’re better off staying away from me.” Luke stated, a little too bitterly.

    The former smuggler made a face of annoyance. Leaning towards his friend he slightly threatened, “I swear I’m gonna hit you. Hard! And pound all that shavit nonsense out of your head!”

    “You can try…” Luke scoffed with a little bit of challenge in his voice.

    Han raised his eyebrows, “Aren’t we getting cocky now?”

    “I’m a grown man. I know what I’m doing.”

    “I don’t think you do.” Han challenged.

    Luke made an exasperated face, “Tell me of one relationship of mine that has not ended in utter disaster.” He dared his friend.

    The ex-smuggler accepted the challenge. Quickly he recalled memories of what he knew about Luke’s romances… It was quite a list! There was Luke’s teenage years crush Camie, who had just wanted to make some Fixer guy jealous. Captain Phera – Luke’s first true relationship, had died. Jem also died. Shira Brie happened to be an infiltrated Imperial agent who had wanted to assassinate him; Luke and she had ended up in a dog-fight with several Imperial TIEs and he’d shot down her fighter by mistake, before knowing who she really was, and that had put the Kid in a misery run of guilt and regret until everything was clarified. Alexandra Winger had been a nice girl, but Luke had not been really interested; that wasn’t meant to be, so it didn’t count. Teneniel Djo, only wanted him as property, and later had changed him for a prince! Callista, downright broke his heart and left him – Han was still mad at that woman. Akanah, had shamelessly lied to him. And then there was Gaeriel… At first she’d been afraid of Luke’s power and had refused him, and later once she’d overcome her fears and was ready to accept him, had just also died… Well, perhaps the Kid had a point.

    “All right, I’ll give you that.” Han managed to say at last, but he wasn’t giving up that easily, “But, come on, Luke! Those were ill times.”

    “You and Leia started your relationship in those ill times…” Luke pointed out.

    “Yes! But look at how long it took us to finally settle down!” It had been eight years before Han and Leia had had any chance of getting married.

    “Yes… I know.” He knew Han and Leia had bet against all odds, and today were very happy together. They were the perfect match for each other… and that was nice and real and possible so he should cheer up… But sometimes Luke felt he was a magnet for disastrous relationships. He knew though, that as disastrous as these relationships had been, he was not free of blame; out of action or inaction he’d also contributed to these disasters in some way. “Perhaps is just not for me… and probably is for the best.” He declared. “And I’m fine with it! Believe me.”

    They drank in silence. The atmosphere turning a bit awkward. Han knew that he had to press things further, before Luke dismissed him completely and closed up harder than a durasteel safe. He also knew that no matter how much he managed to irritate his obstinate friend, the later would never shut him off completely. They never stayed angry at each other for long. After all those years around each other, they had conjured this dynamic between the two of them. A dynamic first born out of true camaraderie, later evolved into absolute trust and undeniable friendship, and finally grown into genuine brother’s love. He’d watched Luke grow up and turn into a man for pettin’s sake! And growing up was something both had been forced to do very quickly. He hated to think that the Kid was feeling sorry for himself at this point, that was something he would not allow!

    Han reengaged their conversation. “What about Mara?” the Corellian asked casually, “You seem to enjoy her company.” By looking at the way Luke shifted in his seat, Han knew he had hit home.

    “What about her?” Luke deflected the question.

    “Well, you tell me.” Han was not letting the Kid off the hook that easily.

    “We’re good friends. That’s all.” the Jedi stated.

    “Right, friends.” Han smirked, a glitter of mischief in his hazel eyes.

    Han knew that Luke could be very protective of his privacy and went to great lengths to keep his private life private, even from him sometimes; but he also knew that Luke would never lie to him. The Kid didn’t have it in him! So, if he had to make him squirm a little to help him get out of under his imaginary rock, he’d be happy to oblige.

    Luke shot a disgruntled look at his friend, “We get along just fine. The only problem we have is our disagreement about developing her abilities in the Force further.”

    “Then stop harassing her with Jedi training!” Han chastised.

    “She’s very talented, Han. She’d made a powerful Jedi! There’s too few of us as it is. She can’t walk away from her gift!” Luke addressed passionately.

    “And the all-powerful, all-knowing Luke Skywalker knows what is best for each and every one of us, doesn’t he?” The Corellian dryly countered.

    “No! Of course not!... It’s not like that.” The Jedi bluntly clarified. In a more calmed tone he added, “It’s just… it feels like such a waste.” He finished with a hint of disappointment.

    “A waste?” asked Han incredulously. A disgusted look blazed in his eyes. “And if Mara doesn’t become a Jedi… That means that you will look down on her? That she’s beneath you? That she’s not worth your time?”

    Shocked horror showed in Luke’s face, “Of course not!” he rebutted indignantly, “I would never think or do any of that! Jedi or not, she’s a great, accomplished woman on her own right! She’s amazing! She’s worth more than any number of Jedi I could gather!” He fervently defended her, angry at his friend’s insinuations.

    The Kid had just taken the bait.

    Han laid back on his chair, giving the other a little too smug of a look, “There! See? You really like her.” Then immediately dismissed in irritation, “You’re just making excuses.”

    Han had set him up, and Luke knew he had fallen right into it. He felt a bit embarrassed by his overlook. It was obvious that his feelings for Mara run deeper than what he was willing to admit, and Han had seen right through it. “We seem to disagree and argue most of the time.” Luke tried to regain control of the situation, “We fight a lot… over menial things. That’s not a good sign for a promising relationship.”

    After gulping down the last of his drink, a roguish smile appeared in Han’s lips, “One word: Foreplay!” he triumphally declared, dropping his glass on the table.

    “What? No!!” Luke complained defensively.

    “Hell yes!” The Corellian slapped one hand on the table, “I could cut through all that sexual tension between the two of you with a vibroblade!”

    Luke covered his face in one hand.

    “Come on! Tell me you don’t find her attractive.” Han dared the other.

    Luke rolled his eyes. “Mara is a very beautiful woman, Han. Everybody can see that.”

    Han pressed things even further, “Then the real question here is: Is she beautiful enough for the Jedi Master?” he pushed his friend out of his comfort zone a bit further.

    Mara’s beautiful face framed by a thick, wavy and soft mane of long red hair, popped in Luke’s head… Her graceful, slender figure… The smooth, pale skin… Those sparkling and intense green eyes… That perfect, inviting mouth… “I don’t wanna have this conversation.” Luke cut off, wishing Han would just drop the subject.

    “I’ve seen you!” Han let out, giving a smirk as if he had caught Luke doing something indecent, “How you look at her… How you behave when she’s around. It is very subtle, but I’ve noticed. I am your big brother after all.”

    Luke blushed, hard! He could tell were Han was getting at. Probably he was going to regret it, but he had to ask, “Subtle as in: You’ve had to pay REAL attention in order to notice… Or as in: Everybody has noticed but are too polite to bring up the subject.” He sheepishly inquired.

    Han made an over the top thoughtful gesture with his head, “Mmmm… Let me think… More of the latter I guess.” He confessed, a mischievous twist on his lip. “Some of us have noticed… but count your sister out of it because she’s oblivious of your drooling over certain pretty red-head!”

