I do not own any of what I'm writing about.
Once again, I apologize for taking so long with this chapter. Thanks everyone for sticking with this story and bearing with my slowness in posting new chapters. The plot and dialogue fairies are mercurial.
I hope you enjoy this
Unexpected Expectations Part 2
Mara woke up feeling as though she'd been drop kicked down a flight of stairs and crashed into a permacrete wall, twice. She had no idea where she was. It was dark, but that was most likely because she was pretty sure she hadn't opened her eyes yet. Her head was pounding and her thoughts were hazy, but she knew that something was wrong.
Great insight, Jade. Wake up!
As the mental fuzziness subsided somewhat, she remembered fighting with Luke and storming out of the room. She was so frustrated with his thick skulled approach to their relationship. She remembered the door closing behind her and the stars that suddenly flared up before her as something hit her very hard on the back of her head. And she started falling
Mara's eyes snapped open. She found herself in what she immediately recognized as an Imperial detention cell: Victory Class destroyer by the looks of it. She became aware of several knots in her shoulders and back. Yes definitely a detention cell, although lately, the coziest of Ailloweit down conforming mattresses would have been uncomfortable. She stretched out to the Force, pleased to find there were no Ysalimiri around and began to examine her physical condition. She sensed bruises on the back of her shoulders and calves, and cuts and abrasions on her hands and feet as though she'd been dragged across the floor in her unconscious state. She found a tender bump on her head, and wondered if she perhaps had a concussion. Considering that her head pounded and her thoughts were slow moving and scrambled, she decided it was a reasonable assumption.
As she stretched out deeper, she received a sharp response to her Force call. The cry would have knocked her off her feet had she not already been lying down. As it was she sucked in a deep breath. For months now she and Luke had made references to the baby as "little Whatshisname" and not thought much of it. . They'd chattered on at her stomach, half in jest, "talking" to the baby.
None of that could have prepared her for this moment of extreme clarity. This was a living being inside of her: a baby with fingers and toes and ears and lips; a sentient being with hopes and needs and dreams. She also realized that if this child were breathing air right now, he'd be screaming at the top of his lungs. He was scared.
Thrown off by the strength of her child's call, and uncertain of herself, Mara reached out and sent Whatshisname a Force caress, trying to soothe him.
"It's okay," she found herself murmuring shakily, "Mummy will fix this. It will be alright."
She pushed that nagging question out of her head and continued with the tentative soothing murmurs until the radiating sense of fear receded.
Great, Jade. He's not even born yet and already you're lying to him.
She let out a deep sigh. What did she know about being a mother?
On the other hand, she did know something about getting out of sticky imperial situations. Whoever had captured her wasn't going to take her by surprise twice.
"There," she muttered out loud, "I guess I'll just have to make sure I wasn't lying."
First things first.
Labouriously she levered herself into a sitting position. Another wave of dizziness hit and a whole galaxy of star systems spun before her eyes. Mara slithered down the wall back into unconsciousness.
"Chewie? You get anything", Han asked, looking over his shoulder at his long time co-pilot. The Wookie looked up from his scanning equipment and howled mournfully.
"Shavit", Han muttered, "How did she just disappear?" He eased his way around another corner and peered down another empty palace corridor. The guards had locked the whole place down and Leia had hauled a frantic Luke into her office where he seemed to be wearing out her rug with his pacing. Mara had been missing for an hour. He wasn't sure what had happened but with the guilt the kid was displaying, he figured they had an argument just before she'd gone poof.
"Are we sure she hasn't just gone to get some air and cool down?" he'd asked Leia quietly while Luke was scanning palace security tapes, a wild look in his eyes.
"I'm sure. I called her on her comlink telling her that we were all looking for her. Mara wouldn't allow an entire palace search if she just wants to get away for a bit. She knows what kind of manpower than takes."
"So, something is very wrong."
"I think we can assume that."
Han had looked over at Luke. The jedi had been acting weird lately but there was no doubt that he'd fallen hopelessly in love with Mara. They had to find her.
And it was quickly starting to look like that would be a very difficult task. She'd just disappeared, taken right from the interior of the palace. How did that happen to someone with Mara's skills and abilities?
The paranoia that had served Han all too well over the years whispered in his ear:
There was someone here to help them.
He took a deep breath and pushed the thought away. It was too soon to conclude there was a traitor in the palace.
Letting that breath out in a long sigh, he walked further down the hallway feeling somewhat defeated. He rounded another corner and heard a growl from Chewie as he found himself face to face with Efsale Yalol.
"Captain Solo," the butler said stiffly, "have you found any sign of Mara Jade?"
Han sighed inwardly at Yalol's formality. There was something about the guy that rubbed him the wrong way. He couldn't figure out what it was though.
"No, I haven't", he replied, "Where have you looked?"
"I have searched the immediate vicinity and found nothing."
