Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Las Vegas Nevada
Current Game: Dungeonseige series
The ancient Massassi temple hulked in the depths of it’s clearing. The only sign of life was a single person sitting in a tailor’s seat on the pinnacle. She breathed in deeply, meditating. Mara Jade had what might be called a checkered past. Training when she was young as a dancer made every gesture fluid.
Then an officer of the Empire raised to Imperial Hand, a position making her every action the will of the Emperor himself. With the power of life or death over all she met.
No one questioned the orders of an Imperial Hand. When they were chosen they were immediately sequestered, trained and hypnotically processed until all orders from the Emperor were obeyed without question. If she had been told to go to a planet and execute every left handed red haired man with a mole on his cheek between 18 and fifty standard years, she would have done it.
Then had come the Rebellion. She had been sent on missions, a lot of Rebels and those she might as perceived as such died by her hand or command. She had been feared and hated.
When the Emperor had determined that Darth Vader would join with his son Luke Skywalker supplant the Emperor and rule the Galaxy, she had been sent to kill young Skywalker. Fate saved him on Tatooine, and then the Emperor had died. But that does not stay an Imperial Hand.
It wasn’t until Mara killed the clone of Luke Skywalker that the compulsion had been broken.
Now? Mentally she shrugged. Talon Karrde still needed a good right hand woman. Learning about the Jedi and growing in the force was interesting, but still she felt adrift in life.
A ship entered the atmosphere, and she automatically looked at it. A modified Koensayr BTL-S3. Called the Y wing, this model had the drooping nose of a Rekantha bird with a sleeper cabin.
She smoothly flowed to her feet. She walked down the steps toward the landing pad.
Ahead of her, Raven’s Claw cooled, metal pinging as the temperature bled away. The hatch was already open, and Luke was standing there talking with a young girl. She paused, watching.
Luke was like that. He treated everyone he met as if he thought they were important. He would address a class of students at the Academy as if it were a foregone conclusion that they would succeed. A pity it wasn’t true.
“In a moment we will go to the Academy, and get you started.” He said. Then he raised his head, cocking it as if he was listening to a silent voice. “Hello, Mara. Back again?” He turned, and she looked into those eyes again.
Even when she had been compelled to kill him, she had felt that spark. She wanted to reach out, capture it, learn what it was, but she resisted. “Hello, Luke. Just made a supply drop for you.” She looked down. The girl was watching her distrustfully. “And who are you, little girl?”
She had tried for a friendly tone, having never really gotten on with children. The girl reacted to her tone, but in reverse. The girl stepped back, and her eyes flicked around her as looking for an escape route.
“She won’t harm you, Twyna.” Luke admonished. Mara noticed that Luke hadn’t tried to touch the girl, and wondered why. “Twyna, this is Mara Jade. She was a student here for a while.” He looked back at Mara. She wondered if he felt that spark as well, but the rigid control of a Jedi stood up to even her trained instincts.
“Hello, Twyna.” Mara looked back at Luke. “We had some problems getting the crystals you asked for. But everything else is there.”
“Good. And how is the Smuggler’s guild coming?”
She laughed. Only Luke would make an illegal organization sound like just another New Republic voting block. “Very well. Pretty soon we’ll be the largest merchant fleet in the Republic.”
“Ah, success.” He answered dryly
“Yes. Business has been good.” He nodded, but there was a slightly sour look. “Luke, we promised not to carry slaves. Cut us some slack.”
“You’re right of course.”
Mara had seen the girl tense at the mention of slaves. Had she been one? “We don’t carry slaves because we don’t approve of the practice.” She explained to the girl. “To make someone property diminishes us all. In fact Lando and Karrde are planning a raid on a Black Sun slaver‘s operation some time next week.”
The girl relaxed a bit.
“I enjoyed seeing you again. Don’t wait so long to come back.” Luke said. “Come Twyna.”
They walked away. Mara watched him, and felt a pang of sadness. Maybe-
“He really cares about you.” She turned to face Kyle Katarn, who was leaning out of the cabin of Raven’s Claw. “He walks on clouds for days after he’s seen you.”
“How can you tell?” She asked tartly.
