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Beyond - Legends Worth Fighting For (Mara, Luke LOTF-AU) - Complete

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Tarsier, May 4, 2010.

  1. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Title: Worth Fighting For

    Author: Tarsier

    Timeframe: LOTF-like AU - Canon is intact until Luke proposes to Mara in VotF. Mara says no and Luke and Mara go their separate ways. Shortly thereafter Luke reconnects with Callista and they get married. They have a son, Benji. Things develop more or less in line with canon. As the story begins, the galaxy is torn apart by war, Callista has just died, and Mara is running Karrde's company.

    Characters: Mara, Luke, Dankin, Benji (OC), Odonnl, Callista (ghost), Mirax, Corran, Faughn, Aves, Ghent, H'sishi, Pormfil

    Genre: Drama/Action novella

    Summary: Mara reluctantly agrees to find Luke, who has disappeared after the death of his wife, Callista. Luke and his son Benji temporarily join Mara's crew as Luke tries to figure out what's gone wrong in the galaxy and in his life, and what's really worth fighting for.

    Notes: This is something of a companion story to Chasing Whisperkits. They do not need to be read together, but I think of them as occurring in parallel universes. Any comments, positive or negative, are much appreciated.

    Disclaimer: Everything of course belongs to Lucasfilm, etc, etc. The only original character is Benji, who is slightly based on Ben Skywalker. The other characters all appear in the canon (Zahn mostly), although for some of them I take great liberties in fleshing them out and filling in the gaps in their histories.

    Word Count: 31,850

    Other stories in this timeline: Drabbles (starting with Week 14, #67); R.S.V.P.; I'll Save a Seat for You

    ***This story was a winner for Best AU in the 2014 Fanfic Awards***


    Dramatis personae:

    Crew of Incident Alley:
    Mara Jade (chief/captain; human female)
    Dankin (pilot; human male)
    Odonnl (copilot; human male)
    H'sishi (navigator; Togorian female)
    Pormfil (engineer; Kerestian male)

    Leia Organa Solo (Senator; human female)
    Han Solo (General; human male)
    Callista Skywalker (deceased; human female)
    Luke Skywalker (Jedi Grand Master; human male)
    Benji Skywalker (Jedi child; human male)
    Corran Horn (Jedi Master, interim leader of Jedi High Council; human male)
    "Zakarisz" Ghent (Republic Intelligence Chief of Cryptography; human male)

    Platt Okeefe (leader of the Black Curs; human female)
    Mirax Terrik (chief of father's company; human female)
    Shirlee Faughn (captain of Starry Ice; human female)
    Aves (Mara's second-in-command/captain of Lastri's Ort; human male)
    Talon Karrde (former chief; human male)


    Several days after Callista’s death, with Luke seeming to have disappeared from the galaxy, Leia dreamed she could hear her sister-in-law’s voice.

    Mara Jade.


    She can find him.


    If no one else can find him....

    Mara can.

    She’ll find him.

    I know.

    Chapter 1

    Mara Jade heard a knock on her door onboard the Incident Alley and looked up from her data pad. It was unusual for her crew to interrupt her when they knew she was going over the next week’s shipments, so she answered cautiously. “Who is it?”

    “It’s me,” Dankin, her pilot, replied. “You have some visitors.”

    Why in Hoth is he bringing visitors onboard the ship? Mara wondered. His voice seemed calm enough and she could sense no danger through the Force.

    “Oh, and something about whisperkits,” Dankin added.

    Mara rolled her eyes. Apparently, she was going to have to go over the proper use of all-clear words yet again. Mara stood up and walked towards the door, clicking the safety off her blaster as she went, just in case.

    Mara opened the door to reveal two easily-recognized but quite unexpected individuals standing beside Dankin. She hoped her surprise didn’t show as she greeted them. “Leia Organa Solo. Han Solo. What brings you here?”

    “There’s something we wanted to talk to you about. Is there somewhere we can sit down?” Leia asked.

    “Sure,” Mara replied slowly, studying Leia as she did so. She couldn’t get a read on what this was all about, but she could think of nothing good that could come of the sudden appearance of high-ranking Republic officials on her ship.

    “Don’t you have work to be doing?” Mara asked Dankin, who was still eagerly standing by. Mara tore her gaze from the newcomers to glance at him. “Now?” she added with a slight edge to her voice when Dankin opened his mouth to object.

    “Yes, Chief,” Dankin replied obediently and disappeared down the corridor.

    Mara closed the door to her room behind her and led the way to the strategy room. “Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked automatically as they sat down, remembering Karrde’s many lectures on hospitality.

    “I’ll take tea, if you have it,” Leia replied.

    “Nothing for me,” Han said, sitting down with his arms crossed.

    Mara slipped into the adjacent room to prepare the tea. As the water was heating she watched her guests through the one-way window. Han had a scowl so deep Mara wondered if his face was stuck that way and he seemed to be glaring at everything in the room all at once. Leia sat tall in her chair with her hands folded in her lap. Always the diplomat, Mara thought.

    Although they were fixtures on the Holonet, Mara had scarcely seen Han or Leia in person since . . . she flinched inwardly. Nirauan. The whole bizarre and embarrassing experience came rushing back to her. Thank the Force they didn’t bring Luke with them. Mara was happy to say she hadn’t seen much of him since she rejected his proposal.

    Mara paused for a moment as a new thought struck her. She’d tried very hard to stay out of the war, she’d trained herself to ignore any news of it except for purposes of planning shipments or selling information. But there was one bit of news she couldn’t completely ignore despite her best efforts. Callista Skywalker, Luke’s wife, had been killed.

    Was this related to Callista’s death? Mara wondered. Surely Han and Leia knew Mara didn’t deal in information about the war. Besides, they had NRI and Mirax Terrik for that. So what did they want with her? Well, there was one way to find out. Mara collected two cups of tea and returned to the other room.

    Mara settled into a chair across from the couple. Leia took a long, slow sip of tea before speaking. “We need a favor,” she began.

    Mara raised her eyebrows. And what made them think she had time to be doing them favors? She was already way behind schedule . . .

    “We’ve lost all contact with Luke. No one’s heard from him in days. Not since . . .” Leia broke off. She stared at her tea with a studiously neutral look on her face. But Mara could sense the anguish beneath the surface. Between the war, the loss of her sons, and now the death of one of her best friends, Mara supposed she shouldn’t be surprised Leia was very near the breaking point. What did surprise Mara was that the emotion seemed to be contagious. She was beginning to feel unnerved, despite being in the sanctuary of her ship. Whatever brought Han and Leia here today, Mara was certain she wanted no part of it. But she could hardly kick them off now. Sith it, Dankin. This is why you don’t let strangers wander onto the ship.