    The Jedi blushed even harder.

    Han laughed at his friend’s flushed face, “Admit it! You’re sick of love for her!”

    Calmly Luke recomposed himself. He looked at the drink before him for a while… the fingers of his hands fidgeting a little… Why keep denying it? He did have strong feelings towards Mara. When he felt ready, he looked up to meet the gaze of his friend sitting across the table. “What do you want me to admit, Han?” he quietly, slowly addressed, “That I want her? That I’ve wanted her since the first day I laid eyes on her? That I want more of her?” For a brief moment he felt his heart get caught in his throat, “Well, I do.” He confessed.

    This was one mean confession, Han noted. A confession that must have taken Luke a whole lot of effort to make. Still, he was not going to let him drown in his self-inferred victimhood. “You really buy into these tortured hero act of yours.” Han handed him sarcastically.

    Luke didn’t let his friend’s comment affect him. He had finally broken down his reluctant barrier, and the words seemed to come out easily now. “The thing is… I truly don’t know where I stand were Mara is concerned.” He honestly didn’t know! It’d been excruciatingly painful to find that no matter what he did, he couldn’t reach her. Something always seemed to stand between them. They’d been dancing around each other for almost ten years, and he’d done nothing about it. Nothing! But reproving himself now was not helpful and was inconsequential anyways… and he didn’t want to drag Mara into this. He’d opened-up enough for the night. His demeanour rapidly changed to his well-practiced Jedi calmness, and soon enough it replaced his prior feelings of unease, “What I feel towards her is of no importance… Mara’s never given me any reason to think that she’s interested in me… Not like that anyways… and I don’t plan on finding out. We’re fine like this.” Why break something that worked so well?

    “You are being a Tip-yip!” Han challenged.

    Han was calling him a coward, and probably he was right. Maybe he was being one. Luke felt a pang in his chest running deep into him… Maybe if he had the courage, he would even admit that it was very likely that he was already in love with Mara… even though he was still mourning Gaeriel… His love life was just so… complicated! Then another detail came to his mind, a detail that had been nipping at him for a long time. “What about Lando?” Calrissian and Mara had been in an on and off relationship over the years, or at least that’s what he’d been told. The red-head had never spoken about it, and he’d never had the backbone to ask.

    Waving a hand, Han dismissed his friend’s concern. “He’s with Tendra now! Engaged, and up to his pompous neck with wedding plans. Busy planning to set up house in some fancy enough neighbourhood to accommodate his overgrown ego.” Han mocked. “He won’t mind.”

    Subtlety was certainly not a Solo trait. Even though Han was always too blunt when expressing his thoughts, Luke was convinced that his intentions were good; and he appreciated what his friend was trying to do for him. “Look, Han… I know you mean well… I promise I’ll think about what you’ve told me.”

    “Don’t promise me that! Don’t think! Do!” Han complained, disgusted at his friend’s apparent lack of commitment. “Promise me you’ll pay attention and do something about what you feel for Mara!” he persistently clarified. “And forgive me for bringing this up now but leaving your feelings unacknowledged is not good for you. Just look at how good you’re doing with that!” Han knew that bringing up Gaeriel again was perhaps taking it too far. But for the mother of all meteors! They’ve already given the Kid enough space!

    Luke winced at his friend’s remark. Yes, Han was right, it was not good for him to live with unaddressed feelings. Just looking at what had happened with Gaeriel gave enough evidence on that. Hadn’t he learnt anything?! Han and Leia always had his best interest in mind, perhaps he should listen to them. Maybe if he dared to go beyond his emotional freeze… What did he have to lose? Wasn’t his friendship with Mara strong enough to survive a miscalculation on his part? After all, they both were sensible adults. But if it came down to it… Could he overcome rejection? That was something he really dreaded. And what if she said yes? That also felt somehow terrifying… He didn’t want her to become one more of his romantic disasters! But what if everything worked out just fine? In true, there was only one way to find out… and it was time to do something about it. “I promise I’ll pay attention… and will find the best way to act upon my feelings.” He told Han, and this was as far as he dared to go for now.

    That wasn’t exactly what Han wanted to hear, but for now it was good enough. It really was a breakthrough for his headstrong bud. So, he’ll take it. “Let’s drink to that!” Han cheerfully encouraged. “Chakta sai kae!” he let out the old Corellian toast.

    Chakta sai kae, Han.” Luke gave his brother-in-law a frank smile, “Let’s just enjoy the evening.”

    Both their glasses met with a cheerful clink.


    oOo


    Enjoying the evening turned out to be a little bit wilder than Luke and Han had expected. After several rounds of drinks, Luke could tell that Han was clearly ahead of him, and he could feel he was not too far behind either. This was not a new sensation for him, hanging around with pilots for the first couple of years of his adult life had made him experience some excesses. As a youngster, he’d been living on the edge, never knowing if he’d survive the next assault or mission. Contrary to general belief, Luke had partied, gotten drunk, had had sex and his share of one-night stands… Most of it compressed into those two first years of being a pilot. He was not a monk for the Force’s sake! He was a man like any other. Surely, the maturity he’d gotten as he grew older had taught him measure and the path he’d chosen had asked of him to gradually leave some of those things behind, but he was not a model of virtue! It was only after his mission in Ord Mantell that he’d started to get more and more serious about his Jedi training.

    Everyone in the alehouse seemed to be having a great time and Luke had to admit that he was too, time spent alone with Han was scarce and it was always fun. Suddenly, crude vociferations rose above the music and other sounds in the pub. At the far end of the establishment a group of mixed aliens were having and argument. Three Devaronians and four Zabraks, Luke noted.

    The Zabraks sat at their table, while the Devaronians loomed standing over them. One of the first argued heatedly with one of the latter, while the rest of them watched tensely. Although their body language gave out that they were all decidedly very drunk. Luke could sense anger and indignation in their energy, and plain mean, ill intention from one group towards the other, and back. ‘Things can get out of hand very quickly’, he thought. ‘Good thing that weapons are not allowed in this Level.’ He’d let that thought out too quickly.

    Out of nowhere, the talking Devaronian flung a swing to the Zabrak’s face to which he was talking to, knocking him off his chair, the latter landing unceremoniously on his back. The rest of the seated Zabraks watched with stupefaction, but soon enough anger replaced their astonishment; in no time they took justice in their own hands and jumped on their attackers. The Devaronians didn’t waste time and soon enough did their own comeback. Using their fists at first, and later any bottle, glass, dishware or object they deemed a suitable weapon, both sides fought furiously. Zabraks were well known for their agility and quick reflexes, but Devaronians were strong and resilient; things could go any direction.

    “I’m stopping this!” Luke severely stated, standing up and giving a few steps towards the fight.

    Han quickly stood up and stopped him. Putting one hand over Luke’s shoulder he squeezed firmly, “Relax, Luke. Without a brawl, it wouldn’t be an authentic Corellian night out!” he declared giving a lopsided grin.

