Chapter Six - Death

The next morning they had reached the space station of the Cha Raaba system and the tension between Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker was palpable, so thick that even a lightsaber would had have trouble cutting through. Wedge who had the ingenious idea of having a final breakfast in the space station's lounge before heading off in all the different directions they needed to go, watched both Jedi carefully. From what he had heard from Corran this very morning those two shouldn't behaving the way they did. Both were extremely polite and distant, not at all like the friends they had been last night.

The Corellian sighed and shot Corran a look that stated clearly he was annoyed and puzzled. Something must be done, Wedge thought and drew Corran to the side.

"Do you know what happened?" he asked and Corran shrugged his shoulders.

"I told you they looked fine last night, something must have happened when they went to bed," Corran replied and squeezed his eyes shut. Since he had seen Luke and Mara this morning, both keeping silent toward each other, he had groped his mind why this sudden change in their behaviour.

"Tell you what, I'll take Mara to the lounge and you two arrive later. I want to have a word with Miss Jade," Corran said and his friend nodded to that.

"Okay, and I will have a word with Luke. I hate to see those two not even exchanging a word with each other and that silence is getting on my nerves!" Wedge said forcefully and Horn understood exactly what his friend meant.

Mara Jade was warming her hands around the cup of caf that sat in front of her. The lounge was full with other people and creatures but they had made sure to acquire a four-seater table and now Corran and Mara sat, facing each other and the woman tried to ignore the air of annoyance coming from her friend.

Corran Horn watched the woman in front of him, she looked small and forlorn as she sat there in a black shirt, the top of her flight suit securely tied around her waist.

"Care to tell me what is wrong with the two of you?" Corran asked without preamble in a tone that clearly told Mara he wanted an answer.

Mara groaned and looked into her cup and expected to find the answer to Horn's question in the depth of the caf. But of course, she could not find it and instead of retorting with a snappish remark, she just shrugged her shoulders.

"Jade," Corran's voice was little less than a growl. "Don't toy with me like you do with Luke."

Jade stiffened visibly and shot him a glare out of emerald green eyes. "I do not toy, either with you or Luke or anyone else."

"No?" The man asked and grinned. "You could have fooled me, Jade. Now, out with it. What happened?"

Mara stared at him, then straightened her shoulders. "CorSec, you are neither my father, nor my brother, and I really don't think it is any of your business how I deal with my life."

"Sure, I'm not your brother or father, Jade, but I'm a friend ... a friend who cares about two of his best friends, and I can't believe how you and Luke behave like the two of you do," Corran replied softly. "So what happened? You two are so polite to each other when you exchange words that it is sickening."

Mara took a sip of her caf and grimaced when she noticed it had turned cold. "What is it with you Jedi? Always meddling with other people's lives. You and Luke are just the same ... the two of you should get into a relationship."

Corran laughed at that and shook his head. "Us three. You are a Jedi too, Jade," retorted dryly.

The woman snorted at that and shook her head. "I'm not a Jedi, Horn and you know it," she growled and looked up.

"Well, it is your fault if you don't accept your birth right, Mara. You're a Jedi, you just need the final training on Yavin ..."

"...with Skywalker," Mara snapped. "And I'll be Kesseled if I do that ..." She frowned when she saw the smirk on Corran's face and not for the first time she longed for her old life back. To a time when she did not have well-meaning friends who wanted to help her, support her ... Jade mentally shook herself and her grip on the cup increased so much that her knuckles turned white.

No more, she thought. I should not wish for a life where I was enslaved, she admonished herself. Closing her eyes, she wearily rubbed her temples.

"Look, Horn, I really appreciate your effort, but what is between me and Luke is none of your business ..." she paused then grimaced at how her own words sounded. "Even if there were anything between the Jedi Master and myself."

Corran couldn't believe his ears. How can she be so stubborn? Didn't she see that they were both madly in love with each other? Corran asked himself then shook his head slightly. Probably not.

"Mara, look," he paused for a moment and smirked when he noticed that he had just thrown back her own words. "I don't want to talk you into anything you don't want to but you really should have a talk with Luke. If not for your own sake, than for his. He has been through enough as it is and this on and off thing you two seem to be indulging in with each other is not good for the both of you."

Mara stared at him in puzzlement. "You really think it is me, right?" she all of a sudden blurted out. "Doesn't it even in the slightest way cross your mind that the almighty Jedi Master is at fault here? You are wasting your time, CorSec, it is the Jedi Master you should have a word with."

