Strange Ways

As the Imperial flagship Executor orbited high above the planet Naboo, Malysa Kolos sat in one of the chairs in her quarters, meditating. Her eyes closed, she turned her focus away from the world outside and concentrated instead on her connection to the Force.

As she often did while meditating, Malysa communed with her Jedi teacher, Master Qui-Gon Jinn. He was not here with her, physically, as he had been killed in combat with a Sith Lord more than thirty years ago. But, in his studies of the Living Force, Master Qui-Gon had discovered the secret to immortality; he had left the physical world behind, and now existed as a being of pure energy, completely one with the Force.

In their years of exile on Tatooine and Dagobah, respectively, Qui-Gon had taught his former student Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Jedi Grand Master Yoda this secret, even as he now taught it to her. Occasionally, Obi-Wan would join them, when he wasn't watching over Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia.

Master Yoda has passed into the Force, Master Qui-Gon's voice 'said' within her mind.

Malysa concentrated more fully on her teacher's presence, mentally shifting into an imagined featureless white expanse where they could speak 'face-to-face', as they often did while she meditated.

In the imagined expanse, Malysa wore plain robes in off-white and brown, instead of the dark Sith clothing she had been forced to wear for years. Master Qui-Gon appeared as he had in life, a tall man with long graying brown hair and a full beard, dressed in tan and dark brown robes.

"Luke Skywalker and his fellow students are awaiting their friend's arrival," said Qui-Gon as the illusionary white expanse settled into focus. "Their training is now complete, and so Master Yoda has allowed himself to pass on."

The diminutive Jedi Master himself appeared next to them, looking up at them both with calm, wise eyes within a wizened green face. His long ears twitched as he silently regarded Malysa for a moment.

"A long way have you come," he said. "Controlled your fear, you have. The Dark Side, you have rejected. Soon will the time come when you no longer need to hide your true self."

"Lord Vader -Anakin- is troubled," said Malysa, using the name Qui-Gon preferred for the Emperor, despite all the man had done. Qui-Gon insisted that Anakin still lived within Vader, a spark of light within the cloud of darkness.

"Sensed it, I have," agreed Yoda, nodding slightly. "Strongly does his conflict resonate through the Force."

"The Force stirs around Naboo," Qui-Gon said thoughtfully, folding his arms over his chest. "Something of great importance is about to happen here."

"It may have something to do with Padmé," Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice said a moment before he appeared on Qui-Gon's other side, completing the circle formed by the four of them. The Jedi Master appeared with folded arms in similar posture to his teacher, one hand stroking the lower edge of his silvery beard. "Anakin's thoughts have dwelled on her more than usual of late."

"He still has not accepted her death," Yoda said, a slight tinge of annoyance in his voice. "Still does he think that save her, he can. Long has he studied the ways of the Sith, always seeking to learn of what Palpatine told him of Plagueis."

"Do you think he could have finally learned how to bring her back?" Obi-Wan said, looking concernedly over at the other two Jedi Masters.

"Or convinced himself he can," Yoda said darkly. "Unstable, he still is."

"Anakin is not insane," Qui-Gon said calmly. "But regardless of what he hopes to accomplish at Naboo, or even if he can, the currents of the Force are still stirring about him. I suspect the fulfillment of the prophecy is near."

"How can he bring the Force into balance now?" Malysa said incredulously. "He's been trying to walk the line between Light and Dark since his fall, but he's fallen so far into the Dark Side in the last few years that I don't think he could ever bring himself back into balance, much less the Force."

"Very soon, Anakin will have to make a choice," Qui-Gon said, meeting her gaze. "As it always has, everything depends on him. We can only hope that Luke will be able to persuade him to make the right decision."

"Aid young Skywalker, you must," Yoda said, looking up at Malysa. "When he arrives, close to him you must stay."

Several days later, Master Yoda's words echoed in Malysa's mind as she stood at Lord Vader's side in a conference room in the Royal Palace on Naboo, watching the comm screen as Darth Nova finally revealed the true extent of his treachery.