    Luke was about to criticize his friend’s idea on authenticity, but the words didn’t leave his mouth. Soon enough, the fight escalated into dangerous ground. Members of both parties reached inside their jackets and pockets producing mean blasters in their hands, and without hesitation started shooting at one another.

    Then, hell broke loose.

    Everything unfolded very quickly. As each fighting party found cover, blaster bolts flew across the room, getting people dangerously trapped in the crossfire.

    Everybody in the place took cover under the tables, which were made of thick slabs of Corellian granite. Han and Luke reacted swiftly. Although they were no longer part of the Armed Forces, their ingrained military training kicked in reflexively, giving them the time reaction of their soldiering days. Both men took cover on reflex. With a quick push of his boot, Han tipped the heavy table turning it into a rudimentary shield, behind which they found protection. Both squatted behind the makeshift barrier. Blaster bolts ricocheted everywhere. When Han looked around, the rest of the patrons had already dived under the tables, bellowing and screaming in panic.

    “I read the no-blasters sign at the entrance.” Luke let out dryly.

    “I guess not all patrons can read Basic.” Han countered sarcastically, wishing he had smuggled in his own blaster. He considered that their lives had not become as peaceful as he wanted to believe.

    “How did they manage to go through the door scanners undetected?” Luke wondered.

    “The energy packs in their blasters must have some sort of buffer.” Han deducted, “They are rare and highly illegal, but you can get your hands on one if you’ve got the credits… And the scanners in places like this are not military grade.”

    “Those are Zabraks and Devaronians, Han. You sure know about their legendary grudge.” The Jedi offered.

    Yes, these two particular species hated each other’s guts! They were both horned humanoid species, and some anthropologists and ethologists believed that they shared a common ancestor. This belief didn’t set well amongst them, since they loathed the idea of being somehow related. They always argued about which species had come first, about their unique qualities that differentiated them from one another. Who were the strongest, the bravest, the best fighters, the best trackers… were topics of heated discussion. They’d go to great lengths to prove that they didn’t have anything in common. As far as to try and kill each other.

    ‘These stupid, jerk-asses, sons of banthas, and their eternal quarrels.’ Han thought in indignant anger. These sons of slorths were spoiling his night out and that he could not take! He made his count, then shot a look at his Jedi partner. “We’ve got 4G’s at 12 o’clock and 3G’s at 2.”

    Luke acknowledged. Slowly he shook his head at the irony of the situation. Here they were, having a night out, in a zero-weapons area… but trouble always seemed to find them. Maybe Wedge was right, he might be indeed a true magnet for trouble, and with Han at his side, that magnetism probably multiplied exponentially! He was glad he’d followed his hunch and brought his weapon. Lightsabers were extremely rare weapons, dangerous to handle if you weren’t skilful and trained enough, and undetectable by any known scanner, even military grade ones. Slipping off his jacket, Luke got Han’s attention, and gave a meaningful look to his friend. “I’ve got my lightsaber on me.”

    A smug smile adorned the former smuggler’s lips, “Then I guess we should call off this party.”

    “You take 2 o’clock and I’ll take 12.” Luke proposed. Han acknowledged with a nod of his head. That meant Luke would take on the Zabraks and Han would take care of the Devaronians.

    Without delay, Luke took a powerful, graceful leap towards the nearest standing table at the centre of the room. Effortlessly his lean frame landed on top. Instantly he drew his weapon and with a snap-hiss its blade came into existence. With Jedi accuracy, he instinctively deflected several stray bolts, sending them upwards were these would securely smash into the ceiling. Han knew that Luke didn’t need to bother with revealing who he was, at the sight of the green blade, surely everyone in the place was aware of that by now. ‘So much for going incognito tonight’.

    “Stand down!” the Jedi commanded, “Put down your weapons! Now!”

    Under his cover, Han heard the shots stop. The humming of the lightsaber the only sound, its blade casting an eerie light. The Kid sure knew how to make an entrance. He also could sound menacing when he meant to. Hopefully this would be all that was needed to stop this mess. The hesitation in the alien’s demeanour was evident. This gave Han the moment he needed to act. It was now or never! Decidedly he came out of his cover, and cautiously slipped towards the Devaronians, unnoticed.

    Evidently, the aliens were already too drunk to appraise the seriousness of the situation. Just after a brief pause, the seven blasters turned and pointed towards Luke… then fired. The Jedi deflected every bolt with practiced skill, sending the deadly projectiles upwards were these wouldn’t hurt anyone. Distracted by their target, the boozed aliens didn’t notice Han moving towards them.

    Han tackled the first Devaronian, knocking him down with the full weight of his body. Han was a tall and strong man and he surely rose several centimetres above any average Devaronian, but these were incredibly strong and sturdy. With his target pinned down under his weight, the Corellian knocked out and disarmed the orange-skinned alien. Quickly he took possession of the discarded weapon and turning onto his back he took a shot at the next Devaronian, aiming to his calf. The shot hit its target and made the pointy-eared alien howl in pain while skipping on one foot. Han moved quickly towards him, grabbed him by the protuberant horns in his head and pulled him down, sinking his knee onto the alien’s face, enough to put him out of combat; then kicking the weapon off the unconscious alien’s hand. Han shot again and missed the third horned alien as this alien made distance between them taking cover behind a near turned over table, returning fire. Han took cover behind a turned over armchair. Both contenders continued to shoot at each other whenever they had a chance.

    Noticing that Han was already on the Devaronians, Luke took on the Zabraks. He made the distance that separated him from the aliens with a Force enhanced jump, leaping towards the multi-horned aliens, who had found cover behind the main bar while they continued shooting. Luke landed on top of the bar, looking down on the aliens behind it. In return they looked back up at him, yellow eyes wide with surprise. Not wanting to use deadly force, Luke disarmed the aliens with a Force pull, yanking their blasters off their hands. These were drunken aliens after all, but they didn’t seem to want to be intimidated that easily. Zabraks were considered to be proud, defiant and even arrogant, and had a very bloodthirsty reputation. Quickly the four Zabraks drew menacing vibroblades and stood up, moving towards the Jedi. Reacting quickly, Luke back-flipped landing in front of the bar, as the angry aliens made his way from behind it. “We don’t have to fight,” Luke warned, “Just stand down and I’ll let you go.”

    On the other side of the room, Han and the last standing Devaronian exchanged shots. The piece of furniture behind which Han had taken cover was bulky enough to give some protection to his rangy form, but the material was not solid enough to upstand the scorching power of blaster fire, and Han’s barrier was gaining holes by the second! A sparkle on the ground caught Han’s attention. He noticed a silvery tray dropped on the floor, and on its polished surface saw the reflection of a large chandelier that hang over his opponent’s head. He had one shot… and he took it. The chandelier came crashing down spectacularly atop the unsuspecting alien. The Devaronian crawled sluggishly from underneath the large ceiling fixture. Han got to him just in time, his knuckles hitting hard on the dazed alien’s temple, knocking him out. “I guess you and your buddies just got yourselves kicked out of this place for good.” He scornfully mumbled.

    Han’s side of the fight was over.