“Stay around him long enough, you’ll start to read his little signs. His eyes glitter a bit, and his step is lighter.” Kyle climbed down, then closed the hatch. “The kid worries me, though.”
“We found her on a derelict. She was used by a lot of people from what I downloaded from the computer.” Mara’s face grew cold. Kyle nodded. “Yeah, like that. She made her own lightsaber and went on a rampage. Fifteen dead.” He held up a datapad, then handed it to her silently. “I made your group a copy. I think the Wild Karrde and Lady Luck might want to visit the organization sometime soon.”
“If I have a say Jade’s Fire will be there too.” She motioned toward where Luke had gone. “How is Luke going to take that?”
“Mara, he’s good at holding it in, but he’s not that good. If he knew I was giving this to you, he’d be upset, but not as much as you might think.” Kyle shrugged. “He’ll hate that they had to be removed, but he’ll understand why.”
“I wish I knew what he was thinking.” She murmured. “It’s frustrating.”
“Why? Because he won’t sweep down like the hero in a romantic holo-novel and sweep you off your feet?”
She laughed. With her training, someone doing that might end up dead before she understood that he intended romance. “No, I can’t really see Luke doing that. Can you?”
They shared the laugh. “I had best be going before I do something stupid myself.”
“For your sake, and his, why don’t you just this once?”
“Not in my nature.”
“More the pity.” Kyle watched the woman walk away. He turned back to his ship, and began tinkering.
Jaden Korr relaxed into the tub with a sigh of relief. He had just returned from Dathomir where he had been trying to track down rumors that the Nightsisters had been reconstituted. For a man it was a hellish assignment. The Witches of Dathomir considered anything male as slaves. Lucky for him the present day leader had taken a personal interest in him.
Luck! He snorted lathering his hair. After that assignment he needed a few days rest-
The com panel bleeped and he glared at it sourly. “The first law of communications.” He growled standing. “When a body is fully immersed in water, someone just has to call.” He stormed across the room, slamming the annunciator. “What!”
“Jaden, I need to see you immediately about your next assignment.” Luke Skywalker’s voice replied.
“Damn! Give me a few minutes, Master Luke.”
“I’m sorry. Were you asleep?”
“No I was in the bath. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Take your time. A clean Jedi is a happy Jedi.”
Jaden snorted, and returned to the tub.
Luke looked across the jungle outside the Academy’s Massassi temple. He closed his eyes, feeling the life that abounded. The planet was teeming with life from the smallest worm to the herds of huge Koorti birds. He could feel them, see them as lights that moved, bred, lived and died without ever raising their heads to the stars.
Behind him he felt another presence. He turned to face Jaden Korr. Luke remembered him as a bristly young man with his own lightsaber and an attitude to go with it. The mission to permanently seal Marko Ragnos’ tomb had made him a premier Jedi.
“Jaden, I feel that you need a little down time. But at the same time, I feel you also need something to do.”
“Can’t have it both ways.”
“How are you with children?”
“Then think of this as a growth experience. Kyle and I found an eleven year old girl on a derelict in the Minos system. The people who held her had been selling her services to those who might want that kind of thing.” He noticed the tensing in the younger man, nodding in reply to the unspoken question. “At some point in the last days aboard, she built her own lightsaber, as you did.”
Jaden looked at the double-saber he carried. His old saber had been destroyed during the investigation of the followers of Ragnos, and he had built this one to replace it. But he remembered the half dreamlike state from when he built the first one. “She must have felt a great need.”
“Considering what had been done to her for three or more years, that need was truly great.”
“Three or more years?” Jaden’s eyes flamed. “They brutalized her for that long?”
Luke nodded. “She herself doesn’t know how long. She built her saber, and when someone came to use her again, she acted.” Luke sighed. “Fifteen people dead, the ship wrecked. From what I saw she attacked anything that even reminded her of the situation.”
“Not everything.” Jaden demurred. “You didn’t go through it, and neither did I. But kids in that position soon blame themselves. If she had felt that any of it was her fault, you would have found sixteen dead aboard. Any idea who was running the op?”
“Kyle was able to get some of the data from the computer. They were freelancers working for the Black Sun Cartel on occasion. All of the data is in our archives now.” Luke walked down the steps, stopping before the younger man. “Will you train her?”