"The time has come, Lord Vader," Nova said triumphantly, "for the Apprentice to overthrow the Master, as it has always been with the true Sith. If you surrender yourself to me, I will spare your crew, your children, and the people of this insignificant little world. If you refuse, I will ignite this system's sun into supernova and destroy you all."

Through the Force, Malysa sensed Vader's rage flare up at his former student's words, accompanied by calculation as the Sith Master quickly formulated a new plan.

"Are you too much of a weakling to face me yourself?" Vader challenged, glaring up at the screen. "Are you so assured of your own inferiority that you must come here with overwhelming force?" Vader sneered. "For all your posturing, I can tell you are still afraid of me!"

"I do not fear you!" Nova shouted, leaning closer. "I merely assure my own victory, as a true Sith would!"

"If you were a true Sith," Vader said derisively, "you would face me in single combat to prove which of us is worthy of the mantle of Sith Master, instead of launching this cowardly ambush."

Malysa and the others gathered around the conference table waited for a tense moment, seeing how Nova would respond to Vader's taunt. Luke Skywalker seemed particularly concerned, his eyes locked on his father instead of the screen.

"Very well, old man!" Nova snarled. "I will descend to the surface and eradicate you myself!"

"No," Vader replied. "Not here. I will not risk this world against your treachery."

"Where, then? Aboard your ship?"

"We will go to the world of Korriban," said Vader. "And there we will settle your challenge in the way of the ancient Sith Lords."

Nova grinned savagely. "So be it!" He raised a hand to point at Vader. "I will have my personal ship accompany your shuttle there, to ensure that you do not flee."

Vader said nothing in reply, but terminated the connection by forcibly overloading the transmitter with the Force. A number of stormtroopers and Alliance soldiers scrambled back away from the screen as it shot sparks in all directions. When Vader turned away from the pyrotechnic display, Malysa saw that his natural eye was now entirely yellow, rimmed with red.

"Ready my shuttle!" Vader barked at another of his aides, who immediately rushed off to obey.

"I'm going with you," said Luke, moving towards his father.

Mara Jade stepped up next to him. "And if he's going, so am I." Her tone left no room for argument.

In that instant, Malysa knew what she had to do. "I will stand with you, as well, Lord Vader," she said. She glanced over at Luke for just a moment, sending a sense of reassurance through the Force; she was going along more to fight at his side than his father's. Luke nodded slightly in understanding.

"This will be a battle between Nova and myself," Vader warned. "Any outside interference is forbidden."

Mara snorted derisively. "He showed up here with fifty ships, planning to kill you from orbit," she said. "Do you really think Nova isn't going to bring a few friends of his own?"

One of the stormtroopers approached and saluted. "I also request to join your honor guard, Lord Vader," the man said, his voice filtered and rendered flat by his helmet.

Vader peered curiously at the man. "What is your designation, trooper?"

"TK-421, sir," the stormtrooper replied.

"Very well," the Sith Master replied.

Vader glanced at Leia, but did not ask if she wanted to go along as well. Leia looked back at him, and stirred as if she was about to say something, but Vader spoke first. "Stay here and keep your mother safe," he said. "Please," he added as a reluctant afterthought.

Leia nodded silently in reply.

"I will leave immediately," Vader stated with finality, turning to head down to the hangar level. Malysa saw him pause to glance once at Padmé, but he said nothing further before leaving the room.

She hurried after him, knowing the choice Qui-Gon had mentioned was very close now.

High above the battle raging around Naboo, Boba Fett watched the Super Star Destroyer Executor methodically rip to shreds dozens of warships that had fought alongside her in innumerable campaigns since the completion of her construction.

From the cockpit of his starship, the Slave I, Fett considered the improbable scene with dark amusement. Through the actions of Vader's Sith Apprentice and Director Isard, Thrawn had been forced to ally himself and the men under his command with beings he had been pursuing and destroying for years, his enemies till today.

The personal ship of the Emperor himself now fought alongside the fleet of the Rebel Alliance. Boba Fett had seen a vast number of very odd things over the course of his career, but this was rapidly climbing the list of most interesting occurrences to which he had borne witness.

