Part 1
Rating: PG
Thrawn McEwok

Mara Jade Skywalker stepped out into the darkness with her husband, and felt the sharp kiss of ice in the cold night air. Smile-shivering, she drew her cloak tight around herself, and sidled close against Luke's warmth.

"Nervous?" he asked, with a quiet smile.

"Hmm," she answered, glancing up into the clear black sky, where a sharp blade of brightness was sitting among the diamond shards of starlight. "There's an Imperial Star Destroyer up there. What do you think?"

"I think it's a good thing," Luke said. "The fact they're not going to shoot at us. People change."

She made a noise between a snort and a laugh, then shook her head, and they set off together for the short stroll to the landing pad.

"There's the shuttle," Luke said, nodding to where a bright star was high up in the sky. Mara peered at it, and saw a cluster of lights, red and gold and green.

"Sigma-class," Mara mused. "Somebody thinks they're important."

Luke murmured a reply, watching the Imperial shuttle with a genuine enthusiasm as they came down the slope towards the pad.

Mara smiled indulgently, but she had to admit that whoever was at the controls was a pretty good pilot — slowing gracefully, and lowering towards the spotlit landing-pad on repulsors, folding the wings back around the hull and dropping the undercarriage skids from beneath the body in a single graceful movement.

The shuttle settled, the whined into silence, and for a few seconds, Mara waited.

"Any idea what's going on?" her husband asked. In the darkness, their fingers found each other, hands clasping tight.

"Are you asking me as a Jedi Master? Or as one of Palpatine's former pets?"

The hiss of hydraulics interrupted before he could answer. Probably just as well.

She folded her arms, and watched as the ramp lowered, and a man strode down from the shuttle. Tall, with a dark cloak draped from his shoulders, dark armour underneath. A switch of movement at one hip caught her eye — the black metal handle of a lightsaber.

"Who does he think he is?" she murmured. "Darth Vader?"

Half his face was a mechanical mask — one eye dark and curious and alive, the other a bright, unblinking optic, the colour of blood in sunlight.

His bow of greeting was flawless. His smile seemed disturbingly genuine.

"Master Skywalker." He nodded to Luke. And then to Mara. "Emperor's Hand."

"High Inquisitor Tremayne," she said. "It's been a long time. What brings you here?"

"I'm returning some ... lost property," he said, gesturing back into the shuttle's interior. "Something I believe we took from you — unjustly — almost thirty years ago."

It was a girl.

Like Tremayne, she wore the black cloak of an Inquisitor, with armour underneath — a lightsaber at her belt. Her eyes flickered as she looked at them, so Mara returned the compliment as she came down the ramp.

A female Inquisitor, much younger than her or Luke — with the steely self-discipline that came with Imperial training, and a tough determination that could only have thrived in defiance of her upbringing.

She wasn't tall, nor especially voluptuous, but her body looked lean and muscular under her armour, with a narrow waist, curves in all the right places. Her hair was cut in a short fringe, dirty blond, and her features were freckled, quietly attractive — pretty rather than classically beautiful, Mara decided, though one of her parents might have been ...

She glanced at Luke in sudden alarm — still not quite understanding.

"Master Skywalker, Emperor's Hand." Tremayne spoke with a slow, wolfish smile. "May I introduce your daughter ... Inquisitor Ysanne Starkiller."

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