    Leia began again, her emotions pushed down once more. “We need you to find him.”

    Mara nearly choked on the tea she was sipping. “Excuse me? You want me to find Luke?”

    If Leia was taken aback by Mara’s reaction she didn’t show it. “You owe him this much,” she said simply.

    Mara’s eyes narrowed and her voice took on an icy tone. “I don’t owe Luke, or you”--Mara stared hard at Leia as she began, then turned her scowl to Han--“or anyone, anything. I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”

    Leia continued to stare mildly at Mara. “Maybe you don’t owe Luke anything. Maybe you just do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

    “I don’t have time for this.” Mara stood up and shoved her chair backwards. They’d just passed the limit of her hospitality.

    “Or do it for Benji. He lost everything,” Leia continued softly. As Mara came around the table and grabbed Leia’s arm to haul her to her feet, Leia looked meaningfully into her eyes. “You know what’s that like, don’t you?”

    To her great chagrin, Mara hesitated for just a moment.

    “He’d do it for you,” Han growled from beside Leia.

    Mara scowled as she bit back a retort. Yeah, I bet he would, she thought. He’d be only too eager to come rescue me from my self-pity. Her grip on Leia’s arm relaxed as she thought about how much she didn’t want to see Luke again. He’d teach me the ways of the Jedi and drag me right into the middle of this Maker-forsaken war that’s destroyed every life it’s touched, including his.

    Leia stood and put her hands on Mara’s shoulders as she continued. “I need to know my brother will be okay.” Leia's eyes were filled with despair and about to spill over with tears. “Please.” There was so much desperation dripping off the final word Mara could almost feel it filling up the room, about to drown them all.

    I don’t owe him anything, she thought bitterly.

    “Okay,” she heard herself say.

    Mara immediately wanted to take it back, to tell Leia she wasn’t a kriffin’ retriever kuppy with nothing better to do than track down her worthless brother, but the relief that suddenly filled the room was so palpable Mara choked on the words.

    “Thank you,” Leia said. “Thank you.” She moved toward Mara, and for a moment Mara was afraid she would try to hug her. Suddenly Leia turned to the side, her eyes squeezed shut, her neutral mask cracking. Han put his arm around his wife and pulled her close. He nodded gravely to Mara with a Don’t screw this up look on his face as he guided Leia out of the room and down the corridor. Vaguely, Mara hoped they made it off her ship before Leia lost it completely.

    For a long time after they left Mara stared at the empty doorway. Had that really just happened? Had she really just agreed to track down Luke Skywalker? What was she going to do? Even if she’d wanted to, she didn’t have a clue where Luke might be.

    “Hey, Mara.” Dankin startled her from her thoughts. “We’re loaded up and ready to go.”

    “Change of plans,” she said. “We’re going to make another stop first.”

    “Oh, okay,” Dankin replied agreeably. “Where?”

    Mara sighed deeply. Too late to turn back now. “I’m not sure yet. I need you to pull up the last known location of Luke Skywalker.”
    Ewok Poet likes this.
  2. dancing_star

    dancing_star Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 24, 2007
    This is a really interesting and well-written start! =D= Very nicely done and looking forward to see where you take this! [face_dancing][:D]
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Though I cringe at the idea of Luke marrying Callista LOL -- this is interesting seeing Mara on a longstanding career path with her own crew :cool: and her and Luke having a second/first chance -- Squee!

    Like the title also. :)

    If you're keeping a PM list, could I be on it?


    On a side note, it's weird seeing Mirax's name without a Horn after the Terrik. [face_thinking] o_O

  4. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    May 15, 2005
    What amazes me here is that Leia listened to the voice from beyond. Love, love, love that Mara's going to go find him, even if she's kinda going against her will!

    If you're keeping a list, I'd love PM's, too. :)
  5. Jaded_Girl

    Jaded_Girl Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 9, 2001
    *raises hand* PM me too? [face_batting] This looks very promising! ^_^
  6. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Wow! So many people reading already, this is really exciting! :D :cool: I'm happy to send PMs to anyone who wants them. So far it's Jade_eyes, DaenaBenjen42, and Jaded_Girl. Let me know if you want on or off the list at any time. I'm hoping to update this every Tues, but we'll see how it goes.

    This is a really interesting and well-written start! I'm so glad you like it. This is the first thing I've posted that hasn't been beta read, so I'm really glad it sounds okay. Thanks for reading!

    this is interesting seeing Mara on a longstanding career path with her own crew I always thought the saddest part of her marrying Luke was that she retired from Karrde's company. I definitely prefer Mara with more sumuggler and less Jedi, so I'm really enjoying writing this.

    Like the title also. Thanks! I think it fits, or at least it will by the end.

    On a side note, it's weird seeing Mirax's name without a Horn after the Terrik. Just so you don't think that's an oversight, I did think about that quite a bit. When I first posted I wasn't 100% sure they would be married, so I didn't want to lock myself into anything, but now I'm pretty sure they will be. Anyway, I guess in this AU Mirax didn't take his last name. Or at least her professional contacts don't use it. Thank you for commenting!

    What amazes me here is that Leia listened to the voice from beyond. Well, she can hardly say no to a ghost!:p On a side note, in case anyone was wondering, the prologue was heavily influenced by the intro to Final Fantasy VIII.

    Love, love, love that Mara's going to go find him, even if she's kinda going against her will! I definitely prefer more of a love-hate relationship between them than a real mushy one. But Mara can't turn her back on him, whether she likes it or not. Thanks for the comments!

    You're on the list. Thanks for reading!

  7. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Chapter 2
    Luke Skywalker’s life was over. Callista, his beautiful wife, was dead.

    Luke had been wandering around some planet for several days. He wasn’t sure where he was or even how he’d gotten there. All he knew was he wouldn’t find Callista here, he wouldn’t find her anywhere.

    He’d been nursing a drink, he wasn’t sure what, for literally hours. The dingy bar had closed long ago. They had told him to leave several times but he pretended he didn’t hear and eventually they had just cleaned up around him. He’d buried his head in his arms on the table, but he could still hear a few workers rustling around in the back. He hoped they wouldn’t make him leave before they went home for the night.

    Luke Skywalker, a voice interrupted his thoughts. Luke slowly sat up and looked around. He didn’t see anyone so he put his head back down. Luke Skywalker, come here. Outside the bar. Now.

    Fearing the voice would continue to harass him until he complied, Luke slowly stood up and headed for the door. The floor lurched beneath him and he struggled to maintain his footing. After bumping into a few tables and chairs he made it to the door. The door was lighter than he expected and he stumbled into the cool night air.

