Mia Theron had joined the Rebellion when she was sixteen after the Battle of Yavin. She was tiny, pretty, strong, and, most importantly, absolutely determined to win at all costs. Her first job had been as a starfighter pilot in Rogue Squadronís earliest inception, but given her skill with undercover operations and her knowledge of nearly a dozen languages, the Rebellion had been forced to reexamine her commission. In the end, her worth as a top-flight Intelligence agent outweighed her mediocrity as a pilot. No doubt she had lived longer because of this adjutment.
The Rebels were always in close quarters, which is why Luke knew her as well as he did. They had been stationed together at Dantooine, at Hoth, and at various and asundry places after that. At first she was under his command, where he learned a great deal about her tactical and methodical mind. She had never made all that hot a pilot, but she was quite good at coming up with ideas that the Rogues could then execute smoothly. Most of the successful raids that they had made in the early days had been the result of ingenious planning on her part. After she was transferred to Intelligence, he saw her a bit less, but she never failed to impress him with her tenacity and high spirits.
After Hoth, however, they were thrown together again as the Rebellion retreated to the outer Rim to lick its wounds and regroup. It is nearly inevitable that two people, when tossed together like that, will start some sort of relationship. He needed diversion, she was bored and it was a mutual thing, discussed briefly and consummated at length over two bottles of Whyrenís.
Most of their attraction was intellectual, but there was certainly a physical aspect to it as well. He had never fallen in love with her and she had never wanted anything more from him than a good lay every so often. They were both well-satisfied while it lasted. He became close to her fraternally rather than romantically, enjoying her company and her conversation, as well as the way she ran her fingernails down his back when they made love. If one could call it that. That was still something that bothered Luke about their two years: what would you call it? "Making love" was too romantic sounding, "fucking" was too vulgar, and "just sex" implied a one-time thing. When he had brought this up to Mia, she had laughed, ran a provocative finger down his chest, and said, "mutually beneficial screwing." Which, of course, had led to another demonstration of that very thing.
They had stopped after Endor, as conflicting missions sent them further and further away from each other. Neither had minded; it had been fun while it had lasted, but was really, just fun. He found sometimes that he missed her conversation, though.
And now, Luke reasoned, as he used the Force to lift Miaís unconscious body from his arms, itís been two years since Iíve seen her. And sheís so very different. He ran a finger across the soft down of her cheek, willing her to wake up.
Her eyes fluttered. For a brief moment, the distorted waking-up process made her face relax and she radiated. Then, and Luke felt the sudden stab of pain that ran through her through the Force, the memories flooded back and her face took on the same blank, hopeless look.
"Mia, love," he said softly. "Whereís your ship?"
She stood up on her own feet and pulled her chin up. Her strength was starting to return. "Iím fine, now."
Luke reluctantly withdrew his Force support from her. "No," he said, "I can tell youíre not. Do you want to come back to my shuttle and talk about it?"
Her eyes hardened slightly. "I donít want to think about it."
Luke shook his blond head and reached out a comforting hand to her cheek. To his surprise, she did not yank away, but rather let him run his fingertips over the soft skin of her face. "We were friends, Mia. Friends listen when the other is in trouble."
To his delight, she let out a small smile and reached up, taking his hand in her smaller ones. "You were the one who always needed to talk." Unshed tears shined in the dim light.
"Itís time that I repaid all the favors you gave me."
"Youíll never do that completely, flyboy," she added, lacing her fingers with his.
"Come on," Luke said, taking the hint and gripping her hand tightly. She needed comfort right now; he knew that. Gently, he led her out of the bar and into the darkness of the Mos Eisley night.
She was silent, no longer weak and fainting, but clearly in pain. The moonlight outlined her pretty face, shining silver in her dark hair. The set to her chin, however, was more what he remembered - strong and determined.
He broke the silence first. "Who?"
There was silence for a moment and Luke felt her hand spasm around his. He stopped walking, and simply stood studying her. "Bror Jace," she said after a pause, still keeping her pretty eyes faced straight ahead. Her tone was soft, pained, as if saying his name was an effort that she could only complete by drawing on resources of indomitable will.
Luke searched his database, looking for a face to put to the familiar name, wanting desperately to give her some words of praise that could offer her minor comfort. He got an image of a tall, blond man with an arrogant expression. "Rogue Squadron," he said softly and started walking again. She shuffled her feet with him, but Luke knew that if he let go of her hand, sheíd slow gradually until she came to a full stop.
