Disclaimer: The characters and situations of 'Star Wars' depicted in this story are legal property of George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Timothy Zahn, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.

Summary: Set after Cold Equation it continues the tale of Luke's and Mara's rocky friendship - can they overcome both their problems and their past? Or will fate strike again and leave the Jedi Master and his family devastated?

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Collateral damage


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13

Chapter One - Regrets

That was the stupidest idea, Skywalker, that you ever had, Luke chided himself as he tried to repel the last few meters up the steep mountainside. Ever since he had taken it upon himself to undergo the mission, everything and anything had gone wrong. The infiltrator who was supposed to have paved his path into the criminal organisation here in the Cha Raaba System had been dead upon his arrival and now he was on the run. Someone somewhere high up in NR Intelligence had blabbed their mouths and the mission had been compromised.

Grinding his teeth, Luke hauled himself onto a small ledge to catch his breath. Just like Myrkr this godsforsaken planet he was on was Force free, the lizards habituating it creating the same sort Force-free bubble around themselves as did the Ysalamiri lizards. Luke wondered, not for the first time if reptilians in general were not prone to the Force. He had encountered many sentient reptilian races where the Force had no influence.

"I'm getting too old for this," Luke said under his breath and grinned. Yeah right, Jedi, once you cannot rely on the Force and you feel tired and old. Get a grip! After he had wiggled out of his backpack, he took out the binoculars from it and scanned the countryside beneath him. His pursuers had obviously lost scent and were nowhere to be seen. But Luke Skywalker wasn't about to get careless, he knew from innumerable missions before that the enemy could spring on him at any given moment.

Sighing, he put away the binocs again and rummaged further into the depth of the backpack, he came across a battered silver box. Since the days of the Rebellion he used it to put his ration bars in. He grinned when he remembered a saying from his pilot days. Tastes like Wampa doo and lasts forever!

I cannot understand why Mara is so fond of the stuff, Luke thought and shrugged. Thinking about the beautiful trader wasn't doing him any good. It had only been a month since they had last seen each other. They had met briefly on Tatooine only to part and not knowing when they would see each other again. He had been tempted to keep tabs on her whereabouts but had decided against it. After what they had been through, he knew he had to give Mara time. But he really missed her and even their permanent bond through the Force could not make up for the feeling of loss in him. For the umpteenth time in as many days he mourned the loss of their friendship.

She is like a part of me that has been cut off, the Jedi Master mused silently as he munched on the almost tasteless ration bar. I wish I could take back some of the things that happened between us, even if it means never to have the memory of her taste or her touch.

He closed his eyes. That was not true. For the larger part of his life the very taste of Mara Jade had accompanied him, though he had not known it at the time. He still couldn't believe that she was his dream girl but when she had told him, right at the graves of his uncle and aunt, he knew it was her.

He knew it was dangerous to let his mind wander like this on a mission, but he could not help it. Shaking his head, he let out an exasperated sigh and settled back against the cool rock at his back and closed his eyes. Immediately, images of Mara Jade came to him and for once he did not suppress them. He let go and revelled in the mental presence of her, taking as much comfort as he could from the one woman he loved more than his own life.

Jade will kill me, if she knew, he thought and smirked. Yep, if she knew I was day dreaming on a mission, she'd take off my hide!

Tossing the rest of the ration bar back into the silver casing, he packed up his stuff and prepared himself for the last meters toward the mountaintop. Free repelling, even with Jedi skills, were never his forte but he managed and when he had reached the top, he exhaled softly. Before him, a plateau stretched to the far horizon, covered in a thick, dense forest.

Now for the tabbing, he thought. He knew that his X-Wing was located to the West in a small clearing, half a day's hike away and that his friends Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn were waiting for him at the space station on the main planet of the Cha Raaba system.

With sleek grace, the craft slid through the vast dark velvet of space. For almost a month Mara Jade had crossed the galaxy in a restless quest for peace and quiet that she had still not found. If she was honest with herself, she knew she had already found the one place where she had experienced just that and more. But she was still afraid, a feeling which annoyed her a great deal.