    “Stang, Skywalker. Are you drunk?” the voice asked again, but this time it wasn’t just in his head. Luke turned to face the voice. He knew immediately that he recognized her, but couldn’t think of where he knew her from. And he couldn’t pause to try to recall her name because his sudden turn had sent the world spinning around him. He shifted his weight to keep his balance. The woman muttered a curse under her breath and grabbed him by the arm. “I’ve been looking all over this Force-forsaken planet for you and here I find you drunk in some lousy bar. I guess it’s a good thing I left my ship on the other side of the planet, the drive will give you some time to sober up.”

    “She’s dead,” Luke said.

    “Yeah, I know.” The woman pushed Luke into the passenger seat of a landspeeder. It occurred to him that maybe he should resist, but for some reason he felt safe with her. Or maybe it was just that he no longer cared what happened to him. “And you know how I know for sure you’re drunk?” she continued as she buckled him in. “You didn’t give me a lecture about how it should have taken me two seconds to find you, if I only knew the ways of the Force as well as you.” Her red-gold hair brushed his face as she worked and it reminded him of Callista’s soft hair falling across his cheek as she lay beside him.

    “She’s dead. She’s dead,” was all Luke could manage to say.

    The woman climbed into the driver’s seat and studied Luke for a moment. “It’s been a while, but I think I remember how to do this.” She put her hands to Luke’s forehead.

    “Please think of something else to say before we get to your son,” she added as the world melted away.

    * * *

    “Wake up, Luke.” The familiar voice again.

    “Wow, a totally toasted Jedi Master. I’m sorry I missed it.” A new voice, a male human with an accent Luke couldn’t quite place.

    “Uh, he’s not waking up. Are you sure you did it right? You didn’t kill him, did you?” Another male voice, this one with a Corellian accent.

    “If only Jedi Masters were so easy to kill—“ she began.

    “—you’d have killed him back when we had him on Mrykr?” her first companion finished.

    “Ah, Myrkr. Those were the days weren’t they?” the Corellian added.

    “Why don’t you get the engines started? I’m ready to get off this rock.” There was more than a little annoyance in the voice, which Luke had finally placed. Mara Jade. The Force-sensitive smuggler who had once wanted nothing more in the galaxy than to kill him. And who would never admit she had almost said yes to him on Nirauan.

    “Sure, Chief.” The two men left.

    Once her companions were out of earshot, Mara spoke again. “You always were a good faker.”

    Luke slowly opened his eyes. Mara was kneeling beside him, waiting for a response. But there was nothing for him to say. Nothing he could say would bring Callista back.

    “Perhaps you could ask if I know where your son is,” Mara suggested.

    Benji! Luke had been so consumed with his own pain over Callista’s death, he hadn’t even thought about what his son must be going through. “Where is he? Is he okay?”

    “He’s okay. Seems to be coping a lot better than you, actually. Not that you set the bar real high. He’s waiting on my ship—“

    “—Dad!” Benji interrupted as he sprinted across the landing field and slid to his knees beside Luke. Close on his heels was one of the men who had been with Mara when Luke woke up.

    “Sorry, Mara,” the man said to Mara as she stood up.

    “Skip it,” she replied. “I’ll let you two catch up,” Mara added to Luke. “We roll out in ten minutes. Be onboard if you’re coming with us.”
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Super update. =D= Glad they got Luke all right. :D

    OK, he can stop obsessing about Callista now [face_laugh] [face_laugh] ;)

  9. dancing_star

    dancing_star Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 24, 2007
    Luke Skywalker, a voice interrupted his thoughts. Luke slowly sat up and looked around. He didn?t see anyone so he put his head back down. Luke Skywalker, come here. Outside the bar. Now.

    [face_laugh] Mara knows just how to get him to obey. :p
    The poor thing though. :( And Benji. :_|
    Great chapter- very well-written! =D= Looking forward to more! :D [:D]
  10. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    May 15, 2005
    Luke, Luke... [:D] Didn't think for a second that he'd stay off the radar for long. Especially not with Mara on the case.

    Good post. :)
  11. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    OK, he can stop obsessing about Callista now I'm afraid he's going to be obsessing about Callista for a bit longer. But don't worry, Mara will do her best to snap him out of it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Thank you for reading and commenting!

    Chapter 3

    Benji had shown Luke to their room a few hours ago and now was asleep in his bed. Luke was sitting in a chair in the corner trying to make sense of his world. His immediate bearings were easy. He was on a starship that seemed to be under the command of Mara Jade, who he assumed was still an information broker/smuggler.

    He couldn’t remember where he was immediately before this or what he was supposed to be doing there. Whatever it was, it must not have been very important. Of course, nothing seemed important anymore. Not since . . .

    Maybe he should start there. Where was he and what was he doing when it happened? He was fighting, he thought he remembered that. He fell to his knees in the middle of battle. He’d almost been killed, but obviously he’d survived. He thought maybe he killed his opponent. But he couldn’t remember who it was or even if he should have done that.

    And how long ago was that? A week? A month? He wasn’t sure.

    Now for the really hard questions. Where was Callista? Why wasn’t he with her? Where was Benji? Why weren’t they together? There was a simple answer of course. Because of the war. He thought hard, but he really couldn’t think of what the war was about. Who was fighting whom? Which side was he on?

    He felt like he’d been fighting his entire life. One battle after another. So much so that it had all run together in his mind, into one long battle against a single opponent with a million different faces.

    Luke shook his head in frustration. He was trying to clear his mind again when he heard a soft tap on the door.

    “Yes?” Luke responded, keeping his voice low so he wouldn’t wake Benji.

    “Are you hungry?” Luke recognized the voice as belonging to the man from the landing field with the unidentified accent. “We’re just about to serve dinner for the crew. You’re welcome to join us.”

    Luke’s stomach growled at the mention of food; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. Nevertheless, he was about to decline so he could stay with Benji and continue sorting through his thoughts, when Benji leapt to his feet.

    “Of course, Dankin. We’ll be right there,” Benji exclaimed. “Aren’t you hungry, Dad? The food’s not great, but I’m starving.”

    Luke had forgotten that Benji had been travelling on this ship for some time before Luke arrived. “I am hungry,” Luke replied. “Just let me splash some water on my face before we go.” Luke figured he must look terrible, he hadn’t changed his clothes in days and who knew when he’d bathed last. He winced slightly as he looked at himself in the mirror. Some Grand Master I am. I look like a rancor’s chew toy, he thought. He winced again when he realized he probably looked even worse when Mara had first picked him up.

    “Come on, Dad,” Benji whined as Luke patted his face dry. “I don’t want to miss anything.”

    Taking a final look and deciding his hair was a lost cause until he could get a proper shower, Luke stepped back into the bedroom. Benji was already a few steps down the corridor and Luke followed quickly.

