This is all very new for me, so if you read my story please review it; I will improve quicker that way. I began writing because I felt a need to put the characters back into character, and keep their roles straight. Most all my writing occurs after The Last Command. I base all the characters on how Zahn treated them, and the way he has them interact with each other.

Disclaimer: I own none of this, just playing with another's creation. I'm glad I am not getting paid; then I would have deadlines.

Saving Skywalker

Mara finds Luke in rough shape, and takes him somewhere safe.

Read, Review, Relax and enjoy. :)

Transmission sent from Leia Organa Solo's residence, Coruscant.


Mara – I have received word from NRI that Luke is MIA again. NRI has been searching unsuccessfully for a standard week. Karrde is going to have my head for asking this, but you have proved to be the only one who is capable of finding him sooner rather than later. Please reply ASAP.

Mara drew a breath, leaned back in her desk chair, and stared across the bridge of the Wild Karrde. Leia was wrong; Karrde wouldn't be upset at Leia by her request. He would be rankled at Mara upon her request that he toss his schedule to the rancor and aid the search for a missing Jedi. Again. It was Mara's head that was going to be taken. Skywalker's predicaments had taken her away from her duties too recently for Karrde to acquiesce this time around. An explosive sigh exited her lungs as Mara launched herself out of the chair.

Blast it, Skywalker, I can't save you every time!

Aves, sitting nearby, looked up in surprise and consternation at her sudden action. "Is something wrong?" he queried. Mara looked at him distantly a moment, before something seemed to settle behind her jaded visage.

"Mind the bridge in my absence." She commanded, before turning towards Karrde's cabin.

Aves immediately pulled his feet off his desk and scanned the sensor readings. Everything appeared normal. He relaxed and mentally shrugged. Mara always had her reasons.

"Mara," Karrde said, a very firm note added to his suave voice, "It's not possible. This shipment of Couji sensor jammers must be delivered on schedule to the Uriah system, two days away. No detours. No rendezvous'."

"I understand." Mara's tone was flat. "I am not asking for a detour, or a rendezvous with a NR ship. I don't need any crew, or backup –"

"Well, that's foolish." He was growing impatient.

Mara' eyes remained locked with Karrde's. "I only want time, and a small ship."

"I have no extra ships onboard, and I can't spare your abilities on Uriah. You are my second-in-command, Mara. You should know your responsibilities, and I can't spare you this time around. The New Republic's problems are not our own."

"Their problems often have repercussions on us. You know that. And, the Tumult is sitting in bay two right now. As your second-in-command, I know it is available."

"The Tumult is nothing more than a shipping crate strapped onto a hyperdrive," Karrde returned, his eyes taking on an amused glint. "Hardly an ideal ship. And I can't see you confined in there with Skywalker. He'd be dead before you reached Coruscant."

Mara huffed slightly. "Karrde…"

Karrde turned and faced her fully. "I'm sorry Mara, the answer this time around is no. We will keep our ears open. But that is all. No side trips. Understood?"

Mara realized the battle was lost. "Yes." Karrde looked expectantly at her. "Sir."

"Thank you." Karrde softened. "I don't like him missing either, but we each have roles and responsibilities. He is not ours. Now, get out there before Aves runs us into a super nova or something worse."

Mara forced a whisper of a smile and dipped her head before turning smartly back towards the bridge.

Transmission sent from Mara Jade, from encrypted location.


Skywalker has such a hero complex! Sorry, I am not available to help. We will be listening around, though. Just for the record, what was his mission and where was his last known location?

Transmission sent from Leia Organa Solo's residence, Coruscant.


Most mission info is classified, but I can say he was breaking up a spy ring that was compromising some of our intelligence operatives in the Gamma sector. Last known location 3.85.653.29 Gamma Quadrant 3. He was being pursued by enemy operatives believed to have ties with the Gamma Sting. Long-term search will soon be implemented.

The bridge was minimally manned. Karrde had switched the Wild Karrde over to Uriah time when they left base, and Uriah was fast approaching the middle of the sleep cycle. Mara sat on watch in the co-pilot's chair, staring out across the darkened bridge at the swirling hyperspace sky. Currently, they were blazing through Gamma Sector, but jumping over to quadrant 3 and back would tack nearly a day onto their trip, search time not included. Thoroughly impossible. Besides, Skywalker had tangled with Gamma Sting; a very illegal, very powerful gang in this sector, and Force knows where they had taken him. Mara's cheek twitched. Or where they had disposed of his body. She sighed heavily and reached for her mug on the console. He was so close, and yet so far away.

"I don't see how you appreciate that stuff."

Mara started and looked to her right. Aves was lolling about in his chair near the systems computer, obviously bored and looking for conversation.

