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MOSAIC:  Part Two---Bane of the Present

Author: Christopher Dzwonnik

Timeline: From 6 to 20 years after Visions of the Future

Summary: Luke and Mara try to raise their child, Vaiya, while
protecting her from the dark forces that threaten them as Jedi and
as a family. Mara continues her search for Callista's child, and
winds up running into a face from the past that for a change makes
Luke's jealousy flare. However, this old friend is anything but
harmless. As Vaiya gets older, Mara realizes that her  memories are
affecting her child's fate, and one night Vaiya has a terrible vision
that threatens to destroy her very sanity. 

Warning: Spectre of the Past, Vision of the Future, Children of the
Jedi, Darksaber, Planet of Twilight and the origional Zahn trilogy
spoilers. But if you're reading this story you should at least be
familiar with the events in those books.

Copyrights: I have no copywrite on the characters of this story that
have appeared in any of the movies or any pro-fiction. They all
belong to George Lucas, Timothy Zahn, Barbara Hambly, YKW
and the other writers of the GFFA.  THERE IS NO MONEY
BEING MADE IN THE TELLING OF THESE TALES. My only
payment is the inflation of my ego by those who tell me how much
they like it, and the loss of my pride by those who say they hate it
(please be kind, but not too kind).

Premise: The Skywalker Holocron has been recovered and returned
to Callista Skywalker by her fiancee, Dayved Karrde. As the two
potential Jedi hold it, the images of the legendary Jedi Masters
appear to tell the tale of their family history. In this tale, told by
Callista's once-lost son, the childhood of Vaiya as the daughter of
Luke and Mara Skywalker comes to light, and it is not the prettiest
picture. The road to Jedi Knighthood often begins at birth.



INTERLUDE 1---LOST SON


     Callista stared at the image, which had grown rather
solemn. "So that was who I was named for," she said softly.
     "Indeed, although you have inherited my red hair."
The image moved, and her robes seemed to flow as if they
were alive. "That was the birth of Vaiya Jade Skywalker, who
was an honor to the woman who saved her and my life.
Vaiya grew quickly, and it seemed like the eyes of the galaxy
were rivited on us. Such attention is not healthy to the life of
a Jedi. There were attempts to steal her from us that we had
to thwart time and again. Luke and I returned to our ship, the
Jaded Sky, and fled Coruscant to return to Yavin IV, where
Luke had now changed his Academy into a humble school.
We thought that the presence of many Jedi would be good
for Vaiya, as well as offer her sufficient protection. But I was
unhappy with settling in one place, for the roots of lust for
adventure and excitement were not yet dead in me. Luke, for
his part, was disappointed that my idea of our completing the
training of Jedi Knights-to-be while we were actively
traversing the galaxy had not yet been attempted in fact. We
were Jedi Knights, but we were parents first. We should
have realized that this was the best path, the safest path.
When one takes on lofty aspirations, one had far to fall when
they fail. But no, we thought we were failing the rest of the
galaxy. So Luke began to teach again, even though he was
limited to the surface of Yavin IV, and I became engrossed in
our daughter, for she had powers in her youth that were not
safe for her to have. Power such as that is never safe, but in
the hands of reckless youth, it is more dangerous still."
     "But..." Dayved interrupted, and Callista looked at him sharply,
nearly upset that he had broken the image's story, "what about the
boy? The son of Master Skywalker and Jedi Knight Callista?
Did you ever find him?"
     "That was Valery Ben Skywalker, was it not?" Callista
asked the image. 
     "Yes." The image's eyes seemed distant. "The boy
eluded us. We were unable to find him, and we were
burdened with our new responsibilities and the
responsibilities we thought we were to have."
     "But two great Jedi Masters such as yourselves,"
Dayved objected, getting more dirty looks from Callista,
"should have been able to---"
     "I was not a Jedi Master. Not yet. I had no real
wisdom--only space-smarts that I had picked up in my long
careers as an assassin and a smuggler. I was no Master of
the Force. But I was going to learn." She paused, as if
having memories too painful to tell. "The next tale in our saga
shall be told by Valery Ben Skywalker. He will tell you why."
And she vanished to reveal a young man with deep brown
hair and somber grey eyes, dressed in a simple blue robe
much like the one Mara had worn. 
     "Greetings, friends," he said, his voice dignified, like
he was addressing a house of important people. The
gentleness on his face, however, implied that he truly did
think of them as his friends. "I have been called upon to tell
the tale of my sister Vaiya and my mother, Mara. The story of
their connection is too painful for either one of them to tell, so
they have entrusted it to me."
     "Painful?" Callista echoed. "But they are Jedi Masters.
How...?"
     "Knowing one's limitations is vital if one is truly to
grow." The image smiled. "Humility is the greatest and most
hard-learned of all lessons. My mother and sister have asked
me to tell the story because their certain point of view is
colored by their emotions. They know they cannot be secure
in relating its wisdom through their emotions, but I can."
     "You keep calling Mara your mother," Dayved pointed
out. "I thought Callista was your mother."
     "Callista gave me life and birth," Valery Ben said
solemnly, "but it was Mara Jade Skywalker who gave me the
love of the mother that I never knew. She is my mother, in
spirit. So I shall begin this tale where she left it. My parents
had returned to Yavin IV to raise Vaiya, but it was not the
happy home that they had dreamed of. Other things weighed
on them that they did not realize were not their duty. Only
when they discovered their enormous responsibility in Vaiya
did they gather the courage to return to their old life as
wanderers of the galaxy."


PART TWO: BANE OF THE PRESENT

1--Yavin IV
     The scream came from their main chambers. Luke
turned around, the hairs on the back of his neck rising not
just with the chilling pitch of it, but with the familiarity of the
voice. He'd been dreading when Mara would discover what
the young twelve year old pre-Jedi students had accidentally
made with their Force tinkering. Perhaps he should have
done more to prevent it, but watching out for Vaiya was all
her could have handled that day. 
     Besides, these kids needed a real lesson in invoking
the wrath of a Jedi Knight. And Mara needed a lesson in
patience, which she still needed, in spite of how she had
mellowed in the last years.
     Not that Mara Jade would ever mellow. Never
completely. There would always be a spark in her, ready to
ignite. These poor youngsters had unfortunately found it.
     "SKYWALKER!" she raged as she stormed out of the
building, her green robe blowing about her in the late
morning breeze on Yavin IV. Her hair looked like she'd been
catching a quick nap, and as she got nearer Luke could see
the sleep marks on her face, where she'd been leaning
against her hand. *Wonderful,* he thought. *She's angry and
tired.*
     "You guys had better scram," he said to the three
adolescent boys before him. They nodded, their eyes wide in
awe at the caliber of Mara's scream. The air was still ringing.
Even the trees had shakens lightly with the Force impact. "I'll
handle this."
     They scampered off as Luke turned completely
around and caught Mara in his arms.
     "Good morning, my love. You look beautiful," he tried,
his smile coy.
     "Don't you dare, Skywalker," she growled. "Do you
know what those three prize students of yours did in our
kitchen?"
     "Make you breakfast in bed?" he tried, all innocence.
     "HA! You should see their idea of cooking. Is that
some stupid Force trick you picked up during your bachelor
days that you never told me about? Cooking eggs in mid
air? Didn't you bother to tell them to be careful not to let them
explode all over the ceiling? Or what about the flour and
milk? If you put them together, you get glue, not pancakes,
and it's glued the cooler door shut! Not to mention the bacon!
Here I thought you couldn't kill pork twice!"
     Luke just continued to smile at her, risking enraging
her more, but put as much affection as he could into it in the
hopes that it would distract her. "You're so beautiful when
you're creating a dark side disturbance in the Force, Mara,"
he said. 
     It was like taking a chisel to a diamond in just the right
spot. Instantly, she was trying not to laugh. "I'm serious,
Luke. I don't want you bringing them into my kitchen ever
again."
     "Yes, mistress," he said with a flourish.
     "That's more like it," she said. "Now who is going to
clean it up? Not me."
     "You just said they can't come into the kitchen
anymore. Who does that leave?"
     "You."
     "Oh, no. I didn't do it. I didn't have anything to do with
it. They were just trying to surprise you and they got carried
away."
     "Their hormones got carried away is more like it," she
snapped, angry again. He was going to have to curb this
temper of hers or one day it was going to get the better of
her. But before he could stop himself, he found himself
sighing and saying;
     "You're on your period, aren't you?"
     Instantly, he regretted it. She slapped him across the
chest with the heavy, wide sleeve of her robe and spun away
from him. Three-year-old Vaiya, who was sitting on a thick
blanket not ten feet away, giggled.
     "Daddy whap whap!"
     Mara scooped her up into her arms. "Daddy can go
whap himself tonight, he's not sleeping in my bed," she
muttered as she carried Vaiya back toward the quad building.
"Come on, sweetie, we're going to practice our levitation
skills in the kitchen."
     "I love you!" Luke called lamely.
     "Eat my lightsaber!" she snarled back, and then
turned her head again to look at him over her shoulder. Her
hair flew about her head like a flame. "At about eleven
o'clock tonight."
     "It's a date," he said with a smirk as she disappeared
through the door. 
     Ah, Mara, Mara, Mara. Thank the Force she would
never really change.

2--Wanderlust
     Mara watched at Vaiya made her toys spin in the air
around her, like she were a small planet and they were her
moons.
     "Slower, Vai," Mara instructed, and observed the
reduced speed. Vaiya was learning the most important thing
of all rather young--how to listen to instructions. Sometimes
Mara asked Vaiya to so something just to make sure the girl
was always paying attention. If Vaiya's attention wandered, it
could be dangerous. Like the time she idley picked up the
Artoo unit that Luke was so fond of, and even though the
droid was quite used to being the subject of Force exercises,
she raised him too high and the droid squealed in panic.
Vaiya paniced, too, and wound up tossing the droid so hard it
took all of Luke's strength to catch him before he was
dashed to pieces. Thank the Force Luke had been there to
do it. 
     Mara didn't like to think about how lucky they were
that Vaiya didn't have many temper tantrums. There were a
few ysalamari kept in a nearby shelter to put by her bed
at night if there were any reason. Like potential nightmares,
although Mara monitored her daughter's thoughts regularly.
She had a good feeling for things like that, although she
could never completely predict it. Once Vaiya levitated
herself in her sleep, but that was as bad as it had ever been-
-without ysalamari. All the other times had been safely
avoided.
     She sighed. Motherhood was more work than two
smuggling jobs and being a Jedi Knight. Tiring, too. She
stood up and stretched.
     "Okay, Vai, it's time for your after lunch nap."
     "Awww," Vaiya moaned. "Why when you get sleep
sleep, I gotta nap nap?"
     "She's got you there, Mom," Luke said as he entered
the apartment. Mara shot him a dirty look tinted with the hint
of humor and scooped Vaiya up to take her to bed. The little
girl yawned.
     "See, you are tired," Mara said, then yawned herself.
     "Okay, Mommy." The little girl curled into her mother's
embrace. "'Night 'night."
     "'Night 'night." Mara set her down in her crib. In a few
weeks, there would be a new baby bed to put together.
Force forbid those boys should try and help again. Although,
Yoda love 'em, they *were* just trying to help.
     Vaiya's eyes popped open again the second she was
prone on the mattress. "Why we say that, Mommy?"
     "Say what, sweetie?"
     "Say 'night night' when it dayshine? What we say
during sleepy in day?"
     Mara had never thought about it. "I don't know. We'll
have to think of something. Although I think you think too
much, for a three-year-old."
     Vaiya smiled. "I special for three year old, Mommy."
She rolled over onto her side. "Day day."
     Mara would have laughed, but Vaiya had instantly
fallen asleep. She pulled the cover over her and crept out of
the room.
     In the kitchen, Luke was cleaning up the last of the
mess and fixing them a light lunch. "Did they destroy all the
bacon?" he asked.
     "Yep. And the butter, too." She eyed the sandwiches
he was stacking. Okay, so maybe lunch wouldn't be so light.
"Not too much for me, Luke," she said, patting her stomach.
"I still haven't shaken those last few pounds from carrying
Vaiya around."
     Luke looked at her admonishingly. "I don't make
Skywalker supremes for dieters. Especially for those who
don't need to diet." He frowned. "But I think something is
eating you."
     "When isn't something eating me?" she laughed
wearily as she walked around behind him and put her arms
around his shoulders. He'd always been so fine-boned and
slim, and with his Jedi exercises he was surprisingly compact
in the muscle department. Ever since Vaiya had been born,
she'd felt like she was getting old--things sagged that had
never sagged before, her hair was just barely sprinkled with
some grey, and it seemed that all the lines on her face from
her frowning and scowling years had caught up with her to
turn her once smooth skin into a zig-zagging maze. She
almost wished she had been more vain so that she could
have fought this harder. But age caught up with everyone.
Even Mara Jade Skywalker.
     Luke reached around to put his arms around her
waist, still keeping his back to her. He leaned his head back
and it rested on top of hers, which was nestled between
his shoulderblades. 
     "Are you sorry we decided to stay here?" he asked,
     "No," she said, her voice sure. "Vaiya needs planet
life. She can't live between the stars, like us. She needs sun,
sky, fresh air--"
     "She'd have those things in space," Luke pointed out. 
     "Not the same." 
     "Nothing is. The sun and sky here isn't the same as it
is on Coruscant, or Tatooine, or Wayland, or Hoth!" 
     "Hoth?" She gave him an amused look.
     "Just making a point, dear. Nothing will ever be
perfect. It doesn't even matter where you are on the outside.
It's where you are inside that counts."
     She raised her head and let go of him. He turned to
her, looking at her earnestly. It was easy for him to say. He
hadn't aged much. He'd cut his hair so it didn't billow around
his head in those sandy locks he used to have, and he'd
changed his style of dress slightly, favoring button-down
tunics made of light materials and heavy pants made of
thicker but comfortable stuff--all black, but it was a change
nonetheless. She had returned to her old flight suits, the
black ones with the round collars and no sleeves. She even
wore that white scarf-hood sometimes, when she went out in
the middle of the day. Sometimes, Yavin IV could get a little
bright. 
     "I know," she said. "Jedi's don't crave adventure and
excitement. I know all that. I don't think I ever did crave
adventure and excitement. It's that..." and she squirmed,
instantly turning Luke into the cuddling husband with his
hands on her shoulders. "I feel like I've been domesticated."
     "And?"
     "It bothers me."
     "Why?"
     "Because it isn't me."   
     "I agree. So what should you do about it?"
     "I don't know." She frowned at him. "You're supposed
to be objecting here, you know."
     "Objecting to what? You being domesticated? I don't
think you are, but you obviously do, and you have to do
something about it. The question is, what?"
     "I've thought about it," she admitted. "But to be
honest, the only thing I can think of is a vacation away from
here, away from Vaiya, even. Just you and me, like we used
to. Or maybe...."
     "Or maybe just you," Luke finished.
     "But I don't want to leave you, and I certainly don't
want to leave Vaiya." She shuddered. "Remember when we
left Endor? She wasn't even three months old, and word was
already out."
     "It had to have been out for a while, for them to have
planned so well." Luke smiled at Mara, remembering how
ferociously she had defended the safety of her daughter. The
Emperor's Hand may be dead, but she had left behind skills
Mara would always find uses for, when the times were right.
     "I don't want to risk that. I'd rather stay."
     "And be miserable?" He shook his head. "No, Mara,
you're right. You need to take that vacation. Just go away for
a few days, you don't have to go long. Go and catch up on
what you've been missing. We'll be here when you get back."
     She shifted her feet. "I'll think about it."
     "You'll be gone by the day after tomorrow," he
predicted. "All you have to do is go call Karrde and find out
what he's been up to. Trust me, Mara, I know you."
     She grinned at him. "Have I told you lately that I love
you, Skywalker?"
     "Not lately, no."
     She kissed him on the nose. "I love you."
     "I love you too, Mrs. Skywalker. Now hurry up and get
out of here so you can come back. I miss you already."

3--Searching
     Of course, Luke did not tell Mara what he really
thought. Before Vaiya had been born, she'd had disturbing
visions about her daughter's future, but had decided to put
them to rest and let them work themselves out in time.
Besides, it wasn't like she could do anything about it, and
since Vaiya's birth they only occasionally popped into Mara's
dreams. It wasn't anything she couldn't handle.
     Callista's death, however, had been another story. At
first, Mara had been content to continue to scour old records
for traces of Jabba's Fist, trying to figure out where here child
might have been sold. After a year of searching, she had to
conceed that an organization like Jabba's Fist wasn't going to
leave any evidence of their activities behind them, and the
law hadn't been solid enough to keep any real records on
them to give Mara any trail to follow and find those who might
have had some association with the old slavers group. There
was simply no scent to pick up, and she'd had to put it aside.
     Luke had done his part. Every night, he searched for
his son through the Force. He reached out to places he had
never thought he could reach. During the year Mara was
tracking records, they had moved a lot, before they had
settled on Yavin IV permanently. Luke was able to use the
different distances to reach out to new places every time, but
he never touched anything. Then she'd given it up, feeling
that she'd exhausted every port and now had to rely purely
on destiny and Karrde (a frightening combination, Luke
thought, but said nothing) who still had his ax to the
smuggler's grindstone and promised he'd let her know if he
caught a whiff of a clue. She trusted him. Besides, if it had to
do with smuggling, Karrde would eventually stumble across
it. They stayed mobile for a while longer, several months,
actually, but they had to consider Vaiya. She needed planet
life. Growing up between the stars with no native planet just
didn't sound healthy for her. She needed people other than
her parents, other children, other Jedi to be around. So Luke
had to content himself with learning to stretch out a little
farther every time from Yavin IV. 
     About a month ago he'd given up searching. It was
unlike him to be that way, and he knew it should bother him
but it didn't. Something just told him to sit tight and wait, that
something would come. Just like Mara had said about her
visions of Vaiya, that she just had to be patient and it would
all reveal itself. He hoped it would work for him. 
     As Mara put in a call to Karrde to let him know she
was coming to pay a visit, Luke joined her, his senses
tingling in an odd way.
     "Your timing is perfect," Karrde told them after they
had finally reached him. The man made it impossible to
reach him by comlink, but Mara knew how to do it. "I just
stumbled across an old trader friend of mine who worked
with me back when Jabba was alive. He worked with Jabba's
Fist for a little while after Leia strangled the old slug, around
the time they disbanded. The leader, some guy named
Karander, kept a disc of his credit report on him at all times,
but the son of a jawa wound up getting shot in the back by
his second, who didn't care for the way he was running
things. What really frosted it was the fact that Karander had
a lot of deep loyalties from his thugs, and they turned on the
second. Of course, with Karander dead, there was no reason
to let those beautiful credits go to waste, so my friend, Rand,
swiped it. He and Karander went pretty far back, too."
     "He took the credits, of course," Mara said dryly.
     "Like any good smuggler," Karrde replied smoothly.
"He kept the disc as a momento. Supposedly he kept some
other information on it, too, but it was coded. Ghents
cracking it. He should be done by the time you get here."
     "Sounds good," Mara said, biting her thumb. "I'll call
you again when I take off and let you know when I'll arrive."
     "Fine." And he disappeared off the holovid.
     Mara turned to look at Luke. "Sounds like destiny to
me."
     Luke frowned. "All this destiny makes me uneasy. Are
you sure you don't want me to come along?"
     "I'd love it, but I don't want to drag Vaiya on this. And
we can't leave her here alone."    
     "We could leave her with Leia and Han."
     "And how many times were their kids stolen?" Mara
countered.
     "Point. OK, you go. Hurry back with whatever you
find."
     "I will." She kissed him. "I'll be ready to go by mid-
afternoon. The Jaded Sky's been being prepped since this
morning."
     "Anxious to leave me?" Luke asked, cocking an
eyebrow.
     She cocked her head to one side. "You know, don't
you?"
     "I know you, Mara." He grew solemn. "We've both
done our best. He's my son, wherever he is. But if he was
sold...I doubt it was to be a slave. He probably has a home,
parents who love him, friends. He has to be nearly eleven
now. I just wonder...if we're doing the right thing."
     "We never said we were going to take him," Mara said
softly. "We just said we were going to find him. If he's happy,
then.....you decide. I'll stand by you, no matter what."
     He smiled at her. "When did you get so wise?"
     She shrugged. "Don't know. Kinda just happened, I
guess. Whatever else that happens, Luke, we can at least
find him. We owe ourselves---and Callista---that much."
     He nodded. "May the Force be with you."
     "And with you, my love."
     She left to finish getting ready. Luke stared at the
empty glowing holovid, where Karrde's image had been, and
sat down where Mara had left the nearby stool. He shut his
eyes and concentrated. He hated that Mara was leaving. He
had to admit it. He didn't want her to go, he wanted her to
stay. Because just as she had always feared that he would
leave her for Callista, even though she knew he loved her
and only her, he had always feared that she would grow
restless being a good Jedi wife and eventually leave him for
her old life among the stars. 
     Then he reminded himself that she had trusted him to
let him go and meet Callista when Callista had returned. He
owed her the same thing. He had to give her this chance. He
loved her too much to keep her against her will. And he knew
she would return.
     The question was--with what?
     He thought about the statis block. A few weeks after
Mara was safe and stable, he had had Leia order a
demolition crew out to the mine to block it up. It was
Callista's grave and therefore off limits, plus Luke didn't want
anyone getting hurt there any more. But before they blocked
it up, a crew went in and recovered the stasis block for
further study. 
     Luke briefly remembered getting word about it around
a year ago. The technology was questionable and therefore
banned until it could be studied further. But the most
important thing about it was that whatever was inside a
stasis block was temporarily put on hold from life. And if that
was true, then the Force, which was generated from all life,
would react to it like the ysalamari. It would bubble around it
because no Force came from the creature inside it. Yet, it
had done more than that. It hadn't just blocked the Force. It
had distorted it and hypnotized Luke. 
     That made it dangerous to a Jedi. And if his son was
still trapped inside it, that would explain why Luke could not
even feel his existence, why he seemed to have no feelings
about his son at all. 
     Sitting down at the console, Luke began to record his
thoughts, and planned to give them to Mara before she left.
Maybe she could make some sense of it. After all, she was
the one going on this mission, not him. Even though it was
his son, it had been her promise.
     He sighed. He hoped she hurried back. Living without
her would be like living without the sun. And worse than
that...he had a feeling that dark times were ahead.

