?

Log in

mara jade, Star Wars, Extended Universe, Emperor's Hand

madman007 in marafics

False Sense of Feeling

False Sense of Feeling
Rating: PG
Time: Three standard months before the events of Empire Strikes Back
Warnings: intense swordplay
Summary: Mara Jade seeks counsel with Lord Vader with her current mission but receives a lesson instead.

This was a story I came up with when I decided to put my two favorite Star Wars characters together. Mara Jade and Darth Vader. I hope I didn't disappoint. Enjoy!

Final approach to the Super Star Destroyer, Executor

“I am sorry, Shuttle Malevolence, but you are not on the schedule today. Due to the sensitive nature of our passenger, I must demand that you obtain proper passcodes–”

“I already know Lord Vader is aboard, so you can dispense with the mystery. And I don’t need a passcode. This is Captain Piett, correct?”

“Yes, that is correct, miss. I don’t see how that is–”

“And your superior is Admiral Ozzel?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Then give him this message. Hapspiri Barrini Corbolan Triaxis. I didn’t want to use it, but you’ve unnecessarily made it necessary.”

“Allow me to check this through,” the Captain said with no small dose of indignation.

The Captain may have been able to intimidate lesser ranking officials in the Imperial army, but he would never be able to do so with the Emperor’s Hand.

Mara Jade fiddled with the controls of her borrowed shuttle as she waited for no reason. It took her long enough to reach the Executor so she could confer with Lord Vader, and now this delay. Frustration was now entering her psyche. She should not be treated this way. At this point of her career as the Emperor’s Hand most Imperial officials knew who she was on sight, though they wouldn’t acknowledge it. When she was younger she would keep up the facade that she was the Emperor’s personal companion. As she and the Emperor grew older, that ruse became less credible.

She had just heard from Palpatine when she was finishing up a nasty business on Vesper. By saying she heard the Emperor meant to say did so from inside her mind. At this stage of her time as the Hand, she could anticipate his messages to her through the Force. The parameters of this next mission were delicate as usual, but they rarely involved minute details. Palpatine would lay out what he wanted for her to accomplish. The details of how were up to her. For this mission, he added a suggestion that he normally did not give.

I recommend you consult Lord Vader on the matter of geography. I do believe he is well familiar with the territory.


She was already familiar with the territory herself. It wasn’t advice that her boss typically gave to her. She disliked the idea of seeking out Vader just to gain knowledge of an area that she could very well research fully herself. Unfortunately, she was in no position to argue. She rarely went against the Emperor’s wishes.

Captain Piett came back on the comm which shook her out of her thoughts.

“Shuttle Malevolence, or should I just address you as Mara Jade,” the Captain’s voice now contained an ingredient of honor and the intimidation was gone.

Mara grinned at the respectability that came from the four secret words of an Imperial high recognition code. Mara opened her end of the channel. “You can call me a Rancor’s aunt if you wish, I just need to see Vader.”

“I’m afraid he is incapacitated at the moment. You are welcome to land in Hangar 2E and wait, of course.”

“The Emperor’s Hand is not accustomed to waiting,” she snapped.

“And Lord Darth Vader is not accustomed to being rushed. You can either land and wait at your leisure, or be on your way and schedule a meeting with Vader for another time.”

Quick. This one could become a respectable high official someday. She submitted to his ultimatum and ejected, “Very well. Transmit landing coordinates.”

He did so and she landed accordingly. Once she finished landing procedures, she went back to the storage and opened her portable supply chest. She bypassed all the BlasTech handguns and elaborate vibroblades, not including her personal blade she kept with her at all times, and reached for her lightsaber. The last time she had been alone with Vader a few years ago when she was still very young, she had been unprepared for his sudden attack. She promised herself that would be the last time she would allow that to happen. She hooked the weapon onto her utility belt under her tunic and folded her cloak over top of it. She closed the chest and headed to the exit ramp.

She was greeted by the mundane features of Captain Piett. He even saluted her with an honorable gesture. “Miss Jade, welcome aboard the Executor.”

“Where is Vader?”

“As I stated, he is not available at this time. I was told it will only be less than a standard hour. We have an excellent assortment of refreshments in our lounge–”

“I do not need to be coddled, Captain. I am not just a visitor.”