Mara Jade isn't afraid! she told herself silently as she checked her astromech. And I'm not letting myself be ruled by another human being dead or alive, she added. She had been on the Permelian Trade Route for the better half of the month and late last night she had decided to check out the Honoghr System where Leia's precious Noghri were located.

Leia? she asked herself and rubbed her temples wearily. Great, Jade, can't you just once spend a day without a Skywalker gallivanting all over your mind? The red-head snorted at that and set course.

"We are going to visit the Noghri and any Force free planet along the way," she told her astromech and the machine answered her with an acknowledging whistle. Mara smiled and stood up, stopping herself short when her hand reached out to pat the little dome of the droid. "I'll be Kesseled!" she almost yelled. "Now I'm getting as weird as Skyw-" she bit down on her words and turned away.

Ever since she had found out the truth about who her farmboy was, Or better is, she corrected herself, she had been shying away from the whole business. Of course she had requested time to come to terms with the revelation that Luke Skywalker was her farmboy, but for the last four weeks she had not tried once to sort out her feelings for him.

The part of her that was still repressed by her training as Emperor's Hand was appalled to have submitted to the Jedi Master, while another part, a part she had thought was long dead, had basked in the sensations of making love to him. But even if she were to overcome her training and conditioning, there was still the mind-rape the Emperor had done so many years ago.

The love of the Jedi Master I can manage, she thought as she settled back into her pilot's chair. Although he has not talked about love, only want and need, but these I can understand - these are even easier to submit to than love. Mara knew deep down, Luke Skywalker loved her - perhaps not with the intensity he had loved that other woman, Callista, but she knew for her it was enough. She knew nothing about love, her own life being void of it, but she honestly believed that respect and friendship was also a part of love, and that much she knew she could muster for the Jedi Master.

So why did you leave him? the small nagging voice in the back of her mind asked. Why did you run when you had the chance to stay with him?

For the first time in four weeks she knew the answer, she had always known it but had been too cowardly to actually acknowledge it. I'm afraid that respect and friendship isn't enough for Luke Skywalker, that I may hurt him more with what I have to offer than with nothing at all. I'm afraid that he will find out that I'm not the likeable person he thought I was ...

Suppressing the tears that threatened to well up in her eyes, she stood up. She knew she had to reach a decision and for the first time she lowered her barriers and reached out with hte Force. But the familiar signature of the Jedi master was no where to be found. A tingle of shock went through Mara Jade and her heart pounded against her ribs. She tried to reach out further, for any sign if something had happened to the Jedi Master but the Force was calm, soothing and the feeling of dread slowly subsided in the trader.

So he is not dead, she thought and opened her eyes. But where is he? Punching in a couple of numbers into the holo-comm that she knew by heart, she soon came face to face with Tionne, the stern faced Jedi cum administrator of the Jedi Academy.

"Master Trader Jade," the woman said and inclined her head. Mara smirked even through the holo net she could feel the slight annoyance coming from the woman and she wondered if Tionne knew she was as readable as an open data pad.

"Hello Tionne, is the Jedi Master around? I need to talk to him," Mara replied with certain glee when she saw Tionne's face frowning at her words.

"Jedi Master Skywalker is on Coruscant visiting Madame Senator, his sister," Tionne replied. "But I can surely leave him a message that you called."

"No need, Tionne, I will comm Leia and get ahold of Skywalker there," Mara suppressed the grin that threatened to split her face when she saw the huffed expression of the older woman. "Thank you Tionne, and may the Force be with you!"

Jade laughed out loud after she had cut the connection. Tionne was really easy to read and she knew the older woman was furious that she, a mere trader and Ex-Imp was on speaking terms with her Jedi Master and his family. Mara frowned slightly.

Will it always be like that? That I will be frowned upon because of my past? What if they knew what the Jedi and I have shared? She remembered something Talon had told her. First Sith whore and now Jedi whore... yes, that's what they'll think!

Walking through the dense forest of the moon, Luke Skywalker was reminded of the jungles of Yavin. Ever since leaving Tatooine he had been fascinated by the lush greens and yellows of forests. First when he had seen the abundant foliage of the jungles on Yavin and then the more subtle deep greens of the forests of Endor, he had known he wanted to live nowhere other than on either of those planets. When he had decided to create a Jedi Academy Yavin had been an easy choice, and something he had never regretted.

