By Cat's Cradle and Kataja
This story takes place between Chapter 42 and 43 in Timothy Zahn's novel Vision of The Future . It also a follower to Kataja's vignette Giving In.
Moving on - Part 1
Mara awoke with a start, the smell and feel of Luke still filling her senses. She didn't know how much time had passed since she had crept to the top bunk to snuggle beside him but she knew with near certainty that her training and a subtle nudge from the Force had aroused her. Something in the Force didn't feel right at all.
The next series of events occurred in such rapid succession that she didn't immediately have time to fully process the information.
She first felt the ship drop out of hyperdrive with a slight shudder – a shudder she had not expected to feel. Mara silently swore to herself. The ship must have dropped out on its own. Probably according to a pre-programmed sequence that had been set shortly after they had gotten the course from the navi-computer. She had known that they would need to drop out of hyperspace and make course adjustments at least once during their extended trip from the outer reaches of the galaxy. Luke, bless him, must had set that up. She had been far too tired to think of such things at the time.
The fact that the ship had dropped out on its own meant that they had both overslept – but being seriously tired was not an excuse. Dropping out of hyperspace with no one at the controls was foolish. You never knew what – or who – might be around when you popped back into existence.
Climbing over Luke – none too gently – to get to the control cabin, she heard the beginning of an alarm that rapidly faded away to silence. She had not quite made it to the cabin door when the import of the shudder and the fading alarm began to register so she was not surprised to find that the autolock was engaged. And if she was reading the door panel properly, the other side was in vacuum.
Uttering obscenities in three languages under her breath, she hurried back to the bunks where she tried, without success, to wake her fiancé.
She checked their bond and realized that he was in a healing trance. Mara would have liked to have found a more sentimental moment to speak her next phrase for the first time but time could be a critical factor here.
"I love you," she began softly, repeating the words they had agreed upon back in the caves. Then, as Luke's eyes began to flutter, she finished a bit more sternly, "now get your ass out of bed and in gear. I think we're in some serious trouble."
Luke snapped to full awareness. "Anything you can't handle on your own must be serious," he muttered, rolling out of the top bunk and landing lightly on the balls of his feet beside her. "What's our situation?"
Mara quickly explained what had awakened her and her assessment of the situation. "I think something breached the hull when the autopilot took us out of hyperspace. That means the shields have probably failed and we are wide open to attack. Not to mention the fact that with the controls in vacuum, it's going to be difficult to pilot this odd ship, even with the two of us working together."
"I assume you didn't detect any hostile intent when you scanned the local area with the Force?" Luke asked.
"No, I didn't," she replied, warming at the thought of how well he understood her. It was practically the first thing she had done once the puzzle pieces had fallen into place. It was pretty clear that Luke intended to share the pants in this union. Well, since he had just shown his trust in her, then she had better start thinking of them as a unit too. It was a new sensation for her and she found herself oddly lifted at the thought. "But I would prefer to have you take a look too. I had just woken up and might have missed something."
"I doubt that, but let's have a look anyway," he stated, smiling at her. They had walked to the control cabin door while discussing their situation and Luke took a moment to close his eyes and sink into the flow of the Force. Mara felt him reach out as she had done, but with much greater depth and subtlety than she was yet capable of.
Amazing that he considered her an equal, she thought. Luke opened his eyes.
"We really aren't equals though, are we?" He held up a hand as she was about to object. "Before you start, I am simply saying that we are each better at certain talents and skills than the other. Together we are better than either could be as individuals. If you were equal to me, then you would match me at every point. Instead, you complement me in ways I never knew I was lacking. So we really aren't equal at all."
As his words crystallized into meaning for her, she realized that what he said was true even if it was poorly stated. "The Qom Jha proverb," she said softly, smiling as she reflected on the idea. Yes, she was definitely going to enjoy being a part of this union. But she couldn't resist giving him a bit of a dig and continued with an edge in her voice, "Didn't I tell you to stay out of my mind?"
He seemed to shrink a bit, "Sorry, it was hard to miss when I was trying to search the local area for threats. Oh, and I didn't find any danger either. I think we are in the clear for now."
She felt a measure of relief wash across her.
"I'll do better at excluding your mind in the future, Mara. I really wasn't trying to pry."
"Relax, Luke, I wasn't really trying to keep that one private. I just couldn't resist. You'll have to learn to not be so sensitive about stuff like that. Besides, you don't expect me to change all my habits just because we're married, do you?
