Chapter Ten - Things To Come

One time Briem representative Tovar smiled when recognition lit up Mara Jade's face. Of course she would remember, he told himself but never the less he felt elated that he had obviously made as big an impression on her as she had had on him.

"But, yes, my dear Mara, it is me, Tovar," he said and squatted down beside her. Mara tried not to jerk when he reached out a hand and caressed her cheek lightly but she could not avoid the slight flinch. She chided herself for showing such weakness but something told her that this man was dangerous. Mara had seen a flicker of madness in his eyes the last time they had encountered each other and that made her nervous.

"You are mistaken if you think you can keep me here," Mara said, putting as much strength into her voice as she could muster. "You once failed in detaining me and you will again!"

"Now, now, my dear Mara, who said anything from detaining?" Tovar chided her softly and ran a crooked finger along her left arm. "I'm sure you will stay with me of your free will once you have realised that our children also need their mother ..."

"Children?" Mara shouted as something cold uncoiled in her stomach. "Tovar, you must be out of your mind. I told you the last time we met that I'm not interested."

Tovar's countenance changed when she reminded him of his not too successful attempt in a gym on Coruscant. "Listen to me Jade, you will be the mother of my children ... with your Force strength and my organisation of pirates, our children will become a strength to be reckoned with. You will be a force to be reckoned with ..."

Mara gawked at him then shook her head. "You are mad, Tovar. You cannot possibly believe I would ..."

"...marry me?" Tovar laughed. "Jade, if you marry me you will have everything you ever dreamed of. Riches, influence, power ... you could even gather dark Jedi around you if you'd like."

Jade shook her head and resisted the urge to laugh. This can't be true! she thought. Everything I ever wanted ... HA!

"Tovar, do you honestly believe I crave for riches and influence?"

"But of course you do, my dear Mara. You, after all, are associated with Skywalker ... you know he won't marry you, considering your background, but that doesn't keep you from being with him, perhaps even playing his whore to have as much influence as you once had as the Emperor's Hand."

"Craving influence I once had as the Emperor's Hand???" Now Mara did laugh out loud. "Tovar, I never had any influence as Emperor's Hand. I was one among many and not even his first. Do you really think I want to revert to this kind of mental and physical prison? As for Skywalker, even if there was never a chance to be with him, I'd stay ... for more reasons than you could ever imagine ..."

Too late Mara noticed she had said too much. With a viciousness that surprised and sobered her at the same time, Tovar backhanded her across the face and she slumped backwards, the impetus of the slap slamming her into the durasteel plates behind her. Blackness once again engulfed her as Mara's head connected painfully with the wall.

As Karrde had suspected, only three standard hours after the two Rogues had arrived, the Millennium Falcon entered the system and Han Solo himself asked to come aboard with his wife and his friend Chewbacca.

They were now sitting in the comfortable lounge of the Karrde and if the reason for this reunion hadn't been so dire, he would have actually enjoyed the company of his friends. Lately, Karrde had time to think about that .. friends, family, loyalty, and he had to admit that in his long life as a smuggler and information trader, he had never encountered such a motley crew of people who - in dire situations - stuck together like Tanama glue, inseparable. And he was glad that he was part of it.

Karrde started slightly, when a hand was put on his arm and looking up he looked into the mysterious eyes of Shada D'Ukal, the ex-Mistryl officer. She had been with Karrde and his crew for only a standard year now, but like Mara, Talon was trusting her with his life, perhaps even more so. She, too, had gravitated closer and closer to Luke Skywalker's circle of friends, just like all of them present in the room, and Talon had to wonder at that.

"Credit for your thoughts, Boss," Shada asked in a low voice, giving it a husky whisper.

"I was wondering about the mechanics of friendship," Talon answered and rubbed his moustache. "You know ... we all know each other way back from the Rebellion and I'm wondering if we would have all become friends if not for Luke and Mara. It is strange that Rebels, NRI officials at that, and smugglers mingle so easily."

"Skywalker is a very special being," Shada commented, watching the young Jedi from afar as he sat with Aves and Solo. "And Mara too. I have never understood what binds them together, but there is what the Mistryl call bhi'chesh that is very strong between them."

"Vichish?" Talon asked, of course getting the intonation wrong. He still had difficulties to grab the speciality of Mistryl dialect.