4--All Business
     "All right, Karrde," Mara said, tossing back the white
hood as she stepped into his new office, "where is the disc?"
     "Hello, Mara, it's lovely to see you in the flesh again,"
Karrde said, a half-grin on his bearded face.
     She smirked at him, and it turned into a grimace.
"When are you going to just break down and shave that thing
off?" she asked.
     "When I feel like it. Shada doesn't mind it."
     "Where is she, anyway?" Mara asked casually. 
     Karrde waved his hand dismissively, but Mara knew
him well enough to know that the absence of his new wife
bothered him. "Off doing something important, I'm sure. Is
this wives-going-away-without-their-husbands thing a
sickness that's going around? I hope she misses me half as
much as you miss Skywalker."
     Mara's eyebrows furrowed down sharply. "Excuse
me?"
     It was Karrde's turn to smirk. "Please. You didn't even
say hello to me. To *me,* your former boss, your one-time
savior, your friend. Come on, Mara. You only left him a few
days ago."
     "Three," she breathed. "I thought this was going to be
a good idea, but about a day ago I started to get all...I don't
know. Antzy."
     "An antzy Jedi is something I rarely get to see." He
grew thoughtful. "Any particular reason?"
     "No. I just know I have to get back home as quick as I
can." She let out an exasperated sigh. "You know, I'm getting
really tired of this."
     "Of what?"
     She plopped down on a nearby sofa and shut her
eyes. In spite of her itchiness to get home, she was actually
glad to be in close company with someone who wasn't a
Jedi. "All this back and forth nonsense. When Vaiya was
born, I kept having this terrible feelings that I was mediating
on and meditating on until I thought it would drive me nuts.
About Palpatine and why he took me from my parents, and
how Luke and I were destiny--" she gave a slightly mocking
snort in order to take the corny edge of the phrase--"and all
that. But the worst of it was, there was something about
Vaiya and Luke and Callista's son that were so significant,
but for the life of me I couldn't figure them out."
     "They're the children of the Jedi," Karrde said with
uncharacterisitic poetic license. "What else is there?"
     "Something more." She remembered that day before
Callista had returned. "There was something on Endor when
Vaiya was born. When Callista died, it seemed to retreat a
bit. I know Endor is where Palpatine died, but it wasn't him. It
was bigger than him, like a manifestation of the dark side, a--
-"
     "Demon?"
     Mara looked at him sharply. "Yes."
     Karrde nodded. "They're not unheard of. Perhaps
Palpatine invested in darker forces than you realized."
     "I never thought about it."
     "I can see why." He leaned forward and put his elbows
on his knees, tapping the tips of his fingers together. "It isn't
something you would want to think about, that's for sure."
     "I guess this demon had an interest in Vaiya."
     "Could be...or Callista. You said she'd lost her Jedi
powers and could only touch them through the dark side.
Maybe it was closing in, since she was on the way to her
death. It happens."
     Mara cocked an eyebrow at him. "When did you get
religious?"
     Karrde laughed. "I'm not. But any good trader knows
who believes in what. It can keep you from getting shot at,
and can also make you better bargains." He returned to
thoughtful mode. "It makes sense, Mara. Vaiya may well be
destined for great things. You said she's very Force
sensitive, she was lifting things while still in the womb. You
and she obviously have a deep connection, beyond the
regular mother-daughter thing. All of this is perfectly natural."
     "I know. But I'm worrying myself to death and I can't
take it. If it's not one thing, it's another. After I got the bug
about Callista and Vaiya's birth out of my system, it's now
become finding Luke and Callista's son. It's eating at me like
a cancer."
     "Perhaps you should trust more."
     "Trust who? What?"
     Karrde shrugged. "You're the Jedi. You tell me. The
Force. A god. Pick something, Mara, there's plenty to pick
from."
     "I've never been that religious. Besides, the Force
embraces all religions. If we picked a religion, we might
cause more problems than we solve."
     Karrde smiled at her, a touch of old-age in his rugged
face. "If you've got a demon on your tail, I'd find a good place
to hide, and soon." Then he added, "people are so quick to
believe in the bad things. You would think they'd be even
more inclined to accept the good as well."
     "Well, my *point,*" Mara said, not liking where the
conversation was going, "was that I keep getting these urges
to get up and go, then come right back again. I wanted to
go to Endor, then I wanted to leave. I wanted to settle on
Yavin IV, then I wanted to leave. I wanted to take a vacation
away from Luke and Vaiya, and now I want to go running
right back again. I can't seem to make up my mind and it's
driving me nuts."
     "Wait. You're still young." Karrde stood up and walked
over to his desk. He opened up a drawer and pulled out a
silver disc with an irridescent gleam on its underside. "Here's
the disc," he said, holding it out to her. "Maybe it will help put
some of that wanderlust to rest."
     Mara stood up and took it, grabbing it with the Force
purely by habit. "Thanks, Karrde," she said, turning the disc
over and over in her hands. "At the very least, it will tie up a
loose end."

5--Duran
     At first, as Mara scanned the disc in the Jaded Sky
that evening, she was inclined to think she'd just gone on a
wild goose chase. But at the very end, the disc started to
go on about a planet named Duran, which was on the very
edge of the galaxy, one of the few rim worlds that had a
flourishing civilization. The problem was, it was rather
primitive, considering it had nearly blown itself up a couple of
hundred years ago. Mara had heard stories about Duran
during her first few years as the Emperor's Hand, but the
Emperor had never seemed to care enough to bother with it.
As long as it didn't interfere with his plans, he was content to
leave it alone. Besides, it was a desolate place in those
days, still trying to recover from its own crises. Duran was
considered by many historians to be a working model of the
past, and how many planets had survived the age of
spacecraft technology and all the wonderful advancements
science had made in the quest for sentient-life dominence of
the galaxy. 
     According to the disc, Duran had recovered, but
closed itself off to outsiders for the last hundred years. He
had been smuggling stuff to certain parties, but always at
heavy costs for damage done to his craft. They did just
dislike visitors--they were absolutely hostile toward them.
     But he had made one last shipment to them before
Jabba's Fist when the way of its namesake, and it was dated
about ten years ago--right around the time Callista would
have had her child. 
     Mara looked toward the casement that held Anakin
Skywalker's lightsaber. Beside it, they had placed Callista's
lightsaber, determined to give it to the boy when they found
him. Luke had suggested--oh so tactfully--that because they
seemed unable to find the boy, and even if they did they
might not be able to actually contact him, they should give
the lightsaber to Vaiya when she was old enough, to use it at
least to learn with until she made her own.
     She sighed. If this trail came up empty, she was going
to do just that. After all, they had named Vaiya after Callista.
The old Jedi Knight had told them her father had called her
Vaiya when she was a child, a Chad word for "stonelifter." It
had fit. And Callista had died to save Vaiya's life. In a way,
she was her guardian. It would not be an insult to honor the
woman's spirit by giving her lightsaber to the child she had
saved. 
     Until the boy showed himself. Which Mara knew he
would. Someday, somehow, in some way, that boy would
come into their lives. Mara was sure of it. And the sooner,
the better. She didn't know why she felt that way. She just
did.

     The planet Duran was a good distance from where
Karrde had set up his new HQ, and Mara had to contact
Luke and tell him she was going to be a good while longer
than she had anticipated. When she explained why, he
posed no objection, but he was not happy about it. Mara
could feel it, even across the light years.
     "How long?" was all Luke said.
     "About a week there, then a week and a few days
back." She grimaced. "I don't like it either, farmboy, but--"
     "But it ain't like dustin' crops, I know," he replied,
trying to lighten the mood. "Just hurry, Mara. Vaiya misses
you pretty bad. And so do I."
     Mara wished she could kiss the holovid image. He
looked so sweet he made her homesick. "Kiss her for me,"
Mara whispered. "I'm setting the coordinates for Duran now."
Inwardly, she groaned. It was going to be a long, quiet trip.
She was starting to hate them.
     "I'll be waiting." And he was gone. Mara waited a few
minutes for the ship to prep itself, and then pulled back the
lever. The world turned to starlines, and she began steeling
herself. A week alone with only her own thoughts to keep her
company was not her idea of a vacation anymore. 

     She passed it--like a piece of an asteroid in her guts,
but she passed it. She worked a lot on the memoirs she had
begun before Vaiya was born, and even toyed with some old
data on holocrons. Not that she would dare attempt it, but
the technology was like a puzzle she liked to play with in her
spare moments. She hadn't had too many of them. Maybe
this trip had been a blessing in disguise. 
     There was also lightsaber practice. She hadn't done
any of that in so long, when she began with the remotes she
was stunned several times and wound up destroying a few of
them in her anger. However, she attoned for it by keeping at
it diligently, and by the time she came out of hyperspace, she
had managed to surpass even Luke's top scores.
     Duran was a beautiful planet, she realized when the
world solidified before her once again. It was all blues and
greens and browns, like the old holovids of Alderaan. Leia
would have liked it. Of course, Leia would have liked
spending seven days in hyperspace, alone, to get to it, too. It
would have seemed like a paradise to the overworked Chief-
of-State. 
     Of course, there was one thing that Alderaan had had
that Duran didn't--a peaceful people. The second Mara
passed into immediate Duran territory, a laser-cannon shot
across her nose. She looked around to find the culprit,
amazed that their technology was that advanced, and
realized that it was no ship that had attacked her but a
guard-probe in orbit around the planet. She looked at her
readings and discovered seven more of them. Someone had
put them out here to ward off visitors without the inhabitants
of the planet even knowing. 
     Then a light on the sensor board started to flash.
There *was* another ship, but not a Duran ship. 
     This was not good.
     She debated whether she should investigate the ship
or head toward the planet. The planet obviously didn't want
her around, but if the ship was hostile that wouldn't be good
either. And before she could make a clear decision the ship
came into view, obviously having picked up her trail as well.
It was a heavily modified Dreadnaught-like ship, which
immediately made Mara think of a smuggler. They liked
doing that to their ships. Look at Han's Millenium Falcon.
That ship was a *literal* bucket of bolts because of all the
things her pilot had done to her. 
     Mara hung back, playing possum. The ship didn't
seem to be hostile, just curious, but if it didn't hail her soon, it
would--
     "Jaded Sky, this is the Cal Iber. Do you copy?"
     The voice was male, and young. He sort of reminded
her of what Luke may have sounded like. Trying to be tough
but really shaking at the knees. "I copy, Cal Iber," she
replied. "That's a cute name. I knew a guy named Cal once."
     There was static for a few minutes, and then another
voice came on. This was was so familiar it made the skin on
her cheeks tingle. "Mara?"
     She could hardly swallow. "Cal?"
     "I should have recognized the Jade," he said, his
voice lapsing into that drawl that had once made her all
gooey.
     "And I the Cal. You always were a showoff." She
smirked, but wasn't sure if she should be relieved or
extremely worried.

6--Cal
     Mara entered the grand room and looked around her,
trying to hide her appreciation. Cal had always had excellent
taste. He had a fondness of fijisi wood that was equal only to
her own. She managed to hide her feelings behind a
trademark smirk. This was a rather odd thing to be in the
middle of an old modified Dreadnaught.
     Cal entered from a set of doors made of the deepest
wood, carved with characters from a mythology she vaguely
recognized. Probably from Cal's homeworld--wherever that
was. He liked to talk about it but had always managed to
sidestep the direct question about its location. Sometimes,
Mara wondered if it existed.
     He looked the same. Eyes blue like force-lightning,
hair dark and swirling around his head, perfectly styled. His
vanity was etched into his features, a trait she had found
herself drawn to in spite of itself. His skin was nearly white
from his days between the stars, but that face...it had not
changed. If anything, it had improved with age. 
     His smile was radiant. She found herself returning it.
What was it about him, anyway? How could the Force allow
such a broiling pool of ambition and cruel desires to lie
behind such unspeakable beauty? She rarely thought of men
as beautiful, but Cal was the exception. She had never found
another. Not even Luke's handsome face was comparable
with his.
     Still, she loved Luke. And the mere thought of him
brought her back to her senses.
     "Mara," he said, his voice rolling over the name.
     "Back to old tricks, I see," she said, fighting to keep
her voice from sounding husky. 
     "As always. And you? I heard you got married."
     "Truth travels fast."
     He gave a slight grumph. "Only if they sound like
outrageous rumors. Skywalker, of all people? The one who
wanted so badly to kill?"
     She gave him a half shrug. "Some of us grow up past
our pettiness, Cal."
     He frowned. "Easy. I thought you came in peace."
     Damn him. The old tricks did work best. "Sorry. I do."
She took a breath. "I didn't know you'd be out here by Duran,
of all places."
     Cal strode forward, his long black cape flowing out
behind him. He was even starting to look like a dark Jedi,
although it was obvious to her that he lacked the sheer
power behind the appearance. "I take it you weren't looking
for me, then." He paused, glancing out at the blue-green
world right outside the viewport. "I've gone back to the old
smuggling game. There are certain parties on Duran that are
opening themselves up to outside trade, but they have to
keep things ultra hush-hush. No one can know we're here,
so we have to be careful before we go in to make a drop.
Nothing can pick us up. They pay very well, though.
Eventually, they're going to pick up enough Basic that the
truth will probably slip out accidentally." He grinned. "I must
confess I wouldn't like that very much. I've done things
to...prevent it."
     She folded her arms. "Don't tell me. My husband is a
New Republic figure, and my sister-in-law is the Chief-of-
State. Tell me about any illegal activities and I'd have to
report you."
     He put up his hands. "If it means I'd get to see you
again after you finish your business here, I'm willing to pay
the price."
     She grinned at him again, trying to make it mocking.
"You're laying it on too thick, Cal. Don't you even want to
know what I'm doing here?"
     "I admit, I'm idlely curious. I'm even more interested,
however, in learning why you left me to begin with." He grew
serious. "Why you didn't even say goodbye."
     She fought to keep from shuddering. "I had my
reasons."
     "I would hope. I would hurt my feelings if I thought you
had disappeared on me just because you felt like it."
     Maybe it was the tone of his voice. Maybe it was the
earlier thought of Luke. Maybe it was the tremor in the Force
she felt at those words. Whatever it was, Mara was sick of
him having the upper hand on her. "I do everything because I
feel like it, Cal. You know that," she returned in the same
tone.
     He advanced on her, but she kept herself from
jumping back. Remembering all the things Luke had taught
her, she called a peace to herself, and swore she saw Cal's
step falter. "Still the free spirit, in spite of being
domesticated," he tried, his tone arrogant.
     "If I were domesticated," she said slowly, "then I would
not be here." 
     He went back to the disarming grin. This was more
tiring than a lightsaber duel, she thought. "Of course. Tell me
what you're doing out here, Mara."
     "Do you remember Jabba's Fist?" she asked.
     Good, that one surprised him. "A little. I know that I
wasn't too happy when they wound up falling apart. I did my
best to banish the bad memories."
     "Do you know--" and she hesitated, unsure as to how
much she should tell him. "Do you know anything about their
last shipment here?"
     He frowned at her. "What about it? They were
slavers. Are you looking for someone specific?"
     She sighed. "A friend of mine died recently. She was
pregnant a long time ago and gave birth while she was a
temporary captive of Jabba's Fist. She escaped and wound
up spending the rest of her days trying to recover her child,
but never succeeded."
     "So this is a deathbed promise thing," Cal said
flippantly. "What makes you think I would help you, Mara?
You and I haven't even laid eyes on each other in almost
fifteen years. You pop up down here out of nowhere and give
me your typical hostile attitude, not even a simple
explanation as to why you left." He looked at her, those
force-lightning eyes glowing angrily. "Dammit, Mara, I'm
human, too. I know you think I'm some sort of monster, but
I'm not. You didn't even say goodbye!"
     "There was no reason," she said softly. "If you knew
me at all, you knew why I left. You just won't admit it."
     He got even angrier. "I'm beginning to realize
everything I thought I knew about you was a big lie. You
were this tough assassin that had a vendetta against the
rebellion, not a desire to marry into it. You were smart, cool,
and beautiful. You still are beautiful." His eyes raked over her
face. "But you've changed. I don't even know who you are.
And with all that, you can't even spare a kind word for my
feelings."
     She snorted. "The woman you knew, Cal, didn't have
a kind word for anyone."
     "True." His eyes glittered, but they were starting to
smile. "If that was who I was talking to, I could live with that."
     "If you don't help me, I'll just ask the officials on the
planet Duran. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to find out that you're
out here," she said with a dangerous tone in her voice. "How
is that for 'old times sake?'"
     He smiled even wider. "That was the Mara I knew. My
old heart feels so glad."
     "You know what's going to happen to your old heart if
you don't tell me something I want to hear. Now," she took a
breath, "Jabba's Fist's last shippment was here, to the planet
Duran. Do you know anything about it?"
     Cal turned away and walked over to a big desk. He
pulled out a small box, and Mara could smell a familiar scent.
Sugar. The guy had an old supply of sugar stashed in this
ramshackle ship of his. Force help her if he took a taste of it-
-she would have to draw her lightsaber and kill him.
     He turned back to her quickly, catching her emotion.
"This bother you?" he asked.
     "Yes," she said between gritted teeth.
     "Sorry, it helps me think." But he shut the box and
held up his hands to show they were empty. "Okay...what
was that, about ten or so years ago?"
     "A few years longer." She calculated it in her mind.
Callista had come to them three years ago, and it had been
nearly eight years since Callista had left Luke. "Eleven, or
twelve, I think."
     Cal nodded. "It was the last shippment...I remember
there being a pregnant woman on board. A yellow lightsaber,
am I right? Funny, she wasn't Force sensitive. What was she
doing with a lightsaber?"
     Mara nodded. "That was Callista. It's a long story.
What was done with the child?"
     Cal stared out the viewport for a long minute. "She
was pretty upset about the baby being taken from her. She
escaped, like you said, but not before doing some heavy
damage. She was Force-sensitive, now that I think about it.
But it was the dark side." He frowned. "I remember Kerander
talking about how some of the shields...he couldn't get them
back on line. He didn't want to miss the shippment, but he
didn't want to be on the ship, either, in case something
happened. He was a big coward. That was the biggest
reason I left. The last I heard, the ship was headed out here."
He paused. "If you want more than that, you'll have to let me
check some things. I may know where to look. Besides, there
were a few men I know who were on that ship when it went
to Duran. They are none too fond of the memory of finding
out how bad of a shape it was in. They may complain of it
quite willingly. Such bad experiences make memories more
vivid, don't they?"
     His eyes had turned to hers in the middle of his little
speech, and held hers. After a long moment of silence, Mara
deftly broke the contact and turned her back to him. "Please
call me when you hear anything," she said softly, and left.
     
7--Suspicions
     Mara sat in the pilot's seat of the Jaded Sky. Cal's
ship (which she had misheard before, it was actually called
the Caliber) had docked her in their cargo hold, and she'd
agreed to stay against her better judgement. The more
space she could put before her and Cal, the better.
     She remembered being with Luke, near the end of her
pregnancy, and thoroughly freaking out on him when he'd
done to her what Cal's old trick had always been--biting her
right on the back of her neck while holding her down. It was
like a trademark, a thing he got off on and always made sure
his victim got off on, too. The more she thought about it, the
harder she shuddered.
     Cal hadn't changed. Perhaps there was a small
amount of comfort she could take in that. After all, the devil
you knew was better than the one you didn't. What was it he
had said? "Such bad experiences make memories more
vivid...don't they?" Bad experiences...sure, she could say
that now, now that she was on the side of the light. Now that
she was with Luke, who was sometimes the only thing that
held back the dark forces that she had served for so long
without knowing. She had told Luke once that she didn't think
she'd ever served the dark side, only Palpatine. He was a
man, while the dark side was the Force. But Palpatine's
entire life and purpose had been for power from the dark
side. Perhaps she had served the dark side after all. But that
didn't explain why it hadn't dominated her destiny the way it
had threatened to do to Luke's.
     Or maybe it had...and she'd just never seen it before.
One rarely noticed a smell once they'd been immersed in it
for so long. Seeing Cal after how much she had changed and
grown...she'd been wrong when she'd said that to Luke. Very
wrong. But she had been saved from it, just as Luke had.
     *Saved by what?*
     Mara frowned. There was that feeling again. That
feeling just under her stomach, the feeling that had haunted
her while she carried Vaiya in her womb. She shut her eyes,
determined not to let it have any power over her. It hadn't
been this strong since she'd given birth, but maybe if she
meditated on it right away there might be an answer.
     A vision flas hed before her. She wasn't sure if it were
terrible or beautiful. They were on Endor, and it was the night
that the Rebellion celebrated the death of the Emperor. She
hadn't been there in real life, but in this vision she was with
Luke. He looked so young, so victorious as he strode toward
her. He had gained his victory over the dark side, and was
now a Jedi Knight. He held out his arms to embrace her, and
then he changed. His hair, sandy and fair, turned long and
golden, flowing over his shoulders like honey. His crystal
blue eyes turned to the blue-green hue of her lightsaber, and
his face changed shape. 
     It was Vaiya. But she was not smiling in radiant
victory. Luke had been a boy in many ways, exhuberant to
return to his family. He had always been solemn, and would
be solemn again, but there was still a restlessness to him
that gave him an extra spark.
     Vaiya did not have this spark. There was a sense of
enormous loss about her. She grasped her mother's hands
and looked into her eyes, and Mara saw herself and her own
fear. A future gaped before them, and she felt the Presence
she hadn't felt since she had nearly died, and given Vaiya
her entire self as a memory. It was beyond light, beyond the
Force, beyond time and the universe. And it radiated behind
Vaiya's solemn eyes that had a peace beyond anything even
Luke Skywalker, hero and master of the Force that he was,
had ever known. The loss, even though it left lingering pain,
meant nothing. Hope was stronger. Mara could feel it in
Vaiya's grip. And as they stared at each other, Vaiya spoke,
although there was no voice coming from her lips.
     "Your courage will sustain you, Mother, but trust will
be your salvation."
     Mara's eyes snapped open to see Luke staring at her
from the holovid.
     "Mara!" he shouted. "Wake up!"
     She ran a hand over her eyes and found herself
sweating profusely. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
     "Well, you did!" He looked nearly angry with concern.
"I tried to reach you through the Force, but something was
blocking me. Luckily Ghent called about Jabba's Fist and I
asked him if he could splice be a better line to contact you.
Seems the space you're in is only open by old Imperial lines."
     She scooted closer to the console. "I had...another
vision."
     His face softened. "About what?"
     "The past, the future...I wonder if there is a difference
anymore." She paused. "How is Vaiya?"
     "She misses you."
     "I miss her. Kiss her for me."
     "If I can find her. Han came by to visit the twins, drop
them off some things from Leia. Vaiya has grafted herself to
his leg." 
     The vision those words conjured up made Mara smile.
"And how does Han like that?"
     "He's absolutely enchanted. You know he didn't get to
spend too much time with Jania when she was little, so he's
thrilled about Vaiya's attentions." Luke gave a little snort.
"She keeps wanting to call him Daddy Two."
     That made her smile wider. "Give him a break, Luke.
He's married to the Chief-of-State. His kids spent their
earliest years on another planet, being protected. You and I,
however, are free to protect ourselves." She paused,
wondering how to tell him, but she didn't have to.
     "What is it?" he asked, frowning at her.
     She shook her head. *Talk to me like this. We can't
risk anyone hearing.*
     *Who did you meet?*
     *An old boyfriend. That one I told you about, Cal?*
     Instantly, Luke darkened. Mara couldn't help but enjoy
the jealousy a little bit. "What?" she asked innocently.
     "That isn't funny," Luke said softly.
     "I know," she sighed. "But he was involved with the
Fist. He might be able to help us."
     "How long are you going to stay here?"
     "Until tomorrow night. Then I'm out of here. If Cal
doesn't have anything by then, he won't have it at all."
     "Maybe he'll stall...try and keep you there."
     She shook her head. "Don't you trust me, Skywalker?"
she said teasingly.
     "I trust you. I don't trust him."
     "You haven't even met him!"
     "Mara," he gave a nearly whithering look, "I trust you,
and I can feel your emotions. You don't trust him, I don't trust
him."
     She sighed. "Tomorrow night, I promise. I have a
feeling, though, that it won't even take that long." She
yawned. "Luke, I hate to do this, but I'm exhausted."
     He nodded. "I understand. Use a trance. It may keep
you from having any more visions."
     "I will. And Luke?"
     "Yeah?"
     "I love you."
     "I love you too. Goodnight." And he was gone.