    They arrived in the mess room just as a Togorian was setting plates on the long narrow table. Benji took a seat beside Dankin and Luke sat on Benji’s other side. On the far end was another male human and across the table was a male Kerestian and the female Togorian.

    “This is Dankin,” Benji said, gesturing to the man beside him. “And Odonnl,” Benji indicated the man on the end, “And Pormfil and H’sishi,” pointing to the Kerestian and the Togorian, respectively.

    “Nice to meet you. I’m Luke.”

    “We’ve actually already met,” Dankin replied. “A couple of times.”

    Luke didn’t remember Dankin at all and as he was racking his brain trying to recall their past meeting, Odonnl asked, “Does it technically count as meeting if one person is a prisoner?”

    “You were a prisoner?” Benji asked the smugglers. “And my Dad caught you? What did you do?”

    Dankin chuckled. “No, we weren’t the prisoners . . .”

    Then Luke remembered someone mentioning Myrkr out on the landing pad. He must have met them when we has being held captive by Karrde, a lifetime ago. Luke suddenly felt a little uneasy. He had since come to more or less trust Karrde and Mara, but they were still not exactly model citizens. And these people, who his son was so excited to dine with, could easily be hardened criminals.

    “My dad was a prisoner? Why?” Benji asked.

    “It’s a long story,” Odonnl replied around a mouthful of food. “Maybe you can get Mara to tell you sometime,” he added with a wink. Benji grinned. Luke noted that his son did seem to be coping surprisingly well.

    “So is it okay if we call you Luke? Or do we need to use your full title? Grand Master of All That is Good and Pure in the Galaxy or whatever?” Odonnl asked.

    “Luke is fine,” Luke replied, not certain if he should be offended by Odonnl’s clear disdain. He wasn’t the least bit surprised by the smuggler’s lack of respect for authority—he remembered how Han used to refer to Leia as Your Worshipfulness and other such names. But the truth was lately he himself hadn’t felt totally comfortable with his title. Wanting to move away from the subject, Luke looked to the man on the other side of Benji. He really didn’t remember him at all. “Is Dankin your first name or last name?” he asked, hoping maybe hearing his full name would jog his memory.

    “It’s my only name,” Dankin replied simply.

    “You don’t have a family name?”

    “Don’t need one. I was born a street rat. Never met my parents.”

    “Oh,” Luke paused, not certain how to proceed. “I’m sorry.”

    “Don’t be. I wouldn’t have known what to do with a family if I’d had one.” Luke would have expected some underlying anguish to accompany this assertion, but if it was there it was well hidden behind Dankin’s bright eyes and the good humor he seemed to exude.

    “Mara’s the only one on the ship with a last name,” Benji added helpfully.

    Luke considered that. “So you’re all . . . street rats?” Luke would have preferred to use a different term, but Dankin seemed comfortable enough with it and he couldn’t think of a better one.

    Pormfil nodded. “That’s right,” Odonnl replied. H’sishi just stared at Luke with hard feline eyes. Luke wondered whether he’d already managed to offend her or she just didn’t like strangers.

    Luke looked down at his plate to avoid having to come up with something else to say. The meal appeared to be cut up ration bars drizzled with a watery sauce. Luke took a bite. Not exactly gourmet, but the sauce added more flavor than Luke expected and it really wasn’t bad. Or course, he was so hungry, grokk eggs would probably have tasted good. The others starting discussing repairs the ship needed and Luke’s mind drifted to thoughts of Callista.

    Once the meal was finished Pormfil collected the plates from the table and Dankin disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later Dankin returned with a tray of mugs. “Dessert?” Luke asked as Dankin distributed the mugs.

    “Yup. We call it Pirate’s Brew—warm milk and rum.”

    “I think I’ll pass,” Luke said.

    “Gonna lay off the alcohol for a while?” Dankin asked with a glint in his eye. “You’re in luck. We happen to have our extra special Jedi Brew for just such an occasion.” Dankin handed a mug to him and one to Benji. The last mug he set at the end of the table, where no one had been sitting.

    “My favorite,” Benji declared and took a big sip.

    “What’s in it?” Luke asked uncertainly.

    “We replaced the rum with chocolate,” Dankin explained. He hadn’t sat down after distributing the mugs and he was making his way toward the doorway. “See you later,” he said as he exited the room.

    Luke was still hesitant and took a quick sniff of the liquid in his mug.

    “You can relax.” Luke turned as Mara entered the room. “No one’s trying to slip you anything. It’s just hot chocolate.” Mara sat down at the end of the table and took a long drink from the mug that was waiting there for her.

    Luke took a sip. It was indeed hot chocolate. “Where did Dankin go?” he asked.

    “We can’t leave the bridge unattended,” Odonnl explained.

    “Are you saying this is the entire crew? Just five of you for this whole ship?”

    “Afraid so. We’ve been running sub-skel for months now. No thanks to you and your Republic friends,” Odonnl replied.

    “Me? What did I do?”

    Mara sighed. “Luke no more runs Republic Intelligence than you control weapons maintenance on the Dawn Beat, Odonnl.”

    Odonnl smirked. “How could I forget? It only seems like the galaxy revolves around certain people.”

    Odonnl.” Mara hissed. There was an icy undercurrent to the word.

    “I think I’m gonna try to get some rest before we get to Daloon,” Odonnl muttered, as he stood up and stalked out of the room. Luke was used to all kinds of people hating him before they’d even met him, so Odonnl’s attitude was nothing new. But something about it still dug at Luke, though he wasn’t sure why.

    “You should all try to get some rest,” Mara said to her remaining crew. Pormfil and H’sishi nodded and left.

    “You have trouble with Republic Intelligence?” Luke asked Mara after the others were gone.

    “Only with them poaching my employees,” Mara replied shortly. “If you guys are okay, I think I’m going to head to my room for a bit. You might want to do the same.”

    “I want to go to the bridge with Dankin,” Benji replied. “He never sleeps.”

    “Everyone has to sleep sometime.” Mara pursed her lips. “But if you want to keep him company, that’s fine with me.”

    All this talk of rest and suddenly Luke was utterly exhausted. Benji was eagerly awaiting his permission to go to the bridge and Luke couldn’t think of any reason to say no—after all, Benji had been hanging out with Dankin for some time before Luke even got here. “Okay, you can go. Just stay out of trouble.”

    Benji grinned and gave his dad a big hug. “I’ll be good, I promise.” Then he scurried out of the room.

    “Benji seems quite fond of Dankin,” Luke commented.

    Mara looked bemused as she watched Benji disappear down the corridor. “Mostly I think he’s hoping Dankin will let him steer the ship again.” She turned a critical eye to Luke. “Get some rest. You look like hell.”

