© Rakelle Østenstad, 1996. All disclaimers apply.
This story takes place after the HTTE trilogy and disregards all later novels; all vague similarities to Zahn's SoTP/VoTF are entirely coincidental.
Credit and thanks go to Karianne Stærk for providing the title.

Vision of Darkness


Chapter 1

Captain Pellaeon stood at the viewport, studying the forces at his disposal: the "Chimaera" and three Dreadnaughts -all undermanned. With the death of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Imperial fleet had once again split up; most of the other Star Destroyers, unable to stand up to the Rebel fleet on their own, had been captured or destroyed. His attempts to attack smaller Rim systems had mostly failed, and that, combined with the general poor morale, had caused most of his men to desert.
Rukh had also somehow escaped -but that was not his major concern.
"Sir, they have arrived." Lieutenant Arrig stood before him, trying to appear calm, but Pellaeon could see the anticipation in him.
These youngsters were too excitable, Pellaeon sighed to himself as he followed the lieutenant down to the main docking bay to await their new allies, ignoring his own excitement.


Mara Jade fastened the last component, then admired her handiwork with satisfaction. The lightsaber Luke Skywalker had given her had worked perfectly well, but it had seen a lot. Now, with a few worn parts replaced and the outer casing modified to fit better in her grip, the weapon looked like new. She ignited the iceblue blade and let it slice through the air in front of her as she listened to the changing pitch.
Her reverie was broken as Luke entered the room, smiling at her.
"Nice work."
"Thanks." She smiled back at him with enthusiasm.
"Want to try it out a bit?" he asked as she shut down the saber and hooked it on her belt.

A small remote hovered over Mara's head. She swung her lightsaber towards it, reflecting the shots, but faster than a normal remote could've moved, it buzzed behind her and started to fire again. Feeling it through the Force, she span around and sliced it neatly in half. The two halves floated gently to the ground as Luke ignited his own lightsaber. The green blade arced towards her as she flicked her own blade around and blocked the stroke. The hum of lightsabers sank and rose as they parried, blue and green light flickering across the walls and ceiling.
Finally, after a long and hard duel, Luke drew back and turned his saber off.
"You've grown stronger, Mara. You almost beat me there."
"Well, farmboys like you shouldn't get too cocky." She grinned at him, Force-lifted a small flask of water from the training room's table and emptied it over his head.
"Having fun?" a laughing voice called from the doorway.
"Leia!" Luke dried his hair briefly with a towel and beckoned her inside.
"Back to business, I guess," Mara exclaimed as she sat down next to Leia on a mat. With her diplomatic and governmental duties reduced, Leia had finally managed to complete her training a few weeks earlier. Being a politician, she didn't exactly match people's idea of a Jedi Knight, but she proved to be a good one in her own way. Never judge anything by its appearance, Mara reminded herself. Luke was more the traditional kind of Jedi Knight, and she suspected she would turn out somewhat like him. If she ever became a Jedi... could someone like her ever measure up on the scale of the Skywalker twins?
Clearing her mind, she prepared herself for Jedi meditation.

She was in a dark, damp building of stone in a forest. The walls were ruined and covered with climbing plants. In the center of the room was a stone dais, where five men with strange and ominous-looking marks on their foreheads stood in a half-circle, gazing at her. In front of them, Luke Skywalker lay without moving. Suddenly four of them seemed to fade away before her eyes, while the last one grew larger, darker, more menacing. He came towards her... in a split second their surroundings changed, and she was on Coruscant, the planet burning. The man sat on a large throne, while she sat on another next to him. She looked in a puddle at her feet and saw a mark on her own forehead.

Gasping, she snapped out of it. Luke and Leia looked at her, both of them wearing concerned expressions.
"What happened?" Luke asked. He had felt her sense suddenly fill with pain.
Mara stared at the floor, not wanting to talk about it.
"Nothing," she muttered as she slowly got up from the floor. Luke seemed sceptical, but didn't say anything.
"Let's call it a day, ok?" he said, picking up the ruined remote. Leia left the room, and Mara wanted to follow her, but something held her back. Even though he wasn't verbally asking her, she could feel concern and curiosity flowing from Luke, not to mention the way he looked at her. So, no way around this. She still didn't feel like telling him, but it did concern him too, somehow.
"You really want to know, don't you?" He nodded.
Inhaling deeply, she started telling him.