Luke's eyes took on a mischievous spark. "So are you going to tell me when it's teasing and when it's serious, or should I just have a look inside?" He gave her forehead a gentle tap with his finger.
His quick uptake surprised her but she managed to keep a stern look on her face, hoping that he wouldn't notice the edges of her lips. She couldn't seem to stop them from trying to twitch into a smile. Baiting him was just too much fun and having him bait her back was like confection on the ryshcate.
She moved nose to nose with him – hoping to keep her twitching mouth out of his peripheral vision. "That's not in the Married Couple's Rule Book, Skywalker, and you know it!" she growled, putting as much heat into her voice as she could muster, emphasizing each word with a forefinger to a wonderfully toned pectoral. She was losing her battle with mirth and his nearness was having an intoxicating effect on her.
Maybe getting so close to him wasn't such a good idea after all.
Trying to keep her voice even, she continued, "How will I keep you line if there are no mysteries between us? Page three hundred forty six, paragraph three, forth sentence, it clearly states, 'the wife shall keep the husband off balance at all times.'"
And then the moment was ruined as her smile finally reached her eyes. His blue eyes sparkled in return and, quick as a flash, he touched her nose with the tip of his tongue and backed up a half step.
They stood there lost in the moment, grinning foolishly at each other.
Then they both started when a tapping from the door brought them back to reality. "Artoo must have been near the controls the when we dropped out," Luke said as he quickly scanned the corridor walls, apparently searching for something. "Do you remember seeing an access terminal anywhere?"
They found one in what looked like the galley. At least it had a screen so they were able to communicate with Artoo. After Luke got the droid calmed down, they learned that the location of the breach was behind a bank of control panels. It could not be accessed from inside the ship without removing some panels and those particular panels could not be removed while the ship was in flight. But it didn't matter anyway – there were no vacuum suits on board that would fit either of them.
Artoo had been able to get the shields up, so at least they were protected from attack and any more strikes. Apparently this weird Chiss ship they had pinched was not programmed to automatically raise the shields when the hyperdrive cut out. Unfortunately, the shields could not be set to hold the atmosphere in the control cabin, so they were stuck with no way to physically pilot the ship.
Mara took a deep breath as she considered all of this new information. "We're going to have to use the Force to find a place with a breathable atmosphere close by, land, and repair the hull from the outside before we can try…" The words faded on her lips at Luke's raised eyebrows. "Rather, before we can get home, aren't we." It was more of a statement than a question.
"Well, I can't think of any other way to do this." Luke admitted. "And it's going to take all three of us working together. Artoo can handle some of the routine tasks. What would you rather do – guide us in or fly the ship?"
Mara bit her lower lip for a moment and considered her options. Luke had more practice with levitation and the Force manipulation of objects. She was better at sensing danger. Both of them were roughly equal when it came to piloting a ship. Of course, she could use this opportunity to hone the skills that were more difficult for her but surely there would be a better time for such training.
Earnest green stared back at expectant blue.
"Although I know I can pilot the ship as well as you can, perhaps just a bit better," – she just couldn't resist – "I think in this situation, I'd rather have you at the controls. You're better at Force manipulations."
Luke smiled at her simple statement. "I'm glad you chose that answer. I trust your sense of danger better than my own."
They both grinned foolishly at each other – again.
The monitor lit with communication from Artoo. He had found a suitable world very close at hand. They could be there with a single micro-jump.
They spent the better part of the next two hours practicing and planning the approach and landing, making sure that nothing had been overlooked. Once they made the jump, they would be committed. Luke had insisted that they stay in the galley where they could communicate with Artoo effectively. This was over Mara's initial objection. She preferred to be closer to the controls.
"I don't want to have my back to the cabin door, Mara, and we both know that we should probably be sitting down when we do this."
"It will take us nearly ten seconds to get to the cabin from here once we are deep enough in the atmosphere for it to be habitable."
"I know, but the ship will be much easier to pilot if I'm oriented the same as I would be in the pilot seat. If we are outside the control cabin I'll be facing backward and trying to pilot the ship with the Force backward as well. I'd rather be facing forward even if it's further away. There'll be fewer opportunities for mistakes."
Mara could see his point and finally agreed. Even she would not want to pilot the ship blind where every movement to port felt like a turn to starboard.
