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Saga - Legends Reclamation (AU, Rebellion era, L/M, ensemble cast)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Gabri_Jade, Sep 1, 2022.

  1. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Title: Reclamation
    Author: Gabri_Jade
    Timeframe: OT/Rebellion era
    Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade, Leia Organa, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, others
    Genre: Legends AU, drama, friendship, romance

    Summary: Luke Skywalker never expected to leave home for good. Mara Jade never expected to fall in love with a TIE pilot. The galaxy will never be the same.

    Notes: Ten-plus years ago I got a plot bunny. In late December 2019 I finally started writing it after seeing TRoS (disappoint me, will you, ST? Fine, I’ll write my own SW). Due to distractions along the way, this is still in-progress, which means no regular posting schedule; however, I do have roughly 200 pages written so far and am absolutely determined to finish this story. Hopefully it won’t take me another three years, but hey, you’ve been warned :p

    Endless thanks to @ViariSkywalker, @Bel505, and @Mira_Jade for their early reading of and willingness to discuss this story, thus keeping me motivated, and to @Mira_Jade for finding the perfect title that eluded me [:D]





    The red light from the setting suns fell gently over the homestead, giving it a melancholy air as Luke cast a final gaze upon it. He’d always dreamed of leaving, but somehow none of his plans had gone so far as leaving forever. He would always have come back at least for visits—to help Uncle Owen with the vaporators again, to help Aunt Beru cook dinner, to fly out to Mos Espa for old time’s sake with his friends.

    The epidemic had changed all that. Few families near Anchorhead had remained untouched, and even those few would be dealing with the financial fallout for years. Poor in the best of times, Anchorhead was too small a community to absorb the loss of population easily. The Lars farm wasn’t the only one that had failed. He’d been lucky to find a buyer at all, accepting a price low enough to have broken Uncle Owen’s heart.

    But what else could he do? At sixteen, he could hardly run the place alone. He had no other family, no money to hire help even if he could have brought himself to stay.

    So he’d sold the farm, the equipment, the droids, the household goods, and tried not to think about what Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru would have said. Unlike him, they’d always been dedicated to the land and the homestead. Strange to think that now when he was finally, utterly free, it was suddenly hard to walk away.

    Luke turned, walking to the speeder that was parked by the graves of his uncle and aunt and the grandparents he’d never known. He stood beside the graves for another moment, but no words would come and his tears were spent. There was truly nothing left for him here now.

    He climbed into the land speeder and started it. He would spend a few precious credits on a small room in Anchorhead tonight, then at first light he would travel to Mos Espa, sell the speeder, and enlist in the Imperial Academy. After that—well, he’d figure something out.

    The speeder jumped forward, and Luke didn’t look back.






    To the select and privileged few, Mara Jade was known as the Emperor’s Hand, a top secret assassin and undercover agent answerable only to the Emperor himself. To the traitors her master sent her to eliminate, she was known as the Emperor’s justice, and the last thing they ever saw. To most, if she was known at all, it was as a lowly palace dancer, easily overlooked as she kept a watchful eye on the elite of the Emperor’s Court. She had been rigorously trained from early childhood in the skills that were of service to her master: combat, intelligence gathering, espionage. Her least known skill, though, was that she was Force-sensitive, with a particular talent for communication. She could both hear and speak to her master through the Force, no matter how distant she might be. She was, in short, a secretive and deadly weapon in service of Emperor and Empire.

    She was also desperately bored.

    Her assignment, ostensibly, was to watch for undercurrents of dissatisfaction or disloyalty at tonight’s formal reception in one of the Imperial Palace’s many ballrooms. An unlikely thing at a gathering such as this, which hosted mostly low-level Fleet officers: a welcoming gala for those newly assigned to Coruscant and their superiors. Still, it was a chance to sharpen her abilities. It was wiser never to take such opportunities for granted. Or so she’d always been told. That really didn’t help with the boredom, though.

    She was jolted a step forward as someone walked into her, accompanied by a startled gasp. “I’m so sorry, ma’am,” the voice from behind began as she turned—

    Only to be confronted with the bluest pair of eyes she’d ever seen, belonging to a TIE pilot, a young one. About twenty, she guessed; near her age, then. Clearly one of the newly stationed junior officers.

    “Not a problem,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Your first time at an affair like this?”

    The junior officer made a face, reddening slightly. “That obvious, huh?”

    “You did just nearly run me down,” she pointed out. “Watching your surroundings instead of your path.”

    He grimaced again, then sketched her a quick bow. “Lieutenant Luke Skywalker, ma’am. Just assigned to Coruscant. You’re right, nearly all my previous assignments have been in Rim Systems. This—” he paused to gesture at the lavishly appointed ballroom and equally lavishly dressed guests “—well, it’s a little different from what I’m used to.”

    Mara eyed him. “You must be fairly good, to make the jump directly from the Rim to Coruscant.”

    He grinned at her while ducking his head slightly, a combination of cockiness and humility that was unexpectedly charming, and she found herself returning his smile. “I’d like to think so. Can I get you a drink? To apologize for nearly running you down and all.”

    Mara hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t here to socialize—but then, casual conversation was as good a cover as any to observe the crowd from, and this Skywalker was already better company than many at these receptions. “That would be nice, thank you.”

    “I’ll be right back—” he paused expectantly.

    “Mara,” she answered automatically, then sighed inwardly. Stupid mistake, to give her real name; she really was thrown by the sedateness of this gathering. Clearly she needed to work on her focus more. At least she’d only slipped with someone she’d never see again after tonight.

    “Mara,” Skywalker repeated with a smile, then headed toward one of the serving droids off to the side.

    She watched him for a moment, then glanced around and went to sit in one of the many small conversation circles scattered throughout the ballroom. This one had only four chairs, all empty, and was placed along the side of the far wall, where it would be easy to keep an eye on everything without being obvious about it. Skywalker joined her only a few minutes later, sitting beside her and handing her a tumbler of brandy with a flourish. She took it, impressed; most of the time when a man brought her a drink at one of these functions, it was some frilly, overly sweet pastel concoction.

    “How long have you been on Coruscant?” he asked. “Longer than me, I’m assuming.”

    “I grew up here,” she replied, sipping the brandy appreciatively. “Where are you from?”

    “Tatooine. In the Rim.”

    Mara shook her head. “Never heard of it.”

    Skywalker shrugged. “You’re not missing much. It’s pretty much all desert. Binary system, harsh climate, scarce water—there’s not a lot there that’s worthwhile, to be honest.”

    “Is that why you joined the navy? To get off-world?” Recruitment was always high in obscure systems, she knew; an opportunity to escape poverty or boredom.

    A shadow passed over his eyes. “Mostly. I did always plan to join, but I wound up doing it a little earlier than I expected. My family died, and I didn’t really have any other options.”

    “Oh,” Mara said, taken aback. “I’m sorry.”

    “It’s okay,” he said, taking a sip of his own brandy. “It was four years ago. And it has worked out reasonably well, all things considered. I’m a very good pilot.” He smiled at her again. “And it gave me the opportunity to meet you.”

    Mara smiled back before she realized it, a genuine and probably foolish smile. She was no naive girl; she was perfectly accustomed to being flirted with and knew well how to either turn that attention to her advantage or shake off a fulsome admirer. But Skywalker was disarmingly open, and there was no deception or expectation in either his expression or his sense in the Force. He simply said what he meant—and that, Mara was not accustomed to.

    “What do you do?” Skywalker asked. He looked at her appraisingly. “Intel, maybe?”

    Mara blinked. The surprises were coming too fast for her to keep up with. “Um, no. I’m one of the palace dancers.”

    “Really?” he asked, sipping his brandy again. “You’re sure that’s not just your cover?”

    Mara had just taken a sip of her own drink, and actually choked at that one.

    “I’m sorry,” Skywalker said quickly. “I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m sure you’re an excellent dancer. You just strike me as too smart to be a—not that dancers aren’t smart, I don’t mean that—”

    “It’s all right,” she said.

    Skywalker grimaced. “As you already noticed, I’m not exactly used to this sort of thing. I really am sorry.”

    “It’s all right,” Mara said again. “Really. It’s—it’s kind of a breath of fresh air, actually. Not very many people in the Palace say what they mean.”

    He looked at her ruefully. “Probably keeps them out of a lot of trouble.”

    “No, it usually makes a lot of trouble,” she admitted, surprised she was saying this at all. Something about him—Mara looked him over again, intrigued.

    Skywalker smiled. “More trouble than I just made for myself?”

    “Considerably more,” Mara said, and smiled back.

    “Glad to hear it,” he replied, and Force help her, they just sat there smiling at each other. She felt ridiculous, yet couldn’t stop.

    It was almost the end of the evening before Mara realized it, lost in conversation with Skywalker, her assignment forgotten, and when he suggested they meet the next afternoon at a small caf shop midway between the Palace and his barracks, she agreed with only the smallest hesitation. She had no other engagements that afternoon, after all. What could an hour hurt?

    He bowed over her hand as he left, those blue eyes shining at her, and Mara smiled to herself all the way back to her apartments.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2022
  2. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Miiiiiiiiiiiine [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]
     
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  3. vader_incarnate

    vader_incarnate Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 29, 2002
    *grabs a lawnchair and camps out on your thread for the rest of the 200+ pages*

    I know you said you started this 3+ years ago, but this feels timely given the last two years. An epidemic changed a lot of lives in the last few years! It could totally change our GFFA.

    Hah. :D

    Aaaaaah Luke, people in the narrative are going to recognize your name and I cannot wait.

    So smooth, Luke! [face_love]
     
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  4. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    [​IMG]

    Aw, yeah!! I am ready for every word of this!!

    I'll be back with coherent thoughts in just a bit, but I had to let you know that I gave quite the squee to see this posted. IT'S FINALLY HERE!! [face_dancing] [face_dancing]

    [:D]
     
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  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Great to see Luke and Mara coming together in a very different way. Luke in the service of the empire and Mara? What will come next?
     
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  6. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    SQUEEEEEEEEEEE! What a plausible reason for Luke to leave home and Mara, she's gobsmacked for good and proper [face_laugh] By his candor and bluest of eyes. [face_mischief] I'm totally captivated by Luke and Mara during the OT and that is a fact. [face_love]
     
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  8. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Fair warning: most of my thoughts are going to be heart emojis and me pointing with emphasis while going THIS. But I'm still going to dive in anyway, starting now. :p

    This is the kind of healthy spite that gives me life. [face_mischief]

    Aw! Thank YOU for giving us such an awesome story to preview and gush over! I still can't believe how perfectly Reclamation fell into place. I'm thrilled to have been able to help, even a little! [:D]

    I appreciate how well this harkened back to ANH! The circumstances here are different, but this is a scene we know in our hearts, and it resonates as such. In short: perfect opening line is perfect! [face_love] =D=

    Speaking of phrases we can all relate to . . . [face_hypnotized] =((

    This just hurt my heart, in turn. The Lars were so connected to their land, and to see it all go . . . =(( (This line had a great Americana vibe to it, too, which isn't something I usually say about SW fanfiction :p - I heard John Mellancamp's Rain on the Scarecrow playing in my head for a few haunting chords.)

    More excellent ANH vibes - especially that last line. =((

    And literal ANH vibes there at the end - very well utilized!

    You struck a great mental image with the graves, too. I could see this all play out in my mind's eye. =D=

    A+ introduction. :cool:

    Fair! [face_laugh]

    An excellent point, yes, but fair again. :p

    Now THAT'S the good OTP stuff I've come anticipate to from one of our L/M greats. [face_mischief] [face_hypnotized] [face_love]

    [face_love] [face_love]!!

    LUKE'S TOO ADORABLE FOR WORDS!!

    And smooth. [face_mischief] In an earnest sort of farmboy way, of course! (Thankfully, four years with the Empire hasn't been able to stamp out of him yet!) I love how he and Mara are able to see each other so clearly, right from the beginning.