Finally, after a particularly vicious fusillade from Executor, Isard's nearly crippled command ship Lusankya began to withdraw, followed by what was left of her fleet. The battle was not over, Fett knew; Isard's Interdictor ships were still in formation around the system, keeping anyone from entering or leaving. Fett suspected the Director was merely retreating to lick her wounds and call for reinforcements.

Fett noted that Executor did not pursue, and that the Alliance ships that were chasing off the Imperials reluctantly returned to the main fleet after a few moments. No doubt Thrawn had ordered this.

As he had expected, Fett's comm beeped; Executor was initiating a transmission. Already suspecting what Thrawn was going to ask him to do, Fett sent his starship on a high course out of the system, angling his trajectory to escape the Interdictors' interference field as quickly as possible.

"Fett here," he said, answering Thrawn's call.

The Grand Admiral appeared in holographic miniature above Fett's console. "The time has come, Hunter Fett," Thrawn said, looking at him gravely. "I require your assistance."

"You want me to contact the loyalist elements of the Imperial fleet," Fett confirmed. "One of your battle groups is only a few hours away."

"You are to send the coded transmission I am beaming to your vessel to the specified coordinates," Thrawn went on quickly, as if he hadn't heard Fett. "Once it is sent, proceed with all haste to the planet Korriban in the Horuset system. Lord Vader may have need of your assistance. I am prepared to offer up to one hundred thousand for your services here."

"I want the money in advance," said Fett. "In case things don't go well for you when Isard comes back."

Thrawn frowned minutely, but nodded sharply. "Use the code I am sending now," he said, the slightest tinge of impatience in his voice. "You will have your credits by the time you arrive at Korriban."

Fett allowed himself a slight smirk beneath his helmet. "I'm on my way."

On Korriban, the hours of fighting passed in a blur for Malysa. Even the brief respite attained when Lord Vader trapped Darth Nova in one of the tombs seemed to pass much too quickly, and she was thrust back into the heat of battle once again.

Even though Nova had brought only thirty Sith, they fought as fiercely as three times that number. The Royal Guards and the stormtroopers held their own against the dark warriors, but still Malysa spent the majority of her time defending their position. The Force moved oddly around the Emperor's soldiers, the stormtroopers especially; Malysa felt a strong compulsion to protect them, one trooper in particular, though she had not yet had time to ponder on why.

Malysa noticed when the fierce Dathomiran Tamith Kai commandeered the Emperor's shuttle, but was busy with one of her own opponents to do anything about it.

Mara Jade, however, was able to quickly finish off the Sith warrior she had been fighting and sprint for the edge of the cliff. Just as she leaped, the Force surged in alarm, and Malysa turned for an instant to see the shuttle suddenly pull up, out of range of Mara's jump.

Malysa quickly shoved her opponent back a few steps with the Force, then extended her will and pulled Mara back over the ground as she fell. In retaliation, Tamith Kai fired a few shots at her, and Malysa dove behind a pair of fallen stone pillars for cover, wincing as stone chips exploded around her, a few of them cutting into her back and legs.

The next few moments seemed to both pass in a blur and unfold across an eternity; Tamith Kai forced Lord Vader and Luke Skywalker away from Darth Nova with a burst of laser fire, and the traitorous Apprentice took advantage of the opportunity to leap from foot-hold to foot-hold up the side of the canyon to one of the immense ancient statues above the Sith tombs.

Vader and Luke frantically chased after him, working as quickly as they could to dispatch the four Sith that leaped in their way, but they were not fast enough.

Malysa could feel the star at the center of the system roiling as Nova wrenched at it with his will, forcing it into supernova. By the time Luke and Vader finished their opponents, it was too late; the star was irreparably damaged, and nothing could stop its violent death now.

Even as Malysa began to despair, watching Nova leap up onto the ramp of the hovering shuttle, Mara Jade snapped commandingly for the Royal Guardsman nearby to throw her his sniper rifle.

In one smooth motion, she caught the rifle, snapped it up, and fired.

The bolt soared into the air, and even as Nova posed mockingly on the ramp, laughing triumphantly, Mara's shot slammed into his heart, and he fell, dead, from the ramp.