    Luke didn’t want to kill his opponents. The fact that he could do it, didn’t mean that he had to. There were four of them all right, and these were clearly pissed off and had very ill intentions towards him, but there was no need for bloodshed tonight. Disarm and disable, that’s all he needed to do. The menacing Zabraks stood at an enough distance to avoid the humming blade of green light, looking piercingly at the Jedi, but did not show any sign to attack or retreat. It was obvious they had reached a standstill. He’d have to handle this in a different way. Turning off his lightsaber and clipping it to his belt, Luke prepared in a combat stance. Immediately the aliens rushed towards him, screaming in anger, vibroblades in hand. Drawing upon the Force to enhance his abilities and strength, Luke confronted his four opponents. Zabraks were very agile and quick, and although the adrenaline spike had already taken care of any residual intoxication produced by their too many drinks, they could not compete with Jedi reflexes. The combination of his military training, with his Jedi skills and some moves Mara Jade had taught him, helped Luke to become very proficient at hand to hand combat, and it took little time to disable his foolhardy adversaries. He moved swiftly and efficiently, doing damage with each blow.

    The first Zabrak came down immediately after it all started, he got disarmed when the Jedi grabbed the alien by one wrist and twisted it until it cracked – the vibroblade dropping harmlessly on the floor. Using the inertia of the movement the Jedi flipped the alien over making him land on his back, staying on the ground squirming and howling in pain for his fractured hand. The second alien came down few seconds later, when he got a powerful blow from the Jedi’s heel right on his left knee that also made a crack, followed by an accurate elbow blow, square on the face that knocked him down; at the same time Luke dodged two menacing blades that swished too close to his face and abdomen. Immediately after the Jedi kicked one of them away with a powerful side kick, giving himself time to finish off his third foe, who came down under a flurry of quick punches to his torso that ended on a throat strike. With the air collapsing out of his pipes Zabrak-number-three went down and stayed down. Finally, the fourth one got a powerful spinning jump kick in the head and down he went too. All foes neutralized in moments.

    In a few minutes, the fray was over. The rowdy bunch laid knocked out on the floor. The only casualties of the night.

    Han met Luke in the centre of the room. When he looked around, he noticed the place was kind of a mess. “So much for Corellian authenticity… It’s a real pity.” he mumbled with a hint of disappointment. He then nodded towards the fallen aliens, “Thanks to our blaster-happy friends here.”

    Luke gave him a faint smile in sympathy.

    Silence hung over the establishment… When the patrons realized what had really happened, in unison all started cheering at their saviours, overjoyed by the idea of taking back home one juicy anecdote to tell friends and family about their weekend escapades to Level 24. Short moments later the Coruscant Security Force arrived at the scene and took custody of the troublemakers. Happy enough with taking the testimony of the two war heroes, the CSF retreated shortly after, leaving the place clear of thugs so everybody could go back to their fun. The owner of The Corellian Rover didn’t let his benefactors leave and in gratitude provisioned them with even more food and drinks to celebrate their victory. Everyone seemed to want to give their thanks, invite a few more drinks to the flabbergasted heroes, and join in the celebration. The vitality of the night spiked up with more drinks and more music, until much later it unwound into singing along to Traditional Corellian songs. When it was finally time to leave, Han came out of the pub still chanting some of the old tunes.

    The sun was starting to rise by the time Han and Luke made it to their apartment complex. Han was in no condition to make it home on his own. The Jedi patiently escorted him, gently leading the merry Corellian by one arm.

    Kid, I have to tell you that this was a great night!” Han exclaimed, slurring his words a little bit. His voice a bit loud, unable to contain his genuine joy. “It’s been a long time since I had this much fun!”

    “Me too, Han.” Luke answered sincerely, keeping his voice low. They didn’t need to wake up the neighbours! “And honestly, I don’t think I ever had this much to drink in my whole life!” the Jedi declared lowering his voice even more, “Not even when hanging out with the Rogues!” he finished unable to contain his laughter, while at the same time he tried to keep his taller friend walking in a straight line.

    Han laughed enthusiastically, but when realizing he was being too loud, he then tried to imitate his Jedi friend by lowering his own voice. Rogue Squadron pilots’ temerity was well known to appear in the heat of any battle, and as well as in the deep corners of any cantina in the Galaxy, he conceded. Still slurring he added, “My friend… When drinking is concerned… The Rogues are the real deal!”

    Luke laughed even harder when hearing Han’s remark, and couldn’t help but to think of Wedge, Janson, Hobbie and the rest of his friends in Rogue Squadron. That elite X-Wing fighter squadron he had founded and commanded. Those had been good years… A bunch of youngsters living in the edge, at full speed… During a time charged with peril and uncertainty, but permeated with camaraderie, honoured duty and blind trust. He felt grateful he had survived through it all, and that the remaining members were his friends for life.

    After what had seemed a long, winding route, finally they reached Han’s apartment. Just at the door the older man turned to his friend, “Thanks Kid, for walking me to my door… Making sure I made it safe.” The ex-smuggler sounded tired.

    “Thank you, Han… for everything.” Luke gave his friend an affectionate hug. Han returned the hug, then started to lean a bit too heavily on Luke’s shoulders. When feeling the dead weight of his friend on him, the Jedi grabbed him by the arms and pushed up and back towards the door, “Han, don’t fall asleep!” he urged.

    “What?... Oh!... Yes, sure… I’m not falling asleep!” Han slurred casually.

    The Corellian had to try a few times before entering the correct code in the door’s key panel. When the door finally opened, and Han went through his door, Luke turned around and headed to his own place.

    After that night’s overindulgences he had to admit that he felt a bit tippy. He realized that it was not only Han who was in an inconvenient state. Being a Jedi gave him lots of stamina, but exactly in which moment in the evening had he lost track of his drinking? Now that remained a real mystery to him. He wasn’t even sure if he had enough clarity of mind to try and flush the excess alcohol out of his system using the Force. After a brief and dizzy deliberation, he decided that it’d have to go out the natural way.

    Despite his light-headedness, Luke could tell that something inside of him had shifted… Something he could not quite pinpoint. Surely the alcohol levels in his blood had a lot to do with his inability to think straight… but there was no doubt in his mind that something had changed. That night had been cathartic.

    When the Jedi reached his apartment, he went in stumbling. R2-D2 beeped thoughtfully when appreciating his master’s state. Luke stripped on his way to the bedroom, leaving a trail of clothes behind him. Taking his boots off while making his way through had proved tricky, but he made it to the bedroom in one piece. He dropped heavily on the bed, sprawled and face down. Sleep taking him quickly.

    That night out had given him way more of what he’d bargained for.



    To be continued…
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
  21. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Heh, heh. Of course they would wind up tangled up in a bar brawl.
     
    Jâd Sphera likes this.
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    That was a marvelous mix of camaraderie and realization about Mara and Luke being ... awesome with a lightsaber. ;) [face_love] When these 2 get together, nothing dull ever happens. [face_laugh]
     
    Jâd Sphera likes this.
  23. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Yes! That was the obvious part ;) I hope I did it justice!
    :yoda:



    I agree, Luke and Han are awesome on their own, but together their awesomeness increases exponentially ;)
    I really enjoyed writing this chapter. The action scenes were a lot of fun to write.
    I'm glad you liked them. :D
     
  24. Jâd Sphera

    Jâd Sphera Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Provenance
    by Jâd Sphera



    Notes:
    As always, a warm thank you to my Beta Reader @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the great support with proof-reading this story.
    Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy this new chapter.



