SW AU - A Glimmer of Hope

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CaptainSarine, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Location:
    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    Kill The Wabbit--I mean Sith Apprentice? I have a bad feeling about this.
     
  2. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Sounds like Leia is gonna get to meet Luke. I also wonder where the "little Temple" might be. I am guessing a small jungle world, lots of rain and creatures that don't find little droids very tasty...

    Once again another good chapter, I enjoyed the inclusion of Madine, hope he gets promoted to general soon. I also liked the way you explained the way the Sith are being organized now. Lots of sith minions, but no true apprentice, at least not yet. So the "rule of two" remains. I like it! :bolian:
     
  3. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Gojirob

    Yeah, Leia may be biting off more than she can chew... We'll see

    USS Avenger

    Ooh, the Temple on Dagobah? Now there's an idea! I like it. We'll see...

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Madine was a last minute addition, I have to admit, but he seemed like the perfect choice for this little scene. Also glad you enjoyed the explanation of the Sith!

    Thanks to you both!

    Joel
     
  4. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2002
    Location:
    Gotham
    So Mace trained Leia...interesting. I like the dynamic between the two, different than Ankain and Obi-Wan. The organization of the Sith is interesting as well, I like the Sith Priests as well. I assume that the one true apprentice could be Luke? Luke and Leia's meeting is going to be interesting as well.
     
  5. Chaos Descending

    Chaos Descending Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2001
    Location:
    Grand Canyon State
    A question: Mace Windu referred to Leia first as "Jedi Organa" and later as "Jedi Skywalker". Was this intentional or an editing error?
     
  6. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Admiral Young

    Yep, Mace trained Leia. I'm glad you enjoyed their dynamic, especially since you noted the differences with some padawan-master relationships we have seen. I hope this gives another glimpse into the differences in this AU from the Real Universe.

    The one true apprentice could be Luke... Whether it is, I will let you Read and Find Out! :)

    Thanks for the comment!

    Chaos Descending

    Thanks for the comment! And yeah, you got me, that was a typo! Oops! :)
     
  7. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    The arrangement of just one Sith apprentice but lots of operatives makes sense. Another excellent chapter.
     
  8. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Thanks! So glad you enjoyed this! :) More soon, I hope!:bolian:
     
  9. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 10

    With the lights of Coruscant scintillating below him like a second starfield, Han piloted his speeder up through the criss-crossing levels of traffic. Taking every opportunity, no matter how dangerous, he ziz-zagged past other, safer drivers – always on the cusp of a collision, but never quite touching any of the other speeders. His hands seemed to be glued to the controls, his eyes never wavering from the reinforced viewscreen in front of him.

    Acclerating up into the midlevel traffic lanes, much more congested than both the lower and higher ones, Han’s deft movements kept him accelerating at a frenetic pace. At each vertical exchange, he sent his speeder into a dizzying vertical spin, adding just enough power to his repulsorlifts to jump to the next level in front of everyone else. He couldn’t help the grin that creased his face as a Gungan in a taxi honked at him.

    He only relaxed when he reached the upper-tier. It was much rarer to encounter other speeders up here – this was an area reserved for private skycars and limousines, vehicles verified as having diplomatic credentials. Winding round the vast pinnacles of the diplomatic sector, he eventually piloted the speeder down to the docking platform on the 53rd level of the Corellian Embassy building.

    Reaching back, he retrieved his briefcase and a recording unit he had kept hidden in his jacket during the meet-and-greet. Climbing out, he walked across the platform, past the handful of other diplomatic vehicles that were parked there, to the elevator pod that jutted from the roof. Once inside, he pressed his palm to the identification plate and waited for the pod’s security systems to scan him from head to toe. Recognising him, the pod immediately began to descend down to his office.

    It was a short trip, only five floors down. When the doors opened, he found his secretary, Ly’ana, waiting for him. A shapely Twi’lek, she had been his personal assistant back on Corellia and had followed him to Coruscant when his father assigned him to the diplomatic corps. Though she now ran a staff of five other embassy assistants, she had insisted on retaining her place as his personal secretary.

    She sighed as he stepped out of the elevator. “Today of all days, you’d think you’d have made an effort. Look at you!”