The shuttle pulled back and raced up into the sky, stranding them there. Malysa jogged over to where Luke and the others stood, her thoughts racing in an attempt to think of something, anything they could do to escape from the certain death of this planet and everything else in the system.

"He's sent the sun into supernova!" Vader called to the rest of the group as he approached.

"Can we stop it?" Luke asked desperately.

Vader shook his head grimly. "No."

"What can we-" Malysa started to say, but a sudden lance of fire speared through her chest from behind, and her words ended in a startled, pained scream.

Incredulously, she looked down to see a shaft of ruby light somehow extending straight through her chest. Her heartbeat seemed to thunder in her ears, drowning out all other sound, and the world began to spin around her.

Malysa fell to the ground, and the impact shook her to her core. Distantly, she heard raised voices and the muffled roaring of blaster fire, but all she saw were the dry red clouds of Korriban, locked in perpetual twilight above the blood-stained ground of the Valley of the Dark Lords.

A great white cloud swarmed around her, just out of the edge of her perception, and she felt a sense of lifting free, of leaving herself behind.

Faces appeared above her; Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade, Lord Vader, the helmets of Royal Guards and stormtroopers, and, strangely enough, above the stained, battered white chest-plate of a stormtrooper, Malysa thought she saw her brother's face.

"Malysa!" he said desperately. "Hang on, Malysa. Hang on!"

"Tyraj?" she said in surprise. It really was him. What was he doing here?

"I'm here!" Tyraj said, his dark eyes frantic. "Just hang on, Lysa, I'm here."

Again the world around her dimmed and faded, and Malysa felt herself rising again.

When Malysa gained awareness of herself again, she was back in the featureless white expanse through which she communed with the ascended Jedi Masters. She saw the three of them standing before her, somehow both more insubstantial and more solid than she had ever seen them before.

"You have been an excellent student," said Master Qui-Gon, smiling a bit sadly beneath his beard, "and you have learned well all that I could teach you. But now is not the time for you to join us in the netherworld of the Force."

"What do you mean?" Malysa asked.

"Even now, Anakin is working to bring you back," said Master Kenobi.

"Succeeded, you have," Master Yoda said. "along with young Skywalker, in helping Anakin to see the way back to the right path."

"It will not be today," said Qui-Gon, "but due to the events of this day, Anakin can now see the way back to the Light. It is still his choice whether to follow that path, but you and Luke have shown him the way, and that is enough."

"Much there still is for you to do," Yoda said. "Help young Skywalker you must, to pass on the ways of the Jedi."

"In the days to come," said Obi-Wan, his eyes filled with a faint sadness and regret, "take care not to repeat our mistakes. Adapt your teachings to the needs of your students; do not try to force them to become something they are not."

"I will, Master," Malysa promised.

"You must go back now," Qui-Gon said. "May the Force be with you."

Around Malysa, the expanse and the three Jedi Masters slowly faded away…

With a gasp of indrawn breath, Malysa sat up, feeling life swiftly returning to her body. Around her, she saw the others and the cold, austere main hold of Boba Fett's Slave I. From the low, powerful rumble almost out of hearing range, Malysa knew they were in hyperspace, on their way away from the ruins of Korriban.

Next to her, her brother let out a joyous, relieved laugh as he pulled her into a tight embrace. Malysa returned it, glad to be back among her friends, and now, her family.

Tyraj rose to thank Luke and Mara, then Lord Vader. Malysa smiled at him as he turned back to her, and he returned the grin.

"Can we talk?" she asked Tyraj as he approached.

He nodded, then glanced over his white-armored shoulder at the others. Mara caught his glance and gestured to Luke, and the two of them moved off to give them some privacy. Lord Vader withdrew to another compartment, still deep in his own conflicted thoughts, and the troopers busied themselves with treating their wounds and cleaning their weapons.

As they sat down on a bench bolted to the wall in the far corner of the main hold, Malysa looked at her brother. She hadn't seen him in person in more than ten years, ever since her first Jedi Master had come to Kuat in the guise of a university recruiter to take her away for training.

"When were you assigned to the Executor?" Malysa asked, giving voice to the question foremost in her mind. "I knew you had joined the army from Father and Mother's messages, but I didn't know we were serving on the same ship."