"Way too sweet for my taste." He drawled, lifting his mug of straight black caf. "I've always preferred this."

"Hot chocolate is rare. I happen to cultivate a taste for the rare and fine items in life." Mara replied airily, trying to push away dark thoughts about Skywalker and his fate. She couldn't do anything about it anyway.

"While searching out the rare and fine, one may loose sight of the traditional," Aves philosophized, "and traditional is noble."

"Please, Aves – black caf is as far from noble as Jabba the Hutt."

"Jabba had a very large and influential organization. That possibly could be considered noble."

Mara rolled her head around and looked him dubiously, catching his shrug and wry smile mocking his own logic.

"Hey, I'd say anything at this hour."

"Noble is someone with high moral character, like courage, generosity, honor. Things you would know nothing about."

"Things I would know nothing about" Aves mocked in falsetto. "I can be noble." He put on a miffed pretense. "Noble is the guy who burned Jabba. In his shoes, I would have done the same."

Great, back to Skywalker. "Only because Jabba wasn't too pleased with you, and wanted your little hide."

"Jabba was never pleased with anyone. Anyway, I still contend my black caf is noble in a way, because it is traditional." He raised his cup high and gazed at it adoringly. "Tradition should never be forsaken lightly." He took a swig and squinted critically at her. "When did you forsake tradition?"

"Honestly, you are so capricious. Skywalker introduced me to hot chocolate."

"Oh. The noble guy?"

"Yeah." She said, adding quietly, "The noble guy."

Aves had to strain to hear that last sentence, and noticed Mara was suddenly gazing almost morosely into her hot chocolate. He watched her wrap her hands slowly around the

warm mug and raise it to her lips. Her green eyes, darkened by her dilated pupils, suddenly caught him watching her actions and she swiftly lowered her drink.

"What?" She challenged sharply, her face shuttered.

"What?" Aves bounced back, an air of discomfit settling on him. Mara had been on edge ever since talking to Karrde earlier that evening. She uttered something unintelligible and turned back to watching the starlines, denoting end of conversation. "Women." He mumbled.

The hot chocolate sat in her lap, cradled between her hands. It was a drink for the innocent, she reflected, not fitting for the former Emperor's Hand. But it fit Skywalker; he possessed such a rare innocence in his spirit. Strange, how his habits kept rubbing off on her.

Where are you, Jedi?

Why was she even so concerned? Since when did his well-being affect her?

Closing her eyes, she stretched out to the Force. Her primitive Force skill hampered precise and focused usage, but just maybe… A whisper of an urge brushed her mind. She frowned in concentration and tried to focus on that little whisper. It was like a word on the tip of one's tongue – just a fraction out of reach. Gritting her teeth, Mara sought after the whisper as if it were prey, trying to immerse herself deeper into the Force. Suddenly she pounced upon it, and Mara opened her eyes and inhaled, like a swimmer surfacing after a long dive.

Aves was looking at her strangely, and she sent him a hard look. He became immediately engrossed in the system reads.

As his back was turned, Mara's hands flew over the console, bringing up their current hyperspace course on the display. Within a set coordinate path, only very small changes could be made without dropping out of lightspeed and recalculating a new vector, but she only needed a very small change. Smuggler's lingo called this minute shift 'bumping'. She carefully altered a handful of nearly insignificant numbers, and swiveled her chair to face Aves with a seemingly nonchalant attitude.

"Aves, how long have you been with Karrde?" Mara inquired casually. She had to get his attention off the sensor display. She hoped it was an appropriate question; Aves knew she had been stewing over something.

"Ah…I was picked up shortly after Jabba went down. Why?"

Perfect. Aves had turned around and she had his full attention; the sensor panel was essentially unmanned.

"Just wondering." She used the Force to push the 'execute' command on her console. "I have been thinking about our organizational structure, specifically who is in what position." Behind Aves, the sensors read a spike in the hyperdrive's activity, and the power reads showed an excess amount of power being diverted to the hyperdrive as it underwent the laborious task of bumping its current vector. "You have moved up the ranks rather quickly."

Aves shrugged. "After the Hutt was out, Karrde's org began growing faster than he could have hoped, and he needed people. Simple logistics, really."

Mara heard a very minute, very brief shift in the normal hum of the ship as it settled into its modified vector. The sensors returned to normal hyperspace readings. "Yes, I suppose. Still, if I hadn't showed up, you would probably be in my place right now."

"Oh, I don't know. There are a lot of bright people in Karrde's org, and you just happen to be, by far, the most capable."

"Thanks. Karrde thought so too." Mara smiled and took a swallow of her hot chocolate. "Hot chocolate really is a very fine drink, Aves. You should cultivate a taste for it."

Aves was taken slightly off-guard by her abrupt referral to their previous conversation, but managed to regurgitate his previous argument. "It's not very traditional. And too sweet."