    Chapter 8




    When Luke opened his eyes, the first dizzy thought that came to his mind was, ‘Thank the Force is a Hexaday morning!’

    Hexadays and Heptadays were leisure days in Coruscant and every non-essential administrative or bureaucratic activity in the Government was put on hold until the beginning of the week the following Monoday.

    The angle of the sunlight coming through the windows was already high up, so probably it was close to noon. Luke’s head throbbed, his eyes burned, his mouth felt uncomfortably dry and a certain grogginess clung to his consciousness.

    The prior night had really been a total disrupt to his system. Laying on his bed, he flushed all residue of alcohol out of his body using the Force… A delicate wave of the nurturing energy fluxed through his physique, rebalancing its functions and cleansing its cells. ‘That’s better!’

    One of the advantages of being a Jedi was that minor things like a hangover could be easily and efficiently fixed. Still, he wasn’t up to his every morning gym routine, so he’d skip that… and it was already too late for his meditation practice, so he’d skip that too. Today he simply felt like doing just a regular guy’s weekend round.

    He remained laying in bed for a while longer, just enjoying the warmth and soft texture of the bedsheets against his stripped body.

    Luke didn’t have much to do on this day and he felt glad, the prior night had taken a lot of his energy and he definitely needed to recuperate in a calm and relaxed manner, for once not relying on rushed Jedi refreshing techniques.

    He dozed off for a couple of more hours, until hunger woke him.

    Lazily getting up, he went straight into the shower, to come back out feeling refreshed and alert. Grabbing a pair of baggy sleeping pants from a drawer he put them on, then threw on a loose light tunic. He called out an order to the automated home assistant of his home, changing the privacy settings of the large windows, letting the view of the city in. The sight of Coruscant had turned overwhelming after these many weeks on planet. Luke was used to quietness and open spaces, like the desert landscape of Tatooine where he’d grown up, or the vast jungles of Yavin IV, the place that he now called home. Coruscant was wonderful in its own right, but it was too crowded, too high tech and too damn noisy. This at times meant that he’d had to do more shielding of what he was accustomed to, so he could in fact leave the outside world out.

    It was true that Jedi were more sensitive to energies, thoughts and feelings than regular folk, and it was also true that the more attuned they became towards the Force, the more and more they had to shield themselves from outside input. But there was also a paradoxical side to this, it too meant that Jedi had to learn to contain their own energy. Depending on their skill level, the powerful energy output of a Jedi could affect other sentients, animate and inanimate objects, and even create ripples of energy throughout vast extensions of space if they were not cautious. With meticulous training, they would learn to control this input and output of energy and use it at will. Luke had spent the last several years of his life not only opening himself to the boundless resources of the Force, but also carefully constructing layers and layers of shields within himself to contain and skilfully control his own growing energy.

    As he walked barefoot towards his kitchen, he called in the latest news of the morning. The recent information appeared on the large holo-screen in his lounge area. There was nothing on the HoloNet about last night’s brawl, so everything indicated that it was true that whatever happened in Level 24, stayed in Level 24. He was relieved that the HoloNet hadn’t surprised him with breaking news on the latest escapades of the Jedi Master and his best friend General Han Solo. Although Han wasn’t a General anymore, the news loved to call him that. It had happened in the past, that semi-realistic pieces of information about the two of them had made it to the front pages, either adorned with acute gossip or overexaggerated praise. He and Han would just shrug it off, but Leia would give them hell for it. Not because she was someone worried about appearances, but because she was kind of fed up with having to give diplomatic explanations about anything related to her husband and brother, just because Han or Luke would not even bother. Concerning the Press, the Jedi was always extremely cryptic where personal matters were concerned. He would be fairly open when talking about the Jedi, but nothing more. Leia had even suggested that he should hire a PR agent! But Luke was not into that, he thought that his actions spoke more than a thousand words -printed or holo-recorded. He believed that in the end facts would always balance out feeble fabrications. Of course Leia had a good point, but he preferred to deal with things in his own terms.

    Suddenly, he felt a flicker in the Force, ‘Speaking of the bantha cub!’ A split second after that, an incoming call came through his home holo-comm. When he answered the call, a pretty long-haired brunette, of deep large brown eyes, gazed at him on the other side of the holo-screen.

    “What did you do to my husband?” was Leia’s greeting. Severity on her face, but an underlying tease in her tone.

    “Me?” Luke answered dryly. “It was his idea, you know? And whatever state you found him in, he did it all by himself.”

    “I know.” Clear amusement in her smile. She didn’t mind Luke and Han hanging out, she knew they knew their limits. “I heard you had a really good time.” She casually conversed in that deep, elegant voice Luke liked so much.

    “We did!” He confirmed, “As a matter of fact it had been a long time since I had that much fun.”

    “Han said the same. It’s a pity that you don’t get to hang out that much anymore.” Leia added. It was true that Han and Luke had a strong bond. Although they were not blood related, they cared about each other like brothers and in her opinion, that was a good thing. Still, this didn’t stop her from regularly teasing them about it, telling them that they looked adorable together, just for the fun of making them squirm. Both men would just roll their eyes at her and make faces, like the pair of little kids at heart she perfectly knew they still were.

    “I do get to miss him… and you… and the kids, but we are on different paths right now.” Luke let out, a bit of his Jedi convention seeping into his words.

    “The children are thrilled that they’ve been able to see their uncle this much!” Leia continued referring to Jacen, Jaina and Anakin. “They’re already planning what they are going to do with you now that you are almost permanently living here in Coruscant! Their words, not mine.” It was true that this had been his longest stay in the planet, and his niece and nephews were already getting ideas!

    “It saddens me that I’m going to disappoint them…” he added in a flat voice, “You shouldn’t encourage them Leia, you know I can’t stay, my place is back in Yavin.”

    “Do you really think they need encouragement?” The Solo kids certainly had minds of their own, “And yes, I know your place is in the Academy.” She gave him a soft warm smile, “But it is nice when we get to see more of you.”

    “I love seeing you too.” He smiled back.

    “Did you get what you needed in Vault 969?” Leia unexpectedly asked.

    Luke froze. The first thing that came to his mind was that little incident in Palpatine’s Library, the one in which all the information had vaporized… The one Mara had had everything to do with! Luke wondered when they were going to notice that all the information was gone. For a moment he felt a bit nervous and uncomfortable, but shielded his awkardness immediately, so Leia couldn’t pick up on it.

    “What?” Leia noticed a tingle of anxiety coming from her brother.

    “It’s nothing!” He assured, shielding even harder and passing the fingers of both hands through his still damp hair.

    “Really?” the Princess gave him a suspicious look. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you’re hiding something from me!” a tone of veiled sarcasm in her words.