“I thought before you landed we agreed you would wait.”

“That’s what you agreed to. I only agreed to land. Now, where is Vader?”

“Mara Jade, I am afraid I cannot allow you to interrupt Lord Vader’s personal time. I will not be responsible for the consequences.”

Knowing full well what consequences meant while serving on Vader’s ship, Mara assured him, “Let me worry about Vader. I’ll make sure you don’t suffocate by his hand. Now, I usually do not like repeating myself. After two times I get irritated.” She enunciated slowly, “Where is Vader?’

Piett hesitated visibly and meekly answered, “He is in his personal quarters.”

As she stepped passed him and the small band of stormtroopers at his guard, she said flippantly, “That was all you needed to say.”

Piett offered from behind her, “Do you need directions?”

She replied quick, “I know them.” The truth was that she memorized the layout of the Executor before it was built. It was an exercise that Palpatine had given her as part of her training. She knew even then that the Super Star Destroyer was being built for Lord Vader. She knew exactly where he kept to himself on his own ship. She dodged through Imperial troopers, officers, and droids to make a beeline to it.

She reached the double blast doors of Vader’s sanctuary on the Executor, which opened once she approached. She was surprised there was both no lock code for the doors, nor any security surrounding them. She figured Lord Vader considered himself the ultimate in security. Anyone on board save for the Admiral or Captain would never risk their lives in coming in here with less than an emergency. She thought to herself as she entered the dark and gloomy chamber, What arrogance.

She stepped up to an enormous black globe that was dimly lit by track lighting in the ceiling. It gave off the same spooky feel as Vader himself did. She judged the huge sphere for a moment. Here was the only place where Vader was truly cut off from the outside environment, but yet could survive without his suit and helmet. She savored the irony.

Mara Jade had experienced only a handful of dealings with the Dark Lord over the years. Most of them had consisted of training exercises. On her first mission she had been put second-in-charge behind Vader. It was after that particular mission when she had noticed a change in Vader’s demeanor. It bordered on obsession. She had witnessed first hand his outburst several months ago when Vader attacked her with no warning and spewing nonsense. And it all began with the name that a captured Rebel gave up. Mara put it in her forethought to try and avoid mentioning the name Skywalker. She performed her own research on the name, of course.With limited resources, the only reference she found was an old Jedi hero in the Clone Wars who was lost in a battle on what was then Coruscant. Apart from the fact that this Skywalker and Vader both used the Force, she couldn’t make any other connection. Perhaps she just didn’t want to.

She stood in front of the black sphere impatiently. She called out, “Lord Vader. It is the Emperor’s Hand. I wish to discuss a matter with you.”

Nothing.

“Lord Vader, are you in there?” A pause of silence. “I am on a tight schedule, Vader. I don’t have time for games.” Still nothing.

She wandered her eyes to look around the sphere for something to gain his attention. A doorbell? A mallet? Then she saw towards the back of the sphere there was a computer station. She leapt at it hoping it would have a failsafe for opening the sphere or, at least, some kind of comm to call inside the sphere. She logged on with her personal login and an Imperial security screen was asking for a high-level passcode. It was a Aucsh Gamma level passcode and she figured the only official on board who would have that clearance was the Admiral. However, she grinned. She quickly typed in the universal passcode that got her into just about every Imperial system outside of Bastion or Yaga Minor without extensive slicing. As the Emperor’s Hand she was given certain liberties outside of the official commanders.

Within seconds she was in. She found she had control of the sphere. Or at least half control. She saw that the controls to open the sphere from this system on the outside would trigger an alarm through the chamber and therefore alert those on the command deck. It was for extreme emergencies such as a fire or sudden gravity failure. That, she did not wish for. She saw on the other side of the screen were controls for a cam that showed inside the sphere. She flipped it on and started to manually angle it. That is after she was blinded.

Inside the sphere was an uncharacteristic pure white. The sudden brightness against the dark background of the room almost hurt her eyes. She moved the cam slowly until she came upon a dark shape.

Vader.

She maneuvered the cam up to gain a head shot of the Sith Lord. And she received one of the greatest shocks of her life up to that moment.