8--History
     So Mara Jade was back. What a wonderful little
coincidence, Cal thought as he scanned over his old files. He
kept a minimal amount of records strictly for business
reasons, and all of them were carefully encrypted to keep
unwanted eyes from seeing them. She was back, and she
was searching for the child of a dead friend. That was even
more precious. And the fact that he was possibly one of her
last leads---too perfect! He could sense her frustration. He'd
gotten better at that over the years, and the price he had
paid was starting to be worth it.
     All he had to do now was make it worth her while to
stick around a little bit. Surely this thing with Skywalker had
to be nonsense. The woman he had known all those years
ago would *never* have even *thought* of Skywalker in that
way. After the nightmares and the visions, surely this couldn't
be real. Maybe she was with him, even married to him, even
given the Jedi-wannabe a child--for Mara Jade, that was
nothing. With her, loyalty had been everything. Loyalty to
Palpatine, loyalty to her cause. 
     Of course, Cal had never kidded himself that she was
every loyal to him. Mara made herself clear about what she
thought of him. He was fun--no more, no less. He knew he
would have to prove his worth to her if he wanted her loyalty.
Then she'd gone and left him before he could get the
chance. He really couldn't be too angry at her for that. That
was just how she was. Restless, forever searching to fulfil
her last command.
     Perhaps...perhaps this was all a scam. Perhaps her
revenge on Skywalker was worse than a simple death. By
murdering the Emperor, he had murdered Mara's life. Cal
remembered how she had softened to him, telling him these
things about herself. He knew he'd taken advantage of a
lonliness inside of her, but it had been worth it--to him. She'd
shared her pain, her sorrow, and her plans for revenge. Now,
as Skywalker had taken everything from her, perhaps she
was now preparing to take everything from him, just when he
least expected it.
     How beautifully wicked, Cal thought with a grin. And
so like her. She was a prize, all right. How could he have just
let her go? Now it was just a matter of getting her to trust
him. Surely she had to keep her cover story intact, even
make an old lover like him believe it. Skywalker couldn't
know, couldn't come anywhere near the truth. But out here,
on the rim, so far away from all of that...it was just a matter of
time before she started to remember, and he started to win
her over. All he had to do was keep smiling and wait.
     He chuckled to himself as he strode down the hall
back to his quarters. He would send her a line, inviting her to
join him for a meal. Perhaps that would help relax her a bit.
And maybe he could find out why she was really here before
she arrived. It might give him some useful leverage. He knew
what persuaded Mara Jade the most. He would be sure to
find it.
     
     Back on Yavin IV, Han Solo was busy tossing his
niece, Vaiya, high into the air and catching her. Vaiya was
loving every second of it, although Luke was nervous enough
in his observational post to stick close by in case Han should
slip in his grip. Vaiya, however, knew what her father was up
to, and Luke could feel her protesting him in her little-girl
way.
     *No, Daddy, no Force! Fly free! Uncle Han can make
me fly free!* And she let out a delighted squeal as she
floated a bit higher.
     Finally, she alighted on the ground like a graceful bird.
Her long, sharp green tunic was twisted every which way,
and Luke took a step forward to fix it.
     "I don't remember seeing you toss your own kids
around like that, Han," Luke said in his chastising Jedi-voice. 
     Han shrugged. "I know I did, but they were always
surrounded by the Force so I never felt like I really tossed
them. No danger, no fun, right?"
     "I'm sure Leia just agrees with you a hundred
percent," Luke drolled sarcastically.
     "She hovered around me just like you did with Vaiya.
But the kids were always so heavy with the Force they never
needed her. I guess Force sensitives don't like being without
it. Vai seemed to thrive without it."
     Vaiya giggled. "Daddy's head too full."
     "That's what I've been telling him!" Han said, taking
Vaiya's hand. "He won't listen to me...maybe he'll listen to
you."
     "All right, you two, that's enough." Luke ruffled Vaiya's
soft hair. "Go on inside and get something to eat."
     "You guys keep any Dewback around here?" Han
asked.
     "Dooback?" Vaiya chirped.
     Luke smirked. "What kind of desert farmboy do you
think I am?"   
     "Now you're starting to sound like Mara."
     "As much as you sound like Leia."
     "Oh, eat my lightsaber, Jedi," Han snorted.
     Luke laughed. "Now you're starting to sound like
Mara."
     "If only I were as smart. She was apparently smart
enough to take a vacation from you."
     They headed into the kitchen, Vaiya dragging Han
behind her, and Luke bringing up the rear.
     "The more you insult me, Han, the more I know you
love me."
     Han just grunted and shoved a piece of cold dewback
in his mouth. 
     "Pumperbread, pumperbread!" Vaiya said, jumping up
a down. Han frowned at Luke, but the Jedi/dad just walked
over to a air-tight box and opened it up to pull out two thick
loaves of dark brown bread. Vaiya snatched them up and
flattened them out on the counter.
     "She does really well for a three-year-old," Han
murmured as he munched another piece of dewback and
watched Vaiya put some meat on the bread. When she had
arranged the pieces how she wanted them, she looked up
and her father expectantly. Luke stepped forward and spread
a thick layer of some sticky substance on one piece that
smelled like peanut butter, but was a little too moist to be
peanut butter. "Come to think of it," Han added, "you do well
for a forty-four year old. Most new dads freak out when their
kids eat freaky combinations like that."
     "She eats like a Hutt," Luke said dryly as he folded the
two pieces of bread together and cut them into quarters for
Vaiya to eat more neatly. "You get used to it. Nothing comes
as a surprised. Last month, she was eating Mon Calamari
seastew and chomping those sugarbars in the same
mouthful. Mara had a hard time with that one." He let out a
little sigh. "I hope she gets back soon."
     Han looked sympathetic. "I know how you feel, Kid.
But trust me, Mara is loyal to the core. She won't do anything
to make you sorry."
     "I know that," Luke said, the tired tone was still there.
"It's that Cal I don't trust. From what Mara's told me...he's
been dabbling in the dark side. I would just hate to have
her find out the hard way he's picked up some manipulative
powers."
     Han clucked his tongue. "Come on, Luke, not every
corrupt Jedi is Palpatine! You still haven't learned to let go
yet, have you? To just not worry and trust? If anyone in the
world can resist temptation, it's Mara. She wanted to kill you,
didn't she? Not only did she not kill you, but she married
you!"
     "Yeah, but not until after I spent ten years....never
mind, forget it." Vaiya was almost done with her third piece,
and she was watching her father with big, thoughtful eyes.
Luke wanted to blush when he realized that she might, on
some basic, emotional level, know what he was talking
about.
     "Gen gonna call," was all she said.
     Luke frowned, and a full minute later, the comlink
buzzed. Luke opened the line. 
     "It's Ghent," the blue-haired man said, his voice traced
with a heavy line of dread. Luke felt his throat close a little.
     "It's Luke," he answered. "You don't sound too happy,
Ghent. What is it?"
     "Get to a holovid. There's something I have to tell
you."
     Luke nodded and started out of the room, toward the
bedroom. But not before giving his daughter a quick
meaningful glance.

9--Booby-Trap
     "Destroyed?" The word was like a lump in his throat.
     "The ship itself was blown up by some Duran booby
trap," Ghent clarified. "The wreckage was never recovered. It
sort of floated out of the Rim territory and was never seen
again."
     "How did you find this out?"
     "Funny you should ask me that," Ghent said, his
normally serious face now amused. "I was slicing into some
really old records and I just sorta...bumped into an old friend.
Frade, or something like that. When I first joined up with
Karrde, he was already here, and we were sort of friends. He
was hacking into the same thing and we kind of tripped over
each other. He left just after Mara joined up, so he knew I
had worked with her, and asked me who had sent me to find
this stuff out about her. I didn't take too well to that, mind
you, so I demanded to know who had sent him. And this is
the funny part."
     "What?" Luke said with mild impatience. He brushed it
off.
     "Frade now works for this guy named Cal Saphringer.
Mara used to sort of be an item with him."
     "I know. Mara ran into him while she was looking
around Duran."
     "Duran is isolated. If Cal is out there, you can be sure
his activities aren't legal."
     "Some things are more important, Ghent," Luke said
softly. 
     "Well, Luke, I don't know how much Mara told you,
but...well, Cal was kind of attached to her, from what I
understood. I met the guy a little while after she hooked up
with us. He was looking for her, but she wouldn't see him. In
fact, she denied even knowing him. Cal told me about her
being the Emperor's Hand, but I kept my mouth shut, thinking
it was a big lie to try and strongarm her into seeing him. Later
on, when I found out, it was too late to say anything."
     Luke paled a little bit. "I thought Mara had to keep her
idenity as the Emperor's Hand a secret for the sake of
protecting her own life. Why would she tell Cal?"
     "I don't know. But if he knows that, then who knows
what else he knows?"
     *Like Mara wanting to kill me.*
     Luke had a sudden feeling of dread. "Slice me a
channel to her," he said. "I want her to come home now." 
     
     When Mara woke up--very late--the next morning, her
danger sense was tingling. She looked around her, but there
was nothing. She scrambled to the cockpit of the Jaded Sky
and found all the readings were normal. She even stepped
out of the ship and scanned the cargo hold, but it all looked
calm.
     There had to be something wrong.
     She scrambled back up into the cockpit and sealed
the hatch. She had to stay in here. It was safe in here. She
was all fueled up and ready to go, all she had to do was take
off.
     Of course, that would be slightly rude to her host, she
thought with a wry smile. She really didn't want to do that.
Was it necessary? Sure, Cal was a little on the...unstable
side. She slapped open a comlink to Cal's quarters. In a few
moments, Cal appeared.
     "I was wondering when you were going to get up," he
said, caught slightly off guard. He was half-dressed, with his
shirt hanging open and his dark hair wet and tossled from a
shower. Apparently he also still liked to sleep late. Mara
resisted the urge to take a second look. 
     "Did you make any progress on your contact last
night?" she asked.
     He gave a cockeyed smile. "I only called him last
night. He hasn't gotten back to me yet. What's the hurry?"
     Mara squirmed. "What do you think the hurry is, Cal?
I've got a little girl to get back to, not to mention a husband.
I've been wandering around the galaxy for over two  weeks
and I want to go home. Let me know the second you find
something." And she cut off the communication.
     With a sigh, she settled back into the pilot's seat. Her
anxiety was riding up on her again, and she had to calm it
down. She took a deep breath and slipped into a mild trance,
working her mind into a calming pattern.
     As she sat, the minutes ticked by. She was aware of
how secure she was on the ship. Nothing could reach her,
she was safe. She moved deeper into the trance, calling
on her most calming memories. As she regressed farther and
farther back into her mind, she became aware of a memory.
     She had lain at death's door, in the realm between this
life and the next. Callista had been there with her, passing
on, bidding her goodbye. Although they had never been
friends, Mara treasured that memory. It felt good to know
Callista had found peace in spite of all the things that had
gone wrong with her life, her very existence. She had lost her
son and his father, but she was past all that. 
     Mara watched her go into a great Light that seemed to
have a sentience beyond anything Mara had ever known. It
was so beautiful, she felt the urge to follow. She had reached
for it, just wanting to experience a brief moment, and had felt
a Presence beyond any aspect of the Force she had ever
known existed. It was beyond beautiful.
     Although it was not the luminous brightness she had
experienced all that time ago, Mara felt the edges of it now,
just touching her mind. Like a scattered sunbeam, it shone
into her soul with its flittering Light, faint but there beyond a
doubt. And she heard words, as if the Light were not just
Light but Sound as well. And the Sound said, "Trust Me."
     Her eyes snapped open. The comlink was flashing. It
was Luke. *So soon?* she wondered, but received it away. 
     "Mara, you have to come home now," Luke was
saying. "I don't want you anywhere near this Cal Saphringer
any more. Has he told you anything about the Jabba's Fist
ship that made a trip to Duran?"
     "He said he'd placed a call to his friend, and that his
friend was going to get back to him sometime today," Mara
said, her voice sounding distant to her own ears.
     "Mara...that ship was destroyed. They think the
Durans destroyed it, part of their hostility toward offworlders."
His voice was pale as he spoke the words, but Mara felt
sudden anger at him anyway.
     "Luke...how can you just be so willing to give up!" she
snapped, forgetting her earlier resolution to give up herself if
this lead didn't pan out. "Don't you even care? This boy is
your son!"
     Luke just stared at her for a long minute. Mara could
practically hear the wheels in his head turning. It wasn't that
she had been so cruel with her words--although they had
been cruel nonetheless--but that her tone had been so
angry. Distance did not mellow the vibrations through the
Force. It was like she'd taken a set of steel claws and raked
them over his heart, bringing up all the debris that clouded
his mind. Luke felt his own regret at Mara doing all this and
not himself, his internal anger over his failures in what he
was trying to do, and his guilt over the belief that he just
wasn't trying hard enough because it was Callista's son, and
not Mara's. As if that made the child mean any less to him.
     Something had gone very wrong with Luke Skywalker.
He'd gone from being a control freak to being a wimpy
neruotic.
     "No, Luke, that isn't true," she started softly, feeling
her healing calm from before return to her and sending it out
to him. "I didn't mean it that way. I know you tried. You did
what you could. I did what I could. I'm the one who gets
information. You're the one who searches the Force. And
even though we're quite capable of doing each other's jobs,
we agreed that this is what we were best at. I know that you
care, Luke. I care too. And not just because I promised
Callista. This child is your son, and I want to find him."
     Luke shook his head. "You won't find him out here.
The ship he was on was supposedly destroyed. It was never
heard from again."
     "But it could still be out there! Isn't it worth it to keep
looking?"
     "Yes, we'll keep looking..but not from out there."
There was jealousy in his voice as he spoke his next words.
"And we won't be using Cal Saphringer's help. I want you to
head home now."
     Mara frowned. Maybe this was the reason her danger
sense was going off--Luke's bad feelings mixed with her
own. "Aside from the obvious...any particular reason?"
     "I just don't like what I've heard. Ghent told me a little
about him. He knows all about you, doesn't he, Mara?"
     "He did. He doesn't any more," she said pointedly.
     Luke shrugged. "Nevertheless," he began calmly, "it's
no good. He may not be...stable."
     "I already suspect that."
     "All the more reason. Come home now. We'll talk
more when you're here."
     "All right. I'll leave right now. I've been staying in Cal's
docking bay, but I'm still prepped for takeoff."
     "Good. I'll see you in a week...keep your mind open to
me so I can make sure you're okay."
     "Sure thing, Master Worryrat," she added with a good-
natured smile. "I love you."
     "And I love you, Jedi Troublemaker." The connection
closed, and Mara started the pre-takeoff proceedures before
calling on Cal again. He was dressed this time, his hair
drying nicely.
     "Mara, I'm starting to get the feeling that you want to
see me," he said with a charming smile.
     "Only to say goodbye," she said flatly. "I got some
news from my *husband,* and he discovered that the ship
I'm looking for was supposedly destroyed by the Durans. We
could spend the rest of our lives searching for it."
     "I thought it was important to you," he said, his cool
exterior flailing a bit.
     "It is, but going home to my family is more important."
She gave him a smile that surprised even her with is
compassion. "I'm not the girl you knew, Cal," she said gently.
"I'm going home."
     His eyes darkened. "Fine. Go on home." Then, just as
quickly, they brightened again. "You know, you could at least
let us give you an escourt."
     "An escourt?" she said absently, checking some
readings. "No, it's way too far for a small ship to follow me
home---"
     "We've been out here so long, Mara," Cal said with a
wave of his hand, "that we could use a trip back to the core
worlds."
     "I'm not going to the core words. I'm headed for Yavin
IV. That's where..." She stopped herself.
     "Oh, that's home?" he raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"I didn't think you were a jungle girl."
     "I told you I'd changed." Okay, she really wanted to
end this conversation and was starting to not care if it was
done gracefully or not. "I'm heading out, Cal. If you hear
anything, send it to Karrde. His operation is hard to miss."
     "Oh, Mara, you're being rude again." He grinned at
her. "As much as I enjoy it, I can't accept it. We're going to
head back with you." He rested his head on his chin. "Didn't I
hear that Skywalker had a Jedi Academy on Yavin IV?"
     "Yes," she said tightly.
     "I'd love to visit it. You know I've never finished my
Jedi training."
     "I'm sure there are good reasons."
     "Now you're being smart. Are you so sure you've
changed, Mara? Come on, what have you got to be afraid
of?"
     She let out a low, quiet sigh as she let the thought run
through her mind. "I'm going on ahead of you," she said. "If
you follow me, I guess I can't stop you."
     
10--Home Sweet Chaos
     He followed her back to the core worlds, for a solid
week. She found herself pacing with anxiety over what Luke
would think when he saw them. But maybe...maybe this
might do Cal some good. If he could get a good earful of
Luke's "the darkside is bad" speech he would either be so
annoyed he would want to leave ASAP, or he might take
some of it to heart and shake that creepy aura that was
massively wigging her out. Besides, at any rate, she had
seven beautiful days to prepare for whatever might happen.
At least the comlinks didn't work in hyperspace.
     After the first day, she tried to reach out to him with
the Force. She could feel him faintly, could feel his emotions,
but it was like a blur. She had to be closer. On the second
day, it was clearer, and she got the distinct sensation that he
was moving closer to her. 
     Why in the Force would he be doing that?
     Mara checked her navcomputer and considered her
options. If she were to suddenly drop out of hyperspace, she
would give Cal the scare of his life. Sure, she could sent him
a signal, but no explanation, and if he dropped out of
hyperspace after her, she would have to deal with the
annoying situation of talking to him. 
     Maybe she should wait a few days. So on day four,
she tried again to find him distinctly closer to her. A day
closer, at least. What was a day closer? Courscant was the
only place she would even suspect he'd go to. But why had
he gone there? Was there trouble? She simply had to know.
So she pulled the Jaded Sky out of hyperdrive, distinctively
hearing the burst of static that Cal's ship made in objection
before it followed, and settled in to open a comlink to
Courscant.
     Minutes passed. Cal tried to call her, but she ignored
him as the channel cleared. The controller told her that
Master Skywalker hadn't landed yet, but was still an hour
away from the planet. Mara cursed herself for not trying that
first, and struggled to think of the ship that Luke might
possibly be in. *Come on, Emperor's Hand,* she demanded,
*THINK!*
     Luke had said something about Han coming to visit.
Han...the Millenium Falcon. It was worth a try. So she
opened the comlink and prayed to hear a familiar voice.

     "They're still on us!" Han Solo shouted as he
manuvered the Falcon through some space debris. "What
the hell did you do to piss these guys off?"
     "I've never seen them before," Luke growled from the
copilot's seat. They were outside the orbit of Yavin IV, having
escaped narrowly from the makeshift deathsquad that had
assembled over the Jedi Academy. Luckily, they weren't after
the Jedi--they were just after Luke.
     His mind went to Mara. She was coming, he could feel
it. But she would be coming to Yavin IV, possibly walking into
a trap. So as hard as he could, he sent her the message---*
Coruscant, Courscant, Coruscant!* and hoped that she was
as smart as he believed her to be. 
     "I'm going to make the jump to hyperspace. If they
want to follow us, they'll have to take on Coruscant's
guardships." Han punched in the coordinates into the
Falcon's navcomputer and waited for it to kick in. Within
seconds, the small raging ships that had landed on Yavin IV
and then chased the Falcon back into the stars again
disappeared behind them.
     "They're probably going to follow us," Luke said in a
slightly dreamy voice.
     Han threw a glance at him. "Wonderful. But first let's
take care of business. Why don't you make sure my niece
isn't plastered to the Falcon's ceiling?" Then he shook his
head. "To who am I glad I brought Artoo along for a visit."
     
     They were an hour away from Coruscant when the
comlink started to blink. Han snapped it open.
     "Solo here," he said warily.
     "It's me," came the familiar voice. "Mara. Are Luke and
Vaiya with you?"
     "Sure thing. Hold on just a second and I'll transfer you
back to him on visual, okay?"
     Mara grunted her consent, but she was probably
pretty distracted, Han thought as he made the connection.
Then with a sweet voice he called, "Hey, farmboy! There's a
girl on the line for you!"
     
     Luke watched as Mara appeared before him, a
holographic image. He shook his head at her in frustration.
     "Why did you drop out of hyperspace? How far away
are you, anyway?"
     "About two days or so," she said, sounding slightly
sheepish. "I had a bad feeling I had to check out."
     Luke sighed and sat down, putting his head in his
hand. For a minute, he felt completely drained--like he had all
that time ago when Ben Kenobi had been murdered before
his very eyes. Why was he getting that feeling about Mara?
She wasn't going anywhere...unless...
     "He followed you, didn't he?"
     Mara looked away. "I couldn't stop him."
     There was a long silence. "Couldn't stop him, or didn't
want to stop him?"
     Her eyes were on fire when she turned them back to
him. "I'm not even going to dignify that with an objection. If
you don't know the answer to that then---"
     "All right, all right. I'm sorry." He sighed again. This
was getting them nowhere.
     "Why are you going to Coruscant?" she asked, her
voice low.
     "Because some band of unknown terrorists decided to
pick me as their target."
     Mara straightened. "You're kidding. Why now? Don't
you have any idea who they are?"
     "I don't know to both questions."
     "Is Vaiya safe?"
     "Yes, she's sleeping. She loved her first trip through
hyperspace. But it ain't like dustin' crops," Luke quote with a
quick glance toward the cockpit. "We didn't do this for fun."
     "Then we'll rendevous at Coruscant," Mara said, "and
I'll give these guys a taste of what the Jaded Sky can do.
Maybe even Cal will help."
     Luke stayed silent. 
     "Well, kiss Vaiya for me."
     "What about me?"    
     "I'll kiss you when I get home...with my fist," she
added with a mock scowl. 
     "Provided you get here in time.  Put some speed into
it, Mara. You're two days too far away."
     "I'm going, I'm going. See you in two, Skywalker."