    Of course Leia knew he was hiding something from her, she was only being tolerant with him. They were after all twins, and Force sensitive ones on top of that. He knew he had to tell her at some point. The Galaxy had been ridden of potentially dangerous information, but he hadn’t gotten ridden of having to tell his sister. And only the Force knew how she would react! Although he was sure she’d come to her senses eventually. But maybe today was not a good time to test that assumption.

    Fortunately, Leia changed the subject, “You should stay a week more of what you have planned and come with us to Than’Kun.” This was a vacation world, and Han had already booked a holiday for the whole family. The Corellian had insisted that Leia needed to take her mind – and presence, off her dealings with icky politicians and that she must take a break, so unilaterally he’d made the decision. After some arguing Leia had come to terms with her husband’s meddling.

    “I can’t, I promised Mara that I’d come with her after I’m done here.” Luke apologized.

    “Mara?” The Chief of State looked curious, “And how is she doing?”

    “She’s fine. Busy as usual… Traveling, trading, making lots of money.” He casually informed his sister.

    “Is it actually a coincidence that you’re both here at the same time?” Leia asked in suspicion.

    “More or less.” Was his cryptic answer.

    “You sure spend a lot of time with her for a non-girlfriend, Luke.” She said matter-of-factly. “Don’t take me wrong, I like Mara, but you need to start thinking about a serious relationship and I don’t see the two of you ever getting there.”

    Leia’s bluntness kind of hurt. Here he was trying to come to terms with his true feelings for Mara and somehow his sister had just squarely squashed every courage he’d harboured the night before. But he’d made a promise to Han, and to himself, that he’d find a way to act upon what he felt towards the tantalizing trader. So he shouldn’t back off at the first sign if discouragement. “Leia, I’m fine.” Was all he managed to say.

    Leia let it go. She had some plans of her own for her brother, anyways.

    “Remember we’re having a family lunch tomorrow, at the residence…” She reminded him. “Unless you’d like to come tonight for supper?”

    “No, thanks. I’m wasted! Today I’m planning to sleep right through it… It’s been a long time since I had a day with nothing to do.”

    “I thought Jedi didn’t get tired!” She ironically offered.

    “We do get fed up, though.” He answered back in a brother’s tease.

    “I’m sorry that you find all of this boring.” She teased back. “I can’t imagine spending my days in a jungle on my free will though.”

    “That’s why you are the Politician and I’m the Jedi.”

    “You got that right!”

    They both laughed.

    “Also, don’t forget next weekend’s event!” She warned the Jedi.

    “I remember.” He let out a bit too whiny, “And I hate it that you make me go to these things, Leia!”

    “Come on, show some brother’s solidarity.” She encouraged her reluctant brother. “And don’t get grumpy on me!”

    He knew he had to be supportive, and he wanted to be! But those NR events were more of what he could manage. Large crowds full of frivolous sentient beings engaged in even more frivolous activities, a full exuberant parade of egos, empty remarks from pompous politicians and jetsetters, just because they felt entitled to give them. HoloNet socialite reporters coming up to him asking out of place questions while blinding him with the potent lights of their holo-transmitters and holo-recorders, expensive weird food that he didn’t even really enjoy… and the gawking. Although he was pretty much used to it by now, he still disliked all the gawking he got when in public. “It’s all your fault for dragging me into these Senatorial displays and social events!” He half complained, half teased.

    “But Luke, this is important!” She addressed, now in a serious tone, all teasing left behind. “The fact that the head of the Jedi Order is seen in Senate sessions and mingling with Government representatives gives out all the right messages, it gives us credibility. And credibility creates stability in the Galaxy.”

    “I know…” He sheepishly conceded, although not really feeling any better about having to attend that thing. He did understand the implications of his presence in such events and activities. “Still I don’t have to like it! I’m doing it all for you, sister.”

    “I know you are. And I’m very grateful for that little brother.” She warmly addressed him. “And who knows… It might be your lucky night!” She added, a hint of mischief in her frank grin.

    “What are you up to?” Luke asked, giving his sister a look of suspicion, mixed with a tiny bit of dread.

    It’s nothing!” She innocently smiled while, intentionally, giving him the same response he’d given her a moment earlier.

    Luke had to let it go, this was Leia he was talking to… If she had resisted Imperial interrogation methods without spilling a word, there was no way he was going to get something out of her.

    Brother and sister said their goodbyes, each going back to their day of leisure.

    It was a little while before they disconnected from each other completely. Luke and Leia shared a strong connection through the Force… It was mainly an instinct. Of course Luke’s was more trained, and Leia’s was more intuitive. As time had gone by, they had learned just how receptive they were to each other’s energy. It was hard to explain, but somehow to each of them the other’s energy felt the same, but at the same time different from their own… pulling out in different directions but coming back together to complement one another somehow. It was an awe-struck feeling. Something that could not be rationalized but felt.

    After all, they had spent nine months tight close in their mother’s womb – whoever she might have been.


    oOo


    Luke had to tend to his hunger. He searched his kitchen, there had to be something he could munch on. Inside the refrigeration unit he found a pack of Prunchti noodles and some left overs of nerf stew… That would do. Methodically, he heated up his meal and sat at his kitchen’s bar. While eating, he centred himself and focused in each distinctive flavour in his food. Master Yoda had taught him that being mindful of one’s own feeding rituals helped to develop a connection with the nurturing systems of the Force, binding the energy of the food’s nutrients with the energy of the recipient body, maximizing the nourishing effects.

    As he ate and practiced his mindfulness, across the room something caught his attention… The small datacard Mara had given him, inconspicuously sat on top of his home desk.

    No! He would not work today. He’d made that compromise already! But the longer he looked at the small, slender gadget, the more it felt like the thing was insistently beckoning to him, and the itch in the back of his mind grew… The temptation was too great to resist! Master Yoda surely was laughing at him from his place in the flux of the Force.

    Quickly finishing his food and dropping the empty plates in the sink he headed towards his work station. Sitting in front of his small computer console he fingered the datacard with some hesitation… Did he really want to know whatever dark secrets Palpatine had held back about his father?... Mara mentioned that she’d pulled out some records about the Jedi too… and that information was too precious to ignore. His apprehensiveness quickly was replaced by curiosity and eagerness to learn more about his Jedi heritage. Whatever those files contained, he’d be able to deal with it, just as he always had.

    For a moment Luke thought of Leia… Whatever he found about their father, it would be her right to know about it too. They had spoken about this before, but it was always a touchy topic that had led to long, heated discussions with sour results. It all indicated that Leia was not interested, in the least, in exerting that right.

    The Alderaanian Princess had always been reluctant to dig into de past, she was resolute to not dwell in it. Instead she wanted to focus her efforts in starting to create new memories for her and her family from this generation on. Leia didn’t want anything to do with her father! It had been quite a triumph that she had decided to name her youngest child Anakin, which Luke thought was a step in the right direction towards the path of healing her relationship with their progenitor. Luke didn’t share his sister’s sentiment, he did want to know! Beyond whatever he would find about the legendary Jedi, inevitably his father’s history would be linked to them in one form or the other.