Mara took another sip before draining the entire mug. Running her tongue across her lips, she replied with a smile, "Nope. It's very fine indeed."

Transmission sent from Mara Jade, from encrypted location.


I have bumped our vector, prompted by a Force hunch. Maybe something will turn up.

Transmission sent from Leia Organa Solo's residence, Coruscant.


Mara, by the Force, find him. Just find him.

Mara's boots softly clunked across the deckplates of the Wild Karrde as she traveled from her cabin to the bridge. She had been relieved of her watch shortly after she sent Leia Organa a transmission two hours ago. After a few winks, she was back on duty.

"You're ten minutes early." Dankin remarked.

"You're surprised?" Mara replied.

"Not really. I am just so fascinated by these starlines I don't want to leave."

"Ah. Well, in that case…" Mara made as if to turn and exit.

"No, no, I was joking." Dankin hastily stood up from his seat. "It's all yours."

Mara smiled. "Why, how nice of you to share such a prime view."

"Only for you, milady." Dankin replied with a flourish.

"Mmm." Mara was already seated and engrossed in her display. "Chin, what's your view?"

"Green across the board." Chin, still sitting at the sensor reads unrelieved by Aves, replied tiredly.

Faintly, she felt a tug at her mind. Quickly, she brought up the hyperspace readings. Yes, they were a good distance off their original trajectory, thanks to her bump. She frowned. The tug was a little more insistent. She looked up and noticed Dankin had already left for his cabin. Chin was eagerly looking down the bridge to where Aves was slowly making his way up.

"Chin – call up Karrde on your way back and tell him I need to make a nav check."

Surprised, Chin nodded. "Okay – a nav check?"

"Yeah." Mara still stared at the screen.

Ten minutes later, Karrde stood over her shoulder as she pointed out the course discrepancy.

"See, we should be here, but have traveled a bit off. I just need to pull us out and re-run some numbers to correct our vector."

"Why and where did we go off?"

"We came off around here. Drifting is a fairly common happening; usually from a small error in the million and one calculations a hyperdrive makes."

"Okay." Karrde looked perturbed as he read the display. "We shouldn't have drifted off like that. The Wild Karrde's hyperdrive has a shrivii calculator built into it, and is extremely accurate."

Mara shrugged. "Well, it happened." She started to twitch towards the hyperdrive levers. Too soon, Jade. She settled her hands back on the keys and brought up a diagnostic chart, scrolling slowly down.

"What are you looking for?" Karrde questioned.

"Where the calculations went awry. If we find the glitch, Ghent could probably tighten it down." Mara inwardly winced as she stalled for time. There was no glitch; she had bumped their vector manually.

"I believe that is inconsequential at this time – Ghent will find it later. Right now, we need a course correction."

Mara closed the diagnostic. "Right." She slowly reached forward and closed her fingers over the cool handle, but hesitated. Still too soon!

Karrde was looking strangely at her. "Mara?" he prompted. Mara's brilliant green orbs turned and locked his gaze. Still, her arm remained outstretched. Karrde tried to read what was going on behind that blank gaze, but could see nothing but an unwavering stare. Suddenly he saw a shift, and a flash of uncertainty surfaced momentarily. Uncertainty, and a hint of pleading. For what? Understanding? An instant later, Mara pulled back the hyperdrive levers and the Wild Karrde dropped back into cold space. The starlines shrunk and disappeared, and the mottled hyperspace sky was replaced with a star-studded blackness.

And Aves, now seated at the sensor reads, shouted "We've got company! X-Wing starfighter two o'clock!"

"Evasive maneuvers Mara!" Karrde snapped, dropping himself heavily into the pilot's chair and reaching for his weapons console. "Aves?" As the sublight engines struggled to come up to speed, Mara was using the emergency maneuvering jets to shove the Wild Karrde into a lateral slide.

"Weapons are cold, systems idle. No other ships in the area. Starfighter has sustained heavy damage." Aves snorted. "This guy's been toasted."

Karrde stayed his hand from powering up the remaining weaponry on his ship. Mara had stopped their slide but left them in a strategic spot. Karrde looked closer at the inert, upside down and cockeyed X-wing. There was no up or down in space; it was all relative to one's viewpoint. Marked across the battered hull was a New Republic emblem. And abruptly, everything in this confusing mess; the hyperdrive miscalculations, the course correction, Mara's stalling tactics, and an x-wing in the middle of dead space suddenly made perfect sense. Screw her.

Mara eyes did not stray from the black starfighter. She felt relieved, but a small thread of her had secretly wished the Force to be wrong. Dealing with this new situation was going to be a headache. She reached out to the ship, but felt nothing. Carefully she kept her facial expression neutral, but little worry-worms were starting to wriggle into her stomach. Why couldn't she get some sort of read on the Jedi? Her worry was beginning to coalesce into a sense of urgency as she turned toward Karrde.