Shada gave him one of her half smiles, a turn of her lips with her grey-blue eyes full of laughter. "Bhi'chesh," she corrected. "One could translate it as the Force, but it is so much more, it encompasses everything, love, hate, compassion, and in Mara and Skywalker, it is very strong."

Talon nodded to that.

"Yes, it is very strong. I just wish that we would know where Mara is being held, all this waiting around drives me crazy."

Shada nodded to that and Talon was grateful that this mysterious woman, in her own strange way was giving him strength. He just wished that they would find Mara and soon.

At the other end of the lounge, Skywalker had picked up on Karrde's thoughts and he whole-heartedly agreed. As much as he liked his close friends to be around him, he wanted to find Mara. The last vision had shaken him to the roots of his being and although he knew that the future was always in motion, the urgency of the vision still lingered within him.

He brought his thoughts back to Leia, who had stepped closer to her husband and was now both hugging her brother and Solo.

"Hey," Luke said when she searched his face with her huge brown eyes.

"You alright, Luke?" Leia asked, a comforting hand resting on her twin's shoulder. She had been appalled to see her brother's drawn face, but when she had told him he should get a rest, Luke had only shook his head and his determined 'no' had not left any room for discussion.

"I would like to go into a trance later, Leia, and it would be good if you could supervise me," Luke requested, full knowing that he did not need her supervision. But he had picked up on her worry for him and in order to appease her he requested her help.

"Of course, Luke, just tell me when you are ready," Leia's smile and her soft sigh was answer enough and Luke squeezed her hand quickly.

"Thanks, sis," Luke answered and turned back to the conversation with Aves and Han. The men exchanged a few more words before Skywalker stood up and both twins left the lounge.

*So how do you want me to supervise, Luke?* Leia asked through their bond.

Luke was a little bit startled to hear a voice other than Mara's through the Force, but he immediately felt the difference. Whereas Mara's voice had always been strong, sounding like his own thoughts, Leia's Force voice was muted as if coming from a great distance.

They had reached the hangar and boarded the Jade's Fire. Off to the bridge both could hear the voices of Karrde's men going over the entire bridge with the proverbial toothbrush, so Luke led his sister to Mara's private quarters.

"Are you sure, this is a good place to meditate?" Leia asked after she had taken in her surroundings.

"Yes, I feel more connected to Mara this way, Leia," Luke answered and patted the small bunk where he had seated himself. "You'll see what I mean."

Their eyes locked for a moment before Leia sat down beside Luke with a sigh. Making herself comfortable, she swung her legs onto the small bunk and sat cross-legged. When Luke sat in front of her in the same fashion, their hands intertwined.

"Just go with the flow, sis, take in everything you see, and afterwards you can ask questions, okay?" Luke required seriously and Leia nodded. She had never seen her brother so determined and independent. Of course, she had seen him as Jedi Master when he had taught his pupils but this was different. He had a complete new air of confidence around him that surprised her. Additionally, she felt a new sense of maleness around him, something she had only felt in Han but never in her baby brother.

Mara has affected him on more levels than I realised, Leia thought as she opened up her mind to her brother.

Gently, Luke led Leia through his mind, wrapping her up in a secure bond, until he was certain her breathing was timed with his own. Slowly, he showed her the Force visions he had, beginning with the one he had back on the Corellian freighter, then his attempt to reach Mara and the vision of her, assuring Leia that Mara was alive.

Leia gasped when she learnt about the baby, and for a moment her Force presence in Luke's mind wavered, then it grew stronger again.

*I'm happy for you, brother,* Leia sent him and squeezed his hands shortly.

Going deeper into the Jedi trance, both twins submerged deeply into the Force. Their free spirits flying and soaring as the Force swelled around them. Luke felt a calm coming over him, not as comforting and deep as when he had joined with Mara, but it was soothing nevertheless. He knew that Leia could not tell the difference, but he knew. Mara was his soul mate, the other half of him, and Force-strong or not, he knew that even without the Force, he and Mara were meant to be. He smiled at that thought and concentrated more on Mara's image, as his breathing grew shallower and his mind was deeply immersed in the Force.

The soft glow of light from the wall fixtures lit the room and the unconscious woman lying on a med bed. With a groan, Mara Jade's eyes snapped open and after a few more seconds, where she assessed her physical condition, she slowly raised onto one elbow.

The soft increasing beeps of a medical monitor greeted the movement and Mara carefully tried to calm her quickened heart rate. She was alone, not even a TwoOneBee in sight and Mara was grateful for that. From the dizziness in her head, she knew she had been sedated and after she had focused her tired eyes toward the IV that entered her arm, she carefully removed it.