    The Jedi did understand where his sister was coming from, she had grown up with her adoptive parents and had never, ever, wondered about her biological ones. She’d had everything a daughter could have needed or wanted in the loving environment provided by the Princes of the House of Organa back in Alderaan. Luke had been raised by Beru and Owen. He’d had the dedicated care of his aunt and uncle, they had showed him right from wrong, and had loved him, but he’d always wondered about his progenitors. Looking up into the sky, searching through the stars above his head, he always wondered about his father… about the places he’d visited… wishing he could do the same someday.

    Leia had known her purpose and her place in the Galaxy at a very young age. Something he certainly hadn’t. When young, Luke had never had a clue of what would be of him. He had dreams and aspirations all right, but these never matched the events that later on turned into his reality. Many of the decisions he’d taken throughout his life had been driven by haste, by imminent peril, by the heat of the moment… but not Leia. Leia had always known her place in the fabric of things, and all her decisions had been driven by that knowledge. She was the best leader he’d ever known and a true Princess of Alderaan in her own right.

    Luke had asked Leia what could be worst about their father from what they already knew? But she had given him a blatant ‘No!’ He loved his sister to bits, and she surely knew what was best for her, in the end he had understood that he shouldn’t push this subject on her.

    Before starting to work with the files, he was careful to shield himself well enough from Leia.

    Luke inserted the datacard in his terminal. Schematics of clear Imperial style appeared on screen. He scrolled down through an impressive number of files. That was a lot of information! He then entered the first key word he thought of… Jedi… A long list of items appeared. Luke started to select the files that caught his interest and read through them. He picked a file under the name “Advanced Teachings and Techniques of Unequalled Connectivity to the Force”

    The text looked archaic, with lots of annotations and a parallel translation into Basic, as it was written in old scritsan. As he read, he was able to learn fascinating facts about the Force users of very ancient times. He had always thought that the ongoing tales of the Jedi were often subjectively exaggerated, but according to the information he was now discovering, those tales fell really short from reality. According to the pages in this document, it appeared that there was in fact no limit whatsoever to what one could achieve when having the Force as an ally. Over his years as a Jedi, he’d already pull out some crazy stuff himself, but what he found in these scripts was mind-blowing. Abilities like bilocation, apportation, astral projection, conjuration, toughtography and some other techniques Luke couldn’t really make out by their names alone were listed in the index. These seemed to be very mystic disciplines, reserved for very advanced Force users. If he could someday achieve half of what this information stated… He reflected a moment about the implications, if other Force adepts had been able to achieve all that, that meant that with enough discipline and perseverance he also could, couldn’t he? Or perhaps the right question would be: should he? It wasn’t really that he could not learn to do what those tales told, it was really about if this would be a good thing for him. As he had trained himself to draw more and more power from the Force, he’d had always had to be very careful of not leaning too heavily on the dark side, on having the right set of mind and heart when doing it. Learning to tap into the greater aspects of the Force without brushing or touching the dark side required enormous training and discipline… and could not be rushed.

    Rushing meant unnoticeably falling in the consuming energy of the dark. Whenever he’d rushed, he’d put himself into a lot of trouble, at a huge personal cost. He had to be extremely careful, no one wanted another very powerful Sith romping around the Galaxy ever again. But he observed that in these documents there was no mention of Jedi, or Sith… It only referred to the Force itself and what could be accomplished through it, and the techniques and training involved in order to achieve that. It gave Luke the sense that these scriptures had been compiled way before Jedi and Sith differentiated one from the other in such a way.

    And this was only what he got to learn from the first file alone!

    There was so much precious information in this collection of files! Mara’s gift to him was of inestimable value! It would take him months, or even years, to go through it all. It seemed that everything that had been kept in the Jedi Temple’s archives had been dumped in there. Surely Palpatine had wanted to make sure that no information about the Jedi prevailed, destroying the original sources but keeping copies for himself, clearly understanding its relevance.

    He continued his search, keying in different key words… YodaKenobi…

    A soft, pleased grin appeared on his face as he went through the images of younger versions of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda. Kenobi looked imposing, dignified, and powerful, proud of serving as a Jedi. He got to learn about Kenobi’s Master, Qui-Gon Jinn.

    He eagerly read and read…and continued reading, just taking the occasional break to grab a jug of juice or to relieve himself.

    Luke finally got the nerve to key in Skywalker‘What the…?’ A full file containing his own information appeared. For a moment he wondered if, at the time, Mara had had something to do with the gathering of this information… There was not much there though, just information from dates after he’d blown up the first Death Star, up to the time of the battle of Endor. Four years of information really… pictures and profiling. Certainly Ben Kenobi had done a thorough job at hiding him from Imperial eyes.

    This time instead, he tried keying in Anakin-Skywalker… All of his father’s history was there! He’d been born a slave. Luke learned about how his father became a Jedi Knight. Anakin had been discovered when very young and was brought to the Jedi Temple by Jinn. There were full detailed records of his training and achievements… There were so many images too! The colour of his eyes, the sandy blond hair… the shape of his jaw and even the cleft on his chin… all physical traits he’d inherited from him. It amused him somehow to see that he was his father’s son! He read about his father’s missions alongside Kenobi. Anakin had been a respected and celebrated brave Jedi, doing a lot of good for the Galaxy. Concerning his decease, the official reports stated that he’d been killed in a mission in Mustafar at the hand of the Sith Lord Darth Vader. That was the truth, from a certain point of view.

    Enthralled by the fascinating information, Luke then keyed in Emperor-Palpatine… Darth-Vader… Anakin-Skywalker once more… This combination of key words brought on a new type of information. An item in the list caught his attention: Order 66.

    At his reach he had everything he needed to learn about Order 66, Palpatine’s scheme against the Jedi.

    Luke opened the different files, frantic with curiosity, putting the pieces together in his mind as he read. There was documentation that made reference to the order that had been placed in the clone’s subconscious mind since their inception in the laboratories of Kamino. This had been a contingency order that, to the clone’s understanding, made the Jedi into traitors to the Republic, turning them into subjects to summary execution. The clones would blindly obey to this order once issued. All the documentation for the procedures was signed by Chancellor Palpatine. In separate records he also learnt when and how this order had been carried out. Certainly Darth Sidious had been the master mind behind it all.

    Amongst the rest of the information on Order 66, various sets of holo-recordings were included. There was a particular set, with a number of holos in it. Each holo branded with a very particular name: “Jedi Temple Security Camera No.1342”“Jedi Temple Security Camera No.1738”“Jedi Temple Security Camera No.2992”… and so on. Undoubtedly these came from the security cameras of the Jedi Temple in Coruscant, it seemed that everything had been conveniently retrieved and locked up inside the entrails of the servers in Vault 969. Curiously, these holos were all from the same day, the day when Order 66 had been executed thirty-eight years ago… Luke felt his stomach shrink… He hesitated… Should he watch those recordings? Something screamed at him that he should.

    One by one, Luke made each recording run. In the beginning, at the start of the day, the recordings showed the normal every day activities in the temple. Following his instinct he called for the captures into the hours of the evening…

    There was no sound, only images… but the images spoke clear and loud, revealing mute horror.