"Permission to approach target?" She queried, looking at him for the first time and realizing his eyes had already been turned on her.

"Granted." Karrde's face promised a future conversation about her personal affairs affecting his crew and their priorities, but his eyes were troubled. Skywalker's demise would strike a personal note in Karrde as well. "Aves, call up a team to prepare an airtunnel, and–" he paused, looking back to Mara. "What's his condition?"

"I don't know." she smiled humorlessly. "Personal history would indicate nearly dead."

"- and put the medics on standby." He finished to Aves. "Jedi Master Skywalker may need immediate medical attention."

Transmission sent from Mara Jade, from encrypted location.


Found him. Condition unknown.

Transmission sent from Leia Organa Solo's residence, Coruscant.


Thank the Force! Please give word on his condition as soon as you know. Inform Karrde that he will be rewarded, as usual.

Mara spun out of her co-pilot's chair and jogged lightly to catch up with Karrde as he made his way to the airlock. She wished she could have told Leia more, kreth, she wished she knew more. Why can't I get any sense of him? Surely she would know if he had died. Dread tickled her brain, and she unconsciously clenched her jaw. She was going to save him.

"Hurry and put this on." Karrde commanded to a medical technician as he pulled a light body harness off the wall and handed it to him.

"Wait – I should go." Mara interjected as she reached for her own harness. "I know him, and his droid. It makes sense."

"Mara – please. I'm not risking losing you in an air tunnel. They aren't completely stable."

"Yours is. And, if his ship is locked down, I have a very versatile tool." She argued, pulling the harness up and reaching behind her back for the shoulder straps.

"Someone trained in medicine should do this job." Karrde replied.

"I am." Mara clipped the shoulder straps to the main body and pulled them snug. "And I am also ready to go, immediately."

Karrde glanced at the technician still awkwardly struggling to reach his shoulder straps. "I suppose medical knowledge should not be swapped for your experience in this case." He smiled wryly at her. "I often wonder if I am fully in command of this ship."

"I can't help it if you see things logically." She replied, slipping a fitted commlink onto her ear. "Ready?"

"Okay, in you go." Karrde opened the airlock and Mara ducked in. He reached inside and pulled a retractable cable from the wall, clipping it onto the back of her harness. "You're set. Go save your boyfriend." Mara's sudden protest was cut off by the airlock door as it hissed shut, and Karrde gave her a witty smile through the double-paned window. He often wondered just what those two thought of each other.

Mara pushed off with her feet from the open airlock and glided down in zero-g, stretching her hands forward in readiness to catch herself just behind the x-wing cockpit. A short moment before she reached the battered hull, her Force sense unexpectedly and completely left her. It was like losing hearing in one ear, or experiencing extremely blurred vision. Exactly like the ysalamiri effect on Myrkr. As her fingers touched the X-wing, she scrabbled for a handhold, and used her leverage to bring the rest of her body down along side the starship. From her foreshortened angle, all she could see was the instrument panel, and the top of Skywalker's helmet.

"Hey – R2!" She hailed. "Open up the 'pit would you?"

No response.

"R2?" Mara looked across the top ridge at the droid and realized he was completely inert. Most likely he had absorbed some ion rays. No matter; she had taken precautions. Pulling her lightsaber off her utility belt, Mara maneuvered herself around until she was on the nose of the fighter looking into the cockpit.

When she saw Skywalker's white face and the amount of blood splashed across the instruments, she started cutting as quickly as she dared.

"Karrde," She spoke into her ear comm, "we are definitely going to need those medics."

Several moments later, she lifted the cockpit glass and frame away and floated head first towards the Jedi. Fortunately for her, X-wings didn't utilize artificial gravity; they were too confined to make it practical. Skywalker's lightweight flight suit was bloodied and torn; Mara could make out shrapnel embedded in his flesh.

"Hey, you." She murmured. "You look awful." She used her lightsaber to begin slicing his restraints.

"tanksh." Skywalker mumbled.

"Bloody … You're awake?!" She looked at his ashen face in shock.

"Humm…more or lesh." His blue eyes opened groggily and struggled to focus on her face. "Mara. 'S you."

"Of course, farmboy." She opened his visor. "Who else."

"yeh." His mouth twitched hinting at a ghost of a smile. "Sho red."

"What? – Forget it. Let's get home. Is your back or neck broken?"

He attempted a chuckle, struggling to keep his eyes open. "No. Hurt 'lot 'hough."

"Okay, I'm gonna put my arms under your shoulders and pull you out, alright?"