Jaden considered. “Some of it will be rough. Part of what she needs to learn is that she can depend on other people. It’ll be rough for the first few months, but I think I can handle it.”
“Then come, meet your student.”
The inside of the temple had been refinished to modern standards, though a lot had been left as it was. Built first by Naga Sadow over five thousand years ago, they had been updated when Exar Kun had occupied the planet four thousand odd years ago, and again less than 20 years ago when the Rebellion had used the planet as a base. Conflicting technology styles formed a hodgepodge on the walls.
As they reached the mess hall, they heard an angry shout, smashing, then a lightsaber activating. The men ran, bursting into the room.
Twyna stood with her back against the wall, her saber singing. Facing her were two other students. Both were almost twice her age. One of the tables had been flipped against the wall and lay in a shattered pile. One of the boys dripped liquid broken pottery and stew meat. Luke stopped, hands clasped behind his back. “I think I deserve an explanation.”
“Master-” Began one of the young men. Luke held up a hand to forestall him.
“Twyna, please shut it down.” The girl glared at him, then at the boys. The blade died, and she moved along the wall away from the younger men. “You were saying Tono?”
“We had come in from practice. The girl was at the table eating and Kade picked up her lightsaber. Next thing we knew she flipped the table against the wall, smashed her bowl on his head, and snatched it back.”
Jaden looked at the table. It had been made of local Kervorin wood, almost hard enough to be used as hull plating. The hundred odd kilos of table now lay in shattered pieces. He looked to Luke silently.
“Explain yourself, Kade.”
“I just thought it was a practice saber!” Kade blurted. “I just wanted to see how it was different from the one I use in practice.”
“Twyna made the lightsaber she carries. You both know that a Jedi’s lightsaber is a part of them. Something you do not touch unless they allow it. Kade, you owe her an apology.”
“I’m sorry, kid-”
“I am not a kid!”
“Twyna, it is an expression. Most people call anyone younger than them kid on occasion.” Jaden said. “I’ve been called it and worse in my time.”
“As have I.” Luke added. “Now you owe Kade an apology, Twyna. He wasn’t going to steal from you. He was just curious.”
Jaden could see the fire of rebellion in the girl. Then she sighed. “Sorry.”
“I think you need to get cleaned up Kade. We have business with Twyna so may we have some privacy?” The older boys left, looking back at the trio that remained.
“Twyna, this is Jaden Korr. He built his own saber just like you did a few years ago. I have asked him to be your teacher. Is that all right with you?”
The girl looked at Luke, then at Jaden. The small amount of trust she seemed to have for Skywalker was absent. “When can I help people?”
Jaden looked across the room. He closed his eyes, and pictured the table sitting as it should have been. He heard a gasp from Twyna, and he opened his eyes. The pieces of the table had reformed, and moved to where they had been. “When you can put the table back as it was, you will be ready for the next step.” He released the force, and the pieces fell in a heap. “It is always easier to destroy than to fix something. To help people, you have to be willing to fix things first.”
The next weeks were both frustrating and exhilarating to the girl. She learned to direct the force, to leap twice her height from a flat footed stance. To run all day through a course mixing distance and height jumps that would have tired her out in minutes before. To pull things toward her, or push them away with nothing but a thought. To wield a lightsaber with enough finesse to cut a sheet of paper from a pad.
What she couldn’t figure out was how to fix the damn table. It had been removed from the dining hall, and every time she went in, the empty space shamed her. The table had been moved to an adjoining room, where she could try at any time to ‘fix’ what she had broken.
The other students still kept their distance though she could tell a lot of them wanted to ask her how it felt to actually make your own lightsaber.
She didn’t have the fine control of the force Jaden had shown, holding each piece where it belonged. She had the brute force part down, able to haul or shove away a ton or more. But holding dozens of pieces exactly where they belonged was not only tiring, it was frustrating.
After two months she despaired of ever succeeding.
She shrieked in fury, and the pieces flew aside. One hit the wall and shattered into even more shards, and she collapsed to her knees, wanting to cry.
