Chapter Two - Disguises

Luke woke up with a start and groaning, he pushed himself into a squatting position and surveyed his new surroundings. When his eyes had grown accustomed to the semi-darkness, he could see that the cell was not only dark but also dank. His head hurt and when he moved his natural hand over the bump on the back of his head, Luke winced. He was about to go into a Jedi healing trance when he remembered that the planet was Force-free due to its wildlife, and the Jedi sighed loudly.

You have to do it like everyone else and endure, Skywalker, he admonished himself silently and pushed up to his feet. Closing his eyes when a wave of nausea threatened to overwhelm him, he stilled all movement.

"Sithspit!" Luke swore beneath his breath and groped for the bunk he had located earlier. Falling on it heavily, Skywalker groaned again when the throbbing in his head continued and even increased. Squeezing his eyes shut and covering them with an arm, he laid back on the bunk and all in all felt miserable.

Just great, Skywalker, you stupid Jedi. You walked into the trap like a lost Baby Bantha! he chided himself and tried to ignore the pounding in his head, almost missing the door to his cell opening.

"Ah, made yourself comfortable, did you?" a voice hollered and Luke almost jumped. "Enjoy it while it lasts."

Suppressing a groan, Luke sat up and cupped his head in his hands. He wished the man would stop yelling at him. "Who are you?" Skywalker ground out and almost choked when he was pulled up by his tunic and onto his feet.

"You only speak when told to, understand?" The pirate hissed and pushed Luke back onto the bunk. He grinned when he saw Skywalker's discomfort. "You should count yourself lucky, you'll bring a good share for us."

"Share?" Luke croaked out and tried to suppress the sudden urge to retch. The leader grinned.

"Yeah, you'll bring us good credits with a slave trader!" With that remark, he left Luke who slumped back onto the bunk. For a moment he closed his eyes, before his stomach lurched and he barely made it over to the small refresher unit in the corner of his cell.

After his stomach had relieved itself of the remains of the rationbar he had this morning, Luke sat back onto the bunk and tried to rationalize his predicament. So he had been captured by the very pirates he had been sent out to spy on. Great! One point for the pirates, he thought. This moon - what was the name again? Yeah right, Cha Niem, is Force-free, so Jedi mind tricks don't help. Why did I let myself into this when Ackbar asked me?

Sighing he laid back on the bunk and closed his eyes, berating himself for his own stupidity. Now come, Skywalker, why did you jump at the chance to get off Yavin and saving the galaxy again? Not because Ackbar asked you, you just wanted to flee your quiet life on Yavin where you had too much time thinking about Jade! A little voice nagged in the back of his mind and Luke knew it was right. When he had returned to Yavin he indeed had spent to much time thinking about Mara Jade. His students had teased him first about his sometimes far away look, but soon his teaching was impaired as he caught himself more and more day dreaming about Mara and their short affair and he had known that he had to snap out of it quickly.

And look what it got me into! Luke chided himself and carefully, he rubbed his head around the area of the lump. The extremes I go to to get a woman out of my head, he chuckled at that and an image of Mara, as she quirked an eyebrow at him, appeared before his mind's eye.

"Ahh, Jade ..." he exhaled softly and closed his eyes. He began thinking through his options and how he would get out of this situation but soon those thoughts were pushed aside as the memories of Mara and himself together once again took over, as he fell into a slight slumber.

Despite the astromech and the navigational board computer, Mara Jade always docked her ship at any space station manually. She revelled in the feeling of mastery she had to display even if the technicians and navigation officers at the main command of the space station didn't know she did it by hand.

They would have a fit, if they knew! Mara smirked at that and powered down the Jade's Fire after she had docked successfully. Soon she had made sure her ship was locked up and secured and she made her way over to the lounge.

The lounge wasn't very populated, so Mara Jade had free choice for a table. After she had chosen one that gave her an unobstructed view of both the huge panorama ports as well as the entrance, she made herself comfortable and ordered a caf from the waiter droid.

