Disclaimer - Mention of sex in this chapter, nothing too graphic but still...
Luke fell back on the sheets, his whole body sheethed in sweat. Moments later, his captor collapsed beside him with a heavy contented sigh. He tried not to look at her.
"You do learn fast, don't you farmboy?"
Luke winced slightly at the purring tone in her voice. He flinched as she trailed the tip of her index finger up his belly and over his chest. By the time she reached his neck, he was shivering.
"Do you like that?" Mara Jade whispered, teasing.
Though he shook his head, Luke couldn't really deny the effect that the Sith woman had on him. Not after the events of the past two days.
They all seemed a blur, a never ending cycle of combat and sex, interspersed with moments of clarity when she locked him back in his cell. Ever since he had woken from their first sparring match to find her straddling him in the middle of the training room.
He flushed at the memory of the things she had done to him, and even more when he thought of the things she had taught him to do to her. Despite what she had said during their first sparring match, he hadn't been a stranger to sex - he had lost his virginity to a spacer captain a few years earlier. But the things he had done with Mara Jade... He had never imagined doing anything like that.
Then there were the sparring matches. They seemed as intense as the sex, though in a markedly different way. It seemed - during those rare moments of clarity - that while she fanned his desires and lusts during sex, the Sith woman played on his fears and his anger when they fought. She always seemed to know what to say or do to drive him mad with fury. It was as though...
As though she’s playing me. Like an instrument
, he admitted to himself. He knew that was what she was doing, and yet…
She reached over and cupped his cheek, forcing him to turn and face her. He took in her lithe, sublime naked body and felt himself stirring. He groaned. Why can't I fight this?
he asked himself. Why can't I...
He didn't get a chance to finish the thought. A beeping sounded through the room, accompanied by a shrill robotic voice.
"Ten minutes to reversion to real space. Ten minutes."
Mara sighed, then allowed her hand to drift back down his chest and stomach. When she touched him, he groaned.
"I wish we had time for some more fun," she breathed, "but it looks like play time is over."
Her hand clenched, eliciting a yelp from his lips. She smiled wickedly, then released him.
He watched, entranced, as she slid out of bed and padded over to her jumpsuit, which still lay in a puddle where he had torn it off her. He had torn it off her. He felt himself blushing again, and he hated himself for it.
Still, he couldn't keep his eyes off of her as she slid the jumpsuit on, pausing just long enough to snap her bra on again. He watched as she twined her long red hair behind her back, and then let it fall out again.
He had come to hope for and dread these moments when she left. The moments when he would be alone with his thoughts and memories, when he could actually think about eveything he had done. She left him with nothing but regrets and self-recriminations, abandoning him to soak in his anger. And yet at the same time, these were the only moments when he felt like himself again.
To his surprise, though, this time she didn't leave and lock the door. Instead, she paused on the threshhold and turned back to him.
"Are you coming?"
He blinked, sure he must have misunderstood her. When she just stood there staring at him, though, he scrambled to a sitting position.
She smiled as his voice broke at the end of the word, then nodded. "This is the end of the road, farmboy. I think it's best you face what's coming like a man."
What did she mean? He wondered. Still, he wasn't going to pass up the opportunity. Scrambling out of bed, he ran over to his clothes and began to pull them on so quickly he had to reach out to steady himself a good half a dozen times to avoid falling flat on his face.
Within a few seconds, though, he was following her down the corridor to a series of steps that led up into the bridge. By the time they entered the module, the ship's computer had begun a steady ringing sound to inform them they were almost arrived. Luke stared around him with wide eyes - he had been in ships before – Ana’s ship, the ? ?, amongst others – but he had never been this close to real bridge controls. Everything seemed so… complicated.
"Not as easy as dusting crops, is it farmboy?"
"Don't call me that," Luke replied through gritted teeth, feeling a flush rise to his cheeks.