Tyraj sighed, looking away for a long moment. Finally, he met her gaze again, his dark eyes apologetic. "I've been stationed on the Executor for more than four years," he said, surprising her. "I was transferred into the 501st a few weeks before the capture of Organa's vessel over Tatooine."

"You mean we've been on the same ship this entire time, and you never said anything to me?" Malysa said incredulously. "Tyraj, what…?"

"I was there when you were captured," Tyraj said quickly, clearly pained by the admission but forcing himself to go on anyway. "I was with Lord Vader when you fought him."

Malysa had to grip the cold metal bench to keep herself from shouting. "That was you?" she hissed through clenched teeth. Malysa had to look away, unable to articulate what she was feeling through the shock. "You shot me!" she exclaimed, one hand unconsciously rising to reach over her shoulder to the old wound. "I still have the scar."

To her surprise, one corner of Tyraj's mouth quirked in a slight wry smile. He reached up to tap his own shoulder, at the place where his chest-plate met the pauldron over his right arm. "So do I," he said with the barest trace of amusement. "You deflected my first shot back at me."

Malysa could only laugh at the sheer, absurd improbability of the situation. After a moment, Tyraj joined in, and this only made Malysa laugh harder. Soon, the two of them were practically doubled over with laughter.

"That's not funny at all!" Malysa managed to gasp out between laughs.

"No, it isn't!" Tyraj agreed, his face reddening from his own amusement, and they both collapsed into another fit of laughter, leaning against one another for support.

When they finally managed to regain control of themselves, Malysa leaned back against the bare metal bulkhead behind her, one hand idly plucking at the fabric of her dark trousers as she wound down.

"So what happened?" she asked as the amusement faded. "Why did you serve on the same ship with me for four years and not say anything?"

Tyraj sighed deeply. "I wasn't sure what to say," he admitted. "At first, when I realized it was you that I'd fought with Lord Vader, I didn't know what to think. I thought you were on Coruscant, attending the Imperial University, but when I found out you were really a Jedi, I…" He looked up at her. "I… questioned… your loyalty, your motives for being there on Lord Vader's vessel, your reasons for joining the Sith."

Malysa sighed, herself. "There's no point in denying it, I suppose," she said. "I never really joined the Sith; I've always thought of myself as a Jedi, this entire time. I've been… I've been secretly working for the Rebellion since I was captured, sending them information."

Tyraj met her eyes, his gaze neither hurt nor judgmental, but simply accepting. "I know," he said simply.

"You know?" Malysa said, surprised. "How?"

"Grand Admiral Thrawn told me shortly before we went to the treaty conference," Tyraj replied. "He said that he'd recently learned what you were doing, but since we were about to negotiate a cease-fire with the Rebellion, it didn't really matter. He ordered me to keep an eye on you anyway, to make sure the Rebels weren't planning to use you to assassinate Lord Vader or help them take him prisoner."

Malysa let out a light snort of amusement. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised Thrawn figured it out. I have to admit I expected him to catch me eventually. I guess I should be surprised I lasted this long."

They both fell silent for a moment. Malysa looked down at her hands, thinking.

"I'm… sorry," Tyraj said finally, breaking the silence.

Malysa looked up at him. "You should be," she said quietly. "Even with all that was going on, I would have still told you, if things were reversed."

"I know," Tyraj said, glancing down at his own hands, resting on his armored knees. He sighed, then looked up at her. "But, we're together now, and that is what's important." He offered a small smile. "I think we could both use a little family right now."

"Definitely," Malysa agreed. She looked around at the scarred metal walls of Fett's vessel, as if looking beyond them to the galaxy as a whole. "What do you think is going to happen now?"

"War," Tyraj said bluntly, and Malysa could hear an almost bone-weary tiredness in his voice. Her brother had already seen enough war and death to last a lifetime, but still, he would do his duty. He would fight and die for his Emperor against any foe.

"With who?" Malysa asked, wondering if her brother knew as much about the threats facing the Empire as she did; Lord Vader had shared some terrifying truths with her over the years about his true reasons for funneling so much money into the Imperial military.

