Power Lust: Lust for
Chapter 6: Contact
The next morning, Mara Jade rose early and put
herself through a strenuous training session against
practice droids; she kept fighting for as long as her
mind wasn't a blank.
As it used to be 'before', she sighed as she
finally recovered her blissful state of oblivion
about everything and anything except her goal.
Nowadays, her goal was to avenge her master.
After another shower, she grabbed some breakfast
bar and made her way toward the command room. Now
that she was back in the thick of their preparations,
she was determinate to oversee everything in order to
not let any detail slip past her attention.
While she ran a cursory check on the electronic
screens of the communication room as she walked
through it, she conceded that her subordinates were
excellent at what they did, but they still lacked her
drive as far as their goal was concerned.
They themselves wanted the power back in their
hands while she was after her master's murderer.
As she walked behind the station of incoming
messages, she paid attention to the content of their
communications, ready to catch any bit of information
that would tell her that the time was at hand...
Other than empty reports of their troops holding
their positions, she didn't hear anything
interesting. She finally reached the sealed command
room, which was adjacent to the intelligence room
where data-crushers were analyzing absolutely
everything that came within their hands. She threw a
glance in their direction, absently noticed that
their luminous boards hadn't changed from content
since the previous day, then focused on the men who
were already sitting around the table. "Good
morning, Gentlemen," she greeted shortly before
she picked up a first datapad from her own place
around the table. "Any news since last
evening?" She remained in a standing position.
"We have pinpointed the location of four new
rebel surveillance outposts," Veers informed her
as he keyed in commands in the tactical table around
which the others were seating.
"In four different parts of space," she
observed coolly before she refocused on her pad.
"Mere gnats that will be part of the
"Yes, Madam, yet at the same time, sabotaging
them would be a piece of cake," the man
Mara barely listened to him while he exposed his
idea. The other officers noticed it and took care to
confirm with him that the stations would be their
last targets. They weren't even armed in any way, she
shrugged inwardly, so other than target practice,
they were totally useless in their campaign.
"Anything else?" she asked once the
other had cleared his targets from the
holotransmitter. She picked up another pad,
discarding her first one as trivial. The content of
their last cargo was not 'exactly' very important in
their quest for information about the enemy.
"We heard from Coruscant," colonel Grant
of Intelligence commented.
That did get her attention; she looked up at the
man, waiting for him to elaborate.
"Vader's daughter truly is in charge of
everything these days. Yesterday, she signed the
treaty between the Yuzzemmit and the Empire."
"And still no sign of Vader?" she
frowned, aware that such an important agreement would
have warranted the signature of her master, had he
The Yuzzemmit were part of the most intelligent
species of the galaxy, hence could produce a
technology that was years ahead of anything that
other species could dream of.
The other shook his head. "According to our
spy, she even signed in place of Vader."
"Could he be dead?" Piett inquired,
turning away from the bay window through which he had
been gazing up to now.
"Unlikely," she snorted shortly, then
gazed at the other--- and froze.
For some reason, his sight suddenly made her
shiver as if in horror--- she forced herself to
recover her composure. Everything had worked well up
to now, she reminded herself sternly. She did not
have any reason to doubt her men.
"What did Skywalker say about this?"
Veers inquired---- chilling her once again to the
bone at the mention of their prisoner.
She had almost, almost forgotten that they had him
in their grasp and that Piett... She absently brought
her hand down and picked up another datapad; an
undeniable feeling of unease settled within her as
she touched the electronic device.
"He wasn't cooperative," the other began
Mara shut him out as she almost hesitantly turned
the report on. It was Piett's report about the
nightly session with Skywalker. As she read the
description of what had been used on the Jedi, she
felt her heart wilt in sympathetic pain; she forced
herself to read some more---- then dropped the pad
from her frozen hands before she turned away from the
table. She suddenly had to check on their prisoner.
"Madam?" one of the officers inquired
"Are you all right?"
"I'll be right back," she reflexively
shot back, then stepped into the communication
Once she had reached the main corridor, she didn't
try to maintain her composure anymore and ran as fast
as she could toward the detention levels.
She dimly wondered what had gotten into her, why
she was even acting as she was, and yet... she
couldn't keep herself from running. It was, she
reflected, as if her feelings, which were now out of
her control, had even taken control of her body to
make her act foolishly.
For a brief, very brief moment, she reflected that
the Jedi was doing something to her, but she
remembered that he was surrounded by ysalamiri; she
admitted defeat in her attempts to fault him for her
She was the only one responsible for them, the
only one who was acting foolishly... She ran onward,
all the way to the detention level.
She screeched to a halt as she entered the
detention center. Barely clearing herself through the
checkpoint, she stalked down the sole corridor of
cells. She stopped in front of Skywalker's
And seemed to awaken from a dream/nightmare.
What was she doing here?? she asked herself even
as the guards began to key in their access code. Why
had she run all the way to that cell
instead of finishing her very important meeting with
her allies? She didn't care about the Jedi, she
reminded herself, she didn't worry about him.
He was an enemy, a nuisance to get rid of, a---
Very badly injured young man, she stopped in shock
as the door slid open and revealed the battered sight
of the Jedi. Before she was aware of what she had
done, she was inside the cell with him; the door slid
shut behind her, locking them together in a
For an horrible moment, she felt the fierce desire
to just turn around and request to be let out, but
she decided that it wouldn't help her to appear less
emotional than she already did.
Hence, she reluctantly faced him and studied his
status. Piett hadn't lied, she shuddered in
revulsion. He had truly used everything that they had
at their disposal to try and break the Jedi.
Even as she identified the different injuries on
his body, she realized that the rumor she had heard
about the Jedi had also just been proven true. He had
resisted a whole month of torture once... was the
most powerful Jedi of all times, hence unbreakable
even when he couldn't feel the Force.
But without the Force, she suddenly understood
when she noticed how his head was lulling as much as
it could against his chest, he couldn't recover as
fast as he needed to remain alive!
Suddenly aware that they would lose him if he fell
unconscious, she quashed her cool demeanor and gave
way to her feeling self. "Skywalker!" she
called urgently even as she stepped very close to him
and forced his head up until she could see his eyes.
"Wake up! It's not time to sleep," she
tried to rouse him.
"Hmmmmm," he moaned weakly before he
seemed to sag further in his chains.
"Skywalker!" she called again, this time
accompanying the rousing call with a series of light
slaps on his cheeks.
That did wake him slightly; she held his bruised
face with her two hands. "Look at me, Jedi.
Don't die on me," she added earnestly.
"Would think... it would please you," he
slurred, obviously fighting to remain conscious.
"No, it wouldn't, she shook her head in
disagreement. I never gave orders to beat you
this badly," she added, dimly wondering why she
was telling him all this yet aware that it was true.
She had never told her men to kill the Jedi during
Slowly, as if that action too was painful for him,
the young man forced his eyes open; he barely slit
them, yet it was enough for her to meet his gaze head
For a long, very long moment, neither of them said
anything, yet said everything through their eyes. She
for one saw his pain, his tiredness, his resolve to
not betray his secrets, and his confusion about her.
For some reason, this new eye contact with him
completely shattered whatever denial she had
maintained so far about her feelings for him.
However, she was still perfectly aware of the
situation; she knew that she couldn't show any sign
of those to anyone, not even herself or him.
On the other hand, she decided that she would use
other means to find where his father was hiding from
her; she would not hurt him anymore, not even through
her subordinates. She then made up her mind about
what she would do next with their prisoner.
"Don't move," she warned him, then stepped
closer to him and brought her hands up to his wrists
so as to free them from their bonds.
Given his own stretched position between the floor
and ceiling, she ended up standing very close to him
once again. Unlike the last time though, she grew
'extremely' aware of his hard, muscled body as it
pressed against her softer yet no less athletic one.
She tried to not touch his lulling head too much, but
it was hard... Since the Jedi was still
semi-conscious, his head was now resting against her
shoulder, right next to her head. His silky yet
sweat-soaked hair was tickling her cheek while the
faint scent of sweat and something else that she
couldn't exactly identify at the moment was invading
Although this experience made her senses almost
reel as she became aware of what she had put him
through the previous night, it didn't hit her as
powerfully as his subsequent moan of pain did.
She was so close to him when he made that sound
that his torment seemed to transfer itself from him
to her, practically awakening her as if from a
nightmare and making her see her actions for what
However, before she could step away, or block away
that unwelcome thought, his now freed right arm fell
down from its perch and loosely wrapped itself around
her shoulder before it slipped down and against his
side. It generated another moan of complaint from the
"That's why I'm moving you from that string,
Jedi," she commented in the silence while she
worked on his other cuff. "Tell me," she
then asked, "can your sister contact your father
or is he hiding from her too?"
"Not... hiding," the injured man
half-whispered before he moaned a little louder than
before when she slung his second arm around her
Careful to not add to his pain, she lowered him to
the floor before she also freed his ankles.
"Then she can contact him if we contact her,
right?" she prompted him, cutting his left leg
free as she did so.
"Why..." the young man began, seemed to
drift off a little, then he recovered more awareness.
"Why are you..."
She never found out what he had in mind before he
drifted off again.
First and foremost, she decided while she pulled
him closer to the wall, which had restraints that
would allow him to lay down without being tortured,
she would send a medical team in to fortify him and
tend him a little. All of a sudden, she really didn't
want to lose him to death, either before or after
Vader would be in her grasp. Strange, she then
reflected, how her mood had changed from one end to
another within less than a day, but, she reluctantly
admitted to herself, she simply couldn't condone any
action against Skywalker himself anymore.
He had already done his part, and, well, she
didn't know yet what she would do with him once the
war will be over, but she knew that she would keep
him with herself.
Of that she didn't have any doubts anymore.
"Skywalker!" she tried to rouse him once he
was secured in new bonds. "Skywalker!" she
yelled just a little louder before slapping him once
again on the cheeks.
The Jedi moaned feebly as his eyes fluttered,
trying to open them once again.
"I will leave the door of your cell open so
that the guards can keep an eye on you until the
medical team gets here" she explained. "You
are chained to that wall and are not in any shape to
try anything. Just rest and fight to remain
conscious. My team will make sure that you don't fall
The Jedi didn't give her any sign that he had
understood what she had told him, but she decided
that it was time to leave him. She had to, she
commented to herself, or else she would do something
that she would bitterly regret when the troops would
discover how much she 'cared' about their prisoner.
Affecting her cool mask once again, she stood up,
turned her back to the Jedi and walked out of the
still open cell. She gave orders to the guards to
keep an eye on the Jedi but to not harm him any
further, then she contacted her medical team.
While Luke had caught a word every two or three
words, he couldn't help but frown slightly as he
finally understood that his captor wanted him to
remain conscious until a medical team came in.
Medical team? he wondered, watching her as she
left his cell. He heard her again as she instructed
the guards outside to keep an eye on him until medics
came in, then he was alone once again with his
torments and thoughts.
The coolness of the floor was slightly helping to
alleviate the fire of his injuries, but the pressure
of his body resting against it was quickly overcoming
that soothing effect of his new position.
His questioner had wanted answers, had wanted to
know where his father was, the status of the defenses
of the Empire around Coruscant, etc, etc. Naturally,
he hadn't answered any of those questions, had
remained silent except for his screams of torture.
When they had left him alone, he had had the dim
feeling that he would never wake up from his slowly
engulfing unconsciousness---- then 'she' had pulled
him out of the abyss of coma and death.
When he had heard his door open, he had prepared
himself for the end, had given up any resistance to
the final Night that was trying to overcome him, then
she had suddenly roused him from his listless state,
had literally forced him to recover as much of his
senses as he could recover in his current situation.
And then, he had looked straight in her
jewel-green eyes. Unlike the last time that it had
happened, he had seemingly pierced past their cold
front, past the woman whom she had been with him up
to now, the cold-hearted tormentor... and he had seen
a young, beautiful woman who had been living within a
shroud of lies, who had been deeply hurt by the loss
of the Emperor and who was now trying to get rid of
this pain the only way she knew of.
Through revenge... although she didn't like it.
He had seen all this within the space of a few
heartbeats, then she had stepped so close to him that
he had almost felt as if they had become one.
Now that he could think a little about it, he had
to admit that Jade was truly, seriously confusing
him. First, she had tormented him through nightmares,
then through light hypothermia and pain enhancing
drugs, then she had sent him to a torture room...
Only to order him to remain conscious until a
medical team could check on him...
While he could understand why she wanted to
fortify him instead of losing him, thus saving him as
a tool against his father, what truly confused him
was her eyes.
When she had talked about the medical team, they
had not been as hard as before. Instead, he had
had the feeling that she had been fighting tears
somehow, but, he mentally shook himself, he was
perhaps losing it himself.
After all, he reminded himself while he tried to
not fall unconscious again, he wasn't in exactly a
good shape to be completely coherent... let alone
And sadly, he thought as he fought down his
memories of his very first experience about torture,
he had learnt to not trust himself when in such a
state... His father had taught him that rather
He had no doubt that he was looking for him, that
he would come to his help and defeat the danger that
was Jade's group, but...
On the opposite specter of this conviction, his
latest experience of pain had woken up his memories
of his first meeting with his father, of how he had
been with him 'back then'...
Considering how his own father had insisted that
he was still a monster, and that Jade had revealed to
him that Vader had meant to use the pain enhancing
drug on him if he had ever 'recaptured' him, he was
beginning to wonder if he was wise to trust him as
implicitly as he did.
Sure, his father had told him that he would kill
himself before ever hurting him or his sister, but...
why hadn't it been true 'before'? he wanted to ask
him in suddenly freed resent.
Why had he put him through the horrors he had
inflicted upon him?.. Why hadn't he saved him already
to save him from more torment?.. And was he playing
him for some obscure goal of his now? Was he slowly
turning him to the Dark Side, but without his
knowledge this time?
He was fighting tears of despair and sadness when
the medical team finally reached his cell.
On Yavin 4, Kyp was trying to persuade his
comrades of the danger that was the Dark Lord; he was
close to despair. Nobody would listen to him.
He had tried to speak with Kam, but Kam had just
smirked and had ignored him. Of course, Kyp
sneered, their temporary teacher was already under
the Sith's spell since the other had proclaimed him
He shuddered at the thought of this sacrilegious
deed and considered his other attempts to find an
Old Streen had smiled sadly and had turned him
away, saying "You're too young to understand,
The young man had bristled so much at this
statement that he had been hard pressed to not attack
the older man right there and then. He had managed to
Later on, Kirana Ti had also heard him out, but
had just laughed. "I believe in Master
Luke," she had said. "He isn't stupid like
you think his is, but then, perhaps I should speak
with this Dark Lord to see for myself."
That, of course, had been the opposite reaction
that Kyp had wanted to generate.
In the end, only Cilghal had listened to him
seriously and said that she would consider his
After two hours of wait and no news from the alien
woman, Kyp was ready to burst in frustration. He
honestly couldnt understand what there was to
consider. All his feelings were warning him of
an approaching danger. Couldnt they feel this
too?, he asked the Force in disbelief.
The Sacrifice that his master had mentioned was
coming closer, he realized, worried. Some of his
friends, if not all of them, were in danger of
death--- yet wouldnt fight.
He himself wanted to scream at the futility of all
Finally, after much pondering, he understood that
he would probably have to stop the Dark Lord all by
himself. Although he was quite confident in his
abilities, he knew very well that Vader was much
stronger than he himself was. Fighting against him
would be an heroic act.
His only hope to win this fight, he then realized,
would be to obtain the help of his Jedi Master.
