Author's Note: This is an AU or infinities version of events after the Battle of Yavin. I have been heavily inspired by the games Star Wars: Rebellion and X-wing series for this work as well as the X-wing and Thrawn novels. I warn you, nothing is really fully planned. I'm just going to let my mad imagination free to come up with its own storyline as we go from this point on, anything can happen. I'm rating this M for safety sake and probable sexual content in later chapters. Pairings: Mara/Luke, Han/Leia.
NaNoWriMo Project Note: As a NaNoWriMo Project, expect updates throughout November… if I am unable to find a satisfying conclusion by December I may place this on hold as my work load with both Original and Fan Fictions will require my attention once again.
Disclaimer: Star Wars and its expanded universe are the intellectual property of Disney, yes Disney… we know it seems crazy but it's the truth.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Two weeks have passed since the DEATH STAR was destroyed over Yavin. The Empire, reeling from the loss of their most fearsome weapon has yet to strike back and word of the base's location has filtered throughout the Imperial Fleet. Hundreds of once loyal officers have fled their posts, defecting to the Rebel cause.
Some are honest in their desire to join the Rebellion. Some are only seeking sanctuary from Imperial Justice. In response the Empire has thrown up a blockade around the system.
In orbit over Yavin IV, Captain Luke Skywalker stands guard over the Rebel base with the newly formed Rogue Flight. Little does he know that a single ship's arrival in the system is about to change everything…
"Renegade Three, break left!" Luke Skywalker called out as the TIE Advanced spat fire at the tine R-22 Spearhead. As the fighter rolled away he lined up a shot and hit the trigger. A series of scarlet bolts walked over the TIE's shields flashing as they impacted and the TIE broke into him and opened fire. As they passed he heard Wedge snarl as his snap shot to defend his flight leader missed.
"That bright is rolling after you lead!" Hobbie's voice called out and Luke swore as a stream of green laser fire lit up his cockpit. Artoo screeched as a shot burned a patch of pain from beside his socket.
The two fighters flashed past each other and broke into a tight turn, back toward the other. He snapped a shot off that glanced off the TIE's shields. Green energy burned into his forward shields. Then they were past each other flying at top speed and pulling into a tight turn. The G-loads built despite the inertial compensator and Luke stared up through the viewport as the TIE lined up before he did. Green energy poured into the dorsal shield before the fighter flashed past and Luke snarled.
"Artoo, boost the shields!" Luke yelled before rolling toward another attack. "Rogue Two, Rogue Three, pull in behind her!"
"Roger." Wedge called as Luke saw the TIE Advanced suddenly snap roll away from Wedge's attack and Dack's lasers went wide. The TIE rolled back behind him and Luke swore as green laser fire began to sap at his X-wing's rear shields.
"Break right Luke!" Dack yelled and Luke snapped into a tight turn just as another volley of lasers was about to strike.
Luke swallowed. Trust your instincts, Ben had said and so he let go of tactical thought and took a calming breath before resettling himself in the cockpit. Then he slammed the rudder hard left and cut the power to the left two engines for a split second. The starfield spun and Luke found himself face to face with the TIE again. He fired.
His shots burned into the radiator panel, and a blast of sparks and steam from one of the wing braces marked where another bolt had impacted. Still the TIE shot toward him, firing as it went. He rolled out of the path of the assault for a moment and swallowed.
A red glow began to light up the bottom of the oncoming TIE and Luke saw that a sheath of plasma had begun to engulf his ship as well. Glancing at his displays he saw the shields begin to drain as the heat of reentry combined by the assault over taxed them.
A chime indicated shield failure just as the flames from reentry began to fade. With a snarl he flipped a switch and activated his repulsorlift before putting a blast of throttle into the engines.
Fighting in space was an entirely different experience to atmospheric combat, especially against the TIE fighters that the Empire so favored. In space atmospheric drag wasn't a concern and those radiator panels didn't impede maneuverability much, in atmosphere the same couldn't be said.
Luke let his instincts take over and pursued the TIE as it dove away from him. It seemed that the enemy knew that they'd moved to an altogether different arena.
"Rogue Leader this is Base One, report status?"
"I'm a little cooked here. Engaged, fifty klicks north of Base." Luke growled as another voice cut into the communications link.
"I've got to say, you're not bad for a Rebel."