"The mutineers, to start," Tyraj replied. "Though Darth Nova is dead, Isard and Pestage still need to be dealt with. Lord Vader will likely dissolve the Senate when he re-takes Coruscant, and put the military in direct control until the galaxy is stabilized again." He let out a soft, ironic chuckle. "Oddly enough, the Rebels will probably be fighting alongside the loyalists now; Lord Vader pledged to give them territory before the civil war started, and the only way they are going to get it is if he wins."

"Isard is dead," Boba Fett's voice announced, and Malysa glanced up to see the armored bounty hunter at the foot of the ladder leading up to the cockpit, looking over at the two of them. "I just received a message from Grand Admiral Thrawn," Fett elaborated. "Baron Fel arrived with the Eclipse, and turned the battle in Thrawn's favor. The mutineers surrendered after Solo took out Isard's command ship."

"Desperate times…" Malysa said, mostly to herself.

Lord Vader had told her about the Eclipse project shortly after Mara Jade's defection to the Rebellion; the immense superlaser-equipped battleship and its sisters still under construction were intended for the fight against the Far Outsiders. As with his ability to ignite supernovas with the Force, Vader had chosen not to use the superweapon or any of the others under development against the Rebellion; he did not trust the various admirals and moffs in command of the main part of his military not to misuse them.

Instead, all superweapons were strictly under the control of the highly classified Vanguard Fleet, officers of which were some of the few in the Empire besides Vader's inner circle that knew the full extent of the Far Outsider threat.

Malysa felt the subtle shift and rumble of Slave I's engines as the bounty hunter's vessel finished its course change and re-entered hyperspace. Ordinarily, most pilots preferred to do such things themselves, but Malysa knew Boba Fett's vessel was so automated and tied into the computer systems in his armor that it was practically an extension of the hunter's body; he could operate almost any system on his vessel by remote.

"I filled Thrawn in on what happened at Korriban," Fett went on. "When we arrive at Naboo, he wants the two of you to report to his command room right away. It has something to do with that missing Kuati noble I found a few months ago."

Tyraj looked at Malysa curiously. "What noble?"

As Slave I continued on towards Naboo, Malysa explained the situation to her brother as best she could; she had no doubt Thrawn knew much, much more about the situation than he had told her so far, and would be better able to explain himself.

When they finally set down in Executor's cavernous hangar bay, Malysa and her brother stopped briefly to greet Han Solo, who was repairing his battered freighter nearby, then headed off to the medical bay. Thrawn had sent them a message as they were docking that Lord Vader wanted to speak with him first, so he had told Malysa to get checked out and make sure she was still fit for duty.

After a brief examination by the ship's chief doctor, who pronounced Malysa mostly recovered, -he was dubious at being told the completely-healed wound was less than a day old, but knew better than to ask questions- Malysa and Tyraj headed up to the Grand Admiral's command room.

When they arrived, they found the walls adorned with holographic replicas of famous paintings from their homeworld of Kuat, along with a number of sculptures arranged around the room in front of the chair and desk at the back. Also there were Boba Fett and the young noble Kateel of Kuhlvult, who wore a gray coverall from the ship's stores.

Kateel stood looking at a painting that, according to Thrawn, hung in her family's main estate back on Kuat; Kateel herself did not remember it because of the crude memory wipe performed during her kidnapping, but now, Malysa thought she saw a hint of recognition in the young woman's eyes.

Thrawn himself stood near the back of the dimly lit command room, visible only due to his spotless white uniform and his subtly glowing red eyes.

"Excellent," the alien Grand Admiral said as they entered. "You are all here."

His hands clasped behind his back, Thrawn slowly walked out from behind his desk, looking over at the others, specifically Malysa. "I will begin with congratulations, young Kolos," he said. A slight smile quirked one corner of his mouth. "I recently discovered the full extent of your activities, but the fact that you managed to hide them from both Lord Vader and myself for so long is impressive. It is for this reason that I ask for your assistance."

"Ask?" Malysa said in surprise before she caught herself. She quickly clamped down on the rest of the retort.

"It is in your best interest to cooperate," Thrawn said mildly, "but I cannot force you to carry out this mission, as I will shortly be departing the Empire along with Lord Vader."