She had seen her share of battle scars on people’s bodies. She herself had been the cause of some of them over the last few years. Nothing could have prepared her for the grotesque image of Lord Darth Vader without his helmet. The combination of pale burnt skin and blackened gashes across his face were enough to halt her appetite for the next week. She felt a small relief that he had not noticed the cam in his face for the moment and she was only treated to a quick side glimpse of his face. It would not have mattered anyway. His extreme looks would not be enough to register any semblance of recognition. No existing holograph could compare with what Vader would have looked like without his scars.

A hydraulic arm lowered the Dark Lord’s helmet onto his head. She could hear a faint hiss of air ejecting out indicating his suit was now hermetically sealed. His ignorance of her presence was short-lived as he turned slightly to face directly into the cam. She almost anticipated a sudden tightening of her throat. She wondered if she would be strong enough to repel his force.

The threat did not come physically, yet it came nonetheless through his words. “I do hope for your sake, Jade, that the reason for this intrusion is worth more than your life.”

She answered lightening quick, “It may not be equal to my life, but it concerns a suggestion from the Emperor himself.”

She jumped back slightly as the whine to the motor of the sphere began and the two halves separated. His seat rotated and soon she was now face to face with Lord Vader.

He questioned, “Is that so?”

“Yes,” she answered simply.

“What does my Master wish for you to tell me?”

“He suggested that you assist me on my next mission. It involves Llan Xun.”

“Ah, yes. The Imperial Intelligence officer accused of selling secrets to Rebel leaders. The last reports I have received places him on Ryloth.”

“My research found the same, but that was a week ago. I had other matters to attend to on Vesper that were more important. My assessment of Xun suggests that he wouldn’t have stayed on Ryloth long. Rumor has it he raised quite a credit level while running the casinos there.”

Vader acknowledged, “He did have an outstanding balance with Black Sun as well.”

“Not a good group to have a debt with. Though, with Xun’s former position, I think Xizor is hesitant about taking him on his own.”

“The Prince is always hesitant when it comes to Imperial matters. Regardless, I am keeping an eye on him.” For a few moments, the only sound was Vader’s breathing mechanism echoing through the chamber. Then Vader boomed, “I have yet to hear evidence of why I was interrupted. If my Master suggested a collaboration with you, he would have contacted me himself.”

“Not necessarily. While I was finishing up on Vesper, he sent a message to me through the Force about my next mission. He came across new intel that proves Xun has left Ryloth. He now has been spotted on Tatooine.” For the most minute of moments, she felt a slight hint of apprehension within Vader. She filed it away in her memory and continued speaking. “The Emperor suggested that I use your insight into the area. Apparently, he seems to believe you are familiar with it.”

After she spoke, there was a strange sound coming from Vader that sounded like coughing. Mara listened closer and analyzed the sound differently. Was Vader laughing?

He finally spoke. “The Emperor is testing you, Jade. However, at the same time, he is also testing me.” Vader took a long pause before he spoke again. “I can compile a list of coordinates to specific areas where Llan Xun may be hiding.”

Mara offered smugly, “I can do that on my own.”

“These are areas that you will not find with extensive research. I can gather the information within one standard hour. That is all I am willing to contribute.”

“You have that much confidence that I won’t fail?”

“Do not add to my words, young Jade. I have confidence only in the data I am prepared to give you. Be thankful I was in a generous mood to do even that.”

“I was under the impression that you would accompany me to Tatooine and assist.”

“Think about that, Jade. The presence of not only an Imperial Star Destroyer, but my Star Destroyer, would set off alarms for Xun to know that we are on to him. Tatooine has no defenses to speak of, so he would know he would be the target and flee.”

“Maybe we can try a Bait and Switch. I can get to Tatooine from here in eighteen hours. I can infiltrate according to your coordinates and even if I don’t capture him, I can tag his ship. You arrive and he’ll flee, but I can follow.”

"Too much of a risk." Vader gave another sound that sounded like a sigh. “I will compile the list. That is the only assistance I am willing to give.”

“Your Master thought it would be more.”

“He assumed wrong.”

“Fine. I wouldn’t want to be the one who denies his requests.”

“Leave that concern to me. Do not presume that you know everything between my Master and I. You know as much in that area as you know in the Force.”