     Okay, that was wierd. Mara sat back in her chair and
did some calculations. A few days ago, she had tried to
reach Luke and figured out that he was moving. That must
have been when the attack came. Now he was nearly at
Coruscant. Was that deathsquad tracking him? It was
entirely possible. Maybe they thought Coruscant's
guardships would help. It was a good plan, but Mara knew
she couldn't be a part of it so either way all she felt was
frustration and helplessness. She could up her speed, but
not without risking killing herself, and that certainly wouldn't
make her family or friends very happy.
     So now she came to the feelings she'd been having
about Cal. About how something was very off about him.
About how he'd reacted to the news that Skywalker was now
her husband rather than her target. She could almost hear
the thoughts brewing in his head, even in hyperspace. Then
a thought suddenly occured to her. Cal was insistent on the
fact that she hadn't changed. If that was he was assuming,
then everything she did would look to him like one of her old
tricks. Like the times she pretended to be someone else in
order to carry out a mission for whatever reason. 
     Perhaps he thought she was pretending to be Luke's
wife, just to get close enough to hurt him. Not kill him, that
would be too easy. No, she'd have to make him suffer before
she took his life away. That was the woman she had been, a
long time ago. The woman Cal thought she was now.
     Perhaps--and it felt more certain the longer she
touched Cal's buzzing mind--Cal was trying to help her out,
or prove something to her. Maybe he'd sent that squad to
Yavin IV. Although it was nearly impossible. He'd been out
on Duran, and Yavin IV was a good seven days away. Well,
maybe it wasn't impossible, but it was stretching the possible
just a little it.
     She set her speed for as fast as the ship would go
without flying apart. She only knew she wanted to get home
to her husband and daughter as fast as she could.

     Coruscant--it was a beautiful planet from the air. It
was practically covered with cities, with certain parts of the
land protected to preserve its wildlife and plantlife. But like
most places, it was a nice place to visit, but Mara had no
desire to live there. As soon as she dropped out of
hyperspace, she felt the urge to land, yank Luke and Vaiya
into the Jaded Sky, and take off with no certain destination.
     She opened a comlink to the Coruscant station. Luke
was waiting for her, but there was a bit of confusion about
Mara's landing clearance. Apparently, the fact that she was a
Jedi Knight had very little influence over the director. They
were expecting a ship of refugees from Tatooine, who were
being forced off the planet one by one as the sandpeople
took over more and more territory. It was a bit comforting to
know it was from Tatooine. At least she was being thrown
over for something worthy. So she waited.
     And then they attacked.
     Mara sensed them a full minute before the alarms on
the Jaded Sky went off. She swung around and readied
herself for the initial blows, watching the guardships of
Courscant move into defense position. The enemy ships
veered off, then regrouped for a second run.
     She chose that moment to turn a good defense into a
good offense. She charged forward toward the closest ship
and opened fire. The Jaded Sky didn't have any really heavy
power on it, but Mara had insisted that its lazers be top
quality. The pale blue bolts shredded one of the angular
wings of the enemy fighter, sending it spinning into one of its
companions.
     That was when the Caliber showed up.
     It appeared like a raging beast, and all the enemy
fighters turned into frightened mice when they saw it. They
barely kept themselves from colliding into him by pulling up
and over hard to scatter around him. Cal let out some shots,
crippled some ships, and  sent the rest running. Except one.
     Mara wondered if it might be the leader, but realized
the ship was too much of a runt to be holding someone of
such obvious importance. It swung around and made a
suicide dive toward Mara, who barely dodged aside in time,
feeling the crazy urge to hyperventilate. She did the only
thing she could think to do and not get herself killed--she ran.
     One of the guardships got on the tail of her pursuer
and managed to get off a few shots, but the little ship was
not going to give up until it was a part of the entropy of
space. Mara fought a rising urge to panic. Sure, it had been
a long time. She'd never really participated in any space
battles, but shaking insane enemies went basically by the
same rules whether by land or in space. The last space
battle she could think of, really, was when she'd knocked
herself out and Luke had rescued her.
     Her eyes focused hard ahead of her. The Caliber
loomed before her, and she had an idea. She opened a
comlink and said in her most no-nonsense voice, "Cal, get
everyone out of your cargo bay, and focus your shields there
at maximum."
     A few seconds passed as Mara closed the distance.
"Done," came Cal's voice, as if he'd already done it before
she'd even asked. "What are you going to do?"
     "Cause a whole bunch of damage to your ship that I'm
going to have to pay for, and destroy an annoying little gnat
on my tail." And with that, she made a screaming turn away
from Cal's ship, and the smaller ship behind her, in spite of
its better manuvering capabilities, crashed into the hull as
she expected.
     Mara leveled out the Jaded Sky and opened a comlink
to the director.
     "Can I land now?" she asked in a flat voice.
     "Clearance at docking bay 27 for both you and your
helper," the director said, his voice wryly admiring. "Master
Skywalker is already headed there to meet you."
     "Thank you," Mara said. She couldn't wait to get on
solid ground again."

11--Jedi Knights
     She practically ran down the plank where Luke was
waiting for her. She hurled herself into his arms and he
hugged her close.
     "You okay?" he asked, alarmed at how fast her heart
was beating.
     She nodded. "Adrenaline overload." She pulled away
slightly and gazed up at him. "Besides, can't I be really glad
to see you?"
     "Don't complain, Skywalker," came a voice from not-
so-far-away. "It's better than her trying to kill you, isn't it?"
     Luke turned to see Cal Saphringer striding toward
them, his dark hair tossed carelessly about his head. He
could feel Mara rest against him, and he tightened his arm
around her waist protectively. 
     "And you're Cal, right?" Luke said, forcing his voice to
be friendly.
     Cal nodded. "I'm quite impressed, Skywalker, really. I
mean, if you knew how different Mara was in her attitude
about you so many years ago---"
     "Trust me," Luke cut him off, casting a wry smile at
Mara. "I know."
     Cal let out a little grunt. "I guess Jedi manipulation
powers aren't all on the dark side, are they?"
     Luke started to scowl. Mara squeezed his other hand. 
     "I did some damage to his ship," Mara said. "We're
going to have to have it fixed."
     Cal waved his hand. "That's not necessary, Mara,
really. As long as you're safe." He gave her one of his
breathless smiles, and Luke felt a tremor in the Force. Sting
of it was, he couldn't tell if it was coming from Mara or Cal.
     It was at that moment that Han Solo strode into the
cargo bay, Vaiya perched on his shoulders. The three-year-
old girl squealed at her mother in greeting, and Mara broke
away from the two conflicting men in her life to embrace her
daughter. As Mara knelt down with the little girl to hear her
tell her tale of traveling through hyperspace, Mara began to
realize that Cal had significantly eased off whatever he'd
been doing. It was like someone taking a rock off her head.
The longer she was with Vaiya, the clearer she got. Finally,
Mara turned to them to see Luke watching her lovingly, and
Cal just watching.  
     "She looks like you," Cal murmured.
     "Vaiya has Mara's smile, and her nose," Luke said
offhandedly.
     "But she's got your eyes, darling," Mara said, brushing
back a handful of Vaiya's silky strawberry blond locks. "And
your cheekbones."
     "What is she, a little girl or a jigsaw puzzle?" Han
interrupted. 
     Luke jumped. "Right. Look, Cal, thank you for helping
out my wife," and he said the words with a tad too much
accent on "my wife," but he didn't care, "and any repairs
you need done to your ship, we'd be happy to pay for. Just
let us know."
     Cal waved his hand again. "I already said thanks but
it's okay, really." Cal's dark eyes locked with Luke's. "Once I
say something, I stick to it."
     It was in that moment that Luke realized that this man
was causing more than just the slight disturbances in the
Force he and Mara had been feeling. This man was a
walking, talking premonition of doom.

     "So what made you run from the Academy?" Mara
asked Luke when they were in private.
     Luke was downloading the report the control station
had sent to him so that he could try and identify the
attackers. "What do you mean?"
     "I mean, it isn't like you to just up and run like that,
even under attack."
     "I couldn't put Vaiya in that kind of danger," he said as
he turned to focus on her. "We had to escape."
     "And protect the Academy?" Mara pressed. "You
realize that taking Vaiya up in the Falcon was even more
dangerous than just hiding in the Massassi temple. And what
makes you so sure that whoever attacked you didn't destroy
the Academy when they figure out you weren't there?"
     "Because," Luke said patiently, "I checked in with the
Academy right after we got here, and my hunch was
confirmed--they were after me and Vaiya, not the Academy."
     "You followed a hunch? You have been hanging
around Solo too long. I remember when you used to call that
Jedi intuition."
     Luke shrugged. "Perhaps they're the same thing." He
frowned at her. "Are you okay? You still seem rather shaken
up."
     "By what? The fact that some crazy unknown enemy
is insane enough to attack us in protected space, or that my
ex-lover turned Dark Jedi wannabe is staying two doors
down from us? Exactly which would shake me up more, do
you think?"
     Okay, the claws were coming out. Luke gently opened
himself up to Mara's feelings, and saw what she'd been
denying for the last few hours--her incredible worry. It had
built up on her like a fungus, penetrating every aspect of her
life, her fear over never finding Callista's and his son, that the
child was leading a life of slavery somewhere and she
couldn't save him, and the unsettling incident of Cal
Saphringer returning to her life and treating her like she was
the old Mara Jade and expecting her to ACT like it...it was
too much. She'd been holding it in, and now Luke was the
lucky winner she was pouring it out upon.
     Mara sighed and shook her head. "No, it's not fair. I
shouldn't do this to you. I've just been a bundle of nerves
over the last months and I can't understand it. It's just so
not like me."
     "Then you need to get rid of it," Luke said. "I know
how you can get rid of one of them."
     "How?"
     "Tell Cal to leave."
     Mara blinked. "Just tell him? Get out and don't come
back?"
     "Sounds good to me."
     She gave him an amused frown. "Why, Master
Skywalker, you're jealous. Isn't jealousy of the dark side?"
     Luke looked up into the air as he pretended to try and
remember. "Nope, don't remember Yoda ever mentioning
that. Fear, agression, passion, hate, anger...no, no jealousy."
     She punched him in the arm and he grabbed her wrist
to pull her closer. "Don't do it for me," he said huskily. "Do it
for yourself." He kissed her cheek and turned back to the
download he'd gotten from the control tower. She hesitated a
few moments, and then disappeared out into the hallway.
She felt this crazy urge to see her daughter before she did
anything yet regarding Cal.

     About fifteen minutes had passed since Mara had left
the room, but Luke found out all he could in half that time--
nothing. There was no record of the ships, their destinations
and point of orgin had somehow been smeared pretty bad so
they couldn't be traced or tracked. They had shown up,
wreaked havoc, and disappeared. 
     A real professional job, Luke thought as he stared at
the scematic for Cal's ship. The flight records had been
updated in their graphics, and Luke could see clearly the
markings the man had put on his ship. Old Jedi symbols for
power, passion, and vengence. He wondered if Cal even
knew what they meant.
     As if on cue, the man entered the small holovid
lounge, his dark cape removed to reveal a more simple
dress. He reminded Luke of Lando a bit, dressed one of
those spunsilk shirts and dark trousers with knee-high boots.
His shirt hung open a little more than Lando's usually did,
revealing a sprinkling of black chest hair.
     No wonder women found him so charming. Even
Mara, once. But not anymore.
     He clenched his fist. Not anymore.
     "Skywalker," Cal drawled. "I was just coming to see if
you and Mara had come up with any leads as to who your
attackers were." He glanced around the room briefly. "I can
see that Mara isn't here."
     "No, she went to check on our daughter." Luke forced
himself to relax. Maybe if he could convince Cal to leave, it
would let Mara off the hook. If he did, Luke was sure that
Mara's unusual levels of anxiety would drop off. This guy
reeked of the dark side.
     "Ah," Cal said. "I see. Well, did you come up with
anything?"
     "There wasn't anything to come up with," Luke said.
"They just disappeared."
     "No one just disappears," Cal admonished with a
quick frown. "Just like no one ever changes. Those fighters
will be back, with more firepower. They were just playing
with you, finding your weak spot, so they could use it to their
advantage."
     Luke cocked an eyebrow. "You seem to know a lot
about the enemy," he said softly.
     "Well, one of them did crash into me," Cal said with a
wave of his hand. "I guess you could say I got up close and
personal."
     Luke took a deep breath and prepared to tell the man
that he was grateful for his help but that he wanted him to
leave both him and especially Mara alone when Luke heard
Mara's voice through the Force a few seconds before the
alarms went off.
     *LUKE! We're under attack!*

12--Adventure & Excitement
     They were sneaky, whoever these guys were, Luke
decided as he made his way carefully to his Coruscant
apartment. Maybe if he could stay out of view long enough
he'd find a place to attack---
     Green lazer blasted past him and he dove for cover
behind a nearby column that stuck out from the wall. He
automatically grabbed his lightsaber and ignited it, sending a
burst of green light against the pale walls of the hallway. Just
as he was about to attack, he noticed that someone else had
a lightsaber, too, and his was bright orange.
     Luke turned his head to see Cal cut right into the
small band of terrorists, swinging his lightsaber two and fro.
Luke followed, desperate to check on Mara. She was okay,
but wouldn't be for long if the attackers didn't relent. 
     Cal reached the door first, slicing one of the intruders
in half as he passed by him. Luke shouted out a "HEY!" but
Cal was already in the room. Luke heard the loud sound
of blaster fire bouncing off a lightsaber blade, and Mara's
startled cry. When Luke finally caught up with them, he saw
that Mara and Han had tipped over a very heavy stone table
and were hiding behind it with Vaiya clutched between them.
Mara was peeking over the table at Cal.
     "You were expecting someone else?" Cal announced
loudly.
     But the fight wasn't over yet. The troops had retreated
out of the suite and into the hallway, but they were
determined to take a body count that day of the opposing
side. Cal turned back to focus his attention on deflecting
blaster bolts, while Mara lept over the table to Luke's side.
     "Stay with Vaiya," she ordered.
     "Why? Where are you going?"
     "To prove a theory!" She pulled her lightsaber off her
belt and ignited it. 
     "Hell of a time!" he practically shrieked, but she was
gone and out the door, every bit the fierce protecter she had
always been. 

     Mara dove for the floor the second she stepped into
the hallway, her lightsaber neatly twisting around her so she
didn't cleave herself in two. She rolled between the bright red
and green bolts of blaster fire, then landed on her knees and
brought her saber up, the pale turquoise of the blade lighting
up her green eyes and giving them an errie glow. Mara felt
the bloodfrenzy of battle attempt to descend upon her. She'd
been in places like this before, and had always defended
herself from her anger, using rage to give her strength, even
if she wasn't using the Force.
     But anger and rage were the dark side. She had
learned something in all these years with Luke. She had to
fight from calm. So she stretched out with the Force, and
found it waiting for her, her eager defender. She sucked in
her breath and let it out again, an easy calming technique,
regular and soothing in the midst of the chaos around her.
     There was something else different about this, she
realized as she deflected the bolts off her glowing blade.
Luke had told her that the Force was never to be used on
the offensive--only defensive. That was why a Jedi only
carried a lightsaber. Mara was deflecting the bolts, but this
wasn't going anywhere. They were going to keep firing until
they ran out of ammo, or her arms fell off, whichever came
first. 
     She didn't care what side of the Force it called upon.
In the days she'd spent as the Emperor's Hand until her days
with the Smuggler's Alliance, she'd learned one thing. The
best defense was a good offense. And these slime sucking
son-of-a-hutts were attacking her family. She would defend
them until the last of them dropped dead for all she cared. 
     Mara slashed forward, deflecting the bolts at an angle
now, using them as her own weapons as she moved closer
to her attackers. She watched their expressions change from
the neutral soldiers to the terrified victims as she got closer,
but they were backing away, making room for themselves
down the hallway. Luckily for her, there was debris.
     She reached out with the Force and started to stir up
the fallen objects. Pieces of rubble from where the blasters
had damanged the walls started to fly in their faces. She
slid a few heavy objects--a few colums that had held large
vases containing giant plants, a decorative touch Mara had
always disliked--behind them, and at least three of the eight
would-be assassins fell, shrieking for mercy. As Mara passed
one of them, she picked up his blaster before she knocked
him out cold with the heel of her lightsaber. 
     This was more like it. Now she was in business.

     "You're just going to stand there and let Mara go out
there and risk her neck?!"
Han Solo stared at Luke, his mouth agape. Beside him,
Vaiya peeked over the top of the fallen table. "I don't believe
this, Luke. You let her go chasing around the galaxy for a
child of yours that isn't even hers, and now you let her go
fight your battles for you while you hang back and play
babysitter! I know Jedi's are supposed to be into this 'calm
and tranquil' routine, but there is a time and place for
everything, Luke!"
     Only a second had passed since she'd disappeared.
He hadn't had enough time to think it through, and already
Han was jumping down his throat.
     "I wasn't planning on it, but what else can I do?
Someone has to stay with Vaiya."
     "I'll stay with her," Han said, grasping Vaiya's hand.
"I'll get her to our apartment and leave her with the Nighori. If
you had accepted their offer as bodyguards before, trust me,
you wouldn't have to deal with this mess right now."
     Luke swallowed over a knot in his throat and nodded.
Okay, he trusted Han with his own life, with the lives of those
he loved. He could trust him with Vaiya. He just hoped Mara
wouldn't kill him for it.
     "Fine," he said tightly, "and for the record, I have no
idea whose battle this is.    " He pulled his lightsaber off his
belt and charged into the hallway.
     Cal had disappeared down one hallway--he could see
the spectre of the glowing orange blade reflecting dimly
against the white walls of the hallway as Cal drove those
attackers back. Closer to the room, Mara had pinned a good
handful against an aclove, and she had one of their blasters
in one hand, her flashing saber in the other. Using only one
hand to grip it instead of two--which seemed to be a growing
habit with her--she slashed forward, destroying the blasters
of two of the attackers and using the blaster to stun them. 
     What she didn't see was that one of the three she'd
already felled had a backup weapon stored in the ironically
exact place to the hold-out blaster Mara had once favored. It
shot into his hand and he aimed---
     
     The loud buzz of Luke's saber whizzing past
something metal and neatly cleaving it in two nearly made
Mara lose her concentration--for all of about a half-second.
So he'd decided to leave their daughter with Han and come
after her. She didn't know whether to be touched or to kill
him. She managed to spare a second to see Luke behind
her, lightsaber back in hand, standing over a man holding
part of a hold-out blaster. He was staring up at Luke in utter
terror.
     *Come to help clean up, darling?* she managed. 
     *Actually, I was considering going and finding our new
friend and seeing how many throats he was crushing.* He
barely managed to get the answer out because the small
band had suddenly decided to focus all their attention on
Luke--sharp and fast, the blasters were turned toward him.
Luke slashed toward the band and took out a few, until there
was only one left. It was quickly dropped to the floor when
Luke and Mara pointed their lightsabers at its possessor's
throat. 
     Mara shook her head slightly, then brought her
lightsaber closer to the man's throat. "Who sent you?" she
demanded. 
     The man began to babble in a language she could not
understand, not in all her years of traversing the galaxy. It
didn't sound like any language she'd ever heard of. 
     It was at this moment that security decided to show
up. Luke glanced at a nearby chronometer--only five minutes
had passed since he and Cal had shown up to join the fight.
No wonder they hadn't come sooner. They did their part,
though--they arrested everyone in the hallway, even
attempted to arrest Mara and Luke, but the couple's
lightsabers were still glowing and the guards didn't need
much persuading to give it up. 
     "A man went that way," Mara told the head guard,
guesturing down the other hallway with her now deactivated
lightsaber. "He has an orange lightsaber and he'd taken on
at least this many men."
     The head guard nodded and barked orders for a small
team to follow Cal's path. They hadn't gotten twenty feet
away when Cal suddenly appeared--clutched between two
Nighori. One had his lightsaber, and the other had Cal's
wrists tied together, which Cal seemed to be disliking
intensely.
     "MARA!" he shouted, "IS THIS HOW YOU REPAY A
FAVOR!"
     Mara nearly winced from the dark tremor through the
Force his shout caused, but she wasn't going to show him
that much throat. "Let him go, guys," she said dryly. "He's
one of us...right now."
     The Nighori stopped him in front of the Skywalkers
and untied his hands, but gave his weapon to Luke. "Forgive
us, Son of Vader," one said with a respectful bow. "We did
not realize he was with you. We feared that he was one of
the assailants."
     Luke grasped Cal's lightsaber. It had an oddly familiar
grip to it...certainly nothing he'd ever held, but its design was
like to something he couldn't remember offhand. He
shrugged it off as he handed it to Cal, once his wrists were
free. Cal practically snatched it from him.
     "What the sith are these mutants doing here?" Cal
railed on, managing to maintain his dignity while having a
nice fit in front of half of the Palace Security. "Don't tell me
that you have them as bodyguards?"
     "We serve the Son of Vader and his consort, Mara
clan Skywalker, to honor the family of Vader," the other
Nighori hissed, his eyes on Mara. "Han clan Solo has
brought us the child of the Son of Vader and she is safe in
our midst."
     "Don't be so rude, Cal," Mara said, tossing her red-
gold hair back over her shoulders. "If I can handle their
calling me 'Mara clan Skywalker' you can deal with a little bit
of manhandling."
     Cal's eyes focused on Mara, and Luke got the distinct
impression that he was Fed-Up with a captial F-U. "So much
for my little vacation," Cal said, his voice softer. "Perhaps I'll
be taking my leave now."
     "Perhaps that would be for the best," Luke said
quickly. "Mara and I are going to make ourselves pretty
scarse for a while until we can figure out who wants us
dead."
     Mara gave him a small grin. "This time," she added.
     Cal nodded, but his eyes didn't leave Mara's. "I hope
you'll come and see me before I leave," he said, his voice
softer. He didn't have to say the next word that was in Luke's
head so clearly he was sure he hadn't imagined it. *Alone.*
     
13--Run
     This time when Mara embraced her daughter, Vaiya
was the one gaping at the small abrasions and cuts that
Mara's brief encounter in the hallway had caused along her
arms. She hugged her mother more tightly, and even tried to
cling to her leg, causing Mara a fresh flood of guilt. What had
she thought she was doing, anyway? Running off like that
right in front of her daughter. Both she and Luke were very
lucky that they hadn't traumatized her by their actions. They
should have just sat and waited for security to show up and
clean up the mess. 
     She snorted. *On a cold day on Tatooine,* she
thought. 
     Mara picked up the little girl and cradled her in her
arms. Vaiya wasn't very big for her age. She fit into the cook
of Mara's arm rather easily, while her other arm supported
Vaiya's legs. It was times like this that truly tested her
muscles, though. The constant weight could get pretty
tiresome.  Although Jedi were pretty good at keeping
themselves in the best of shape.
     "I missed you, Mommy," Vaiya said, yawning. All the
excitement had finally taken its toll. 
     "I missed you too, Vai. But I'm home now. And the
next time we leave, we'll all go together."
     "When we go?"
     "Soon."
     "To the sky?"
     "Beyond the sky. We'll fly in our pretty ship through
the stars."
     "Uncle Han talk about pretty stars. He says they make
shapes."
     "They do. Some stars make big shapes across the
sky, and some of them are made of swirling gas filled with
every color in the rainbow." 
     Vaiya's eyes drooped. "When we go, Mommy?"
     "Soon."
     "When soon?"
     "As soon as you go to sleep, my love, and you can
dream about them."  
     "Don't wanna dream," the little girl protested sleepily.
"Wanna go."
     "You can do both. Right now." 
     "Kay." Vaiya let her eyes close, and in a few seconds
Mara knew she was asleep. 
     Several minutes passed. Mara considered putting
Vaiya in bed, but it was so peaceful like this. Plus she knew
if she tried to move it would wake her daughter up again, and
Mara was just too plain exhausted to use the Force. No, she
would just sit here for a little while and enjoy the peace.
     After those minutes had passed, Vaiya wasn't the only
one dreaming about flying through the stars.

