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[personal profile] viola_dreamwalk
Going through the content I wanted to play with for [profile] womenlovefest, I’m realizing that the lady characters I love enough to want to write about often experience fandom hate or apathy – but it’s often because their characterization never feels quite finished. It’s like they never quite get the character arc I think they should have, and that makes me sad for them. It’s how I feel about Vala, it’s how I feel about Kate Lockley (hopefully more on her soon) – and it’s definitely how I feel about Mara Jade.

Not to get too pop psychology about it all, but it just feels like none of the characters in the Star Wars EU – Mara, in particular – ever get to do the emotional work needed to be fully-functioning human beings after all the truly awful shit that happens to them. Or, if they do, we just don't ever see it, which... why not?

How does Mara get from the angry, self-destructive (arguably a little suicidal – there are extenuating circumstances, but she straight-out asks Luke to kill her at one point) girl she is when we meet her to a complete person, confident in her own abilities and place in the universe? To a woman who feels ready to be a wife and mother? To being comfortable with wielding power and teaching others? We just don't ever really see that transformation, which is just a shame because she's a great character and there should be lots of interesting territory to explore there.

Given that, I usually tend to play with AUs when I write her, but this time around I'm going to try and fill in some of those missing moments – not an easy feat when you realize that even the canon of this particular fandom is wildly inconsistent and often flatly contradicts itself. But, what the hell? I like a challenge.

So I'm going to do a short fic for each of the tracks on the Mara fanmix I posted here, each one a 'missing' character moment or just something I would have liked to see happen. These are a little out of order, but maybe once I have them all done I’ll figure out whether they work best in chronological order, order of the track numbers – or something else altogether.

#1. Dog Days Are Over

Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can't carry it with you if you want to survive

It wasn't, she had to admit, one of the smarter things she'd ever done.

She'd done it in the wild, bewildering days immediately following Endor. She'd been heartsick, nearly blind with grief and rage, but even that wasn't quite enough to explain it. She'd simply felt compelled, once she'd been coherent enough to feel anything again, by some complex tangle of emotions that she couldn't quite put a name to.

She went looking for something half-remembered, more instinct than thought, but she figured it had to be there. She went looking, in the wake of losing everything she’d ever valued, for who she really was.

She didn't find much in the Emperor’s private files – though part of her imagined that he’d probably be impressed and more than a little satisfied that she’d been able to crack them. He’d have expected nothing less. It was mostly just mission reports and training files, though, the occasional picture or video transmission that confirmed her long-held suspicion that Palpatine had always had all his people watched from time to time.

But, then, just as she'd been ready to give up, there it was. Nothing much – just a date, and a place.

She found, once she had the name, that she simply had to go; something in her needed to know, to fill the screaming empty space she had inside her now. So she did something that only days before would have seemed unthinkable. She stole from the Empire – information, money, clothes, food, weapons, a ship. No one noticed, most of the others were too busy looting the treasury themselves. Mara took only what she needed and didn't leave a trace behind. She was an excellent thief, something that, she reflected uncomfortably, looked like it was going to be a necessary skill for surviving the immediate future.

When she got to her destination, she found a planet that had just barely begun to limp back from some major disaster. The closer she got, the more clearly she could see what had happened: someone had laid waste to the place – viciously, surgically and without anything even remotely like mercy. More likely than not, that someone had been Imperial forces – almost no one else in the galaxy had the firepower to do something like that.

They had a single landing facility, not much more than an open field and a makeshift building that housed some very basic flight control and communications equipment. The few other ships she saw were supply ships, a typical mix of humanitarian aid and smugglers profiting from the disaster.

“Well, this is unusual.” A woman emerged from the flight control building and crossed the field toward Mara, the wasted remains of what must have been a large city visible in the distance behind her. “Can I help you?”

“Maybe,” Mara said, opting for cool but polite. She had no idea what the history or conditions were here. She wasn’t used to flying into situations blind. “Can I speak to someone in charge?”

“I'm what passes for 'in charge' around here. Why are you here, anyway?”

“This is how you greet visitors to your planet?” she said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well,” the woman said, her mouth quirking wryly to one side, “we don't get all that many visitors these days.”

“What happened here?” Mara asked, afraid she already knew.

“You mean, you don’t know? I thought everyone in this sector did.” She gave Mara an appraising glance. “Then again, you are a little young – and from the Core from the look of you.” She paused like she wanted to ask a question, but held it in – maybe giving Mara some information first with an eye toward getting some in return. “No one’s really sure what sparked it – everyone's got a version of the truth, you know how it is. I don't know for sure what started it, but whatever it was... Well, the fleet just pounded us to powder. The planetary government was the first thing hit, so it was raw chaos.”

“How long ago?”

“About five years, maybe a little less.”

Well, at least, Mara thought, it probably hadn't been because of her – not directly, anyway. “You said the government was hit first...”

“The capital city was wiped completely off the planet, like it never even existed.”

“It's all gone, then? All the records... everything?”

