This story is part of the 12th Winter Holiday Exchange My fic-gift is for: @Chyntuck Characters: Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader. I had to have the following: A story in Saga-Legends 1. Imperial court intrigue 2. The Emperor as a background presence who never appears in the flesh 3. A phrase of the author's choosing that all main characters use in turn at some point in the story 4. Three characters I want: Thrawn, Mara Jade, Darth Vader Author’s Note: This was a very hard story for me to come up with because I have never read of those three people interacting with each other in Saga-Legends. I rarely write about Darth Vader and have never written about Grand Admiral Thrawn. I then got confused over what was now considered Saga. This story is a mix of Saga-legends and Saga- canon since I have read the new Thrawn canon novels. I hope it doesn't disappoint. I was really at a loss as to what to write. In case you didn't pick it up, the phrase is 'Ties to the rebel'. ____________________________________________________________ Title: Rebel Ties Lord Darth Vader stared out the large conference room viewport located on the bridge of the Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer, Chimaera. For the hundredth time in the last hour he wondered why he was order by Emperor Palpatine to leave the Imperial Court and travel to this location. He wasn’t positive, but he believed the Emperor was conducting some type of test—of what he wasn’t sure. Perhaps it was simply a test of one’s patience, something of which he was losing rapidly and in great abundance. He disliked secrecy and surprises. ‘Go there and wait for further instructions’ was an order given to a private in the Imperial Army, not a Sith Lord. He deserved an explanation…but none was forthcoming from his Master. He wondered if the Emperor had lost confidence in his abilities and was now treating him as an inferior as a form of punishment. It was possible; there has been noticeable tension between the two ever since the destruction of the Death Star and Skywalker’s escape from Bespin. ‘Join me and we can rule the galaxy as father and son!’ He replayed those traitorous words over-and-over in his head. He tried to convince himself that they were lies…a ploy to fool the boy into surrendering. But in his heart, he knew that was not the case. The Sith Master/Apprentice bond was always tenuous. Like a teenager rebelling against parental rules, the apprentice eventually sought to step out of his master’s shadow and rule on his own. Unlike a rebellious teen and his parents, the only way to escape a Sith Master was to kill him. The thought of killing his Master waxed and waned for the last year…ever since the Emperor made his startling revelation: ‘We have a new enemy, the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.’ The Emperor surely sensed the overwhelming shock that surged through Lord Vader’s entire body. ‘How is that possible?’ They were the only words he could choke out at that moment. The Emperor didn’t answer directly. He advised the Sith Lord to ‘Search your feelings. You know it to be true.’ Every time he thought back to that day his rage grew. Even now, he could feel the hate building. He quickly clamped down on his emotions. He couldn’t risk the Emperor sensing his anger…anger over all the lies told him in the last few years. Lies! The Emperor convinced him he had killed his pregnant wife. If he killed her, how did he have a son? There was no other woman before or after Padme. Even if he wanted to have a family now, that was no longer possible. Lying prone on hot magma quickly ended that possibility. He couldn’t have killed his wife. Dead women don’t give birth. She must have survived long enough to deliver their baby…if she died at all. Could she still be alive? He saw the news reports of her funeral, but perhaps it was a ploy to trick the galaxy into believing she was gone. Did she escape to some outer rim planet, gave birth, and raised their son alone…or perhaps with Obi-Wan! ‘Stang!’ That was the first time that possibility crossed his mind. Obi-Wan left in Padme’s ship from Mustafar. He was the last person to be with her and she was obviously alive otherwise his son would have never survived. The thought of Obi-Wan living with Padme…touching her…taking over the role of father. It was too much to bear. He slammed a fist on the conference table in a dark fury, not caring if the Emperor could sense his anger or not. He turned when the conference door slid open and was surprised to see Grand Admiral Thrawn enter the room. The blue skinned, near human, alien gazed at Vader dispassionately. His facial features did not change upon seeing the Sith Lord, nor did Vader notice any spike of emotion through the Force. Either the Grand Admiral knew Vader would be in the room or his tight control over his emotions had improved through the years. “Why are we here?” he asked the Grand Admiral gruffly as he pushed himself away from the conference table and returned to the viewport. The alien’s face remained emotionless as he casually sauntered up to the large transparisteel window and gazed at the planet below. “I am unaware of Emperor Palpatine’s plans, Lord Vader. I received a cryptic message from the Emperor to come to this location and await further orders. Since you are also in the dark, I suspect we are awaiting another person or communication.” As the two men waited, the silence between them became awkward. “Is the Emperor moving your fleet from Coruscant?” Grand Admiral Thrawn turned to fully face Lord Vader. “Not at the moment. We are finishing the placement of cloaked asteroids orbiting the city-planet. Once the proper trajectories are established it is highly improbable that any ship larger than a bulk freighter can enter orbit without sustaining heavy damage. Of course, our ships will have no such problem. Each asteroid has a tracking beacon to guide our ships safely through the orbiting debris. When that is done, it will free my fleet for other missions.” He paused for a long moment. “I requested permission to protect the construction project in orbit above Endor in an effort to avoid another Yavin incident. That raised Lord Vader’s ire. “Are you suggesting you could have routed the rebels at Yavin IV?” He shook his head. “I am suggesting no such thing, Lord Vader, but I do believe additional forces could have made a difference.” Lord Vader couldn’t argue that point. He turned away from the alien and gazed out the viewport. “Perhaps the defense of the second Death Star is the reason we are here.” Thrawn clasped his hands behind his back and rocked back on his heels. “Indeed, that is a possibility.” … The Emperor’s Hand moved down the busy corridor looking for conference room number two. She was confused by the Emperor’s puzzling orders. ‘You will meet two contacts that can provide insight into your mission. After your meeting report back to me as to what was said and what you sensed through the Force.’ ‘What I sensed? Did the Emperor believe I'd be lied to?’ She arrived at the conference room and pushed the door-open button. She started to walk through the entry, but upon seeing the occupants, she stuttered-stepped to a halt. Before her were two of the Empire’s most powerful men: Lord Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn. “Excuse me, Lord Vader, Grand Admiral Thrawn. I was ordered by the Emperor to come to this location and get a briefing about my assassination target.” She paused, staring at the two men, waiting for an answer. “Am I in the right place?” “Mara Jade, the Emperor’s hand,” the Grand Admiral said as he straightened the tunic of his white uniform. “It depends. Who is your target?” “The Rebel Leader Luke Skywalker.” She immediately felt a spike of emotion from Lord Vader. She assumed it was because he twice failed to kill the rebel. Perhaps he was upset that the Emperor decided she was better suited for this particular mission. She clamped down on her emotions and pressed her lips together to avoid smiling. It was a great honor to be chosen over Darth Vader, but she knew that would only make her a target for Vader’s rage if she so much as cracked a smile. “Ah,” the Grand Admiral said smoothly. “Perhaps we can assist you in understanding your quarry.” He gestured to Lord Vader. “After all, we both have ties to the rebel, although Lord Vader’s connection to the young man is much closer than mine.” Darth Vader Force-projected shock and anger at that statement. “I have no ties to the rebel. Explain yourself!” Thrawn remained calm. “You have fought against Skywalker twice. You have knowledge of his battle techniques.” Mara felt Vader’s anger subside a bit. “And how are you linked to him? You have never met the man as far as I know!” Mara thought she saw the corners of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s lip curl up slightly, but only for a second before his impassive expression returned. “Indeed, but the fact that I am here substantiates my belief that Luke Skywalker is the son of Anakin Skywalker.” This time the surge of emotion from Lord Vader was so forceful that Mara instinctively took a step back. “Who is Anakin Skywalker?” It was the Grand Admiral that answered. “He was a powerful Jedi Knight, trained by the great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Lord Vader remained still, his expression hidden by his mask, but she could feel his anger bubbling up through the Force. “Yet he wasn’t great enough to save himself from my blade.” “Yes, of course,” Admiral Thrawn acquiesced. “I heard you killed him when he tried to escape from the Death Star.” “I grow tired of this history lesson.” Vader’s voice was low and dangerous. “You never explained how you are tied to the rebel.” This time the Grand Admiral did smile slightly. “If I am correct about his parentage, then I knew his father, General Anakin Skywalker. This was during the time of the Galactic Republic. We crossed paths on the planet Batuu. We fought side-by-side against a common enemy.” There was a slight pause. “Along with the General’s friend, Senator Padme Amidala.” He shook his head slightly. “I was shocked at her death.” He looked directly at Lord Vader. “I was told she was pregnant, but the identity of the father was never revealed. Seeing how close those two were on Batuu, I wouldn’t be surprised if Anakin fathered the child.” The Force pulsated with rage. “Of course, she couldn’t be the mother of Luke Skywalker. She died while pregnant. I saw the media news reports of her death. Anakin must have had a different paramour.” Mara was sure Vader was going to Force choke the Grand Admiral at any moment…although she was unsure as to why the Dark Lord was so upset over this conversation. “Grand Admiral Thrawn, why would the Emperor believe you could help me if you only knew Luke Skywalker’s father? Do you believe Anakin Skywalker survived and trained his son?” The Admiral ran a hand over his chin in thought. “It is possible that he survived, but the fact that the boy first appeared on the Death Star in the company of Master Kenobi indicates that it was probably Kenobi that trained him.” He turned to Lord Vader. “He must have done an ample job in teaching him the ways of the Force. You fought against the young man and he survived.” Mara’s eyes went wide. It was not said, but implied that Lord Vader was unable to defeat Skywalker. Once again, she interrupted their conversation in an attempt to avoid conflict. “Then what can you tell me, Admiral?” He turned his back to Lord Vader and paced for a few steps before stopping. “It has been proven that there is a biological factor related to temperament and behavioral tendencies. If Luke Skywalker is truly the son of Anakin Skywalker then I would advise you that he might lack emotional control, exhibit overconfidence while being vulnerable to criticism, have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement, lack empathy, and exhibit extreme impatience. Those were the traits I saw in General Skywalker.” Jade turned to Vader who was now boiling with anger. “I grow impatient with this…” Vader began, but quickly went silent. He turned to the girl. “The boy is a trained Force user. He is strong with the Force, like his father. Do not underestimate him.” Mara Jade nodded her head. As far as she was concerned this entire briefing was useless. It was obvious that the Emperor sent her here to test these men…perhaps to see where their loyalties lie. “Thank you, Lord Vader, Grand Admiral Thrawn. I will be cautious…and I will kill Luke Skywalker. “Made sure you do,” Vader’s response boomed through his voice amplifier…but she noticed the hate that once projected through the Force was replaced with a fretful feeling. She wasn’t positive, but she got the impression that Lord Vader didn’t want her to kill Skywalker. ‘It will make him look bad,’ she thought to herself. ‘If I kill the rebel then I accomplished what Vader twice tried and failed.’ She looked back and forth between the two men. “If that is all, I will prepare for my mission.” She took a step back and lowered her head in a sign of deference. “If you will excuse me.” “Good hunting, Emperor’s Hand,” Grand Admiral Thrawn said cheerfully as he gave a sidelong glance toward Lord Vader. It was obvious that even Thrawn knew how much her mission irritated the Dark Lord. She exited the conference room and smirked. She will succeed in her mission, something the much-feared Darth Vader couldn’t do. Soon she would have ties to the rebel…as in tying him up and making him suffer. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on Luke Skywalker.