Corran stared at her and deeply engrossed in his own thoughts, he brushed his hand over his beard. What shall I do with those two? I just hope Wedge has more luck with Luke, he thought as both lapsed into an uneasy silence.

Walking into the lounge, Antilles and Skywalker stopped just right inside the entrance and let their gaze sweep over the crowd.

"Hey, Luke, give me a hand with the caf?" Wedge asked after he had made out Corran and Mara at a table just beside the huge panorama windows. During their trip over from the freighter to the space station he had pried Luke gently and he had not found anything amiss with him other than him clamping up like a Calamarian shell every time he brought up Mara's name.

"Sure," Luke replied and followed Wedge over to the counter. There, he watched as Antilles ordered not only their cups of caf but also for himself and Horn a breakfast. When it was Luke's turn he ordered bachon and Inuoie milk with soft Corellian sweet bread for two.

Wedge laughed and slapped his friend's lean stomach lightly. "I really don't know where you leave all this stuff," Wedge commented and Luke shot him a sheepish smile.

"The breakfast is for Mara too," he said shyly and let his gaze move over to where Mara and Corran sat.

"Don't tell me you have converted her to that awful milk?" Antilles grimaced and sipped on the caf that had arrived. "Yuck," he made in mock-revulsion and Luke laughed.

"You should try it, Wedge, it is quite tasty." Luke shot back.

"Thanks, but no thanks, Luke. You might convert the woman you love to that kind of blue milk, but leave your fiends out of it ..."

The young Jedi Master stared at his friend, then shook his head. "Is it this obvious?" he asked softly and Wedge frowned.

"What? That you try to deliberately want your friends suffer of food poisoning?" Antilles deliberately misunderstood Skywalker's soft-spoken request and when he saw that this battle-hardened man blushed a deep crimson, he planted a hand on his shoulder.

"Yes, it is obvious, but only to those who care deeply about you. And Corran and I care about you and Mara."

Luke smirked at that. "I can understand that Corran does, but you Antilles? Have you found your soft spot for Jade?"

"She is not too bad if you ignore some of her more irritating personality traits," Wedge countered with a grin. "She seems to like you ... well, most of the times when she doesn't want to strangle you. But then again, who of your friend's hadn't had that notion before, though not as long and as steady as Mara Jade. And she is a Force-user, and although I'm still in the dark at what it really means to be one of those, I think it is important for you that the woman in your life can share that side of you what you are and what it means to you as well. You are perfect for each other when you look at it closely."

Luke stared at his friend almost with an open mouth. I can't believe Wedge is giving me advice on my love-life?! Luke thought and mentally shook himself. Great, Skywalker, now your friends meddle with your life as well, not only your well-meaning twin sister.

"Wedge ..." Skywalker started lamely but Antilles waved him away.

"No, let me be, Luke. You will listen to me. You know that I only get this serious when the situation is likewise and I think this is a serious situation. You two looked so happy together last night and now not 24 standard hours later you behave as if you barely know each other," For a moment he directed his gaze towards the woman who was at the center of their conversation. "I don't want to know what happened between the two of you, but if you continue like this you will lose more than your friendship." The Corellian turned away after he had ordered the waiter droid to serve their meals at the table and with caf in hand, Antilles slowly strolled over to where Mara and Corran sat.

Luke stared after his friend and for a moment he was too shell-shocked as to will his senses and limbs to follow him. He had mustered up enough courage to go over to the table, when his comm link started beeping.

"Ah Antilles, you are my man," Corran greeted his friend boisterously after the waiter droid had brought them their breakfast.

"Yes, thanks Antilles," Mara piped in when she saw that the waiter droid had brought for herself her favourite breakfast dish.

"The Jedi Master chose for you, Jade, he said you liked the blue milk and the bachon," Wedge eyed her closely and for a moment he was certain he had seen a flash of gratefulness cross her face before it turned back into the expression of bored coolness.

"Thanks anyway, Antilles," Mara murmured and turned her head slightly into the direction where she supposed to find Skywalker. He was on the comm and she frowned when she so the soft smile on his lips that threatened to split his face.

"He looks like that and more when he looks at you, Mara," she barely heard Corran's whispered words and she whirled around, a sharp retort on her lips that died down.