"Shavit" Han muttered and turned to his partner, "Okay Chewie, I guess they didn't come this way. We'll try, further along."
"Good idea, sir", the butler said, "I will check on your children and then continue searching one floor up."
"Yeah, sure. Good idea" Han said quietly, feeling discouraged. He started down the corridor. How could she have disappeared in such a short time? Security had barely had a chance to do a basic sweep and there was no sign of her –
Not enough time.
Han stopped dead in his tracks and cursed under his breath. If security had barely finished the initial sweep, what was Yalol doing out on a search already? How did he even know?
I knew there was something I didn't like about him.
"Chewie," he whispered and when the Wookie met his eyes he glanced towards the butler without moving his head. Chewbacca's own brown eyes widened, and he seemed to be stifling a growl. Together, the two of them turned around and started walking back in the direction they'd come from.
Yalol was either intuitive or jumpy. Before the old smugglers had gotten within 20 metres of him, he was running flat out in the opposite direction.
Cover broken, Han abandoned all subtlety.
"Stop him!" he yelled at the top of his lungs drawing the attention of a team of security guards scanning nearby passages.
In five minutes it was over.
Leia was sitting at her desk waiting for the teams to report in. She wished she knew what to say to Luke but with all her years of diplomatic training, she had no idea. She'd seen the spark between her brother and the former Emperor's Hand almost immediately. Luke had been so depressed and despondent early in her pregnancy with Jacen and Jaina. When he came back from Myrkr, however, he seemed much better. True, he was still a calm, stoic jedi but there was the tiniest glint in his eye and a new lightness to his demeanour that she hadn't seen in years. And the way he blissfully countered Mara's acid barbs had stunned Leia. Luke Skywalker had blushed and stammered when he first met the Princess of Alderaan and was unfailingly polite and courteous to any diplomat or senator's aide he saw, but he'd baited and taunted the former imperial agent with almost reckless abandon. Pair that with the fact that she already wanted to kill him and one would wonder if he hadn't had some sort of death wish.
But it quickly became clear that this hard edged rage-driven woman relaxed him somehow. Maybe he'd faced death often enough that he'd become blasé about it. Maybe he enjoyed the change from being the hero of the galaxy. Or perhaps it was because his immediate recognition of the depth of her skill and intelligence made it clear to him that if she really intended to kill him, he would have been dead before he'd ever laid eyes on her. They shared something and it was hard to determine what it was. Their upbringings couldn't have been more different if Mara had been raised on Hoth. Their attitudes towards life were likewise disparate: Mara tended to shoot first and ask questions later; whereas, Luke wouldn't dream of shooting until he was already bleeding to death. It took a bit but Leia eventually realized that they shared a sense of humour and irony. They'd both laboured under delusions that had been violently ripped away and they both carried a deep bitterness about their losses. Mara seemed to teach Luke that it was okay to acknowledge those emotions and he taught her that they didn't have to rule her life.
Leia had meant it when she'd told them they should have gotten together ages ago. They were both such stubborn people that it had clearly taken a massive push from the Force to make it happen. And with that sort of power behind them, it was unlikely that anything could really get in their way.
"Luke-", she began, opening her mouth to tell him this. Her holocom began to beep. It was an interstellar call and the red light indicated that it was designated urgent. She pushed the receiver button on her desktop and Luke came around behind her to watch as the image fragments quickly coalesced in to the holographic representation of a uniformed NRI agent, ID card in hand.
"Chief of State, Organa-Solo," the intelligence operative began. "I bring you information regarding subject #844632, pass code "Nerf, one, pitten, three".
Leia expressed some irritation, "Surely my butler's credentials are not an urgent matter. It's merely a formality and did not require the costly use of the interstellar holocom."
"Madam, I insist the cost is justified. There is no record of a Kaimontangue School of Etiquette and Household Administration, let alone the registration of one, Efsale Yalol. When I discovered this, I searched for the name through the whole of our database systems and found no matches. Madam, your butler is not who he claims to be."
Leia felt Luke grip her right forearm and she grabbed her comlink with her left hand.
"Han!" she barked into it.
"We're coming," he replied immediately.
"Is behind this" he cut her off, "We've got him and we're on our way"
Less than a minute later, they burst through her office door: Han, Chewie, and three palace security guards. All of them had weapons trained on the bound butler they escorted.
Seeing the stunned looks on his wife and brother-in-law's faces, Han took charge of the situation.
"Watch him", he snapped at Chewie and the guards. He then crossed the room and grabbed a rim style wooden chair from the corner of the office. He dragged it to the centre of the room and motioned to the guards. They plunked Yalol on the uncomfortable chair. Then with a signal from the squad leader, they nodded to Han, Leia and Luke and stepped outside the office door to stand guard.
Chewie growled with Han for a moment and then, armed with his crossbow, he left as well.
"He's gone to check on the kids." Han announced and then gestured to the butler.