Remembering that his Master had showed him how their
spirits could be fused, if only for a short moment,
he made a very important note to request his help if
the situation became too demanding for his own
His heightened powers would not last long, he
conceded, but perhaps it would be sufficient.
For the moment though, he could only wait... and
Two days later, on Coruscant, Leia worriedly
chewed her nail as she listened to more reports from
their search teams.
Even though she had the stronger and stronger
feeling that Jade's group was hiding in Hoth's
asteroid field, she was still spending all her days
in the tactical room of the Imperial Palace,
listening to all the reports that came in at any
given hour of the day or night.
Han had already reported to her, saying that their
hasty departure had proceeded well and that they
would be on time to catch up with Wedge's team. He
had also reassured her that he understood why she had
sent him there instead of anybody else and that he
wasn't angry at her anymore.
Dear Han, she sighed once again to herself. The
Force had truly given her the greatest gift that it
could give her when it had put this man on her path.
Even though he hadn't understood the strength of her
feeling that had pushed her to insist that he took
the first fleet away from Coruscant and went in the
Hoth System, and even though he himself didn't want
to leave her alone in such difficult times when she
was left alone to deal with both the Empire and the
disassembling Rebellion, he had obeyed her.
He had been angry, had argued that it was an
overkill and might cost Luke's life if this wasn't
where he was, but he had trusted her frustrating
instincts and had gone all the same.
He and Chewie had boarded the Falcon before
rejoining the Executor and its six companion
star-destroyers, then he had taken them toward the
It was, she admitted, like some kind of weird
replay of what had probably happened during the
Rebellion years, when her own father had boarded the
very same ship and taken it in the very same
direction in search of the unique young man who was
Who was suffering at the moment, she could feel
She hadn't slept well for days now, constantly
feeling the ghost of his pain every time that she had
tried to push her worries out of her mind.
That Jade woman had dared hurt her beloved
brother! Why, if only she could get her hands on her,
she thought dangerously, she would make sure to not
let her off the hook until she would feel sorry for
what she had done to him.
Her dear Luke who had braved the evil Empire to
save the life of a perfect stranger, her dear friend
who had then saved them all on Yavin... only to
reveal his existence as a Jedi and become most
actively sought by the dark Jedis of the galaxy...
From this moment on, her brother had been through
hardship after hardship... up to this latest one.
Couldn't the Force be lenient on him for once?!
she asked the unseen energy field. Why had he be
picked once again to be tormented??----
"Your Highness," Winter suddenly cut in
her inner arguments. "We are receiving a
transmission from Mara Jade herself."
"Where?" she asked, her eyes instantly
searching the whole communication room to see who had
received the message--- and saw the image of the
hated red-head. She was waiting in the
reception field of the main holonet receiver.
As if set on her target, the ex-princess of
Alderaan gathered her long skirts and walked as fast
as she could toward the lower level of the room. She
fought down the urge to simply jump over the railing
in order to reach the transmitter even faster, but
considering the tactical stations that were gathered
under the main balcony, she conceded that it might
not be a good idea.
She finally stood within transmission range of the
device; she glared at her brother's kidnapper.
"Release him," she ordered instantly,
"Ah, so I see that taking your brother from
you has shaken you, princess. Good."
"Whatever you want, Jade, I will not give it
to you unless you let him go right this moment,"
Leia defied the caustic woman.
"You will not give it to me?" the other
perched an eyebrow, then chuckled sarcastically.
"Why, little princess, I never expected you to
give me anything either. It's not you I'm
after," she finished more grimly. "Contact
Vader right now. I wish to speak with him."
For a brief moment, Leia debated whether to give
the other what she was asking for. "Not before
you set Luke free," she finally stated
The red-head silently raised her left eyebrow
again while glaring at her, then she nodded to
someone who was out of transmission range. The image
shifted from Jade to that of----
"Luke!" she instantly recognized even as
she took a step closer to the badly injured,
collapsed form of her dear brother. The moment that
she entered the static field, she lost his image, as
if he had disappeared once again.
"Establish contact with Darth Vader right
now," Jade's voice ordered once again while the
image of Luke's unconscious form returned in the
Aware that she was beaten, Leia turned toward the
communication relay and wordlessly nodded to them to
establish contact with Yavin 4. As she did so, she
noticed that everybody who could see Luke's image was
as pale as a sheet.
Oh Luke..., she moaned silently while she tried to
ascertain from a distance that he was not suffering
as much as he seemed to be.
"Yavin 4 is answering, my Lady," the
technician commented. "They inform me that they
have to hold us on the line while they contact Lord
Vader. He is not at the main temple at the
"Then we will wait," Jade commented
sarcastically, smugly crossing her arms in front of
her chest as her image replaced that of Luke's
Leia glared daggers at the mean woman, wishing
that she could pinpoint her location through the
communication, but of course, the other had scrambled
the transmission to prevent such tracing.
And she didn't mean to release Luke any time soon,
she understood as her eyes met the other's vicious
Chapter 7: The Race
Forcing himself to take one more step toward the
imposing yet beautiful temple, Kam Solusar wondered
yet again how the dark Lord of the Sith had been able
to change its appearance as much as he had.
Where there had always been a vine-covered stack
of rocks which had eventually been identified as a
smaller temple, there was now a clean-scrubbed
temple... which was surrounded by water that he could
only imagine where it came from. He was also unable
to conceive how the other had dug the watery trench.
Gathering his courage, and after checking his
surroundings one last time to make sure that the Dark
Lord was nowhere in sight, he walked around the outer
side of the ring until he was facing the main
entrance of the temple, then used the stepping stones
to reach the temple itself.
He didn't go in. "Lord Vader?" he called
as he had done the last time that he had been around
Like the last time, he felt the temple answer him
to wait. He turned around to wait, gazing at the huge
red giant that was Yavin. As he took in the
magnificient sight of the gas giant, his thoughts
went to Luke---
"Have you received any news?" the deep,
familiar voice inquired from behind him. The Jedi
whirled around in shock, having not heard nor felt
the other's approach.
"My Lord," he bowed, hoping to hide that
way how uneasy he still was when in the other's
presence. "You need to come with me to the
Academy. We are receiving a transmission from Mara
The moment that he mentioned the woman's name, Kam
felt the air around him freeze. He shuddered even
more when the darksider walked past him--- and jumped
all the way to the other side of the trench before he
stalked in the direction of the main temple.
As he gaped at his surprising companion, he
realized that the Dark Lord was set on his target.
Forcing down his uneasiness, he hurried to catch up
with him although he didn't want to be anywhere near
him when he would deal with Jade.
As he walked briskly through the jungle, Vader
wanted nothing more than to be going to Jade herself
instead of just a transmission from her.
At last, he thought grimly, the she-devil was
making her move, and he himself would have some news
about his son even though he already knew that they
wouldn't be encouraging at all.
He had felt his son's pain the previous night, had
felt his despair but before he had been able to
contact him and comfort him however he could, the
youth had woken up... and hadn't fallen asleep since
then. "Has she said anything about Luke?"
he inquired with his reluctant companion.
Despite his tall body and long legs, Solusar
almost had to run to keep up with his decided pace.
"Not yet, My lord. Your daughter transmitted the
message to request your presence, then Jade overcame
"Have you been able to trace her?"
"No further than Coruscant, and it comes from
the main transmission room so it is probably only
your daughter's signal, not Jade's."
Well, he conceded silently, he would have been
disappointed if Jade hadn't thought about shielding
her transmission. On the other hand, he 'needed' to
find her if he wanted to find his son and take him
away from her.
Minutes later, he was strutting down the darkened
corridors of the Jedi Academy. His entrance in the
former command center naturally didn't go unnoticed
by the few students who had gathered there to hear
about their teacher.
He didn't acknowledge their presence, nor did he
motioned to them to leave the place; their presence
simply didn't bother him one way or another.
"Ah, Lord Vader in the flesh," the
red-head she-devil smiled in satisfaction when he
finally entered the reception field of the
transmitter. "It's so good to see you alive and
well, 'my lord'," she sneered next.
"Cut the pleasantries, Jade," he warned
her ominously. "We both know why I'm here, so
"So fast, my lord?" she mock-exclaimed.
"Won't you even take a second to say hello to
Before he could brace himself for what would
happen next, her image was replaced by that of his
injured, beloved son who was unconscious at the
moment. Even though he had known that Luke would be
badly wounded when he 'would' get to see him, his
broken sight still ripped what little heart he had to
*Luke,* he tried to send him, *I'm so sorry.* 'It
should have been me.'
Gripping his emotions in a steel hold, he
refocused on the returning image of Jade.
Although she re-appeared in the transmission though,
he didn't lose the image of Luke, making herself look
as if she were looming over his son's crumpled form.
"I think I made myself clear now," she
"What do you want?" he answered coldly.
On Coruscant, Leia watched the ongoing
transmission, wishing against wishes that she could
break into it, or simply wipe Jade's satisfied smirk
from her face.
"What I want, in the end, is simple,"
the red-head stated scornfully. "yours and your
family's death. But," she added as if her
statement had been trivial, "I'm getting ahead
of myself. First, 'Lord' Vader, you will
humiliate yourself for me... or I should say for
him," she finished, motioning toward her
"Luke would never let him do this!" the
ex-princess spat out loud, literally filled with rare
hatred for this woman.
"And how would you want me to do this?"
her father's voice inquired while his image remained
A rock in the center of the turmoil.
"Why, by undoing everything you have done
after you killed the Emperor of course," the
other sneered in disgust.
"But we didn't kill---" Leia tried to
intervene once again.
"The Emperor died of sickness of the brain,
Jade," her father stated calmly. "I
merely took over to make sure that the Empire would
not die with him and what his sickness was doing to
"You poisoned him!" the woman retorted
angrily and glared daggers at the transmitter... then
softened. "But whether you're ready to
tell the truth or not is inconsequential. You
will still deny your treaty with the Rebellion and
destroy them before making an announcement,
galaxy-wide I might add, that you intend to bring
back the old Empire once again, that your 'Peace' was
"And if I don't?" Vader inquired, making
Leia's blood freeze in her veins as she became
unpleasantly aware that her father's cold nature
might condemn Luke this time.
No, she prayed the Force, he wouldn't... He was
not like this, not 'really' this heartless...
Luke's image took up the whole transmission once
again. "I let you guess, Vader. You
have forty-eight hours to make that announcement, or
Luke's image lingered slightly in front of Leia's
eyes, then nothing but static before her own
connection re-balanced itself with Yavin's.
"We can't do this, Father!" she called
instantly, dimly aware that the techs who had watched
the transmission with her were sidling closer, as if
to convince the Dark Lord to not abandon his son.
On Yavin 4, the last image of his suffering son
shattered Vader's control over his emotions.
He cursed in a lowest form of Outer Rim's slang.
On the other side Leia blinked in
non-understanding, the techs behind her whistling in
"She's got us, Leia," he growled
angrily. "We simply don't have a single
chance to find him in so large galaxy in only two
days!! It's just impossible."
"Unless he's in the Hoth system," his
daughter retorted, the fire of her determination to
not give in to Jade's request shining in her nutty
"The Hoth system?" he frowned "Why
there more than anywhere else?"
"I got an hunch about that two days ago and
sent Han to catch up with Wedge, who was headed for
this system. If Luke's there, then we'll be on time
to save him before she can do anything to him."
"Are you sure that you felt something?"
Leia frowned, then nodded. "Yes, I'm
"However we must ascertain his
position," he completed for her, his temper
completely recovering its cooler edge now.
"Can you check it?"
Vader frowned. His connection with Luke was
strong, but the Hoth system was too far, way too far.
As for contacting him through the Circle... Even if
it would be possible, that kind of contact did not
allow him to pinpoint a location in a physical
Staring at the screen, he suddenly wasn't seeing
his daughter's image but that of a hazy memory about
the Hoth system.
"Wait a minute," he asked Leia. "I
might have found a way."
He closed his eyes and stepped into the Circle...
and prayed that there was indeed a Sathed temple in
the Hoth system.
The information flew in his brain, thousand of
years of compressed data--- and indeed, there had
once been a temple on the planet that was now covered
The building itself had been destroyed long ago,
but the temple, the god's presence, was still
inhabiting its ruins. All the Sathed temples
were created on the same model, and the Circle still
united them in one entity, beyond time and space.
"The distance is not important..." he
whispered to himself, trying to transfer his being,
his Force-awareness in this frozen, destroyed temple
on Hoth. "Not important..."
Never before had he attempted such a dangerous
Reaching for the white blue Circle with all his
being, trusting its waves to support him and his life
till he could reach his destination, then suppressing
all caution and control, he followed the Circle to
the Hoth System.
As he moved away, he dimly became aware that he
was losing his connection with his body, that his
body could not keep such a deep trance without his
mental support... that his heart was threatening to
'Not important...' he reminded himself---
And finally touched the god's presence, still
confined into the ice. He felt the ice closing
around him, but also heard--- felt, with all his
being, Luke's silent plea for help.
Near, so near --- in the asteroid field.
*Be strong, Luke. We're coming.*
*Son. I love you,* he sent him with what little
strength he had left.
On Yavin 4, Cilghal saw Vader's body collapse in
the nearby chair, his head rolling back and the deep
sound of breath... stopping---
Whatever she thought or felt about the Dark Lord
was now irrelevant.
She was a medic, and as such she had to
help. Hence, she stepped near him and touched
the black shoulder, reaching inside---
And almost cried aloud as the white-hot wave of
pain hit her.
However, it wasn't the pain itself that hurt her
the most, but the awareness that this unbearable pain
was normal for the Dark Lord's body. For it, it
was the normal response that the uncountable implants
that had been forced into his flesh.
But it wasn't the problem, she reminded
herself. The problem was the failing link
between the Dark Lord's spirit and body. She
could almost see its line, steel gray, reaching far,
far away, beyond the limits of her awareness.
Had he really gone to Hoth?, she pondered in
bemusement and awe. However, time was flying
past them, making the line become thinner and
thinner, and then the thought hit her: if that
line would disappear, he would not be able to return
to his body.
Which meant that she could... kill him. She
could destroy this link--- she already knew how to do
it. And once it would be done, the threat would
For an awful moment, she seriously contemplated
giving it to her thought...then she remembered who
she was, and wanted to quiver in shame. 'I am a
medic. A medic. I don't kill...'
She reached along the line, trying to strengthen
it. Just when the thin, semi invisible line
threatened to disappear, his presence returned--- and
roughly expulsed her from his mind.
Despite the pain of this expulsion, she wanted to
weep in deep relief. Despite the Dark Lord's return
though, she would never know, nor did she really
wanted to know, if her intervention had saved his
life or not.
The Dark Lord himself didn't know about this.
Vader opened his eyes, instantly fighting against
his violent headache and the uncommon strain of his
body; he felt completely devoid of energy.
The first thing he saw was Leia's face, confused
and worried. "Father? Are you all right?"
she asked uncertainly.
"Yes," he said, slowly sitting upright.
"I was able to contact Luke; he is indeed in the
asteroid field of the Hoth system."
Leia's features paled. "Oh, my ... How is
"As we saw him, but nothing life threatening.
We need to reach him as soon as possible."
"I'll contact Han right away to tell him
about what you've discovered," Leia informed him
and moved to cut off their communication.
"Wait," he interrupted her. "Give
me contact with him. I've also found the coordinates
of the base."
Leia smiled. "You know, were you here, I
could have hugged you," his daughter smirked at
"Leave me out that disgusting emotional
display," he replied, smiling.
His daughter smirked. "Whatever. Stand by,
I'll connect Han."