    [face_love] [face_love]!!

    It's telling that Luke is able to discombobulate Mara so easy. I mean, he got under her skin from the start - in more ways than one - even with the Emperor's last command to contend with. It's so, so interesting to see the sparks fly without that variable dividing them here. [face_thinking]

    Another excellent detail. Uncle Owen raised Luke better than that. [face_mischief]

    I JUST LOVE HOW GENUINE THIS ALL IS. Mara is honestly offering her condolences; Luke is honest about his abilities, and he's not just feeding her a pick-up line; she, in return, is honestly smiling, because Mara can always be herself with Luke, and Gabri, I can't stop smiling all of the stupid smiles for these two idiots already! [face_love]

    LIKE THAT!! [face_love] [face_love]

    I had a similar reaction reading. :p

    LUKE, STOP BEING SO ADORABLE!!!

    You could feel how much of a breath of fresh air this was while reading, too! Nothing felt forced or contrived. They just . . . clicked, and your writing did, too. [face_love] =D=

    YAAAAAAS, ALL THE L/M BANTER. [face_hypnotized] [face_love]


    This is off to a most excellent start, and I can't wait for more! [face_dancing] =D= [:D]
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2022
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  9. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Great callback to the binary sunset in ANH; the way you twisted that imagery from wistful to melancholic just enough to let us know something is off... and then dropped the bombshell that Owen and Beru are already dead. Just a perfectly subdued and sad opening. :(

    I really like this choice, to make Luke a few years younger here than he was in ANH. By nineteen he might have been more primed to look to places other than the Imperial Academy - especially if this happened around the time Biggs jumped ship and joined the Rebellion - but at sixteen, his options are much more limited.

    Isn't that always how it seems to go? =((

    :p As always, your Mara is pitch perfect.

    lolol, well if that isn't a meet cute... [face_love]

    We see your appreciation, Mara, even if you don't quite realize yet that that's what it is. [face_mischief]

    And your Luke is perfect, too. [face_love] "cockiness and humility", yep, that's Luke Skywalker all right. :p But their back-and-forth is already so cute. [face_love]

    Ha, I love this part. Showing both how young Mara still is and how thrown off her guard she is by Luke. And of course I had to laugh at "she'd never see him again after tonight." [face_laugh] Famous last words. [face_mischief]

    There's the Skywalker theatrical streak. o_O :p

    I love Luke's fighter pilot confidence and his openness, and I love that Mara knows she probably looks like a fool smiling back at him but she's still smiling, and have I mentioned how cute this meet cute is? Because it iiiiisssss. :D

    [face_rofl] [face_mischief]

    Lol, smooth, Luke. o_O :p

    THEY'RE SO CUTE, GABRI, MY GOSH. [face_love] [face_love] I can't even with the image of them sitting there smiling at each other like idiots.

    YAAAS, I LOVE IT. You go and have caf with the adorable cocky fighter pilot, Mara. "What could an hour hurt?" [face_batting] [face_whistling] [face_mischief]
     
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  10. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    @vader_incarnate
    [:D]

    It's gonna be a minimum of 300 pages, Elli. Maybe 400. What have I done

    No kidding [face_hypnotized] A lot of stories are based on a relatively small change, but one that's stood out to me for years is Into the Storm by blank101, where the only thing that changes is that Artoo is distracted on the Falcon during the escape from Cloud City, and misses repairing the hyperdrive by about a second, and the Falcon is caught. Just one tiny thing happened differently, but the ramifications were massive.

    In the set up for this story, it was just, "Luke wanted to go to the Imperial Academy, so what would change to make that happen?" This. This happened. Tatooine is a sparsely populated planet, and Anchorhead is not one of the bigger population centers. If any sort of epidemic did hit it, this is what could happen, and if Luke's only a teenager with no family left and his hometown decimated and poorer than before - well, the Academy's really looking like a good option now, right? But that one difference changes everything else, too.

    Our girl prefers a little more action than this :p

    I have no idea what you could mean [face_batting] [face_mischief]

    He's so cute [face_love]

    @earlybird-obi-wan
    Who can tell? :)

    @Bel505
    Thank you so much [:D]

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha
    Thank you!

    @Mira_Jade
    [face_blush] [:D]

    I am a-okay with this sort of feedback, Mira [:D]

    Spite can be very motivating :p

    Awww [face_blush] It was super helpful to have a few trusted people give feedback during all this time [:D]

    Yay! :D I figured I needed a prelude of sorts to explain how and why Luke wound up with the Empire :p

    Right? I absolutely swear I wrote this section in either the last week of December 2019 or the first week of January 2020, well before I'd ever heard of covid, and by the time it was clear that it was going to be a worldwide threat, a lot more of the story had been written and this was pretty irrevocably its foundation. I did think about trying to change it, but this still felt right. I wound up leaving it, obviously, but I've spent two and a half years thinking, "No one is ever going to believe that I wrote this pre-covid" :p

    You know, I had to go back and reread this section after seeing your feedback, and you're right. I hadn't thought about it from that angle, but it's definitely there. Isn't it great when writing falls in place subconsciously like that? :p

    Here's the thing (meta incoming :p ): Everyone gets that Luke wanted to leave Tatooine, that's well established from the beginning. But another thing that's clearly established is that Luke loves Owen and Beru deeply and feels a serious obligation to them, despite his own desire to get away. Look at that scene with Obi-Wan and Leia's holo: Obi-Wan has told Luke stuff he never knew about his long-lost father - and exciting, mythical stuff, too; his father was a Jedi Knight, and an amazing pilot just like Luke wants to be - he gives him his father's lightsaber, he offers to take Luke with him to a Core World on a secret mission for a princess, and what does Luke say? "Alderaan? I'm not going to Alderaan. I've got to get home, I'm late as it is." But once he realizes that Owen and Beru have been killed, he doesn't hesitate even a single moment. There was nothing else holding him to Tatooine, but his family? Luke may have been sulky about not applying to the Academy when he really wanted to, but he was also entirely ready to pass up a once in a lifetime opportunity to go start a life somewhere else just like he desperately wanted, because his family needed him and he loved them. So that's what I kept coming back to in finding a reason for Luke to leave Tatooine - and leave early, so that he'd be in a position to somehow meet Emperor's Hand Mara and have enough diverse life experience to be on her level so that she'd be drawn in by him rather than passing him over without a second thought - it's Owen and Beru keeping him there, so they had to die earlier than in canon.

    I have got to get around to writing the "just this once, everyone lives" story :p

    Thank you! I definitely pick and choose from canon (all the canons :p ) but after the PT, it did seem that Luke would have known about Shmi and Cliegg, and the graves would have been on the family property, after all. (I know, I know, this was covered at least to some extent in the EU, Tatooine Ghost probably establishes [or contradicts or whatever] a lot of this, but I'm not going to be rereading it any time soon. Canon is what I say it is)

    Thank you! :D Mara's got a really interesting backstory when you come right down to it. I remember thinking, "okay, mostly L/M fans would read this story, but what if someone who didn't know Mara looked at it? How do I sum her up quickly at the beginning without weighing down the narrative?" This was my answer :p

    Mara's well into her active agent career by this time, and while I imagine that Palpatine still used her in this capacity as well (after all, in BtEH we see her being introduced to someone as a Palace dancer), she's not a lil n00b Emperor's Hand anymore. She's done much more demanding things than this. Surely she hit a point where she did her duty, but was still bored stiff waiting for a more interesting assignment.

    Dutiful but bored :p

    Aw, shucks [face_blush] [:D]

    Isn't he? With characterization, I was largely aiming for ESB Luke for this story. He's roughly the same age as he was in ANH, but he's been through a lot more, and he's been with the Empire for four years. In ESB, Luke is still young and impatient and impetuous, but he's much more tempered and mature than he was in ANH, and I figured that's what his experiences in this story would have done for him, too - maybe to an even greater extent, because he's been with the Empire longer than he'd been with the Rebellion during ESB, and the Imperial Academy and Starfleet would have demanded a greater measure of discipline than the Alliance did. So, yeah, still young and connected enough to his rural Rim roots (holy alliteration, Batman) to be slightly awed by a formal reception in the Palace on Coruscant, but mature enough to recover and politely and charmingly talk this beautiful woman he just almost knocked over into having a drink with him instead of retreating with a terminal case of embarrassment :p

    Their dynamic in this story has been so much fun to discover. We all know they had enough of an obvious connection from the beginning even in canon that when they were leaving Myrkr, Han's hinting that hey, maybe Luke should make a move on that girl he just spent a few days in the forest with, huh? But the last command, and especially Mara's own belief that those emotions and determination came from her rather than an outside compulsion, was always going to be in the way of that - not to even mention the disparate experiences they both had as Rebel and Imperial, and Mara's recent post-Empire trauma. Here, none of that stands in their way, and they're able to connect in a much more natural way.

    Another huge what-if underpinning the premise of this entire story is how Mara's specific characterization changes if she meets someone like Luke before the Empire falls, and that's a pretty critical turning point. So, yeah - if Luke and Mara met on relatively even ground much earlier than they did in canon, what happens? A lot, as it turns out. But we also wind up with super adorable young love at first sight L/M, which has been so much fun, I just love them so much [face_love]

    I kind of answered this with the previous quote :p But yeah, Mara's not easily impressed, so what would catch her eye? Remember that moment from VotF where Luke suggests an early influence in her life was an important aspect of her not really turning to the dark side? And Mara replies, "Not a chance. There wasn't a single person in the inner court with a scrap of what I'd consider virtue or morality." Well, that's it, isn't it? That's the key, that's what makes Luke different, that's what catches her eye. For all her experience and sophistication, what Mara's not used to is honest, open people. And at this point in her life, she very likely didn't even realize the lack, because she'd never been around anyone like that. So Luke is fascinating to her in that sense even before they make a personal connection.

    Not that the personal connection takes all that long, either :p

    You'd better believe it [face_mischief] Plus it plays into the angle of Luke not playing games, and both of them seeing each other clearly from the beginning. The other men who bring Mara drinks see her as - as Mara herself said to Luke in HttE - "court-hanging froth, a minor bit of mobile decoration kept around the palace to amuse the Emperor." So they pick a drink that matches their image of her. Luke sees her intelligence and strength and individuality from the beginning, and picks something that matches his perception of her, and Mara's startled because it's accurate.

    I feel like I have to say I'm not knocking pastel cocktails here; I personally can't drink straight liquor to save my life and quite like the occasional fruity cocktail instead :p But Mara really seemed like the sort of person who'd prefer the opposite.

    Aren't they adorable? [face_love] Like I said above, Luke surprises and fascinates her by being genuine, and the gradual realization that she can be genuine in return with him, instead of constantly keeping her guard up.

    I keep getting ahead of myself with the meta :p But yeah, Luke isn't like anyone she's met before [face_love]

    Mission accomplished

    He caaaan't, Mira, it's just who he is

    Aw yeah :cool:

    They wouldn't be themselves without the banter :p

    Thank you so much [face_blush] [face_love] [:D]

    @ViariSkywalker
    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    Thank you kindly!

    Exactly. Plus like I said to Mira, if you threw ANH!Luke in Mara's path, she'd raise an exasperated eyebrow, gently shove him off to the side where he couldn't get hurt, and go on about her business. Mara was forced to grow up very fast, and in a lot of ways she was extremely sophisticated from a young age. Luke had to have had enough life experience by their first meeting for him to be mature enough to catch her eye, or none of this would work.