"Here's the answer to your questions." He said, turning to Luke and Leia. His voice was little more than a growl, "Do you want to chat with him or should I?"
"I'll talk", Luke finally said in a deceptively calm tone. Both Han and Leia knew that his veneer covered a deep rage.
He took a step closer to the spy.
"What is your real name?"
"It is of no importance, master jedi and I will tell you nothing that is."
Luke cocked his head to the side, "You know that I have the power to rip that information from your brain if I so choose." He came closer to the subject of his interrogation, "Wouldn't it be so much easier on the two of us if we avoided that?"
"If you ask me," Han muttered to Leia, "the kid's been spending a lot more time with Mara than even I thought."
Yalol looked Luke in the eyes, unimpressed.
"Don't waste your empty threats on me, Jedi", he went on, "Charlatans with fists full of money all of you."
Luke and Leia shared a glance. Yalol, or whatever his real name was, truly believed that the Force was a hoax and even Han hadn't been as vehement about it as this spy was.
"Who sent you?" Leia demanded into the silence.
Yalol began to laugh.
"It is clear to me now that without your jedi legends, you would never have wrested the galaxy from the capable hands of the emperor. You will lose it again when it becomes clear that your oppressive regime is based on a hoax.
"As I have said before. You will learn nothing from me."
Luke could feel the forcefulness behind this man's words. Whoever he was, he believed in what he was doing. A force suggestion wouldn't be enough to make him talk.
"Hah," Han blurted out, "We already have learned from you. You stand for the emperor." He paused, "I hate to tell you this, but he's dead."
"One man's death does not end his empire."
"Ah". Leia went on, picking up where Han left off, "You're part of a small group of insurgents who want the empire back."
"Idiots", Han interjected.
Yalol laughed again.
"Nothing I told you would help you now. It's far too late to stop the inevitable and this has always been inevitable. You con artists have just gotten in the way, briefly."
There was a sudden muffled popping from the hallway. Luke and Leia could sense death and they all ran for the door. Opening it, they saw the charred remains of the three guards. Han grabbed his blaster and threw it across the hall where it quietly exploded seconds later.
"Kriffing cotten crawlers!" Han muttered.
"Cotton crawlers?" Leia asked sharply.
"They're fuzzy little bugs, from some rim planet. I don't know their real name. I knew guys who used to ship em. They're drawn to laser charges. Get em near a blaster and they climb up the muzzle into the core…overload it in minutes. He must have been carrying them when we caught him."
Luke swung around just in time to see Yalol stand up. The ropes fell off of him and he brought out the vibroshiv he'd been concealing behind him.
"Stupid, jedi. I can use your tricks too."
He headed for the other door
Luke and Leia exchanged brief glances.
Behind the departing spy, his ropes suddenly came to life, tied themselves into slip knots and fitted themselves around Yalol's ankles.
Suddenly he was on the ground.
"What?!" he cried out, rolling over and sitting up, looking for his vibroshiv. He saw it floating about 2 feet over his head. He reached up for it, but it dropped to the ground and rolled across the floor towards a shelf full of datacards. Eyes wide, Yalol crawled towards it as the cards suddenly started flying off the shelf, pelting him in the face. Covering his face with his hands, he kept moving doggedly forward until, through his fingers, he saw that the shelf was coming down on him. He rolled away just in time and headed for the chair he'd been sitting on before. It kept getting further and further away while the desk in the room seemed to be getting closer, as though it were chasing him. He let out a whimper. When he finally got to the chair and pulled himself up on it, he looked down to find the floor was suddenly 20 feet below him.
"What in the thousand dark hells of the Maw is going on here?!", he demanded fearfully digging his fingernails into the wood of the chair.
"Where is Mara?", Luke demanded, his voice filling the room.
"Hah!" Yalol, responded, but with much less confidence than before, "I will tell you nothing".
The chair bucked in mid air and flipped onto its side. Yalol was left dangling from the legs.
"Where is she?" Luke repeated.
"Not a word, Skywalker!" But he was straining with the effort of holding on.
The chair started to spin rapidly, and Yalol began to moan. As he was being tossed around the room, items began falling out of his pockets: a box that had clearly contained the fatal bugs, a strip of flimsy and a datacard. Han walked over to pick them up. He slipped the card into his reader. It prompted him for a password. He used the digits scrawled on the piece of flimsy and began to read.
"Where is Mara?", Luke tried again.
"Please stop, I'm getting dizzy,"
"Where is Mara?"
"Okay, okay, I'll talk".
Luke and Leia slowly brought Yalol back to the floor. They used the ropes to tie him directly to the chair this time. For a second he just sat there, clearly too dizzy to see straight.
"Where is Mara?!"
"It was Han who answered, "Rim sector 32, set to rendezvous with the Revolution in 20 minutes. I've got the coordinates right here."
Luke gave Yalol one last glare, and then met Han's gaze.
"Let's go, then."