     "Son of Vader," one of the Nighori guards pleaded in
his rough voice, "if you would allow us the honor of protecting
you, this sort of thing would not have happened."
     Luke shook his head with a smile. "I appreciate the
offer, really, but my wife and I have decided it's better this
way."
     Behind the Nighori guard, Leia rested her chin on her
palm. "I can't change your mind about this, can I?"
     Even Han looked a bit shaken. "At least come by to
visit, Luke. So we know you're still alive."
     Luke smiled. "I'll be fine, trust me. I just don't want
Vaiya exposed to this sort of thing again. And especially if
that Cal Saphringer," he practically spat the words, his smile
gone, "is responsible for this like I think he is. He can't know
where we are. Ever."
     Leia nodded. "I can't give you my blessing on this,
Luke, but I do wish you well."
     "I know." He hugged her. "Tell the kids I love them,
okay?"
     "Anakin's going to be crushed," Han muttered. 
     Luke slapped him on the arm. "I'll see him when I
come to visit. You're just mad because I'm taking Vaiya
away."
     Han tried to fight off a smile. "I just don't want to see
her turn into a lunatic Jedi like her father."
     "No, you'd rather see her turn into a cunning smuggler
like her mother, right?" Leia teased.
     "Speaking of Mara, I'm going to go find her. We'll say
goodbye before we leave, don't worry." Luke turned and left
Leia and Han's apartment, heading right down for his own.
There was a Nighori standing guard, and Luke relieved him--
-respectfully. Maybe he should rethink his refusal of Nighori
aid, he thought as his eyes passed over those needle-like
teeth. Creatures like that never had to do anything to
intimidate enemies. They just *were.* 
     He stepped into the apartment and felt Mara's warm
presence. Very warm, actually. A few steps into the next
room showed him why. She was asleep, with Vaiya nestled
in her arms. Her head was resting back and tilted a little to
the side, exposing her neck, well muscled and yet slender
and graceful. Her red hair gathered on top of Vaiya's own
strawberry curls, and their chest rose and fell in the same
rhythmic pattern.
     He really didn't want to break this up, as precious as it
was. Maybe there was a way he could absorb this picture
into his head with the Force. Make it a momento for the rest
of his life, a holograph that would never fade. The pure
peace of it was like a thick, sweet wine--it lulled him into a
quiet, calm place where he could almost see the Force
around them. 
     Stepping forward, he lightly grasped Vaiya with the
Force, careful not to move her as long as Mara had her arms
adjusted to hold the weight. He bent over and gently kissed
Mara's neck, and Mara's eyes fluttered open and her head
turned to gaze at him. She stirred, and Luke slipped Vaiya
from her grip and lifted her with the Force into his own arms.
While Mara came back to the conscious world, Luke put
Vaiya in her bed. 
     *You know,* Mara sent, *most parents have to take
their chances and move their kids with normal force. You're
cheating to do it that way.*
     Luke tossed her a crooked grin. *If you like, we can go
back and do it again.*
     Mara stretched like a cat and stood up to walk over to
him. *Nah, you've already taken care of it.* She gave a little
shrug, and then looked down at Vaiya. *Poor kid. She's been
through so much.*
     *Very little, actually, compared to what you and I faced
when we were young.*
     Mara sighed. *That's part of what worries me,
Skywalker. I mean, she's got both you and me for parents.
Her genetics are all screwed up.*
     Luke eyed Mara up and down. *Where she got her
genetics from looks fine to me,* he sent.
     *You've got anger, I've got anger, Vader had some
really big anger...Force forbid Palpatine scared me enough to
have it hurt Vaiya too.* Mara touched her daughter
protectively. *Sometimes, I want to have a normal life so
much it hurts. But this is the best thing, I know.*
     Luke slid his arms around Mara's torso and pulled her
close. *If we had had normal lives,* he sent, *you and I would
never have met, and she would never have been born.*
     *You know what I mean.* She rested her head against
his chest. *I'm just..so tired.*
     *But what about the old saying that life begins at 40?*
     *They lied.*
     *Did they?* There was a seductive note in his mind,
and Mara looked up to see his eyes gazing down at her,
hazy with desire. *You've been away too long, Mara.*
     She wanted to laugh, but didn't dare. All Luke got was
the mirth in her mind. *I guess you'll keep me young,
Skywalker. You'll never grow up, will you?*
     *Never.* And he pulled her down to the floor.
     *HERE? But what if we wake Vaiya?*
     Luke pressed himself on top of her, his lips nuzzling
her ear. *Then we'll just have to make sure we stay really
quiet. Like this.* And his covered her mouth with his kiss.
     
14--Good Riddence
     The next morning, Mara somehow managed to tear
herself from Luke's arms--they'd fallen asleep on the floor of
Vaiya's room, and agreed they should move quickly and
quietly before the little girl woke up. She needed to see Cal
off. Maybe this would put to rest some of her odd feelings
about him, as well as her suspicions.
     Cal was overseeing restocking of his ship with all the
necessary supplies. Mara approached him from behind, not
wanting him to see her, but not willing to wait for the right
moment. She was only three feet from him when he turned
and smiled at her, as if he'd already known.
     "Come to see me away?" he asked. "Do I get a kiss
goodbye?"
     "You get a thank you," Mara returned evenly. "For
helping out yesterday. Although I admit I'm not sure why you
helped."
     "Mara, you wound me. Whatever else that has
happened, I still consider you a friend."
     Mara just stared at him. "You don't have very good
taste in friends, Cal," she said softly. 
     Cal shrugged and gave a self-depreciating little laugh.
"I guess I don't. I tell you, Mara, seeing you like this has
shaken me up a bit." Then in a softer voice, he added, "So
when are you going to tell him?"
     "Tell who what?"
     Cal rolled his eyes at her. "Don't play coy. You may do
it well but I find it so uncharming."
     "If you're referring to Luke, he already knows. There's
no one else to tell anything. You and I...aren't anymore. But
maybe you can keep an eye open for that missing child for
me in your little adventures."
     Cal nodded, and Mara could feel him attempting to
probe her mind. She had firm barriers, and he got nowhere.
"What I was referring to," he said after a few moments, "was
this charade you've got going here. When are you just going
to kill him and get it over with?"
     The suddeness of the question make Mara's brain
lock up for a second. That was one of Cal's tricks--to say the
outrageous thing he was thinking of to throw her off. But in
that second, it all sort of clicked into place.
     "I knew they were your men. That was why they didn't
hit me. Even with my lightsaber, I would have been a perfect
target at that range." She let out a ragged sign, holding back
rage. She had to hear his side--she had to give him that.
     Cal advanced on her, his eyes not breaking contact
with her own. "Come on, Mara. You say you've changed, you
say you haven't. Hate like what you had doesn't just melt into
love, like some fairy fable. I hoped this was all a set-up."
     Mara was horrified, but she kept her cool. She wanted
to ask him why he thought that, to hear all the reasons again
and put them together in one long list so that she might be
able to make sense of it. But she already knew. 
     "You know," she finally replied, "what the worst of all
this is? You aren't wrong. People don't change. But I did
change--or rather, something changed me. I love Luke, I've
born his daughter, and---"
     Cal waved his hand. "Children...sex...whatever, Mara.
That isn't proof of love. People couple all the time and make
children, whether they're husbands and wives or not. Do you
really love Skywalker? Prove it to me and I will never darken
your doorstep again."
     She narrowed her eyes at him. For the first time,
anger got the better of her. "Fine. You want to know whose
child it is that I'm chasing after? Yes, the son of a former Jedi
Knight, Callista. But that's not the whole story. The boy is
Luke's son, too. Now who do you know other than me that
would do this sort of thing for a man she wanted to kill?"
     Cal seemed to consider her for a moment. 
"Convincing," he murmured. "But there could be reasons
behind that, too. Maybe the same as your reasons for
bearing him a child. When the time is right, you plan on
worse than just killing him. You want to destroy him utterly."
He grinned at her. "That would be more like you, Mara, and
you know it."
     She shook her head. "I followed orders. I was never
cruel."
     "Weren't you? I know things about you, Mara. I
chased all over for you when you left me. Talon finally
convinced me it was in my better health interests to leave
you alone while you were his employee. I learned things
about you, though. Jobs you'd done, the things you pulled.
Perhaps all this holier-than-thou Jedi Knight bantha dung has
made your memory short. You're no better than I am. Inside,
you know that part is still there, and you don't know whether
to fight it or not. Maybe that urge to kill Skywalker is still
there. Tell me, does he trust you completely? In spite of all
that's happened?"
     Mara held perfectly still during Cal's tirade, as if she
were afraid to move. When she spoke, only her lips moved.
"He trusted me even when he knew I had every intention of
killing him. He always knew me as I really was, Cal. The
woman you knew a long time ago has gotten rid of those
demons. I suggest you do the same. It isn't too late for you."
     Cal snorted. "You're even starting to sound like one of
them. What should I do, stay here and learn about the light
side of the Force? I'll bet your hubby would just love that,
wouldn't he?" He paused. "You see, either way it doesn't
work."
     Mara stared at him, the suspicions from earlier coming
back to her. Those men she'd fought in the hallway--they
hadn't aimed to well at her. But Skywalker had gotten the full
treatment, all blasters aimed right at his face the second he'd
appeared. And Cal jumping into battle so quickly--he'd
defended them too quickly. It was not like Cal to stick his
own neck out. Then he'd come back in the grip of two
Nighori, and no other prisoners save himself.
     *I'm not so sure why you helped,* she'd said to him.
Now she was sure.
     "You did it, didn't you?" she whispered.
     "I don't know what you're talking about, Mara," he said
with a smile, and then bent over to kiss her on the cheek.
She was frozen with a mixture of rage and outrage. 
     "Farewell for now, Mara Jade. You know how to reach
me if you want me."
     She glared at him as he walked all the way into his
ship. "Don't hurry back," she whispered as the ship prepared
for takeoff. She turned and left the hangar, not even looking
back as the ship rose out of sight.

     Luke was sprawled out across the bed, flipping
casually through the journal he had started a long time ago.
He had been working on it on and off over the last few years,
but lately there just hadn't been any time. 
     Mara came in, and Luke instantly sensed something
was wrong. He waited silently and patiently as she came
over to him and sat down on the edge of the bed beside him.
     "He's gone," she said, her voice flat.
     "I know."
     "I think he's the one who arranged this attack. He was
trying to kill you."
     Luke gave her a little grin. "Should I take that
personal?"
     She turned her head to look at him with humorless
eyes. "Are you hearing me? He managed to launch an attack
at us within hours of our arrival here. He's always been quick
to get things done, but that's plain scary."
     Luke ran a hand through her hair. "We're leaving
soon. We'll be safe."
     She shook her head. "He'll bide his time. That's what
he's good at." She let out a ragged sigh, and continued, "I
can't believe he's doing all this over me."
     "I can."
     She flopped back on to the bed, stretching her arms
over her head. "Then you're just as nuts as he is."
     "Well, I wouldn't go that far. But I know about
obsession. People get something stuck in their heads and
they can't shake it. You'll have to face him one day, you
know, Mara, and resolve this." The anxiety that enimated
from Mara at that moment was enough to make Luke
wobble. "Not anytime soon," he added.
     "Doesn't matter. He's got one up on me anyway."
     Luke frowned. "What?"
     "He knows about you and Callista, and that I'm looking
for your son."
     He grew very still. "And?"
     "I'm just...afraid."
     Luke sat up and pulled Mara up into a sitting position.
Their arms locked together, one's hands on the others
forearms. "What are you doing?" Mara asked.
     "Work with me," he said. "I'm going to see if I can put
this anxiety of yours to rest...at least for a while."
     "I'm up for that," she said wearily.
     Luke shut his eyes. *Follow me, Mara,* he sent
through the Force. Mara shut her eyes and reached out for
him.
     For a moment, she saw it--the Mosaic of her life as
she had seen it when she was standing with him on the
observation deck, staring out into the stars. Beautiful and
grand, almost infinite. As she stared at it, she could see
Vaiya, and the boy Luke and Callista had had--*Valery?* she
thought, the name a fragment in her mind. But the pictures
weren't stable. They moved, the contorted, they ran together
and spread out. 
     *Destiny,* came Luke's voice from beside her, *has
been the most important driving force in my life. But the
future is always in motion. Destiny is only the beginning of
our path, not the end.*
     *We choose our destiny,* Mara sent back,
understanding him. 
     *We accept or deny it, or we change it. But in the end,
destiny is fulfilled.*
     *I don't understand. How can we be free to choose
and yet always have it end up in the same place? How can
there be a choice when what happens is what is meant to
be?*
     She could feel Luke grinning. *That is the mystery of
the Force.*
     *No,* she objected. *It is far beyond the Force.*
     She expected him to correct her, but he remained
silent for several moments. *For a Jedi,* he finally continued,
*peace is the true objective. Peace must be in the heart
during any trial. Without peace, the dark side can close in.
Mara, you must find your peace.*
     Mara searched, and as she did, she could see Luke
with her, as if they were physically present in this dimension
of mind. She could see Vaiya, her daughter, embrace her
and say that everything would be all right. *Just be patient,
Mother,* the young woman said. 
     Mara took in a deep breath and found the air was
warm and sweet around her. The gnawing teeth at her
stomach stopped and the ache from her shoulders lifted. She
let it all go, let it slide into the fabric of the Force, to be
crushed against the blinding light as a moth disintegrates in a
flame. When she opened her eyes again, Luke was staring
at her, his blue crystal orbs shining with the power of the
Force around him. He was a Jedi Master, her Jedi Master,
teaching her a lesson she needed badly.
     "Feel better?" he whispered.
     "Yes. How long will this last?"
     "As long as you want it to. Mediate on what you saw
here whenever you feel it come back. It will return you to this
peace."
     She nodded. "I will," she said, and then after a
second's hesitation, she added the honorific, "Master."
     He nodded, and the old Luke returned. "Let's get
geared up, then," he said. "We'll leave soon."
     "I hope this is the right choice," she said, her voice
calm.
     "It is," Luke assured her. "We won't stay away forever.
Vaiya will return to Yavin IV ready to complete her training. I
have a feeling she'll be an early bloomer."
     "She'll bloom when she's six at the rate she's going."
     Luke shrugged. "If she does, she does. But she's
going to get to see the galaxy first. There are many things
she should learn first about this universe we live in if she is
going to become a Jedi Knight."

15--Ten Years 
     True to their plan, Luke and Mara left Yavin IV by the
next day, and did exactly as they intended--they visited the
galaxy.
     Vaiya absorbed languages. It seemed to be her
knack. She could understand Chewbacca perfectly by the
age of six, and even imitate some of his noises. By the age
of ten, Luke began her lightsaber training, letting her use
Callista's lightsaber, like Mara wanted. But when puberty hit
her at 13, she was ready to get off the Jaded Sky and get
as far away from her mother and father as she could. She
temporarily lost control of her ability to lift objects and there
were a few incidents that some spaceports had to record in
their logs of unusual phenomenon. Vaiya always apologized,
but how could Luke and Mara punish a child who was locked
up with them in a ship in the deep of space? What were they
going to do--ground her?
     Vaiya had charm and grace. She had her father's
innocent looks and her mother's guile. But if anyone were to
ask her parents which one she was most like, the response
was always, "Luke." She had a restlessness about her that
sometimes scared the Jedi Master. He didn't want her
running off and trying to blow up and Star Destroyers. But he
also knew what it was like to be forced to stay in one place
and desperately desire to be in another because of a
parental figure who thought they were doing the best thing
for the child.
     They stopped at Yavin IV and Courscant regularly.
Vaiya usually clung to her Uncle Han. She always said she
liked the way Uncle Han's head didn't buzz. Han doted on
her, realizing that she wasn't destined to be a nutcake like
most of the Jedi's he'd known. This girl wanted to live a real
life in the real world. And she was her mother's daughter. In
spite of the spoted past he and Mara had had, if there was
anything Han felt for the ex-assassin, it was respect. 
     There were reliefs for Vaiya every once in a while,
when Luke and Mara would help complete the training of a
Jedi Knight--new people which mostly stood in awe of the
ability of one so young. It would never last, and they were
few and far between in the 11 years they spent on their
travels. Mara's experience as the Emperor's Hand was
sometimes the only thing that kept them interested--often,
she would pop out interesting information about this planet
here or that moon, and want to see if it was still that way.
Every once in a while, they would land into some trouble, but
nothing they couldn't handle. Mara would always say, "Just
because Jedi's shouldn't crave adventure doesn't mean they
shouldn't have any." 
     Finally, when Vaiya was 14, they returned to Yavin IV,
to stay. She was so happy when she found out that she
wound up giving her parents too big of a Force boost of joy
and slamming their heads against the hull. 
     The jungles of Yavin IV had always fascinated her,
since the very beginning. All the sounds and the textures, the
animals and the colors. If left on her own for too long, she
would wander too close into the outskirts. It was usually
Mara who discovered her first--her mother always seemed to
know where Vaiya was, no matter what. 
     Then there were the Jedi Knights. There had once
been a legion of them, but Mara had gotten her way and the
Academy was now more of a Pre-Jedi school. There were
twenty or more young men and women, mostly humanoid but
sometimes interesting aliens would pop up, and Vaiya was
always testing her language skills.
     Until, of course, she got her first crush. She was
fifteen when he arrived--not exactly attractive by regular
standards, but he was charming. He had bright eyes and a
wide smile, and he treated Vaiya like she was a princess.
She never escaped his notice, and he never escaped his. He
was the same age as the Solo twins---who were well into
their twenties, with Anakin only a few years younger--and
managed to charm them as well. Once or twice, Mara said
something to Luke about curbing the young man's flirtation
skills--half of the female body of Yavin IV were talking about
him. Derrin Nighttreader from Tatooine was definitely a hit
among the Jedi-Knights-to-be. 
     Vaiya, however, was beyond serious in her infatuation
for Derrin. The fact that he father, also a native from
Tatooine, prized Derrin as a great hope for the future of the
Jedi Knights, didn't help the matter. Luke would smile and
shake his head at Mara, telling her not to worry--Vaiya would
grow out of it.
     Mara knew better. 
     The connection the two women shared Mara credited
to what had happened before Vaiya was born. Terrified that
she would die and her daughter would never know her, Mara
shared her memories with the pre-born child. In Vaiya's
head, hidden deep somewhere, was everything about Mara
Jade's life. Perhaps even things she didn't know about
herself. Mara had hoped that one day Luke would help his
daughter uncover them, when the time was right. But Mara
had lived. What to do about Vaiya?
     Fortunately, her parents were the last thing on Vaiya's
mind. 


16--Derrin
     Derrin was going to be here today. 
     Vaiya had to keep herself from jumping with
excitement at the breakfast table. Her father was gone
already. He had taken the Solo twins that morning off on
some Jedi adventure. They were going to come back a step
closer to being Jedi Knights. Big deal, she thought dryly,
gulping down the pale blue milk to wash away the residue of
her mother's slightly-burned bisquits on her throat.  Being a
Jedi Knight was overrated. She could read people's minds,
manipulate their thoughts sometimes, even lift things bigger
than herself. But what had it gotten her? Nothing worthwhile.
Certainly not Derrin's attention. Not how she wanted it,
anyway.
     Okay, so he was ten years older than her. Big deal.
She only had to wait three more years. Surely he could wait
for her that long. Besides, her Jedi skills far surpassed his.
Surely that counted for something.
     Mother came into the dining room, her cheeks slightly
flushed. "Done yet?" she asked. 
     Vaiya shrugged away the slight probe of her mind.
Sometimes Mother could smother, but if Vaiya reacted just
right, her mother would give her a respectful distance.
Besides, she had to be nice to her mother today, extra nice.
Her mother was training Derrin.
     Oddly enough, it had been Mother's idea. It briefly
came to mind that Mother was trying to get Derrin's attention,
which riled Vaiya in more ways than one, until she overheard
part of the exchange between her mother and father before
Father left.
     *...good idea?*
     *Needs to learn....*
     *Don't....too hard.*
     *Who, me?*
     Then they got all sappy sweet on each other, to which
Vaiya, watching it all from the dining table, snapped, "Do you
have to do that in front of me? I'm *eating* here, for Yoda's
sake!" 
     They just exchanged looks, kissed one more time
(probably just out of spite, Vaiya thought, but seeing them
like that always made her feel secure in a way she could
never understand) and Father had left. 
     Mother dumped some sweetener onto a half of a
bright green fruit and proceeded to dig her spoon into it. "So
what's the thought for the day, Vai?"
     Vaiya just grumbled. She could feel her mother sigh in
frustration, and then assure herself it was only Vaiya's age.
     "Derrin should be here soon," Mother said carefully.
"Are you going to be grumpy like this for him?"
     Vaiya looked at her mother carefully. "If I could go with
you, I would be a lot nicer."
     Mother smiled at her--it was a smile she'd never seen
another mother wear. There were times that it made Vaiya
wonder if her mother wasn't someone entirely different than
the person she knew throughout her childhood. Quite frankly,
it was at times like this when Vaiya liked her mother best. 
     "Would you?" Mother carefully at the fruit, and none of
the juice dared to drip on her. "Why? You seem to have lost
interest in your Force training. I can't remember the last time
you practiced with your lightsaber."
     "Surprised you noticed," Vaiya grumbled.
     Mother's green eyes were slightly sharp. "I notice
everything," she said, and then sighed again. "Let me tell
you, kid, I know what you're going through. I went through it
myself a bit. But you have to understand something about
the human heart. Sometimes it does things unexpected. I just
don't want you to get hurt. I don't want you to experience the
things that happened to me."
     Vaiya's ears perked. The feeling of her mother's
duality sharpened from the usual hum to a pointed curiosity.
She had heard that her mother was an Imperial at one point,
and had even worked for the Emperor, and she knew all
about her father's history, but Mother never talked about her
feelings about any of it.
     "How did you and Daddy meet?" Vaiya whispered. 
     Mother leaned forward, and stretched out a young
hand to her adolescent daughter. Vaiya, to her own surprise,
took it. 
     "You know the answer to that.  We were on a mission
to stop the Hand of Thrawn---"
     "No," Vaiya said with a shake of her head. "I mean
before that. How you first met Dad."    
     "I was a smuggler working for Talon Karrde. We
formed an alliance with the New Republic, and I wound up
working with Luke---"
     Vaiya slapped the open palm of her other hand on the
table. "The truth, Mother! That story is so dead without
detail! I mean, what *happened?* Why did it take all that time
for you two to get together?"
     "Ask me again in a few years."
     "Why? Can't I understand it now? What could be so
hard about it, Mom?" Vaiya yanked her hand from Mara's.
"It's not fair...you tell me all these stories of war and
romance, but you act like you're trying to hide some big
secret from me! What could be so bad?"
     To her credit, Mother didn't recoil. She stood her
ground, bracing herself against the table. Old instinct
probably taught her that, Vaiya sensed, and the urge to know
who her parents really were was nearly overwhelming. Her
Jedi Knight parents, a hero farmboy and a converted
smuggler who had a checkered past they refused to expose
to their only child. There were so many holes--and there was
something deep in her head filled with truths she couldn't
reach, couldn't understand. If only her mother would just
*tell* her, maybe the constant suspicion that she was not
who she thought she was, and neither was anyone else in
her universe, would go away. 
     But at that point, Derrin showed up, and all other
thoughts vanished from Vaiya's mind. It occured to her about
a half-hour later that her mother had actually been about to
tell her something important before Derrin had arrived, but
she brushed it off. What was the point, anyway? It would
probably be just more fluff.