She snapped, “I know enough in the Force.”

“You know all too little. You will always be a novice in the Force, young Jade. The Emperor can train you all he desires, but you will never fully understand the Dark Side.”

“Don’t need to understand the Dark Side. Only the Force in general. Is there that big of a difference between the Light and Dark sides?”

“By a wide margin.”

“And it gives you and the Emperor all this power,” she sneered.

“Do not be concerned primarily of power. It is the control of power that is significant.”

“Oh yes, the Rebellion sure had control of the Empire’s power. And they blew that up.”

“The Rebels rely too much on luck.”

“Luck? To make that shot in the thermal exhaust port? What fighter did you say made that? An Incom T-65 X-Wing? A Z-95 Headhunter could make the shot only if its targeting computer was modified. No, that shot would take more than blind luck.” She hesitated a moment, but mentioned it anyway. “Didn’t you say the shooter was using the Force?”

“I did.”

“Then this Skywalker that Rebel mentioned months ago on Centares could be related to Anakin Skywalker.”

“Where did you find that name?”

“I have my own skills in research. But, I couldn’t find anything else.”

“You wouldn’t. The Emperor destroyed all data relating to the traitorous Jedi.”

“Exactly. The only thing I found on this Anakin was part of folklore and nothing concrete. Still...there is a strange coincidence.”

“Which is?”

“It was rumored that Anakin was from Tatooine.” She let a pause in before she began again, “Is that why you won’t go there with me? Or are you afraid you’ll get a sunburn?”

He spoke with even more edge than she thought possible. “My reasons should not concern you, Jade. I will start gathering the information that my Master insisted I give you. I do have more important matters to attend to. I do not have time for your missions for which you should be conducting.”

“Well, there goes your nomination for my Mentor of the Year Award. That’s ok. I won’t need the Force for this mission. Llan Xun seems to believe that since he was a former Imperial Intelligence Officer he can just disappear. Too bad most Intelligence Officers of his level were not informed about the existence of the Emperor’s Hand.”

“I do admire your arrogance, young Jade. That is your edge. Your limited use of the Force is merely an extra.”

Mara began to get agitated. “I know that sounded like a compliment, but I took it as a masked one. Are you saying I don’t need the Force? All of my training all through my life had been for nothing? I admit that I am still learning. I will most likely never have the level of skill that you and the Emperor possess. But, as you said, I have other skills.”

“The element of stealth can only take you so far, Jade.”

“And how long will you be able to threaten people by choking them? That takes exertion on your part. And deep breaths, ironically. Something you can’t do without machinery.”

“It would be wise for you to not tread down this path, Mara Jade.”

“Oh, please. We both know you would never confront your Master if he found out you harmed me. I am one of the very few in this galaxy, Lord Vader, who is not afraid of you. Unlike you, people don’t see me coming for them until it’s too late. I have been trained in all combat techniques and weapons. You seem to think that I’m expendable.”

“And you have the delusion that you are not.”

“Right. Oh, and included in the weapons training is all seven forms of lightsaber duel. Someday, you will see what I can do.”

The whine of the sphere’s motor started again, except this time there was a wedge on the bottom half that folded outward onto the floor. The Dark Lord stood up and thundered down the steps that the wedge created.

Mara Jade did not flinch, yet her instinct told her to flee. Instead, she stood her ground.

Vader strode over to a darkened area beside the sphere. Instantly, a series of lights came on which revealed a small practice area for combat. He stopped on the edge of the area and he held out his right hand. He called on the Force for his lightsaber and it entered into his hand from his belt. He ignited the blade and the snap-hiss echoed eerily inside the chamber.

Lord Vader raised his blade in an honorary gesture and uttered, “Why wait?”

Mara Jade stared down Lord Darth Vader who was baiting her into a challenge. Normally, she would jump at the chance, but she had things to do. She sighed her reply, “I don't have time for this, Vader.”

    “What is your hurry? Surely, Xun will not be leaving Mos Espa anytime soon.”

    “Mos Espa?”

    “That is the grand scene for Jabba the Hutt. It is only logical that a gambler like Xun would try his luck there.”