“I'm afraid so.” The woman looked at her a moment longer. “Did you have family here?”

“Maybe,” Mara said, looking out across the leveled cityscape. “I'm not sure. I think-” She hesitated, feeling unused to volunteering information without a compelling reason. “I think I might have been born here.”

The woman looked at her, something like pity on her face. “Let me show you something.”

She took off at a fast clip, leading Mara away from the landing field and onto a well-worn trail up the side of a nearby hill. It could easily have been a trap of some sort, Mara reflected, but that she couldn’t imagine to what benefit – and, honestly, wasn’t even really all that sure whether she cared.

“Is it true?” the woman asked, turning back toward Mara as they navigated the narrow path. “About the Emperor? About the fleet at Endor? We keep hearing rumors, but…”

Mara took a deep breath, grappling with grief and rage so powerful it almost felt like possession. She got it under control, her voice sounding impossibly steady to her own ears, and said, “It’s true.”

“Well, I was never much for politics, but I doubt anyone around here is going to cry too many tears over that…”

Mara fought the sudden urge to strike out at the woman, to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about. At that moment, though, they rounded a curve, reaching the top of the hillside, and her breath caught, her heart felt stopped in her chest.

“Well, here we are.”

It was a graveyard, a massive one.

“There aren't any names – there just simply wasn't time – but they did mark every spot.” She hesitated. “I don't know if- I just thought, maybe, you'd like to pay your respects.”

White spires, thousands upon thousands of them, marked each gravesite, spanning a roll of hillsides that stretched as far as she could see. Mara felt, to her chagrin, a little dizzy at the sheer scale of it.

“Thank you,” she managed after a moment. “I think I will pay my respects.”

#3. Raw Sugar

Something in your head
You've been fighting all along

“Don't you think you have some things to tell me?” Karrde said, his tone and manner entirely casual, but Mara knew him well enough by now to sense a trap.

“Like what?” she asked, playing for time. She’d known they were going to have to have this conversation eventually, but she’d been oddly dreading it.

He sat beside her, effectively blocking her only escape route. She was still hooked up to a bunch of medical gizmos, bruised from the fight on Wayland, her skin tight and itching from healing burns. She’d been given a clean bill of health, but been told to stay put while the machines and medicine did their work.

“Mara,” he began again, looking uncharacteristically serious, “I do think you owe me some answers. I put my own skin in the game for you on this…”

“For me, and for a fairly generous amount of money from the Republic…” she replied tartly, but that wasn’t entirely fair. That wasn’t the currency Karrde valued; he needed to know things, to understand.

He actually smiled, shaking his head. “True, but mostly for you.” He paused. “Our friend, the princess, is nearly as good at reading people as her brother.”

Mara couldn’t help returning the smile. “She played you?”

“Like a master.” He fell silent then, folding his hands in his lap and settling in to wait. Leia wasn’t the only one who could read people, Mara knew. He’d just wait her out until she cracked – and she would crack.

“I’ll give you the highlights,” she said finally, “but don’t expect me to tell you everything. I don’t even know how to feel about a lot of it, knowing some of the things I know now.”

“Just the basics will do. I’ve managed to piece some of it together, anyway… Now I just want to hear it from you.”

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I don't know exactly how he found me,” she said. Karrde didn't ask who 'he' was. “I guess it doesn't matter, but I have wondered occasionally... He found me, and then he came and took me away. I was very young, so I don't really remember much.”

“What about your real parents?” She just shrugged and left it to him to fill in the ugly blanks.

“He always said he chose me because I was special. Everyone else said it, too, and I believed it.” She took a breath. “I guess I was special. Not as much as I imagined, but special enough.”

“Special how?”

“I could hear him, from anywhere in the galaxy. I was trained to do whatever he asked of me. He treated me like...” She swallowed hard. “He treated me like a daughter.” Her voice caught and it was a moment before she could go on. “That sounds so stupid out loud, doesn't it?”

“No, Mara. It doesn't,” Karrde said, with this look on his face that she'd never seen there before. She looked away again quickly.

“Whatever the truth actually was, whatever it still is, I think I needed to believe it to be able to do the things he asked me to do – and I did everything he ever asked.” She looked up, meeting his gaze for the first time. “Are you going to ask me what he made me do?”

“No, I'm not.” He laid a hand on her shoulder and she relaxed a little. “We all have things in our past that are probably better left there.”

“I was a fool…”

“You were a child,” he said, that look still on his face, “and they used you.”

“But I wanted to believe in my own importance, that I was special or better or something.”

“That doesn’t make you unique, Mara – only the circumstances do, and those were mostly beyond your control.”

A worrying lump rose in her throat at that. “I don’t like not being in control.”

“Really?” Karrde said dryly, dropping his hand from her shoulder. “I hadn’t noticed.”

She managed a smile at that, but the tears were still threatening. “I guess I’m just trying to figure out what I do now.”

“Learn from your mistakes,” he said, taking her hand in his, “but, otherwise, don’t look back.”
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January 2012

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