And so with Luke beside her, hands and minds joined, they both sank deep into the Force to select the landing site. It was an odd sensation for Mara, both similar and yet completely different from when they battled the droids together in the cavern. Though their joined minds could not really sense the planet as such it seemed to her as if a brilliant white, fire-gem strewn path was laid out before her against a velvet backdrop with the endpoint – the landing zone – marked by a soft blue-green glow.
'That's our way...' Luke's thought appeared in her mind, almost indistinguishable from her own.
'Ready??…' It was both a statement and a question. He was ready and making sure that she was too. And he knew she was ready almost before she did herself. His free hand was already moving to the terminal to tell Artoo initiate the jump.
She was hyper-focused on the path and the position of the ship with respect to it. Yet a part of her mind was also analyzing the sensation itself. It was as if she was Luke and herself at the same time but her thoughts were her own – even when they weren't. She didn't really have any sort of reference for this.
As they dropped out at the prescribed point, she sensed that they were slightly off course but Luke was already making the necessary adjustments and the ship moved back in line.
Focusing on the path became easier.
She found she had more time to better appraise the sensation of their linked minds. Luke could see the path through her mind and she could feel his touch on the controls through his. It was almost as if she were sitting on his lap, her hands lightly on his, as he piloted the ship and she watched the screens.
There was an underlying intimacy to the sensation that was almost sensual. There was also a growing sense of arousal and she couldn't tell whose it was. 'It's probably both of us,'she/he thought. The feeling was strange and wonderful and it had the potential to be very distracting. 'I wonder what sex will be like if we are linked like this?' She felt them both clamp down on that thought for now. She was so deep into the link that she didn't know which of them that thought had come from or who had stifled it. And it really didn't matter anyway. Together they were getting this done, even with the desire simmering in their veins.
She could feel Luke command Artoo to set the shields for entry into the atmosphere. Then there was the gradual sensation of slowing as the air around the ship began to thicken. Mara realized she was hearing Artoo's twittering which meant that the Control Cabin was again becoming habitable.
Eyes still closed they rose together and slowly walked to the cabin, her inner eye still on the path, his 'Force' hands still at the controls.
And their path remained true.
Artoo overrode the door controls as they approached. Air roared past them into the cabin as the pressure equalized pulling her hair in streamers in front of her face as they went. The breach was whistling with the speed of their flight its pitch modulating continuously as the air thickened and the ship slowed.
Mara felt Luke sit in the pilot seat and could feel its icy touch through his clothing. The seat was still freezing from its exposure to vacuum. She could feel his eyes snap open as he reached for the frigid controls. She knew that the ship's windows were fogged the moment he did. They were still blind so she kept her eyes closed and focused on the path. She shuddered as their link briefly dimmed when she released his hand to pilot the ship, so she quickly touched her forehead to his temple and the link flared back.
The landing zone approached glowing blue-green at first, then resolving into two distinct, separate, and roughly circular patches – one electric blue, the other vivid green – overlapping along slightly along one edge.
She felt the ship pitch up, slow, hover, and finally drop with a soft thump exactly where the patches overlapped.
They were down.
As one she felt them begin to pull away from each other, rising out of their link. The resulting emptiness caught her off guard however she felt a bit tired from the effort of maintaining so a deep link for such an extended period. They had been at this for the better part of three hours. She was surprised to find herself feeling strangely refreshed.
Mara opened her eyes to find grinning blue. Luke's hand cupped the back of her neck, pulled her head to his, and he hungrily claimed her lips. Her eyes fluttered closed again, as her smouldering arousal re-kindled quickly but Mara clamped down again, her need to feel safe about their condition barely overriding her growing other need.
Their kiss broke, and she breathlessly said, "Let's see to the ship and our security first, then…"
She left the idea hanging.
Luke's face fell a bit. She could see his desire as keenly as she could feel her own but she saw from his expression that he agreed with her.
"You are a serious distraction, Mara," he said, touching her nose with his finger. Then he stood, offered his hand to her, and together they made their way to the hatch with Artoo trundling along behind them.
Luke squeezed Mara's hand and she enjoyed the pricking sensation it sent through her whole body.
She turned to him to tell him how she hadn't realized that such a simple touch could bring so much pleasure, but at that moment the hatch opened. Luke's hand tightened around hers and she could feel his surprise.
Her head snapped back to look out the hatch and see what had astounded him so. And her eyes took in what lay outside the hatch, she momentarily forgot her newfound happiness and gasped in unison with Luke beside her.