This didn't sound good, Luke thought to himself. It could be a dream, or it could be a vision -no matter what; in his experience these things tended to have some meaning and at least a kernel of truth.
"You're sure you've never seen that place or those people before?"
"Believe me, I'd have remembered it if I had."
So they had no clues at all. Except the marks the men had been wearing-
"Old records speaking of the ancient Sith say they had special tattoos on their foreheads. Perhaps your vision had something to do with them."
Mara shrugged. "Maybe. Doesn't make for nice prospects though."
She fell silent for a moment. "Do you think it could be a vision of the future?" she asked.
"One possible future, maybe. The future is always in motion. What you saw may never happen -maybe not even anything remotely like it."
"But it might happen." She looked straight into his eyes for the first time during their conversation. Luke put his arm gently around her, leading her out of the room.
"Thinking like that won't do anybody any good. Come, I'll get you some dinner. We'll handle this -if it ever happens."
Her only response was a sigh as she leaned against his shoulder.


Chapter 2

Leia sat playing with her twins, trying to keep her mind off their current problems. Most of the Imperial forces had been dispersed and had ceased to bother them, but a month ago the small fraction under Captain Pellaeon had begun working its way inward with astounding success; it was almost as if the systems had become predisposed to fail against the small forces at Pellaeon's disposal. Already, he'd managed to retake half a sector.
Her comlink beeped; she turned it on and was greeted by the voice of one of the communications officers.
"Councilor, we have intercepted another distress call; from the Widimo system."
"Oh, no." A sigh escaped her. The Widimo system was famous for its technology and its defence systems -as well as being the heart of the sector taking the brunt of the Imperials.
This had to be serious.
"I'll be right up." Dismissing the officer, she called Winter to take care of the children and rushed past the two Noghri bodyguards at the door.

Entering the control room, she found Han and Luke there, studying the reports along with the officers. As it turned out, Widimo was already lost. They had been attacked by a relatively small Imperial force -Pellaeon again- which they should have been able to fend off easily. Instead the planet's defence system had gone crazy, regularly inviting the attackers in.
Leia drew Han's attention to Luke, who was studying a holo intently. It showed a defence system operator desperately trying to say something, but the holo had become scrambled and it would take a while before the soundtrack could be deciphered.
"What's up, kid?"
"This operator -there's something wrong with him. It's almost as if he blames himself for the attack, but at the same time has no idea what happened. And I can't sense anything from a holo."
He looked troubled.
"But there is something strange going on. I've been feeling some disturbances in the Force lately, especially today. Somebody or something is using the dark side of the Force, and they're coming closer. When I looked at this holo I felt like-"
"Sir, we've managed to unscramble the audio." The technician adjusted the holo and set it to start over.
At first the holo made some static noise, but then the man in it apparently adjusted some settings, and they heard him relatively clearly.
"-don't know what happened. I didn't mean to do it, something made me feel all dizzy and-", "-I shut down the entire grid on purpose, it felt right to do it, I don't know, I couldn't stop myself!"
The man sobbed, then more static blocked his voice.
"-please forgive me. I don't know what possessed me. I-" The man fell forward as a blaster shot hit him, and the holo ended.
"Didn't know what possessed him..." Luke muttered, then he cast a questioning glance at Leia.
"I don't know what you two are getting out of this, but something screwed that kid up real good. Maybe somebody drugged him."
"Or maybe somebody pulled a mind trick on him," Leia said, feeling what Luke was getting at. "It must have been somebody really powerful though -the Widimans always chose their defence control operators among the brightest."
Luke had a copy of the holo made and left, leaving the rest of the reports to Han and Leia.