There was a hesitant knock and she spun to face the door. A young boy, maybe fifteen or so stood there. Mali something. Drossi. She recognized him, but had never spoken to him.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Jaden says I won’t be able to help others until I learn how to fix things that are broken.” She waved angrily at the table. “I broke it, now I have to fix it.”
“May I?” Mali motioned. She waved at the debris angrily. The boy came over, and gently lifted the piece she has just shattered. He looked at it critically. “You know, glue would fix this right up.”
“Glue!” She threw her hands up. “I can’t use glue!”
“Jaden said-” She stopped. “He said I had to fix what I broke. That until I know how to fix things, I can’t help others.”
The boy grinned. “Did Master Jaden say you had to use the Force instead of glue?”
She mentally ran the scene through her mind. The table intact with just the force holding it. When you can put the table back as it was, you will be ready for the next step.
It is always easier to destroy than to fix something. To help people, you have to be willing to fix things first.
“Oh, it can’t be that easy!”
“Why not?” Mali chuckled. “Have you ever noticed that the Masters always talk about restraint when using the force? Use it, but don’t use it too much?” He set the piece down. “When you face the Trials, you’ll have to use not only the force but your brains. Anyone could blow their way through a problem with force or weapons.”
“You’re right. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. You’re Twyna, right?”
“Yes. And your Mali Drossi.”
“Guilty as charged.” He struck out his hand. She flinched back, and he lowered it. “Sorry if I have offended you.”
“Oh no! It’s just, I’ve been hurt a lot. I get nervous and scared when people try to touch me.”
He smiled gently. “You don’t have to be afraid of anything here. And it doesn’t bother you to touch other people if it’s your choice.“ She looked at him quizzically and he looked down. Her eyes followed. As she had spoken to him, explaining her problem, she had reached out, catching his hand in hers. Now she was holding it with both hands in a tight grip.
She let go, stepping back fast. She clutched her hands as if they might take a life of their own.
“Hey, no problems.” Mali said. “If you’d like, I can help.” He motioned toward the table. “The glue has to set, you know.”
She found herself smiling. “I’d like that.”
Three days later, Jaden stood looking at the repaired table. He walked around it critically, then looked at the pair that faced him.
“Who said you could ask for help, or receive it?” He pointed at Twyna.
“If I may?” Mali asked.
Jaden rounded on Mali. “Silence. Who said you could help her?” Jaden asked harshly.
“He offered, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without help!’ Twyna cried out. She looked as if someone had slapped her for greeting them.
He walked over, leaning on the table. He looked at Twyna. “You’re my student, so you start. What did you learn from working on this project?”
“That the force is not always the answer.” She whispered. “That sometimes the mundane ways are better because they are more personal and just as efficient.” She waved hesitantly at Mali. “That sometimes you need help, and it isn’t a shame to ask for it. That some people will hurt you, a lot will ignore you, but some will help when asked.” She shrugged, grinning slightly, “Or like Mali even before they have been asked.”
“Mali? Anything to add?”
“That using your head is more important than using the force.” He motioned toward Twyna. “To take into account the feelings of those in pain, and help them past it.”
Jaden glared, then slowly the glare faded into a smile. “Well done, Twyna. Well done, Mali.” He clapped his hands sharply, and look at the table again. “Now can you cooperate enough to put it back where it belongs?”
The children grabbed the table, but it was too heavy for them to move by hand. Jaden smiled, motioning Mali to move over beside Twyna. “Now all together, lift!”
Months past and Twyna grew apace. She found her abilities with the force growing, and soon she stood before Master Skywalker.
He had a distracted air, but she knew that he always seemed a bit distracted. He was carrying the formation of the Jedi order and at the same time trying to bolster the fragile New Republic with every breath. She didn’t see how he had enough hours in a day or days in a year to do all that he had set for himself.
“Jaden tells me that you are progressing very well. Soon you will be ready for the Jedi trials.” Luke said.
“Really?” She wanted to swell with pride, but knew that like all such emotions, it could lead to the dark side. “If he says I am, I will have to take his word for it.”
Luke smiled. “But before you take them, Jaden has a mission I have assigned to him. I would like you to accompany him.”
“Of course, master.”
Last edited by machievelli; 09-25-2006 at 05:40 PM.