Tentatively, the young woman reached out with the Force, and apart from two small patches of non-Force, she could feel how the Force swirled around her, sustaining her. With a sigh, Mara laid back and closed her eyes briefly, relishing the invigorating effect of the Force.

So he gets careless, Mara thought with a hint of satisfaction and tried to reach out with her senses beyond the closed durasteel door of the med unit. Mara, think, you can use this to your advantage, she reminded herself and using the Force, she reached out with her mind further, roaming the corridors and levels that lay beyond the door.

The sharp pain in her stomach reminded her that she had not eaten anything for more than two days if not more, and slowly she swung her legs off the medical bed and looked around. Not a morsel of a ration bar was in sight and with an expletive underneath her breath, Mara rubbed her hurting arm where the IV had been.

"Okay," she muttered. "Get food, get a recon on your surroundings, find a way out, acquire a vehicle," she meticulously ticked off the points with her fingers. "Piece of cake!" She grimaced when she felt her stomach cramping again and resting a hand onto the spot, she drew the Force more closely around herself.

A soft flicker in the Force let her smile. It was still a faint Force signature but that already was both unique and quite familiar to her.

"Hi, Little One," Mara whispered softly. "I know you are as tired as I am to be a guest of Tovar but we have to wait. First of all, we need to get our bearings on this place."

Back on the Jade's Fire, Luke redoubled his efforts to reach out for Mara Jade. Drawing the Force more strongly around himself, he soon had a firm grasp on her Force signature, and forgetting Leia completely, his mind reached out to his lover in the only one way he could think of to reassure himself that Mara was alive.

*Mara, my love*, Luke's Force-self said while his arms encircled her small form. Friendship and love rolled between them like a living being as Mara opened her mind to Luke's presence and basked in the loving caress of the Jedi Master.

*About time, Farmboy,* He could hear Mara's voice clearly now and before his mind's eye, he could see the tired and drawn face of Mara's and despite her testiness, Luke could clearly feel how relieved she was.

*Shhh, it's alright, we will get you out of where ever you are being held,* Luke told her and he could feel Mara's small trademark snort.

*You better be, Skywalker,* she growled back but the caress through their Force bond was gentle and full of love.

*Do you know who captured you?* Skywalker inquired and instead of telling him, Mara opened her mind to him even more, showing him all that had transpired since her capture.

Luke could feel her concern for the baby, also her confusion on how she gotten pregnant. He was tempted to ask her why she had not told him that she thought herself infertile, but up till now he knew that their relationship had not been that close or grounded as it had been now with the Force visions.

When Mara showed him who her captor was, his jaw clenched and his fists closed more deftly around Leia's hands.

*Did he touch you?* Luke asked Mara, his voice in her mind having a definite edge to it. Only after Mara's hesitant negative answer did he release the grip on Leia's hands when he realised that his sister was wincing.

*Mara, Leia is with me,* he softly warned and shielded himself and Mara from Leia for a moment while he shifted his concentration slightly. He could feel Mara's slight ribbing and then her smile.

*Fretting over you again, Skywalker?*

*Yes,* the young Jedi had to grin at that. *You know how she is*.

*I know,* came the curt reply. *You have become quite efficient with shielding yourself, Farmboy.* Luke grimaced when he felt Mara's fatigue and weariness coming strongly through their bond.

*I had a good teacher, my love,* he replied, sending her some of his strength. Then he opened his link to his sister again.

*Leia?* he inquired and could feel his sister sending him her love. Again he couldn't help but wonder how different her Force presence felt compared to Mara's. Whereas Mara's was strong and vibrant even in her weakened state, Leia's was far more muted and although she was his twin, it had never really been as strong as his with Mara's.

Leia felt some of his thoughts, but after what she had felt coming from both her twin brother and Mara Jade, she knew better than to comment.

She had not thought it possible, that the beautiful trader was still alive. But trust the Force, she is, Leia thought and smiled briefly. Turning her thoughts back towards her brother she listened in on the soft conversation, the images Mara sent them and Leia, in her cool diplomatic mind, turned them over and over in her head.

After a while Mara's strength weakened even more and although Leia could not feel the physical pain, Luke had picked up on Mara's discomfort. Renewing his bond with her, he soothed the pain, dulling it efficiently, before he cut the bond. But not before he had send her all his love for her.