"Wait – head'urts. Helmet, off." His right arm lifted slightly in a pitiful attempt to reach his helmet.

"Easy, slick. I'll get it." She gingerly undid his chinstrap and carefully lifted the helmet clear of his tow head. Surprisingly, very little blood was matted into his blond locks.

"Unh, shtill 'urts." He complained, lolling his head forward and left as if to shake off the pain.

"Yeah, I know. It's called being injured." Mara reached forward and tenderly cupped his ear to righten his head. "Try not to move, ok? Hold on a moment."


Mara backed out of the open cockpit and swung around to enter feet first. She placed her feet on either side of his thighs, against the seat, and bent over, placing her hands in his armpits.

"Ready? This might hurt a bit."

Skywalker gave a small grunt.

Mara pulled him up and towards her, shoving lightly off the seat with her feet. Skywalker's body came up out of the seat easily, but his legs and feet dragged across the seat edge, eliciting a painful groan. Then they were both free of the crippled X-wing and floating up towards the Wild Karrde. She had him a sort of embrace; Luke's head was bumping gently into the side of her own, and her hands were gripping the back of his flight suit. Suddenly she noticed the Force flow back into her senses. One of many things to drill him about, at a better time.

"Okay, Karrde, reel us in." The tether tightened in response and redirected their momentum towards the airlock.

"Not sho loud." He protested.

"Sorry," She whispered, noting her mouth was by his ear. "Didn't mean to make your head hurt."

No answer.

"Hey, boy, still with me?" she murmured.

"Shorta." His breath was hot in her ear.

"Well, don't go to sleep until the docs say to. Deal?"

"Keep talkin'."

"What, like this?" She teased, trying to keep him responsive.

"Yeh. 'S good."

They were inside the airlock now, and Mara watched the outer doors ram together an instant before her back thumped into the airlock wall, halting their glide. The jolt caused Luke to press into her, and she felt multiple pieces of shrapnel prick her.

"Ah…" Luke groaned heavily.

"Easy, I gotcha." Mara drew on the Force, trying to dampen his pain.

Slowly, gravity returned, and they sunk to the floor, Mara rotating Luke away from her so he would land on his back. As they touched the floor, Mara sat and settled his head on her lap. Intimate, maybe, but the steel floor would only agitate his aching head. Skywalker opened his eyes fully and looked into her face with blue eyes overflowing with relief and gratitude.

"You are the mosht amazhing…incredble…woman I know." He painstakingly articulated.

Something stabbed Mara deep inside, something about this innocent man laying bloodied and torn, fighting for the greater good. She blinked hard. "Credit your sister. I'm just a smuggler." She said roughly.

"Liar." Luke's comment was chased by a grimace as the gravity returned full-force, enhancing his pain.

The interior airlock doors swished open, and two medics bustled in.

"Excuse me, Ma'am." One medic indicated for Mara to move aside.

She gently set Luke's head down and scooted away before standing up. The medics quickly accomplished the task of settling him onto a hover bed and administering basic aid.

"Watch his head." She ordered, just for something to do.

And then he was gone, whisked off to the Wild Karrde's medbay.

Mara reached behind her and unclipped the tether. Stepping heavily out of the airlock, she shrugged out of her harness, noticing her jumpsuit was stained with the Jedi's blood. Depositing the bloodstained harness on a corner shelf, she trekked towards the medbay observation room. Karrde was probably already there.

Karrde stood close to the full-length glass window, hands clasped behind his back and a seemingly indifferent expression on his face. On the other side, the two medics were working with smooth efficiency on their subject. The medics were well-qualified; Karrde only trusted the best. He shook his head mystically. How Mara even found Skywalker was a hidden mystery, to him. Why she kept sticking her neck out for him – well, that was why he chose her as his second-in-command. Loyalty. He looked to his right, down the corridor. Mara had just rounded the corner and was striding his way. As she neared, he desperately hoped she hadn't touched anything. She had blood smears on her face, as well as hands. Not to mention her jumpsuit was despicable. Quickly, he glanced at her boots. At least she wasn't tracking Skywalker's DNA all over the deck plates.

"How is he?" She queried, barely giving him a nod before gazing into the small operation room.

"I don't know; he didn't arrive much before you did. But the medics didn't seem too worried. What do you think?"

"Slurred speech, major headache, slight loss of focus; I'd say he's sustained head trauma. And blood-loss and maybe even some broken bones."


"Pretty much."

Karrde looked at her discretely. Despite her apparently nonchalant attitude, those last words had sounded very strained. Her face was locked towards Skywalker, those green orbs unblinking. Mara Jade was really, genuinely, worried about Luke Skywalker. Interesting.

"You should have a crew thoroughly inspect his X-Wing. Might provide some clues as to what happened."

"You should get cleaned up. Give your jumpsuit to the cleaner droid."