    He looked down at his clothes. "What? What’s wrong with the way I look?"

    "Where do I start? Your jacket isn't pressed, your shirt looks like you rolled around in it and don't even get me started on your hair."

    He ran a hand through his hair, grinning. "Relax Ly’. It's all part of the game."

    She rolled her eyes, muttering something under her breath. Turning back to her desk, she grabbed a handful of pads and brandished them at him.

    "On top of the thirteen message from yesterday, I have three messages marked urgent from Grand Moff Tarkin's office, which arrived a moment after you stepped out the door, a diplomatic invitation from the Hutt embassy, a message from..."

    "No time," he said, waving the messages away.

    She stopped and glared at him. He held up his hands.

    "I’m not just trying to get out of dealing with them Ly’. I need to talk to my father, now."

    Favouring him with another glare, Ly'ana threw the pads down on the desk. "Fine. I'll just have that many more messages for you tomorrow."

    He sidled up behind her, letting his hands rest on her shoulders. "Come on Ly. Don't be mad. I swear, I'll deal with all of these pads before tomorrow."

    She groaned as he began to massage her shoulders. "Don’t try that with me, Han Solo.” He could tell it was working though and he carried on. She closed her eyes. “I swear, one of these days I'm going to... Alright, alright. I'll get you your father."

    He gave her shoulders one last squeeze, then let his hands drop away. "Thanks, Ly, you're the best."

    "Yeah, yeah, tell me something I don't know," she muttered as he walked into his office.

    He had decorated the room himself, the furniture and artwork on the walls testaments to his fine taste and his large bank account. His father always said that it never hurt to show the other guy you had more to lose than he did. And a large blaster to defend it with. A huge wall to wall window afforded him a view over the cityscape canyons of the diplomatic sector. His large desk sat in front of the window on a plush red and purple carpet. While sat behind his desk, he could turn and see out towards the Hutt embassy or into the Corporate Sector representative’s penthouse on the top floor of a nearby tower.

    Han wandered over to a door on the other side of the room, into a small living area he had set up for those rare nights when he decided to actually work late. He took off his shirt and jacket, throwing them in the chute that would take them down to the lower level cleaning centre, then ran some water over his face and hair. When he walked back out, wearing a clean, well-pressed shirt and with his hair slicked back, he looked like a new man. A prince, he thought with a smile.

    Jonash Solo had taught his boy a lot about diplomacy and handling expectations. One of his most important lessons had been how to confound those expectations. Make them expect the least from you, boy, and you’ll be able to surprise them at every turn. Though a lot of his father’s lessons had gone over Han’s head, that one he had taken to heart. So when he had been sent to Coruscant, he had begun to cultivate his image. As far as Tarkin and most of the other embassies were concerned, Han Solo was a scruffy, carefree diletante, a spoiled prince playing at diplomat, so frightened of his father’s shadow that he could never hope to step out of it. Tarkin’ll be in for quite a shock tomorrow at the negotiation table. I hope.

    Walking over to his desk, he sat down and called up the embedded comm screen. Typing in his personal code and submitting to a second scan, he waited for his father's face to appear. And waited.

    When after a few minutes nothing had happened, he stood up with a sigh and walked back to the outer office. Ly was pressing buttons on her own screen, a frown on her face.

    "What's taking so long?"

    "I don't know,” she said through gritted teeth. “I can't complete the connection. It's as if the relay isn’t there anymore."

    "Have you tried routing it through another relay?"

    "No, I’m new here," she snapped. "Of course I have. Five different ones in fact. I just can't get through."

    “What about Selonia?”

    “No. And before you ask, I’ve already tried to get through to Drall, Tralus and Talus as well. I can’t get through to any of them.”

    "What the hell..."

    He stepped round the desk behind her. A complicated lattice scrolled across her screen. Her fingertips darted from one line to another, keying in codes as requests popped up in other sections, then drawing more connections between flashing dots. As he watched, another set of green lines went dark red.

    "Fyr'shu," she cursed, slapping the console.

    "Try reaching Sacorra. Or Froz" he said, mentioning another two systems in the sector.