Waiting for Skywalker's two friends, Mara had time to process what little information she had. For one Skywalker is in some mess again, so what is new? Mara told herself silently. It's true to form that he gets into a hot situation and expects me to rescue him ... she frowned at that. She wanted to access the situation, not thinking about the Jedi Master again.

Sighing, she rubbed her eyes wearily and tried to concentrate. Second, he must be on a Force-free planet, she surmised. There are two Force-free planets and moons in this system, Cha Raaba Delta and Cha Niem. Delta is nothing more than a rock with barely breathable atmosphere that one is out of the question, so Cha Niem it is.

The trader had not waited long before Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn showed up, scanning the room for her. Watching the two men advancing towards her table, she took her feet from one of the chairs beside her seat and sat up.

"Hello Mara," Corran said as he took a seat beside her while Antilles sat across from her. Jade watched both men closely, trying to determine what was up with these two and her danger sense flared up.

"When do we start out for Cha Niem?" she asked by way of greeting and Corran bit his lip, while Wedge frowned.

"Can't keep a secret from you, can I?" Horn asked and chuckled. Mara raised an eyebrow and shook her head, golden-red locks that had escaped her heavy braid flying wildly.

"I can't feel him through the Force, so either he is out cold or on a Force-free planet and Cha Niem is the nearest..."

"How do you know he isn't dead?" Wedge asked gruffly, sipping the caf he had ordered when they had entered the lounge.

"Skywalker and I are bonded through the Force, I would know it. And believe me, if he were, I wouldn't be sitting here," Mara matched the pilot's tone of voice.

"So you wouldn't even bother trying to retrieve his body?" Wedge asked, clearly shocked, and Corran fidgeted uneasily in his chair when Mara leaned over the table, right in Wedge's face.

"Not that it's any of your business, Antilles, but I'd follow him if he were dead," she snarled and realising what she had just said, she sat down again and rubbed her temples wearily. "The bond is too strong to be severed by death and if one of us dies ..." her voice trailed away and Corran reached out to squeeze her hand quickly.

"Then it is true, the Jedi mind-melt exists?" he asked, his voice catching in his throat.

Jade nodded to that and Wedge looked at the two Jedi with a puzzled expression on his face. "I don't understand, did you and Luke ... do some Jedi bonding?"

Feeling Mara's discomfort on the subject, Corran quickly explained. "Some Jedi holocrons and information tell us about mind-melts, though it was never thought possible," he paused when Mara exhaled softly.

"It is possible," she murmured.

"I never doubted that Luke was able to do it," Horn added. "And I'm not surprised it happened with you, Jade."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Mara asked sharply as she had recovered just enough for her old defiant nature to come to the surface again.

"Last time I saw you and Luke you were entertaining us with a nice light show," he grinned while the trader blushed beet-red. It took a lot to throw the Ex-Imperial off.

"So tell me, how did that mind melt come to be?" Wedge held up his hands and Corran turned toward his friend.

"What is this mind-melt thing?" Wedge asked, thrown off by the whole Jedi business.

Corran creased his nose and tried to find the words to explain it as easily as possible.

"Wedge, you know of Jedi bonding, the same Luke and Leia have because they are brother and sister?"

"Yeah," Wedge nodded at that. "They can communicate with each other through the Force."

"Correct, and Mara and Luke have the same bond only that with a mind melt it gets stronger, it is as if the two share their thoughts without any effort to reach out to each other ..." When he saw Mara nodding, he continued. "Mind melts are very rare, even more so now where we do not know a lot about them but they usually are the final stage in a bonding between two Jedi ..." Corran's voice trailed away and his head snapped up sharply into the direction of the trader.

Mara countered his inquisitive stare with a level gaze of her own. *I'll be Kesseled!* she heard Corran's thought through the Force and the trader felt a blush creeping up into her cheeks. Clearing her throat discomfortingly, Mara broke her connection with the pilot and turned towards Wedge.