Mara glanced at Karrde briefly, then back to Skywalker. The medics had pulled, folded, and cut off his ragged jumpsuit as much as possible; some shreds were pinned into his body by metallic-looking shards. She could see clearer now the extent of his injuries; shrapnel wounds splayed across the right side of his chest and abdomen, continuing down his legs. One medic was suspiciously fingering Skywalker's left wrist. She once again felt a heavy twist inside her chest. Nothing was ever easy for him; the man who gave all and received nothing. She felt a sudden flash of righteous anger at life for persecuting him, and the Force for not saving him.

"You've done what you can. Go get cleaned up." Karrde cut into her thought stream.

She shook herself out of her reverie and faced Karrde. "I'll be back shortly."

"Take your time; the docs are going to be working for a bit."

Mara nodded curtly and took a last look at the bloodied Jedi before leaving.

Karrde watched her exit, his brain neatly drawing accurate conclusions from everything that had transpired in the last half-hour.

Less than fifteen minutes later, Mara was back. Karrde had retreated into one of the nearby lounge chairs.

"There is a team inspecting the X-Wing. They just reported some very interesting news."

"Care to share?" Mara curled her lithe body onto a half-couch.

The corner of Karrde's mouth twitched up. "They found a lizard in the exterior storage compartment."

And daybreak came. "A ysalamiri? Alive?"

"Very much so – it is residing in a compact nutrient frame."

"That explains why Skywalker was conscious and not in a healing trance."

"Yes; I suppose you felt the effect as well?" Karrde always seemed curious about her developing Force skills.

She nodded. "Same as Myrkr." Her tone took a darker edge. "Skywalker has a lot of explaining to do."

A small silence issued, as they both watched the medics extract shrapnel and treat Skywalker's wounds.

"Mara; since you started all this – what do you propose we do with him and his ship?"

Mara mulled a moment. "He needs to get to a comprehensive Med Center. His ship we could shut down cold and leave here until he can retrieve it himself." Her air turned humorous. "I can't see you towing it into Uriah. The New Republic is not quite our desired image."

"Seems to be painted increasingly often, though."

Mara grimaced inside. "We seem to coincidentally cross paths."

Karrde lifted and eyebrow. "True; a bumped vector by my second-in-command is only a small coincidence." He watched her closely, gauging her reaction. He was pressuring her intentionally; trying to sound out what she was thinking about and feeling for Skywalker. It was useless; her face, turned away from him, was an exquisite sculpture with all emotion banished. He recognized that facade; she was enshrouding an idea, thought, or…emotion.

"Do you regret saving him?" She queried coolly.

"No." Karrde replied after a short pause. "I am rather fascinated with him as well."

"I am not 'fascinated' with him."

"Forgive the implication." He smiled tightly and waved his hand. "But back to our original dilemma. I cannot check Skywalker into a med center on Uriah – bad PR – so he cannot come with us. This far into Gamma Sector, the star systems are very far apart, and I cannot spare a crewmember even if I had a ship to offer transit to another system. And yet, he needs to get to a decent med center. Solution?"

Mara shifted her vivid gaze off the Jedi to Karrde. "Antarii Medical Facility is two and a half day's jump from here."


"Two and half if you hop."

"Hop? Mara, a very precious few of my crew, and certainly not my medics, know this territory well enough to map out and execute a series of short hyperspace jumps to Antarii. Besides, I prefer everyone present when the Wild Karrde arrives on Uriah."

"Listen. Antarii is only a day from Uriah. The Wild Karrde is two and a half days out. Whoever drops off Mr. Hotshot would arrive on Uriah just a day late – just as the serious delivering and trading of our cargo begins."

Karrde frowned and smoothed his graying goatee. "The timing is too tight. And further, I believe only you and I could hop this territory. Maybe Chin."

Mara's gaze was steady and bright.

"No." Karrde narrowed his gaze. "No, you're not going."

"It's a solution."

Karrde stood up. "No. I can't spare you – the first day? All the beneficial deals are made first; all the orgs who know us will be waiting." He stepped in front of her and leaned over slightly. "I shouldn't be explaining this to you. You know this."

Mara held his gaze, her body tense. Being Force sensitive, she had the best odds of delivering Skywalker safely. But Karrde may not fully understand that factor. "Maybe the New Republic has a medical ship on Antarii, or could arrange for one to rendezvous with me. That way, I could potentially arrive immediately behind you."

"Only if you are continuously hopping. You will be exhausted by the time you reach Uriah."

"Karrde, I can handle it." Mara's voice was very soft, dangerously so. "You forget who I once was."

Karrde's jaw clenched behind his cheek. She was so kriffing stubborn! "Chin could do this."