    She chuckled. “Maybe a few decades ago. Mos Espa is now a wasteland since pod racing had been banished. There's hardly any gambling left there except maybe in Mos Eisley. The biggest city on the planet is Anchorhead and that place is just full of civilian markets. No gambling to speak of compared to Ryloth. If Xun is on Tatooine its to hook up with Jabba's outfit.”

    “That is not what concerns you, is it Jade? I sense much fear in you. Is it possible that the great Emperor's Hand is...scared?”

    She snapped, “I'm not afraid of anything!”

    Vader went into a battle stance with his blade fully extended in front of him. “Then prove it.”

    She expressed a sliver of embarrassment at admitting that Vader knew how to press her into action. The mere hint that Mara Jade would be scared of anything was enough to set off her rage. She exclaimed, “Fine,” and she unfastened her cloak as it fell to the floor and retrieved her lightsaber from her belt. “I guess we're not using training sabers this time.”

    “Unless you feel the need.”

    Mara grinned at the verification that Vader could be sarcastic. She ignited her saber and raised it in front of her. Ever since Palpatine supplied her with the crystal to allow her to make her own lightsaber, she always considered the color to be a simple shade of red. Now that her blade was up against Vader's she could see now that hers was a lighter red, almost magenta. Lord Vader's blade was the deep red of blood.

    For a moment, each stood before the other in silence with the hums of their sabers in anticipation.

    Finally, Mara interjected, “Just tell me when it–”

    The slash from Vader came instantly as he threw it wide at her midriff and she barely registered it in time to block it rather clumsily. She cursed herself at her own inattentiveness.

    Vader called her on it. “Proof that banter is not as important as focus.”

    “I'll give you that one.” She moved her feet around him in a defensive stance and watching his every move now. “The next time won't be as easy.”

    “Don't be too sure,” he boasted.

    They circled around each other for a few moments before Vader launched a series of swings and thrusts in quick succession. Mara greeted them with blocks and parries of her own. Vader kept this up for several moments and Mara met each of his blows with highly timed precision. He finally ceased the attacks and they went back to circling.

    Mara quipped, “If you plan to tire me out first I have to tell you I have a lot of energy.”

    “I have no doubt, Jade. Although, that was not an exercise to test how fast you are fatigued.”

    “What was it an exercise in?”

    Vader only answered with, “That is the point. You will not recognize every challenge given to you. The ability to trust your instinct will be tested.”

    “No kidding? In that case, Vader, test this!” She quickly began her own series of low thrusts mixed with high swings that Vader countered. All through the moment Mara wore a confident grin as she continued to throw thrusts at Vader from unique points so as to catch him off guard. He countered those as well as if they were anticipated. As far as she could hear, his breathing mechanism stayed at the same pace as it would if he were standing still. She decided to try something different.

    She began a quarter spin move that usually threw off her opponents. She was too fast and agile for the few she had faced with lightsabers. This opponent, however, was not like any she had faced before. She found this out as she half completed her spin and was suddenly faced with a blood red blade. If she had not felt Vader’s sudden excitement at that same moment, her body would have been severed at the shoulders. In a quick reaction, she ducked under the blade as if she were playing a game of limbo. Her spin’s momentum combined with her sudden stop made her lower body slower to react and it sent her ungracefully to the floor. She could almost hear Vader’s gloating under his mechanical thunderous voice.

    “Your acrobatics are impressive, young Jade...for a traveling sideshow. You do not need fancy moves that are wasted. I do not know of any move in swordplay that is effective when your back is to your opponent.”

    “I’ll remember that when your back it to me the next time.” She sprang up to physically and mentally brush herself off. She reset herself into battle mode and said bitterly, “Let’s try that again.”

    “You cannot beat me, Jade. You will try, but you will fail. You do not yet know how to control your emotions. One can easily see your rage on the surface. Some may even be intimidated by it. Deep beneath you, Jade, is merely a scared little girl.”

    She gritted her teeth and flew at him with her saber raised high. “I’ll show you scared!” She attacked this time with fury in the form of high strikes which he quickly parried. She then tried the same thrusts from various points again but this time with a faster pace than before. Vader met each one with the same manner as he had when the duel started. And though she finally did hear his breathing quicken, she did not realize how close she was inside of his immediate range. She thought of it too late.

