A/N: I apologize for the very long delay in getting this up. Writing battle scenes is still a pain in the behind for me. :p I've also been kept busy with other things. Hope it was worth the wait and I will be trying to update soon! Please don't kill me for some of what happens in this chapter. This chapter and the next are not happy chapters. War isn't happy and I want to keep this story as realistic as possible.
Mara's screams were enough to rouse Luke from his drug induced sleep. He tried to lunge for her only to slam against metal before crashing face first into the duracrete floor. As reality flooded in he realized his hands were bound behind him and his feet secured together. He tried to use the Force to release his bonds and realized he could not sense the Force at all. Ysalamiri he concluded. Wriggling himself back upright into a seated position he looked in the direction of Mara's cries. She was similarly caged but lest tightly bound. A med droid was in the cell with her encouraging her to push. "Promise me you won't take him. Please promise me." she begged the droid.
"It is not in my programming to do anything but assist you mistress." the droid assured her in a modulated voice. Luke could see she was still terrified but nature was giving her few options. When she was at her most vulnerable Luke recalled her saying. He wanted desperately to hold her, tell her it would be alright.
"Mara." he called out and she glanced in his direction. As she did he saw the tears staining her face. How much was from pain and how much was from fear he didn't know. All he knew is he wanted to comfort her.
"Luke…" she sighed sadly. Before she could say anything further a powerful contraction gripped her.
"You need to push now mistress." the droid said.
"What the kriff do you think I'm doing. I know that!" Mara snapped, giving a groan as instinct took over. Force or no Force she would protect her child. If the droid tried to leave the cell with it she'd dismantle it.
"Very good. You are almost there mistress. I can see the head now." the droid said and Luke considered Mara was probably entertaining homicidal urges towards it for it's mechanical politeness… or she would be if she wasn't otherwise occupied he amended. "Just one more push." the droid said, and Mara gave a grunt of pained exertion, sweating and breathing heavily. For a moment silence filled the air and then a cry rang out. Mara released the breath she had not realized she was holding. True to it's word the droid wrapped the infant in a cloth and brought it over to Mara. "Congratulations, it's a boy." the droid said handing her her son. Mara almost laughed in relief. She would have some time to recover before she was forced to fight. "Do you have a name?" the droid inquired.
"It's Ben. Ben Skywalker." Mara said smiling. "Hi Ben." she said, holding her child close. Her child, her son. It seemed so surreal, and yet all too real. As she held his tiny body close she knew she would protect him with her life. He was her life.
"Congratulations. I shall leave you to rest now." the droid said, trundling from the cell. Though exhausted, Mara stood and carried Ben to the edge of the bars.
"Look Luke… we have a son." she said, her voice awestruck. "Say hi to daddy Ben." she said.
"Oh Mara… Ben…" Luke said wistfully, inching himself as close to the bars as possible. Seeing the tears in Mara's eyes he whispered "Oh Mar… don't cry." She shook her head.
"I'm sorry Luke…. I just… I wish you could be with me… hold your son." she said softly, and her heard her unspoken hold me in her words. He'd never seen her look so scared or vulnerable. Not even facing Palpatine's wrath. She'd kept her head high and endured. Now… she looked so utterly defeated and it frightened him. Desperate for a topic change, the emotions becoming too much she asked "How's LaRone and Macross? Where is Quiller?"
"Besides still out cold? They don't seem hurt." Luke answered as LaRone groaned abruptly and opened an eye.
"The kriff happened? Did I black out? Please tell me I didn't faint on Mara." he asked, and inspire of the grim circumstances Mara gave a short laugh.
"You were gassed LaRone. Don't worry your dignity is still intact." she said. "You missed the show though."
"I what?" LaRone asked confused, then his eyes focused on Mara and the tiny bundle in her arms… and the cell that divided them. "Shavit, this is my fault isn't it?" he asked sadly. Mara shook her head.
"Lumiya would have found a way regardless." she said. "Not like I could have run anywhere… and at least for now Ben is safe. Where is Quiller?" she asked.
"He was still out getting the last of our supplies… so I expect he's still planet side." LaRone said.
Vader felt as Mara and Luke abruptly vanished in the Force, and fear shot through him. He'd felt no sudden fear or stress from them, so he reasoned they were not dead. It did mean they were likely captured and being confined using ysalamiri. He was too late. "Shavit!" he swore punching the bulkhead and leaving a sizeable dent in it. The troops around him shifted to give him a wide berth. They had not seen him this angry in a long time. Though many had come to trust him, none had forgot his fearsome reputation. Picking up on his rage, Leia had made her way to stand by his side.