    Luke grimaced. “Thanks a lot.” He’d meant it to be a sarcastic retort, but his tone came out flat with exhaustion. He headed back to his room and was asleep the instant his head hit the pillow.
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed getting to know the crew better. LOL Mara's crew all sorta kinda pirates ;) or halfway scoundrels [face_laugh]
  13. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    May 15, 2005
    ?Gonna lay off the alcohol for a while?? Dankin asked with a glint in his eye. ?You?re in luck. We happen to have our extra special Jedi Brew for just such an occasion.? Dankin handed a mug to him and one to Benji. The last mug he set at the end of the table, where no one had been sitting.

    Love, love Dankin in this moment. Half testing, partly serious, and trying to tell Luke something without actually saying it.

    Good, good update. :)
  14. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Thank you, I?m glad you liked meeting the crew!
    Mara's crew all sorta kinda pirates or halfway scoundrels Yeah, they?re pretty hardcore. :p And I assure you they only get more intimidating from here. ;)

    Love, love Dankin in this moment. Half testing, partly serious, and trying to tell Luke something without actually saying it. Thank you so much! I kinda adore Dankin, I?m glad you like him too!

    Last chapter turned out to be a rather long and not very exciting, thanks to everyone who stuck with the story. Things should get a bit more exciting . . . well, next chapter anyway. :)

    Chapter 4

    Mara was standing on the roof of a storage shed, supervising the unloading of cargo on Daloon. She felt slightly guilty that she was not assisting with the moving of crates, an activity that was no more in the job description of her bridge crew than in her own. However, she needed a vantage point where she could see trouble coming—though she insisted everyone on her crew carry at least a stungun when outside the ship, once the shooting started she knew only Odonnl had even the slightest chance of hitting the broadside of a starcruiser.

    Mara watched as Dankin and Odonnl carried what appeared to be an exceptionally heavy crate. As H’sishi took the crate from them, she faltered off balance and nearly smacked herself in the face with it—the crate was far lighter than she expected. Mara felt a faint smile tugging at her lips. Every time they played the same prank on the Togorian, and every time she fell for it. H’sishi fixed Dankin with a withering glare and he skittered away. She may not be handy with a blaster, but she certainly knew how to use the three-inch claws embedded in her hands.

    Mara heard soft footsteps behind her and whirled around, blaster drawn. The intruder skillfully grabbed the barrel of her blaster and twisted it away. “Careful with that,” the woman said. “You could take out someone’s eye.”

    Mara reholstered her blaster. “You can lose a lot more than an eye sneaking up on people like that, Okeefe.” Mara looked the other woman over. With her platinum blonde hair and the red and white bandana she always wore, Platt Okeefe, leader of the mercenary group known as the Black Curs, was hard to mistake.

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” Platt replied. The merc seemed nervous, she kept looking around like she expected trouble to appear at any moment.

    “Can I help you with something?” Mara asked.

    Platt nodded distractedly. “I have something for you.” She hesitated for a moment, then pulled something out of her pants pocket. She handed it to Mara, and Mara took it cautiously.

    “What is—” she stopped midsentence. Mara knew exactly what it was. A lightsaber. Not just any lightsaber—Mara faintly recalled seeing the sea creatures engraved around the handle before. It was Callista’s lightsaber.

    Platt answered Mara’s question before she could ask it, talking fast. “Before she got married, Callista did some work for the Curs. We got along great, even kept in touch every now and again after she married. Then, shortly before she died, Callista came to us very agitated. She left the lightsaber with N’gruta—an associate of mine—along with instructions to deliver it to you if she didn’t return. She said you’d know what to do with it.”

    Mara stared at the lightsaber. She most certainly did not know what to do with it. Nor did she want anything to do with it. “Where was she going?” Mara asked, her investigative reflexes taking over.

    “She said she was going to talk to Jacen Solo.”

    Mara looked at Platt. Why the cloak and dagger routine before a visit to her nephew? “What did she want to talk about?”

    “I don’t know, exactly. She said she was just going to talk, but . . . ” Platt trailed off. She looked suspiciously around the landing area before she continued, her voice barely above a whisper. “She thought he might be a Sith Lord.”

    “Sith Lord?” Mara repeated. Her head was starting to spin. What was going on? And why was she suddenly in the middle of it? “What does that even mean?”

    “I don’t know!” Platt hissed. “She said his eyes were yellow. He was using some sort of trick, she was the only one who could see it, being Force-blind and all. I guess she didn’t want to tell her family until she knew for sure. She didn’t come back, so I guess now we know.”

    Mara stared incredulously at Platt. “Are you saying Jacen Solo killed Callista Skywalker?”

    “I told you all I know,” Platt replied and quickly turned to leave.

    “Wait,” Mara said. But Platt ignored her as she scrambled off the roof and disappeared into the knot of buildings below.

    * * *

    Something isn’t right, Mara thought as she stared at the lightsaber she’d carefully set on the console before her. She was once again alone on the bridge of the Incident Alley, which was now headed for Corellia. Her mind had been racing since her conversation with Platt a few hours ago. Despite the overall insanity of all Platt had said and implied, what Mara really couldn’t get passed was the feeling that a mistake had been made. But what exactly that mistake was she couldn’t put her finger on.

    Could it be true? Could Jacen be a Sith Lord? She thought she’d heard that he wasn’t getting along with the other Jedi, but a Sith Lord? And Luke had no idea. Or did he?

    Mara shook her head in an attempt to clear it. She didn’t have a clue about Sith Lords and other Jedi business, and frankly she didn’t even want to think about it. That wasn’t what was bothering her at the moment. It wasn’t the message itself that was off, it was something else . . . something about the delivery.

    She focused deeply, trying to replay the conversation in her mind exactly. She left the lightsaber with N’gruta—an associate of mine. Mara paused. She had assumed Platt talked to Callista directly. But maybe she hadn’t, maybe only her associate had—N’gruta. A Togorian name if Mara had ever heard one. And then it clicked.

    Mara’s mind flashed back to a conversation she walked into the middle of several years ago. H’sishi, the Togorian navigator, was asking Karrde how it was that Mara worked for both him and Booster Terrik. The confusion was resolved when they realized the names “Mara” and “Mirax” were similar enough that they sounded interchangeable to Togorian ears.

    The message was for Mirax Terrik, not Mara. Mirax, who had close ties to both the Jedi and the Republic. Mirax, who could gently communicate the information to whoever might best be able to deal with it. Not Mara, who wanted nothing to do with the war or anyone in it. Especially not Mara while she was travelling with Luke, who just might die on the spot if he learned his nephew may have killed his wife.