It was a girl's voice. Luke gaped as the TIE rolled over onto its back and dove into a river valley where the trees were sparser and shorter. As he flew into it, his thoughts drifted back to how the enemy had known the arena had changed. Now as he glanced around the floodplain he felt as if he'd stepped into a literal arena.
The TIE Advanced rocketed along the surface to the opposite end of the floodplain before looping up and blasting straight toward him. Over his shoulder, Artoo twittered nervously as Luke lined up for a head to head pass.
They both fired at the same moment and as the screech of alarms in his cockpit blared, he saw that he'd scored on her as well. Smoke and flames burst from the TIE's engine compartment as it dove past, leveled out over a bog, and then slammed into the mud carving a long trail in its wake.
Luke felt his X-wing shudder and glanced at his displays. The repulsorlift monitor flickered for a moment then went out and suddenly he felt his stomach lurch. He was falling.
Instantly he throttled up and pulled the nose skyward trying to run to space where at least he could eject and be recovered but he was too low and the slow banking turn he'd started had him pointing toward the same bog that the Imperial had crashed in. The altimeter dropped by the second and Luke yanked back on the stick trying to claw back into the air when the rear engines hit the peat.
With a thump Luke felt the X-wing being ripped from the air. He felt a flash of pain run up his spine as the fighter slammed onto its belly and slid through the muck fifty meters. Then it stopped.
Luke groaned and pushed back in his seat as another jolt of pain ran up his spine. He swallowed and licked his lips. "Artoo? You alright back there."
A raspberry was his answer and Luke smiled faintly at the cheeky droid. "Subspace radio?" He asked and a negative chirp made him scowl in irritation. "Great."
He flicked the canopy release and pulled off his gloves as it slowly rose up. With a sigh he pulled himself from the seat and winced at another flash of pain down his spine. As he pulled himself from the wreck, another twang of pain overrode his muscles and he dropped to the ground with a spasm, bruising his calf.
"Son of the Sith!" He groaned as Artoo dropped down beside him, splashing him in mud. Luke glared in irritation at the droid for a long moment before pulling himself up from the muck by the fuselage and looking out over the floodplain. In the distance, the jungle began again and Luke knew that he'd have certainly been dead if he'd gone down there. "Artoo, which way to Base One?"
The droid beeped as a sensor slowly rose from a compartment in its dome and studied the area for a moment before rolling across the soft wed ground toward the crashed TIE fighter.
Swallowing a lump in his throat Luke hobbled after the droid, his DL-44 service pistol in hand lightsaber hanging from his belt. Maybe she'd survived as well...
The two of them made their way to the wreck and Luke slowly walked alongside one of the solar panels. Artoo twittered for a moment before rolling to the side of the TIE's canopy and peering inside. Luke hobbled after him and shook his head at the empty cockpit. "Where'd she go?"
"Behind you..." The female voice spoke again and Luke froze. Slowly he turned and saw a woman clad in the polished black of a TIE Pilot's suit perched atop one of the radiator panels. The suit was standard imperial issue save for two immediate differences.
This one lacked insignia, rank, and emblems. Even the life support system was simply plain black. The second was that the helmet was missing, and he found himself staring into the bright green eyes framed by red gold hair. Those eyes glared at him from behind the scope of a DH-17 blaster pistol. Even as he brought up his pistol to cover her, he knew that it was too late. If she wanted too, she'd have shot him already.
Then he saw her gaze flick to his belt before hardening. "A Jedi... figures." She stalked forward, pointing her pistol straight at Luke's chest. "You're my ticket off this dirtball... Letting one person go for the life of their pet Jedi would be a fair trade to your Rebel friends, wouldn't it?"
She waved him away from Artoo who whistled nervously. "Your commlink, does it work?"
Luke blinked before pulling it out and thumbing it on, there was nothing but static and he swore. "No..."
"Pity, mine doesn't either." She snarled. "Which way to the base, or would you rather I wait for Vader to come pick us up after your friends leave?"
Strangely, Luke didn't feel afraid, despite having a gun pointed toward his chest by fiery redheaded woman. Taking a gamble, he lowered his hands. "My droid knows the way."
"Good... hands away from that belt." She snapped. When Luke lifted his hands see reached toward it and the lightsaber soared into her outstretched hand. Luke stared, his jaw gaping as the girl tossed it once to judge it's weight and clipped it to her own belt. His stood stunned as he realized a second lightsaber hung there beside his. Could this girl, this imperial be a Jedi, or was she like Vader?