"Yes," she said hollowly. "A pilot."
"Love, I know that youíve seen many pilots get caught by a stray ion bolt. He almost certainly knew the risks when he joined the Squadron a year ago."
She stopped abruptly and turner her pointed face towards him. "Had that only been the case," she said harshly.
Luke knew that he had angered her. He wanted desperately to reach out a calming hand through the Force to soothe her, but he knew that that would convince her that he was being intrusive. She needed him right now. "What do you mean?" he asked her, pulling her around the next corner to the spacesport where his shuttle was located. When he returned to visit Tatooine, he either stayed with friends or on his shuttle; no one in their right mind took quarters in Mos Eisley proper.
She gave a harsh laugh, but didnít answer him. Instead, she let out a violent curse that rivaled Han in its potency. "Fucking Sith Blood from Hell!"
The curse caught him off-guard.
But he did not need to ask her to elaborate, for she chose do so of her own accord. "I want the bastards dead."
He chose not press her into answering, more so because they had arrived at the spaceport where he kept the shuttle he had borrowed from the New Republic. Knowing that he would only be staying for a day or so, he hadnít bothered to contact the Darklighters to tell them that he was coming and had simply elected to spend a day in the heat of Tatooine. Even he couldnít have slept in an X-wing. He keyed the code to the gate. As the harsh light of the inside of hanger pooled out over them, he caught a full glimpse of Miaís pale face. She did not seem close to fainting, but she still looked frail and ill. He placed his hand and led her in gently.
A whistle greeted them. "Hello, R2," Luke said. "You remember Mia?"
The blue and white droid twittled an affirmative and wheeled over to him.
"Nice to see you too," Mia said politely, forcing a smile that looked strained and stretched her face thinly.
R2, however, seemed pleased enough. He carried on a cheerful series of whistles and toots while he rolled on ahead of them and up the ramp of Lukeís small #3-Z Light Freighter. He stole a glance over at Mia; she was lost in her own thoughts again, that blank look on her face again. He touched her hand lightly and felt her latch onto his fingers protectively. He gave them a comforting squeeze.
He turned to R2. "R2, would you try and open up a connection to Folor?"
Miaís black hair whipped in a wave of shadow as she glared at him. "What are you doing?"
"Just trying to find out the facts of what happened from Wedge."
"Donít try to help."
Luke pulled her down the corridor towards the lounge. "Do you want to sleep?"
She glanced up him. "I havenít slept in three nights. Iíve thrown myself into my work."
"Thatís what that job was, then?"
She sat down and tucked her long legs underneath her. She leaned back against the seat and rested her head on her arms. "Jacsin Paalc killed three innocent Sullustans because they got between him and his rival pirate. He blew their ship right out of the sky and then turned and ran." She paused for a moment and brushed a lock of dark hair from her face. "Iíve been tailing him for a week now. Three days agoÖ" her voice trailed off.
"You heard," Luke finished for her.
The blank look had returned to her face. She nodded. "Nawara Ven got hold of me when I made a put stop at Folor." The words were flat, without emotion.
There was a pregnant pause while Luke waited for her to continue.
She swallowed and cleared her throat. When she answered, she had changed the subject back. "I traced him here. No doubt heís left by now." She laughed nervously. "Iím losing my touch."
"Try to sleep."
"I told you, I canít."
Luke looked at the dark circles that rimmed her eyes. He raised his hand to her forehead. She closed her eyes. "Let me pay you back," he said softly. She pulled her head up. Luke stroked her between her eyes along the bridge of her nose, knowing that had always relaxed her when they had been together. He reached into the Force and channeled it into her through the connection, a calming and relaxing feeling. "Sleep," he whispered to her, "it will make you feel better."
Her breathing slowed and in several seconds, she was sound asleep. Luke could still feel her torment, but it had fallen below the surface of conscious thought and was now a dull but bearable ache. He stroked her hair and stood.
Stepping quietly out of the lounge, he made sure to shut the portal behind him. "R2," he said to the droid when he entered the cockpit, "would you try to get the connection to Wedge on Folor?"
The droid whistled. Luke tossed himself in the pilotís chair and waited for Wedgeís face to appear in front of him.
Continued in Part Three