    "Alright."

    Her fingers danced across the screen, placing connections in an attempt to reach the planet's comm net. As Han had feared, the green lines soon turned red.

    Ly turned to him. "I don't get it. I can't see any reason why this isn't getting through."

    "Hey, it's probably just a downed relay sat somewhere,” he said, laying a hand on her shoulder. “Don't worry about it. Still, just in case, try and get me someone at the Imperial Communication Ministry."

    Ly nodded and turned back to her screen. He could feel how tense her shoulders were beneath his hand. He squeezed and smiled at her, hoping to calm her down. She looked up at him, then smiled back, but it was little more than a twitch of her lips. Han knew that all of her family had fled to the Corellia system during the Rise. It was as much home to her as it was to him.

    He left her to make the call and returned to his office. He stood there for a moment, looking out the window as the setting sun ignited the gas emissions of thousands of speeders into a symphony of reds and oranges, yellows and purples. Lights flickered on in the buildings around. Han wondered whether any of the beings in those offices were having the same problems as he was. A thousand fears and rationalisations ran through his head. A downed relay. An electrical storm. A mechanical fault here on Coruscant or on Corellia. A thousand different things. Then why do I feel like someone is dancing on my grave?

    When Ly finally informed him that she had someone from the ministry on the line, he forced his shoulders back, running a hand through his hair. Ok, time to act the prince.

    He sat down, keyed in his code again, and waited for the screen to clear. When it did, he found himself staring at a long-nosed human male in a close-cut military uniform. The man stared at Han with barely disguised disdain.

    "Prince Solo?"

    "Yes. And you are?"

    "Captain Gar Noral. What can I do for you, sir?"

    "I was hoping to talk to someone from the Ministry actually..."

    "The Ministry has been absorbed, sir. The military now runs all imperial communication centres."

    Han started. "When did this happen?"

    "This morning. Now if you'd like to explain…"

    "I would like to know why I can't reach anyone on my homeworld."

    "Which sector?” Noral added a belated, “Sir."

    "The Corellian Sector!"

    Noral shook his head. "No, sir, I will need the official Imperial designation if you wish me to make a search."

    Damned bucketheads! "Ly!"

    She had obviously been listening in because less than a heartbeat later her face appeared round the door. "You yelped, my Prince?”

    He glared at her. Now is not the time. "Get me the military designation for the home sector."

    "Sector 131.42,” she said without missing a beat.

    Han turned back to the screen. "Did you catch that?"

    The man was already keying something into the screen beside him. A few moments passed and then he nodded. "Here we are. Yes, that sector is undergoing routine maintenance to their comm relays." He looked at Han. "I'm afraid all communications will be down for at least three days."

    "Three days! There must be something you can do."

    "Unfortunately, no. I will, of course, make sure to inform you as soon as the communication net has been restored. However, as I said, we have only just recently absorbed the communications ministry and we have a lot of work to do. So, if you don't mind..."

    Han debated whether to press the point, but quickly decided there was no point. I may need this pompous ass to help me later on. He nodded. "Of course. I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you. I’m sure you must all be very busy."

    "Thank you," Noral said, his expression softening a little. “I’m sure that everything will be back in order very quickly.”

    “Thank you. Have a nice evening.”

    “And to you, Prince Solo.”

    Without another word, the man signed off, leaving Han to wonder what the hell was going on. A communications black out in the Unclaimed Territories, the same day that the Imperial military takes over the Communications Ministry. And the day before some of the most important negotiations in galactic history were about to start… He sat back.

    Ly’ana stepped fully into the room. "What do you think?"

    "I think the timing of this stinks like a Hutt's rear end. I also think there isn't much we can do about it from here."

    "But what if something has happened back on Corellia?"

    "The system is well defended. The Empire doesn't have anything to match Centrepoint Station. Besides, I'm sure the Emperor won't want to do anything to risk these negotiations."

    "You willing to bet on that?"

    All Han wanted to do was make some wisecrack about Corellians and gambling. Never tell a Corellian the odds, he'll always find a way to beat them, as his father often said. He could tell that Ly was expecting him to do exactly the same.