With flashing eyes, she picked up the cutlery and dug into her breakfast. Damn Corran ... damn all Jedi! she thought as she mechanically ate bite for bite, drank sip after sip of Luke's favourite drink. Only at the fringe of her perception she heard the banter between Corran and Wedge and when Luke came to the table.

By instinct she moved across the bench to make room for him and after he slid in beside her, she dared to watch him out of the corner of her eyes.

"Something has come up," Skywalker said, pushing his food around on his plate. "Leia asked me to return to Coruscant."

"Another dark Jedi threatening the galaxy?" Corran offered and Wedge joined in: "Or another Death Star to destroy?"

"No," Luke laughed at the eagerness in both men's voices. "Nothing like that at all. It is the twin's birthday and Leia asked me to come ... Jacen and Jaina want to celebrate their birthing day with their Uncle Luke."

"Ah, the Solo terrors," Antilles grinned. "If Iella and I ever have such little darlings, I guess I'll kill myself."

They all laughed and even Mara grimaced. She had first hand knowledge of the Solo terrors as she once had the bad luck to stay at Skywalker's apartment, when the two twins had visited their Uncle Lukie.

But in the end it had been a nice afternoon, she told herself silently. I had lots of fun with the kids, it would be nice to have one of my own one day ... She stiffened at the thought, knowing full well, that due to the Emperor's administrations she would never have children.

Ignoring the banter of the men around her, she thought back to the day that Palpatine had called her. It was a happy day, her first day as his Emperor's Hand after her official training was over. She had been thirteen at the time, full of hope, full of so much conviction that the Emperor was right and that being the Emperor's Hand was a noble cause.

I was so naive and stupid, Mara chided herself and closed her eyes as if to shut out the memory of this fateful day. Palpatine had called her and when she had arrived in his throne room, he had immediately ordered her to go to the medcenter. Vader had accompanied her and at first she had thought that it was just a regular med exam but she had been wrong. Young Mara had been drugged and operated upon. When she woke up later that day, her whole body felt like liquid fire and a scar showed up on her abdomen and on her left arm.

She had been barely able to walk but the Emperor had called her into his throne room again and with the help of Vader, she had managed to walk there on her two feet. Then Palpatine had disclosed what he had done to her.

Emperor's Hand, to ensure your loyalties do not sway, this medical interference was necessary. I cannot have my Hand thrown off her path if she gets pregnant and your ... services ... will call for certain techniques that could ensure a pregnancy.

The terror she had felt back then was not as great as she had felt it in the past years. The older she got the more she felt the flaw of her infertility. The Emperor took more than was his due, she thought and tried to suppress the tears that wanted to well up.

And how can Skywalker still love me if he knew? The question pounded in her head. She knew that he wanted a family of his own and if she really opened her heart and mind to him, committed herself to him, they would eventually end up as life partners. I could not lie to him, and I could not condemn him to a life without a family, without children. I don't want to hurt him any more.

Jade was so engrossed in her reverie that Corran had to ask her a third time before she became aware that she was not alone. Unsteadily, she looked up, focusing on the man in front of her who looked concerned.

"Jade, you okay?" Corran asked again and Mara nodded her head.

"Yes," she cleared her throat. "I'm fine, I just went through some things I still have to do till I return to Coruscant."

"Well, then it is a deal, right? You and Luke can return to Coruscant together while General Lamewing and I keep an eye on the pirates," Horn said and yelped when Antilles nudged his ribs with his uninjured elbow.

"I give you General Lamewing, Horn!" Wedge snorted.

"I ... I beg your pardon?" Mara asked, raising an eyebrow. "What is this with this trip to Coruscant?"

"Haven't you heard a word we said?" Corran teased her. "You should take better notice of what is going on, Ex-Emperor's Hand."

"I have to go back to Coruscant and as the Fire is faster than the X-Wing we thought it better we store the X-Wing in your hold and return to Coruscant together, Jade," Skywalker said, searching her face. The wave of despair that he had picked up coming from her had disturbed him and he desperately wished to take away some of the pain she felt.

"Sure," Mara said, pushing to her feet and the Jedi Master was quick to stumble out from the bench and make room for her. "I have clearance for 10:00 so make certain your X-Wing is securely stored away in the Fire's hold by then." Fishing into one of her many flight suit pockets, she produced a credit chip and threw it onto the table.