    All of a sudden, she felt as if a gigantic hook had grabbed a hold of her from behind and pulled hard. She was catapulted through the air and slammed onto the hard floor meters away. She lost control of her lightsaber, which extinguished and landed nearby. She stayed in a crawl position so as to recuperate from her immediate pain from landing. She felt Vader’s elation as he came forward to stand at her fallen form. He had used the Force to push her back. Was that cheating in a lightsaber duel? Apparently, not for a member of the Sith. How could she compete with that?

    Vader baited her once more. “You should surrender quickly, Jade. You may not be able to chase down Llan Xun in your present condition.”

    That remark set off a spark that lit a fire under her. It temporarily cured her of her aches. From her lain form, she flipped forward and immediately charged toward Vader. She used the Force to call her lightsaber to her hand, and as soon as she grasped it, she used the Force again to leap high over him. She did a frontal somersault with her blade stretched out in the intention to swipe at his helmet. At the last moment, Vader caught her blade inches above his head. She started to complete her flip and her blade ran its way against his in a shower of plasma sparks. She began to come down and she lifted her blade away from his to perform a wide arc in a counter clockwise motion. At the same moment she landed, she perfectly timed a slash with her weight balanced on her low-bent knees. The wide slash came across behind his lower body. Knowing his enormous bulk would be too large to pivot around and face her in time, her arc made an incision into his lower black cloak making a burning tear across it. The smell of burnt fabric joined the air.  He finally did turn around to face her. Already she was set in a low defensive posture, her blade poised in front of her.

    “I am impressed, Jade. You used my lack of agility against me. Your sense of success is misleading you, however. To matter in the Force, you must control your feelings. Your thoughts betray you, young Jade. Behind that surge of rage lies a calm and passionate nature. That would not be becoming of an Emperor’s Hand, would it? That would be similar to your prancing around in fancy dresses among the members of the Imperial Court.”

    “I’ll have you know, Vader, I did more than prance. You would be surprised at the things I learned then just by listening. You think you can analyze me that easily, Vader?”

    “It is surprisingly simple.”

    “Then allow me to offer an analysis of yourself.” She raised herself up by her knees without forfeiting her defensive position. “On the very first mention of Tatooine, I felt a hint of your own emotion for a fraction of a second. Being what you are, I consider that a great amount. It is the only thing that is not artificial about you. Add your outburst at my mentioning Anakin Skywalker and I think I’ve figured it out.”

    “Do tell.”

    “Anakin defeated you on Tatooine, didn’t he?”

    “In a sense.”

    She sniffed. “A sense? What...yours? Do you even have any senses of your own left?” Vader suddenly lunged at her and swung a tight arc to her left. She raised her blade to block it. She mocked, “And then there’s your famous rage I keep hearing about. Are you sure you are not hiding behind your own anger as well?”

    “You do not understand how the Dark Side works.”

    “Wouldn’t I?” She thrust at his torso and he parried low in order to turn it back against her in the opposite direction. She had to concentrate on the awkward move and she caught his blade in a block at the last second. It was the first time she had considered the purpose of this duel being for practice or for survival. She kept on with her words t him. “Your avoidance of Tatooine tells me a few things. Either you don’t want to face your fears and fight Anakin or even his son, Luke Skywalker, the man who blew up your precious Death Star.” She blocked another hard thrust from him. “Or, maybe you don’t want to relive memories of your own past. Either way, it spells out the fear inside you.”

    “I have no fear!” His attacks were becoming harder in strength and it took much of Mara’s energy to keep up. Vader went on. “My hate has prolonged my devotion to the Dark Side. Your level of rage will not be enough to erase the conflict within you, Mara Jade. You have a secret yearn for passion...companionship...love.”

    “None of those will stand in my way of being loyal to the Emperor,” she snapped as she tried a feint to his left and then right which he parried well once again.

    “But, that is not what you want. Is it?”

    “What are you talking about? I devoted my life at being the Emperor’s Hand.”

    Vader answered her as he raised his blade not to attack, but to speak. “That is not what I sense from you, Jade. You were taken from your parents at a young age. Since then, you have always wanted the same thing, however carefully hidden. Something that being the Emperor’s Hand will never give you. A family. ”
    “I don’t have a family! Nor do I need one.”