"What happened?" she asked alarmed.
"Luke… Mara…" Vader said trying to get his emotions under control. As he said it Leia tried to reach out to her brother and felt nothing. Gasping and covering her mouth she fought for words.
"He's not… I'd know if he-" she said and Vader shook his head.
"They are alive, but captured and held with ysalamiri I believe." he explained. "There is no sense going to Corvis Minor now." he sighed.
"What about the Rebellion?" Leia asked.
"They are walking into a trap." Vader said.
"What?" Leia yelped horrified. "Have you told them?" she asked.
"I told them not to trust Iceheart. Your Rebel leaders won't listen to me however."
"I have to go and warn them. Help them." Leia insisted and Vader sighed sadly.
"They will do what they must, as must we. I shall try and make contact, but we must alter our course to ensure some of this resistance survives. I will do what I must… but you need to stay safe. I can not lose you my daughter as well." he said. Changing plans on the spot was what he did. Keeping his men alive was what he did Vader considered. How though could he… of course. "Get Captain Solo. I will need his help to ensure your safety. I will go and aid the Rebels, but I need you to take a small squadron as backup away from the fight." Vader said and Leia regarded him skeptically.
"Heard my name. What do you have in mind?" Han asked, coming up beside Leia, with the wookiee trailing close behind, apparently having followed her when she had made her panicked dash sensing Vader's rage.
"You would do anything for my daughter would you not?" Vader asked and Han nodded. "Good. Were there another way I would not ask this… but the Emperor must think her dead until the time is right." he said and Han swallowed hard following the logic through.
"And the most likely ship she would be on is the Falcon…" Han said. Leia's eyes widened as she caught on and Chewbacca gave a mournful howl. "How?" he asked.
"We will drop shortly. You and as many troops as I can spare without raising suspicion will be sent off on a shuttle. A few of our prisoners expired unexpectedly… their bodies will be dressed in your clothes lest any remains be searched. A pair of droids, one astromech who can pilot the ship will accompany them. It will fly into the cross fire and-"
"I get it. I don't want to hear the rest." Han said tersely, trying to mask the pain he felt. It was stupid. It was just a ship he told himself. "I'll start transferring supplies immediately." he said, stalking off towards the hanger, Chewie following giving low sad woofs.
Lumiya kneeled before the towering holo projection. The larger than life image of Palpatine loomed over her, but she felt no fear as se lifted her head from her bow to meet the hooded gaze. Her mission had been a success against all odds stacked against her. "I have done as you asked my Master." she said.
"Jade and Skywalker have been captured and the child is with them?" Palpatine asked and Lumiya nodded.
"Caged and confined by yslamiri. I left nothing to chance Master." she assured him. He quirked a cruel half smile.
"I'm relieved to hear no further mistakes have been made. I fear I am run out of appendages to remove from you, save one." he commented and she gave a hard swallow at the threat implied. She was not weak or fearful by nature, but she was not stupid either. She understood the implications. If she failed again, she would not survive to seek her penance.
"Of course Master." she said, recovering her voice, hating the faint quake it held for betraying her fear.
"Set a course for Coruscant immediately." Palpatine commanded.
"I already have Master." she said and flinched the moment the words left her mouth as he raised a brow at her.
"I would advise you exercise more caution in presuming to know what it is I wish. Do not forget your place." he warned and she lowered her head.
"My apologies Master. I meant no offence." she offered trying to placate him. Abruptly he gave a dismissive sigh and shrugged.
"I suppose it matters little at the moment. You have achieved your goal." he said. "I will speak with you further when you return." Palpatine said before disconnecting the comm. Kriff him. It was still all about his precious youngest Hand and Vader's son. Once they were back, Vader's son would be his focus, not her for training as a Sith. He was still favoured… and Mara, the little schutta who'd started this mess in the first place… Lumiya could only hope the death he offered her was slow and painful indeed. Stalking back to the holding cells to check on her captives. She was relieved to see Mara had indeed survived the birth. It would have been most problematic had the med droid failed or there been any complications. She observed as Skywalker pressed himself to the bars speaking softly to Mara who was curled on the floor at the back of the cell, a small bundle wrapped tight in her arms. As Lumiya stepped from the shadows, Mara became alert despite her exhaustion.
"Relax Jade. My orders are only to make sure I deliver you, Skywalker and the little brat in one piece." she said.
"Right." Mara said skeptically. "Give me a single reason to trust anything you say Shira." she snapped.