"Luke and I are connected, let's leave it at this, Antilles. I know when he is hurt and for now he isn't. But we have to get him out wherever he is," she explained hastily. "So, why do you need me here? I assume you didn't wanted to see me just to have a casual talk about Jedi rituals, did you?"

"Fair enough, Jade," Wedge answered. "Let's go over to our ship and discuss the details!"

"You want me to do what?" Mara Jade asked in surprise and jumped to her feet. "You must be out of your minds!"

Corran shook his head and raised his hands in a calming gesture. "Look, Mara, we thought about disguising me as a woman but it doesn't work ... for one we are both too tall to pass for a woman, secondly, we don't have the skills like you do. You were trained in infiltration."

"Well yes, but that was undercover not ..." she motioned to the padding and scattered clothes on a table nearby, "... in broad daylight made up like an overstuffed Bantha."

"Why, Jade, I never knew you were self-conscious of how you look?" Wedge cut in and both men tried to hide the laughter when they saw Jade's sour expression.

"I'll be Kesseled!" Mara growled, but hid her own smile behind a smirk. "You want me to dye my hair and dress up like a hag?"

"Mara, you can't use the Force down there, so we have to disguise you for real," Corran explained calmly, but he too had a hard time to hide his smile. He watched as Jade bit her lower lip, deeply in thought, and then flashed Wedge a smile that definitely said: 'She'll do it'.

"All right, do you your worst," Mara said and held out her hands in silent defeat. Both men sprang into action and Wedge rushed over to her.

"Iella told me the dye we're using can be rinsed out again, so it won't leave any permanent effects," Wedge said and grinned when green emerald eyes gazed at him with a deadly stare.

"I hope for you that Iella is right," Mara said and sat down at the table.

The noise coming from outside his cell told him that the guards were changing. Sighing, he sat up and immediately grabbed his head. The throbbing in his head had decreased considerably but the bump on the back of his head was still painful to the touch.

Slowly he stood up and crept over to the door when he heard the guards talking. The exchange of words was quickly over but now Skywalker knew for what he had to prepare himself. They ahd sent for a slave trader called Velda.

great, just great, Luke thought to himself and shook his head carefully. Why do I always have to get into this kind of mess? Wishing for the umpteenth time that he had declined this mission.

Mara smirked as she watched her image in the mirror in front of her. Wedge and Corran had done a good job at disguising her. While Wedge had dyed her red-golden curls a dull brown, Corran had wrapped layer upon layer of padding around her waist and chest and now she was about twice her size.

Corran had gone to the cockpit to prepare the flight route while Wedge stayed behind, helping Mara with the headpiece and the netting that was to obscure her face.

"Remember you are from Corellia," Wedge reminded her and grinned when Mara cocked a freshly died dark eyebrow at him. "Just prepping you, Jade."

"My name is Velda Dankeela, slave trader for Van'tii the Hutt. On trade run to Kessel," Mara sighed. "It's not as if I haven't done this before, Antilles!"

"I know," Wedge replied and for a moment their eyes met. Sighing, Wedge pushed himself to his feet and stood. Taking her hand in his own, he squeezed it shortly.

"Thank you Mara, for doing this. I know that you and Luke ..." he gave her a loop-sided grin, "Well, it is none of my business, but thank you."

Mara felt a flush creeping up her neck and into her cheeks. She returned the squeeze of his hand.

"I will always protect him, Antilles," she said firmly and both nodded in understanding. Wedge had had his doubts in the past whether this woman was a friend or not but over the years she had earned his respect. She might have been the Emperor's Hand and had wanted to kill Luke, but she also was part of the inner circle of people Skywalker called his friends and family, perhaps even more so than others in that group.

After the awkward moment was over, both being aware that this single moment had changed the dynamics of their relationship considerably, Mara secreted away her two blaster pistols. Wedge smirked when he saw where one of the smaller ones went.

"Does Luke know about this?" Antilles asked and the fresh flush on Mara's cheeks was more than enough of an answer. "I guess so," Wedge chuckled and turned to raise Corran over the comm.