Mara looked up from the screen, relaxing her aching eyes. She'd had to agree with Luke about that holo he'd shown her - she couldn't see how it was possible, but some dark power helping the Empire could explain what was happening. It could explain her vision too...balling her fists, she drove back the thought and returned her attention to the Emperor's hidden files. They were all already gone through and made a part of the New Republic datafiles, yet she used the old, secret codes to read the originals. Something at the back of her mind told her she'd find something useful in them.
Planet readings. Coruscant had a big entry. Other systems had smaller. She came upon the name Siqith. Apparently it was a system, but no information was available, even though she used her most highly classified codes. No records, official or unofficial, showed any reference to the place. This complete lack of information was unnatural and sparked her curiosity. There was bound to be something about the place somewhere, but she couldn't see any way she could find it. Or could she? Talon Karrde was on Coruscant, closing some deals she'd arranged between the Smugglers' Alliance and the New Republic. And he had all his best people with him...

Within hours she'd got hold of Ghent. His first attempts had uncovered nothing he hadn't already found for the New Republic last time, but now his focus was on the specific name. Last night he'd managed to confirm that there was stuff there -lots of it- but he couldn't access it.
"Mara, try some of your codes here." He indicated a small window. She complied, starting with the heavy artillery. Nothing. She relaxed and shut her eyes, typing something -the easiest code?
Opening her eyes to the real world again, she saw the screen fill with information. Siqith was a small world on the Outer Rim. Covered with heaths, harsh forests and wild oceans, it had never been populated. Except when... Her eyes opened wide.
Except when Siqith was the most important Sith training ground and home of many of their most powerful. She grabbed her comlink.
"Skywalker, come down here. I think you'd better see this."


Chapter 3

With a low-pitched beep, Artoo disconnected from the small ship's main computer. Mara leaned over him to check the results and whistled in approval -the droid had crammed every last detail about Siqith into it. Upset as he was about being left behind, Artoo had apparently decided not to take any chances.
The droid was useful, Mara admitted to herself as she ran a preflight check, but his usefulness would be limited on a non-technical world. Travelling with him on Myrkr -not to mention Wayland- had been difficult enough.
As she finished the check, she saw Luke enter the docking bay with Leia, saying goodbye, she guessed.
Skywalker certainly was brave running off with her all the time. She admitted this was only a recon mission, and they did seem to work well together, but still; spending a lot of time with a woman who had once wanted to kill him was not typical male behaviour in her experience...
A glimmer of a smile crossed her face, but quickly faded into a frown. She couldn't afford thinking along those lines. After all, they had decided to do this for one reason: Siqith might well be a place where Jedi powers would be handy. And she might still cause his death... stop! Trying hard not to let her thoughts wander any more, she checked the last instruments with an unusual fervour and interest.
"You ready, Skywalker?" she called out as Leia left the hangar.
"As ready as I'll ever be." He got onboard and helped her prepare for takeoff.

Siqith looked as drear as its file had indicated: large dark oceans, struggling forests near the poles, harsh steppes near the equator. Scanning hadn't picked up much, but there was a small settlement far north. They had landed at some distance south from the place, planning on walking the last stretch to avoid discovery. It would be a rough journey, and they'd have to hide their presences in the Force as much as possible.
Mara stepped out of the ship onto the damp undergrowth, drawing the chilly air into her lungs.
"Nice place," she commented sarcastically.
"Yeah, if Hoth had a summer, I guess this would be it," Luke replied with a small grin.
"Well, we're not here for a vacation. Let's get moving." Quickly, they covered the ship with a camo net and some small trees before heading north.

They walked several kilometers before nightfall came. Heavy rain poured down around them, and by the time they found an overhanging rock to strike camp under, they were nearly exhausted. The planet didn't seem to have any large creatures; the largest things they'd seen were some herbivores the size of their feet that scuttled away whenever they came too close. Somehow the place seemed too quiet, as if everything cowered in fear, Mara thought dimly to herself as they carefully checked their surroundings. Neither of them sensed any nearby danger, so they huddled up against the rock wall in their cloaks and went to sleep.

Grey. Everything was grey and floating around -was that walls? Some dark shadows hovered in the background. Luke tried to get up from the cold floor, but his body wouldn't obey. A smaller form stood in front of him, half in shadow. He'd seen her before somewhere. A blue glow appeared in front of her, and as she turned around to face him, he saw it was Mara, holding her lightsaber. Her face was completely expressionless as she walked towards him, raised her saber, and stabbed him in the heart.

