The Day the Empire Stood Still
DisclaimerThe characters and situations in this story are owned by Lucasfilm and as such are not mine. I'm only borrowing them for a short while
Something strange had been happening. Mara could feel it, but she wasn't strong enough to know what it was. Something had happened - something big. A faint tingling at her temples and the way her heartbeat sounded loud in her ears marked her anticipation. Her danger sense had never let her down before. Was that what it was - danger?
She stretched out on the wooden bench in the sauna and closed her eyes. There was a tear in the fabric of the force. That was the only way she could describe it. Perhaps her Master, the Emperor would know. Perhaps nothing - her Master would know. She shifted restlessly enjoying the dry heat and the tang of the fragrant Fijisi wood.
"Master"she called to him through the force but there was no answer. She was aware of his anger and his fear. Strange - she felt fear in others but never before in her Master.
Mara Jade was fifteen, as beautiful as a spring day on Alderaan and the Emperor's devoted servant. He was her guide, teacher and inspiration. He was the nearest thing to a father she'd ever had and she would die for him. A face imprinted itself suddenly on her eyelids. It was a boy, blond with bright blue eyes, but it was fleeting and she dismissed it. The force often sent her these visions usually at the behest of her Master. Still a fair-haired boy - that was a new one.
She was still small for her age, but supple and quick. She'd been training under the tutelage of the best instructors in the galaxy at everything. Add to that she'd had instruction from the Emperor himself. He had always been the one constant in her young life. Teachers came and went, but the Emperor was always her guiding light. She was his hand, raised to do his bidding whatever the cost.
Mara picked up a towel and wrapped it around her reed straight body. She hoped for the curves that other women possessed, but the Emperor had said she was a late developer physically. 'One day,' he'd told her. 'She would shine brighter than a planet with two suns.' Mara had hugged that piece of information to her for the Emperor rarely flattered and worked ever harder. As for her strength of mind and purpose of will. There were no others with the sheer determination and quick-witted mental attitude, which she possessed. She was as strong as they came in that respect. Already she had carried out several 'tasks' for her master without a single pang of remorse. They were a threat to the stability of the Empire and her master's existence. They had to die.
As for a planet with two suns…
Wandering into the locker room as she dressed, Mara wondered why things were strange today. Perhaps only she sensed it because the other women in the facility were laughing and exchanging news and gossip with their accustomed mix of sophistication and bitchiness. Mara held most of them in disgust. They were opportunists, hangers on. Sycophantic spongers on the good will of her master. They did not have what she had. They did not have the power of the force.
Today, they seemed to be further apart from her than they usually were. They knew her as a ward of His Majesty's and most gave her a quick false smile. Mara saw them through a kind of fog for they were unimportant in the general scheme of things. It was as if she existed in slow motion and life was passing her by. Pulling her jade green tunic over her head, Mara collected her belongings and headed for the door.
Then it happened. Everything froze. Bewildered, Mara twisted her head from side to side. But nothing moved - in panic she called out 'Master, hear me', but all she could feel was his anger. 'Master', she tried again, but there was no answer. She ran from the exercise facility down suddenly deserted marble corridors as her limbs finally obeyed her commands. Awe inspiring pillars of Alderaani marble decorated with gold seemed to loom dangerously over her as she ran, her chest tightening with unaccustomed dread. She had to find her master. He was angry - he was afraid.
Mara raced down the corridor past a couple of stationary Imperial guards. Then the pain hit her. It was momentary, but heart stopping.
Dropping to her knees, Mara clutched her head with her hands, curling into a small tight ball. In her mind, the star strewn fabric of the force rippled and tore, and a tanned roughened hand reached through and plucked an orb from the sky with a youthful arrogance. The gigantic orange sphere next to it glowed as if lit with an inner light in celebration and small crosses tumbled and wheeled around it. Eyes the colour of the sky blinked sleepily into hers and then disappeared. Mara didn't know what it meant. The images had juxtaposed themselves on her confused young mind in a cartwheeling rush of images and sounds. She only knew that the orb resembled the Emperor's top-secret battle station, the Death Star and somehow it had vanished from existence as if it had never been.
Mara remained where she was for several more minutes before cautiously uncurling herself. No one else seemed to have been affected by this apart from her Master. Staring out the viewport located at the end of the corridor informed her that things had indeed returned to normal or had they? The vision of the hand plucking the lighted orb from the sky remained with her for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, the Emperor remained locked in his angry isolation. The worries and apprehension of one unimportant hand were insignificant compared to his dark fears.