When all three of them were satisfied that the disguise would work, Corran set course toward the second moon in the Cha Raaba system, leaving Mara with a feeling of both dread and hope.

The guards led the slave trader to the lone holding cell and when they opened it, Mara hobbled into the dank room, her feet dragging slightly on the rough surface of the floors. Luke Skywalker sat on the narrow bunk and when the door opened he jumped to his feet, eyeing the new arrivals with weary eyes. Mara thought she could see a flicker of hope in his eyes, but the netting she was wearing over her face impaired her vision.

From what the guards had mentioned, she knew Velda was not a shy one and if she was to pull this off successfully, she had to be as daring as she managed with Skywalker. Oh well here goes, Mara thought and watched the Jedi in front of her.

"Present yourself, Loverboy, Velda wants to inspect the goods!" One of the guards hollered and shoved him into the small section of light that was coming from the corridor.

Luke eyed the woman called Velda, who had stepped in front of him and had her hands on her voluptuous hips. Slowly, she circled the Jedi, dirty hands roaming over his body, examining an arm muscle here, forcing his mouth open there.

"Take that shirt off," the woman sneered in a heavy Corellian dialect and nodded her head towards Luke after she had circled him twice before coming to rest in front of him again. The guards snickered, and ribbed each other in their ribs.

The Jedi Master paused for a moment, and for the umpteenth time Luke wished he could use his Jedi skills to know what his opponent was up to. With a sigh, Skywalker opened the fastenings of his tunic and pulled the garment over his head. After what appeared to be an appreciative glance, the woman nodded towards the tank top Luke was still wearing.

"That too," she barked and watched as Skywalker took off the top. Mara had to hide her smile as she saw the discomfort on Luke's face, but in order to get him out of here she had to act her part and she was determined not to endanger the mission just because she wanted to reassure the Jedi Master. In fact, she could have a bit of fun.

"Van'tii is looking for a human male for a breeding stud," Mara said and flashed the guards a crooked smile before she turned back to Luke. "I hope the goods are not impaired in any way?"

"The ... the goods?" Skywalker croaked out and tried to place the voice of the woman. It sounded familiar but otherwise he knew he had never seen the slave trader before ... he hoped.

"As a breeder you will be asked to perform ... repeatedly and my employer wants only impeccable goods," Mara slurred. She slowly took a step forward and outstretched her hand to nestle it against the waistband of his black trousers.

The Jedi Master flinched but tried to suppress the natural urge to step back. Reciting the Jedi code over and over again, he exhaled softly and stared down onto the slave trader. This isn't happening, he thought and closed his eyes briefly. This is not HAPPENING!

"Are you able to perform?" Mara breathed, her own voice coming to the surface, but covering it with a cough. "Do I have to check it out?"

"If you think you can have your way with me, think again, slave trader," Luke snarled and crossed his arms over his chest. Every ounce of his body screamed to flinch away from this woman, but instead he tried to calm his body and mind.

"My way? You cannot imagine my way, Boy. Down with the pants!" Mara snarled and caught the blush as it began to creep up into the Jedi's face. "NOW!" she demanded for emphasis and watched as Skywalker hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his trousers and jerked them downwards.

The guards behind them snickered again and some wolf-whistles could be heard.

"Hey, Velda, you gonna have to work him real hard!" One of them hollered and Mara flashed him an amused look.

"Old Velda never works on a man hard, I make 'em work harder," she cackled and placed a hand on Luke's shoulder. Slowly, Mara let her fingers wander over the soft skin and for a moment she held her breath when she felt the familiar tingle surge through her. Stretching her hand over the pecs of his chest, she grinned behind the netted mask and stepped around him, never stopping the touch of skin to skin.

Luke inhaled sharply when he felt her hand roam over his still covered buttocks then he yanked away when he felt his pants jerked down his legs.