Mara raised an eyebrow. "Efficiently? And play nurse to Skywalker?"

"Alright, Mara!" Karrde straightened and turned his back to her in exasperation. You can go. Be on Uriah soon after I am, and be ready to do business. If this is not a very successful run, I'm blaming you for stressing me, my crew, and yourself."

"Thank you. I'll pack." Mara stood and swiftly left the room, in case Karrde was entertaining second thoughts.

Karrde stood silently alone in the viewing room. Mara was not a woman to be controlled. She would not do things the way you wanted them done, but she always got them done. And she was the only woman who could get him riled. Yet, she did her job so well, and so efficiently, while still looking out for those who held her loyalty. As her boss, he knew he came first, but Skywalker was a close second. Karrde's brow furrowed over this. It had something to do with the Jedi Master somehow saving her, from an old command. It was a Force-related happening; he did not completely understand it. But, he surmised her loyalty ran deeper. Deeper than even she might know. She was falling for Luke Skywalker. Karrde's mood lifted slightly. The things that happened in this galaxy.

Transmission sent from Mara Jade, from encrypted location.


Skywalker is stable; suffered head trauma and shrapnel wounds. He was speaking to me before they put him under. Karrde's fee is 7,000 credits.

I must rendezvous with a medical shuttle some distance outside the Antarii Medical Facility. Preferred coordinates and arrival schedule are in attached package. Work it out with Antarii and get back to me.

Mara's crew bag bounced heavily across her shoulder as she journeyed towards the hangar bay. Weariness began to settle upon her; she was running on a scant two hours sleep, and Skywalker's condition was taking an emotional toll as well. She mentally steeled herself for what was about to be a long and tiring flight. Karrde wasn't absurd to say she would be exhausted when she reached Uriah. But she would handle it; she always did, because she always had to.

She arrived shortly before the medics, allowing her to relinquish her shoulder bag inside the Tumult's only cabin. Before exiting she lobbed a light blanket onto the foot of the bed – she would be sleeping on the deckplates.

The scuffle of feet brought her down the ramp and beside Skywalker's hover bed. His color was a little better, but that was a hard discovery beneath the white bandages and other healing accessories. At least he wasn't oozing blood anymore.

A medic caught her eye and fractionally lifted the large case he carried in hand. "He's very stable. When we get him settled I'll explain equipment and medications."

"Alright." She turned and led them back into the cabin, squeezing against the bulwark to allow them to maneuver the bed inside the cramped compartment.

"Good thing you're not claustrophobic." the second medic grunted.

"Who's to say I am not?" Mara remarked coolly as the medic's back passed centimeters in front of her as he swung the hover bed alongside the ship's cot.

"Well your body shows no signs of anxiety, and – "

"Ok, ok! I don't need a complete psychoanalysis. Freaks."

"Who are you calling freaks? We have saved your life before, you know, we don't have to do it again…" The first medic grinned from the head of the cot, where they were about to place Skywalker.

"Uh-uh, that is what you are paid to do. Tell me, when you look at people do you just see pulse and respiration and a musculoskeletal system covered in flesh?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Depends." One said.

"On what?"

"How good looking they are." The other replied.

"You guys are sick. You were supposed to be saving my life last time, not admiring the view."

The medic closest to her turned around and faced her. "Oh, Miss Jade, we take our job very seriously." His eyes were large and face painted with an exaggerated seriousness. "But as they say – stick with the job you enjoy."

Mara narrowed her eyes and lightly shoved the medic backwards onto the emptied hover bed. "Get out o' here."

The medic smirked and rolled off the bed, grabbing the edge and pulling it roughly through the narrow door, banging it into both sides.

"Hey! Watch my ship, freak!" Mara shouted in good humor at his departing back. It was always beneficial to keep in good standing with the medics. Turning her attention back to the first, head medic, she indicated the medical boxes. "Show me, doc."

Just over forty minutes later, Mara pulled the levers and the Tumult leapt into hyperspace. She had received complete instructions from the medic, organized their rendezvous at Uriah, and underwent a tense conversation with Karrde. She was tired.

Dragging both hands through her hair, she hissed lightly through her teeth. Anymore of these impromptu rescue missions, especially involving the New Republic, and she may just be out of a job. Karrde warned if she wasn't on Uriah, ready to deal business, at the promised time, he would cut her commission from this run steeply. Already she was paying Skywalker's medical expenses, and the fuel required for the Tumult, plus any other extraneous fees that surfaced because of her extemporaneous actions. All consequences of befriending that deranged Jedi sleeping behind her.