Mara Jade laughed, her sarcasm evident, then dismissed him, walking over to sit in one of the three chairs. As her fingers began to dance over controls, taking back command from the automatised computer systems that had been running the ship until now, she glanced back at him.
"You ever worked a sensor system before?"
Luke shook his head. "But I've repaired them."
"Good enough. Take the navigator's seat."
"Do you see anyone else here?"
"But... But I've never..."
"Don't worry, farmboy. I don't need you to do anything complicated. Just confirm our position with the computer once we drop out of hyperspace. Do you think you can do that?"
"Good. Now sit down. We're almost there."
Luke scowled at the tone of voice, but moved over to the seat she had indicated regardless. Settling into the synth-hide chair, he brushed his hands over the controls, studying them. He had often repaired systems like this one in his father's shop, so he had a basic understanding of how it worked.
Moments later, the sound of the ship around him changed, returning to the more standardised hum of sublight engines. He glanced up in time to see the blue tunnel of hyperspace collapse into the spinning white lines of elongated star light, and then snap back into the twinkling points of the stars themselves.
Although he was supposed to be checking the sensor screen, Luke's eyes were drawn inexhorably to the sight of the star system in front of them. Corellia.
For Luke - who had last left Tatooine when he was so young he couldn't remember - it was an amazing sight. The five planets of the system – Corellia, Talus, Tralus, Selonia and Drall – spread out before him, Corellia much closer than the others.
Remembering his role, Luke looked down at the sensor screen. He immediately confirmed that the ship had arrived at the right place - the positions of the surrounding stars were unmistakeable. He also noted the positions of the various planetoids in-system. He glanced away, about to tell Mara Jade that they were in the right place, when he realised that there was something... off
about them. What is it?
He looked back at the sensor screen, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
Before he could study it more, though, they were being hailed. That was fast.
Luke checked his board again and noted that two bogies were approaching - fast. A welcoming committee.
Mara Jade grunted, then reached forward, switching on the comm system.
"Unidentified ship, this is Imperial System Control. Identify yourself or be shot down."
Luke frowned. He might not know a lot about galactic politics or the war, but even he knew that Corellia was part of the free worlds, not the Empire.
Mara Jade didn't seem surprised.
"Imperial System Control, this is the Lubok’s Fire
on approach to the Star. Identification code Alpha-Gamma-Coruscant, 9-7-7-8."
There was a moment of silence and when the controller came back on the line, his tone had taken on a much more respectful tinge.
"Welcome to Corellia, Lubok’s Fire
. Permission granted to approach the Star. Sending approach coordinates now."
A light began to flash on one of the boards next to Mara Jade. Luke assumed it was the transmission of coordinates. His captor tapped a few buttons, then flipped a switch before nodding.
"Received, Corellia Control."
Luke watched out the screen as the ship deviated from its former course, heading towards Corellia itself. Luke was still searching his board, trying to work out what was wrong. He searched the screens for the vast space station known as Centrepoint. He frowned. There didn't seem to be anything there. He glanced out at the view through the viewscreen, looking for it visually. Nothing.
As he looked down to his sensor screen again, he noticed Mara Jade looking at him, a smile playing on her lips.
"What?" he demanded angrily. He really hated it when she looked at him like that. As if she knew something he didn't.
"It's gone," she said.
"Centrepoint. I could see you searching for it. But it's gone."
He gaped. "But... But how?"
She nodded forward. "That."
At first, he didn’t understand what she meant. Then he saw it.
"What is it?" he gasped.
What he had taken to be another moon orbiting Corellia was rapidly revealing itself to be something artificial. He could make out the metal gleam, reflecting the light of Corellia’s sun.
"That is the weapon that will give the Empire victory over the Alliance. They call it a Death Star."
Vaguely, he noticed that she didn't sound entirely happy to be talking about it, as if there was something about this Death Star made her feel uneasy. But he was too astonished at the sight before him to do more than note it as if from a distance.