17--Truth
     "I don't like this," Mara said that evening as she and
Luke walked back from the landing port to their home. "I
don't like not telling her. She's old enough to know. She'd
probably even find it exciting. It might make her respect us
more, and take more pride in herself." 
     Luke put his arm around Mara's waist. "Only four
months to go, Mara. We decided to wait until she's 16. It's far
too complicated for her to understand now."
     "Understand," Mara practically sneered. "Hell, Luke,
she probably already knows on some level."
     "But it's not as traumatizing as it could be if she found
out that you once wanted to kill me, that you killed for a
living, and that I was at one time a dark Jedi Knight. She's so
strong in the Force. We have to wait until she's mature
enough to understand the way things work."
     "*I* don't understand the way things work, Skywalker!"
Mara railed at him, her voice enchoing off the cool night-
covered jungle. "And of all people, I still don't understand
how you could have agreed to this! I mean, you didn't find
out about Vader until you were---"
     "Old enough to deal with it," Luke pointed out. "Any
time before, and I might have fallen to the dark side--
completely." He nodded. "Trust me, Mara. It's not even a
year. She'll learn her heritage. She'll learn how much she
needs the power of the light."     
     
     Then there was Han Solo to tell them that they were
both full of bantha fooder.
     He and Leia came to visit the twins and celebrate the
completion of their training. If they actually completed it. Han
had some colorful opinions about that, too. 
     "You know," he said one evening as Mara dealt out a
"friendly" game of sabbacc, "you're just going to make things
worse for her if you keep this up. I don't understand what the
big deal is. I mean, what's four months? The poor kid is
ready to burst! Besides, isn't all this anxiety she feels over it
bad for her psyche or something? Isn't that all part of the
dark side?"
     Luke grinned at his old friend. "Come on, Han, you
know how messed up I was when I was 19. I could never
have handled knowing that Vader was my father. I would
have run off to find him and wound up becoming a darksider
before I even knew it."
     "But Vaiya has you and Mara for parents, not some
mysterious Dark Jedi out there somewhere. What are you
afraid of?"
     "That she won't understand about Callista and her
son, for one thing," Leia offered. "That sort of thing can be
really hard on a child."
     Mara ran her thumb over her cards, letting then snap
loudly. "Call it Jedi intuition if you want, Solo," she said dryly,
and then added thoughtfully, "and she's so rebellious. If she
finds out too much of our colorful family history before she's
ready, she could do more damage to us than I'd like to think
about."
     Han let out a little laugh. "You're worried about your
own daughter? Now that is really paranoid."
     "Mara had several disturbing visions when she was
carrying Vaiya," Luke defended his wife. "I trust her to take
the right course of action."
     This time, it was Leia who shook her head. "But Luke,
if you hadn't made it sound like a big secret---"
     "That's just it, we didn't," Mara said. "We always
talked about things so casually, even told her the little story
about when we defeated CyBoth, and how Luke 'rescued' me
and we fell in love. But she knew there was more to it than
that. And I'm not telling a 9 year old information that could
get distorted in her mind, or she could wind up distorting
herself and getting us all into trouble. She knew, though. She
knew there were secrets, insisted in hearing them until we
told her flat out that we would tell her when she was old
enough to understand. When she turned 13, I thought she
was going to just burst." Mara did not add that it was at that
point that Vaiya's pubervescent hormones  had strengthened
her Jedi abilities and made her aware that memories that
were not her own lurked in her head. Han and Leia didn't
really know about that and that was just fine with her.
     Han snorted. "Jedi nonsense. You're going to turn her
into a basketcase, mark my words. Just like your old Uncle
Ben."
     Luke smiled. "If I should be half as lucky," he said.

     Father had gone off with Derrin on some sort of hike
through the jungle. Vaiya had watched them disappear into
the thick green foliage, wishing she could tag along but
knowing better. Father taught his students alone. Mother
was a bit more flexible, and besides, she owed her mother
something for letting her hang around Derrin the other day. 
     Her stomach still fluttered when she remembered the
attention he'd lavished on her. Just as her daydreams filled
with his face, she felt a strange disturbance in the Force.
     "Someone's here, Mother!" Vaiya called as she gazed
toward the landing port. A sleek craft that she didn't know the
technical name for had just set itself down in an empty slot,
and within a few minutes she could see the movement of the
hatch door opening.
     She felt Mara come out behind her. "Who is it?" Vaiya
asked her, not looking at her but keeping her eyes fixed on
the craft.
     "Wait here," Mara said softly. "I'll go see."
     "NO!" Vaiya objected, stamping her foot on the
ground. Mara whirled on her daughter, a look of surprise on
her face from the Force echo of Vaiya's anger.
     "You're always doing that to me!" Vaiya ranted. "You
and Daddy just want to shove me away, lock me up in my
room, and forget about me!"
     "You know that isn't true," Mara said, her voice calm
and level. "We just want to protect you--"
     "Then why don't you just lock me in a box and shove
me in the ground! I can't get any safer than that!" With that,
she whirled around and ran back into the house.
     Watching her go, Mara was shaken. First, because
she had felt something coming from her daughter's mind that
felt too familiar, and second, she had a very bad feeling
about strange ships landing in their port, unannounced. After
all, this scene had happened before, and no good had ever
come out of it.

18--Old Friends
     Derrin followed Master Skywalker through the stretch
of rocky ground he was leading them through. He didn't quite
get what the point of this hike was, but if Master Skywalker
said to do it, that was what he would do. Problem was,
Master Skywalker was a talker, and he wasn't saying
anything. That made him uneasy.
     Not that the Master wasn't cheerful. He was evening
whistling lightly. He was in a rather good mood, which
puzzled Derrin even more. Finally, he could take it no longer
and started the conversation.
     "Master Skywalker?"
     "Hmmm?"
     Okay, he'd started it. Where to go from there? And
how could he make light conversation with the man who was
the husband of the woman he thought about night and day?
Mara Skywalker, red-haired, emerald-eyed goddess of Yavin
IV. She carried a mystery about her like a thick, flowing
cloak, and if there was anything Derrin loved, it was a
mystery. And the way she moved during lightsaber
practice....Derrin had had to focus his attention hard on
Vaiya to keep himself from getting too "distracted" by the
fresh memories. He'd heard that she'd once been an
Imperial, even worked for the Emperor himself, but had long
since mended her ways and was now one of the "good
guys."
     Still, the mystery was killing him.
     "Yes, Derrin?" the Master repeated, sparing him a
glance over his shoulder.
     Derrin shrugged. "I don't remember. It was nothing."
     "Nothing is ever nothing," Luke corrected, stopping.
"Tell me...what were you thinking about?"
     Derrin stopped and sat down on a rock, and quickly
found out how badly he needed to do so. "I was just
wondering about...about you and Master Jade Skywalker."
     Luke shook his head. "Don't ever call her that, Derrin,"
he said with a half-smile.
     Derrin cocked his head. "Which part?"
     "Any of it, except the Skywalker. She is Jedi
Skywalker to her students. If you call her master, you'll get a
lecture that may last days. And only Vaiya has the Jade in
her name anymore." Luke took a breath. "But what did you
want to know?"
     "I don't know. We talk about you sometimes, the
students, I mean," Derrin began. "We have all sorts of
theories about you two, but none of them seem to fit."
     "Theories about what?" The Master looked amused.
     "Well....it's just that...you're the Master. You run the
academy, and do most of the work...."
     "Um humm."
     "But M...Jedi Skywalker is hardly the good Jedi wife
she pretends to be. I've fought with her, trained with her."
     "And your question would be?" Luke said, his eyebrow
raised.
     Derrin shrugged. "Stupid, of course," he muttered.
     Luke finally chuckled. "Not really. I've heard it before.
Mara hasn't known much peace in her life. She's always
been the warrior and the fighter. She's always been running
to the rescue of someone, even if she didn't want to. She
had to kick and bite and scratch and claw her way through
the galaxy. Now, all she wants to do is have a chance to
raise our daughter in peace. The Jedi way," Luke reminded
him.
     "I can tell that Jedi Skywalker is a fighter. And I know
that you've given us the big lecture on how a Jedi does not
crave excitement or adventure. However, you also said that
we could enjoy them if destiny chose to send them to us."
     Luke waved his hand dismissively. "I've gotten away
from the destiny part of the lecture. But you're right. So, what
are you saying? You want to see Mara in action?"
     Derrin tried to hide a smile. "I would settle for a
recounting of her active days."
     A few moments passed, and Luke stood up. He was
chuckling softly, remembering. "I don't know if you should
settle for that, Derrin," he said. "Witnessing Mara in action is
a site worth seeing. And there aren't too many Jedi around
here aside from me that can boast of having such a big
strong protector." He said the last words with affection, but
Derrin jumped up, a worried frown on his face.
     "Master, I wasn't saying that you needed protection.
After all, you are a Jedi Master--"
     Luke practically snorted. "Easy, Derrin. Trust me, I got
into my fair share of messes even the Force couldn't get me
out of. But Mara did. Many times over." Then the blue eyes
focused hard on Derrin and the student felt like the Master
could read his thoughts. "You're sweet on her, aren't you?"
     For a moment, Derrin was tempted to say, "Which
one?" for he knew full well that Vaiya had a severe crush on
him and that Master Skywalker and Jedi Skywalker knew
about it, too. But all he dared do was nod his head.
     "Don't worry, I'm not offended. Sith, I'm flattered."
Luke grinned, and for a minute Derrin was tempted to believe
he was as young as himself; even though the Master was
well into his fifites, he didn't look too far past his 30's. "Mara
is a real piece of work, and she's my wife. I'm proud of who
she's become. I love her, too. She's actually pretty easy to
love, if you know her."
     "I don't know her," Derrin said, slightly embarrassed. 
     "Yes, but you've found that the fastest way to her
heart was through her daughter." Now the Master looked
slightly disapproving. 
     Derrin stiffed defensively. "I have done nothing with
Vaiya, Master---"
     Luke held up a hand. "I know that. Nothing physical.
But Vaiya is going through a rough time. And my intuition is
telling me that things are going to get rough. You're going
to get a chance to see more than just Mara in action, Derrin.
Before you leave Yavin IV, you'll realize things you might
never have wanted to know."
     To this, Derrin just gave a slightly disarming grin. "But
that's the price of the Jedi, isn't it, Master?" he said.
     Luke nodded gravely. "Yes, it is. Now we can work on
your training."

     Mara was slightly out of breath when she reached the
landing port, but the innocent eyes of the traffic controllers
regarded her with calm politeness.
     "Jedi Skywalker. How may we serve?" said the
director, a man in his mid-forties who reminded her of a
clean-cut version of Karrde. 
     "Who just landed here?" Mara asked, her breath
quickly regulating itself. 
     "Is there a problem, Jedi Skywalker?"
     Mara shook her hand evasively. "Just tell me who it
was," she demanded calmly.
     The director shrugged and looked down at the
datapad. "His name is...Jaid...I can't pronounce this last
name." He showed it to her. *Saphringer.* Mara's stomach
sank. "Do you know him?" he asked.
     Mara didn't answer. Instead, she said, "Is he still
here?"
     "Yes," the director said, his face brightening. "They're
checking out his ship right now, and he's in the main office.
He said something about wanting to find the Academy. We
told him it's not an Academy anymore, but a School. He
seemed disappointed. Too bad, too. He's just a kid, really.
Maybe 18 or 19."
     "Twenty, actually," came a young voice. Mara
smoothly turned around to see the spitting image of Cal
when he was 19 as she had first seen him. Dark hair, blue
eyes, innocent features, and a smile to make anything
female faint. For a moment, she couldn't breathe.
     "Are you Jedi Mara Skywalker?" he asked, stepping
forward. "I tried to call into the Academy, but they said both
Skywalkers were out on training missions." He smiled again,
the worried frown leaving his face. "But of course, you're Jedi
Skywalker. Your red hair is a bit famous in the core worlds."
     Mara regarded him carefully. There was something
slightly hypnotic about him. But he seemed so innocent and
hopeful. "Is it?" she asked. "Well...my fame just continues to
spread." And she grinned at her own silly joke.
     "My name," the man-child began, "is Jaid Saphringer.
I think you know my father."
     Mara nodded. "A long time ago."
     Jaid smiled, a bit embarrassed. "Yes, Mother wasn't
too happy when she learned about you. I think I was named
after you. It didn't make for a good marriage." He shook
himself. "But that's all a very long story."
     "You'll have to tell us. Master Skywalker will be
returning from his training mission shortly. You can come
with me if you came here for the Jedi schooling."
     Jaid's face brightened. "Thank you, Jedi Skywalker,"
he said eagerly. 
     Mara just shrugged, remembering that there was still
much about the galaxy that she didn't understand--and
currently, didn't want to.

19--Flirt
     "Come on, Derrin, you have to meet my parents,"
Jacen Solo said, giving Derrin a light tug on his arm. They
stood in Derrin's quarters, not much bigger than a dormitory
room, and Derrin was putting the finishing touches on his
Jedi garb.
     "I don't know," Derrin muttered, straightening the
wrinkled fabric where Jacen had pulled at it. "I've got to meet
the Master after dinner. We're going to discuss taking the
next step in my training."
     "Then there's no problem," Jacen said, grinning so
hard Derrin was sure he would split open his face. "My
parents are with the Skywalkers."
     Derrin turned and gave his friend a sharp look. Sure,
he and his twin sister Jacina were leaving tomorrow, but the
Master didn't meet with Jedi parents flippantly. Besides,
Jacen had never told him who his parents were. He treated it
like it was some big secret. Maybe it was time Derrin found
out what the secret was.
     "Since you put it that way," he said with a grin. "Let's
go."
     So Derrin followed Jacen all the way to the
Skywalker's private home on the far side of the
schoolgrounds and even allowed his friend to just open the
door and walk in without requesting permission. Derrin
hesitated in the doorway, unwilling to have whatever wrath
that was in store for Jacen for such a lack of manners
descend upon him as well.
     Then he saw who was in the living room. The Chief-
of-State Leia Organa-Solo, and her husband, the war hero,
former General Han Solo.
     Jacen ran over to his mother and gave her a kiss on
the cheek. As the woman bent forward to receive it, Derrin
saw Jacina at the table behind her, working hard on a
lightsaber. Jacen joined her, giving her unwanted pointers.
     "Hello, Derrin," came a familiar voice from the nearby
stairs. "You can come in, you know. They won't bite."
     Derrin turned his head to see Vaiya sitting half-way up
the flight of stairs, her legs crossed under her. He stared at
her for a long moment, searching her face. She did look
like Mara, in some ways--the curve of her lips, the setting of
her eyes. Her hair shone a much paler shade of red-gold
than Mara's rich waves, but it fell as free and long as a
mane. 
     She was stunning for a 15 year old. Unfortunately, she
was a good decade behind his interest area.
     Vaiya stood up--she was all limbs, really, peeking out
from underneath a loose-fitting tunic-cloak that bore more of
a resemblence to a robe than clothing. "Wanna meet them?"
she asked, standing in front of him. She was only a little over
a foot shorter than he.
     "Your aunt and uncle," he said, glancing at the real-life
celebrities. "You never told me who they were."
     Vaiya shrugged. "Father and my cousins decided that
they didn't want anyone to treat them any different, so we
didn't tell anybody." She gave a little snort. "I see Jacen
couldn't resist the last minute urge."
     Derrin grinned at her. "I'm glad he didn't." He paused,
and then said, "Just don't let me babble like an idiot to your
uncle, okay?"
     She giggled. "Okay. But I have to warn you, it may be
a futile effort. You see, Uncle Han is rather...protective of
me."
     It didn't take Jedi tuition to know what that comment
meant. Perhaps it was time to put some serious distance
between him and the future Jedi Knight Vaiya Jade
Skywalker. The last he wanted was both the Master and his
war hero friend chasing him around the galaxy for breaking
their little girl's heart.

     "What do you think?" Mara said as she wrapped her
arms around her husband  from behind. Luke snuggled back
into her, a little sigh of contentment escaping from his lungs
as they lay outside, underneath the bright sky of Yavin IV.
The night was slightly chilly, and the big fire was dying down
too quickly.
     "Of what?" he asked sleepily.
     "I don't know. About anything."
     He chuckled. "Typical Mara. You evase your own
question."
     She kissed his ear, her teeth brushing the soft skin.
"You know about what, Luke," she said, her voice deep with
seriousness.
     Luke opened his eyes and grunted. "Do we have to
talk about that?" He turned his head and looked at her
suggestively. "Can't it wait until morning?"
     At that, she let go of him and turned away, her face
scrunched up into one of her own grimaces. "I'm serious,
Luke," she muttered.
     He turned with her. "Hey, it's your own fault for
nibbling on my ear," he said, grasping her hand and bringing
it to his lips. "But seriously, this kid who claims to be
Cal Saphringer's son...I mean, it's kind of written all over him.
He looks exactly like the man."
     "Too much like him," Mara said softly.
     Luke shrugged. "There you go. He claimed to be
named after you, for Yoda's sake! Is it so unthinkable that a
man like Cal would sow some wild oats while he was grieving
over you?"
     She sat up straight. "Would you PLEASE stop it?"
She didn't shout, but her voice was very sharp.
     Luke put his hand up defensively. "Sorry." Then after
a moment of silence, and a careful study of Mara's
downturned face, he said quietly, "It isn't the fact that he's
Cal's that bugs you, is it?"
     She shook her head, her eyes turning back to him.
"He's about the same age your son would be," she said, her
voice hoarse.
     Luke sat up. "That occured to me." Then, gently, he
probed her mind. Always with her there had been such
concern over finding Callista's son. So much so that it had
made Luke's own hopes seem casual. No one could want to
find his son more than himself, but he had somehow always
known that it would be a long time before he did. Plus, there
was the thought that his son might be perfectly happy with
some adopted family, and that he didn't want to burst in there
and wreck everything. Still, his pain over never really having
known Anakin Skywalker still burned in his heart, so he let
Mara do whatever she wanted, trusting her completely, and
having every confidence that if it could be done, she could do
it. 
     This evening, there was something different.
     She was older now, just a little past 50, and the most
toll age had taken on her was a few laugh lines and some
stray grey hairs. Being a Jedi was said to keep you young,
but both he and Mara had taken much advantage of that
advantage.  
     Her hair, hanging a bit past her shoulders, was thick in
his fingers as he twined the locks, a conforting guesture. She
looked at him, the eyes a smoky green. Her lips parted, and
her voice came out raspy.
     "I wanted another child, Luke."
     He started, surprised.
     She swallowed hard and then gave a little self-
depreciating laugh. "Doesn't that sound nuts? Sith, if Karrde
could hear that, I'd never get the end of it. But I do. I love
Vaiya so much, maybe too much. I want another child to
love--and it sounds terrible to say this, but maybe even to
take some the pressure off her, too. I mean, I always
believed that I'd have another child. I guess I
feel...jipped....that I didn't. So I've been chasing after
Callista's child, picturing in my mind a little baby, no matter
how silly or irrational that was."
     "Not so irrational," Luke comforted her, his arm
around her now. "If he's trapped in a statis block somewhere,
he will still be a baby when we find him."
     "If we find him. And I don't think you or I will ever find
him."
     He frowned at her. "Now why are you talking like
that?"
     She shook her head, angrily supressing tears. "I don't
know. It's just a feeling I have."
     Luke just nodded. "Would you humor me for a
moment, Mara?" he asked gently. "What does this have to
do with Jaid Saphringer?"
     "He told me that he was looking for his father," Mara
said, calming. "He gave me bits and pieces of a story about
how his mother had died, and that he wanted to find his
father to tell him, but that he doubted the man would care. I
felt so sorry for him...for this stranger who reminded me of
someone I totally despised! I mean, I wanted to blame him
for his father's sins, but I couldn't."
     "That was a good thing."
     "I know. But it feels wrong. And I'm scared that Jaid
will bring back a lot of memories I don't want to have, and
that he's got his father's darkside tendencies, and that one
day Cal's going to show up here and find him and then all
Sith will breath loose." She chuckled over the lump in her
throat, a strange, broken sound. "I sound nuts, I know." Then
she scowled. "Worst of it is, he was looking at Vaiya early
this morning during exercises."
     Luke laughed lightly. "Don't worry about that, Mara,"
he said, kissing the top of her head. "Vaiya doesn't have
eyes for anyone except Derrin Nightreader. And Derrin
doesn't have eyes for anyone but you."
     Mara looked up at him, her eyes wide. "What?"
     He laughed harder. "Maybe we'd better go to bed." He
stood up, pulling her with him. 
     She gave him a cockeyed grin mingled with a scowl.
"What is it with you men from Tatooine? You all have a thing
for red-heads or something?"