"Executor here," said Han's voice in
spite of the image's static, then the image cleared.
"Lord Vader, what an honor!" the old
"Wish I could say the same, Solo," he
replied in kind. "I've managed to locate
Luke. He is in the Hoth system, in the asteroid
"Great," Han muttered unhappily.
"Now all there is left is to find on which
'rock' they're hiding. We could spend an entire
week trying to find them there and..."
"A certain deja-vu, don't you think?"
Vader smirked wryly as he remembered hunting down a
certain elusive target within the rubbles of that
exact same asteroid field. "I have the
coordinates of their base," he commented
quickly, pulling himself away from those less
pleasant memories of the past. It was over
anyway. "Prepare to copy."
Han blinked. "Impressive. Ready to
copy," he nodded, then smirked lopsidedly,
"I don't even want to know how you found this
information with your mumbo-jumbo."
"Good," Vader said, entering the data.
"You have forty hours to reach Luke. Jade
just contacted us and gave us a two days
"Wonderful," the smuggler gripped more
grimly as situation turned serious once again.
*We are thirty-eight hours away from our
destination, even through the most dangerous paths
through hyperspace," Chewie's voice informed
them grimly from out of screen range.
"This is gonna be a race, your
Lordship," Han commented, then turned toward a
side screen. "Data received. We'll do anything
that we can to retrieve him, but you'll have to
distract her to give us a little time," he told
"She is a professional and is followed by
Piett and Veers," the Dark Lord reminded his
son-in-law. "I know the three of them;
considering that the chance that they may be
distracted is very low, I wouldn't count on it."
"Great," Han muttered yet again.
"Well," he then heartened himself, "it
won't be the first time. We'll keep Leia informed of
our ETA and progress every five hours."
Vader nodded. "I pass her to you now.
Keep my ship in one piece," he warned the
younger man seriously. "Vader out."
"See you, your Lordship. Solo out."
After a short lapse of static, Leia's worried face
appeared on Han's transmission screen.
"I heard everything," she informed him
instantly. "Please, Han, save Luke..."
"I'll do everything that I can, and more. In
the meantime, pray the Force that we'll
succeed," he finished grimly.
"I do," his wife answered in the same
fashion before her hand went to her barely bulging
stomach. "Be careful, Han. We want you back home
in one piece."
"I will, and don't worry, Leia. We'll save
Luke from them, I swear it."
"I know," she nodded somberly. "I
love you, Han."
"I love you too, princess. First fleet
out," he signaled, aware that every second that
he was spending in slower Lightspeed were seconds
that Luke didn't have to lose.
Leia also understood this and put an end to the
The moment that they interrupted the contact, the
engine's techs poured speed back to maximum and the
Executor hurtled once again through hyperspace.
And toward their dear friend whose life was the
price of this latest race across the galaxy.
On Yavin 4 Vader slowly rose from his chair.
The four Jedi apprentices warily parted before him
as he left the room without addressing them one way
or another. While they themselves would
interpret it as his normal coolness, he himself knew
Weary as he was, it was already extremely
difficult for him to keep up the appearance of
strength, but he did...
At least as far as the outer door of the temple.
He had barely set foot in the forest itself when
he collapsed, spent of any dregs of remaining
energy. Unable to move at all, he resigned
himself to spend the night in the forest.
Back at the Jedi Temple the trainees vividly
discussed the news; no-one seemed to realize that
Kirana Ti wasn't in the Temple or its nearby area...
Once her latest meeting with her allies was over,
Mara Jade returned to the detention area in order to
check on their prisoner.
She had read the medics' report about his
condition, had given them orders to see to his most
serious, painful injuries, then she had decided to
check on him by herself.
If the guards were surprised to see her once again
at the door of their prized captive, they didn't show
any mental sign that they did.
Instead, they wordlessly keyed the cell open, then
closed it again behind her once she was inside.
The lights had been dimmed to help Skywalker rest
while a sensor on his forehead would inform them if
his brain pattern were slipping toward coma instead
of healing sleep; the probe was also designed to
stimulate him awake, should the need arise, until the
medics could stabilize him once again.
Thanks to this ongoing treatment, she hadn't used
the images of the tended-for Jedi during her
communication with her enemy, but it had not bothered
anyone. They had had plenty of other images to
use anyway, and it had allow them to not delay his
However, with or without treatment, she had to
admit that he still looked in very bad shape.
Piett, she thought with slight resent, had really
done quite a number on the beleaguered young man.
Silently kneeling beside him, she reached in the
medkit that was just beside him and picked a wad of
cotton to dab at some of his once again bleeding
marks. She surmised that he had re-opened them
when he had shifted on his side instead of laying
flat on his back.
As she delicately touched his injuries, careful to
not aggravate them, she admitted that she was now
thoroughly lost as far as 'herself' and her attitudes
Even though she had never been trained to show any
feelings toward anyone, let alone 'feel' those
emotions, and even though she had sworn to herself
that she would make Skywalker pay for his role in the
death of her master, she simply, illogically couldn't
help but care about him.
Even now, no matter how hard she had tried to make
herself change her mind and leave him to his lonely
cell, her feet had taken her down to the detention
level, then into his cell.
Even worse, she admitted reluctantly, she was now
aware that she didn't 'want' to be anywhere but here,
with him, making sure that he was as right as he
could be given the circumstances.
What could cause this?, she wondered while she
continued to tend him. Could it be because he
was so very different from his father? Or, she
wondered, moving her tissue to the side of his face,
which bore a very ugly black and blue, could it be
that he was simply the most handsome man that she had
Unless it was because of his own care about her
even though she had been tormenting him when that had
Whatever it was though, it was there, and no
matter how hard she was trying to fight against it...
She wanted to be with the young Jedi, to see him
recover from his torment so that they would be able
to speak... And perhaps figure what was going on with
her, she thought in slight, very slight but resisting
It simply wasn't her, she fumed at herself,
throwing the soiled fabric aside as she decided that
enough was enough. She wasn't a goody-two-shoes
And yet, she softened yet again when she noticed
that the young man was finally recovering his senses,
She 'did' care about 'him'...
Slowly, as if he were crawling up steep ladders,
Luke recovered his more aware senses. He
sluggishly clenched his teeth against a groan of pain
as his body reminded him that it was in bad condition
at the moment.
As if he needed reminders, he groaned anyway while
he tried to assess his situation. Last he
remembered, a few medics had been fortifying him with
nutrients when he had drifted out completely.
'Must have drugged me,' he realized while he tried
to force his eyes open.
A beautiful vision of a red-gold haired, worried
angel welcomed him back to the world of the living;
he smiled slightly and closed his eyes again,
thinking that he was probably still dreaming.
"How are you feeling?" the vision asked
him--- and her delicate hand caressed his cheek.
He awoke again and gaped in surprise at his
captor, who was once again beside him. He
completely froze under her touch, literally
transfixed by it as he gazed straight into her jewel
He was dreaming, he tried to convince
himself. He was dreaming and losing it, and...
and 'she' was truly at his side, looking at him in a
way that didn't make him feel as if he were her enemy
But no, he tried to shake himself back to his
'complete' senses, he was having delusions now.
They had probably shot him with hallucinogen
"We managed to contact your father," she
informed him, then reached for something that was out
of his field of vision and brought her hand back in
it with what looked like a water skein.
"Here, it will help you to recover your
A dim, very dim voice tried to tell him that he
shouldn't trust her like this, that she could be
trying to hurt him again, but another, confused part
of him accepted her help and allowed her to give him
something to drink.
Water, he realized, feeling his tears flow from
his eyes as the delicious sensation of water entered
his dehydrated body and throat. It really was
As if aware that he would empty the whole skein if
she let him, she rationed him--- to keep him from
being sick, he frowned, now thoroughly lost and
What was going on?, he wanted to ask her yet still
lacked the strength to do so.
She continued to pour small doses of water in his
mouth until he motioned to her that he had
enough. They then gazed at each other for a
long, long while... and a while longer, neither
knowing how to interpret what was undoubtedly
happening between them, no matter how irrational it
"What... what did he say?" he finally
half-whispered once he remembered what she had told
him about his father.
"Nothing," she shrugged slightly.
"We gave him an ultimatum, then cut off the
Nothing?? he wondered in worry. His father
hadn't said anything about his current
predicament?.. Could he be even more a monster
than he had ever led him to believe?..
"I also spoke with your sister. Now
'she' answered me with the vehemence that I had been
expecting from her," she commented with barely a
trace of the dislike that she had once displayed
toward he and his sister. "Do you think
that she will convince your father to
cooperate?" she asked him next.
Luke, who had been considering the ghost of the
contact that he had had with his father, refocused on
her as he understood why she was acting as she was
She wanted information, nothing else.
His own eyes hardened slightly while he tried to
pour strength in his voice. "Do you really
think that I will betray my family to you?" he
defied her despite his laying position.
Mara sighed in slight frustration and leaned away
from the Jedi. No, she almost told him, she was
not asking him to betray his family. Instead,
she wanted to know in advance if she could trust
Vader to not force her hand into injuring him again.
She didn't say so however, all too aware that it
wouldn't help her to cover her feelings for the Jedi.
"Look, I'm just asking," she finally
commented in the portent silence. "If you
noticed, I'm far from beating you to 'get' the answer
The other answered by shutting his mesmerizing
This was ridiculous, she berated herself.
She was falling for someone who would never----
"They will never give in to your
demands," her... what?, she wondered
slightly. He wasn't her prisoner anymore, or
not fully one anymore, but he wasn't an ally or a
"Even if it would save you from more
torments?!" she gaped shortly, then caught
herself and assumed her more regular grim face once
"Even if you kill me, they won't
cooperate," the other confirmed with a mix of
fear and pride in his voice.
Mara however was downright horrified by what he
had just hinted at. Kill him?
Even as she became aware of her unavoidable loss
of composure, and how the Jedi was watching her very
closely, she reflexively drew her pocket blaster from
her holster, flicked the setting from kill to stun
and shot the other before she had completely lost it.
Skywalker slumped once again to the deck, out cold
while she herself let her hand fall on the same deck
to stare in horror at him.
But she would never be able to kill him, she
admitted to herself even as she tried to quash mental
images of such an action taking place. No, she
would never give such an order, would rather keep him
with her forever than to give that hideous order...
and kill the only nice man who had ever shown 'real'
care for her.
And talking about orders, she reminded herself
while she brushed the Jedi's hair away from his
sensor, she had to think of a way to 'appear' to hurt
the Jedi in two days...
Without actually doing it.
Leaving him to his forced rest, she left the cell,
feeling more confused, yet more self-assured, than
the last time that she had dealt with him.
Chapter 8: Rescues and Attacks
Penetrating inside the Sith's temple wasn't Kirana
She, as Kam before, wisely stopped after the first
warning and meant to inform the temple of her desire
to speak with the Dark Lord. However, after catching
sight of the carvings that were adorning the white
walls inside the temple, all wisdom left her head.
The carvings were singing. They were speaking to
her in a language that she didn't understand yet
their form was strangely familiar to her. She was
sure that she had seen them somewhere before.
Somewhere at her home planet...
In the ruins.
In the ancient holy ruins, she suddenly
remembered. Similar carvings had filled the
half-destroyed white walls of another abandoned
temple of unknown origin.
The sages of her people had told her that it had
been music written by the ancient, permitting the
mastery of the Force, which the witches of Dathomir
had learnt to use in turn.
At the moment, she couldn't stop herself from
going to the white, glowing wall; to the chanting
Her hand raised up by itself, like in a dream, to
They were cold, and full of energy and life.
The moment that she touched them, the words of the
chant appeared in her head, and she found herself
repeating them, trying to keep up with the melody.
The melody turned and danced, and Kirana began to
understand what she was chanting; the images filled
her mind further and showed her the history of the
Thousands of years ago, she sang, the battles, the
victories and losses were also part of realities. The
pain and prayers for the justice of uncountable
beings was filling the air.
The chant went on and on, and she followed the
lead, only dimly aware of the movements of the body,
praying it to not give up on her.
Unaware of her actions, she went underground, in a
darkness of the main temple that was bearing the
sky-blue line of music.
Somewhere on the way down she began to sing, like
she sang for the wise ones at home. Unlike then
though, she sang the old chants and prayers, the ones
that had been used to lessen pain and loss---- and
the temple rejoiced around her and sang with her.
The rocks and carvings sang in unison with her for
all her people, for her lost Master, for Kyp who had
lost his way, for all the beings who were suffering
and who were craving for justice. Never before had
she ever felt such great joy yet such great sadness
at the same time.
Time went by; she didn't stop dancing nor
And suddenly she wasn't alone anymore; a man's
voice entered the chant, then she saw him. He was a
strange, brown-skinned alien--- a Noghri, she
identified when the other had stepped out of the
shadows. He was wearing black robes that were adorned
with a silver sign. Like her, he was moving in
accordance with the music and her chant.
When he was just in front of her, the silver light
of a sword suddenly appeared in his hand cutting the
music at its highest peak.
Kirana reeled as all her strength left her at once
but the alien steadied her with his angular hand.
"You gave me a high joy, young Jedi, bringing
here the memory of your people who is dear to my
heart. However, it was most unwise from your part to
give all your energy to the chant- you could have
"I'm sorry..." said Kirana Ti.
"But... who are you?"
"I am called the Lord of the Sword,"
smiled the Noghri. "And this place happens to be
"I'm one of the Sith's gods," he
"A god!.." Kirana whispered faintly,
shocked. "And my people is dear to your
"They used to follow my path, many hundreds
of years ago, when they were at their greatest. They
may have forgotten about me, but I haven't forgotten
"Ah," Kirana nodded, then frowned.
"Am I dreaming?"
"Not yet," said the Noghri, "but
you should, for you're very tired, young Jedi, and
will be unable to return to your home. Sleep and
gather your forces."
"Why not? I will protect you. No harm will
come to you here, young Jedi, you have my word on
"All right," Kirana reluctantly agreed,
yet she could not refuse either. She was exhausted.
She was alone once again.
She collapsed where she was standing, and was
asleep in a second.
The next morning, upon returning from his
unplanned rest in the jungle, the first thing that
Vader saw when he entered the temple was Kirana Ti on
the floor, sleeping like a baby.
He blinked, then questioned the temple; the answer
that he received made him laugh aloud. It was highly
unexpected, and he was quite sure that the girl
didn't understand the honor of seeing the Lord of the
Sword, but he could feel that her opinion of Siths
One less victim for Exar Kun's lies, or to the
opinions of the Old Jedi Order.
As he approached the young woman, he briefly
wondered if the dead dignitaries of the Old Order now
understood how much their opinions of Siths had been
very much like those of the darkest and vilest of
Most probably not, he sighed. After all, what
monster would willingly admit that he is one?
Except himself, he thought with harsh amusement,
kneeling by Ti's slumped form. It was time for the
sleeping beauty to rise. Her friends were searching
He was raised his hand to shake her awake-----
when a strangled cry of rage and pain startled him.
Kyp, like everybody else, had been searching for
Kirana for a while, when a thought hit him: she was
in Vader's grips.
The sacrifice was nearing, he suddenly realized as
he ran as fast as he could toward the enemy's temple.
Perhaps it was even already on the way!, he gasped,
pouring the Force through his muscles to enhance his
Why did nobody listen to him??, he demanded to the
Force, ducking under low- hangings before jumping
over a fallen trunk. Not even Cilghal, who might have
been leaning in his direction, was now very calm and
pensive after what she had experienced while in the
Dark Lord's body.