The burst of pain tore him out of the dream. Beside him, Mara moaned in her sleep, and clutching his chest, he turned over to check on her. She was sleeping uneasily, and a cold sweat was breaking out on her distorted face.
Not her too... concerned, he gently called her name and touched her shoulder. The touch woke her with a start, and she stared at him blankly for a moment, seemingly without recognition.
"Oh, Luke," she gasped. "Was it a dream..." She was clearly shaken.
"Was it about your vision?" he guessed. She nodded slightly, her head hanging.
"Kind of. It was different," she whispered. "And -I killed you."
"I dreamt of it too," he told her. In the dark, he could barely make out her shocked expression.
"My vision -it might happen here."
Deep down, he felt it really had something to do with this place. He'd tried to dismiss her vision, but with these dreams and all... For a wild moment, he thought about leaving the planet. They could go back to the ship, take off, and leave whatever was here behind. But then what? Like it or not, this was something they had to deal with, no matter what the outcome would be.
Not knowing what else he could do, he sat down next to Mara and held her.
"I don't want to kill you, Luke," she mumbled, curling up against him.

Luke stayed awake for a while after Mara fell asleep. Absent-mindedly he stroke the red-gold hair away from her face. She had been enthralled by the Emperor for so many years, C'baoth had wanted her as his Jedi slave, and now it looked like even more dark powers were after her. Jedi in training seemed to be very popular among darksiders, he thought harshly. Especially Mara, it seemed. He tried imagining her turned back to the dark side. Losing her would be...
He suddenly realised he loved her. He'd always felt there was something special about her, but he hadn't realised the truth until now: His destiny and hers were connected to each other.
In life, or... in death and destruction.
He went cold at the thought. He couldn't let her know about this -not for now at least. Her mind has too many burdens already, he thought as he looked down on her sleeping face.


Chapter 4

They reached their target the next day -a cluster of stone buildings around an open space. Several of the buildings showed signs of severe neglect. Nobody was there, but a dark shadow hung over the place. Luke felt a chill down his spine that wasn't caused by the bitter wind. Carefully, they moved closer. The buildings were decorated with ominous Sith symbols and lettering. A large building in better shape than most of the others drew their attention.
A long, dark corridor led inside, a small room joining it near the entrance. Mara went carefully down the passage while Luke checked the room. Entering it, he found some datapads, computers and old-fashioned scrolls.
"Looks like somebody keeps records here," he muttered to himself, looking at a datapad. He frowned. Mara was not going to like this.
At that moment, a flicker in the Force told him she'd found something else she didn't like very much. He left the records room and walked quickly down the corridor.
A large chamber opened in front of him. The walls were weathered and cracked, and a dais throned in the middle of the room. Mara was standing at the chamber's entrance, pale as a ghost.
"I've seen this before. It's the place from my vision," she whispered, barely audible. Moments later, her face tensed, and she grabbed his arm with fingers like steel.
"We have to get out of here. Now."
They'd barely made their way back to the forest edge before an Imperial shuttle came through the cloud cover and landed on the open space. Five caped men and a sixth man in an Imperial uniform came out. They were too far away to make out what they said, but as they watched, the Imperial officer kneeled in front of one of the caped men, then rose, saluted them and headed back to the shuttle.
"And that's them." As the shuttle took off, they headed deeper into the forest.