Taking in as much of the clear air as possible, Skywalker closed his eyes and stretched out with all his senses. It still pained him that he was unable to use the Force on this moon, but even with his normal human senses he could feel the vibrant life all around him.

He almost missed the slight noise in the underbrush, a small twig that snapped there, a rustle of leaves here and before he knew what was happening, Skywalker was surrounded by scruffy and dangerous looking men.

"Now, now, who have we here?" one of the men snarled and took a step closer. "Seems like we have another of those New Republic spies in our hands!"

"Or one of those fancy Jedi Wizards," another growled, raising his blaster.

For once, Luke was grateful that he had left his lightsaber behind. Reaching out one hand for his blaster, yanking it out of its holster carefully, he threw it onto the ground. Unbeknownst to the men surrounding him, he had used his other hand to suppress a small device on his belt. He had just powered up his X-Wing and with it, the silent distress beacon.

"Naw, not a Jedi," the first man called out again, obviously the leader of the band. "He is too smart for that." The man grinned and turned towards Luke, patting him down for any concealed weapons. "You did well in giving up your weapon," he said as he retrieved a knife from Luke's boot. "One of those Jedi would have made a stand, stupid Wampa brained idiots."

"What do you want?" Luke inquired calmly. "I have done nothing..."

"You are on this moon, uninvited, that is enough," the leader said and with that he raised his blaster and knocked the rifle over Skywalker's head. Without a sound the Jedi fell to the ground, unconscious.

"What do we do with him?" one of the men asked who kicked the slumped form of the Jedi.

"Isn't there always a slave dealer around we can contact?" The Leader of the pirates smirked, shouldering the unconscious man and with that they headed back to their stronghold with their new prisoner.

Wedge Antilles paced in front of the small Corellian freighter and for the umpteenth time Corran Horn wished his friend would stop it. They were both tightly strung ever since they had picked up the distress call from Skywalker's X-Wing and the holo transmission they intercepted shortly thereafter. Corran sighed again and watched his friend's pacing which was really getting on his nerves. Sighing, Corran rubbed his beard and recited the Jedi code under his breath unconsciously. He smirked when he noticed and shook his head.

"Wedge, would you please stop pacing!" Corran growled and watched as Wedge stopped in mid-stride, threw Corran a look that told him to shove off into the next galaxy, then continued pacing.

Sighing again, Corran turned to the officials that were still arguing with each other. They had come here on a mission to pick up their friend Luke who had been on a secret assignment to retrieve information on a band of pirates who threatened the already shaky union with the New Republic. When they had arrived on the main planet, thinking Luke would already be waiting for them, they had found out that the infiltrator had been found dead and Luke was missing on the second moon of the system.

The Jedi Master always gets into trouble, Corran chuckled to himself as he watched the officials again. Dealing with the pompous men was like pulling teeth on a Rancor and he knew that they had to use every persuasive way to get the help they needed.

"Master Horn, I'm sorry, but our resources are too limited to grant you help." One of the men had come over and was now eyeing the pilot suspiciously. "We have already lost a fair amount of our troops in our efforts against the pirates and we cannot effort to lose more."

"So you are saying that you will not help the New Republic?" Corran asked in a calm voice, a calmness he didn't really feel.

"I'm afraid so," the man explained glibly and Corran had to suppress the urge to lunge at the man. "But we have intercepted a transmission coming from the pirates, they have requested the visit of a slave trader, so it might be possible that your friend is still alive."

"Did they ask for any specific slave dealer?" Horn asked and the official shook his head no.

"But usually Velda Dakeela does this sort of business in this system; she is in the service of Van'tii the Hutt of Y'Toub. She is an old hag, ugly as a Rancor, but she would be the first choice."

"A female slave trader?" Corran mused and watched the man in front of him. "Do you have a female agent we could use?"

"I'm sorry but we do not have any female agents in our troops that could pose as Velda to help your friend. But she always wears a netted mask, so you or your friend could pose as her."

"What if the real Velda shows up?" The Jedi inquired gruffly, not too amused by the prospect of posing in women's clothes, and the man grinned.