    Mara took several deep breaths, trying to calm herself. What was she going to do? Callista had apparently been unwilling to tell Luke of her suspicions, and now Mara was sure the information would destroy him. And here Mara was, right in the middle of it all because the karking Togorian didn’t understand Basic. And because Callista couldn’t be bothered to enunciate when giving a secret message that would turn the galaxy upside down. Mara sighed. Blaming people wasn’t going to help. Now she just had to figure out what to do. She picked up her comlink. She could use a couple more sets of ears to bounce idea off of.
    * * *

    Mara had awakened Dankin from a light nap. Her timing was impeccable, as always. He hadn’t wanted to sleep too deeply and his comlink had buzzed just as he was about to sink too far from consciousness.

    He slipped into the strategy room to see that Mara and Odonnl were already there, waiting.

    “Sorry, I—” he began.

    “Skip it,” Mara cut in. “Something’s come up that we need to deal with.” Mara explained her strange meeting on Daloon with Platt Okeefe and her theory about who Platt was really supposed to have talked to. “So,” Mara finished, “Thoughts? Ideas?”

    Dankin looked to Odonnl, who seemed just as bewildered by Mara’s story as he was. But it passed quickly. Mara wouldn’t stand for her crew to wander around confounded during a crisis. “Well, we could just sell the information to Mirax and be done with it,” Odonnl suggested.

    “We’re not exactly on speaking terms with Mirax,” Dankin replied. Mirax, along with Republic Intelligence, was largely responsible for the shortage of employees throughout the company—they would approach Mara’s employees, offering them a slightly higher salary and a new position with a fancy title. A lot of employees accepted the offer. Mara didn’t know if the poachers made good on their promises of higher pay, but she did know very few of her former employees stayed with Republic Intelligence for long—it seemed certain personality traits common among smugglers didn’t mesh well with a straight-laced government environment. Though they often returned begging to get their old jobs back, Karrde, with his near obsession with loyalty, had a strict policy against rehiring someone who had abandoned the company. Mara had refused to deal directly with Mirax since she had wiped out the crew of her second-in-command.

    “Then we could go through Corran,” Odonnl suggested. His face was serious, but Dankin had a hunch he was just trying to lighten the mood. Dankin couldn’t recall exactly how it started, but they had been teasing Mara about pursuing Corran, who periodically showed up in an attempt to recruit Mara into the Jedi cause, for some time now.

    Mara gave Odonnl a dubious stare.

    “You know he’s totally into you,” Dankin added playfully.

    “Yeah, totally into sacrificing me at the front lines of his war,” Mara muttered sardonically.

    “That really would be a bit of poetic justice though, wouldn’t it?” Odonnl mused. “Mirax steals our employees, you steal her husband.”

    “Truly, I can’t imagine a bigger disaster than me and Corran, even if he wasn’t married,” Mara said. Odonnl’s digression seemed to have worked—much of the tension had drained from Mara’s face and she was leaning back slightly in her chair, a little more relaxed. “Back to the topic at hand, for this bit of information I suppose we could make an exception and deal with Mirax directly. Continue.” This was a familiar exercise—everyone present was simply supposed to throw out ideas and respond to the ideas of others. It didn’t matter what the crew’s actual opinion on the matter was—the decision was Mara’s alone. Instead, the goal was to get out and evaluate as many ideas as possible, as quickly as possible.

    “Alright,” Dankin replied, looking back at Odonnl. “So you’re suggesting we sell the information that was supposed to be freely given to Mirax?”

    Odonnl shrugged. “She can afford it. And we could certainly use the money for repairs and upgrades.”

    “And what if it’s not true? We don’t deal in information we can’t verify.”

    “I guess we’ll have to find a way to verify it.”

    “Somehow that seems unlikely,” Dankin replied. “Assuming we’re not looking to beat the air addiction anytime soon.”

    “We could . . .” Odonnl twisted his lip in concentration. “I got nothing.”

    “Tell Luke? See what he thinks?” Dankin suggested uncertainly.

    “No.” Mara said firmly. “We don’t tell Luke a thing until we’re absolutely certain.”

    “Okay.” The three smugglers thought silently for a minute. “How did Callista know?” Dankin asked.

    “Platt said Callista could see his eyes were yellow. Which I know from experience is a mark of the Sith,” Mara replied. “But no one else seems to be able to see it. Platt said he was using a trick that only Callista could see through.” Mara paused as an idea began to form. “Because she was Force-blind,” Mara continued slowly. “Dankin, is Faughn still carrying those ysalamiri?”

    When Karrde had been forced off of Myrkr, he’d been sure to secure a few ysalamiri, the furry snake-like creatures with the peculiar ability to block the Force, his business sense telling him they were sure to become very valuable. At first they were passed from ship to ship so no one would discover them, but eventually they’d come to rest with Shirlee Faughn onboard the Starry Ice.

    Dankin smiled, beginning to follow Mara’s line of thought. “I think so.”

    “Good,” Mara replied. “Tell her to meet to us on Corellia. We won’t do anything until we get a good look at Jacen from a Force-empty ysalamir bubble. If his eyes are yellow . . . ” Mara trailed off, apparently not wanting to follow that thought all the way through.

    “All hell breaks loose?” Odonnl suggested.

    “Something like that.”
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oooh, cool update =D=

    Corran into Mara huh? o_O ;)

    Looking forward to the darthly unearthing of Jacen [face_laugh]

  16. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    May 15, 2005
    Loved Mara putting it all together. Good post, Tarsier. :)
  17. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Jade_eyes Thank you!!
    Looking forward to the darthly unearthing of Jacen Well, I don?t think Jacen will actually appear in this story?it just about killed me trying to figure out how to write him in my last story and I don?t really want to attempt that again. But his name will probably come up a few more times.

    DaenaBenjen41 Thank you!!
    Loved Mara putting it all together. I?m very happy to hear that, I had to rewrite those scenes a couple of times and I was afraid it still came out a little clunky.

    This is just the first half of Chapter 5, I hope to update again before the end of the week. And really, I promise there will be more action next time.

    Chapter 5
    Luke awakened slowly from what may have been the deepest sleep he’d ever had. He didn’t want to wake up, he didn’t want to stop dreaming.

    He’d dreamt Callista was teaching him to ride cy’een in the oceans of Chad. Long ago, Luke had promised Callista they would one day return to visit her homeworld, a second honeymoon of sorts. They never made it. Not until last night.

    The dream had been so vivid Luke could still taste the salt on his lips. He could still hear the distant song of the cy’een. But he couldn’t sense Callista. He couldn’t smell her hair as it tickled his nose, couldn’t hear her sweet laughter, couldn’t feel her body pressed against his. Never in his life had he felt so empty.

    Luke glanced over at Benji, who appeared to be sound asleep. He didn’t want to wake his son, so he decided he would go for a walk. Perhaps if he could find some place to meditate he could recapture the dream. Just a few more minutes of Callista by his side and maybe he wouldn’t feel so hopeless.