Mara's mind cried for sleep, but she still had to map out her critical time-saving hops. She punched the nav computer and brought up local star charts, overlaid with a map displaying the current planetary positions, asteroid paths, and gravity pools. Space was not friendly outside of known hyperspace paths. Studying the charts closely, alongside the running hyperspace diagnostics, she spent the next half hour grinding out tight calculations and pouring probabilities into the computer. With each possible path, the computer displayed the time, safety, and a wealth of other information, including fuel consumed, gravity pulls, possible radiation levels, and heat and friction levels. She mapped out a rough estimate of the course to Antarii, using both star and planetary gravity fields to increase her speed and swing her further along to save fuel and time.

Perusing over her final course, she ground her teeth in dissatisfaction. It wasn't where she wanted it to be. The Jade's Fire could hold up to far more stress and abuse than this box. She would have to pamper the Tumult far more than she wanted too, if she wanted to arrive in one piece. Her planetary swings couldn't be as close, and she had to stay much farther away from the stars' high radiation levels than a more protected ship, which would cost her more time than she could afford.

Sith! She pummeled the console. How was she going to arrive on schedule? She sat for moment on the edge of her seat, resting her elbows on the console and burying her face into her hands, forcing her overtaxed brain to compute. She couldn't tighten her hops up, or the weak vessel would stress out under the gravity fields. She had to save time by increasing the overall speed in each hop: impossible because she already was running hot and hard.

Artificial gravity.

Her head shot up and she returned to the computer. Yes – it would work. Save her enough time. If she cut out the ship's artificial gravity, enough energy would be saved to boost both the hyperdrive speed and the cooling system. Perfect. She set up speed and cooling parameters, then ordered the computer to execute in twenty minutes. That should give her time to secure the ship for zero-g, and check on Skywalker.

She stood up in the Tumult's cockpit, and took a good look at it for the first time. Karrde was right – it was nothing more than a crate strapped onto a hyperdrive. It consisted of a cockpit and a cabin, with a partitioning wall between them. The 'fresher was off to the side of the cabin, large enough to fit your body into. That was all. No shower, no lounge area, no entertainment consol, no dining room. The plan, so far, was to turn it into a mini-flying communication center, and use it for dropping in and spying on ship communications; perhaps even planetary with the right equipment. The small size and ugliness had its advantages – it would be disregarded by any wandering probes as a small civilian vessel, and sitting inert amongst debris fields it could be seen as a large hunk of junk. Any specific and prying probes may find it out, but the added hyperdrive would make for quick escapes.

But at this point, it had no whiz-bang communication or listening devices, leaving the cockpit empty and relatively spacious for one person. Mara walked back into the cabin and paused for a moment by Skywalker's bedside. He was still out cold, his breaths making rattling sounds in his chest. According to the medic, his lung tissue was slightly inflamed and there was extra fluid residing in his bronchioles. Most likely from breathing irritating gasses.

"What did you do to yourself, farmboy?" She whispered, touching his cheek. It was a little warm. Her eyebrows furrowed down. "Don't get sick on me. You have enough to heal from already."

She reached across his sheet-covered body to pull several straps off the wall and secure them lightly across his chest, thighs, and shins. Floating off his bed while she was sleeping was not an ideal situation. Ducking back into the cockpit, she opened the tiny emergency closet and swiped several packs of adhesive magnets, stocked in preparation for gravity failure. She stuck several to the bottom of the captain's chair, and the rest she brought back into the cabin to anchor miscellaneous items.

With the ship secured, she unstrapped a collapsible chair from its place on the wall, fixed it with magnets and set it up beside Skywalker's bed. Opening one of the medical boxes, she selected a health monitor that would give her a diagnostic display of the Jedi's vitals, plus some. She undid a few straps and pulled back the sheet from his chest, wincing slightly at the carve job displayed before her. Most of the larger gashes were covered in white bacta strips, but the smaller ones had just been pressed together with bonding glue and smeared with an antibiotic gel. For a moment she just watched his chest move, steadily and strongly. It was reassuring.

"You are a fighter, Jedi, I'll give you that." She placed one cool metal sensor atop his heart, and the other she settled on his side. "I just wish I could have gotten to you before whatever happened, happened." She watched the numbers jump around then settle down to an accurate reading. So far, so good. No temperature. "Just don't have a crisis while I'm sleeping." She commanded him.

Mara shut up the medical box and gently re-settled the sheet across his torso. She collapsed the chair and strapped it back into the wall, and flopped out her lightweight sleeper on the floor in the cramped cabin. It took up nearly all the floor space. Securing the corners with magnets, she crawled inside.

"G'night" She muttered exhaustedly.

Several minutes later, she felt the artificial gravity drop to zero, and fought off the sudden stomach-hurling feeling of free-fall. After that, she dropped off to sleep listening to the rattled breathing of her Jedi friend.

Review, if you would be so kind. Part 2 is already in the making, and will be posted. This is only a 2 part series. Hope you enjoyed!