"You seem to think we are not helpful but we could detain Velda for a few days, I'm sure we will find fault with her ship and load."

"Thank you for your efforts, nevertheless," Corran replied and nodded his thanks. Returning to where Wedge was still pacing, he shook his head when he noticed the questioning look on his friend and comrade's face.

Both men boarded the ship and after they had requested permission for take off, the two Rogue Pilots settled themselves in the cockpit of their small Corellian freighter.

"So how do we go about this business now?" Wedge asked and watched Corran who was obviously deeply in thought.

"Ever thought about dressing up as a gal?" Corran asked and grinned when he saw Wedge's pained look.

The suite was quiet for once and Leia Organa Solo relished the peace and calm. Snuggling closer to her husband on the couch of their living quarters she sighed contentedly and closed her eyes. She could feel her husband barely containing his laughter and with an irritated raised eyebrow she opened her eyes to look up at him.

"You don't need to be a Force-sensitive to know what that sigh meant," Han Solo explained to his wife and squeezed her gently. "I know you too well."

Leia matched his grin and put a soft kiss onto the tip of his nose. "You know me too well for my own good, husband of mine," she replied before she cuddled up into his embrace again. "But for once we are not to be disturbed and what is wrong with just enjoying the presence of my husband?"

Han laughed loudly then and bent his dark head down towards her.

"Only my presence?" he asked playfully, his eyes shining with contained passion and lust. Leia smiled sweetly, then tapped a slender finger against her lips as if deep in thought.

"Hmmm... well, I think this husband of mine has other assets as well," she answered and grinned at his reaction when she rubbed herself against his still lean body.

"What assets?" Han groaned when he felt the familiar surge of lust almost overwhelming him. They had been married now for the better half of nine years and still a simple touch could inflame his body as if it was the first day of their relationship.

"Your endurance," Leia giggled as she watched her husband squirm in his seat on the couch. "And of course your patience," she added as her hand trailed a very passionate path down his chest and toward the waistband of his trousers.

"Patience?" Han asked and his voice had a definite catch to it as he felt her hand opening the first fasteners of his clothes. He gritted his teeth when she cupped him gently, knowing full well what this kind of action would do to him and eventually to her as well.

"I'll get you for this, your Highness," he groaned and claimed her lips, plundering her mouth with his tongue to the rhythm of her hand on his manhood.

"I'm hoping for thorough payback, smuggler boy," Leia whispered in between kisses and climbed up into his lap. For once they were not to be disturbed and she enjoyed their little frolick enormously. They were just about to take their love making further when the comm unit came to life and both groaned.

"Let it beep, anyone calling can call again ... later!" Han growled, when Leia made a move to answer the call.

"But this is the family code, my love," she whispered and after a last kiss and making sure, her husband was sufficiently covered, she straightened and leaned over the comm unit. Answering the call, the holo came immediately to life and showed the somewhat tired face of Mara Jade.

"Jade, what a surprise," Leia exclaimed and frowned slightly when she saw the Master Trader nodded in acknowledgement. Something about the woman didn't feel right and she could have sworn she could see the evident marks of tears on her cheeks.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Madame Senator, but I need to locate your brother. Tionne told me you knew about his whereabouts?"

The feeling of dread was washing over Leia as she cautiously eyed the woman on the comm. "Is anything the matter?" Leia asked, knowing that more than once Mara had felt something was wrong with Luke and that she had rescued him innumerable times because of their strong shared bond in the Force.

Before Leia could question why Jade needed to talk to Luke, the trader seemed to have picked up on her train of thoughts and shook her head slightly.

"Nothing is wrong, Leia, I just ... I need back my lightsaber and as Skywalker still has it ..." Mara could see how Leia exhaled visibly and she felt bad for putting the Senator on such an edge. "Do you know where he is?"

"He is on a mission for Ackbar, in the Cha Raaba system. Need to know basis and I shouldn't even tell you this much," Leia replied. "I believe Wedge and Corran are on their way there to pick him up again. They are expected back in four days."

Mara nodded to that and checked her astromech. "I'm only a hyperspace day away from the system, do you know their clearance comm code?"