"Let's get moving, shall we?" The girl said before gesturing toward the droid. "It's a long walk I think."
Princess Leia Organa sat beside the tactical display watching the battle in orbit beginning to wind down. Beside her General Jan Dodonna ran a hand through his beard and pursed his lips. "Rogue Flight, Renegade Flight, return to base."
"Acknowledged Base One." Commander Narra's voice filtered from one of the comm channels and Leia heard a slight hint of trepidation. "How'd Captain Skywalker make out against that bright?"
"We lost contact with Rogue Leader approximately fifteen minutes ago, the area the fight entered has significant metal deposits and mass concentrations to distort subspace radio and comm traffic. If we don't hear from him in an hour I'll see that a patrol is sent out to find him." General Dodonna said. "Tell your pilots good job out there."
"Understood." Narra said. "The Redemption is requesting coordinates to join a task group. I think we made a good impression with them after beating off their pursuit."
"Yes Commander, every ship that defects adds to our capacity to fight the Empire. Coordinates are on the way." Dodonna nodded to one of communication specialists before pushing away from the tactical display. "Princess Leia." He nodded to her before slipping past.
Leia nodded back but didn't move away from the display, something was bothering her and it wasn't Captain Solo's usual absence on a supply run. Something felt wrong, and she didn't know why or what it was. As the fighters slowly returned to the base she pushed away from the table and scowled. She'd talk to Wedge or the new kid, Dack. Surely one of them had seen the dogfight. Even on the tactical display the struggle between Luke and the TIE Advanced had looked vicious.
She walked to the hatch and stepped out into the crowded hangar bay, her eyes peeled as ten ships from Renegade and Rogue Flights maneuvered their way to their assigned places and the ground crew scurried to get to work.
Then her gaze caught the now familiar sight of Wedge Antilles clambering down the ladder of one of the X-wings, his orange flightsuit sweat stained and crumpled from the hour long struggle. He stumbled off the ladder and grabbed a bottle of water from the crew chief and splashed it in his black hair before letting out a sigh. "Luke back yet?"
Leia headed toward him as the crew chief shook his head and Wedge frowned. "Princess?"
"Please Wedge, just Leia for now... What happened out there? We lost contact with Luke thirty minutes ago." Leia said quickly, clearly anxious about her friend. "Did you see him fight that TIE Advanced?"
"Yeah..." Wedge sighed. "Showed up chasing some shuttle, got it too before any of us could react, and then someone shot at it... that pilot, whoever it was fought like a gundark and Luke... he was incredible. You should have seen it, he did something I've never seen before and managed to turn around and blast that fighter like he'd made a hand break turn in a old ground car."
"Did he get it?" Leia asked.
Wedge shook his head. "Don't know, they'd dropped off orbital speed and started reentry at that point, no idea what happened after that."
Leia nodded. "Thank you Lieutenant Antilles. If we don't here from Luke in an hour General Dodonna will send out a patrol."
"So he isn't back yet..." Wedge scowled. "Maybe I should head out now... it'll be getting dark in a few hours."
"Wedge." Leia shook her head, "Until Luke gets back you're in charge of the flight, remember?"
"Damn." Wedge grumbled. "Tell Dodonna I got a bad feeling about this, will you?"
"I will... and for what it's worth. I've got it too Wedge." Leia said.
Luke tossed a fallen limb out of the way of Artoo's treads and chewed his lip in irritation. Once they'd gotten to the jungle the going had gotten tough fast, and Luke found that the girl wouldn't risk approaching him to help. The blaster was always pointed at him, even as he helped the faithful droid out of a jam of roots or cleared the path.
Artoo beeped indignantly and rolled forward, as the woman watched. The two of them had exchanged more than a dozen words since they'd started walking, and the silence was beginning to weigh on him. The fact the girl hadn't even given him her name was irritating by itself.
Tossing the last of the debris off the rough track they'd set upon Luke glanced back at the girl who was watching him with a blaster in hand still. He scowled. "You could help you know."
"And you could escape." She said in turn, sniffing in irritation for a moment before slipping off the log. "Jedi."
"I'm not a Jedi... at least not yet." Luke said quietly before following Artoo and he felt her gaze soften slightly. "And what are you carrying around a lightsaber in this era? A sith lord?"