Very well, he determined, pulling his lightsaber
from his belt as a new surge of hatred filled him, he
would do it alone then. He would go to the Sith
temple, he would face Vader, and he would save
them all from the dark monster.
Barely out of breath, he burst through the last
barriers of leaves and branches, ran toward the main
He had reached its entrance when he froze in
Vader was looming over Kirana's prone body, as if
preparing for the killing blow of a predator.
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" he yelled in
disbelief, then, turning on his lightsaber, he rushed
toward the Dark Lord.
Despite his brash action though, he was almost
dying of fear when Vader effortlessly blocked his
attack, then straightened up, turning into a deep,
graceful and deadly shadow.
"What are you doing here, Jedi?" he
asked him menacingly.
"What are you doing to Kirana?!"
"Nothing," the Dark Lord answered, a bit
surprised. "She is sleeping."
"Only for now," Kyp defied angrily,
"then you will sacrifice her in order to get
power!" Kyp was really angry now; the Force was
singing around him. He followed its lead, and his
anger gave him more and more power...
But Vader was stronger.
He parried every one of his attacks. No matter
which combination he tried, the other countered them
"What sacrifice are you talking about?"
the dark lord inquired, as if innocent.
"The one to your Lord of the Sword!" the
youth spat in disgust, then swung hard with his blade
Vader shook his head while he gracefully
side-stepped the slash. "The Lord of the Sword
doesn't accept a human sacrifice, stupid boy."
"As if I would believe you!"
"Then I'll make you to believe," Vader
shrugged, "but first we must finish this
nonsense."---- And for the first time, attacked
with his full power.
As he barely withheld against Vader's full might,
Kyp understood that everything was lost; Vader would
kill him now. 'Master, please, help me! I'm asking
you: take my body, save us all!'
"No!" he heard Vader's cry, and smiled
at hearing his Master's voice: 'With pleasure'.
However, unlike usually, the voice had some strange
edge to it.
"With great pleasure," Exar Kun
repeated, taking the offered body---
And Kyp suddenly understood that he had been
played and cried out in horror but he had no mouth to
'I'll deal with you later, you stupid boy. Now be
quiet,' the Sith snapped as he refocused on his
enemy. "Really," he sneered at his enemy,
"I expected more from you, Vader. Being unable
to understand a so simple manipulation. But you'll
make a great offer to my Master... I can't wait to
feel the power that he's promised me. At last, I will
fulfill my destiny!"
"But first," Vader defied calmly,
"you must kill me."
"Absolutely," Kyp's/Kun's face smirked.
"Shall we proceed?"
As he resumed the duel, Kun quickly realized that
he was truly stronger than the poor boy had been .
Even fighting with his maximum skills, Vader had
problems to counter his attacks.
This time, he thought victoriously, nothing would
What had just happened greatly disgusted the Dark
Lord. He could hardly imagine a worst abomination
than a long dead Sith Lord taking possession of the
body of a young and misguided Jedi, manipulating the
said Jedi's talents.
Bending the Force through him.
It was an abomination, he snarled inwardly. It was
disgusting, unbearable. As the Chosen One, he had to
eradicate it from the world; he had to remove it
The Force was singing in him, around him, leading
him, moving him against his foe like a sword.
A weapon that knew no misses.
The enemy must die, so was the will of the Force.
Exar Kun and Kyp Durron will die, and the Chosen One
will complete another task for his destiny.
All of a sudden, this word also disgusted Vader.
He looked at Kun, the other one who was also moved by
his supposed destiny, looked at Kyp's face, contorted
by Kun's hate.
The young Jedi was his son's trainee, his almost
friend. He was someone whom his son cared about. He
would hurt Luke again when the youth would find out
that his own father had killed his friend.
Suddenly, Vader was extremely tired to fight.
Following his destiny, his path chosen so long ago
would be very easy and safe. He would only take one
innocent life while saving millions!
But he didn't care anymore about that; he just was
Tired of killing innocents for the greater cause.
Tired of hurting the ones he cared about. 'No' he
whispered to the siren's chant of his destiny. 'No,
go away. I no longer wish to follow your path.'
A moment, he had to battle to not lose control
over the energy overflow; the next--- he had nothing.
His awareness of the world collapsed to even less
than he had felt when a child.
Vader smiled sadly under his mask; so that was
what had been meant to be mere mortal Sith. Well, he
shrugged to himself, he would have to live with it.
Or die with it.
He sidestepped a vicious slash of Kun's
lightsaber, spared a gaze around and saw the
horrified face of Kirana Ti.
'What a way to be awakened,' he thought wryly and
Instead of blindly following his orders, she
stayed if nailed to the wall, looking transfixed at
"Well, Vader, it seems that you're having
difficulties," Kun jeered at him.
"You obviously can't kill me, so I'm afraid that
it will be the other way round."
"We'll see," Vader retorted, then
attacked the joint Kun-Kyp's mind with all his power,
forcing them all to the illusionary world.
By doing so though, he missed Kun's latest attack
and felt the pain of the wound just before leaving
the awareness of his body.
He was pinned by a lance to a large tree. The pain
was red-hot, almost unsupportable.
Exar Kun, in his real form, stood before him
smiling in triumph. At Kun's feet Kyp Durron sat,
chained tightly and gagged.
"It appears that our little game is over,
Vader" Kun smirked meanly. "What a pity.
You're dying. It's just a matter of time now,"
he commented petulantly, reveling in the pain of his
"Kyp," Vader hissed, not looking at the
jubilating Sith Lord, "you can still choose. You
can decide to be free."
"Free!" Exar Kun sneered.
*He is too strong!* Kyp sobbed silently. *Can't
you see, what he's done to me?!*
"He hasn't done anything!" Vader gasped,
fighting against the pain and the approaching
darkness. "You did all this yourself, you stupid
*I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry...*
"Oh yes, be sorry before you die,
slave," Exar Kun snarled. "And to think
that you refused your destiny, Chosen One, only to
save this wimp! Well, you're just as I thought,"
the other sneered in disgust. "Your attachment
to your son has made you too weak."
Kyp closed his eyes. Vader had refused his destiny
to try and save him?
Save him??? A stupid boy who had caused-----
What a fool had he been, he berated himself
vehemently, what a fool. He should have known better
than to follow his feelings. He should have checked
them and compare them with the others, verifying them
with the facts...
And now this whole mess was his fault, he thought
forlornly, and Vader, Luke's father, was dying
because of him. In a moment or two, Kun would
complete the sacrifice and all will be lost.
Stop! He warned himself. That's panic, a stupid,
paralyzing feeling. He had to think with his head
this time, or at least pretend he had one. Vader had
said: "you can still decide to be free."
Considering how the very same Dark Lord had just
refused his Destiny, he conceded that the other
probably knew what he was talking about.
So what had he said to fuse his mind with Exar
Kun's, he pondered furiously. What had he----
and then he knew.
*Who is the Lord of the Sword?* he inquired to the
waning Dark Lord, not opening his eyes.
"Justice and retribution," answered the
awfully weak voice of Vader.
For a moment, Kyp wilted inwardly in worry.
Considering his latest actions, the Lord of the Sword
would not treat him very kindly, and yet, he reminded
himself, he did not have any other choice. Focusing
his mind, he thought: 'I ask the Lord of the Sword to
accept me as his Sith, to use me as he sees fit, to
enter my body and stop this maniac from destroying
*Do you really want to be a Sith, my boy?* a soft,
gentle voice inquired in his head. *Or do you just
want my help?*
*I can't be a Jedi,* Kyp answered through the
Force. *I have always dreamed to serve someone
worthwhile ... that's why I did all this stupid
things. I need... a Master, a purpose to serve.
Please. It's not just for help. Even if this would be
*Very well, my boy. Your master will be Lord
Vader, do you accept it?*
*If he will agree. Yes.*
*Than your demand is accepted. Thank you for the
And Kyp felt his chains disappear---- and heard a
strident scream of pain.
He hurried to open his eyes, worried---- and gaped
as he discovered that Vader had transpierced Kun with
the bloody lance that he had apparently ripped out
his own body.
"Your execution will be completed, Sith Lord
Exar Kun," Vader stated with finality, "and
may you never return to the mortal world!"
Kun howled awfully--- and disappeared, gone
forever this time.
The sudden silence was stunning.
Vader collapsed on his knees- Kyp hurried to his
side. "My Lord... Can I help you?"
"No, it's alright." Vader shook his
head. "You did already did what had to be
"Of course. Don't you understand?" the
older Sith explained to him. "Your action
expulsed him from your body. It was what I needed you
to do if I wanted to be able to kill him."
"But," Kyp gaped in confusion.
"Really," Vader smiled under his helmet,
"I am not *that* powerless... yet." He
slowly raised to his feet. There was no wound on his
body. "Let's go back... apprentice Durron."
And so they integrated their bodies--- Just to
meet with an hysterical Kirana Ti. They tried to calm
her and reassure her that Kyp was back to his normal
It was not an easy task for either of them.
Mara checked her chrono once again: T minus three
Still no news from Vader and his bratty daughter,
she reflected seriously, nor from her own spies to
inform her that her prey had taken her bait and was
obeying her orders.
"So what are the results this time?" she
asked the computer tech who was sitting in front of
her and her two main allies in her vendetta against
"I still don't understand why you're going to
rely on computer simulation to look like you're
hurting the Jedi again," Piett frowned while the
tech loaded the results of his latest program.
"We could very well hurt him for real
"And kill him," Mara glared coldly at
the mean man.
"Well, sooner or later, what does it matter
if he'll be dead anyway," Veers shrugged from
"We can't kill him," she shook her head,
refocusing on the screen that was in front of her.
"Not yet. If this doesn't work, we'll need him
alive if we want to brainwash him and manipulate the
rebels through him," she explained as coldly as
However, her heart was far from being the cold,
icy body part that she was pretending to own at the
moment; instead, it was literally 'feeling' for their
captive Jedi, aware that she herself would 'never' be
able to give orders to either brainwash him or hurt
Her two allies continued to frown uncertainly at
"He's our only bargaining chip," she
reminded them sternly. "We can't risk his life
anymore than we already did. Besides," she
shrugged, nodding toward the images on the screen,
"what you've done is already perfect."
On the screen, an image of a strung-up Skywalker
writhed and screamed in pain as Piett attacked him,
adding to his already obvious torments. "Great
job of correcting the image, cadet," she praised
the young tech who was sitting straight-backed in her
chair. "If your work fools the enemy, you will
be in charge of your group of techs from now on, with
the increase of salary of course."
"I... huh, thank you, Madam," the
worried young woman bowed her head slightly before
refocusing on her program and making minutes
adjustments in order to please her further.
"Looks like this settles our argument,
Gentlemen," she commented, focusing on her two
closest allies. "Vader and Organa Solo will
never think that this is not real. They will bow to
us this time."
"And if they don't?" Veers inquired
"Then Skywalker will still be alive to help
us whether he wants it or not."
"Then why not brainwash him now, Madam?"
Piett frowned, locking his dark-brown eyes on her
Suddenly feeling as if she were slowly being
cornered by the two men, Mara squared her shoulders
and glared at them as if they were, suddenly, her
enemies and about to be destroyed. "He would not
survive the procedure at the moment, Admiral Piett,
thanks to you. We will not take any further risks
with him for the moment. Are we clear on this?"
she inquired lowly, glaring at them from under her
"Crystal clear, Madam," both men snapped
to attention, as if aware that they had crossed a
line that they shouldn't have crossed.
"Good, now report to your units and prepare
to oversee the attacks on Bespin and Rialteer the
moment that we're done with the Vaders.
The two military officers reflexively saluted her,
then turned heels and headed toward their respective
destinations in the well-organized command center.
"Men," she sneered openly, then turned
back toward the computer screen to refocus on the
images there. "If we would listen to them, we
would kill everyone without considering the
"I... huh," the other hesitated, then
decided to not answer and refocused on her very
"I guess that's why I lead them instead of
the opposite," she added, consciously aiming to
dispel any feelings of weariness from her surrounding
subordinates. "To lead them to victory
As if remembering how their group had failed
against Vader's Empire before she had found them and
taken their lead, the uneasiness that had been slowly
invading the communication center suddenly dissolved
as if it had never been in the first place.
And she herself knew that she had convinced
them... and saved Skywalker from more torments for
the time being.
"Make it look more real than real," she
advised her future head technician, then she too left
the computer area to return near the holonet
If Vader or his daughter were to call, she wanted
to be ready to answer them. She could barely
wait to savor her vengeance.
An hour and a half, aboard the Executor, Han was
standing behind the scanning officers, overseeing
their furtive scan of the far away asteroid field.
The blips appeared yet again in the midst of the
moving rocks, confirming the presence of Jade's group
in one of the biggest asteroid of the field.
"Wedge, you getting that?" the
ex-smuggler inquired in his comlink.
"Yes, we do. Remind me to kiss your
father-in-law's ugly mask next time I see him.
Without him, we would never have located them in
time; they must have three times the regular shields
of any base."
"But they still can't hide from a focalized
scan," Han grinned, trying to imagine his friend
'trying' to kiss the cool, unloving Dark Lord of the
Sith. "As for Vader, I think thanking him
will do, Hotshot. That is, if you want to remain in
"Right. So," the rebel commented as the
blips reappeared yet again on their screens.
"Are we going to look at them all day or do we
get going? We're still a good hour away from them in
stealth mode, and that is without mentioning the
asteroid barrier that we have to tackle."
"Got you loud and clear," Han nodded
even as the officers around him continued to organize
the boarding parties. "Let's kiss the
"I always loved your images of speech,
Solo," the other groaned. "Antilles
out," he finished, then turned off their
*The Falcon's troops are ready to board it and the
other drop ships are waiting for your order to lift
off," Chewie informed him as he himself returned
to the higher level of the bridge.
"Good," Han nodded, dimly wondering when
he had picked up on his lordship's language when
commanding troops, then turned around to speak to the
officer who would be in charge of the two ships while
he and Wedge would be in the Asteroid Field.
"Deploy the fleet to prevent escape, Admiral.
We'll make them prisoners, but this ends here."
"Yes, Sir," the other accepted with a
military salute then turned to his own subordinates.
Han, for his part, joined Chewie near the main
hatch; they half-walked, half-ran to the main docking
On Coruscant, Leia watched the enormous
time-counting device that was set below the main
Both Han's and Wedge's groups had reached their
target and were now approaching it, careful to not
rise the hornet before it would be too late for them
to escape them.
It was now T minus thirty-five minutes.
Thirty-five minutes until her brother would once
again be hurt by the evil woman before Han would be
able to save him from her claws---
"Are you sure that she will not kill
him?" she asked her father, with whom she was in
contact to discuss the last details of their upcoming
"I know Jade well enough to suspect that she
will save him for further use if even this doesn't
work," he reassured her from his seated position
in the reception field. "I also suspect that she
knows me enough to not risk killing him and bring
down my lethal wrath down upon her. With Luke alive,
she can control me, and she knows it."
"How very reassuring," she muttered,
forcing her hands to unclench from her long, loose
skirt. "So whatever we'll say, she'll hurt Luke,
"I'm afraid so, yes."
"But she won't kill him."
"Sometimes, death can be a relief instead of
a torment," the Dark Lord commented coolly to
And she couldn't argue with him since she
remembered having yearned for such a relief
herself... twice... "I still prefer to see him
back home, safe and alive," she finally retorted
"So do I," her father nodded. "Solo
will bring him back to you, Leia. That smuggler of
yours seems able to pull any kind of rescue when it
comes to your brother."
"Yeah," she nodded, feeling a tear of
worry slip past of tight self-control to slide down
her cheek. "He did manage the near-impossible on
more than one occasion."
