Disclaimer: Star Wars is property of George Lucas and all his cronies. Timothy Zahn created Mara Jade. I own nothing. Literally. I'm dirt poor. All I have is this laptop…
Summary: Mara Jade goes on a mission while serving as the Emperor's Hand.
Author's Note: Okay, I'm not sure what plot bunny got to me on this one, but I think he's related to the rabbit in Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail. Anyway, hope you like it. And check out my website: http://www.angelfire.com/scifi/addielogan
Feedback and Archiving: Yes and Yes. Just if you archive, let me know where. (email@example.com)
Commander Kalik Mesch came into his office and slumped down into his chair, worry clearly written across his face. For three months now he'd been in contact with the fledgling Rebel Alliance, providing them with every Imperial secret he could discover. He'd just sent one of these near-weekly transmissions, and, as always, the act filled him with a sense of dread. The Emperor had ways of discovering traitors in his ranks. Commander Mesch knew it was only a matter of time until he met his end.
He'd just have to hold out until then, providing the Rebels with his help for as long as fate allowed.
*** *** ***
Mara. Mara Jade.
Mara opened her eyes, her master's voice pulling her from a restless sleep.
Report to my chambers immediately, Mara.
Mara Jade did not question Emperor Palpatine's request—she simply obeyed. She sat up in bed, put on her boots, and left the room. She walked to the Emperor's chambers, the red-suited Imperial Royal Guards not moving as she passed. She was a familiar sight to them, although they were not aware of what brought her to the Emperor.
She was the Emperor's Hand. His most trusted assassin. A virtual extension of his Will.
Mara walked into the Emperor's chambers and knelt on one knee in front of him. "You summoned me, Master?"
Palpatine nodded and motioned for Mara to rise. She stood. "I have a mission for you, Mara," the Emperor said
"My life is but to serve you," Mara replied.
"I have discovered an information leak originating from the commander of a squadron stationed on a space station in the Duro system. I need you to infiltrate the squadron and kill the commander. No one betrays the Empire and lives."
Mara bowed. "It will be done, Master."
"Yes, I know it will."
*** *** ***
"So you've been transferred to the Duro system from," the short, fat man sitting at the desk across from Mara glanced down at the data reader in his hand, "the Outer Rim."
The man frowned. "I guess they're happy to take whatever they can get out there near the Rim, though here closer to the Core we usually accept pilots more…obviously qualified."
Mara could tell he was referring to the fact she was a woman, something that was rare for an Imperial soldier. The only way she kept herself from killing the annoying man right there was the knowledge that he probably couldn't even fit in a fighter, never mind fly one. "I am more than qualified, Sir."
"Oh, I'm sure you are, Miss…"
"Caidin," she supplied for him. "Adia Caidin."
"Of course, Miss Caidin. Well, welcome aboard. I'll direct you to your quarters and you can freshen up there for evening meal, which will be in two standard hours."
Mara stood up. "Thank you."
The man reached out and shook her hand, and Mara had to suppress a shudder of revulsion at his touch. "If at anytime you feel that life on this squadron is too much for you, just let me know and I'll be more than happy to transfer you."
"I'm sure you would…" Mara thought. "Thank you, Sir, but I'll be fine here. Although I was wondering if you could tell me when I'd have a chance to meet Commander Mesch. I'd like to see the man I'm going to be working under."
"The commander is a very busy man, Miss Caidin. I'm sure he'll get to you when he can."
Mara knew any further attempt to gather information from this man would be futile. He was yet another Imperial bureaucrat who thought himself to be greater than he was. "Then could you please direct me to my quarters?"
"I'd be happy to, Miss Caidin."
*** *** ***
Mara wanted to use the time between her arrival and the evening meal to scout around the station, but knew that there would be too many people mulling about and she could be easily discovered. She was sure she could come up with a good explanation for anything she was caught doing, but she'd rather not have to worry about answering any questions—they always made the job more difficult.
Two hours later when she heard people walking down the hall, she assumed it was time to eat. "Might as well go out there and see if I can find Commander Mesch," Mara thought.
She walked out into the hallway and stopped the first pilot that walked by. "Excuse me, but could you tell me where the mess hall is?" she asked.
"Who are you?"
"I'm the new pilot, Adia Caidin," Mara explained.
"Since when did they allow women into this outfit?"
"Since someone figured out some women—myself included—can fly circles around every man on this station."
The man beside the pilot Mara was talking to snickered. "The mess hall's just down this corridor, Adia. You can't miss it."
She looked at the man who had just spoken. He was tall, with sandy-blonde hair, blue eyes, and a surprisingly good tan for being kept cooped up on a space station. All in all, Mara found him to be surpassingly handsome. "Thank you."