The girl actually looked taken aback at the comment. "Of course, I'm not a sith, gods no."
"At least Sith have names." Luke muttered before scowling at his flightsuit. The heat and humidity of the jungle were wearing on him, and since he was the one having to do all the work, it'd be a good idea to get comfortable. He pulled the life support vest and padding off and tossed it into the brush before unsealing the top half and stripping down to the tank top he wore underneath. The rest of the top he tied around his waist.
As he finished he noticed the girl had looked away and was now balancing the blaster on her knee. He arched an eyebrow in her direction before a screech of binary drew his attention to Artoo. The little droid banged left and right on it's two main treads and glared at them as if irritated they had stopped.
"Coming... coming..." Luke said as he stepped toward the droid. Behind him he heard the girl slip off the log and step toward him. Chewing his lip he considered his options, if only he could catch her off guard and turn the tables.
"How far are we from that base?" The girl suddenly asked stepping up beside him and crossing her arms over her chest.
"It was fifty klicks from where we got shot down, so... a ways." Luke said.
"Fifty!" The girl snapped at him. "In this Jungle? That'll... that'll take... a week or more!" She glared at him. "I'm stuck with you? For a week?"
"No... I'm stuck with you." Luke said back in irritation. "Are you going to tell me your kriffing name or..."
"It's Mara." She said with a snarl. "And yours?"
Luke blinked. She'd actually given something up. He shrugged. "Luke..."
"Do you have any emergency rations or canteen or..." She started.
"The storage compartment was a meter under the peat Mara, I don't have anything." Luke snapped back at her.
Mara snarled in frustration. "Well neither do I. You... you Jedi wannabe." Luke froze as he heard a sound he'd never thought to ever associate with an imperial pilot.
Her stomach growled, louder this time and Luke tried desperately to hide his desire to laugh at the absurdity of that moment. Suddenly she turned to him and thrust both of their blasters into his chest.
Luke blinked in shock as the girl turned toward one of the nearest trees and looked up. "What... what are you doing?"
"Getting lunch." She scowled for a moment before spying a collection of fruit hanging from a low lying branch, about a dozen meters over the ground. Smirking she whipped off her belt and swung it around the tree trunk. Leaning back she used it to brace herself against the tree and began to shimmy up it as he watched.
Luke glanced up as a fruit fell from the tree, nearly catching him in the head. He swallowed as he saw Mara dangling from the tree, the belt loop in one hand and a lightsaber in another. A large bunch of fruit hung just before her and Luke swore she was drooling at it. Then with a snap hiss she ignited her blade and Luke watched the purple saber slash through the stem of the bunch of fruit. Luke backed away as the bunch fell to the ground with a thud and Mara peered down at him.
"Couldn't you catch one?"
"What?" Luke asked still cradling the two blasters. "How am I supposed to do that?"
"With the force..." She snapped back at him irritably before muttering to herself. "Jedi wannabe."
Luke stared at the pile of fruit and shook his head. "I don't know how to do that yet?"
"You're useless then!" She called out before loosening the belt and sliding back down the tree trunk. "Absolutely completely useless!" She growled before picking up two of the fruits and sniffing them for a moment. "Does that droid have a cargo compartment?"
"Artoo?" Luke asked and a hatch slid open in the dome. Mara dropped a trio of fruits into the droid's hatch before sealing it. Then she grabbed the blasters from Luke and replaced them with more fruits. Luke scowled at her. "So... I'm your porter now."
"Apparently it's all you're good for." She snapped back at him before slicing open one of the melons and taking a bite.
Luke sniffed one of the fruits curiously and took a bite as well. Fruit wasn't exactly something he got often back on Tatooiene, but it was sweet and tangy and definitely better than the ration bars that he was sure were in the X-wing's tiny hold.
"Sith… this means we'll be foraging the whole kriffing way." Mara said with a growl. "Schutta."
Luke shrugged and finished his fruit before tossing the remains onto the jungle floor. Artoo watched them for a moment and suddenly another thought occurred to him. "Artoo, he'll run out of juice before we get there."
Mara started cursing fluently in huttese as Artoo twerped morosely and one of the compartments popped open to reveal a fusion lamp. Luke just stared at it for a moment before letting out a sigh of relief. "Nevermind, I guess R2 has more tricks than I thought."