"Sir?" Tyraj said in confusion, his helmet rendering his voice flat.

"Lord Vader intends to leave the Empire," Thrawn explained. "He will be giving command of the loyalist forces to Baron Fel, while he and I go to the Unknown Regions to take command of Vanguard Fleet. The war with the Far Outsiders has escalated to the point where it demands our attention over the situation in the Empire." He glanced at a sculpture as he passed it, then returned his gaze to Malysa's brother. "Due to the circumstances of this mission, I am releasing you from your service to the 501st, trooper. Once it is complete, you may join Baron Fel's forces, or you may become a private citizen."

"Yes, sir," said Tyraj. Malysa could sense his emotions twisting in conflict within him; the news had hit him hard.

"The four of you will be going to Kuat," Thrawn went on, passing his gaze over the others. "The situation there requires attention, though due to circumstances I cannot attend to it personally as I had planned." He paused for a moment, and exchanged a brief glance with Kateel before continuing. "Kuat Drive Yards is one of the most important shipbuilding facilities in the Empire. The head of the corporation and the planet's leading noble house, Kuat of Kuat, has always been more than fair in his rates and commands impressive efficiency from his operations. However, other elements in the Kuati ruling houses are less… practical in their ambitions, and there is a plot to assassinate Kuat of Kuat and wrest control of the company away from his house."

"And you want us to stop it," said Fett.

Thrawn nodded once. "Precisely. Baron Fel will need KDY on his side if he is to triumph in this new civil war. Isard's mutineers have already seized control of Fondor; they cannot be allowed a second facility."

"You think Isard was behind the plot?" Fett asked.

"It is possible, but unlikely," Thrawn replied. "The ruling houses are perfectly capable of coming up with such a scheme on their own."

Malysa nodded in silent agreement, a slight wry smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

"Which of you is my client for this?" Fett asked, gesturing between Thrawn and Kateel with one armored hand.

"I am," Kateel replied. "As the Grand Admiral has explained to me during my recovery, it is essential that KDY remain under the control of Kuat of Kuat and those… understanding of the problems facing the Empire in the future. I suspect elements of my house are involved in the plot, which is probably why I was," she made a face, "disposed of. You'll be helping me get control of House Kuhlvult, as well."

Fett nodded once in silent acceptance.

"Lord Vader intends to depart before the end of the day," Thrawn said, going back to his desk. "I will transmit the relevant files to your ships."

Malysa took the cue to leave and departed the command room, accompanied by her brother and Kateel. In the hall outside, Fett paused for a moment to speak with her.

"I'm going to go over the files and start planning this tonight," he said. "We'll rendezvous in the Royal Palace hangar at 0700 tomorrow morning."

Malysa headed off to her quarters to pack what few possessions she had, not sorry at all to be finally leaving the Emperor's ship behind. Her brother felt differently, she sensed, but there would be plenty of time to talk about that on the trip to Kuat.

Knowing the full extent of the threat facing the galaxy, Malysa was willing to perform this one last mission for the Empire, but she was glad to finally be free.


Author's Note: Most of the scenes from Malysa's perspective were actually supposed to be in 'Part III' itself, but I found they didn't quite flow right with the rest of the chapters, and also took too much of the focus away from the main characters. In particular, the discussion scene with the three Jedi Masters and the later conversation between Malysa and Tyraj got put in and taken back out two or three times during the early drafts before I finally decided to cut them. After letting them sit for a few months, I'm glad I was finally able to rework them into this story and make them part of 'canon' for my AU.

Next up, 'You Can't Go Home Again': Malysa and Tyraj Kolos return to Kuat along with Boba Fett and Kateel of Kuhlvult to investigate the plot to take over Kuat Drive Yards.

That's the last of the stories that take place during the events of 'Part III'; next, I plan to include a few stories that set the stage for 'The New Jedi Order', most of which will be open for submission. I'll be including my short outlines for a few of the ideas I've had in a future posting. Lastly, I've decided Luke and Mara's second child will be a daughter; I've got a name in mind already, but I'm still open to suggestions. Till next time, thanks for reading!