    "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone"

    Sorry, couldn't help myself. But yeah, like I said above, Luke had the opportunity to leave in ANH, and his first reaction was to reject it, because he couldn't leave his parents when they needed him. At this point he's so much younger, and lost them so unexpectedly, and he really wasn't quite to the chafing at the bit stage he was in ANH. Now he's an orphaned 16yo who has to figure out his own way in the galaxy with no family and his home isn't his anymore and everything that had been stable is suddenly lost to him. You can't tell me that no matter how much he'd dreamed of exploring the galaxy, this moment of reality wouldn't have hit him hard and made him want to cling to the security of home if he could have.

    Yay! :D I love her so much, Vi [face_love]

    The best [face_mischief] [face_batting]

    She's not at all used to thinking that way, it'll take her a little bit to recognize it for what it is :p

    Remember that moment in ANH when Obi-Wan says "I hear you've become quite the pilot yourself" and Luke grins and ducks his head but makes no move to deny it? That's what I was trying to channel here. He's never going to lose that innate modesty, but yeah, he's darned good and he knows it, too :cool:

    Foreshadowing, baby :cool: Kinda like Chekov's gun. Sorta. Whatever, you know what I mean :p

    The Skywalker men, especially, are really kind of prone to being extra. They can't help themselves

    So cute [face_love]

    You know, when I was originally thinking about all the ways Luke could stumble upon Mara's secret identity, I considered a number of options, including much more drawn out ones than this. But what felt right was that moment of unexpectedly piercing insight from Luke ("Leia! Leia is my sister!"). And it would certainly have induced more fascination on Mara's part!

    Mara inherited her mother's taste in men :p

    One of the great things about this story is that they're still so young. They have a good bit of life experience, yes, neither of them is particularly naive anymore - but neither of their lives have had a lot of room for personal relationships like this yet, either. They've been pretty darn busy. So you throw them together like this and they feel that absolute connection (which for Mara, especially, is something entirely new in her life), you get two very capable and talented people who are nevertheless young and suddenly very smitten [face_love]

    Probably the first thing Mara's ever done just for herself - and who knows where little things like that could lead [face_batting] [face_mischief]
     
  11. vader_incarnate

    vader_incarnate Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Gabri reading that trilogy in FF.net and seeing you mentioned in the A/N was what pulled me back here to the JCF :p So good
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2022
  12. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    I love that trilogy so much, Elli, it's so intricate and detailed and convincing, I gotta reread it soon [face_love] I actually forgot I was mentioned in the A/N there, though :p
     
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  13. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Chapter Two


    A month later, their meetings were an established routine. No regular schedule, of course; their respective duties would have precluded that even if Mara had been incautious enough to allow it. But there was always a next time. This week it was at an Ithorian restaurant, where they sat at a back corner table on the patio, mostly obscured from the sightline of passersby but still warmed by the late spring sunshine.

    “—so naturally, I crashed right into the vaporator. Actually broke the coolant valve. It took a week to track down a replacement. Uncle Owen about killed me—not that I could blame him.”

    Mara grinned. “You had to have known that you’d crash a souped-up rig like that.”

    “No,” Luke corrected. “I knew that Biggs or Fixer would have crashed a souped-up rig like that. I had a chance.”

    “Do you always take stupid risks just because someone dares you?”

    “Now, no. At twelve? Of course I did.”

    Mara shook her head, still smiling. “I can just see you at twelve, too. It’s a miracle you didn’t kill yourself in that canyon of yours long before you got anywhere near an actual ship.”

    Luke took another chori strip from the platter between them and dropped it onto his plate. “It’s not like we had that many entertainment options. It was die of boredom or die crashing into a canyon wall. At least you got some thrills before the crash.”

    “Good training for TIE piloting, I have to admit that.”

    “Didn’t hurt.” Luke looked over at her. “And what were you doing at twelve?”

    Mara glanced at him, at the amused, knowing expression in his eyes, and suspecting that he was seeing the same in hers. “There might have been some training about sabotaging surveillance systems involved.”

    “The notoriously varied education every dancer relies on,” Luke said, nodding seriously.

    Mara took another bite of her ioaa fruit salad, rolling her eyes at him as she did so. She hardly remembered how she’d slipped enough to let him know how close to correct his original Intel guess had been, but he’d caught the slip, and she’d known he’d caught it, and there was no going back from that.

    The funny thing was, he hadn’t cornered her on it. He’d politely and steadfastly maintained the fiction that she was merely a palace dancer, while his eyes silently laughed at her and their conversation never faltered. The initial burst of alarm Mara had felt—how was it so impossible to keep her guard up around him?—faded almost immediately, to be replaced with curious amusement at his tacit collaboration. He plainly didn’t care in the least that she was more than she seemed, more interested in getting to know who she was than what she was.

    That was something that Mara had never experienced before. This was the first time she could ever remember where someone spent time with her just because they liked her personally and wanted to know more about her. It was the first time she could remember where Mara was a more important identity than Emperor’s Hand.

    It was powerfully addictive, and all the more so because she liked him, too. She’d barely met him, yet it felt like they’d known each other their whole lives. Her time spent with him merged the thrill of a new, tentative attraction with the easy comfort of a trusted ally. It was like the first breath after emerging from deep water. It was like sunlight on your skin after a long winter. It was like finding something precious you hadn’t known you’d lost.

    It was completely impossible to give up.

    “It’s important to start with the basics,” Mara said primly, a lifetime’s worth of intense training and an elite secret identity now cheerfully reduced to a private joke.

    “Crucial,” Luke agreed. “But I hope you worked some pilot training in there, too.”

    Mara poured herself some more sparkling water from the pitcher on the table, carefully avoiding his eyes as she tried hard not to smile, and Luke laughed out loud. “Of course you did,” he said. “We really have to figure out a way to race one of these days. Do you think my CO would notice if we snuck a couple of TIEs out of the hangar?”

    “Oh, I’m sure you’d beat me there,” Mara said, then deliberately met his eyes and tilted her head innocently. “In a TIE, anyway.”

    Luke pointed his fork at her. “Stop tempting me. This would be an impossible thing to explain at my court martial.”

    Mara laughed, then stilled as a familiar voice intruded.

    Child.

    Yes, my lord,
    she replied, straightening in her seat without thinking, the mental picture of the Emperor superimposing itself oddly over her surroundings. Across the table, Luke had also gone still, looking at her with a sudden curiosity, yet remaining quiet.

    I have a mission requiring your talents. Report in an hour for your orders.

    Of course, my lord.


    The contact faded, and Mara breathed a sigh of relief that the Emperor hadn’t asked any questions about where she was or what she was doing. Then again, did he ever, when she wasn’t on a specific mission? The odds were that he didn’t even care, so long as she carried out her duties conscientiously.

    “I have to go,” she said reluctantly.

    Luke furrowed his brow at her. “What was that—it was like mental static all around you.”

    Mara looked at him sharply. “What do you mean?”

    “Just what I said,” he replied, looking at her with a new intensity. “It was—almost buzzing, but there wasn’t anything to actually hear. But it was there, like—like a halo around you.”

    Mara stared at him. As far as she knew, there were only three Force-sensitives left in existence: the Emperor, Darth Vader, and herself. But what else could this possibly be?

    And if it was that, what did she do now?

    “I have to go,” she said again. “…rehearsals.” She reached out to put a hand on his. “Don’t mention this to anyone. The—static, I mean. Seriously, not a single word.”

    Luke looked at her, the unasked question obvious, yet he just nodded. “When will I see you again?”

    “I don’t know,” Mara said, mind racing. “Rehearsals are unpredictable. I’ll contact you when I get back. And then, I’ll explain the—the static. But I’m not kidding, Luke; don’t talk about it to anyone else.”

    “All right,” he said, as serious as she’d ever seen him. “Be careful. At rehearsal, I mean.”

    “I will,” she said, and squeezed his hand. “Fly safe. I’ll see you soon.”






    It was three weeks before she was back on Coruscant, and another two days before she finished her reports and briefings for the Emperor. Despite no further immediate assignments and her own impatience, Mara waited another day beyond that before she contacted Luke, wary of bringing him to anyone’s attention. When she finally commed him, it was a text-only message, a time and a place, nothing more.

    So now she sat cross-legged under a tree in one of Coruscant’s many small parks, planned bursts of nature to punctuate the endless metropolis. This one was a relatively unknown park, as these things went, largely hidden behind a cluster of bureaucratic buildings that happened to be closed today. The odds were good that they’d have the place to themselves. What worried her more was whether the rapport they’d had was still there. She had, after all, been off-planet almost as long as they’d known each other. Would he still like her?

    She felt Luke’s presence approaching, and she stood to greet him as he rounded the corner nearest her. He closed the distance between them in a rush and swept her into a tight hug. Startled, Mara awkwardly returned the embrace, then he held her out at arms’ length.

    “I was worried about you,” he said. “Do rehearsals usually take that long?”

    “Sometimes,” Mara said. “I never really know for sure. I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d worry.”

    He tilted his head, looking at her disbelievingly. “You were gone for almost a month with no word. Of course I’d worry.”

    “Oh,” she replied, rather lamely. “I usually have to go dark for rehearsals. Sorry.”

    Luke shook his head. “I guess I’m not used to the complications of a dancer’s life.”

    Mara smiled tentatively at him. “I would have thought pilots led more dangerous lives than dancers.”

    “I’m not so sure about that,” Luke said, eyeing her. He took her hand and drew her down beside him as he sat on the ground. “I’m guessing it’s nothing you can talk about.”

    “Not really,” Mara replied, rather distracted by the fact that he was still holding her hand. Luke, of course, hardly seemed to notice he was doing it. “What have you been doing while I was gone?”

    “Worrying about you,” he said wryly. “But I don’t want to confuse you with the concept.”

    Mara pressed her lips together tightly, torn between exasperation and embarrassment. “It’s not something I usually encounter, that’s all. It’s fine.”

    “Mm-hmm.”

    She sighed. “Stop that.”

    “I’ve stopped,” he said. “You’re back, everything’s fine, I’m not worried. So what did you want to do today?”

    “I thought—” Mara hesitated, then took a deep breath. “You didn’t tell anyone about the mental static, right?”

    “No,” Luke said, looking at her expectantly.

    “What do you know about the Jedi?”

    “They’re all dead.” Mara cast him an exasperated look, and he added, “They were warriors or something for the Republic. Seriously, that’s all I know. It’s not like their history was taught in school or anything.” He looked at her again, more seriously this time. “Why?”

    She ignored the question. “What about the Force?”

    “What force?”

    She sighed again. “Okay, we start with the basics, then.”

    “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Mara.”

    “I know,” she said, thinking. She had no experience in explaining this to anyone else, and she still wasn’t sure if she was doing the right thing in explaining it at all. “Um, the Force is an energy field. Life creates it, it’s everywhere, all around us, all the time. Most people aren’t aware of it, but some are born with the ability to sense it. If you’re one of those people, then you can learn to—to channel it, and control it. That’s what the Jedi did, they were trained Force-sensitives.”

    “How do you know this?” Luke asked, brow furrowed.

    “Because the Force didn’t die with the Jedi. It’s still there, and there are some people left who can sense it, just not very many.”

    “And you’re one of them,” he said slowly. “Aren’t you?”

    Mara looked down at their still-joined hands, tempted for a heartbeat to try to deny it, even at this late stage. To continue this conversation was to walk willingly into a potential minefield, and she knew it. But she was desperately curious, and didn’t think she could lie outright to Luke at this point anyway. So instead she took a deep breath. “Yes, I am. And I think you are, too.”

    Luke looked at her silently for long moments. “The static—that was the Force?”

    “It was—it was me using the Force.”

    “For what?”

    Mara trailed the fingers of her free hand through the grass before her, avoiding his eyes. “…communication.”

    “With?”

    She glanced up at him without lifting her head. “The Emperor.”

    His earlier pause was eclipsed by this one, and they sat in heavy silence until Mara wondered if there even was a way to break it, or if this was simply their existence now. Finally, he said quietly, “You were communicating. Through a mystical unseen Force. With the Emperor. Personally.”