The three men watched as the trader left the lounge. All three obviously puzzled, though Luke had felt a knot tightening in his gut. Although Mara had shielded herself he had picked up on her emotions and he feared that the Emperor had something to do with them.

Luke watched as Mara checked the securing durasteel clamps with which they were tying down the X-Wing in the Fire's hold. Luke was still amazed how much they worked in unison even if from Mara's point of view they were still on non-speaking terms.

Inwardly, he sighed and watched her tensed back. Mara, what is going on in your head? he asked himself silently. One day, we take two steps forward and then on days like this one it seems as if we are thrown back a couple of light years.

The Jedi Master sighed again, and squatted down in front of the last clamps, checking it carefully. Ever since Mara had agreed to take him to Coruscant, he had deliberately kept in the background to give Mara a bit more time but he had waited long enough. He needed to talk to her, needed her to be herself around him and he wanted to make it up to her in any way possible.

When she had finished her own check, Mara Jade stood up and walked over to the corridor that led to the ladder that connected the lower storing hold with the level of the cockpit and her cabin. She had felt Skywalker's emotions as if they were her own and more than once she had been tempted to acknowledge him in any way, just to hear his voice. But she was still too angry and the memory of what the Emperor had done to her was still foremost in her mind.

She was in the cockpit when she felt Skywalker walking over to the cockpit, leaning against the durasteel frame of the hatch. She was so intensely aware of his presence that she almost could feel his breathing as he stood there watching her back.

After checking the controls one last time she pulled the lever down to jump into hyperspace and she knew she had lost the battle when she felt a wave of concern coming form him through their bond.

"What is it?" Mara asked with her back to him as she stood in combat stance in front of the front port staring at the streamlined lights of the stars in hyperspace.

"We need to talk, Mara," Luke said softly and the snort coming from the woman was overly loud in the otherwise silent room.

"Talk? All you ever do is talk, Skywalker. This is getting old," Jade replied harshly. "I think we have covered about everything there is last night."

"Jade," the Jedi Master growled as a warning and stepped up behind the Trader. "If we continue exchanging pleasantries you should at least turn to face me." He reached out his hand but before he could touch her, she whirled around, her hands readily raised to strike out.

Luke was taken aback by the determination that emanated from Mara Jade and he raised his hands in front of him. "Mara, I'm not your enemy and I'm not going to fight with you!"

"Then leave me alone, Jedi!" Mara snapped and visibly relaxed. "There is nothing we could talk about, Skywalker. You covered your opinion pretty well last night."

Luke Skywalker sighed and rubbed his face wearily before he slumped into the co-pilot's chair. After a while he looked up to her, blue eyes meeting green ones in an intense stare that had the power to cut down any form of duracrete.

"I'm sorry about what I said, Jade. You must know that I didn't intended it the way it sounded," He shrugged his shoulders and grinned at her sheepishly. "I just felt irritable when Talon ... interrupted us ..."

Mara stared at him wide-eyed. Damn you Skywalker, she thought. Why do you always have to be so damn honest?
Or so damn cute, naive and sexy? a little voice in the back of her mind reminded herself.

Wit an exasperated sigh, Mara sat down in her pilot's chair and watched Skywalker squirm in his seat.

"I'm not good for you," she suddenly blurted out and she turned her head away when she felt the Jedi Master's intense gaze on her. For a short moment, the trader was able to ignore it, was able to avoid his eyes but in the end she lost this particular battle and the instance she locked gazes with Skywalker, she knew she had lost.

*Why is that?* Luke asked softly through their bond and Mara closed her eyes for a short moment.

*Because it will never work, Skywalker,* she sent him, sending him her conviction. "We are not compatible, Farmboy, that's why," she said out loud.

For a moment silence was as thick as the hide of a bantha before, Luke jumped to his feet and crossed the distance between them.

"I thought we had that already covered, Mara?" he asked gently, squatting down in front of her and letting his thumb run over the soft skin over her cheekbone. "Look, you know I won't ask anything of you that you can't give me. But I can't return to a just friends status ... not anymore. I want you in my life, whether it is on Yavin, or Coruscant or on a Force-free planet. You are my one constant, can't you see that?"

I love you, Mara Jade he added silently, keeping his shields safely in place.

"For almost sixteen years we have been enemies and then friends, Mara. It is time for us to move on, to become more. I want us to be more. I want to wake up in the mornings with you in my arms. I want you to return home to me when you come back from one of your trade runs. And if you think I'm going to fast then we can wait, but eventually I want you and you will have me, body and soul ..."