    “Necessity is not your concern. Desire will be your undoing. I can foresee it.”

    “Then you’re interpreting your visions wrong.” She launched what looked like an undercut thrust aimed at his left side, and Vader prepared to counter it with a high parry. But, instead of following through, she stopped her blade’s momentum and changed direction in mid air, making Vader’s parry swipe at air. She then went into a forward roll past his shin and performed a backward arc that slashed at his right boot creating sparks. She noted that Vader did not cry in pain. There was no human tissue to speak of in his artificial foot. She completed her roll and reversed her direction to stand behind him. She didn’t have much time to enjoy her move, for he turned faster than she thought possible and slashed hard downward at her as if he were wielding a vibroaxe. She blocked the move, but his strength was bearing down on her. Their sabers clashed in a flurry of sparks and she was forced to the floor in a backwards arc. The sound of his mechanical breathing was amplified at his range. His words coming from his voice box were more thundering than usual.

    “Admit your defeat, Mara Jade. You cannot match my strength. It was an impressive move. But, not enough to fool me. Your technique is worthy. Yet, it is highly predictable. In a challenge with sabers, you must do the unexpected to become the victor.”

    She strained against Vader’s might and was very close to submitting. His immense torso was caving in on her. She couldn’t take his weight any longer. She looked down at his chest that was so close that she could touch it with a small extension of her hand. Then, she saw her escape. Unexpected, indeed. She grinned in confidence as she replied back, “You know what, Vader? You’re right.”

    With a nudge in the Force, she felt the air around the controls of his environ suit. She focused on the correct switch and she compressed the air around it to flip it. Immediately, she heard an escaping hiss of air and Vader reacted. The weight against her disappeared and his saber fell to the floor extinguished. He started to stumble backwards as he wheezed for air.

    “What...did...you..do?”

    She stood straight and closed down her own saber. She stood before the now weakened figure before her. She spoke in a confident tone. “I did the unexpected.” She moved closer to him as he clutched at his chest trying to reach for the controls to reset his breathing system. He couldn’t quite reach them.

    Mara Jade used this moment to her advantage. “Now, let me get this straight. Here I am being told about feelings and emotions by a man who is half human and half machine. It makes me wonder if you have feelings. And are they truly your own, or are they manufactured?”

    ”You...will..pay...for this,” Vader wheezed.

    “Why should I? I am only doing what is in my nature. Same as you would. Except I get things done no matter what. I don’t exactly care how.”

    Upon hearing his wheezing getting slower, she used the Force to switch the control back on. His breathing mechanism worked overtime to catch up with his lack of purified air within his suit.

    She ultimately informed him, “I will be in my shuttle. Transmit me your data when it is ready.” She hooked her lightsaber back on her belt and she walked away. She could hear his breathing become normal as she quickly created more space between them. It did not matter. She was just before the exit when she felt it.

    It started out, at first, as if she suddenly had a sore throat. Soon it became stronger with the helpless feeling of her throat constricting. Her hands went to her neck in an attempt to tear at the invisible rope around it. It was of no use. She tried to counteract the move with the Force. The question she silently asked herself as she came into Vader’s domain earlier was finally answered. She was not strong enough to repel Vader’s power. Mara Jade had her own type of power. She just did not have control of it at that moment.

    Her knees could not support her weak state and she fell to the floor. She saw the looming dark shadow that was Darth Vader coming towards her. The roles from just a few moments ago were now reversed, as she now wheezed for air. He raised his right hand and suddenly she felt herself being levitated towards him as if she were wearing repulsor skates. He caught her by the neck with his hand. Once again, she was brought up close to his mask. She tried tearing away from his mechanical grasp with her hands, but her choking minimized her concentration to be successful.

    His voice boomed an icy chill that she would never forget. “Do not ever do that to me again, Mara Jade!”

    With that, he threw her in the air and she slammed hard into the durasteel wall of the chamber. The constriction on her throat was released and she gasped in a gulp of air. Adding to her injury was the pain in her side she received from meeting with the hard wall. She sprawled on the floor before she began the task of getting up. Her hands rubbed at her neck to massage the pain around it. She tried to suppress a cough but failed, and a new bout of fresh pain entered her throat. She did not dare to speak.