    And suddenly Mara saw how absurd her story must sound to someone who had never even heard of the Force before. He probably thought she was out of her mind. What a mess this all was. “I’m telling the truth. I promise I am.”

    Luke shook his head. “I’m not saying otherwise. I just don’t even know where to start here."

    Mara looked down at the grass again. “I’m not a dancer—well, I am, but that’s a cover, like you guessed. I’m—I’m a personal agent of the Emperor. My title is the Emperor’s Hand. And you really, really can’t tell anyone that. Ever. I’m deep cover, almost no one knows I exist.”

    Luke was quiet again for long enough that she looked up, only to find him looking at her with a familiar amused expression, his elbow propped on his knee, chin in hand, grinning at her. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “You’re a super secret deep cover personal agent for the Emperor himself, and you’re slumming with a navy lieutenant?”

    That’s what you’re getting from this?” Mara burst out. “Are you kidding me?”

    Luke covered his face with both hands, then dragged them back through his hair, laughing silently but helplessly. Indignant, Mara began to stand up, but he grabbed her hand again and pulled her back down, still laughing. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. But you have terrible taste in men, obviously. I’m glad I’m the beneficiary, but still.”

    “Luke, this is important!”

    “I know! I can’t help it that it’s funny too!” He wrestled his expression back to something resembling solemnity. “I’m serious now, I am. Tell me more. Look, you were being trained even as a kid, you already told me that. So what, is there some sort of inside track education your parents pushed you into where high level secret agents come from?”

    “I don’t remember my parents,” Mara said quietly, hesitant again. “The Emperor found me when I was very young, and brought me to Coruscant to be trained.”

    The lingering amusement was suddenly gone from Luke’s sense as completely as though it had never been. “He kidnapped you?”

    “No,” Mara said automatically. “Of course not.”

    “It sounds a lot like kidnapping, Mara. You weren’t his to take, not unless you were in an orphanage or on the street or something, and even then you don’t take a child in just to train them for a job, like they’re a droid or a draft animal. Children need a family.”

    “I—” Mara paused. Technically, the Emperor had taken her away, hadn’t he? She’d never thought of it that way before. “I wasn’t an orphan. I remember I was with my parents, I don’t think they wanted me to go, but I don’t remember anything else.”

    “That’s kidnapping,” Luke said, and the undertone of controlled anger in his voice startled her. “He stole you, and he used you.”

    “No,” Mara said again, not knowing what else to say.

    “Yes,” Luke insisted. His eyes were furious still, but whatever he saw as he looked at her made him choke the anger back, and she didn’t ask why, didn’t want to know. “Okay,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Okay. Never mind that. What exactly do you do as the Emperor’s Hand?”

    “Information gathering,” Mara said, in a suddenly small voice. “Spying, espionage, sometimes assassination.”

    Luke dropped his head into his hand, the anger flaring up again through his sense in the Force. He took another deep breath, and said with an unnatural calm, “He uses you to assassinate people?”

    “Only criminals or traitors,” Mara whispered. Why did this suddenly bother her? She dispensed the Emperor’s justice, she rooted out corruption. She’d never felt ashamed of this before. She shouldn’t feel ashamed of it now—but Luke’s reaction unsettled her to her core.

    Luke looked up again, his expression under such tight control that it was almost blank. “Okay. Let’s talk about the Force instead.”

    Mara looked at him, almost afraid, but she had to know. “Are you angry with me?”

    He promptly reached out to take her other hand as well, enfolding them both in his own. “No, I’m not. I’m angry with the Emperor. And since I can’t exactly march into the Palace and tell him that, let’s move on. Tell me about the Force. How do you communicate through it?”

    “I just talk, but mentally,” she said, still unsure. “The Emperor can talk to me through the Force, and I can hear him and reply, no matter where I am. He said—he said I have a special talent for communication. It’s a valuable asset.”

    “Uh-huh,” Luke said, his eyes still hard. “I can see why he’d think that. So if I’m Force-sensitive, what does that mean?”

    “On a personal level, it means you could learn to use it yourself. On a larger scale—I don’t know,” Mara admitted. “You’re the only Force-sensitive I’ve ever met, except for the Emperor and Darth Vader.”

    “But they’re not Jedi, are they? Are you?”

    “No,” Mara said. “The Emperor and Lord Vader are Sith—it’s a different type of Force adept. I don’t understand all the philosophical differences; the Emperor only ever explained it in broad strokes. I’m not either one.”

    Luke sighed. “You live a complicated life, Mara.” He thought for a moment. “Can you teach me how to use the Force?”

    “Probably, at least a little. What worries me is the thought of the Emperor or Vader sensing you using it.”

    He looked at her sharply. “Why?”

    “They were the ones who eliminated the Jedi. With help, I mean, there was an army, but they led the action. Vader hunted down stray Jedi for years afterward. The Emperor says the Jedi were corrupt and self-serving and would have brought down the Empire—you’re not that, but I don’t know how they’d react if they found another Force-sensitive.”

    Luke rubbed a hand over his face. “Should we even try it, then? I’ve gone this long without even knowing about any of this; it’s not like it’ll be some huge hole in my life if I continue without it.”

    “But you’re with the Fleet,” Mara pointed out, “and you’re really talented. Vader is always out with the Fleet, and he actively recruits the best stormtroopers and pilots to his command. You could come to his notice that way. Vader is stronger in the Force than I am, he might be able to sense your abilities. What I was thinking was that maybe I could train you enough that you could learn some basic shielding, so at least your sensitivity wouldn’t be obvious.”

    “Can you teach me to talk to you through the Force?” Luke asked.

    Mara blinked. “I think so.”

    “That’s what I want to learn.”


    “Also shields,” Mara insisted.

    “Whatever else you want to teach is fine, I’ll learn it. But teach me how to talk to you.”

    Mara considered, then shrugged. “It would be a secure method of communication.”

    “Yeah, that too,” Luke said dryly. She looked at him questioningly, and he waved her off. “Never mind. But I want to learn it.”

    “Okay,” Mara agreed. “But that comes later. First, we try to find your connection with the Force and strengthen it. Close your eyes…”
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2022
  14. vader_incarnate

    vader_incarnate Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 29, 2002
    I love your characterization of cocky young Luke. I feel like I don't read the Luke of this era often, so I'm used to like Master Luke or angsty "I'm trying to deal with the fact that my father is evil" Luke, but this one! He's so sweet, and also so confident! [face_love]

    I feel like there's some comment to be made here about "back in my day the kids went outside and nearly broke their necks in Beggar's Canyon and didn't just stay in all day on their screens!" :p But yes, twelve year old adrenaline junkie Luke! I didn't even live that but I feel weirdly nostalgic about it.

    Hah, clearly. Again, loving your Luke and his perceptiveness.

    Lovely and evocative. And also poor Mara, who's never actually had real human connections before, of course this is novel - and especially to make her first real human connection with Luke of all people who's just a canonical ball of sunshine.

    "now cheerfully reduced to a private joke" daww, but also sad, poor baby Mara. The banter is terrific.

    LUKE YOU SAW IT.

    Mara, I am not an elite dancer, but I don't think rehearsals work this way, or that spacing out suddenly in the middle of lunch is how people are generally summoned to rehearsal?

    I live near San Francisco, and there's a lot of rooftop parks there just sprinkled in the Financial District, and I can picture this so clearly. Also, I love her very young and understandable reaction of "would he still like her?" Daww, young Mara. I mentioned that I'm not used to seeing this flavor of Luke, but also not used to seeing this era of Mara either, where she's confident and competent but not jaded (heh) by her experiences.

    No, Luke, they don't. I think?? I'm not a dancer. But you're right, it seems sus.

    Hah, you can't hear capital letters. :p

    Daww, also a very true-feeling statement. They're so young and cute.

    No, he's right, he got it right away.

    :( I have said it a few times already, but wonderful Luke characterization with his quick but quickly controlled anger.

    Eeee. :vader:

    Heh. Man has priorities. :luke:
     
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  15. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    The truth is stranger than fiction - or vice versa, here. :p I completely believe you, for what it's worth! [face_mischief]

    YOU'RE SO RIGHT!! This was a most excellent bit of meta. =D=

    I'm always here for a good "everyone lives" story. [face_batting]

    THIS!! All of this is A+ characterization!! =D=

    So adorable, and so fun! [face_love]

    Oh, of course! Some of those pastel cocktails really pack a punch, and they're delicious, besides. (I'm a neat tumbler of bourbon or a glass of wine person, myself - so I empathize with Mara here in this particular instance. :p)

    It's the always a next time that really stood out to me. Because even though Mara is being cautious, there isn't any scenario where she can pursue a romantic relationship that doesn't further the Emperor's interests. She knows that, to an extent. To Palpatine, she's a sharp blade to be kept in the drawer until she's needed again. He doesn't care what she does on her own time, perhaps, but he does care for whether or not she's distracted, and Luke can already qualify as much. It says something that Mara views him as worth the risk, even on a subconscious level. [face_thinking]

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    This was such a Skywalker line - that rookie who was ready to take on the Death Star with all of his blasting womp rats experience back home and Anakin Skywalker's intrepidness, both. I like what you said about Luke's combination of confidence and humility - that really shows through here!

    This is all most excellent banter and 100% a Skywalker thing, again. :p

    :p [face_laugh]

    But while it's all fun and banter, I do love how clearly they see each other, again! I'm going to say that so often throughout this story, I know, but it bears repeating. [face_love]

    - more interested in getting to know who she was than what she was. Exactly! Luke just sees Mara, and with him she can equally be herself. It's no wonder that she can't keep her guard up around him - it's a wondrous thing that she doesn't have to keep her guard up, and she's not going to let that go. When has she ever been able to let her guard down like that before, with anyone in her life?

    Of course it's addictive - it's necessary, imperative, even for us to be seen as ourselves by our loved ones! Again, when has Mara ever had that in her life before? From there, and she liked him, too just got me in the best way. [face_love]

    I remember this passage from my first time reading this through - vividly so [face_love] - and it still stands out as absolutely gorgeous, impactful prose. =D=

    I NEED WANT A L/M RACE NOW - YOU MUST MAKE IT SO!!! [face_batting]

    Also, your banter continues to be spot-on perfect! [face_love]

    Eugh. Way to ruin a moment, there, Palps. o_O

    Ooooh, most interesting! Is this . . . [face_thinking]

    IT IS! :D Also, you did a fantastic job of explaining the Force here - particularly with the halo description.

    Such good, weighty feelings in this goodbye.

    Would he still like her? Oh my goodness, but this is just too adorable! [face_love]

    He was worried! Of course he was worried! And of course that's a novelty for Mara all on it's own - being missed and worried for, all for her own sake and not as regards the outcome of some mission or another. [face_love]

    Palpatine is so, so good at what he does. [face_plain]

    Hee, force. :p

    That she can't lie to him, and that she views him as worth this huge, huge risk says so much, again, and it FITS! Also, I love that Mara is taking over Obi-Wan's ANH role, helping Luke take this first step into a wider world, so to speak.

    One track Skywalker mind, again. :p (Hey, Anakin knew - and told - Padmé that he was going to marry her in their very first conversation. [face_mischief])

    [face_laugh] :p

    Luke's anger and indignation over Mara and Palpatine will always get me right where I live.

    =(( =(( =((

    This hurts even more after your Renewal 'verse! :_|

    &
    THIS. THIS. THIS.

    I am so here for Mara breaking off the Emperor's shackles even sooner in this 'verse. She's never had any cause to question anything in her life, before, and now . . . unsettling doesn't even begin to cover it, really.

    I could hear how small are you angry with me must have sounded - but so brave, too!

    Yep. [face_plain]

    I bet he only ever explained it in broad strokes. [face_plain] And again, I love that it's Mara having this conversation with Luke in this 'verse! [face_love]

    This is a most excellent point. [face_thinking]

    [face_love] [face_laugh] Right, shields too. :p [face_mischief]


    This is just the BEST, again, and I love everything about everything!