Leia watched the woman in front of her for a short moment. Must be something to need your lightsaber so badly, Jade, she thought before she answered the question, "Yes I have, I'll transmit it to you with decryption Skywalker One Decca immediately." Leia typed in some co-ordinates quickly and hit the send button.

"Thank you... Jade out," Mara replied and managed to give a small smile, she was about to switch off when she caught the look on Leia's face.

"Mara, is everything all right?"

Her hand hovering on the console and the transmit button, Mara for a moment pondered whether to ignore the question and pretend to have already cut the connection but after all that had transpired in the last months, she knew she owed Leia an answer.

"I'm fine, Leia," Mara said and hoped the smile she gave the woman was not the painful smirk she felt it to be. "I hope you and your family are well?"

"We are all fine, Mara," Leia replied, sensing the other woman's reluctance to talk. "Well if you see Luke before I do tell him to stop by Coruscant before heading back to Yavin, will you do that?"

"I will, Leia. Jade out!" This time the connection went dead immediately and Leia frowned slightly. What is she up to again? she thought and smiled when she felt Han's arms slip around her waist and being pulled back against him.

"How does she know our private family code? You didn't seem surprised to see her, honey," Han asked as he nibbled at her ear lobe.

"Ahhh, Luke must have told her," Leia breathed as her head fell back against his shoulder. "Did you see how distressed she looked? If I didn't know better, she looked as if she had been crying..."

Han stopped his ministrations and turned his wife ever so slightly so he was able to see into her face. "What, Mara Jade, Miss Ex-Imp tough Corellian cookie crying? Never!"

"I have seen stranger things in my life, Han," Leia replied and giggled. "Corellian Cookie? They taste awful."

"Only when I bake them, honey," Han purred and draw his wife closer. "Now, wife of mine, where were we ...?"

The cockpit of the Corellian freighter was silent as both pilots were deeply engrossed in their own thoughts and both jumped when the holo comm came to life.

"Corellian freighter Scare One," Corran answered the call and sighed in relief when he saw the woman's face. "Mara."

"Scare one?" Mara asked with a smirk and grinned when she saw the Jedi blush.

"We are posing as smugglers so that bucket here needed an impressive name," Corran replied and and threw Wedge, who had stepped closer, a look.

"I heard it was need to know only, Horn, so don't divulge any vital information," Mara retorted and winked.

"Knowing you, you already know all about our mission, Jade," Wedge barged in. "Where are you?"

"On my way to Honoghr, sightseeing," Mara replied. "And I have a trade run to the Y'Toub System for Karrde."

"That's a long shot from your normal runs, Jade, it looks like you are on the run ... perchance from a certain Jedi Master?" Horn asked and could feel the anger emanating from the woman even from this distance.

"One day Horn, your big mouth will get you killed," Jade spit back and threw him one of her deadly glances that meant 'Stay out of my way'. "But speaking of the Jedi Master, is he with you?"

Corran and Wedge exchanged a knowing look that clearly stated 'Gotcha Jade', then Corran turned towards the comm unit again.

"What, feeling lonely, Jade?" he ribbed her again and grinned. "How far are you on your way to Y'Toub?"

Thrown off momentarily by his inquiry, Jade checked her astromech. "About two hours, why?"

"Can you meet us at the space station on the main planet of Cha Raaba after your trade run? We are in need of a master infiltrator," Corran said and caught Wedge's look of first surprise and then understanding.

"Sure, expect me to dock tomorrow at 06:00 Coruscant Standard," Mara replied, frowning slightly at the request. "Don't tell me the Jedi Master has gotten himself into some Bantha mess again?"

"Tell you when you arrive, Jade, it is really need to know," Corran replied and after they had traded their farewells, the Jedi cut the connection.

"Perfect!" Horn rejoiced and rubbed his hands together. "Thank the Force for small favours!"

Wedge wasn't as optimistic as his friend. "Do you think she'll agree?"

Horn watched Antilles then laughed. "Have you ever heard of Mara Jade refusing to rescue Skywalker?" When Wedge shook his head, he continued. "You'll see, she will jump at the opportunity. It won't be that hard of an argument, believe me, and in the end, Jade will do it. She always does, when it concerns Luke."

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13