    As he was wandering down random corridors, Luke noted that less than a third of the glowpanels built into the floor were fully lit. Many panels were dark, some were dim, and some flickered on and off—apparently glowpanels were not a high priority for repairs on this ship. As he approached the split at the end of a corridor, Luke could hear quiet sounds and sensed that Dankin was down the corridor to the left.

    Luke almost turned around, not much in the mood for conversation, but ultimately he continued around the corner, thinking perhaps Dankin would know of a quiet place where he could meditate.

    Dankin was crouched in front of a darkened glowpanel, the cover removed and set on the floor beside him. He was fiddling inside the panel and looked up as Luke approached.

    “Were you able to get some sleep?” Dankin asked as he reached deeper into the glowpanel.

    “I was, actually.” Luke noticed the corridor dead-ended up ahead. He wouldn’t be finding his quiet spot around here.

    “Good. Got it!” Dankin said, pulling his arm back into view. He was using a pair of tongs to slowly extract a what appeared to be a long, thin, writhing wire from the open panel. A conduit worm.

    Luke couldn’t help wrinkling his nose at the sight of the squirming pest. “Do you have a lot of trouble with those?”

    “We got infested during a stop-over at one of the less savory ports on Coruscant a while back. So far we’ve managed to catch them before they get too big and they haven’t done much damage, just shorted out a few glowpanels. But we haven’t found the nest yet, so they keep popping up. It would be nice if we could get a whisperkit to clear them out once and for all.” Dankin continued to hold the worm in the tongs with one hand and popped open a plasteen container with the other.

    “Whisperkits will go after conduit worms?” Luke asked.

    “Sure,” Dankin replied as he deposited the creature in the plasteen container and sealed it. “Not many people seem to know that, but it’s true. When I was little, there was this whisperkit that used to sleep curled up around my feet at night. When the power went out—and it went out a lot—the other kids would freak out because they’d feel the conduit worms slithering around, looking for electric currents. But I never had to worry because that whisperkit would slurp up any worms before they got near me.” Dankin replaced the glowpanel cover and stood up.

    “So why don’t you get a whisperkit?” Luke asked. “They can’t be that hard to come by.”

    Dankin shrugged. “I figure Mara’s got bigger things to worry about. I can keep them in check for now.” Dankin positioned the container under his arm. “I’m off.” He gave Luke a friendly nod and then headed down the corridor. He opened the farthest door on the end.

    “Is that your room?” Luke asked.


    “Why is it so far from the others?”

    “It stays warmer closer to the engine,” Dankin replied simply.

    Luke nodded. He could tell that wasn’t the real reason, and for a moment he wondered why Dankin would be evasive about such a simple question when he seemed so open about everything else. But the thought quickly passed. Luke figured it was none of his business where Dankin slept anyway. The emptiness around Luke seemed to get larger with each passing second, and he was eager to try to fill it. Maybe the dream was Callista’s way of trying to reach him from beyond. Maybe if he immersed himself in the Force, Callista would be able to find him. “By the way, is there a quiet place on the ship where I could meditate for a little while?”

    Dankin thought for a moment. “The cargo hold is only half full right now. That’s probably your best bet. On the lower level, all the way aft.”

    “Have you told Mara the story about the whisperkit?” Luke didn’t know why he asked, the question was out of his mouth before he even realized he was speaking.

    “No.” Dankin paused. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that story before.” He gave Luke a slightly quizzical grin before disappearing into his room.

    * * *

    Some time later, Luke had found his way to the cargo hold and settled into a deep meditation. He was reaching out, searching for Callista deep in the Force, when the feeling of danger descended on him. Luke’s eyes snapped open a second before the alarms went off. It took him only a split second to pull his mind out of meditation mode and to focus on the present. He was on his feet and halfway across the cargo hold when he heard Mara’s words in his mind:

    Don’t you dare.

    I can help—

    We’re handling it. Stay with Benji. Before Luke could argue further, the connection was severed as Mara directed her attention elsewhere.

    Luke continued to sprint towards the bridge.
    Jedi_Lover likes this.
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Very nice update -- the cutoff there makes for a nice cliffie. :D

  19. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Thanks, Jade_eyes! Cliffhangers are good (when you're the writer anyway ;)).

    [Chapter 5 continued]

    Benji woke up alone and scared. He knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what. Tentatively, he reached out, trying to sense what was wrong through the Force. There were alarms sounding and everyone was rushing toward the bridge, but that was all he could gather.

    I wish Mom was here, Benji thought. She always knows what to do.

    Mara had told him to stay in his room if anything bad happened. But Benji didn’t want to be alone and needed to know what was happening. Cautiously, he slipped out the doorway and down the corridor. Benji felt the familiar shuddering under his feet of a ship under attack. He quickened his step.

    Just as he was turning the last corner, the ship bucked violently beneath him. As he went sprawling forward, he saw Mara and his father fall into each other, having met just outside the bridge. Then Mara shoved his father down the narrow shaft that led to the starboard quadlasers. Mara appeared to be heading toward the port-side gunstation.

    Benji inched toward the bridge. His Uncle Han had on more than one occasion warned him against distracting gunners, so he knew better than to try to talk to Mara or his father. He peered onto the bridge, wondering if anyone would be mad that he had left his room.

    “Benji!” Odonnl exclaimed when he spotted him in the doorway. “Take over the main sensor station.”

    Uncertainly, Benji slid into the seat usually occupied by H’sishi. For a moment he wondered where the Togorian was, but he quickly forgot that thought as the ship shuddered violently and more alarms blared to life.

    Benji noticed Dankin was trying to communicate with him over the chaos. “I need you to tell me which weapons are active on the main ship.”

    Benji took a deep breath. Though he had more experience with starfighters, he knew basically how to read the sensors on Saber, so he ought to be able to do this. Looking at the panel before him, he saw no less than nine different screens of various shapes and sizes, and more buttons scattered among them than there were on an entire x-wing. Which screen was he even supposed to be looking at?

    Experimentally he pushed a few buttons. The images on the screens changed, but he still couldn’t tell what was going on. Saber’s sensors came up in green and red. These sensors were mostly gray, with bits of yellow and purple, none of it forming any shapes he could recognize.

    “Forget charging the main ship,” Benji heard Mara’s voice over the comm. I think we got a path cleared through the starfighters.”

    Benji was tossed back into his seat as Dankin spun the ship in a hard ninety-degree turn. He straightened and continued to puzzle over the sensors, desperately wanting to be helpful, but feeling utterly useless.

    “Sithspawn!” Mara’s voice cut across the bridge. “Cloaked starfighter coming in! I can’t stop it—”

    That was the last thing Benji heard before his station exploded into shards of glass and shrapnel.
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow! =D=

    Hope Benji's not injured too much [face_worried]

  21. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    May 15, 2005
    :eek: Woah... [face_praying] for that kid to be okay!