The former Emperor's Hand swallowed hard and stared at the Jedi Master with disbelieving eyes. This wonderful man offered her so much. Much more than she had ever dared to dream about.

But I need time, she told herself. I have to think it all through.

"You are crazy, Farmboy, do you know that?" Mara asked and tried to swallow around the tight knot that had formed in her throat. With a shivering hand she cupped his face, then smiled.

"Well, it is not an adjective I would use on myself, but, yes, I must be crazy," Luke retorted and winked at her. "Totally crazy because I love the most enigmatic, mysterious, deadly woman in the whole galaxy." There he had said it! Luke held his breath while he searched Mara's face. Inwardly, he steeled himself for a sharp barb, but it never came.

Letting out the breath he had not been aware he was holding, he drew Mara closer, placing a soft kiss on her forehead. "You can have all the time you need, but one thing I promise you. You won't get rid of me, Jade. I'll always be there for you."

The tension had left both of them and for long moments they just sat there, holding each other tight, their lips resting against each other's skins. Neither spoke while both were being enwrapped into the presence of each other. Luke had lowered his shields and now a strong wave of love washed over Mara and she soaked it up like a Calamarian Caytinnie sponge.

Images of the Force vision from last night flashed before Luke again and for a moment he stiffened slightly. Their bond was so strong, so intimate that it would have been easy to probe the woman in his arms further, to make sure if the future was already in motion but like last night, he decided against it and if it was the Force' wish, he and Mara would eventually have children.

He grinned at that. I would love to have children with her, Mara would make a wonderful mother, even if she doesn't think so.

Although Mara had not picked up on all his thoughts, some of the great emotion that the thoughts evoked in him clearly came across their mutual bond. They put her mind in turmoil, but she knew Luke Skywalker long enough to know that he had meant every word he had said.

Slowly raising her head, she gazed deeply into the blue pools of his eyes. "This is my promise, Farmboy. When I'm ready, I will find you ..."

*You have to, Mara,* Luke sent her and smiled when she raised an eyebrow at him. "I still have your saber, and you might like a good, trustworthy weapon."

Mara smirked, then nodded her head. "Yes, I'd like that very much," she said and caressed his cheeks. "That saber is like a symbol for what we have... both deadly and soothing and double-edged. So if I ever request my saber back then you'll know I want us to happen as well."

The Jedi nodded to that solemnly and after a quick kiss it was almost time to pull out of hyperspace as the nav-droid gave off a series of beeps and whistles. They had reached their destination.

Three weeks later

The gas giant was rising slowly over the moon of Yavin IV as Master Skywalker ran through the still awakening jungle of his homestead. Luke enjoyed these early morning runs when the dew covered plants and trees dripped in the first rays of the sun and the heavy scent of the exotic flowers of the jungle filled his senses.

The chirp of the birds was overly loud when the sun rose over the horizon as if all living beings on the moon greeted the sun, and for a short moment Luke stopped his race through the forest and watched the beauty of the sunrise in awe.

Golden-red light streaked across the Forest floors, setting the deep greens and yellows of the leaves into a frenzy of rich colour. At moments like this Luke felt more like the Farmboy than the Jedi Master as he watched silently, reverently, his breath forcing great mouthfuls into his lungs. His tank top was drenched with sweat and when sun light hit the spot where the Jedi Master stood, light glistened off his glistening skin, slanting shadows and highlights on his muscles.

Squinting in the light of the new day, Luke Skywalker resumed his jog through the forest and enjoyed the feeling of the Force and all life beings surrounding him. But not only the perfection of this new dawn made him feel elated, he also knew that today Mara Jade was expected for a visit. He smiled to himself.

Three weeks, five days and thirteen hours, he counted to himself. Almost a complete standard month since I last saw her. He just couldn't wipe the silly grin of his face ever since he had received her holo message. Even now after almost twelve hours he felt as if he could embrace the whole galaxy. Luke had never felt like this before. Not even for Callista. But then again I was already in love with Mara when Callista happened, the Jedi Master told himself and for the first time he admitted the truth. He had not loved Callista. Of course, I felt affection for her but not real love, not like what I'm experiencing now.