    Vader came up beside her and stated, “I will now accept your submission, Mara Jade. You have received an excellent training today. I am sure it will be a lesson that will keep with you for years to come. You can expect the transmission of my data when it is ready. Until then, you are dismissed, Emperor’s Hand. Good day to you.”

    He then walked passed her and exited his quarters, leaving her to her misery.


Epilogue

Shuttle Malevolence

    The decryption codes to Lord Vader’s data was finished being submitted. She weakly punched in the recorder to save them to her data card’s file. It had been ninety standard minutes since she entered back into the shuttle and literally crashed on the extra firm bed it had supplied in the small lounge area. She adjusted the bacta patches on her neck which she placed on a few moments after crashing. They were doing wonders for that pain. Unfortunately, her side still ached. She stayed silent the whole time she recuperated, though she did have to speak her acknowledgment to Captain Piett. Her voice was uncharacteristically scratchy and hoarse. She then wallowed in being taught the only lesson that Palpatine neglected to teach her.

    Humility.

    In her short time as Emperor’s Hand, she had developed a high level of confidence. Or was it cockiness?

    She filed away the data card with the intention of reviewing it on her way to Tatooine. First up would be to exchange an Imperial Lamda class shuttle for an obscure and more nondescript craft. Perhaps she could use her own Headhunter and pose as a freelance bounty hunter. She hoped that Prince Xizor had not employed any professional bounty hunters to capture or kill Llan Xun. Especially Boba Fett. She would have to check on that, though it seemed unlikely.

    She thought as she started the repulsors that she may even try researching Anakin Skywalker while she was on Tatooine. The bacta patches on her neck reminded her of the result of Vader’s reaction to the mention of the mysterious Jedi’s name. There was something there that Vader did not want her to find. She then considered, what did it matter? It was his past that he wanted hidden for a reason. Obviously, he wanted to leave that past behind him at all costs. She decided to let it stay in the past and leave it alone.

    Apart from that, the only other thing that Mara Jade learned that day was that she would never again antagonize Lord Darth Vader.

    She lifted the shuttle out of the hangar and set the hyperspace coordinates into the navi-computer. Within minutes she was off on her next mission.


On the Executor - Darth Vader’s personal quarters


    The extremely large holo-image of Emperor Palpatine looked down at the kneeling Lord Vader. He had just listened to the report of Vader’s encounter with Mara Jade. After Vader recounted it, Palpatine sighed and quipped, “It is touching to know that my two most powerful weapons can play so well together.”

    “She was not playing, my Master.”

    “I understand, Lord Vader. You would do well to remember that. I did not train her to take anything for granted. Nevertheless, you do have to admit, she is resourceful.”

    “The question is how resourceful will she be once she is on Tatooine.”

    “You are afraid she will investigate further into Anakin Skywalker.” The Emperor did not phrase it as a question. He knew it as fact. “You can rest assured, Vader, she will think twice now before she starts any deep research into him. Even if she does, it will be a dead end. I made sure of that.” The Emperor hesitated and said back, “Do you have another concern about that, Lord Vader?”

    “No. I was only...surprised at the location you gave her.”

    “I assure you it was merely coincidence. Xun is rumored to be on Tatooine.”

    “You could have sent anyone else than Jade.”

    “I felt it was a situation that called for her...sensitivity.”

    “As well as the awareness of my own past.”

    “You will do well in knowing that even you cannot escape it, Lord Vader.”

    “I understand, Master.”

    The Emperor paused and said, “I thank you for conducting your training session. That was what she needed. As far as my knowledge is in lightsaber dueling, I am reaching an age when it is impossible to train without certain consequences.”

    “You were correct that she needed to be taken down from the pedestal she had placed herself on.”

    “I agree. And you handled it well, my friend.”

    “You are continuing with the Emperor’s Hand program?”

    “Of course.”

    “Then, I may have another potential for you to train. There is a promising young woman climbing the ranks as we speak. I think you will be impressed with her.”

    “Who is she?”

    Vader raised his head proudly. “Her name is Shira Brie. Although, she prefers the title, Lady Lumiya.”

The End.

Comments

Could you add an lj-cut to this, please?

lj-cut

Done.

Re: lj-cut

Thanks!