    The problem was, he couldn't bring himself to say it. Instead, he forced a smile.

    "You're just going to have to trust me."

    He could see on her face that that wasn't what she wanted to hear. Her smile was as false and forced as his own.

    "What now?" she asked after a moment.

    "Now, we get on with business. Get me those padds. I guess I have some calls to make. Oh, and get me everything we have on the talks planned for tomorrow. Tarkin won’t know what hit him."

    She nodded and stepped out. The fact that she didn't make any kind of quip about his sudden ‘zeal’ told him more about her state of mind than anything else could have.

    He turned and looked out the window. He could see shadows moving behind the blinds of the Corporate Sector offices. He watched them for a moment, trying to still his thoughts. He tried to make sense of his own frame of mind. By the time Ly’ana got back with the files, he had come to only one conclusion.

    For the first time he could remember, Han was well and truly terrified.
     
  10. Count Zero

    Count Zero Says who? Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    European Union
    Oh, that's not going to end well... :(
     
  11. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Location:
    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    But what could the Empire do to silence an entire star system? Wait, is that a moon?
     
  12. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Yeah, I have a bad feeling about this too. First the Emperor has a new apprentice on the way, and then Corellia goes silent...:evil:
     
  13. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Han is terrified ... that can't be good.

    Thanks for the entertainment, Captain Sarine.
     
  14. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Uh-oh...can you say Death Star? :(
     
  15. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    'Death Star' was my first thought too, although it may just be a sneaky tactic by the Empire to cut off the negotiators from their home bases. Either way, it does not bode well.

    I have to say, with this level of description and characterisation, this ranks with some published Star Wars fiction I've read.
     
  16. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2002
    Location:
    Gotham
    This is awesome. Something about this that really makes it real at the same time different than our own, a true attempt at creating an alternate universe. I think whatever it is part of Project Tantiss and could be the Death Star, but also could be something even more devastating. Sun Crusher?
     
  17. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Location:
    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    Palpatine : (squeezing two fingers together) I'm crushing your sun with the Force!

    Sorry, it just came to mind. Too-early posting. :D
     
  18. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Count Zero

    Now what makes you think this isn't going to end well... :devil:

    Gojirob

    So you think either the Death Star or Palpatine crushing a sun with his fingers... I have to admit I like that second option better!!! :)

    USS Avenger

    I look forward to what you think of who the eventual apprentice is along with what has made Corellia go silent

    kes7

    You're most welcome! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    Nerys

    Ah the Death Star... Should I make it that easy... :evil:

    The Badger

    Wow, thanks so much. I'm so flattered that you think this ranks with published fiction. Any writer wants to hear that, but especially since my dream is to be published eventually! So thanks!!! :bolian:

    Admiral Young

    Thanks so much for your comment, so glad to know you're enjoying this! It is flattering to know that this comes across as real and that this alternate universe works for you.

    Sun Crusher? Now there is an idea! :devil:

    Thanks to you all for your comments. More tomorrow I hope!

    Joel
     
  19. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Location:
    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    Actually, Joel, that was a joke from a Canadian comedy called 'The Kids In The Hall'. I find the uber-Force users in the EU and SW:TCW to be a bit much sometimes.
     
  20. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 11

    With a final click, the magnetic lock collapsed and the door to Luke's cell whirred open. He stood there for a moment, listening carefully, then stepped out into the ship's corridor.

    He had been working on the door for a couple of hours now, using a piece of metal wiring he had broken from the bed. He said a silent thanks to his friend Whistler - if the thief hadn't taught Luke how to pick a standard magnetic lock, he'd never have gotten out.

    Tiptoeing carefully, he made his way down the corridor. He glanced in every room he came to, checking either for the presence of his captor or something he could use as a weapon. Most of the rooms seemed to be empty, though a large storage room filled with unmarked cases seemed to suggest he was aboard a smuggler’s ship.

    As he turned the corner into another featureless corridor, he froze at the sound of grunts and groans coming from somewhere up ahead. Pressing his back against the wall, Luke eased down the wall until he reached an open archway. The sounds seemed to be coming from inside. Dropping down to his haunches, he put one hand on the archway’s cold metallic frame and peered around it. What he saw made him gasp.