Laughter rose in his throat when he replayed the conversation he had with Mara in his mind. It had been short and straight to the point.
"Hello Farmboy," Mara had greeted him and he had felt that his heart had missed a beat when he saw the beautiful woman smiling at him.. "I thought to let you know I want my lightsaber back!"

"And she wants me, she wants us," the Jedi Master whispered under his breath, trying to keep the images of their lovemaking at bay and safely tucked away into the back of his mind where he had reserved a place just for Mara. Beautiful, sexy, exasperating Mara, he thought and almost tripped over a root.

Laughing loudly, Luke chided himself for his inattention and focused back on the path before him. She wanted him back in her life and he felt grateful for this. Over the last months they had slowly and painstakingly resurrected their friendship again, after the fall-out of their brief if not tempestuous affair and they had reached a comfortable closeness that was far more than just being friends but still less than that of lovers, even though they had submitted to their mutual attraction to each other on Cha Niem. Luke was determined to change this during her stay on Yavin.

He remembered that last time they had made love. Back on the Force-free planet of Cha Niem their lovemaking had been exceptional, astounding, sexy. Luke grinned at the memory. I'd never thought such perfection would be possible.

Closing his eyes, he felt for the Force flowing through him and he could feel Mara, her barriers were up but her presence was something he could feel with every breath he was taking, their permanent link now more profound and stronger than anything he had ever experienced, even with his twin sister. But ever since she had contacted him, her presence in the Force had dimmed continuously, as if she was deliberately shielding herself, and Luke had difficulties feeling her.

Oh well, Mara is up to her old tricks again, Luke thought and accelerated his speed to return to the Temple.

Tionne watched the Jedi Master as he crashed through the underbrush of the jungle onto the small clearing in front of the Massassi Temple that had been converted from Rebel base to Jedi Academy. She had just finished her Jedi Morning trance and prepared herself for the day ahead when the comm unit beeped into life. Sighing, the elderly woman fastened the cloth belt around her waist and moved quickly to the comm room just off her small office.

Rushing over, she suppressed the receive button and the holo imager came to life. The drawn and tensed face of Talon Karrde appeared.

"Master Trader Karrde, what an unexpected pleasure," Tionne said but her smile was forced. Try as she might, she did not particularly condone Master Skywalker's choice of friends. All of them were either smugglers or reckless pilots or both and she didn't think it was befitting the only living Jedi Master to have such friends.

"Tionne," Talon Karrde nodded his greeting, then ran his hands over his face and neck tiredly. "I need to talk to Luke, is he there?"

"Master Skywalker is not here, Master Karrde, but I can leave him a message," Tionne replied coldly, about to turn off the comm unit.

"Just tell him that I'm in orbit and arrive in about twenty minutes," Karrde pressed through gritted teeth and then the connection went dead.

Raising an eyebrow Tionne clicked her tongue. "By the love of....," the woman broke off when she saw Skywalker passing the door.

"Good morning Tionne," Luke called out to her good-naturedly. "Who got onto your wrong side so early this morning?"

"Master Skywalker, good morning to you too," Tionne answered, not bothering to keep her flustered tone down. "Why this ex-smuggler Talon Karrde, he demanded to tell you he is in orbit."

"Talon?" Luke stopped dead in his tracks and rubbed the sweat off his face with the towel he had slung around his neck. "He wasn't scheduled ..." Skywalker thanked Tionne and made his way over to his own small set of rooms. He showered quickly and in under fifteen minutes he arrived at the assigned landing platform where he watched the landing of the Wild Karrde. As soon as the engines powered down, the ramp went down and Talon Karrde appeared.

Smiling, Luke walked over to meet his friend but as soon as his eyes fell upon the stricken face of the ex-smuggler, he knew something was wrong.

"Talon," Luke said when the other man took him into a close hug. "What's wrong?"

"Luke ... I didn't want to tell you over the comm .... " Talon Karrde squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and a wave of loss and despair washed over Luke.

"What happened, Talon? Is it Coruscant, Leia, the kids ...." When Karrde shook his head, an invisible fist gripped at the Jedi Master's heart. "Mara?" he choked out and watched as if through a haze as Talon Karrde nodded.

"We found the Jade's Fire adrift, open to space about a standard day away from Yavin. Laser fire has ripped a large part off the hull of the craft," Talon swallowed heavily. "Mara is dead."

The howl of anger, pain and frustration that escaped the Jedi Master's throat carried far and wide and echoed off the mountains in the far distance.

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