"And he will save Luke again," her
father stated. "So it is agreed," he
continued more coolly once she had composed herself
once again, "you let me handle Jade while you
keep track of the rescue for the two of us."
Throwing another gaze at the tactical display, she
held her breath as she became aware of her lover's
position. "They're entering the asteroid field
even as we speak."
They had twenty-five minutes left--- when a
warning informed her that her holonet was being
invaded by an incoming signal.
On Yavin 4, Vader was turning toward a display of
the Hoth system when a warbling sound came from the
holonet receiver--- and replaced Leia's image by
"My, Lord Vader," the red head smiled
sourly as she caught him by surprise. "I
expected you to foment a way to not give in to my
demands, but I never thought that you'd be in
communication with your beloved daughter at this very
moment. Now, if only you cared this much for
your son," she continued, her face turning cold
and expressionless, "you would have followed my
commands and transmitted your message of betrayal to
the whole galaxy."
"I am not on Coruscant at the moment,
Jade," he reminded her coolly, straightening his
posture in his chair while not standing up.
He simply didn't have the strength to do it yet.
"So?" the other challenged, raising an
eyebrow in mock-polite confusion. "How does this
prevent you from addressing the whole galaxy as I
have so 'nicely' requested?"
"If you remember, Jade," he reminded her
coldly, "the trans-galactic system is not hooked
to the main holonet transmitters. It cannot be used
unless we're on Coruscant itself, which is four days
away from my current location. Even if I had tried to
reach Coruscant on time, you would have considered
your demand as being rebuffed."
"Which means that you do choose pain for your
'dear' son," she rebuked him as if she were a
very good friend instead of his arch nemesis.
"I do not but you must be realistic in your
demands if you want me to give in to them."
Leia, who had once again been forced out of her
communication with her father, held her breath as she
waited for the red-head's answer. If she didn't take
her father's bait, she 'knew' that the other would
put her threat to execution with Luke.
And she herself would then only be able to pray
that the red-head didn't want to kill him yet, giving
enough time to Han's team to rescue him.
Turning toward the alternative connection with the
Fleet, she saw that they had finally managed to raise
the Falcon and were now preparing to relay the
ongoing discussion to her husband's receiver. She
walked closer to talk to him.
"Any sign of detection yet, Han?" she
inquired as she picked up a free head set.
"None that we can see, Sweetheart," her
husband answered grimly. "With that asteroid
field around themselves though, they don't need any
detection device, believe me. We've already lost a
third of our fighters and one transport."
"Yes, I saw," she nodded grimly, then
threw a gaze at the ongoing discussion between the
enemy and her father---- only to gape as she saw that
the image had been replaced by that of her brother---
"Han! We're running short on time!" she
"Yeah, I can see---"
They both fell silent as her brother screamed in
pain thanks to the renewed attack on his already
"How close are you to them?" the petite
brunette asked, suddenly desperate to get her brother
out of that harpy's claws.
Beside her, her aide, Winter, covered her mouth
and turned away from the main display of the torture
"Five minutes and closing. I'll contact you
when Luke is aboard is safe, Leia. I
Aware that she was endangering his life, as well
as Luke's only chance if she kept distracting him
from his flying, she didn't try to keep him any
longer on the line; she reluctantly turned around and
witnessed her brother's torment...
And cried, unable to believe that it was happening
She was simply unable to believe that she couldn't
do anything to stop it from happening, again.
"Get ready to fire at the outer defenses the
moment that we're within range," Han instructed
the two troopers who were currently manning the quad
"Yes, Sir," their filtered voices
answered him, as emotionless as ever.
Just like their twenty colleagues who were waiting
in the lounge for his order to attack the enemy.
Imperial stormtroopers waiting in orderly ranks
for 'his' order to leave the Falcon and pounce on the
enemy; who would have thought, he mentally shook his
head while he continued to focus on his ace piloting.
He was so focused on it that he barely heard
Luke's screams of agony, yet he still heard them a
little as they slowly pierced the cold blanket that
he was desperately trying to maintain to be able to
save his friend from his current predicament.
"We're coming up in their detection range for
sure now," Wedge commented----
"Enough, Jade," Vader's cool voice
suddenly interrupted their communication as the
transmission from Coruscant/Yavin 4 changed pitch.
As if aware that she had finally gotten results,
the red-head tuned out the wails of agony of her
prisoner and focused on her main target. "Yes,
'Lord' Vader? You were saying?"
'No, please, no' Han thought desperately as he
understood that the Dark Lord was not faking his
worry for Luke.
*We can't let her win!" his Wookiee companion
growled angrily even as he poured more speed into
"Wedge!" Han called in his mike,
"we can't spare any second anymore. Floor it,
we're coming fast and hot---- now!"
On his command, the ships, which had already been
flying faster than caution warranted, sped up and
headed straight for the half-moon-sized, relatively
stable asteroid that was sheltering their target.
At last, Mara smiled to herself even as she
exchanged a meaningful look with the up-to-now
dubious Piett. They had him now.
"Stop hurting him, I... I'll return to
Even as she was just beginning to savor her
victory, their alarms went off all around the base.
"Incoming attack at 330!" a monitoring
tech suddenly bellowed, interrupting the touchy
moment of finale negotiations. "We've already
taken major casualties on our forward defenses and
can't stop them from landing in our main docking
"Send the troops to stop them and protect our
own transports!" Veers barked from his station,
which was close to the main comm system. "Order
emergency evacuations of everything that can be taken
aboard the transports within the next five
"You son is dead, Vader," Piett growled,
stepping into range of the transmission field, then
cut the transmission without checking on her next
intentions. "I told you that we should have
tortured him for real," he sneered at her, then
approached the tactical display while checking the
charges of his blaster. "How did they get this
close to us this fast?"
Mara, for her part, remained rooted to her spot
near the transmission device, still reeling from the
speed with which the situation had slipped out of her
tight control. One moment, she had had Vader right
where she had wanted him, and the next, her allies
were organizing their escape---
And Skywalker was about to escape.
Completely forgetting the rest of her group, she
pulled her own pocket blaster from her wrist
band/forearm holster, then took two steps in the
direction of the closest exit that would lead her to
the detention bay---
A strong hand caught hold of her biceps and jerked
her to a halt. "This way, Madam," Veers
informed her even as he dragged her after him and the
departing men. "We'll stand a better chance if
we try to get past them through the troops than if we
do it on our own."
"But Skywalker---" she argued even as
her cooler self followed her wise officer and ran
after the leaving group.
"The first stage of destruction will flood
his level. The explosive charges are already counting
down. We will still manage to avenge part of the
Emperor's death," he told her grimly.
'And kill a good man,' her sensitive self
whimpered at the thought of the abandoned young Jedi
who was perhaps even unconscious in his cell at the
Unable to even try and save his life.
And now it was time to save hers, she sternly
reminded herself, forcing herself to focus on the
situation at hand.
Before she could ask for a report about the
situation, the loudspeakers flared to life once
again. "The enemy troops have entered the base,
the enemy troop have----"
"We can't go out the main corridor," she
commented seriously, then made a break for an
Veers, Piett, and the six or seven closest
troopers followed her.
Meanwhile, unbeknown to the enemy, the countdown
of the self-destruction system continued.
Han Solo, who had been part of the first boarding
party, had quickly gathered his special team of three
allied troopers and had run out of the fighting area.
After hiding from incoming troops and capturing
one, he had hurried to reach the indicated detention
area, pushed by his adrenaline as well as the
knowledge that as long as he wouldn't be 'with' Luke,
the young man would be tormented to death.
Barreling down the last corridor before their
'supposed' destination, Solo shot the cameras that he
could see; he wanted to surprise the guards of the
detention area. As they approached the door, he let a
trooper overcome his positin. The other reached the
door and keyed it open for the rest of them to rush
through--- into a deserted control room of a basic
Weary for a trap, Han swiftly swiveled from
left--- to right...
"Jedi Skywalker is in cell 22b, Sir," a
trooper informed him even as the two others covered
the whole space of the control room with their
"Come with me," he ordered the imperial
who had just talked to him; they both ran as fast as
the could down the row of electronically-locked
>From which no sound of torment was coming
Could they be..., Han thought, feeling an horrible
tightening in his chest at the thought that Jade had
already killed Luke---
Cell 22b finally showed up; he screeched to a halt
and keyed it open.
The moment that he caught sight of the sprawled
form of his brother-in-law and best friend, he held
his breath in horror, his first instincts telling him
that he was too late... then the door finished to
open and he saw that Luke was far from dead.
Instead, he was alive and being monitored... by
medical devices?, the smuggler frowned even as he
rushed to his friend's side. "Luke!" he
called, lightly slapping his friend's cheek to wake
him up even as he took stock of his actual status.
He thus noticed that he was not as 'injured' as he
had expected him to be considering the harsh beating
that he had just---
"Sir! We have to leave this level
quickly!" the trooper suddenly cut in his
thoughts. "Unit 3 informs us that they turned
off the self-destruct system of the base, but they
can't stop the detention levels from being
Great, more race!, he grumbled even as he shot his
friend's chains free from the wall. "Help
me," he told the other while he removed the
sensor from his friend's forehead.
Pulling Luke's injured body from the cold floor,
Han slung his arm around his shoulders while the
other man repeated the procedure with the Jedi's
other arm. They then straightened up---
wakening their wounded companion from his sleep.
"Aaaahh," Luke groaned reflexively as he
felt his body being shifted and manipulated just a
tad too much and too fast considering its current
status. He forced his eyes opened--- and moved
to pinch himself to check if he were dreaming or not.
"Hang on, Kid," Han Solo was telling him
while half-carrying him out of his cell, using the
help of a stormtrooper. "I know that this is not
helping your pain, but it's that or drowning and
personally, I want to return to your sister.
"Drowning?" he rasped, trying to work
past his pain-killer-induced confusion to understand
what was going on exactly.
"Yeah, that red-headed bitch decided to drown
you instead of letting you go."
And with this last statement, it clicked: he had
been in his cell in Mara Jade's secret base, sleeping
for lack of anything else to do except think and be
confused... and he was now obviously rescued by his
brother-in-law and best friend.
"Where is Jade?" he inquired, looking
around himself to see if Han had had to fight past
guards to get to him.
"Not here. She can't and won't hurt you
anymore, Kid. I swear it."
However, as if to prove him wrong, the ceiling
above them suddenly shook as a loud explosion
resounded throughout the corridor and detention
block--- then water began to flow down from many
openings in the still intact-looking ceiling.
"So it was a trap all along," his friend
growled, then pulled him higher on his shoulder.
Luke almost passed out again at this, but he
somehow managed to remain conscious. Or perhaps, he
conceded, the cold water, which was quickly gathering
around his bare feet, was helping him to retain his
Around them, the water was streaming down the
surrounding walls, transforming them into cascades of
cold water. It was now up to their shins and climbing
faster with each passing moment.
"How far are we from the stairwell?" Han
inquired to the troopers who were wadding through the
waters in front and behind them, obviously alert for
"Another twenty meters, Sir."
The water was now up to their knees, slowing them
down further with each millimeter that it gained on
them--- and he himself finally recovered the Force as
they 'exited' the ysalamiri bubble that had been set
around the detention area.
The healing energies instantly poured right
through and into him, soothing his slighter pains
while helping him to sustain his more tormenting
And he himself knew what he could do to assist his
The cold water was already up to their thighs.
"When I give the word," he told them as
strongly as he could manage in his condition,
"run for it. I'll hold back the water."
"You'll what?" Han asked him, throwing
him a look of disbelief even as he continued to
struggle through the gathering water, intent on
saving both of their lives.
On his left side, the trooper equally threw him a
"On my mark," he answered seriously,
then closed his eyes and focused on clearing a trench
between two walls of cold water.
At first, nothing seemed to happen, then gasps
coming from his companions told him that his idea had
worked--- then he had to brace himself in order to
retain his focus. With each running step taken by his
carriers, his pain was ramming in his body.
A little more, he encouraged himself, just a
His dangling legs suddenly hit the rising stairs
and he lost what little concentration he could still
maintain against the increased pain.
The water, which was suddenly released from its
prison, rushed back into the whole corridor, meeting
into two strong waves--- and unbalancing the trooper
who was just behind them.
The man fell face first toward them, reflexively
catching himself on Luke's close-by legs and body
before being drawn back into the gathering
water. Combined with the sudden wave of water
that hit Luke and his carriers from behind, it was
enough to pull the wounded man free from the others'
In his weakened condition, he knew that he would
have slipped away and under the water without any
chance of being able to swim--- but Han's strong hand
flashed out and grabbed hold of his injured arm
before pulling him to safety even as he himself
extended his hand toward the rear man who was
struggling against the spiraling current that was
resulting from the strong wave. They then struggled
up the rest of the stairs.
The three of them made it to safety just as the
water level stopped rising. The detention levels were
now completely flooded.
"All right, let's get out of here," Han
commented seriously, tightening his hold on Luke's
wrist as he helped him up to his feet.
"Yeah, I think we're all clean enough to go
back home now," the dripping wet young Jedi
tried to joke, trying to lighten the mood of the
moment as well as forget his constant aches.
"Well, we never know with Leia, she might
insist for a bacta swim," his friend grinned
"And for once, I wouldn't complain," he
answered, exchanging a meaningful gaze with his best
friend, then with the men who had come in with him.
"Thanks for coming after me. I owe you
"Thank me when we'll really be away from here
with Jade safely stashed away in a cell."
"Right," Luke nodded as he tried to
support his weight on his weakened legs this time.
While he gauged the amount of pain that this
action caused him, he berated himself for feeling
concern for the woman instead of seeing her like an
enemy who had tried to kill him despite 'whatever'
had happened between them when they had been alone in
With the help of Han and his other carrier, they
ran as fast as they could down the upper corridor and
toward the docking bay where they had berthed the
Meanwhile, on Yavin 4, Vader was once again in
touch with his daughter, following through her
reports the progress of their attack.
"Have they gotten Luke out now?" he
asked her the moment that she returned from a short
talk with an officer.
"Yes," she smiled in relief. "A
trooper in Han's group just informed them that they
have retrieved Luke and that the were out of the
detention area. This area of the base is apparently
completely flooded now."
To kill their enemies, he surmised grimly even as
he sighed in relief.
Luke was safe.
Solo had once again been true to his word and
managed the impossible in the nick of time.
"What about Jade? Piett? Veers? Have they
been captured already?"
"A few squads have reported encounters with a
woman that corresponded to Jade's description, but we
lost contact with all of them a few seconds after
they reported the contact."
Probably killed by Jade's flawless aim, he
surmised inwardly. "Where did those contacts
take place? Any specific area of the base?" he
inquired coolly although he felt a very definite lust
for revenge for what the devilish woman had done to
his son even minutes ago.
"Huh," Leia turned away from the
reception field and furthered his inquiry to her
tactical people. She returned in the field with a
frown on her face. "According to what
little data we have gathered about the base through
the different reports, she and her group are heading
toward the main hangar bay, exactly where---"
"Luke and Han are headed at the moment,"
he finished grimly for her.
Headed for a final face-off.
Back in the base, Mara shot an enemy trooper in
the knee before shifting her aim to hit him in the
chest. She had barely finished him that she had to
take care of another target, then a third one, whom
she knocked out with a roundhouse kick when he kept
coming despite her hitting him in the chest.
"They managed to deactivate de self-destruct,
Madam," Veers informed her as he turned off his
comlink and checked their surroundings. "They
will capture every information that we stashed in our
"We'll adjust to this once we're out of here,
General," she rebuked him sternly as she noticed
his lowering level of confidence. "For now,
we're not out of it yet. Come on."