As they drew closer, Luke started to make out detail. What had seemed like a single, smooth surface from a distance was actually pock-marked and uneven, vast towers and turrets rising from the surface into the space around. The openings to vast hangar bays appeared like miniature seas or lakes, dark in the light of Corellia's sun. Swarms of fighters and smaller ships flitted around the larger construct like bees around a hive.
"Never seen anything like that in your backwater little world, have you farmboy?"
Luke could only shake his head.
How had the Empire done this? His father had always told him that the Empire was far from being as powerful as they claimed. Then again, he thought ruefully, was there really anything his father had told him that he could really trust after all the lies he had told him?
Mara Jade piloted the ship deftly towards one of the smaller hangar bays. Two Imperial fighters - Tie-fighters, if Luke remembered correctly - broke off from a nearby swarm and fell into place on either side of their ship. Mara Jade never even glanced at them. Why should she? They were all on the same side.
Within minutes, the ship had ducked beneath the roof of the hangar and Mara Jade had begun to guide it down towards the deck. Luke saw that there were two columns of gleaming white troopers standing at attention in front of the space where Mara Jade was about to land and for the first time, Luke realised where he was and what was really happening.
He was about to bolt to his feet, make a run for it, try and find somewhere to hide, when Mara Jade reached out and clamped a hand down on his arm.
"Don't even think about it," she said softly. Luke glanced at her and was surprised to see a hint of pity in her eyes.
"I don't want to," he moaned. He felt like a little boy, all of a sudden. All his fear rushed over and through him, leaving him feel drained and weak. "I don't want to."
"I know," she said, her voice growing even softer. "I know you don't, farmboy."
With a bump and a metallic thud, the ship settled to the floor of the hangar bay. Mara Jade squeezed Luke's arm one last time, then began to flip off switches, killing the ship's systems. Once everything was off, she took a deep breath, then stood.
"Come on, farmboy," she said, all the arrogance and restrained anger he had sensed in her flooding back. "Time to pay the piper."
He stood on shaking legs and followed her out of the bridge. She led him down the corridor, past the rooms where they had fought, where they had had sex, past the cubicle she had locked him in when he first arrived on the ship. By the time they reached the ramp, his knees were shaking. He hesitated at the top.
"What is going to happen to me?"
Mara Jade turned to him. "You're about to meet your new master."
She turned before he could ask her what she meant. He had no choice but to follow her down the ramp.
Both columns of stormtroopers stared straight ahead as Mara Jade led him through their ranks. Luke glanced left to right, taking in their featureless helmets and impenetrable gaze. Then he glanced to the end of the two columns.
A figure stood there, draped in black. Luke gazed at him or her, feeling a shivering sense of excitement radiating from his belly. What is going on? Who is that?
By the time they reached the darkened figure, Luke was shaking again. To his surprise, Mara Jade fell to her knees before the figure, then eyed him to do the same. Too afraid to rebel, he did what she wanted, falling to his knees at her side just as she spoke.
"Mara Jade. It is... pleasant to see you again."
Something about the voice - unmistakeably male - sent a shiver of recognition through Luke's mind. I know this man? But how? Who could it be?
"Is this him?"
Luke sensed more than saw Mara Jade glance at him, then her gaze dropped back to the deck. "This is the son of Skywalker."
"Aren't you going to introduce us?"
Luke could feel the anger roiling from Mara Jade, mingled with fear verging on terror. Who was this man that Mara Jade could be terrified of him?
"Luke Skywalker, this is your new master. Darth Vidius.”
Luke sensed the man throw back the hood of his cloak and dared to look up. When he saw the man's face, he couldn't look back down, his eyes drawn to that oh-how-familiar face. The man laughed.
"Now, now, Mara, why so formal? I think my own son can call me by name." The man stared down at Luke with fond eyes. His father's eyes, staring from the face of Anakin Skywalker, though five decades younger. Luke could only stare back as the man laughed again. "Welcome, Luke. You may call me Annakin. Annakin Skywalker."