    Good chapter. :)
  22. Piper057

    Piper057 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Nov 26, 2009
    Although I loathe the whole idea of Mara refusing to Luke on Nirauan, this story is fantastic. I'm really looking forward to next chapters. :)
  23. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Thanks for reading! :)

    Thank you! :)

    I'm glad you gave the story a shot even though you don't like the premise. :) Thanks for commenting!

    Sorry I didn't update last week. I struggled a bit with this chapter, and I'm still not totally happy with it, but I want to keep the story moving. . .

    Chapter 6

    Kriff! Cloaked starfighters!? This close the sensors should have picked them up—

    Odonnl’s heart leapt to his throat as he heard an explosion behind him. The starfighter had managed to penetrate the shields and land a direct hit to the external sensors. The feedback had caused the sensor station to burst, tearing Benji from his restraints and raining broken glass and bits of metal across the bridge.

    Odonnl glanced over his shoulder, then for a second his eyes met Dankin’s.

    “He’s fine, just fly,” Odonnl told Dankin, forcing calm into his voice. In truth he had no idea what condition Benji was in. He was lying motionless on the floor, Odonnl couldn’t tell if he was stunned or unconscious. Surely he couldn’t be dead. But either way, it wouldn’t do him any good if they got blown to bits before making hyperspace. Dankin’s eyes were still wide and Odonnl could tell he was fighting panic, but he flew steady.

    Odonnl stared at the countdown to hyperspace, blocking all other thoughts. Everything else could wait until the jump. Finally, he pulled the lever. Stars stretched into starlines and Odonnl could breathe again.

    Luke and Mara instantly appeared on the bridge, Mara shouldering in front of Luke to get a better look at Benji. He sat up slowly, looking dazed but conscious. There were shallow cuts across his face and chest, his tunic now sporting several long gashes, but nothing seemed to be too deep. Odonnl let out a relieved sigh and smiled encouragingly at Dankin, who was finally getting some color back in his face. He watched as Mara scooped Benji up and carried him to the med bay, Luke close on her heels.

    * * *

    Pormfil and H’sishi appeared on the bridge within minutes.

    “What happened?” Pormfil asked.

    “Benji was working the sensors—” Dankin began.

    [The child was on the bridge?] H’sishi cut in. [Chief said he was not to be on the bridge if we had trouble. She will not be pleased.]

    The conversation ceased as Mara approached.

    “He’ll be okay. All the cuts were pretty superficial,” Mara said. She ran a critical eye over each member of her crew. “Why was Benji on the bridge?” she asked evenly.

    Odonnl met Mara’s harsh gaze. “We needed someone to man the sensors.”

    “Where were you?” Mara asked, turning to H’sishi.

    [I was assisting Pormfil in the engine room.] H’sishi lowered her head. [I will accept punishment for abandoning my post.]

    Mara turned back to Odonnl. “So you brought Benji to the bridge in direct violation of my orders?”

    “We needed help.”

    “From a twelve-year-old kid who doesn’t know a thing about a ship this complicated? One who has scarcely left the protection of the Jedi Academy since he was born?”

    Odonnl stared levelly at Mara, refusing to back down. “He’s a Jedi. We thought he could handle it.”

    “Well then I’m sorry to tell you even human Jedi cannot see ultraviolet,” Mara snapped. A muscle in Odonnl’s cheek twitched. “Or did you forget that H’sishi prefers the sensors set in ultraviolet? And that Benji probably didn’t know to flip the switch so they appear in the human visible spectrum?”

    Odonnl looked to the floor. The others shrank away, bringing to Mara’s mind an image of frightened whisperkits flattening their ears against their backs.

    “Benji is our passenger. We promised him protection. If anything happens to him—” Mara’s voice caught in her throat. She swallowed hard and continued. “From now on I expect you to obey my orders. If you can’t do that, you no longer have a place on my ship.” Then she turned on her heel and stalked off the bridge.

    * * *
    Luke settled Benji into his bed and put him in a light healing trance. Truly, Luke was more concerned about his son’s mental health than physical. Luke thought Benji had enough battle experience that he ought to be able to control his nerves better than that, he shouldn’t get flustered. Luke’s main focus had been on taking down starfighters, but he’d sensed Benji’s panic and bewilderment during the battle. They’d have to work on that. In the meantime, Luke could feel a storm of emotion elsewhere on the ship. He listened carefully, allowing the Force to enhance his hearing, and was able to hear the crew speaking on the bridge.

    “We made a mistake. It’s not our fault we’re so understaffed. Mara needs to cool it,” Odonnl grumbled.

    “She’s doing her best,” Dankin replied defensively.

    “Yeah, and so are we. Unfortunately our best doesn’t seem to be good enough for her these days. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t all be better off if we just went our separate ways.”

    “Do you really mean that?” Dankin asked. “Do you all feel that way?”

    “Maybe we should all take some time to clear our heads,” Pormfil replied.

    Pormfil, Odonnl, and H’sishi left, leaving Dankin alone on the bridge. Luke gave Benji a final glance, saw that he was still sleeping peacefully, and went to see if there was a way for him to help.

    * * *
    Mara locked the door to her room, her hands trembling. She collapsed onto her bed, her nerves shot. She might have cried, if she hadn’t sworn off crying years ago. When had she become so spineless, about to lose it at the first sign of violence?

    She breathed deeply, forcing calm. Benji’s fine. Just a few cuts and bruises. They rest of us have seen a lot worse, and I bet he has too.

    But try as she might, Mara couldn’t get the image of Benji lying on the deck, bleeding, out of her head. Nor could she forget the look of fright in his eyes when she knelt beside him. When she had first set out to find Benji, she had idly wondered if he had his father’s blue eyes. He didn’t. Or at least, he didn’t only have his father’s eyes. They were blue in the center, but rimmed in grey. And when the light caught them just right, flecks of grey were visible throughout. They were unexpected, striking. And when they were filled with fear Mara’s stomach tightened into knots.

    Why did her life always get so much more complicated as soon as Skywalker showed up? And why did he always have to show up right when she least needed another complication?

    Mara buried her head in her pillow, allowing herself a few precious moments of rest before figuring out what she was going to do about the destroyed sensor array.
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    This update works amazingly well showing Mara's unexpected caring for Benji and the last bit about Luke and complications seeming to follow one another LOL in a cause-effect loop ;) Classic.


  25. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    May 15, 2005
    Why did her life always get so much more complicated as soon as Skywalker showed up? And why did he always have to show up right when she least needed another complication?

    Two very good and interesting questions...

    Good update. :)