20--Sixteen
     Months passed. Vaiya's 16th birthday approached. 
And just as Mara feared, Jaid showed her attentions that
Derrin Nightbringer had suddenly ceased to give.
     Only a few days after introducing Derrin to her famous
aunt and uncle, Derrin had stopped noticing Vaiya. Mara was
extremely nervous about that at first, in light of what Luke
had told her. She didn't want to give the boy any mixed
signals. But she quickly figured out why Derrin had suddenly
cooled his flirtatious ways.
     Her name was Drianna Scrent. She had thick dark
hair that she wore in a braid down her back, and she sported
flight suits like the kind Mara used to wear. Mara had liked
the girl at first, and then felt a naturally defensive dislike of
her when she saw that Drianna had gotten Derrin's full
attention. Sure, the boy was a compulsive flirt and charmer.
But the rest of the female sex did not exist for him when Dria
was in the room. 
The pain Vaiya felt over it was the only thing keeping Mara
from demanding that she stay away from Jaid. Jaid was the
only person who could make Vaiya forget it for a time.
     As the months had passed, Jaid and Vaiya became
friends. He was younger than Derrin, but he seemed so
much older--at least to Vaiya, at times. There were times
when they talked that she felt like he only looked young, but
was an old man on the inside. It wasn't that he had any
particular wisdom, but the stories! Planets Vaiya had only
seen in her childhood he'd visited in the full bloom of
adulthood, the time for adventure. The stories only lasted a
few months, though, because after all, he said, he was only
20. There would be more after he finished his training and
went back out to explore space again. 
     So much for Father's "a Jedi craves not these things"
lecture, Vaiya thought.
     As Drianna and Derrin became more and more visible,
however, Vaiya found herself growing hostile. She found that
she didn't even care about learning the real, dark story
behind her parents' lives anymore. When her 16th birthday
was only a week away, Luke made a comment at dinner. He
was stunned to see her face impassive.
     "Whatever," she said.
     Mara nearly dropped the dishes she was carrying to
the washerdroid. "Excuse me?" she said. "Did someone
clone you or something? Who are you and where is our
daughter?"
     Vaiya stood up, and for the first time her parents
realized that she had aged. Her feeling for Derrin had
obviously been pretty serious, and the sudden cold-shoulder
was really hurting her. She looked like she could be as old as
Jaid, now. 
     Luke reached over the table for Vaiya's hand, which
she didn't pull back. "Sweetheart, do you want to talk about
it?"
     She shook her head, sadly. "There's nothing to say
that anyone around the academy can't tell you," she
announced.
     Mara jumped. "What do you mean?"
     "Apparently," and here Vaiya sighed heavily, "Derrin
has been making it known to his friends that he had the
affections of a certain Skywalker's daughter, and that he
wasn't interested. He also didn't want to look like he was
kissing up to you anymore."
     "Where did you hear that?" Luke said quietly, running
his mind through calming techniques to quell the urge to run
to the dorms and ram his lightsaber down the young man's
throat.
     "Jaid heard him just the other day. I tried to say that
Jaid was just being jealous, because I always thought Jaid
liked me a little more than I liked him. But after Derrin being
so nice to me and then acting like this, how can I know
anything anymore? How can I know when someone likes me
or that's just the way they are? Are they using me or do they
want me? What's the difference?" She sighed again and
turned to head for her room. "I'm going to bed, but let me
know if Jaid calls."
     After she had gone, Luke turned to Mara. "You make
the call," he said evenly. 
     "Oh, sure, thanks for sticking me with that," Mara
scowled.
     "I mean it, Mara. Should we do anything, or just let it
go?"
     "I'd like to get her away from Jaid, I confess that. I
don't like that they've gotten so close. But still," she added, "I
don't doubt that Derrin played her like this. The man seems
to have a vice for it. I don't want to cut her off from Jaid if
he's the only person she can stand to be around right now."
     "Exactly the cause for alarm," Luke pointed out,
keeping his voice low. "That isn't good."
     "No it isn't, Skywalker, but cutting her off from even
that would really scar her right now, and I don't have the
heart to do it." She shoved the rest of the plates into the
droid and slammed the hatch shut. "The pitfalls of
adolescence, I guess. Sometimes I wonder if the fact that
you and I never had real parents is doing our little girl some
real damage. We're so indulgent on some things and so
strict on others. What if it should be the other way around?"
     Luke gave a little shrug. "I don't know. Uncle Owen
and Aunt Beru were good parents to me, but they were night
and day. Aunt Beru was so sweet and encouraging, and
Uncle Owen just wanted me to stay on the farm." He shook
his head. "I think all parents make mistakes with their first
child because they're still growing up too."
     She laughed. "Say that when you look in the mirror,
Skywalker."
     He approached her with wide open arms. "I've been
told that I still look sixteen years old," he said smugly.
     "No, you've been told that you *act* like you're sixteen
years old," Mara corrected. 
     "Hey, I mean it. Even you've managed to hold up in
your old age. Of course, get any older and I'll have to trade
you in for two 30's. I mean, there's my image to consider and
all."
     He was grinning and Mara turned on him, riled like
and angry cat. She had a towel in her hand and raised it to
swat him across the face. "Who are you calling old, farmboy?
You were still a virgin before our wedding night!"
     "Who told you that?" he asked, throwing his hands up
to defend himself from the towel.
     "Callista!" Mara shrieked, and then pulled back and
started to laugh at her own joke.
     "Oh, Mistress Skywalker, you will pay for that one,"
Luke said darkly as he advanced on her and abruptly threw
her over his shoulder and carted her into the bedroom.
     "But what about the dishes!" she yelped.
     "Forget em'!" he growled. "I'm going to get you un-
domesiticated if it's the last thing I do!"
     She slapped him on the bottom. Hard.
     "OW!"

21--Drianna
     Tomorrow was her 16th birthday. Curiously, Vaiya
didn't really give a Hoth-frost. After all, it was just another
day for Derrin to ignore her. She had started to ignore him,
too--in that juvenile, I'm-pretending-not-to-look-at-you-but-I-
really-am sort of way. She'd managed once or twice to get
Derrin's attention a few days ago, during lightsaber practice.
But like a compass pointing North, Derrin's eyes had gone
right back to Drianna.
     Vaiya spent most of her not-watching-Derrin time
watching Drianna. It had given her the only successful idea
for getting Derrin's attention over the last two months. Mother
had taken Father's place that day for lightsaber practice
because Father had a special task for Anakin to complete.
With her teal-blue lightsaber--the color of Vaiya's eyes, she
thought with pride--Mara had taken on Drianna, who had a
bad habit of being smug about her dueling talents. Mara
hated smugness in students. It never led anywhere good. It
was time to take Drianna a step down or two.
     They had started out innocently enough, sparring here
and there, no heavy clashes, the buzz soft in the symphony
of the noises coming from the jungle. They were outside,
enjoying the day, in a wide clearing behind the main temple.
Mara had taken off her button-down shirt that she always
wore to reveal only a black tank top and leggings
underneath. She was well muscled and smooth-skinned;
Vaiya was inclined to believe that it was not really her mother
she was looking at, but some look-alike two decades
younger. 
     Mara was holding back for Drianna--even Vaiya could
see that. She was testing her weaknesses, finding her
strengths. And just when Dria was least expecting it, she was
going to----
     The strike came hard on Dria's left side. Dria barely
countered it, and gave Mara  wide-eyed look that didn't need
a Force sensitive to be translated into, "Are you really trying
to kill me?"
     Mara struck again, twisting Dria's lightsaber in her
hand. Dria barely held onto it and managed to counter with a
wide arch, forcing Mara a step back.
     The fight was on.
     Vaiya watched as her mother's blue blade clashed
back and forth with Dria's lime-green practicing saber. The
fight lasted almost fifteen minutes, and they took the entire
circle. For the first half, neither one spoke, but when the side
of Dria's blade grazed Mara's hand, and Mara pulled it back
in pain and brief shock, Dria stepped away and lowered her
blade.
     "Jedi Skywalker, I apologize!" she cried, her eyes
wide.
     "DON'T!" Mara roared, charging again. Dria caught
her but not without considerable effort.
"Don't...let...your...guard...down!"
     Vaiya's eyes passed over the wide burn on the back
of her mother's hand. She could smell the faint stench of
burning flesh mingling with the crackling ozone. The jungle
sounds now seemed far away compared to the buzzing and
crashing of the lightsaber blades before her. Her mother had
trained her in how to use a lightsaber, something Father said
she had worked long and hard on learning herself. Mara had
an instinct for fighting that bested even Luke, but Luke was
always quick to caution that she easily slipped into fighting
from anger if she let herself get too caught up in it.
     She wondered what her father would think, to see
Mother like this, her eyes shining and her body covered with
a thin layer of sweat. Her hair flew around her shoulders in
its thick pony-tail, like a whip. Drianna, however, was not
faring so well. She didn't have the spirit Mara did. She was
calmer than Mara, and more at peace with the battle, but
there was a worry-line forming on her brow, a frustration that
was starting to grow. Any more, and she would make a
mistake.
     Tearing her eyes away from the scene, Vaiya looked
and saw that Derrin and Jaid had both joined the crowd of
lookers-on. Jaid gave her a brief glance and smile. Derrin's
eyes were wide as he was mezmerized by the battle.
     At once point, Mara did a nifty little backflip onto a
nearby set of exercise bars, balancing herself perfectly as
she caught her breath. Drianna watched her, her lightsaber
pointed right at her.
     "Impressive, Drianna," the older woman announced.
"But as my father-in-law once said, you are not a Jedi yet." 
     Drianna gave nervous litte laugh and let her lightsaber
shift off to the side. "Thank you, Jedi Skywalker." 
     That was when Mara hurled her lightsaber at Dria,
using the Force to guide it to just brush against Drianna's
right hand--tit for tat, Vaiya thought dryly. Drianna yelped with
the pain and dropped her saber to the ground. Mara jumped
down from the bars and kicked the practice saber away. 
     "Never let your guard down, no matter who you are
fighting. I know that Master Skywalker tells you not to fight
from fear, agression, or anger. Those are the dark side. But
while we must be a peaceful as (Alderaanians), we must also
be as sharp as Nighori. Understand me?"
     Drianna rubbed her hand as she nodded. 
     Mara gave the girl the gift of a smile. "I've given you a
present today, Dria," she said. "Anyone else would have
taken off your hand. Now you have a reminder to help you."
She looked down at her own hand. "If it makes you feel any
better, I haven't been burned by a lightsaber by one of my
students since I first started teaching Vaiya."
     Dria's eyes widened. "Vaiya burned you with her
lightsaber?"
     Mara looked at her daughter over her shoulder. Vaiya
just grinned. "It was an accident," Vaiya said. "I got a little
overexcited."
     "I almost lost a leg," Mara muttered. "But it was a
beautiful move."
     "I didn't know that," Derrin said, his eyes on Vaiya.
     Jaid spoke up. "I did." He grinned at Vaiya. "Why don't
you show me that move?" he said, pulling out his own
practice lightsaber. 
     Vaiya held up her hand. "I don't think so, Jaid," she
said, but it wasn't at all convincing. "I don't know if you can
take me or not."
     He gave a little laugh. "Find out," he challenged.
     Showing reluctance, Vaiya unclipped her lightsaber
from her belt and ingited the glowing yellow blade. She was
the only one at the school who had her own lightsaber. It had
been one of the things Derrin had been interested in when
she first met him. He would especially like hearing the story
about---
     No, wait...she hadn't told him...what story? Behind the
lightsaber? As Vaiya gazed down at it, she felt a strange
tremor in the Force. This was part of her parents' secret, she
realized. There was a story behind this saber, behind
everything. Some big secret they were keeping from her,
only to be revealed when she was 16 and (Force help them)
old enough to understand it.
     "Vai?" Mara's voice came through a fog which Vaiya
pushed aside. "You okay?"
     "I'm fine." She turned her eyes to Jaid, who was
watching her knowingly. How did he always seem to know?
she wondered. But instead of saying anything more, she
lifted her blade to meet his. "Ready when you are."
     Of course, they battled for fun, and Vaiya trusted Jaid
to never try and hurt her. She didn't worry about getting a
burn on the back of her hand, but kept herself on guard from
it anyway just to put on a good show. But sometime during
the fight it took a serious tone, with Jaid hacking away at her
with a new fervor which pushed her back into a corner.
     When pushed back into a corner, Vaiya had a bad
habit of turning into her mother. She counterattacked rather
than defended herself, catching Jaid's grey practice saber
easily and nearly knocking it out of his hand. Jaid was thrown
by this, and had to quickly compensate by going into a tuck
and roll, the tail of his short cloak catching against Vaiya's
yellow blade with a hiss as he went under her. He lifted both
legs and caught her in the back of her knees. She fell but
didn't land on her face. She managed to keep her balance on
her knees and siezed Jaid as he made it back to his feet to
haul herself up, clashing her saber against his to keep it
away.
     It was at that moment that their eyes met. Something
happened. As Jaid's deep blue eyes gazed down at her,
Vaiya felt the heat rush to her face. What was going on?
Was it merely the hormones that her parents were so
worried about? It had to be more than that. This was a
feeling she only had around Derrin, but this feeling was much
more physical, more raw. As her eyes dropped to her mouth,
she realized that she wanted him. It was a shallow feeling
that made her feel empty inside, but on the outside her body
betrayed her. 
     Trembling, she broke away, and her eyes flew to
Derrin, who was frowning at them. Dria looked on knowingly,
and Vaiya didn't even want to look at her mother. She had
had no desire to see the expression on Mara's face.
     Vaiya snorted as she flopped into her bed. So much
for getting his attention. Next day, it was like it had never
happened. But she would never forget the look of jealousy
on Derrin's face. 
     Or the look on Jaid's.
     She shut her eyes and rolled herself into a more
comfortable position. After running through a Jedi calming
technique, she tried to focus herself on what was really
bugging her. She glanced over at the nearby table where her
lightsaber lay. Maybe that was it--that flash of intuition into
her parents' dark secret. Whatever it was, she snorted again,
it would wait until tomorrow. Or whenever she was ready. If
she even cared by then.
     She shut her eyes and feel instantly into sleep.

22--Dark Jedi
     Vaiya had had little visions before. A flash here, and
picture there. Sometimes she could see entire sequences of
events, but they were always fuzzy and broken. They were
not like this. 
     She was standing in the middle of a large room with a
giant, octoganal window displaying the stars to a large,
curved throne. The thone was facing away from her, but
there was someone in it. Someone familiar. She herself was
draped in a black robe, a part of the shadows, forbidden to
speak or to move. She couldn't even feel herself, her own
body. It was like she were a ghost observing some past time.
     The room was silent. She could barely hear the
breathing of the person sitting on the throne. Seconds ticked
past, and then a pair of doors slip open, letting the harsh
glow of the lift lights create a crude off-white rectangle on the
cold grey floor. The shadow of a woman was the only thing
that disturbed the stillness. She glided into the room,
something clutched in either hand, not making the slightest
noise.
     The person on the throne knew she was there, but
she didn't know it. Vaiya wanted to open her mouth and cry
out, so terrible was the sudden disruption in the Force she
felt. There was something very wrong here, something that
shouldn't be.
     The woman was half-way across the room when the
throne turned. A figure dressed all in black, save for his
head, was seated there. A man Vaiya couldn't bring herself
to recognize.
     "I've been waiting for you, Mara Jade," the familiar
voice said.
     Vaiya dragged her eyes back to the woman. The light
glanced off Mara's hair and the red-gold shone like a
demon's halo. "Have you, Skywalker? Have you been waiting
for the Emperor to gain his vengence against you? Then by
no means should you wait any longer."
     She ignited her blade--not the teal-blue that Vaiya
knew, but a pale pink. The light flew against the dark man's
face, and Vaiya recognized her father. His hair was darker
in this version, no longer the sun-bleached sandy blond she
knew, but a darker golden color, and thinning rapidly.
     He smiled at her. It was a cold smile. Mara returned it
with a look of such hatred and rage that Vaiya wondered who
was on what side. There was no trace of the light, here. It
was all the dark side...overwhelmingly evil. These two were
just two more victims of a darker power. 
     Skywalker rose. Mara didn't even flinch. "Do you really
thing you can best me?" he said calmly, sounding for a
moment like the man Vaiya knew.
     Mara's glare hardened. "If you have the guts to fight
me, I'll take my chances. At least it will be an honest kill. Not
like your murdering of my master."
     Skywalker waved his hand. "I didn't murder your
master, Mara," he said. "Vader did. And he paid the price.
He, too, is dead. There is just me." He descended the low
flight of stairs, approaching her in spite of the threat of the
humming pink blade. "And you, Emperor's Hand."
     Vaiya's ears felt like they were ringing. *Emperor's
Hand*....her mother had said she was once an Imperial, but
this piece of truth was too much to take. She had served
Palpatine himself? As Vaiya gazed at her mother's hate-filled
face, she could see memories floating past her like ghosts.
The times she'd killed, stole and cheated to serve her
master. How he had been her everything, her only reason for
existing. Now, she was going to avenge his death if it cost
her her own life in the process.
     He raised a hand toward her. "If I wanted to," he said,
a little crossly, "I could kill you with Force lightening right
where you stand. But I'd rather give you a chance."
     "How touching," she hissed.
     "The Emperor was keeping you back," Skywalker
said. "He knew the potential you had. And he knew that you
were destined to be with me. That we were destined to rule
the galaxy in his place." The hard, cold eyes softened as he
gazed at her. "Accept your destiny, Mara."
     "You're delusional." She physcially recoiled as he took
another step, her first show of weakness. "I will never join
you. You are everything I hate."
     "Me?" he said softly. "*I* am everything you hate?
What about the man you served, Mara? He was surely
worse than I. Do you know how many innocent lives he took
to serve his own pleasure? He was as much of a monster as
you think I am."
     "Then all the more reason to destroy you."
     He gave a little chuckle. "You are everything I thought
you would be, Mara Jade. Bold, beautiful, and a complete
paradox." He moved closer still, and Vaiya realized he was
backing her against a nearby control panel. It was high,
reaching her waist, and would be the perfect place for
Skywalker to pin his prey. 
     "Don't forget dangerous," she snapped, bringing her
blade forward again. Skywalker just smiled at her.
     "How could I? I have seen how dangerous you are.
When you were in Jabba's Palace, I knew you were there. It
cost me a great deal of effort to let Jabba on to who you
were without letting him kill you. You should be thankful I
bothered."
     "And why did you bother?" she sneered.
     His smile widened and his eyes shone at her. "I have
seen you in visions, Mara. I've seen you kneeling before me.
I've seen you as my consort, my guide, and the mother of our
children. I have seen you as my Empress, ruling the galaxy
beside me. You have no Master any more, Mara Jade. And
you shall never have another Master besides me."
     "I am my only Master," she announced. "I avenge
Palpatine's death as his last act as an Emperor. After you
are dead, I and the rest of the galaxy will be free."
     "At least let me prove my case." With that, Skywalker
raised his hand and Mara's saber arm flung far to the side.
He stepped forward and caught both her wrists, pinning
her against the control panel. 
     The look of pure astonishment on Mara's face was
almost comical. But as Skywalker's lips bore down onto hers,
the look melted underneath something else. 
     Seconds passed. Mara's eyes grew heavy and her
face lost the sharp scowling angles and the hot rage. Finally,
Skywalker pulled back and gazed down into her face. She
gazed back up at him, almost dreamily, and then said in a
soft tone, "I hate you."
     "That's a start," he murmured, smiling that eerie smile
again.
     This time, Mara returned the smile. "And a finish," she
said, and with that swung her lightsaber forward with all the
Force she could muster. Skywalker countered the blow
effortlessly with his glowing red saber. 
     The fight had begun.
     Vaiya watched helplessly as the two warped versions
of her parents battled it out across the throne room. Red on
pink sizzled and clashed, and it felt like all the air was being
sucked out of the room. They tore up the throne, a heavy
blow from Mara taking the top clean off. She chased
Skywalker back down the stairs, but tripped and in an
undignified manner wound up sprawled on her back. She
barely brought her blade up in time to counter a stabbing
blow to scramble for the nearest cover--the same control
panel he had pinned her against.
     Skywalker laughed in an almost jolly way. "Mara,
Mara! You have such potential! Do not waste it on me. You
cannot defeat me. Surely you see you only have two
choices--join me or die!"
     "Fat chance, farmboy."
     Skywalker's eye glittered in anger. "Mara, don't test
me. I will kill you, as much as I would dislike it."
     "Oh, I'm sure you'd have no problem getting over me
and finding some nice Jedi bimbo to breed litters Dark Jedi
for you to train. If you can even get it up, anymore. You'd be
surprised what immersing yourself in the dark side does to
your staying power! Ask Palpatine...he'll tell you when you
see him!"
     "Enough of your petty insults," Luke said, deactivating
his saber. He raised his hand toward the control panle.
"Perhaps you just need a lesson."
     The Force lightning came from him in a brilliant blue
white. Mara raised her blade to deflect it but it hit the control
panel and wound up bathing her in an electrical storm. She
screamed and fell back, rasping in pain. 
     Vaiya screamed with her. She could no longer see her
mother, only hear her breathing, and see her father making
his way around the panel with perfect calm. 
     He stood over her, his voice hallow. "Now do you see,
Mara Jade? I am far your superior in the ways of the Force. If
you deny me, I will kill you." He held the blade to her throat
steadily as she glared up at him. Vaiya couldn't see her
mother's face, but she could feel her rage.
     "Go jump into a sarlacc pit, you pathetic excuse for an
Emperor," she spat.
     "Very well." Emotionlessly, Skywalker raised his
lightsaber to bring it down sharply. The last Vaiya felt of Mara
was her deathcry through the Force.
     It was then that Vaiya started to scream for her sanity.


23--Reality
     Mara had been restless all night, since Vaiya had
gone to bed. She tossed and turned next to Luke, who was
dozing, happy and satisfied. She wished she could be like
him sometimes, but when something was wrong with Vaiya,
it was she who suffered the most out of the two.
     Finally, she got out of bed. It was too early to sleep,
anyway. And the night was so pretty outside. She managed
to make it all the way to the patio when Vaiya began to
scream bloody murder.
     She turned and ran, nearly tripping over the lounge
table and then expertly hurdling herself over the couch to
land on her feet. She nearly knocked Vaiya's door off its
hinges in her hurry to get inside. There was no one in the
room with her--just Vaiya thrashing on her bed like a wild cat,
fighting off some invisible terror. 
     Luke was behind her in a few seconds, and they
grabbed her by the arms to hold her down. Her eyes were
tightly screwed shut as she thrashed, but the second they
had her and forced her still, they opened to reveal a glazed
over look. She was still asleep, but for a moment the
screams had stopped.
     "Is she dreaming?" Luke asked, his voice shaking.
     Mara, also trembling, shook her head. "She's having
some terrible vision," she said, her voice hardly a whisper.
"We have to get her out of it."
     Luke started to shake Vaiya by the shoulders, and
yelled at her to wake up. When that didn't work, Mara tried
slapping her cheeks. But the blue-green eyes wouldn't focus,
and Vaiya's body remained limp under their grasp. 
     "What should we do?" Mara asked.
     Luke studied his daughter for a moment. "Let me try
something." He put his hands on either side of Vaiya's face,
and stared down into her. Mara could feel him pushing into
Vaiya's mind, sinking into her vision, unable to see it but
disruptive enough to stop it. A minute passed, and Mara was
tempted to push Luke aside and try it herself, no matter how
terrified she was of seeing what Vaiya was seeing. Just as
she moved her hand to get Luke's attention, Vaiya's eyes
cleared and she blinked.
     Then she screamed again.
     Luke jumped, jarred from his concentration and lost
his grip on Vaiya. It didn't matter. Vaiya recoiled from him
and flew into her mother's embrace, huddling against her like
a frightened dog in a thunderstorm.
     Mara held her and stroked her hair, waiting a few
minutes to let the girl settle down. She sent soothing
messages through the Force as Luke watched, astonished
that his daughter should scream at seeing him.
     Finally, Vaiya just sat there, curled in the fetal
position, silent and wide-eyed. She was awake, but she was
still terrified.
     "Do you want to tell us what happened?" Luke tried
gently.
     Vaiya flinched. Mara shook her head slightly. "We
won't be mad, sweetheart. You can tell us."
     "I can't."
     "Why not? Nothing could be that bad."
     "This was." She drew a ragged breath.
     "Why don't you let us decide on that?"
     Vaiya lifted her head, her eyes grazing over her
mother's face, and then turning--hesitantly--to her father. She
shuddered and closed them.
     "I had a vision," she began. "I saw you kill my mother."
     "You," Luke echoed, frowning. "Who is you?"
     "You, Father," Vaiya said, looking at him again with
real pain on her face. "I saw you kill Mother." 
     Luke wanted to speak, but found that his throat had
completely closed.