"It looks like they discovered this place some time after the Emperor's death and have been in training these last four years." Luke sighed. "They took up all the old ways, including those tattoos, but they still regard Vader as their idol and master and want me killed for causing his downfall."
"Then it will happen. We shouldn't have come here," Mara groaned, leaning against a shaggy tree.
"We had to. You know that."
"Since when have you had a death wish?" she snapped at him. "Can't you see it, Luke? My vision, our dreams and now this -everything shows it. My path is leading to the dark side, and you -you'll..."
"Mara, listen to me!" he said intently, grabbing her shoulders. "The future isn't set. But as long as you give in to your fear of it, you might just as well have already fallen." He continued in a calmer voice.
"I'm afraid too. But we're not the only ones this concerns. We could just turn back now, before they spot us, but that'll only postpone things. These people will stop at nothing, and at the rate the Imperials have gained territory lately, there's no way the New Republic can deal with it. We have to do something, and we have to do it now."
Mara threw a sour look at him. He was right. He was always right.
"And exactly what does the wise Jedi suggest we do about it?" Luke looked down. Evidently he didn't know everything after all, but this was one thing she wished he knew. Her aggression faded as she looked at him. Blaming him for realising they had to do this wasn't the way to go, and neither was giving into fear. She took his hands and reached out to him through the Force. She could feel the fear deep down inside him, but he was controlling it far better than she had done.
"I'm sorry," she said in a quiet voice. An awkward silence fell over them.
"Well, I don't feel like staying here any longer." Mara tore herself abruptly away from Luke and started towards their small camp.

This close to the Sith, they had to take turns in sleeping. Luke took the first watch. Ragged clouds drifted rapidly by overhead, and two small moons gave more light than comfort. It was quiet for now, but...suddenly the few nocturnal creatures fell silent altogether. Alarmed, he left their hidden camp. Mara was exceptionally good at hiding her presence -perhaps they would even walk right past her.
He was hardly aware of them before they attacked. He had his saber activated as they struck and cut the first one in two. The body exploded with dark side energy, toppling a tree and knocking Luke over, something the other four took advantage of. Something hard struck him in the small of his back, and he fell to the ground. Another Sith was badly injured before they managed to knock him unconscious.

Luke came to in a dark, grey room. Dark figures loomed above him; one of them approached him. Mara. No. Only then did he notice the figure was way too tall and menacing to be her, and its voice removed all doubt.
"You have done well, my apprentices. This is indeed the Jedi Skywalker. Was he alone?" One of the others answered affirmatively.
At least they hadn't found Mara. There was still hope.
Quickly, he cleared his mind of every thought about her as the figure came closer.
"He will pay dearly for what he has done to our order." The figure made a small hand gesture, and one of the others moved behind him. Something sharp stabbed him in the spine. The pain was only clouded by the way his mind seemed to explode in flashing lights.

Mara woke in the early twilight, feeling something was wrong. Luke hadn't woken her as agreed... she crept out of the concealed hole she'd slept in, only to find him gone. Some distance away she saw a tree had been toppled over, and she scampered over to it, recalling the disturbance in the Force that had almost woken her that night. Behind the tree, she found some tattered clothing and Luke's lightsaber.
"Damn you, Skywalker," she said to herself as she picked up his saber. She reached out for his presence and found it.
He was hurt and seemed drugged, but at least he was alive for now. She didn't need to feel his presence to know where to find him, she thought bitterly. Drawing on the Force to calm herself and mustering all her courage, she turned towards the Sith lair.

The place seemed as deserted as the day before. Mist hid most of the buildings, and she drew her cloak more closely around her. She couldn't sense any of the Sith, but that didn't mean they had to be far away. She entered the main hall -as her mind insisted on calling it- quietly and found Luke lying on the dais. He seemed semi-conscious, but couldn't move. Something told her to hurry, and she began lifting him. Too late.
"So, the Jedi had a companion after all. Welcome to Siqith, Emperor's Hand."


Chapter 5

Mara turned around to face four of the men from her vision. One of them appeared to have a large shoulder wound.
"Come to see Skywalker, have you? Unfortunately, we can't allow him to hang around for long."
"What do you want?" Her voice sounded small and scared in the large room. She realised she had walked open-eyed right into the middle of the situation she'd been desperate to avoid. This couldn't be happening! As in a bad dream, she saw their leader come towards her. "Mara Jade, have you forgotten the power the Emperor gave you? The position you had in the galaxy? You can have it back -and more of it. All you have to do is kill Skywalker, as your master once required of you."
Yes. Killing him would set things right. She unhooked her saber, ignited it and turned to face Skywalker, ready to...what was she doing? She realized that they had used a mind trick on her, almost making her kill Luke.
"I don't like too easy targets." She managed to put some defiance in her voice.
"I'm so sorry, but it will be some time before the drug wears off. But your power to resist us appears to be considerable. You are indeed a worthy candidate."
She tried to reach for Luke through the Force, but his mind was too clouded for him to be able to do anything, not to mention the paralysis the drug caused.