"What?" Mara asked before seeing the lamp. "Oh... that's convenient, how long have you had this little droid?"
Luke stopped and thought back. "About three weeks, my uncle bought it off some Jawas."
"A pity he doesn't have a vocabulator hidden somewhere." Mara said before knocking the dome with her fist. "Do you?"
Artoo shook his dome and rolled away from her as if in fear. Luke laughed at the small droids antics. "Guess that's a no."
"Jawas... what are Jawas?" Mara asked.
"Um... desert scavengers." Luke said. "They grab debris and jury rig it to work, then sell it."
"I've never heard of them." Mara muttered. "So you're from a desert planet? What were you, a smuggler? Dockworker?"
"Moisture farmer." Luke said quietly and swallowed as he saw a broad smirk slid across Mara's face.
"Moisture farmer? You're... you're a farmboy, farmboy?" Mara grinned deviously at him.
"Sure thing, farmboy." Mara said and Luke swore under his breath. "Now that we've eaten, lets carry on." She tightened her belt and smirked at him. "No wonder you're useless, farmboy."
"Stop." Luke groaned as he started following Artoo through the brush. "Please stop."
"What farmboy, don't like being a farmboy?" Mara teased him mercilessly and Luke just stared at her. She was teasing him, the imperial that had fought so mercilessly against him was teasing him. It didn't add up.
Just who the hell was she?
Luke shook his head. "I hated Tatooine."
"Ahh, no wonder. Most people would." Mara smirked at him for a moment before pushing past him and up to Artoo. "I bet your droid is more interesting to talk to."
"What?" Luke asked.
"You're a farmboy Luke... did you have any real interesting stories to tell hmm?" Mara rolled her eyes as the small droid twittered at her for a moment. "You don't say..."
Luke stared at her incredulously. "You don't really understand him do you?"
"No." She admitted with a sigh. "Fine... what's your story farmboy? Where in the blasted galaxy did you get a lightsaber?"
"Ben Kenobi gave it to me, it was my father's apparently." Luke said with a shake of his head. "Where'd you get yours."
"I made it under the tutelage of my master." Mara answered with a shrug. "Your father was a jedi?"
"Yeah, but I never met him... apparently some of the other people in the alliance knew him during the war." Luke shrugged.
"So he died in the purge." Mara sighed and chewed her lip for a moment as Artoo stopped before a solid wall of vegetation. With a sigh she drew her saber and began to hack a path forward. "Or was he killed in the war?"
"Vader killed him, that's what Ben told me." Luke said with a sigh. "He said Vader was his apprentice and turned to the dark side. He betrayed my father and killed him."
"Vader would." Mara said quietly.
"You've met Vader then." Luke asked.
Mara nodded. "It's not a pleasant experience being near him." She chewed his lip. "He hates me."
Luke nodded, filling that information away for a moment. "So... you're not a Sith, and not a Jedi, what are you?"
"I can't tell you." She said simply. "If you remember, I'm planning on trading you for a lift off this forsaken rock." Another slash of the saber cut through the brush and a trail appeared before them as the smoldering remains of the plants fell around her feet. Luke watched her deactivate the lightsaber and hang it from her belt. She glared at him for a moment. "How long have we been walking?"
"No idea." Luke said.
"It's starting to get dark, we should find shelter or make some." Mara glanced at him for a moment then sighed. "You don't have any survival training at all, do you?"
Luke chewed his lip. "For a jungle, no."
"Don't the Rebels teach their pilots anything?" She pulled at her hair and swore. "Anything at all?"
"I just joined a little while ago." Luke said quietly.
"Really? What six months ago, don't the Rebels have basic training or..." Mara stared at him as he didn't cut in. "How long?"
"Two weeks." Luke admitted quietly. "I volunteered for the attack on the Death Star after I arrived."
Luke stared as Mara's green eyes widened and she swore under her breath. "You mean you've been in combat since you joined? No training... nothing like that?"
"Most of the guys went through the Academy." Luke said.
"You clearly didn't... they check for force sensitives you know!" Mara harrumphed and took a deep breath. "How did you learn to fly like that?"
"T-16 Skyhopper back home, the X-wing has similar controls." Luke saw her staring at him with incredulity. "What?"
"You learned to fly like that by yourself? You're mad!" Mara snapped finally and glanced around the forest looking frustrated. "I've been in flight training since I was twelve and you... you shot me down!"
