Title: The Way of the Force
Timeframe: 3.5 ABY
Characters: L/M, H/L, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Rogues
Genre: Drama, Action, Romance
Summary: As the war between the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire comes to an explosive conclusion, old loyalties must be thrown aside for one last grasp at peace.
A/N: Sequel to Alliance of Heroes and Night Must Fall. Part Three of the Jaded Trilogy.
Disclaimer:Don't own anything, although I wish I owned badass-Jedi-Knight!Luke.
With the Rebel Alliance:
Admiral Ackbar - Director of Fleet Command
C-3PO - protocol droid
Captain Tycho Celchu - Rogue Two
Chewbacca - co-pilot, Millennium Falcon
Commander Luke Skywalker - Jedi Knight
Commander Wedge Antilles - Rogue Leader
Councilor Borsk Fey'lya - High Councilor
Flight Officer Avy Valla - Rogue Six
Flight Officer Kasan Moor - Rogue Three
General Airen Cracken - Director of Intelligence
General Carlist Rieekan - Minister of War
General Crix Madine - Director of Special Forces Command
General Han Solo - captain, Millennium Falcon
Lando Calrissian - former Baron Administrator, Cloud City
Lieutenant Hobbie Klivian - Rogue Four
Lieutenant Wes Janson - Rogue Five
Mon Mothma - Commander in Chief
Princess Leia Organa - Chief of Staff
R2-D2 - astromech droid
Red - astromech droid
With the Empire:
Admiral Firmus Piett - Death Squadron commander
Captain Gilad Pellaeon - captain, Chimaera
Darth Vader - Dark Lord of the Sith
Captain Zurel Darillian - TIE fighter pilot
Mara Jade - Emperor's Hand
Palpatine - Emperor
Ysanne Isard - Director of Imperial Intelligence
Yoda - Jedi Master
Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi's life. So, you might say that we are encouraged to love. - Anakin Skywalker
Cover by Iverna:
PHOTOBUCKET DOT COM /albums/v109/JediMara77/Fanfiction%20Images/JediMara77-3-v3 DOT jpg
Here we are, kids - Part 3 begins! I finished "making lemons out of lemonade" (aka rewriting the chapters I'd lost), and my reward is to post the Prologue. I hope you enjoy. Let the speculating begin! (And Happy Holidays to all!)
Without a sound, the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaeradropped out of hyperspace above the glittering city planet of Imperial Center. Formerly known as Coruscant, the planet was the center of galactic civilization for countless millennia. For the past twenty years, it had been the capital of the Galactic Empire.
Now, it was again the place that Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand, was forced to call home.
She stood at the bow of the command walkway, staring out at the world below. Another Force user would find her a conflicting mix of resentment, rage, and emptiness. Mara avoided this planet at all costs, only returning when summoned by the Emperor. Today was no different. The Chimaera had been on a regular tour of duty when she'd received his call. The mere idea of being here again filled her with resentment, but she could do nothing else but obey.
The young voice rang out from the starboard crew pit. It was the communications officer, no doubt, eager to please the Emperor's Hand with word from her Emperor. She ignored him, eyes hardening as she stared out at the bustling traffic and the glistening lights below.
He climbed the stairs to the pit and stood at attention behind her. "Lady Jade? I have word from the Emperor that—"
His words stopped abruptly when Mara spun around, her green eyes piercing him with a harsh gaze. "Who is your superior officer?"
He gulped and took a step back. "Lady Jade?"
She walked forward until she was directly in front of him. She was shorter than him, but he still shrunk away in fear. "Are you not able to understand a simple question? Who is your superior officer?" She repeated the question slowly, venomously.
Mara nodded. "Ah, yes. Captain Danvers is a very capable officer, and I am certain that he trains his recruits to the best of his ability. He would be most disappointed to learn that his newest communications officer could not follow a simple order, wouldn't he?"
The young officer looked mortified. He glanced back and forth to the other crewers as if for support, but they were faking disinterest in the conversation. They all knew better. "I…I don't understand."
"The number one rule of this ship, Lieutenant, is that I am never to be called 'Lady Jade'. We are not at court; we are on an Imperial Star Destroyer. I am the commanding officer of this ship and will therefore be referred to as 'Ma'am' at all times. Do I make myself clear?" She had made no threats; it was not necessary. Her tone of voice made her intent quite clear.
The lieutenant's mouth worked vigorously, trying to formulate an answer. "Yes!" he finally gasped out. "Yes, La—yes, ma'am. I apologize."
She stared at him for another moment before turning back to the viewport. "You have a report?"
"Um, yes. Yes ma'am. You have a priority comm from the Imperial Palace."
Mara stifled a sigh. "Transfer it to the ready room."
The officer stood aside as Mara turned around and strode down the walkway toward the ready room at the back of the bridge. Two of her stormtrooper guards were standing on opposite sides of the door and straightened up as she approached. Palpatine had insisted that she have guards—for her own safety, of course—but at least they were regular stormtroopers and not the Royal Guard.
She stepped inside the ready room, not bothering to sit at her desk. Instead she stood in front of the viewport, alternately staring at the planet below and the reflection staring back at her. Her reflection had not changed much in the past year, even though she felt like a different person entirely.
The door slid open behind her and a familiar presence stepped inside. He cleared his throat and waited for permission to speak. Mara sighed, knowing what he was going to say. "You don't have to scold me, captain."
"I don't know what you mean, ma'am."
She almost smiled at his quip. Still facing the window, she lifted her hand to touch the cool transparisteel. "I needed to make a point, captain. If I allow that name to slip by once, everyone will do it."
"It is your title, ma'am," he pointed out. "You can't begrudge them calling you that."