"Sithspit, stop!" Luke growled and tried to retrieve as much dignity as he could muster, covering himself up as well as he could. He could hear the guards laughing and for a moment he closed his eyes. Not again, he thought. Not again! Luke started to shiver uncontrollably when he felt a hand on his hip as Velda stepped in front of him, her breath brushing over his naked skin.

Mara could feel the tension in the Jedi Master and for a moment she tried to lock her gaze with him. Not daring to lift the netting and give away her disguise, she squeezed his shoulder shortly and his head jerked up to face her. Green eyes locked with blue ones and Mara hoped something like understanding passed between them.

"Leave us alone!" she demanded and the guards, after more snickering, left them alone in the cell.

Moving quickly, she sent the door shut with a kick of her boot before she turned and faced Skywalker again. When Luke started to open his mouth, she raised a hand and shook her head. Listening to the chatter of the guards outside, she exhaled softly.

"How did you get into this mess again, Jedi?" she asked softly and watched with satisfaction as Skywalker flinched at the tone of her voice.

"Krayt Dragon's bones, Mara!" Luke whispered and shook his head. Turning around, he bent down, reaching for his trousers that were pooled around his ankles but Mara's harsh voice stopped him in mid-motion.

"Did I tell you to cover yourself, BOY?"

"Mara," Luke pleaded softly but Mara threw him a warning look.

"Shut up, Skywalker, or do you want to blow my cover?" Jade hissed impatiently and yanked a rope out of the leather bag she had slung over her shoulder. "Get over to the bunk," she said loudly and kept her eyes on the cell door. Until she was satisfied that only part of the bunk was visible through the small scuttle in the door, she came over were Skywalker was still standing.

Luke sighed and bent down again to cover himself when he felt a shove from behind and he fell onto the bunk.

"Jade, what the..." Luke cut off on his words when he felt Mara's body covering him, as well as her lips only a breath away from his mouth.

"Skywalker, sometimes you are as dense as a Mynock. Now shut up!" she whispered urgently. "They are watching us, so pretend as if you are squeamish about me checking out the goods!" With these words, she straddled him, yanking up the dirty jerkin slightly that she was wearing over all the padding and moving up and down as if riding him.

Luke gritted his teeth when she started to gyrate her hips against him and squeezed his eyes shut. Again, he silently recited the Jedi code but this time it didn't help. Mara's movements as well as all his pent up passion for the woman who was above him, was having a definite exciting effect on him, despite the fact that they were being watched.

Groaning softly, he fought the passion that started to rise in him, pooling in heavy waves into his lower abdomen and making him yearn for the soft touch of skin against skin, Mara's skin against his. Luke inhaled deeply and tried to keep his raging emotions under control.

"Mara ..." he growled deeply in his throat, trying to keep his voice down, and gripped her hips with his hands, stilling them momentarily. "Stop moving, please!"

"Yo, Velda, check him out!" came the calls from outside the door and Mara rolled her eyes.

"Men," she growled and turned her head. "Now give a lady some privacy!"

The laughter of the men outside seemed to recede and she turned her attention back to Luke beneath her and the very evident arousal that she felt between her thighs. Fighting a losing battle, Luke gritted his teeth. His body rather than his mind had reached a decision and he acted purely on instinct then, giving in to the arousal that was surging through his body.

Jade's eyes grew wide, then slit dangerously. "By the love of..." her voice trailed off, when she felt Luke's hands leave her hips and one tucked securely around her neck, yanking the netting off to the side. Then he pulled her head down.

"I told you to stop, Jade, but you never listen, do you? You always have to have it your way, right?" he growled in a half whisper, then pulled her mouth on his, plunging his tongue viciously into her mouth, crushing her lips in the process.

Mara gasped in surprise when she felt Luke's tongue invading her mouth with ferocious eagerness. Closing her eyes she lost herself into his kiss, her hands finding their way into his hair, feeling the silkiness of it as their tongues fought an agitated battle. She could feel Skywalker shivering beneath her and for a long moment she just relaxed into his arms, savouring the sweetness of the intimate moment with the Jedi Master.