"Glad to be of service," the man said with a smile.
The other pilot glanced at Mara and then back to his friend. "Come on, we need to get going before the only thing left is rations not fit to feed a dianoga."
The blonde man nodded and they began to walk away. He glanced back over his shoulder. "See you around, Adia," he called out.
Mara smiled slowly. "Yeah, see you around."
*** *** ***
Mara sighed as she tried to find a place to sit in the mess hall. She'd tried to look around for a table with people she believed would speak to her, but she was continuously ignored. "Guess I'll have to show off my piloting skills before I can win the trust of anyone in this overly-macho crowd," she thought.
She sat alone at a table, deciding she could use the opportunity to observe her new squadmates as well as keep an eye out for Commander Mesch. The sooner she learned the man's habits, the sooner she could figure out the best time and place to kill him and get back to Coruscant and the Emperor.
"Is anybody sitting here?"
Mara looked up at saw the blonde man who'd given her directions earlier standing in front of her with a tray. "Uh, no, go ahead and sit down."
"Thanks." He took a seat. "You must be some kind of pilot Adia, to make it into an Imperial TIE squadron somewhere other than a remote world near the Outer Rim."
"I just came from the Rim," Mara said. "Moved my way up."
"Still, I'd like to see you fly. I'll bet it's an impressive sight." He winked
"I've been told it is. I try not to let it go to my head, though," Mara said, maintaining an air of distance.
The blonde man laughed. "That's more than what can be said for most of these guys in here."
"My ego's been inflated a time or two."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me."
The man stuck his out hand. "I'm Zane Mannik, by the way," he said.
Mara shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, Zane. So who was that incredibly charming man you were talking to earlier?" she asked.
Zane laughed at her sarcasm. "That was Alik Jen. He's that way with all the new people. Don't take it personally."
"I didn't. I'm used to it by now. They don't treat female pilots any better out near the Rim, you know." Mara decided it was time to change the subject to something more productive. "So, I was wondering, does Commander Mesch usually eat in here or somewhere else?"
The sudden frown Zane got on his face was almost unperceivable, since he quickly replaced it with the smile he'd worn ever since Mara had met him. "He eats with us occasionally, although I believe he left the station this morning in order to take care of some business planetside."
"He's not here?" Mara asked, doing her best to hide her disappointment.
"No, I don't think so. Why does that bother you?"
"I'd like to meet him," Mara said. "You can tell a lot from the squadron you're flying with by its commander."
"That's true," Zane said. "And Mesch is a good one. A loyal Imperial through and through."
"So I've heard."
"So how about after dinner I give you the grand tour of the station?" Zane asked.
"That sounds good," Mara said. "I'd hate to have to ask for directions every time I go anywhere—especially if all the people around here are as bad as Alik Jen."
"Oh, not all of them are as bad as Alik." He gave her a crooked grin. "Some are much worse."
"Gee, sounds all warm and homey here."
Zane shrugged. "That's an Imperial TIE squadron for you."
"So are you actually the nice one of the group, or are you just hoping if you're the only guy around who's decent to me you'll get lucky?"
Zane laughed. "A little bit of both."
"At least you're honest."
"One of my many virtues. So do I have a chance on that second part?"
Zane shrugged. "Oh well, I gave it a shot. Guess I'll have to go back to just being the nice guy."
"That's always been the best course of action around me for men who want to keep all their parts attached."
Zane just smiled.
*** *** ***
Zane kept his promise and gave her a tour of the station after dinner. She paid close attention to everything he showed her, knowing that a good grasp of the surrounding area was essential in her line of work.
"The commander's office and quarters are down that corridor there," Zane said, pointing to a hallway in front of them. "When he's on the station, he spends most of his time there. Mesch tends to keep to himself a lot."
"Good," Mara thought. "Always easier to hit a target that's alone."
Zane ushered her past the corridor. "And the pilots' quarters are down this way, but I guess you already knew that since you're staying in one," her said.
"Yeah, I did figure that out," Mara replied dryly.
"My quarters are three doors down from yours…"
"You're still going to have to stick to just being nice."
"…In case you ever need anything." Zane smiled.
"I'll remember that," Mara said, returning the smile.
"So have you seen enough?" Zane asked.
"Is there anything else?"
"Then I've seen enough."
Zane walked Mara back to her quarters. "So…"
"So, thanks for the tour. Good night." She started to go into her room, but Zane grabbed her arm. She whipped her head around and glared at him. "What?" she snapped.
"You didn't give me a chance to tell you good night," Zane said, moving closer.
"I told you, you're going to have to stick to being nice," Mara said, acutely aware of his close proximity and the feel of his hand on her arm.
"Yeah, but something tells me you're not the kind of woman that likes nice men."