Piett, who had been all bluster and bravado while
they had been preparing their contact with Vader, was
now self-erased, his nervous eyes darting back and
forth, as if to look in every direction at once.
That man, she understood, had never been in a real
combat situation before. Like most of his
ex-colleagues, he had always been aboard the ships
during the battles, wielding the weapons that were
whole ships instead of his hand-held blaster, for
which his aim was poorer than poor.
"Are the enemy troops still in the main
hangar bay?" he asked nervously, tagging close
to her as they resumed their run down the now
It was her turn to throw him a disdainful glare.
"Of course they are; it's our main hope to
escape and they know it."
"Unless their officers aren't as bright as
you are, Madam."
First near condescending attitudes, now pointless
praise. That man, she sighed in growing annoyance,
was not versatile at all.
She ignored him and saved her breath for the final
meters of their race--- and the upcoming fight, she
braced herself as the sounds of an ongoing ground
battle drifted up to their ears.
One meter, and the audible cringe of the man who
was undoubtedly hoping to hide himself behind her---
Then her group emerged from the corridor; two of
their techs fell the moment that they stepped out of
the hatch, opening the way to the others.
Mara brought her blaster to bear and shot two men
dead before they had had time to blink, then turned
toward her right as she caught sight of a swift
For a moment, she, Han Solo and Skywalker gaped at
each other in shock and disbelief that they could be
so close to their true targets---- Then Solo opened
fire on her even as she did on him, forcing the two
She barely had time to aim before she rolled away
from Solo's sizzling bolts of energies, then again
when other bolts seemed to track her across the
Aware that more cover would work better for the
troopers' safety, Luke had ordered his second carrier
to let him and Han handle his weight while the others
would make sure that they would remain alive.
As expected though, the 'wise' decision was taking
quite a toll on his still aching legs and back, but
he gritted his teeth and forced himself to keep
running beside Han. Soon, he reminded himself as they
covered more distance in the otherwise deserted
corridor, they would all be aboard the Falcon and
Once they would get past the asteroid field of
However, even with that touchy obstacle in their
path, he was still closer to freedom and safety than
he had been in... a while.
The sound of a nearby ground attack grew louder
and louder in the corridor.
"All right, we're going in. Brace yourself,
Kid," Han warned him even as he pulled his
blaster from his holster and held it in his left
A few clearing shots from their escort, then they
were prowling through the open hatch---- just as Jade
and her group came through the closest entrance on
For a brief, very brief moment, he couldn't help
but gape at her... at her beauty and his confusing
feelings for her----
Then she aimed at him and Han. The moment that
Luke registered the fact that Jade was going to shoot
at him, he freed himself from Han's slackened hold
and threw himself away from his friend, hoping to
take the danger away from him and toward himself.
He hit the deck rather hard on his side, his
still-cuffed wrists clanging loudly against the
metallic floor; he instantly drew unwanted attention
from nearby enemy, or so his danger senses warned
He reflexively rolled away from the danger,
ignoring his body complaints in order to save his
life, then reached out with the Force and called for
a blaster nearby.
The moment that the weapon slapped into his
outstretched hand, he rolled on his painful stomach
and opened fire on his immediate threat; three shots
later, he was safe again and had time to check which
weapon he had recovered.
He stopped short in shock as he recognized Jade's
wicked-looking pocket blaster. Instantly aware
that it meant that the woman was in danger, he
searched around himself, using all his senses to
track her, and Han, down--- and saw that Jade was
reeling from an obvious close explosion when Han had
hit the discarded power pack of a discarded weapon.
His friend had a clear shot at her; the red-head
wasn't even fully aware of her predicament---
Han was going to kill her!, he realized even as he
rushed to his feet and ran as fast as he could toward
them, fighting past everything that his body was
yelling at him, ordering him to lie still.
Only one thing mattered to him now: he had to save
Mara's life from his friend's shot.
"Han, no!" he begged, then, calling on
the Force to shield her and himself from the shot,
threw himself toward her, hoping to tackle her away
from Han's clear line of shot.
The bolt of energy left his friend's weapon
"Luke!!!" his friend cried in horror as
he realized what was about to happen.
It was too late to stop anything.
Still reeling from an explosion that she had never
seen coming, Mara Jade shook her head and forced
herself to recover her full senses, perfectly aware
that a battle was going on at the moment, with her
life at stake-----
"Luke!!!!" Solo's voice suddenly cried
out as if a catastrophe was imminent.
She forced her eyes opened, winced at her instant
headache--- then could only gape in disbelief as she
became aware of the Jedi who had thrown himself at
Her very first instinct was to think that he was
going to kill her himself, then she saw more than
heard him tell her to duck.
She spared half-a-glance away from him to judge
the situation for herself--- then cursed and ducked
away from the incoming bolt of energy.
With her out of the way, it missed its target and
instead buried itself in the Jedi's shoulder; he
crashed in a heap beside her, groaning at the rough
landing before he rolled toward her.
"Luke!!!" Solo called out again.
Mara, who was currently facing the half-conscious
Jedi, looked up at this, estimated the new threat
that was Solo charging toward her as if he were going
to bodily ram into her, then spotted her blaster in
Skywalker's hand. She swiftly retrieved it from his
hold with her left hand even as she rolled on four,
resting her right hand behind Skywalker's back, thus
looming over him once again. She then brought her
weapon to bear from under her chest, straight at
Under her, the Jedi had laid back on his feet----
"Han, look out!" Skywalker warned his
friend, now fouling her attempt to kill 'her' enemy.
The older man trusted the Jedi's words for it and
jumped away from his target, then cursed and rolled
further away as reinforcement joined her efforts to
keep the enemy at bay while they were covering her
"We have to leave now, Madam," Piett was
telling her, almost begging her while trying to pull
She shrugged him off and refocused on the young
man who had just saved her life. He was looking
at her too, obviously wondering what was next for
She wordlessly asked him if he wanted to stay with
his friend; he barely shook his head in answer while
both of them looked at each other as if they would
never let go of each other.
"Come on, Skywalker," she told him
gently, using the voice that she had always used with
him while tending him, "let's get you up if we
want to leave in one piece." "What
are you---?" her admiral inquired in disbelief,
then shut up completely when the Jedi accepted her
help to stand up, then hobbled up to his feet,
leaning against her, but not as much as he would have
had, had he been a reluctant prisoner.
"Luke! Don't! She's lying to you!" Solo
called in desperation from the other side of the
hangar bay; she and the others around them answered
him with new shots, forcing him back under cover.
As he ducked for cover once again, Han couldn't
believe what he had just seen.
First Luke had saved Jade's life as if she had
been his best friend, and now, he was collaborating
with her to take him away once again???
"Luke!!" he tried again, desperate to
break through the obvious brainwash that his friend
had undergone while in the other's hands.
*I'm sorry, Han. Tell Leia that I miss her, and
forgive me,* Luke's warm if tired voice entered his
He peeked from around his chosen cover to catch
sight of his friend; the Jedi was looking at him,
regret etched in his face, but something else was
alight in his eyes.
*I love her, Han. I can't explain it, but I know
that it's true. Please forgive me,* the young man's
mind told him once again directly in his mind, then
Han could only watch helplessly as his friend boarded
a ship that the imperials had managed to salvage and
defend in order to escape.
Slowly, then with more speed, the freighter lifted
off and disappeared in the distance, leaving a very
confused Han Solo in the midst of a battle which he
wasn't aware of anymore.
What the?..., he frowned confusedly... worriedly
for both his friend as well as how he would explain
all this to both his wife and father-in-law.
Chapter 9: Explanations
Aboard the Death Sparrow, Luke, Jade, and the
other rescuees, were still sitting on the deck, more
or less in the same spot than where they had
collapsed the moment that they had been aboard the
"We're approaching the edge of the field,
Madam," a general informed the red- head from
the vicinity of the cockpit's hatch.
"You know what to do, Veers," the
puzzling but beautiful young woman retorted, briefly
sparing a glance at the other before she refocused
her jewel-green eyes on his tired ones. She shifted
her gaze once again. "Piett," she
commented, addressing the other officer who was
watching them wearily. "You're the space
tactician here. Make sure that we make it unscathed
through that blockade."
Despite Mara's commanding intonation and attitude,
the other didn't move to obey her just yet. Instead,
his eyes never left the two youths who were sitting
unusually close to each other on the deck.
Jade turned around until she was facing him; she
glared blaster bolts at him. "Now!"
As if scalded by the sight of her angry gaze, the
older man snapped to attention, saluted jauntily,
then ran toward the nearby cockpit. Veers, for his
part, gave the Jedi a very cold glare of distrust,
obviously disliking him, then followed his
counterpart inside the cockpit.
It left him alone with the woman whom he had just
saved... and a few of her troops who didn't seem to
know how to react to his presence amongst them.
Well, he shrugged inwardly, that made two of them
because he couldn't exactly comprehend his own
One moment, he had been with Han and yearning for
And the next, he had saved his tormentor and had
accepted to go with her once again.
Somehow, he mused while he silently studied his
puzzling companion, he knew that she would have left
him there if he had not wanted to come with her, but
that was the really tricky part of the situation.
He 'had' wanted to come with her, had even fought
past his old and new pains to not be separated from
her----"Ah!" he reflexively gasped when the
object of his thoughts barely touched his injured
shoulder, effectively pulling him out of his
"Sorry," she apologized contritely even
as she hurried to remove her hand from his wounded,
blaster-shot shoulder. "This is obviously worse
than it looks. Come on," she said, then
positioned herself beside his other arm and slung it
around her shoulders. "Let's get you on the
emergency bunk. We need to take a look at that before
"Huh,..." he hesitated slightly before
he gathered his legs under him in order to help her
to pull him up. "Sure."
Working together, they managed to push him back to
a standing/leaning position, then, with the help of
Mara's strengthening arm around his bare waist, they
shuffled toward the back of the ship. They pointedly
ignored the befuddled gazes of the troops that were
gathered around them. Or rather,Luke amended when he
gazed at one of them and saw nothing but the blank,
unemotional face of a trooper helmet, they ignored
their puzzled feelings.
*Are you sure that it's a good idea?* he sent his
unexpected companion as they exited the main hold of
The moment that he touched her mind, he felt her
intense surprise and shock upon hearing him talk to
her this way. As he realized that she was very
startled by his voice, he reflected that she would
either ignore him, or else let him fall.
Fortunately though, she didn't do either. Instead,
she answered him in the same fashion. *I'll deal with
them later, Skywalker. For the moment, we need to
stop the worsening of your blaster burn before it
truly incapacitates your muscles.*
Right, he conceded with a silent nod, unable to
answer in any other way as he felt her presence
mingle with his; it completed him so wonderfully that
he dimly wished for her to never leave his mind ever
Unfortunately, his wish wasn't meant to be. She
reintegrated her full senses, but not without
lingering slightly within him. As if she had also
felt what he had felt, he reflected, trying to fight
past his tiredness and growing confusion to make
sense of what was suddenly going on with the two of
They finally reached the small medbay, which was
more like a small, long closet with lots of basic
tending tools, including a long bunk, than it was a
However, it was equipped with a door. The moment
that they were inside, Mara took care to close it and
locked behind them. She too had noticed her troops
reactions to Skywalker's presence with them, and she
too was acutely aware that her unusual actions with
him were on the limit of what the others could
Thus, she had decided that it had been both time
to tend him 'and' figure out what was going on at the
moment. If she could, she would now also try to find
out what was in store for them next. "Why did
you save my life?" she asked him the moment that
they were alone. She turned toward the closest
storing locker and searched it for the appropriate
tending tool for the situation.
"I..." the Jedi hesitated slightly as he
hitched himself on the bunk, then closed his eyes and
lowered his chin to his chest as if in shame. "I
guess... I couldn't let him kill you."
Turning around with a desensitizer pack in hand,
she brought her fingers under the other's chin and
made him look back up at her. "But why,
SKywalker?" she prompted him mercilessly.
"Why did you do..."
The moment that their eyes met, she fell silent;
she had just gotten her answers... and he, his.
They loved each other---
But it was impossible!!, she instantly denied,
pulling away from him to find refuge against the
She and Skywalker couldn't be attracted to one
another, let alone---
"I don't understand this anymore than you
do... Mara," he told her, hesitating slightly on
her first name. *But you know what 'this' means just
like I do,* he sent her next----
Her whole being and senses were once again filled
with the most unique sensation of well-being that she
had ever experienced. *Even if we can't find any
logical explanation for it,* she sent him back,
accepting his presence as a good thing.
*Yes,* he nodded tiredly. *I don't know how it
happened, or why,* he continued, locking his blue
eyes on hers, *but I do know that when I saw Han
shoot at you... I...*
Feeling irresistibly drawn by his warmth,
gentleness, as well as by the confusion that was
seeping through her senses via their link, she slowly
covered the few inches that were separating their two
bodies until they were almost as close physically as
they currently were on the Force plane. Delicately,
she touched his still bruised jaw, careful to not
hurt him through her touch, then she gently lifted
his chin once again until he was looking at her. *I
wanted to save you too, Luke,* she admitted, then
reflexively shared with him the thoughts that she had
had about him during the battle.
*I could not bear the idea of you being dead,* he
answered, returning the sharing with his own.
And even as she 'saw' how he had ignored even his
pain to come to her rescue, how he had been ready to
sacrifice his life when he had discovered that he was
too weak to shield himself with the Force as he had
planned to do, she understood that no matter how hard
she, or he, would try to deny their feelings for one
another, or even if they were to go their separate
ways once they would be safe, they would always
search for one another.
They would always miss the one they... loved.
Gazing deeply in the Jedi's beautiful blue eyes,
she slowly became aware that just like he had chosen
to be with her, she was currently choosing to be with
him. "But what will happen next?" she
inquired uncertainly. "I may be attracted to
you, but I still hate your father," she reminded
"And I may care about you, but I won't help
you in your fight against him," he answered in
"So what is waiting for us?" she asked
him, taking a step away from him in hopes to diminish
the effect that his very close, physical and barely
clothed presence was having on her.
"I don't know," Luke admitted with a
shake of his dark-blond head. "But
perhaps," he suggested more thoughtfully,
"my being with you could save us all from
another war by negotiating with him instead of using
threats. He didn't kill the Emperor, you know?"
he reminded her honestly. "The Emperor was truly
Normally, such statement would make her so angry
that the Jedi wouldn't be conscious anymore to know
that he had irritated her. However, in this case, her
lover's words annoyed her, but not that much either.
"It won't do, Skywalker," she shook her
head while she gave him the desensitizer pack.
"Whatever I feel for you, and I'm still not sure
that I like it," she added reflexively,
"you can't change what I set out to do,"
she added more soberly. "So," she finally
offered him coolly, "either you stay and help
me, or you do not interfere at any rate, or else you
return to him and forget about me."
The moment that she mentioned his going back to
his father though, she felt her heart clench in
She 'didn't' want to lose him. She couldn't
imagine letting him go back to his monster of a
Carefully pressing the pack to his still burning
injury, Luke sighed in understanding. Mara Jade was
out for a vendetta against his father; he had to
either accept it... or forget her... or perhaps he
could help her, somehow, to change her ways, which
were so obviously hurting her real self...
One thing he knew for sure though was that he
couldn't hate her, nor resent her... Nor leave her.
He loved her.
It was a crazy feeling, perhaps even a side-effect
of his previous near-death and he was falling from
something that had never affected him before...