    =D= =D=
     
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  16. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    @vader_incarnate
    Isn't he? [face_love] The number of times I reread TTT and rewatched the OT, trying to be sure I had a grip on a younger Luke's characterization :p

    And like you say, those other two incarnations of Luke take up a lot more space in both pro and fanfic. I'm not terrific with planning a long story - heck, I'd only written two multiparters before starting to write this one, and they were only about 23,000 and 11,000 words each, so I didn't entirely know what I was doing. My "outline" is literally a 63-page doc full of stream of consciousness ideas, and random bits of research, and high points that I need to hit somewhere, and some discarded scenes that may or may not make it back in - basically, it's just me talking to myself about what this story should be until I hit on something that feels right. But one of the things I was deliberate about from the beginning was that if I was going to write something this long, I wanted it to be different. There are some tropes and bits of characterization and so on that are so widely accepted in fanfic that the majority of fics treat them as untouchable, and I didn't want to do that. At the same time, neither was I under any impression that I was reinventing the wheel here. My middle ground was to find the essence of all these characters and stay true to them, but take alternate routes with the narrative whenever possible, like letting Luke be sweet and confident and decidedly unangsty throughout. I should stop now to avoid spoilers, but yeah, I wanted to let all these characters explore paths I had rarely if ever seen them do before.

    Yay! :D It was just so cute, Luke and Mara swapping (sort of :p ) childhood stories. I'm glad it works!

    Thank you! :D Like I said earlier, the OT shows some instances of really piercing insight on Luke's part, and we know from the EU that Luke is extremely empathic and sensitive. I liked the idea of a very young Luke picking up on all these little details Mara says or lets slip and putting the pieces together and just seeing her, as Mira says.

    I used the "first love" tag over on ao3, and hesitated over it, because it's not like the story really lingers at any point on the fact that this is Mara's first love (and maybe Luke's too, but you know, he's lived a much more normal life than she has and almost certainly has at least been on dates before, whereas Mara hasn't), but when you look at the character study aspect, it's incredibly important. Mara has genuinely never experienced anything like this before; she didn't have a family, she's never had a friend, she's never liked a boy. All these realizations that such things are even possible, and the idea of what life could be like with them as opposed to the life she's led - all that comes into play dramatically later on and informs a lot of her choices. Canon Mara didn't know these things existed. Reclamation Mara has more information on which to base her decisions. And the fact that Luke is indeed a giant ball of sunshine just adds to it. Can you imagine the contrast he presents to everyone she knows in the Palace and the Court? Of course she'd rather be with him.

    To steal yet another line from the saga we all know and love and put it someplace entirely else, she's taken her first step into a larger world.

    I'm constitutionally incapable of not writing banter, I think, Elli. It just keeps spilling all over the place.

    Heh, a lot of thought went into the question of how Luke would discover Mara's Force-sensitivity. After all, ANH Luke didn't know what the Force was, and here, he hasn't had that discussion with Obi-Wan. But I knew where I wanted this to go, that Mara would be the one to realize what it meant if Luke was Force-sensitive too, so what on earth could happen that Luke would give this away to such an extent that Mara couldn't possibly dismiss it as anything else? And as I did many other times throughout this story, I wound up just going with the simplest explanation. Mara is very strong in the Force; so is Luke; so is Palpatine. We know that Jedi and Sith can often sense other people drawing on the Force. Mara's telepathy talent is rare (I have a whole lengthy meta on that, but it boils down to "why didn't Palpatine keep a youngling or two to train to be his secret agent? Why wouldn't he just have killed Mara when she was found, as most Force-sensitives were at the time, instead of taking her in and going to the massive expense of time and credits to raise her to adulthood and train her so intensively? It only makes sense if this is a rare and special gift she has, like Mace's shatterpoint talent, or Quinlan's psychometry), so it seemed plausible that it would cause a distinctive ripple in the Force that someone as strong as Luke is could sense, even if he was untrained and didn't recognize it for what it was.

    lol, right? That spacing out would have been a lot more noticeable and weird to Luke if he hadn't been distracted by the buzzy halo of Force telepathy :p

    Aw, yeah :D I don't recall seeing parks on Coruscant, but come on, living beings need some contact with nature to keep from going insane, and all big cities have parks. It only made sense to me that Coruscant would have a bunch of them too. Besides, Luke and Mara needed a more private place to have this discussion :p

    She's so young and cute, Elli, I love her so much [face_love] I'm fudging the timeline a little with this story; it doesn't align with ANH exactly. So Luke is twenty instead of nineteen, and Mara is eighteen - but that still makes her awfully young in general, and when you take into account that she's never gotten to live an ordinary life, she's actually younger than her age when it comes to personal stuff like this. She hasn't fully caught on to all the obvious signs that yes, Luke likes her very much, he's not going to forget her in just a couple of weeks.

    Still laughing at "you're right, it seems sus" :p This reminds me of the time, something like five years ago, when the 13yo daughter of a friend told me my necklace was lit and I was just so proud that I understood what she was saying despite my advanced age :p

    No, you can't :p

    Aren't they? [face_love] That line honestly just rolled right onto the page; it was so self-evidently what Luke would have said here that I couldn't argue with it. You remember the last scene of VotF, where Luke says, "I know why I love and want to marry you. It just doesn't seem like you'll be getting as much from this as I will"? Luke has always been well aware of just how amazing Mara is. In this universe, he already suspected that she outranked him; his first guess was that she was with Intelligence, and she (off-screen :p ) essentially confirmed that. Now she tells him this, she's a personal agent for the Emperor himself? Luke is 100% going to go right to, "You know that you can do better than me, right?" :p

    Luke's very good at that, and Mara has never really looked at her life from the outside before.

    Bit o' meta, Elli: in fanfic you see over and over again the trope that Mara has the quick temper and Luke is endlessly patient. That's backward. Look at the source material: Mara basically never loses her temper when Zahn (the definitive source for her characterization as the OT is for Luke's) is writing her. She might snap at someone on occasion, but she's always very in control of herself, even when the scene is from her POV and we can see that she's got an absolute maelstrom of deep emotion going on inside. In fact, if you look at all her appearances in Zahn's books, you really only get any glimmer of temper from her in TTT, when she was actively under the influence of the last command and had just gone through almost five years of hell "sloshing through the rotten underfringes of the galaxy", as she put it, on the run from the remnants of the Empire, and with Palpatine's voice in her head blaming her for everything, and let's be fair, all of that would be enough to push anyone's control to the brink. Of course she was angry. But even then, she never lost her temper. It was just obvious sometimes that she was pretty mad. All the other books and short stories? Nothing. Calm and in control under almost every circumstance, with just surface-level amusement or exasperation or whatever occasionally peeking through. That's why it was such a huge deal that she cried when the Jade's Fire crashed: Mara doesn't show deep, open emotion of any sort to other people.

    Luke, on the other hand, is constantly losing his temper in the OT, from beginning to end. He's not an angry or aggressive person in general, and he doesn't hold on to a grudge, but he's impatient and snaps quickly. The patient Jedi Master thing took years of practice for him to achieve. And he is always, throughout his life, deeply protective of the people he loves. So a Luke this young, suddenly discovering that the girl he's in love with has been brainwashed and abused to this extent? Yeah, he's going to be mad. But he's not straight off the farm, either; he's been with the Imperial navy for four years and has learned a measure of control (I referenced Luke's Hoth scenes quite often for this story, brief though they were, because that was the young military officer characterization I was going for), so he can shut that anger down enough to continue the conversation.

    [face_batting]

    Yes, yes he does [face_love]


    @Mira_Jade
    [face_relieved]

    Thank you, thank you *bows*

    The extent to which Luke loves is a huge part of his character. He'd give up a great deal to help his loved ones, or protect them, or make them happy.

    Even in SW, it's got to happen sometime, right?

    :D

    They're the best, I love them so much [face_love]

    I like a good margarita best, myself (*insert that "I can't say no to tequila" gif*). But see, you know exactly how relieved and impressed Mara was here! :D

    Exactly :D Allegiance and Choices of One are just invaluable for Emperor's Hand characterization, and based on those, there's no way Mara's going to outright defy Palpatine. But would she start letting things slide just a little bit, if they started out seemingly harmlessly, in an area of life, perhaps, that had never been directly addressed or forbidden by Palpatine or any of her tutors, and by the time it became clear that she was on slippery ground, she really wanted something for the first time?

    This was obviously written way before the Obi-Wan show, but now I'm thinking of Owen's "I'm not that patient" line :p

    Aw yeah :D It's been a long time since I listened to the ANH radio play, but there's a scene where Fixer is the passenger while Luke's racing through Beggar's Canyon and Fixer is yelling that he's going to kill them both and Luke's taking insane chances to cut a half-second off his best time and whooping when he succeeds, and I can just see that :p

    "Look, we were bored, of course we risked our lives" :p I still haven't worked it into this story anywhere, but there's a line in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor where fighter pilots are referred to as "demented thrill-monkeys", and I won't lie, I really want to find a place for it so someone can ask Mara if she's not insulted on Luke's behalf and she can be all, "I'm sorry, have you met him?"

    They do [face_love]

    Never, at least not since Palpatine took her =(( In fact,that's such an accepted fact of her life that it probably hasn't even occurred to her yet that that's why she can't keep her guard up around Luke, the poor girl.

    Can you imagine being eighteen when you make your first friend? And the life you've led was such that you genuinely hadn't realized the lack? And now you're just starting to realize that this (really quite handsome and charming) person likes you - not just appreciates your work or something, but likes you personally - and you like him too? This is a whole lot of new and disorienting stuff for Mara :p

    Aw, shucks [face_blush]

    Heh, my action writing is abysmal :p Fortunately my banter makes up for it [face_batting] But you're right, that would be a brilliant scene/story. One of the things I did like about the NJO and would have liked to have seen more of was Luke and Mara flying X-wings together [face_love]

    He's a real buzzkill :p

    [face_batting]

    Yay! Descriptions of the Force are always a challenge for me, so it's nice to hear that I get it right sometimes :p See my response to Elli for how it came about that Luke sensed this - but yeah, how would sensing something through the Force feel when you're completely untrained and don't recognize what you're sensing? Here's my best guess :p

    Mara's only just starting to recognize how much Luke means to her; Luke's already very much aware of how much she means to him [face_love]

    She's so new at this, Mira! Maybe he forgot all about her! Maybe finding someone you like isn't something that lasts! She's really quite worried, poor girl [face_love]

    Hadn't even occurred to her that he might miss her. She honestly thought that maybe he'd forget her. It's like Luke's mix of humility and confidence: Mara is so, so competent and capable and sure of her place and abilities, and also sincerely doesn't understand that she might be a very appealing friend and/or romantic prospect for someone else. Would someone be interested in flirting with her (or worse; there's a scene in Allegiance where Mara feigns being tipsy and a skeevy dude's eyes light up and he tries to get her alone and yes it is very obvious what he'd be attempting to do if he succeeded)? Sure, she expects that. But genuine affection or love? She simply has no experience with it.

    Yes, yes he is [face_plain] We've discussed before how the post-PT EU tried too hard to retcon Luke and his Jedi Order being well aware of many details of the Old, and it just plain doesn't make sense in-universe. The OT established that Luke, at nineteen, had never heard of the Force. Yes, he was out on a Rim world, yes, his aunt and uncle were deliberately trying to shield him from exactly this. But Anakin was half Luke's age on the same Rim planet when he recognized Qui-Gon as a Jedi. Owen and Beru wouldn't have been able to succeed in shielding Luke from anything if Palpatine hadn't been successful in destroying most of the information about the Jedi and warping what remained.