"The name is Lumiya." Lumiya snapped back at her.
"Sure right, Lady of the Sith. Don't make me laugh. You are a pawn as much as I was. You are just too stupid to see it." Mara said haughtily.
"If you are hoping to bait me into opening that cell door, it isn't happening Jade." Lumiya responded. "Unlike some naughty little Hands… I follow orders." she said.
"How's this for an order then? Kriff off schutta!" Mara snapped. Lumiya fumed, but knew she could not touch Mara. Instead of answering she spun on her heel and made her way to the cockpit to watch the star lines of hyperspace. Soon enough they would be on Coruscant and she would be rid of Mara Jade once and for all.
Mere seconds after the Alliance fleet dropped from hyperspace, Thrawn's fleet dropped hot on their tail. Explosions rocked the Home One as turbo laser fire rained down on them. Alarms sounded throughout the ship and Wes winced. He could have stopped this. He should have stopped it. In the end he was too much a coward to admit he was a traitor. Even though he hadn't known til it was almost too late, he still could have left Isard with the ship, informed command like a true soldier. Instead he'd stayed with her on the shuttle, ready to make their escape. There was still time… he could do the right thing. At least go out fighting… As he wavered in his decision he felt a hand stilling him.
"Don't. You will just get yourself killed." Isard said. "We need to be gone soon."
"Do I at least have time to warn them they are sitting in the jaws of a trap?" Wes asked glumly.
"I don't know, and I wouldn't chance it. As soon as I'm able I'm leaving- with or without you." she responded firmly, her tone brooking no argument. Softer she added "I would prefer with however." Wes felt his heart breaking, torn between his loyalties.
"These are my friends." he sighed.
"Were your friends. Do you think they still will be now?" Isard asked. Wes stared at her in stony silence. Giving a sigh she relented a little. "Work with me a little and we might be able to help your friends odds a little… but we need to stay alive to do so." she said. Wes didn't break his silence until he was strapped into the co-pilot's seat, her into the pilot's before he spoke.
"What's the plan?" he asked as she shot the sleek Imperial shuttle out past the Rebel fighters.
"Calling a cease fire long enough to get this ship docked with the Chimera and hope your friends are smart enough to leave." Isard said smirking.
"But why? I thought you wanted the Rebels dead." Wes said startled.
"Actually I'd much rather them captured alive. You have good soldiers. If they would serve the Empire…" she said and Wes grit his teeth. He didn't argue though. Time was of the essence. He sat back quietly as she entered the Imperial code frequencies. A moment later a man's face appeared.
"Who is this?" he asked. "Our scanners show you with the Rebel fleet. How did you get this signal?" the man demanded before he was replaced by an older moustached man.
"Madam Director Isard I presume?" the new man asked.
"That's correct… Commander Pelleon is it not?" she said and the man inclined his head. "We seek to transfer to the Chimera, but there is too much crossfire." Isard explained quietly opening a second channel so the Rebel fleet could hear this. A part of her questioned her sanity in helping these Rebels, but they were good men. Misinformed, but good soldiers none the less. "Can you hold your fire while we make the transfer?" Pelleon paused for a moment while he considered it.
"I'm afraid I can't promise anything Director. This is a war." he said and Isard grit her teeth. Shavit! This was not the plan. They were supposed to go in, gather what intel they could, make sure the fleet was pointed to the right place and get out. What the kriff was he playing at? "Aim for the aft hanger. We will aim away from you is all I can-" Pelleon broke off as more ships dropped from hyperspace. The famed SSD Executor leading with a freighter that was almost as known- the Millennium Falcon. "I'd hurry it up Director. My orders are to engage immediately." he warned and Isard swore closing off the comm. Wes put a hand on her shoulder.
"You're out of your domain here. Let me handle this. Let me show you what a Rogue can really do." he said. Caught off guard she simply nodded and surrendered the pilot's seat to him. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves and quickly gain familiarity with the controls, Wes forced the shuttle into a steep dive below the worst of the battle, rolling the shuttle to avoid Rebel and Imperial fire alike. It was a free for all, but the Rebels seemed to have got the message and were focusing mainly on evasive manoeuvres instead of engaging and he breathed a sigh of relief. They might actually make it. His friends might actually survive. Some of them he amended mentally as he saw ships explode. It was as well he was already in the gravity well of the Chimera when he saw a familiar ship jerk upwards in pursuit of a TIE- only to catch turbo laser fire and careen flaming into the edge of a Star Destroyer and explode before any occupants could escape. The Millennium Falcon and with it it's equally respected occupants went up in flames.