    Anakin Skywalker – now Darth Vader, ignited lightsaber in hand, commanded the clone troops that stormed the Jedi precinct… Everyone on their path was taken down… Caught off-guard, teachers and students were all mercilessly executed… Then younglings fell… by his hand. Defenceless, at the strike of a swift lightsaber blade, the children fell like leaves … The Temple, burned down to the ground. The Jedi of new watched in horror, from all the multiple angles offered by the different cameras.

    Tears welled in his eyes. The recordings were agonizingly painful to watch. Luke felt his mind fall into an abyss of mixed outrage and helplessness. For an instant he wished he could do something, that he could even change the past! He felt his heart break with each second of footage… but he couldn’t take his eyes off the holo-projections! He needed to watch! To see what his father had done!

    He was witnessing the beginning of his father’s dark deeds.

    The recordings stopped running.

    Luke tightly shut his eyes, and silently let his tears fall freely, one closed fist pressing hard against his heart, holding it in place… There was so much darkness in those images, a darkness he recognized in himself.

    Those images had been painfully imprinted in his mind for ever. The Jedi’s heart crushed at the replays in his head of what his father had done. ‘How could he?’ What could have pushed his father to do something like that? To so utterly renounce the Jedi Code? To turn against his own?

    Was he hungry for power? Was he seeking revenge? Was he desperate? What had happened? What?! He wished he could speak to him… Ask him!

    Calming himself, Luke tried to recover… but the sudden pain ran deep within. How to reconcile those images with what he’d known about his father back in Endor where it all ended? He’d felt the good in him! That had been what had saved him! What had saved them both!

    And his mother… How could his mother have loved a man like that? Had she loved Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader? Had she even loved him? Had he loved her?

    Were the Skywalkers destined to succumb to the dark side? He was after all, his father’s son. His mind raced with questions, fears and doubts. The few brushes he’d experienced with the dark side flashed in Luke’s mind… He knew in flesh and bone how that was… The cold energy that would engulf everything around it… Offering promises of power and victory… He had felt that dark energy besiege him… Like a predator waiting to jump on its pray… ‘Fear is of the dark side’, he heard his old Master’s voice in his mind.

    Taking a deep breath, he centred himself.

    ‘No!’ That would not be his destiny… He would not end up like his father… He had the power to choose! And he would choose light time and time again! Just as he’d always had. His father had been redeemed… He’d become one with the Force… The love he felt towards his son had redeemed Darth Vader… And he, loved his father back. And having realized that, Luke found new resolution in this affirmation. He’d continue to atone for his father’s sins, continuing to rebuild the New Jedi Order and bringing it back to its ultimate glory.

    The Jedi looked back to the screen. The display had changed and had gone back to one of the menus… Another list of files was in front of him. One of them read: Naboo… He sensed a whisper in the Force. As he wiped the tears in his eyes, he opened it.

    Senator Padmé Amidala, it read. He went through the information, quickly grasping the bits and pieces that seemed relevant. Padmé Naberrie, also known by her held titles of Her Royal Highness, Queen Amidala of Naboo, and of Her Excellency, Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo. The data stated that Padmé had accomplished great things for her people, first as a beloved Queen and later with her role in the Galactic Senate. She’d been a very influential politician, always fighting on the side of right. After being the target of an assassination attempt, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker had been appointed as her bodyguard, ‘Father was assigned to her? This is interesting.’ She never married but did get pregnant. She’d died young, and the child she carried with her. The causes and place of her death were stated as inconclusive.

    Could this be possible? Had Padmé Naberrie been Anakin Skywalker’s secret love? Had they gotten married? There was nothing in there that could help Luke confirm that. He continued opening files, and then an official scroll issued by the Brotherhood of Cognizance of Naboo appeared… A marriage certificate! With both, Anakin and Padmé’s names on it. Luke’s pulse raced madly. Now he understood why Vader had bought property in Naboo!

    Luke was sure that crucial parts of this information would never be found in New Republic official records. Palpatine really had done a thorough job at hiding every relevant fact; and knowing the reaches of the former Emperor, it was very likely that he’d used this information to his advantage in some way or another.

    An official portrait of the Senator accompanied the file. Luke’s heart skipped a beat… The woman in the picture… She looked so much like Leia! Tears welled in his eyes once more, but this time for reasons of a different nature. Beyond whatever the documentation showed to him, he felt affirmation in the Force. ‘Yes!’ This was his mother!

    His mind spun furiously… What to do with this information? Should he tell Leia? Would his sister be open to learn this information? Suddenly Luke remembered something about the large corridors of the Imperial Palace. Along the walls of the corridors that led to the Senate Chamber, a large collection of former Senators portraits was permanently displayed… There must be one of his mothers in the Senate building!

    A sudden urge possessed him! He stood up quickly, put a pair of boots on, grabbed his cloak and left the apartment, don’t even giving a damn about how he looked.


    oOo


    It was dark and there was no circulation in the Imperial Palace’s stately aisles. Apart from the New Republic sentries standing guard, the place was empty and solemnly quiet. Being the hours of less activity, the lights automatically had dimmed, giving just enough light to provide a safe route to whomever walked the aisles at that late hour.

    As Luke advanced, stepping on the polished Wayland marble floors, he heard his own footsteps echoing in the large corridors. The Jedi kept the hood of his dark cloak over his head. The fabric of the cloak flowing freely back, opening on the front with the movement’s inertia, making a striking contrast against the light-coloured sleeping garments worn underneath. He walked with intent, searching.

    Among the numerous grand portraits distributed along the large walls of the Senate aisles, it would have been impossible to ever notice the particular image, but now he knew what he was looking for. After a few minutes of careful search, Luke stopped at the bottom of a wide staircase and looked up to one of the multiple curved domes that adorned the high ceilings of the precinct, from where the silvery light of moonlight seeped in... A soft echo in the Force called to him… He turned to his left… Right there on the wall across the staircase… A large image of four hundred centimetres high beckoned at him.

    Luke approached the portrait. The memorial plaque underneath read: Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo, 46 BBY to 19 BBY.

    Reverently, he ran a hand along the plaque… Looking up, he took several steps back, allowing himself to take in the view of the large image. Before him was the enlarged portrait of a young, very beautiful, elegant woman dressed regally in dark gold; her long, dark brown hair, put up in an elaborate hairstyle. A pair of large, expressive brown eyes looked back at him… There was mixed intelligence, determination and kindness in her gaze. That gaze pierced into Luke’s soul. He could see a bit of him in those eyes… Her eye colour was the same as Leia’s, but the shape and expressiveness of them was his… Or his, hers.

    Calmly, the Jedi took a seat on the steps of the great staircase and stayed there, admiring his mother’s image.

    “You’ve been here, in front of me, all this time!” he muttered in amazement. “I wish I had known you.”


    To be continued…
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2019
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Loved the sibling talk. Full of gently affectionate teasing. Leia certainly almost put a damper on Luke's resolve about Mara :eek: Adored the way Luke discovered about Padme =D= Very touching and plausible. :cool:
     
    Jâd Sphera likes this.