Unless, he thought more glumly, it was simply his
reaction to his father's lack of love and care of
'before'. Perhaps he subconsciously wanted to make
the old man 'know' how it felt like to be betrayed
and hurt by his relatives... to be abandoned when you
Perhaps, he shrugged somewhat shamefully. And he
also perhaps wanted to help Mara the way he had
helped his father, although he couldn't foresee how
he would do it this time, but, all in all, the
situation kept coming down to the same three words:
he loved Mara.
He had saved her life, had been ready to die for
her and he knew that he would do so again should the
occasion rise again. Hence, he had already made his
choice; all he had to do was to say it out loud.
And he did.
"What about your students? Your family?"
the red-head inquired pointedly, not taking him for
granted, he realized.
"My students are well-cared for at the
moment," he commented with a light, very light
yet sarcastic curl of his lips at the thought of his
best student and father working together to keep an
eye on the future Jedi Knights. "As for my
family, I never really see them even when I'm on
Yavin 4, so here with you, or there and alone, the
main, and most important difference for me is
you." He slowly extended his good hand forward
until he could grasp her own hand, then pulled her
closer once again until she was standing between his
legs, allowing them to be as close as possible in the
current situation. "If you promise me to not use
me against my father or sister," he
half-whispered, locking his eyes with hers, "I
promise you to not interfere in your fight against my
father," he said, aware that his choice of word
left a window for him to intervene on her whole
attitude toward Life in general, if she could provide
him with that window, "but..." he added as
another thought penetrated his mind.
"But?" she asked, tilting her head
sideways, daring him to continue.
"Can you give me your word that you will not
hurt my sister in your struggle?" he queried
Mara silently raised an eyebrow at that, waiting
for him to elaborate.
"She's... she's been through much
already," he explained sadly, "and she's
more under my father's control than truly at his side
per choice," he added with a grimace. True, his
sister had chosen to help their father, but he had
still cleverly maneuvered her into that position too.
"He kind of manipulated her to make her follow
in his footsteps, but she's much more the Rebellion
type than the Imperial one," he explained, then
locked his gaze with hers once again.
"Please?" he begged her. "If I have
to, 'I' will make sure that she doesn't become a
threat to you, but please, promise that your vendetta
will only involve Vader and yourself."
The beautiful red-head took a moment to ponder his
request, as if weary for a trap from his part. Luke
unflinchingly met her gaze, not opening his mind to
her, but not hiding himself behind shields either. If
she knew him even a little, then he suspected that
she was aware that he would probably have different
values about Life than she did, and that because of
those values, he would, consciously or not, try to
encourage her to find other ways to wage her 'battle'
against his father, whom he still loved and didn't
wish him ill fate... Yet he also wasn't sure about
him anymore. Anyway, he shrugged inwardly, if Mara
knew his reputation like he thought she did, then
that was what she was considering so carefully.
She finally nodded shortly. "Deal, Skywalker.
I will not use your sister as I did you, and once I
get to Vader, I will leave her alone."
"Thank you," he breathed in earnest,
elated by both her promise and the fact that they
would stay together, that he might have a chance to
help her be happier, in the Light--- then
unconsciously leaned closer and covered her petal
lips with his own, his instincts taking over his
The woman naturally started at first, just like he
did; she also almost pushed him away, but the moment
that her hands touched his chest, she changed her
mind and pulled him closer to herself, deepening
They thus sealed their deal which would make their
strange feelings for each other possible.
Meanwhile, back in the asteroid of the renegades,
Han was watching Luke's torture again.
A computer-generated forgery, he thought grimly,
feeling his blood boil at the memory of how even
Vader had seemed to buy into it. They had all thought
that it had been the truth while, in fact, Luke had
been as right as can be as well as under medical
Or had he been brainwashed?, he wondered as he
remembered the probe that had been attached to his
friend's forehead. Could it be why the Jedi had saved
Jade's life? Or why Luke had left with her instead of
resisting her and returning to his side?
It sure made sense, he conceded while he pulled
the heart-rending disk out of the computer station
and refocused on the rest of the scavenging
operation. So far, they had found information about
Jade's plans for when Vader would have cooperated.
His team had already transmitted the location of her
waiting units to Wedge's teams, who had probably
already informed the rest of the Republic fleet about
"We're taking everything aboard," he
ordered the ground troops who were busy unbolting
computers and stations in order to transport them to
their own ships.
*And let's hope that we'll find out where they
took the cub this time," Chewie growled lowly
from his side. When Han turned toward him to exchange
a gaze with him, he noticed that his furry friend was
holding the core of the main computer in his large
"Yes," Han sighed, unable to tell his
friend that Luke might not have been 'taken' as they
thought he had been. "I guess there's nothing
else to do but to transmit the news... and face
Vader's wrath," he swallowed hard. Stepping
closer to the holonet transmitter, Han worriedly
typed in the command to contact Yavin 4; he waited
for the contact to be established.
At long last, the static was replaced by the image
of the sitting dark lord, looking as threatening and
dangerous as ever. "Report, Solo?" the Sith
Lord ordered instantly, foregoing any type of
formalities with him. "Where's Luke?"
"I... I think that it would be better to set
up a relay with Coruscant, my Lord," he tried to
suggest as confidently as he could. "Leia will
probably appreciate to hear the news as well."
He had barely finished his sentence that Vader had
motioned to someone, who was off transmitting range,
to set up the relay. "Is he safe?" he
inquired next. "Have you captured Jade?"
"About the first question," Han began,
nervously rubbing his neck with his right hand,
"I think that he is as safe as he can be, but to
the second question, no, we didn't manage to get Jade
in the commotion."
"So what do you mean, as safe as can
be?" the dark lord prompted him, leaning closer
to the transmission field as if he were trying to
intimidate him with his ever-impressive bulk.
Han had barely begun to understand that he was in
boiling water already that the relay took place and
both Vader and Leia's image shared the transmission
field; they both had the ability to answer him.
And there was no other way but to tell them what
had happened, he winced inwardly.
"Han, is Luke all right?" Leia inquired
while he tried to figure out how he would tell them
that Luke was still with Jade without signing his
death warrant at either his wife's or his
He decided to begin by telling them about the
false torture. "He hasn't been tortured
today," he informed them seriously, producing
the disk that he had retrieved from the transmission
board. "Here's the program that they used to
sway your will."
"What?" Leia frowned.
Vader, however, nodded. "I know that ,
Han couldn't help but gape at him. "You
"I didn't feel his pain," he stated as
if he were talking about the actual weather on Yavin.
"But you..." the younger man stuttered,
"Your reaction was..."
"Exactly what she wanted to see," he
explained. "Besides, you needed time, so I gave
you time. Now continue."
Han swallowed hard, but did as he was told.
"Well, when I found Luke, he was injured, but
not freshly so... and," he hesitated slightly on
the next detail.
"And what, Solo?" his father-in-law
prompted him more demandingly this time. "He was
apparently under medical monitoring," the pilot
answered quickly. "A probe was attached to his
forehead and he was bearing signs of having been
tended... not tortured again."
"Han, where is Luke right now?" Leia
asked, her voice shifting from horror to worry.
"I... He's... He's not here," he finally
"Not there with you, or not there because
he's aboard your ship, Solo?" Vader inquired in
turn, as if taking turn with his daughter to grill
him for questions.
"Not here... here, Sir," he barely
muttered. "He left with Jade."
"With Jade?" Vader asked with icy
calmness. His figure stilled completely.
Han heard a nearby officer hold his breath at
this, then he noticed that the man slightly stepped
back; it left him completely alone to face his wife
and frightful father-in-law. He sighed in
resignation. "Yes, Sir. He left... with Jade. He
told me that he loved her."
"What?!" That was Leia. "What else
did he say?"
"That he misses you, Sweetheart," he
answered her sadly.
"He didn't say anything else?" Vader
When Han refocused on him, he became aware that
the other was calm and composed. Too much so to his
state. He thought to himself that this was a 'very'
bad sign. He barely shook his head in answer to his
Silence answered him.
"Han," Leia cut in, desperation now
detectable in her voice. "Tell us everything.
From the beginning of the attack to his leaving, what
Han nodded in understanding and began his complete
report. He told them about absolutely everything that
had happened since they had reached the base. As he
did so, he admitted to himself that he preferred to
be under enemy's fire than to make a report to Vader.
In a way, he thought forlornly, dodging blaster
bolts was much easier than to not squirm under his
father's-in-law masked gaze.
"I see," Vader finally commented.
A pause ensued; Han felt as if someone had just
loaded his shoulders with heavy bricks.
"Expect me in two days by your
location," the Dark Lord suddenly informed him;
even his daughter's eyes widened in surprise at this.
"You're coming aboard Executor?" Han
gaped at him in confusion.
"Leading the search from there will be much
easier than from Yavin 4," the other retorted,
then turned his head as he obviously listened to
somebody nearby. He nodded, and refocused on Han.
"Four of Luke's trainees are coming as well.
Await us in two days."
His image then disappeared, leaving him alone with
"He is not pleased," she informed him
"Tell me something that I don't know,"
Han retorted, pouting slightly in displeasure.
Leia nodded in agreement. "What a
mess...," she muttered sadly. "I wonder
what Luke was thinking about."
"He wasn't," Han shook his head too.
"That's the problem."
Leia sighed audibly and fell deep in thought. Han
searched what he could see of her eyes with his,
trying to figure out how she was faring at the
moment. As he gazed fondly at her, he noticed that
the stress of the past two days were obviously
catching with her; they were beginning to show on her
face and stance, tightening every line that she
"I'll leave you now," she finally
commented in the silence. "I need to rest, and
"Take care of yourself, princess. And don't
worry, we'll get him back," he promised her,
"I'm all right, Han," she reassured him
warmly. "However," her voice hardened
slightly, "You can be sure that I will have a
word or two with my 'dear' brother when we'll find
"I don't think that you will be the first to
scold him, Love," Han smirked slightly as he
tried to imagine how Vader would handle his wayward
son when he would recover him. He made a note to
himself to not be in the room with them, but to still
stay close enough to keep the Dark Lord from going
'too' far either.
"I miss you so much, Han," she smiled
softly, her tired eyes shining.
As usual when he saw her like this, their light
touched his heart, filling it with love. "May
the Force be with you, Love."
"May it be with us all, Han. Take care."
The transmission ended. Han expelled the breath
that he hadn't noticed he had been holding; he turned
toward the team nearby, and belatedly noticed that he
was trembling thanks to the regressing adrenaline in
his system. "Well, you heard his lordship,"
he addressed his troops. "We have two days to
find 'all' the valuable information that they have
left behind. Otherwise, I really can't promise that
we won't become space dust ourselves."
The team nodded frantically.
'At least,' he thought in slight amusement at his
own ominous lie, 'that would motivate them...'
On Yavin 4, except for Streen, who had decided to
stay and guard the temple, Vader and the trainees,
boarded his shuttle.
The Dark Lord was tired, and angry. The presence
of Jedi trainees was also unnerving him, thus
increasing his challenge to control his temper. It
just tired him further. Then, as if the situation was
not bad enough already, his wound, the only one that
he wasn't able to heal by himself, was beginning to
bother him anew.
The implant that was replacing his right lung had
been affected during his fight against Kun. It was
now working at thirty percent of its full
capabilities, making it difficult for him to breathe
'and' remain conscious.
That itself was dangerous, but only in a long run,
he reflected coolly. However the pain that it was
generating was sharper than usual ; in his exhausted
state he couldn't block it out.
Hence, the only thing that he wanted now was to
retreat to the small medical chamber of the shuttle
and rest. There, he would, at last, give in the
demands of his body and 'shut down' for a while.
He quickly took off, bringing the white-silver
bird up in the sky and past the atmosphere of the
planet. The ship shuddered at the dangerously fast
ascent, but it still obeyed his commands and darted
for the sky, then pierced through it and reached the
cold void of space.
The risk that he had just taken had been
unnecessary, he dimly scolded himself, but it had
calmed him. His anger was out of place at the moment
anyway. None of the trainees was responsible for the
current disaster, nor was Solo nor his son.
No, he rumbled inwardly, none of them were his
target. The only responsible fo the current fiasco
was Jade. However, no amount of anger, justified or
not, would help him to find her. Instead, to
accomplish this, he would need a cool head; he had to
rid himself of this fiery emotion before it could
cloud his judgement.
Besides, he shrugged to himself, revenge was a
meal that was best served cold.
Chapter 10: Resuming the Chase
Meanwhile, aboard the Death Sparrow, Mara's lips
were still glued to Skywalker's; her hands were
slowly helping him to lay down on the bunk where the
two of them would be more comfortable to pursue their
While her body was doing this though, her mind was
working furiously on trying to figure out what was
wrong with her. Skywalker having saved her life or
not, there was still quite a margin between not
considering him anymore as a prisoner ... and being
unable to stop kissing him and ravishing his elegant
neck with her lips and tongue.
And yet, margin or not, it was her actual
predicament; she couldn't, no matter how much she
tried, put an end to her exploring and kissing. She
wanted to touch him, to know him, to stay with him
A sudden rap on the closed door pulled her out of
her musing even as she physically pulled away from
the equally startled Jedi; they both leaned away and
shifted their gazes to stare at the door.
"Madam, we're ready to contact the other
teams," Veers' muffled voice said from behind
"I'll be right there," she quickly
answered him, exchanging a genuinely disappointed
look with the man who was under her. She leaned away
from him and sat on her heels. "Prepare the
contacts for a priority message of abandon."
"Abandon, Madam?" the officer questioned
from the other side of the door.
"You have your order, Veers," she bit
out warningly, then willed the other to leave the
vicinity of the door and wait for her in the cockpit.
*Good thing that you locked the door,* the Jedi
sent her seriously as he slowly pulled himself out
from under her and back to a sitting position.
*And good thing that he came by,* she retorted
tartly, pulling herself off his legs before she set
her feet on the deck. "What was this all about
anyway?" she inquired out loud, miffed.
"Dunno," he shook his head, "but we
sure gave into it with all our hearts," he
That earned him a patented glare from her part.
"'You' did, Jedi; I for one am an assassin. I
don't have a heart."
"For the others," the Jedi answered with
a knowing smile. "But don't worry," he
reassured her as she almost went ballistic at that
comment, "I'm not about to ruin your
His understanding cooled her down faster than even
a cold shower could. "Besides, you'll have
plenty of explanation to do anyway," he added,
nodding toward the still-closed door.
Right, she sighed. Once she would cross that door,
she would have to explain her decision to keep
Skywalker alive and free amongst them, and one,
crucial detail was still missing in her explanation,
she reflected as she reviewed what she would tell to
"Just tell them that you brainwashed
me," the young Jedi commented seriously from
She whirled around in surprise, shocked by both
his suggestion as well as the fact that he had known
what she had been thinking about. "How do you
know what was in my mind??" she asked him
"You just told me, through whatever there is
between us," the other shrugged.
Skywalker waved her concerns away. "We don't
have time to explore this matter right now. Just go
back to your men and tell them that you brainwashed
me into staying with you. That you had planned to do
that in order to hurt my father further."
"And you won't mind?" she gaped,
incredulous in front of his unexpected suggestion.
"Well," he shrugged hesitantly,
"for all we know, that's exactly what's
happening, isn't it?" he queried.
"Right, and what will 'you' do while I'll
deal with the others?"
"I'll stay here and wait for you." He
then lost some of his lighter composure and lowered
his gaze to study himself, "I think that I could
do with a little healing trance," he muttered to
That he could, she nodded briefly, then steeled
herself for a difficult moment of commanding duties.