Leia kept her eyes closed a little bit longer after Luke had wakened them out of the trance. Much ha transpired between herself, her brother and Mara Jade, and event though she had been an onlooker, she felt honoured that her brother and especially Mara Jade trusted her enough to share their deep feelings for each other.

Slowly, the extent of what she had come to know seeped through her conscious being and a surge of happiness swept through the former Princess.

I'll be an aunt, she thought and had to smile at that. Who would have thought that Mara Jade of all women would make Luke the happiest man in the galaxy? But then she had to admit that there always had been something between them. The ease with which they could converse even over such a great distance as this both held her in awe and frightened her.

Of course, I have always known that Luke is strong in the Force, but this ... ?! Didn't Mara once say that she could hear the Emperor from great distances as well? Is Luke even stronger than the Emperor ever had been? For a short moment fear gripped Leia Organa-Solo and she thanked the Force and all the gods in the galaxy that Luke had not turned the two times it had been offered to him. If the Emperor had succeeded, she knew that the galaxy would have been in dire need of help.

*Leia?* Luke's voice was strong in her mind and for a moment, she shuddered in fear.

Luke felt her brief flash of fear and he sighed sadly.

*I'm sorry, Leia, I thought it a good idea to have you with me, but now I see it was not,* he sent her and eased out of her mind as quickly as possible.

"I'm sorry, brother mine," Leia said aloud, opening her eyes at last. Her brother looked tired and more worry lines showed in his face. "It was just a silly feeling, of course, I know you are not the Emperor ..." Her voice trailed away and she inhaled deeply.

"So is it always like this? Your bond between you and Mara? This strong?" she asked, her curiosity piqued.

Skywalker rubbed his face with his hands wearily and rolled his shoulders. It was a good question, he had come so accustomed to his and Mara's Force bond that he had never questioned just how strong it had become during the last couple of months.

"Not always, only after recent events ... we can reach each other over great distances. The first time after we ..." he blushed slightly when he remembered that day but shaking the feeling of embarrassment, he looked up and grinned. "Before that, we were able to talk to each other, but normally only when we were in the same facility together. It has helped us a great deal on missions. The distance thing we noticed the first time after we kissed." He shrugged his shoulders indifferently but the way he cocked his head and battled the deep flush that was creeping up his neck and into his cheeks, Leia could see that he wasn't so indifferent after all.

"And then? What happened?" the former Princess asked and noticed Luke's ever increasing facial colour.

"Umm ... you saw it, sis ... I mean ... the light and all. When we haven't met for quite a while there is this Force exchange. It started around the time shortly after Callista left. I felt it the first time when I came to in the med center and Mara was there. It isn't uncomfortable, rather the opposite, but it frightened the living daylights out of us." The young man grinned at the memory. "I guess ever since our first love making the bond between us has steadily increased ... it is as if we are connected here," he tapped his skull, then moved his hand towards his chest. "And here. I have to ask Cilghal for some of the information she looked up for me. It reminds me of something I have skimmed over but disregarded after Callista had left me."

Leia watched her brother. She too had come across Jedi Bonds in her studies and what Luke had described to her, it reminded her of something she had read a long time ago.

"Do you think it is a Jedi bond? For life?" she asked softly.

Luke had to smile at that. He had suspected as much, especially after his talk to Cilghal about three months ago in the medical center on Coruscant.

"I don't think, I know, Leia," he turned and gently caught her hands in his. "Mara and I already have connected as deeply as two human beings possibly can, and I suspect that we unwittingly bonded on a higher level as well. Mara might deny it, but she is Jedi and somehow we bonded without knowing."

They both grinned at each other and Leia touched his cheek lightly.

"Trust you to bond with the enemy," she teased him light-heartedly but immediately sobered, when Luke squeezed her hand.

"Mara was never my enemy, or that of the Republic, Leia. She was used in the most vile way and she is still suffering from it," Luke said sternly. "If we ever find out how she came to be the Emperor's Hand we might find out the whole disgusting extent of what the Emperor did to her and innumerous others."

Leia's brown eyes rounded at that speech. She had always suspected that Mara Jade had been forced to join the Imps but to what extend she did not know. She watched silently, as Luke stood up, some of his bones popping in his shoulders as he stretched.

"Let's get to Karrde and Han, we might have the clue now where to look for Mara," he said and extended his hand to help her to her feet.

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