"As for Skywalker -finish him." On the command of their lord, the other three started towards Luke. She couldn't let them kill him! Igniting her lightsaber, she positioned herself between them and Luke -not expecting to last long.
The wounded one seemed weaker, less resolved than the other two.
Two can play the game of mind-tricks, she thought. Gently, she reached out to him.
"You don't want to kill him," she suggested. He halted.
"I don't want to kill him," he muttered to himself. On a signal from the dark lord, one of the others cut him down.
"So that's what you want me to join?" Mara called defiantly.
"He was too weak for us." Mara cast a glance where he had fallen and saw the body still there; apparently a newcomer to the ways of the Sith. The other two attacked again -her this time. With a twist of her blade, she stabbed one of them in the belly. This one was the real thing -the blast of his exploding body threw her backwards, knocking the air from her lungs. A strong hand grabbed her wrist, preventing her from using her lightsaber. A bloodred saber rose above her for the final blow.
Pulling Luke's lightsaber from her belt with her free hand, she cut him down moments before he would have struck.

"Most impressive. You have grown stronger than I anticipated." Mara picked herself up from the floor and looked directly at the Sith lord. He had moved closer to Luke now.
"Learn now of the ancient ways of the Sith, the ways your fallen Emperor did neglect. You have beaten my apprentices. Join me as an equal."
"No."
The Sith continued speaking. "What can the rebels give you that they haven't already taken from you? And this traitor who ruined his own father -what can he teach you but his soft, sickly ways? Remember, Emperor's Hand. Remember what power feels like."
Luke struggled to keep his eyes open as the Sith Lord spoke. Mara had been on the verge of killing him a few minutes ago, and now this Sith Lord was tempting her, half forcing her to remember the past. As he watched her, the all too familiar expression of hatred and pain grew in her eyes, together with anger.
Luke recalled his own torment on the second Death Star, but hers had to be even worse; she had had power and respect as a servant of the dark side, and had lost it all.
He tried to reach for her through the Force, to give her some support, but the dizziness made it too difficult to concentrate on even that. He sighed with resignation. It looked like this was going to be Mara's battle; hopefully, she was as strong as he thought she was.

"I can give you that again. Join me. Rule the galaxy at my side." She felt the truth in that. All she had to do was return to the dark ways; the ways she had been trained in for most of her life. She couldn't do anything else; she couldn't possibly best him. The image of the two thrones on the burning planet imposed itself on her mind. Recoiling from the memory, she spun around to find herself facing Luke. Despite his own pain she could feel his concern for her, mingled with something she couldn't quite catch. But also with trust. He was relying on her to do what was right.
She cleared her mind of fear, doubt and the nagging presence of the Sith lord, focusing on her own will and determination. What the Sith lord had to offer was not what she wanted. He wanted her power to assist his own course. But her turning was only one possible future, despite the vision, and the decision was in her hands, not his.
Drawing herself up to her full height, she turned to face the Sith lord again.
"I remember what your kind of power feels like. And I don't want it. That 'traitor' as you put it," she gestured towards Luke, "has shown me the nature of the light side of the Force, and I'd rather stay on that side." She inhaled deeply, not knowing if the next part was right, but it suddenly felt true.
"And I will stay there -as a Jedi." She held his glance as it filled with rage.


Chapter 6

The subtle approach forgotten, a tremendous pressure assaulted her mind. Joining him was the only way. She'd be feared across the galaxy. Star systems would bow for her. She was meant to join him; it was her destiny. She tried to drive it away, but he was too powerful. There was no way she could block it -alone.
In her mind, she tried to reach out for Luke. She didn't think he was clear enough to help her yet, but...
'You can do it,' she heard in her mind, dimly under the roar. The mental image of Luke's hand appeared in her mind, and as she mentally reached out and grabbed it, she felt the bond between them grow stronger. Concentrating on it, she strengthened it further, feeling the pressure on her mind ease as their combined strength blocked it. She could still sense the assault of thoughts from the Sith lord, but they broke against the barriers in her mind like waves on a shore.
With an effort, she managed to turn the brunt of the assault back on him. He apparently wasn't prepared for that; his face twisted in agony, and the dark cloud of his presence was in turmoil. With a piercing cry, he left the hall.