"I'll leave you alone for now. I'll see you
again once we reach our destination," she
concluded before she pressed her hand on the control
pad of the door.
The moment that he was alone, Luke shifted his
torso back in a neutral position, then stretched his
legs on the bunk. Once he was done with that light,
yet painful exercise, he laid back on his back and
threw his arm across his eyes in self-annoyance.
Just what in Sith was going on right now?, he
asked the Force. Not only had he fallen for a woman
who had hurt him because he his identity as his
father's son, but just moments ago, he had been
cooperating with her to do more than just calling a
truce between them.
In fact, he rebuked himself, had they not been
interrupted, he had the feeling that they would still
be doing it, and more.
Of course, he then conceded, it didn't help him at
all that he couldn't feel any danger from her
anymore. Somehow, her presence had now stopped
raising his warning senses, which was more than what
he could tell about his father.
Could Mara, he wondered uneasily, be so special to
him that she was even outweighing whatever respect
and love that he had come to feel for his own
father?.. Or was his love for her stronger because he
wanted so much to help her?
Like his father, she had come in his life as an
enemy, and both of them had been nemesis who had
loved to hurt him.
However, almost just like his father had appeared
to him under a new light when his sister had gone
missing, Mara had overcome what common sense he had
left when he had woken up and found her tending him
instead of hurting him.
And unlike his father, who had hurt him throughout
years, the woman had changed heart within 'days'!
Could this be why he was so easily trusting her?,
he wondered while he blindly called the desensitizer
pack to his hand and pressed it to his freshest
wound. Could it be this simple? Or was there
another, more... mystical reason for their truly
joining paths this easily and under the given
Whatever it was, he shrugged next, it was
obviously at work now and neither of them seemed able
to resist it. Once he would be recovered though, he
promised himself that he would meditate on it.
Perhaps then, he would know better what and who
was playing tricks on him. His selfless heart? Or the
He closed his eyes--- but didn't find the expected
peace. Instead, images of his most recent rescue
filled his mind, then an image of his best friend
came to him.
Han!, he suddenly thought even as he snapped his
eyes opened. Han had come to his help, had saved him
from drowning in his cell, and yet, he himself had
Right on the heels of that thought, he belatedly
remembered that his friend hadn't come alone to save
him. He had brought along a full contingent of
troopers... and he himself had heard the screams of
pain of those men as they had been fighting against
Mara's troops to save 'him', who had then showed
total lack of worry about their sacrificed lives...
by running away with the enemy...
What had he done?, he gaped as he sat bolt upright
in horror and shock, his healing trance completely
Desperate and horrified, he tried to remember
every single detail of what had happened during those
few, crucial seconds after he had saved Jade's life
from certain death.
He had first saved his friend from Mara's accurate
aim, then he and her had looked at each other...
And even now that he was aware of what 'else' had
been going on around them at that moment, he realized
that he would still make the same choice.
He would still leave with Mara...
But, he decided forlornly, it didn't mean that he
didn't care about all the lives that had been given
to save him from at least his cell. Now, he had to do
something extremely crucial,... vital... essential...
for whatever good it would do to the troopers and
their families, he rebuked himself meanly.
Focusing his thoughts on his bond with his father,
he concentrated all his sending powers on three,
simple words that would carry all his feelings of
regret and apologies to his father.
*I'm sorry...* he sent... and eventually felt it
connect with his father's mind. He withdrew
before the other could track him down or contact him
and scold him for his mistake.
For the time being, he would take care to do it by
Not far from there, Mara's senses picked up on
her... companion's sending, but the moment that she
understood what he wanted to do, she let him be.
Somehow, she 'knew' that she could trust him to
not betray his promise to not help neither she nor
his father in their fight against each other.
Which was more than she could say about her other
allies who were currently looking at her as if she
had turned into a traitor.
"Skywalker will be my business, and my
business alone," she warned Piett, then glared
at Veers' cold eyes. "The brainwashing
procedures have been interrupted a little too fast,
but what has been done already will suffice to make
him harmless to us."
"Unless Lord Vader manages to find us again
through him," the shrewd ground general pointed
"It won't happen," she reassured the
other. "I made him block off his connection with
him. Now, shall we?" she offered, indicating the
pending signals of her other units. And unlike Veers
and Piett, she reflected seriously, those other,
lower-ranked troops wouldn't question anything that
she would order because they 'knew' her.
They had been in missions with her when she had
joined the regrouping renegade Empire.
Back then, she had been aware that her position
with the Emperor had been kept secret from everyone
but Vader and a few others. Hence, she had known that
she would need to do some of the dirty work to prove
to the 'men' that she was not someone to trifle with
while they could trust her with complete command of
their group. Thus, she had made a point of honor to
be present to every attack that had been led against
the back units of Vader's troops, showing off her
skills until absolutely every type of soldier that
could be under her command had respected her. From
the regular troopers to the commanders of their few
ships, they had all given her their loyal allegiance.
Back then, even Veers and Piett had done so, she
then remembered as she waited for the other
transmissions to clear. However, unlike the others
who were away from the main command group, those two
had seen her strange interactions with their enemy's
son. It had obviously been enough for them to begin
to doubt her; she made a note to be careful and not
repeat that same slip with the rest of her troops.
On the main communication console, the four
commanders of their remaining units reported in.
"Our base of the Hoth system has been found,
Gentlemen," she began without any ceremonies.
"The attacks are postponed; return to Avenger,
we will meet there."
As she had expected, neither of the four men
questioned her decision. They knew that they could
implicitly trust her to bring them victory against
As she refocused on the two other men who were
with her, she resolved to remind them of the same
fact as soon as they would be able to have a little
------As soon as the shuttle made the transition
into hyperspace, Vader gave the controls to Jedi
Solusar and retreated in his small medchamber.
Although it wasn't equipped with all the
facilities that were available on Executor, it had a
full life-support and a few other elements of
However, since he wouldn't be able to quickly put
his armor back should an emergency arise, he didn't
dare remove his armor completely. Thus, he only
removed his external, heavy armor and helmet, then he
connected himself to external lungs to give his
implants some release.
The pain dropped almost immediately to an
Vader sighed and relaxed in the narrow bed. He was
quite sure that he wouldn't be able to sleep in such
a vulnerable position and with so many Jedi
apprentices around, but he was aware that laying down
still did him much good while it would be a good
position to enter a meditation trance.
He had barely closed his eyes that a familiar
voice entered his awareness, just long enough to drop
a message--- then it was gone.
*Luke!* he reflexively called out, having barely
taken time to register his son's words before he
tried to contact him in return.
Whether by design or not, his son had cut off
their contact before he had been able to even check
on his actual status.
'Jade,' he rumbled inwardly, cursing once again
the young woman who was responsible for his son's
illogical actions. He decided to study his boy's
'I'm sorry,' he had said.
At first, Vader frowned as he wondered what his
naive son could be sorry about, then, once his mind
worked past his tiredness, he understood.
Luke was having a guilty conscience about what had
taken place in the asteroid field and had wanted to
apologize for his still being with the enemy.
However, he pondered seriously, if the youth had been
brainwashed and forced to go with Jade thanks to some
subconscious order, then why did he feel sorry?
Unless, he reflected more grimly, unless it was
another of Jade's games, forcing his son to contact
him that way, just long enough to torment him with
his elusive presence before cutting him off again.
Yes, he hissed angrily, that was it, and deep
down, Luke was aware of what he was being forced to
do but couldn't resist it.
*I will free you, Son,* he sent out although he
was aware that the young Jedi would probably not
receive his answer. *I promise that I will free you
from this nightmare.*
As expected, only the void of the Force answered
him, cool and filled with power that was waiting to
He took control of it and initiated his meditation
About an hour later, Vader felt a presence enter
his awareness. Cilghal, he recognized.
"Enter," he ordered her, feeling her
The Calamari woman momentarily froze in the open
door. "Hmmm... I don't want to annoy you, my
Lord," she said as she walked in and approached
Given his laying position, he didn't see her, nor
did he turn to look at her, but her feelings came
clearly through his senses all the same. Under his
mask Vader smirked humorlessly. He knew very well how
she was feeling; almost all the medics who had
examined his case in the past had felt like this at
the beginning. Every single one of them had felt that
where others had failed, they would succeed in
All of them had naturally experienced
There had been times when such feelings had
annoyed him to the utmost, but not anymore.
He knew that the Calamari healer was intelligent
and capable; he also knew that she really couldn't
stand suffering. This was her only motivation to
overestimate her abilities.
"Take place, healer," he invited her
coolly. "What do you want of me?"
He heard her take a seat near him. Her voice was
hesitant. "I... I've felt your pain, lord Vader.
It's unbearable," she explained naively,
somewhat reminding him of his son.
"Force healing can do something?" he
offered, feeling mildly sarcastic today.
"Yes," the alien agreed earnestly.
"Of course," he began seriously, "
and you know that I'm not a stranger to the Force
"I... yes, I know, my Lord. However,
with all due respect, it's not your field of
expertise--- if I'm not mistaken," she added
faster than his temper could react to her bold
"You aren't," he finally smiled coldly
at her naivete. "My expertise is in
rehabilitation and implants. However, I can tell you
that nothing can be done."
"My Lord, if I may," the woman countered
once again. "Allow me to make my own
He sighed. 'Medics. They were all the same.'
"Very well," he agreed indifferently.
"You may examine me, if you wish."
"Thank you, my Lord. I'll be very
He smirked, as unseen as ever, and let her
Force-awareness enter his body.
Still awed by her boldness, Cilghal gently
Force-touched the black-clad body that was laying in
front of her. Even though he was attached to external
lungs, thus exposing himself in a vulnerable
position, lord Vader still emanated power and danger.
She then admitted that it was perhaps a foolish
idea to even offer her help to the powerful man.
However, even if it weren't, she had no doubt that
the dark lord was considering that she was an
arrogant, foolish girl.
Well, true or not, she couldn't turn her back to
him. She simply couldn't forget the unimaginable
suffering that she had felt in him when she had tried
to save him on Yavin 4. She was a healer, she
reminded herself, a very good, very talented
Force-healer. Although she did not hold any false
beliefs concerning her abilities, she simply had to
help him; it was her duty.
There had to be a way to remove suffering from his
body, she then reflected earnestly while she slowly
scanned him. The Force literally longed to make it
whole again, she could feel it. All she had to
do, she then mused thoughtfully, was to decide where
to begin. Once the healing would be initiated, the
body would heal itself.
It was easy.
Confident in her abilities and the guidance of the
Force, she scanned the dark- clad, dark-minded man,
taking mental notes about his wounds while she tried
to not let his pain disturb her focus. She had to
assemble the whole picture, she reminded herself.
Then, the beginning point for the treatment would
Finally, she had everything that she needed. She
called the assembled picture in her mind. Now, she
thought with anticipation, everything would be
What she saw deeply shocked her.
Like the other medics who had tried to help Vader
before, she had to accept that there was no possible
treatment for him. Every intervention would
irrevocably disturb the finely tuned system of
implants, which were everywhere. Even worse, she then
understood glumly, the Force itself was causing him
The Force, which was so strong and present in his
body, was eager to make his body whole. Thus, it
didn't accept the implants that opposed It's healing.
Its reaction was at the origin of lord Vader's
"Oh, my..." she half-whispered in
"A shocking sight, isn't it?" the deep
voice inquired seriously.
"I'm...sorry for my foolishness,"
Cilghal managed despite her dry throat. "I hope
that I didn't offend you, my Lord."
"You didn't. However, you really 'should'
have taken into account that I'm no novice in my
fields of specialization, nor are the medics who
treat me," he slightly rebuked her although his
voice sounded more resigned than harsh. "Some
things are impossible. Even for the Force."
"I'll remember that," she nodded,
humbled. "But... "
"Is it possible to make implants that
wouldn't be refused by the Force?" she inquired
as a new idea began to take form in her mind.
"Only in theory," Vader answered simply.
"In practice, it is not yet possible. For one
thing, we don't have the necessary technology at our
"And I suppose that you have considered using
a donor's organs..." she nodded again, in
"Yes. It wouldn't work," he stated with
the same finality as the one he had used before.
"If you're interested in this theory though, I'm
sure that once aboard Executor, Dr. Forester will be
happy to enlighten you."
Cilghal took the hint and rose. "I'm sorry,
my Lord. I won't annoy you any further."
She didn't receive a reply.
Meanwhile, in the cockpit, Jedi Solusar tried to
understand Kyp's actions. He couldn't. "What in
Sith got into you?!" he asked the youth in
"Um..." said Kyp, looking at Kam warily.
"Exar Kun did. I thought that I had explained
"I know, but that's not what I mean,"
the older Jedi shook his head in rapidly growing
annoyance. "I mean what were you thinking when
you accepted to become Vader's apprentice?! A
"Hmmm, well, The light of reason?" Kyp
offered shyly. However, he was he was not afraid, nor
was he anxious to be understood and accepted by the
In fact he didn't care in the slightest anymore
about what the others thought. He knew that he was
right. He knew that he had made the right decision.
That alone gave him a feeling of incredible freedom
that could not be ruined by mere worries about what
the others thought of him.
His god was with him, he could feel it; he finally
belonged to something much more than just himself. He
would never be alone, and because of that, he felt
calm and almost invincible.
Thus, if he had used to crawl under Kam's blazing
gaze, he merely smiled serenely at him this time.
"I'm not suited to be a Jedi, Kam. You know
that, you said so many times yourself."
"But a Sith!" the Jedi argued, obviously
at a loss for words.
"Why not?" Kyp challenged him.
"Because they are vile..."
"and dangerous," he completed his
statement. "Those were the words of Exar Kun,
Kam. However, what do you really know about the
Siths?" he defied the older Jedi once again.
"All we know are bits of tales that were edited
by the old Jedi Order, nothing to base our judgments
"You don't know much either!" the other
reminded him vehemently.
"I know, but I intend to find out," Kyp
answered, smiling confidently. "If I'm wrong and
turn into some kind of monster, then you'll have my
authorization to kill me. In fact," he continued
more somberly, "I ask you to do it before I can
wreak too much havoc like the Emperor did."
Jedi Solusar was flabbergasted. He looked at the
thin, pale skinned, smiling boy that was standing
before him and admitted that he couldn't recognize
Kyp Durron anymore. The annoying, self centered,
arrogant Kyp Durron was nowhere to be found, having
been replaced by a calmer, slightly sarcastic, but
total stranger. He conceded that he liked him
much more that way. "Okay," he finally
nodded. "You have a deal here."
He extended his hand for a shake; Kyp extended his
own hand and they shook on it.
"You better not be angry at me if I come
after you, Kyp," the older Jedi warned him
seriously, then sighed as he released his hold on the
kid's hand. "How do you know that this Lord of
the Sword of yours isn't deceiving you?"
"I don't," Kyp shrugged simply.
"However, strange as it may seem, I trust him. I
"I do trust him too," Kirana Ti
commented thoughtfully from a passenger seat.
"After all, he is a Noghri."
"What?!" Kam gasped in shocked surprise.
"Huh, didn't I tell you?" Kyp frowned
"You sure as Hell didn't!"
"Oh, well," he shrugged sheepishly,
"And Lord Vader is ..er.. serving him?"
Kam inquired in confusion.
"No," Kyp shook his head in answer.
"He isn't. However, he will train me because
there's no other Sith left."
"Ah. Okay for the moment, but," he
warned the youngster, "when you'll understand
all this god-matter better, you will run this past me
"Sure thing, Kam," Kyp grinned wildly.
Although he did not care about what the others
thought, acceptance and understanding were still
sweet on his soul.