Luke's eyes snapped open when he felt Mara relaxing against him. Even through the heavy padding he could feel her pliant body, and a rush of memories flooded his body. The soft touch of her skin, the smell of her hair and more importantly the soft groans that were now escaping her throat, sent him back to a time in his apartment where they had made love with wild abandon. Groaning, he tried to move her underneath him, but her strong thighs fought any effort to roll her over onto her back. When they both came up for much needed air, their eyes locked for a long moment. Both saw the raw emotion and the almost animalistic need for each other in the other's eyes. Mara's senses returned to normal as fear crept through her, fear that she might once again lose herself in the arms of this man and she yanked away.

"That's enough, Farmboy," she whispered harshly and with a look towards the door, she straightened her clothes and jumped off the bed. "Get dressed, boy, you will do for Van'tii!" The rope she had gotten out earlier lay forgotten onto the floor and Mara bent down to retrieve it.

"Get dressed!" she hissed and turned her back to him. She could hear the ruffle of clothes behind her and she closed her eyes. Unbidden images appeared before her mind's eye and try as she might she couldn't shut them out. Their kiss had shook her to the deepest recesses of her soul. It had felt so right, so safe, so exciting. She could still feel passion raging through her body and only with effort, she controlled the erratic beating of her heart.

Skywalker was still panting and his erection was painful. I shouldn't have kissed her, he reminded himself with irony and he knew even if he had wanted, he could not have resisted her. Standing, he yanked his trousers up, then put his tunic back on.

When Mara was certain that Skywalker was at last presentable, she walked over to the door on shaking legs. Opening the door, the guards stood just outside and snickered when they saw her.

"He will do for Van'tii," she said and grinned.

"The payment, Velda!" one of the guards stepped into her way, and with an exaggerated sigh, she retrieved a pouch of credits from her jerkin.

"The compensation," Mara said as she handed over the pouch, carefully watching as it was secreted away in a pocket. The trader turned back and swishing the rope in her hands, she stepped over were Luke waited in the cell.

"Your hands!" she demanded and Luke threw her a surprised look. "Your Hands!" Mara growled again and watched as Skywalker held out his hands.

"Afraid I could do something with these you'd like too much?" he asked softly only for her to hear and for a moment Mara was tempted to wipe that grin off his face with a hard swipe of her elbow.

"Don't push your luck, Farmboy," Mara whispered and tightened the rope around his wrists. Luke suddenly jerked his hands away, causing Mara's hand to brush over his still inflamed manhood. Mara, intent on tying his hands didn't seem to notice until the third time he did it. Then her angry eyes slowly rose to meet his darkened blue ones.

"I can find someone to take care of that for you," she hissed in a low, dangerous voice.

Luke smiled sweetly at her, more farmboy than ever. "And here I thought I had already found someone." He batted his silky lashes at her and suppressed a grin when he saw her temper flare. But the way she had teased him earlier, he wanted to pay her back and he didn't much care if he made her angrier than she already was. He just had to ride it out, whichever way it was going.

Mara's hand slipped from the rope and closing the distance between them, she gripped Luke's member in her hand through the fabric of his black pants. Her sudden and harsh treatment caused Luke to gasp, trying to dampen the mixture of fear and passion that suddenly mingled in him.

"Well, think again, Farmboy." Mara growled and the rope cut even deeper into the Jedi Master's wrists when she snapped the ends tightly. Then she turned away from him and yanked the end of the rope, so that the Jedi stumbled after her.

Mara held her gaze riveted on the guard in front and when they reached the yard she misstepped all of a sudden. Bumping into the guard, she made an effort to catch her balance, cackling all the way, and brushing her body up and down the man.

"The boy is good, Old Velda is a bit shaky," she snickered and the guards around her roared with laughter.