"How old are you?" Luke asked quietly and Mara glared at him for a long moment before shaking her head vigorously. "What?"
"I'm seventeen." She finally admitted.
"But then you never went through the Academy either." Luke said. "How did you know they check for force sensitives?"
"Vader does it, brings those that he finds to the Emperor. After that I have no idea what happens to them." Mara said. "I don't know how either, maybe some force sensitives slip through."
"But how... how were you found out?" Luke asked quietly.
Mara blinked for a moment and pursed her lips. "I was an infant when I was brought to the Emperor, so I have no idea... this, is all I've know farmboy."
"You..." Luke swallowed. "You were trained by Vader then?"
Mara shook her head vigorously. "No, Vader isn't allowed to train others... apparently the last one he did went rogue."
"Then who... Who else is there?" Luke asked.
He watched Mara sit down in a huff and close her eyes. "There are others, but they didn't train me either... I had personal combat, survival, and evasion instructors since I was old enough to hold a blaster." She glanced at him and Luke could sense that she was holding something back. "How I learned about the force isn't a concern of yours, farmboy."
"Do you think they'd teach me?" Luke asked.
Mara froze and glanced around the forest nervously. "You wouldn't want to learn from him... trust me on that Luke. You're a rebel, do you think my instructor would want to teach you anything? You're the enemy." She sighed. "It's starting to get dark. I'll start setting up a shelter, since apparently you don't know how... maybe we can come up with some sort of backpack or sack tomorrow."
Luke nodded and glanced at Artoo. "I'll get that fusion lamp setup and let Artoo charge."
Wedge Antilles let loose a string of Corellian curses as he stared into the empty cockpit of the crashed X-wing and glanced over at Hobbie who was wincing at his language. "I should have insisted we come out and find them as soon as I heard he hadn't reported in."
Hobbie nodded as he glanced around the peat bog that had been the ship's resting place. "The Imp ship is empty too. You don't think they're together."
"I hope not, but it's pretty likely." Wedge glanced at the Lambda Shuttle that had carried the recovery team to the wreckage. "There's too much metal around here to get anything useful on sensors... and so many lifeforms that scanning for those signatures won't get us anything." He glanced at Hobbie. "What about the crash?"
"Luke's probably smarting from that rock I saw... looks like he slammed down pretty hard, cracked spine maybe?" Hobbie chewed his lip.
"Sounds about right, and you are the crash expert." Wedge said before glancing at Wes and Dack walking from the crashed TIE. "The techs get anything off that thing?"
"Nothing, it looks like the pilot wiped it clean." Wes said before hefting a dark helmet in his hands. "We did find this."
Wedge caught the tossed helmet and glanced at it for a moment. "No markings, that's odd. Imperial Security maybe?" He turned it upside down and shined a pen light inside. After a moment, he reached inside, pulled out a long strand of red hair, and stared at it for a moment.
"What is it Wedge?" Dack asked as Wedge stared at the hair.
"I think our Imperial is a woman." Wedge said quietly. "That's an awfully long hair for a man... and a redhead too."
"So Luke crashed along with a hot imperial chick and hasn't been heard from since?" Wes suddenly started laughing. "He's probably having a lot of fun right now, right boss?"
"Wes..." Wedge growled.
"Maybe he'll get her to defect after some sweet, sweet, lovin..." Wes joked and Hobbie glanced at the young goof with a dour expression on his face. Dack started trying to stifle his own laughter.
"He could be her hostage." Hobbie said.
"Ooh... kinky." Wes said with a snicker.
"Hobbie?" Wedge asked and the dour pilot nodded in response, walked up behind Janson, and smacked him across the back of the head.
"Oww... what was that for?"
"This is serious Janson!" Wedge snapped. "Our Captain might be in imperial hands, do you get it?"
"It's a girl boss... I doubt she'll kill him or anything."
Wedge threw up his hands in aggravation and stomped toward the shuttle cursing as he went.
Luke swore as a flash of pain rolled down his spine. Glancing over his shoulder he watched Mara slash a large limb from the side of a tree. Already a rather simple frame of limbs lashed together with fern stems and leaves had taken shape beside one of the trees. As he watched Mara shut down the lightsaber and clipped it to her belt before hauling the limb toward the frame and leaning it against the tree.