    (On the other hand, the inclusion of Inquisitors at all, let alone all the way up until the OT, throws a wrench into this. Such difficulties and contradictions are inevitable when you continue worldbuilding in the same saga for almost fifty years. But the canon I'm basing this story on is the OT and what we know of Mara from TTT, Allegiance, and Choices of One, so no Inquisitors here! :p )

    :p

    She likes him so much, Mira [face_love] And she's really worried that if she doesn't explain this and help teach him some basics, he'll be in danger. She knows very well what Palpatine and Vader think of Jedi. So really, we're already seeing Mara be willing to engage in some minor defiance for Luke's sake... And Mara teaching Luke about the Force instead of the other way around or, as you say, Obi-Wan having that role, falls into the category I mentioned to Elli above, of simply wanting to do things differently. The standard tropes became standard for a good reason most of the time, and I'm not at all knocking the fics that use them; I just looked at my idea for this fic and thought, "why am I even bothering, if I bring nothing new to the table?" So basically every time I happened upon a narrative fork in the road, I tried to take the path less traveled.

    That's an excellent parallel that I had totally missed :p (You guys are the Anakin/Vader experts; I specialize in Mara studies :p ) Additionally, isn't this the ultimate proof for Luke that Mara likes him just as much as he likes her? Because she should not be hanging out with some random low-level officer who pilots a TIE, for heaven's sake - but she is. And she very clearly is worried not about getting in trouble with the Emperor, but how Luke will feel about this revelation. Mara does not realize how much she just gave away :p

    "You can do so much better than me and you don't even realize it and even though I'm grateful this is hilarious" :p

    Me too [face_love]

    Oh, man, tell me about it, Mira =((

    Exactly. She's never once had anyone question the morality of her position like this before. A target who protested that she had him all wrong, or she herself was misguided, or something like that, sure, but not someone angry over supposed abuse of her. It's never occurred to her to think of it like that at all. And she really likes Luke and wants him to like her and now he's turning her entire world upside down and he seems so sure - that's going to really throw her for a loop.

    She is so brave [face_love] Because by this point, Luke not liking her is her worst case scenario - and we all know that the idea of someone being angry with the Emperor isn't even going to compute with her, so if he's mad, he must be mad at her. This poor girl, Mira =((

    It's so obvious to anyone from the outside, but Mara's literally never had that perspective.

    Me toooo [face_love]

    lol, I was literally figuring that out as I was writing it; I remember thinking, "I'm making a good case for Mara to not train him; why exactly should she?" But hey, in ANH Vader recognized that the Force was strong with that final X-wing pilot, and Luke is stationed on Coruscant right under his and Palpatine's noses, basically, so if Mara wants to train him to protect him, well, that might work :p

    Poor clueless little Mara :p

    Awww [face_love] [:D]
     
  17. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Chapter Three


    Bail Organa frowned at the datapad, then transferred the frown to the woman who had delivered it. “This is confirmed?”

    “Yes, Viceroy.” Alderaan’s intelligence chief gave a brisk nod. “Verified by one of our own spies. There have been whispers of a massive military project under the direct supervision of the Emperor for some time, but this is the first detailed assessment we’ve been able to confirm.”

    Beside him, Breha rested a hand on his. “This is an escalation of unprecedented proportions. Do we know the parameters of its power?”

    “No, Your Majesty,” the chief answered. “Only the information you see here.”

    Breha looked at Bail, her dark eyes filled with dread. “It’s overkill,” she said. “He has a whole fleet of Star Destroyers and Super Star Destroyers; they’re more than capable of planetary blockades and bombardments, never mind ship-to-ship combat. The size of this station—it can only mean something beyond any of that.”

    “What good can it be against the Alliance?” Bail asked, thinking hard. “Palpatine knows how they’re structured. Even if this monster has hyperdrive, how could it possibly be effective against scattered and isolated cells? As you said, the Fleet is vastly better equipped to deal with such a mobile threat.”

    “It could easily be a secondary threat,” Breha suggested. “The Fleet can continue to be set against the Alliance itself, while this is turned on planets suspected of harboring them. With that in orbit, what planetary government wouldn’t give wholehearted support to rooting out any Alliance cells? That alone could turn the tide.”

    “I must point out,” the other woman said with obvious reluctance, “that we still lack any evidence of its armaments or capabilities, let alone the Emperor’s true intentions.”

    “Yes,” Bail agreed slowly. “But the man who overthrew the Republic and ended the Jedi Order wouldn’t put resources such as this into something purely ornamental. We have to assume the worst.”

    “Thank you, Anaya,” Breha said. “Please contact us immediately whenever further information on this development is available.”

    “Of course, Your Majesty.” The intelligence chief bowed, then left the room.

    Alone, Bail and Breha looked at each other for a long moment. “You spoke to Mon Mothma last,” Breha said. “Had they any knowledge of this?”

    Bail shook his head. “Nothing of this detail. They also knew of the diversion of military resources, and suspected a massive project in the works, but that was all. We’ll need to inform them.”

    “Agreed,” Breha said, sighing and sitting back in her chair. “And as soon as possible. But with the equinox festivities coming up, it would be too obvious if either of us left. Another month…”

    “Do we dare leave it that long?” Bail rubbed a hand over his forehead wearily. “It’s clearly finished, or very nearly so. If we cut it too close, and Palpatine sends that out before they’re warned—”

    “We can’t risk this information across the HoloNet,” Breha said. “Nor with an unaccompanied droid. If Palpatine ever had evidence that we knew this, and had tried to pass it on to the Alliance…”

    “No, it has to be by courier,” Bail agreed. “And one we trust completely. Fortunately, her absence from the build up to the equinox festivities can be excused by the call of other diplomatic duties, particularly if she’s back before the actual day.”

    Breha covered her face with her hands and took a deep breath, then lowered her hands to her lap again, though her eyes were pained. “I hate risking her like this, Bail.”

    He put an arm around her. “I know. But she’s supremely capable, you know that. You’ve taught her well.”

    “I trust her implicitly,” Breha said. “It’s the rest of the galaxy I don’t trust, especially now. But I don’t think there’s any other way. And if Winter goes with her, we won’t even have to risk her carrying this information physically.”

    “An excellent point.” Bail looked again at the datapad before them and sighed, then rose, taking Breha’s hand as she also stood. “They’re due back soon. We’d better have everything ready for them before they arrive.”






    Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan sat in her assigned place in the Imperial Senate on Coruscant and thought about hairpins.

    More specifically, she thought about how nice it would be to take out all the hairpins currently holding her elaborately braided updo in place, and possibly to throw them out the window of her apartment. Even nicer if the senator currently droning away about the virtue of the Emperor and the necessity of supporting his military ambitions just happened to be walking by below as she did…

    “Your Highness,” Winter murmured beside her.

    Leia sighed and straightened up from her unconscious slouch. “I’m listening,” she muttered. “Not that anyone is saying anything worth listening to.”

    “Nevertheless,” Winter murmured back.

    Leia pressed her lips together in exasperation, then picked up her datapad and made a show of scrolling through her earlier notes from today’s session, knowing even as she did so that it wouldn’t fool Winter. Her adoptive sister and senatorial aide was far too insightful for that, and knew Leia far too well. Not for the first time, Leia wished she possessed a fraction of Winter’s cool, patient composure. It would have made it much easier to listen to the Emperor’s fawning sycophants posing as senators.

    Not that the Imperial Senate had any real powers these days, anyway. With tactics both stealthy and straightforward, Palpatine had long since effectively rendered it toothless. She knew that her parents still held out hope that the Senate could one day regain the democratic powers it had held during the Old Republic, but Leia found it hard to share that optimism. Despite her pacifistic upbringing, Leia was increasingly convinced that the military actions of the Rebel Alliance would be the only thing that could potentially end Palpatine’s empire and restore democracy to the galaxy. She didn’t necessarily like that conclusion, but it was hard to see what else could accomplish such a goal. Of course, the Alliance was hopelessly outnumbered by the Empire, to the extent that even with the best of guerrilla tactics, there could only be a long, slow war of attrition between the two, with the Empire always holding the upper hand. Some larger change was needed, either to weaken the Empire or strengthen the Alliance.

    Leia was still trying to think of what could effect such a change when Winter nudged her. Jerking upright from the slouch she’d sunk back into unawares, she realized the day’s session had finally ended. With supreme dignity, Leia gathered her things and stood. Winter rose beside her with her usual grace, and together they left the Senate chambers, for once managing to avoid the annoying Senator from Commenor who always wanted to exchange completely meaningless conversation.

    “Do we need to go back to the apartments to get our things?” Leia asked, frowning at the giant statue of Emperor Palpatine that stood just outside the Senate chambers.

    Winter tapped the datapad she held. “No, your Highness. Everything’s been transferred to the ship, which is ready to depart once we arrive.”

    “Good,” Leia replied, as they turned toward the docking bay where the Tantive IV waited. "I’m more than ready to get off Coruscant for a while.”

    “It will be nice to be home again,” Winter agreed.

    “A whole month at home,” Leia said with a contented sigh. “A whole month of not having to think about political machinations or Imperial excesses. Just what we need.”






    Luke lay on the grass beneath an azuverd tree in another of Imperial City’s small, out of the way parks, looking up at the pale bluish-green leaves above them, their edges shining golden in the late morning sunshine.

    “Now,” Mara said softly, “see that broken bit at the end of that branch there? Concentrate, and see if you can snap it entirely.”

    He focused on the branch end that hung crookedly, a casualty of the other night’s violent thunderstorm. Taking a deep breath, he momentarily thought about dogfights, about the split concentration needed to assess the entire field of battle while focusing closely on the enemy fighter on your own tail, and tried to slip into that mindset. Maintaining his greater connection to the Force, he looked at the crack running through the branch, and channeled his awareness into it, feeling its depth and the thin strips of wood still holding the broken end. Carefully, he pressed outward against the broken sides, increasing the pressure as the crack widened, until the wood gave with a muted snap. The branch tip fell, and, careful to avoid catching anyone else’s notice, he waited until it was nearly to the ground before he cushioned its landing with the Force, floating it the last few centimeters to land softly on the grass below.

    Good. Mara’s sense was warm with approval, and he glanced sideways to where she lay beside him, her head resting on his shoulder, his arm wrapped around her. She felt the shift in his attention, of course, and turned her head to smile at him. “You’re a quick study.”

    I have a good teacher, he thought at her, then raised his eyebrows questioningly.

    “Oh, that was very good,” Mara said. “Much clearer than last time.”

    “Did you get the actual words?”

    “No, but the sentiment was very clear. You really are a quick study.”

    “I really do have a good teacher,” he countered.

    Mara harrumphed under her breath. “Maybe. I’ve never really taught anything before, let alone this. I don’t actually know if I’m doing it right.”

    “Between us, it’s working,” Luke said with a shrug. “Does it matter exactly how something is taught if we get results?”

    “I have no idea,” Mara said. “I hope not. I’d hate to have put all this work in only to have to redo it later.” Luke concentrated for a moment, and the end of Mara’s long braid lifted just slightly off the ground. “Stop showing off,” she said, holding it down without batting an eye.

    “Hey, you said I should practice.”

    “Practice this,” she said, and though as usual he didn’t catch the exact words, the sentiment was indeed very clear, and he laughed.

    “I am not.”

    “You absolutely are,” Mara replied, but she squeezed his hand at her waist.

    “With a mouth like that, you should be in the Fleet.”

    “You’re all amateurs.” She resettled herself, snuggling slightly closer to him, and he tightened his arm around her. “You’re not actually practicing anything when anyone else is around, are you?”

    “Just in the mess hall,” Luke replied, closing his eyes and settling into the warmth of Mara’s nearness and the sunshine filtering through the leaves. “I figured juggling the meal trays with the Force would be a good exercise.”

    Her sense radiated amusement, and he marveled at the feel of it, the ability to sense her emotions and general thoughts the way he now could.