With her newly acquired slave, Mara walked steadily toward the landing pad that was just visible through the dense forest. When she had made sure that the guards were not interested in them anymore and well out of sight, the trader turned around in a flash and grabbed Luke by the collar of his tunic. With an anger she had barely contained during their little ploy with the guards, she slammed him into the nearest tree. Gasping with surprise, Skywalker felt the air leaving his lungs on impact and watched Mara's face only inches away from him.

"What do you think you were doing back there, Jedi?" she hissed angrily, rage and frustration oozing from her in heavy waves. "You could have gotten us both killed with your antics!"

"Mara ...," Luke opened his mouth but Jade shook her head.

"Not a word, Jedi! I really should have let your sorry butt rot in there. I thought you had more sense, some of those guards are cut throats who'd love to kill Jedi and young guns who think they can do as they please," Mara explained calmly, too calmly for Skywalker's liking.

Oh boy, I have messed up! he thought. He had only seen Mara like this a few times in his life before and when she was in one of these moods she was deadly - in the literal sense of the word.

"I- I'm sorry," he muttered, trying to put as much sincerity into his voice as he could muster and not show too much panic.

"You better be, Skywalker, because next time you get into such a mess again I might consider letting you rot!" Mara hissed and shoved him away. Luke watched her with guarded eyes.

It had been a while since they had last seen each other and he would have preferred to have met her again under different circumstances. Their short-lived affair that had ended painfully, was still too close to comfort and yet his heart had soared when he had found out Velda was actually non other than Mara. Something like hope had glimmered deep inside of him, hope that she had returned to him and that they could work out together what the Emperor had done to her all those years ago.

"Thank you, Mara," Luke said softly and their eyes met. Mara shook her head, then turned away from him.

"You're welcome, Skywalker, but this is really getting old. When will you ever learn and not rely on me to save your butt?" Mara questioned harsher than she had intended. She wasn't prepared to talk to him so soon, she realised.

"Hey, I didn't ask you to rescue me, Jade. In fact, how did you know I was kept there?" Luke asked, his temper slowly rising to the surface. How can she act so cold when only a few months ago they were more than comrades in arms who could barely tolerated each other? he asked himself angrily. He stumbled over a root and swore under his breath when he tried to catch himself without his arms out for balance. Mara turned just in time and grabbed him by his shoulders and straightened him.

"You considering untying me now?" Luke asked with an exasperated sigh and held out his hands for her to cut the coarse bindings. For a moment their eyes met and Mara was tempted to keep him tied up but then bent forward and in a swift movement, she slipped a knife out of her boot and cut the restraints.

"So how did you know I was here?" Luke asked again as he shook out his hands.

"Wedge told me," she said and secreted the knife back into the shaft of her boot as she resumed their way to the ship.

"Wedge?" Luke asked and stopped in his tracks when he saw a lone figure, blaster rifle in hand standing just beside the lowered ramp of the spacecraft they were heading to. It was a YT Corellian freighter. Mara turned around and cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Don't tell me that little pirates' vacation you took impaired your memory, Skywalker?" she asked. "Wedge Antilles, your Rogue Squad buddy."

"I know who Wedge is, Jade. I just wondered how he knew?" Luke said and felt his temper rising again. Only Mara could do that so easily, he was about to point it out to her, when Mara drew him aside and shouts could be heard from the direction of the pirate's hide out.

"Sithspit!" Mara swore under her breath and scanned the area.

"What is it?" Luke asked and inhaled sharply when he saw a group of five heavily armed pirates coming their way.

"They must have found out that Velda didn't pay ..." Mara mused and met Luke's surprised look with a raised eyebrow. "You didn't seriously think I'd leave good NR credits with those Wampabags, do you?"

"But I saw you ... I mean you gave them the pouch ... and he checked..." Luke's voice trailed away when Mara retrieved the very pouch from under her innumerable padding.

"Sometimes you are just too naive, Farmboy," Mara said while she secreted the credits away again and got out her wrist blaster.

"We have to get back to the ship!" she snarled and took aim. "Corran and Wedge are waiting for us! Now GO!"

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