    Inside the room, the woman who had caught him was working through some kind of strange martial art. Dressed in a very revealing body suit, which left little to the imagination, her body flowed through a series of exotic moves, twisting and turning in the artificial light. Luke could only crouch down and stare at her, captivated.

    Lifting one foot high in the air, she propelled herself forward, catching her weight on her hands and sommersaulting into the air. Half way through her tumbling mid-air spin, she kicked out suddenly, both of her legs stretched out straight. She landed with her legs split, her hands supporting her weight. As he watched, astonished, she flexed her arms once, twice, then was somehow able to spring upwards, spinning in the air again and landing on her hands.

    It was all he could do to tear his eyes away from her, but he forced himself to look around the room. His attention was drawn to a silver and black cylinder on the side of a unit close by. Her lightsabre! This was his chance. Keeping a close eye on his captor, who now seemed to be fighting with some unseen opponent, he waited for her to turn her back to him and ran into the room.

    He reached the unit just as she turned back around. He would have sworn her eyes met his just as he ducked behind it, but when he risked a quick glance over the top, he saw that she was still engaged in her exercise.

    Ducking back down, he reached up his hand, feeling along the wood for the metal tube. Come on, come on, he prayed, straining for the sabre. Come to me, come on, where are you? He reached out with his mind, imagining the sabre in his hand. If he could just…

    Suddenly, he felt the metal against his palm. Clutching his fingers tight around it, he quickly drew his arm back. He crouched there, staring at the beautiful hilt. He found the button that would turn it on, but he hesitated. If he did this, if he attacked her... He might have to hurt her. He might even have to kill her. Can I do that? He didn’t know. Telling himself that it wouldn’t come to that, he closed his eyes, preparing himself for what he was about to do.

    "Are you just going to sit there stroking that or do you plan on using it any time soon?"

    Luke scrambled backwards, his eyes snapping open. His kidnapper stood over him, her smile taunting.

    “Get back,” he said, struggling to his feet and pointing the lightsabre at her.

    “Ooh, what are you going to do, Son of Skywalker? I’m just a poor, defenceless woman.”

    A surge of anger overwhelmed him. She’s making fun of me. With a snap hiss, a green blade appeared from the end of the sabre. He tried to steady his hand.

    “Don’t come any closer,” he repeated.

    Her face changed, her sneer replaced by a snarl. “You want to play, do you?” She reached behind her, unhooking something, and when her hand reappeared, she held another sabre in her palm. She activated it, revealing a red ruby blade. “Alright then, let’s play.”

    She lunged forward, her blade hissing towards his head. He stumbled back, bringing his blade up, his hand guided by fear. To his surprise, he parried her blow, more by accident than intent. The sizzle of the two blades’ meeting left a hint of ozone hanging in the air. His opponent took a step back, more amused than surprised.

    “So, you do have a backbone after all,” she said. “That should make this much more interesting.”

    She surged forward, her blade moving round in an arc towards his head. He raised his own blade to catch hers, but her arm moved as quick as lightning on the Dune Sea. Before he knew what was happening, her blade was speeding towards his belly. He jumped back, his feet landing at an unnatural angle. He felt something pop in his ankle and he stumbled back, almost falling to the deck. He reached down, clutching at his strained ligament.

    “Did that hurt, farmboy?”

    He shook his head, standing up and taking a step back. She danced towards him again, the point of her lightsabre darting towards his arms, his belly, his face. Her arm looked like a snake. Luke realised that she was backing him towards the wall, but he couldn’t do anything except take careful step after careful step, keeping his sabre half raised towards her. She’s going to kill me, he thought.

    The blade of her lightsabre scythed towards his head again. This time, he managed to get his blade in the way in time, but the impact almost drove his lightsabre from his hands. “You’re going to have to do better than this, Son of Skywalker. Come on. Use your feelings. Use your hatred, your anger, your fear.”

    “I’m not afraid.”

    “Really?” She smirked. “You know that I can sense your feelings, don’t you? I could feel you, looking at me earlier on. I could sense your lust.”