"What makes you think I'd like you either way?"
Zane didn't answer. He just leaned in and kissed her. When he pulled away, her cheeks were flushed, her eyelids heavy. "Good night, Adia," Zane murmured, kissing her once on the forehead before walking away.
Mara just watched him go.
*** *** ***
Late-night reconnaissance—one of Mara Jade's specialties. Once the other pilots had turned in for the night, she snuck out of her room and down into the hallway where Commander Mesch's office and quarters were. She walked up to the keypad beside his office door and pushed in her Imperial override code. The door slid open and Mara crept inside. She looked around the office and made a mental note of the floor plan, deciding where and how would be the best way to kill the Commander if the assassination were to take place there.
Mara took the time to look for any alarms or hidden surveillance objects that may make Mesch able to signal for help once she approached him or that would later aide in fingering her as his murderer. Palpatine would never forgive her for leaving the scene with even a trace of her still remaining.
Mara left the office and went to Mesch's quarters, breaking in with ease. As soon as Mara walked into the room, her danger sense went off. Something wasn't right. She looked around quickly, feeling as if someone else was there with her. She drew her blaster and walked into the bedroom, hoping to find whatever was making her wary.
As Mara entered the bedroom, it became even clearer that something was not right. She saw something out of the corner of her eye and whipped around, her blaster pointed at whatever it was she had seen. Mara froze. It was Mesch—or at least it had been. The commander was slumped in a chair, obviously dead.
"Drop your weapon."
Mara felt something cold and hard against her neck, and she recognized it to be the barrel of a blaster. "Who are you?" Mara thought for a second—she knew that voice. "Zane?"
The tip of the blaster moved closer to her skin. "I told you to drop it, Adia. Don't think I'd hesitate to kill you."
Mara let her blaster fall to the ground, deciding it would be for the best to play along with Zane for the time being. She cursed herself for being distracted by Zane's good looks to the point that she was unable to pick up on the fact he was a threat. "You were lying when you told me Mesch had left the station—you killed him," she said, hoping that by stating the obvious she'd be able to get more information out of him.
"Of course. And now that you've found this out, I'm going to have to kill you, too. Pity, though. I was hoping I could've gotten to know you a little better." He ran his free hand across her cheek and Mara shuddered.
"Why did you kill him?" she asked. "You said in the cafeteria he was a good man—a good Imperial."
"Yes, but he was also a very bad business man. But funny that you should ask such a question since murdering Commander Mesch was you obvious intention for being on this station as well."
"What makes you say something like that?" Mara asked.
"Why else would you be sneaking around here in the middle of the night, dressed all in black and carrying a blaster?"
Mara had to admit he had a point there. "How do you expect to get away with killing Mesch?" she asked, needing more time to formulate a plan on how to get out of there.
"Well, I'm going to kill you before you can alert anyone else to what I've done, and after that, what I do won't really make much of a difference to you, now will it?" Zane replied.
"How about I make things a little simpler for you?" Mara said.
"And how do you plan to do that?" Zane asked.
Mara reached out with the Force, taking hold of her blaster and calling it back into her hand. Before Zane could process what he'd just seen, she spun around and threw him to the ground, pinning him down and pointing her blaster to his forehead. "By killing you so nothing after I leave here will matter to you," Mara growled.
"You don't want to kill me, Adia," Zane said, although Mara could clearly see the fear in his eyes.
"And why wouldn't I want to do that?" Mara quipped. "Because you're such a nice guy?"
"Among other things." Zane started to reach for his blaster that he'd dropped when Mara had pinned him to the ground.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Mara growled.
Zane didn't take head to her warning. He flipped Mara off of him and grabbed his blaster. He started to fire, but before he had the chance, Mara discharged her own weapon, hitting him with pinpoint accuracy. Zane fell to the ground in a heap.
"You were right, Zane, I didn't want to kill you," Mara said as she stared down at his lifeless form. "But I wasn't trained to be nice."
Mara knew she had to get out of Commander Mesch's quarters before someone found her in there with two dead men. She crept out of the room, shut the door behind her, and headed down the hall to the hangar bay. There, she found a shuttle with hyperspace capabilities and used it to escape the station, transmitting her Imperial codes to make her exit simple and unnoticed.
Once in space, she opened her mind to the Force in order to contact her master. "Mara, I trust your mission is complete."
"Kalik Mesch is dead, Master."
She could feel Palpatine's happiness radiate through her. "Good work, Mara Jade. You have never failed to remind me why I have made you my Hand."
Mara felt Palpatine's presence leave her mind as she sped back towards Coruscant. She pushed all lingering thoughts of Zane Mannik from her mind. She was the Emperor's Hand and she'd never let anyone change that.
No matter how nice he seemed.