    “I don’t know why I bother with you,” she said. He projected another thought at her, and she elbowed him. “You wish.”

    Luke smiled without bothering to open his eyes, and a comfortable silence fell.

    As everything he did with Mara was comfortable, really. Almost from the moment they’d met, he’d felt perfectly at ease with her. They clicked in a way he hadn’t experienced since losing his family and leaving Tatooine. Whether they shared a meal, or had lessons about the Force, or were silent, like now, there was always an easy understanding between them. Even the few almost-fights they’d had were defused quickly, with no lingering ill will—in fact, within the hour, they were usually laughing at the things they had nearly fought about.

    The exception, of course, being their argument about the Emperor.

    Mara’s admission of her true position had explained a lot of small things for Luke, like how she could be so utterly poised and confident, yet had been so baffled at the thought that someone might care enough to worry about her. Had anyone ever treated her like a person before, or just as a useful tool for the Emperor?

    He was still profoundly angry over what had been stolen from her, but he knew better than to let that show again. Her confused dismay had been upsetting enough the first time. Clearly it had never occurred to her to think anything about her odd life was amiss, or to think a breath of criticism toward the Emperor. Naturally; he’d spent nearly her entire life brainwashing her to believe that her kidnapping was an honor, her childhood lost to intensive training a matter of prestige. She’d lost everything normal in life, yet thought the loss a privilege.

    Yet just as clearly, she wasn’t ready to consider any other possibilities, and Luke wasn’t about to disrupt their growing bond by dragging her into an emotional confrontation that she, through no real fault of her own, couldn’t even comprehend yet. Hopefully there would come a time when she would be ready to hear how much more she deserved from life, but in the meantime, he was pretty sure the best he could do was just continue as they were.

    And that part wasn’t hard at all. She was beautiful, sharply intelligent, honorable, and had a wicked sense of humor. They always enjoyed their time together, and he always looked forward to the next time he could see her.

    But Luke couldn’t stop thinking about the greater implications of what had happened to her, either. He’d had his doubts about the Empire over his years with the Fleet, sure—some of them serious. The way the Empire turned a blind eye to slavery throughout much of the galaxy had always been upsetting. Growing up on Tatooine, Luke had seen slavery firsthand. He’d always known that his own grandmother had been a slave once, and that it had been little more than chance that she’d met his grandfather and been freed. It could so easily have been him as well. Then there was the Empire’s inherent bias against nonhumans, another issue that never stopped bothering him. Uneasy as these things made him, Luke had mostly assumed that all governments had flaws, even large flaws like these, and that probably the people in those governments were essentially working toward something fairer, and that the wheels of change just moved slowly.

    Yet according to Mara, the person in charge of it all, the Emperor himself, had deliberately and cold-bloodedly stolen a small child from her parents, deprived her of any love or affection or stability, and trained her to literally murder anyone whom he chose. Was a government headed by such a person really working for the benefit of its citizens, in any way? Could it?

    He didn’t think so. And he had no idea what to do about it.

    “Are you okay?”

    “Hmm?” He opened his eyes to see Mara frowning at him.

    “You’re upset,” she said. “What’s bothering you?”

    “Nothing important,” he answered, pulling his thoughts back to the moment.

    “Luke,” Mara said, rising enough to lean on an elbow and look down at him. “You don’t think I’m falling for that, do you?”

    He reached up to tuck a loose strand of hair back behind her ear. “Just not happy about having to be away from you for so long.”

    “Well, you were bound to get a tour of duty sooner or later,” Mara said with a sigh. “And at least it’s a short one.”



    “True,” Luke agreed. All squadrons assigned to Coruscant as part of the planet’s standing defense got rotated out on tours of duty with capital ships occasionally, both to keep them from getting complacent and as a way of assessing performance, and his was next up. “I’d still rather stay with you. You wouldn’t want to run away with me so we could finally get some real time together, would you?”

    Mara smiled wryly. “Don’t tempt me. What ship did you say you were assigned to?”

    “I didn’t. They haven’t told us yet.”

    “That’s odd,” Mara said, frowning.

    “Yeah,” Luke agreed. “But what can you do when Command doesn’t feel like talking?”

    “I wonder…” Her brow creased with thought. Luke raised his eyebrows at her, and she shook her head, her hair gleaming like gilded copper in the filtered sunlight. “There’s a big military project that’s been extremely hush-hush; I’m not sure exactly what it is, just that immense resources have been quietly shifted its way. I wonder if you’re about to be part of the next resource influx.”

    “Huh,” he said. “And you don’t have any idea what it is?”

    She hesitated. “Not my remit—but it’s something a whole lot bigger than even a dozen new Super Star Destroyers. I know what those cost, and the glimpses I’ve gotten are considerably above that amount, and I know I’m not seeing a fraction of what’s actually going on.”

    Luke felt a shiver go up his spine. “The Fleet is already pretty massive. What could they possibly need that demanded those resources?”

    Mara hesitated again. So she was uneasy about it, too. That didn’t bode well. “Maybe a new shipyard?”

    “There’s been no shortage of ships, and all current shipyards are operating at capacity.”

    Mara shrugged, but her eyes were troubled. “If I hear anything that’s not confidential, I’ll tell you. Let me know when you know what ship you’re on.”

    “All right,” Luke said, sitting up and hunching his shoulders forward to stretch slightly stiff muscles. Nothing he could do about this mystery project, anyway, whatever it was. And for all they knew, maybe it was something perfectly innocent.

    Maybe. But somehow he didn’t think so.

    He shook his head to disperse the foreboding. “We still have another hour today. Let’s go grab some lunch.”

    Mara smiled and agreed, coming readily to her feet as he did, and all other concerns faded into the background as she slipped her hand into his and they turned toward the commercial area to the east of the park, discussing which restaurant to choose.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2022
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Chapter Two: How I love the teasing about her 'dancing' [face_mischief] And his worry when she was incommunicado for so long. [face_love] Her revealing her true identity and the nature of the Force was indeed a chancy thing but he took it all well except for his indignation in her behalf which says a lot [face_dancing]

    Chapter Three -- I ADORE the tone between the two of them, so playful, warm, and sweetly comfy cozy as if they've been friends forever and ever. :) Things on the galactic scale are ramping up as well. [face_worried] =D=
     
  19. scienfictionfan

    scienfictionfan Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Jan 1, 2020
    Devil Edit: Please never edit over a mod edit again for any reason. Thank you!
     
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  20. vader_incarnate

    vader_incarnate Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Aaaah, everyone is going to COLLIDE on the DEATH STAR and I'm so EXCITED :vader: :luke: :leia:

    Insightful! And wonderful to see Bail and Breha together.

    That is a really clever plan and arguably what should have happened in canon? Winter is really an overpowered resource for Rebel intelligence since she can bring messages without leaving proof, isn't she?

    This is just a nice bit of world building and exposition that doesn't feel forced.

    Eee, the q-test.

    haha I wonder what she told him :p

    :* <3
     
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  21. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you! They do get along well :)

    @scienfictionfan That's certainly a question!

    @vader_incarnate
    :deathstar: [face_mischief]

    I am not a strategy expert, but the Death Star actually seems like a pretty poor weapon choice? That thing was massively expensive to build, to staff, to move, and not even Palpatine can just keep lasering entire planets, if for no other reason than that he's losing incredible amounts of resources every time he does. And I remember part of SQ where Mara criticizes a vessel's exterior design, and we get the following exchange:

    Luke: You forget the Death Star. It was shaped more or less like that.
    Mara: And its design stunk, too. It just happened to be big enough and mean enough to get away with it.

    So what was the Death Star ultimately for? I can only assume intimidation, like this. The nuclear option that most people think won't really be used, but it could be, and no one's willing to take that chance.

    I love Bail and Breha, Elli [face_love] Though you wouldn't guess it from this fic

    Winter's memory is super useful, to the point that you almost think Zahn was being too self-indulgent to his own plot in creating her. But hey, there actually are some people with eidetic memories, as opposed to people with, say, Force-sensitivity, so :p

    That's a relief [face_relieved]It's just that for being the crown princess of such a notably pacifistic society, Leia's a snarky spitfire who threw herself into that military action heart and soul, you know? Obviously a whole planet has many varied individuals (I thought it was a cool choice in The Mandalorian to showcase an Alderaanian drop soldier), but still, I wanted to explore that mindset at least a tiny bit. Plus overall scene setting :p

    I googled that and one of the results that came up included this phrase "The test is very simple" and frankly that is a lie, there wasn't a single simple thing anywhere on the page. But then, I was always very bad at chemistry. I'll take your word for it that this is an applicable and exciting thing :p

    It's a mystery for the ages :p

    I just want them to be happy, Elli, they're so good together and the EU cheated them out of so much
     
  22. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Chapter Four



    Mara entered the hall outside the throne room of the Imperial Palace a good fifteen minutes before the appointed time for her latest briefing with the Emperor. She could admit to herself that the last few missions she’d been sent on had been mildly irritating—not so much the missions themselves, as the fact that they took her away from Luke. But with Luke leaving for his own tour of duty in only a week, thus leaving her little to miss on Coruscant, she felt much more cheerful about this assignment, whatever it turned out to be.

    That cheerfulness lasted until she turned the final corner and found herself face to face with Darth Vader, already waiting outside the throne room.

    “Lord Vader,” Mara said, wary, as she stopped a respectful distance away.

    That masked face turned toward her. “Emperor’s Hand,” Vader replied, then turned dismissively forward again.

    Mara gritted her teeth, then consciously relaxed. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing any reaction from her, no matter how much she disliked him. A dislike, she knew, that he returned in full. She and Vader had never gotten along well. He thought her little more than a distraction, a plaything for the Emperor, and while he paid her the courtesies she was due, it was plainly lip service and nothing more. His casual contempt had always rankled—and though she would die rather than let on, Vader also inspired an undercurrent of fear in her. It was hard not to be unnerved by a black-armored and -masked giant whose strength in the Force was legendary, and who had a reputation for murdering underlings almost faster than they could be replaced. Mara had faith in her own abilities and in the Emperor’s regard for her, but she also knew that she would never be able to take Vader in a fair fight if it ever came to that, and she had occasionally wondered uneasily if Vader might someday decide it was worth braving the Emperor’s displeasure to rid himself of a potential rival he clearly thought well beneath him. At any rate, she much preferred to avoid him whenever possible.

    Mas Amedda, the Emperor’s Grand Vizier, opened the doors of the throne room. Passing over Mara with a glance, he turned toward Vader. “Lord Vader,” he said. “The Emperor awaits your presence.”

    Vader stalked forward, his cape sweeping behind him, and Amedda closed the doors again without so much as another look in Mara’s direction. She pressed her lips tightly together, deeply irritated. Amedda knew her true role as well as Vader did, and even Vader at least acknowledged her presence. The power plays and backstabbing of the Inner Court were a constant source of frustration to her. Weren’t they all serving the Emperor for the greater good? There was no need for this never-ending paranoia among those the Emperor trusted most. And while she might be younger than those of the old guard like Vader and Amedda, she had more than earned her position.

    Additionally, she thought darkly, she could put an end to Amedda as easily as Vader could. Vader might prefer Force-choking people, sadist that he was, but she knew at least a dozen quick ways to kill in any given situation. You’d think Amedda would be polite out of self-preservation, if nothing else.

    Mara waited the fifteen minutes until her appointment, then waited another fifteen minutes beyond that, with rising curiosity as well as impatience. What could be so important that the Emperor saw fit to give Vader such a lengthy briefing when he knew she was waiting? Not, of course, that the Emperor would do so without cause—which only piqued her curiosity more.

