Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand


The comic starts with a sequence from before the Battle of Yavin, in which Mara Jade is on a training mission that is used by the Emperor to demonstrate her skills to Darth Vader. This leads to a conversation between Vader and the Emperor in which is stated that Mara is neither a Jedi nor a Dark Jedi. The Emperor calls her an experiment.

Then the story jumps four years in time. Mara is a dancer in Jabba's Palace, sent there by the Emperor to kill Luke Skywalker, but she fails. First security prevents her from killing Skywalker in the Palace, later Jabba declines her to accompany him on his sailing barge. Frustrated, Mara has to leave Tatooine.

She is sent to Svivren to eliminate Dequc, the leader of "Black Nebula", a criminal organization which arose from the ashes of "Black Sun". After some scouting Mara contacts the local government and requires assistance, which is finally granted to her (after some threatening). She gets two stormtrooper squads, under the command of Captain Strok, which are supposed to arrest a suspected Rebel to provide a diversion, while Mara strikes against Dequc. But several things go wrong, the Rebels were apparently warned of the raid, Captain Strok insists on helping Mara with her real mission even though she doesn't want his assistance, and both of them almost walk into a trap. Still Mara manages to kill Dequc, and Strok escapes alive, too, but his stormtrooper escort dies.

Having finished her mission, Mara contacts the Emperor (through the Force) and asks if she should go after Skywalker again. But the Emperor is sure that the trap he himself has prepared for Skywalker will work, and sends Mara back to Imperial Center, ordering her to have some fun and relax until he returns. On Coruscant Mara hears strange rumors about "Black Nebula" which doesn't seem effected at all by the death of its leader, and it dawns on her that something went wrong. She investigates and finds out that she was set up and in fact killed an imposter, not Dequc. Before she has time to decide what to do about it, she receives a last transmission from the Emperor, in which she sees Vader and Skywalker attacking and killing the Emperor. Feeling the full load of emotions and agony through the Force connection, Mara collapses.

When she awakes, she is arrested immediately by Ysanne Isard, head of Imperial Intelligence. Isard and Sate Pestage are both seeking for power, now that the Emperor is dead, and are working together for the time being. Both know that Mara is more then just a dancer at the Imperial court as she claims, but how much more neither of them knows, as Mara's true identity was a well kept secret.

Certain that the only way to survival is escape, Mara manages to break free, using her Force talents (which, with the Emperor dead, are decreasing rapidly), and her knowledge of the place. Despite Isard's attempts to recapture her, Mara escapes to Phorliss.

Arriving on planet with only the things she is wearing and no one to go to or ask for help, she accepts a job as a waitress in a cantina. The cantina's owner, a Houk named Gorb Drig, is very nice and helps her as good as he can. After two weeks Mara is sure that she has really managed to lose Isard. Still she plans to leave the planet as soon as she has earned enough money, since it would be dangerous to stay in one place for too long.

But then one day several members of "Black Nebula" enter the cantina, demanding money from the owner. Instead of fleeing, Mara starts a fight to defend Gorb Drig. She manages to kill all of the "Black Nebula" guys, but Drig and a customer who helps Mara are killed. Desperate and furious because of the loss of her two friends, Mara wants to flee first; but then she realizes that only prey flees, and the Emperor's Hand is a predator, no prey.

So she starts looking for "Black Nebula" and Dequc, to finish her last mission. She finds their headquarter in the bubble-cliffs on the planet Nezmi. There she visits a casino she's sure that it belongs to "Black Nebula", and cheats at a gambling game, using her few Force abilities that are still left. After an hour she is brought to the casino manager who suspects that she was cheating, but he can find no proof. Mara affirms that she was indeed cheating, and claims that she works for a company that builds exotic electronic devices, and which is interested in selling them to "Black Nebula". She gets an appointment with Dequc on this matter.

After having made a few preparations at night, Mara is brought to Dequc on the next day. She manages to hide her lightsaber in his reception hall, but soon afterwards she recognizes Captain Strok among the "Black Nebula" men. Knowing that he would identify her immediately, she knocks him down before he gets the chance, claiming that he's an Imperial spy. Her host hastily explains to her that he's actually a spy of "Black Nebula".

Mara then meets Dequc and astonishes him with a trick, again using the Force. While his men try to find out how she did it, she is showed around in the base. Unfortunately she meets Strok again, and this time she can't solve the problem quietly. In the resulting fight she kills Strok, but the noise alarms the base, and Mara has to flee.

She steals a statue of Price Xizor, the former boss of "Black Sun", and hides with it in the sewage pumping room of the base. In the few minutes she has before she's found by "Black Nebula", she manages to hide her lightsaber within the statue. She is then brought before Dequc, who suspects that there is something special about the statue, otherwise Mara wouldn't have tried to steal it. While he examines it, Mara activates her lightsaber by remote and kills Dequc.

She escapes his base and leaves the planet, not without making the "Black Nebula" files available to the Imperial security forces first.

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