She whirled around. "I certainly can! This is my ship, is it not?" She glared at him, daring him to contradict her. He was right, of course—she shouldn't scare her officers like that. She didn't want to be like Vader.
But this was her ship, where everything was under her control. Everywhere else, she lived according to the Emperor's whim. But here, things would be as she wished.
Captain Gilad Pellaeon shook his head sadly. "No, ma'am. It is perfectly understandable."
She regarded her captain for another moment, remembering the first time she'd seen him. It had been in the medbay of this very ship, after being captured by Darth Vader on Cloud City. She had never fully understood why Vader had transferred her here—most likely because it had been the closest Destroyer. When she'd woken up in the medbay, Pellaeon had been the one to tend to her. Even though he was the enemy, the Force had told her that he could be trusted.
Upon her release from the Lusankya, the high-security prison where she'd been tortured and programmed, Palpatine had given her command of the Star Destroyer of her choosing, most likely to placate her fierce resentment. It had taken her less than a moment to remember the kindly bridge officer, and after that her choice had been easy. She'd taken command of the Chimaera,transferred the former commanding officer to another ship, and promoted Pellaeon to captain.
While she hated disappointing him, as he was the only good thing in her life at the moment, she mostly just didn't care. He knew what she felt whenever she was called "Lady Jade," that it was a sign of Palpatine's control and she despised it with every fiber of her being.
She shook her head and waved her hand at the comm station, indicating that he should check her messages. He did so, brow furrowing as he read. "The Emperor has commanded your presence at a ball this evening, ma'am."
She didn't blink. "Yes, I know."
Pellaeon was no longer surprised that Mara always seemed to know when the Emperor wanted something from her. Pellaeon was also no longer surprised that Mara always insisted on waiting for Palpatine to issue a formal command before she would respond to him. "The festivities begin at 2000," he continued. "Shall I prepare your fighter, or would you prefer to take the shuttle?"
She didn't answer right away, taking the time to consider her options. She always chose to fly her fighter whenever she could, as it offered her freedom she could get nowhere else. Tonight, however, she could use a little more preparation time. "I'll take the shuttle," she decided. She crossed to the desk to pick up her datapad. "Have my belongings transferred directly to my suite. I'll be heading directly to the ballroom once I arrive at the Palace."
"Yes, ma'am. Do you require assistance getting ready?" In answer, Mara gave him a withering look. He shrugged in return. "You never know. One day you might change your mind and say yes."
She rolled her eyes and headed for the doorway. "No, thank you. I am perfectly capable of dressing myself."
"Of course. Is there anything else you require?"
Her hand hovered over the activation panel. "Yes." She glanced back at him. "The guest list—I want it transferred to my datapad. And get me data on the officers receiving promotion."
"Yes, ma'am. Have a good trip." He stood at attention and snapped a brisk salute.
She returned it. "Why don't you accompany me, captain?" She allowed herself a small smile. "You could be my escort."
Pellaeon's lip quirked under his bushy mustache. "Oh no, ma'am. I wouldn't want to disappoint the hundreds of potential suitors who'll be vying for your hand."
"Yes." Mara smiled wickedly. She stepped through the doorway, ignoring the guards as they fell into formation behind her. To herself, she whispered, "I wouldn't want that, either."
Luke Skywalker opened his eyes and stared blankly at the rough fabric above him. He breathed without thinking, blinking the sleep out of his eyes and orienting himself to his surroundings.
He rolled over and stared at his chrono. He wasn't surprised that there were still two hours left to sleep. He hadn't been sleeping well for a long time, and his sojourn on Dagobah hadn't done much to improve his mindset. Training occupied his mind during the daylight hours, but at night, when he was alone, he did nothing else but think about that horrible day on Cloud City. The events played through his mind on repeat, and he kept wondering if he could have done something differently to defeat Vader. Wondering if he could have done something differently to save Mara.
Upon escaping from Vader, Luke had sworn that he would rescue her. He had failed.
He hunched over and hugged his knees, trying to clear his mind. He couldn't let his pain and anguish overtake him. He couldn't let it break his spirit. Because although everyone else in the galaxy tried to convince him that Mara's fate wasn't his fault, he knew better—and he also knew that he was the only one who could fix it.
After a few moments, he heard the sound of branches crackling outside his tent and cringed. Since their arrival on Dagobah, Leia's skills in the Force had grown exponentially. She could sense his moods just as well as Mara had been able to. Leia wasn't as physically strong in the Force as her brother—her skills lay in other areas—but it was clear that she would be a wise and intelligent Jedi.
Not bothering to announce her presence, she pushed open the tent and crept inside. She sat down next to Luke. "Can't sleep?" It was a silly question, but he still nodded. Yoda had told them that Luke was the older twin, but Leia always acted like Luke was the one who needed looking after.
Perhaps he did.
"Is there anything I can do?" Her voice was soft and gentle, like an angel living among the primitive landscape of Dagobah. Luke liked to think that she had their mother's voice.
He shook his head. He hated that she worried about him so much. She had her own life to worry about, and her Jedi training to focus on. "I'm sorry I woke you. You should go back to sleep."
"Okay." She nodded in agreement. But instead of going back to her tent, she lay down on his bedroll.
Luke sighed and lay back down next to her. He knew better than to argue with her anymore. He faced away from her, staring at the brown tent in silence.
Leia's breathing slowed, but he could tell that she was still awake. After a few minutes, she rolled over and placed her arm on his shoulder. "It's not your fault, Luke."
He'd heard that same sentiment so many times since Mara had been captured, but nothing would convince him otherwise. He answered as he always did. "Tell that to Mara."
Leia didn't respond.