    Eventually the throne room doors swung open again, and Vader strode out, with—Tarkin by his side? They passed her as though she wasn’t there, and Mara frowned at their backs as they went back down the hallway. What was the cadaverous Grand Moff doing here? She knew that Tarkin was favored by the Emperor, and it was no surprise that he would be granted a personal audience or briefing, but with Vader? And for so long?

    Amedda appeared again. “Emperor’s Hand,” he said with a tilt of his head. “The Emperor awaits your presence.”

    Concentrate. To face the Emperor required undivided attention. There would be time to find out what Vader and Tarkin might be doing later. And she would do so, she promised herself. For the Emperor to set those two together could only mean something serious, and Mara would discover what it was.

    But for now, her own next mission awaited. Mara walked forward into the throne room to greet her master.






    Luke was playing sabacc when his comlink chirped. He reached for it almost absentmindedly, then looked more closely as he recognized the incoming code. He accepted the text-only message; as usual, it contained only a location and time. The time was half an hour from now, which could only mean that Mara was about to leave on another mission very soon and wanted to check in first. He tapped in an acknowledgment, and looked regretfully at his cards.

    “I fold,” he said, pushing his chair back with a sigh. “Gotta go, guys.”

    The others groaned. “Not again,” Hobbie said.

    “See your girlfriend on your own time, Luke,” Soren muttered.

    “This is my own time,” Luke retorted. “And considering I already put twenty in the pot, I don’t see why you’re complaining.”

    “Leave him alone,” Tycho said. “You’re just jealous you don’t have someone to go see instead of hanging around here with us.”

    Luke grinned at him. He’d never told any of them who he occasionally slipped off to see, but Tycho had fallen naturally into wingman position and covered for him without being asked or ever making a fuss about it. Of course, most of their squadron was single, while Tycho had a fiancée back on Alderaan; he understood what it was to have little time with someone you cared for.

    “Thanks, Tych,” Luke said. “See you later.”

    Traffic was light today, and he managed to reach the place Mara had specified a little before the assigned time. Mara was already seated lengthwise on a bench off to the side of the central clearing between rows of exclusive shops, her legs stretched across the full bench, preventing anyone from joining her, while she studied a datapad. Luke could sense her awareness in the Force, and the burst of recognition that meant she’d noticed his arrival. She looked up with a smile as he came alongside her.

    “Fancy meeting you here,” Luke said.

    “Fancy that,” Mara echoed, rolling her eyes. “Come on, there’s a quieter place a couple blocks down.” She swung her legs off the bench and stood, tucking the datapad back into her bag as she walked.

    They wove through the crowds until they came upon the almost hidden beginning of an alleyway. Mara ducked into it and Luke followed. They were almost half a block in before she stopped, stepping into the indentation of a double-sized doorway. “This business closed down last week,” she said. “No one will open this door, and hardly anyone comes down these back alleys anyway.” She rested her hands against his chest and reached up for a kiss as he slid his arms around her waist and pulled her close. “I missed you.”

    “You saw me five days ago,” Luke said with a grin.

    “That’s definitely too long apart.”

    “This from the woman who thought nothing of being away for almost a month without letting me know she was still alive.”

    “Shut up,” Mara said with her own grin, thumping his chest. “Did they tell you what ship you’re assigned to yet?”

    “No,” Luke said. “But apparently the whole operation we’re assigned to is under the command of Grand Moff Tarkin.”

    “Tarkin?” Mara’s surprise was like a lightning flash in his senses.

    Luke frowned. “Yes. Is that bad?”

    She pulled back, looking at him intently. “I don’t know. But I saw him come out of the Emperor’s throne room just a few hours ago, and he was with Vader.”

    “Huh.”

    “That’s all you have to say? ‘Huh?’”

    “You’re more likely to understand what that means than I am,” Luke pointed out, shrugging. “Though it’s definitely beginning to sound like we’re assigned to that secret project you mentioned.”

    Mara leaned back against her side of the doorway. “You must be. I usually keep a good eye on where Vader’s assigned, and I definitely don’t remember him working with Tarkin before. That’s got to mean something big.”

    “Why do you watch where Vader is?”

    “To avoid him whenever possible,” she said rather grimly.

    Luke felt a rueful smile twitch across his face. “Don’t like Vader, huh?”

    “Does anyone like Vader?” Mara’s expression was deeply thoughtful. “I don’t like this, Luke. If they’re working together and you’re under Tarkin’s command, you might run into Vader.”

    “On the other hand,” Luke replied, “if it’s a big enough operation that the Emperor wants both of them on it, I may never get anywhere near either of them.”

    “I hope not,” she said, frowning. “Keep your shields up anyway, and avoid him if you can. I was going to try to figure out what they were assigned to, but with you leaving next week, I don’t think I’ll have time. Vader and Tarkin are probably already headed to wherever you’ll wind up. And I have to leave tonight, and won’t be back before you go.”

    Luke sighed before he could stop himself, and Mara looked at him sharply. “Don’t start, Luke. It’s not even that sort of mission. At least, not directly. It’s just some corrupt judge; I need to go check out the evidence against him.”

    “And if the evidence is what the Emperor thinks it is?” Luke asked. This was dangerous territory; she was always touchy about his disapproval of her missions. He should just let it go—but he thought again of Mara as a little girl, stolen and twisted into a killer, and the anger rose, unbidden.

    Mara looked at him sideways, surely catching his emotions. “You know what happens then.”

    “Yes,” he said. “I do.”

    Mara’s arms were wrapped around herself now, and he doubted she had any idea how vulnerable it made her look. The thought flashed through his mind that he should feel guilty for putting her on the defensive like this, but mostly he just wanted to shake her. She was better than this; she deserved better than this. What had to change for her to see that?

    She glared at him defiantly. “I know you don’t like what I do, but it’s still my job, Luke. I literally trained my whole life for this, you know that. And I have my orders.”

    “I didn’t say anything.” He heard the edge in his own voice, an edge that only made Mara glare harder.

    “You didn’t have to.”

    “I’m a soldier, too, Mara, or did you forget that? I get the whole ‘following orders’ obligation. That doesn’t mean that I have to like every mission either of us is given, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t worry when you go into the field.”

    “I’ve been going into the field as long as you have, if not longer,” she said testily. “I can take care of myself. Don’t patronize me.”

    “I know you can take care of yourself,” he snapped. “Worry doesn’t mean I doubt you. It means I care about you. You really need some more human interaction, so you can catch these nuances.”

    Her eyes flashed with anger. “And you need to lay off. Fighter pilots kill sometimes, too—or do you plan on just letting the next Rebel ship on your tail take you out so you can hang on to some imaginary moral high ground?”

    “There’s a difference between combat and assassination.”

    “Yes,” Mara said coldly. “There’s a lot less collateral damage with assassination.”

    Luke glared at her. “Efficient and cold-blooded, that’s you, all right.”

    “You don’t like it? You don’t have to contact me again when you get back. I never asked you to start judging—”

    “That’s rich, coming from you. All you do is judge others, but no one can judge you—is that how it works?”

    For a long moment they just glared at each other, then Mara turned away sharply without another word. Luke caught her hand before she took more than a step, and held it fast. “Mara, don’t. I’m sorry.” She didn’t look at him, but she didn’t pull away, either, and he tugged her hand lightly. “Come on, knock it off. You know there’s always a chance one of us really might not come back. We don’t leave it like this.”

    She stood very still, eyes averted, but she was blinking rapidly now. Luke sighed and pulled her, unresisting, into his arms and held her closely. Slowly, she leaned against him and put her arms around his waist. He rested his cheek on the top of her head, feeling her slightly hitched breaths. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things.”

    “I’m sorry, too,” she whispered, her voice muffled against his shoulder. “Please don’t let a Rebel ship take you out.”

    “I’m not going to,” he murmured into her hair. “Be careful, okay? Because I love you, and I can’t help worrying about you going into danger, no matter how capable you are.”

    “Do you really think I’m cold-blooded?”

    Mara sounded suspiciously like she was sniffing back actual tears, and Luke stroked her hair and closed his eyes against the guilt that washed over him. “No,” he said, holding her tighter. “Of course I don’t. I was angry, I didn’t mean it. I shouldn’t have said it.”

    Another sniff, then she stood a little straighter in his arms, pulling back enough to swipe quickly at her eyes. “You’re the first person I ever really didn’t want to think something like that about me.”

    Luke cradled her face in his hands and kissed her forehead, then leaned his own forehead against hers. “I absolutely do not think you’re cold-blooded. That’s why these missions upset me, because you’re not that sort of person.”

    Mara sighed. “Maybe. Maybe not. I still have to do what I’m ordered to do.”

    “I know,” Luke said. “Just be careful.”

    She slid her arms around his neck and kissed him. “You too. I love you.”

    “I love you, too. I’ll contact you as soon as I get back.”

    Mara managed a tentative smile. “Promise?”

    He leaned in for another kiss. “Promise.”

    She held him for a moment, letting the kiss linger, then stepped back reluctantly. “We should go. I need to leave in a few hours, and I’m not totally ready. It was risky to fit this in, but I didn’t want to leave without telling you.”

    “I’m glad you managed it,” Luke told her, taking her hand and heading back the way they came.

    “You didn’t have to slip away from actual duties, did you?” Mara asked.

    “No,” Luke said. “I’m not on duty today. I only walked away from a sabacc game.” He glanced over at her as they walked, raising his eyebrows. “Though I was winning, and I folded for your sake.”

    Mara smiled—a real smile, this time. “True devotion on your part. I’m flattered.”

    They reached the beginning of the alleyway, and paused just before it. Mara squeezed his hand, then said, “You take starboard, I’ll take port.”

    “Copy that,” Luke replied. Be careful.

    Her rueful half-smile told him she’d received the thought clearly. I love you.

    He sent the warmth of that thought back to her, the mental equivalent of a blown kiss, and her eyes shone softly at him.

    Then she was out of the alleyway, walking briskly away, head held high. Luke watched her for a moment, then went the other direction, for once unsure whether he should be more concerned about her mission or his own.
     
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb on spot characterization of the dynamic between Vader and Mara. =D=

    Intense and sharp words between Luke and Mara, fueled by two facts: mutual concern for the other's safety and just what he said, she's not a cold blooded fiend and she does have a vulnerable side.

    I am so glad they were able to leave on peaceful terms. Nothing would be worse than parting with angry words between them with an unknown outcome for each of their missions.

    =D=
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2022
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  24. scienfictionfan

    scienfictionfan Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Jan 1, 2020
    It's ironic but Vader correctly sees Palpatine's view of Mara and indeed all his underlings while Mara is the one who does not see the reality of Palpatine. That said I have always been confused about why Vader cared at all about Mara considering every book in the EU and indeed the movies themselves shows that while many Imperials dream of replacing Vader, Vader almost never cares recognizing that they are deluding themselves in believing they can replace him mostly only taking action when they get too annoying. The one exception was Luke both because his training and power in the force meant he could be a replacement apprentice and of course because of the fact that Luke was Anakin's son.
     
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  25. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you! Luke and Mara don't fight often, but when they do, it can be fierce.

    @scienfictionfan In the EU, Mara does not dream of replacing Vader. In Allegiance, she very clearly thinks that Vader has his assignments and she has hers and the Emperor knows best and it's foolish to question any of that. And the one time she genuinely pisses Vader off, Mara knows instantly that unless she can defuse the situation, she won't be leaving the room alive. She has no desire to take his place, and doesn't think she could. In his turn, Vader doesn't see her as a threat, except for the potential of her interfering with or informing the Emperor of his search for Luke. Outside of that arena, Vader tends to be either indifferent to or tolerant of Mara. She's of no specific concern to him, but he respects her judgment and abilities as long as she keeps to her lane. The only non-Luke-adjacent time that Vader shows irritation with Mara is when she oversteps on his turf and orders officers on the Executor around and demands an audience with him, which - yeah, obviously. But it's also pretty clear that for the most part, they prefer to stay out of each other's way.