     "The worst of it was," Vaiya said a little while later as
she sat on her bed, a cup of hot chocolate in her hand, "the
ending. I mean, seeing you two like that was bad enough.
But after....it happened, someone else came into the room."
     "Who was it?" Mara asked quietly.
     "He looked like Jaid, but he was much older. And he
had a lightsaber that was bright orange. He threw it at you,
Father, and it went right through your heart. But I...I didn't
care. I thought you deserved it."
     Gently, Luke stroked her hair. She didn't flinch this
time, but her eyes shut with pain. "And then he came over to
me, and he said something that I can't remember now. But I
remember how I felt. I was so angry, so filled with rage. I
could almost see the dark side, like a giant black cloud,
waiting to consume me." 
     Mara shook her head. "You're going to be feeling all
sorts of things from that vision, Vai. Nightmares are bad
enough in the emotions they create, but visions are worse."
To herself, she wondered how badly the experience was
going to scar her. She could see the tired lines around
Vaiya's face deepening.
     From the look on Luke's face, he was thinking the
same thing. "How do you feel now, Vai?" he asked.
     Vaiya turned to her father. "I love you, Daddy," she
said in a small voice. "But that vision was so real. I wish I
could understand it. Maybe I wouldn't be so afraid of it."
     Luke and Mara exchanged looks. They were mingled
with shame and guilt, but determined. "We can explain the
vision--at least, the biggest part of it." 
     Vaiya looked at them, no eagerness on her face to
hear it like usual, but an openness that merely asked that
they do what they said. Mara looked at Luke. "I'll let you
begin."
     
     They told her everything.
     Luke told her about Anakin Skywalker and Darth
Vader, and how he himself had fallen to the lure of the dark
side in an attempt to learn its secrets, and how that had
corrupted him for a long time, until he finally returned to who
he had been when he and Mara had found each other.
     Mara told her about the Emperor taking her from her
parents, about never knowing her homeworld or her family.
She told her how she had served the Emperor and trained in
the dark side, believeing herself to be free and powerful, and
then being commanded to kill Luke when the Emperor was
destroyed by Vader. She told her how she had wanted to kill
Luke, how she had slain a clone of him instead to abate the
rage. 
     When Luke spoke, Vaiya listened with a silent,
stunned awe. It was clear that she never would have
imagined that her father, whose simple, honest and peaceful
ways had always inspired her although she would never

admit it, was just as human and flawed as the rest of the
galaxy.
     But when Mara spoke, a line appeared on Vaiya's
forehead. She was not just listening to Mara's story. She was
remembering it with her. It disturbed her greatly, until Mara
and Luke began to tell her of Callista, and of the child
Callista had born in captivity, the child was that was missing
and the reason that her mother had been gone for so long
once when Vaiya was still a baby. Mara told Vaiya of
Callista's death, and how Vaiya, when she was still in the
womb, had moved a boulder at her mother's direction--and
desperation. 
     Vaiya looked over at the lightsaber. She knew of
Callista--but not this version that she was hearing now. She
had been told that Callista was a dear friend of her parents,
and that she had died before Vaiya was born. According to
them, Callista had given it to Luke and Mara on her
deathbed, entrusting them to give it a proper owner. Vaiya
had always felt pride, but the thought that she had been
given the saber by default made her stomach sour.
     "You lied to me," Vaiya whispered.
     "That isn't true," Luke said strongly. "We told you the
truth as you had a right to know it."
     *Are you going to give her your 'certain point of view'
speech?* Mara asked through the Force, and Luke's eyes
went to hers suddenly, surprised by her interjection.
     *It's true,* he said, scowling.
     Mara shook her head. *Let me.* "Vaiya," she said
soothingly, "we should have told you sooner. I know that. But
we were afraid of what knowledge like this would do to you,
so early in your Jedi training."
     Vaiya scowled at her. She looked so much like Mara
had used to look that it frightened her parents. "And what
would the truth have done, Mother?" she spat. "Perhaps if I'd
known the truth then I wouldn't have.....do you have any idea
what that vision has done to me? Knowing so much rage and
not understanding it. Perhaps if I had known the truth behind
it, the vision wouldn't have been so warped, or the emotions
so terrifyingly vivid. If you had told me, Mother, about what
you had done to me, that these memories were not mine,
maybe I could have kept them from hurting me. I can almost
feel it scaring me now."
     Then Luke said the worst thing he could have.
"Vaiya...don't you think you're being a little...overdramatic?"
     Her eyes locked onto his for a long moment, and then
narrowed. Luke felt a sudden chill. It reminded him too much
of the way Mara looked at him all those years ago--pure
hatred, pure contempt. And Vaiya was his daughter!
     "Get out," she whispered. 
     Mara reeled as if Vaiya had just slapped her, and
Vaiya hadn't even been looking at her. She stood up and
motioned to Luke. *Give her a little time,* she said.  
     Luke swallowed and nodded. Every Jedi had to face
their great trial of overcoming themselves. Perhaps this was
Vaiya's trial.
     She just seemed too young to be this strong. 
     Out in the hallway, Mara let Luke have it.
     "That was a great show of compassion you had for
the child of your loins, Skywalker," she snarled at him.
     Luke threw his arms wide. "What did you expect from
me, Mara? I mean, she's getting all carried away about this.
We couldn't sit there and humor her all night!"
     "Humor her?" The look on Mara's face was nearly
crestfallen. "Is that what you were doing?"
     "Well...no...but---"
     "Luke," Mara began, "we should have told her
sooner."
     Luke sighed. "I know. But whatever happened to learn
and move on when it came to mistakes?"
     Mara wrapped her arms around herself. "You and I
can do that. We've lived full lives already, seen our share of
the good and bad in the galaxy. Vaiya is...so innocent.
Sometimes she's so much like you I'm glad she's got my
memories lurking in her head to remind her to be tough."
     "Tough?" Luke arched his eyebrow. "I'm not tough?"
     "Not like me. Come on, you and I both know why we
were destined to be together."
     "Oh?" The other eyebrow went up. "Enlighten me."
     "Someone had to save you from yourself," Mara
explained. "I mean, you walk around with your big blue eyes
open wide, and you're so damn trusting I could just throttle
you sometimes. You believed we lived in a world capable of
being perfect, that everyone could be saved, even Cy'Both!
And as for me---! Skywalker, you couldn't conceive that I was
going to kill you. Honestly, could you imagine it? Did you
really believe that your life was in danger from me?"
     Luke folded his arms. He looked like a child who had
just been scolded by his favorite grandmother. "No."
     "Well, you were," Mara continued. "I nearly killed you
three times on Myrkyr. You know what stopped me in the
end? Loyalty to Karrde. He wanted you kept alive. I was so
tempted to let that Vonskyr have his way, you wouldn't
believe it. The last time I had the urge was when you were
training me on Wayland. But you were teaching me things I
wanted to learn. And when I killed that clone, I let myself
believe that it was really you until he was dead."
     He just stared at her in silence. "You think I don't
know this?" he whispered.
     "Sure you know it," Mara said, a bit louder. "But do
you acknowledge it? Understand it? Process it in that happy
little place you go to when you're meditating? Life isn't all
stars and flowers, Skywalker. And Vaiya has just gotten one
of the ugliest doses around from the two people she trusted
the most to protect her! How do you think that's making her
feel right now?"
     Luke stared at Vaiya's closed door. "What should we
do?" he asked.
     Mara followed his gaze, and Luke could sense her
conflicting emotions. "Right now, she's just plain mad. She
won't listen to either of us. I say we give her time to cool
down. Maybe in the morning she'll be calmer."
     "You sure?" Luke asked, looking at Mara carefully.
     Mara sighed. "No. But I know we'll do more harm than
good if we bother her any more. We need to watch her,
though. Make sure that she doesn't cop a bad attitude about
all this and start using it as an excuse for some good old
fashioned teenaged angst."
     "You mean the kind that makes kids light Ewoks on
fire?" Luke said, attempting some humor.
     Mara smiled a cat-like grin of pure evil. "Maybe we
*should* have some Ewoks around...for entertainment."
     "You wicked Jedi." He was grinning at her. "Oh, and
just for the record," he added, "I do not trust *everyone.* I
certainly didn't trust Cal Saphringer, and I still don't know if I
trust that Jaid."
     Something happened to Mara at that moment. She
looked like someone had just pulled a bag off of her head
after months of being covered. Her eyes widened and her
muscles tensed. A few seconds passed, and then she said
quietly, "Why didn't I think of it?"
     "Of what?"
     "Jaid. Vaiya said she'd seen Cal in the vision. She
said he looked just like Jaid, but older. And Jaid has been
very close to her since he arrived."
     "So what are you saying?" Luke asked. "That Cal set
up his son to come here and play some mindgames with
us?"
     "Is it so far-fetched, even for you to conceive?" Mara
asked dryly.
     "No, but if Jaid was tryly dishonest, we would have
sensed it. I mean, all of these Force sensitives in one place
often make emotions hard to keep private. Someone would
have been able to see through him--at least you or me."
     "Unless...Cal's gotten farther in the dark side since we
last saw him." She rubbed her chin. "Hmmm...all right. Don't
wait up for me, Luke," she said, giving him a quick kiss. 
     "Excuse me?" he said, catching her arm. "Where are
you going?"
     "To his ship. If there's anything around here that's
incriminating, it will be on his ship."
     "And how do you plan to get in without him knowing."
     Mara gave him a look. "I was the Emperor's Hand,
Skywalker," she said. "I used to do this for a living." 

24--Jaid
     Vaiya had to get out. It was suffocating, being in the
same home with them, no sense of privacy, her mother
knowing her mind even as it changed. She felt like was going
to pop if she didn't find a place to hide.
     She went to the window and looked down. Two
stories..that should be little problem for a Force sensitive like
herself. She was good at lifting things--could lifting her own
self be any different? Popping open the window, she stepped
onto the ledge and shut her eyes. Then one foot went out---
     The next thing she knew, she was on the ground,
gazing into the dark jungle that was some distance behind
their home. She took a deep breath, and found that she was
finally alone. Her mother was distracted, Father was busy
trying to meditate and figure out another answer to his
problems--namely, her. *Let him,* she thought viciously. Let
them worry for her, let them fret over her. Quite frankly, she
didn't care.
     "Vai?"
     The voice was familiar. Vaiya looked over her
shoulder to see a dark figure approaching her, and for a brief
moment was convinced it was Derrin.
     No such luck. "Hey, Jaid," she said, a bit uneasy.
     He was all concern and caring as he neared her.
"What's wrong? I felt this terrible disturbance in the Force.
Are you okay?"
     "Fine." She clenched her fists to keep herself from
shaking. The memory of the man who looked like Jaid was
vivid in her mind, and being around Jaid was the last thing
she really wanted right now. Sure, he was good to flirt with,
sometimes he was a good confidant, and he was great
during lightsaber practice--he didn't treat her like she was
five years younger, even though she was. "What are you
doing out here?"
     "I came to see you. I have a feeling that Master and
Jedi Skywalker are going to ask me to leave." He gave her a
little half-smirk, but it was sad. "I may have worn out my
welcome."
     Vaiya frowned. "What makes you say that?"
     He shrugged. "Jedi Skywalker was asking me
questions about my father. I think she's really hostile toward
him, and that hostility is going to come down on me. Master
Skywalker passed me on to Kyp Durron in spite of my
enormous abilities. Master Durron was surprised, but he's
done well. I can't train here anymore, and I don't think that
either of the Skywalkers would be willing to complete my
training, alone, on their ship." 
     He gazed upward, and Vaiya felt the sudden urge to
embrace him. He seemed so very much alone--perhaps that
was why she connected to him so well. He didn't have any
family, and few friends, and while she did, she still felt alone
many times. Like there was a bigger life out there, waiting for
her to come and claim it. Sometimes, it had nothing to do
with her craving for adventure and excitement. Sometimes, it
had everything to do with it.
     Whatever she case, Vaiya felt enormously sorry for
Jaid Saphringer. And in spite of what her parents had
explained to her about his father, she felt she could trust him
with anything in the world.
     "If you think they're bad to you," she said, taking his
arm, "just wait until you hear this."

     Mara crept into the docking bay unseen. She had
personally seen to the holding of Jaid's ship, not wanting it to
attract any unwanted attention--especially Cal's, Force
forbid--and also anticipating that one day it might have come
to this. 
     Perhaps they had been a little blind. Maybe it was the
fact that Luke was searching for his own son that softened
their hearts towards him enough to let him stay. They didn't
dare train him personally. They weren't going to risk any dark
side influence--for students or teacher. Kyp, however, was
more sympathetic, and he took care of the young man fairly
well.
     But Jaid needed to complete his training and go. Kyp
had just told him the other day that it was time for him to face
his destiny, and Kyp had had a vision where Jaid was to face
it alone--at least, that was what Kyp had said. Come to think
of it, Kyp had seemed a little spooked earlier that day.
     Mara scowled into the dark, reaching out with her
Force-enhanced senses. The ship was not in cold storage
like she had thought. Now how had that happened? Had
someone moved it? Maybe Jaid was getting ready to leave
already--still, getting a ship out of cold storage was not
something to be done so flippantly. There was so much
preparation they had to make for it in the bay.
     She turned and headed out toward the main dock.
Sure enough, there it was, on the edge of the landing bay. It
was nearly completely primed as far she could see. Carefully
glancing around, Mara made sure there was no one near and
crept up to it, wondering if there might be a way up without
having to break something.
     No such luck. The hatch was on a combination lock.
She stared at it for a long moment, and then just for the sith
of it she punched in M-A-R-A.
     And was rewarded by the hissing sound of the ramp
detatching from the ship to land at her feet.
     Stealthily, she prowled up into the ship. This was
already bad enough. Who knew what was waiting for her
inside?

     Jaid was listening to her with that same wide-eyed
compassion and interest that she so often wished that Derrin
would show. Of course, Jaid was very handsome--in her
opinion, a little too handsome. Like he was made of plastic or
something. Not Derrin... she sighed in mid-sentence about
her parents' past, her mind a hundred miles away from her
mouth. Of all things, she kept returning to him. It was going
to drive her nuts.
     To her surprise, Jaid knew. "Funny how our minds
can get stuck in a loop no matter what the world does to try
and change it."
     She gave a little laugh and reached over to slap his
foot. They were sitting facing each other, toe to toe, their
backs against a few of the trees on the farthest rim of the
jungle. On one of the trees, toward the top, Vaiya had carved
"Vaiya -L- Derrin 4-Ever," and even though it had been
childish at the time, this nook made her feel safe. No one
ever came here. Least of all, Derrin. 
     "Shame on you," she said, "spying on my thoughts like
that."
     "Oh, if I were doing that, I would know exactly what I
did in your nightmare vision," he said seriously, looking down
at his hands and then back at her. "I know this is going to
sound bad, Vaiya, but you shouldn't be panting after that
Derrin Nighttreader. He's beneath you. In more ways than
one."
     She cocked an eyebrow at him. "Jealous?"
     He shrugged. "Maybe. I just don't like seeing him---"
And then he stopped, snapping his jaw shut, like he'd nearly
spilled a secret. "Nevermind."
     "You don't get out of it that easily," Vaiya growled,
grabbing his foot as he tried to get up and away from her.
"Tell me. What does he do?"
     Jaid squirmed. "I'm sorry I said that when I don't know
anything. Just rumors."
     "Liar."
     A long moment passed. Finally, Jaid sighed. "Okay,
you win. You know that Derrin and Drianna are unofficial
now? They haven't made a public announcement, but Derrin
told me he wants to marry her." His voice was gentle, but the
words were like a Death Star beam on her heart.
     More time passed. The stars moved in their orbit
around the center of the galaxy, and distant spaceships
glittered as they passed through the system. The winds blew
through the jungle, warm and tropical. Animals of every kind
sang to each other through the leaves, vines and branches. 
     Vaiya's broken heart lay silent in her chest--for all of
about three seconds. And for the first time, she felt the real
touch of the dark side. 
     Her parents hadn't trusted her, Derrin had snubbed
her. What was she still doing here, anyway? What was the
point? All these hateful people--only Jaid had ever given her
what she wanted. Sure, her parents loved her and Derrin
was her friend, but it obviously didn't mean anything to them!
Look at how they had all treated her! 
     Finally, Jaid spoke. "Are you okay, Vaiya?"
     She gave him a tight grin. "So when did you say you
were leaving, Jaid? Maybe I'd be inclined to join you. So we
can teach all of them a real lesson."
     Jaid's forehead wrinkled. "All of them? I mean, the
Skywalkers I can see, but Derrin? He doesn't care about
anything but Drianna--"
     "And his precious training. Mom and Dad were getting
ready to complete it, but if I were to suddenly disappear
without a trace--well, who do you think Mom and Dad are
going to go searching for?"
     He grinned back at her. "Sometimes you are so
deliciously wicked," he said, and then under his breath, "just
like your mother."

25--Father and Son
     Mara stood holding the orange blade, feeling that
same curious feeling she'd had before, just a short time ago.
It felt longer than that for a feeling like this. It was as if she'd
been trapped in a dark stinkhole of a cargo hold and some
fresh air had just been vented in.
     This was Cal Saphringer's lightsaber. 
     There were old books in his private quarters. She'd
just spent the past twenty minutes checking them over. They
were books she recognized, some of which were held
together only by threads. Books about the Force, about
different religions, different cults, different kinds of worship.
But they all centered on one thing--gaining power.
     Just like Cal.
     Then there had been the holovids. Research done on
the Sith of all places, research about the Emperor, of all
men. Cal had always been fascinated with the Emperor.
Perhaps that was the real reason he was so enamored of
her.
     But as she stared into the orange brightness, all doubt
left her, and she suddenly understood. 
     Jaid was Cal Saphringer.
     Her mind whirled as it tried to fathom it. Sure, the boy
coming to Yavin IV, being the same age as Luke's son would
have been, a boy searching for his father, needing training
for his Jedi powers---thank the Force they hadn't been so
taken in that they'd train him themselves. But they had been
taken. Jaid--Cal--had played them from the start.
     Her fingers clenched around the blade and she hurled
it against the wall. The blade collapsed back into the hilt, but
not before leaving an ugly gash in the wall. That would teach
him---she stopped herself.
     There was simply nothing that she could teach him. If
he had gone this far, even to be able to alter his age, then
she could not teach him anything. Luke would claim he could
be saved, but Mara had a feeling he would claim it out of
sheer principle, not because he believed it.
     The thought of her husband made her open her mind
to his. *Luke,* she called through the Force. *Come here,
quickly. It's an emergency.*
     She felt Luke respond and start to hurry over. Then
she turned and headed down the exit ramp, only to come
face to face with Jaid and Vaiya.

     "Mother!" Vaiya said in a whisper. "What are you
doing here?"
     "I don't believe this," Jaid muttered, his face turning
pale. "Why would you break into my ship, Jedi Skywalker?
You are already sending me away. Must you sabotage me
to feed your own sick pleasure?"
     Mara gaped at them, apparently disbelieving that this
was happening. In a matter of seconds, she closed her jaw
and turned her shock into pure rage. Her finger pointed at
Jaid and she hissed, "You."
     Jaid's eyes flashed, and for a minute Vaiya detected
amusement from him. "Mara," he said, entirely too naturally,
"your way with words has deteriorated in your old age."
     "You slime-eating son of a hutt. How dare you?!"
     "Not much improvement."
     "What's she talking about, Jaid?" Vaiya asked.
     Jaid's eyes were locked on Mara's as the woman said,
"Not Jaid. Cal."
     "What?" But his face was a giveaway. Dread started
to appear around his eyes and in his confident smile.
     "What are you talking about!" Vaiya practically
screeched. "Cal Saphringer! He's his son, Mother! Have you
been smoking the jungle plants or something?"
     Mara looked at her, sympathy in her eyes--Vaiya
recoiled from it, recoiled from her, recoiled from Jaid, from
everyone. She felt her father arrive, but didn't even want to
look.
     Mara's emerald blaze turned to Jaid-Cal, and burned
into him. Vaiya could hear the command, it was so strong.
*TELL HER! TELL HER! TELL HER THE TRUTH!!*
     It was like a rancor pounding on Jaid's skull--Vaiya
could sense it. His face crumbled and he dropped his head
into his hands, groaning. "It's true," he groaned. "My name is
Cal Saphringer." Then, abruptly, he looked up and his face
was wrapped in an arrogant mask as he reached forward
and pulled Mara toward him, his hands wound in her hair and
holding her painfully by it. "Too bad your little girl isn't more
like you used to be, Mar." And he kissed her.
     Then there came the burst of Force lightening, and
Father's cry as he struggled to catch them as they tumbled
off the ramp. That was, Mara and Jaid tumbled. Vaiya's feet
were firmly planted, set apart in defense position, her hand
still extended from where the blue white distortion bolts had
come from her.
     So this was the dark side. This was what she was to
become. Someone so scorned and hated that her only
comfort was in her rage. She wanted to crumple, to fall, to
beg her mother's forgiveness as Mara gazed up at her, her
eyes stunned and filled with pain. Luke watched her as if he
did not know her, and when he realized that he had rescued
Jaid, he was genuinely startled.
     Vaiya found she could hear his thoughts. He had
thought Jaid had attacked with the Force lightening. But his
own daughter---it was unspeakable.
     She scowled down at them all, pride rearing its ugly
head. She had said she wanted away from here. Now she
was going to get it. She was going to leave Jaid here to face
his "destiny," and find out what the rest of the galaxy had to
offer. 
     Surely it had to be better than this.
     She entered the ship and sealed the ramp shut behind
her. She could vaguely hear them calling her name, but after
a few seconds she didn't even notice. She went to the
cockpit and found the ship quite ready to fly. It would have
seemed odd on any other day but today. 
     She took a deep breath and searched the Nav.
computer for a location. The last place Jaid had come from
was a planet named Duran. Perhaps she should go there. It
seemed far enough away from everything. 
     Letting the ship take over, she lifted out of the landing
bay without clearance and headed up into the night sky, only
to disappear in a silver streak, leaving the people she hated
most in the world at that moment far behind her.