She ran a brief check on Luke. The drug seemed to have worn off a bit, and his mind had almost cleared completely, but there was no way he'd be able to get out on his own. She dragged him to his feet.
"Come on, we can't do anything more right now," she exclaimed in a tired voice.
Luke only nodded, not able to speak yet.
The Sith lord reappeared in the rear doorway he'd left through. Somehow Mara thought he looked aged. Anger and hate radiated from him, mingled with -fear?
"Leaving so soon, my dear Jedi? The son of a dark lord and the hand of the dark emperor. What a lovely couple," he hissed.
Mara put Luke gently down on the floor and knelt next to him, shielding him as best she could with her own body. The Sith lord had something in mind for them, she felt.

"There were some ways even Lord Vader was afraid to use. The Emperor was not, and neither am I. Remember this, Skywalker?" The Sith lord leered at them, a blue glow building up on his hands. Instinctively, Mara prepared to block it, renewing her connection with Luke. The lightning bolts hit them an instant later, but with a joined effort they managed to reflect them.
The Sith lord's face glowed with anger and blue lightning. Mara felt the onslaught growing stronger as his rage grew; soon they wouldn't be able to withstand it. Her eyes fell upon a support next to him. Still helping Luke reflect the lightning, she tried a careful pull at it. It was very solid, but... Her concentration slipped enough for a bolt to strike her foot. Surprised and shocked by the excruciating pain, she reflexively yanked the support with all her might. It trembled briefly, then toppled, bringing a large piece of the ancient stone roof down on their attacker. The next moment the pile of rock went flying in the torrent of dark energy released when a large block crushed the Sith lord's skull.

Mara sat in the quiet hall, watching the sleet fall through the hole in the roof and holding her arm where a stone had struck it, ignoring her tingling foot for the moment. Her vision resurfaced in her mind. It hadn't come true after all, and never would, she realised. Feeling like an immense weight had been lifted from her, she cried quietly with relief.

They left the place a few hours later, taking some of the Sith records with them and burning the rest. As Luke had put it: there was knowledge not worth knowing.
"I guess were done here then." Mara exclaimed as she threw the last tome on the fire. It burned with a red glow, decomposing rapidly.
"Yes, that's it," Luke sighed. He'd been as troubled as she was by this, and his relief was as evident as his concern had been earlier. She sat down beside him and took his hand.
"Thank you," she said in a low voice. He looked briefly at her, then back at the smouldering fire. He had a distant look in his eyes, as if he was pondering something, Mara thought. She could feel that strange flickering deep inside him again; stronger but still obscure.
"Is there something you're keeping from me?" she asked, not really expecting an answer. To her surprise, the question caught him off guard, and a for a brief moment she caught a glimmer of his feelings.
Amusement glittered in her eyes as she looked at him.
"There's too much of the farmboy in you, Skywalker. You never manage to hide anything." With a warm smile, she leaned over and gave him a tender kiss, removing the barriers in her mind to reveal the feelings that had been growing in her these last few months.


Captain Pellaeon looked out the viewport at the planet below, contemplating the final reports. The Sith were truly gone -they'd found only some charred and torn remains of clothing in the main hall and a fresh grave outside it. Turning away, he saw Lieutenant Arrig leaving the bridge.
Matters were turning against them again; the forces they'd managed to pull together were far too small to maintain control of the systems, and knowing the Sith were gone, several had already revolted. Their reinforcements were deserting, and even more old crewmembers had gone, making even maintaining a tie squadron impossible.
After his experience with C'baoth he really should have known better than to use anybody who used the Force -or was it, in fact, the Sith who had used him?
He grimaced slightly. No matter what, it looked like it was time to retreat out of the galaxy's view again.