    She stopped moving forward, her lightsabre dropping slightly. Her free hand started to caress the collar of her bodysuit, a single finger running over her lips. Sliding the length of her body, her hand moved down over her breasts, across her uncovered midrift, then began to softly caress her hip. His eyes were glued to her fingers as they trailed across a bare patch of skin. “Tell me, Luke,” she whispered. “Have you ever been with a woman?”

    He swallowed. His voice was hoarse when he spoke. “Stop it. I know what you’re doing.”

    “I’m just asking you a question”, she pouted. “Well? Have you?”

    “I…”

    “You haven’t, have you? You’d like to, though, wouldn’t you? I could feel it as you crouched behind the door, I could feel your eyes roving over my body, burning with desire...” She stepped towards him. “Would you like to touch me, Luke?”

    He looked up into her eyes and felt his hand begin to drift upwards. Then he saw something in her eyes, the mearest hint of a smirk. He realised she was toying with him. He felt another surge of anger – closer to fury this time – that washed up and over him, overwhelming whatever effect she was having on him, overwhelming his fear. He allowed the anger to feed itself, felt it strengthen him. He could feel – something – building within him. With a roar, he surged forward, gripping the sabre with both hands.

    The element of surprise more than any ability on his side carried him the first few steps. His opponent was forced back, her lightsabre mo ing just fast enough to deflect his battering blows. Ozone filled the air and the crackle of phased energy against phased energy filled Luke’s ears. He roared again as he used his superior height and strength to force her even further back.

    Her superior technique and experience was always going to work in her favour, though. With a few simple twists of her hand, she disarmed him, sending his lightsabre skittering across the floor. She kicked out, taking his legs out from under him. Before he knew what was happening, Luke found himself on his knees, the tip of her blade at his neck.

    “That… was interesting,” she said, out of breath. “Unfortunately, I don’t have time to play anymore.”

    She waved a hand. Luke felt the very air harden around him and lift him to his feet. Then he was floating off the ground and something was tightening around his throat. He reached up to try and tear whatever was choking him from his neck. His captor began to laugh, her fingers clenching into a fist. He kicked out wildly, darkness already beginning to gather around the edges of his vision.

    Suddenly, she waved her hand to the side. Luke flew across the room, his head striking the bulkhead, hard. Darkness rushed in, then stars, then nothing. The last thing he heard was her laughter echoing in his ears.

    XXX

    Mara stopped above Skywalker’s prone body and tapped a finger on her lips. That had been… interesting. Disappointing, but interesting.

    She had been expecting something more from the boy. After everything she had heard about Anakin Skywalker and his strength in the Force… Towards the end there he had begun to show a hint of his potential, but it had fizzled out so quickly that it might as well have been nothing. She shrugged. There would be more than enough time once he was back on Coruscant to turn him into whatever her master required him to be. Plenty of time before his father tracked him down and her master got everything he wanted.

    Deactivating her lightsabre, she hooked it behind her, hanging from her belt. Stepping over Skywalker, she headed for the door. She left the other lightsabre behind on the floor – if Skywalker wanted to have another go at her when he woke up, all the better. It couldn’t hurt to start his training a little early.

    Out in the corridor, she wrinkled her nose. The whole ship stank of Rodian. The two smugglers she had stolen the shop from now floated in the sewerage tunnels below Mos Eisley, but their scent still seemed to infect the walls. Trying to breath through her mouth, she walked rapidly down the corridor and up a couple of steps into the bridge module.

    An insistent beeping sound filled the small circular chamber as she arrived. It took Mara a moment to realise that it was coming from the comm unit on the far wall. She crossed the bridge and dropped to her haunches, studying the readouts. She felt a surge of adrenaline when she recognised the signal encoding. The incoming transmission was coming from Coruscant.

    Pressing a series of buttons to decipher the code matrix, she stepped back as the comm unit lit up, projecting a life-size hologram into the middle of the room. Mara fell to her knees as her master stared at her across the gulfs of space.

    “My master,” she breathed.

    “Rise, Hand Jade.”

    She stood up on trembling knees, daring to look up at the cloaked figure. Two golden eyes glowed from beneath the shadows of the hood, seeming to pierce her. She sensed his presence in the Force grow stronger in the back of her mind as he smiled.