It wasn't something Luke had ever seen before, hell if he thought about it he hadn't seen this much greenery ever on Tatooine, even the Darklighter ranch didn't have this much in the way of plant life and they were wealthy.
Now he was watching Mara, an imperial pilot, construct a crude shelter from tree limbs, branches, and ferns. As she started laying fern leaves over the frame he saw her chew her lip in frustration.
Luke sat the fusion lamp beside the small shelter, illuminating the area around them in the failing light. Mara glanced at him for a moment then shrugged. As the darkness deepened around them the growl and howl of native wildlife began to fill the air.
She stopped as the last of the improvised roof was finished and Mara wiped away the sweat that had collected on her brow. "There isn't anything really dangerous on this planet is there?"
"I don't think so... I heard some sentries talking about something called a Stintaril, but it sounded like an angry crazed womp rat from what they were saying." Luke sat down beside the droid after plugging him into the lamp. "We could have Artoo scan the area while we sleep if you're worried."
Mara glanced at him and scowled. "Fine..."
Luke glanced at the dirt floor beneath the shelter and sighed. "Umm, that looks a little hard."
"Please, you expect a nice cozy bed to appear with a snap of my fingers?" Mara rolled her eyes and laid down. Thunder rumbled in the distance and Luke glanced nervously up at the sky just as the first rain drops began to fall. She stared at him for a moment and sighed. "Get some ferns or something, this is a kriffing jungle planet Luke, it's not like there's going to be a bed of grass for you."
Luke sighed and laid down. The improvised shelter would leak a bit, he was sure, but it was certainly better than laying out in the rain. Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes and tried to ignore the throbbing pain running down his back. "I can survive this."
She glanced at him, her green eyes glittering in the light of the lamp and sighed. "Good."
"Good night Mara." Luke said as he slowly began to drift into an uneasy sleep. Mara rolled away from him and shut her eyes without responding, but at least she hadn't hit him.
Leia Organa paced in the hangar bay as Wedge gave his report and the disassembled remains of the X-wing and TIE advanced were carried out of the shuttle. General Dodonna nodded as he heard the report and ran a hand through his beard, twirling it idly in thought.
"So you didn't find him, he might be in Imperial hands, and... you want to put Wes Janson on report." Leia snapped before the General could respond.
"Yes." Wedge said quietly. "He could be ten or fifteen kilometers from the crash site by now and in the jungle... we might not ever find them." He swallowed. "Hobbie thinks Luke might have been injured in the crash, but there's no way for us to confirm that."
General Dodonna nodded. "You said that you found the Imperial pilot's helmet?"
Wedge nodded. "Yeah... there was a red hair inside, a long one like you'd expect from a woman. I handed it over to General Cracken since he might be able to scrounge up some information from the hair, though he didn't sound very confident about that."
"Understood, Captain Antilles." General Dodonna said with a quick nod and Leia straightened, noting the promotion inherent in his statement.
"General?" Wedge stared at him looking stunned. "But..."
"I'm sure Skywalker would be willing to take command when he returns, but until then you are the leader of Rogue Flight and need the proper rank." General Dodonna sighed. "We'd already begun talking about promoting Skywalker to commander considering the flight's performance."
"Oh, thank you sir." Wedge said looking rather nervous. "I won't let you down."
"Captain Solo should be back from a supply run tomorrow, hopefully there will be parts in the shipment to get that ship flight worthy again." Jan said before jerking his head to the disassembled X-wing.
Leia ignored that and grumbled to herself. "General, you understand the morale blow this will be... Luke Skywalker, destroyer of the Death Star, the hope of the rebellion may be in Imperial hands." She glared at the Alliance Minister of War and the older General nodded once.
"I understand your concerns Princess Leia, but the situation is grim as it is. In the last two weeks we've had seven separate engagements with Imperial forces, our pilots are tired, the sector is under imperial blockade, and our supplies are continuously running low." General Dodonna shook his head after a moment and sighed. "The High Council wants this base to remain as a location for defectors to escape to, otherwise we would have evacuated days after the Death Star's destruction."
"I understand General." Leia said tersely. "Can't we do anything to find him?"
"I have teams working on the sensor packages to penetrate the jungle, until then all we can do is hope that they are on their way here." Dodonna said quietly. Leia frowned as Dodonna bowed his head respectfully. "Good night Princess."
Leia swore in frustration as he walked away.