    “You succeeded?”

    “I did, master. I have Skywalker’s son, here on this ship. We are two days away from Coruscant and should be arriving…”

    “That is why I am contacting you, my Hand,” the Emperor interrupted her. “The Son of Skywalker cannot be brought to Coruscant, not now. It would be too much of a risk with the Alliance on world, especially with his mother as part of the diplomatic delegation. The final part of our project is at hand, I will not allow anything to ruin it.”

    “Of course, master. I will take him to Korriban instead.”

    “No! No. I do not trust the priests to teach him what he needs to know. No, I wish for the Son of Skywalker to begin his training at the hands of a true Sith. You are to change course and take him to Corellia. Darth Vidius is waiting there with our new weapon. He will take the boy off your hands.”

    Mara’s jaw tightened. Darth Vidius?! No! The Emperor saw her reaction and he chuckled. “You should not be jealous of my apprentice, Mara Jade.”

    “I am not jealous, master,” she said quickly. “I… I do not trust him.”

    “And well you should not, my young Hand. We are Sith. Trust is not the way of the Dark Side. Do you think I trust any of you?” He laughed again. Then his voice hardened. “Nevertheless, you will take the Son of Skywalker to Corellia. It will give you the opportunity to see the final part of the Project in person and report back to me on the progress of our little surprise.”

    Though her every instinct screamed out for her to object, to fall on her knees and beg her master to change his mind, fear held her in check. She dropped to her knees again. “I obey, of course, my master.”

    “I know you do, Mara Jade,” he said, his holographic hand resting on her head. “You always have.”

    She felt a surge of pleasure through the Force, allowing a tiny gasp to escape her lips. Gone as quickly as it had come, the surge left her trembling. She looked up at her master. He was smiling.

    “Contact me when you reach Corellia, Mara Jade. I will have new orders for you.”

    She bowed her head. “May the Force serve you, master.”

    “And you, my Hand.”

    His holographic presence faded away, but his presence through the Force lingered a moment longer. He maintained this link with all of his Hands – a constant presence in the back of their minds. Some claimed that Darth Sidious could use that link to read his Hand’s minds, to see through their eyes, even to kill them at distance. Most assumed it was the reason why no Hand had ever been captured alive. Mara didn’t know how true the rumours were, and she did not care. She had no fear of her master’s displeasure – her loyalty was beyond question, the loyalty of an adopted daughter for the man who had raised and cared for her.

    Still… Darth Vidius. She could not understand why her master persisted with his obsession. The Tantiss Project had been a disaster from beginning to end, leading only to madness, pain and death. Vidius may be an improvement on her master’s previous apprentices, but only by a little. And now she was to hand the Son of Skywalker over to the man. Why did her master continue to trust him?

    She channeled her frustration into pure rage. Rage and anger fueled her and she embraced them, as she embraced her healthy fear of her master. Her emotions gave her strength. They gave her power.

    Sitting down, she manipulated the ship’s commands, pulling it out of hyperspace. The blue tunnel of light before her collapsed into a starfield. She quickly checked her sensors – there wasn’t a single star within a dozen light years from her location.

    Calling up the ship’s navigational charts, she checked her course. Following the Imperial Corridor would take her directly to the Core systems. That seemed to be the easiest solution.

    She calculated the vector and laid the course into the nav computer. Once she was satisfied that there were no hidden dangers along the route, she engaged the hyperdrive again. The stars spun around her, then snapped into long lines of pure white light. Revolving, they eventually coalesced into the familiar blue hyperrealm.

    She sat back in her chair. Her anger still raged, but she knew that without an outlet, it would simply burn itself out. If she was going to be facing Vidius, she needed her anger. She needed to be ready when she faced him. If he gave her an opportunity to kill him… She smiled. It wouldn’t be the first time she had been forced to slaughter a pretender to the title of Sith apprentice.

    Her smile hardened as she realised a perfect way to stoke her anger. Standing, she reached behind herself, using the Force to draw her lightsabre into her hand.

    It was time to wake young Skywalker again.